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March 8th, 2007 by Graham Attwell

Bit quiet on this blog at the moment. That is because I am in wall to wall meetings. And, even worse, endless travel to meetings.

Its preety exhausting. It is not the time youy are in the meetings but the endless activity. True, the best bit of any meeting is in the pub in the evening. That is where the ideas get flowing. But it means you don’t stop from half past seven in the morning until eleven at night. And I’ve been doing it for ten days now with another 14 days to go.

So I got wondering if all these meetings are necessary. Surely there must be some ways in which we can use technology to help. Yes, Skype is being used for audio and there is a slow trend towards more use of video conferencing. But this tends to be in addition to the meetings.

The problem – I think – is the lack of thinking about the purpose of meetings and the forms in which collaboration take. What are we trying to achieve? How do we need to work to achieve this? How can that best be done. Even with the increasing use of wikis and wiki type environments we have not really worked out how to develop collaborative writing. So called workshop sessions are all too often presentations with questions.

Much of this could be done with technology – given a little imagination and planning. II think one problem is that many of the meetinsg I attend are bing frun by researchers. Researchers are not trained in how to plan and moderate workshops. the best meetings are often those planned by trainers. They are experienced in how to moderate collaboration. They worry about what the aims and objectives of the meeting are.

One last thing, before I finish this moan (and I am well aware of how many people are envious of all this travel). The endless air travel involved in international project is not sustainable. I hate to think of what my carbon footprint would look like. And perosnally I think there is much to be said for on-line conferences. They are not the same – but they bring a different quality to conference type events. As the AKA Specials once said: “Different, but Equal”.

So OK, just for the record – next week I am in Pontypridd in wales, the first part of the next week I am in Houston, Texas, and the second half am in Bucharest, Romania. If you’re around and fancy a pint just drop me an email.

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