Disadvantages of Collaborative Writing

Collaborative writing may seem to be an easy process as the efforts are shared between two or more than two people. But, it is not as easy as it seems to be because of the following reasons:

  • In parallel collaboration, the project gets delayed even if the work of one writer gets delayed.
  • In sequential collaboration, the tasks are depended on the previous writers. If a writer does not complete the work on time, the subsequent writers will have to start their work later than schedule and hence will have a tough time. The problem becomes intensified if Writer 1 or Writer 2 delay their share of activities and take more time than planned or required, because they are the initial writers and the others will have lesser time to complete their tasks.
  • Even if one writer does not follow the styles and guidelines and produces document that is not of accepted quality, the entire project will suffer.
  • Identifying and acknowledging the contributors of the project is a complex process.

Example: A project may earn good comments because of the suggestion(s) provided by one of the writers or because of the extensive edits and organizational changes done by the editor. But, it is the writer who may walk away with the laurels. Since the team member(s) who has given some valuable suggestions and/or inputs, or the editor who worked very hard editing, probably reorganizing and rewriting the document are not in the direct picture, they are not recognized for their efforts.

In collaborative type of work setup, it is very important to give appropriate acknowledgment to all the individual the contributors who helped in making the project a success. Managers should also appreciate the individuals who complete their work on or before the schedule without any quality issues. This requires effective and healthy communication not only between the team members, but with the project/project managers as well.

Collaborative Strategies

The three most common coordination strategies for collaborative writing are parallel, sequential, and mixed.

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Each methodology is based on how the work is divided among the people and has its own advantages and disadvantages.

 Parallel Collaboration

In this case, the writing effort is divided into sub-tasks which are assigned to different team members. These tasks can be completed simultaneously.

collab-parallel

 Different writers work simultaneously on the different chapters they are assigned or other activities they have to work on. This type of collaborative method is helpful when a project has to be complete in a short time frame.

Sequential Collaboration

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 This involves dividing the writing task in such a way that it happens in a sequential manner, one after the other. One writer completes a task and passes the document to another team member to perform another task. Consider a case wherein:

    1. Writer 1 gathers information, plans the project, and writes some (say, the introductory) part of the document.
    2. Writer 2 then take over and writes about the advanced features.
    3. Writer 3 takes the snapshots and puts them in the appropriate place in the document.
    4. Writer 4 edits the document.
    5. Writer 5 adds the index entries.

In this case, the document is distributed task-wise, not chapter-wise. So, it forms a kind of chain, wherein a person with expertise in a particular area performs the task they are good at and passes it on to another. Sequential collaboration is not the ideal way of creating a document. It takes up extra

time and effort. For example, Writer 3 has to run the software to take the snapshots where as the writers writing the document (Writer 1 and Writer 2) can do it when they run the software to write about it without having to use extra time or effort for that activity.

Mixed Collaboration

 collab-mix

It is a combination of parallel and sequential collaboration methods. Parallel collaboration is adapted and/or used followed for collecting information, writing, updating the document, and self-editing.

 Writers complete certain areas/portions of the document and they are edited by the writers on the other areas of the document. Sequential collaboration comes into picture during the editing and indexing phase.

Collaborative Writing

Collaborative authoring or writing can be defined as activities performed by more than one writer to produce a document or a set of documents.

Collaborative writing is a complex process as it involves more than one writer. Hence, it important to design a system or a methodology that effectively supports the collaborative process and also reduces the confusion between the writers. Apart from creating a process for collaborative writing, the other factors that have to be considered are:

  • Understanding the group dynamics.
  • Deciding the roles and responsibilities for the different individuals involved in the project to avoid conflicts.
  • Brainstorming for ideas, suggestions, and troubleshooting tips.
  • Identifying techniques for sharing and communicating information/ideas.
  • Identifying the comfort level between the team members.
  • Improving the social skills such as communication, team spirit, and cooperation.
  • Educating the team members about the different factors that influence the collaborative writing process.
  • Identifying and using an appropriate revision control system so that multiple writers can work on such projects.
  • Identifying an alternate process—-just in case the existing process fails.
  • Dealing with important ideas generated in group meetings.
  • Identifying social and work related practices and culture when writers from diverse cultures and location work together.

Collaboration Strategies

Writing is collaborative when more than one writers are involved in writing, creating, or updating a document. In this method, different writers may be responsible for different chapters of a document. The most visible collaborative efforts are the pre-writing and the post-writing phases of the project. The three most common coordination strategies for collaborative writing are:

  • Parallel
  • Sequential
  • Mixed

Each methodology is based on how the work is divided among the people and has its own advantages and disadvantages.