Been working quite a lot on Project ThoughtStorms, the new Python / Bottle based wiki engine behind ThoughtStorms in the last few days.

I can’t believe that I’ve spent 15 years building a wiki without creating my own software.

That error is going to be rectified from now on.

Sure, most of what I’m doing is adding the kind of functionality that most wikis already have : RecentChanges, Search, Sister Sites etc. But it’s pretty quick to write. And as I bring these functions back, ThoughtStorms becomes more subtle and alive.

The truth is that ThoughtStorms’ content is woefully outdated. There are a tonne of broken links, and news stories that were current in 2005, but equivalent stories between about 2008 and 2016 are no-where.

It needs a jolly good clean up / clean out / refactoring. But I’m starting to have some ideas about how to write some more innovative custom code to help with that.

It’s very much work in progress. And there’s still plenty that’s half-baked and unfinished.

But I’m starting to feel that ThoughtStorms is coming back to life.

Posted in Me.

There’s a quick update to the wikish plugin for Project ThoughtStorms (that’s the plugin type that offers UseMode / SdiDesk style wiki markup for the Smallest Federated Wiki). I’ve now added the double-comma defined tables.

So

oranges,, apples,, pears
43,, 55,, 22

Now becomes

oranges apples pears
43 55 22

Although not nearly as elegant. The simple CSS styling I was trying to use seems to clash with SFW’s style sheet in a way I haven’t debugged yet. So I’ve stuck with good old-fashioned table borders. (Ouch!)

Given the SFW’s narrow columns, I wasn’t originally going to support tables. But I have a couple of things for which it makes sense. So if you’re using Project ThoughtStorms, the repo is already updated. ThoughtStorms itself I haven’t updated to the most recent SFW codebase. That’s coming ASAP.

Posted in Uncategorised.
I love Quora. It’s a great site and community. But I started getting a bit concerned how much writing I was doing there which was (potentially) disappearing inside their garden and not part of the body of thinking I’m building up on ThoughtStorms (or even my blogs).

Fortunately, I discovered Quora has an RSS feed of my answers, so I can save them to my local machine. (At some point I’ll think about how to integrate them into ThoughtStorms; should I just make a page for each one?)

Anyway here’s the script (powered by a lot of Python batteries.)

And this turns the files back into a handy HTML page.

Posted in Uncategorised.
I believe we’re in a wiki renaissance. The Smallest Federated Wiki signals a new era of wiki, slick enough for the age of HTML5, mobile devices and the “internet of things”.

So here’s a quick manifesto (in progress) that I’m writing about what’s at stake in the new era, how it’s the same as and different from the previous one. 

Posted in Uncategorised.
ThoughtStorms has been ported across to the Smallest Federated Wiki.

Of course, there are plenty of failures, missing pages, bits of markup that aren’t handled correctly etc. But this is wiki, right? It’s never perfect. It’s always living and dying and composting. The problems will get flushed out, or worked-around, or become charming ruins over time.
That doesn’t mean Project ThoughtStorms is over. It’s barely even got started. There are more wikis to port. There’s an SdiDesk converter to write. There’s plenty of gardening that I am committing to doing.
And then there’s the really exciting stuff … 😉
Posted in Uncategorised.
As mentioned previously, I’ve been looking into Ward Cunningham’s “Smallest Federated Wiki” concept. And I’m increasingly impressed.

So much so, that I’ve re-oriented a lot of my projects around it.

What do I mean? A decent follow-up to SdiDesk has been promised for an embarrassingly long time. Over the years I’ve struggled with exactly what it should be and how it should be implemented. Largely whether it should be a desktop application or something you access via the browser. The browser has always been the logical answer but, until recently, the network diagramming aspect of SdiDesk was not really an option in mainstream browsers. OTOH, desktop GUIs open a can of worms. Which OS? Which GUI framework? How do I write installers and distribute? (And, frankly, what is my, as a non-Mac owner / developer, attitude towards the iPad?)

In 2012 though, HTML5 and CoffeeScript have become extremely plausible options for the client. And the server can become a simple wrapper around a basic PageStore. That’s an architecture I’ve been meaning to get down to write. But it’s the architecture that already exists for the SFW.

So, great! By hooking onto that project, I get my basic server / PageStore / client architecture free.

Furthermore it’s extensible via plugins. So I can embed special types of paragraph data and special renderers. That’s exactly what I wanted to do with the new SdiDesk – instead of having *pages* that were network diagrams or grids, have these as individual components of pages. This is perfect. I can concentrate on what interests me – the special plugin types – and Ward’s team can do the infrastructure. 🙂

Not to mention, Ward and co. are doing amazing plugin wizardry already : hooking data-feeds from Arduinos, graphing it, bytebeats, calculators. It already has a lot of what looked nice about QEDWiki.

The multi-panel view surprised me initially, but it’s really useful for refactoring. And that’s going to help me considerably with wiki-composting.

Finally, the “federated” part of the Simplest Federated Wiki is the answer to a bunch of problems I didn’t even know I had. Or, at least, didn’t conceptualise well. How do I have a private wiki (like a local SdiDesk, where I like to draft things before they go public) AND a public wiki (like ThoughtStorms) and make it easy to move newly public stuff from one to the other? How do I balance the desire to have special project focused wikis (like the OPTIMAES one) with wanting to refer to that stuff from the main wiki? How do I balance contributing to my own wiki and contributing to other communities’ wikis?

So, I’m sold. As Dave Winer likes to say, it’s the second mover who makes the standard. And that’s what I want to help with. There’s enough overlap between the SFW and the things I’ve been wanting to do over the last few years that it makes sense for me to implement my ideas as plugins for the SFW, to port my wikis over to to it and to go around shouting about how wonderful it is. Because, actually, it is pretty damned wonderful.

So, Project ThoughtStorms is where I’m putting the code: so far, converters from the ThoughtStorms UseMod and the SdiDesk formatted pages, and plugins to render the markup. I’ll be porting ThoughtStorms over to a SFW server soon. Then I’ll be doing some serious refactoring and cleaning up the actual writing. Trashing a lot of the ephemeral junk and dead-links. TS has become a bit of a museum, which it shouldn’t be. It should be a living, learning, and forgetting thing.

After that, I’ll be sitting down to do some of the other things I’ve wanted to do in a wiki context but not had the platform to do justice to.  Now I think I have one.

Posted in Uncategorised.