|Publication number||US20050033811 A1|
|Application number||US 10/637,020|
|Publication date||Feb 10, 2005|
|Filing date||Aug 7, 2003|
|Priority date||Aug 7, 2003|
|Also published as||CA2532776A1, CN1701326A, US7437421, US7673006, US8606855, US20050033813, US20080250474, US20080263155, US20090083384, US20140082113, WO2005015432A1|
|Publication number||10637020, 637020, US 2005/0033811 A1, US 2005/033811 A1, US 20050033811 A1, US 20050033811A1, US 2005033811 A1, US 2005033811A1, US-A1-20050033811, US-A1-2005033811, US2005/0033811A1, US2005/033811A1, US20050033811 A1, US20050033811A1, US2005033811 A1, US2005033811A1|
|Inventors||Kulvir Bhogal, Nizamudeen Ishmael, Robert Kamper, Rohit Sahasrabudhe, Mandeep Sidhu|
|Original Assignee||International Business Machines Corporation|
|Export Citation||BiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan|
|Patent Citations (33), Referenced by (41), Classifications (12), Legal Events (3)|
|External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet|
1. Field of the Invention
The field of the invention is data processing, or, more specifically, methods, systems, and products for collaborative email.
2. Description Of Related Art
Systems for collaboration in developing email documents generally maintain a master copy of a document in a central location, record changes in the master copy, and update collaborators' copies by providing a new copy of the entire document. This uses a lot of bandwidth, particularly when there are many revisions over a period of time. There are version control systems, such as Unix's Source Code Control System or ‘SCCS’ and the open-source version control system known as the Concurrent Versions System or ‘CVS.’ Such systems are strongly oriented to version control for source code documents, however, and do not integrate very well with collaborative email, lacking, as they do, support for such collaborative features as automated updates to certain revision levels or authentication through valid digital signatures. For these reasons, there is an ongoing need for improvements in systems and methods for collaborative email.
Methods, systems, and computer program products are disclosed for writing a collaborative email document, including establishing a collaborative email document on an administrator's computer; identifying one or more collaborators who are authorized to view and edit the document, wherein the collaborators optionally include the administrator; providing to the collaborators copies of the document for viewing and editing, wherein the collaborators' copies reside on collaborators' computers; creating revisions in at least one copy of the document; recording the revisions; and updating the copies of the document on collaborators' computers with the revisions. In typical embodiments, establishing a collaborative email document on an administrator's computer includes identifying an administrator for the document and retaining an administrative copy of the document on the administrator's computer. In typical embodiments, updating copies of a document with revisions includes updating a copy of the document with one or more revisions later than a current version identifier for the copy.
Typical embodiments include identifying editable portions of the email document, wherein identifying one or more collaborators further comprises specifying that only certain collaborators are authorized to view and edit one or more portions of the document. Typical embodiments also include recording in the document authorization for only certain collaborators to edit one or more portions of the document.
Typical embodiments also include identifying one or more signatories for the document; providing to each signatory a copy of the document for signing; affixing to the document a digital signature for each signatory; and sending the signed document from the administrator's computer to addressees. Such embodiments typically also include sending the collaborative email document from the administrator's computer to addressees only when the document bears valid digital signatures from all signatories.
In typical embodiments, recording revisions comprises storing the revisions on a computer accessible to collaborators' computers. In such embodiments, recording revisions typically includes storing the revisions with a version identification for each revision. In such embodiments, recording revisions typically includes storing the revisions with a sequence identification for each revision.
In typical embodiments, updating copies of a collaborative email document with revisions further comprises communicating the revisions asynchronously to the collaborators and to the administrator's computer. In many embodiments, updating the collaborators' copies of the document with the revisions further comprises communicating the revisions synchronously to one or more collaborators as the revisions are made. In such embodiments, updating the copies of the document with the revisions often includes identifying collaborator computers that are available for synchronous communications of revisions, communicating revisions synchronously to collaborator computers that are available for synchronous communications, and updating current version identifications for the copies of the document on collaborator's computers that are available for synchronous communications. In such embodiments, identifying collaborator computers that are available for synchronous communications of revisions typically includes determining whether collaborators copies are synchronized with the latest revisions.
