NowComment
2-Pane Combined
Comments:
Full Summaries Sorted

NowComment for Online Communities of Practice copy 01

0 General Document comments
0 Sentence and Paragraph comments
0 Image and Video comments


First, I'd like to thank Bob Spielvogel, Megan Thomas, and the other nice people at EDC for inviting me here today.

New Conversation
Paragraph 1 0
No paragraph-level conversations. Start one.
New Conversation
Paragraph 1, Sentence 1 0
No sentence-level conversations. Start one.

For those not already familiar with NowComment, it's a free cloud-based tool that makes it easy for groups to discuss online documents.

New Conversation
Paragraph 2 0
No paragraph-level conversations. Start one.
New Conversation
Paragraph 2, Sentence 1 0
No sentence-level conversations. Start one.

Two things before I start:

New Conversation
Paragraph 3 0
No paragraph-level conversations. Start one.
New Conversation
Paragraph 3, Sentence 1 0
No sentence-level conversations. Start one.

  • This presentation is online as a NowComment document at: http://nowcomment.com/documents/35445, so you don't need to take notes

    New Conversation
    Paragraph 4 0
    No paragraph-level conversations. Start one.
    New Conversation
    Paragraph 4, Sentence 1 0
    No sentence-level conversations. Start one.
  • Go there any time you want to ask me to elaborate on anything in this presentation

    New Conversation
    Paragraph 5 0
    No paragraph-level conversations. Start one.
    New Conversation
    Paragraph 5, Sentence 1 0
    No sentence-level conversations. Start one.

Bob asked me to talk about NowComment as an example of a text-centric discussion tool, and in particular to talk about some aspects of NowComment's design relevant to its use in community of practice contexts.

New Conversation
Paragraph 6 0
No paragraph-level conversations. Start one.
New Conversation
Paragraph 6, Sentence 1 0
No sentence-level conversations. Start one.

To give you context for this, I'll start with a very quick overview of the NowComment user interface. I have to use screenshots rather than a live Internet document to avoid time lags for those watching online.

New Conversation
Paragraph 7 0
No paragraph-level conversations. Start one.
New Conversation
Paragraph 7, Sentence 1 0
No sentence-level conversations. Start one.
New Conversation
Paragraph 7, Sentence 2 0
No sentence-level conversations. Start one.

User Interface Overview

New Conversation
Paragraph 8 0
No paragraph-level conversations. Start one.
New Conversation
Paragraph 8, Sentence 1 0
No sentence-level conversations. Start one.

I’ll explain each of these interface elements via the next 3 screenshots:

New Conversation
Paragraph 9 0
No paragraph-level conversations. Start one.
New Conversation
Paragraph 9, Sentence 1 0
No sentence-level conversations. Start one.

  • Document is to the left, comments to the right. Documents can have text, images, and video content

    New Conversation
    Paragraph 10 0
    No paragraph-level conversations. Start one.
    New Conversation
    Paragraph 10, Sentence 1 0
    No sentence-level conversations. Start one.
    New Conversation
    Paragraph 10, Sentence 2 0
    No sentence-level conversations. Start one.
  • Paragraphs are automatically numbered for easy reference

    New Conversation
    Paragraph 11 0
    No paragraph-level conversations. Start one.
    New Conversation
    Paragraph 11, Sentence 1 0
    No sentence-level conversations. Start one.
  • Balloon icons show where existing comments are, and how many there are; paragraph balloons by the paragraph#, sentence balloons after the sentence ends. When you're reading a document the balloons quickly fade into the background and, trust me, you won't find yourself distracted by them.

    New Conversation
    Paragraph 12 0
    No paragraph-level conversations. Start one.
    New Conversation
    Paragraph 12, Sentence 1 0
    No sentence-level conversations. Start one.
    New Conversation
    Paragraph 12, Sentence 2 0
    No sentence-level conversations. Start one.
  • The panes are synced; if you click a document passage that has a word balloon, the right pane will scroll to show you all existing comments.

    New Conversation
    Paragraph 13 0
    No paragraph-level conversations. Start one.
    New Conversation
    Paragraph 13, Sentence 1 0
    No sentence-level conversations. Start one.
  • To reply to any comment, just click “Reply” (assuming you’re logged in)

    New Conversation
    Paragraph 14 0
    No paragraph-level conversations. Start one.
    New Conversation
    Paragraph 14, Sentence 1 0
    No sentence-level conversations. Start one.
  • There are two parts to a comment:

    New Conversation
    Paragraph 15 0
    No paragraph-level conversations. Start one.
    New Conversation
    Paragraph 15, Sentence 1 0
    No sentence-level conversations. Start one.
  • Summary of Comment (required) -- concisely convey your main point or two

    New Conversation
    Paragraph 16 0
    No paragraph-level conversations. Start one.
    New Conversation
    Paragraph 16, Sentence 1 0
    No sentence-level conversations. Start one.
  • If you need or want to say more, this elaboration field has no size limit.

