From Inspiration to Activation:
Making Online
Collaborative Communities
Work

                    Aldo de Moor
           ...
Yes we can…




              but how?
The Internet is key
Wicked problems
   Society faces many wicked problems (Rittel & Webber,
    1973)
   These are difficult to solve due to...
Seeing the system for the tools?
Collaborative communities
    Communities
        Strong, lasting interactions
        Bonds between members
        C...
Tool systems
  Tool system
       the system of integrated and customized information and
       communication tools tail...
Co-authoring tool system v1

                         Version
                         Author 2

                         ...
Co-authoring tool system v2

                         Version
                         Author 2

                         ...
Co-authoring tool system v3
   Version    Version                 Version
   Author 1   Author 1                Author 1

...
Towards socio-technical solutions
      Research problem online collaborative communities
        Not lack of motivation...
Socio-technical system view

                                     Domains
              Community Context      Purposes
...
Modeling pragmatic communication
processes
    Theories
        Language/Action Perspective
          Language as coord...
Collaborative community activation

      Collaborative community activation
          supporting the initiation, execut...
Case: a digital class community
      Who
        19 Information Management students
      What
        create group r...
The GRASS authoring tool
Group report authoring workflow

                  Theory interpretation (blogs)



                Case information colle...
Results
      63-page report created in 8 weeks by 18 authors
      Most students scored much higher than the minimum
  ...
Activation lessons learnt
    Incentives for individual students to participate
        Minimum score required to qualif...
A conceptual model of online
collaborative communities (1)
     Tool system
         the system of integrated and custom...
A conceptual model of online
collaborative communities (2)
     Usage context
         Goals
           Activities: ope...
The power of patterns




 • WikiPatterns site
    –   http://www.wikipatterns.com

 • Public Sphere project
    –   http:...
Collaboration patterns
      Patterns
          Define relatively stable solutions to recurring problems at
           t...
Goal patterns
        Capture community and individual objectives
            “finished group report within two weeks”, ...
Communication patterns
       Communicative workflow and norm definitions
        describing acceptable and desired commu...
The case: an enabled communication
pattern (before)
The case: an enabled communication
pattern (after)
Application: communicating across
virtual worlds
Application: collaboratories
R&D agenda
      Activation of online collaborative communities not trivial
      The concept of activation needs to be ...
Yes we will
     Many wicked problems: credit crisis, hunger,
      environment, climate, war...
     Collaborative comm...
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From Inspiration to Activation: Making Online Collaborative Communities Work

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Aldo de Moor, UAH Distinguished Speaker Series Lecture, January 21, 2009

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From Inspiration to Activation: Making Online Collaborative Communities Work

