communication in groups

I was wondering if there are any plans to add new functionality for intra-group communication. The two things I would find particularly hellpful are:

the ability to send messages to the whole group in one step. Right now I have to send individual messages to each of the members.

a reply button for messages. Right now I have to open the person's profile and click on send message there.

Maybe this is already planned for future releases. It'd be great to hear about that then. Or maybe this is already included and I didn't find it.

A final idea: Would it lead to far astray to allow groups to set up fora/discussion boards on their group website? This would facilitate scholarly discussions among members.
  • let me add to my last point: such fora could also be tied to a specific item in the library so that people can exchange ideas and thoughts about a given text...
  • These are good ideas. We're still getting a sense for what groups can and should do, and I agree that more intra-group communication would be good. Given the relentless account and forum spam, we'll want to think very carefully about how we implement this functionality. Are you imagining more of a one-to-many communication (e.g. instructor to students), or peer-to-peer?

    I also like this idea of threading discussion around individual items, but I'm not exactly sure what such a thing might look like. Right now people are using child notes attached to items to accomplish similar goals, but notes really have different strengths.
  • What I have in mind for my group is to develop an online bibliography for a specific field, so better peer-to-peer communication would be good for that. This way anyone could distribute for instance, call for papers, conference news, reference to new publications--anything of interest to the field.

    Regarding the spam problem: would it be an option to allow group owners to bar spamers from membership? Google groups, for instance, has some mechanisms to allow administrators to prevent spam memberships. There could also be a more automatic way of identifying spamers, where normal users could mark spamers with a mouseclick and flag them for central review (rather than posting them in the forum). Perhaps such a review process could even be organized by volunteer users?

    I agree that childnotes are a substitute but only less than optimal.

    Also, if I may continue to add to my wishlist: It is difficult or almost impossible to identify users that are interested in the same things as long as the people search is limited. A full-text search of profiles would be really helpful.
    I'm not sure if the upcoming recommendation system will perhaps remedy this and point to other users or if it will only indicate references of potential interest.
  • Hi,

    I would like to see this as well. I think giving a group moderator the flexibility to create and supervise forums (i.e. Topics in our Library, Networking, News in the Field), etc. would be well received.

  • I like some of these ideas to make the group functionality more effective for collaboration and teaching. However it seems to me rather massive feature creep and overlap with existing software.

    I wonder if there are possibilities of supporting integration with existing forum, portal, document management, etc. products. Especially those in the education space, like OpenCourseware, Blackboard, etc.

    Not that we shouldn't propose these ideas. I'm all for that! The question is how much zotero should do.
  • The current note model assumes a hermetic scholar.

    OTOH, fora for groups feels like such an old school solution that would be decoupled from the source data per se.

    I think it's worth at least considering adding the possibility for threaded notes and breaking them out of their current box.
  • That's a very interesting idea, to make note-taking a networked, multi-user activity.

    However I have to repeat my earlier comment (above) on feature creep and reinventing the wheel.

    I'll admit to having a huge bias here - I'm using zotero to prepare for exams and dissertation, so I'm more interested in enhancing citation management and hermetic note-taking.
  • edited September 28, 2009
    Feature creep is always a concern.

    OTOH, I don't think integration with existing courseware solutions (all of which suck) is a solution either.

    So if they're going to do groups, then they ought to do it right, and we're still a ways from that.

    Part of the problem here, too, is the client-first design principle. I'd be fine with having comments online only, so long as the user-experience is really good, and it was integrated with the Zotero items (which suggests a better solution to item identity than currently exists).
  • edited September 28, 2009
    Oh, BTW, on your "bias," better groups support can encourage collaborative communities around preparations for exams, theses, etc. That's exactly what I'm experimenting with now (for beginning grad students). No reason these need to be hermetic activities ;-)
  • depends on your committee I guess :-/ and hey, maybe I want to be hermetic! ... Seriously though, my committee might be open to trying something like that, it hadn't occurred to me.

    Good point about the uniform suckiness of courseware. OTOH we're also overlapping with domains like collaborative information / knowledge management (not sure about the buzzwords here). And familiar software has a lot of advantages, even when it sucks.

