Sunday, January 20, 2008

Welcome to Whisper

Today, despite decades of research, computer support for knowledge workers in academic is fragmented and poorly integrated. While office automation and other forms of Computer Supported Collaborative Work (CSCW) approaches have benefitted academics, no single environment today integrates the basic research activities of the academic knowledge worker, including: individually or collaboratively writing research papers, sharing research papers, reviewing papers for publication in a journal or conference and persistently sharing comments and observations on existing literature.

Consider a typical collaborative conference paper. It begins as a file that is exchanged multiple times via email as each author makes contributions. The paper is then uploaded to a web-based review system. Upon acceptance, the connection between the reviews, the paper source, and the final paper version is broken, since the camera-ready paper is submitted to the publisher's own web-based paper manager. The final paper is then sent to an institutional digital library. Researchers download papers from the library, storing them in a folder on their local disk, where they are difficult to search, and are completely dissociated from their bibliographic metadata. The paper has now crossed five system boundaries, effectively eliminating any possibility of advanced collaboration such as shared annotations, and shared collection management.

Whisper's primary goal is to develop an integrated toolset that will reduce the number of system boundaries knowledge must cross as it is developed and eventually published to the greater community.

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