Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Communication Strategies and Tools from Project Argo

NPR’s Argo Network (formerly known as Project Argo) involves collaboration among 12 local public radio stations in three time zones with various numbers of bloggers and editors at each station. How its members communicate across timezones and locations offers lessons for anyone looking for collaboration strategies and tools.

One-to-One Communication

The team has been using email, phone calls, Twitter and Skype. Lately they start augmenting phone conversations with PiratePad that allows members to share document editing in real-time, more immediate than using Google Docs. "Despite the surfeit of tools to choose from, however, the most valuable one-on-one interactions we can have are in person," said Matt Thompson, Argo's Editorial Product Manager. "Of course, this is the most time- and resource-intensive way to communicate. But there’s still nothing like it."

One-to-Many Communication

The team used GoToMeeting initially, but it requires too much advance set-up and coordination, and has trouble with Mac. "We’ve since moved to a lower-fidelity approach, using free tools. Join.Me to share desktops, and for voice communication," Thompson said. "For a small fee, allows us to record the audio when we need to. Pair that audio up with video of the related slides, and you’ve got a webinar recording." To capture and share best practices, the team uses the Argo blog and the Argo documentation site.

Many-to-Many Communication

Webinars and phone calls help. The team is also creating a Stack-Overflow-esque board that allows members to discuss issues and solicit advice as a group. "There’s no one-size-fits-all solution to keeping in touch," Thompson emphasizes, "What’s served us best are flexibility and adaptation. Setting up a phone call over Twitter while we trade notes in a PiratePad. Using Basecamp to agree on a time for a webinar that mashes up with Join.Me."

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