Publication Date

January 2001

Document Type



© ACM, 2001. This is the authors’ version of the work. It is posted here by permission of ACM for your personal use. Not for redistribution. The definitive version was published in: Proceedings of the 19th Annual International Conference on Computer Documentation. Santa Fe, NM, October 21-24, 2001, 142-146.


To help designers and authors understand users' intentions and work practices for synchronous business communications in a systematic way, we used ethnographic and task-analytic techniques to collect, analyze and classify evidence of the activities of potential users as they conducted their work lives. The interactions we observed among our users took place through a variety of modalities. We found eight categories of tasks for the collaborative or interactive work in which our subjects engaged. Based on these data, we were able to classify roles of potential users of synchronous business communications software into a set of "archetypes" that characterize their use: Thinkers, Producers, Authors, Networkers and Diplomats. Issues raised by our work include questions about the nature of user archetypes, user tasks, and their modalities.