Wiki Happenings

The last ten days have seen some increased visibility of wikis.

  1. Saw the introduction to MSDN wiki. I blogged about it here.
  2. The very next day, I saw eBay's wiki announcement (based on JotSpot). This blog talks about it being the largest commercial wiki.
  3. Got an invitation for beta from WetPaint. Checking it out right now. Looks pretty good. Michael Arrington thinks it is the best wiki so far.
  4. Saw a mention of keynote by Eugene and Doug at Wikisym about Augmented Wiki. Some of these ideas may result in radical improvement of wikis.
  5. Read in another blog about Wiki Sharepoint Services (in the new Microsoft Office beta).
  6. A Semantic MediaWiki. MediaWiki is the engine that powers Wikipedia. This should be an exciting project.

I might have missed many other cool Wiki Happenings. Now I need to dive in deep and immerse myself and make sense of some of the directions.

Flock is Cool

I am trying a test post from Flock. So far the experience of using it is pretty good. I had no trouble importing my settings from Firefox and IE and getting started. I judge a product by the first 15 minutes of experience. This was one was smooth as silk.
The first para was written with Flock. I am editing this now in WordPress. I did not know what to expect when I typed this entry in Flock. When I clicked "Publish", it came up with a list of categories for me to choose. That is pretty cool. I can definitely see using this interface once in a while for blogging.

You can download it from here. You can go to this blog to get more information. Here is coverage from Michael Arrington at Techcrunch.

The Flock blog is worth reading. It tells you how tech companies work. I have taken the liberty to borrow a few lines from Anthony's post on Cardinal – Flock 0.7 release.

If there is one thing that I have learned to love about people who work in technology, it is that stupid imperative to make stuff, even if it drives them into the floor. So cool.

We are still burning midnight oil, still drinking caffeinated Blues, still waking up next to laptops. Really, for the last few months, we have been pouring our hearts into this release. We hope that some of the effort shows.

It certainly does. I plan to spend some time this weekend exploring the "social browsing" aspects and reading reactions in the community.

Blogged with Flock and edited in WordPress.

Microsoft Developer Network Wiki

Heard about this from Oleg Tkachenko's Blog

Notes:

There is a page navigation bar on the left, content in the middle and community stats on the right. You can check it out here. Here is the FAQ page.

To add content, you navigate to the page you want (using the page navigation bar) on the left and click on Add content. I tried adding content. Works fine with IE.

Since Firefox was not supported in the current version, I got an error. The FAQ page, says that support for Firefox is planned.

There are some nice touches mostly UI related.

  • A left navigation panel to move around the site
  • Community stats on the right
  • A list of Top Contributors
  • A list of most recent comments
  • An easy way to launch a new window to browse through history of the page (instead o scrolling comments in the same page)

I think with this wiki, Microsoft will expand the usage of wikis. I plan to explore it further over the next few days.

msdn-wiki.png

     

Here are comments from others

dev.live.com

9 hours ago by John Musser
DevLiveMicrosoft’s developer resource center for the quickly evolving Live
Platform is now up at dev.live.com. Not a lot there yet but it bodes well for a
more integrated approach on their part to developer support on the new platform.
programmableweb – http://blog.programmableweb.com

Power to the Pros

10 hours ago by Chandana N. Athauda
http://virtualteched.com/ If you can't be there, be HERE…!And don’t forget to
get experience on MSDN Wiki Beta…!
|| yeschandana || – http://www.yeschandana.com

Axim X51v PDA (Dell)

21 hours ago by Computer Tech
Computer Hardware & Technology. Lowest Price: $319.99. (InfoWorld) – Microsoft
has re-branded its WinFX technologies as .Net Framework 3.0 to clarify the naming
convention for its developer framework, company representatives said on
queencitycomputers.net – http://queencitycomputers.net/computer_information

MSDN Wiki – Great Idea

11 Jun 2006 by lobrien@knowing.net (Larry O'Brien)
MSDN has created a Wiki. This is a great idea. Just look at P/Invoke.NET to get
a sense of how helpful a Wiki can be for user documentation. via Steve Pietrek.
Knowing.NET – http://www.knowing.net/

MSDN Wiki

11 Jun 2006 by Professor X
Microsoft went live this week with MSDN Wiki , a new site inviting developers to
contribute their own tips and code examples to run alongside Microsoft's official
Visual Studio and .Net Framework documentation.
BIG X – http://big-x.blogspot.com

MSDN Wiki

11 Jun 2006 by Kris van der Mast
Just found out Microsoft started with a Wiki: MSDN Wiki. They'll hope to get
more examples form the community and by thus more information for other people.
Sounds like a good idea but I guess it'll have to grow before it becomes
Kris' blog – http://blog.krisvandermast.com/

