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Design for conversation: lessons from Cognoter. Tatar, Foster, and Bobrow (1990). Overview. The Colab setup and Cognoter software User experiences Models of conversation Problems with Cognoter Conclusions. Colab and Cognoter - Colab. Same-time/Same-place brainstorming

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design for conversation lessons from cognoter

Design for conversation: lessons from Cognoter

Tatar, Foster, and Bobrow (1990)

  • The Colab setup and Cognoter software
  • User experiences
  • Models of conversation
  • Problems with Cognoter
  • Conclusions
colab and cognoter colab
Colab and Cognoter - Colab
  • Same-time/Same-place brainstorming
  • Three users each with a private computer
  • Liveboard visible to all
  • Can mirror other computer’s display on own display
  • Can mirror one private display on Liveboard
  • Colab designed for different collaboration project
colab and cognoter cognoter
Colab and Cognoter - Cognoter
  • Cognoter designed to implement shared workspaces
  • Basic unit is the “item” - icon + short text
    • Annotations can be added to items - these became the content of the items
    • Group items within special grouping items
  • Must create items in private item-creation windows (“edit windows”)
  • Present and organize items in public (WYSIWIS) item-organization windows
user experiences
User Experiences
  • They hated it!
  • First group gave up
    • First, each made private edits, ignoring the others
    • Evidently when the time came to merge them they gave up on the system and switched to pen and paper
  • Second group switched to arrangement where one person typed and the rest contributed
    • Effectively, two roles: one author (typing in the information) and two reviewers (heckling)
  • Users were extremely frustrated - didn’t understand the conceptual model behind displaying others’ screens
some major problems identified
Some major problems identified
  • Visibility
    • Important data was not obvious/visible to users when they needed it
    • Attention was not brought to items that were changed
  • Reference
    • Use of deixis (“that one” “this”) causes problems when users can’t point, or aren’t looking at the same thing
  • Also, social aspects - “Since both our trial groups consisted of long-term collaborators, the amount of interpersonal damage was probably small, but it did represent a substantial disruption to their work.”
models of conversation
Models of Conversation
  • Interactive Model (Spoken conversation)
    • Listener in conversation has active role in communication:
      • Provides constant back-channel feedback (“uh-huh”, “yeah”, etc.)
      • Listener can make statements which accept, reject, or modify what speaker is saying; speaker’s presentation plus listener’s acceptance equals a single contribution to a conversation.
      • Collaboration / negotiation to achieve meaning
  • Parcel-post Model (Cognoter)
    • Listener has passive or no role in communication:
      • Speaker presents fully formed utterance (as in email, etc.)
      • Listener must counter with fully formed utterance or attempt to modify speaker’s utterance - however, speaker may not notice these modifications
      • Little opportunity for collaboration / negotiation of meaning.
applying the interactive model to cognoter
Applying the Interactive Model to Cognoter
  • Parcel-post method of communication works for some interaction (e.g., mail, email) - why not Cognoter?
    • Real-time interaction requires negotiation of meaning.
    • Parties hold mutual responsibility for establishing meaning in this scenario, as opposed to distant responsibility in the case of letter writing.
    • “…conversation is distinguished from literary forms of communication by the amount of work to ensure understanding that is done within the time frame of the actual communication.”
problems with cognoter
Problems with Cognoter
  • Separate screens
    • Users had to keep up to date with multiple windows
  • Lack of sequentiality
    • No fixed way to determine order of contributions
  • Short labels for icons
    • Limited the amount of info that could be viewed at once
  • Anonymity
    • No way to determine author of contributions
  • Private Editing
    • No feedback for others during editing; changes could conflict
  • Unpredictable delay
    • Edits took anywhere from less than a second to 20 seconds!
  • Private moving
    • Icons moved by another appeared to teleport across a user’s desktop
  • Tailorable windows
    • Users’ screens could appear different, preventing co-referencing that way
coordination problems
Coordination Problems
  • Users must choose between verbal, textual, or combined communication
  • Users must attend to both verbal, and three potential sources of textual, communication
  • Users need to:
    • Produce contributions
    • Recognize contributions
    • Make responses to contributions
coordination problems cont
Coordination Problems, cont.
  • Producing contributions
    • Verbal contributions are not permanent
    • Textual contributions may not be noticed
    • When combining the two, verbalization may precede incoming text; but waiting until the text appears will yield conversational floor.
    • Speaker cannot make mid-utterance corrections, nor can the listener contribute by completing the utterance.
coordination problems1
Coordination Problems
  • Recognizing contributions
    • Anonymity of text ensures confusion
    • Mixed timing of textual and verbal contributions means that listener has to make effort to connect the two
    • Lack of obvious sequentiality makes it difficult to follow conversational thread
    • Lack of try-markers and other cues implies that contribution is elementary, i.e., can be understood by itself, even when this is not the case
coordination problems2
Coordination Problems
  • Making responses to contributions
    • Responses, usually required in conversation, are optional in text
    • Non-response to a textual contribution is therefore ambiguous
    • Textual responses often missed, or not apparent as responses, because attention of listeners cannot be assessed.
problems co reference
Problems - Co-reference
  • Users often used inappropriate references (“that one”, “the one in the upper left corner”)
  • Since they were not usually comparing their screen to others’, the uselessness of such references was not apparent
  • Keeping track of changes increases difficulty of maintaining co-reference.
solving problems with cognoter
Solving Problems with Cognoter
  • Separate screens
    • Unchanged
  • Lack of sequentiality
    • Unchanged
  • Short labels for icons
    • Unchanged
  • Anonymity
    • Unchanged
  • Private Editing
    • Shared editing - all can see edit windows
  • Unpredictable delay
    • Sped up communication / technology upgrade
  • Private moving
    • Shared moving - continuous updates while moving icons
  • Tailorable windows
    • Windows same on all screens
  • “…many of the serious problems…stem from a culturally prevalent, easy-to-make assumption that communication consists of bits of verbal or textual material passed whole from one person to the next.” - i.e., the Parcel-Post model conflicts with real-time collaboration.
  • Must examine what working in parallel means in order to support it properly.
  • Familiarity with the system appears to ameliorate some of the problems - I wonder what performance would have been like after many hours of training.