David Ness
Mind / Matter

FFF: 2002-1

By Various---Collected and edited by David Ness
Sunday, January 6, 2002

E-Commerce Education (L; N)

There is some interest in a discussion of the potential for bridging the gap between developed and underdeveloped nations by working on the education of potential managers in the developing countries with respect to the opportunities that might exist in E-Commerce.

L thinks there may be opportunities here, while N things it is `some ado about next to nothing'.

There are also questions such as How does this relate to http://www.enhydra.org/ and similar efforts?

Apple Talk (N)

Apple is hyping gigantic breakthroughs to be announced in Jobs' keynote for AppleWorld. Virtually every machine seen on TV these days is an Apple, a clear and stunning tribute to the physical design of Apple equipment. However, other than in looks, Apple seems to deliver rather amateur performance with rather amateur technology (who wants to live with a one-button mouse anyway?). And the famous Apple ad showing a two-year-old working at an Apple, clearly intending to suggest that it is so simple that `even a two-year-old can use it', seems instead to now be read as `a computer designed for people who's computational sophistication is equivalent to that of a two-year-old.

Is Apple going anywhere with their great design, or not?

Web-based Collaboration (L; N)

There are a number of pieces of technology which may be useful in performing some collaborative work on the Web. Let's begin with a laundry list of some of the potential tools

  1. New
    1. Vanilla is a clever Rebol-based system developed by Christian Langreiter. A shorthand description would be `editable hypercards' but Vanilla is somewhat more clever than that in practice.
    2. City Desk is Joel Spolsky's `Web site manager', a very nice set of resources that make managing a site easy. Such a site can also be a focus of collaborative communication.
    3. Rebol IOS is Carl Sussenrath's tantalizingly interesting idea, but at the moment is in the maybe-maybe land of `coming fall 2001' with it now pushing late December.
    4. Wikis are Ward Cunningham's invention, which have expanded into tens of thousands of web pages of information. Since Cunningham is one of the proponents of extreme programming, there are a lot of pages devoted to this but there are also lots of other pages, as well as lots of wiki-like complexes that are separate but deal with other matters.
    5. Blogs have no single `inventor', although there are probably many who might claim them as their own. The folks at Userland are probably among them. Blogs are, however a much broader topic.
      1. Journalistic Blogs are more or less conventional columns of newspaper writing brougt to the web. As is the case with newspaper columns, there is a wide variability in the quality of these articles, but at least some of them are quite good.
      2. `Personal' Blogs are a web-based version of a conventional `diary' brought into publication through the mechanism of the web.
      3. Technical Blogs represent something a little bit new. Because many of the people who use the web are interested in the technology that supports its mechanisms, there are a lot of blogs written with a technological bias, ranging widely in both currency and scope.
  2. Classical
    1. Bulletin Boards
    2. Chat Groups are char
    3. EMail
    4. PIMs
    5. Outliners
  3. Links
    1. Vanilla: http://www.langreiter.com (down---not known if temporarily or permanently)
    2. Rebol: http://www.rebol.com
    3. Wiki: http://www.c2.com/cgi/wiki
    4. Blogs: http://newhome.weblogs.com/historyOfWeblogs

One interesting topic of discussion is how these various kinds of resources might be used to effect a collaborative work environment that spans distance and time. But first let's take a look at some of the descriptive literature for each of the major elements.


Here's the theory of Rebol's Internet Operating System platform, IOS Express 1.0. Quoting mostly (with editing) from their own press release.

The product, to ship sometime introduces an affordable way to provide highly secure peer-to-peer collaborative processes and information sharing within any organization.

"You feel as if you are in the same room as your peers, even if they are spread across the planet" says REBOL Technologies' Founder & CTO, Carl Sassenrath. "It makes telecommuting, remote project coordination, online meetings, and employee status tracking totally natural."

