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Proposal to the Colorado Advanced Software Institute (CASI)

FY-2001 Technology Transfer Grant Program



Project Title:                    “POW! Perspectives On the Web”

Project Duration:              One Year

Amount Requested:         $40,000

Participating University:   University of Colorado at Boulder

University Department:    Department of Computer Science

Faculty Member:              Dr. Gerry Stahl

                                        Research Professor

                                        Department of Computer Science – CB 430

                                        University of Colorado at Boulder

                                        Boulder, CO 80309-0430

                                        (303) 492 3912


Business Representative:  William Blackburn


                                        Athenaeum International

                                        4450 Arapahoe, Suite 100

                                        Boulder, CO 80303

                                        (303) 415 2092




The asynchronous management and negotiation of knowledge in shared collaboration spaces should be supported by software that keeps track of personal, group and comparison perspectives. The POW! Project will produce a Java server to facilitate quick development of Web-based client software incorporating perspectives to support collaboration in educational and corporate settings. The POW! Project will release the Java server on the Web with an appropriate license. It will have a clear API, XML data exchange and sample code for educational clients in Java, HTML and Perl. The Project will also develop requirements for corporate applications in management and training.

“POW! Perspectives On the Web”

Problem, Background and Opportunity

We are speeding toward a society in which people are networked together to share information and to learn and work collaboratively. The hardware infrastructure is developing rapidly, with Colorado in the communications forefront. Technologies for simple exchange of information – like email and audio/video/textual conferencing – are being widely adopted. However, software support for the collaborative construction of deeper knowledge remains an open research issue.

Teamwork, flexibility and collaboration are becoming the mode of operation for modern companies, whose employees may be geographically dispersed. Companies must make complex decisions that synthesize the expertise of many employees; they must become “learning organizations” that share effective, evolving “organizational memories.” Imagine a corporate reengineering workshop in which people from throughout an organization gather (physically and/or virtually) to set a new strategic direction: how could software support this process by facilitating the construction, sharing and synthesis of different perspectives on the problem? The design of such software goes far beyond what is available today and involves consideration of both technical and social issues.

If we can develop sophisticated conferencing software for Colorado companies to meet their own organizational learning and decision-making needs and to provide training for other corporations, then we will complement Colorado’s strengths in the hardware and communications sectors and move into a leadership position in educational and groupware research.


The PI has developed a research prototype named WebGuide designed to support deep knowledge construction by collaborative groups over the Web. Testing in classroom situations has suggested several tasks needed to make this software practical for transfer to industry:

(a)    to increase WebGuide's speed and flexible further development or application.

(b)    to explore its use in corporate settings of management and training.

(c)    to make it available to other researchers to collaborate on further development and assessment.

(d)    to allow for free development of alternative interfaces for different applications.

To accomplish these tasks, the POW! Project has the following objectives:

(a)    to separate WebGuide into: (i) a perspectives server that carries out the intensive computation of perspectives and sends requested data in XML format to (ii) light-weight clients.

(b)    to study application of WebGuide in corporate decision-making and corporate training situations.

(c)    to release the POW! perspectives server as Open Source Software (OSS) under a license acceptable to the University and the Collaborating Company in order to encourage use of the server by other researchers.

(d)    to develop and document sample light-weight clients for educational applications using Java, HTML and Perl technologies to demonstrate how Colorado corporations can quickly develop proprietary clients for corporate applications using the POW! perspectives server.

Accordingly, the POW! Project has the following milestones and deliverables:

(a)    by 1st quarter of grant: to create a POW! perspectives server in Java with a clear API and with XML data exchange to Java, HTML and Perl clients. Optimize, modularize and document the server code and API.

(b)    by 2nd quarter of grant: to negotiate an OSS license with the University and the Collaborating Company and to release the POW! server under this license on a website with appropriate documentation to support collaborative development of the software.

