Dialogue Design Commentary

Action Research Intentions

We have implemented two variations of the Dialogue software for the CIP in order to explore two issues regarding the appropriate groupware support for on-line Dialogue. We want to:
Everyone in the CIP has been added to both a Streaming and a Branching group. Groups are roughly equivalent in terms of intention to participate, level of current CIP activity, and experience with Dialogue. Both variations provide a choice between Scrolling and Summary Views of the flow of Dialogue (see below).

View/Outline Formats

There are two kinds of view/list/outline formats: Streaming and Branching.

Streaming follows one single stream, flow, or conversational thread at a time. All new items go at the end of stream. The software is designed to focus energy and attention into single stream or thread. We expect it will be easier to discover shared meaning and feel connected with others in this format.

Branching follows multiple flows and branches into conversational threads where related items are linked (and appear indented underneath) in the outline. The software is designed to allow branching while reminding you to be conscious of what you are doing and where you are linking your item. We expect it will take more discipline, practice, and intention to discover shared meaning and connection with others in this format.

These are two very similar applications. The differences between them are:
Item Formats

There are two kinds of items, Thinking/Feeling and Listening. The latter encourages you to indicate your silent listening presence in the Dialogue.

We call these documents "items" instead of "responses" to shift your thinking away from responding to someone directly, rather than speaking into the collective.

There are no buttons on the forms to create "response" documents. This discourages cross talk which is exclusionary in Dialogue and turns the group into a spectator of one-on-one conversations. You must be in a view where you can see more of the whole Dialogue in order to create a new Thinking/Feeling or Listening item.
Flow/Network of Items

There are two view formats (Scrolling and Summary) for representing the pattern of the flow of Dialogue. The Member Activity view shows which view each member used last. The software remembers the chosen view and opens to that the next time.
Note: This text is not encrypted like the rest of the body text in the CIP because Notes cannot display encrypted text in a view.

Mark Read

The Mark Read button allows you to read through the flow of Dialogue without having to select individual items or open them to read the text. In the Scrolling View, you can select the first unread item and then click the Mark Read button to mark it and automatically move down to the next one.

Group Membership Display

On the way into Dialogue, there is a display of the list of members who have actually joined the small group so it's clear who is there and who is not, unlike the Council Circles where empty seats made it feel like people were missing.

Facilitator Agents

There are software agents which act on behalf of the facilitators, providing various messages and asking questions:
Further Support for the Practice of Dialogue

On the Thinking/Feeling and Listening items, there are one-line reminders ("Consider: ") displayed at the top with questions or statements that reinforce ways of thinking and being in Dialogue. These are randomly selected and so appear differently each time the item is displayed. They are like posters on the wall of a Dialogue room.

In edit mode, there are brief multi-line suggestions displayed at the bottom of Thinking/Feeling items. These are more behavioral than the reminders, such as the suggestion to acknowledge another's contribution indirectly rather than engaging in individual cross talk. The suggestions are also randomly selected.


We have invited several active participants with experience in face-to-face and/or on-line Dialogue to act as resource people in the Dialogue groups. While all accepted our invitation to be present, they also expressed a strong preference not to be identified as "facilitators" or "experts" since a core challenge in learning Dialogue is for everyone to accept shared responsibility for the practice.

From the 1996 Awakening Technology Community of Inquiry and Practice (CIP)
Content and Groupware Design 1996 Awakening Technology.

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From www.awakentech.com on 03/03/2024 ---- item last modified on 05/31/1997.