2-3 Use of the TECFAMOO in the VMDL project

2-3.3 The LHM meeting

Although most of the participants were using the MOO for the first time, the results of the first LHM meeting have been successful regarding participation, social cohesion and quality of interactions. Indeed, knowing that changes initiated by innovations give rise to a reflexive anxiety, all participants seemed to be at ease with the text-based virtual reality and the spatial metaphor and post-meeting remarks insisted on the positive side of MOO communication. In about 2 hours (including the delay caused by some technical problems of one participant), the meeting that had to be organised, was indeed organised. At the end of the MOO session, all participants seemed to know what they and their colleagues had to prepare.

Unlike in face-to-face or videoconference interactions, the MOO communication is not strongly structured in talk turns. Several persons can indeed 'talk' at the same time. Nevertheless, and although participants are not seen from each other, the process of communication can be regulated by navigation and action or emotion verbs in addition to the moderator regulation. Navigation and emotion vocabulary can be compared to non-verbal communication in a face-to-face context. Actually, someone will be able to inform the other participants that he or she is smiling. Many kinds of messages can indeed indicate what people are actually doing or what is their state of mind.

In this example, Daniel, one of the organisers of the LHM meeting prepare the VCR MOO object to record interactions:

Daniel teleports Sony in.
Daniel consults the manual for Sony.
Daniel drops Sony.
Daniel turns on camera to begin recording. . .
Daniel pans the camera left and right over Reception Hall. . .
Daniel zooms the camera in on joze. . .
Daniel zooms the camera in on Lone Dirckinck-Holmfeld and Annita Fjuk. . .

Navigation feedbacks are also helpful to understand others' attitude towards the conversation:

Patrick leaves for the library.
Kaspar teleports out.
Patrick has arrived.
Daniel goes home.

Emotion commands also allow the participants to know about each others' state of mind:

Pierre does not understand
Sandrine giggles
Daniel . o O ( we got multimedia here !!! )

and some emotions can be automatically translated by the TECFAMOO server when one adds a sign at the end of its sentence.

:) is translated into smiles: Daniel smiles "I like that :)"
:( is translated into frowns: Daniel frowns "I don't like that :("
;) is translated into winks: Daniel winks "this is OK ;)"

Within the MOO the meeting situation is not really different of any other taking place in a synchronous mode. Actually, it can even be described in the same terms as the ones used by Michele Lacoste [92] when she described the general process of a videoconference meeting. As any kind of meeting, a videoconference meeting is predetermined by an agenda that rules the thematic movement, and the theme and/or the chairman are strongly conditionning the talking turns allocation.

A videoconference meeting often starts by a pre-meeting where the participants meet each others. To go from private talks to a collective meeting, several states have to be stepped over: .

  1. create on interlocutory hub;

  2. formally indicate the beginning of the meeting and make sure that there are no technical problems;

  3. agenda.

To end a videoconference meeting the author has discerned four stages:

  1. pre-end of the meeting;

  2. schedule of the next meeting;

  3. end of the meeting;

  4. postmeeting.

Although these stages cannot be well delimited, the following discussion examples show that there is a similarity between MOO and videoconference meetings.

From the TECFAMOO arrival area, we helped the meeting participants to use the basic communication commands and to find the meeting room within the MOO. To this last purpose an object has been programmed which is called BUS FOR EDUTECH. People just have to look at this object, read the instructions and follow them. This object has the particularity to move all it contains from one virtual place to another. One person, external to the LHM meeting, was welcoming the participants. Interactions have taken this form:


Kim Issroff has connected.
You say, "hello"
You ask, "are you coming for the lhm meeting?"
Kim Issroff says "'yes'"
You say, "ok, welcome here, type 'enter bus' and then 'go' to go to the meeting place"
Kim Issroff says "'Sandrine, I am not sure if you are getting what I am writing'"
You say, "that's fine, i can read"
Daniel says to Kim Issroff [Guest], "hello kim, we get everything allright :)"
Kim Issroff [Guest] enters BUS FOR EDUTECH.

and in the meeting room, one could hear:

Pierre exclaims "Kim arrived in the village. She will join us soon by bus!"

