• (0)For about five years now I've been wanting to create a collaborative web-based writing tool. My background is in software development on small and medium-sized teams. As you know this involves a great deal of planning, with frequent changes to the team's goal, priorities, and decisions. Good communication is essential in such environments.xxxI've longed for an online tool that can help people communicate more effectively. Creating a collaborative outliner is the first step in this pursuit.
•Old ideas (0)As you know, outlining is a tired old concept in the software business. Its biggest successes are in word processors and personal information managers. (Contrasted with groups managing information.)
And, the idea of collaborative writing tools is trying to take off in various forms. Take note of Xanadu, various technologies for message boards, wikis, weblogging, user tracking functionality in word processors, etc.
6New medium (4)The two ideas of collaborative outlining and outlining on the web have been discussed ad nauseum. Just a miniscule sampling:
6The question is not whether to pursue such a product, but rather what to do with it (53)Now, my issue does not revolve around academic debates as to whether online outlining is useful enough to pursue, or to how to accomplish it. But rather, what to do with such technology.
•Software evaulation (0)Researched whether I could improve project communication by using existing tools. Came up dissatisfied.
•Schema design (0)Starting drafting database schemas for online discussion systems.
•1998-2000 (0)Discussed the topic with friends and collegues, trying to see whether my ideas had any merit.
• (0)Finally got decent buy-in from someone who likes to organize information and runs complex projects where efficient communication is essential. Was encouraged enough to begin work on a prototype. http://lyon.gayin.net/
•March 2001 (0)Made significant headway in my R&D effort.
4August 2001 (10)Completed a functional web-based prototype.
6Basic user account registration and maintenance (5)A minimal set of user account features have been created, refined, and tested. Some of these features are currently hidden, but they'll be back live next week.
•Database is either Access or SQL Server (0)Access might be useful for client-side installations. The system performs well on Access, so long as the database stays around ~10's of MB rather than 100 or more.
•To read outlines, use Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari, or Opera (0)Webkit now properly handles Webdings This bug was a sore point for me for years--my expand and contract arrows are Webdings rather than images to allow entire webpages to be saved off for offline access. Now Webkit is fixed. Nice!
•To edit outlines, use Internet Explorer for Windows (0)Cross-browser editing is within reach. Just a few DOM bugs to fix, I;m hoping.
4Productivity increase is noticeable (10)I've been using the product between myself and one other person, with a noticeable increase in productivity. We like it a lot.
6Plenty of work remaining to get from Alpha to Beta (15)Lot of stuff to work on yet: We're still working out bugs, usability still needs refinement, key features are missing, and we have a list of features we'd like to have.