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Computer Supported Cooperative Work and Google Wave

Since the invention of the internet protocol, communication has astronomically advanced creating new possibilities that did not exist before. Computer Supported Cooperative Work (C.S.C.W) is a technology that seeks to use computer systems to allow, coordinate and monitor collaborative group work. Developed recently, Google Wave is a web service technology with a platform that emphasises collaboration and real time interactions and communication. It has special services including translation to about 40 languages, spell checking and grammar among others for effectiveness. These two technologies (Google wave and Computer Supported Cooperative Work) can be integrated to create an environment that will allow software development on a global platform. (Google Wave, 2009)

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In an endeavour to create a most effective platform that supports group work, researchers from diverse fields including sociology and computer science have been working together to come up with a computer platform that enhances group work. C.S.C.W has therefore studied and considered how people interact apart from creating an appropriate technology that supports this interaction. While working in groups, individuals need to know and understand each others activities. They also need to integrate their ideas together. To do this, groups need to appropriate a technology that is unique to their particular needs and situation. (Cochrane, 2009)

Computer Supported Cooperative Work may be considered to consist of different levels. At the highest level are Mainframe computer systems and large minicomputers with major applications that support organisation goals which may include inventory control and Computer Integrated Manufacturing among others. Lower levels on the other hand consist of applications designed to support groups and individual workstations. These applications may include Microsoft office, games and the like. Work flow automation applications and conferencing applications are examples of applications that may be used for large groups consisting of more than six individuals. High level soft wares are produced within to meet unique needs at the level. Lower level applications on the other hand can be bought and integrated into the system. Recently, higher levels have advanced from developing applications for organisational support to embrace software engineering and office automation as a way of supporting large projects. (Kaner, 2003)

Google wave technology presents new capabilities that are better than those provided by e-mail. It can be used by individuals to work together and communicate in real time. This can be through rich text, videos, photos and the like. When we talk about a wave, we may consider an aspect of a wave that consists of documents and conversations that are in equal parts. A new Google wave user may start by creating a wave on which he/she can add other users. This wave allows people to work together in collaboration. One can view what other people using the wave are writing or communicating almost instantly. Real time communication and interaction is therefore thus achieved. Besides, one can review how the wave originated and progressed using a replay button. (Black, 2008)

Distributed work groups (groups that are working from different geographical locations) are becoming more common in the global world. Among the tasks that these groups may accomplish is software engineering. Goggle wave technology can be integrated with Computer Supported Cooperative Work to develop a platform for distributed software development. (Nardi, Whittaker, & Bradner, 2000, p.79)

Studies have shown that more than two thirds of software projects developed in the United States fail. These do not fail because of technical reasons but rather due to social reasons. People have different perspectives, believes and norms. It is therefore necessary to come up with a system that considers organisational structure and complexity including social behaviours in order to have an effective system that works. Computer Supported Cooperative work strongly considers social aspects for effective interaction among other things. Uniting software developers scattered globally through these integrated technologies may therefore be the best approach. While Google wave technology meets diverse needs for people in different geographical locations like solving language barrier problems through a real time platform, C.S.C.W considers social diversities studies for effective global interactions. (Shen etal, 2002, p.323)

The focus could be to develop software which could be a project for a certain organisation that has a presence in diverse countries or places in a system approach context. This kind of software is developed primarily to solve organisational problems. This could be within a higher level structure described before in a C.S.C.W context. The advantage provided here is that a much focused method of software development is embraced. This does not just consider software by itself but ensures that the whole development process considers the unique needs of an organisation and working complexities with an aim of adapting the software developed to adapt to these needs. (Cochrane, 2009)

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Networking personal computers and workstations possibly through a Google wave platform will even increase the already existing interest in small group applications. This is partly because of an increased market that exists as a result of networking computer systems. Software developers using these networks will understand better unique needs of small group applications and how they differ from organisation applications putting them in a significant position that will enable them to develop small group applications effectively. For example, while organisation applications focus more on how systems relate small group applications focus more on end user interface. (Black, 2008)

