Graphic Friendships, Part III: The OpenACS "Collaboration Graph"
Gustaf Neumann, who teaches computer science at Vienna University, has been a very important contributor and innovator in the OpenACS/ .LRN community in the past several years. Recently he has authored a very powerful wiki module, built with the OpenACS toolkit. More recently he's integrated some other tools to deploy a "Collaboration Graph" page he's published on the xoWiki instance running at openacs.org. The tool graphs co-authoring relationships for wiki pages among OpenACS community members. Here is an example that plots co-authoring relationships for my friend Caroline Meeks, and here is Gustaf's introduction on the OpenACS forums.
Following on the recent posts I've written on the concept of "Graphic Friendships", where the idea is to use overlaps in tagging patterns to help introduce people with common interests in online communities, this innovation struck me as yet another example of an interesting frontier in this area. More and more, attention is shifting from the features that are the vehicles of collaboration, such as bboards and polls, toward tools that help analyze the content and the people in communities, to help figure out patterns to moderate and connections to make.
My favorite metaphor for this is to think about how a good host throws a party, working hard to make sure that guests make connections with other guests on topics or people of mutual interest. Gustaf's innovation helps a community moderator "take in the room" at a glance so he or she can spot wallflowers like me, and nudge me toward others I should be working with. It helps newbies "scan the crowd" to figure out if the party's happenin', and how they might network.
Thank you Gustaf!
Postscript: Others like Trampoline Systems in the UK are commercializing this idea.