Entries in work (11)


TiddlySpace, an April Assignation

We're now half way through the April Assignation of TiddlySpace – a week long review of where we are with the project, how we plan to move forward and general open discussion around how we can improve.

Spending a week on a review such as this may seem to some like a prolonged activity and something that could be done in a day, others may feel that its not long enough! However, I think with the approach that we're taking its proving to be just about right. Although a thoroughly exhausting process!

All the notes from the review are public and online, although they may not be so meaningful to people who've not participated in the discussion. At the end of the week you can expect some form of meaningful summary.

On day one we discussed as a team how each of us are using TiddlySpace, what we thought TiddlySpace ought to be, and which things we don't like about TiddlySpace.

It may seem strange to be having these types of discussions at this stage of a project however by its very nature TiddlySpace can be many things to different people and in addition some of the recent client projects we've taken on have shifted the product in varying directions. In itself none of this is a bad thing.

Moving into day two we each reviewed our thoughts from the previous day and individually had an attempt at producing a mock up of how we each saw a new homepage to look. A quick review at the end of the day showed that there were some strong common themes (as one might expect) but also some varying approaches. For example, from my perspective as someone who mainly speaks to non-developer potential consumers of the product I'd focused less on the technology, where as others were slightly more geared to a developer-ish audience ...although not as much as I'd expected before the start of the week.

Today, day three we met again as a group and performed a mini retrospective of the first day, as well as performed a critic of the day two outputs. We made progress in realising what TiddlySpace might become and who its potential audience was. By the end of the week the goal is to have a firm understand as to the immediate goal of TiddlySpace and to be able to communicate that in a way which is meaningful not just to Osmosoft or existing users, but also to anyone who happened to stumble upon our work.

The process of breaking up the group work with periods of individual working I believe has made this week more productive than it might have been. As a group its been great to throw some ideas around, hear about different peoples perspectives but ultimately that's been a lot of talking. Being able to spend time as an individual putting ideas down on paper based on what was discussed has been very productive

Day four of the review we're going back to individual working. Time will be split between evolving the mocks ups based upon today's critiquing and also formulating ideas for a firm product description that'll be the basis of our work for the coming months.


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.

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