The foregoing and other objects, features and advantages of the invention will be apparent from the following more particular descriptions of exemplary embodiments of the invention as illustrated in the accompanying drawings wherein like reference numbers generally represent like parts of exemplary embodiments of the invention.
The present invention is described to a large extent in this specification in terms of methods for collaborative email. Persons skilled in the art, however, will recognize that any computer system that includes suitable programming means for operating in accordance with the disclosed methods also falls well within the scope of the present invention.
Suitable programming means include any means for directing a computer system to execute the steps of the method of the invention, including for example, systems comprised of processing units and arithmetic-logic circuits coupled to computer memory, which systems have the capability of storing in computer memory, which computer memory includes electronic circuits configured to store data and program instructions, programmed steps of the method of the invention for execution by a processing unit. The invention also may be embodied in a computer program product, such as a diskette or other recording medium, for use with any suitable data processing system.
Embodiments of a computer program product may be implemented by use of any recording medium for machine-readable information, including magnetic media, optical media, or other suitable media. Persons skilled in the art will immediately recognize that any computer system having suitable programming means will be capable of executing the steps of the method of the invention as embodied in a program product. Persons skilled in the art will recognize immediately that, although most of the exemplary embodiments described in this specification are oriented to software installed and executing on computer hardware, nevertheless, alternative embodiments implemented as firmware or as hardware are well within the scope of the present invention.
In this specification, the terms “field,” “data element,” and “attribute,” unless the context indicates otherwise, generally are used as synonyms, referring to individual elements of information, typically represented as digital data. Aggregates of data elements are referred to as “records” or “data structures.” Aggregates of records are referred to as “tables” or “files.” Aggregates of files or tables are referred to as “databases.” In the context of tables in databases, fields may be referred to as “columns,” and records may be referred to as “rows.” Complex data structures that include member methods, functions, or software routines as well as data elements are referred to as “classes.” Instances of classes are referred to as “objects” or “class objects.”
“CGI” means “Common Gateway Interface,” a standard technology for data communications of resources between web servers and web clients. CGI provides a standard interface between servers and server-side ‘gateway’ programs that administer actual reads and writes of data to and from files systems and databases.
“Client,” “client device,” “client machine,” or “client computer” means any computer or other automated computing machinery capable of administering collaborative email according to embodiments of the present invention. Examples include personal computers, PDAs, mobile telephones, laptop computers, handheld devices, and others as will occur to those of skill in the art. Clients include devices capable of wireless as well as wireline communications.
“HDML” stands for ‘Handheld Device Markup Language,’ a markup language used to format content for web-enabled mobile phones. HDML is proprietary to Openwave Systems, Inc., and can only be operated on phones that use Openwave browsers. Rather than WAP, HDML operates over Openwave's Handheld Device Transport Protocol (“HDTP”).
“HTML” stands for ‘HyperText Markup Language,’ a standard markup language for displaying web pages on browsers.
“HTTP” stands for ‘HyperText Transport Protocol,’ a standard data communications protocol of the World Wide Web. HTTP is a hyperlinking protocol. In exemplary embodiments of the present invention, asynchronous communications of revisions are often implemented by use of hyperlinking protocols. Other examples of hyperlinking protocols include HDML and WAP.
“POP” means Post Office Protocol, referring to the standard protocol for communicating email messages from email servers to email clients. “POP3” is a standard Post Office Protocol capable of communicating email messages among email servers and both to and from email clients, which means that POP3 is now useful as a single email protocol with no need for SMTP.
“Server” in this specification refers to a computer or other automated computing machinery on a network that manages resources, including documents, and requests for access to such resources. A “web server,” is a server that communicates with clients through data communications application programs, such as browsers or microbrowsers, by means of hyperlinking protocols such as HTTP, WAP, or HDTP, in order to manage and make available to networked computers documents, digital objects, and other resources. Servers generally include applications programs that that accept data communications connections in order to service requests from clients by sending back responses. Any given computer or program therefore may be both a client and a server. The use of these terms in this disclosure refers primarily to the role being performed by the computer or program for a particular connection or coupling for data communications, rather than to the computer or program's capabilities in general.