(c)    by 3rd quarter of grant: to develop and document on the website sample clients for the POW! server illustrating client development using alternative technologies.

(d)    by 4th quarter of grant: to study applications of the software within the collaborating company and at its corporate training sessions, resulting in requirements for client applications in these settings.

Potential for Broad-based Technology Transfer

Over the past decade the PI has developed a perspectives mechanism to support collaborative knowledge-building. He has applied this technology to a number of applications and this work has been widely accepted in the peer-review research community. The WebGuide prototype to be used in the POW! Project implements the perspectives mechanism on the Web and has been assessed in educational contexts.

The Collaborating Company, Athenaeum International, is part of a national network of corporate trainers, MG Taylor, that has extensive experience conducting workshops and design sessions for Fortune 500 companies and other major clients. They use a successful training methodology and are interested in incorporating computer support into their approach.

The POW! Project will synthesize the expertise of both participants through joint planning of software for corporate applications. This will include attendance of the PI and graduate student at various corporate meetings and events; involvement of both sides in collaborative requirements planning for software; and joint assessment of the software in corporate settings.

The POW! Project will significantly further the development of the perspectives-based software for both educational and corporate applications. The server and the sample educational clients will be available under license for companies throughout Colorado and for university researchers to use. All corporate client software developed within the POW! Project will be available under the standard CASI conditions and licensing options.


The POW! Project builds upon successful research by the PI in the past to develop effective support for collaboration in corporate settings. The key innovative technology, a flexible perspectives mechanism was originally developed in 1991-1993 under CASI support and was subsequently used in NASA applications by Johnson Engineering. More recently, it has been implemented on the Web and tested in educational settings. In the POW! Project, it will be re-implemented in an architecture that will facilitate its deployment in corporate settings.

Past Work by PI:

As a graduate student working with Professor Raymond McCall, the PI developed a “perspectives mechanism” within the Phidias hypermedia system (Stahl, 1991; Stahl, 1992; Stahl et al., 1992) . This work was supported by CASI grants in 1991, 1992, 1993 – earning CASI’s exemplary Research Award in 1993. The perspectives mechanism was a central part of the PI’s Ph.D. dissertation (Stahl, 1993a; Stahl, 1993b; Stahl et al., 1993a; Stahl et al., 1993b) . Since then, the PI adapted the perspectives mechanism to several different application areas, including Hermes 2.0© and a system for ISO 9000 documentation which the PI developed within his own company (Stahl, 1995; Stahl, 1996; Stahl et al., 1995a; Stahl et al., 1995b) . Most recently, the PI developed WebGuide, a Web-based hypermedia educational environment to support collaborative classroom learning, and tested it in both middle school and graduate level classrooms (Stahl, 1999a; Stahl, 1999b; Stahl, 1999c; Stahl & Herrmann, 1999; Stahl et al., 1999) . The PI developed a theoretical framework for perspectives and collaboration in his doctoral dissertation and in recent publications (Stahl, 1993a; Stahl, 1999d; Stahl, 2000) .

The PI is currently a Research Professor in Computer Science and Cognitive Science and a faculty member of the Center for LifeLong Learning and Design at CU. He has published widely on knowledge-building software environments, organized a well-attended international workshop on this topic and taught a series of advanced seminars on it. He has developed software since the mid-1960’s and has worked with the Graduate Student on WebGuide for more than two years.

Supporting Collaboration

Collaboration is an important but difficult and poorly understood activity. The potential is that the ideas, expertise and critical abilities of a number of people can be synthesized to produce knowledge that no one participant could have produced and to share this knowledge among all  participants. Software can support this process by providing an external memory or workspace in which each participant can develop personal ideas, can view the ideas of others, can incorporate others’ perspectives into their personal perspective and can negotiate agreements and clarify points of difference within the group as a whole. A computer-based environment can maintain persistent views of ideas that have been expressed, so that one can review the history of discussions and compare related ideas. A Web-based system can facilitate collaboration among people who are not present at the same time or place, allowing discussions and reflections to take place more gradually and completely over time as well as across arbitrary distances.

