Paper On Groupware

1485 words - 6 pages

Groupware is a technology designed to facilitate the work of groups. This technology may be used to communicate, cooperate, coordinate, solve problems, compete, or negotiate. While traditional technologies like the telephone qualify as groupware, the term is ordinarily used to refer to a specific class of technologies relying on modern computer networks, such as email, newsgroups, videophones, or chat.Groupware technologies are typically categorized along two primary dimensions:1. Whether users of the groupware are working together at the same time ("real-time" or "synchronous" groupware) or different times ("asynchronous" groupware).2. Whether users are working together in the same place ("collocated" or "face-to-face") or in different places ("non-collocated" or "distance").Groupware design involves understanding groups and how people behave in groups. It also involves having a good understanding of networking technology and how aspects of that technology affect a user's experience. All the issues related to traditional user interface design remains relevant, since the technology still involves people. Many aspects of groups require special consideration. For instance, not only do million-person groups behave differently from 5-person groups, but also the performance parameters of the technologies to support different groups vary. Ease-of-use must be better for groupware than for single-user systems because the pace of a conversation often drives the pace of use of an application. System responsiveness and reliability become more significant issues. Designers must have an understanding of the degree of homogeneity of users, of the possible roles people play in cooperative work and of who key decision-makers are and what influences them.There are several types of groupware applications and their associated design options. Comparing those design options across applications yields interesting new perspectives on well-known applications. Also, in many cases, these systems can be used together, and in fact, are intended to be used in conjunction. For example, group calendars are used to schedule videoconferencing meetings, multi-player games use live video and chat to communicate, and newsgroup discussions spawn more highly involved interactions in any of the other systems.Consider how these systems can be integrated in other ways. We are still quite far from developing the grand groupware system that encompasses every type of communication, and we will probably never get there since the possibilities are constantly evolving with changes in both our patterns of social interaction and the technology we have available.Asynchronous Groupware:Email is by far the most common groupware application. While the basic technology is designed to pass simple messages between 2 people, even relatively basic email systems today typically include interesting features for forwarding messages, filing messages, creating mailing groups, and attaching files with a message. Other features that have been explored include: automatic sorting and processing of messages, automatic routing, and structured communication.Newsgroups and mailing lists are similar in spirit to email systems except that they are intended for messages among large groups of people instead of 1-to-1 communications. In practice the main difference between newsgroups and mailing lists is that newsgroups only show messages to a user when they are explicitly requested, while mailing lists deliver messages as they become available.Workflow systems allow documents to be routed through organizations through a relatively fixed process. A simple example of a workflow application is an expense report in an organization: an employee enters an expense report and submits it, a copy is archived then routed to the employee's manager for approval, the manager receives the document, electronically approves it and sends it on and the expense is registered to the group's account and forwarded to the accounting department for payment. Workflow systems may provide features such as routing, development of forms, and support for differing roles and privileges.Group calendars allow scheduling, project management, and coordination among many people, and may provide support for scheduling equipment as well. Typical features detect when schedules conflict or find meeting times that will work for everyone. Group calendars also help to locate people. Typical concerns are privacy, completeness and accuracy.Collaborative writing systems may provide both real-time support and non-real-time support. Word processors may provide asynchronous support by showing authorship and by allowing users to track changes and make annotations to documents. Authors collaborating on a document may also be given tools to help plan and coordinate the authoring process, such as methods for locking parts of the document or linking separately authored documents. Synchronous support allows authors to see each other's changes as they make them, and usually needs to provide an additional communication channel to the authors as they work.Synchronous or Real-time Groupware:Shared whiteboards allow two or more people to view and draw on a shared drawing surface even from different locations. This can be used, for instance, during a phone call, where each person can jot down notes or to work collaboratively on a visual problem. Most shared whiteboards are designed for informal conversation, but they may also serve structured communications or more sophisticated drawing tasks, such as collaborative graphic design, publishing, or engineering applications. Shared whiteboards can indicate where each person is drawing or pointing by showing telepointers, which are color-coded or labelled to identify each person.Video communications systems allow two-way or multi-way calling with live video, essentially a telephone system with an additional visual component. Cost and compatibility issues limited early use of video systems to scheduled videoconference meeting rooms. Video is advantageous when visual information is being discussed, but may not provide substantial benefit in most cases where conventional audio telephones are adequate. In addition to supporting conversations, video may also be used in less direct collaborative situations, such as by providing a view of activities at a remote location.Chat systems permit many people to write messages in real-time in a public space. As each person submits a message, it appears at the bottom of a scrolling screen. Having listing chat rooms by name, location, number of people, topic of discussion, etc usually forms chat groups.Many systems allow for rooms with controlled access or with moderators to lead the discussions, but most of the topics of interest to researchers involve issues related to immoderate real-time communication including: anonymity, following the stream of conversation, scalability with number of users, and abusive users. While chat-like systems are possible using non-text media, the text version of chat has the rather interesting aspect of having a direct transcript of the conversation, which not only has long-term value, but allows for backward reference during conversation making it easier for people to drop into a conversation and still pick up on the ongoing discussion.Decision support systems are designed to facilitate groups in decision-making. They provide tools for brainstorming, critiquing ideas, putting weights and probabilities on events and alternatives, and voting. Such systems enable presumably more rational and even-handed decisions. Primarily designed to facilitate meetings, they encourage equal participation by, for instance, providing anonymity or enforcing turn taking.Most of the organizations now, are using the groupware, because groupware brings teams from different organisations and locations closer together for innovative research. Groupware offers significant advantages over single-user systems. These are some of the most common reasons people want to use groupware:o To facilitate communication: make it faster, clearer, more persuasiveo To enable communication where it wouldn't otherwise be possibleo To enable telecommutingo To cut down on travel costso To bring together multiple perspectives and expertiseo To form groups with common interests where it wouldn't be possible to gather a sufficient number of people face-to-faceo To save time and cost in coordinating group worko To facilitate group problem-solvingo To enable new modes of communication, such as anonymous interchanges or structured interactionsIn addition to the benefits of groupware, another good reason to study usability and design issues in groupware is to avoid a failed design. Groupware is significantly more difficult to get right than traditional software. Typically, a groupware system can't succeed unless most or the entire target group is willing to adopt the system. In contrast, a single-user system can be successful even if only a fraction of the target market adopts it.

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