CSCW

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Bjoern's Slides

File:Cs260-slides-06-cscw.pdf

Extra Materials

This article provides a great summary of empirical research into colocated vs remote work:

Olson, G. M. and Olson, J. S. 2000. Distance matters. Hum.-Comput. Interact. 15, 2 (Sep. 2000), 139-178.

Discussant's Slides and Materials

Luke's discussion slides (pdf): File:Cscw.pdf

Reading Responses

Krishna - 9/19/2010 15:38:06

Beyond Being There

The authors' primary argument is that communication technologies need not be optimized towards imitating face to face interactions. They support this argument by giving example scenarios and use cases where, depending on the needs and medium of communication, imitating face to face interactions may be suboptimal and ineffective. They suggest a framework for thinking about communication technologies where the goal would be to come up with mechanisms for solving a set of communication needs given a medium. Based on this intuitive framework, they argue that there are limitations with face to face interactions and that there are communication needs where you need different mediums and mechanisms as face to face interactions may not suffice.

The authors abstract human communication by framing it entirely from a needs, medium and mechanism perspective. They state that physical proximity, like email, is just another medium; moreover just like email, it is suited to solve only a specific set of needs. This framework allows the authors to rigorously think about computational mediums as isolated entities separated from their presupposed needs. They argue that computational mediums offer certain features not offered by physical proximity: they support asynchronous communication, anonymity and facilitate archiving. Using a set of example scenarios and applications they show that there are communication needs where these features offered by computational mediums become necessary.

The authors' arguments are intuitive and convincing. They want us to think beyond the richness and directness offered by physical proximity, augment it and also consider alternatives. My only concern is that in most cases communication needs are hazy,not clearly defined and dynamic. The Face to face medium has the amazing ability to adapt, infer and in general handle such situations. When the needs are not clearly known, it becomes quite difficult to think about a medium (and mechanisms); it may make sense to work towards imitating face to face communication.

Groupware and Social Dynamics

The author has rigorously analyzed failures in Groupware software and has come up with eight challenges faced by Groupware developers. His primary argument is that many of the failures in Groupware software is as result of not understanding, and thus not meeting, specific social and psychological demands necessitated by groups. In the initial sections of the paper he gives us a nice introduction to Groupware software, its emergence and how it is different from software for individual use and large scale Information systems. In essence, the author says that Groups are similar to large scale organizations and individuals; yet they exhibit different behaviors and software developers should be aware of these similarities and differences.

The author argues that benefits of using Groupware is not uniform and thus users are not motivated enough to use the software; and because Groupware software needs a critical mass of users to be effective, there is this chicken and egg problem. His arguments on how Groupware software should not disrupt established social and organizational behaviors make sense. However, as developers understanding these processes, behaviors is not easy and they are dynamic. This leads up to his arguments on how groups improvise most of the time and that it is not clear on how to technically facilitate such behavior. Also, his arguments on how Groupware features are infrequently used and how it is hard to incorporate these features with frequently used features make sense.

The most important challenge in my opinion would be the difficulty in analyzing Groupware software. User studies on actual groups do not suffice as any study sample group would not cover the gamut of social and psychological processes exhibited by groups, also there is this enormous socio-technical gap when it comes to computationally modeling group behavior in labs.

The paper provides us with fundamental problems any Groupware developer should be aware of and should critically deliberate upon. The comparisons on how these problems are handled by large scale systems and software for individual use make the distinctions clear and appreciable. The depth of the paper is impressive. It makes me wonder if the success of certain Groupware solutions like EMail can be attributed to social constructivism - that is both the society's need for such a technology and the technologies ability to adapt. May be the key to develop successful groupware is to make them disruptive, hard to resist and adaptable.


Dan Lynch - 9/19/2010 15:43:32

GROUPWARE

This article discusses how many failures in software design and evaluation arise from the fact that the metric for which developers test and evaluate their software is organizations and individuals, not groups. However, much progress in a given business is attributed to group work, thus it is an important topic of research in user interface design.

The article first discusses the origins of groupware, and how it spawned from the software world as an entity between organizations and individuals. Originally computation was not cost-effective enough such that every individual could have access to a computer. As time progressed, certain groups would be allowed access to computation, individuals became more familiar with the computer, and thus the stratification and organization of groups and their work had to be done. A major problem for the developer is that he/she must still pay attention to the single-user interface to the software, while at the same time acknowledging the goals of the bigger groups. Other issues exist, for example, that the value in the software only becomes meaningful if all group members are participating and using the software.

One important point is that groupware must conform to the current inter-workings of an organization, as the organization will not change for a program meant to be used for a subset of its employees, however, the organization will restructure itself for major systems.

This is a very important topic in general, as many corporations and organizations could benefit from an optimized interface for group work. Almost all major research facilities could additionally benefit from groupware that works well. After reading this paper, I definitely feel there is a lot of room for improvement in the groupware arena. Particularly, when looking at the eight challenges for groupware developers, I found that a few topics should be addressed in an attempt to eliminate them as problems. The disparity in work and benefit is the idea that not everyone benefits from using the software, I believe this could totally be worked around. Consider if everyone simply linked their personal calendar accounts, they already may use calendar software, but didn’t have to do any extra work. Additionally, a study of the social processes is an interesting topic that I feel could be worked out with more research and studying.

BEYOND BEING THERE

This paper challenges the ideas that new communications technologies should be focusing on emulation of the natural face-to-face interactions that we encounter on a day-to-day basis. They discuss the notion of distance between researchers, and how there is a direct falloff of productivity in terms of collaboration that corresponds to this distance. A way to shorten this distance, of course, is to provide the user with the “sense of being there”.

The problem of course, is that many feel it is impossible to reach a state that is close enough to provide a real sense of being there---even with 3D holograms and surround sound media. So to solve this problem, the providing of “beyond being there”, “tools that people prefer to use even when they have the option of interacting with physical proximity as they have heretofore”.

A very important topic as in this day and age these types of interactions are ubiquitous. The iPhone 4, skype, and so many others. Google is even starting to provide free phone numbers to people who sign up with their new program. Studying how we can provide the sense of being there can also bring people together, and increase productivity, however, I think that there are also other repercussions: These types of natural interactions with our devices can potentially captivate people causing them to be completely enveloped within consumer electronics and devices. People should, in my opinion, interact in person if it is possible, then, and only then, should they interact when they cannot be in the same place. We also want to limit the number of people working by themselves, and interacting with the world digitally. A sense of social interaction is a healthy, natural thing.


Kurtis Heimerl - 9/19/2010 15:48:24

Groupware and Social Dynamics: Eight Challenges for Developers This paper details 8 "challenges" for CSCW developers, in terms of workspace adoption. These mostly deal with the unique social factors for CSCW, as it requires multiple users to buy in, but does not have the power of wider-scale IS deployments.

I was quite bearish on the paper to begin with, feeling that this work obviously did little to impact the field, given that CSCW applications are still generally uncommon. However, I thought many of the issues brought up were quite accurate. The solutions were sometimes lacking (all of the social ones, for instance), but the issues are legit.

I've always felt as though incremental adoption is the best way for CSCW applications to take off, and this paper also provides that argument. If applications have value individually, you gain all of the wins of the single user with the wins of multi-user. I think that time has shown this to be true; google calender, exchange integration, so on.

Lastly, I'm curious how this applies in terms of social networks, pseudo-cscw applications that ONLY work at scale. They cannot, by definition, work individually. However, I suppose you could piggyback a social network onto a email app or something. This may have been a dumb thought, in retrospect.