The Perspectives Mechanism

The technology currently implemented in WebGuide and envisioned for the POW! Perspectives server supports the construction of knowledge in personal, group and comparison perspectives. The server allows users to define a network of interconnected perspectives which inherit content from each other – so that my personal perspective automatically contains ideas that my team has already agreed on in its group perspective and a comparison perspective automatically contains ideas from my personal perspective and from those of selected colleagues. New perspectives can be added by users on the fly.

The perspectives server keeps track of all the relations among perspectives and ideas of different people. It prepares content views transparently so that client interfaces can navigate the perspectives and ideas intuitively. Users can articulate, reflect upon, modify, compare and negotiate ideas in the shared, evolving collaboration space without worrying about the underlying structure of the perspectives.

While much collaboration software could benefit from a perspectives mechanism, no other system has as versatile a perspectives mechanism as WebGuide. Some systems have simple mechanisms, perhaps allowing several personal perspectives and one group perspective – fixed in structure and lacking inheritance of content. Most collaboration systems have no such facility. Other researchers are interested in incorporating WebGuide’s perspective mechanism once it is available as an open source server.

Approach to Domain Knowledge:

The PI and Graduate Student will attend corporate meetings of the training network to which the Collaborating Company belongs and will participate (as facilitators and observers) in corporate meetings and training sessions conducted by the Collaborating Company. These sessions will be preceded and followed by debriefing sessions with the Business Representative. Project staff will meet regularly with the Collaborating Company to collaboratively develop requirements for corporate applications of the software.

Approach to Software Architecture:

The PI has already acquired a Linux webserver with dual Pentium processors, fast database access and a high-speed Internet connection for use in the POW! Project. A Java application –   the POW! perspectives server – will run on this webserver and will access a mySQL database. A light-weight client will run in the browser of a user running on any platform (Mac, PC, Unix, Linux). The client and server will communicate using CGI calls and XML data formats, allowing secure communication through firewalls. The calls will be optimized to enhance cross-Internet performance and maximize client display speed.

Approach to Intellectual Property:

The separation of applications into an Open Source Software (OSS) server and proprietary client will allow the Collaborating Company and other Colorado businesses to develop software for their own applications quickly and flexibly, while making use of the computationally complex perspectives mechanism seamlessly. This takes advantage of the benefits of both the traditional economic model and the new open source approach: development of the general mechanism can be shared while specific applications can provide economic competitive advantage. The details of the POW! license will be negotiated with the University and the Collaborating Company and will be designed to foster these complementary advantages.

Approach to Application Clients:

Internet technology is evolving rapidly. Compatibility with hardware and software in use at different sites is a major problem. The POW! perspectives server will run on a webserver, such as ours at CU, and does not need to be compatible with a variety of user systems. Some application client developers may want to take advantage of the latest versions of Java while others may prefer to maintain compatibility with older versions of HTML. The architecture developed by this Project will allow developers to create client interfaces using HTML forms, Perl scripts, Java applets and other technologies (such as XSL stylesheets). The Project will develop, document and post three sample clients demonstrating how to program client software using these different technologies and still taking advantage of the perspectives mechanism.


The University and the Collaborating Company already have adequate office space, computers, commercial software and networking to support this project. The University will only need funds for computer support. The PI will contribute technical expertise and the Collaborating Company will contribute expertise in supporting corporate meetings and trainings.

Evaluation Plan

The POW! Project will be evaluated by the production of the following deliverables:

(a)    a POW! perspectives server in Java with a clear API and XML data exchange.

(b)    negotiation of a license and the release of the POW! server under this license on a website with appropriate documentation to support collaborative development.

(c)    sample clients for the POW! server illustrating the use of Java, HTML and Perl technologies.

(d)    a  requirements document for corporate client applications.

