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IBM Cambridge Research Center

  Project: Prairie Dog with Selective Publication

Researchers: Steve Foley, Mark Day, Kamal Ayad
Contact: research@lotus.com

A Collaborative User Experience Project:

Prairie Dog is a colleague-awareness tool (a "buddy list") inspired by Red Light, Green Light. In addition to indicating whether a colleague is active, this version of Prairie Dog allows for selective publication of personal information, which is particularly important for a colleague-awareness tool used in large organizations.

Our demonstration shows two applications of selective publication. The first illustrates how a Prairie Dog user can be available to some colleagues, while leaving a "do not disturb" sign up for others. The second application demonstrates how a Prairie Dog user who is out of the office can provide additional contact information detail for just some colleagues.

The significance of this demonstration is not the user interface, but rather the technology that makes selective publication possible. Selective publication was awkward or impossible with our Notification Service Transfer Protocol (NSTP). NSTP is essentially a coordination mechanism for sharing a single view of some shared state among a collection of clients. And as such, it proved to be valuable in a number of synchronous groupware applications.

However, a colleague-awareness tool requires the ability to provide different views of the same person’s availability, particularly when it is used in a large organizations or on the open Internet. This requirement for selective publication drove the development of a new protocol called the Simple General Awareness Protocol (SGAP), which underlies the implementation of Prairie Dog demonstrated here. In contrast to other approaches, all SGAP clients use the same name for an item, even if they receive different values for it. In addition, an SGAP client cannot distinguish a change of state from a change in access control; this means that users can change their published availability to some viewers without appearing rude to those viewers.

Related publications:
Trace Wax. "Red Light, Green Light: Using Peripheral Awareness of Availability to Improve the Timing of Spontaneous Communication." CSCW ’96 Short Papers.

John F. Patterson, Mark Day, and Jakov Kucan. "Notification Servers for Synchronous Groupware." CSCW ‘96, 122-129.

Mark Day, John F. Patterson, and David Mitchell. "The Notification Service Transfer Protocol (NSTP): Infrastructure for Synchronous Groupware." Computer Networks and ISDN Systems 29 (1997) 905-915.

TR 98-06, Mark Day. Simple General Awareness Protocol