Updated: 10/30/02; 12:22:10 PM.

 Russ Lipton Documents Radio
simplex veri sigillum

daily link  Wednesday, October 30, 2002

I'm a user. I love features. Then again, I remember the 1980s. Stop me before I kill again, but Word is only slightly more advanced than Wordstar was in terms of truly usable features. It sure boasts tens of thousands of unusable features, though.

On the safe assumption that Userland's gurus are cooking up the next version of Radio, I want to put in a plea for modest feature enhancement complemented by radical attention to fit-and-finish of the product we love-to-love (and occasionally love-to-hate).

In very specific order of personal conviction:

1. Categories

HELP! Redo the GUI to make categories first-class citizens with per category posting, editing, archiving, retrieval, theme management, etc.

2. Aggregation

Clean GUI and infrastructure support for large-scale news management (hundreds or thousands of feeds). Augmented with filtering criteria, notifications, trackbacks et al plus reasonable post-to-category options.

3. Site portability

Clean, brainless support for retrieving site content from cloud servers as well as moving content from server to server.

4. Editing

Either a platform-independent widget that takes the IE mechanism to its next level (Mozilla? Flash? ???) and/or desktop-centered editing that is more elegant than raw text editors but orders of magnitude simpler and blog-attuned than programming editors or word processors.

5. Instant Outlining

The next area for geeky goodness? Turn the betas into a ready-for-end-user-prime-time deliverable.

6. Performance

Use every trick in the book to gain back some cycles on our desktops so we are enticed to live inside Radio, not just use it to retrieve-and-publish.

  feedback:   12:21:55 PM  permalink  

daily link  Tuesday, October 29, 2002

Receive email from time to time along lines of 'are you still alive?'

Yes - and it's kind of many to ask, as well as send along ideas. I'm still thinking about an awesome email I received on the subject of knowledge management in the domain of peer journals. More relevant than one might think ...


Still digging Frontier/Radio of course. Tinderbox too, but that isn't a conflict. Thinking more-or-less every day about next steps.

Now keep in mind that I'm doing full-time Christian ministry to a church that has doubled in the past year (yeah, from 40 to 80 but then I freak out easy); being a father of five (two grown, daughter in college and two at home); teaching a high-school course plus sharing home-schooling of my 12-year old son and having a wife who is a certified nurse-midwife. This keeps me just a bit busy. And golf. That's finished here in Spokane, alas.

More pertinent, I am not sure whether I want to write about Radio or do Radio.

My oldest sons (Josh and James) have a cool and growingly successful band in Austin, TX. They're on their first, somewhat bizarre road trip as I write. That's another story. Anyway, Josh is mastering Frontier for other reasons (consulting) but we're talking about doing a serious weblog to cover the band, the music scene in Austin, music industry (esp. on Net) and do some community/fan-building of course. The idea is that Josh will do design and I'll do editing (some writing) and nudge the community along.

Here ends the story of my summer vacation.

  feedback:   9:56:13 AM  permalink  

daily link  Friday, September 27, 2002

Maybe I'm not the right guy to do a Radio book after all. I'm feeling plain-old stuck. Or maybe the timing just isn't here. Or maybe I'm not convinced I can make a buck from it.

Meanwhile, I am wrapping my mind around goals, tasks, reference doc et al.

These seem goal-like ... publish my writing, organize my ideas, share project updates with team members, send interesting news to friends.

These seem task-like ... build a blogroll, define categories, revise my templates.

These seem reference-like ... change ftp parameters, turn upstreaming on-off, render outlines.

How am I doing?

  feedback:   10:14:21 AM  permalink  

daily link  Monday, September 23, 2002

From today's Dive Into Mark:

"For each domain (RSS feeds, FOAF files, whatever), somebody (or some group) needs to come along and document best practices. We need better goal-oriented documentation. We have a lot of reference documentation, task-oriented documentation, but very little that documents that larger picture and answers questions written in English. “How do I include personal information in my RSS feed?” is a goal-oriented question. “Create a FOAF file using this tool and then insert this line at this location in your RSS feed” (with as many examples as necessary) is a goal-oriented answer. Anything less is like trying to master a foreign language by reading a dictionary."

I thought goal-oriented and task-oriented documentation were/are the same?

I think (thought) I am doing goal-oriented documentation but Mark hasn't given me enough help there to know what he means.

(BTW, I am a great admirer of his text on Python which I found one of the clearest texts of its kind ever written).

On another note, my first cut at a Radio book outline is done but I am worrying over it not unlike a dog over a bone. Bad. Bad. Note to self: put it up and get on with it. Or get on with something.


  feedback:   5:07:41 PM  permalink  

daily link  Wednesday, September 11, 2002

"The goal will be to show how Radio can be interwoven across a given organization or project team through specific use(s) to support a hierarchy of shared spaces that mediate identity and knowledge. Profound mouthful."

This will be the theme of my book.

Weblogs are often knocked as just another hyped excuse for naval-gazing by wannabe diarists. Or, put another way, they are trashed as just old-time Net websites with some syntactic sugar added. Well, excuuuuse me.

First of all, if folks want to write about their Aunt Sally and post pictures of their cat, good for them. Electrons are cheap. Who asked you?

As for syntactic sugar, weblogs (no, check that, Frontier/Manila/Radio as a platform) do package together a set of features that were once-upon-a-time factored out in hard-to-use geeky tools. That's called progress. If that progress puts Aunt Sally's stories on the Net, awesome.

Now, here is another ill-kept secret:

Weblogs are also making it possible for Intranets to fulfill their long-ago promise as environments for managing and channeling knowledge - and for just the same reasons. Dilbert's neighbors never could figure out why the benefit of using yesterday's Intranets outweighed the presumed gain (it didn't by and large) but they now realize they can track the progress of their work and projects using weblogs.

