Tools for Transparency: Note Taking with Twitter and Google Docs


Twitter and Google DocsNot too long ago I attended a Crisis Camp unconference hosted at George Washington University in Washington, DC. For my first unconference I was quite impressed and excited about the covered topics, the level of attendee enthusiasm and the passion from panel members.

At the time I was working for and needed to keep notes to report back on when I returned to the office. I followed along as best I could, writing down thoughts and notes from my session and taking inspiration from the #crisiscamp hash tag on Twitter.

Keeping track of my session was simple enough, but then the thought occurred to me to invite others to contribute to my notes and offer their thoughts and perspectives. I made the Google document I was writing to public, shortened the document url using Bit.y and invited those following the #crisiscamp hash tag on Twitter to take notes along with me.

Within minutes of posting the url to Twitter almost a dozen contributors were adding their own thoughts, tweets, photos and observations to the notes. Almost immediately the document was a mess but the writers began to clean up after themselves, fixed punctuation and grammar and organically developed a formatting style for documenting the session.

With each session I repeated the process and was able to document the day with thoughts and perspectives from members of the Crisis Commons community. It was fascinating to see live contributions while each session progressed.

Tools like Twitter and Google Docs make collaborating and documenting in real-time dead simple and works for everything from conferences to live events to proposed bills (eg. Public Markup). I think a major take away here is that the approach is open, it’s transparent and it’s accessible.  What are your thoughts? Do you have any interesting anecdotes on techniques for working together collaboratively from the web?