CZTalk - A Novel Graphical Interface for Visualizing Online Discussions

Authors: 

Tony Wong 

Our research has focused on developing tools to help understand online discussions, and this has led to the implementation of CZTalk. CZTalk is designed as a new multi-view user interface which should help understand the relationships between messages and the overall patterns and trends of all the messages posted in online discussions. Online discussion and conferencing have become popular ways for people to share ideas. Unfortunately, existing software interfaces exhibit a number of usability problems and these may result in impediment to discussion flow. Our research has focused on developing tools to help understand online discussions, and this has led to the implementation of CZTalk. CZTalk is designed as a new multi-view user interface which should help understand the relationships between messages and the overall patterns and trends of all the messages posted in online discussions. It renders a graphical, detail-in-context, network display of discussion messages which allows users to understand the interactions between them visually. Counting and rearranging the number of replies received by each participant result in different tables which could be used for precise comparisons. CZTalk also includes: color-encoding of message attributes, time-window highlighting, annotation and various statistical summaries. The layout algorithms of CZTalk were originally developed for CZWeb, the ancestor of CZTalk. CZWeb was developed as a graphical aid to both Web navigation and to Web information management. The basic algorithms of CZWeb have been licensed to a startup firm, ThoughtShare Communications Inc., and have formed an integral part of the initial product suite of the company.