[AoyW] Pocket Wikis in Sync
The wiki is the app at the heart of the Always-On-You Web. Personal and shared webs obviously have to allow edit-in-place; what's the point of publishing read-only content to yourself? :-)
But the wiki as represented by Wikipedia isn't nearly flexible enough for the always-on-you web. For one, it shouldn't limit the content to rich text plus bitmaps (i.e. HTML). And it cannot corral the content in a single wiki instance. Always-on-you wikis that run directly from a flash drive, or live on your laptop, (see TiddlyWiki & PmWiki) won't be directly accessible to your collaborators; they need their own copy of the data in their own instance of the wiki. And that calls for a synchronization mechanism. A wiki-sync.
There are two ubiquitous sync systems, which everyone uses constantly... and I bet you can't name them. They are email and instant messaging. Huh? Yes, the number one way that documents are sync'ed by co-authors is via email attachments. This method imparts no implicit context for the object in question; discerning its meaning is left to the humans. But it works well enough, apparently. IM is simpler still, relaying a text block to some number of online participants, in near-real-time.
These simple, common mechanisms are the right stuff for sync'ing shared, locally-sited wikis. When a change recipient is online, they get the update instantly; otherwise the change is stored and forwarded when they're next online. The only thing to add is a tag that uniquely identifies the object that changed, so incoming updates can be processed behind the scenes.
My firm is designing an open sync service that will allow members to keep multiple instances of a data object in sync across the net. It's not just for wikis, any app could use it; it's not just for portable apps, hosted apps could use it. We'd love to get feedback from wiki warlocks and mashup masters about it, so drop me a line or leave a comment if interested.