From the bus, Kim has read the following text:

This bus is going to the Educational Technology Center. This is where the LHM meeting will take place. To drive this bus, type 'go'. Please, type without quotes.
the bus starts and heads for Edutech center
please, all passengers should type 'leave' to leave the bus
International Educational Technology Center
You find yourself in front of a nice building dedicated to Educational 
Technology Research. Communities of researchers are meeting here.
Still Under Construction: If you wish to build here, Contact Sandrine.
For the LHM meeting, type RH.

You see BUS FOR EDUTECH here.

Obvious Exits: N (to Le jardin des plantes), UC (to Underground Corridor), and RH (to Reception Hall).

the bus returns to the arrival station

At the meeting place, some information has been written on a virtual board to prepare the session:

Reception Hall
You enter a large and nice hall. You can see old paintings on the walls but some people are clearing them, they want to put new ones, modern art...
There is an information board in this hall on which you feel you could find interesting information for a newcomer. Type 'look board' to view the posted titles, type 'read <number> on board' to read the message. 

You see Information Board and How to send MOO mail here.
Obvious Exits: Out (to International Educational Technology Center), C (to Common room), Lib (to Library), and Cafet (to Cafeteria).
>look board
A big information board where messages are kept. Type 'read <number> on <board>. For more information on usage type @examine board. 
    Currently posted notices:
    1< Welcome to EduTech (Sandrine).
    2. LHM meeting (Sandrine).
    3. Sitges Plans (Pierre).

A sign says: 'Public Posting Allowed.'

>read 2 on board
 <<LHM meeting>>  [Sandrine-6/19/95 20:33 MET]

Welcome to the LHM taskforce 5 meeting. If you want to say something to everybody in this room start with quote (e.g. >"hello there). If you want to speak to one person in particular, use 'page' (e.g. >page Jane hello, happy to be here). Thanks, enjoy here ;)

   << end >>

>read 3 on board
 <<Sitges Plans>>  [Pierre-6/20/95 11:53 MET]

Please remember that in Sitges, we decided to have 3 working groups.The 'brits' (Karen, Kim, Claire & Mike) were supposed to review methods and tools (in a large sense) for ANALAZING collaborative interactions.
Group 2 (Ulrich, Pierre, Calle, Rolf & Engelbert) intended to review computational models of collaborative problem solving.
Group 3 (Lone, Joze, Bob & Stevan) planned to review tools for supporting communication during collaboraive learning.
That's our starting point. The question is: do we try to stick to that or do we set more modest goals for our next workshop?

   << end >>


(creation of the interlocutory hub, indication of the beginning, agenda presentation).

Pierre says "Ok, nice to have you here..."
Pierre says "I put a note on the Information board"
Pierre says "To view the information board, just type 'look information  board'
Pierre says "You'll find out what to do with that board if you type '@examine information board'"
Pierre says "OK, while Daniel is fixing Karen's problems, I would like to start talking about ESF"
Joze exclaims "Pierre, hurray!!"
Pierre says "Remember we had very ambitious - and probably sincere - plans in SItges"
Pierre says "But now, I guess not much has been done, we have only 3 months lefts and these are holidays (at least a part of it) and conferences"
This introduction shows that a MOO communication can be effective for meeting management. People can " place " themselves as meeting moderator or simple participant. They can provide facilitating tools like an information board or slide projector. Motivation can also be announced by short enthousiastic messages like " Pierre, hurray!! " and this is not as easy for asynchronous communication mode where this kind of messages is rather considered as noisy. MOO communication is also very simple when one whishes to indicate the beginning of the meeting and to present the agenda.


