Making a Difference

My Personal and Professional views

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Contextual Collaboration

A statement Al Gore made in the late nineties, taken out of context, made it seem as if the Vice President valued trees more than human life.  Within its original context, what he really said was that we can cut down an endangered tree (the Yew tree in this case) for its medicinal value in treating cancer patients today, but we must also consider the needs of future generations.  What are the ramifications if we deplete this unique species today, and it no longer exists for tomorrow?

What was a reasonable statement within its original context sounded like radical environmentalist rhetoric when taken outside of it.

Charles Darwin, father of evolutionary theory, was once misquoted as saying that evolution was an “absurd notion.”  What he originally said was that he could see where people might interpret some part[s] of evolutionary theory as seeming “absurd in the highest degree.”  Quite different from the statement that Evolutionary theory is patently absurd.

The term used to describe this phenomenon of taking information out of context is contextonomy.  While these two examples of contextonomy are extreme, similar smaller but no less important examples occur over and over, every single day of our business lives.

It’s important to note that not all incidents of contextonomy are intentional, perpetrated solely to mislead or confuse others.  In many cases, the information you receive has simply traveled so far away from its original source, that its meaning has become diluted, or worse, as we’ve seen, completely lost.

The value of preserving context

As cliché as it sounds, information does travel faster and in more volume than ever before in human history.  Overall, this is a good thing, but with the downside as mentioned above: the faster information travels, and the farther it travels from its original context, the greater the chances it will lose its meaning.

It’s like the game of telephone, one person whispers something to the next person, who then whispers it to the next person, and so on, down the line.  Inevitably, the message received by the last person in line isn’t the same as original message.  Without access to the original message, the last person hasn’t a clue as to the reliability of the information they’ve received.

The way to safeguard against this it to make sure the original source of information is always available, regardless of when, where, and how the next person in line receives information derived from it.  This is not to say the information need suffer a snowball effect, picking up bulk as it rolls along, but that it always trail a thread leading back to its original context.  Much as, say, a wiki does.

As we continue moving into a world where collaboration and the wisdom of crowds is standard operating procedure, it is incumbent upon us to seek new ways of delivering information as clearly, concisely, and cleanly as possible.

Contextual Collaboration

Blogging is probably the simplest and most recognizable form of contextual collaboration.  A “blogger” conveys information (opinions, viewpoints, etc), by posting it to his or her blog.  Others then read and respond to the post, directly within the context of the original poster’s blog.  The original information is always there, clean and in tact.

By always framing the information we exchange within its original context, we very nearly eliminate the problem of contextonomy.  People can and will still manipulate information in an attempt to mislead others, but with the information’s original context always trailing it, the deception becomes quite difficult to perpetrate.

Conceptual collaboration tools do exist, but they lack a common thread linking them together, a platform designed to preserve the meaning of any information, regardless of its type or origin.

A contextual collaboration platform would be unobtrusive, managing the task of delivering information with its original context, but at the same time, allowing for new senders and recipients of the information to use it in a way that best suits their needs.

Application Centric Collaboration

YouTube, for example, is a contextual collaboration platform dedicated to video.  Users post their videos to YouTube and solicit feedback from other users.  The original context around which all discussions progress is always there, available as a reference point.  Anyone jumping into an ongoing discussion about a video, and finding the origin and thread of the conversation unclear, can simple watch the original video.  Contextual collaboration at its finest.

If all corporate communications revolved around videos, we wouldn’t have to look any further for the ideal contextual collaboration platform.  YouTube would be it.

Other examples of contextual-type communication platforms include sales force automation systems and project management systems.  Both are designed for people to share and collaborate on a specific type of information, while at the same time enhancing their ability rapidly understand the information and preserve its original meaning.

Next step – A universal collaboration platform

Qonfer™, by 5G systems, is a universal contextual collaboration platform.  It provides the means by which you can anchor any type of information to its original context.  It does this simply, efficiently, and unobtrusively.  If you wish to fully exploit the value of contextual collaboration, and eliminate the high cost of misinformation, contact 5G today.


Written by Jim McNiel

June 22, 2009 at 3:07 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

One Response

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  1. I get it. now i understand why i couldnt make sense of all the wother web tools without a purpose. thanks


    June 22, 2009 at 4:28 pm

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