•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 ideasAs 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:
•Software evaulationResearched whether I could improve project communication by using existing tools. Came up dissatisfied.
•Schema designStarting drafting database schemas for online discussion systems.
•1998-2000Discussed the topic with friends and collegues, trying to see whether my ideas had any merit.
•September 2000Finally 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.
•March 2001Made significant headway in my R&D effort.
•Database is either Access or SQL ServerAccess 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 OperaWebkit 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 WindowsCross-browser editing is within reach. Just a few DOM bugs to fix, I;m hoping.