Annotate the MSDN Wiki

11 Jun 2006
For a long time, my favorite place to put up code snippets that I could get back
to later has been pinvoke.net (like GetTempFileName). However, that was only good
for managed/native interop, whereas the MSDN Wiki is for anything in the
Marquee de Sells: Chris's insight outlet – http://www.sellsbrothers.com/

Cisco buyouts may ease voice integration

11 Jun 2006 by Computer Tech
Computer Hardware & Technology. Webb flier draws anger of rival MillerRichmond
Times Dispatch, VA – 15 hours ago. promoting the out-sourcing of jobs while he
was president of the Information Technology Association of America,
queencitycomputers.net – http://queencitycomputers.net/computer_information

MSDNWiki

11 Jun 2006 by Alex de Groot
In case you didn’t know it yet, Microsoft has released the MSDNWiki. In this Wiki,
documentation from Microsoft should meet the community and it’s up to Microsoft
to decide if some of the exampels should be inserted in the ‘real’
Lex' software world – http://blog.alexiasoft.nl

MSDN Wiki10 Jun 2006 by paul
Welcome to the MSDN Wiki Beta! On this site you can add content to VS 2005
documentation topics and edit contributions from other users. Our goal is to
extend the documentation with code examples, tips and tricks, and other information
Paul Mooney – http://www.dotnetjunkies.com/WebLog/paul/default.aspx

XML11 – An AJAX Development Methodology

I need to thank Google for this. I watched a fascinating presentation by Arno Puder a Google TechTalk. XML11, like Google Web Toolkit, is a methodology for building AJAX applications in Java. But the similarity stops there. While Google compiles Java sources into JavaScript, XML11 does it from Java bytecode. Not having the resources of a company like Google, this team does some very innovative work and use existing tools. But I like their philosophy. All you need to do is to take you Java AWT desktop compiled application and use XML11 to produce an AJAX app.

The video is worth watching since Arno goes through a step by step process of what they do, how they do it and why they made the decision to do it. Here are the highlights.

  • XML11 name is inspired by X11 since the way this tool works is similar in concept
  • XML11 takes a Java/AWT desktop application and starts with the produced bytecode.
  • The bytecode is converted to an XML format
  • The XML file is them transformed into JavaScript using XSLT
  • They Java Virtual Machine is a stack machine and the intermediate XML format reflects this

There are several reasons, I like this approach, assuming that it works.

  1. You do not have to rewrite the code using a new toolkit like GWT
  2. A lot of people are already familiar with AWT programming and they can produce and test their code using Eclipse and then simply convert it to a working AJAX application.
  3. Both the xml format and the protocol of communication between AJAX client and server are extensible

Arno sums up the presentation with a list of differences between the GWT approach and XML11 approach.

Philosophy – GWT uses the Web App development model, XML11 uses the Desktop development model to build Web Apps

Cross Compiler – GWT cross compiles from Java sources while XML11 is a Java bytecode cross compiler

Widget Toolkit – GWT uses proprietary Google Widgets whereas XML11 uses the familiar AWT widgets

Debugging – GWT requires special hooks into the browser for debugging while XML11 lets you use Java native debugger

The major difference, which may ultimately decide the fate/popularity of the toolkit is how well it works and what kind of support the team can provide. It is an open source project. You can get more information at xml11 site.

This is a unique application of XML. XML is used to describe a stack machine. When one of the members of the audience asked Arno, why they chose XML instead of using some other format, he had a pretty cool answer. They can do a similar translation from a .NET app (using the .NET IL which is conceptually similar to java bytecode) to the intermediate XML format as well. Then, the rest of the tools (converting XML to JS) can be reused.

Reuse rather than Reinvent

I like this post from Tantek. In his XML Design Notes, Tantek mentions two simple thumb rules:

  1. Reuse rather than reinvent
  2. Use elements for human information, attributes for machine information

In order to help people reuse (assume that they have no motives for reinventing).

1. We need to make the information and usage patterns easy to find

2. We need to make small variations/extensions easy to do (for example, it should be easy for me to add some new element/attribute to a specific microformat for corporate use)

3. We need to make it easy for people to write and share reusable XML elements. I think microformats are a good way to achieve this, though I have not written one to see whether they meet the criteria.

Microformats.org is doing a good job of the educating users on simple reuse and development of structured content.The geek in me tells me to use RDF since it is so much more powerful and cool, and the pragmatist in me says that I can start simple with something like Microformats and see how far I can go.

