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Collaborative Technologies

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This page discusses the role that collaborative technologies can or do play in support of HL7 processes.

Conference on Collaborative Technologies

The Enterprise 2.0 conference will be held in Boston on June 18-21. To get a flavor of what it's about see this Video about the use of Wiki's within the enterprise, or this one about the fact that in person meetings remain very important, or any of the others listed here.


Technologies like Skype & Instant Messaging (IRC, ICQ, Yahoo Messenger, MSN, etc.) are especially used during WGMs for "cross-comittee consultations". The parties involved are taking part in committee meetings of separate committees, but are able to briefly consult a domain-expert which is in another meeting.

  • Skype: More information and hints on the free Skype program can be found at Skype Introduction and Guide. Also see Highspeed Conferencing for free conference calls with up to 500 partcipants using Skype as well as landlines for those who don't have/use Skype.
    • For enterprise environments concerned about security: in order to turn the peer-to-peer file sharing OFF, see [1] and [2]. This feature was added by Skype at the request of enterprise Skype users.
  • For the most effective use of Instant Messaging, check out the free multi systems IM client Trillian, see Introduction and Guide to Free and Open Software. The "Trillian" free software allows you to chat with all your IM contacts (ICQ, Yahoo, AOL, MSN, etc.) using one program, rather than a separate IM client (eg. Yahoo Messenger, MSN, ICQ, etc.) for each. Download the free version from A pay-for version provides some extra functions.
  • Campfire: a chatroom website, requiring no client software. It persists the chats, and allows for uploads, providing the option of an asynchronous chat environment. See Campfire, and the HL7 Campfire (requires a login, e-mail to be invited).


gForge is probably best known as the software used by sourceforge website. It has all kinds of features that support software development (version control, issue tracking, etc.). It is currently used by the Tooling comittee to support the development process of software.

Wikis and gForge are complimentary rather than conflicting. GForge allows tracking logs and fixed documents. Wiki allows dynamic documents. The support for the tracking of Action Items is better in gForge.



A Wiki is a good tool for the editing of "dynamic" documents as part of a collaborative process.

How Wikis support a TC/SIG or collaborations between TC/SIGs:

  • Collaborative content creation with the aim to create ballot content:
    • Consensus process for an issue. A highly contentious issue (lots of e-mail traffic on the lists) can be halted after initial discussion. The HL7 listserves occasionally erupt into lengthy back-and-forth discussions that have diminishing information value to the majority of list-readers. If there was a better mechanism to move those discussions to a more focused venue, many people would be grateful. A summary can be posted to the Wiki, for all partcipants to edit, until a consesus version has been reached. This is one of the possible benefits of a Wiki to HL7: it reduces traffic on listserves. Once consensus has been reached, the contents of the page can be frozen, and the content can be included in a ballot.
      • May cause an issue to drop off the radar screen for listserve lurkers once it has been moved to Wiki. This can be addressed by supporting the EmailNotification feature of the Wiki.
    • Definition of Glossary items. The review process can be done entirely on the Wiki. (e.g. Transmission Wrapper)
    • Development of cross committee storyboards and DAMs (PA/FM/PM are testing this, see Collaborative Storyboard).
    • Management of change requests, including discussion notes, and resolution.
      • Domain level change requests, e.g. Clinical Statement Change Requests, Data Types R2 issues
      • Harmonization proposals. Use the Wiki to publish the proposal, use it to collect comments during a public comment period prior to the harmonization meeting. Update with discussion + harmonisation result during the harmonisation meeting (i.e. supports the harmonisation meeting itself as well). This provides real-time feedback to all as of the latest status and outcomes of the harmonisation proposal.
  • Process support
    • Agenda (e.g. for a WGM, see INM San Antonio Agenda)
    • Meeting minutes. The meeting minutes can be created during the meeting and saved every few minutes. That way all participants are able to review the minutes and make suggestions as to improvements during the call/meeting. A few days after the meeting (when all corrections have been made) the contents of the page can be frozen (if the Wiki allows this) and/or the page contents can be pasted in a Word file and be put on the HL7 website. (e.g. June 27th, Templates Minutes)
    • Action item list. If maintained as a Word/Excel file there are sysnchronization issues, the Wiki can be updated at any point in time. (e.g. INM Transmission and Transport Action Items)
    • During a WGM: for each TC/SIG, post (on a daily basis) a summary of issues that were discussed and that may have an impact on other comittees. Or: highlights in general. See Committee Reports
    • More anonymous as a forum than an e-mail list for FAQs (e.g. Implementation FAQ).

What should probably not be on the Wiki:

  • Fixed artefacts - this is better left to a document repository (or HL7 website), with version control mechanisms. ANSI requires that minutes and artefacts be available to all (the HL7 website is better suited for this than the Wiki). Examples: models (e.g. Visio), Publication Databases, Ballot.
  • On-line discussion through the wiki. We have e-mail discussion lists, teleconferences and face-to-face meetings as a more appropriate mechanism. These discussions yield at some point a consensus position (potentially through a motion) - that position as well as other notes from the meetings where it is discussed can in turn be added to the Wiki. (This role of Wikis is also documented in the above "what are Wikis suited for" list)

Various Wiki Notes

  • There are various offerings of Wiki-software, some of which allow enhancements to the original Wiki concept by providing modules that allow the "freezing" of the content of a page, or agenda functionality to monitor action items.
  • The current Wiki software (MediaWiki) has some limitations. There is another potential Wiki tool called TWiki which offers additional functionality. This has lead to a Proposed change from MediaWiki to TWiki for the HL7 Wiki contents. Upon review it has been decided to stick with the current Wiki software, the percieved benefits are not significant enough to merit a migration effort.
  • It is a good idea to create Template Pages that can be used (copied) as a starting structure, to be filled in by those that use the template. Example template: meeting minutes, agenda.
  • There is a MS-Word macro to transform Word documents into Wiki documents (Wiki uses a very simple markup language, but some transformation is needed)
  • For informal discussions, about organizational issues, please use the Coffee Lounge page.