An architecture for a collaborative authoring system
Collaborative working with the aid of computers is increasing rapidly due to the widespread use of computer networks, geographic mobility of people, and small powerful personal computers. For the past ten years research has been conducted into this use of computing technology from a wide variety of perspectives and for a wide range of uses. This thesis adds to that previous work by examining the area of collaborative writing amongst groups of people. The research brings together a number of disciplines, namely sociology for examining group dynamics, psychology for understanding individual writing and learning processes, and computer science for database, networking, and programming theory. The project initially looks at groups and how they form, communicate, and work together, progressing on to look at writing and the cognitive processes it entails for both composition and retrieval. The thesis then details a set of issues which need to be addressed in a collaborative writing system. These issues are then followed by developing a model for collaborative writing, detailing an iterative process of co-ordination, writing and annotation, consolidation, and negotiation, based on a structured but extensible document model. Implementation issues for a collaborative application are then described, along with various methods of overcoming them. Finally the design and implementation of a collaborative writing system, named Collaborwriter, is described in detail, which concludes with some preliminary results from initial user trials and testing.