June 23rd, 2012


Collaborative software

On Tuesday I went to the Expo portion of Enterprise 2.0 Boston 2012 - essentially a conference on the equivalent of social-networking in business. This used to be called Groupware and the academic side equivalent is CSCW (Computer Support for Cooperative Work). Going to these expos is about my only exposure these days to technology other than what I see on my screen or install on my computers.

I like to ask the demonstrators how their products support review or inspection of documents and relate this to my 20-years ago experience in this domain.

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In our system, called Scrutiny, inspectors look at the document on their computer and make annotations. Then at an appointed time they all sit at their screens, the moderator zooms his/her mouse over a portion of the document and that gets highlighted on everyone's screen along with the annotations made to that portion and the discussion ensues via the text messaging component to identify the defect and classify it. We first demoed at the CSCW Conference in the fall of 1992. We wrote a few papers - I was usually the lead author and among other places got the this one: Scrutiny: A Collaborative Inspection and Review System accepted to the European Software Engineering Conference in Garmisch-Partenkirchen.

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None of the vendors that I talked to can easily support the synchronous meeting portion. Some use screen sharing which is a partial solution but no-one had the capability of allowing everyone to easily see other people's annotations (in our system this was automatic). Too bad, I still think this would be a useful function. There are some products available today - such as CodeCollaborator by SmartBear software that look like they do a pretty good job at this function but I've never seriously explored it.

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