In the advent of digital innovations and the rise of interdependency in research, scholarly activities are becoming increasingly collaborative. It is not uncommon to find students, faculty members, staff, and administrators working together via face-to-face as well as online methods. Since moving to the University of Minnesota, my collaborative work has been largely facilitated by cloud storage and activity synchronization services such as Google Apps, Google Drive, Dropbox, and Doodle. In using these applications I have come to realized some desirable practices that may elevate collaborative activities and enhance productivity. These codes of conduct–mostly implicit/unspoken–are becoming common expectations for workgroups, yet aren’t usually taught to new members of those groups. Given my own experience, here are three collaboration etiquette pertaining to digital activities that I think are important for new and current collaborators to follow. I call them digital collaboration etiquette.
Be an initiator
Whether online or in-person, meetings are the engines of collaboration. If you are requesting for a meeting with your collaborators, be the one to look into others’ calendar and propose a date and time, instead of waiting for someone else to do so. Google Calendar is great for this purpose. Doodle can also help to gather people’s availability information without needing them to share their calendars. Whichever app you use, acknowledge that people are generally busy and appreciate those who take the initiative to make something work. This also means following through with people’s responses to the proposed meeting date/time and confirm it as soon as possible.
On following through with ongoing and future activities, it is a kind gesture to send out reminders before the upcoming event. For shared tasks, Wunderlist is a good app for keeping to-do lists. If you would like to stay within Google Apps, Google Calendar has a wonderful feature that allows you to add reminders. I find it commendable when collaborators help one another to remember key tasks and forthcoming activities. It helps one to avoid missing an important event just because he or she forgot about it, causing shame and deterrents to achieving a common goal. Of course, no one likes to be nagged nor bothered too often. So, be courteous when sending reminders to your collaborators and be appreciative of their contributions to the task at hand.
Keep things organized
A lousy file system and disregard for organization make the basic recipe to disaster in any collaborative activity. Nothing is more frustrating than not being able to retrieve a file or folder at a time when you need it. Thus, strategic data management should be one of the foremost habits of a workgroup. In fact, a proper data management system is required by most funding agencies or institutional authorities especially if a group works with human subjects and sensitive or subject-identifying data. Good collaborators would always help one another to keep track of their work and store them securely and systematically. I think every member of the group should strive to keep files organized and not simply leave that to the group leader.
What other tips would you add to these? Feel free to share your advice and ideas for making collaborative work more efficient and enjoyable!