“SMTP” means Simple Mail Transfer Protocol, referring to the standard protocol for communicating email messages from email clients to email servers and from email servers to other email servers. It is typical in prior art that SMTP is used to communicate email messages from source email clients to mailbox locations, and POP is then used to communicate the email messages from mailboxes to destination email clients.
“TCP/IP” refers to two layers of a standard OSI data communications protocol stack. The network layer is implemented with the Internet Protocol, hence the initials ‘IP.’ And the transport layer is implemented with the Transport Control Protocol, referred to as ‘TCP.’ The two protocols are used together so frequently that they are often referred to as the TCP/IP suite, or, more simply, just ‘TCP/IP.’ TCP/IP is the standard data transport suite for the well-known world-wide network of computers called ‘the Internet.’
“WAP” refers to the Wireless Application Protocol, a protocol for use with handheld wireless devices. Examples of wireless devices useful with WAP include mobile phones, pagers, two-way radios, hand-held computers, and PDAs. WAP supports many wireless networks, and WAP is supported by many operating systems. WAP supports HTML, XML, and particularly WML (the Wireless Markup Language), which is a language particularly designed for small screen and one-hand navigation without a keyboard or mouse. Operating systems specifically engineered for handheld devices include PalmOS, EPOC, Windows CE, FLEXOS, OS/9, and JavaOS. WAP devices that use displays and access the Internet run “microbrowsers.” The microbrowsers use small file sizes that can accommodate the low memory constraints of handheld devices and the low-bandwidth constraints of wireless networks.
Methods and systems according to the present invention generally implement collaborative email by identifying collaborators authorized to view and edit a collaborative email document as it is being written. Segments of the document may be identified that only particular collaborators are authorized to view and edit. Revisions are typically streamed asynchronously (or synchronously) among collaborators' clients through one or more servers. Such methods and systems typically identify an administrator for the document on whose client is maintained an administrative copy of the document. The administrator may or may not be an authorized collaborator, but the administrator's copy of the document may be synchronized to a current version of the document, so that the administrator may provide administrative services regarding development of the document, administrative services such as monitoring document status, securing valid digital signatures from signatories, and finally transmitting the final version of the document to addressees.
In such systems, the addressees may or may not include the collaborators, and the signatories may or may not be collaborators. For example, a manager may assign the manager's secretary to create a collaborative document, type its initial contents, and act as administrator for development of the document. The manager may designate one or more executives as signatories, executives known to the manager as responsible for the subject area of the document. The manager may or may not be a signatory. The manager may designate collaborators who will receive copies of the document to view and edit while the document is being written. In fact, it may be said that the collaborative edits or revisions to the document actually implement the writing of the document. The manager may or may not be listed as a collaborator.
When the collaborators are finished editing the document, the administrator may email it to the signatories for digital signatures. After all required signatures are affixed to the document, the administrator may ‘send’ the document to its addressees. In email clients improved according to embodiments of the present invention, the email client's ‘send’ function typically is not enabled for sending to addressees until all required signatures are present. The send button on collaborators' clients typically is not enabled at all. The administrator's copy is updated with revisions just as are all the collaborators' copies. The only thing that distinguishes operation of the administrator's client from collaborators' email clients is that sending to addressees typically will eventually become enabled on the administrator's client (when the document is signed), but not so on collaborators' clients. Revisions typically are the only transmissions of data from collaborators' clients regarding collaborative email documents.
Exemplary methods, system, and products for collaborative email are further explained with reference to the accompanying drawings, beginning with
The system of
In the example of
Client devices and servers in such distributed processing systems may be represented by a variety of computing devices, such as mainframes, personal computers, personal digital assistants, web-enabled mobile telephones, and so on. The particular servers and client devices illustrated in
Although exemplary embodiments in this disclosure are described generally in terms of client-server architectures, that is not a limitation of the present invention. On the contrary, various embodiments of the present invention may be implemented, for example, in peer-to-peer architectures and in other computer architectural arrangements as will occur to those of skill in the art.
