Data entry is the linchpin of
every information system. It’s obvious that to reap the
benefits of an accounting package or a human resources package, you
have to pump in all the required data in the required formats. With
groupware, it’s not so obvious what these required formats
should be. The messaging tools at the heart of groupware do impose
minimum requirements. You can’t send an email message (or post
a newsgroup message) that doesn’t have
Subject: headers. These fields alone enable an
important class of applications—the email, listserv, and
newsgroup archives that collectively form a vast fund of
The next step, though, is a big one. None of the standard email headers will tag a message as a status report or as a status report for project XYZ. Classifying messages in these ways would be a great benefit. Web docbases such as the one we’ve seen in this chapter occupy a middle ground between email and databases. They’re semistructured like email but extensible like databases.
Since email dominates the groupware landscape, the push/pull mechanism I’ve shown here is a useful way to recruit people to build a web docbase. If I mail you a link to a form generator, you’re much likelier to use that form than if I tell you to find the form’s URL yourself on the intranet site. Do whatever you can to make docbase input frictionless for your users. But capture as much structure as you can. Every piece of regular ...