    New Conversation
    Paragraph 17 0
    No paragraph-level conversations. Start one.
    New Conversation
    Paragraph 17, Sentence 1 0
    No sentence-level conversations. Start one.
  • You start a new thread by clicking on whatever you want to comment on: doubleclick on the text if you're using a laptop or desktop, single click if using a tablet or phone and then look in the right pane for a start new conversation link.

    New Conversation
    Paragraph 18 0
    No paragraph-level conversations. Start one.
    New Conversation
    Paragraph 18, Sentence 1 0
    No sentence-level conversations. Start one.
  • Other features appear off these navigation strip links.

    New Conversation
    Paragraph 19 0
    No paragraph-level conversations. Start one.
    New Conversation
    Paragraph 19, Sentence 1 0
    No sentence-level conversations. Start one.

New Conversation
Paragraph 20 0
No paragraph-level conversations. Start one.
New Conversation
Paragraph 20, Sentence 1 0
No sentence-level conversations. Start one.

New Conversation
Paragraph 21 0
No paragraph-level conversations. Start one.
New Conversation
Paragraph 21, Sentence 1 0
No sentence-level conversations. Start one.

New Conversation
Paragraph 22 0
No paragraph-level conversations. Start one.
New Conversation
Paragraph 22, Sentence 1 0
No sentence-level conversations. Start one.

Now that you've seen how NowComment works, I'll describe seven key design decisions we made. Normally I take questions as they arise, but given my 10-minute target window we'll have to hold off until the Q&A afterwards.

New Conversation
Paragraph 23 0
No paragraph-level conversations. Start one.
New Conversation
Paragraph 23, Sentence 1 0
No sentence-level conversations. Start one.
New Conversation
Paragraph 23, Sentence 2 0
No sentence-level conversations. Start one.

[deleted]

New Conversation
Paragraph 24 0
No paragraph-level conversations. Start one.
New Conversation
Paragraph 24, Sentence 1 0
No sentence-level conversations. Start one.

NowComment's archetypal use is intellectual “heavy lifting”, to help group members really dig into a document: note what’s unclear, identify implications, suggest alternatives, take issue with conclusions, etc. etc.

New Conversation
Paragraph 25 0
No paragraph-level conversations. Start one.
New Conversation
Paragraph 25, Sentence 1 0
No sentence-level conversations. Start one.

[deleted]

New Conversation
Paragraph 26 0
No paragraph-level conversations. Start one.
New Conversation
Paragraph 26, Sentence 1 0
No sentence-level conversations. Start one.

1. Threaded discussion

New Conversation
Paragraph 27 0
No paragraph-level conversations. Start one.
New Conversation
Paragraph 27, Sentence 1 0
No sentence-level conversations. Start one.
New Conversation
Paragraph 27, Sentence 2 0
No sentence-level conversations. Start one.

  1. We assume lively and highly interactive interplay among group members; there will be many passages where multiple discrete topics will be explored, so keep them in separate threads for time efficiency and to avoid frustration.

    New Conversation
    Paragraph 28 0
    No paragraph-level conversations. Start one.
    New Conversation
    Paragraph 28, Sentence 1 0
    No sentence-level conversations. Start one.
  2. Unlimited number of threads on any item. For example, say there's a sentence that recommends training all 10th grade math teachers in a certain methodology; Alex might want to talk about budget implications, Chris might want to talk about training challenges, and Pat might want to talk about a competing methodology. One sentence, 3 separate threads.

    New Conversation
    Paragraph 29 0
    No paragraph-level conversations. Start one.
    New Conversation
    Paragraph 29, Sentence 1 0
    No sentence-level conversations. Start one.
    New Conversation
    Paragraph 29, Sentence 2 0
    No sentence-level conversations. Start one.
    New Conversation
    Paragraph 29, Sentence 3 0
    No sentence-level conversations. Start one.
  3. You can reply to any comment you want, not just respond to the most recent comment.

    New Conversation
    Paragraph 30 0
    No paragraph-level conversations. Start one.
    New Conversation
    Paragraph 30, Sentence 1 0
    No sentence-level conversations. Start one.

