[nylug-talk] collaboration platform for the charter

Sumana Harihareswara sumanah at panix.com
Sun Dec 18 02:37:43 EST 2011

This time the delay in my response is because I skimmed the nylug-talk
digest headers and missed the collaboration tool discussion under all
the SOPA chatter.  Sorry.  Summary: I suggest we use the wiki or Google
Docs, and prefer to ask for consensus on whether we should discard FLOSS
principles to get nicer commenting and realtime shared editing.

First, several discarded contenders.

substance.io is almost there, with nicely integrated comments, but
evidently lacks good versioning.  And someone would have to install it
somewhere.  Prerequisites:

    Node.js >= 0.4
    CoffeeScript >= 1.0
    An empty CouchDB database (either locally or remote)
    CouchApp (install with: $ pip install couchapp)

So I am discarding substance.io.  But thank you for the suggestion, Ajai
Khattri!  I shall have to keep an eye on it for the future.

Gobby requires a thick client and would be tough for people on non-Linux
machines; discarded.

Source control tools (such as git and Subversion) are currently not
suitable for nonprogrammers.  (Perhaps someday flashbake
http://bitbucketlabs.net/flashbake/ will be useful for multiple users.)
 So, discarded.

Etherpad does save all revisions but the revision history is
keystroke-by-keystroke unless someone manually creates milestones along
the way, labels them usefully, etc., and thus nearly useless for digging
up who changed what within a mass of changes.  And, as Brian points,
out, it's better for smaller groups of collaborators, and does not have
built-in commenting.  So I am discarding it.

There were a few other options I discarded: FengOffice seemed way too
heavyweight in terms of maintenance load, Zoho (I believe) makes
everyone who wants to edit a shared document create an account and sign
in, and owncloud does not yet include an online text editor.

(Brian, did you ever hear from anyone with anonymity concerns?  I gave
my business card to the one person at the in-person meeting who would
prefer to provide feedback anonymously, but, perhaps not surprisingly, I
believe he hasn't contacted me.  It's difficult to figure out whether a
particular solution suits his needs without being able to communicate
with him -- semipermanent pseudonyms?  throwaway Google/Zoho accounts?
IP address capture? etc. etc.)

So, on to the two real contenders, Google Docs and our existing wiki.

It is possible to create a Google Doc with extremely open permissions,
such that it's public on the web (Anyone on the Internet can find and
access. No sign-in required.) and access is such that anyone (no sign-in
required) can edit.  Google Docs save versioning, and allow real-time
collaboration, and allow anyone to comment either on the document as a
whole or on a specific word or passage.  But it's not open source.

Our wiki saves version history, can let anyone edit, is open source, and
is already installed.  Ron, thanks for pointing me to
http://nylug.org/volunteers/wiki which looks perfectly suitable; I've
created a test page at http://nylug.org/volunteers/wiki/Main/NewCharter
to show how inline commenting could work.  And our installation allows
anonymous or pseudonymous editing.  (We are running PmWiki 2.2.16, which
is a year and a half old; I recommend we upgrade to a more recent
version per http://www.pmwiki.org/wiki/PmWiki/ReleaseNotes to guard
against XSS attacks, and also update our configuration to guard against
PHP injection.)

Basically, then, the wiki would be better because it's open source and
self-hosted, and a Google Doc would be better because it has nicer
commenting and real-time shared editing.  Which does the community prefer?

Once we make the decision it'll be about five minutes' work to implement
it, so I am fine with us taking until the end of the day December 21st
to make the decision.  That's two weeks after the December 8th posting
of the meeting notes
http://nylug.org/pipermail/nylug-talk/2011-December/015823.html .

Sumana Harihareswara

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