Thursday, August 02, 2007

I see Zbigniew beat me to blogging about wiki-wednesday. That's one of the perils of laying around in bed all morning.

He's dead right about Alan Wood's presentation being very exciting. I'm probably even more impressed by Wood's "Rel3" than Zby is.

What most impressed me was Alan's apparent good taste that seems to be formed by real experience. Rel3 isn't an attempt to take a particular genre of social software as it exists and force it into the enterprise, but a crafted, pragmatic response to particular needs.

Yes, it looks very like a non-threaded discussion forum. In fact it's also a bit like a page of "River of News" for a single issue being handled within a group. There are echoes of TopicExchange and explicit inspiration from Twitter.

Behind the scenes things seem just as interesting. Written originally in Java, then ported to Rails and now to Erlang. It's designed to use Amazon's S3 and EC2. (The fact that it keeps data in files on S3 prompted leaving Rails.) Each page (or conversation) allows files to be attached so you can manage Word, Excel, PDF docs, etc. When asked if he's thinking of creating some kind of Ajaxy online editor for collaborative documents, Alan sensibly says he won't re-invent the wheel but will provide hooks to other providers of this kind of stuff.

In other words, this is a very nice, minimal "glue" to tie together the people and resources that temporarily need to be brought together to solve a particular problem. After which the page doesn't hang around cluttering up your ontology when you have lost interest in it. (I mean, it probably *does* hang around. But Alan Wood, interestingly, contrasted Rel3 with wikis which allow a small group to work producing a more permanent document that must stake its claim to some part of the name-space.)

In this, it has some of the best features of other social software, in particular, I think it has potential to rival email's special power of spontaneous group forming and dissolving. Let's see if actually creating, subscribing and unsubscribing to pages can be quick enough.

Also, Alan has a very smart blog at Folknology
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