Active Mail: An Architecture for Groupware

Ehud Shapiro, Weizmann Institute

Seminar on People, Computers, and Design
Stanford University October 28, 1992


Most existing groupware products are either too passive or very intrusive. They either passively wait for user action or actively interfere with normal workstation activity by intruding on the user's screen; they are one-sided push or pull mechanisms.

The Active Mail architecture obviates the dilemma with a protocol that enables a groupware application to involve a new user in a way which is non-intrusive, tolerates delayed response, and requires little effort on the user's part.

Active Mail uses ordinary electronic mail to establish direct (not electronic-mail-based) interactive connections between users and groupware applications. Active Mail piggybacks on ordinary electronic mail, thus retaining all the features that have made it so successful.

Groupware applications already realized within the Active Mail framework include a text conversation tool, a collaborative writing facility with a floor passing protocol and revision control management, an interactive meeting scheduler, and some distributed multi-participant interactive games.

In this talk we describe the Active Mail architecture, present some of its applications, and discuss our preliminary experience with it.

Joint work with Yaron Goldberg, Marilyn Safran, and Bill Silverman.


Ehud Shapiro is an Associate Professor in the Department of Applied Mathematics and Computer Science at the Weizmann Institute of Science, where he leads a research project in concurrent logic programming and its application to distributed computing and computer-supported cooperative work.

Ehud Shapiro got his B.Sc. in Mathematics and Philosophy from Tel-Aviv University in 1979 and his Ph.D. in Computer Science from Yale University in 1982. He is the author of ``Algorithmic Program Debugging" (MIT Press, 1982), co-author, with Leon Sterling, of ``The Art of Prolog" (MIT Press, 1986), and editor of the MIT Press Series in Logic Programming.


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