Discussions…

By: babette09

Aug 01 2009

Category: Uncategorized

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We had our first Skype / Etherpad call the other night. However, Skype kept wigging out and closing the connection, so Margaret finally opted to just use the Chat feature in Skype instead. It was surprisingly effective, as we all typed over each other in our enthusiasm to get our thoughts out, or heard. Although it could be confusing at times, a lot of us were able to get a lot out there that we may not have been able to say had we been in a conference call.

Later, the second group had their call, which was more successful in Skype. They were able to simultaneously chat and Skype. In addition, about half of the conversation was recorded and posted for the rest of us to hear.

It was interesting to listen in on the call and compare it to our earlier chat session in Skype. During the recorded conversation, Margaret did much more talking, while the call members seemed to be more in a listening mode. You could hear approval of something Margaret said, a “Yes definitely” here and there. Mostly, they seemed to listen, although I’m not saying they didn’t weigh in on subjects. There were times when a few of them offered their own takes on an idea or reading reference.

By contrast, in our Skype chat, we fell all over the place with comments and questions. I’m guessing that an advantage to this method was that we all felt a little more at ease throwing something out there, since we weren’t speaking. It’s much easier (and politically OK?) to add your opinion to another  chat. In fact it’s encouraged more often in a chat, since it goes so fast. You often have to throw your sentence or two out there before the subject is turned in another direction.

That can also be disadvantageous when using this method. Subjects are dissected so fast that sometimes you’re responding to something that changes into another conversation. Then you get a little lost trying to quickly read over what everyone else said before they arrived at the next subject. In addition, people sometimes make a comment on an old (i.e., more than 30 seconds!) subject in the middle of the new one. Then you’re tempted to go back and re-read, to make sure you understand what they’re referring to; at least, that’s what I experienced.

I’m looking forward to a Skype session in which we really speak! I did find that the conversation seemed more… is civil the correct word for this? Margaret would speak, others would listen, and then everyone would give their opinion before Margaret would move onto another subject. Not sure if that is always preferable, of course.

I have to admit I find the chat sessions kind of exhilerating. In fact, I Twittered about that very thing. It’s fun to jump around and throw your opinion in when you have the chance. Then you can sit back now and then and just absorb what’s going on (hopefully, if you read fast enough) before you form another opinion to throw into the group. I think there are advantages and disadvantages to each type of communication. Chatting is a great brainstorming method of communication. It is surprisingly effective for more pointed discussions too, although one of the quirks is that it can be confusing at times. Skype conference calls are obviously better when you want to hear what everyone says. We all know how inflection in a voice can change the meaning of a sentence! I know that the second group used the Etherpad also, which probably provided them a means to do what we did in the first call. Perhaps that changed their conversation in a way that I just didn’t see.

Video would be best of all for some of these discussions, since we would be able to see when a person is actually smiling as opposed to scowling. There are times that I joke around, but if I’m in email or on the phone, it may be lost on a person. I tend to be somewhat sarcastic when I joke, so someone who doesn’t know me well could infer that I’m really angry about something that I’m kidding around about. In the same vein, both methods used the other night could make it difficult to identify how a person truly intends for an opinion or statement to be taken. On the other hand, unless you’re like Cher you probably don’t want a camera on you at all times. It can be a little creepy to know that every  move you make is being observed (and possibly recorded) for later review. That could cause people to join in less often with a real opinion, and cause some less-than-candid answers during these sessions.

OK, so my final compromise would be to use all of them at different times, depending on which end result you would like to have.  Also take your group into account, and the subject matter, to help decide which method is best. Why am I dissecting this at all? We’re using Skype with Etherpad for all of these calls ideally, right? Maybe it’s my new penchant to pontificate to myself, e.g., write a blog about it

All in all, it was a great session, and I’m looking forward to more. A bientôt!

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