Real-Time Collaboration Delays

When you work at a agency, you spend a lot of time collaborating. It’s relatively painless to shuttle files back and forth when everyone is using the same software, like Microsoft Office.

Today we were working on a a pretty important piece of client work with another professional agency. Despite being on the same Windows PC and Office platform, the account manager and I struggled to collaborate in real time.

Want to know why? Email.

Yup. Every time we make a change to the shared file, we had to share it back and forth. That meant emailing through each other’s corporate mail system. The collaboration went something like this:

Me: “Okay, I am adding some stuff to the Excel file and changing the graph on the PowerPoint. I’m sending it now.”

Her: “Okay. Did you send?”

Me: “Yes, you should have it in about 30 seconds.”

Her: “No, nothing. Are you sure you sent it to the right email address?”

Me: “Yup, I clicked reply to your email to me and attached it. Check again.”

Her: “Okay, let me refresh. Hmm.”

Me: “Did you get it? What do you think of the slides I changed?”

Her: “Huh? No, the ‘hmm’ was that I just got other email from people, but not from you.”

Me: “Did you check your spam catcher?

Her: “Checking now. Nope, not in there.”

Me: “I’ll send again.”

Her: “Okay, I’ll do some stuff while I wait.”

Me: “Me too.”

Her: “Do you have a website?

Me: “Yeah. Are you on it?”

Her: “Yeah.”

Me: “I think I am looking at you on Facebook.”

Her: “This is frustrating. Let me check again.”

Me: “I found you on Facebook and you found my website in under a minute. But we’re still waiting for emails to arrive. Very nice.”

About 5 minutes later.

Her: “I got it.”

Me: “All of them?”

Her: “No. Just the one with the Excel. Did you send the PowerPoint separately?”

Me: “Yeah, it was under one meg.”

Her: “Wait, I got it. Okay, let me make a quick change and email this back to you.”

Me: “Oh. Great.”

And on and on and on. We were both corporate victims of a slow email system that’s not really built for this kind of real-time collaboration.

Here’s what bums me out. There are good software solutions out there. Smart people have developed clever collaboration applications. Real-time sharing for productivity.

When can I have that on my computer?

Top 5 Things I’ll Pay for on the Web

As the bad economy grinds on, there are massive shifts in all industries. Many good websites have been funded (in part) by advertising, venture capitalist funds, and subscription models.

But as these revenue channels evaporate (for some websites), we’re seeing a shift in the Net economy. Good services need to find a proper revenue stream. And…get ready, gang…some of these websites are going to eventually charge a fee.

Apple’s iTunes Store and Amazon’s Kindle 2 are slowly making it possible for certain sites to turn a profit on micro-payments. But those sites sell stuff. For other sites, we’ll see a greater emphasis on Freemium models.

It got me thinking about what I would be willing to pay for, so I compiled a list of:

Top 5 Things I’ll Pay for on the Web

1. Email.
Yes, I know email is free. But I would be willing right now to pay for GMail, if it promised greater security and features. They provide an awesome service, but we’re still computing in the cloud, which makes email particularly vulnerable. Think about how many emails you’re getting that could be giving tiny bits of financial, health, or security information away. I’d pay to upgrade to something that would offer a greater level of security and privacy.

2. Electronic Health Records.
The Obama administration has placed a strong emphasis on building up the infrastructure of our health system. With that is an even stronger focus on electronic medical records (EMR). Right now there are several companies offering free EMR tracking solutions, including Google, Microsoft, and some health insurers. They’re going to have to get paid from someone, and if they’re not charging YOU for YOUR information, where will they get their money? I’d pay for EMRs that hire good quality employees and conduct full background checks.

3. Reviews.
In the old days, professional journalists were hired to be product and movie review experts. There was an editorial system of checks and balances to ensure that newspapers and magazines were unbiased. Consumer Reports was famous for not accepting any advertising, so you had to pay for their reviews. Now, to be a reviewer, all you really need is an opinion and an email address. There are hundreds of sites hungry for content, so they accept submissions from reviewers with no experience. These reviews may be spot-on or they may be looking to build a personal network, reputation, or whatever. In my experience working in pop culture, I’ve found that SOME reviewers are frustrated creators, offering opinions on stuff they think they can do better. Not all, some. But it’s that minority voice…the one with an axe to grind…that can damage a creator’s career and reputation.  So I’d be willing to pay for reviews on a site where professional reviewers were (a) experienced, (b) unbiased, (c) well-rounded, (d) had editors, and (e) were paid for their professional opinions. Check out Johanna Draper Carlson’s article How to Review.

4. Cloud Computing & Software as a Service.
My trusty old G5 Mac is still running classic boxed software. But as the line begins to blur between the desktop and the web, we’re seeing better software options. Right now, Google, Microsoft, Zoho, OpenOffice, and a dozen other sites are sharpening their software solutions. Eventually, as things shake out, we’ll see some clear leaders. Personally, I enjoy having my Microsoft Office 2008 for Mac. It works, even when my Internet connection doesn’t. Google Gears is already offering a similar solution, but it’s just not as robust as I’d like. Some people find the deep tools on Word and Excel to be overkill for their needs. Not me. I use power tools and look forward to the features that some people deride as bloatware. To me, these improvements are essential for solving editing, analyzing, and other business challenges. I would pay if Microsoft, Zoho, Google, or anyone could offer me (a Mac user) a full software solution with a reliable bridge between the desktop and the web.

5. Content.
Right now, nearly everything I consume online is free. News, videos, professional development…all free. Pretty amazing, considering how much it costs to create good quality content. Eventually, this model will change. Maybe ads will pay for everything, which would be like the broadcast TV model. Or it will move premium, like the cable TV model. Either way, someone has to pay for the content I want to consume. For example, I go to CNet nearly every day for tech news. CNet is an essential part of my need to stay on top of tech trends, so I have a professional motivation for keeping up with their content. And given the choice of seeing my favorite sites go out of business or paying a small subscription fee…I’ll pay the subscription.

Of course, all of this excludes services and content I already pay for, including music on the iTunes store and books for my Kindle 2.

If the Internet moved to a pay for service model, what would you pay for?

Oh, and one more thing. I tried to come up with a Top 10 list. The most I could come up with was my Top 5. Tells ya something, right?

Interesting links…not necessarily endorsements:
Five tips on charging for content from Alan Murray of

How can newspapers help Google?

It’s the Content, People.

Newspapers Want Consumers To Pay For Online Content