Construction and Web 2.0

I attended a meeting of one of Constructing Excellence‘s Collaborative Working Champions groups yesterday, and one of our debates concerned discussing and communicating the benefits of collaborative working.

Some of the group were surprised that related issues (for example: Egan’s recent speech) and themes (technology, people and processes) were already being discussed on social media such as blogs, and this prompted me to show some of the other tools that could be used. After the meeting, I sent a link-filled email around the group reminding them of what we’d talked about; one recipient suggested I share it here – so (slightly edited) here it is:

… I showed a few ideas on use of social networking tools (sometimes known as Web 2.0), and may have overwhelmed some people with a stream of over-enthusiastic techno-babble, so I thought it might be useful to summarise some of the key points….

The starting point was an email linking to three blogs (isite and Extranetevolution – both written by current collaborative working champions – and Elemental), from which we progressed to talk about how we might use blogs to discuss and disseminate CW Champion messages (potential platforms here include TypePad, Blogger and WordPress, among others), and then threw Facebook into the mix. Alternatives to Facebook for managing our affairs might include Google Groups or Yahoo Groups. …

We considered airing some of our debates on existing web resources – for example, Building magazine’s forums – and we talked about the potential of online events v real events. I mentioned a recent Web 2.0 “unconference” in Ireland attended by isite’s Martin Brown – another is planned for September (see PodCampIreland) – and virtual worlds such as Second Life. I talked about social search and tagging tools (eg: Wikia, Digg and to show how social tools can be used to help edit and sort online information; Wikipedia got mentioned, of course…. We also mentioned personalized home pages (such as iGoogle), and I demonstrated a ‘social’ browser, Flock, that incorporates feeds to and from Facebook, TypePad, etc, integrations with tagging tools and, perhaps most useful of all, an RSS feed reader (ie an online tool that automatically alerts you to news from websites, blogs, etc that you have selected as being of interest – other online feed-readers are included in iGoogle, see also Newsgator and Bloglines). For those interested in ‘micro-blogging’, I also talked about Twitter – a tool that allows you to send updates via your mobile phone or various web tools – and I ‘Tweeted’ while we were outside in the car-park during the fire alarm!

To be honest, I could have gone on for longer, but – as suggested – I got the impression that some people’s eyes were beginning to glaze over with the sheer diversity of online social tools available (so I didn’t get into sharing images – Flickr, Piczo – or videos – YouTube – or mash-ups, widgets, etc, etc).

Of course, I am not suggesting that all these tools could be directly employed to manage construction projects, but – in the right context – some of them certainly could. Some architects are using Second Life, for example, and I could foresee project managers maintaining site diaries as blogs, perhaps augmented by a Twitter feed to remind themselves (and to alert followers) of things spotted while walking around their sites. In the meantime, I seem to have stimulated some interest among individuals who – until yesterday – were almost oblivious to the emergence of social networking tools (excepting Facebook and Wikipedia, of course); some even committed to setting up and using some online tools ahead of our next meeting in November. I’ll be interested to see what happens….

Related posts: Web 2.0 and construction collaboration (17 March 2008)

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