Lone Dirckinck-Holmfeld and Annita Fjuk says "Annita is a Ph.D.student from Oslo University. She has been in Aalborg since February. We are writing a paper together for the Aix-seminar."
Kim Issroff asks "what is the paper about?"
Pierre asks "yes, what is this paper about ?"
Lone Dirckinck-Holmfeld and Annita Fjuk says "the title of the paper is: Problem orientation as a method, and as a fundamenet for computer mediated collaborative distance learning. "
Pierre asks "what is 'problem orientation'?"
Lone Dirckinck-Holmfeld and Annita Fjuk says "we are using a method called Soft Dialectics which is based on dialectical analysis and Soft System methodology (Checkland)"
Lone Dirckinck-Holmfeld and Annita Fjuk says "Problem orientation is work method and a fundamental principle for critical pedagogy."
Pierre does not understand
Lone Dirckinck-Holmfeld and Annita Fjuk says "Our work again: We are using Soft Dialectics to structure our discussion on collaborative learning at distance here at Aalborg University. "
Daniel says to Lone Dirckinck-Holmfeld and Annita Fjuk [Guest], "anything of that on a www server by any chance ?"
Lone Dirckinck-Holmfeld and Annita Fjuk says "Yes, of course we can...when it is finished"
Daniel says to Lone Dirckinck-Holmfeld and Annita Fjuk [Guest], "it is useful to have it there before, so people could comment, unless it is secret or really in its VERY beginning stage"
Lone Dirckinck-Holmfeld and Annita Fjuk says "If you are interested: we will be happy to mail you information about Soft Dialectics and abour problem oriented project"
This first discussion illustrates an interactive presentation. One character composed by two people is presenting its work as part of the discussed problem contribution. Other characters ask questions as soon as they feel a need for it and by the end of this discussion, pratical information is exchanged between the different characters (about the location of the paper related to the work, etc.) so that all the meeting participants can switch to another part of the current problem. This discussion shows that MOO communication is well adapted to interactive presentation of work, etc. Although in this case, the discussion was unprepared and short, other examples show that even prepared and formal presentations are very well supported by a MOO session when some basic communication rules are used about participants interaction with the speaker. The complete script of these examples are available in the fourth part of this report (Annex 2 : BioMOO seminar).


Pierre asks "Ok, I think the best strategy we can have for Aix is that we try to discuss things that we do anyway, and preferably which is connected to the goals that were allocated to the three subgroups. Let's for instance talk about the subgroup 3 since it included Lone, Bob, Joze who are here (and Stevan who is not). Its goal was to review tools for supporting collaborative learning. Would Lone's paper fit to that goal?"
Pierre asks "Did Joze and Bob plan to do something about that goal during Joze's visit in Lancaster?"
Pierre says "Actually, despite the fact that I am in the subgroup 2, we had here to review various groupware, more precisely whiteboards (plus audio) that we need for the BOOTNAP project. We tested ShowMe, Belvedere, Kansas and are trying now LBL, Collage and Groupkit. We could make a synthesis about that..."
joze says "We are using LBL video, audio and wb tools in COST 14 project and we have some experiences with these and similar tools"
Pierre asks "How does it work?"
joze says "Bob says:  I have no problem about looking at tools, but I would be worried if we didn't start with some real needs, contexts, and aims of the collaboration."
Pierre asks "Learning isn't a goal?"
Lone Dirckinck-Holmfeld and Annita Fjuk says "Hello again, during our analysis we have indetified some interesting phenomenon to be explored more deeply. Some of them are: Commitment is a critical aspect in various forms in Computer mediated collaborative learning (at distance). Articulation work (See Kjeld Schmidt and Liam Bannon) is another interesting phenomenon. There are som other aspects, e.g. what consitutes the virtual room and the interplay between the organisational elements and the design of the artefact (functionality and aestetics)."
joze says "Bob says: learning is a goal in intensional situations.  In our case as researchers, yes we are learning all the time but much of it is contextual and not necessarily directly intentional."
Lone Dirckinck-Holmfeld and Annita Fjuk exclaims "To Pierre: For us, learning IS the goal!"
Lone Dirckinck-Holmfeld and Annita Fjuk says "Our interests are intentional learning. However, the principle s"
joze says "Bob says: a key dimension here is motivation; one might link this closely to the nature of the problem.  Is this a real problem with which we can directly associate (say as part of our day-to-day work) or does it seem artificial - like an exercise.  Unlike Pierre, I hate jogging but given a real challenge to get up a hill (which motivates me) then I will make the effort (and enjoy it)."
Lone Dirckinck-Holmfeld and Annita Fjuk says "According to group 3, I think it is important that this survey includes in-depth studies of exemplary use-situations (out of labs!)"
joze says "Bob says: I agree with Lone (et al) about naturalistic settings."
Pierre asks "Do you remember this chapter that we wrote when preparing the ESF proposal. We described task features which impact on the effects of collaborative learning (e.g. the importance of regulation, the conceptual opnesss, etc.). COuld you use these criteria in your analysis Bob ?"
joze says "Bob says: thanks Pierre, I would need to revisit that document"
The second discussion differs from the first one in the sense that more participants are talking together and that it is more a working discussion than a presentation. The aspects of this discussion are a bit more " philosophical " (Leaning isn't a goal? - For us, learning IS the goal!) and at the same time more " practical " (Do you remember this chapter that we wrote [...]?). One can say that this discussion looks very much like a working session discussion with several levels of communication and several elements discussed at the same time.