Follow-on Funding Plan

The POW! Project will provide a foundation for future work along two dimensions:

(a)    The PI will raise over $100,000 in federal funds to continue work by him and the graduate student in educational applications using the POW! server.

(b)    The Collaborating Company will raise funds internally and/or through investors to continue the development and marketing of software clients for corporate applications in collaborative distributed decision-making and training.


Stahl, G. (1991) A Hypermedia Inference Language as an Alternative to Rule-based Systems, Technical Report No. CU-CS-557-91, Department of Computer Science, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO. Available at:

Stahl, G. (1992) A Computational Medium for Supporting Interpretation in Design, Technical Report No. CU-CS-598-92, Department of Computer Science, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO. Available at:

Stahl, G. (1993a) Interpretation in Design:  The Problem of Tacit and Explicit Understanding in Computer Support of Cooperative Design, Ph.D. Dissertation, Department of Computer Science, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO. Available at:

Stahl, G. (1993b) Supporting situated interpretation, Proceedings of the Cognitive Science Society (CogSci '93), Boulder, CO, pp. 965-970. Available at:

Stahl, G. (1995) Supporting Personalizable Learning, Technical Report No. CU-CS-788-95, Department of Computer Science, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO. Available at:

Stahl, G. (1996) Personalizing the Web, Technical Report No. CU-CS-836-96, Department of Computer Science, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO. Available at:

Stahl, G. (1999a) demo: WebGuide: Computational perspectives for learning communities, Annual conference of the Center for Innovative Learning Technologies (CILT '99), San Jose, California. Available at:

Stahl, G. (1999b) POW! Perspectives on the Web, Proceedings of the WebNet World Conference on the WWW and Internet (WebNet '99), Honolulu, Hawaii. Available at:

Stahl, G. (1999c) Reflections on WebGuide: Seven issues for the next generation of collaborative knowledge-building environments., Proceedings of Computer Supported Collaborative Learning (CSCL '99), Stanford, California. Available at:

Stahl, G. (1999d) WebGuide: Guiding collaborative learning on the Web with perspectives, Annual Conference of the American Educational Research Association (AERA '99), Montreal, Canada. Available at:

Stahl, G. (2000) Collaborative information environments to support knowledge construction by communities, AI & Society, 14, pp. 1-27. Available at:

Stahl, G., Fischer, G., Nakakoji, K., Ostwald, J., & Sumner, T. (1993a) Embedding computer-based critics in the contexts of design, Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (INTERChi '93), Amsterdam, Holland, pp. 157-164. Available at:

Stahl, G., Fischer, G., Nakakoji, K., Ostwald, J., & Sumner, T. (1993b) Embedding critics in design environments, Knowledge Engineering Review, 4(8), pp. 285-307. Available at:

Stahl, G. & Herrmann, T. (1999) Intertwining perspectives and negotiation, International Conference on Supporting Group Work (Group '99), Phoenix, Arizona. Available at:

Stahl, G., Koschmann, T., & Ostwald, J. (1998) workshop: Shouldn't we really be studying practice?, International Conference on the Learning Sciences (ICLS '98), Atlanta, Georgia. Available at:

Stahl, G., Koschmann, T., & Scardamalia, M. (1999) workshop: Collaborating on the design and assessment of knowledge-building environments in the 2000's,  Proceedings of Computer Support for Collaborative Learning (CSCL '99), Stanford, California. Available at:

Stahl, G., McCall, R., & Peper, G. (1992) Extending hypermedia with an inference language:  An alternative to rule-based expert systems, IBM ITL Conference:  Expert Systems, pp. 160-167. Available at:

Stahl, G., Sumner, T., & Owen, R. (1995a) Share globally, adapt locally: Software to create and distribute student-centered curriculum, Computers and Education. Special Issue on Education and the Internet, 24(3), pp. 237-246. Available at:

