rich services dominating in media (Re: Wiki page about Free Software for remote working)

Paul Boddie paul at
Wed Apr 1 19:17:48 UTC 2020

On Wednesday 1. April 2020 11.39.32 Bernhard E. Reiter wrote:
> Am Dienstag 31 März 2020 21:29:12 schrieb Paul Boddie:
> > the media narrative seems to be dominated by technologies like
> > videoconferencing, "feature-rich" real-time chat,
> To understand why people long for those features, we have to look at the
> people and their ideas of workflow.
> If you want to do your meeting online now, you are accustomed
> towards seeing and hearing your communicatio partners, reading their
> communication on all levels. You also see the shared boards, printout,
> scribbles, looking at screens and projections and more. It is quite
> understandable for people to want much of these channels as possible
> as they are an important factor to raise the chance of successful meetings.
> (There used to be a research field called "computer supported cooperative
> work" (CSCW) where those basic needs had be examined starting a few decades
> earlier.)

When I did my computer science degree, human-computer interaction was a 
component of the course, and during that decade CSCW was still something that 
people were willing to study and research. I guess the big money ran out for 
CSCW researchers (and for a lot of other people), but another phenomenon that 
tends to occur is that technology proliferates and then people feel that they 
don't need "experts" to tell them what to do, think or expect.

In some situations this can work out just fine: people cultivate new and 
efficient ways of working that were not easily foreseen. However, people may 
also attempt to perpetuate existing ways of working in other forms that may be 
enabled by technology but which are hardly "computer-supported". Already, 
there are stories about people learning about videoconferencing the hard way, 
and there will be plenty of people who never did (audio-only) teleconferencing 
until now, either.

(Much of this is, of course, separate to the idea that people might want to 
just "hang out" together online.)

Augmenting teleconferencing and videoconferencing with things that make the 
interactions more natural, more efficient and less confusing is a good thing. 
Having used one of the products currently being hyped out of obligation to my 
employer, I can tell you that the experience is distracting and annoying 
unless I and other people tune it appropriately, and even then I have to 
wonder whether it is an effective medium for the purpose in question.

This is where we return to the idea of people perpetuating ways of doing 
things that are arguably inefficient in their existing form, let alone in a 
form where everyone has to tune their environment so as not to make the whole 
exercise non-viable. To one person, the experience may feel productive; to 
others, it might be another interruption to their day.


> It would be very cool to have an article to show how other collboration
> methods like wikis, fileshareing and email can help remote working.
> However it must be non-lecturing in tone to be useful in my view.

Well, what do you think about the wiki page as an example of the tone you 
prefer? I think it makes the benefits of Free Software solutions pretty clear, 
and given that it has been done on a wiki page, maybe that says something in 
itself about the medium, too.


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