Recently in Collaborative Technologies Category

July 25, 2015

Federated Wiki is new and confusing to me

I've been playing with Wikis now for 14 years. I bought Ward Cunningham's 2001 book on Wikis. I can't remember now if I set up a Wiki while I was still at CNN in 2001 or whether it was 2002, but I know when I went to EarthLink I set up one of the the first Wikis there.

The canonical Wiki site was Cunningham's C2 Wiki, which I've poked around in occasionally. The last time I visited, I noticed that the site had stop allowing edits in Feburary 2015 because Cunningham was had rewritten the original Wiki software. Cunningham announced "a complete rewrite of wiki as a single page application with a distributed database which will last us for at least 20 years, maybe 200. " The result is known as the Federated Wiki.

The original Wiki was brilliant in it's simplicity and power. Anyone can edit and improve anything, and the result is there for all to see and benefit from.

Federated Wiki (also known as Smallest Federated Wiki, or SFW) is much harder for me to wrap my head around. Part of the inspiration seems to come from Git and the ability to fork anything: it's easy to fork any page on someone else's Federated Wiki and put that page on your own SFW. In theory it's easy for the owner of the original page to see who forked the page and to incorporate changes if they want to, but in practice, I don't see how you get the same collaborative synergy that resulted in the original C2 wiki.

Anyway. I'm playing with my own copy of SFW. I don't expect to do a lot with it, but we'll see.

August 21, 2007

Changes here: now on movable type 4

I've moved up to Movable Type 4.  I know there are lots of folks who prefer WordPress, but I still like Movable Type.

The new administrative interface design is very pleasing to the eye.  There are real improvements, I'm sure, but when part of the point of weblog software is to encourage one to write, the look and feel of the blog software is important, too.

January 15, 2005

Tools I'm catching up on

There are taxonomies that divide users of technology into innovators, early adopters, early majority, late majority, and laggards. There have been times when I've been in the innovator category, but perhaps lately I've fallen back into the early adopter category. Or maybe I've always been there. Can't tell.

I've just got around to a few tools that a number of folks have mentioned before, namely and Bloglines. I've looked at Flickr, but I have my own picture site that doesn't come with bandwidth upload restrictions, so I haven't really tried that one yet.

Read on ...

Continue reading Tools I'm catching up on.

November 28, 2004

I like Thunderbird

I've been using the Mozilla mail client for a couple of years, and I've been pretty happy with it. I've even set up non-tech friends with Mozilla mail in preference to having them use Outlook Express.

But I've now been using Thunderbird 0.9 for a little over three weeks now, and I've been very happy with it. If I was starting my non-tech friends on email today, I'd give them Thunderbird and Firefox.

It's hard to quantify why I like Thunderbird better than Mozilla mail - it does have a few more features, but mostly it's a fit-and-finish kind of issue: both Thunderbird and Firefox pay a little more attention to the look and feel, and both feel a little less geeky. Most everything that works in Mozilla mail works in Thunderbird - all the shortcuts.

The one thing I use about using the combination of Firefox and Thunderbird is the one-keystroke back to mail from Firefox. That's picky - you can do it with Alt-T M - but that's two keystrokes. Picky, picky. (In Mozilla it's Alt-2.)

The only glitch I've had with Thunderbird so far is a conversion issue. I apparently installed an old release of Thunderbird on my laptop. Usually Thunderbird does a very clean job of importing mail and settings from Mozilla. However, when I installed Thunderbird 0.9 on the laptop, I could not re-import my Mozilla settings - it had old settings that I'd used before, and the 'Mozilla' import option was missing. Still haven't figured that one out, so I'm still using Mozilla mail on the laptop.

It's also worth saying that I use IMAP for email everywhere. Read on for my mail setup ...

Continue reading I like Thunderbird.

April 8, 2003

Insightful thoughts on weblogs and KM from Jim McGee

Jim McGee of McGee's Musings has had a run of great posts lately, mostly around the area of knowledge management and web logs. Rather than repeat everything he has to say, I'll point to some of the things I liked best of late:

Investing in knowledge sharing - starting on the weblog learning curve
Weblogs are only the latest in a long line of tools aimed at getting people to work together. Touches near a favorite point of mine: almost any tool will work for those some.
Knowledge work, weblogs, and fair process
Pointer to and comment on a Harvard Business Review article by Chan and Mauborgne with a very telling premise: "employees will commit to a manager's decision--even one they disagree with--if they believe that the process the manager used to make the decision was fair."
Thinking in public, part 2
A reader suggests that what we need is tools for "thinking together". McGee suggests that this is too big a step: thinking in public is hard, and thinking collaboratively is hard. "Thinking together" implies both, and that's too big a hill for most.

