IdeaTracker: An Interactive Visualization Supporting Collaboration and Consensus Building in Online Interface Design Discussions

  • Roshanak Zilouchian Moghaddam
  • Brian P. Bailey
  • Christina Poon
Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNCS, volume 6946)


With the rapid growth of open source and other geographically distributed software projects, more interface design discussions are occurring online. Participation in such discussions typically occurs via issue management systems or similar interactive discussion forums. While such systems have a low learning curve, they do not support key elements of design discussion such as comparing alternatives, maintaining awareness of the arguments for and against the alternatives, or building consensus. To better understand these and other challenges, we conducted a study of online interface design discussion. The study consisted of analyzing a large corpus of online discussion content and conducting interviews with designer and developer participants. We discuss the findings of our study and use them to motivate the implementation of an interactive visualization tool - IdeaTracker. The tool offers explicit support for tracking and comparing ideas and gaining an abstract summary of the overall discussion as well as specific alternatives. It also provides a voting system to support consensus building. The tool extracts and visualizes useful information from the discussions that would otherwise be hidden but without interfering with the current method of participation. Our tool is compatible with the issue management system of one open source project but can be extended for others. Initial user feedback is positive and confirms the need for an alternative visual representation of interface design discussions online.


Design open source software user interface visualization 


  1. 1.
  2. 2.
  3. 3.
  4. 4.
    Arias, E., et al.: Transcending the individual human mind - creating shared understanding through collaborative design. ACM TOCHI 7(1), 84–113Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Bach, P.M., DeLine, R., Carroll, J.M.: Designers wanted: participation and the user experience in open source software development. In: Proc. ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, pp. 985–994 (2009)Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Baddeley, A.D.: Working memory. Science 255, 556–559 (1992)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Barcellini, F., et al.: A Study of Online Discussions in an Open-Source Software Community. In: Besselaar, P., et al. (eds.) Communities and Technologies 2005, pp. 301–320. Springer, Netherlands (2005)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    Benson, C., Muller-Prove, M., Mzourek, J.: Professional usability in open source projects: GNOME,, NetBeans. In: CHI 2004 Extended Abstracts on Human Factors in Computing Systems, pp. 1083–1084 (2004)Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Brown, D., Chandrasekaran, B.: Design problemsolving: Knowledge structures and control strategies. Morgan Kaufmann, San Francisco (1989)Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Deshpande, A., Riehle, D.: The Total Growth of Open Source. In: Russo, B., et al. (eds.) Open Source Development, Communities and Quality, pp. 197–209. Springer, Boston (2008)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Everitt, K.M., et al.: Two worlds apart: bridging the gap between physical and virtual media for distributed design collaboration. In: Proceedings of the ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, pp. 553–560 (2003)Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Faridani, S., et al.: Opinion space: a scalable tool for browsing online comments. In: Proceedings of the ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, pp. 1175–1184 (2010)Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Frishberg, N., et al.: Getting to know you: open source development meets usability. In: CHI 2002 Extended Abstracts on Human Factors in Computing Systems, pp. 932–933 (2002)Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Janssen, J., et al.: Online visualization of agreement and discussion during computer-supported collaborative learning. In: Proc. Conference on Computer Supported Collaborative Learning, pp. 314–316 (2007)Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    Liapis, A.: Synergy: a prototype collaborative environment to support the conceptual stages of the design process. In: Proc. International Conference on Digital Interactive Media in Entertainment and Arts, pp. 149–156 (2008)Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    Muller-Prove, M.: Community experience at Interactions 14(6), 47–48 (2007)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    Muller, M.J.: Retrospective on a year of participatory design using the PICTIVE technique. In: Proceedings of the ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, pp. 455–462 (1992)Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    Myers, B.A., Rosson, M.B.: Survey on user interface programming. In: Proc. ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, pp. 195–202 (1992)Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    Nicholas, D.M., Twidale, M.B.: The usability of open source software. First Monday 8(1) (2003) Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    Nicholas, D.M., Twidale, M.B.: Usability processes in open source projects. Software Process: Improvement and Practice 11(2) (2006) Google Scholar
  21. 21.
    Olson, G.M., et al.: Small group design meetings: an analysis of collaboration. Hum.-Comput. Interact. 7(4), 347–374 (1992)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. 22.
    Sack, W.: Conversation map: a content-based Usenet newsgroup browser. In: Proc. ACM Conference on Intelligent User Interfaces, pp. 233–240 (2000) Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    Terry, M., Kay, M., Lafreniere, B.: Perceptions and practices of usability in the free/open source software (FoSS) community. In: Proc. ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, pp. 999–1008 (2010)Google Scholar
  24. 24.
    Thomas, M.P.: Why Free Software has poor usability, and how to improve it (2008),
  25. 25.
    Twidale, M.B., Nichols, D.M.: Exploring Usability Discussions in Open Source Development. In: Proceedings Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences, January 3-6, vol. 07, p. 198. IEEE Computer Society, Los Alamitos (2005)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. 26.
    Vora, P., Helander, M.: Areviewof designmodels and a proposal for a taxonomy of design. In: Helander, M., Nagamachi, M. (eds.) Design for Manufacturability: A Systems Approach to Concurrent Engineering and Ergonomics, pp. 78–90 (1992)Google Scholar
  27. 27.
    Zilouchian Moghaddam, R., Twidale, M., Bongen, K.: Open Source Interface Politics: Identity, acceptance, trust, and lobbying. In: CHI 2011 Extended Abstracts on Human Factors in Computing Systems (2011)Google Scholar

Copyright information

© IFIP International Federation for Information Processing 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Roshanak Zilouchian Moghaddam
    • 1
  • Brian P. Bailey
    • 1
  • Christina Poon
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Computer ScienceUniversity of IllinoisUSA

Personalised recommendations