Helge Kahler


Status May 2003


Kahler, Helge (2001): Supporting Collaborative Tailoring. Ph.D. thesis. Roskilde University. Datalogiske Skrifter, ISSN 0109-9779 No. 91, 232 pages. available in original version at http://www.dat.ruc.dk/events/kahler_phd_thesis.pdf.
Abstract: This dissertation addresses the support of collaborative tailoring, i. e. the technical and human art of modifying the functionality of software while the software is in use in the field and doing so together with others. This is an interesting and important issue for two reasons: firstly, software is rarely produced to be used by one person at one time, so most people will benefit from being able to change the software according to their needs. Secondly, since several people with similar tasks may or do tailor their software, there can be synergetic effects if they tailor collaboratively. The research question guiding the work described in this thesis is how collaborative tailoring can be adequately supported. The answer to this question is provided in the form of eight suggestions for collaborative tailoring. These suggestions include both technical and organizational aspects with a stress on the former. The suggestions are: provide objectification, allow sharing of tailoring files, allow browsing through tailoring files, provide awareness of tailoring activities, make annotations and automatic descriptions possible, allow for exploration of a tailoring file, make administration and coordination easy, and support a tailoring culture. The thesis explains these suggestions and describes the research process. This process includes literature study and the subsequent development and usage of a prototypical software (a word processor extension and a groupware search tool) dealing with aspects of collaborative tailoring. The dissertation consists of two parts. In the first part the various results and insights of the papers of the second part (collection of papers) are gathered, focused, and enhanced. The first part can be read as a contribution in its own right, where not only methodological issues are raised but also the process of generating suggestions for collaborative tailoring is described and discussed. The seven papers of the collection contribute to the overall research question in different ways. The first and second paper shed a light on tailoring in general, present preliminary results on collaborative tailoring and highlight the necessity for more research about collaborative tailoring. The third, fifth, and sixth paper present the two cases word processor and groupware search tool. The fourth paper presents a method for usability testing resulting from my work on the word processor case. The seventh paper presents the suggestions for collaborative tailoring derived from the previous work. A summary of each of the seven papers of the collection is provided in the introduction.
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