Conclusions

The study of MU* based collaborative writing has proven and continues to prove a rich source of unique insight onto the nature both of collaborative writing and writing itself. The text based virtual environment is unique in that it demands participants write to participate at all in the environment. Much of the current research has concentrated on the sociological impact of this feature, and how to use MU*s as an instructional tool by producing something unique to the MU* environment - the rooms of Dante's inferno and so on. By comparison, little research seems to have been done on producing a more conventional text within this environment. While it can be argued that to do so is not to use the full capability of MU*s by constraining the results to something traditional, the study described above would seem to suggest otherwise. Certainly the study accomplished the same goal Kesey set forth in the beginning of Caverns: to gain access to the actual writing process of the writers, rather than the revision process.

The experience of this study also suggests several important issues for subsequent studies. The first is the need for more functional editing software. Other methods described in the review of literature had far more functional editing software and did not create the kind of difficulties in actually producing the text as did JED. The advance of computer and network technology since this study was conducted has made it possible for even a MU* editor to be far more functional and easy to use. Additionally, it proved important that the editing software be responsive - network latency contributed strongly to the frustration the writers felt during the writing process. They were waiting, at times, several seconds for a keystroke to be echoed back. Clearly whatever editor is used for subsequent studies of this type should run on the writer's desktop computer, rather than on a remote computer.