A methodology and platform for building collaborative environments on the Web

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Electrical Engineering and Computer Science


Kishan Mehrotra


Collaborative environments, World Wide Web, Groupware, Virtual places

Subject Categories

Computer Sciences | OS and Networks | Software Engineering


The demand for systems that facilitate remote human interactions is growing and there are many tools that support online collaboration. However, most of the available collaborative systems do not provide efficient support for distributed group activities. The principal reason for this situation is an inability to customize current systems so that they can support specific group structures, essential social interactions, and executed tasks.

In this dissertation I propose a methodology and platform for building collaborative environments tightly integrated with Web resources and customized for specific user needs. In the proposed solution, the collaborative system is developed in two stages: first, configurable collaboration components are implemented and then construction of the environment assembled from the components takes place. This approach reduces development time of collaborative systems, enables customization, and allows users even with limited programming experience to build their own systems. Moreover, since the platform supports place metaphor, it enables implementation of various types of interactions: synchronous and asynchronous, formal and informal, carried out in groups and by individuals.

The solution has three high-level components. (1) A set of concepts and rules allows building models of collaborative environments. Essentially, entities such as a place , an artifact , or a tool , and in terms of relationships among these entities. (2) An XML-based markup language enables defining functionality of the collaborative environments composed of configurable components. The language constructs can be merged with ordinary Web page content to create specifications of virtual places. Since the target systems are created from XML-based documents, their specifications can be processed using standard tools, they can be transmitted over the Internet, and they can be merged with content developed in other markup languages. (3) A distributed framework provides infrastructure that makes the existence of the virtual places possible. It implements services such as authentication, communication channels, synchronization mechanisms, and access to persistent data repositories. The services implemented by the framework are available through provided programming interfaces and can be used to develop configurable collaboration components and complex collaborative environments integrated with the Web infrastructure.


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