Wednesday, November 10, 2004

CSCW - Wednesday morning - first session

This session is on distributed collaboration. Yea!!!

Pacific Northwest National Lab developed a collaboratory for the biological sciences. A collaboratory is a "center without walls." They held participatory design sessions with biologists and bioinformaticists. They were interested in supporting many different data contexts. They developed a web-based portal using Apache, Jakarta, Jetspeed, the University of Michigan's CHEF framework, scientific annotation middleware, workflow, etc. The portal has a shared data repository, user configurable metadata with temples, data translators and graphical viewers featuring automatic translation and linkage, an electronic laboratory notebook, and live access to external data sources with dynamic notification of new data. They are looking to move from project based to community based collaboration in their future development.

Sun was next with Meeting Central, software that they developed to overcome the problems that people had with meeting software they were having. Those problems were primarily audio, behavior, and technology. Their design approach was to eliminate the need for difficult to remember behaviors, make everything audible or visible, and provide a backchannel. They had a very impressive demo. They used Java on top of Collaboration Server and VoIP Server.

A team from Michigan studied partially distributed teams, which is very relevant for us. Would the colocated parties form an in-group? Is there an advantage to being colocated? They hypothesized that the colocated folks would form an in-group and outperform the isolates in their experiment. While the colocates did form an in-group, so did the isolates. Surprisingly, the top performers were the isolates, although that group also had the lowest performers. Location is a strong determiner of who you collaborate with. In groups may form in partially distributed teams. Isolates (telecommuters) also have some advantages. Future directions for research include travel, social interventions, and technological interventions such as IM. Also are developing a NetLogo model with software agents to do things that can't be done in the lab.

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