on April 22nd, 2007

Last week, we had to urgently collaborate in writing a short article with two other engineers – all of us on different continents. This was the  most unusual experience in writing and editing an article in real time. Inevitably, I was on the road. The lot of an engineer, eh ?

The three of us needed to collaborate in writing the document so that the others could read through what I had written as I wrote it. Essentially ‘looking over my shoulders’. I jumped into Google Documents which now has a free web based word processor (and spreadsheet). I gave the two other engineer’s sharing and editing rights and off we went. As I typed up, they chatted with me in the box to the right of the word processor and helped me with my writing. We managed to put together a shade under 1000 words in less than 45 minutes with three graphics inserted in as well. I must confess that I like to think carefully through what I am doing; so real time collaboration with other co-writers in real time doesn’t fill me with much  enthusiasm. But I can see it being very useful for working on something on the road when you can’t rely on having your trusty notebook with you (and/or you want others to work on the document as well). For more information go to:

To get maximum value from this you need to be a google mail (gmail) user. It is a free service. But of course; nothing is really free is it ? You will be ‘paying for it’ via advertising on the google site or whatever.

Obviously if you have a large document (particularly with graphics), it may prove to be somewhat unwieldy to work over a slow internet connection. And of course, the formatting was inevitably lost when I hoisted some Word files in with tables. Ah – the joys of compatibility between the different vendors.
This simple example illustrates the increasing growth in web collaboration tools that are appearing on the market. From video conferencing software to sharing of files, planners (diaries) and databases no matter where you are. The stand alone word processor is becoming a thing of the past.

And as Ken Leebow, a well known author, remarks: "...whenever I have an idea or information to place in one of my books, I just go to the nearest computer and log in."


PS As with you, I get a little tired with the increasing flow of newsletters and emails that try and sell me stuff surreptitiously within the supposedly professional message. Don’t get me wrong. I do appreciate you reading my newsletters and we obviously do sell stuff; and lots of it  – training and books. But we try and avoid any hard selling of products within my commentaries. We do follow up after the message with a clear list of where we are running training courses or a sale of our books etc. But we try to ensure there is no confusion between the two. If you disagree with this; please let me know soonest. Thanks.

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