Software Engineering REwards for BRainstorming Online, 2008-Present

If you would like guest access to the system, contact

Acknowledgment: This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 0757434. Any opinions, findings and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation (NSF).


SEREBRO is a web-based application for software development with three objectives for encouraging and rewarding creativity: (a) build a graphical, asynchronously communicated, idea network to interconnect ideas and support creativity via a social
networking platform, (b) tailor idea network usage to explicit phases of software development to encourage creativity toward project milestones, and (c) investigate mechanisms that assess the idea proliferation and propagation to reward creativity.

The main challenge behind recognizing and rewarding creative contribution by team members in a Software Engineering project is to devise a framework that captures and relates ideas as they are generated while guiding the design process toward project milestones. The core notion of creative process we use is an idea. An idea can be a belief statement, a problem solving approach, a solution to a problem or a discussion related to any idea type. Idea-related activities include Brainstorming, Spinning, Pruning and Finalizing. Examples of these activities can be seen in the figure below.

The design objectives for our initial creativity support tool, SEREBRO 1.0. included:

  • Visualizing the team’s creative discourse through a network of ideas associated with designated milestone achievements, such as those found in the Rational Unified Process (RUP).
  • Asynchronous communication via a social networking platform with email alerts of postings.
  • Team decision capturing regarding idea implementation, emerging concepts, and task generation.
  • Reinforcement learning mechanisms to reward creativity based on metrics related to idea proliferation and propagation through the network.

The next version, SEREBRO 2.0 was enhanced with software project management components that tie into the idea network and reward scheme. These include uploading files for sharing, version control for changes to the product implementations, a Wiki to document product artifacts, a calendar tool, and a Gantt chart. SEREBRO 2.0 used a finer granularity of milestones, removing the need for the RUP.

The current version, SEREBRO 3.0 has been optimized using Ajax/jQuery for improved viewability, navigation, social tagging, and integration with the project management toolkits. SEREBRO is currently in use by student project teams as part of the CS4503/4513 Senior Software Projects I/II undergraduate capstone course and by CS3053 Social Psychology. Ongoing projects include research into social tagging for traceability management, self-regulated learning (as part of an individual’s SEREBRO system use), integration modules for non SE specific contexts, mobile SEREBRO applications and more.

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Click here to download the SEREBRO Demonstration video.
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  • M. Hale, R. Gamble, K. Wilson, and A. Narayan, “Collaborative Learning in Software Engineering Teams”, in 17th Americas Conference on Information Systems, 2011.
  • M. Hale, N. Jorgenson, and R. Gamble, “Analyzing the Role of Tags as Lightweight Traceability Links,” in Proceedings for the 6th International Workshop on Traceability in Emerging Forms of Software Engineering, 2011.
  • N. Jorgenson, M. Hale, and R. Gamble, “SEREBRO: Facilitating Student Project Team Collaboration,” in 33rd International Conference on Software Engineering, 2011.
  • M. Hale, N. Jorgenson, and R. Gamble, “Predicting Individual Performance in Student Project Teams,” in Proceedings of the 24th Conference on Software Engineering Education and Training, 2011.
  • Grove, D. F., Hale, M. L., Jorgenson, N., Gamble, R. and Sen, S, “Introducing Avatars to Suggest Creative Participation,” in Proceedings of the CreativeIT Workshop, 9th International Conference on Autonomous Agents and Multiagent Systems, 2010.
  • F. Grove, N. Jorgenson, R. Gamble, S. Sen, and B. Brummel, “Software Engineering REwards for BRainstorming Online (SEREBRO),” presented at the Show & Tell session of ICCC10, 2010.
  • F. Grove, N. Jorgenson, R. Gamble, S. Sen, and B. Brummel, “Adapting Rewards to Encourage Creativity,” in
    Multi-Agent Systems for Education and Interactive Entertainment: Design, Use and Experience, M. Beer, M. Fasli, and D. Richards, eds., IGI Global, 2011.
  • C. Nelson, B. Brummel, D.F. Grove, N. Jorgenson, R. Gamble, and S. Sen, “Measuring Creativity in Software Design,” in Proceedings of the International Conference on Computational Creativity, 2010.
  • R. Gamble, S. Sen, B. Brummel, F. Grove, N. Jorgenson, D. Guernsey, D. Hampton, D. Baker, and J. Hughes, “The SEREBRO Project: Fostering Creativity through Collaboration and Rewards“, EDUMas Workshop, part of 8th Int. Conf. on Autonomous Agents and Multiagent Systems, 2009.

