I’ve been watching the Collaborate Live sessions unfold with interest over the last few months. A great idea for a series of Google Hangouts organised & hosted by Bev Holden and Kate Hargreaves aka @Stickythinker and @k8clearthinker from Clear Thinking.

The Collaborate Live sessions, also affectionately known as #LiveClive over on Twitter are short conversations with people who share their own experiences of collaboration. The sessions are based around three questions although the conversations are fluid and can duck, weave and traverse in any direction possible as Bev does a great job in diving deeper in to what is said, skilfully exploring the themes raised around collaboration.

You can watch all episodes to date (and I highly recommend you do) over on Bev’s YouTube channel here 

I was really excited to get asked by Bev to be a guest on Collaborate Live a few weeks ago. Collaboration is somewhat part of my DNA and is as an important ingredient to creating online communities as Mary Berry is to the Great British Bake Off. I was keen to tell my story of how collaborating with others has helped shaped the DPG Community. To create something from nothing and play a big part in that something is incredible but it doesn’t happen in isolation. There are many factors involved but I believe collaboration sits at its heart and it was going to be fun exploring the role that collaboration had played and continues to play in this journey. I hoped anyone who would listen live or listen to the recording would enjoy hearing what I had to say. Not from an ego perspective, but because this is something I’m fiercely passionate about and I REALLY wanted it to go well.

The virtual stage was set.

I’d used Google Hangouts before as a participant, I’ve hosted a number of them and used the Google Hangout Live feature as well. I’d go so far to say I was an early adopter and used Hangouts when they were first made available and whilst they aren’t the easiest of things to organise and set up correctly they are relatively pain free when you know what you’re doing. Like so many things there is a bit of trial and error involved but the technology works well so I wasn’t worried before the session, I was more worried about what I was going to say as it was live. Nose picking aside I felt I had it covered and logged in 15 minutes early to check the settings and that everything was working.

  • Quiet place – check
  • Decent webcam – check
  • Blue Yeti Microphone – check
  • Fast as the speed of light internet wired connection – check
  • Dodgy haircut – check

Bev and I chatted though the running order and as we started to chat we both noticed the screen freezing and a lag in what we were saying. Um….this wasn’t the way it should be working and after messing around with the settings for a few minutes we continued nervously hoping the problem would disappear. 5,4,3,2,1……..

All of a sudden we were live being uploaded and streamed over the web faster than a celebrity sex tape and the PROBLEM HAD NOT DISAPPEARED

AAARRRGGGHHHH.

Bev’s introduction had cut out and I didn’t hear her first question as she froze but I knew the first question so took a punt and started to talk about my positive experiences of collaboration and using technology. Oh the irony.

I was talking….”as collaboration”…….”community”……..”big part”……….”7 years ago”

Bit words, incoherently strung together like a drunk poet at an open mic night and it quickly became clear this wasn’t working. Something fundamental had gone wrong and the internet gremlins were having a jolly good laugh at my expense. Being the true professional, Bev did the only thing that was left to do and wrapped up the session as quickly as possible sending her apologies for the technical issues and the Hangout got Hungup.

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I was left in my quiet place with feelings I’d not felt for a long time…..

  • Disappointment. I was so disappointed that technology had let me down in my half an hour of need.
  • Embarrassment. I was so embarrassed that this had happened in ‘public’.
  • Frustration. I was so frustrated as I’d done everything I’d done before in previous Hangouts and never had any problems.
  • Anger. I was so angry at myself and the stupid internet.
  • Helplessness. Perhaps the most interesting of feelings. Total helplessness. I didn’t know what the problem was and I couldn’t fix it.
  • Failure. Irrelevant of everything and anything I’d failed. The session was a failure and I’d let down Bev. This was the first Collaborate Live to end in this way. Oh the shame!

Bev and I briefly chatted afterwards and we made arrangements to reschedule the session and to try again. I’d send her some dates and times and we’d give it another go. Cool that made sense and felt OK……..but what if it happened again? The last emotion I felt before I got on with my day was a raw and powerful emotion.

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This is the purpose of me writing this. I’ve become complacent, I’ve forgotten the emotions that people go through when dealing with technology and things don’t go to plan. Whether it’s the first time using a new piece of tech kit, social media, an app, a discussion forum, a new smart phone or using trusted technology that has worked each and every time and all of a sudden stops working. I’m lucky that I’ve had plenty of good experiences using Google Hangouts and know how good they are when they work.

Had this been the first time I’d used Hangouts and I’d had this sort of experience how would this have influenced my thinking about the tool? Would I want to use it again? Not on your nelly.

So I’ve been thinking about this since the session and whilst I’m a big advocate for using technology and feel quite at home use technology each and every day. There are lots of people who don’t feel the same, who’s first experience of using technology or social media isn’t positive either because it doesn’t work and can’t be explained or it’s not understood and doesn’t create immediate value. Because it feels uncomfortable and different, it can undermine what confidence people have in themselves let alone the technology. The fear of the unknown is powerful, a feeling of helplessness can be even more powerful and whilst I hate the expression “I’m a technophobe’, I have a deeper understanding of why this might be the case and new found empathy for those who are finding their way through the 21st century and ever changing technological landscape.

What I’ve taken from this? As a learning professional I need to work harder at helping people have positive experiences with technology, building confidence and capability and offering support and guidance where I can.

We all do.