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Introduction to CASCADE

CASCADEgif is a system that allows groups of people to work together on authoring documents. CASCADE is not a personal wordprocessor. CASCADE doesn't perform WYSIWYG formatting, spellchecking, or provide other personal editing tools. On the other hand, unlike wordprocessors, CASCADE does keeps track of a lot of information about users and documents. This reflects CASCADE's focus on helping groups of people to work together. One of the greatest difficulties in group authoring is in coordinating the actions of the various authors and reviewers. CASCADE doesn't control what people can and can't do so much as it keeps track of and reports on what the members of a group do. This doesn't make much sense when writing personal memoirs, or poetry, or love letters. On the other hand, in situations where a dozen people are working on a proposal or a policy statement, or some other inherently group document, it makes a lot of sense to have the system let your teammates know what you have done, or address mail about a change for you, or to let others know what your work schedule is.

The best introduction to CASCADE is one that is interactive. Therefore, this document is most effectively read while running a CASCADE session. For development and testing, CASCADE will be set up with a directory called ``Test'' container (directory) at the top level of the document space. This directory will contain one or more documents that may be used to test your skills and play with CASCADE functionality. One benefit of using CASCADE is the speed and ease with which it allows you to do things that happen often in a collaborative authoring environment. For example, one of the initial functions developed to reduce the cognitive load on users is the development of a simplified commenting system. With a little practice, a user can make ten or twenty comments on a document in a few minutes. Simply point to the place you wish to make the comment, click once, type your comment, and click once more. The system will take care of all the details. This feature can be used to allow standards developers to comment on a developing document or to allow students to ask questions about a lecture. As CASCADE is now implemented, this electronic commenting system is in place, but the refined agents that would act on the data generated in the process are not fully implemented. While you will be able to experience the augmented process of making comments and have summary information reported to you, all of the agents which would inform you of comments made by others that might be of particular interest to are not yet in place.

Keep in mind that CASCADE is designed to support groups of people. In your initial explorations, you may be trying to get CASCADE to do something that makes sense to you as a single user. It will be difficult for you to find a lot that impresses you about CASCADE if your mind set is one of evaluating CASCADE as a personal editor. CASCADE really begins to make sense when groups of people are working together on a project, and when the effort expended by individuals is directed toward a common document creation goal. Thus, in playing with CASCADE, keep in mind that it is an integrated document development environment where people can work in groups and where individuals and groups can be associated with document components for various purposes. Document components in turn can be associated with each other to form documents. In this kind of environment, people benefit from help in finding a part of the document or determining who has worked on what recently. At a simpler level, the system helps people do simple things like mailing notes to group members or printing a copy of a document with its attachments.

The prototype has been constructed to allow users to provide feedback on how the system might be further refined. Comments, observations, criticisms, and suggestions are most welcome and may be directed to:

Michael B. Spring 
Department of Information Science 
University of Pittsburgh 
Pittsburgh, PA 15260

next up previous contents
Next: Using CASCADE Up: Users Guide Introduction to Previous: Contents

Michael Spring
Fri Jun 27 17:00:29 EDT 1997