IOS Express offers enhanced peer-to-peer collaboration to support a wide range of business processes through a set of tiny "reblet" applications. Each reblet does one thing very well, and reblets work both on-line and off-line. By the end of the year more than 40 reblets will be available, including polling, surveying, rating, notifying, agendas, brainstorming, whiteboards, file sharing, user status monitoring, scheduling, and more. Reblets can be easily customized and additional reblets will be offered by third party vendors and value-added resellers.

The IOS platform is based on X Internet distributed computing technology that allows collaborative applications to run across a wide variety of Internet devices. IOS, which has been under development for several years, operates identically over more than 20 systems, including Windows (all variations), Macintosh, Linux, Sun Solaris, HP/UX, IBM AIX, SGI Irix, BSD Unix, BeOS, and a variety of handheld devices. In addition, all communications and file transfers are kept private and secure using high strength encryption.

"IOS is about people and their relationships," remarked Sassenrath. "The web is terrific for surfing and browsing, but it does not support the most basic level of human interaction found in true relationships. IOS opens a new era, a social web that allows us to create meaningful electronic relationships with the employees, partners, customers, and suppliers that are critical to the success of our businesses and organizations."

REBOL Technologies was founded in 1997 by acclaimed OS designer Carl Sassenrath, best known as the creator of the Amiga Operating System and CDTV. REBOL provides X Internet systems and solutions to companies of all sizes, technologies, and markets. The company can be contacted at, and IOS evaluation copies can be obtained from, www.rebol.com.


What is Vanilla?

Vanilla is a simple hypertext system - a so-called WikiClone written in REBOL. To be buzzword-compliant, it is also an idea interconnection system and a thought flexibilitizer.

Here are some of the sites that use Vanilla (along with the Vanilla version number):

http://earl.strain.at (0.5)
http://www.michi.tv (0.5, Nov '01)
http://www.freememes.com (0.5, May '01)
http://www.langreiter.com (0.3.6)
http://www.rinner.st (0.5, was 0.3.6)
http://www.floritz.at (0.5, was 0.3.6)
http://www.binemaya.com/cgi-bin/binespace (0.5, June '01)
http://www.lazyatom.com (0.5, Sept '01)
http://unicast.org (0.5, Oct '01)

Freies Usability Know How (`Free Usability Know How', in German)

Company/Organization Sites
http://www.ewics.org (0.3.6)
http://www.synerge.at (0.5)

Computer Aided Diploma Sites
http://www.rinner.st/diploma (0.5)

City Desk

Features from City Desk Literature

CityDesk runs on your Windows desktop, using any web server. Unlike other content management systems which need to be installed on a web server, CityDesk is just a Windows program that generates a site and transfers it to any web server automatically, using FTP or file copy. Our Windows-based user interface is much faster and easier to use than web browser interfaces--writers love it!

Hierarchical Folders let you keep your site organized. If you rename or move something, links are automatically updated.

Templates make it easy to create lots of articles  with the same formatting. You don't need to be a programmer and you don't even need to know HTML. Put in special tags like FFF: 2002-1 for the headline. Now whether you're creating one news story or 1000, they all get exactly the same formatting with no additional work. Change the template and every article that uses it gets the changes.

Automatically generate tables of contents. Whenever you add a new article, it gets added to the appropriate table of contents, in the appropriate order - automatically! Create tables of contents based on folders, dates, or keywords. You can have as many sections as you like, with their own contents, limited only by your imagination.

Anyone who can use a word processor can update the site. The built-in word processor is WYSIWYG ("What You See Is What You Get") and includes a spell checker, word counter, find and replace, and formatting commands. Since the template is defined once, writers can't accidentally mess up the formatting of the site. And with one click, CityDesk figures out exactly what's changed, which files need to be regenerated, and uploads any changed files to a web server.

Maintain a site in multiple languages--painlessly. CityDesk lets translators search for articles which haven't been translated and edit them in a split-screen environment.

You can create multiple editions of your site for different audiences. Each edition can share as much or as little of the content as you need. You can even create editions that use a different set of templates, for example, a printer-friendly version of your site. Imagine issuing one command to republish your entire site in three languages, with four regional editions, with HTML, XML, and printer-friendly versions of each page, served off of a bunch of servers scattered around the world. You can even embargo stories so they won't appear until a certain date.


