The Parting of the Ways: Divergence, Data Management and Collaborative Work
Kluwer Academic Publishers, Dordrecht, The Netherlands
Systems coordinating distributed collaborative work must manage user data distributed over a network. The strong consistency algorithms which designers have typically borrowed from the distributed systems community are often unsuited to the particular needs of CSCW. Here, I outline an alternative approach based on divergence and synchronisation between parallel streams of activity. From a CSCW perspective, this strategy offers three primary advantages. First, it is scalable, allowing smooth transitions from highly interactive collaboration to-more extended, "asynchronous" styles of work. Second, it supports "multi-synchronous" work, in which parties work independently in parallel. Third, it directly supports observed patterns of opportunistic activities in collaborative working.