5 tips for smarter collaboration in a mobile and cloud world

Things work a little differently in a technology-connected world, and these five tips can make that work go more smoothly

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Speaking of dial-in numbers, be sure to put the access code after the number, and add # or whatever the confirmation key will be required by your dial-in line. Also, many meetings today are hosted via services like GoToMeeting and Lync. These usually require sign-in details that are hard to parse or are embedded in a URL that the services' websites don't pass onto their mobile apps. To the extent possible, put the info in the Location field for both desktop and mobile access.

The real solution, of course, needs to come from those vendors to better integrate their access codes across all their clients. (They should also stop requiring a new download on my Mac each and every time I use them.) Until then, there are apps that claim to parse invites to enter that info for you, such as when you are driving; I haven't tested them yet, but they're worth investigating.

3. Don't use (only) cloud-sharing services if you deal with mixed groups
I love using Dropbox for keeping my work files accessible to almost any device I happen to have at hand, but I dislike using the service to share files with others. Its desktop and mobile apps, for example, send a link to the file rather than the file itself, so the people I want to share it with also need a Dropbox account. (Like most such services, Dropbox does this to force growth of its user base.)

Worse, when those file-sharing links go to my work email, Dropbox doesn't know I have a Dropbox account via my personal email; it gets confused and tries to make me sign up for a new account. Plus, it won't let me access the file from my existing Dropbox account.

Google Drive is also confused when you get an invite to an account other than your Gmail account, though it lets you switch accounts more easily than in Dropbox -- but it's still too complex. (There's no way I would want work files in my personal Google Drive, and neither should my company, given how Google's business is to scan everything that traverses its services.) I suspect Box and SkyDrive (which is being renamed OneDrive) have the same issue, but I don't use them enough to know their intricacies to say for sure.

Thus, restrict your use of cloud storage services to your own access and to people you know use the same service -- such as your workgroup at the office that has decided to standardize on one service for its members. Otherwise, send out a file attachment. If the file is too sensitive to send that way, you probably shouldn't be sharing via a public cloud service anyhow.

4. Turn off autoposting in your social services
Services like Foursquare push members to tweet or otherwise post every time they check in some place, order something, or like something. Anyone following you thus gets spammed with useless information, which is both annoying and unprofessional. Many of these services enable autoposting without clearly informing the user, and I've had many business associates discover to their embarrassment that they've been telling everyone that they were at IHOP at 11 a.m., Denny's at 2 p.m., and Starbucks at 4:30 p.m. (Do they actually work? And don't they have better taste?)

5. Remember the time zone
Being based on the West Coast, I've noticed that many people on the East Coast assume everyone else is on the East Coast, too. How else to explain that they rarely indicate or check for a time zone when they want to set up an appointment or call you? (As you go further west, people seem to understand the United States in fact has six time zones, more if you add its territories like Puerto Rico and the Pacific islands beyond Hawaii.)

If you use a calendar invite, the time zone translation is taken care of for you, but you should still indicate time zone in any emails leading up to an appointment -- and you certainly should know someone's time zone before you call him or her.

Remember: An area code no longer is a clear indication of where someone is located. With mobile phones, people could be anywhere, and not just for business trips or during vacations. Many people who move keep their old number (and area code) on their cellphones, which often are their only phones, steadily degrading the geographical meaning of an area code.

This article, "5 tips for smarter collaboration in a mobile and cloud world," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more of Galen Gruman's Smart User blog. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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