Tools for Transparency: Note Taking with Twitter and Google Docs

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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 Idealist.org 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?

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  • Scott- Excellent way to capture the wisdom of the crowds! For those who are intewrested in Twitter in the classroom, check this out. 29 Ways to Use Twitter in the Classroom http://change-leadershipllc.com/social-media-in-classroom.html

    • Scott S.

      Thanks Skip, I appreciate that

  • Good point David, Wave had a lot of potential and some of the features have been integrated into GDocs.

  • David Ron

    I think this was what was considered the killer feature of the now defunct Google Wave. I think that a public Google Doc is as good a public real-time wiki as anything else. I hope this kind of stuff catches on in more places.

  • @Daniel that’s great, I’d love to hear more about this.

  • I’m in a Professional and Technical Writing graduate program and I’m working on an independent study proposal to introduce collaborative note-taking to freshman composition classes. I want to find out what impact it has on comprehension and retention. An experience just like yours (conference, Google Docs) is what inspired the idea!

  • I think you can also write to Google Docs without having a login, but Etherpad is good to know too.

  • Benoit

    I’ve seen people use etherpad (e.g. http://openetherpad.com/ ) a lot for note taking / conferences.

    Compared to Google Docs, it has the advantage to not require any login, and it’s easier to navigate and replay the changes.