Digital collaboration tools are part of our lives more than ever before. No going back. No take backsies. For richer, for poorer.

Overall, it’s a good thing. But I have absolutely no doubt there’s still a lot of people, a lot of organisations, a lot of schools… a lot of places of all sorts… where they’re wondering why this tool was supposed to solve their problem and they’re not sure why.

All because no one was actually put in charge of researching best practice and examples and templates and processes to make that tool work at its best.

It’s a serious problem in part because that work is invisible work. It is work that supports output, it is not an output in itself. And it’s the kind of planning work that gets shuffled down the priority list even though it could be the ‘boring’ task that means your implementation of Slack or Canvas or Miro or Trello or Jira delivers rapid value to dozens of members of your organisation.

This is tactical work. And I often think that tactical work is lost in today’s world. Strategy sits on a shiny pedestal. The big picture plans that point to the horizon. And then it leaps to process and action, where the tactics – the nitty gritty roadmap on how to get to where you’re going, and how to deal with the realities of workflow – are always something that just gets muddled out along the way.

This is work that needs someone to be put in charge. You can’t plot a course and then give everyone a steering wheel, or just give everyone their own map whether they know how to read it or not.

Yes, let that person poll the group, build a consensus on what is needed, and get feedback during implementation to ensure things are working for everyone. BUT that person must have authority to make decisions about execution and to iterate and adjust how the thing works to make it succeed.

Success is the goal. To make the new tool successful. To ensure it works well and that everyone is using it correctly. And that it has been implemented to a degree that ensures it is being used to greatest effect.

I wish more companies offered better onboarding processes for subscription collaboration tools. It should be bog standard to expect to be able to get on a call with a human who can help walk you through the features that will suit the needs of your organisation and which templates might be the best place to start.

But it isn’t.

I’ve been using Superhuman, an excellent email app that ties into Gmail and makes it far faster and more efficient to deal with email on a daily basis. It’s also US$30/month. But they quickly earned that money by hosting a live video chat with an onboarding expert who talked to me like a pseudo psychologist about how I use email, what my pain points are, how I file things, and then how to setup my Superhuman account to make it work best for me.

And then two weeks later I had a follow up call with the same human to check in on my experience, any hassles, and any features I might not have been using yet that could help me.

It was amazing because it was so abnormal and so helpful. And I have no doubt it helped to ensure I would stick with the service for a lot longer.

Many corporate tools cost far more, yet offer far less assistance to organisations to help them learn the ropes. And too many organisations just think that switching on that new tool and letting a team loose is a good way to get up and running.

I’m sure there’s a sad analogy here that applies to the wider world today. Too few people with clear responsibility for anything. Too many people who think that a grand plan is all you need because you’ll never be held accountable for the tactical execution.

Let’s not let that be the road forward. And let’s start by ensuring that inside our own homes and offices we’re giving someone the steering wheel to help make our collaboration tools pursue a best practice that ensures they make work better in deeply practical ways.

On Byteside

Lazy mode this week. Go check the podcasts and byteside.com for all the latest. Geez, look at me. Self promoting like a marketing icon.

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The cancer in the camera lens

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A $350 “anti-5G” device is just a 128MB USB stick, teardown finds

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Here’s how Facebook And YouTube allowed conspiracy theorists to turn Bill Gates into the villain of the coronavirus pandemic

How did things get so bad? Here’s how.

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The Unicorns Fell Into a Ditch

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Unmissable

Half the matter in the universe was missing – we found it hiding in the cosmos

Half the matter in the universe was missing – we found it hiding in the cosmos

I got emotional reading this. Amazing science. Using the phenomenon of Fast Radio Bursts to measure matter we can’t see but have been searching for for decades. All thanks to the new ASKAP telescope here in Australia.

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68 bits of unsolicited advice

This is a truly excellent list of suggestions for life from the original Editor of Wired magazine, Kevin Kelly, on his 68th birthday.

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Smart

Charli D’Amelio is TikTok’s biggest star. She has no idea why.

The 16-year-old has 56 million followers, danced with J Lo and helped out her state governer with coronavirus messaging. And seems kinda normal? A fascinating look at the surprise star of TikTok.

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The new model media star is famous only to you

With short videos and paid newsletters, everyone from superstars to half-forgotten former athletes and even journalists can, as one tech figure put it, “monetize individuality.”

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This inclusively designed electric mobility vehicle is Tony Stark’s hoverboard

Making something that works like a Segway more stylish and more accessible? Winner.

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Fun

Video streaming together, at a distance: Hulu introduces Watch Party, and Plex launches Watch Together

More services need this. There’s some browser add-ons that add these features, but they’re not perfect. Native support for shared viewing in remote locations could be a really lovely feature for people to share an evening while they can’t be together.

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The Empire Strikes Back gets a modern trailer upgrade

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By Byteside

Curated news and insights on tech, science and digital culture.

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