[unrev-II] Critique of Groove interaction

From: N. C a r r o l l (ncarroll@hastingsresearch.com)
Date: Tue Feb 27 2001 - 20:09:03 PST

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    ----- Original Message -----
    From: Eric Armstrong <eric.armstrong@eng.sun.com>

    > I believe this system has come up for discussion before.
    > But as I've had occasion to take a closer look, I thought
    > I'd share these comments from the Grooves pdf file:

    Eric, some thoughts on Groove I got from Abbe Don, a high-end
    interface designer in NYC:


    Here's my critique:

    We set up a "space" called "Drumming Workshop."

    We then tried out all of the different features.

    Since I am not a distributed computing expert, I cannot evaluate the
    technical accomplishments nor
    evaluate the technical architecture. However, having worked on the user
    interface for distributed systems
    in the past, I can surmise that they have solved some difficult technical

    As a user interface designer I feel confident in my report that the user
    experience was confusing, difficult
    to use, and at times very frustrating. In addition, we "cheated" and
    augmented the experience with a
    telephone conference call.

    Some of the very significant issues that have not been addressed in the
    Groove UI:

    1. turn taking-->
    It's very important to know who is "in control" and who has taken what
    actions. Due to the fact that our
    connections and our processors were of different speeds, my colleagues saw
    things and were acting on
    things and commenting on them and my screen was not updating. Had it not
    been for the phone
    augmentation, I would have had no idea what was going on. This was most
    problematic when we were all
    working on the outline tool at the same time. In fact, it doesn't really
    make sense to have more than one
    person updating the outline at a time even though it's technically possible
    to do that.

    2. Co-presence-->
    There's no real sense, in the interface, of having other people physically
    present. Some systems use an
    Avatar, which of course, can be too cutesy. Other systems use "shared
    cursors" wherein each cursor is a
    different color so I can at least discern where the other people are on the
    screen and possibly discern
    what they are doing.

    3. Coherence-->
    The tools currently feel like separate applications which happen to be
    usable by more than one person at
    a time. Does the technology support more "activity" centered collaboration
    where the tools are brought to
    the activity rather than feeling as if all users must "go to" a particular
    tool to accomplish a task.

    In general, it seems like this beta version of the software has focused on
    solving technology issues but it
    does not appear to have solved "real" collaborative work and communication
    issues from a "people
    centered" and "work centered" point of view.

    Also, from a user interface design point of view, one of the limitations of
    Lotus Notes and of Lotus Domino
    is that the database design and its associated hierarchy is inextricably
    linked to the user interface. I can
    usually tell if a website has been built on top of Domino because of the UI.
    Similarly, when I've worked
    with companies such as McKinsey & Company or Institute for the Future, their
    intranets which are built
    Notes & Domino all show the legacy of the Notes infrastructure. And Virtual
    Team Room from Lotus also
    has serious usability issues.

    So, I would hope that the Groove team learned from the limitations of those
    previous products.

    I did read the "peer to peer" white paper and there are obviously some very
    interesting ideas there.



    Nicholas Carroll
    Travel: ncarroll@iname.com

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