things you should know about...
Freddy was late to class but managed to squeezeinto the last seat in the auditorium; the class waspacked. The lecture was on geomorphology, and theprofessor had begun the class by returning to theoutline he had started in the previous lecture. Freddyopened his laptop and joined the wireless network.Freddy ﬁred up his collaborative editing applicationand scanned the list of documents accessible tothose in the room. Finding a set of notes that hadalready been started, Freddy requested permissionfrom the document owner to join. When he accessedthe notes, Freddy saw that two people he knew wereconnected to document he was looking at, and hecould tell that they had been studiously taking notessince the class had started. Looking over what theyhad entered so far, Freddy quickly determined that hehad not missed any new material in the 10 minutes of class he had missed.Freddy knew the strengths of each of the other peo-ple collaborating on the notes because he regularlyworked with them in lectures and on formal group as-signments. Sue was a very fast typist and a fastidiousnote taker. In a lecture, she could capture what oftenseemed to be a verbatim transcript of everything theinstructor said. Joe was the organizer. As Sue typed,Joe would move sections of text around on the pageand insert headings to add structure. Joe didn’t typevery well, but he excelled at creating categories of con-tent and keeping notes organized, even when a lecturefollowed lots of tangents and seemed on the surface tobe disjointed. Freddy’s contribution typically involvedproviding comments on the notes, bringing in ideasfrom other lectures and even other courses, setting thecurrent lecture topic into a broader context.Sue and Joe were glad to have Freddy’s participationin the lecture notes, even if he was a few minutes latearriving. Because today’s lecture topic was difﬁcult forall three of them, they knew that their combined noteswould be especially helpful later, studying for the ﬁnaland working on their semester projects.
What is it?
Collaborative editing is the practice of a group of individualssimultaneously editing a document. Using collaborative editingtools, authorized users can edit a document, see who else isworking on it, and watch—in real time—as others make changes.Unlike simple version control, in which a single working copyof a ﬁle is managed among editors one at a time, collaborativeediting allows multiple users to make changes at the same time. A group of individuals—in the same location or geographicallyseparated—can use collaborative editing tools to create a docu-ment that reﬂects the contributions of the group, without havingto track and coordinate edits.Collaborative documents are similar to wikis in that multiple userscan change, add to, and delete content. They also resemble instantmessaging in that users can see the input of all other users imme-diately. Some collaborative editing tools include instant messagingfeatures so users can communicate in a chat session parallel tothe document they are editing.
Who’s doing it?
Collaborative editing was conceived as a tool for software devel-opers, providing a way for two or more programmers to writecode together, cross-checking each other’s work and brainstorm-ing how the application should work. Today, collaborative editingtools are being used more broadly. Authors co-writing a text canuse collaborative editing to streamline the process of creating andrevising content. A group of attendees at a workshop can write asingle set of notes that are more complete than an individual couldwrite alone. Similarly, some meeting organizers have come to relyon collaborative editing tools. Prior to a meeting, the leader writesan agenda. During the meeting, attendees use collaborative edit-ing tools to access the agenda, update it with information they willpresent, and take notes on topics as they are covered.Some educators are using collaborative editing as a demon-stration tool. For example, an instructor can put a documentonline where the students in a class can access it. The instruc-tor assigns read-only rights to the students, who watch as theinstructor edits or updates the document, demonstrating a meth-od of proper revision. The instructor then allows each member of the class to edit the document in turn, while the other membersof the group watch.