Entries in web collaboration (1)

Thursday
Apr072011

A TiddlySpace review

Next week at Osmosoft Towers we're holding a week long TiddlySpace review / planning session.  In the past we've held similar sessions but over a much shorter time period (typically an afternoon) and focused on an specific area, be it functionality or documentation.  Next week everything is up for discussion.

I thought I'd write a short post ahead of the review session, talking not so much about the specifics of what'll be covered (you can read about that here) but more around how we're approaching the review and to explain who Osmosoft are and what TiddlySpace is...

Osmosoft are a part of BT who focus on web development, specifically focusing on open source web collaboration tools.  Before their acquisition by BT in 2007 Osmosoft was solely run by Jeremy Ruston who back in 2004 had developed a product called TiddlyWiki, a personal wiki designed to be stored locally but run entirely in the web browser.  TiddlyWiki had some unique properties which at the time generated a bit of a buzz on the internet earning it a bit of a following.  When Jeremy decided to make the source code for TiddlyWiki available via a BSD license a community of users and contributors began to form.  It was an interest in open source communities that interested BT and prompted the acquisition.

Since joining BT Osmosoft have to continued to focus on the development of TiddlyWiki, TiddlyWeb and more recently TiddlySpace, as well as providing a governance and advisory role around the use of open source products in BT.  You can read more about the things that Osmosoft get up to in this presentation.

Although TiddlyWiki was designed to be be stored locally there was a growing trend of people hosting their TiddlyWiki's making them accessible to more than just themselves.  To support this work began on a server side for TiddlyWiki called TiddlyWeb.  Although TiddlyWeb was well received within the community (as well as attracting many new people) the barrier to entry for installing and maintaining it was pretty high.  A simplified way of getting TiddlyWiki's onto the web was needed, and this led to TiddlySpace.

TiddlySpace builds upon both TiddlyWiki and TiddlyWeb and both are core to its development.  It follows the same premise as TiddlyWiki and shares much of the same functionality.  The philosophy remains that information is more useful when you can get to it – sounds obvious until you think of all the information locked away in PowerPoints, PDFs and Word documents.  Information in a TiddlySpace is broken down into small chunks called Tiddlers.  Tiddlers can then be mixed and mashed together depending on how that information is to be used.  Due to the way in which the content and the presentation are separated this allows for a rich diversity of customization if the same information.

TiddlySpace is a constantly evolving project and we've been working on it for around a year.  I wouldn't want to put a badge on it, but if I was forced to I'd say we're somewhere between a beta stage and a version 1.0.  There are a number of people using TiddlySpace to great effect and we're still expanding our thoughts where TiddlySpace needs to go next.  Hence the review.

One of Osmosoft's core principles is to be transparent in everything we do – a principle shared by many successful open source projects.  Transparency includes talking in public about what we're working on but also about sharing our thoughts and allowing others to contribute to and comment on them.  With this in mind we've been collecting our pre-review thoughts over here.  This includes some discussion about what is working well, how people are using TiddlySpace but more importantly it highlights areas we feel aren't working or things which require greater attention.  By having these conversations in the open we're forced to be honest with our thoughts and this combined with the insight gained from the community outside of Osmosoft will, I believe, result in a much better end result.