Stahl, G., Sumner, T., & Repenning, A. (1995b) Internet repositories for collaborative learning: Supporting both students and teachers, Proceedings of Computer Support for Collaborative Learning (CSCL '95), Bloomington, Indiana, pp. 321-328. Available at:



Appendix 1. Vitae


Faculty Member:                     Gerry Stahl

Graduate Student:                    Rogerio dePaula

Business Representative:        William Blackburn


Appendix 2. Principal Investigator Disclosure


Appendix 3. Budget and Budget Justification


Appendix 4. Completed Current and Pending Support Form


Appendix 5. Collaborating Company Letter


Appendix 6. Signed Terms and Conditions


Appendix 7. Signed Collaborating Company Intellectual Property Agreement


VITA of Faculty Member: Gerry Stahl


                                    University of Colorado

                        1993    Ph.D. in Computer Science

                        1990    M.S. in Computer Science

                                    Northwestern University

                        1975    Ph.D. in Philosophy

                        1971    M.A. in Philosophy

University of Frankfurt

                        1973    Graduate study in critical social theory

University of Heidelberg

1968    Graduate study in continental philosophy

                                    Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

                        1967    B.S. in Humanities & Science (Math & Philosophy)


Research Professor

1999-present       Department of Computer Science and

Institute of Cognitive Science, Boulder, CO

Post Doctoral Research Fellow

1996-1999           Center for LifeLong Learning and Design, Boulder, CO


               1995-1996           Personalizable Software, Niwot, CO

                                             Director of Software R&D

               1993-1996           Owen Research Inc., Boulder, CO

                                             Graduate Research Assistant

               1990-1993           College of Environmental Design, Boulder, CO

                                             Intern Interface Developer

               1990-1991           US West Advanced Technology, Denver & Boulder, CO

                                             Computer Science Instructor & Teaching Assistant

               1989-1990           University of Colorado, Boulder, CO

Executive Director

o                                     Community Computerization Project, Philadelphia, PA

                                             Planning and Evaluation Specialist

1979-1984           Southwest Germantown Community Devel. Corp., Philadelphia, PA

Community Organizer & VISTA Supervisor

1978-1979           Philadelphia Council of Neighborhood Organizations, Philadelphia, PA

                                             Systems Programmer

               1974-1977           Temple University, Philadelphia, PA

               1970-1971           Northwestern University, Evanston, IL

               1969-1970           Temple University, Philadelphia, PA

                                             Applications Programmer

               Summer 1966      Brown Bovari Cie, Baden, Switzerland

               Summer 1965      University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA

Bibliography of Related Recent Publications:

See References section in proposal (Stahl, 1993a; Stahl, 1993b; Stahl, 1995; Stahl, 1999b; Stahl, 1999c; Stahl, 1999d; Stahl, 2000; Stahl & Herrmann, 1999; Stahl et al., 1998; Stahl et al., 1999; Stahl et al., 1995a; Stahl et al., 1995b) .

VITA of Graduate Student: Rogério Abreu de Paula


Ph.D. Candidate in Computer Science

Center for Lifelong Learning and Design

Department of Computer Science at the University of Colorado at Boulder


Master of Science

Interdisciplinary Telecommunications Program at the University of Colorado at Boulder


Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering with minor in Electronics

Electrical Engineering Department at Federal University of Minas Gerais at Belo Horizonte, Brazil.



Research Assistant

University of Colorado - Department of Computer Science 

Lifelong Learning and Design (L3D)


·        State the Essence - LSA project

·        Webguide - Java-based Project

·        Organization Memory & Organizational Learning


WebPages Design Engineer & Webmaster

University of Colorado - Interdisciplinary Telecommunications Program, Boulder, Colorado.

Research Assistant in the AeRie Project. Responsible:

·        Web pages & Database design and development

·        System administration


Design Engineer

Cellular Comercio e Representacoes Ltda., Belo Horizonte, Brazil.