Beyond being there This paper details a different way of viewing the potential value of face-to-face communications. Traditionally, the holy grail of the field has been mimicking actual, physical interaction. The author argues that this is a mistake; they should be providing features impossible in the physical world instead.

This paper was amazing. It is a fantastic critique of the "XYZ metaphor" way of doing HCI. The author is totally correct; we use these metaphors to improve the learning curve, but often at the cost of actual value. There's a balance there that is often ignored, particularly in my field (ICTD).

I'm not sure I buy all of their "wins" for digital communications though. Asynchronous communication is a definite win, as demonstrated by texting. Anonymity though, seems less persuasive, especially for a business. Their examples were lacking. I mean, 4chan exists and has a purpose... but I don't think researchers needed to work on that problem. Archiving is tricky as well, though those issues primarily revolve around privacy and not usefulness. It's still a good intuition though, and one I wholly support.


Drew Fisher - 9/19/2010 15:51:52

Beyond Being There, Jim Hollan and Scott Stornetta (1992)

The big idea in this paper is that rather than making communications technologies try to perfectly emulate physical presence, we should rethink our communication strategies to see how we can better play to the strengths of the technologies we have available.

While the paper mentions designing new ways of interacting with others, sharing several examples, they all suffer similar problems - users must relearn how to interact with each other, and even over time, the new system does not replace face-to-face communication - it merely supplements it. As a result, I find that the only real contribution I find from this paper is the call to think about the problem in a slightly different manner.

On the upside, the section labeled "Meeting Others" describes, in effect, the things that Facebook did right that other social networking sites got wrong, and we'd be hard-pressed to say that Facebook has not changed the way people interact today. The one on "Anonymity" is also accurate, although it ignores the side effect of also enabling the sorts of discussions where people let out their inner asshole.

I think this paper makes a decent step toward understanding CSCW, and that "needs, media, and mechanisms" are valuable tools, but I wish the paper had applied a more convincing argument to explaining why such an approach is more valuable than what came across as "you're just poorly imitating real life."


Groupware and Social Dynamics: Eight Challenges for Developers (1994)

I am somewhat opposed to the concept of articles and papers that take the form "N somethings about something," on the grounds that they usually either make incomplete lists, or all the ideas are somewhat disjoint and don't really flow or belong together.

That said, this paper does a good job of distinguishing the unique or particularly motivating problems that writers of groupware software must overcome from those of traditional software writers. The continually make good comparisons that allow the reader to note the differences between the problem domains, and why overcoming those challenges is essential for the success of groupware deployments.

I appreciated the understanding of groupware tools being extraordinarily hard to test, since they have to prove satisfactory for a huge set of intricacies over a much longer period of use - in effect, they must fully understand the social processes they are in place to support, rather than simply a subset of them. If only a subset of the needed functionality is supported, the efficiency gains from the software are lost as effort is required to migrate information in and out of the software.

It pains me that one of the "challenges for developers" discussed in this article is, in fact, issues of human interaction being limited to avoid offending others or to avoid being held to a particular past decision or commitment. I'd argue that while working around these problems with software does adapt to the situation at hand, the organization suffering these issues might do well to make decisions based on merit, rather than political or social motivations. It's worth noting that in the open-source community, it is not unusual for one's words to be preserved permanently in a public manner, and for past disagreements and failures to be immortalized in mailing lists and bug trackers. Perhaps this expectation of accountability makes the community work in a more rational, meritocratic manner.


Pablo Paredes - 9/19/2010 15:53:55

Summary for Hollan, J. and Stormetta, S. - Beyond Being There -

I like this paper very much, as it makes it evident the need to go beyond assumptions in the paradigm of (tele) communications and human-human interaction. This paper provides a view of the use of computer/technological systems as components to define new ways of communication, and not to focus solely in the traditional telecommunications problem of reproducing the richness of face-to-race communications.

With a simple decomposition of the communication process into three elements, the need, the medium and the mechanisms, the authors put into evidence the possibilities to enable new communication options, and help realize that the assumption that the natural face-to-face communication scenario is not only not the perfect state for all kinds of communications, as it also has some clear disadvantages.

Some evident features of a new medium can be fore example the support of asynchronous, anonymous and achievable communications. Such features can enable new mechanisms that in face-to-face communications may be awkward or ineffective. Some examples presented could be ephemeral group discussions, meeting groups (both of them incorporated in the currently implemented social networks), anonymous exchanges that encourage people to discuss issues more difficult to be discussed in face-to-face interaction (and earlier in the relationship).

Additionally, the new medium could enable new "hybrid" mechanisms, such as some semi-synchronous mechanisms, where a buffer or communication is created to avoid group thinking and to incorporate the commentaries of people less prone to make comments in public.

In general, the paper helps the open-minded reader, realize that although face-to-face communications continues to be an extremely efficient means of communication, and one that humans have mastered for millennia, new paradigms of communications based on the need-medium-mechanism triplet can be also defined and further enhance human communications. Although the paper briefly introduces the notion of cultural differences, and Intersubjectivity and their important effect in communications, I believe this subject could have been further incorporated, if the approach to study communications is evolved beyond the act of communicating itself, but to describe it as a component of a social process or as part of a human driven project or effort, where the need to communicate something arises from a previous underlying process. This higher-level view could have helped better describe the "need" component of the communication triplet, which I believe was not strongly explored.

Summary for Grudin, J. - Groupware and Social Dynamics: Eight Challenges for Developers -

The paper describes groupware from a Computer Supported Collaborative Work (CSCW), which is located between user centric research (HFS/CHI), and organizational information systems (MIS/IT) research, and assuming that groupware was at the moment defined from a product development approach, therefore attempting to fulfill more general characteristics of similar communities. Although the user centric development approach is necessary to define key features for groupware, the author explains how it can learn from organization-based IS development, but keeping in mind groups are not organizations, and groupware is different from larger systems.

The notion of " what is in there for me" generates a complex design predicament, as the groups, although many times tied by a common goal, are by no means homogeneous in their elements and reaching a high benefit-cost ratio for every member of the group is difficult, especially if groupware development is based on a generalized approach, rather than a customizable contractual one. Complimentary, the cost benefit analysis should be coupled with the critical mass needed to have not only individual benefits, but to make sure the group receives, as a whole, the benefit from the groupware.

Political, cultural and hierarchically based tacit knowledge, as well as exception handling are clear aspects of "real" humans groups, which are extremely difficult to infer and therefore incorporate effectively in process-driven systems. Therefore, groupware must account for this lack of rationality and provide enough flexibility to address these issues, and to be able to evolve as the group incorporates (or not) new groupware tools.

Two important elements of design must be addressed with care... First the user-defined features must use representative users to provide input; while a clear understanding of the group dynamics must be used to clearly prioritize the most frequency used features from the less frequent ones. Then, on the converse side, evaluation must be made from a group-centric perspective, but boiling it down to the individual aspects that are needed to maintain individual productivity as well. Thus an iterative development process oscillating between individual and group feature definition and evaluation must be used, and therefore, appropriate resources should be devoted to accomplish this costly process. Furthermore, Incorporating intuition as part of a groupware development is difficult, as group preferences are not clearly extrapolated from the experienced development manager intuition, and therefore the design process must acknowledge and carefully incorporate the risks, complexities and fall abilities of groupware projects.

