Round Trip Import

We consider how collaboration tools with deeply different internal structure might interoperate by mutual structure-saving imports. Our test case is conversion between hierarchal outlines and flat wiki pages. liveblog

# Background

Meeting to explore these possibilities we have shown that both outline and wiki could superficially read each other's formats. Their mutual use of json encoding helped.

An interesting next step is to increase the fidelity of the rendering AND demonstrate some capability of "round trip" modification.

Outline ⇒ Wiki ⇒ Outline ⇒ Wiki ...

The key to success here would be recognizing, preserving and generating some key structures while preserving other elements that are not used or even understood.

# Experiment

Outline nodes are translated to wiki items only for the higher level nodes. The outline structure of deeper nodes is preserved by creating specialized, and less interoperable, Outline items.

We've extended wiki's drop logic to read pages published by This is a direct extension of the logic that joins two independent wiki sites by dragging one into a tab open on the other. github

Upon drop, wiki recognizes the url syntax use by, generates the corresponding json query, fetches the page description, translates it to an adequate facsimile in wiki, and then opens that within the tab.

Once available, the page can be forked in its entirety or simply contribute paragraphs to other works in progress within the tab. Deeply nested content, if present, would be captured with a specialized Outline plugin that could view and edit such content.

The utility of this approach, limited translation of only surface nodes to wiki, depends on the writing practices of those using outline to author posts. Early results are promising.

Networks of interacting communities will, through use, create a gentle pressure for unification of features.

The journal's tracking of sources ensures continued opportunity for originality within the federation. Novel features not yet generally available can be found and experienced by 'trail climbing' to the source sites.

# Potential

The software tools movement started with unix has shown the lasting value of simple interoperable representations, in their case easily parsed text files.

We see similar potential for slightly more structured representations typical of json with the capacity to embed annotations preserved by all tools but interpreted by only a few. This will enable users of more specialized tools to participate in a single cooperative commons.

The assumption of mutual sharing separates this approach from the specialized, community maintained, site scrapers previously suggested. See BBC World Service mockup.