TiddlyChatter – decentralized collaboration

Following on from my previous post about collaboration, I wanted to mention a project I started last week with some of the guys from the TiddlyWiki community who were visiting Osmosoft. [edit:] I realised with some shame today that I entirely forgot to credit Jeremy Ruston with the idea of TiddlyChatter, which he referred to originally as TiddlyTwitter. We are building on and trying to realise that idea. Sorry Jeremy!

“TiddlyChatter” is the idea of opt-in, decentralized collaboration. This follows Twitter’s model, where someone can follow you without you taking an interest in what they have to say. Twitter is centralized, in that it runs through a central server; TiddlyChatter is totally decentralized and runs between peers. As might be obvious from the name, TiddlyChatter is being developed using TiddlyWiki, but the collaborative model is generic.

Here’s an illustration of what TiddlyChatter is all about:

  • Jon and his class have been set some tricky homework, so he creates a stub of what he’s working on and publishes it, mentioning to Liz, his classmate, that they ought to work on this together
  • Liz subscribes to Jon’s feed and the stub turns up on Liz’s computer for her to see, edit or comment
  • Liz adds a note about a useful resource
  • Jon subscribes to Liz’s feed and her note turns up in place on Jon’s computer, which turns out to be very helpful…

This doesn’t sound so different from normal collaboration, but there are a couple of important differences:

  • Jon’s little bit of work and Liz’s note on it appear on both computers as separate pieces of data, they are not downloaded from a common server
  • If Jon decides Liz is no good as a partner, he can stop watching her feed and he never sees any of the notes or content changes Liz makes
  • If Ben comes in and subscribes to Jon’s feed, he can make entirely independent comments and changes, without Liz seeing what he is doing and without Ben seeing what Liz is doing
  • Extending this slightly, Ben, Alice and Bob can all share and work on the information together, and it is only when Liz eventually gets hold of a copy that Jon will see the result of the group’s work

I discussed a lot of this with Saq, Fred and Dawn last week and we could forsee plenty of uses for this type of collaboration, not only in education, but in business and more generally anywhere where you might want groups of people to work together in a transparent and collaborative way.

Does anyone have any comments or know whether there are already systems out there that implement this kind of mechanism?


  1. I wasn't at your persc%nto presentation
    Posted September 28, 2007 at 12:13 pm | Permalink

    it’s a very nice idea and seems like a logical progression from the original tiddlyWiki concept. I would just have to say that it would be good to keep the subscription overhead to a minimum with a grouping system. If Rasheed wants to come in on a school project which Alice, Bob and Charlie are working on it would e good to have the option of subscribing to all those feeds in addition to individuals. Just a very small (and possibly moot) point there but otherwise very nice idae (and now execution)

  2. Posted September 28, 2007 at 1:16 pm | Permalink

    That’s a good idea… looking forward to seeing your extension posted. 😉

  3. I wasn't at your persc%nto presentation
    Posted September 28, 2007 at 2:55 pm | Permalink

    oh god, you could have at least cleared up my typos! I’m used to form filling on my mac with safari 3 which checks it all for me but alas BT refused me the privalege of a macbook pro… thus I will be winging my way around the open source world for 6 months in my spare time in order to make it into Soho some day!

  4. Posted September 1, 2008 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

    Yes, keep it coming. Still one of the most interesting extensions for me. Regarding my post above (perc%ento, was me folks) I disagree with myself after seeing the likes of Casablanca’s tweetwheel… managing ‘subscribe all’ functionality could become a nightmare for the socially adept.

4 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. […] I look forward to being in the thick of the community as a number of initiatives that were either brainstormed or greatly accelerated last week now move rapidly towards being delivered to and shared with the […]

  2. […] | In collaboration, decentralization, jonathan lister, jonathanlister, osmosoft, tiddlychatter | I recently posted about the TiddlyChatter idea I’m working […]

  3. TiddlyChatter v0.5

    I’m pleased to announce the first “usable” release of TiddlyChatter, a project I’ve written about before here and here.
    You can find an example TiddlyWiki loaded up with TiddlyChatter at
    (hit right-click to save):

  4. […] Jay Fresh – TiddlyChatter This is interesting: ‘“TiddlyChatter” is the idea of opt-in, decentralized collaboration. This follows Twitter’s model, where someone can follow you without you taking an interest in what they have to say.’ (tags: twitter tiddlywiki lrn … collaboration tiddlychatter) […]