The Google Docs and Google Sheets Advantage
Google Docs and Sheets are handy when collaboration is likely to benefit from a parallel rather than serial workflow. They have a distinct advantage over cloud hosted documents accessed by applications that create copies when multiple users edit and comment simultaneously.
Such “conflicted copies” must be reconciled into a master document at some point and this has previously be a chore. Emailing a Microsoft Word or Excel document, or similar formats created with alternate program, to collaborators has long been a viable way to collaborate. However, I have noted that as the number of collaborators increased the management became more and more of a chore.
I have noted a severe avoidance behavior in collaborations where a chair of the collaboration, in a desperate bid to avoid reconciling multiple documents, decrees that the document will be send from one collaborator to another in a serial fashion. While handing the document from on collaborator to another, like a baton in a relay race, does decrease some of the management workload (the manager does not have to evoke MS Word Merge Documents function), it really stifles interplay and collaboration between early contributions and later contributions. This serial collaboration works in some documents but a more parallel collaboration should produce a richer final product.
Beyond the richer final product that can be achieved with parallel collaborations, two other advantages are achieved. First, the “when the iron is hot” advantage. Frequently, time is a limitation for all the collaborators. Having the document available to all the collaborators from the inception through to completion increases participation. Second, because the interplay of ideas and contributions is more free between collaborators there is room for adjustment of the presentation of ideas. It is the latter of these two that might be one of the most powerful.
In another post (Google Sheets, Docs, and Forms are Failures for Traveling) I blogged how I found Google Docs and Sheets to be a failure for my purpose. In that post I was describing the access to the document from my Ultrabook laptop computer.
In another post I describe how carrying an iPad with the Google Docs and Google Sheets app installed may cause me to carry both my my iPad in addition to my MacBook Air.