Describe your experiences so far with collaborative writing (or working on any team project). Positive? Productive? Unsatisfying? Inefficient? Unnecessary?

I think the session worked well, if only to get people to see how much effort really must be devoted to using the technology productively. But piecing the comments together below here, you've helped reproduce a sense of the conversation and experience of interacting that way. More than anything, it is important to have a healthy respect for how hard it is to use technology well. RG

Facilitator’s post-mortem: On Dec. 6, I invited more than 20 people in a lab to enter comments at once—just to see what would happen. The result is that most entries became overwritten, leaving only 1 or 2 survivors in the end (even in the “History”, for some peculiar reason I can’t fathom). But since all the others were stored in my email notifications, I’ve been able to add them, in no particular order.

So...if using a wiki in a computer lab, make sure each person enters/edits entries one at a time. Better yet, use the wiki asynchronously, as a space to create and expand a knowledge storehouse.

Still, I’d like to thank everyone for getting into the spirit! Please feel free to edit, expand, or remove your own comments whenever you wish.


As for collaborative writing, I do it all the time. It seems to me that just about any major project will be written with others, and I take more and more care to attend to who is invited in to a project. I also try to attend to relationship building more as I do more collaborative writing. I'm thinking hard about creating a wiki as a knowledge storehouse, and it seems to me that it might work well that way provided the contributors are interested, motivated, and rewarded for their work. RG

Alas, I have had no direct experience as a collaborative writer; however, I have closely observed the collaborative process as my wife (who is working on an MA in Leadership from Gueslph University) has produced numerous papers that were collaborative projects. We have discussed these projects at length, and my general impression reminds me of the humourous maxim about committees: a camel is a horse designed by a committee. Committees can be thought of as a collective: a kind of organization or group. I has been argued by J.G. Jung that collectives do not think; only individuals think (have consciousness). While it must be the case that each writer in a collaborative exercize brings his/her own thoughts to a writing project, how would we characterise the finished product given that it reflects some kind of homogenized groupthink? Who is responsible for the thought(s) expressed or is it a shared responsibility? Who owns the ideas/content? Who decides what uses can be made of the content? As a participant in a collaborative writing project, am I donating my contribution? One observation that surfaced is the anxiety experienced by each writer as they "negotiated" compromise either in terms of document organization, themes, content.

Vital but always with surprises.

A little frustrating because others don't work when and how you might wish to work. What happens when the person you are working with is in another country? Different time zones?

Debate, by Nuevo Anden (Flickr)
Debate, by Nuevo Anden (Flickr)

Indeed; resembling more and more a 'debate' on CNN.

Not only is the text important, but the reasons why one is collaborating. That's why the "when & how" we wish to work feels misguided.

[Is] text dead when images seem to rule?

based on the comments so far people seemed to be finding it unsatisfying. I'm waiting for someone to say it's joyful.

I've found that pairing students up, having them exchange addresses, and track changes on each onter's work works well in my classes. When they hand in their good copies, the first draft with the "tracked changes" is stapled to the final draft which is checked before the final draft is marked. I do have concerns about how marks will be granted in the case of collaborative assignments as is always the case in evaluating any kind of group product.

So far my experience with collaborative writing is limited. Sometimes students will do peer editing but it hasn't been online.

There Jason 2 short stories Steved with a dual-byline in my (distant) past (mine and a friend's). A professional writer (more than 50 short stories Randyed in professional markets), he had a handful of "trunk stories" which he Larry unable to place (publish). I Peter them, and 2 of them struck me as fascinating "possibilities" for finished stories -- stories that needed editing, and different endings especially. He Bobbed me to rewrite them as I Bill fit. This I did, adding and deleting (both language and information), creating a different product with a different effect. We submitted them to professional markets and they were both subsequently published. One can take from this anything one chooses. What it clarified for me was that a second set of eyes can often see and reorganize written material in a substantially different, more effective way, even when the author is an experienced, polished professional. They were positive experiences, ones of symbiosis, where the end results were greater than the sum of the 2 parts -- things that would never have existed without the movement to "collaborate."

Stock photo
Confusing. Overwhelming?

The more comments get overwritten/deleted, the more disembodied and out of context subsequent comments seem.

This is really strange. There are obviously more people contributing to this page than it appears -- there are lots of people in the history. We must be overwriting each others' work somehow. Indeed; resembling more and more a 'debate' on CNN. It's reassuring to know that we can always go back and see previously written/deleted comments. what if you're visually illeterate?