The Collaboration Curve: Part One

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Back in August 2009, Deloitte, a major accounting and consulting firm, came out with a study on the massively popular MMORPG, “World of Warcraft“.

You might ask, “Why is OSS interested in such a study?”  Well, gentle reader, the answer is twofold:

A) It’s Deloitte

Any time a firm with tens of thousands of employees across the globe, involved in such riveting subjects as “Enterprise Risk Management”, decides to put some of its resources to bear on studying a MMORPG, we’re listening.  As enlightened geeks, we love to see how the pleebs view our various subcultures, especially when they actually find something positive about countless hours spent farming Mageweave.

Mageweave...er "Armor"

B) It’s the Curves

“The Collaboration Curve”… this is actually a great term (coined by Deloitte) for a phenomenon that’s been taking place since the dawn of human societies, and it forms the centerpiece of the study.  To put it in laymen’s terms, it describes how the sharing of knowledge between individuals and communities results in an upward curve of performance.  All of us have benefited from the ‘Curve’, whether it was learning the best way to spear a mammoth in the Pliocene epoch, or how to get pregnant in the year 2009 (3rd most popular “How To” search query on Google).

This is a concept so basic, so simple, and so essential to human progress, that when you realize it took a Deloitte study on WoW for you to recognize it, you’ll go “Oh Snap, Son!”.  Or, if you’re an educated snob, you’ll go “That’s daft, these buffoons clearly aren’t familiar with the seminal work of Lave & Wenger.”  Either way, it’s a fascinating concept, and it will be the subject of this series of posts.  As I will argue in posts to come, it is a concept that no company, person, organization, WoW guild, or other such entity involved in the online world, can ignore.  In fact, in the spirit of collaboration, I invite our reader(s) to post any comments, questions, or suggestions they may have about our blog, or life in general, below.

Why Now?

The phenomenon is age-old, but the internet has made such collaboration possible on a huge scale, while also removing or lowering the barriers for participation.  For example, learning the best way to spear a mammoth and spreading that knowledge across communities might have taken our ancestors decades or centuries, yet now any doofus with an internet connection can Google “how to cook a turkey” and quickly gain access to well written instructions, thereby allowing the doofus  to cook a turkey much more efficiently than previously possible.  (On a side note, when googling something is still too high of a barrier, there’s always “Let me google that for you,” or even Yahoo Answers.  Be careful though, people on Yahoo Answers have been known to seriously attempt answering such questions as “How is babby formed?“, casting the usefulness of their answers in doubt.)

Yahoo Answers: BAD, Collaboration Curve: GOOD

In any case, the internet means more collaboration, and much faster than before.  Thus we can rightly expect that the positive effects of this collaboration will be quicker and better than before.  Thanks to the interwebs, we can now see the improved performance of a community in the scale of weeks, months, or years, not decades or centuries.

In Deloitte’s study, as indicated in the full graph below, the curve was the improvement in the amount of time it took players to reach a certain level in the game.

Now I can spend less time lvling, and more time farming Mageweave, YAY!

In the next few posts in this series I will examine,

A) How to properly harness the power of the collaboration curve

B) Which companies/entities/sites are doing it well, and those that are doing it poorly (or not enough)

C) Possibilities for the future

Stay tuned.

In the mean time, I offer you the most advanced search engine to ever exist, answering what is quite possibly the stupidest question to have ever bubbled up from the primordial ooze of the internet:

Soon, computers will realize the idiocy of our race and exterminate us with impunity.

Writing By Hand: The Most Useless Skill Of Two Thousand And Late

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Honestly, when was the last time you ever hand wrote anything?

Is the art of calligraphy and penmanship just an ancient notion, a relished token of the past?

Why does the need for learning cursive in grade school exist in the first place anyways? Could we all have been brainwashed into thinking cursive would be a life enhancing skill?

This looks like a complete waste of time.

Digital communication and even your neighborhood’s “greening movement” has done away with handwriting.

If students do their assignments on the computer, there will never even be a need to practice handwriting. Even standardized tests today are administered in front of a computer screen.

Consider this scenario: You’re given 20 minutes to write a comparative essay that is partly graded by a computer that picks up on “key words”. Your strategy: Type as much BS as you can without sounding like a complete idiot. Unfortunately, this is a real, recommended strategy (below). Students who failed Mavis Beacon’s teachings are at an immense disadvantage than their peers who graduated.

Q: Given that E-Rater checks spelling, doesn’t the test discriminate against poor typists, especially considering the time pressure involved during the test? For that matter, aren’t slow typists, as well as people who are not proficient at using word processors, at an inherent disadvantage when it comes to the GMAT essays?

A: Yes, and that’s one of the chief complaints about the GMAT essay sections. Slow and inaccurate typists are at an inherent disadvantage….

I read poem about Lorem once.

Business correspondence today is done in email, and thank you “letters” are now sent digitally. There once was a time when a handwritten thank you note was a sign of a “personal touch”, but in today’s world, the practice seems a bit too personal, and overboard.

Happy Birthday Ebony!
Happy Birthday Ebony!

Ebony… where have I seen that before? But seriously, don’t.

On the other side of the coin, there really is no replacement for the “human” that lives on handwritten notes. You won’t be able to tell how I cross my t’s, or the way that my z’s are tightly curved when I sign “Izzy” (Hey, that’s me!).

But let’s be honest here, writing by hand has been approaching extinction since its inception. It’s been doomed since it was a required curriculum in grade school. It seems useful only for signatures on legal documents (oh, and signing credit card slips do NOT count) and Grandma’s birthday cards (only because she can’t turn on the computer). Every other form of communication is done in digital and print type face – emails, letters, memos, wedding Evites, Facebook Funeral invites, prescriptions – you get the idea.

I see a future where babies can text before they talk, and a child can turn on a computer before they can walk.

I’d suggest teaching your children how to type (>30 wpm, please) immediately. Now that will be a skill they will thank you for when they look back at 2010!