This page started with a look at Amit’s Unstructured to Structured. It is an excellent source of interesting links to collaboration tools.
“I want a tool that lets me hold unstructured conversations, then extract portions of conversations that led to a task, and move them into my task tracking tool. Unstructured comes first for me; structure is what I add later, once I understand what structure I want. Databases and most structured tools I use get this wrong — they ask me to decide the structure first. Spreadsheets, Wikis, Wave, and most unstructured tools also get this wrong — they let me easily work without structure, but don’t offer me a transition to something structured.” – Amit Patel, Unstructured to Structured
- It all started with the inadequacies of Wave (Google Wave was discontinued but related projects still exist). It provided group chat, it allowed asynchronous conversations, nesting of messages and attachments. Wave didn’t make it easy to add structure, however: there wasn’t an easy way to transition into a task tracker.
- JotSpot (discontinued) allows you to annotate information on wiki pages with structure. A page could start out unstructured, and then later someone could define a table for related information. Over time, the country pages would be edited to include an instance of this table. Data moved from the unstructured part of the page into the corresponding table and there it would be available for queries. The primary information resides on the individual pages but parts can be extracted. There’s a smooth transition, and immediate benefits for making the transition, but you don’t have to decide up front what that structure is going to be. JotSpot (perhaps?) also allowed multiple structure elements on a page. Unlike a database where related information is stored in separate tables, and is awkward to edit, this approach allowed you to keep all the information in one place and annotate bits of it with the type of structures they represented.
- Asana or Trello or Cohuman want me to start with structured data, but they don’t handle the informal unstructured nature of IM or Wave. Where do those tasks come from? They came from somewhere, but that history isn’t preserved when you create a new task in a task tracking tool.
- Rizzoma and Pivory are both somewhat Wave-like. Rizzoma seems more about unstructured chat turning into structured tasks and mind maps and wikis; Pivory seems more about unstructured chat turning into a discussion forum.
StructureOfWikis talks about the ways structure can be added to wikis and the tools we lack to facilitate it.