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Writing is a complex, cyclical task. The writing task requires more than formulating text to express ideas, it involves data gathering, managing constraints, formulating intentions, planning, and revising goals. Much of the complexity is due to the management of simultaneous activities and constraints. Management of these processes can lead to 'cognitive overload', which in turn can negatively affect the quality of the text produced. With technical writing, these same issues of task complexity are applicable.

Respondents to a writing survey [39] indicated that they spent 44% of their time performing some type of writing activity. Further, 87% reported that they sometimes wrote as a members of a team or group. Collaboration adds another dimension to the already complex task of writing. With group authoring, there are many different writing strategies that must be coordinated. Also, issues related to collaboration become critical.

The purpose of this appendix is to review the processes, especially cognitive, related to collaborative authoring of technical documents, and the implications for computer support of authoring. First the strategies of writing in general are described. Second, writing strategies or process as they related to technical writing are defined. Third, a discussion of collaboration and collaborative authoring is presented. Next, collaborative authoring as it relates to of technical materials is defined. Finally, the implications for computer support of collaborative (technical) authoring are outlined. The focus is on tools for augmenting collaboration and problem-solving within a group with members that are in relatively close proximity to one another.

Michael Spring
Fri Jan 31 13:59:00 EST 1997