    Actually I kinda have in mind a different model entirely, where zotero.web-2.0 would be more a set of services and/or widget-y things, and the group / collaborative part not really zotero's job at all, but done in wikis, forums, blogs, etc. - whatever you prefer. Admittedly that's a little vague! :-P Just thinking out loud...
  • Hm, maybe one day when Wave technology is availabe (search for Google Wave, if you have no idea), it can be integrated with the groups feature :-)

    ... ok, Utopia.
  • Yeah, I've been playing with Wave for a bit, and there's been some work on a citation robot for it. It does have some potential for this area.
  • I second the ability to email all members of a group, and I think having a forum, moderated by the group admin, is a good idea.

    This is slightly unrelated, but I play chess at That site has fora and teams, and a messaging system. I have not been spammed in any way there. I think these things could be adopted by Zotero.
  • Note that you can now enable messaging for a group under group settings. This is very much experimental and bare bones at the moment, so if you feel adventurous please try it out and report any bugs. Also welcome are requests for the most important features to make this useful to you.

    At the moment the main group page is where to find group discussions if they are enabled.
    It is currently possible to start new discussions and reply to them in a single thread, and not much else. Group admins can delete, and authors can edit messages.
  • Can you give more specific directions on how to enable the group messaging feature? Or how to start new discussions and reply to them? I've been poking around Zotero a bit and haven't been able to figure it out.
  • From your groups page (groups tab on the main site nav) click on the manage group link and at the bottom of the first form is an "enable comments" checkbox. If this is checked you will have a "New Discussion" link at the bottom of your main group page.
    This is all on the website only.
  • Thanks. More questions: is there any way to put an individual timestamp on group discussion posts? Also, is there a way to receive notifications when someone creates a new discussion or adds to an existing one? I'm getting notifications when new members join the group, I get a private message, etc., but when I log on to the group library there are posts upon posts that are pretty neglected.

  • I will add timestamps to individual posts. I'm also testing group notifications, so both of these should show up within a few days (when notifications are enabled, they will most likely be off by default for at least a few days, so you will have to check that option in your notification settings. I will post here when they go live.)
  • That's going to be so helpful, thank you.

    Another question: is there a feature in Zotero that blocks duplicates being added to a group library? For some reason I was under the impression there was, but yesterday I was able to re-upload documents that already existed.
  • Zotero will keep you from dragging the same item to a collection or group library. However it will not stop anyone else from adding the same item to a group library. We do not have a very good way of knowing when an item is a duplicate as opposed to a very similar item.

    The best practice for cleaning out duplicates is to use Zotero's sort functions. You can sort by title and see which documents have the same title. You can also sort by author to clean out duplicated works. Finally, sorting by date added is generally quite useful for cleaning out chunks of documents that should never have been added, or were added twice.
  • Sorting by date does help a lot, but I still have to look carefully through the list, and particularly at the metadata. This is hard, because (AFAIK), there's no way to .

    I'm also worried about accidentally deleting something I shouldn't (since I'm not aware of group versioning, or a "recent changes" list for the groups).

    So in terms of duplicates, I'd really like to see merge functionality--I see that this is being discussed elswhere on the forums and concur that a manual merge feature would be beneficial.

    The example I'm looking at is 3 copies of He Says, She Says: in the Wikipedia Research group.
  • Let me revive this thread with a couple of other requests for group communication:

    Allow posts on the discussion boards to use HTML or Wiki markup.
    I tried to space and style a longish post to my group, but once I sent it, all paragraph marks had been stripped out and plain-text styling for clarity had been obliterated. It's really quite difficult to read without some kind of formatting.

    Allow groups to have documents or mini-wikis.
    Groups may wish to have a style guide or reference to ensure members edit in a consistent manner the shared Zotero library. It would make sense to allow such material to be put in a standing, revisable document that only the group could read or edit. A discussion format doesn't suit this need. And although a group could always set up a Google document, or some other 3rd-party text, this solution is one step removed from the group's Zotero site, it would require regular maintenance of permissions, and it would introduce other headaches that could be rectified by increasing the options on the group website.
  • I suggest adding anew field to every entry called tasks, it might be special kind of note
    and create function in zotero to collect all tasks in one place and allow adding section to task and resolve them.
    technically the task maybe just a note with special header inside the note sections with preset separator
    and the resolve is just an modification to the header
    this could be helpful for individuals and groups
    the group could use this function as communication method and task method also for both group and individual library
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