Animation of collaborative tools : restraints and enablers.

Card's author : Outils-réseaux
Card's type of licence : Creative Commons BY-SA
Description : animer

What restrains

  • Lack of participation
  • At tools level
  • At facilitator's level
  • At project level
  • Lack of time

What enables

  • At people's level
  • At tools level
  • At organisation level
  • At projects level
  • The 9 laws of cooperation

1. What restrains

Main pitfall : lack of participation (non-collaborative situation)

At people's level

  • Lack of time : to handle the tools, to use them
  • Fear of other people's opinion, of judgement (from peers), of being ridiculous
  • Problem with writing, with the language
  • Disconnection with real life (too virtual, which person(s) and which project(s) are behind the tool ?
  • Difficulty to change one's practices to adopt those of the group (resistance to change)
  • Problems of copyrights, intellectual property, fear that information might be stolen, Fear of losing power by sharing information.
  • Difficulty in handling tools, technical fear :
    • fear of difficulty
    • fear with web tools
    • computer = complicated
    • heterogeneousness of the group with the handling of tools.
  • A difficult access to internet :
    • slow connection
    • obsolete software
  • Difficulty to get logged in :
    • loss of the password
    • loss of the web address
  • Lack of motivation for the project, members don't make the link with their own personal interests :
    • fear of misunderstanding messages
    • habit of a centralized working
    • institutional environment

At tools level

  • Fear of tools, of difficulty, of an not enough ergonomic interface : the computer is a problem.
  • Equipment, obsolete connexion
  • Protection, identification.
  • Not adapted needs.
  • An implementation that is not progressive enough, that doesn't take sufficiently into account the different stages of the group's life.
  • Difficulty to translate texts with emotion and hidden meaning.
  • Several tools for the same use.
  • Need for a paper base, for concrete.
  • Complicated Tools.
  • One can't find how to participate.
  • An evolution of tools that goes too fast (displays, features).

At facilitator's level

  • Too many requests (urgent ! To validate, misled question).
  • Omnipresence or absence of the facilitator.
  • Messages too long, too many items of information , not enough transparency.
  • Founder = gravedigger.
  • Employee : the financing of the job overrides on the network's objectives.
  • Not enough listening of the group's needs.
  • The facilitator does himself instead of making do.
  • Mixing up in the roles : management, leadership, facilitator.

At project level

  • Ethical drift, risk of rupture.
  • Institutional representation ( Fear of losing power by sharing information.).
  • Demobbing : bad apprehension of involvement.
  • Difficulty in perceiving concretely the projects, its results.
  • Relevance of the project.
  • Vocabulary : level of the shared jargon ?
  • Complexity : members can't see the entirety of the project any more.
  • Level of involvement that is too high.
  • Lack of visibility: of the time required, of the project's interest, of its purpose.
  • No facilitator.
  • No tracks of the project's story.

The time

  • Lack of time :
    • for the handling of tools
    • for the involvement in the project.
  • Different rhythms: employees / volunteers.

2. What eases

At people's level

  • Physical meetings, friendliness
  • Esteem assessment, quotation of all contributors
  • Mixing up of audiences (see forum)
  • Reduction of the risk of participating, enabling exit and multi : -membership : simplified membership procedure, possibility of disengagement!
  • Virtuous circle of motivation :
    • Project / meaningful action
    • Feeling of ability
    • controllability :
      • cognitive engagement
      • perseverance
      • success.
  • Making up individual interest with collective interest.
  • Showing the mechanism.
  • Win-win strategy
  • Questioning people on their objectives
  • Welcoming new comers, sponsoring.
  • Technical back up : knowing where to find the technical referent, getting instructions for use, assistance sections

At tools level

  • Behaving rules
  • Netiquette
  • Progressive implementation
  • Simplify !!! Hide features
  • Instructions for use, assistance section, trainings...

At organisation level

Upload file Cea.jpg
  • Showing the group's activity : summary, reformulation, historical background, showing what is happening in sub-groups, regular news : summaries (TST)
  • Strong incentive to develop habits : only put reports on the wiki, make mistakes in the spelling of people's names on purpose
  • « Professional » facilitators :
    • emerging jobs
    • separating organization from facilitation
    • know how to be rather than know how to do
    • being in permanent alert
  • Synthesizing, reformulating, gardening

At project level

  • Propose an historical background, an notebook of events
  • Minimize the needs at the beginning : putting on line unfinished productions
  • Control critical tasks : compromise between flexibility and continuity of the system, the project must content itself with a minimum contributions
  • Work rather with thoughtfulness than with intention : and projects emerge by listening to the group, pinpointing objectives instead of expected results
  • Risk analysis : will of success or fear of failure ?
  • Definition of purposes and running (SAGACE matrix)
  • Clear objectives , charter
  • Productions : Free Licenses to turn them into common properties

The 9 laws of cooperation

  • Reduce participation risks
  • Lower the threshold of acting out
  • Non consumables goods and environment of abundance
  • Communities which last converge on cooperation
  • Evaluation by esteem
  • Minimizing needs at the beginning
  • Minimizing failure risks by controlling critical tasks
  • Time for opportunities
  • Never forget any of the rules !

