In evaluating group collaboration tools over the last little while, I have run into a problem with wiki technology. My main goal has been to look at solutions that will help mobile information workers better collaborate. The point is that we are as a rule almost never in the same place. Worse still is that internet connectivity, while common, is absent in places where we most often work. Like Airplanes, which is where I am as I write this now.
Slowly, wide internet access to wifi, high speed in hotel, etc is helping increase the connectivity options. However, it seems that highly mobile information workers still suffer from frequent drought when it comes to net access.
What got me thinking about this direction was a recent exploration of wiki's, TWiki in particular. This toolset is especially attractive for mobile knowledge workers. More so, I think, than others, we suffer from stale information, or worse missing information. This dearth of even accurate information is partly caused from the great distance that separates us, lack of frequent interaction (watercooler conversations as a rule can't happen), etc.
For those reasons, something like a wiki looks like a fantastic solution. Group editing of web content in a central place would go a long way to solving the problem... but for one thing. It is an "online" only solution. I need to do at least two more things with the "group consensus / knowledge" as a mobile information worker:
I need to access it as a consumer, when I most need it. In my case this is inevitably when I am working outside of my own network.
More importantly, I need to contribute to it when I have time (now being a good example. I am on a plane with 'nary a net connection for hours ....)
The interesting thing of course, is that I am currently using a technology, PyDS, to make changes to my own work online and I am doing it offline. I do have access to my own work offline and to some degree, via an aggregator, I have access to others work, at least read only access. Before embarking on web logging / personal publishing, I would have underestimated the importance of this. Now, having done the majority of my work while offline, I couldn't live without it.
So, while blogging tools solve the problem for me personally, what I think we as a group really need is some way to group edit content ... but in an offline manner. Sort of a wiki with sync .... or a wiki/blog meld.
This is going to be my research topic for next little while. As I find things, expect to see more information here. My thoughts on this so far:
For offline reading, it should be possible to "mirror" a wiki, or part of a wiki. Are there any wiki tools that are mirror friendly, and even offer local editing with a push up to a central server 'a la Radio/PyDS?'.
Don Park has a recent comment about a distributed Wiki. Read the comments as well. There is a pointer to something called Hyki developed in Groove.
Doc brings us this gem about RSS Aggregators from BloggerCon:
My fave for RSS conspirators: Jon Udell's Aggregators session. Remember, class: Pay attention. RealPlayer required.
I had the webcast running in the background as I worked last night, and noticed that one of the ways I use my aggregator wasn't really represented in the discussion.
Essentially, like John Udell, I prefer to see all the news in big chunks... in my case, 300 articles at a time. I can quickly scan what I want. But, very often I need to switch back to a feed list first and then drill down into the feed to read it. That mainly occurs Monday evening as I try to catch up on stuff I haven't had time to deal with on the weekend.
I use PyDS for this blog as well as its builtin aggregator which allows for this presentation switch. It also has a lock feature that will keep an article in the feed even if I purge the view. Very handy.
This is pointer to a presentation in May, 2003 by Peter Theony to the Internet Developer Group.
Writeable webs empower employees to share knowledge and to be more productive
Its a bit old. Nevertheless, its a great summary of the role a wiki can plan in an organization's knowledge management strategy. It certainly speaks to TWiki's maturity as well.
See the webcast here as well.
I am still trying to find out how TWiki implements RSS/RDF/Syndication feeds of changes to the writeable web. I see on their site that they have a WebRss plugin but so far haven't found any info about it. If I find something, I'll update it here.
Here is the answer for Twiki. Looks like there is extensive support for RSS. I also found a handy list of RSS aware wiki tools..