Tiddlywiki, RippleRap and Confabb

Screenshot of ripplerap in action

Screenshot of ripplerap in action

I use a different note-taking tool for almost every conference I attend. I try and use ones which have both off- and on-line components for allowing me to write if there’s no connectivity but allowing me to publish easily if there is.

At FOWA 2008, after discovering it shortly before OpenTech and then talking to the Osmosoft guys about it, I used RippleRap.

So, some basics:

TiddlyWiki “is a single html file which has all the characteristics of a wiki” – you save it to your computer, open it in your browser, and it all still works. It’s open source and supports plugins, of which there seem to be hundreds. There’s a great interview by O’ReillyGMT with its’ creator Jeremy Ruston here. Excellent stuff.

RippleRap is a note-sharing tool based on TiddlyWiki. It comes with a particular set of plugins and a server-side component which handles the uploading and sharing of your wiki pages (called Tiddlers).

Confabb is a hosted RippleRap server component. You sign up, go to the page for your conference, download the pre-configured and pre-populated conference RippleRap and start making your notes which are then synced to the website. Here is the confabb for FOWA 2008.

The summary: TiddlyWiki and RippleRap are great, Confabb is not.

A bit more detail:

The good: offline editing in a web interface suits me down to the ground. TiddlyWiki is very easy to use, and with a pre-populated schedule it makes adding new content a breeze.

The bad: syncing with confabb just didn’t work. TiddlyWiki doesn’t support Textile (which I have hardwired into my brain) or other humane markups like Markdown. Also the sidebar of schedule was really long, so as the day went on you had scroll to bottom, find your talk, click its title and scroll back to the top before you could start writing notes. Very annoying indeed.

In the future I wouldn’t use Confabb – its server-side component seems pretty rubbish although the custom conference TiddlyWiki was great (it would have been even better with presenter bios and links from the conference website!).

If I want to try TiddlyWiki and RippleRap at a conference again I’ll either host my own TiddlyWiki server (this is apparently not entirely straightforward) or use one of the solutions mentioned on TiddlyWiki for the rest of us.

As an aside, after Kathy Sierra’s excellent talk (no video, boooo) it turned out that serendipitously I’d been sitting next to Osmosofter Phil Whitehouse, who’d watched me using TiddlyWiki and we had a productive chat about it before Diggnation Live started. We’d actually met before at OpenTech when I showed how him how to upload new apps to the BUG using Eclipse, but we’d both forgotten!

OpenID usability

People complain a lot that users don’t understand about OpenID logins booting them to another website to authenticate.

Don’t Google already do this with Blogger and Yahoo with Flickr? That is to say: don’t tens of millions of people do this regularly already?

I mean, what’s the big difference? I know there are other usability complaints/problems, but this one sounds eerily like a straw man to me.

Importing blog posts and comments from Blogger to WordPress

bloggerpressI tried this a year ago only to experience epic fail.

I tried this yesterday and it was a marvellous success.

Around this time last year I was locked out of my Google account and decided to move what I could over to my own server (a process I’ve still not completed!). As part of that move I used BloggerBackup to export all of my blog posts and comments and tried to do an import into WordPress, which didn’t work. I was resigned to writing some script to import it but ran into a WordPress date parsing bug which I had trouble tracking down – however since my old blog was still available as static HTML on my server, I wasn’t really that worried about it.

blogger import Last night I tried the built-in WordPress import from Blogger. It uses OAuth to authenticate and then allows import of your posts and comments from the comfort of a couple of clicks in the WordPress admin interface. All very smooth, all very easy (apart from the slightly worrying disparity between the number of imported elements and the totals). I’ll have to move my images, but that’s no real bother.

My archives now go all the way back to May 2002 when it was a co-blog with my housemate of the time who is now an arty-philoso-programmer in Australia. Before that I maintained my blog by hand and I’m not sure I have copies.

A quick “thanks” to my colleague Tom Natt who helped me fix my .htaccess changes so that old links and Google searches still work (also thanks to Mark Pilgrim’s Cruft-free URLs in Movable Type which I could rather tragically remember as a useful post from five years ago).