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The paper is delimited in its focus on software for collaborative authoring documents. Excluded are the plebora of products and frameworks that are focused on computer supported collaborative work, or workflow, management, or document management. Almost any collaboration involves documents, but documents may or may not be critical or central to some forms of collaboration, e.g. brainstorming. Similarly, not all collaboration involving documents involves creating documents -- some forms of collaboration may be concerned with sharing documents. Finally, collaboration may involve formally or informally structured work groups and processes. While there are situations in which very formally structured groups use structured processes to author documents, the authoring of documents is very often done with an informal process and by an ad hoc group.

International and national standards, journals, articles, proposals, planning documents, etc., are examples of documents that are collaborately authored. There are several implications of this choice. We have spent some time thinking about the requirements for collaborative authoring of something like a standard. First, the document exists within a web of related documents, in terms of both formal connections (e.g. related standards) and informal connections (e.g. meeting minutes and mail notes). Second, the documents produced are generally 200-300 pages in length.gif Third, standards documents are written over a long period of time -- clearly more than a year, and possibly as long as several years. Fourth, there are medium sized groups (10-20) intimately involved in the authoring process, and medium to large sized groups (20-500) involved in the commenting and review process. Fifth, the process grows from relatively informal to a more formal process as the document moves toward final review and balloting. These kinds of factors have been considered in the review process for this paper.

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