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A Magical Squared Moment

January 26, 2015 - 5 Comments

One of the problems we’re working to solve with Project Squared is to enable teams to work much more flexibly – any time, any place, any device. We believe that ad-hoc conferencing is a key part of this, which is why it features prominently in the application right now. I had a great experience – magical almost – with the app last week, and I wanted to share it with you.

A few developers, product managers, designers, and I were in a Squared Room, heatedly discussing the right user experience for a new feature we are considering adding to the app. The chat conversation was coming in bursts throughout the day. Around evening time in California, the discussion started up again. One of the participants was about to get in his car to drive home, so he took a gamble and hit the “call” button. It was actually quite late for me (I’m on the east coast), so I initially ignored the incoming invite, assuming others would as well. However, I saw that the call was still going on a few minutes later, so obviously something was going on. I was on my mobile, but figured I’d pop in and see what was happening. So, I clicked the join button.

When I joined, there was a heated discussion going. Four other folks were live in the call having an argument. The initiator of the call was still driving – thankfully his phone was lying down next to his seat and not in his hand! One of the others was outside a restaurant waiting to be seated. The other two were in a conference room in the office, working on some UX sketches on a whiteboard. We talked for about ten minutes, and actually made some good progress. The fellow in the restaurant reported a similar experience to mine – he initially ignored the request for the group call because he was at a restaurant. But seeing that the call was continuing, he jumped in to check it out.

This is a great example of how work is getting done today: Teams of people are using free moments of their time to collaborate while mobile. Work has become a mindset and not a place. Here, the Project Squared application helped a small set of folks find a free moment where they could not only chat, but have an informal ad-hoc conference call for a few minutes to accelerate (and resolve) a heated discussion.

This call would have never taken place without a tool like Project Squared. The fact that I was able to see that a conference call was in progress, and that it was associated with a specific topic I was interested in, and that it had achieved critical mass to proceed – that was the trigger that got me into the call. And the fact that I could easily join it, on my mobile phone, with just one tap – made it easy for me to just jump in and check it out.

I hope all of you are also using Project Squared and having similar experiences. I’d love to hear about them!

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  1. Ken has some great points, but is missing the bigger picture. With always on collaboration rooms, such as ones powered by Project Squared, we can define how and where we work. Right now emails, IM’s, calls and left voicemails are happening across networks everywhere, each one requiring a specific reaction.
    With “new way to work” applications, like Project Squared, ALL of those are eliminated. Single pane of glass, truthfully single pane of glass apps allow for easier integration to your teams and less ‘fuss’ when it comes to simple and natural collaboration.
    Of course users need to adopt tools like Project Squared, and once they do so ‘working’ or ‘communicating’ becomes as natural as being in one conference room together. Couple this with a simple UX, minimalist approach and a cloud first back end, the new way to work is actually obtainable.

  2. I agree with Jonathan and Zubair although I am sympathetic to Ken as well. Metaphors matter. A FaceBook post or Tweet are both messages consisting primarily of text… but if you think about it carefully, they do not function like an SMS message or an email, for example. Why not? Posts in a social media are not addressed to anyone in particular and, if we are not paying attention, simply pass us by in a “stream”. On the other hand, when people directly address an email or SMS to each other, it winds up in a personal inbox or a queue somewhere, not a stream. Senders generally expect recipients to read them. Or at least skim them. Eventually. Until we give up and delete the backlog every once and a while. Sigh…

    Mataphors like inbox and streams matter: they communicate social conventions and functions that define a medium. The thing I love about the “stream” is that when I get busy and miss a lot of events I don’t have a huge backlog of messages to process in order to catch up. I’m not accountable for stuff I miss. The problem with the stream, on the other hand, is that it’s just too noisy, too diffuse. Good stuff gets lost in the flow all the time.

    The room, however, is more focused than a stream and yet not as prescriptive or definite as an inbox. It’s a virtual place where people go to do something together. Sometimes. Although you may be invited and then allowed to enter a room where activities are happening, you are also free to leave. You can be notified when things are happening in the room or you can elect NOT to know when you are not present. I can choose to focus on some rooms, some of the time, and not others.

    As someone who is often remote, I find it relatively easy to find quiet time to concentrate. However, it’s IMPOSSIBLE to be aware of ad-hoc meetings like this that are happening in a team room without tools like these… unless you are actually physically present.

  3. Hi Ken, I understand where you’re coming from. However the thing to note here is that Jonathan ignored the call initially but then ‘chose’ to join the call because it intrigued and interested him to know the conclusion of the discussion; infact he ‘wanted’ to be part of it and provide his input.

    Most importantly though, choice remains with the end user. Work is certainly changing, I can choose to take 2 hours out of ‘working day’ to have lunch with my wife knowing that I can make up for it in the evening when I have some free time. That’s not possible in every line of work but certainly lots more than 5 years ago.

    • Zubair has it right. The tools are giving me a choice. In the use case I cite, not everyone in the Squared room joined the call. Others were busy and chose to prioritize their personal life. For them, they knew about the call because the call record was persisted into the room. They can catch up later by reading notes posted into the room or by asking folks later on for a summary.

      The tools support the way people want to work (or not). That is the goal.

  4. Alternately, this is a terrible example of how work is getting done today. Nobody can have a meal in peace, work on something without getting interrupted, or drive while concentrating on the task at hand. Work is a 24-hour priority and nobody feels morally justified in missing a moment of conversations that can come “in bursts throughout the day,” on into the evening, and through sick days, vacations, weddings, funerals, and probably the act of human conception. Technology is solving and creating collaborative problems at roughly the same speed!