To close a successful design cycle, groupware must be assessed from a complete deployment cycle, one that incorporates the field implementation phase, because, given the complex and the unstable nature of group dynamics, it is during this "implementation" phase where organizational, contextual, and eventual issues can arise, which could affect the adoption of the system. The developer must then be involved with the field-deployment phase to further improve the development of the groupware itself.

Although the analysis of groupware done in this paper is based on groups formed inside a formal organization, and this is understandable due to the historical moment when it was written, the paper did not explore the predicaments of network economics that could traverse the organizational boundaries. The benefits from the network effect, which states that the benefit of the product or service increases as more people uses it could be incorporated in the assessment of groupware development, as a larger network of users, mainly external to the organization, could help overcome some design, implementation and acceptance issues, i.e. If more people used the groupware system in dissimilar but connected situations, the network effect could help shape cultural changes to adopt these systems... A good example is social networking systems used now for group specific needs.


Thejo Kote - 9/19/2010 16:51:11

Beyond being there:

In this paper, Hollan and Stornetta argue that designers of communication systems try to achieve the properties of face to face communication and that it is not the right approach. They propose a framework of needs, media and mechanisms of communication and recommend that face to face communication be considered as just another type with advantages and disadvantages. This, they argue, will allow designers to consider the benefits that other types of communication have over face to face communication and build solutions that take avantage of them.

Their litmus test of a successful telecommunications system is that people should continue to use it even if they have the option to effortlessly communicate in person. For that to happen, they suggest that inherent benefits of each medium and the mechanisms they enable be used. One of their examples is quite prescient. They describe with some accuracy the benefits of profile pages and present day social networks. Of course, in an idealist fashion, they envision a de-centralized Facebook and the challenges in buiding something like that!

While the suggestion to design for the strengths of each medium may seem to be obvious, the authors make a good case for why it isn't usually so and suggest mechanisms that are quite popular today.

Groupware and social dynamics:

In this paper Grudin discusses the challenges faced by developers of groupware applications and suggests ways to overcome them. He argues that in an organizational context, groupware applications face unique challenges when compare to single user or organization level tools. Specifically, he says that groupware applications must adapt to the organizations and not the other way around and that social and political factors make their adoption and acceptance much harder than other types of applications.

Grudin's challenges reminded me of Mark Ackerman's work and his concept of the "social-technical gap", which is "the divide between what we know we must support socially and what we can support technically." Ackerman too talks about the challenges faced by CSCW systems, but he also argues that we must build solutions acknowledging that there is a fundamental gap that we cannot bridge.

What was interesting to me was that Grudin focuses his argument from the perspective of a developer in an enterprise software company like IBM building and selling groupware applications to other large organizations. But, in the last decade many successful groupware applications have been created in the consumer space, shown to serve the needs of groups of people working together, and then been adopted in enterprises. These include wikis, blogs, social networks, micro messaging systems like Twitter etc. Maybe in the case of groupware applications, the evolutionary nature of consumer applications where many things are tried and successful designs survive is a better model.


Luke Segars - 9/19/2010 17:00:57

Beyond Being There

This paper presents a strong case for reevaluating the needs and desires of people in the communication tools that we create. Hollan and Stornetta insightfully describe modern attempts of communication tools as being “crutches” for fixing the “broken” condition of geographic distribution. They propose a different goal that they claim to be superior: instead of trying to imitate the (imperfect) condition of face-to-face dialog, why not reevaluate the goals of communication and design systems at people prefer in place of face-to-face communication?

This paper makes a critical suggestion that underscores an important realization to us as engineers and designers: solving a problem realizes understanding what the actual problem is. For years, many people assumed that technologies were inferior for communication devices because they somehow fell short of the goal: face-to-face communication. Nevertheless, a number of digital technologies are superior to face-to-face conversations in limited ways such as the ability to archive conversations and the ability to easily get input from a number of sources. In a way, this realization almost defines the need for the field of HCI as a whole. For years we have been developing computers to be better devices – but for what? The reason computers are the least bit useful is because they help us solve human problems. It is the job of an HCI expert to evaluate exactly what problems are being addressed by a particular tool and determine whether that tool (if it exists at all) is providing a “crutch” or “shoe” to the user's problem.

This topic alone makes this paper tremendously valuable. The authors also discuss several types of communities and tools that have appeared with the help of recent technology and how each of these entities is being examined under the CSCW lens. Their examples not only provide a list of interesting projects but also showcase the number of weaknesses that face-to-face conversations, the old gold standard, really have.

It is interesting to examine how things have changed since this paper came out. It seems to me that the field of CSCW has had a hit-or-miss record in impacting the day-to-day routine of the mainstream population. Digital communication has grown in importance and can often make up a decent chunk of a person's social life, but recent tools have either offered a technological bridge towards face-to-face conversations (Skype) or simply provided new means of accomplishing the same goals with a louder voice (Twitter, Facebook, blogging). At the same time, technologies like wikis (Wikipedia) have provided a tremendously successful model of asynchronous cooperation that was very hard to duplicate previously. People have a tremendous variety of communication methods available to them but nevertheless still prefer face-to-face conversations in many contexts.


Luke Segars - 9/19/2010 17:24:22

Groupware and Social Dynamics

This paper focuses on a number of social issues that seem to arise predictably when a new collaboration tool is introduced to a group. The author surveys eight of these significant problems and describes a number of technologies that have fallen into the traps that they create.

The author makes a number of important points about the social barriers to creating collaboration tools. In many ways, groupware is more difficult to design than single-user applications because there are a tremendous number of group dynamics that come into play that are not fully understood at this point in time. Nevertheless, the author's list helps define the solution space and works towards the goal of “understanding the problem” that the authors of Beyond Being There stressed so strongly.

A number of the problems that the author mentions actually seem to be problems that extend well beyond groupware and into the realm of research applications versus practical applications. The author mentions critical concepts like fitting products into a preexisting workflow, increasing the overall benefit per unit of work, and paying attention to the adoption levels needed to make a product useful that are easy to sidestep in the research lab but are critically important in the rest of the world. We don't use things that don't help us out, and keeping in line with the perspective we're designing for can be a challenging task.

Nevertheless, a number of tools have totally reorganized our communication lifestyle in the past couple of decades. The author mentions the wild success of email, and I would also state that the internet as a whole has opened up a shocking number of avenues for people to find each other and collaborate through. It's interesting to see what sorts of technologies make it and what common characteristics they share. It seems to me that one of the most obvious qualities that they share is the openness of use; the technology is simply provided as a platform of potential instead of being designed for a tiny use case, and users are able to easily bend the technology to accomplish their own goals.


Thomas Schluchter - 9/19/2010 17:34:24

    • Beyond being there

The piece challenges the common belief that, to be successful, collaborative communication technologies must imitate as closely as possible the information richness of face-to-face interactions. Instead, the authors argue that the underlying concept of "being there" itself will change as new technologies try to adress needs that aren't even met in real-world interactions.

The paper does a thorough job of showing how the discussion of collaboration and communication technologies is centered around a traditional model of communication. The assumption that immediacy and non-verbal cues support the most effective way of interacting can indeed lead to a stinted horizon. However, I would argue that the authors make unwarranted assumptions when trying to deal with this situation.

They make the argument that a technology that imitates the 'real thing' will not be taken up as long as the 'real thing' is feasible simply because the imitation is limited. In order to make new technologies 'stick', one then has to create systems that are even better than 'real' communication. While I can follow the examples regarding anonymity, semi-synchronicity and time-shifted group formation, I have a problem with the notion that culturally ingrained communicative cues (e.g. use of body language) are imprecise and can be improved upon.

