Things Are Evolving

A burst of development energy in a number of directions recently.
And things are starting to self-organize towards the new ecosystem.
Today’s exciting news : OWL makes a very nice desktop app, thanks to Electron.
Here’s the github repo.
I’ll be doing more testing, compiling, packaging this shortly. So that even non-geeks can play with it. But it seems to work fine.
To be honest, the few times I’ve installed OWL on non-geek friends’ machines, the “run a server and look at OWL in the browser” part has confused / put people off. Now things are VERY much simpler.
This is also going to give me some momentum to add a couple of extra features / ideas I’ve been thinking about over the last couple of years.
In the short term … this desktop repo is likely to be where I develop the next round of functionality. Though I’ll be porting these new features back to the Android and web-based versions.
Main issues in my mind at the moment : I’ve dropped the Python based server for this. We’re now purely Coffee / Javascript. That feels cleaner and more convenient. Will I now try do the same for the web version. It makes sense. But straight node? Express? Meteor?
What’s simplest and leads to least repetition of code?

Dave Winer: Andrew wants a home page

OK. At this point I’m now officially confused by the Dave Winer road-map / strategy.
I’m sure it’s evolving and exploratory. But Dave’s productivity means that I’m no longer keeping up with how this is meant to go down.
So we had an outliner. (Fargo). And then an open-sourced version of the editor (Yay! Concord). Dave got the religion of “Unhosted” apps. running entirely in the browser and using various back-end storage. (Cool). Although he has a node server for that too.
Meanwhile, there’s a radio3 which is … what? … blogging software? an RSS generator? based on the outliner? And river4 which is an RSS reader. Or is it radio4 and river3?
And now there’s a MyWord which looked like a way to format long-form essays to make an open competitor to Medium. And Little Pork Chop to cut long stories down to Tweet-size chunks to post on Twitter.
But MyWord is also meant to post to Twitter. (I think)
And now MyWord also seems to be blogging software. (Following the path of Medium?) But when I asked about how the outline editor would connect to it, Dave said he wasn’t thinking about it. Instead MyWord is gaining an ordinary in-browser text editor. But it’s also getting a “front page” which shows an ordered list of posts … pulled from an RSS feed.
Dave’s own blog seems to be outline based. There’s a liveblog version for “narrating his work” that basically IS in an outline. But MyWord seems to be going off in a different direction.
So what’s actually going on here? Are these all pieces of a single jigsaw puzzle that can be put together to make a comprehensive whole (a version of Radio Userland as a swarm of Unhosted apps)? Or is Dave running a bunch of experiments in parallel, pursuing an outliner-first strategy on the one hand, and chasing Medium and Twitter on the other?

OWLdroid fixed, thanks to BTSync

Good news. The latest version of BTSync actually lets me specify which folder on my Android tablet I want to sync.
That means I can explicitly tell it to sync. the OWL directory that OWLdroid uses by default. (Somewhere between updates of Android and BTSync last year, this facility got lost.)
So it’s looking like BTSyncing between my tablet and laptop are working again. So OWLdroid is a viable piece of software again. (The syncing with the laptop makes a huge difference in day-to-day usefulness.)
Yes, I know this isn’t great. I need to figure out how to ensure that OWLdroid works. The longer term plan is to move to having remoteStorage.js as an option. But that’s a little way down my todo-queue.

A Question for Dave Winer

So, Dave has a nice template for showing essay-length writing.
And naturally, the way things are evolving in 2015, it’s a “single-page web-app” which can pull in the actual content from another URL.
Of course, I’d like to write essays using an outliner. And I’m using OWL which is really just the Concord editor that saves files in OPML. But myword.io has a new custom JSON format for its input (that also seems to allow Markdown).
So here’s the question : what’s the story for converting an outline to an essay? Is myword going to evolve to import OPML directly? Is the myword JSON format going to become a standard? How should OPML turn into myword documents?
In one sense it’s easy. You can always just flatten OPML and dump it to a raw text file. Perhaps with some indentation based on outline depth. (Although that might fight the Markdown.)
Or are there plans to represent any structure in the essay (sections, section headings etc.) with structure in the OPML? Is there a project to work on this? Or thoughts on a standard that I could start to support?
Obviously I have a couple of my own solutions in this area : GeekWeaver and bootdown. But if there are any emerging standards / conventions planned, then I’m up for supporting them. Both GeekWeaver and BootDown are useful, but they’re both rather old-skool command-line Python scripts which don’t necessarily fit into the workflow of many people in 2015.
Update : Dave replied :

It is what it is.
I have no plans at this time to do anything with it.
I might swing back around to this, or not.
MyWord is MIT Licensed, so if you really want it, you can do it.

OK. So right now, I’ll probably just do a flat export of text written in OPML and a quick JSON wrapper. And then think further. As this ties into questions about GeekWeaver, the future of some of my Python code base (as opposed to moving more into the browser)
Dave also points to his code :

Here’s the code I added to Fargo to generate the myword.io JSON.
https://gist.github.com/scripting/2a612b0e2cbb7077482a
As you can see, there ain’t much there! 🙂

Still. Very useful.

OWL Screenshots

How is OWL looking these days? Here are a couple of screenshots :

OWLdroid

OWLdroid Feb 2014
OWLdroid Feb 2014
Note that I’ve moved the navbar of OWL into the space which Bootstrap usually uses for the main menu. This is a big win in terms of space, and the fact that it’s now always visible, even when scrolling down long pages. I’m not sure, yet, how this will work on smaller / phone-sized screens.

OWL on Laptop (Firefox on Linux)

OWL screenshot (Firefox on Linux)
OWL screenshot (Firefox on Linux)

Winer's Back!

This is really good news.

Dave Winer finally comes out with a decent outliner in the browser.

I’ve been looking for one for a long time. (Thought of trying to write it too, but it’s not my speciality. Now you get one from the world’s biggest Outlining evangelist.)

This is also great news for Winer himself, I think. As always, he has a lot of crucial ideas for where the web should be going. But for a while it’s seemed like the main thing holding him back has been a code-base that’s a Windows desktop application. (Which is NOT where either users or developers want to party these days.) The few times I’ve thought I’d like to look into the open-sourced Frontier / OPML Editor I’ve been put off by that.

A new browser-based UI (and Javascript-based server?) hopefully means that he’ll be able to get more people involved in his code, interacting with his services, and start to have an impact via technology as well as evangelism.

And me, I’m holding on for the OPML export / import … ahem … cough …  GeekWeaver … cough. 😉