Workspace defined 2

This is a continuation of Workspace defined 1.

For the moment, for information space, think of a 3D visual map of someone's social networking sites (i.e., their subsite within the social networking site), his blog, all of the output he has produced in his work, his personal site, and everything in his PC, notebook, phone, MP player and so on. It's hard to think of all the parts of a person that exist when they were created ad hoc in text or forms silos with a variety of UIs, tools and owners. Simpler to think of it all starting out as HTML content in a standard which all of those spaces allow. Replicate your Facebook page, author the page and then paste it into Facebook's. Now it's part of your space as well as someone else's. Link that remote version to your local master version. In this way, it originates in your space and connects to another or others.

Just as you can author a blog post and then upload or email it, you can create it entirely in your own editor in a browser and only interact with the remote server where your blog lives through background processes (web services). In a similar fashion, you can publish a SharePoint item (list) in your blog and a blog post in your SharePoint site.

Were I to take a snapshot of what I have open and have worked with in a session, then I would have a representation of my workspace or state of my activity. In other words, we all have and use workspace — we just don't think consciously of our work in that way.

One of the reasons we don't is that it's a pretty inefficient way to work. That is to say, when I return to some piece of work, I have to reconstruct most of that workspace from memory. Which files were open in the editor, which folders, which supporting tools and, of course, the easiest, what did I have displayed in the browser.

Workspace is an organization of all the components we assemble when we perform a complex real world task. It's the tools we use, an editor, a browser, specialized text processors (e.g., spell check); the pages, documents and files we consult, reference and use; and the content type, templates, microsoformats and other components needed author a page.

It's also the information we use in performing that work. Filtered lists of files, pages, documents and other content units into recently edited or viewed; project, task or other work process related; metadata such as citations, TOCs, indexes and so on. They are part of a workspace because they form the context of the task.

So when we selectively assemble aspects of the overall information space in a task specific context, we have a workspace. It's not all work at hand — just what's before us at a point in time for a given task.

What's this got to do with blogging? The blogging pattern gets us started. Blogging is the serial inflow and the mashing up and refactoring of content into certain forms to facilitate finding, using and reusing content units.

The closest I come to visualizing workspace generically is the editing panel in WordPress.

First, the center of the space is the editing window and, with WP, that's just another plugin with several dozen from which to chose. Surrounding it are boxes or widgets in which we find the lists, search, text processing inputs, status reports and other things which have replaced my ad hoc mishmash of the desktop UI. I still have to use read and navigate the web in separate browser tabs.

The key is that this is all happening in the browser. It's nothing esoteric — more of a packaging exercise.

At one point, I thought that packaging some themes, plugins and scripts as what I called Authoring Workspace or WordPress Workspace would be straightforward. The centerpiece would be a replacement for the builtin editor of which there are many from which to choose. Customizing the user's UI (the admin panel) wasn't easy but not only was it doable, it has become relatively easier to do so. A themed, widgetized admin panel that would be a more efficient way to write and generate content of almost any kind.

What I learned after a good deal of work was that it was just a little early for the state of WordPress development as a personal publishing platform but there are many reasons to be optimistic in regard to its capabilities in this regard.

WP's CMS capabilities have recently been significantly increased by the arrival of content types. Still early days, but soon we will be able to select a type of content, a post, a page, a report, a movie review or an email and have loaded the structural elements that are appropriate to the type as well as both the type specific metadata and the contextual information specific to the user assembled in the editor and the information resources we need for the task at hand.

These developments are occurring across a broad front. When I learned how difficult it was for many academics to author papers because of the limitations of writing tools and information management capabilities, I was aghast. Then I learned of the technical complexity of rendering math formulas in HTML. A little time passes and lo and behold, there are now LaTeX plugins for editor plugins for WP.

To be continued.