When C.S.C.W. is integrated with Google wave technology, it presents a possibility of cutting software development costs significantly. These costs mainly arise from difficulties in bringing different ideas together. Moreover C.S.C.W. considers computer system relations among other technical bottlenecks that may make software development more difficult and costly when it is not considered from the first stage of development. Moreover, Google wave technology creates non office workstations where one can work anywhere at any time. This can eliminate huge costs associated with direct and indirect funds required to hire and run office environments. (Shen etal, 2002, p.324)

Computer Supported Cooperative Work integrates different issues, languages and Information among other things. A problem that normally rises up during software development is the assumption that everyone understands what the other person knows and is doing, does not hold. Sharing information through Video conferencing may not be effective to levels required. Integrating Google wave technology with C.S.C.W is good way of overcoming this problem. Google Wave technology provides features that allow a more efficient method of real time information sharing that does not exist within a C.S.C.W alone. An ability to replay a wave is another advantage that is presented by Google wave technology on communication. (Ackerman, 1998, p.213)

The problem of ambiguity that may arise while communicating in a C.S.C.W. system can be solved using Google wave technology. Take the word “end user” for example. It could mean different things for different people. While one may consider it to refer to a software developer, another may consider it to be referring to a person typing using a keyboard. This contradiction is especially likely to occur when dealing with people in distributed locations who have different cultures. Google wave technology can therefore be used to interpret and transfer information in a way that is easily understood. It can also provide a database of word meanings among other things that may need clarity from users. This will enable software engineers to interact better in a C.S.C.W system. (Nardi, Whittaker, & Bradner, 2000, p.80)

A Computer Supported Cooperative Work system is divided into cells. Communication within a cell may occur in real time or it may be expected to reach the other party within certain duration of time. One problem that has risen in a C.S.C.W is that an application developed to support communication in one cell may cause communication difficulties in another. For example, an application may not allow access to database information for a stand alone meeting. This will affect an interactive meeting in another cell. The advantage provided by Google wave technology when integrated with a C.S.C.W. system is that users in a wave can choose settings that best fit their work. This can be applied by software engineers working in these two integrated systems to best handle tasks without affecting the tasks of members in other groups. (Ackerman, 1998, p.214)

A challenge that has been considered by Computer Support Cooperative Work researchers is how to overcome institutional difficulties which are just as important as technical solutions that may be provided. In an organisation, people at all levels need to know how to use an application in order to achieve its intended purpose. This case applies to an organisation dealing with software engineering. It may be necessary to covey information in different forms to different levels within an organisation. This may ensure that each level plays its specific role as required. Google wave technology may be used to communicate information in this manner hence enhancing effectiveness. (Kaner, 2003)

The Software product itself needs to be tailored in such a manner that it addresses institutional issues in the organisation where it will be used. It needs to address specific needs for people at various levels in an organisation from the management to ordinary workers for example. Behaviour aspects in an organisation need therefore to be considered and accommodated by the software. Attention therefore shifts from just developing a mechanism that addresses the immediate technical problem to a complex problem that considers social and other issues that may arise. This is of course possible through careful integration of Computer Supported Cooperative Work systems with Google wave technology platforms. (Shen etal, 2002, p.325)

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Coordination of tasks carried out within an organisation to achieve some results has created a work flow process. This may be regarded as a procedure of carrying out functions and duties. This kind of approach has been attractive to software developers although it is likely to meet some problems since the working environment and needs keep changing on a daily basis and does not therefore need a rigid approach. Computer Supported Cooperative Work Systems consider this reality in their working environments. Since Google Wave technology consists of various applications, these applications can be modified to create a working environment that is not rigid. Moreover, these applications can be designed to ensure that software developers work within a specific environment that optimises their capacities as required. (Grudin, 1994, p.25)

Research has shown that people work more collectively when they form an idea of what is going around them and maintain this idea throughout their activities. Awareness of an environment is therefore important for any organisation including those dealing wth software developments in distributed locations. Computer Supportive Cooperative Work refers to this awareness as ‘focus’ and ‘nimbus’. Focus refers to observation and identification of ideas in a working environment while nimbus refers to behaviours that arise from these ideas. (David, etal 1995, p.118)

We say that a person is aware of another person when a person’s nimbus intersects with another persons’ ‘focus’. This relationship of awareness and focus need not be reciprocal. We sometimes take awareness in a working environment for granted. This happens despite the fact that it is very important for collaboration. An effective method of promoting effective awareness in a software engineering environment that is globally distributed is by the use of Google wave technology. This is likely to be achieved when the Google wave platform considers social studies on human behaviour in C.S.S.W systems. (Dustin, 2002, p. 3)