The computer 106 of
The example computer 106 of
The example computer of
Exemplary embodiments of the present invention are further explained with reference to
The data entry screen of
In this example, ‘Display Revisions’ is set ‘on,’ and the email client therefore displays revisions representing deleting ‘hyperlink’ from row 2, column 1 and inserting ‘anchor’ at row 2, column 1. If ‘Display Revisions’ were set ‘off,’ the text under edit would be displayed as:
The email client of
On a server, revisions so encoded may be stored in data structures such as those shown in
Each record in the collaborator copy table 410 represents a copy of a collaborative email document provided to a collaborator for viewing and editing. Each record in the collaborator copy table 410 includes an identification 412 of the collaborator to whom a copy was provided. The collaborator identification 412 may be implemented as, for example, a collaborator's email address. Each collaborator copy record 410 also includes a document identification field 404 identifying the document a copy of which was provided to the collaborator.
Each collaborator copy record 410 in this example also includes an identification of the current version 414 of the document currently provided as a copy to the collaborator. Updating copies of collaborative email documents on collaborators' clients with revisions is typically carried out by updating a copy of the document with all revisions later than a current version identifier for the copy, and the repository of the current version identifier for the copy is often a server-side data structure such as the one shown in
An alternative request message requests less than a full synchronization, such as, for example, the revisions comprising just the next version, or the revisions comprising a previous version. That is, email clients according to embodiments of the present invention are typically programmed to operate in response to, for example, a ‘Version Forward’ button, such as the one shown in the example toolbar 306 on
Similarly, email clients according to embodiments of the present invention are typically programmed to operate in response to a ‘Version Back’ button, such as the one shown in the example toolbar 306 on
Each record in the revision table 422 represents a revision to a collaborative email document. In addition to the revision itself 420, which may be string-encoded as described above, each revision record 422 also includes a collaborator identification 412 of the collaborator who created a revision, a document identification 404 of the document for which the revision is intended, a revision identification 416, and a sequence identification 418 for ordering revisions within a version.
As mentioned above, email clients according to embodiments of the present invention are typically programmed so that in response to operation of a ‘Commit Revisions’ button in a toolbar like the one shown at reference 306 on
In typical embodiments, the email client may be programmed to provide a sequence number for each revision identifying the correct order in which the revisions are to be used to update copies of a collaborative email document. It is clear that the exemplary revisions mentioned above:
Methods of the invention are further explained with reference to
Establishing (502) a collaborative email document on an administrative client may be carried out by opening a new email document, identifying the document as a collaborative one, and identifying an administrator for the document. In typical embodiments, establishing a collaborative email document includes retaining an administrative copy of the document on an administrative client while the document is written by one or more collaborators.
It is useful to understand that an administrative copy of a collaborative email document according to embodiments of the present invention is not a master document according to prior art. In fact, according to embodiments of the present invention, there is no ‘master copy’ of a collaborative document against which revisions are recognized. All copies, including an administrative copy, here have the same status and eligibility for viewing, editing, and updating. In fact, if an administrator is also an authorized collaborator, then all copies are identical, and the only thing that distinguishes the administrator's copy is that eventually its administrative client will acquire an enabled ‘send’ function, while none of the other clients ever will.
In the present invention, there is no limitation regarding the initial contents of a collaborative email document. The user who creates a document, typically the user to be identified as the administrator for the document, may be an author, writing a first draft, so that the initial content is substantial. Alternatively, the administrator may be a clerk who creates on behalf of a supervisor a completely blank document to be written entirely by its collaborators.