Technical consulting firm. Worked for the Regional Telephone Office of Minas Gerais (TELEMIG), Brazil. Responsible:

·        Development of Internet Home pages, and searching information on the World Wide Web

·        Technical support in Internetworking

·        Development of system for remote data collection of billing and alarm information from Digital Public Switches for TELEMIG

·        Development of computer telephony integration (CTI) systems for auto-attendance in telemarketing companies, based on CTI technology of the Dialogic Co.

·        Technical consulting in CTI for TELEMIG

·        Development of "Smart Card" based systems for customers identification and information in a health insurance company

·        Development of a hand-held data collector for Norberto Odebrecht in Peru


Design Engineer

Teixeira e Silva Desenv. e Aplicacoes Ltda., Belo Horizonte, Brazil.

Developing and consulting firm. Development of data communication projects for third part companies. Responsible:

·        Design of micro-terminal for commercial and industrial applications.

·        Development of a higher level library for link the PC application with commercial software's

·        Assisting in the developing of data collector for IBM-Brazil;

·        Development of the firmware of a terminal for ABC-EMEP, Brazil;

·        Development of data communication applications.



VITA of Business Representative: William Blackburn

William Blackburn has worked for the past 28 years in the fields of architecture, environmental design, furniture design, planning and computer systems development.  The last decade of work has been focused on the integration of technical and environmental systems to support the knowledge based workplace, and on developing sophisticated tools for project management. From 1992 to the present he has been the President and General Manager for Athenaeum international.  In addition to his role as general manager, he has been a principal designer of the company’s WorkFurniture and Work Wall product line, managed the Rapid Deployment Solutions portable management center, and major building projects.

Work History

1992 to present:  General Manager of Athenaeum International.  Consulting in organizational development and the implementation of high performance workplaces through the integration of work process, environments and technical systems.1988 to 1992:  Proprietor of Blackburn Enterprises.  Consulting in planning, management, process simulation and computer applications.  Member of the MG Taylor and Athenaeum International extended staff.1982 to 1988:  Supervisor of Community Planning and Policy Analysis,  Jefferson County Planning Department.  Duties included personnel supervision, project management, policy and plan development, technical consulting, and liaison with a variety of public boards and citizen groups.1981 to 1985:  Consultant to Taylor Associates incorporated, The Acacia Group and Iris Corporation for the development and implementation of executive information systems, strategic planning and database design.1980 to 1981:  Senior Staff Planner, Jefferson County Planning Department.  Duties included policy and plan development, project management, office automation and geographic information systems design.1975 to 1980:  Planner for Jefferson County Planning Department.  Duties included policy development, forecasting, land use simulation model development, survey design, data development and community participation work.1973 to 1974:  Co-principal investigator for the Jefferson County Mountain Areas Research Project, University of Colorado.1970 to 1971:  Duty as a combat demolition specialist and battalion construction draftsman, United States Army.


Bachelor of Architecture, 1969, University of ColoradoMaster of Urban and Regional Planning, 1974, University of Colorado

Appendix 2. Principal Investigator Disclosure


The PI, Gerry Stahl, has no legal or economic relationship to the Collaborating Company, Athenaeum International.



Appendix 3. Budget and Budget Justification


PI Salary (2 months)                                        $ 13,920

Grad Student Salary (12 months)                    $ 14,300

Grad Student Tuition (in state)                        $  3,978

PI Fringes                                                        $  3,267

Grad Student Fringes                                       $     898

Computer Support                                           $  3,637        

Total                                                                $ 40,000

Budget Justification

PI Salary: The source code for WebGuide was developed by the PI. It will require a considerable amount of his time, working with the Graduate Student, to re-implement the program as proposed. The PI will also be extensively involved in working with the Collaborating Company to develop an approach to corporate applications.

Grad Student Salary: The Graduate Student will work 20 hours per week on this project.

Computer Support: All proposals in the Computer Science Department include 10% for computer support. This includes Internet access and other networking and technical support. This is not part of University indirect costs.

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