Some ways of ensuring the success of collaboration over the Web are to require that people can use the programs that they are currently used to using and to make everything as easy to use as is possible, as well as incorporating some of the methods that made the Internet and the Web as successful as they have been.
Some of the ways to achieve these goals are to use tools on the server for as much of the work as possible, because they allow the user to do their work wherever they happen to be, even if they have not got their favourite programs with them. Other ways to achieve the goals are to limit any requirement for client side tools to those that need little or no user intervention to work (such as Java applets in browsers). Also to take advantage of the programs that the user already has (such as web browsers), rather than requiring them to get more programs to clutter up their computer. They must be cross platform, Unix, Windows, and Mac, as the bare minimum. Tools that are already available should be used (don't reinvent the wheel). Examples of such tools are online chat (IRC, Talk, ICQ, etc), email, Usenet. Enhance them with new abilities, where they don't already exist, but don't replicate existing features, just to put them on the Web.
The future of the Web
Web sites of the future will be much more advanced than we are used to at the moment. As technology moves forward it will make it possible to do things that we can only dream about at the moment. One of the ways to enhance the Web is to bring about a resurgence of more of the original ideas that led to the creation of the Web in the first place. Ideas such as the free flowing web of information that allows co-operative authoring of documents, along with collaboration to work on those documents. The ideas of co-operative authoring have been around since even before the Web, and have been used to some extent, but the ideas that people have had in the past have not caught on, possible because other major things were happening at the time such as when Berners-Lee created the 'WorldWideWeb' browser/editor of NeXT.
By utilising ideas for new web sites with ideas for co-operative authoring and collaboration, using content/document management software, we can combine them in new ways, with our current technology. In the future web sites will be as easy to create and to edit as conventional documents are to create and edit with word processors, and both types of information representation will be used as often as each other (and in conjunction with each other).
Web sites based on the multi-tier model above will allow webmasters to set up sites for people to use co-operative authoring and collaboration just as easily as they can create documents in word processors today. The collaboration will be available without added complexity and will allow a variety of clients to edit, update and view information on the site (with full version history, and security).
To achieve this, the web site will need to combine different technologies into one coherent bundle. The web sites will also need to be robust and well designed to keep the complexity of the process hidden from the user, and to present a simplified model of use. This will allow all web sites to incorporate the full potential of co-operatively authored web sites, while keeping the whole process simple enough so that anyone can use that potential. The site designers may not use all of the potential for every web site, but will be able to pick and choose the parts that are most appropriate for them.
A multi-tier web site such as this that has a dynamic back end (that may be on a different server, for reliability) that updates a static front end whenever a change is made on the back end. This combines the reliability and speed of a static site, with the flexibility and dynamism of a dynamic site, with the good points from each, while mitigating against the bad points. It gives the reliability and speed of a static web site because it is a static web site (that is updated periodically by the dynamic site), and the flexibility of a dynamic site, because the dynamic site can update the static site at any time (generally whenever something changes). So even if the dynamic site crashes, the static site will still be available and contain the information up to the point that the dynamic site crashed.
In the past few applications other than web browsers and editors could understand HTML, and therefore would not have been able to edit web sites (and in some cases, even though they can now read and write HTML, you would not want to use them to do so). Advances in applications and the protocols to access web servers are advancing such that many more applications are able to interact with web sites and support the standardised (W3) web features (in other words, no OS or browser specific HTML, that could break the display of the page on other systems), that may, or may not be a web browser as we currently recognise them. For advanced document creation with YEdit additional software or a reasonably recent web browser/editor (although this will still be platform-independent) may be required for extra features (although these features should at least be partially available for use in any web browser/editor). These extra features are only for advanced web page creation (in other words anyone can still view it easily).
All web sites that use the YEdit engine will have will have the ability to include full co-operative authoring, collaboration and content management with no additional software required, on either end.
In addition to browser based, or advanced editing, the YEdit system could have in the future allowed other software to hook into the system, allowing the user to use the software that they are used to used to using. This would have allowed for features such as uploading and downloading of Word or WordPerfect files, for editing. Software should be the users choice; the server will convert to and from its internal representation as is needed. This means that the user will be able to use anything from EdLin (the infamous text file editor that was included with early versions of MS-DOS), through to the current web browsers and anything in the future to edit the documents with.
Increasing the success of the Web
There is a range of currently available technology (such as email and Usenet) that is being used for the purposes of communication, and quite often the same technology is reinvented again and again, sometimes using other techniques. Occasionally this brings out new abilities that were not available before; unfortunately, most of the time it only introduces added complexity to areas that can already be complex and difficult enough for the average user.
Letting people use the programs that they are used to and understand (rather than asking them to learn new programs often), will increase the ease with which people are able to use their computer to do what they want. It makes sense to let people use the programs that they understand because when they understand how to do things, they are much happier and productive (and a happy and productive user is MUCH less burden on a company). A user who is forced into upgrades, changes, and having to learn the software over and over again, when their current software works perfectly well for them, is often a burden on resources and support lines. On the other hand, if they are given a good reason to upgrade, they will, quite happily, with few problems; force them, and watch the support issues blossom.
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