Identifying collaborators and administrators may be carried out by including identifiers for them in meta data in an email document implemented in HTML format, for example, as shown here:
<HTML> <HEAD> <META name=“Document Type” content=“Collaborative Email”> <META name=“Revision Number” content=“1”> <META name=“adminID” content=“MaryJohnson@us.ibm.com”> <META name=“collaboratorID” content=“MaryJohnson@us.ibm.com PeteJones@us.ibm.com JohnSmith@us.ibm.com”> <META name=“RevisionAuthority” content=“MaryJohnson@us.ibm.com ALL PeteJones@us.ibm.com Segment1 JohnSmith@us.ibm.com Segment2”> </HEAD> <BODY> <SEGMENT1> </SEGMENT1> <SEGMENT2> </SEGMENT2> </BODY> </HTML>
In this example, a metadata element named “Document Type” is used to identify an email document as a collaborative one. A metadata element named “Revision Number” is used to store the current revision identification of each copy of the document. The “Revision Number,” although typically stored server-side also, may advantageously be recorded in the metadata for each copy of a collaborative document because each collaborator's copy and the administrative copy may embody different versions of the document at the same time.
In the exemplary metadata, a metadata element named “adminID” records the identity of the administrator of the document as “MaryJohnson@us.imb.com.” The administrator identification, although typically stored server-side also, may advantageously be recorded in the metadata for each copy of a collaborative document so that the email client where the copy is revised by a collaborator or an administrator can know whether that particular email client is the administrative client for that document.
In this example, a metadata element named “collaboratorID” records the identities of the collaborators authorized to view and edit the document in the process of writing the document. The method of
The method of
The method of
In the method of
The method of
Similarly, in response to the data communications transmission carrying the revisions of a version to a server, a server using server-side data structures like those of
Updating other collaborators' copies is then carried out by request/response communications between the collaborators' clients and the server. A collaborator client sends an HTTP request message for an update, either an update to the next version after the one presently installed on the client or a request for a full update all the way from the client's current version to the latest version available. A request for a full update all the way from the client's current version to the latest version available is called a synchronization request. The email client of
In addition to requesting a next version and full synchronization, a client can also request a previous version. When a server receives such a request, the server provides in a response message the revisions defining a previous version, and the requesting email client implements those revisions in reverse order, thereby creating on that email client a previous version of the document. The email client of
Methods of collaborative email as illustrated in
<HTML> <HEAD> <META name=“RevisionAuthority” content=“MaryJohnson@us.ibm.com ALL PeteJones@us.ibm.com Segment1 JohnSmith@us.ibm.com Segment2”> </HEAD> <BODY> <SEGMENT1> </SEGMENT1> <SEGMENT2> </SEGMENT2> </BODY> </HTML>,
editable portions of a document are identified, in the document itself, by the markup elements <SEGMENT1></SEGMENT1><SEGMENT2></SEGMENT2>. Specifying (518) that only certain collaborators are authorized to view and edit one or more portions of the document in this example is carried out by use of the metadata:
<META name=“RevisionAuthority” content=“MaryJohnson@us.ibm.com ALL PeteJones@us.ibm.com Segment1 JohnSmith@us.ibm.com Segment2”>,
which specifies that Mary Johnson is authorized to view and edit the entire document, Pete Jones is authorized to view and edit Segment 1, and John Smith is authorized to view and edit Segment 2.
The method of
The method of
Checking validity of a digital signature is accomplished by decrypting the hashed digest from the signature with a signatory's public key, hashing a new digest of the current contents of the document, and comparing the new digest with the decrypted digest from the signature. If the new digest and the decrypted digest from the signature are identical, the signature is considered valid. They will not be identical if revisions to the document are entered after the signature is affixed to the document.
When the document is provided 604 to signatories for signing, therefore, in many embodiments of the present invention, the document advantageously is first disabled 603 for revision. A document may be disabled for revisions, for example, by encoding that fact in a data element dedicated to that purpose, such as, for example, the ‘status’ field 408 in the exemplary data structures of
Some embodiments do not implement disabling of revisions during signing. In some embodiments that do implement disabling of revisions during signing, a signatory who is also a collaborator may go ahead and affix a signature that may be rendered invalid by a later revision. In such embodiments, as shown in
The method of
At this point in processing, the identities of the administrator and the collaborators may be of little concern to the addressees. The collaborators often in effect develop a document for mailing on behalf of signatories who have authority over the subject matter of the document. It is therefore the identity of the signatories rather than the identify of the developers of the document that will often be considered more pertinent to addressees. The collaborators, the administrator, and the signatories may or may not be among the addressees.
