Remote Collaboration?

I spend a great deal of time in meetings. On an average week I bet I spend close to 30 hours either sitting in meetings or traveling to meetings. That doesn’t leave a ton of time to actually get stuff done, but I understand the need (and value) to meet … as a matter of fact I find myself setting a lot of this up. I think the thing that is bothering me the most at the moment is the amount of traveling around campus I need to do to get to it all. Sure, we have great shuttle services and walking is always an option, but when the walk or shuttle ride is at least 20 minutes it puts a major crimp in the before and after times of the actual meeting. Additionally, there are days when I start at different buildings and won’t see my office all day — this makes me end up moving my car all day to different parking places across campus.


There are days (and today is one of them) where I really wonder about my own use of technology to support new practice. All this travel is hitting me hard in the wallet — not sure if you’ve noticed gas prices are hovering in and around the $4.00 a gallon range. Even if you don’t care about the brutal effects this has on the local and global environment, you’d be crazy not to get a little frustrated with it all. I had a conversation with my wife last night about finding ways to lessen my impact on the environment (and my wallet) and I was thinking specifically about the fact that I am part of a group that licenses and supports a very powerful collaborative tool — Adobe Connect. I almost never attend meetings in Connect — even though I have a killer setup for it with a MacBook Pro, tons of bandwidth, and a USB headset. Not sure why … I wonder how much carbon and dollars I could save by requesting three meetings a week happen locally over Adobe Connect?

Then this morning, some of the ETS staff were at the weekly brainstorming breakfast down at Irving’s Bagels … I was watching as they were updating the ETS wiki and Twitter and thought about heading down there when I saw an interesting Tweet from Brad about using SubEthaEdit to take notes in prior to shifting them to the wiki. Think of it as pre-collaborative collaboration (if that makes sense).


Brad then invited me into the document and from there we decided to jump into iChat AV to add voice and video. All in all it provided some new evidence that we have to start rethinking what we classify as attendance at meetings and push ourselves to take advantage of the tools we are all trying so hard to “sell” to the others. Any thoughts?

10 thoughts on “Remote Collaboration?

  1. I absolutely love Connect/Breeze and iChat. I have used both quite often to collaborate with colleagues (and family) in Philly, Colorado, etc., and it really does expand the possibilities. I have yet to do a conference video iChat (only 1 on 1 so far), but the aesthetics of it make it highly desirable.

    I must say, though, that I am quite amazed and surprised that you aren’t more of a “eMeeting” kinda guy, Cole!

  2. I’m sitting in Darwin’s Waiting Room reading this post, and it really resonates. I try to use travel and wait time to read blogs and RSS feeds on my CrackBerry, but I too think about the forced need of “travel time”. I have a weekly meeting on campus, and have to leave Outreach 30 minutes before to ensure I make the link, stay for my 90 minute mtg, and spend another 30 min getting back. I wonder how accomodating my admin will be to have me serve on this committee again when it takes 2.5 hrs of my time each week. Will they balk, not seeing this as an investment in the PSU community but instead, as an interruption? We telecommute and it is gradually becoming an accepted work mode; why isn’t telemeeting also as accepted? While continual telemeeting might be drowned upon, I definity believe situations warrant “distance meeting.” Using technology as a tool to promote productivity is a prime example of how to work smarter, not harder.

  3. It does seem like sometimes we forget that the things we’re encouraging others to use and take advantage of might also be of great use to us. This is something that I think we’re starting to take advantage of, particularly with online students who aren’t in the same geographic location as we are, or as their classmates are. I think tools like Adobe Connect have a lot of great ways we can use them, and I also think taking advantage of virtual spaces like Second Life (you knew I’d go there ;)) also have some really powerful things happening that we could take advantage of.

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  5. I think I should clarify one thing … it isn’t necessarily me that is against the computer mediated meeting … it just hasn’t seemed to become fully accepted within our culture — yet. I am going to push for it in the next few weeks and see what happens.

  6. If you got’em, smoke’em!

    Don’t forget, we’ll have an opportunity via ITS/CSS to promote the use of Adobe Connect. Also a big ID community that can help facilitate entrance by faculty into this tool.

  7. We’ve been supporting Marratech for several years now, and found many instances where users would rely on it. Study abroad connections, brownbag meetings, mitigating disasters.

    The green possibilities have helped lead some folks to it.

  8. Well, I would like to think I am rather “tech saavy” but I have to say, online meetings are frustrating.

    It seems that I end up spending more time configuring, reconfiguring, and tweaking, than I do having the meeting. I just went through 20 minutes of set up and troubleshooting so that eLluminate would work–and now I wonder if any time I change any of my configuration I will have to go through it again.

    I know how to drive. For regular (face to face) meetings I show up with a pad of paper, and am ready to go. I am able to use car time to prep and/or listen to podcasts, and as Robin wrote if I take public transportation I can catch up on reading, be it RSS feeds, blogs, or books. (Gotta love the Sony eReader!) So instead of getting frustrated with technology, I am being productive.

    I long for the day when I can tell my computer “I want a meeting with Cole and Dean Brady and I want to share a powerpoint, while working on a word document” and it will turn on all the right software, connect to the right addresses, and let me take notes (using my pad of paper, of course!)

    (Bottom Line: Tech should make things easier–and the tech stuff should be opaque [not transparent] since I don’t want to even have to KNOW what is going on with the tech)

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  10. I thought that this was an interesting topic. But what really made me want to comment was Steve Brady’s comments.

    I agree that technology should be as easy to use as possible. But I’m often struck by some of the comparison’s that people make when pointing out how difficult it is to use a new technology.

    I’m sure that Steve was not born with some innate ability to drive. It took practice and instruction and more practice. (Though, I see plenty of people on the highway each night who still don’t know how to drive!) Even Steve’s comment about a pad of paper is interesting. I have a seven-year-old daughter who has been learning to read and write over the last few years. I also have a three-year-old who is learning how to even hold a pencil. These are not skills that are just “easy.”

    A paper and pencil is only easier to use because it is familiar to us. It’s only because we have a long history with these “technologies” that “it’s like riding a bike”–something my seven-year-old daughter and I are working on. If people can think back to how challenging it was to learn to ride that bike in the first place, they might just have a little bit more patience in learning to use a new tool.

    I, too, would like to be able to tell my computer what I want and have it do what I need; but, until we can figure out how to do that with another human being, we might just have to accept that we will need to adapt a bit of ourselves to the technology.

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