Ray Ozzie: Why?

From a remarkable essay by Ray Ozzie today, entitled simply "Why?":

We spent years and years at Lotus trying to convince people of the "higher order" value of collaborative processes, sharing, and KM. And I learned the hard way that fighting what appear to be natural organizational and social dynamics is very tough. Which is why eMail is the most popular collaboration tool on the planet: it works the way that people naturally want to work. And which is why Groove is built upon a client-side, personally empowering "email model" than an "app server" model. Mobile, instant, ad hoc, private. Effective collaboration tools strike a balance between personal need/behavior and collective/organizational need.

And so here I sit, typing into Radio. The personally-empowering client-side online/offline UI of Radio, in my view, like Groove, offers us a glimpse at a new model of interaction that may indeed make it more natural to post into a public space. Or maybe post into "semi-public" spaces, more naturally. Which is why I've been fascinated by what lies at the juncture between the eMail model, the Groove model, and the blog model.

I've spent many fewer years than Ray, but still a goodly number, trying to convey that "higher order" value. And I also learned the hard way that you can't swim upstream against what people naturally want to do. What is remarkable about the present moment is that the current may be shifting. Public or semi-public communication that once would have seemed odd or pointless can now (under the right circumstances) begin to be seen as normal and useful.

First, what kind of technology can be used to achieve a balance between "working in a virtual fishbowl" and "working in a virtual SCIF"? (Secured Compartmentalized Information Facility, for those not familiar with government lingo.) What are the useful points on the gradient between authentication and trust, and pseudonymity? What are the human interface mechanisms that might be employed in trust-centric environments such as Groove that might adequately communicate -- not just to the individual, but to the group -- that a certain set of shared information or activity is being shared outward? And how can this be done while still maintaining the OHIO principle? (Only Handle Information Once) - that is, if information must be entered in two places, it won't be.

These are all the right questions. To answer them, I think we have to do the experiment. When some of us tried one recently, it was illuminating all around, for Groovers and for bloggers. Effective communication always has required the ability to compartmentalize, to empathize with and belong to different groups, to manage multiple layers of meaning, to project a range of identities. Now that we have so many modes of communication to choose from, balancing the interplay of public and private modes has gotten trickier. For what it's worth, my gut tells me that we need to have a set of flexible frameworks in place, to get people using them in a variety of boundary-crossing scenarios, and then to adapt the technology as needs and opportunities arise.

Former URL: http://weblog.infoworld.com/udell/2002/08/06.html#a370