The conclusion that the authors derive from this notion is that it would be possible to develop greater information-richness than reality. But what if our social and cultural habits were evolutionarily optimized already? The prospect of adding informational complexity to communicative situations seems like artificially creating information overload in an area where heretofore there hasn't been a real problem. I would argue that it is precisely those 'soft', non-explicit cultural and social cues that make our communication so effective. They reduce complexity through an acquired framework. The fact that intercultural communication can be much harder illustrates that: Where the patterns of learned behavior break down, there is a greater need for explicitness and explanation.

Apart from this, I wonder whether the trend to distribute collaboration spatially creates problems that are solvable by technology at all. Anthropology has uncovered time and time again that situated knowledge is very rich and extremely important to human relations. If somehow technological advancements shift our notion "being there", what will become of that source of knowledge?

    • Groupware and Social Dynamics

The article describes eight challenges to developing groupware applications for supporting collaboration in an organizational framework. It emphasizes the differences between groupware and personal computing on the one, information systems on the other hand.

It is interesting to read this piece as a precursor to a seminal article in CSCW: Mark Ackerman's explanation of the socio-technical gap. In that piece, Ackerman sums up the experience of developers and researchers in that field by stating that there is an infinitely complex social world compared to which engineered solutions always present an insufficient level of complexity. Because design necessarily reduces complexity, technological systems always operate with somewhat artificial underlying models that never completely capture what humans do.

Grudin's point about the political difference between deploying an organization-wide information system and deploying groupware makes a lot of sense: The organization at large is in itself a necessary abstraction from the social dynamics that actually occur when people work together. Thus it is possible for the information system to force the organization to adapt. But groupware which operates at the messy level of individuals working together has to adapt to the ways of the people it serves. In this sense, Grudin's call for a bottom-up design approach makes perfect sense. Only through careful observation of existing routines and a constant feedback loop between users and developers can groupware be successful.

It would be fascinating to research the role that ethnography could play in uncovering needs and contributing to successful design of collaboration software. It also raises the question whether applications that are not tailored to a specific context will ever receive the adoption that would fully justify the investments made in them.


David Wong - 9/19/2010 18:27:40

1) The "Beyond Being There" paper discussed the problems with striving to imitate face-to-face communication with electronic communication and proposed a framework to evaluate different mediums of communication. The paper emphasized the benefit of viewing electronic communication as a new medium of communication. The "Groupware and Social Dynamics" paper discussed eight challenges for groupware and how single-user application software and information system level software compared in those same challenges. The paper also highlights how to address these challenges with groupware.

2) The "Beyond Being There" paper allows researchers to avoid the bias to imitate face-to-face interaction. As such, I think it contributes to the HCI as we can now view electronic communication in a different light, and possibly create new mediums of communication that are better than face-to-face communication (in certain cases). Whether or not the idea is novel, I think it is still an important point to bring up.

The "Groupware and Social Dynamics" paper calls attention to the need to better design groupware. Written in the early 90's, this paper brings up valid points when designing group software. While the paper brings up many good points through its 8 challenges, it does not have much to say about how to alleviate those challenges. As such, the paper is primarily a good reminder on how to better design group software. It is not particularly inspiring, but rather allows an organization/designer to be more cautious in implementing groupware.

3) The "Beyond Being There" has a good argument. It accurately describes the problems with trying to imitate face-to-face conversation and proposes a solid framework. The primary litmus test--having users choose the new medium when face-to-face interaction is a possiblity--is well-defined and intuitive. Also, the paper was written in the early 90's and accurately hypothesized a conceptual view of social networks on page 123. Seeing how that medium of communication has already been as ingrained as email in communication, the paper has stood the test of time.


Bryan Trinh - 9/19/2010 18:31:07

Beyond Being There

In Beyond Being There Jim Hollan and Scott Stornetta present a different approach to pursuing communication research. They argue that trying to enhance the realness of communication technology is fundamentally a trivial pursuit because the fidelity of the virtual reality can never reach the fidelity of reality. Instead they believe that the focus should be on creating technologies that enable users to communicate in ways that reality does not permit. A good example of this is email, primarily because it provides a way of communication that can happen asynchronously. Aside from addressing the need for redefining communication research, Hollan and Stornetta also point out the importance of understanding the needs of the users with respect to the communication medium. By understanding these needs, designers can create communication solutions that physical proximity does not afford. Today this needs assessment process has become a popular practice in all design disciplines.

My primary question when reading this is how do we as designers and scientists, create interactions that go beyond a human physically being there, but at the same time afford human usage. How can we create a system that makes use of the users domain knowledge when it is precisely that knowledge that we are trying to avoid. There is a trade-off that should not be overlooked when designing an interaction system the ease of adoption and efficiency of use. The consideration of these trade offs should be matched to the user groups passed knowledge and context of usage.

I think the authors remark on transforming culture was very insightful. Today we have created a number of ways for individuals to communicate with the physical and digital communities with which they interact. These modes of communication are faster and can be publicized to a larger audience. Facebook and Twitter are the prime examples and have enabled all of us to connect with our communities in ways that face to face interaction never could. These tools have created a culture that reduces our needs for human interaction--we just need an to interact with the digital medium that connects us all. At the same time, it enables us to keep in connect with people who are physically too far away to ever practically interact with. Is this a good or bad thing, I can't say for sure, but it is evident.

Groupware and Social Dynamics

Jonathan Grudin discusses the issues that developers face when creating computer-supported cooperative work, CSCW, software. He argues that the major problem when developing software for CSCW productivity applications is that software developers do not understand the specific needs of their customers. Grudin addresses eight issues that he sees as most relevant in creating CSCW software.

At its core this paper addresses, what I see as, the real issue in creating groupware software, the people problem. When I interned at a biomedical devices company one summer, it was evident that their CSCW management software was not working. Many of the engineers did not even bother looking at the management software that the manger was using to direct his team. Perpetual prodding from the manager did not help either. The engineers just saw the software as an unnecessary expenditure of time. It is not that they were rebels, they were just being genuinely pragmatic. They were already kept busy from 9-5 finishing their engineer tasks. Any information that they needed from the manager was retrieved simply by walking over to his office and asking him. Although the tool was not used by the engineers, the managers felt it was necessary to ensure that everyone was on schedule. Grudin proposes that this issue can be addressed by designing benefits for all parties in the device. I think that it is a necessary prerequisite that all parties receive some sort of benefit from the software for it to work at all.

Grudin looks critically at the use of technology to increase productivity of groups. Instead of looking towards IT as the answer for increasing productivity, he examines the whole context of IT use. Sometimes it may be beneficial, where as other times it can be detrimental.


Anand Kulkarni - 9/19/2010 18:32:21

Beyond "Being There"

The authors argue that telecommunications interfaces have focused excessively on reproducing face-to-face communications, and should focus instead on the possible improvements that can be made within their own media, proposing a new perspective. The authors discuss examples and respond to potential criticisms.

Many of the examples the authors present have enough advantages that they are in common use today alongside face-to-face interactions, including newsgroups and Q&A sites (ephemeral interest groups), electronic personas (Facebook, MMOs), and anonymous submission forms. The author's suggestions to frame telecommunication as an independent interface rather than a reproduction of face-to-face seems to have been realized quite well through the Web. In the early 1990s, when the paper was written, the authors' perspective must have been quite novel (they call it "extreme"), suggesting a number of possible directions for the design of new telecommunications interfaces; their perspective seems to be much more commonplace now. It's difficult to tell how much of this is due to the natural development of the constraints of the web and how much stems from explicit adoption of the authors' perspective.

