I have been thinking for some time now about the difficulty of doing 
distributed design; i.e., co-ordinating design thinking in OS projects 
with widely separated designers, and others who may like to make 
suggestions.  For a start, I think that intermittent email communication 
is inadequate to the task.  Compare the situation with designers sitting 
in the same room, able to walk over to talk to one another about design 
ideas, gather round a white board, and generally kick ideas around in 
real time.

While I am not suggesting that anything much is likely to change in the 
current situation, I think that one of the lessons here is the 
importance of chat.  This is particularly difficult with wide 
geographical distribution, but I have done it on occasions with a group 
spread from California through New York and London to Tokyo and 
Brisbane.  The major hurdle is finding any times when everyone can be 
available.  Even when not everyone could be there, logs of the 
conversation could be very valuable.

The other critical component is drawings.  If I had the choice of 
unlimited text or drawings with minimal annotations for communicating 
design ideas, I would take the drawings every time.  I'm not talking 
here about formal techniques like UML, which are design documentation 
tools, but the informal scribblings which are universal when programmers 
- sorry, engineers - get together to talk design, and which are the 
basic tool of all of my design thinking.

What would be good is to combine the two.  I.e., to chat on the one 
hand, and on the other to be able to use a vector drawing tool with a 
distributed canvas, which others could annotate or modify in real time, 
during the chat session.  Does anything like that exist?


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