Models and Theories in Human-Computer Interaction/The Key is a Visual Metric

Individuals are motivated and/or deterred to interact based on many diverse factors regardless of what ‘platform’ is available to them. Of course, a platform that allows the group members to coordinate their interaction more easily will reduce confusion and increase productivity. A more complex or inconvenient collaboration platform will increase confusion and decrease productivity. So, ultimately, while you want a collaborative platform, like WikiBook, there must be an accountability metric in place if a project team (especially with distributed members) wants to maximize their efficiency. If you cannot measure participation, you cannot manage it.

WikiBook is effective as a way of sharing information but it does not immediately motivate group members to ‘interact’. Specifically, it does not encourage members to post discussion points and solicit feedback. When looking at WikiBook as a support tool for Computer Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW) it fulfills a basic need of information sharing, however, WikiBook does not require subjects to interact but does allows them to passively input information.

Today we must also consider the fact that business is quickly becoming the workplace of a generation that has had computer based collaboration tools their entire lives. In many situations, there is no longer a need for an on-the-job learning curve on how to use a tool like WikiBook, WikiPedia or any Wiki environment. These skills are quickly becoming basic skills that all college students acquire as they move thru their education. This is a whole new level of sophistication that must be considered by developers.

I believe we need a new generation, beyond WikiBook, of CSCW tools if we want to reduce the ‘process loss’ that results from friction in group projects. This is specifically true when working with a distributed team. We must have a tool that clearly brings visibility to interaction levels of each team member. Building on the concepts of Zajonc (1965), that show that we can see an increase in performance when a task is performed in the presence of other people, we need to create this competitive environment in our group projects based on visual metrics.