Group discussion and instant outlining

I've done more than my share of threaded discussion, and I'm enjoying the reprieve from it that I'm getting with these more indirect modes of blogging and instant outlining. Nevertheless, I can't help but imagine a group outline for the kinds of discussions that should be directly interactive, and should yield a central and canonical transcript.

Think of a newsgroup-style outline that nobody (or else maybe only a moderator) can reorganize, where everybody can contribute new nodes and edit their own nodes, but where nobody can edit other peoples' nodes.

Result: a brainstorming environment that centralizes communication in those cases where you want it centralized. Parts can be taken out, massaged/rearranged/edited, and put back in as new or revised commentary.

This would not be a substitute for the narrate-your-work metaphor, which I completely understand and have advocated often. Rather, it's complementary to that style. Sometimes meeting transcripts really do need to appear all in one place, for the convenience of current and future participants. Outlines can preserve context much better than email, because they retain state and because they can transclude. But the collective state of a set of individual outlines is not anywhere visible. In general, it can't be and shouldn't be. The model of many individual spaces, messages sent to these spaces, and people subscribed to the spaces, is really powerful and important. Sometimes, though, there's still a need for spaces that are explicitly group, not individual, in nature.

Group blogs exist already. Group outlines doubtless will emerge too. The human protocols are pretty well understood, but interactive outline editing will bring new challenges and opportunities.

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