AJAX-based editing online

I had a chance to briefly check out these collaborative editors based on AJAX: writely.com, backpackit.com & writeboard.com, jotspotlive.com. It is pretty amazing what developers are trying to achieve now.

Backpackit is aimed to be some kind of simple groupware. Writely.com and Jotspot Live are aimed at collaborative writing. I personally found the visual feedback and the interaction of Jotspot Live much better: it is far more synchronous when several people write on a document. But I guess neither one of these application could compete with SubEthaEdit, where you actually can see other people typing single characters (I haven’t heard of a feasible Windows counterpart to this BTW).

I didn’t have a chance by now to actually use this synchronous writing for any kind of productive work. I am just dreaming Tinderbox would support this! What a killer application this could be!

Update: Tim Bruysten pointed me to Gobby and Zoho Writer.

Study.log

I had a brief look at study.log. It is a personal information manager (developed with Macromedia Director). It is generally a very interesting concept. But the implementation has issues: there are show stopper bugs, it is very slow you can’t drag & drop objects from the OS layer into the application. Director possibly is not the right way to develop this kind of application.

Thinking about extending the standard GUI with some functionality seems to me a much more promising approach to achieve the goals defined within study.log. And there is a design concept for this already: »Feed me« by Katharina Birkenbach

Generally it is a good question if the visual layer that tools like study.log provide are really helping the user or if they are just visual clutter of limited use. Haystack is another project that is supposed to be a “universal information client”. But Haystack is may be too formal for users need an informal level for creative thinking.

TiddlyWiki?

I came across the TiddlyWiki tool. It is some kind of interactive Wiki opening pages with animation once you clicked a link. It is basically just a very clever JavaScript enhanced HTML-page containing the whole Wiki. You save the page (after allowing the script to do so), upload it to a server and you’re done. The JavaScript is huge. But it feels als simple as the whole Wiki principle itself.

The problem with TiddlyWiki: things may appear at unexpected places. I also don’t think that the principle to open new items on top of the column. It’s an unusual way to navigate a site and so it may not be very intuitive. But it’s a very clever idea with a fancy DHTML implementation.

There are server side implementations as well.

Document/window sharing in next iChat?

ThinkSecret.com is spreading the roumor that Apple might introduce a new iChat version with sharing. It is the #1 request I have for iChat: it would allow possible to give remote presentations. Yes, there are other applications that had this feature for years (like NetMeeting), but iChat was the only application that actually worked for video conferencing. This might have changed with vSkype – but I need a Mac solution for this.

Podcasting applied to TV

It wasn’t even a question of time when this was going to happen: Subscription TV (see http://participatoryculture.org/).

DTV uses the Bittorrent technology to distribute the files. Very clever. So this leaves one question: How to find content? There is this built in channel guide that seems to be similar to the podcast support in iTunes 4.9. But I don’t see centralized channel guides to be the long term solutions. There will be some kind of collective filtering/classification similar to what del.icio.us is for bookmarking that is not requiring hired editors to update a channel guide for thousands of feeds.

And then we need to get rid of several competing del.icio.us-like resource collections by implementing metadata interchange protocols hat allow searching and classification in a P2P network on a global scale.

I am just playing around with the MacOS X Beta of ther DTV client – and it looks fairly easy to use (the iTunes users experience made it’s way into the collective mind of interface designers I’d say…). A side note: the “windows version coming soon” message is some kind of landmark!

OPML Editor

Dave Winer has released his latest project: OPML Editor.

I like writing in outlines, but OPML Editor remains a typical Winerish tool: powerful for users that want to dig a scripting tool on steroids – but utterly useless for “normal” users that expect a tool without dead ends and a somewhat standard compliant graphical user interface.

While Dave Winer has an unmatched sense for future trends in web publishing – he seems to have no interest whatsoever in providing usable software.

Virtual Earth

Microsoft’s answer to Google Maps is Virtual Earth. Obviously Microsoft uses other data for their maps. Alltogether Google Maps appear to be nicer, faster, a little more precise and with better aerial imagery. Microsoft sometimes uses BW images – maybe from the infrared spectrum. Microsofts product also sometimes fails to load all tiles of the current view. On the positive side Virtual Earth offers more detailed information per zoom level that are hidden in Google Maps it features a very cool local search (with auto update). There is also an API similar to the Google Maps API. This allows to create a comparison site like this.

A little bit disturbing is how old the satellite images at Microsofts Virtual Earth are. If you zoom in the comparison example you can see that Apple Inc. wasn’t even build.

Crappy CMS

I remeber well Brent Simmons’ proposal of a“Law of CMS URLs”:

The more expensive the CMS, the crappier the URLs.

