by Wolfgang Appelt
The kick-off meeting for the CoopWWW project (Interoperable Tools for Cooperation Support using the World Wide Web) was hosted on 24-25 January 1996 by scientists of the Computer Supported Cooperative Work Group in GMD's Institute for Applied Information Technology. This project is a joint effort of several European organisations - coordinated by GMD - and is funded for two years by the Commission of the European Union under the Telematics Applications Programme. GMD contributes to this project the results of its BSCW project (Basis Support for Cooperative Work) and expects a significant increase in functionality for the BSCW system from the results of the CoopWWW project.
The goal of CoopWWW is the provision of a comprehensive set of tools for efficient group cooperation using the World Wide Web (WWW). The emphasis is on the cooperation requirements of technical and management professionals in heterogeneous environments as they are typically encountered in trans-organisational projects, eg, in research and development projects funded by the European Union.
GMD considers such a toolkit an important part of the future telematics infrastructure since group collaboration will be necessary in many emerging telematics applications.
Rather than developing totally new technology, the project will focus on the assembly and integration of state-of-the-art technologies for multi-media group cooperation and their cyclic adaption to user needs by carrying out a series of field tests with various user groups. The tools to be supplied will be based on the Internet and specifically on the World Wide Web.
The kernel of CoopWWW is the BSCW shared workspace system the first release of which was made publically available in October 1995 (http://bscw.gmd.de). This has already attracted a large number of users (please see the article on the BSCW system in this issue). Around this kernel, a collection of interoperable tools and services will be integrated, including:
The project focuses on user involvement. Already three months after the start of the project an initial tool set will be deployed for a series of field tests. Several user groups will apply the tools for real tasks within their ordinary domains of work. This allows user requirements to be determined from practical experience, rather than from abstract analysis. In the subsequent project phases the tool set will be enhanced and extended in short feedback loops with the user groups.
The members of the user groups are distributed over many European countries and organisations. User groups are, for instance, MLnet, the European Network of Excellence in Machine Learning, ERCIM CGN, the Computer Graphics Network of ERCIM, and the ANGEL project with participants from the chemical and petrochemical industry.
The CoopWWW Consortium comprises on one hand the developer partners and on the other the representatives of the user groups. The developer partners are GMD, Horz & Schnepf (a spin-off company originating from GMD), NEXOR (United Kingdom), Rheinisch-Westfa:lische Technische Hochschule Aachen (Institute for Informatics V, Prof. Dr. Matthias Jarke) and SISU (Swedish Institute for Systems Development). Representatives of the user groups are QuantiSci (United Kingdom), University of Amsterdam (Department of Social Science Informatics, Prof. Dr. Bob Wielinga) and Rutherford Appleton Laboratory (United Kingdom, Prof. David Duce).