June 7, 2023


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Lessons in Collaborative Technology Use From 1999

isolated  floppy disc against a white background

Fredy Jacob

The beginning of a new year is my excuse to do some home office housekeeping. I don’t know about you, but do you ever find certain things that you know you don’t need, but can’t quite bring yourself to let go of?

Case in point:

use misuse tech

The CSC Foundation, part of my former employer Computer Sciences Corporation, prided itself on publishing timeless technology advice. It published the above brochure in 1999. Yet virtually all of the advice included is still very much relevant today.

Just to put some perspective on this: 1999 was before Facebook, Twitter, Slack, LinkedIn, Zoom, Microsoft Teams. The internet and Microsoft Office were less than a decade old.

Here is a succinct summary of the timeless advice provided:




Don’t assume that if the calendar program says someone is “free,” they have nothing better to do.

When updating your calendar, remember that other people will read it.

When forming a new team, agree how the calendar may be used.

Use the Calendar to negotiate when a meeting should take place — but first make sure you need a meeting.

Don’t use a broadcast meeting invitation to gauge interest in a topic.

Enrich calendar entries by linking to other information.


If you want action from several people, send each one an individual message.

If you expect discussion on an issue, don’t send it by email.

Don’t say anything in an email that you wouldn’t want to commit permanently to writing.

Don’t flame, and don’t retaliate if others flame you.

Mark your message “Urgent” only if you believe that the recipient would thank you for doing so.

Use the subject field to add value to the email, not just as a label.

Think more about saving the readers’ time than saving your own.

Shared Filing Space

A shared filing space can perform multiple roles — don’t get them mixed up.

Archives don’t have to be easy to use, but they must be complete.

Establish the owner of any reference document and the process for keeping it up to date.

Extract the reusable knowledge from a document when you file it. Don’t expect the retriever to do it.

A good structure guides the creation of content — not just its retrieval.

Prune the dead wood in order to promote growth.

Restructuring is a management task, not a clerical one.

Discussion Space

Don’t discourage trivia — displace it.

Use the power of anonymity by design, not default.

Aim to close as many discussions as you open.

The moderator’s role is to ensure that the discussion achieves its intended outcome.

You need to know whether or not you are progressing towards an outcome.

Take the time to learn common conventions, or invent your own.


Be an active moderator.

Ensure that the audioconferencing is audible.

Make sure the conference has a clear beginning.

Direct questions to nominated participants.

Use reflexive listening. (“So what you’re saying is …”)

Summarize from time to time.

Give occasional quick status reports.

Wind up the conference formally.


Get training in videoconferencing techniques.

Zoom in as close as you dare. Then zoom closer.

Look into the camera, not the screen, when you are speaking.

To appear natural, you must practice unnatural acts (exaggerate expressions).

Starting a video conference promptly is harder than with a face-to-face meeting — and more important.

Use a moderator, and have pre-agreed signals that will ensure the conversation flows well.

Don’t use the video channel to screen documents.

The only advice I would now question is the very last one, which was predicated on video resolutions far inferior to what we have available today.

As it turns out, the CSC Foundation is also timeless and now exists as the Leading Edge Forum.

Laurence Lock Lee is the co-founder and chief scientist at Swoop Analytics, a firm specializing in online social networking analytics. He previously held senior positions in research, management and technology consulting at BHP Billiton, Computer Sciences Corporation and Optimice.