Stowe Boyd has an interesting blog entry that touches on different subjects such as consumer collaboration, the self-directed innovator, and soloware vs. groupware.
While the whole entry is recommended, I would like to focus on the last topic.
Groupware was team-oriented, and teams were part of an organisation. So shared depositories were created, which demanded adaptation from the individual, and with no attention to interoperability, since such aÂ worker would only interact with such a pre-defined group.
But today, self-directed innovators, work with different teams on different projects, from different institutional backgrounds. Hence new collaboration software must be focused on such a flexible individual and interoperability is of the uttermost importance. The Google Inbox is cited as an example of this trend.
“The shift to the individual changes everything, and in revolutionary ways. Moving from groupware premises to “soloware” shifts the dialog about standards and interoperability. In the old groupware model, a company would buy a groupware platform and applications, and roll it out across all the users. It was standardized because everyone was using the same rev of the same product. When the issue of interoperability and standards were brought up, it was approached from the perspective of inter-company communication, or different sites within the same company. But in the soloware model, individuals may be using completely different tools, and share nothing in common but certain standards. But the glue that connects the dots in the soloware world are standards like RSS, IM interoperability, and blog trackback conventions: standards that allow individuals to do their thing, but to allow bottom-up aggregation of their artifacts along social connections. The groups are there, but latent, implicit in the gestural relationships of crosslinking, tags, comments, and blogrolls.
I envision a time where even in the largest organization, our lives as individuals will define the norm for computer-assisted work. The model of soloware will displace the 90s ideals of groupware in exactly the same way that the pre-groupware assembly line models were dethroned in the 90s. In our work lives, even in the largest, most conservative companies, we are instantaneously involved in dozens of projects, with teams of people that are constantly changing, with outside consultants and partner companies, and there is no end in sight. When everything fractures away from stable, long-lasting, closed teams toward the exact opposite, what is left are individuals in contact with each other, through soloware: individual needs first, group needs second, by extension.
We are, first and foremost, individuals. The concept that whenever we do something it should be intentionally in the context of a specific well-defined group is outmoded, and was always an approximation of what is really going on, socially. We are involved in social relationships, and what we do with others is always social, but not necessarily part of a group, or only of one group. So, let’s put aside groups, and focus on the individual. The groups will follow.”