Link roundup

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Rethinking email

emailOr maybe not actually rethinking email, but taking it back to what it was meant to be about…

Working with a colleague the other day in a government organisation, I saw him looking for a document, that he was sent in an email. He was looking for it in his email client (Outlook in this case), in an inbox that contained thousands of emails, and lots of email sub folders, all of which contained hundreds, if not thousands, of more emails.

He tried clicking his way through, sorting and resorting folders in different ways, without success. He tried the search function, also to no avail.

This, I thought, is madness. Many people in many organisations do exactly the same thing. They keep hold of thousands of emails, many kept unread for one reason or another, because they might be needed in future, or because they act as reminders to do something, or because they have file attachments that might be useful.

Here’s the thing though. Your email client was set up to receive emails, and to send them. It’s not a task manager. It’s not a file store.

Of course, it’s not individuals fault that they are misusing their email in this way. After all, if a genuinely better, more usable alternative was available, they would use it. But sadly the productivity and document management tools available to your average worker in a big organisation are rarely very usable.

I’d be really interested to know how big a problem this is for people – as I have a little idea around something that could help.

So, are you drowning in email you don’t feel like you can delete? Let me know below!

Collaboration ground rules

groundrules_bSometimes to make collaboration work you need to set some ground rules.

It’s easy to say, “let’s start up a google doc!” – and imagine everyone leaping in to give their ideas. But it’s not so simple as that, especially if folk haven’t had the experience or confidence in this way of working.

Instead it’s necessary to have a think about how the collaborative activity might be approached, and ensure everyone is aware of the process you have selected.

Often this will be the case when the technology available is a bit lacking. As an example, a recent collaborative effort I started was based in a ‘Note’ within a group on Yammer. Notes are the collaborative writing part of Yammer, but they aren’t terribly sophisticated and won’t allow you to use formatting such as tables.

So, I spent a bit of time describing how to add ideas to the list. I came up with a fairly simple process that involved a bold heading for each new item, with two bullets points underneath for other related information to be recorded.

Without this introduction, people may have been unsure what to do, and so not bother, or even accidentally start hacking up what others had written.

At the very least, when working on a Google Doc with others, for example, I’ll put “No deletions!” at the top as a general rule to people.

Any other collaboration ground rule tips to share?

Link roundup

I find this stuff so you don’t have to:

Tips for running a LinkedIn group

linkedin-logoI’ve just started a LinkedIn group on the topic of digital skills in the workplace. You are very welcome to join.

I have to admit – I’ve not done much with LinkedIn groups before, and while much of it is pretty intuitive to anyone who has used similar features on other networks, I’ve had to learn a fair bit too.

Here’s some handy hints that might save you some bother if you have a go at setting up your own LinkedIn group in the future.

Sharing files

You can’t post documents – so you need to upload to Dropbox, Box or SkyDrive and link to them.

Likewise, if you want to collaborate on a document, you’ll need to use Google Doc or something similar.

You can only send one announcement email a week

So make it a good one – perhaps summarising the last 7 days activity and getting people excited about what’s to come. This is also a good way of bringing discussions to people’s attention that might otherwise have got lost in the flow of the group.

Be careful who you let in

There are armies of people who seem to attempt to join every single LinkedIn grow going for no apparent reason. My advice is to make your group invite only, and if you don’t recognise someone who applies to join, have a quick look at their profile.

If it isn’t immediately obvious why they would have an interest in your group, you can either just ignore them, or if you are feeling nice, ping them a message asking why they want to join your group.

Build a sense of exclusivity

Linked to the above, because there are a lot of groups on LinkedIn, you need to make yours stand out a bit. I did this by making my group a closed one, that you can only access if you are a member.

Practice in private

Have a private group that only you know about so that you can practice how the features work with minimal embarrassment. Not everything in LinkedIn works the way you’d expect it to, so having a sandbox you can play around in is a good idea!

Curate the stream

LinkedIn groups are effectively streams of content. It does some work for you in listing stuff on the main page in order of relevance and interest. However, bits will get lost unless you do some curation.

As mentioned above, one way of doing this is to use the weekly email announcement feature. However, I think it is probably worth having somewhere separate where the really good stuff can be listed on a web page somewhere – particularly for new members who need to catch up.

Edit the email templates

A key thing to do to make the community welcoming and a bit more personal is to edit the messages that get sent out to prospective members when they first apply to join.

A few of the groups I am a member of don’t do this, and it does make you feel like the group isn’t particularly actively managed or facilitated, so it can be off putting.

Remember – this is about community management

So even though the medium we are using is LinkedIn, everything else still applies – welcome new members, reply to people’s posts, seed conversations, promote the group in other channels, and so on. Go read Feverbee, and do what it tells you.

Have you any further tips for running a successful LinkedIn group?