News Column

"Systems, Methods and Tools for Facilitating Group Collaborations" in Patent Application Approval Process

July 8, 2014



By a News Reporter-Staff News Editor at Information Technology Newsweekly -- A patent application by the inventors Greenberg, Mark (Toronto, CA); Gryc, Wojciech (Toronto, CA); Picard, Nicolas (Philadelphia, PA); Sekhar, Vivek (San Francisco, CA), filed on February 24, 2014, was made available online on June 26, 2014, according to news reporting originating from Washington, D.C., by VerticalNews correspondents.

This patent application is assigned to International Business Machines Corporation.

The following quote was obtained by the news editors from the background information supplied by the inventors: "The present invention relates to systems, methods and tools for facilitating group collaborations.

"Technology-assisted group collaborations are now commonplace: many types of tools have been created to support and to expand upon the scope of what can be accomplished between geographically dispersed participants. Some of these tools include, for example, Internet Relay Chat (IRC), message boards, online polls, and collaborative document creation and review. While these tools may represent advances over what existed before, they may nevertheless exhibit certain limitations when used in collaborative efforts involving a large number of people. Improved systems, methods and tools for facilitating group collaborations are needed."

In addition to the background information obtained for this patent application, VerticalNews journalists also obtained the inventors' summary information for this patent application: "The present invention relates to systems, method and tools for facilitating group collaborations.

"Collaborative ideas collected from a group are organized into an extendable hierarchical data structure. In a preferred embodiment, collaborative ideas are represented in a modified tree data structure in which ideas are stored in nodes of the tree (an 'idea tree'). Each node may be associated with data storage means, such as a table of records, in which different kinds of data can be stored. Data stored in the idea tree, or a part thereof, may be created, modified, deleted or organized by using various types of collaboration tools. A participant's interaction with the idea tree, or a part thereof, using a particular collaboration tool may be mapped as a transformation of the idea tree from one state to another. Other participants may simultaneously or successively interact with the idea tree, or a part thereof, using the same or a different collaboration tool. A coherent representation of collaborative ideas can be developed and organized without excessive manual effort.

"In an aspect of the invention, there is provided a data processing system implemented method of facilitating group collaborations on a project by a plurality of participants, comprising: providing an extendable hierarchical data structure, the hierarchical data structure including data storage means for storing a plurality of data items submitted by the participants; providing a collaboration tool for use by the participants to work with the hierarchical data structure, the collaboration tool being configured to logically link to a defined workspace on the hierarchical data structure in which the tool is to be used, the collaboration tool being further configured to work with data items in the workspace associated with the collaboration tool.

"In an embodiment, the method further comprises: providing a tree data structure as the hierarchical data structure, the tree data structure having a root node and one or more sub-nodes branching from the root node, each node being associated with a data storage means configured to store a plurality of heterogeneous data items; and logically linking a collaboration tool to a link node in the tree data structure, the link node and any sub-nodes defining the workspace on the tree data structure for the collaboration tool.

"In another embodiment, the method further comprises logically linking multiple collaboration tools to different link nodes of the tree data structure to define multiple workspaces, whereby participants may work on different parts of the tree data structure simultaneously.

"In another embodiment, the method further comprises successively logically linking different collaboration tools to link nodes of the tree data structure, whereby the resulting workflow simulates a group collaboration process involving a sequential progression.

"In yet another embodiment, the method further comprises saving the state of the tree data structure after each transformation of the tree data structure applied by a collaboration tool, whereby a previous state of the tree data structure may be recovered.

"In still another embodiment, the method further comprises configuring a collaboration tool to utilize the output of another collaboration tool, the output of each collaboration tool being reflected as a transformation of the tree data structure.

"In another embodiment, the method further comprises providing a collaboration tool for linking to a link node of the tree data structure, and collecting a plurality of homogeneous data items from the defined workspace.

"In another embodiment, the plurality of homogeneous data items comprise text associated with the workspace and submitted by the participants, and the method further comprises forming a document from the collected text.

"In another embodiment, the method further comprises modifying the document formed from the collected text, and amending the corresponding data items in the tree data structure to correspond to the modified document.

"In still another embodiment, the plurality of homogeneous data items comprise images associated with the workspace and submitted by the participants, and the method further comprises forming a slideshow of the collected images.

"In another aspect of the invention, there is provided a data processing system for facilitating group collaborations on a project by a plurality of participants, comprising: means for providing an extendable hierarchical data structure, the hierarchical data structure including data storage means for storing a plurality of data items submitted by the participants; and means for providing a collaboration tool for use by the participants to work with the hierarchical data structure, the collaboration tool being configured to logically link to a defined workspace on the hierarchical data structure in which the tool is to be used, the collaboration tool being further configured to work with data items in the workspace associated with the collaboration tool.

"In an embodiment, the hierarchical data structure is a tree data structure, the tree data structure having a root node and one or more sub-nodes branching from the root node, each node being associated with a data storage means configured to store a plurality of heterogeneous data items; and the data processing system further includes means for logically linking a collaboration tool to a link node in the tree data structure, the link node and any sub-nodes defining the workspace on the tree data structure for the collaboration tool.

"In another embodiment, the system further comprises means for logically linking multiple collaboration tools to different link nodes of the tree data structure to define multiple workspaces, whereby participants may work on different parts of the tree data structure simultaneously.

"In another embodiment, the system further comprises means for successively logically linking different collaboration tools to link nodes of the tree data structure, whereby the resulting workflow simulates a group collaboration process involving a sequential progression.

