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Key Terms for High-Tech Collaboration

Blogs, decision support systems, asynchronous communication, e-government, groupware, social media… those new to online dialogue & deliberation and high-tech collaboration tools can feel like they need to learn a completely new language just to begin understanding their options. Utilize our glossary of terms for high-tech collaboration to help you get by. (Also be sure to utilize NCDD’s main glossary!)

A

Application Service Provider (ASP) is any company that sells or “rents” access to applications (like web-based collaboration software) hosted on its own servers, whether the service is delivered over the Internet or over private networks.

Asynchronous Communication generally refers to text-based messages delivered via the Web that are independent of time or place, allowing them to be received, read and replied to at the convenience of the reader (as opposed to conference calls — where communication is synchronous). Some typical asynchronous communication tools are email lists, chat boards, blogs/micro-blogs, wikis and forums.

B

A Blog (or weblog) is a series of web pages made up of usually short, frequently updated posts that are arranged chronologically – like a “what’s new” page or a journal. The activity of updating a blog is called “blogging” and someone who keeps a blog is a “blogger.” The content and purposes of blogs vary greatly–from links and commentary about other web sites, to news about a company/person/idea, to diaries, poetry, project updates, etc. Blogs can be excellent group communication tools. They help small groups communicate in a way that is simpler and easier to follow than email or discussion forums. A blog can help keep everyone in the loop, promote cohesiveness and group culture, and provide an informal “voice” of a project or department to outsiders. WordPress (http://wordpress.com/) – what we use at NCDD for our main blog and our Resource Center – and Movable Type (www.movabletype.org/) are two of the most popular general Blogs on the net.

C

Communities of Interest are groupings of technology users with a common interest who generate a majority of their communication with other members of the group. Each group (or community) is assumed to operate under a set of rules (membership rules) set by its convenor or moderator.

Content Management Systems (CMS) support the creation, management, distribution, publishing and discovery of information on a website. They cover the complete lifecycle of the documents or pages on a site, from providing simple tools to creating the content, through to publishing, and finally to archiving. They also provide the ability to manage the structure of the site, the appearance of the published pages, and the navigation provided to the users. WordPress blog software can be used as a Content Management System (we use it to manage most of NCDD’s website), as can tools like Joomla!, Drupal, and hundreds more.

D

A Decision Support System (DSS) is an interactive computer-based system or subsystem intended to help decision makers use communications technologies, data, documents, knowledge and/or models to identify and solve problems, complete decision process tasks, and make decisions. Decision Support System is a general term for any computer application that enhances a person or group’s ability to make decisions. Also, Decision Support Systems refers to an academic field of research that involves designing and studying Decision Support Systems in their context of use. In general, Decision Support Systems are a class of computerized information system that support decision-making activities.

Decision Support Technology helps groups of any size ramp up creative problem solving, documenting results as they work. Versatile and powerful software on a Local Area Network (LAN) set up in your meeting room brings new meaning to the phrase “all being on the same page”. A key to success is having facilitators who can achieve a superb blend of process and technology. We’ve worked with the best…and can get you connected with experts in the field.

Digital Governance refers to governance processes in which Information and Communications Technology (ICT) play a significant role. The role played by ICT could be wide-ranging: in delivery and standards of governance services, to how people access such services, and the participation of people in the governance sphere. Digital Governance uses ICT to induce changes in the delivery and standards of governance services and more importantly, in the way citizens interact and participate in the governance sphere. For more info, see DigitialGovernance.org.

Discussion Forums allow a participant to submit information in the form of a post on a given topic. Their post may be responded to, or in fact could be a response to another participant’s post. The series of posts is called a thread, with a separate thread provided for each topic. (Also known as Bulletin Boards.)

Distributed Meetings use collaboration technology to enable people in different locations to engage in real-time interaction around shared agendas and content. Also called “virtual meetings.”

E

E-Democracy is the adaptation and enhancement of traditional democratic processes between elected representatives and citizens, over the internet. There is much debate on which processes should be made available in the electronic medium, although most would agree that eventually voting, petitions, consultations, and committee processes will all be online.

E-Government generally refers to IT-enabled service delivery, procurement, and internal government management. Electronic democracy generally pertains to the use of new information technology to facilitate political engagement by the people, whether communicating with official government organs or among themselves.

E-Learning is education via the Internet, a network, or a standalone computer. It is the network-enabled transfer of skills and knowledge. e-learning applications and processes include Web-based learning, computer-based learning, virtual classrooms, and digital collaboration. Content is delivered via the Internet, intranet/extranet, audio or video tape, satellite TV, and CD-ROM.

