David Ness
Mind / Matter

Collaboration: City Desk, Rebol, Vanilla and Wikis

By David Ness
Thursday, December 6, 2001

Collaborative efforts via the Internet are becoming more and more common. The purpose of this note is to compare and contrast some of the facilities as they become available.

Three relatively new pieces of software tackle parts of this problem in different ways. It might be useful to compare and contrast their capabilities. Let's start by briefly introducing each of the languages. In addition, there is one general collaborative environment structure (Wikis) which have gained a sufficient number of adherents that it should be described as a part of this complex.

City Desk, by Fog Creek Software, is a tool designed to help create database driven web pages. The elements of data are articles, and the software allows the articles to be created, edited and published. The purpose of the software is to aid in managing all of the pieces that go into making up a decent web page. The collaborative element comes about by managing the data in a data base where the system can enforce rules that allow access to the complex of information to be shared among a set of active users.

Rebol IOS, by Rebol Technologies Inc., is as of this moment, only `anticipated' as the scheduled Fall 2001 delivery of these facilities has managed to slip to December 2001 without any public word of their existence. If it becomes available in time, it will be discussed here.

Vanilla is an application that uses Rebol to implement a HyperCard-like stack of (usually short) blurbs of information that all point to one another. Vanilla was built by Christian Langreiter. This is a very attractive and simple idea---quite similar in many ways to the ideas implemented in Wikis (which we will discuss, briefly, in a moment). An example of Langreiter's work can be seen in the support mechanisms that can be reached through his home page http://www.langreiter.com

Wikis are another form of collaborative union. The notion of Wikis was created by Ward Cunningham. Since Cunningham is also a proponent of Extreme Programming, lots of the XP (not to be confused with Microsoft's new XP, by the way) ideas are discussed in Wikis, and lots of the Wikis discuss XP. But they are used for lots of other things as well, and the central ideas have been implemented in Wiki Clones that are concerned with many other problem domains.

Scale of Problems

Very Small (usually 2), Small (<8), Modest(<30), Large


Hierarchical, Peer-to-peer

Sparrow? See Sparrow

David Ness' summary of work can be found at http://mywebpages.comcast.net/dness

City Desk is Fog Creek Software's new web publishing tool.

Rebol IOS is Rebol Technologies Inc.'s distributed collaborative environment.

Vanilla is Christian Langreiter's collaborative environment. It is implemented in Rebol.

Wikis are a collaborative structure created by Ward Cunningham. They are implemented in many different computer languages and environments. There is a large public Wiki that collects ideas from lots of people interested in various aspects of computer technology.