"In another embodiment, the system further comprises means for saving the state of the tree data structure after each transformation of the tree data structure applied by a collaboration tool, whereby a previous state of the tree data structure may be recovered.

"In yet another embodiment, the system further comprises means for configuring a collaboration tool to utilize the output of another collaboration tool, the output of each collaboration tool being reflected as a transformation of the tree data structure.

"In another embodiment, the system further comprises means for providing a collaboration tool for linking to a link node of the tree data structure, and collecting a plurality of homogeneous data items from the defined workspace.

"In still another embodiment, the plurality of homogeneous data items comprise text associated with the workspace and submitted by the participants, and the data processing system further includes means for forming a document from the collected text.

"In another embodiment, the system further comprises means for modifying the document formed from the collected text, and amending the corresponding data items in the tree data structure to correspond to the modified document.

"In another embodiment, the plurality of homogeneous data items comprise images associated with the workspace and submitted by the participants, and the data processing system further includes means for forming a slideshow of the collected images.

"In another aspect of the invention, there is provided a data processor readable medium storing data processor code that, when loaded into a data processing device, adapts the device to facilitate group collaborations on a project, the data processor readable medium including: code for providing an extendable hierarchical data structure, the hierarchical data structure including data storage means for storing a plurality of data items submitted by the participants; and code for providing a collaboration tool for use by the participants to work with the hierarchical data structure, the collaboration tool being configured to logically link to a defined workspace on the hierarchical data structure in which the tool is to be used, the collaboration tool being further configured to work with data items in the workspace associated with the collaboration tool.

"In another embodiment, the data processor readable medium further includes: code for defining the hierarchical data structure as a tree data structure, the tree data structure having a root node and one or more sub-nodes branching from the root node, each node being associated with a data storage means configured to store a plurality of heterogeneous data items; and code for logically linking a collaboration tool to a link node in the tree data structure, the link node and any sub-nodes defining the workspace on the tree data structure for the collaboration tool.

"In another embodiment, the data processor readable medium further includes code for logically linking multiple collaboration tools to different link nodes of the tree data structure to define multiple workspaces, whereby participants may work on different parts of the tree data structure simultaneously.

"In another embodiment, the data processor readable medium further includes code for successively logically linking different collaboration tools to link nodes of the tree data structure, whereby the resulting workflow simulates a group collaboration process involving a sequential progression.

"In another embodiment, the data processor readable medium further includes code for saving the state of the tree data structure after each transformation of the tree data structure applied by a collaboration tool, whereby a previous state of the tree data structure may be recovered.

"In another embodiment, the data processor readable medium further includes code for configuring a collaboration tool to utilize the output of another collaboration tool, the output of each collaboration tool being reflected as a transformation of the tree data structure.

"In another embodiment, the data processor readable medium further includes code for providing a collaboration tool for linking to a link node of the tree data structure, and collecting a plurality of homogeneous data items from the defined workspace.

"In yet another embodiment, the plurality of homogeneous data items comprise text associated with the workspace and submitted by the participants, and the data processor readable medium further includes code for forming a document from the collected text.

"In another embodiment, the data processor readable medium further includes code for modifying the document formed from the collected text, and amending the corresponding data items in the tree data structure to correspond to the modified document.

"In still another embodiment, the plurality of homogeneous data items comprise images associated with the workspace and submitted by the participants, and the data processor readable medium further includes code for forming a slideshow of the collected images.

"These and other aspects of the invention will become apparent from the following more particular descriptions of exemplary embodiments.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

"In the figures which illustrate exemplary embodiments of the invention:

"FIG. 1 shows a generic data processing system that may provide a suitable operating environment.

"FIG. 2A and FIG. 2B show an illustrative framework for policy development.

"FIG. 3A and FIG. 3B show illustrative schematic views of an idea tree.

"FIG. 3C shows an illustrative data schema for the idea tree of FIG. 3A and FIG. 3B.

"FIG. 4A shows an illustrative screen capture of a brainstorm chat tool.

"FIG. 4B shows an illustrative screen capture of a categorizer tool.

"FIG. 4C shows an illustrative screen capture of a collaborative document editing tool.

"FIG. 4D shows an illustrative screen capture of a real-time collaborative document editing tool.

"FIG. 4E shows an illustrative screen capture of a document commenting tool.

"FIG. 4F shows an illustrative screen capture of a ranking tool.

"FIG. 4G shows an illustrative screen capture of a solution matrix tool.

"FIG. 5 shows a schematic diagram of an illustrative IT architecture for the tools.

"FIG. 6 shows a schematic diagram of an illustrative communication flow between some components of the IT architecture of FIG. 5."

URL and more information on this patent application, see: Greenberg, Mark; Gryc, Wojciech; Picard, Nicolas; Sekhar, Vivek. Systems, Methods and Tools for Facilitating Group Collaborations. Filed February 24, 2014 and posted June 26, 2014. Patent URL: http://appft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PTO2&Sect2=HITOFF&u=%2Fnetahtml%2FPTO%2Fsearch-adv.html&r=1012&p=21&f=G&l=50&d=PG01&S1=20140619.PD.&OS=PD/20140619&RS=PD/20140619

Keywords for this news article include: Information Technology, Information and Data Storage, Information and Data Processing, Information and Data Architecture, International Business Machines Corporation.

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Source: Information Technology Newsweekly


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