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Weblogs let individuals publish their thoughts. Wiki pages let people edit each others writing. But there is as yet nothing that really helps to carry on a far-reaching design discussion in cyberspace. We need such a tool for collaborative design and decision making.
These ideas are still pretty theoretical when it comes to online discussions, even though they have a strong track record when it comes to facilitated, face-to-face discussions. (Previous incarnations of the tools found that they really only work when the discussion is carried on live, and a moderator keeps things running. But I haven't quite given up on an online incarnation.)
The idea-threads that are mega-interesting to me include:
Blogging in plain text or email and auto-converting to DITA topics
Wiki-style edit-and-build system for DITA topics
Extending DITA to enable distributed collaboration, exploration, discussion, and decision-making using IBIS conversation-formats
IBIS: Issue Based Information Systems:
The IBIS Manual
DITA: Darwin Information Typing Architecture
An extensible, XML-based document format centered on "topics".
IBIS is a technique that was designed to help solve "wicked problems":
Wicked Problems: Naming the Pain in the Organization
The way it helps (in its "dialog mapping" incarnation) is very
nicely captured here:
Facilitated Hypertext for Collective Sensemaking
Eugene Kim has a terrific case study of the process here:
I proposed XML as a basis for IBIS-managed discussions in 2001:
Other papers in that space expand on the theme. Recently, it occurred to me that since DITA is extensible, it might be possible to extend it for IBIS. Once we have enabled wiki-style editing for structured documents like DITA, it may then become possible to collaborate and make design decisions effectively over the web, with only occasional use of a telephone.
|Eric Armstrong has been programming and writing professionally since before there were personal computers. His production experience includes artificial intelligence (AI) programs, system libraries, real-time programs, and business applications in a variety of languages. He works as a writer and software consultant in the San Francisco Bay Area. He wrote The JBuilder2 Bible and authored the Java/XML programming tutorial available at http://java.sun.com. Eric is also involved in efforts to design knowledge-based collaboration systems.|