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The paper argues for using specialized collaborative writing (CW) tools to improve the results of distributed, Internet-based writing teams. The key features of collaborative tools that support enhanced coordination and group awareness are compared to existing writing tools. The first Internet-based CW tool, Collaboratus, is introduced, and its group features are compared with those of Microsoft Word. Next, theoretical propositions, hypotheses, and constructs are formulated to predict outcomes of distributed groups that use CW tools. A four-week-long synchronous-distributed experiment then compares the outcomes of Collaboratus and Word groups. Innovative measures show that Collaboratus groups generally experience better outcomes than Word groups, in terms of productivity, document quality, relationships, and communication, but not in terms of satisfaction. The results buttress the conclusion that Internet-based CW teams can benefit from specialized collaborative technologies that provide enhanced coordination, group awareness, and CW activity support.
Date of Publication: Dec. 2003