Microformat Search and Pingerati

I am not sure how I missed this. Here is an announcement on Technorati of a new search/ping service for Microformats.

I'm very pleased to announce the technology preview of Technorati microformats search for contacts, events and reviews, and Pingerati, a microformats ping distributor to support and grow the microformats ecosystem. Microformats are the key building block, the lingua franca, that make structured information open and sharable on the Web.

In case you are curious about the significance of Microformats, here is an excellent tutorial presentation. I located this, thans to this blog from Duncan Cragg.

Duncan has a lot of good stuff on how Microformats may challenge Web Feeds (popularly known as RSS). I am curious to find out more. I thought of RSS as a delivery mechanism for microformat content. But Duncan has a point. Like Search engines discover and index your pages, services such as microformat search can discover structured content and provide access. Why not use Web Feeds to distribute microformat content? RSS is extensible, anyway.

Google Spreadsheet – Am I Missing Something?

I got my invitation for the Google Spreadsheet and promptly signed up. Not being a financial type, I created a couple of task lists and shared it with two different friends with email. I played around with the basic operations a bit and was reasonably satisfied.

Good points:

  • It is pretty simple
  • The UI is reasonable (though a bit clunky in some places)
  • It works well
  • Reasonably fast (though the feel is not as good as Excel)
  • The collab feature is good. You can invite others to view or edit (they need to have a gmail account, though)

Here are the questions I am struggling with:

  • Why would any one use an online spreadsheet? I am not going to put my finances or any sensitive information there.
  • As spreadsheets go, it is at the low end of the functionality
  • There is no scripting capabilities (the power of macros that make Microsoft EXCEL what it is)
  • No visible database links

Here are some wild guesses, for new releases:

  • What happens if they add the ability to syndicate/synchronize through RSS feeds
  • Provide some cool AJAX templates for project tracking/managemen, Portfolio Management
  • Provide some template building capabilities using the Google Web Tool Kit
  • Integrate it with Blogger and support RSS extensions
  • Provide a web services interface
  • Link it with Google Base
  • A desktop version (that works with Google Desktop)

Knowing Google, they probably have something up their sleeves. What they do not have, unfortunately is the large amount of feedback that Microsoft must have, from several millions of Excel users.

The current version is not bad for a free product. But it is not earth shattering. C/Net News somehow thinks that, this will turn up heat on Microsoft. I am not so sure.

Information Week on the other hand says that Google beta does not add up. Exactly.

For more on Google Spreadsheet, try this.

Update: 13 June

Application Development Trends thinks different. They see it as the beginning of a trend:

But these online apps also provide Google with a foot in the enterprise IT door.

"Clearly right now, no enterprise would look at this spreadsheet, or the word processor, or the calendar and say, yes, these are the applications I want all my employees using," McNabb says. "There's just not enough there, yet. However, the more Google offers in this area, the better it positions itself, through the habits of consumers who use its services, to influence enterprise IT behavior. You'll see it when employees start saying, I use the Google stuff at home, why can't I use it here at work?"

But perhaps the greatest significance of Google's moves in this area is its likely influence on Microsoft's own product strategy. "Microsoft is very conscious of the impact that Google can have," McNabb says. "The company is very familiar with this model of getting consumers to influence the behavior of enterprise IT. Guess who figured that model out in the first place? They know how it works, and I don't think they've forgotten it. You won't see the company abandon its client software, but you'll probably see it embrace server-side computing. In future releases of Office, you'll get the usual client software, but you may also get features that allow you to select different services you want within that client, and to pay for them on a subscription basis."

MicroLearning, MicroKnowledge

Found this link from Danny's post about MicroLearning Conference. I was curious about the concept so went to Microlearning.org and found this wiki.

Microlearning

…is a term used in the e-learning context for a learner’s short interaction with a learning matter broken down to very small bits of content. At present this term is not clearly defined. Learning processes that have been called “microlearning” can cover a span from some seconds (e.g. in mobile learning) to 15 minutes (learning objects sent as e-mails).

Exploring this wiki led me to the concept of Microknowledge.

Microknowledge is not identical with a set of Microcontent chunks. Just like Knowledge is by definition (see there) having the form of more complex structures, Microknowledge cannot not be seen as consisting of separate information "atoms" or self-contained micro-messages.

Microinformation only becomes Microknowledge when bringing with it the momentary experience of immersion in a wider, more structured knowledge space. This micro-knowledge space is again mirroring the structure of the Web itself (small pieces loosely joined). In fact, the Web itself is experienced as a micro-knowledge space.

I think this is a useful concept of providing small bytes of useful information. Especially in task-oriented and informal learning contexts. I need to spend more time on this wiki, following links and well – microlearning.