  1. 1. From Inspiration to Activation: Making Online Collaborative Communities Work Aldo de Moor CommunitySense the Netherlands WWW.COMMUNITYSENSE.NL
  2. 2. Yes we can… but how?
  3. 3. The Internet is key
  4. 4. Wicked problems  Society faces many wicked problems (Rittel & Webber, 1973)  These are difficult to solve due to  requirements that are  incomplete  contradictory  changing  hard to recognize  Interlocking problems  solving one often creates many others
  5. 5. Seeing the system for the tools?
  6. 6. Collaborative communities  Communities  Strong, lasting interactions  Bonds between members  Common space  Collaborative communities  Common goals  Effective/efficient communication  Perform/coordinate work  Community governance structures/processes  Sense of community  Common space: Internet + face-to-face
  7. 7. Tool systems  Tool system the system of integrated and customized information and communication tools tailored to the specific information, communication, and coordination requirements of a collaborative community  No standard solutions  Socio-technical systems design  Collaborative communities need to evaluate the functionalities in their unique context of use  Understand the purpose of the technologies in this context  Adopt a process view • Example: co-authoring a call for papers
  8. 8. Co-authoring tool system v1 Version Author 2 Author 2 Version Version Author 1 Author 3 Author 1 Author 3
  9. 9. Co-authoring tool system v2 Version Author 2 Author 2 Conference Version Version Author 1 Author 3 Author 1 Author 3
  10. 10. Co-authoring tool system v3 Version Version Version Author 1 Author 1 Author 1 Agreed lines Conference Author 1 Author 2 Author 3 / Editor Chat (Modified) paragraphs Version-in Progress
  11. 11. Towards socio-technical solutions  Research problem online collaborative communities  Not lack of motivation  Many self and other-oriented motives to get critical mass, e.g. in Wikipedia  Lack of activation  Fragmentation of communicative acts across tool system functionalities  R&D objectives 1. Frame these activation problems 2. Model socio-technical design solutions
  12. 12. Socio-technical system view  Domains Community Context  Purposes  Activities Social  Focused Communication System Purposes  Sustained  Evolving  Discussing Communication  Debating Forms  Questioning  Consoling  … Technical System Communication Support ?
  13. 13. Modeling pragmatic communication processes  Theories  Language/Action Perspective  Language as coordination mechanism, focusing on communicative interactions  Pragmatic Web  Applying appropriate web technologies to help improve the quality and legitimacy of collaborative, goal-oriented discourses in communities (Schoop et al, 2006)  Build a socio-technical infrastructure that supports the negotiation of meaning and the coordination of action (Aakhus, 2007)  Research question  How to model activation in collaborative communities using distributed tool systems?
  14. 14. Collaborative community activation  Collaborative community activation  supporting the initiation, execution, and evaluation of goal-oriented (online) communication processes to increase the effectiveness and efficiency of collaboration  Outline  Digital class case  Conceptual model of online collaborative communities  Collaboration patterns  Applications
  15. 15. Case: a digital class community  Who  19 Information Management students  What  create group report on design of parliamentary research information system  When  8 weeks + evaluation session  How  Face-to-face lectures, parallel digital class  Tool system  Blackboard (Learning Management System)  Set of blogs  GRASS (Group Report Authoring Support System)  Scoring tool
  16. 16. The GRASS authoring tool
  17. 17. Group report authoring workflow Theory interpretation (blogs) Case information collection (blog) Report authoring (GRASS) Wk1 Wk 2 Wk3 Wk4 Wk5 Wk6 Wk7 Wk8
  18. 18. Results  63-page report created in 8 weeks by 18 authors  Most students scored much higher than the minimum required  Survey among students  Digital study class better than face-to-face study class  Overall design of tool system plus workflow adequate  Blog posting/commenting plus GRASS position definition/taking and argument creation functionalities easy to learn  Problems  Blog creation easy, however, following what was happening too difficult  Fragmentation of discussion considered a major problem → ‘blog monitor’ helped to reduce sense of fragmentation and to increase participation
  19. 19. Activation lessons learnt  Incentives for individual students to participate  Minimum score required to qualify for exam  Overview of current scores per student visible to all  Vouchers  Improving the overview of activities within individual tools  Indented instead of linear comments in blog  Creating “meta-tools” to keep overview of activities across tools  “Blog monitor”
  20. 20. A conceptual model of online collaborative communities (1)  Tool system  the system of integrated and customized information and communication tools tailored to the specific information, communication, and coordination requirements of a collaborative community  Tool system levels  Systems: “group report writing system”  Tools: “blogs”, “courseware”, “authoring support tool”  Modules: “position definition/taking”, “argument creation”  Functions: “add argument pro”, “add argument con”
  21. 21. A conceptual model of online collaborative communities (2)  Usage context  Goals  Activities: operationalized goals, with deliverable  “writing a group report”  Aspects: abstract goals, across processes and structures  “legitimacy”, “efficiency”  Actors  Detailed role ontologies  “Administrator”, “Facilitator”, “Member”  “WikiChampion”, “WikiZenMaster”  “Position Defender”, “Argument Summarizer”, “Report Conclusion Editor”  Domains  Professional culture, work practices, …
  22. 22. The power of patterns • WikiPatterns site – http://www.wikipatterns.com • Public Sphere project – http://www.publicsphereproject.org/patterns/pattern.pl/public
  23. 23. Collaboration patterns  Patterns  Define relatively stable solutions to recurring problems at the right level of abstraction  Collaboration patterns  Capture socio-technical lessons learnt in optimizing the effectiveness and efficiency of collaboration processes  Typology of collaboration patterns (De Moor, 2006)  Goal patterns  Communication patterns  Information patterns  Task patterns  Meta-patterns
  24. 24. Goal patterns  Capture community and individual objectives  “finished group report within two weeks”, “produce 3 arguments contra position X”
  25. 25. Communication patterns  Communicative workflow and norm definitions describing acceptable and desired communicative interactions (focus on (1) initiation, evaluation stages of communicative workflows, (2) roles played by members)  “Each student must define positions and pro-arguments for an assigned report section. All students may comment on these positions, but assigned students must define arguments pro or con. At the end of this stage, all students must take the defined positions.”
  26. 26. The case: an enabled communication pattern (before)
  27. 27. The case: an enabled communication pattern (after)
  28. 28. Application: communicating across virtual worlds
  29. 29. Application: collaboratories
  30. 30. R&D agenda  Activation of online collaborative communities not trivial  The concept of activation needs to be better understood  LAP, PragWeb  Socio-technical design patterns still in their infancy  Pragmatic collaboration support patterns  Norm-driven activation mechanisms  Other fields need to contribute: community informatics, coordination theory, CSCW, interoperability research, empirically grounded pattern languages, conceptual graphs…  Numerous applications
  31. 31. Yes we will  Many wicked problems: credit crisis, hunger, environment, climate, war...  Collaborative communities are key  ICT is a crucial enabler, but not sufficient  Tool systems are needed matched to collaborative context of use  Collaboration patterns help capture and apply lessons learnt  Inspiration + activation = collaboration  Towards a “World 2.0”

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