Weblogs let individuals publish their thoughts. Wiki pages let people edit each others writing. But there is as yet nothing that really helps to carry on a far-reaching design discussion in cyberspace. We need such a tool for collaborative design and decision making.
These ideas are still pretty theoretical when it comes to online discussions,
even though they have a strong track record when it comes to facilitated, face-to-face discussions. (Previous incarnations of the tools found that they really only work when
the discussion is carried on live, and a moderator keeps things running. But I
haven't quite given up on an online incarnation.)
The idea-threads that are mega-interesting to me include:
Blogging in plain text or email and auto-converting to DITA topics
Wiki-style edit-and-build system for DITA topics
Extending DITA to enable distributed collaboration, exploration, discussion,
and decision-making using IBIS conversation-formats
Other papers in that space expand on the theme. Recently, it occurred to me
that since DITA is extensible, it might be possible to extend it for IBIS.
Once we have enabled wiki-style editing for structured documents like DITA, it
may then become possible to collaborate
and make design decisions effectively over the web, with only occasional
use of a telephone.
> Collaborative editing design is impossible... > It is true that there is a serious amount of art in the process. It is also true that we have never had adequate tools to enable the process.
The Dialog Mapping and other structured dialog techniques posted in the article provide serious intellectual tools. People who have engaged in the process with a facilitator present have found it helpful to the point of enlightenment for identifying and resolving problems with a minimum of friction and frustration.
Whether it can be made to work online or not is another matter. Experiences with tools that force you to think in structured ways have been less good than one would hope, in general. So the state of the art is that a faciliator who knows how to apply structure to the dialog does so, while participants carry on their exchange normally--but as the dialog map captures their thoughts, they become aware of the structuring process.
So there is definitely an educational aspect to the endeavor. People don't grow up learning rhetoric and logic in the school system. (But they used to.) Similarly, nowhere in the normal school system is one taught the basic mechanisms for structuring a dialog and resolving conflicts. These are very important skills that, with luck, will one day be part of the regular curriculum.
As that skill becomes more widespread, online collaboration in a design setting becomes more feasible. But simply by existing, a tool helps to motivate and encourage the education process. So I believe it to be a worthwhile endeavor.
> I look forward to more wii style integration... > It's probably the hottest thing going in writing these days. There is more than one project out there that seeks to apply the Wiki concept to normal documents.
We're at the very beginning of that technology curve, at the moment, though, so there isn't a whole lot you can see today. But they're coming.
As those systems become more advanced and more widespread, the ability to share documents will become commonplace. When those document formats included structured dialogs, it will be a brand new day for design collaboration.
We've received an NSF grant to develop a series of biology-based games for middle school-aged kids that will be hosted by PBSKids.org. We're testing out some ideas for a collaborative design blog for the initial brainstorming phase.
The project will develop a number of games so the main anchor for each blog is an initial game concept.
We're intended to condense the blog as design ideas get vetted to produce updated versions of each game concept (v2, v3, etc.) which would become the new anchors (comments about old versions would be archived but accessible).
The project is bridging the education and gaming worlds so we're hoping to see some interesting interactions on the blog.
We're working the kinks out of a categorized, text-only blog right now. We're toying with the idea of using some kind of dynamic concept map as a parallel GUI.
Any suggestions or lessons learned you would like to pass along?