Thoughtful stuff. Along the lines of knowing who you're listening to, McGee's bios suggest that he's been at this a while. (His reference to The Network Nation was enough to convince me.)

January 23, 2003

Useful klog presentation/introduction

Joe Katzman gave a seminar back in November at the University of Queensland about the use of weblogs as a knowledge management tool.  Here's a pointer to Joe's message to the klogs group pointing to a PDF of that presentation.

This is ground that has been covered before, but Joe did a nice job of tying together information from other sources.  Worth a look.

K-logging pilot report

Not new, but new to me: Rick Klau published a nice summary of a pilot klogging project.  A key point:

Have a problem to solve. Just telling people "things will be better" when they don't know that there's a problem is tricky. As mentioned above, weblogs are many things to many people. In our pilot, we started out by simply saying we wanted to see if people found them useful. In other words - we weren't trying to solve a problem.

This is true of any collaboration software.  If people have a problem to solve, and the tool make it better, people will use almost anything.  If the tool doesn't solve a problem for them, no tool will work.

That's just a corollary of what I've longed practiced as a manager: you can't get people to do what they don't want to do.  Not for long.

(Thanks to David Gammel for the pointer.)

January 2, 2003

The Art of Blogging

The Art of Blogging is a very nice piece by George Siemons about what blogging is and how to get started. Nothing startling new here, but if you've made a New Year's resolution to look in the web log phenomenon, it's a good place to start.

December 30, 2002

Using Live Chat to run a meeting

Boing Boing Blog points to a very useful article by Clay Shirky about using live chat as a method of running a two-day meeting. It's a very interesting piece, with a couple of things I found particular interesting:

  • Use of Chat to keep the interruptions during the meeting to a minimum
  • A large display that showed the current chat to all
  • Use of a "Red Card/Green Card" system to show the speaker if they agree or disagree with what's being said. (Shades of the kind of analysis done during presidential debates.
Particularly valuable is Clay's straight-forward discussion of what worked and didn't work. Too many articles of this type focus only on the imagined benefits, not on what really happened.

However, Clay's article also reinforces a nasty suspicion I've had for a long time about collaborative technologies: if the people them want to use them, or can't get their job done without them, almost any technology will work. If the people don't need the technology, almost nothing works.

In this case, the members of the group were bound to be willing to try the technology, and give it a fair shot.

August 22, 2002

Weaving Wikis and blogs together

Les Orchard, who runs the 0xDECAFBAD blog, has come up with something brilliant. (0xDECAFBAD comes up at the head of my blogroll, at least until some other hex-inspired blogger does him 0x1 better.)

Les has created two MovableType plugins that allow users to type content using Wiki tags instead of HTML tags. For those who don't Wiki, Wiki systems use simple-yet-powerful markup that Wiki systems translate on the fly into HTML. For example, in a Wiki system, preformatted text may be indicated by indenting the content two spaces. A list item may be created by starting a line with '* ' --- you get the idea.

One of the things I've had to learn to do in order to use Radio under Mozilla (no nice IE-based HTML tool) or MovableType is learn to compose simple HTML on the fly. (Actually, if I'm going to type anything of any length, I paste it into NT Emacs, edit it using the html-helper mode, and paste it back into Radio/MT). It's not that it's that hard, but it is an impediment to introducing others to using these tools. I've been using UseModWiki for about two years, and one thing I can say about Wiki text formatting rules is that they are dead easy to use.

Les's plugins let you type Wiki-format text in your MT entries, and then use either a local or an XML-RPC service to convert your Wiki format text into HTML when you republish your pages.

Weblogs are great for the thought of the moment, but Wikis are great for aggregating content around a given area, or remembering other kinds of knowledge. Les has been publishing both a weblog and Wiki for some time. For me, the combination he's put together has been interesting but not compelling, but I think with this idea he's really onto something very good.

The only downside so far is that Les doesn't quite support UseModWiki yet. Les is TWiki guy. (I tried TWiki once, but found the resulting sites a little too cluttered.)