Coagmento – going beyond searching collaboratively

A lot of work on collaborative technologies in the recent years have been focused on search, which is not surprising. I do realize this need to focus on search. After all, that’s where lot of our energies are already invested, so why not look for collaborative solutions for something we do quite often? But why not go where the puck is going to be rather than where it’s been? And that’s why no matter how important searching is, I like to widen my net and look at the larger picture, especially looking at what people do with search processes and results. Yes, that’s definitely one of the reasons I like “information seeking” instead of just “information retrieval” or “search”.

Coagmento reflects this philosophy. Unlike many other systems in its class, it’s not just a tool for doing collaborative or social search and/or browsing. Rather, it’s a system that allows one to do collaborative planning, problem solving, information synthesis, and collective sense-making in addition to, of course, search and retrieval. Though I can’t take full credit for following this idea as it started during my work with Gary Marchionini and Rob Capra at UNC on NSF-funded project on ResultSpace. There, we cared about what people do with the results that collect through searching or other methods. We looked at two primary dimensions – time (sessions) and people (collaborators/community/social network). So it’s not a surprise that Coagmento is designed around supporting multi-session information processes whether a person is working alone or in collaboration. It does, though, surprise me how good some of these design decisions turned out!