The major problem with the majority of these tools is that they are limited to people who share the same working environment, so people are forced to use software that they are not familiar with, and less productive with. Some of the tools only work interactively, (which works for meetings and demonstrations, but means that everyone has to be organised to a specific time) for any work to be done. There are some experiments underway with regard to co-operative authoring, such as WikiWiki, and web collaboration such as BSCW.
WikiWiki [Cunningham] (http://c2.com/cgi-bin/wiki) is a web site created by W. Cunningham that allows anyone to edit the pages, with certain restrictions. This is the first Wiki; others have appeared, as people have set up their own Wiki clones. WikiWiki was written in Perl [Dominus 1998], and some of the newer Wiki clones have been written in other languages, but they all follow the same general guidelines. A couple of the general guidelines that the Wiki clones follow are that anyone can edit and add pages, that they use a simplified mark-up language, rather than the full HTML standard. As the Wiki clones evolve, these guidelines are subject to change as the majority of users of Wiki decide.
WikiWiki can be described in many ways, such as this quote from its home page (current October 2000) "(It is) ... a fun way of communicating asynchronously across the network", or as a set of web pages that are open and free for anyone to edit as they wish. Wiki is not real-time; therefore people have time to think before they follow up a web page, often days or weeks, so they have time to consider what they write. It was created for the discussion of People, Projects, and Patterns (a pattern is a recurring solution to a common problem in a given context and system of forces [Alexander 1977] [Alexander 1979]).
"BSCW (Basic Support for Cooperative Work) enables collaboration over the Web. BSCW is a 'shared workspace' system which supports document upload, event notification, group management and much more. To access a workspace you only need a standard Web browser."
BSCW supports CSCW (Computer Supported Cooperative Work) over the Web. [Bentley Horstmann Trevor 1997], [Appelt 1999] This increases the reach of CSCW, as it allows anyone with a web browser to access the information.
As the titles for both BSCW and CSCW imply, they provide support for co-operative work. When looked at beside the free flowing web of information that I am proposing, they are complementary, as the free flowing web of information is concerned with the co-operative creation and editing of documents, whereas BSCW and CSCW provide support for that co-operative creation and editing. The way that BSCW and CSCW work is that they are a support mechanism for co-operative work (which is what the "SCW" in their titles stands for). The support that they provide varies depending on the implementation, but they generally support the work around a document, rather than the work specifically on the document, often this is left to the tools (word processors and the like) that the members of the group have.
What is needed is a form of co-operative authoring, collaboration and content management that anyone can use and access at anytime from anywhere using the system that they are most familiar with and productive in. The other advances such as WebDAV (which is discussed later in the next chapter), and BSCW are important, as they provide the support for areas that are not directly covered by the free flowing web of information, in that they specify the protocol to be used over the Web, and support surrounding the co-operative authoring respectively.
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