From the One Minute Wiki

This is what you'd see if you look at the OneMinuteWiki page. They are the `Wiki Rules' insofar as there are any.

  1. Read. You can use this web site like any other. (Well, perhaps not just like any other.) NewUserPages may help you start.
  2. Navigate. This website has extra features not found on most other websites. For example, all internal links are bi-directional... click the title above to see all pages which link to this page. Also check out RecentChanges, VisualTour, LikePages, etc.
  3. Write. If you have something to say, you could and should (some of the time anyway). Anyone can change or add to anything they see written in this WikiWikiWeb. To do so, click the EditText link at the bottom of the page, edit the text (using the TextFormattingRules), and then click the Save button that appears at the top of the page when editing.
  4. Experiment. Visit WikiWikiSandbox... and enjoy!!
  5. Security. There is none. Yes, any kiddie can barge in unexpectedly and delete lots of content. Some stuff might get restored. Don't fret about it; it's part of WhyWikiWorks.
  6. Next. Maybe you should create your own page (e.g. FloydFerris), then vote for your favorite tip page (such as this page, hint, hint) on the TipsForBeginners page. You might also set up a UserName that will then show up in RecentChanges.
  7. Page creation. Edit an existing page and insert the title of the new page as two or more capitalized words run together without spaces, LikeThis. When you save from the edit page, Wiki converts all words that run together into links. If it can find the title in the database of existing pages, it will put in a link to that page. If it can't find the title, it will put a question mark link next to the term. Click on the question mark link to edit your new page. Why not start with your name and say a little something about yourself?
  8. Edit customs. Try reading various pages to get the feel of Wiki before you start making changes. Keep in mind that this site is primarily for discussing software engineering.
    OneMinuteWiki, OneHourWiki, OneDayWiki, OneMonthWiki, OneYearWiki, OneKalpaWiki

This is quite typical of a Wiki. It explains something. If we were actually looking at the real Wiki page (its actually http://c2.com/cgi/wiki?OneMinuteWiki) the major difference would be that all of the run-together words would be links to Wiki pages that would describe them. My wiki page will be at DavidNess, for example, as that is a legitimate run-together word. DNess would not be legitimate (you need some lower case before upper case transition). Single letter computer language names are generally spelled out, so K's Wiki page is at `KayLanguage'.


I am trying to get a sensible estimate of the number of extant blogs. I have seen 10,000 (I think I believe it) through 500,000 (I don't think I believe that). Some few blogs are really good and interesting. Some are good, apparently, but focus on areas that are of absolutely no interest to me, so I even have trouble evaluating them. Most of the blogs I see range from uninteresting on down. Since it is a largely self-managed medium, there is no quality control, and it really shows.

However, for a small group that focusses on some particular problem, blogs can be very effective ways of keeping communications both open and archived.

Virtual Travel (L; N)

Is is possible to make ourselves into good tourists? By good, in this context, we mean a tourist that can have a meaningful interaction with the environment being toured (it's easy to not have much of an interaction, so we're not interested in that side of the problem).

Is there any opportunity for current technologies to have any impact on this question? I would be interested in looking at this question from the viewpoint of a small mid-western town, as N has contacts with a Foundation in such a town.

Odd Languages (N)

Discussion of the characteristics and problem domain of some `odd' languages is always of interest. By odd, here we mean `relatively small user base', not a demeaning characterization of the languages themselves. Candidates are:

  1. J
  2. K
  3. REBOL
  4. Lua
  5. Active Oberon
  6. Squeak
  7. Haskell
  8. Caml


Various Authors Contribute

The Usual Suspects attemded. My guess is that no one will mind if I refer to them (when needed) as  G, H, K, L, N and Z. You don't get any points for guessing which one is me.

The FFF 2002-1 met in Conshohocken on 9 January 2002.