Enterprise Contact Management (ECM) keep global organizations productive through an enterprise-wide application that helps people find information and work together to deliver results.

G

Group Decision Support Systems (GDSS) is a particular type of collaboration technology for brainstorming, data gathering, voting, action planning and surveying.

Groupware is a term used to identify technologies that mediate interpersonal collaboration through the computer. Groupware is designed to foster collaboration and interpersonal productivity by automating many tasks and enhancing the efficiency of others. May use e-mail, scheduling, bulletin boards, conferencing, project management, file sharing, and other means. Examples include Lotus Notes and Microsoft Exchange.

I

Information and Communications Technologies (ICTs) are fast becoming the industry standard replacement for Information Technology (IT) and encompasses all the areas that were traditionally included in IT. This change is being propelled by the popularization of the web and email.

Instant Messaging (often called “chatting”) is a way of communicating almost instantly online through brief typed messages. Since ideas can rapidly be exchanged, IM works well for brainstorming, short group meetings, and simple discussions. At its best, IM can enable dispersed, diverse groups to create a common knowledge base.

Intranets are private networks inside a company or organization that use software like that used on the Internet, but are for internal use only, and are not accessible to the public. Companies use Intranets to manage projects, provide employee information, distribute data and information, etc.

K

Knowledge Management is the use of computer technology to organize, manage, and distribute electronically all types of information, customized to meet the needs of a wide variety of users.

M

A Moderator works to keep conversation flowing. Online moderators are responsible for helping members by answering questions, making announcements, and creating a friendly, safe environment for dialogue. Moderators are privileged users who can control access to the discussion group, modify or delete posts, create summaries, and edit group options.

O

An Online Community is a meeting place for people on the Internet which is designed to facilitate interaction and collaboration among people who share common interests and needs. Online communities can be open to all or by membership only and may or may not offer moderator tools.

Open Source Technology is an approach to the development and sharing of technology that provides access to the source code of software, allowing developers outside the originating organization to alter and share the original application. In many instances, Open Source Technology is available as Freeware that is available at no cost to download from the Internet.

S

Social Media describes the online tools and platforms that people use to share opinions, insights, experiences, and perspectives with each other. Social media can take many different forms, including text, images, audio, and video. Popular social mediums include blogs, message boards, podcasts, wikis, and vlogs.

Social Software is a broad category referring to software that supports group communications. It includes everything from the simple CC: line in email to online role-playing games, and it can be as undirected as a chat room, or as task-oriented as a wiki (a collaborative workspace). Because there are so many patterns of group interaction, social software is a much larger category than things like groupware or online communities – though it includes those things, not all group communication is business-focused or communal.

Synchronous communication refers to online communication that occurs among people at the same time (like chats and Instant Messaging).

T

Teleconferencing refers to two-way electronic communication between two or more groups, or three or more individuals, who are in separate locations. Includes group communication via audio, audiographs, video, and computer systems.

V

Video Conferencing is teleconferencing in which video images are transmitted among the various geographically separated participants in a meeting. Originally done using analog video and satellite links, today video conferencing uses compressed digital images transmitted over wide area networks or the Internet.

Virtual teams are groups that use interactive computer technologies such as the Internet, groupware (software that permits people at different computer workstations to collaborate on a project simultaneously), and computer-based videoconferencing to work together regardless of distance.

Voice over IP (VoIP, Voice over Internet Protocol or IP telephony) is a technology for transmitting ordinary telephone calls over the Internet using packetlinked routes.

W

Web 2.0 is a term (attributed to Tim O’Reilly, 2004) that refers to online applications that allow interactive design of the graphical interface, information sharing, and collaboration on the World Wide Web. Examples of these technologies include online communities, social networks, hosted services, Web applications, podcast and video-sharing sites, wikis, and blogs.

Web conferencing or internet conferencing refers to real-time meetings and seminars that take place on the web.

A Wiki is a collaboratively-created web of interlinked pages with edit privileges for all participants. It is a piece of server software that allows users to freely create and edit Web page content using any Web browser. Wiki supports hyperlinks and has a simple text syntax for creating new pages and crosslinks between internal pages on the fly. Wiki is unusual among group communication mechanisms in that it allows the organization of contributions to be edited in addition to the content itself.

Wireless Keypads are used by participants in face-to-face meetings to get quick, individual responses to questions. During the course of the meeting, a question or statement is posed to the participants, along with a set of response choices, all of which is projected on to a large screen. Each participant presses the number on their keypad that corresponds to their opinion. A graph of the results is then projected before the group for all to see. Wireless keypads have been used in large-group deliberations by groups like AmericaSpeaks, in part as a way to make each of the small tables feel more connected to the larger group.

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