RE: [unrev-II] Semantic Community Web Portal (Formality Harmful)

From: Simon Buckingham Shum (
Date: Thu Sep 13 2001 - 12:32:49 PDT

  • Next message: Gil Regev: "RE: [unrev-II] Semantic Community Web Portal"

    RE: [unrev-II] Semantic Community Web Portal (Formalit


    Just browsing threads in a rare free moment!

    At 11:00 AM +0200 9/10/01, Gil Regev wrote:
    This discussion reminds me of the paper by Shipman and Marshall called "Formality Considered harmful". They show how and why people don't take this extra step of documenting code, structuring their discussions with IBIS (which the explicitly name) etc. It's not a long paper and is easy to read. You can get it at:

    This is a great paper to point structuralist metadata and AI people to(!), highlighting the reluctance that normal people have to structure their interactions and ideas explicitly unless they can really see the payoff. From my own work on the formalism cost-benefit tradeoff (including empirical studies of designers using QOC, a Xerox version of IBIS, and a major lit. review [1]), there's definitely a fine line to negotiate on this front.

    Refusing to accept wholesale Shipman and Marshall's rejection of formalisms for knowledge work - but maintaining a healthy scepticism! - more recent work suggests that with facilitation, people can learn to do it in real time, and reap benefits in f-f meetings [2]. But there is no silver bullet - useful real time knowledge capture (ie. not just pressing record on the video) doesn't come for free. Intellectual effort must be invested at some point in the capture/indexing lifecycle.

    Using IBIS to structure asynchronous interaction doesn't have the same real time constraints on capture, and may be more fruitful, though again, unclear if people will bother in the end, and whether they'll use the node types consistently. The problem with boxes is they have walls... an Issue may appear as an Argument, a Position as an Issue, etc etc



    [1] Buckingham Shum, S. and N. Hammond (1994). "Argumentation-Based Design Rationale: What Use at What Cost?" International Journal of Human-Computer Studies 40(4): 603-652. (Reprint available on request)

    [2] Conklin, J., A. Selvin, et al. (2001). Facilitated Hypertext for Collective Sensemaking: 15 Years on from gIBIS. Proc. ACM Hypertext 2001, Aug. 14-18, Århrus, Denmark, ACM Press: New York. (Short paper, based on a longer paper:


    Buckingham Shum, S. and A. M. Selvin (2000). Structuring Discourse for Collective Interpretation. Distributed Collective Practices 2000: Conference on Collective Cognition and Memory Practices, Paris, 19-20 Sept., 2000.

    Computer-Supported Collaborative Argumentation Resource Site:

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