Pierre asks "OK, can we talk a bit about group 1. Karen and Kim are here. Do you have anything related to the original goal (reviewing tools for analysing interactions) that could be presented? Did you interact with Mike and Claire about this>?"
Karen says "'we thought that we would produce an annotated bibliography of key analytic frameworks and kim and I are collaborating on analysising collaboration using three analytic tools - using categories of talk and time based analyses"
Karen says "'you will remember the time-based analytic tool from kim's talk.part of what we hope to do is to use this tool for different kinds of data to establish its usefulness - we could do a joint presentation on this"
Pierre asks "Would that not be a repetition of last year talk?"
Kim Issroff says "No because we want to try it at different levels of granularity and compare what it buys you to other methods of analysing collaborative interactions"
Pierre says "Ok, we'll see later if Mike and Claire can propose something."
Pierre says "All this sounds good. Now, it is about group 2 and I think I am the only member of it. I developped some ideas about how we could modify rulebase system to model the effect of interactions on problem solving. But these are still rather general ideas. I did not review models of collaboration, but some work on models of dialogue. But, my new colleague, David Traum, has developped a computational model of social grounding during his previous research. I was thinking about bringing him with me in Aix..."
The third and last discussion is very much identical to the second one although it seems a bit more focused on organisational details. These major elements of meeting can be completed faster through a synchronous communication mode than through an asynchronous communication system like email.


(pre-end of the meeting, schedule of the next meeting, end of the meeting, post-meeting)