Updating (512) copies of a collaborative email document with revisions is typically carried out by communicating the revisions asynchronously to the collaborators and to the administrative client. Asynchronous communication of revisions is useful because the collaborators' clients may not be on-line on the network to receive the revisions at the time when they are created. Asynchronous communication of revisions is carried out by use of server-side data structures such as those shown in
The exact method of updating a copy of a document on an email client may be determined or selected by one or more setup parameters in the client. Updating a copy of a document by downloading revisions from a server may be carried out, for example, every time an email client is activated and at periodic intervals so long as the email client is operative. The periodic updates may be programmed to continue in background as long as the email client is running on a client machine even when the local copy of the document is not open for editing, so that when the copy opened for editing, it is likely to be fully synchronized with the latest revisions. Alternatively, a collaborator may wish to view the revisions since his or her last review of the document one at a time, stepping through them by use of, for example, a ‘Version Forward’ button like the one illustrated in the toolbar at reference 306 on the email client of
In addition to asynchronous updates implemented through a server, updating (512) the collaborators' copies of a collaborative email document with revisions may be carried out by communicating the revisions synchronously to one or more collaborators as the revisions are made. Synchronous communications of revisions may be implemented by use of messages in an instant messaging protocol. Examples of instant messaging protocols useful with various embodiments of the present invention include the Instant Messaging and Presence Protocol (“IMPP”) specified by the IMPP Working Group of the Internet Engineering Task Force and the Mitre Corporation's Simple Instant Messaging and Presence Service (“SIMP”).
Updating copies of documents synchronously affects their version identifications. In the method of
By way of further explanation, it is noted that synchronous updates and asynchronous updates are advantageously employed together. When synchronous communications of revisions are employed for collaborators' copies that are not synchronized with the latest revisions, there is a risk that the asynchronous revisions will be applied to a copy out of proper sequence, thereby causing confusion in the copy of the document on that collaborator's client. Synchronous communications of revisions therefore are beneficially implemented for collaborators copies of a document after collaborators' copies are synchronized with the latest revisions from an asynchronous source of revisions.
In the method of
It will often be the case that some collaborators on a document engage in synchronous communications of revisions when other collaborators on the same document are unavailable for synchronous communications of revisions. Email clients according to embodiments of the present invention therefore often transmit all revisions for storage on a server for later asynchronous downloads by the other collaborators at their convenience. In this way, even a collaborator who begins a synchronous session with other collaborators and logs off in the middle of the session, can later obtain the intervening revisions by asynchronous download from the server. When such a collaborator logs off during synchronous communication of revisions, the email client advantageously records the current version identification for that collaborator's copy of the document in a data structure such as that shown at reference 414 in
It will be understood from the foregoing description that modifications and changes may be made in various embodiments of the present invention without departing from its true spirit. The descriptions in this specification are for purposes of illustration only and are not to be construed in a limiting sense. The scope of the present invention is limited only by the language of the following claims.
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|International Classification||G06F17/24, G06Q10/00|
|Cooperative Classification||G06Q40/00, G06Q10/10, G06Q10/107, G06F17/24, H04L51/00|
|European Classification||G06Q10/10, G06Q10/107, G06Q40/00, G06F17/24|
|Aug 7, 2003||AS||Assignment|
Owner name: INTERNATIONAL BUSSINESS MACHINES CORPORATION, NEW
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNORS:BHOGAL, KULVIR SINGH;ISHMAEL, NIZAMUDEEN JR.;KAMPER, ROBERT J.;AND OTHERS;REEL/FRAME:014383/0351;SIGNING DATES FROM 20030730 TO 20030805
|Dec 27, 2012||AS||Assignment|
Owner name: EBAY INC., CALIFORNIA
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNOR:INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS MACHINES CORPORATION;REEL/FRAME:029536/0564
Effective date: 20120928
|Jul 22, 2015||AS||Assignment|
Owner name: PAYPAL, INC., CALIFORNIA
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNOR:EBAY INC.;REEL/FRAME:036159/0873
Effective date: 20150717