This awareness is not just desirable during a software development process; it needs to be considered in the working environment where the software will be used. If it is software that will be used for patient’s database information management for example, it may need to consider privacy issues where patients may want confidentiality. Besides, the software needs to create an environment of awareness on important issues dealing with patients and work between involved medical workers in a hospital. A kind of Google wave technology may therefore be adopted in the software itself. (Dourish, 2003, p. 465)

During software development, people may be assigned specific tasks that they will be required to undertake before they present their findings for discussion, analysis, evaluation and integration. By having a platform where people can readily communicate in real time at a disposal of desirable applications, many positive things could be achieved. For example, after working to come up with various approaches, multiple but related soft wares may be developed in the end. These may then be tested for effectiveness before one application is adopted. This and other advantages can be achieved through Google wave Interactions. (Teasley, etal 2000, p.341)

Individuals specialising in software engineering may have diverse prowess in knowledge and applications that can be used to aid the software development process. Google wave technology may be used to enable someone concentrate in areas that he understands better while progressing with his tasks through the help of others. For example, an application can be used to simulate a process showing why certain decisions are more desirable than others. This may help some one who has different ideas on a task but does not understand the complexities involved in eliminating some of these ideas. Google wave technology may therefore be used to effectively utilise talents and specialties of people in distributed locations for software engineering purposes. If not well monitored through such a platform as Google wave technology in C.S.C.W, diverse talents and specialties could cause conflicts and impede the software development process. (Cochrane, 2009)

By adopting Google Wave platform in a Computer Supported Cooperative Work environment, software engineers will build strong networks that will be very effective in carrying out tasks. These include people that have interacted over long periods of time and understand each other well. They have set time durations for communication among themselves and they have integrated their ideas and approach. These networks will enhance research and development of software systems in the world. Another possibility that may arise is standardisation of training and certification of software engineers in the world. These will then be given a chance to participate fully and continuously into software development thus tapping into enormous capabilities from all software engineers. The software engineering field will thus expand and improve efficiency and effectiveness in delivering quality and working applications. (Black, 2008)

Software development is a costly task that sometimes does not deliver products that perform their intended purposes. Computer Supported Cooperative Work has considered the fact that operations including software development and application should consider social factors as well as technical factors for effectiveness. This is an important approach hence the need for global software engineering to adopt C.S.C.W in its work. When we consider Global software engineering, it needs a lot of collaboration to succeed. This collaboration is required from people in different global environments that do not necessarily share similar culture, values and beliefs. This creates a need to have a global platform for communication that addresses these kinds of issues among others.

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Google wave technology has a capacity to build a network of global software engineers that can work together in collaboration effectively. It consists of applications that can be used to address specific issues like creating awareness in the created global computer working environment for example. While Computer Supported Cooperative work addresses social as well as technical issues and creates a collaboration environment for performing tasks, Google wave technology provides a means of effective distributed collaboration that can accommodate global software engineering. Integrating these two technologies may therefore be the way forward for software engineering as it strives to utilize human and other resources on the global scene for software development purposes.

References List

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Dourish, P. 2003, “The Appropriation of Interactive Technologies: Some Lessons from Placeless Documents”. Computer Supported Cooperative Work (Kluwer Academic Publishers), vol.12, no.4, pp. 465–490.

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Nardi, B.A.; Whittaker, S.; Bradner, E. 2000, “Interaction and outeraction: instant messaging in action”. Proceedings of the 2000 ACM conference on Computer supported cooperative work. ACM Press New York, NY, USA. pp. 79-88.

Shen, C.; Lesh, N.B.; Vernier, F.; Forlines, C.; Frost, J. 2002, “Sharing and building digital group histories”. Proceedings of the 2002 ACM conference on Computer supported cooperative work. ACM Press New York, NY, USA. pp. 324-333.

Teasley, S.; Covi, L.; Krishnan, M.S.; Olson, J.S.2000, “How does radical collocation help a team succeed?” Proceedings of the 2000 ACM conference on Computer supported cooperative work. ACM Press New York, NY, USA. pp. 339-346.

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