SVG Collaboration Environment

Extended abstract for submission to SVG Open 2005

Stephen Dawson

PhD Student Electrical & Electronic Engineering

Queens University of Belfast

Collaboration over the internet is just in its infancy. Although there are many commercial tools which promise complete collaboration support they truly only scratch the surface of what is possible. The Web has undoubtedly positioned itself as the defacto information resource but offers only rudimentary means of connecting people. Chat, message boards and email are far less sophisticated than even the telephone, which was developed more than a century ago. At its heart, the Web of the future will not be just an information resource; it will be about connecting people to one another, it will be about bringing people into communities to discuss new ideas and about joining forces to solve complex problems. The Web of the future will be about collaboration.

Collaboration tools, otherwise known as groupware, allow disparate groups of people to work together. The most common and familiar groupware tool is email; albeit a somewhat stone age method for collaborating with others. In fact, most of the common tools we use every day have some sort of groupware capability built in.

Tools such as these are becoming increasingly important as more teams work over networks sometimes half a world apart. The reality of the present work environment is that we are moving away from teams of people working in the same room. As a result, we need to seek out new ways to increase the quality of personal collaboration without effecting individual users work. This is the goal of groupware.

The potential of such enhanced collaboration would have wide ranging applications for both industry and academic organisations.

Our System on a Chip (SOC) research group at Queen's University Belfast, like many others, involves many inter and intra collaborating entities. Our collaboration consists of file sharing, Intellectual Property(IP) classifying and reuse, email messaging and phone conferencing. A web based system to manage these tasks would vastly increase the efficiency of our collaboration.

The project undertaken therefore was to develop a Graphical User Interface (GUI) offering many modular collaborating services. This system allows users to collaborate from within a web browser with other users to increase efficiency in the workplace. The system is based on using Scalable Vector Graphics for the presentation layer, Java script for the client side scripting and the Java Messaging Service (JMS) for communication with collaborating web services. The use of JMS allows for both highly interactive (real time) synchronous messaging which is ideal for such applications as instant messaging and reliable asynchronous messaging for notice boards and calendars. We provide some sample services for testing which when collectively integrated provide a feature rich GUI for collaborating research teams. These services include a whiteboard, multi-lingual messenger, file sharer, calendar, email and application sharer. Finally we present a complete working demonstration system and discuss the effectiveness of our SVG implementation.