Today I had the chance to work as editor with the WebDB portal platform from Oracle 10g Application Server. It is pretty modular, but it is a pain in the a** to really get to editing content fluently. The system might be powerful – but the front end makes a lot of that power vanish.

Yet, nothing I have seen comes close to structured editing a page with the outliner of RadioUserland + Manila + metaRenderer Plug-In + docRenderer3. It is the most elegant way to have layouted pages without touching HTML. And it is unbeaten for some years now.

My second favorite combination is Zope + ExternalEdit + ReStructuredText (and maybe with Plone or ZWiki). This allows click-editing any content in any local favorite editor. The ReStructuredText is an equisite ACSII-to-HTML converter. It doesn’t get first rank in my view because editing an outline still beats the ASCII-editor. You need to know slightly more formatting rules to get beautiful HTML.

Tinderbox 2.4 released

Eastgate released Version 2.4.0 of their fabulous Tinderbox tool. A number of enhancments – most of them very interestig to advanced users. There has been quite some time since the first announcement of a Windows version of Tinderbox. I am sure the release is not too far ahead in future. Keep an eye on the Eastgate site if you are a Windows user and you’d like to use Tinderbox one day!

If Tinderbox is available for both platforms I am willing to use it in a course about “personal information management strategies”. The course has yet to be developed and I am hoping it is going to be a new kind of skill that can be tought as an introductory course that could prepare students to have a better grip at project management, conceptual brainstorming and knowledge work. I wonder if anybody has heard of such a course. I’d love to talk with people that have already some kind of experience with that.

I work, you work, we all work, with iWork

I am doing almost all of my presentations with Keynote – and was waiting for Keynote 2 to show up. Actually I am not missing any feature in this application, but I am looking forward to the Flash export and I wonder if it will be easy to do voice-overs for self-running presentations.

What I really would have loved to see in iChat is a way to route the Keynote presentation into the iChat video input so that it would be a snap to do remote lectures. I think there are quite a number of people that would be willing to join a lecture with such a feature.

I don’t have any opinion about Apple Pages yet. It seems to me targetted to consumers “with no sense of style” – so those just need to replace the existing content in the predefined templates. I need to wait reviews to see if that is what I’d love to use. But even though I would not use Pages for my own it seems to have a very slick and simple user interface.

Some have noted there is a table calculation application missing to really deserve the name “iWork”. This might probably be true for most office workers that need to handle data before getting to the text. It is a shame that OpenOffice.org seemed to have no plans for a native MacOS X version (so you need to go with NeoOffice/J from now on).

Update: Dori Smith had a brief look at Pages and says it’s an entry level page layout application and not a MS Word competitor.

Userplane A/V blogger

More blogging sidecar tools arrive:

Userplane’s Audio & Video Blogger service is an easy-to-use system allowing the creation of audio and video recorded messages for use in blogs, websites and email.
The Userplane AV Recorder application will automatically detect your camera and microphone, and allow you to record up to a 10 minute recording. Each recording is streamed from the Userplane servers, and can be copy-and-pasted into your web media.

Audioscrobbler

Napster was not only hot because of the easy sharing of MP3 files – but also because of finding interesting music in libraries of people with similar taste. Now that Napster is dead the P2P-netowkrs have taken over – but they don’t really offer something that comes close to Napster.

So what other ideas people come up with to break the dominace of the music industry about music marketing?

Audioscrobbler (http://www.audioscrobbler.com/) offers plug-ins for most audio players out there and it will automatically notify the service about the songs you recently played. The aggregated playcounts of songs of all audioscrobbler users are compiled to industry-independent charts. Together with the unmatched audio previews of iTunes Music Store it could become a new hobby for music lovers to hunt new music.

The audioscrobbler charts are better than anything we have seen to date, because not the amount of sales of a single tune is counted but rather the amount of plays!

Partisan Radio

Adam Curry and Dave Winer started a series of two-head radio talk show called “Trading Secrets“. You can download the first show (60 MB). They talk about politics and some IT stuff.

The show is basically like a long phone call. Dave calls via Skype from USA with his Windows laptop while Adamy Curry records the joined Skype audio output and his own microphone with Wiretap (free from Ambrosia). Audio HiJack is another utility that allows recording from various sources.

OS X has a very good Audio architecture (called CoreAudio) that makes it possible to route sound between applications and devices and hook in filtering applicaions. Detour is an application that allows to route sound output from various applications separate devices. Another interesting tool for this is JackTools. JackTools is like Detour but unlike that it has a low-fi user interfacce but can route sound from one source to multiple outputs. Soundflower from Cycling’74 offers virtual devices for mixing. All this can work together.

A good resource for Audio on MacOS X is osxaudio.com.

Anyway Adam fiddled around and cam to no satisfactory solution with software only. He is talking about his approach on his audio blog called Daily Source Code. His solution is based on the Digidesign MBOX hardware.