I remember it as if it were yesterday, sitting in my student residence at New Hampshire College (now called Southern New Hampshire University), Manchester, New Hampshire, USA, talking to a friend in Gothenburg, Sweden, using a video conferencing tool called NetMeeting by Microsoft.
You could see the other party on a small video screen, share documents, and write text on a whiteboard. I also used an instant messaging program called ICQ (pronounced "I Seek You") in order to stay in touch with long distance friends and classmates.
So, what has happened since the end of the 1990's? A lot I must say. Online collaboration tools are becoming more mainstream. The same need of sharing ideas and stuff with others is the central key element in the new online collaboration tools used today.
My thesis is that we have become more effective in our meetings due to huge improvements in technology and we have saved plenty of time by not traveling around to different meeting locations all the time. But I also must say that it is still important to have the face-to-face meetings at a physical location ("In Real Life" as they call it in geekspeak). I am a firm believer in creating "the third place" for entrepreneurs and business minded individuals.
We have seen what could happen if you only focus on having "groovy" meetings in a virtual world, cruising around in "cyberspace"... From Graeme McMillan's article, Second Life Embraces Corporate America, But Is It Mutual?:
Linden's CEO, Mark Kingdon, is eager to change the perception of the company's product:
"Enterprise is a really important growth vector for us because (Second Life is) a really compelling platform for learning and collaboration. Especially today in large enterprises that are distributed (around the world)" (June 1, 2009, io9 & San Francisco Business Times, May 29, 2009.)
Here is an interesting excerpt from an old interview with the new media communication expert, Robin Good (a.k.a Luigi Canali De Rossi):
Conferencing News: Where do you see conferencing and collaboration services going in the next five years?
Robin Good: Conferencing and collaboration services will greatly change in the coming years.
First of all they will differentiate in a much more defined set of industries: large conferencing (top down - one-to-many), live presentation, full collaboration, video conferencing and many other kinds. More specialization and diversification will emerge.
The most important new event that will go unnoticed for some time is the strategic emergence of shared secure virtual spaces. These are what you would call true virtual offices. They will contain aspects of web conferencing, video, presentation tools, collaboration facilities, while providing certified, secure, private persistent spaces in which to carry out real work. (10 September, 2004, Conferencing News)
For an example of Robin Good's forward thinking ideas, read his post, Virtual Presenter Soapbox: A Live Stage For Everyone To Present Great Ideas.
If you’d like to learn more about online collaboration tools, Robin Good also has created a great mind map overview of the Best Online Collaboration Tools, compiling a huge list of online resources. [Hat tip to John Jantsch of Duct Tape Marketing.]
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About the Author: Martin Lindeskog is a "trader in matter & spirit" and a small business entrepreneur in Gothenburg, Sweden. He is a board member of the Swedish National Association of Purchasing and Logistics (Silf, Western Region). Martin also writes a long-standing blog called Ego and has a podcast series, Egoist, on the Solid Vox network.