Creation and Distribution

Our clients prefer to use various desktop applications to edit their documents — primarily Word, but also Excel and others as appropriate — because they frequently work in offline settings such as on airplanes. Our system doesn’t involve online editing (such as that provided by the Page system), but rather it handles the collaboration aspects of the process.

  • When a user has written a document on his computer that he wants to share with his group, he goes to the group’s document repository and selects an appropriate folder or creates a new one. The repository supports arbitrarily-deep nesting of folders and files.
  • He then uploads the file with a simple file upload interface augmented by a field for optional version notes that describe what the document is about.
  • This step creates the Document within the repository as well as the initial version of the document — the downloadable file that the user just uploaded. This version is time-stamped and the version notes are displayed as well.
  • The upload step also sends out automatic emails to every member of the group notifying them of the upload and providing them with a direct link to the document’s page where they can download the new document.

Collaborative Editing

Subsequent visitors to the document’s page can download the version, read and edit it, and then upload their own version.

  • Uploading a new version of a document works exactly the same was as the initial upload. Optional version notes can be used to describe changes made in the document.
  • Each new version’s upload triggers an automated email to all members of the group notifying them of the upload and providing a direct link to the document’s page.
  • The new version is displayed in a growing table of versions, each one clearly time-stamped and the contributing user clearly identified.
  • Group members can then download any of the sequential versions to review or edit. They also can always see instantly and clearly which version is the latest one — so no one accidentally spends an evening editing the wrong version.
  • The Comment section at the bottom of each document’s page provides another mechanism for discussion about the evolving document. Often users who don’t want to upload another version of the document will post brief questions about it or provide other more general forms of feedback.

Tracking Collaboration

As is the case with every other interaction at the site, both uploads and downloads are logged.

  • The date and time of each download is recorded along with who did the download. Regular group members see the total number of downloads, while admins can see details of each download — when and by whom — which is useful when it is important to make sure that particular people have accessed the document.
  • The end result is the entire history of the document deftly presented in a single page. Its chronology, contributions from each collaborator, and evolution are absolutely clear. The automated email notifications keep all participants immediately in the loop.

Created: September 15, 2009 19:47
Last updated: March 08, 2010 21:16


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