Media Items

You have been hired as a summer assistant to work on the Community Bar Project, a groupware system that makes it easy for a small group to stay aware of each other, to post common information, and to move into conversation and work. The current set of notifications allows people to post data (such as web sites), awareness information (such as snapshot video) and to communicate (real time text chat).

Your job is to build a new type of groupware media item that can be posted to the Community Bar. You have complete freedom of your design, but you must identify the intended audience, and argue why the notification is useful for them, and that its design is somewhat impressive. As well, the media item should show a clear progression from awareness information to somewhat more detailed information and interaction to full details and interaction (via the three types of items you can create).

The design should also be visually appealing and impressive, as your boss wants to use your work as a convincing and aesthetic example of what can be done with their architecture.

Exercise Objectives

Pedagogical Objectives

You will apply your knowledge of notifications and groupware to design a notification system suitable for a particular community

Transform your theoretical knowledge of notifications (as taught in class and garnered through the readings) to design

You will generate sketched designs in your sketchbook of possible notifications and how your audience will use it.

Develop skills designing and implementing usable notification systems.

You will produce a modest paper prototype illustrating your design, and will present it for critique

Learn how to use a notification infrastructure, such as a notification server/shared dictionary

You will implement and package your design on the class web site so others can try it.

Start thinking in terms of multimedia as design opportunities

You will create a portfolio summary (electronic only) of this design using the standard web-based visual summary and a screen-capture video.

Engage in design critiques


You will be given Gregor McEwan's prototype Community Bar system and media item designer tutorial/tester, designed to simplify the development process of notifications and groupware. See


  1. Cadiz, JJ., Gina Danielle Venolia, Gavin Jancke, Anoop Gupta.
    Sideshow: Providing Peripheral Awareness of Important Information. September 14th, 2001. Technical Report MSR-TR-2001-83, Microsoft Research.
  2. McEwan, G., and Greenberg, S. (2005)
    Community Bar (The Video) (AVI). Video Proceedings of ECSCW - European Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work (Sept 18-22, Paris. Video, Duration 5:04)
  3. McEwan, G., and Greenberg, S. (2005)
    Supporting Social Worlds with the Community Bar (PDF). Proceedings of the ACM Group 2005 Conference
  4. McEwan, G., Greenberg, S., Rounding, M. and Boyle, M. (2006)
    Groupware Plug-ins: A Case Study of Extending Collaboration Functionality through Media Items. (PDF). Proceedings of the CollabTech 2006 Conference (best paper nominee). Also see thepowerpoint presentation of this talk.


  1. Fitzpatrick, G. and Kaplan, S. (In submission)
    Supporting Public Availability and Accessibility with Elvin. J CSCW, 11(3) 2002. Submission copy.
  2. Tee, K., Greenberg, S. and Gutwin, C. (2006)
    Providing Artifact Awareness to a Distributed Group through Screen Sharing. Proceeding of the ACM CSCW'06 Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work, ACM Press, November.
  3. Cadiz, JJ., Susan Fussell, Robert Kraut, F. Javier Lerch, and William Scherlis.
    The Awareness Monitor: A Coordination Tool for Asynchronous, Distributed Work Teams. Unpublished manuscript. Demonstrated at the 1998 ACM Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW 98).

Web sites that may provide inspirations for your project


Evaluation will be somewhat stricter than in project 1. As before, your exercise will be based delivery of sketches, your design creativity, your implementation, documentation and packaging, and your portfolio summaries (paper and electronic). Great successes or failures in one of these criteria can affect your total grade significantly. Note that a successful implementation is required: if you cannot demonstrate your system, you will automatically receive a zero.

Suggested process

See the process in project one - the same general ideas still apply

  • Read your notes and articles on the community bar, and check out other notification systems now available (see papers and web sites above).
  • Engage in lateral thinking over existing single user notification systems (e.g., software updates, stock tickers, etc). That is, ask how a notification intended for a single person could work in a group setting. Feel free to re-design these systems to this groupware setting.
  • For each idea, brainstorm several notifications by :
- describing several audiences (friends, family, workgroups)
- describing information they may be interested in receiving as a notification
- sketching the design of the three levels of notifications and how they lead to interaction
- sketching what would happen if the poster haddifferent powers than others
  • Compare ideas with your classmates, and synthesize new ideas based upon feedback.
  • Feel free to work together so that your notifications complement one another.
  • Implement your design
  • Package your implementation, and create a visual summary of it on the web site, and as a paper prototype using a book idea.

Possible ideas

These are in no particular order. Note that some of these are easy, others are very difficult. I just brainstormed these quickly; try and come up with your own. One trick is to take any existing notification and ask yourself what it would be like if you could post it to multiple people and how they would act on it

  • Post an arbitrary image as a notification, where others could make it larger, and then we could interact over it through a simple multi-user sketch system ie., where we can draw atop the image simultaneously.
  • A group scheduling system, where we could add individual events as notifications to the schedule, and where the system would notify us of events coming up.
  • Notify others of interesting things found on the web.
  • Create a group 'notebook' where people could cut and paste text and/or images into it. It would show the latest item, but keep previous items in an archive.
  • Tie a notification to changing information somewhere on the web (e.g., weather, avalanche reports) where the notification would update itself automatically and tell the group when things have changed.
  • Send a voice broadcast to the group as a notification.
  • Redo tickertape (see the reading by Fitzpatrick).
  • Using the EasyImages package, exploit a person's ability to capture and transmit live video. Go beyond talking heads. For example, you can use video to photograph sketches, and then create a sketch collection that captures people's project sketches over time (i.e., a virtual design studio), where people can also critiqe the sketches within them.