The authors argue that this problem should instead be studied by framing the problem in terms of needs, media, and mechanisms, but provide very little analysis of how this particular perspective is manifested in the examples they give. However, the examples the authors give are themselves quite compelling as possible use cases for telecommunication interfaces that don't try to reproduce face-to-face; these examples are the strongest part of their argument, especially since as modern readers we see them in common use. The criticisms suggested by the authors aren't the strongest objections possible. A modern reader would like to see more discussion of historical interfaces that inadequately attempt to reproduce a sense of "being there" (ie telephones, videoconferencing).



Groupware and Social Dynamics: 8 Challenges for Developers The paper discusses a number of unique challenges in developing collaborative and group software.

Groupware is a major topic of interest in commercial application development today, especially in the social web, so the issues raised in this paper are highly relevant in application design today. The core contribution is a identification of a set of issues, most unique to the collaborative setting, that can interfere with the success of computer-based collaborative work. Many of these issues take into account social psychological factors. One example is the idea that workers may avoid collaboration in order to maintain their own status and the credit they earn for work. These psychological factors arise from collaboration more outside the context of computing; as such, these are things that a designer used to making solo computing interfaces may not take into account. These contributions are highly useful in the development of modern collaborative software. For each, the author suggests a possible solution to the issue that a designer can take into account.

The author's argument is developed through a series of examples in each of the 8 obstacles he discusses. Wherever possible, the author attempts to find analogues in single-user applications and in organizational studies; these are useful analogues and support his analysis of each obstacle. On occasion, these analogues suggest possible solutions for designers, which is a useful strategy for the author to use -- after all, solutions in one of these settings may be likely to translate to the collaborative or computing setting. The author cites several studies during his analysis of the obstacles and these strengthen the argument considerably. It's not clear whether the author considers the list of 8 obstacles comprehensive; one improvement might be to maintain a running example and show how a piece of CSCW software could be guided from concept through each of these issues to develop a final program.


Aditi Muralidharan - 9/19/2010 18:41:05

CSCW: Computer-supported collaborative work

I found "Beyond Being There" a fascinating read. It was clearly intended to shape future thinking about the use of computers for collaboration, and it's therefore really interesting to read it 20 years later after twitter and facebook have become an accepted part of our online lives. Its hypotheses have been proven true (all except the strange one about auditory paper), mostly because to us first-generation social media users, facebook and twitter were never posed as an alternative to face-to-face communication, more as a cool new toy, which allowed social interactions that are completely orthogonal to face-to-face interactions.

I was especially glad to see, put into words, why I found twitter so useful in connecting with people I'd never met who shared similar intersests: the ephemeral, informal pieces of information annotated with keywords and hashtags are picked up by people who happen to find them interesting, leading you into interesting conversations.

I agree with their way of framing the challenge of developing effective communication and collaboration tools: make them perferred tools even when people have the face-to-face option. I don't do research on collaboration tools, so this isn't all that useful to me right now. One question I have, though, is how the widespread popularity of wikis fits into all this, if at all.

I found some the eight challenges in the paper "Groupware and social dynamics..." quite thought-provoking, and some annoyingly general. In the thought-provoking category were "who does the work vs. who gets the benefit" and "difficulty of evaluation". The rest, I felt, could be summarized by "this changes the way people do things, which could backfire and have unintended consequences" which is true but not terribly useful.


Shaon Barman - 9/19/2010 18:47:32

Beyond being there

In this paper, the authors put forward the idea of judging a medium of communication should not be based upon how close it resembles face-to-face communication. Instead, each medium of communication should be evaluated in how it fills a communication need.

There is an intuitive feeling that face-to-date communication is the "best" form of communication. Much of this is because this is what people are used to. Instead of basing how well a communication medium imitates face-to-face communication, the evaluation should be on a more objective scale. The analyze multiple forms of communication and their potential benefits and preemptively discuss criticisms.

I liked how this paper tries to push the limits by analyzing the needs of people. Many of the examples they provide are widely used communications tools today: such as group boards, electronic persona (facebook), semi-synchronouse discussion (twitter). Analyzing the merits of alternate systems has allowes new communication methods to be created. They also analyze how certain features not present in face-to-face communication can be beneficial, such as clarity, feedback and archive. Many of these issues contribute to the rise of social media and alternate forms of communication like texting. These systems are drastically different from face-to-face communication but provide alternative benefits, such as efficiency and easy of use.

Groupware and social dynamics

This paper discusses an emerging field of groupware, and how it differs from both an individual's applications and large systems for organizations. It examples social issues in the workplace and have prevented groupware from being successful. It does this by analyzing eight specific challenges.

The overall structure of this paper is very convincing. It presents a challenge, corollaries in both individual applications and systems and then discusses possible fixes. Collaborating between individuals is quite difficult and there is a huge potential for software to help. But even the current tools are clunky and unintuitive.

Having these issues in mind when designing new tools will greatly increase adoption. Finding what works and doesnt work is very difficult, so having tangible goals and issues greatly simplifies the model developers must fulfill. While the paper misses some points (such as thinking that meeting scheduling would never be adopted), it provides some good guidelines when designing groupware that will be adopted. Groupware and collaborations tools seem to have become more prevalent with the rise of the internet. By lessening the costs to the users, there is greater adoption which leads to increased benefits. But as the authors say, the best way to develop groupware is through user trails, which are both costly and the results are difficult to interpret.


Siamak Faridani - 9/19/2010 18:54:44

Article I: Beyond Being There by Jim Hollan and Scott Stornetta In this paper authors try to address problems with remote communications and point out difficulties in making good software that replaces direct human interactions with each others. During the paper authors also claims that it is impossible to produce a software that is as efficient as eye to eye contact. They remind us that totally eliminating social interactions is hopeless.

While the approach of this paper seems extremely unscientific the arguments seems correct. We saw in one of the early papers how researchers at PARC proved that mouse is a good input device and head mouse is a bad one, so that make it harder to just accept from the authors that face to face social interactions will never go away (after all, where is the p-value or a scientific argument about the optimality!)

The article reminded me of Prof. John Canny’s research. He and his team have worked on a teleconferencing system that provides eye-to-eye contact. Their system uses 3 projectors and 3 cameras. And by using reflective materials that are used for manufacturing traffic signs on highways they have built a tool that provides eye-to-eye contact in teleconferencing environments. Their CHI paper is full of interesting results for example they showed that when the eye-to-eye feature was turned on, a group of students were able to more easily convince investors to give them money. And they had a huge pool of participants. Their paper showed many interesting statistically significant results and eventually won a best paper award.

Anonymity is one feature that authors mention as one of the advantages of newer systems. Although I agree with the authors that anonymity allows users to express themselves easier I am not sure it will help any rational exchange of information, after all home much good have come out of webites like 4chan.org ?

