Thursday, June 26, 2014

'What’s the Big Deal About Outliners?'

Balboa Park, 7 AM: The perfect place to think about outliners and this blog post.

Two years ago, while having lunch with Dave Winer at Carnegie Deli, I embarrassingly confessed to him that I didn't fully understand outliners. He told me, "That's OK, you will."


While I'm a big fan of writing down tasks in flat to do lists, I never took the time to structure my to do lists into an outline. Since the beginning of last year, Dave has been working on a very interesting web based outliner that runs and stores your outline inside your web browser with the ability to also save it to your Dropbox. While saving data to Dropbox isn't a big deal, the ability to save data using a web browser's local storage feature seems underutilized by developers. The overlooked beauty of Fargo is that Dave's web based app can scale, big time. The Fargo web app is served up as a static HTML web page with dynamic Javascript (Node.js) so all the heavy "thinking" and storage is done in the client's browser. Since the outline is saved either locally or to Dropbox that means Dave doesn't have to worry about customer storage requirements if he gets a billion users, overnight.

Little Porkchop and Happy Friends

Alcazar Garden and the California Tower
Two weeks ago, Dave launched Little Porkchop which lets Twitter users send out a tweetstorm. As I played with it, Dave hinted that he had something bigger on the horizon. That "something bigger" came a couple days ago when he released Happy Friends.

Happy Friends is an outliner that let's you embed a Twitter user's feeds into an outline. And, since it's an outline, you can indent, outdent, and rearrange Twitter users while archiving individual tweets. Twitter and Facebook are very flat formats consisting of a post with comments threaded to it. Happy Friends, on the other hand, turns a flat Twitter feed into a mailbox style reader. Once again, the beauty of Happy Friends is it can scale to the moon and back without any load on Dave's servers.

So, after all of Dave's arm waving, I'm starting to get it. Slow and steady wins the race.

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