Dude, where’s my document?

Try this experiment:

  1. Think of a printed guide you worked on.
  2. Find the source document from your current location.
  3. Make a minor change to the document.
  4. Go to the locations of all the end users: their homes and offices.
  5. Remove the previous guides.
  6. Replace the previous guides with the new copies.
  7. Complete steps 1 through 6 immediately.

Done yet?

Now try this:

  1. Using your Google or Gmail account, create a Google document.
  2. Enter some text into it.
  3. Open another copy of your web browser, or open a different browser.
  4. Copy and paste the URL from one browser into the other. The document will now be displayed in both browsers.
  5. Resize the windows of both browsers so that they are displayed adjacently to each other.
  6. Make changes to the document in one browser.

A magical thing happens: you’ll see your changes in the other browser window in real time. That is, changes made in one browser instantly appear in the other as you type them.

This functionality allows multiple authors to edit a document and see each others changes as they happen. In addition, the document can be instantly published to the web, and be configured to automatically be republished when changes are made.

Compare this with the old model, where changes did not appear until the next printed release or until the revised files were uploaded to a website.

The question “where is the document?” has become as meaningless as “where is four?” Documents like these no longer exist in a single location but in every location. They have become as ubiquitous as concepts, philosophy, and gravity, not enclosed in a physical location but rather a metaphysical one.

Now some communicators proclaim: “information wants to be free”. Information cannot “want’ anything – it has no personality but that which we ascribe to it.

Communicators create and manage information – we control it. It is not that “information wants to be free” – it is that we can, and must, free it from its prison of physicality and non-universal accessibility.

Shared, web-based workspaces are a good place to begin the liberation.

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One thought on “Dude, where’s my document?

  1. P

    It's almost as if information has it's own living, breathing life force–it's own entity. This might not be far from the truth when you consider that corporations are considered this way (see the movie The Corporation) and corporations are made of…what? Information. Insightful posting, Andrew.

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