[teknoids] Re: Simultaneous editing - word processing documents

marbux marbux at gmail.com
Mon Oct 1 14:49:37 EDT 2007

On 10/1/07, West, Jeff <jwest at mail.barry.edu> wrote:
> We use this software, which is the basic software of Wikipedia.  Great for
> collaboration.
> http://www.mediawiki.org/wiki/MediaWiki

MediaWiki works pretty well if the desired finished product is a wiki page
or pages. You can break a page into individual sections that can be
separately edited simultaneously, but no simultaneous editing of the same
section without some extra steps to mesh the separate edits.

If the desired work product is a word-processor style document with
pagination, concatenated from a number of MediaWiki pages, it puts you into
a lot of manual editing of page source code because links to separate pages
remain as links to MediaWiki pages rather than to finished document sections
upon export. So e.g., a table of contents that links to separate pages on
the wiki must be manually repaired after concatenation. And even with a
single Mediawiki page with a hyperlinked table of contents, the exported
page retains the original absolute URL links for the page sections from the
table of contents. Easy enough to fix if you are proficient at working with
HTML source code, but a pain to repair if you are not.

Wiki sites also have a regrettable tendency to become somewhat of a
disorganized mess because there is no organizational structure imposed. The
wiki's search engine becomes the only real connective tissue as the wiki
grows other than navigating through a maze of page links. For that reason, I
prefer to work with a content management system that requires some
hierarchical structure in page location. Many CMS have extensions that
enable easy wiki-like page linking, e.g., Drupal and Plone.

I think the bottom line here is that we are not yet even close to an optimal
solution for collaborative document editing over the web. But some of the
new Office 2.0 web applications are showing promise and the W3C has just
completed work on its Compound Documents Formats ("CDF") recommendations,
which allow web editors to become as powerful as class client-side editors
such as those in Microsoft Office and OpenOffice.org. <
http://www.w3.org/2004/CDF/>. The first implementations are due by the end
of the year.

Indeed, we have ourselves jumped ship on developing for the OpenDocument
formats because of ODF's severe interoperability warts that the Technical
Committee refuses to resolve and are now working with W3C CDF+ in our own
interop tools for Microsoft Office. CDF has a stunningly elegant
interoperability framework and it will be child's play to interoperate with
OpenDocument and Office Open XML should those standards ever acquire
adequate interoperability conformance requirements. So for us, CDF+ allows
us to move forward with our interoperability work whilst keeping the door
open for ODF and OOXML support in the future. We expect to have MS Word
doing non-lossy round-tripping between the binary formats and CDF+ by
November, by adapting our ODF plug-in for Word to support CDF+ instead. And
we have a CDF+ collaborative editor in the works as well.

But our plug-in will not be available for MS Word 2007 because of a change
Microsoft introduced in its platinum release that blocks access to Word's
features for any plug-in other than Microsoft's own plug-in for converting
to and from OOXML. That  is why we have been recommending that CIO's hold
the line and standardize on Office 2003 using the binary formats except for
reading OOXML files using the Office 2007 Compatibility Pack, foregoing the
trap of Sharepoint Server. Office 2007 has the strongest vendor lock-in
features of any preceding version of Office and OOXML is but a new vendor
lock into the new Microsoft fortress under construction on the other side of
Sharepoint Server from MS Office. Organizations that develop dependencies on
Sharepoint Server and the new Microsoft web apps built atop it will find
themselves locked into Microsoft's proprietary software for at least another

Best regards,

  Director of Legal Affairs
  OpenDocument Foundation
-- Universal Interop Now!
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