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File Management is a broad term with a variety of definitions.  For scoping and discussion purposes we define file management as overall user-management of files.  The files are generally uploaded into the target web application from a user's personal computer or another website or application.  Users can then organize their files, typically represented navigationally or spatially.   They may decide to share these files with others, either as information (read-only) or in a more collaborative manner.  Further yet, they may desire to share their organization of files with others (e.g. an instructor sharing a structure of content with their students).


Tools are isolated and siloed. Tasks that require more than one tool to complete require a user to halt the main task, leave the tool, navigate to another tool, interface with the other tool to complete a secondary task, and navigate back to the original tool to proceed with the main task. This halt and interrupt may happen several times to complete the main task/goal. A user may also lose the work on the main task when having to navigate away for secondary tasks, or minimally be forced into some kind of additionally cumbersome Save process when dealing with secondary tasks.


The Resources Tool in Sakai tries to do too much.  It is the file manager within a site, the place for all site members to view files in a variety of contexts, the place users can pull files from other sites into the current site, the place to set conditions for content availability -- it even allows users to create links and in-line documents.  It does so much that it can be difficult to know how to accomplish the particular task in view.  General consensus is that the functionality needs to be chunked out in different ways and the UI generally simplified.  The Resources Tool is also challenged by several usability issues for specific interactions.   Those details will be fleshed out through the work of this project.  For some examples, check out Allison's UX Walkthrough which focused on the Resources tool.

File management is a common activity and users have expectations based on their experience with their personal computers and the desktop metaphor.


Do users really think of a file uploaded from an external place differently than content created within the system?  Where this gets particularly tricky is if we allow users to display files in-line.  For instance, an instructor uploads a PDF of their syllabus and it displays directly on the page.  Is this different than if they created the syllabus within the tool using a wysiwyg editor for instance?


Sarah Windsor - Primary Persona

Getting course site set-up
Sarah needs to compose a review exam in for her class. The review exam will be created using course assets, discussion/collaboration snippets, and various learning resources. Sarah's goal is to compose the review exam; in order to complete this goal, she will need to locate, find, search, browse, filter, sort, group, categorize, and select the needed resources into a resource pool and then be able to draw from that resource pool in conjunction with composition and editorial functions to create the review exam. Sarah will need to specify the recipients of the review, schedule when it will made active and when it will expire and set how many attempts of the review may be made. Finally, Sarah will need to compose and send (or schedule) a notification to her class(es).

Ed McClellan, Undergraduate
Scenario to come.

Blue Sky Vision

Possible Components

Suspend - Inject - Resume

a.k.a. the lightbox effect (or greybox, or thickbox).
When the need for a secondary task comes up in the main task flow, suspend the main task, dim the main task interface, and present (highlighted and focused) the interface of the secondary task on top of the main task interface. Once the secondary interaction is complete, remove the secondary interface via transition, brighten the main task interface, and resume main task interaction.

Save As Draft

Suspend the main task flow indefinitely and provide a means for the user to immediately pick up from that point in the workflow.

File Management Fleshing Out at Summit meeting

  • Getting files in
    • create / retain linkages
    • upload once, use in multiple locations -- sometimes should remain "as one file", sometimes new location is the base of something new
    • upload many at once - making web-dav easier -- bookmarklet (delicious one click to add files to my space)
    • Upload happens in context of other activities / workflows
    • Upload to general file space
    • Connections between file space and in context
    • assign information important to me about my files (context, tags, etc.)
  • Organization of my files (personal resource management)
    • manipulating
    • rearranging
    • slicing them up in various ways -- make structure match use (by topic for course for instance)
  • Sharing files as information (read-only)
    • across my course, across courses or projects, between courses and projects
    • with certain groups of people in specific contexts
      • subset or site participants
      • group of people not associated with sites and/or system (not logged in)
    • I decide how I share -- rules for sharing -- how & when
  • System representation of a file
    • how is it displayed to me
    • how it is displayed to others
    • what other information it shows me about the file (metadata, tags, auto-tags -- what course have I used it in, when last updated, etc.)
  • Collaboration 
    • I "own" the file versus share ownership / management with others

 Design Goals

  • System understands how I think about files and handles them appropriately
    • View images as thumbnails
    • Hiearchical and detail views of files
    • Display file contents in-line on page
  • Performance
    • If I can do it quicker outside the system than I will
    • File organization on the desktop
    • Web-dav performance issues
    • Web-dav getting started requirements overwhelming

 Next Steps

  • Talk to users
  • Flesh out use cases for problem spaces
  • Identify Components and prioritize
  • Choose 1 or 2 and form multi-disciplinary team around them

set her course site up for the semester.  She begins gathering the course materials -- the syllabus which needs some updating from last time she taught the class, readings for various topics / class sessions (docs, pdfs, websites, etc.), some assignments she'll be reusing from a previous class along with her handy list of useful links she likes students to have.   Now she needs to get the material onto her course site.  After the site is created, she needs to upload all of this material and would like it to be mapped to her syllabus.

