Awareness Tools

An awareness tool is a user interface which provides the user with awareness information using some awareness style. The software includes the CASSandra toolkit for building awareness tools, and includes three sample awareness tools implemented using the toolkit.

It is important to understand that any awareness tool can monitor any information source using its own particular awareness style. Ideally, instead of just the three awareness styles presented below (and two planned tools also presented below), there would be dozens such that whatever your work environment and work practices, there will be one or more styles which can make you aware of information in a manner appropriate for your situation.

Furthermore, an awareness tool can not only monitor any source of awareness information, but can in fact monitor many sources at the same time. This allows the awareness tool to obtain information from diverse sources, and integrate them together within the single user interface to provide a more complete picture of events within a work environment. For example, knowing that a document has been checked into a CVS repository is useful. Knowing that before it was checked in that it passed a full set of test suites gives us a clearer picture of what it means that the document was checked in.

EventList Tool

The first sample program distributed with the software is called EventList, and was created primarily for CASS developers. Developers can use this to view the notifications that their information sources have sent to the server. Primarily intended as a debugging tool.

simpleScroller Tool

The second awareness tool is called simpleScroller. This is a very simple tool for scrolling text across the screen.

BiffArray Tool

The third tool is modeled on XBiff. It provides a row of Biffs, where the graphics within the icon shows the most recent event to come from the objects being monitored. Rather than a mailbox with flag up or down graphic (as was done in XBiff), it shows the GenericEvent field of the most recent notification to be received. As there are five values of Generic Event, there are 5 images used to represent the different states.

Each biff can monitor a different source of information. For example, if you have six biffs, two could monitor files that you work with, two could monitor coworkers, one could monitor activity on a chat group, and the last could monitor the state of your group's printer.

A related feature is that the user can configure each biff to make a different sound when it detects an event. This has two effects on usage:

  1. If the same type of event comes repeatedly, the graphic won't change, it is only through sound that the user becomes aware that the event repeated
  2. The user interface does not need to be visible to be useful
The user can associate different sounds with different biffs. If a Deactivate event is a bad thing to happen to a printer (meaning it has gone off line), then we can play appropriate sound effects for communicating that something bad has happened.

Emailed Digests

Note: This is not currently implemented, and is a tool we hope to build soon.
An important form of awareness and notification is the ability to receive a digest of all events that can affect your work. Users need to be able to specify what information sources, monitored objects, and conditions need to arise for a notification to be added to the digest, and they need to specify how frequently they want to receive digests of these activities. Perhaps once a week then, workers will assess the changes that have taken place within projects that may affect them.

For more information, go to the README.html

Mobile Awareness

MiniPortholes is a mobile awareness technology implemented in J2ME. It allows users to subscribe to maintain awareness of individuals such as coworkers and family. When this project receives funding we intend to update this tool to allow users to not only subscribe to monitor other MiniPortholes users but also monitor all types of CASSIUS information sources. This means that system administrators can monitor their servers, salesmen can monitor their inventory, parents can monitor their children, and in fact, a parent who is a system administrator and salesman can monitor all three simultaneously.

For more information, go to the MiniPortholes web site.

For more information on awareness tools and using CASSandra, open README.html

For more information on building awareness tools, read about the CASSandra Toolkit.