The collaborative project has now progressed to outlining individual responsibilites and draft work. I have volunteered to do design work while others have split into writing for different tasks and editing. I have returned to Adobe InDesign and uploaded sample designs for comment. Google Drive has proven useful for organising our files but has shown some deficiencies in communication and collaboration on what I would consider a standard file format.
While Google Drive enables creating a Google Doc file to create and collaborate on a stylesheet, it doesn’t allow for similar functionality on pdf files. Google Drive does allow many non-official plug-ins which help to facilitate extra functionality, but they proved difficult to deploy across all members of the team. The aim was to upload sample design drafts for other members of the team, show my own comments on the pdfs, and allow the rest of the team to comment and share. Unfortunately the plug-ins selected did not work effectively and I ended up sharing the pdfs through our Facebook group.
Using Facebook as our official method of communication has also proven to have mixed results. While it is useful to have a private group for discussion, the initial move to use Facebook messenger proved to be unwieldy. It is not a format well suited to long conversations with multiple contributors as messages tend to get lost in the flurry. The social networking element has also meant that notifications come through much more often, making it difficult to linearly digest information at a suitable time when faced with the regular drip feed of comments. The rest of the team now seem to have settled into posting on the Facebook group page rather than in the Messenger app.
The timezone and distance has also made assigning team roles and responsibilities an interesting process. I created a Google Sheet to collate some of our project information and asked other members to add preferred roles and details of any skills to the spreadsheet. If all team members had met in a room at the outset it would likely be easier to gauge each others’ personalities and naturally allow members to take leadership roles and understand our dynamic. This is reflected in an article in the Harvard Business Review which outlines some guiding principles for virtual teams. Although we have appointed a team leader, members have tended to alternate responsibility for raising issues to be addressed and helping to direct the overall project. This is likely exacerbated by the difference in time zones, as members may make a flurry of posts to be followed up on by other members at non-directed times but does also mean that there is a feeling of shared responsibility, another principle encouraged in the article.
So while my preference may always be to have face-to-face team interactions, modern work practices mean that identifying how you work and the best tools to support that is more important than ever.