Geographically distributed teams have become an essential part of most areas of endeavor. Yet such teams face a wide range of challenges. But there are many ways to mitigate the effects of these challenges, as summarized recently in Working Together Apart (Morgan & Claypool, 2014). We continue to investigate these matters in a wide range of settings.

Collaboration Success Wizard

success_wizardAre you working on a collaborative project, with people in other organizations and/or locations, that doesn’t seem to be as effective as it could be? Based on nearly 2 decades of research on scientific collaboratories, the Collaboration Success Wizard is a web-based service that asks members of a project about their collaboration whether it’s currently ongoing, occurred in the past, or is being planned for the future. The Wizard can identify potential vulnerabilities and areas for improvement, based on an individual respondent’s answers, and can suggest things to do and to discuss as starting points for overcoming them. In addition, the Collaboration Success Wizard team will review and analyze the aggregate responses from a project and provide feedback to the project. More information about the Wizard can be found at

Image-1_thumbWe are interested in analyzing how people write together.  Google Docs allows us to look at the Revision History, at who did what and at what time.  By visualizing this history, we can detect patterns of writing.  We have a tool, called DocuViz, that shows the authorship (in color) and placement and size of the contribution in each stored revision “slice.”

IMG_9265_thumbSome early drafts of collaboratively written documents have points where the style changes abruptly.  Editors can catch these and suggest ways to make the document have a single voice.  We are building an expert system that detects these abrupt changes automatically.  We call this system “Novox” meaning new voice.  We will seek to both detect these and suggest ways in which to change parts to have a single voice or style.


We have been studying how researchers in many different fields work together when they are in different locations. In our book, Scientific Collaboration on the Internet (MIT Press, 2008), we and others reviewed several decades of research on this topic, and presented a number of case studies of such collaborations. We have identified more than 700 scientific collaboratories (distributed research projects) across all areas of research, including the humanities. These are summarized in a public resource called the Science of Collaboratories (SOC) database.

IMG_9205While people have talked about collective intelligence for decades, new communication technologies—especially the Internet—now allow huge numbers of people all over the planet to work together in new ways. The success of Wikipedia shows that such efforts have much promise. The goal of the MIT Center is: How can people and computers be connected so that—collectively—they act more intelligently than any person, group, or computer has ever done before?  It is now possible to harness the collective intelligence of thousands of people all over the world at a scale and with a degree of collaboration that was never possible before,” Malone said. “We decided to basically crowd-source the problem of what to do about global climate change.”Olson works with colleagues at MIT to understand what effect the Climate CoLab ( is having on those who participate in it.