08 July 2004

New wave of Webware

The last couple days have proven how far the web has come from a publishing to a
collaboration medium. So, after watching from the sidelines for awhile, I decided to check out the idea
of blogging recently. It took me about an hour to get Pivot, the software that
runs this blog, downloaded and installed on my server
(which is hosted at WebIntellects on a very basic hosting plan).

A couple days later, something came up in an email group where we wanted to
have a Wiki for the group. It took a little longer to get tiki installed, but tiki is an
incredibly powerful piece of groupware -- although all I've enabled
at www.stoneschool.com/tiki is a forum and a single Wiki,
tiki supports blogs, chats, polls, surveys, etc., etc.

A few years ago I was very involved with the SIGGRAPH website. Website work
involved lots of knowing HTML and CSS at a deep level, and web apps involved
mucking around in PHP and mySQL. Although that's still true, the lesson of tiki,
Pivot, plone, or the many other open-source collaborative software is that I wouldn't
bother; the functions I was ultimately trying to provide are already available
through these mature and highly functional tools. Having started to customize and
override various default settings with both Pivot and tiki, I can't imagine going back
to actually having to build all of this functionality myself (aka with stone knives :-)).
While the plethora of "me-too" products and Microsoft crowding out all other
software vendors can make you cynical about the state of software, the reality
is that a few years of progress, plus things like PHP, Python, and mySQL becoming
part of the expected services from an ISP, have made groupware on the web
trivial to implement. That's a pretty big change from just a few years ago.

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