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Brief Tutorial

Note: Scroll down to section entitled ‘Video‘ to view a video demonstration of the website.

Upon logging into SEREBRO you will be at the ‘Home’ page, seen in Figure 1, which lists all of the projects within SEREBRO. As a guest you can view any project (although you are not a ‘member’) by clicking on it’s name. Click on a Team Metal, such as Gold Team, under Projects to see that team’s project. By default the first screen shown upon entering a project is the activity feed. The activity feed is a collection of recent actions within a project, such as ideas, uploads, tasks, wiki or svn changes. You can browse the feed or alternatively, click ‘Forum’ in the project toolbar located on the left side of the page, as shown below in Figure 2. The forum is the collection of ideas, or the SEREBRO idea network. Take note here within each project the SEREBRO navigation panel on the left will update to include project specific locations such as the forum, wiki, uploads, etc.

Figure 1: The SEREBRO Dashboard (click to enlarge)

Within the ‘Forum’ view, select a challenge or phase of the project discussion, then click a ‘Topic’ header to view its contents. Here you will see a graphical representation of the idea network associated with that header. This is especially helpful for very active topic threads which have complex structures. Try ‘hovering’ your mouse over a graph node within the ‘Graph View’, notice upon hovering you can view the post to which the node corresponds. Graph view was optimized in SEREBRO 3.0 with Ajax/jQuery for improved performance and viewability. Figure 2 shows the project tool menu (left hand side) and a post with its reply options as seen in the SEREBRO graph view.

Figure 2. Graph View of a Topic Thread (click to enlarge)

Figure 3 below demonstrates the details of an inidivial post within a topic thread in the forum. Observe the top of Figure 3 below, the idea type is one of brainstorm, agree, disagree, or finalized. Additional idea types can correspond to meeting notes from face-to-face meetings that do not involve SEREBRO directly but are encoded in SEREBRO to capture the meeting minutes. The thread name denotes the start of an idea network under the “New Icon” topic (not displayed). The arrows on the right hand side indicate a tangible outcome connection when ‘moused’ over; in this case two document uploads occurred due to this post. On the left-hand side, the personal graphic is part of the user’s customization. The badges iconify the level of earned creativity reward points. The reputation shows the scale of creativity that team members associate with a user’s post. The post’s date and time are recorded. The post text is the main component of the post. On the bottom, the credit button lets the user say whether they worked outside their role, input to the wiki, svn, or upload area, or posted the idea with another team member. The archive button is used to remove posts from a reward strategy, such as discussions on when to have meetings. The edit button allows the poster or other team members to alter the post. The person, time, and date of the edit are displayed in red inside the post. Agree and disagree buttons spawn new threads. Stop and finalize are buttons only seen by the team leader with team agreement to cease contributions to a thread or to finalize a thread into a single concept or topic for the next milestone. The score button allows team members to rate the creativity of a post which feeds
into the reputation of the original poster.

Figure 3. The Elements of a SEREBRO Post (click to enlarge)

These are the just the basics, explore the system taking full advantage of the navigation menu and observe what the Fall CS 4503 class has created. After exhausting the forum, we recommend exploring the highly organized wikis within each project, these contain a majority of the documentation which the project teams drafted while developing their individual prototypes within the projects. You can also opt to view the video demonstration for more information and a verbal description of the common system use cases.
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Results [Data]

Date Posted Name Associated Publication HTML/PDF Excel
5/2/2011 Learning Indicator Correlations – Collaborative Learning in Software Development Teams AMCIS2011 HTML xlsx
5/3/2011 Learning Indicator Tuple Analysis – Collaborative Learning in Software Development Teams AMCIS2011 HTML xlsx
2/1/2011 Individual Level Analysis – Collaborative Learning in Software Development Teams AMCIS2011 HTML xlsx
5/2/2011 Coded Posts – Collaborative Learning in Software Development Teams AMCIS2011 HTML xlsx
12/15/2010 Master CS4503 Fall 2010 – Predicting Individual Performance in Student Project Teams CSEE&T 2011 HTML xlsx
12/8/2009 Master CS4503 Fall 2009 – Survey Results and Correlations N/A HTML xls
11/19/2009 CS4503 Fall 2009 – Survey Results N/A pdf N/A
11/19/2009 CS4503 Fall 2009 – Correlations N/A pdf N/A
11/19/2009 Year 2 Master Serebro Surveys and Ratings N/A HTML xls
11/19/2009 CS4503 Fall Challenge 4 – Team Level – Survey Results N/A HTML xls
11/19/2009 CS4503 Fall Challenge 5 – Team Level – Survey Results N/A HTML xls

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