2. Comments Must Be In-Context With the Document (vs. Online Forums / Message Boards / Blog comments)

New Conversation
Paragraph 31 0
No paragraph-level conversations. Start one.
New Conversation
Paragraph 31, Sentence 1 0
No sentence-level conversations. Start one.
New Conversation
Paragraph 31, Sentence 2 0
No sentence-level conversations. Start one.

  1. When a passage interests or confuses or bothers you, you can immediately see what others think about it.

    New Conversation
    Paragraph 32 0
    No paragraph-level conversations. Start one.
    New Conversation
    Paragraph 32, Sentence 1 0
    No sentence-level conversations. Start one.
  2. When you want to add a new comment you shouldn't:

    New Conversation
    Paragraph 33 0
    No paragraph-level conversations. Start one.
    New Conversation
    Paragraph 33, Sentence 1 0
    No sentence-level conversations. Start one.
  • lose your train of thought going to another screen

    New Conversation
    Paragraph 34 0
    No paragraph-level conversations. Start one.
    New Conversation
    Paragraph 34, Sentence 1 0
    No sentence-level conversations. Start one.
  • have to quote or explain what part of the document you’re referring to.

    New Conversation
    Paragraph 35 0
    No paragraph-level conversations. Start one.
    New Conversation
    Paragraph 35, Sentence 1 0
    No sentence-level conversations. Start one.

Note: NowComment works on smartphones, but if you have a very small screen there’s just not space to show both documents and comments, so you lose the in-context experience.

New Conversation
Paragraph 36 0
No paragraph-level conversations. Start one.
New Conversation
Paragraph 36, Sentence 1 0
No sentence-level conversations. Start one.

3. Minimize Distractions to Maximize Concentration

New Conversation
Paragraph 37 0
No paragraph-level conversations. Start one.
New Conversation
Paragraph 37, Sentence 1 0
No sentence-level conversations. Start one.
New Conversation
Paragraph 37, Sentence 2 0
No sentence-level conversations. Start one.

Intellectual work requires concentration, so:

New Conversation
Paragraph 38 0
No paragraph-level conversations. Start one.
New Conversation
Paragraph 38, Sentence 1 0
No sentence-level conversations. Start one.

  1. Our commenting is asynchronous rather than real-time chat; we want to encourage thoughtful consideration over a reasonable period of time, not immediate reactions to incoming stimuli.

    New Conversation
    Paragraph 39 0
    No paragraph-level conversations. Start one.
    New Conversation
    Paragraph 39, Sentence 1 0
    No sentence-level conversations. Start one.
  2. When you're reading a document, we don't automatically update it with new comments; any new comments appear after you make a comment or when you manually reload the document.

    New Conversation
    Paragraph 40 0
    No paragraph-level conversations. Start one.
    New Conversation
    Paragraph 40, Sentence 1 0
    No sentence-level conversations. Start one.
  3. We don't pop up notifications each time someone else logs in or is looking at the same document; the notifications we do send are via email, and the default is a daily digest.

    New Conversation
    Paragraph 41 0
    No paragraph-level conversations. Start one.
    New Conversation
    Paragraph 41, Sentence 1 0
    No sentence-level conversations. Start one.

4. Even Heavily-Commented Documents Must Remain Readable

New Conversation
Paragraph 42 0
No paragraph-level conversations. Start one.
New Conversation
Paragraph 42, Sentence 1 0
No sentence-level conversations. Start one.
New Conversation
Paragraph 42, Sentence 2 0
No sentence-level conversations. Start one.

Our balloon interface scales very very well; I’ve seen several 5-10 page Higher Ed documents with 400+ comments on each and the interface works beautifully.

New Conversation
Paragraph 43 0
No paragraph-level conversations. Start one.
New Conversation
Paragraph 43, Sentence 1 0
No sentence-level conversations. Start one.

Some approaches we rejected early on:

New Conversation
Paragraph 44 0
No paragraph-level conversations. Start one.
New Conversation
Paragraph 44, Sentence 1 0
No sentence-level conversations. Start one.

  1. With “sticky note” commenting tools, pages started becoming hard to read after just a few comments per page.

    New Conversation
    Paragraph 45 0
    No paragraph-level conversations. Start one.
    New Conversation
    Paragraph 45, Sentence 1 0
    No sentence-level conversations. Start one.
  2. Tools that use highlighting risk the same problem; when there are a lot of comments the document can start to look like a Christmas tree where too many lines are highlighted and the document becomes too distracting to read.