Additionally most of the times we do not really need to be there, for example in the former paper we saw the reason why text messaging resonated with younger generation was it was more quite, many people prefer environment like WoW and SecondLife over real social life. Suggesting that perhaps the dynamics of social interactions have changed already

Article II: Groupware and social dynamics The article outlines 8 major challenges that developers and designers of computer-supported cooperative work systems (CSCW) may be facing. They start by providing definitions that separate three major software audiences (organization, group and individual) and they provide a graph that outline what each audience needs in terms of the software. The article is around the idea of the “Groupware” that is aimed toward increasing efficient collaboration between groups (the examples that they provide is bulletin boards, video conferencing tool, multi-user applications etc)

To authors the major distinction between organizational software (like MIS tools) and groupware is that MIS tools are designed and tailored for specific organizations while CSCW tools are mostly off the shelf. I afraid this might not be true anymore and standardization in ERP tools have produced many highly customizable organizational product. Companies like SAP and ORACLE have been providing off the shelf production tools for companies for years and simpler applications like accounting and human resources tools have been available off the shelf for even more years. For group-wares I believe in some cases it was even more tailored for specific groups than MIS tools, take videoconferencing for hospitals these are highly customized systems for specific purposes. Although customization in these systems are more about pick and choosing different features for different goals for example “do we need high precision smart boards”, “do we need eye-to-eye contact or 3D video”, etc.

One of the challenges that is mentioned in the paper and seems to be one of the important challenges specially with new start ups is the “Critical Mass and The Prisoner's Dilemma”, I remember seeing a small report on the social networking website “freindfeed.com” that showed that people tend to cease to use a social networking website if fewer than 5 of their friends are on that website. Their solution to this challenge consist of only removing the “barriers of entry” which is intuitive and effective but the most important question is “How?”

One surprising fact about this article was to see how easy these challenges can be translated to similar challenges in the online social networking environments. For example a paper presented in CHI 2010 showed that while facebook is the dominating social network in every part of the world, Google’s Orkut has been the major player in India (except for MBA alums in India who use facebook more).

I believe social networks have helped use resolve many of these challenges (or at least push them under the rug) for example “Disruption of social processes” might not be a problem anymore (thanks to broken privacy policy of facebook) people are no afraid of sharing their schedule, in fact with tools like tweeter people are pressured to share more and more (their geo location, their reading habits, their sleeping habits,...)

Evaluation of groupware data is not difficult anymore either. There has been a lot of research in conferences like CHI and KDD about evaluating user studies that are not in-lab or controlled. More sophisticated statistical methods have enabled us to use tools like Mechanical turk for user studies and Apache Hadoop/Pig to analyse terabyte of user data.

While I believe the article is very interesting I believe there is only one challenge really remaining in the area of groupware, “how do you convince masses to use your application?”


Linsey Hansen - 9/19/2010 18:55:38

In their article Beyond Being There Hollan and Stornetta discuss new ways of communication. They believe that in order to create a new method to replace face-to-face interaction, one must offer cues beyond those found in face-to-face communication.

I feel like this article had many blind spots. I understand there being a need for face-to-face interaction when people are far apart, but to try and create something that replacing face-to-face interaction seems silly. As the author's mentioned, email is a successful means of communicating with others who may be close enough to have face to face interaction, but I feel like people only do this when it is just a quick, trivial question, or when the other person is busy or not around. The authors also note that people are able to be more bold when communicating via email, thus that must mean that indirect communication is more successful, however, the only reason people are more “bold” is because not having a person in front of you and being unable to view their face and body language pretty much dehumanizes the person you are communicating with to be nothing but a name on a screen. This is fine for just a couple messages, but over time it could cause a person's entire ability to communicate with others effectively to vanish, since their ability to interpret social cues diminishes, and if anything could lead to less controlled and proper behavior in the workplace.

Comparing this to technology today, we have technology that allows video conferencing and interactive screens. Again, I feel like this is great when people are far apart, but I do not see why it would be used instead of face-to-face meetings when people are in close proximity. As mentioned in the article, people benefit greatly from body language when communicating, though most video conferencing, while giving people access to each other's facial expressions, generally can't keep track of gestures as well. Some could argue that virtual communication can also take advantage of visual aids, but a company could also just outfit a meeting room with a giant interactive board (or create some interactive software for devices in a particular room). I am sure that in the future people will work towards thing such as 3D conferencing and maybe some sort of holographic conferencing, though even then, while this may save money and space on conferencing rooms, it would probably cost more to provide the technology to everyone. While the authors' main point seems to be that the only way to improve telecommunication is to make it seem better than face-to-face communication, I just do not see that ever happening.

In his article, Grudin, describes eight problem areas for creating groupware, and then goes over in detail how these problems can probably be addressed.

This article is significant because it covers many of the issues developers of group-friendly interfaces face. One of my favorites, which I feel that many modern companies still struggle with, is the difficulty developers have with evaluating the users' tasks. Looking at applications, many developers do seem to over generalize a task based on personal experience (some of which might only be beginner experience) of doing a task, instead of looking more closely at what the target users themselves do. The solution presented for this problem is to go into the users' environment and observe how they complete the task, though many companies still do not seem to do much of that (which makes sense, because some companies just do not have the resources for that sort of thing).

Comparing what is mentioned in this article to today's technology, I feel like many companies have improved, though as with over generalizing, many products seem to repeat quite a few of the mistakes in this article. One thing that seems pretty big now-a-days is plug-ins (ie svn plug-ins for IDEs), since they are a great way of achieving critical mass for certain features, but allow the user to choose the primary program of their choice- perhaps many were around when this article was written as well, but I feel like I have definitely noticed them sprouting up a lot more in the past ten years.


Brandon Liu - 9/19/2010 18:57:06

Beyond Being There

The thesis of the paper is that the future of telecommunications should take the emphasis off providing some facsimile for face-to-face interaction. Instead, telecommunications should focus on methods of communication beyond what can be accomplished in physical interactions.

An assumption that the paper discusses is that face-to-face is in some sense the ‘ultimate’ form of communication. I agreed with this discussion. In a present day context, the telepresence robot is the best example of what the author means by literally ‘being there’. This technology is still so far from the ‘ideal’ imitation of presence that the present day reality gives more evidence of the author’s points. Thus, the statement that we will be never close enough to achieve a perfect system is believable and intuitive even decades after this paper.

The paper describes a formalism for understanding communication. Needs are aspects essential to conversation. Media is methods such as physical proximity, or the telephone system. Mechanisms are actions like eye contact and body posture. The authors uses this formalism to describe what they call ‘Beyond Being There” - stripping away the media and mechanisms, and achieving fluent interpersonal communication by satisfying the Needs.

The author’s examples were good. The best point made by the author was the example of semi-synchronous communication. The authors pointed out that all ‘natural’ interactions follow a linear timeline. A ‘semi-synchronous’ interaction is one in which a question is posed, but the responses are collected and not posted until after everyone has responded individually, which enables a wider range of responses than possible in natural interaction.

One topic I wish the authors had spent more time on is the difference between involuntary and voluntary feedback in communication. For example, the distracted gaze of a person, or their facial expressions, are what makes face-to-face communication valuable. The authors propose ‘gesture feedback’ as standing in place for this interaction, but do not point out that any gesture feedback would have to be explicitly input by the communicator.

“Groupware and Social Dynamics: Eight Challenges for Developers”

This was a wordy paper. The author’s main point is that the failures of adoption of “groupware” isn’t due to technical problems, but instead a lack of consideration of social and political factors. I put “groupware” in quotes since the author’s definition of the word seems to be fluid. This is my main problem with the paper. A ‘Group’, in the context of the paper, is an entity that is harder to design for than an individual because it is not one person, but is also harder to design for than an organization because there is no top-down control. A ‘Group’ is thus something that by definition is difficult to design for.

