Designing software to support collaboration has been a thread throughout my career. Starting with the Intermedia work at Brown University in the 1980’s, I have developed expertise in many different forms of computer-supported collaboration. In that early work at Brown, I explored how hypertext systems could be used to allow groups of students and their instructor to collaboratively create linked content in the domains of English literature and cell biology.
At Sun Microsystems I started and led two separate research teams focused on distance collaboration and did extensive consulting with Sun’s workplace resources group on improving the company’s collaboration infrastructure.
In the Network Communities group, my team analyzed Sun’s customer care organization with an eye toward understanding communication and collaboration break-downs. We then proposed a series of possible technology solutions to those problems and prototyped a tool that addressed the problems we observed when support engineers collaborated with customers to troubleshoot complex technical issues. That software, SharedShell, was later productized and is still in use today.
In the Collaborative Environments group, my team created a popular internal tool called Meeting Central. This tool was an outgrowth of the consulting work with the company’s workplace group to identify the top problems associated with distributed meetings. The Meeting Central software solved most of those top problems without being cluttered with features that did not specifically address collaboration pain points.
The Wonderland project was also an outgrowth of the same research that led to Meeting Central. In this project, however, we focused on meeting the collaboration needs of work-from-home users, putting more emphasis on more frequent informal interactions.