Pierre says "Right, the other TF5 members who could not make this time asked me to set up another MOO session. I suggest to set up a second session at a fix time, by the end of this month, and then to choose some hour in the week at which you will now that you can find people in the LHM room.""
joze asks "Bob: can we make much more progress?  I wonder if Pierre could review the interactions and do a sythesis of Actions prior to Aix.  Or do you wish to meet again this way with (possibly) other actors?"
Kim Issroff says "I think another meeting is a good idea - and perhaps we could try to arrange smaller meetings in just our groups"
Pierre says "Ok. Here is my suggestion. For the next meeting, we'll meet in the LHM room but I'll ask Sandrine to create three rooms for each subgroup. I noticed that some of you left for the library when we were not discussing your own subgroup!."
Daniel says "I think it would be a good idea for those who felt productive here to come more often... you can build your offices here (ask sandrine), also you can use this as non-intrusive tool for collaboration (e.g. I always have the MOO open and do 10 other things at the same time)"
Pierre says "So, we could start with a joint meeting in the LHM room and then go in the specific rooms."
Karen says "'I think offices would be a useful idea.....it would certainly be an"
Kim Issroff says "I'd like to have it open all the time but I think that only works if you know several people who are likely to be around, but that comes with time. The reason I went to the library was that nothing seemed to be happening and I thought I'd use the time to look around"
Pierre agrees with Karen
Sandrine says "I will be pleased to guide you through this moo at any time"
Daniel exclaims "sorry I have to leave, see you sometimes and don't hesitate to contact us for more MOOing !!"
Karen says "'could we each have an office? "
Sandrine says "yes"
Daniel waves good-bye
Daniel goes home
Sandrine says "this would be the best thing"
Pierre says "This is why I think that a second fixed meeting will help creating the community, creating the habit of looking at the MOO for taskfivers"
Pierre says "Of course, we can not continue long with 'fixed' meetings. That would be non sense for a MOO. SO, I'll e-mail to all and ask for a new time slot. Actually, people did not complain about the time, they were simply not in today."
Pierre asks "I have to leave as well. Any question left?"
The whole session has been recorded through a VCR like MOO object and sent to every participants a few days after by E-Mail. Virtual tapes have been archived at the library and one can have a look at them at any time. (the whole session record is available in appendixes).

The following example shows a consolidation session that aimed to build an office for one of the LHM taskforce 5 participant after the second LHM meeting. This second meeting took place one week or so after the first one:

You say to engelbert, "would you like to have a desk here?"
You say to engelbert, "we could dig one aside joze's desk"
You sense that engelbert is looking for you in LHM.
It pages, "yes"
You say to engelbert, "to do this type @dig engelbert's desk"
You say to engelbert, "and tell me when it's done"

You sense that engelbert is looking for you in LHM.
It pages, "the desk is created"
You say to engelbert, "great, now can you give me the number of the desk #????"

You sense that engelbert is looking for you in LHM.
It pages, "how can i work with my desk ?  #1581 is the number"
You say to engelbert, "we are going to build exits and entrances, I do it"

>@dig Engelbert to #1581
Exit from LHM (#1255) to engelbert's desk (#1581) via {"Engelbert"} created with id #1582.

You say, "ok now you can enter you desk "
You say, "look first here and type engelbert to enter your desk"
>page engelbert how is it?
Your message has been sent.

engelbert's desk
'No one is listening to the conversation via web.'
engelbert is here.
Obvious Exits: Out (to LHM).

You say, "well, now we have to describe your desk"
engelbert says "ok it's fine"
You say, "to do this you type @describe here as blabla"
You say, "don't use the return command before the end"

engelbert says "ok for the description"
You say, "great "
You say, "you will be able to change it as soon as you want"
engelbert says "by using the same command"
You say, "you can also rename your desk typing @rename here to blabla"
You say, "yes the same command"
You smile, "now you could set your room here so that next time you come in, you will arrive directly in your desk :)"
engelbert asks "how ?"
You say, "and also, you could type home whenever you wish to come back here"
You say, "type @sethome"
engelbert says "is it possible to have a summary of all these commands on a small sheet of paper"
You say, "yes all this should be available on the web, on the tecfamoo page"
It pages, "thank you a lot, for the lesson"
You say, "you're welcome"
This consolidation session is also a good illustration of a direct working session. Here the MOO can be used as a shared representation. In this example, MOO objects are manipulated but one can easily imagine the work that can be done with text objects like MOO notes, MOO books or MOO board. Actually MOO is a very interesting plateform for collaborative work and it proves to be very effective when working on MOO building and MOO programming.

To conclude this section, we could repeat that the MOO communication system can be used for the following cases:.


VMDL/MOO Report - 17 FEB 1996

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