A Document Reuse Tool for Communities of Practice

A Document Reuse Tool for Communities of Practice

Aida Boukottaya (University of Fribourg, Switzerland), Bernadette Charlier (University of Fribourg, Switzerland), Micaël Paquier (EPFL, Switzerland), Loïc Merz (EPFL, Switzerland), Stéphane Sire (EPFL, Switzerland) and Christine Vanoirbeek (EPFL, Switzerland)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-711-9.ch002
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Virtual communities of practice are gaining importance as mean of sharing and exchanging knowledge. In such environments, information reuse is of major concern. In this paper, the authors outline the importance of structuring documents in order to facilitate the reuse of their content. They show how explicit structure representation facilitates the understanding of the original documents and helps considerably in automating the reuse process. The authors propose two main tools: the first performs automatic structure transformation using matching techniques and the second performs structure and instances evolution in a transparent and an automatic manner.
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Communities of Practice (CoPs) are becoming more important as a mean of sharing information within and between organizations. A Community of Practice emerges from a common desire to work together; it can be defined as a network of people that identifies issues, shares approaches, methodologies, documents, experiences, and makes the results available to others (Wenger, 1998). With the rise of the Internet, virtual CoPs are gaining importance as a new model for virtual collaboration and learning. In virtual CoPs, the common space is provided by a suite of collaborative and communicative environments, ranging from simple mailers, forum, discussion lists, and audiovisual conferences to more advanced collaborative work environments that enable information and knowledge exchange and sharing.

In this context, the process of capturing and sharing a community’s collective expertise is of major concern. Burk (1999) describes such process as a cyclic one composed by four basic steps: find/create, organize, share, and use/reuse. The “find/create” step concerns the creation of knowledge/information gained through research and/or industry experiences, expertise, publications, etc. The goal of the two next steps in the cycle, “organize” and “share”, is to first filter and organise expertise (e.g., creating different categories of knowledge related to specific purposes, linking such knowledge with available resources, etc). Second, the expertise has to be shared for wide availability, making use of the Internet and other techniques of information sharing. The final phase of the cycle, “use/reuse,” enables shared expertise to be used and reused in order to minimize information overload and maximize content usability, which decreases time, effort and cost. The results are then captured as part of learned lessons and new expertise is created which enable the cycle to begin again. Using and reusing expertise could be achieved by several manners including both informal contacts (phone, meetings, etc), access to reports, documents, practices, and other forms of communication, including demonstrations, and training sessions.

In this paper, we essentially focus on document reuse within CoPs. As in Levy (1993), we identified at least two kinds of document reuse: (1) by replication: from a single document, several presentations can be produced; and (2) by extraction: portions of a document can be taken from one document and moved to another (generally performed by means of the now popular “Cut&Paste” command). Since documents reflect in general authors’ vision and “understanding” of the Universe, document reuse requires access to the intentions and interpretations underlying the original document. The capability of reuse suggests then the understanding of authors’ representation of the Universe in terms of concepts and semantic relationships among them. Such representations only exist “in the mind” of authors and usually are not made explicit in the document itself. Branting & Lester (1996) describe document reuse process as a tedious and costly (in term of time and effort) process. In fact, given a set of goals to be accomplished by the new document and a library of existing documents, document reuse process involves three main steps: (1) finding the reusable documents (or fragments of document) that satisfy current goals; (2) comparing the goals of the retrieved documents and/or fragments and the current goals in order to ensure the compatibility of the two; (3) adapting them as needed i.e., remove incompatible parts that not satisfy current goals (excision) and add new materials (augmentation). Moreover, when reuse requires crossing system and application boundaries, several problems arise due to the heterogeneities of such systems. One response to these problems is to structure documents by using Markup Languages such as XML (World Wide Web Consortium, 2008). The advent of structured documents on one hand leveraged a promising consensus on the encoding syntax for machine processable information and this resolves several issues, such as parsing and character encoding recognition. On the other hand, mark-up is also used for identifying meaningful parts of a document, and thus makes authors intentions more explicit.

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