Friday, November 25, 2005

Running an organization online: The Australian Computer Society

Greetings from the national council of the Australian Computer Society (ACS). The ACS holds two meetings a year of its peak body. Being a computer organization it is not surprising the ACS has worked to adapt computers for the meetings. Only standard hardware and software is used, but adapted for working in a live meeting.

As Director of Communications Technologies for the ACS I have a particular interest in the way it uses IT to make decisions and run the organization. There isn't much point in the organisation trying to sort out public policy on things like metropolitan boadband blackspots if it can't use the technology itself.

There are about 30 people in a meeting room in Sydney sitting around a U shaped table (see photo). At the open end of the U is a projection screen with the agenda on it.

Most people have a laptop computer in front of the them, linked by WiFi. The agenda and papers are provided electronically on a secure web site. The agenda is a HTML web page, with the agenda papers linked to this. The agenda papers are mostly word processing documents and presentations.

When someone wants to make a presentation they can stay where they sit and be passed a wireless microphone and a video cable for their laptop. Most times prepared presentations are given. Sometimes after discussion proposals are modified live on the screen using a word processor. This was everyone can follow the details of what changes are being made.

Much of the time the attendees are intent reading and typing at their laptops. This can be a bit disconcerting if you are giving a presentation and the audience doesn't appear to be paying attention. But often the audience is actively working on what you are talking about, reading ahead in the presentation, searching and preparing counter proposals.

On occasions we have tried things like compute mediated brainstorming systems, such as the Grouputer. But mostly it is just ordinary computer hardware and software used.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Why the need for "secure"? The meeting should be transparent.

Plain (line based) text of the minutes.

Web links to them.

If you're lazy, blog.

IRC logs are also very common.

MP3 podcasts and videos of meetings aren't easily parsed and indexed.