Saturday, 16 January 2010

The Collaborative Tools Project

The Collaborative Tools Project aims to improve collaboration at the University of York. Currently York has no central intranet system and no real support for academic blogging. A dozen or so MediaWiki wikis exist for specific technical teams (those who knew who to ask) but this was rightly seen as not an option going forward in terms of scalability.

As a result, understandably, people have gone off-piste as it were and made use of Wordpress, Blogger, Google Docs and the like, or are running their own servers with tools like Wordpress, Moodle and Drupal.

The Collaborative Tools Project looks to offer blogging, instant messaging, wikis, rich media hosting, discussion tools for all staff at the university. It is not looking to work with students because the requirements for student-facing systems are very different.

Work began a few years ago gathering Use Cases to discover what both academic and other staff at York needed. These can be distilled down to...

  • Collaborative Document Editing - working on documentation, bid documents, research papers ect
  • Project Workgroup - private wikis, blogs, file-sharing etc
  • Public Presentation - public-facing blogs, media rich, communities of practice, aesthetically pleasing
  • Other Stuff - meeting support, sharing minutes, gathering consensus, broadcasting

How The PPPeople PPowered project fits with the Collaborative Tools Project

Interestingly or perhaps predictably, these Use Cases threw up what people wanted and needed but little in the way of what might improve the information eco-system at the university.  Almost nobody came to the Collaborative Tools Project with needs that were community focused. 

This JISC project will create a people-oriented, browsable area of discoverability where people will simply be able to find out about each other, their work and interests. Whatever tools (blogging, wikis etc) we provide for the staff will integrate with the PPPeople project acting as a semi intelligent hub.

Because the PPPeople project is embedded in a larger project, it guarantees plenty of real users providing feedback and use cases during its development.

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