Lowering the threshold of acting out

Acting out with human beings tallies with a rude fall

  • Free software :
    • Giving, before any other action, an a priori authorization for use and modification thanks to a license rather than imposing an authorization request is another example of elements which ease the acting out. (Jean-Michel Cornu)
  • Tela Botanica :
    • Registration is easy, licence and charge free.
    • Use of Forum and Wiki
  • Incentive to participation with simple exercises :
    • Make a mistake on purpose in the spelling of a person's name to have her react and encourage her to correct it by herself

Non consumables goods and environment of abundance

  • Tela Botanica : the Flora of Metropolitan France project
    • Stemming from the work of one person : work of naming and taxonomy on 75 000 names.
    • 55 599 files modified by members of the community
    • Adding of 46 794 vernacular names (several languages)

Communities which last converge on cooperation


  • Joining very much upstream to avoid competition downstream.
    • GNU/Linux
      • GNU and Free Software Foundation : 1985
      • Linux : 1991
    • the Flora of Metropolitan France project : 2001

Evaluation by esteem

  • Tela : Project of compiling botanical articles (25674 articles)

  • De Boissieu Henri - Un acer hybride nouveau pour la flore française. - 1912 - dendrologie, plante hybride, acer x bormulleri, localité, p. 77-78 - Société Botanique de France, Bulletin de la Société Botanique de France, Bull. Soc. Bot. Fr. (1904), Tome 59 - Fascicule 1 - Saisie : Jean TIMBAL -Art. n°13807.

  • Delahaye Thierry, Henze Gaston, Lequay Arthur - Les orchidées de Monthoux - 1996 - Savoie, Avant-pays, Acéracées, acer monspessulanum, Fabacées, Argyrolobium zanonii, p. 15-19 - Départ./Région : 73 - Société Mycologique et Botanique de Chambéry, Bull. de la sté Myco et Bota de la Région Chambérienne, N°1 - Saisie : Sylvie SERVE - Art. n°479.

  • Delahaye Thierry, Lequay Arthur, Prunier Patrice - Les découvertes botaniques de nos sociétaires en 1996 - 1997 - Savoie, violacées, Viola collina, loranthacées, Viscum album, acéracées, acer monspessulanum, joncacées, Juncus arcticus, liliacées, Erythronium dens-canis, p. 31-32 - Départ./Région : 73 - Société Mycologique et Botanique de Chambéry, Bull. de la sté Myco et Bota de la Région Chambérienne, N°2 - Saisie : Sylvie SERVE - Art. n°495.

Minimizing needs at the beginning

  • Linus started by re-using codes and ideas of Minixa (the whole of Minix code has been given up or completly re-wrote since)
  • The "Cathédrale et Bazar " example : Fetchmail based on popclient and Fetchpop
  • Tela :
    • Recovery of a synonymy work by M. Kerguelen on 75 000 names
    • recovery of numerous data bases constituted by amateurs.
  • Putting online unfinished documents because they can be improved by contributors. If the putting-online needs the completion of the document, the group's dynamics won't get under way.

Minimizing failure risks by controlling critical tasks

  • Brooks Law : "adding manpower to a late software project makes it later " : complexity increases as well as the number of exchanges and therefore as the square number of persons.
  • Tela Botanica :
    • The association contracts partnerships and et takes responsibility for the consequences
    • Employees are on duty and provide tools and services
    • Members of the community carry out plans and give sense to the network
    • The piloting committee operates coordination and validates decisions

Risk analysis

  • The fear of failure leads to a minimum risk-taking. One is then tempted to protect everything, and this is typical of today : everything is tagged, locked (in particular legally saying). For example, within administrations, there is a lack of opening which reflects a rigid mental functioning.
  • On the contrary, willing to succeed implies the implementation of means to reach the appointed aim. This approach refers to a mental model much open and dynamic.

Auteurs : Association Outils-Réseaux et tous ses stagiaires
Crédits illustrations sous licence Creative Commons : CC-By Outils-Réseaux - CC-By Ell Brown - CC-By Cea - CC-By Marc Smith