The main point I took away from the paper is that: Groupware often doesn’t succeed because of a non-optimal distribution of labor to the endpoints of communication. I see this as reflected in the present day to a high degree. For example, in my previous workplace, Google Calendar was used a lot to schedule meetings. The success of the system was that most of the planning work was put on the organizer (who, supposedly, has the greatest incentive for the meeting to happen).

Another discussion I found interesting in the paper was about e-mail. The author calls email an anomaly in that it is successful but does not conform to the requirements of groupware at all. I thought that the author missed the fundamental feature of email: that there is no difference between sending an email to N and N+1 users, but there is a significant difference between reading N and N+1 emails. I also felt that the author missed the point that emails do follow manager-subordinate hierarchies due to differences in quantity: I can email the CEO, but the likelihood of him responding is lower due to him getting more email and having different priorities.

I had a hard time fishing out any surprising points or conclusions from this paper. It sounds like the conclusion is for groupware to developers to work by taking successful off-the-shelf individual applications and then iterate on their features to best adapt them to groups.


Richard Shin - 9/19/2010 18:58:20

Beyond being there

This paper describes the existing frameworks used for evaluating the efficacy and quality of electronic communications systems, and argue that we must frame the issues differently in order to further progress. Specifically, the authors state that current communication systems try mainly to emulate face-to-face conversation, and use that as the benchmark for evaluation. The authors argue, however, that imitations of physical presence will never be preferred over the real thing, even if the imitations improve in quality. Instead, they analyze physical presence just as another medium for communication, and note the importance of leveraging the unique advantages of electronic communication that is inimitable with physical presence, in order to create a system that people use not only because they have to (because they are far away from each other), but one that they actively prefer.

It seemed to me that the thesis of this article runs counter to many that we have read; with ubiquitous computing and direct manipulation interfaces, for example, the goal has been to make computing similar to the physical interactions that we have been used to, rather than move beyond it entirely. For instance, I remember that the ubiquitous computing manifesto that we read specifically discounted virtual reality as impractical. Nevertheless, I thought that the paper's main thesis, that electronic communication cannot simply seek to imitate physical presence but must transcend it, insightfully captured a limitation of existing communication systems. In fact, many of the widely-adopted communication media that we see today use the advantages that only electronic systems can offer. SMS, for example, is probably popular mainly for its asynchronicity, despite its low bandwidth (only 160 characters per message).

However, I thought that the paper was perhaps emphasizing the current advantages of electronic communication too much, at the expense of the desirable properties that physical presence have, but electronic systems lack. While characteristics like anonymity, ephemerality, semisynchronicity, and archiving may be desirable for some cases compared to what face-to-face communication can occur, it seems unclear that these characteristics alone will be enough to make electronic communication preferable to face-to-face communication. To me, it still seems important to focus on improving electronic communication at aspects it is lacking compared to face-to-face communication, perhaps more important than enhancing the unique characteristics of electronic communication, if it is to become generally preferable to physical presence. Groupware and social dynamics: eight challenges for developers

This paper discusses the phenomenon of 'groupware', a recent class of software that had started appearing due to the falling costs of, and greater general familiarity with, computing that enabled entire groups to adopt some software to help them communicate or work with each other. They discuss the different forces that govern groupware development compared to systems for large organizations (where development occurs largely internally, or in contract, to the organization) and the new interface challenges they provide (compared to software for individuals, due to the group processes that groupware needs to handle). They crystallize these differences into eight specific challenges for developers of groupware.

In presenting a list of challenges or problems, this paper is most similar to the one about the seven challenges of ubiquitous computing in the home; similarly, its value lies mostly in cogently organizing the pitfalls that people have previously faced, so that they can be avoided in the future. The challenges noted overall seemed pertinent and useful information for developers of such software. The ones about the failure of intuition, and difficulty of evaluation, seemed particularly insightful; I would advocate for gaining as much relevant feedback as possible, though, by having actual groups use it, though.

Unfortunately, while the actual challenges seemed well-presented, the possible responses to them did not; most of them seemed to be in the vein of "developers/managers must understand the size of the problem and need information to solve them", which seems hopelessly generic. Also, similar to the ubiquitous computing paper, specific methods of measurement or analysis are lacking: to determine how important these concerns are relative to each other, and to know when they have been solved or improved. Much of the challenges, too, seemed largely like business problems rather than developers' problems, such as determining how to sell groupware to groups rather than appealing to individual people, and irrelevant in the case of large workplaces where decisions are often made top-down and imposed upon the individuals.


Matthew Can - 9/19/2010 19:00:30

Beyond Being There

The general goal in telecommunications is to build systems that provide users with the same affordances as physically proximate interaction when users are actually physically distant. This paper questions the pursuit of that goal, suggesting an alternative approach to telecommunications research based on an analysis of the following three things: human needs, the communication medium, and the mechanisms supported by the medium to service the needs.

The framework outlined in the paper is useful for HCI researchers to think about because it’s based on a very valid point that no matter how high the resolution of the video stream employed (and even if it has a 3D component), a telecommunications system will never approach face-to-face communication. Rather than imitate reality, the focus of research should be to build applications to solve actual user needs in a way that exploits the strengths of electronic communications media.

I especially liked the analysis of semisynchronous mechanisms as a way of addressing a problem common in face to face communications and electronic bulletin boards. Instead of allowing early responses to completely determine the direction of a conversation, the responses are queued up and output in batches. This way, discussion topics emerge that otherwise would have been silenced.

This paper contains several hypotheses that demonstrate the promise of this approach. It would have been nice to see some validation of those hypotheses beyond the initial results cited by the authors. In addition, I would have liked a more thorough analysis of the roadblocks to “beyond being there.” For example, I am interested in what kinds of cultural issues the authors encountered or might expect to encounter with the systems presented in the paper (especially the use of anonymity).


Groupware and Social Dynamics

This paper describes a kind of collaboration software known as groupware, and it presents several challenges in building and deploying successful groupware products.

I liked the way that this paper analyzed groupware as a class of software situated between single-user applications and organizational applications. By doing so, the authors were able to easily compare the issues involved in building groupware to those of the other two classes, gleaning possible solutions from them. For example, because of the difficulties in deploying groupware to a group of people, especially when the software may be used infrequently, the authors suggest packaging groupware features into single-user applications. This increases the adoption of groupware while also preventing groupware from interfering with a user’s normal software workflow.

In addition, I thought the paper did a good job addressing the critical mass and prisoner’s dilemma problems. For groupware to be most useful, a critical mass of people must adopt it. All too often, there are individuals reluctant to hop on board. This is a problem I have experienced personally when trying to use Google Groups: not everyone has a Google account, and those without one have no interesting in obtaining one. I think this is one of the hardest problems to solve in groupware and one that deserves more research effort.


Arpad Kovacs - 9/19/2010 19:01:54

The Hollan paper postulates that the current direction of telecommunications research, which aims to approximate the ideal of face-to-face interaction via high-fidelity audio and video connections, is a very limited framework. Rather than merely attempting to create a "crutch" that can provide a sense of "being there", new telecommunications technologies be so compelling that even when people have the option to meet face-to-face, they prefer the new media because it surmounts the constraints of physical reality, and enhances the social presence and informational richness of our interactions.

