Tuesday, 11 January 2005

Asynchronous Meetings Standing Order

In the course of our work on online role play simulation, we continue to discover a lot of differences between physical world and online world, especially when the online world is asynchronous. The following is NOT a comprehensive list of the differences, but significant enough to linger in my mind all the times related to online meeting especially related to online role playing.

Many meetings, especially those formal ones, will have rules of the meeting, or standing order, e.g. just a quick search on Google, I found this and this. Typically, such standing order will specify the time and method of calling a meeting. The timing for calling of election seems to be a powerful political tool to give your own party is highly winning chances (as in British and Australian Parliaments). One of the purpose of this fixed schedule of calling a meeting is to give participants sufficient notice in order to present in the meeting. Obviously, in an asynchronous meeting, the meeting time is an extended period and such a requirement becomes unnecessary. Actually, I have seen some Fablusi players spent significant amount of time and effort to "arrange a meeting" where in fact our analogy is a continuous meeting in the designated iSpace (interaction space). Of course, if they want to use the chat feature, a common acceptable time has to be arranged before hand.

Another common feature in Standing order is the requirement of a "Quorum" before the meeting may commence. Obviously it is to ensure that decision and discussion is reached and carried out within a "significant" representation of the body in which the ruling of the meeting may apply. Again, this requirement is needed in a physical meeting and can be relaxed in an online asynchronous meeting.

Business in the meetings are discussed and resolution reached in a pre-defined order - the agenda. Any change of the agenda also requires additional formal motion and voting. This is an aspect we try to simulate in Fablusi so that some roles may make use of the agenda to arrive at some desired outcome, if such roles have such right.

Limited by time, most meeting will also have limitations of time allowed for each participants to "have the floor". Again, this is a requirement that we can relax in an online asynchronous meeting.

One of the greatest difference is the way voting is conducted. In physical meeting, because of the attention span, when there is a motion on the table, the discussion will be focussed on the motion. Any other discussion is not allowed. There is only one motion on table. If there is any amendment, the motion is typically suspended and the discussion is focussed on the amendment itself. Again, this is carried out one at time.

I don't see that we should apply the same restriction on the online meeting environment. Hence, in Fablusi iSpaces when voting is allowed, simulation author can allow multiple motions can be put on table with multiple amendments at the same time. By using threading, discussion on each of the motion and amendment can be carried out in parallel. We are yet to see how this may influence the quality of online meeting. I am certainly interested and will keep a keen eye on such meeting.

Just like role playing, when we implemented it online, we see different limitations and potentials. I believe there is still a long way before we can fully understand how to conduct online meeting effectively. Comments welcome.

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