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I'm a partner in the advanced analytics group at Bain & Company, the global management consulting firm. My primary focus is on marketing analytics (bio). I've been writing here (views my own) about marketing, technology, e-business, and analytics since 2003 (blog name explained).

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March 10, 2006

Google Buys Writely; Wikicalc Next?

I met Dan Bricklin at a recent MITX Fireside Chat, and have been playing with his Wikicalc (spreadsheet + wiki) application. It takes a little getting used to, but it's a neat idea.  I think of it as an extremely flexible form of the "Mad-Libs"-style templating that I think will eventually emerge to improve the ease and quality (and value -- think implicit tagging) of authoring in blogs and wikis.  For example, why can't services like Typepad create (or provide an API so others can create) templates for restaurant reviews, or trip reports, or book reviews, etc.  (implicitly tagged as such...).

All this reminds me of Wimpypoint.  This was a web-based, collaborative replacement for Powerpoint  that ran as a module of the ArsDigita Community System.  It reached its most featureful state on ACS 3.x, but hasn't yet been fully re-written for subsequent OpenACS versions.  Wimpypoint (not so wimpy, actually) had thousands of users using it off the old arsdigita.com site; I created and presented hundreds of presentations with it during my time there.  We even partnered with Oracle to syndicate it as the "ArsDigita Presentation Manager" at one point, and we understand Britain's MI-5 was using it on their internal network.  Sadly, when ArsDigita was picked up by Red Hat, the arsdigita.com server and backups were lost in transition.  Not quite as bad as burning the library at Alexandria, but painful to those who had invested so much in creating content with it.

Now, it seems Writely was built by four guys.  Dan appears to have built Wikicalc on his own.  Wimpypoint is already partially re-built for OACS.  With Google throwing money around, maybe it will live again, bigger, better, faster -- "Ultrapoint" perhaps?

Postscript:  http://www.techcrunch.com/2006/03/09/thumbstacks-ajaxflash-web-powerpoint/

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