Master thesis – Typical use case

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Because of the specifics of the brainstorming activities, there are two sets of features that must or can be implemented: the first ones which regulate the brainstorming activity as a set of rules; the second ones add productivity to the process, enabling additional scenarios that improve the user experience. In the first phase of requirements elicitation for such a system, the Microsoft Surface was chosen as a direct, face to face collaboration. For enabling the sharing of Brainstorming session, BSCW system was chosen as it enables shared workspace paradigm, allowing easier collaboration and cooperation among users with common interests.

Detailed usages of typical brainstorming and idea generation tools were presented in Related work. What all this papers have in common are few scenarios which are very important for the idea generation process:

  • Creation of ideas and inserting them into the system (e.g. Creating text items with brainstormed ideas)
  • Editing (e.g. Correcting, improving and augment with graphical elements the already existing items)
  • Grouping through visual clues (e.g. creating logically grouping structures with the aid of  visual elements)
  • Relating (e.g. creating a tree-like relation that gives a structured form to the ideas generated through the process towards a specific goal)

A typical user scenario is presented to clarify the use and features provided by the system.

Anton, Kai and Vladimir are three students developing applications in Fraunhofer FIT under the supervision of a research assistant, Greg. They set up a meeting in the User Experience lab, where the Microsoft Surface is, and set as their goal to create a new system for helping people with Alzheimer.

Because Greg is the coordinator of the brainstorming session, he uses its card to login into his BSCW system which will be later used as a repository and central sharing hub for the outcome of this session. Then he inputs the text “Alzheimer project” into the central control on the application, allowing all of them to keep focus on their goal. They start adding to the Surface the ideas that they have, as the brainstorming process is about quantity. When they feel that a small dose of inspiration is required, they use the application’s feature of searching in Twitter or Flickr for fresh ideas or hints. Since they work on the same device, the awareness of each one presence is complete, conversations start over some interesting features, raising more and more ideas for their project.

After the main part of the brainstorming is finished and all ideas are inputed on Microsoft Surface application, the next phase starts – reviewing their ideas and correct the small mistakes that they made in typing. Anton also quickly adds some more visual hints to ideas, like arrows pointing to the text or underlines some important keywords. Kai enjoys the dictation feature of the application to quickly add some more information to some ideas that he feels that aren’t very well explained.

With all ideas correct and complete, they go into the next phase of requirements elicitation for their application start grouping them into functional and non-functional features for their system, using the background colors to create visual hints. This enables them to have a quick overview on the ideas they gathered and relate them to a specific part of their software planning.

The nest step in the process is to link the ideas into a tree like structure, as all good software developers do, identifying the dependencies between the ideas. This will prove useful later, when they will create the necessary UML diagrams for the software.

Since they will go afterwards to their own workstations and they need to review and create the appropriate documents for their project, Greg uses the saving feature of the application, which will create a folder in his Workspace on the BSCW system. In it he will later find a screenshot of the application’s screen to have a quick visual of the session, the entire session metadata saved as XML for later use in other applications and a collection of all ideas saved as HTML documents.

Because all work needs to be shared and the session repository is on the BSCW system, Greg can share his session with his colleagues by inviting them to the session directory. Thus, not only that all of them will have access to the session, but they can choose later to present the outcome of their work to their Professor, by using the Load session capability of the Microsoft Surface application.

An additional scenario can be used with this application, if there is time for Brainstorming session preparation:

If they have time to prepare for the meeting, some rough ideas may have been conceived before and they want to share with each other. Because using the Microsoft Surface is not possible with prior reservation, they may use the additional clients of the system to record their initial ideas: Adobe Air application (available for Windows, Linux and Apple) and an iPad and iPhone client for the mobile devices. Anton and Vladimir use the Adobe Air client to quickly create and send their ideas to the Surface default user, where the brainstorming items will be recorded and made available in the next Brainstorming session. Kai uses its iPhone to do the same, as he gets its best ideas while commuting. 

Next let’s see how the requirements look like!