She asks her 3 Teaching Assistants to gather and upload material for several topics on the syllabus.  They'll do that over a stretch of several weeks. In addition, Sara continues to appropriate course materials throughout the semester.  Sometimes this will be an addition and other times she'll have found a replacement for something already on the site.

Sharing files across courses 

Sarah would like to use some of the class material from a previous class she taught.  She had a Sakai site for that class too so would like to reuse some of the materials in the class site.  There are several assignments that she can reuse as-is and a couple that she wants to make minor tweaks to before using in the new class.  Many of the readings are the same.  She can even reuse the syllabus with some minor tweaks.  Perhaps she needs to browse the old site to see what else might be of use.

Sharing files with colleagues

Sarah would like to circulate a draft of a paper to a few trusted colleagues before submitting it for publication. She doesn't want to create an entire site for this limited purpose, she simply wants to surface it for a particular group of people to read temporarily, and get some comments that she can incorporate.

Display syllabus content in-line 

Sarah has already created her syllabus.  It's currently a pdf.  She would like the content of the pdf to be displayed on the page when students visit the Syllabus tool.

Providing feedback

Sarah has several graduate students working under her, is thesis advisor to another, and common interactions with all of them include reviewing proposals and drafts of their work, which are returned to them with either informal comments and suggestions or even formal approval. They aren't graded like homework and quizzes, but it's still valuable to have these copies and a history of these interactions.

Spin-off copies for others to edit

Sarah has a favorite assignment she delivers every semester, where she circulates a template of a sample case study and then asks students to devise their own in their groups, working from the sample.  She wants to keep her original file available and inviolate for future classes, but also wants the students to just be able to take their own copy of it and begin to edit it collaboratively within their groups.

Profile: promotion and tenure

Sarah needs to keep a close eye on her career progress toward promotion and tenure, and wants to keep track of her publications, conference presentations, course evaluations, and any other details that she knows the review committee will factor into account. She'd also like to have it arranged in a presentable form with a fixed URL that she could distribute.

Assessing Teamwork

Sarah has her class work on projects in teams, all working on the same document.  To gauge the contributions of team members, she wants to see the document edits made, and by who, each time a change is made to the file in Sakai.

More scenarios to come...


Ed McClellan, Undergraduate

Collaborating on a file

Ed and his project team are in the final stretch -- they just need to pull together their various pieces of the final paper and then Heather will do the final edit.  The plan is for everyone to upload their pieces to the project site.  After all 5 sections are uploaded, Heather will pull them all together (copy & paste) and do a final edit to put it all in one voice and check for spelling and grammatical errors.

More scenarios to come...

Andrew Devall, Principle Investigator Research Project 

Collaborating on presentation 

Andrew and his colleagues are creating a project update presentation to share with their department.  They worked on the outline together and uploaded to their project site.  Now they'll each take their section to flesh out with details.  The presentation is in 3 weeks so they'll work on it at various times over the next few weeks.  They want to work on the same document so they don't have merging challenges later on.  The current challenge then will be to make sure they are always working on the most current file on the site (current version) and that two people aren't working on the file at the same time.

Confidential Information 

Andrew has a document he'd like to share with Stacy and Greg on the project team.  For confidentiality purposes he is not allowed to share it with the rest of the team yet but eventually probably will. 

More scenarios to come... 

Blue Sky Vision

*Random Thoughts*

  • Personal file manager available from anywhere in application.  Main home is probably within My Workspace.
  • The file manager allows users to view their files in a navigation or spatial view; with details and without
  • User can drag and drop into, out of and within.  
  • Tagging for files allows users to find files via their tags and others tags.  They can search or browse by previous tags (a.k.a. tag cloud).  Standard known metadata could be auto-tagged.  System knows the difference between my tag and others tags.
  • Robust search that not only searches meta-data tags but also document content.  It should be simple by default (think Google) but allow users define searches at a fairly granular level.
  • Allow users to upload files directly into their file manager and in the context of other activities or working in other tools.  While creating a wiki page, allow the user to upload a file.  The file should then be accessible from within that same context and from their file manager.
  • Allow instructors to display files in a customized display or display, and eventually integrate this display with links to other tools, so that navigation can becoem more lesson-centric and less tool-centric. See A Blue-sky Vision of the Resources Viewer.

File Management Component Ideas

Include Page
File Management Component Ideas
File Management Component Ideas

Next Steps 

  • Review content management contextual inquiry worksheet and iterate
  • Create overall project plan including short & long term
    • Sakai 2.6
    • Sakai conference meet-up with file management & navigation

Other resources

Sakai Resources WG confluence space:

Summit Post-it Page

See File Management Artifacts from Summit Meeting

Fluid/Resources Post-Conference Meeting, December 7 2007

Fluid and Resources December 2007