Monday, October 03, 2005

Writeboard and Jotspot Live: Two Thumbs Down

Writeboard debuted today. I had high hopes after the buzz in the blogosphere, but unfortunately I'm sorely disappointed. One selling point was that you don't actually have to sign up. You might as well have to; they ask for a writeboard name, a password, an email address, and an agreement to their terms. Why can't I just go to and get an editor immediately? That's what I thought they were promising. It should keep track of my writeboards using a cookie (so I don't lose them when I accidentally close the window). If I want to invite someone else or move to another browser or computer, I should be able to type email addresses into a field in the side bar. Right now I have to click a button, then type in the email address, then click another button. Invitees should get a URL which will take them directly to the writeboard. I don't think having them type a separate password is necessary so long as the URLs are difficult enough to guess. I'm probably going to email them the password anyway. Second, why isn't this live? Isn't this the time of Ajax? Forget live editing. When two users make changes at the same time, it doesn't tell you! You see both changes in the sidebar, but the latter change replaces the first, no merging. How hard is diff? How is Writeboard different from a wiki? At least a wiki makes it clear when there's a conflict, let's you link and format easily, etc. Next, I tried Jotspot Live. It's basically the same thing as Writeboard except it supposedly enables live editing a la SubEthaEdit. The verdict: Jotspot Live is nothing like SubEthaEdit. It breaks down the changes into visible, paragraph-granular chunks. I want to collaborate on a single cohesive document. Maybe Ajax can't cut it here. Thankfully we have Java applets and Flash. Could someone please use a technology because it's right for the job, not because it's the latest fad?


Anonymous Larry said...

Paragraph-granular chunks are what cohesive documents are made of, are they not? Making a cohesive document has little to do with the editor you're using.

If you take your blog post as an example, you have 8 distinct paragraphs. Is it so unreasonable to treat each one as an independently editable chunk?

3:08 PM  
Blogger Bob Lee said...

Yes, it is unreasonable. And annoying. By "cohesive" I mean I want to be able to move freely throughout the document. I'm not referring to the content. I don't want to lock/edit/unlock individual chunks. I just want to edit a document with no locking. I want to be able to work in the same paragraph as someone else if I like. Have you ever used SubEthaEdit?

How can you defend this terrible design? If you had something do with it, you should disclose that fact.

3:38 PM  
Anonymous Tomas Jogin said...

SubEthaEdit is a native Mac OS X application, it is not a website. Expecting the power of SubEthaEdit from a web app is a bit like expecting children to be able to fly (sure, they're energetic, but please!).

2:45 AM  
Blogger Bob Lee said...

Tomas, then why did they implement it using Ajax if they couldn't do it right? "Yeah, it's only 5% as functional, but it's Ajax!" That's why I said they should have considered Flash or Java.

Actually, I believe you could implement this using Ajax. It would even easier than SubEthaEdit because you have the luxury of a centralized server to synchronize the changes.

8:02 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ridiculous comments. Bob Lee is right. Fancy making a COLLABORATIVE application that has absolutely no concurrency control! The fact this is web-based is no excuse at all.

And to make matters worse, go take a look at writeboard's naive "fix" for this...

8:37 AM  
Anonymous Larry said...

Whoa, easy on the paranoia. I'm just a guy who finds the service useful. Not everyone has the same rigid requirements that you do for creating what you call a "cohesive document". And nope, I haven't used SubEthaEdit. I don't have a Mac. You want SubEthaEdit -- so what's stopping you from using it? Maybe it's because all your friends don't have a Mac? That's the problem with platform dependent software, eh?

9:02 PM  

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