In some cases, it's even better than that. They are running their own Intranet and Knowledge-nets without even realizing that they are doing so.


Once more:

"The goal will be to show how Radio can be interwoven across a given organization or project team through specific use(s) to support a hierarchy of shared spaces that mediate identity and knowledge. Profound mouthful."

'Shared spaces' just means that weblogs can be strung together conveniently in hierarchical or networked chains with push (publish) and pull (subscribe) notifications between coworkers engaged in common tasks.

Just think how cool it could (will) be when organizations start leveraging weblog platforms intelligently. Not weblogs - weblog platforms. So far, I only know of one such platform: Frontier/Manila/Radio. 

As better minds than mine have pointed out, this nicely (elegantly) blends planned and serendipitous knowledge creation and mining. So-called knowledge management has generally foundered for lack of tools that foster this blend without making the tool so onerous that our marvelous human brains rebel at the pain inflicted on us en route to some nebulous corporate goal.

Too wordy? Just sign up for this: "weblogging is fun".

Oversimplifying, Radio occupies a spectrum point between email/static websites on the low-end of shared interactions and a platform like Groove on the high-end:

Static Websites
(Instant Outlining)

(I parenthesize 'instant outlining' since it is still beta at Userland. Note that instant outlining would be nearly impossible without the broad platform support of Frontier).

Radio occupies a very sweet spot for public and semi-public sharing that requires minimal to moderate security. When only paranoia will do, Groove is your choice.

Of course, I leave very much here to the imagination - rather, to a book. And (I continue to repeat) to a book(s) that will explain how to actually use Radio to these ends.

At least I am tuning in to an audience (small to medium-size organizations of professionals) and a theme (showing them how to create and manage shared knowledge spaces).

It's a start. Next - a first cut at an outline and perhaps a small surprise about the approach I will take.

(Once again, thanks for the continuing comments. I am weighing each one of them. In time, I hope to enlist reviewers to savage my stuff so I can actually make it decent. Meanwhile, keep commenting please).

  feedback:   2:36:55 PM  permalink  

daily link  Monday, September 09, 2002

Even though I spent over 20 years consulting to corporate America, I would rather write Radio book(s) for a non-biz audience. Just seems like more fun.


Radio (not to mention Frontier/Manila) deserve to be used by every business - and every school - everywhere. Even granting that BigCo's judge UserLand a heavy counter-cultural risk (as if being slaveboys to BigSoftware is safe), that leaves a million or ten other candidates.

It's time to demystify the what-where-why-when-who of Radio for a computer literate, professional but non-technical audience. The paradigm for that audience is the friend of Jon Udell's (don't have the link) whom Jon stepped through a Radio installation. It was just way hard and the jargon way confusing.

To some degree, this is unavoidable. It doesn't mean Radio is hard to use. Given what you can do with it, hard to use compared with ... ?

Still, Radio/RCS embeds a decade of design and lore covering the entire history of the Internet:

Web servers.
Scripting languages.
Authoring products.
Web design tools.
Desktop clients.
... and the acronymns that support them and more: HTTP. FTP. HTML. XML. XML-RPC. SOAP. RSS. OPML.

Nor are these mere jargon-y acronymns (yeah, we have plenty others of those). The ones above support entire worlds of functionality over which Radio is layered. Layered well or poorly? Well. Very well. But not so well that weblogging/K-logging isn't still terribly confusing to millions of people who are as smart (and often smarter) than 'our kind of people'.

So, my audience will be:

Technical management - decision-makers for determining corporate standards.

Project leaders - administer collaborative weblogs.

Professional end-users - journalists, marketers, sales, lawyers, doctors, teachers, scientists et al.

The goal will be to show how Radio can be interwoven across a given organization or project team through specific use(s) to support a hierarchy of shared spaces that mediate identity and knowledge. Profound mouthful.

No, this ain't gonna be a mere white paper-ish book. If I wanted to do that, I wouldn't focus on Radio (and, behind Radio ... Frontier/Manila). I'd keep it vaguely generic.

Au contraire, I'm betting on these specific products, which means: how to think about them (sure) but also and emphatically how to USE THEM. With weblogging, 'philosophy' and 'use' converge entirely.

On Wednesday, some thoughts about the theme I will emphasize to this audience. Can you find it signalled above?

What do you think? Right audience? Wrong audience? Who cares?

  feedback:   2:42:07 PM  permalink  

daily link  Saturday, September 07, 2002

Thanks sincerely to all who commented on last Wednesday's post.

To some degree, the medium is (or should correspond to) the message with reasonable fidelity. So, minimally, there will be some sort of online version. While I have ruled out a password-protected, subscription-based weblog version (sigh ... a big part of me says it is clearly the way to go but that is probably far too strange a model to find adequate financial support), much else remains up for grabs.

Re paper: I love hold-able books and have thousands of them. Since I will be writing hyper-textually, I am not sure I can flatten out the content adequately to support paper as a primary publishing target - even if I didn't loathe BigPubCo's.

That said, being able to target the same content to maximal devices supporting maximal presentation formats is a priority. FileMaker is cool and worth a look. Docbook, yes. XML, of course. Note that Frontier certainly enables me to get the needed leverage.

Paolo's tool update service is also on the research list when it comes to convenient membership and sales.

Audience will determine much. Back on Monday about that. (Hint: it's time to push Radio past the star techie crew that so ably helps Captain Dave navigate and colonize a few of the Federation's planets).

I'll post the evolving outline later next week, rendered from Radio, of course. Radio's .opml format will serve as plumbing infrastructure for the publishing side.

  feedback:   11:17:23 AM  permalink  

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Last update: 10/30/02; 12:22:10 PM.