It's all in the words: Supporting work activities with lightweight tools.


The development of tools to support synchronous communications between non-collocated colleagues has received considerable attention in recent years. Much of the work has focused on increasing a sense of co-presence between interlocutors by supporting aspects of face-to-face conversations that go beyond mere words (e.g. gaze, postural shifts). In this regard, a design goal for many environments is the provision of as much media-richness as possible to support non-collocated communication. In this paper we present results from our most recent interviews studying the use of a text-based virtual environment to support work collaborations. We describe how such an environment, though lacking almost all the visual and auditory cues known to be important in face-to-face conversation, has played an important role in day-to-day communication. We offer a set of characteristics we feel are important to the success of this text-only tool and discuss issues emerging from its long-term use.