We were fortunate to have two guest presentations this week from speakers from industry. What I particularly enjoyed from both presentations was the generous sharing of what collaborative tools were being used to support their businesses and how they were impacting their work.

Ian Bull from EclipseSource, spoke on “Running your project like it’s an open source project” extracting principles from open source software (OSS) for running operations. While Brad Van Vugt and his team from sendwithus, spoke about “How Teams Collaborate at sendwithus”. Each was diverse with their approach, Ian offering tools and techniques to manage operations, while the sendwithus team shared tools and techniques they use to collaborate with their customers.

I really enjoyed the model of the sendwithus team, in keeping things open and inviting participation from clients. While I thought that having clients able to edit markdown files on Github (the very text which shows up live on their website) was risky, I found it quite interesting that this is working for them. I have heard people talk about open editing methods such as this before and this usually follows with the fear of users vandalizing or defacing public facing websites. I think that when users are logged in and accountable for their work this is less likely. Of course on a site such as Wikipedia where anyone can create multiple fairly anonymous accounts this happens frequently.  But on a site where user accounts are linked to profiles of real people this comes up less. One great example is the UBC Wiki Project where anyone with a UBC identity can edit their wikis. From what I have heard no major cases of negative behavior have come up.

The two presentations following the break from our TA Eirini and visiting student Bin focused on research being conducted on Github and Slack as collaboration tools. I was really nice to get a closer look at how these tools are being used in the wild by professionals through their research. As both tools are new to me and I am still discovering how they can be valuable in my workflow, it was nice to see how expert users adopt, adapt and critique these tools.

As usual we collectively kept notes and maintained a backchannel on slack for questions to the group. I really think this is a valuable task and allows our presenters to see what ideas are emerging through the presentation without interrupting their delivery. We can also see what our peers are thinking and assist with questions between one another. I am hoping to use Slack in my own context going forward and share the tool with some of my colleagues.

Following the break, we moved our collective notetaking and backchannel activities to a Google Document. The Google Document space allows for formatting, re-editing, and restructuring of each others text, unlike Slack which maintains an activity stream of user messages. I took the opportunity to initiate my screen recorder and capture the process by which this document took shape. The video below shows the development of the document, I sped it up to turn a 20 minute process into a 2 minute video.

There are also ways to visualize contributions to a Google Document using the DocuViz visualization tool.  In our case because so many of us were editing anonymously we show up in the chart below as ‘the nulls‘. Still I think it is neat to see a visualization of the documents growth over time and through contributions of characters.


Sorry for geeking out with the visualizations this week, but I saw an opportunity and ran with it!


Wang, D., Olson, J. S., Zhang, J., Nguyen, T., & Olson, G. M. (2015). DocuViz: Visualizing Collaborative Writing. In Proceedings of the 33rd Annual ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (pp. 1865-1874). ACM.  http://dl.acm.org/citation.cfm?id=2702517

CSCW 586 Blogs: CSCW in Software Engineering Workshops

CC BY 4.0 CSCW 586 Blogs: CSCW in Software Engineering Workshops by Michael Paskevicius is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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