I think that the vision of a world in which telecommunication is preferred over physical presence is quite intriguing, and already close to becoming reality. Many people today prefer to call or text nearby friends rather than talk face-to-face; programmers often post ideas or example code through IRC or an instant messaging client to collaborators who are in the same room; and students may ask their professors questions through email, simply because of the advantages of the electronic medium over interpersonal communication mentioned in the article: asynchronous, anonymous communication, which is automatically archived. I think it is also a matter of efficiency and convenience (many people prefer to copy/paste/type from the comfort of their own rooms, rather than to dress up to meet someone else). I think that the ability of electronic communication to selectively abstract away information, as well as augment additional relevant data can result in a more focused and also easily searched conversation thread, compared to the the alternative of a physical meeting where it is easy to get sidetracked. Finally, by using the same medium to interact with all collaborators regardless of proximity, this system promotes equity and creates a feeling of connectedness outside of our immediate local sphere, which may increase the diversity, frequency, and richness of interactions.

Although email, ephemeral interest groups, and other "beyond-being-there" systems may be hold their own and even exceed the capabilities of physical presence in some contexts such as business meetings, planning & collaboration sessions, as well as debates, I think that there are still some situations in which telecommunication will never replace face-to-face meetings. First of all, telecommunication may transfer vision and sight via high-fidelity video and audio links, but it deprives us from utilizing our other senses (smell, taste, touch). Therefore telepresence will never replace in-person meetings in which the exchange of physical goods and services are part of the interaction (such as getting a haircut, inquiring about a product, etc). Face-to-face meetings also do not require any special software or hardware, and therefore have no barriers to entry, so they can be used by anyone in local proximity, and do not require any special infrastructure, training or domain-specific knowledge. Finally, the fact that the physical world is so unstructured (compared to say an electronic text box in which you must type unicode characters) also encourages out of the box thinking, and could be a valuable conduit to creativity in brainstorming sessions. So in summary, each medium has its own purpose, and it is up to us to select the right medium to deploy for its intended purpose.


The Grudin article makes the case that group-level software is essential for bridging the divide between applications that focus on an individual user, and systems that support an entire organization, and yet groupware software efforts often fail to recognize the unique needs of this class of software. Groupware must be conform to an individual users' prior desktop experiences, and yet must also provide a framework for concurrent collaboration and interaction.


I think that the main problem with groupware seems to be uncertainty: unclear, indirect, and unevenly distributed benefits, as well as a somewhat ambiguous role and problem domain. Individuals are reluctant to learn the software if they may not benefit from it, and yet the groupware is most effective when it is used by a high % of the team. The leadership and political structures in groupware is also not as well organized as in individual or IS systems: no one person is in charge, and yet things need to get done. The different users of the groupware also have much more diverging needs than say individuals of a particular application; therefore the groupware needs a wider array of features to be useful, and yet at the same time it must avoid a bewildering number of options that confuse the average user. As a result, the article recommends that the best solution for creating effective groupware is to perform in-context usability studies how the group as a whole performs, and how the software is used (however this is difficult) in order to circumvent these obstacles to the groupwares' widespread adoption and sustained use.


Kenzan boo - 9/19/2010 19:23:38

Beyond being there, Hollan, J. and Stornetta, S, Proceedings of CHI 1992 Beyond being there is about the difference between face to face communications and the digital medium which we try to create face to face conversations by. In face to face conversations we have a lot more benefits of an extended communications medium beyond what is currently available through web chatting, etc. However with a new the new computer aided medium we need to use at as shoes instead of crutches, going beyond what we can do in face to face, not just trying to imitate it half as well. One example of how digital interactions through webcam serves as better communication is through things like screen sharing. Normally you would share a screen in person by having one person look over another’s shoulders. However in a digital medium, you can have one user share the screen to another and even have the other mark it up. Another advantage of the digital medium is that is easily duplicated and changed. Such activities like editing an article synchronously can be done through the digital medium where when you are physically editing the same paper the users need to take turns or have two copies. As the culture evolves, like the article pointed out, people will be more and more willing to embrace these new mediums. Currently imitating face to face conversations through services like skype is becoming more socially accepted as a substitute for real interaction when not available.

Groupware and Social Dynamics: Eight Challenges for Developers, Jonathan Grudin, Communications of the ACM The article details the many challenges of groupware that developers have had to face in 1994 that have cause groupware to for the most part not be successful. The 8 are the disparity in work and benefits, critical mass and prisoners dilemma, disruption of social processes, exception handling, unobtrusive accessibility, difficulty of evaluation, failure of intuition, adoption process. While these are true for group ware, I feel that most of these are also true of any software. Things like critical mass problems are still seen today with many start ups offering a social service, however for this service to be successful they need many many users to use it, this like this include networking services like facebook. Without the mass of people using it and already having all your friends already on the service, it is essentially useless since you can not communicate to them. This is what is see as one of the largest problems to group ware. Things like failure of intuition and and adoption process and difficulty of evaluation is common with many software.


Airi Lampinen - 9/19/2010 20:27:14

Hollan and Stornetta contest the common presupposition in CMC that it is efficient to imitate face-to-face communication when designing tools to support communications in electronic media. They propose an alternative approach that aims at "beyond being there", that is, considering the strengths of different types of media (F2F being one amongst other instead of the Golden Standard) and finding ways to leverage them.


Hence, the goal is no longer formulated as creating electronic media with the aim of creating solutions that offer an equal sense of social presence as face-to-face communication and, thus, undermining the significance of distance to communication and collaboration. The authors briefly review the core ideas of media richness and social presence. The consider what they call the "telecommunication problem" (how to find ways to communicate at a distance as if we weren't at a distance) but state that it would be better to focus on making new media that satisfy the needs of communication so well that people, no matter how big or small the physical proximate, will prefer to use it.


Through a number of examples, the authors present their framing of the telecommunication problem in terms of needs, media, and mechanisms. Taken that the text dates from the beginning of the 1990s, they make insightful remarks about the special characteristics of CMC, such as anonymity, that can sometimes be leveraged to support more satisfying communication. Interestingly, they also discuss ways to augment face-to-face communication and point out some of its weaknesses.


The presented ideas are not mind-blowing from the perspective of reading them now that CMC is widespread to everyday use and in many ways accepted as complements rather than mere substitutes of face-to-face interaction but I appreciated a lot the authors' effort to turn the focus in their field towards identifying needs which are not ideally met in the medium of physical proximity, and evolving mechanisms which leverage the strengths of the new medium to meet those needs.


Grudin's "Eight Challenges for Developers" gives an overview of the various problems, shortcomings and challenges in designing groupware. The author makes a clear and convincing statement of the difficulty of, first, building useful groupware, and second, implementing it successfully to organizations.


Groupware is discussed in the paper as a form of applications between large information systems and applications that are targeted for use by individuals. These comparison points are useful in showing the special nature. For instance, Grudin points out how in product development a prototype that is immediately loved by a fraction of test users and despised by others can become a great success, where as for groupware such a division can be a huge problem - a system that is supposed to be used by groups often necessitates that all members of the group accept to use it. On the other hand, as groupware solutions are not as large-scale as organization-wide systems, they might not receive as strong support and enforcement from the management - another potential cause of failure.


Grudin succeeds in describing some of the challenges of groupware implementation very well, showing that the problems are often not so much in technology or design than in making these fit together with the social patterns and power relations in organizations. The example of how e-mail may be rejected in some organizations as it shakes the power balance and can challenge management's authority is from the presented point of view but seems outdated. Social media seems to be shaking the power relations even further and an organization is nowadays often considered quite backwards if they try to stop the change instead of embracing it for their benefit.