Timeliner: set up and manage collaborative writing project

The initial idea of Timeliner (figure 1) was to create a tool which could help to researchers to set up and manage collaborative writing project. The aims we pursued were tracking milestones related to Calls for Papers, finding right time slots for collaboration, setting up documents, arranging tasks and collecting appropriate resources.



Fig. 1 Timeliner mockup

We proposed here several visual concepts that can help people to manage writing process, such as:

  • Process living at timeline. Helps recognize current time position in the project;
  • Every object on the screen can be tagged and annotated;
  • Targeted document, has history with versions, lifecycle, can be branched to several other;
  • Milestones that can divide the project (e.g. deadlines for submitting draft of a paper);
  • Tasks that can be arranged on the time, so participants can plan project using empty slots;
  • Participants, that can be dropped on tasks for assignment;
  • Resources that can be binded to the tasks and also freely arranged over time;
  • Combined chat and activity stream that allow to track activities in consequence with comments.

Background and Idea for application in Layers – the Integrator:

Basically, informal learning is understood to be episodic and highly contextualized (Eraut, 2000). The corresponding experience is mostly triggered by certain problem, learning need, discrepancy between the own understanding and the reality etc. Thereby, the informal learning experience often involves other (trusted) persons, and leads to a group/ social context (Marsick & Volpe, 1999; National School Boards Association, 2007). In other words, informal learning can lead to a complex situation with many interwoven actors and artifacts that requires establishing a shared understanding over and over again to be able to collaboratively solve it and achieve a socially accepted meaning in the end. The mean to achieve this goal is intersubjective meaning making, which is reflected in the composition of interrelated manipulations of digital artifacts by the collaborators (Suthers, 2006). Hence, intersubjective meaning making has to considered thoroughly and supported meaningfully (based on a theoretical model).

The integrator (see figure 2) is a tool to continuously manage and meaningfully handle such informal learning attempts and enable a clear collaborative solution of it by supporting the process of intersubjective meaning making. Therefore the tool tries to capture all necessary context and corresponding content, integrate all involved artifact and actors and provide a tool orchestration for the specific necessities in technology enhanced informal learning (e.g. sense making about informal learning experiences, informal discussion and enrichment of formal documents). In this way the integrator is able to integrate all the generated meaning of the group cognition (Stahl, 2006; Stahl, 2013):

○     relation of integrator to different level of cognition according to Stahl: individual, group and community

○     analysis of integrator in terms of the interaction in between these different levels (how these different levels take influence on each other) and the extent to which it enables or facilitates this exchange:

■     e.g. B&P in the intersubjective context: individual and group cognition

■     e.g. visualization of the differences between the own understanding and the collective

The integrator is based on a several essential technological affordances necessary in Meaning Making (Suthers, 2006): Immutable Mobiles, Negotiation Potentials, Referential Resource, Trajectories of Participation and Integration. Regarding the Trajectories of Participation (Suthers, 2006) the integrator reflects the history of intersubjective meaning making for a certain informal learning attempt and reflects this history with all of its context (alternative name: HOMM/ HOMMITEL). As example for such a history for intersubjective meaning making, the article history of wikis can be pointed to. Therein, the mutual interpretations of a representation are captured, but limited to a certain kind of interpretation (revision of wiki articles) and artifact (wiki article). As reflection of the history of intersubjective meaning making the integrator can be used to:

  • ease the uptake of the current shared understanding by reconstructing it based on the contextualized timeline
  • refer back to achieved meanings to depict and/ or underline a current argumentation

Additionally, the current status of the Integrator (vertical line) could be used to generate a graph of the involved part of the Artifact Actor Network (AAN; Reinhardt et al., 2009) reflected by the Social Semantic Server (SSN; Kowald et al., 2013) . This part of the AAN would be a highly contextualized version, because it includes all the artifacts and actors involved in this informal learning attempt in detail (e.g. which person contributed to which version of the final document) and highly actionable, because just an excerpt of the full AAN can be fully understood and enable actions based on it. In conclusion, this visualization of the contextualized and actionable AAN would provide another sight on the informal learning attempt and enable the learner to extend and garden it based on their real world understanding. Besides, certain important and crucial states of this contextualized and actionable AAN could be marked and saved after gardening to feed them back into the collective understanding.

2Fig. 2. Timeliner with conceptualizing features for Learning Layers

3Fig. 3. Idea/ Mock Up for integrating Timeliner into B&P

The First Implementation

The first version of Timeliner software prototype was developed in 2012. It is limited in ways of connecting to the external services. However, it has the most of functionalities for pre-collaborative, collaborative and post-collaborative writing tasks. An user interface is implemented in HTML and JavaScript and allows time zooming, drag and drop operations for tasks, users and resources.


Fig. 4. User interface of the first prototype of Timeliner

Targeted document has visual version tracking that allows to see history of the document. Also we have implemented internal chat board that has combined view with an activity stream


  1. Eraut, M. (2000). Non-formal learning and tacit knowledge in professional work. The British journal of educational psychology, 70 ( Pt 1), 113–36.
  2. Kowald, D., Dennerlein, S., Theiler, D., Walk, S. & Trattner, C. (2013). The Social Semantic Server – A Framework to Provide Services on Social Semantic Network Data. In Proceedings of the I-Semantics.
  3. Lowry, P., Curtis, A., & Lowry, M. (2004). Building a Taxonomy and Nomenclature of Collaborative Writing to Improve Interdisciplinary Research and Practice. Paul Benjamin Lowry. Journal of Business Communication, 41 (66).
  4. Marsick, V. J., & Volpe, M. (1999). The Nature and Need for Informal Learning. Advances in Developing Human Resources, 1(3), 1–9.
  5. National School Boards Association, N. (National S. T. A. 2007). Creating and connecting: Research and guidelines on social – and educational – networking. Retrieved from http://www.nsta.org/about/positions/informal.aspx (accessed June 20, 2013).


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