Here’s another way we think Buzzword might be useful in working on documents, whether you’re working alone or in a group setting. One measure of whether this post might be useful for you is the number of paper clips that are visible in your Inbox.
In other words, if your Inbox is choked with messages that contain attachments, especially if those attachments are Word documents, then Buzzword is worth considering.
The last post discussed the complexity of managing document revisions via email. The post imaginatively determined that, as an example, 10 collaborators working on a document over six versions could generate 126 instances of the document.
There’s a smaller number that’s more important than the 126 instances referenced. If you were the author of the document, you wouldn’t actually see all 126 instances, but you could very well end up with 60 marked up versions (10 collaborators marking up each of 6 versions).
How do you handle all that commentary? One approach is to carefully save each marked up copy in a folder on your hard disk. The brute force approach is to print out each document as it arrives.
Perhaps the most common solution is to save all the marked up documents as they are received – as attachments in email. You can move the messages to an email folder where, in this case, some 60 messages will be stored, sorted in descending date order. It would seem logical that the most recent message contains the most up to date version, but this isn’t always the case.
The reality is that email is often used as an alternative document repository. Until Adobe SHARE launched last fall, I would often create a draft message in gmail, attach a document to it, then save it for later access – usually from another computer. Until Buzzword became available last year, my son would email his homework to himself as an attachment, so he could retrieve it at school the next morning to continue working on it.
This may have been pragmatic when there were only a couple documents, but it gets crazy when managing entire threads with attachments.
The strange thing is that we’ve come to believe that this kind of multiple-document-version-juggling is normal and efficient. In fact, we probably develop a perverse-yet-industrious skill in being able to manage this juggling. But it takes time, energy and the process is error prone.
Once you start using Buzzword, you’ll begin to wonder how and why you endured the complexity and inefficiency of managing documents and versions via email. Here are some of the advantages:
- All versions are there in one place.
- Everyone gets to see everyone else’s comments, so the refinement goes faster as reviewers build on others’ feedback.
- Changes are made to the only document – the one that everyone is viewing and commenting on.
- Comments are time-stamped, so you know when they were added, and whose comments are most recent.
- The collaborator bar shows who has seen which version. If a collaborator hasn’t reviewed your latest revision, you can remind them.
We haven’t measured efficiency gains quantitatively yet, but our experience is that getting everyone on the same page – that is, the same document – reaps big rewards in a group’s document revision and communication process.