Instant Outlining

aka Instant Outliner

New (Mar'02) feature of Radio Userland. A cross between Instant Messaging and OutLining. A new form of Collaboration Ware.

Welcome Dave Winer readers ! Just to be clear, I think Instant Outlining is one of the more inspirational tools to come out in eons. And bootstrapping it as an extension of existing WebLog behavior is a cool idea. I'm just looking at it critically to find an even sweeter spot, if possible. I'm using a much lower-tech approach at work right now with WikiForCollaboration Ware.

But the example from this screenshot is not encouraging. It looks like Dave's outline is a place where he leaves random notes, including those intended for specific people. And it's up to those people to find those notes to take action. And I don't think they can reply at that place, because each outline belongs just to its owner. So they have to reply in their own outline. I really hope it works better than this.

And if you only have a single outline for everyone to subscribe to, then how do you manage Overlapping Scopes Of Collaboration? (e.g. some pieces of your outline are just for you wife, some for your moonlighting client, and some for your dayjob)

  • Adam Curry says you can have different outlines for different groups, though I'm not clear on how much of this is the standard (so far) setup.

Here are some outlines, rendered out to XML:

What's cool about I/O?

  • the overall model of the immediacy of Instant Messaging combined with persistence-in-context.

  • it's easy for the worker to initiate a discussion by just adding a note to his blogstream

  • that trigger-note gets seen in the context of what he's been working on, which makes the discussion more productive without him having to explain

  • by passing around OPML instead of binary Userland Frontier bits, the potential is there for other tools to get involved

  • you have a real-time "dashboard" of updates to stay on top of, but it's not as intrusive as getting tons of IMs.

What's un-cool?

  • everyone on the team has to read everything, to catch notes left for them

    • there's no concept of urgency, so a manager could spend a chunk of time in response to one person's I/O, not realizing that someone else has something more urgent waiting for you to read.
  • each person has to reply in his own outline, rather than in the stream/context where the issue is initiated

  • jesus, how juggle this if more than 2 people involved?

  • whole outlines are being passed around (and rendered, and parsed)

  • because the overall top levels of outlines are short-lived, there's no ongoing context. I suppose if you made a separate top-level item for each separate project/phase you're working on, and labelled it as such (on that top line), the archives would be much more browsable.

Some people don't understand the Context, creating Scalability issues.

I think what I want is CoOutlining, with the results stored in a Wiki page. A variant of Wiki And Outlining.


I agree wholeheartedly. Too much to wade through. I want to see the items that are relevant to me immediately. --Steve


An extended version of the MoinMoin AttentionPages macro (MoinMoin:MacroMarket) would be useful for "everyone has to read everything to catch notes left for them". AttentionPages lists all the pages that have /!\ or <!> on them. That could be extended to add a name to them, and then those people could be notified when they visit the site or by email when AttentionPages are marked for them. --KenMacLeod, ken@bitsko.slc.ut.us, Apr03'02

  • Or you could just use Wiki BackLinks: put "AttentionBill" in a page, and I'll find it that way. (Then I take it out when I respond and put "AttentionKen" in.) --Bill

Take a look at the spec. I think you'll find that it's not very robust with respect to actual content. I don't think OPML as it stands is going to scale very well if and when people start trying to go beyond points or headings into paragraphs and sections. Keeping the text in an attribute value, in that situation, is going to be a major pain to deal with from XSLT and CSS standpoint and also makes it hard to flip an outline out to a more full feature XML editing tool. ...edN


The backlink idea is a key mising piece from Radio in general. Recent work on the glossary functionality is getting there. More details in my <A HREF="http://surfmind.com/lab/hive/view.cfm?opml=andyEdmonds.opml">my opml. --AndyEdmonds

  • Bill responds: I agree. I've often considered whether the Glossary could be hacked in a way to make it act like a Wiki, where each "story" would get a Wiki Name, and then you'd just have to use it in quotes to trigger the link...

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