Spacetime Characterization of Real-Time Collaborative Editing author feedback

This is feedback for the authors of the paper on “Spacetime Characterization of Real-Time Collaborative Editing“. It is an excellent paper full of useful insight for Etherpad.

I’m writing this as an author and maintainer of Etherpad, which for this study was primarily used for providing the data used in the analysis.

I have some suggestions for future research/development of the project with a goal to help improve Etherpad and other RTCE.

I improved the documentation and bugfix the RTCE Analysis and my efforts on this are available on the Etherpad Foundation RTCE Github Repository.

Simulate data to validate analysis.

Spacetime data could be simulated to ensure analysis is accurate.

Suggestion: Generate space-time edits with known values. etherpad-loadtest could do this with just a few hours work probably.

Programming complexity

A single programming language could be used to complete the task.

Suggestion: Rewrite analysis tasks in NodeJS using Etherpad’s built in methods. This would be a few days work.

Supplemental features

Analyzing RTCE along side other communication methods (IE Video conferencing within Etherpad) would be extremely useful. See ep_webrtc, ep_author_follow, ep_comments_page plugins for example..

Suggestion: Speak to WMF to discuss the potential of them rolling out Video chat for a trial period and do a side-by-side comparison to see if there is any difference in findings. This would be a few days prep work then a few months to gather data.

Multiple sources of data.

Using a single source(WMF) for data is not ideal.

Suggestion: Analyze video.etherpad.com, 26LLC (online tutoring platform), WMF and FramaPads content.

Database support

Only supporting a single database store(MySQL) is not ideal as some large instances use Postgres, Maria, Redis etc.

Suggestion: Use Etherpad internals to generate data allowing for analysis of a much larger set of Etherpad instances.

Conclusion

The goal of RTCE software is to reduce the amount of changesets and as such complimentary tools are included as they are often computationally cheaper than editing the pad; some examples are; Chat, Video Chat, Voice Chat and Comments(with suggestions) functionality.

Changesets or RTCE edits are relatively computationally expensive compared to a user doing peer to peer video chat, we want to minimize them so the measurement of success for Etherpad is reducing changesets to complete a document, which is contrary to this paper and may be somewhat surprising to the authors!

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