The Boston Diaries

The ongoing saga of a programmer who doesn't live in Boston, nor does he even like Boston, but yet named his weblog/journal “The Boston Diaries.”

Go figure.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Those ol' collaborative blues

The tone for today was cast in electronic stone when I wrote the following in a thread:

For me, it can't be purely web based, as I loathe editing text in a browser (really, the editing capabilities of a <TEXTAREA> sucks). It has to feel quick (it doesn't have to be quick) and it should be easy to create new nodes, notes, blobs or whatever. I would like the ability to customize the key bindings (Home goes to begining of a line, Ctrl-Home to the start of the document, etc).

Oh, and multiplatform (at a minimum, Linux and Mac OS). Given that, I would want hooks for loading and saving to throw the document into and out of some form of version control software (because I want the ability to edit the master copy reguardless of which computer I'm on, and yes, I do use multiple computers at multiple locations on a regular basis).

So far, nothing has beat logging into my home computer and using a text editor.

Me, in a thread on scheherazade in blue jeans—Clarification on mindmapping stuff

While the thread in question was about mind mapping software I see parallels with the current situation at work.

I think I have a handle on what I hate most about WikiWikiWebs: editing the pages. Each wiki has its own concept of markup (more or less) and it's markup that is supposedly easier to type than HTML. And certain typographical conventions are rather easier to use than HTML, like *asterisks* for strong emphasis or _underlines_ for plain emphasis.

Heck, mod_blog has a few things like that, for instance “-- -” for “&mdash;” (which makes a nice “—”) or even `<-- --="--">` (two backtics, which on most keyboards is in the upper left corner) gets translated to &ldquo; which gives the nice opening double quotes.

No, where it starts failing for me is in the structural markup. Weird rules like “lines that start with an asterisk denote an unordered list, to get nesting, nest the lines”

* one
* two
  * a
  * b
* three

Or was that “lines that start with an asterisk denote an unordered list, get nest nesting, add asterisks”

* one
* two
** a
** b
* three

And was it a dash that started headers, or a percent sign? And what if you can't use the Tab key because the browser uses it to switch focus to other form elements? So you may have problems with wiki-formatting and editing under the browser.

Which leads us to actually editing text under a web browser, which I contend, sucks. Part of this is the browser, which has other ideas about the Tab key, and part of this is the operating system, which has its own ideas about what keys do what (like the Mac OS's concept of the Home key, and my concept of the Home key, are at odds).

From
"P" <XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX>
To
"Sean Conner" <spc@XXXXXXXXXXX> (email @ work)
Subject
Re: collaboration issues
Date
Tue, 13 Mar 2007 11:57:36 -0400 (EDT)

Sean,

Here a line from shell script I'm using to keep the site lists updated automatically. Basically just a post using wget (make sure your using a up to date version of wget).

wget -O /dev/null \
	--http-user=AutoUpdate \
	--http-passwd=XXXXXXXXXXXXX \
	--post-file=$tmp/sitelist \
	http://XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX/twiki/bin/save/$web/$topic

You may also find the following features useful.

-P

I looked, but wasn't overly impressed (unlike my reaction to TiddlyWiki) and I'm not a fan of WYSIWYG editors (P installed one on the Twiki) but as I replied to P, I'm not all criticisms with no suggestions—I did place all my work notes (and work related files) under a webserver on my workstation, to make it easier to get to them (even if they're a bit disorganized under names that may only have meaning to me) and write a webpage to display the current IP address allocations (which uses XMLHttpRequest() to fetch the text file and generates a table view—my ultimate intent is to allow one to edit the data using the webpage and have it update the file back on my workstation).

I also started looking at various Firefox extentions to hopefully make editing under Firefox a bit more tolerable. I ended up wasting a few hours removing and reinstalling Firefox because some editing extension (sorry, I don't remember which one I found the link in a text file of all things) screwed up Firefox (by adding a large amount of blank space to the bottom of the Firefox window, which I couldn't get rid of).

And if you think I'm making a mountain out of an anthill, I'm not. This issue is currently demoralizing everyone in the company (at the very least, I'm getting demoralized) and we at The Company need to find a solution to allows us to collaborate, now that we've gone all Virtual Office.

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