HW 1

due Sept. 27

Last modified 9/24/99--PR
Class home page

This is a long assignment, but you have two weeks to work on it. You are encouraged to do this assignment with a partner, and some parts of it can only be done with a partner! You can turn in one joint solution set, but be sure to include a separate paragraph for each partner for the explanation exercise. All the questions you are supposed to answer in your written homework are in italics. Look carefully, as they're sprinkled throughout the assignment.


Chapter 1.
Chapters 2 and 3, and the article by the Olsons giving an overview of CSCW applications. Depending on your learning style, you may want to read these before or after you do the explorations below.

Don't forget to send an email to presnick@umich.edu and junsong@umich.edu with a question or comment about the readings, before midnight on Sunday, Sept. 26. This question or comment should be very brief and should suggest some question that you'd like to see discussed or question that you'd like to have answered in class. IMPORTANT: The subject line should be: "[540] comments". I use a mail filter to automatically sort all these messages into a single folder. If you want me to read a message during the week, don't use that subject line, or it may not be read until Monday morning.

Laboratory Explorations

The applications and web sites listed below will provide a common set of examples that we'll be referring to in class discussions (and perhaps even exams) throughout the semester. In fact, you might view the rest of the semester as an exploration of how these applications work, how they're developed, what network infrastructure lies behind them, how people make money from them, and how they affect society.

Create a Web Page

If you haven't created web pages before, create one now. If you don't know HTML, you may want to just create a document in MS Word and use the "save as HTML" option. Click here for instructions on making a web page visible through the SI web server.

Read about the MPathways ERP project

Explore a Web-accessible database: the UM SI course catalog

If you're not an SI student, and haven't seen the SI course catalog, do a little exploration. We'll explore more about how this is implemented in the class session on databases and markup languages.

Edit a record in a Web-accessible database

Fill in the information about you in the on-line class photo directory, including the URL for a web page that you've created. Click here to go to the directory. You'll need to enter a username and password that I'll be giving out in class and emailing to the class list, so that your photos and personal information won't be visible to people who are not in the class. Then click through until you find your photo, and edit the text that goes with it.  (If you weren't in class the first day, or if we missed you during the photo session, please add a new record for yourself-- we'll add the picture later).

Sign up for the Class WebBoard

In class, Junho will collect your email addresses and use them to give you access to the class WebBoard, http://www.communitytechnology.org:8080/~si540_F99. You should receive an email once your access has been established, and your initial password should be your uniqname. If you previously had a WebBoard account, you will first need to visit the class board in order to let the software know that you're interested in the class, and then send Junho an email (junsong@umich.edu) so that he can give you permission to actually see the stuff that's there. If you forget your password, contact Vlad Wielbut (wlodek@umich.edu) to get your password reset.

Once you're connected:

ICQ (Do this with a partner)

If you don't already have ICQ installed, install it. In the DIAD lab, open the Novell-delivered Applications folder on the desktop, go to Michigan, and then Applications. Double-click on the ICQ icon. That should install it. If it doesn't work, send email to si.computing@umich.edu. For your home use, you may want to download it from the net. Try looking on Yahoo to find a copy.
  1. Once you and your partner have signed up, try adding each other to your contact lists
  2. Change your availability to status and see how it is reflected on your partner's contact list
  3. Send messages and start chat sessions with your partner. What happens if you try to send a message when your partner is unavailable or not logged in.

Version Control (Do this with a partner)

On software projects with many programmers, they often use a software package to keep track of all the versions. This helps in several ways:

Revision control with QVCS

In this exercise, you'll explore a simple version control system called QVCS. Click here to download the software. Doublic-click on it and extract all the files into a public directory in your personal filespace so that you and your partner will have it available on any machine you log into. You'll be able to use the software for 60 days without paying for it. Click here for a diagram that may be helpful in conceptualizing how we're suggesting that you use QVCS.

Some questions:

  1. What's the difference between "get" and "check out"? (Hint: what happens when your partner tries to "get" or "check out" a file when you have previously done a "get" or a "check out"?)
  2. Are there any drawbacks of using a tool like this?
  3. What additional features would you like to see in a tool like this? (Don't worry about whether this particular progrm already has these features or not.)
  4. Suppose you were thinking about buying a revision control tool. Find the URL for a page that would provide further information. Tell me what URL you found. How did you find it?

Revision control with MS Word

MS Word also has some built-in revision control features that are especially tailored to word processing documents. Open a document in Microsoft Word. On the Tools menu, choose "Track changes; Highlight changes", then click the box to start tracking changes while editing. Now make some changes to the document and see how the highlighting works. Finally, from the Tools menu, choose "Track changes; Accept or reject changes" and see how someone else could accept or reject each of the edits that you made.

Real-time application sharing with NetMeeting

First, you'll need to install NetMeeting on your machine. In the DIAD lab, open the SI Applications folder on the desktop, go to Michigan, and then Applications. Double-click on the NetMeeting icon. Outside the DIAD lab, you're on your own for this, but you can download it for free from Microsoft's web site.

You'll want to log in to the server ils.si.umich.edu (or it may be called johnfrank.si.umich.edu). If you're in the DIAD lab, this should happen automatically.

If your partner is also logged in, his/her name should appear. You can double-click on it to initiate a call. Once you've initiated a call, you can send messages and chat with your partner. If you have several people handy, you might want to host a "meeting" that they all connect to.

Select from the menu Tools; sharing. Now you'll have the option of selecting any of the applications you have running to be shared with the other person on your "call." Experiment with the various options for allowing others to take control of your shared programs. Which settings for allowing others to take control of shared programs are best in which situations?


Visit the amazon.com web site.


Visit the eBay auction web site. Is there anything for sale that you'd like to buy? Did you get any ideas about something you'd like to sell?

Imagining Application Possibilities

Suppose that you have taken on the role of information systems planner for GEO, the union that represents the University of Michigan graduate student instructors.

Prepare a one page memo describing at least three networked computing applications that you think would be useful during the course of a labor strike (this almost happened in winter 1999 when contract negotiations were stalled). Assume that the audience for this memo is the officers of the union.
Note: in this context, an "application" is not a software package (e.g., Microsoft Excel) but rather a pattern of use of software by one or more people to perform some function (e.g., budget tracking).

You may find inspiration from one of the frameworks for classifying applications from the textbook or from the Olsons' article. If you're not familiar with what happens in a strike, some of the activities include preparing and reviewing contract proposals, maintaining the visibility of the strike in the public eye, and convincing union members and others to continue participating. Here are some general resources about labor strikes that I found on the web (the IPL was a better source than Yahoo!):

Explanation exercise

(Find someone who is not taking this class, and who knows less about computers than you do. It could be a fellow SI student, or a roommate or a friend or relative). Explain to this person what ICQ is and how it compares to email as a messaging medium. In your homework writeup, say who received your explanation, and include a few sentences about what made it easy or hard to do the explanation.

Checklist of What You'll Be Graded on

  1. Pick a study group of 4 to 8 people, and send email to junsong@umich.edu saying who is in your group.
  2. Send an email to presnick@umich.edu and junsong@umich.edu with a question or comment about the readings, before midnight on Sunday, Sept. 26. IMPORTANT: The subject line should be: "[540] comments".
  3. Enter your information, including a URL for a Web page you created in the course photo directory.
  4. Log on to the WebBoard
  5. Answer the questions about QVCS
  6. Which settings for allowing others to take control of shared programs in NetMeeting are best in which situations?
  7. Answer the questions about Amazon
  8. Answer the questions about eBay's feedback system
  9. One-page memo about application possibilities
  10. Explanation exercise