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!

Upcoming book on collaborative information seeking

Yes, this is a shameless self-promotion! But it’s important (and exciting) to note that my book on Collaborative Information Seeking, to be published by Springer under their Information Retrieval Series, is coming bout soon! There have been several articles and a couple of reviews/book chapters/booklets in the recent past on this or related topics, but none that gives a fairly comprehensive treatment to the subject. This book is intended to do just that. Here’s the link for the flyer that gets you substantial discount: http://collab.infoseeking.org/resources/Shah_CIS_Book_Flyer.pdf

And here’s the book description:

Collaborative Information Seeking
The Art and Science of Making the Whole Greater than the Sum of All
Today’s complex, information-intensive problems often require people to work together. Mostly these tasks go far beyond simply searching together; they include information lookup, sharing, synthesis, and decision-making. In addition, they all have an end-goal that is mutually beneficial to all parties involved. Such “collaborative information seeking” (CIS) projects typically last several sessions and the participants all share an intention to contribute and benefit. Not surprisingly, these processes are highly interactive.
Shah focuses on two individually well-understood notions: collaboration and information seeking, with the goal of bringing them together to show how it is a natural tendency for humans to work together on complex tasks. The first part of his book introduces the general notions of collaboration and information seeking, as well as related concepts, terminology, and frameworks; and thus provides the reader with a comprehensive treatment of the concepts underlying CIS. The second part of the book details CIS as a standalone domain. A series of frameworks, theories, and models are introduced to provide a conceptual basis for CIS. The final part describes several systems and applications of CIS, along with their broader implications on other fields such as computer-supported cooperative work (CSCW) and human-computer interaction (HCI).