Today we embarked on an interesting social media challenge, a few folks that I’ve started to hang out with virtually (and more recently in the pub) agreed to meet at a designated time in a Google Wave and set about writing a blog post – in an hour. There was no pre-determined title, no prep, just a blank bit of virtual paper and half a dozen scribblers…

A multi-national, multi-discipline CMS cast of characters was formed; a rough blend of implementation consulting, product marketing, industry commentators and CMS geeks from vendors, systems integrators  and analysts – Jon Marks, Irina Guseva, Adriaan BloemAndrew Liles, Justin Cormack and a chap who found himself without a wave account, through some cruel misunderstanding with Google (do you know who he is?) Philippe Parker who I attempted to link into the mayhem through Goto Meeting.

We learnt a lot about the tools (as I tried to work both Google Wave and simultaneously hook up with Philippe in Goto Meeting) – but I found the process just as interesting and the way people interacted, disagreed and eventually collaborated in this new social space.

The tools, I’ll leave for others to chat about and focus a bit on what we did.

The action began on time– with a flurry of simultaneous typing – as the crowd tapped away at suitable titles.

Impressively, well I think so anyway as a chap who still doesn’t find the process of blogging easy,  it took about 15 minutes for a theme to emerge and coalesce into a title. The crowd was in the mood to rant and the title was eventually toned down to “Things We Hate About Content Management”.

It was probably at this point that I felt like the bloke that drinks beer and finds himself in that young and trendy vodka bar, it’s kicking off, the cool kids are dancing and I am asking for the music to be turned down – “errmmm, you can’t say that!”.

The really weird thing was that it was silent, we are having a  pure Wave experience with no VoIP to aid the discussion and Philippe and I had abandoned getting him dialled into the Goto Meeting session and had resorted to me sharing my screen and the chat window in Goto meeting (which annoyingly I couldn’t copy and paste out of) and yet I felt a strange sort of sensory assault, like being in a room where everyone is talking at once.

The discussion was conducted by the six of us simultaneously typing, as the wave got bigger, it was five other people typing on different parts of the screen, bits of the screen scrolled out of view and I had to scroll up and down to see the action and inject my own thoughts.

Those of you who have not tried the Wave experience, it’s people typing at the same time, you see each letter they type as they type it – not like IM where you type in a private box and then post. (Now there’s a statement that’s going to date fast as this this way of working takes off – really, six people typing at the same time – wow!)

Meanwhile Philippe typed stuff into the chat window and I tried to reflect his thinking and my own in the tide of updates.  This wasn’t crowd sourcing or even content collaboration – it was a furious riot of ideas and opinions, being offered, edited, added to, toned down, expanded upon and sometimes deleted (no you definitely can’t say that about marketing). Sometimes people working in different parts of the article and sometimes three people working on the same sentence. There was even time for a bit of badinage.

At some point, I think it might have been Irina that started bringing order to the chaos, as we decided to flesh out the bullet point style that had formed and turn it into a grown up article.

As Irina started working on the introduction, I noticed one of the interesting things about Wave – not only can you see people type,  how good they are at working a keyboard, or spelling, but also how they form their sentences and self edit. To that end Irina definitely demonstrated her accomplished writing style as perfectly formed sentences sprang seamlessly onto the page.

The blog post forms into a coherent whole as we flesh out the points – too quickly time is called, as Irina (hang on – who made her boss?) – tries to attract everyone’s attention and stop people typing.

When I read it I can sort of hear the voices of some of the authors in some bits, but the collective seemed to have smoothed that out and I think it reads quite well. I think being strict about stopping to time also preserved it’s freshness, it’s rough edges haven’t been edited out, and we haven’t collaborated it to death and made it sound like something agreed by committee.

A few more minutes might have given us a better conclusion, but that was it – done. 1,662 words of crash, crunch, slam, crowd sourced blogging – or whatever moniker the cool kids give it.

We start chatting, in the wave, about publishing it – I’ve already blogged about the lack of publish button in Wave, so using cut and paste Irina immediately published the result here (I was marginally freaked out as I have a cautious approach to hitting publish with my own stuff )  and for Google Wave users Jon posted it by embedding the Wave into his blog.

As people drift out of the wave and I disconnect from Philippe, virtually looking over my shoulder – I am left with a weird feeling, thinking that everyone can see everything I can type regardless of the application (Wavanoia?)!

Even since publishing it’s remained interesting (I think I’ve said interesting about a dozen times in this post), as the Wave is not done, it’s not baked or dried – or whatever analogy we might want to use – it’s a Wave so remains editable, Jon opened it up to everyone to scrawl over – the riot continues. Not in the orderly blog post way, of I’ve said my bit now you can comment, I mean scrawl all over it.

Picture of Lego riot policeman reproduced under Creative Commons courtesy of Dunechaser.