    New Conversation
    Paragraph 46 0
    No paragraph-level conversations. Start one.
    New Conversation
    Paragraph 46, Sentence 1 0
    No sentence-level conversations. Start one.
  3. MS Word would put use different colors for different people's comments (e.g. Alex's comments in red, Chris's comments in blue)... that just doesn't work well when group size exceeds 5-7 people.

    New Conversation
    Paragraph 47 0
    No paragraph-level conversations. Start one.
    New Conversation
    Paragraph 47, Sentence 1 0
    No sentence-level conversations. Start one.

5. Document Owner/Editor Collaboration Model

New Conversation
Paragraph 48 0
No paragraph-level conversations. Start one.
New Conversation
Paragraph 48, Sentence 1 0
No sentence-level conversations. Start one.
New Conversation
Paragraph 48, Sentence 2 0
No sentence-level conversations. Start one.

  • Microsoft Word and Google Docs approach collaboration mainly as group editing, with some commenting tools;NowComment emphasizes shaning ideas, with document changes secondary.

    New Conversation
    Paragraph 49 0
    No paragraph-level conversations. Start one.
    New Conversation
    Paragraph 49, Sentence 1 0
    No sentence-level conversations. Start one.
    • Beauty of “track changes” à focus on proofing vs. intellectual work

      New Conversation
      Paragraph 50 0
      No paragraph-level conversations. Start one.
      New Conversation
      Paragraph 50, Sentence 1 0
      No sentence-level conversations. Start one.
    • Psychological dynamics of making changes vs. making suggestions (red ink)

      New Conversation
      Paragraph 51 0
      No paragraph-level conversations. Start one.
      New Conversation
      Paragraph 51, Sentence 1 0
      No sentence-level conversations. Start one.
  • Wikis (everyone can change everything semi-visibly) take this a step further

    New Conversation
    Paragraph 52 0
    No paragraph-level conversations. Start one.
    New Conversation
    Paragraph 52, Sentence 1 0
    No sentence-level conversations. Start one.

NowComment Model

New Conversation
Paragraph 53 0
No paragraph-level conversations. Start one.
New Conversation
Paragraph 53, Sentence 1 0
No sentence-level conversations. Start one.
  • Each document is owned by its uploader, only he/she can make changes (audit trail)

    New Conversation
    Paragraph 54 0
    No paragraph-level conversations. Start one.
    New Conversation
    Paragraph 54, Sentence 1 0
    No sentence-level conversations. Start one.
  • Group members can suggest text changes that the Document Owner can accept via a “track changes”-like tool

    New Conversation
    Paragraph 55 0
    No paragraph-level conversations. Start one.
    New Conversation
    Paragraph 55, Sentence 1 0
    No sentence-level conversations. Start one.

6. Summary (Subject) Field: The Power of Skimming

New Conversation
Paragraph 56 0
No paragraph-level conversations. Start one.
New Conversation
Paragraph 56, Sentence 1 0
No sentence-level conversations. Start one.
New Conversation
Paragraph 56, Sentence 2 0
No sentence-level conversations. Start one.

When lots of people are making lots of comments you can't assume everyone in the group has the time or desire to read every comment in full. So... we copied the structure of email and have a subject field (basically, a “what's your main point” Summary field) separate from the comment itself.

New Conversation
Paragraph 57 0
No paragraph-level conversations. Start one.
New Conversation
Paragraph 57, Sentence 1 0
No sentence-level conversations. Start one.
New Conversation
Paragraph 57, Sentence 2 0
No sentence-level conversations. Start one.

This has two big advantages:

New Conversation
Paragraph 58 0
No paragraph-level conversations. Start one.
New Conversation
Paragraph 58, Sentence 1 0
No sentence-level conversations. Start one.

  1. If time is short, group members can skim comments to identify the most relevant ones to read more of.

    New Conversation
    Paragraph 59 0
    No paragraph-level conversations. Start one.
    New Conversation
    Paragraph 59, Sentence 1 0
    No sentence-level conversations. Start one.

  1. Because the summary field can be skimmed so easily, group members can feel free to make longer, nuanced comments in the other field without worrying about taking up too much reading time from other group members.

    New Conversation
    Paragraph 60 0
    No paragraph-level conversations. Start one.
    New Conversation
    Paragraph 60, Sentence 1 0
    No sentence-level conversations. Start one.

Here’s what skimming looks like:

New Conversation
Paragraph 61 0
No paragraph-level conversations. Start one.
New Conversation
Paragraph 61, Sentence 1 0
No sentence-level conversations. Start one.