One of the things I love about the web is it’s asynchronicity.
I can send you an email, or address a tweet your way on Monday morning and, unless it’s something urgent, you can respond as late as you like – right through to happy hour the following Friday. Based entirely on our needs, we can schedule our interactions loosely, and have conversations over the course of days, weeks, or even months without losing the thread of things, because there is almost always a meta-data supplied history for everything we do.
We can even consume media asynchronously. Through Google Reader or Instapaper, I can gather up weeks of stories from my favorite blogs,
Another thing I love about the web is it’s immediacy.
If I need to listen real-time for something, I can set up a net of Google Alerts and have them delivered by RSS into my feed reader of choice. I can get the information I’m looking for on an as-indexed basis. I could also use other listening tools, if I needed to, to expand my ears and make myself into a super-hero quality observer. I’d never miss a thing.
I stopped actively checking my mail years ago – there’s an app for that. I also stopped worrying over content management and coding the text of each page on my site a long time ago – there’s a plethora of apps for that
Need a quick response? Find me on Twitter.
Want to host a distributed chat event? Again, see Twitter – this time just make a hashtag and let people come to you.
Need to edit a document at the same time as I do? Let’s share a Google Doc and work on it at the same time.
When it comes time to publish my book, I’ll barely need a publisher at all.
I also stopped relying on online chats and tools like IRC a while ago. Through tools available now on the web, I’ve almost entirely eliminated the need for destination-based communication in my work.
Recently, I also moved much of my collaborative writing into Google Docs specifically, and have completely abandoned the last remaining web chat I’ve been using for the last ten years. No more need of it. Sure, I’m losing some serendipity – the possibility that a new player might randomly stumble into a game I’m running – but I’m gaining curatorial control, synchronism, and the benefit of a closed platform for speed and focus. And when the aim is to pump out large volumes of high-quality writing in short periods of time, that’s a huge benefit.
How amazing is this: In less than three hours on a Google Doc, my writing cohort and I managed to churn out 3000 words of content between us. Single paragraphs, in cyclical production, with a fully functional back-channel right in the window with us, and the option of Skype if we wanted to really dive into the meta side of the work.
Two days’ worth of NaNoWriMo-class writing in just a few hours. Neither of us were tired, neither of us concerned with running out of data or inspiration. We only got through about a chapter and a half, after all, of plot. If we manage to keep working the plot hard enough for a few weeks, we may have a mini-novel to do something with. No planning, no strategy. Just the work, instant and simple reference, built-in editing, and some otherwise idle time.
Imagine what people working with intention might do?
Two people working on a book could churn out a manuscript (conceivably) in just a few weeks, working full-time. That’s with time to do research, collaborate on structure, set up a framework, and get all the facts checked at the same time.
However you need to work with someone remotely – whether in the same room or across the world – the web provides.
And the means are always improving, for everyone using them. Not just because of the advances in the tools themselves, but also because of the way people use them for increasingly ingenious things.
What do you do on the web with others that totally blows your mind?