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VisiCalc Creator Developing WikiCalc

Zonk posted more than 8 years ago | from the i-desire-a-wiki-about-pie dept.

139

An anonymous reader writes "ZDNet has an article about a new wiki that is trying to combine the collaboration of wiki technology and the data manipulation attributes of a spreadsheet. The creator of VisiCalc, Dan Bricklin, is working on an alpha version of WikiCalc for sometime late in February." From the article: "'It holds a lot of promise, both because it's using the spreadsheet metaphor, which is the one thing people know for working with quantitative information and because 'there's nobody better in the world to build this thing,' said Ross Mayfield, CEO of collaboration software maker SocialText. To Mayfield, WikiCalc is the answer to a problem that has been percolating for some time in the world of IT. That is, he said, that spreadsheets have traditionally been a single-user application screaming for functionality that could let multiple people edit data quickly and easily. "

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139 comments

Yup, exactly what buisness needs (5, Funny)

AuMatar (183847) | more than 8 years ago | (#14744734)

The ability to make more absolutely pointless spreadsheets.

Hell, why not just a regular wiki anyway? I figure 90-95% of all the spreadsheets I see don't do any calculations, they're just used as a way to put things in columns.

Re:Yup, exactly what buisness needs (1)

lawpoop (604919) | more than 8 years ago | (#14744769)

"Hell, why not just a regular wiki anyway? I figure 90-95% of all the spreadsheets I see don't do any calculations, they're just used as a way to put things in columns."

Do regular wikis have column and cell editing features? Most of what I'm familiar with work like line editors.

Re:Yup, exactly what buisness needs (5, Interesting)

caffeinemessiah (918089) | more than 8 years ago | (#14744789)

Perhaps many business won't need it, but I know a lot people who will. The combination of a web interface with easy and intuitive (read: not MS Office's reviewing features) multi-user functionality could help, for example, a manager easily collect numbers from multiple people on a team. For the manager, all the data is in one location as it comes in and accessible when he wants it, not as emails with separate Excel attachments which he has to paste together. Or if I'm collecting data in my lab but want to review it at home, then I can just use an online spreadsheet and don't have to do the usual transfer via network/ftp/usb/email/cvs. Believe me, the applications for online tools ARE out there -- there's a reason Microsoft is releasing their uncharacteristic Windows Live nonsense.

Office 2007 - Excel Server (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14745532)

To me, this sounds very much like MS Office 2007's Excel server. The funny thing is that I had been saying that the last thing this world needs is server based spreadsheets.

I guess I lack "vision".

Re:Yup, exactly what buisness needs (2, Insightful)

truthsearch (249536) | more than 8 years ago | (#14744803)

In the financial industry I've seen mini-applications where spreadsheets were the whole data store. Many financial analysts live in Excel. Spreadsheets can be a powerful, useful tool. But most often they grow into horribly ugly monsters that the IT department has to de-tangle and cram into custom apps.

Re:Yup, exactly what buisness needs (4, Insightful)

bb5ch39t (786551) | more than 8 years ago | (#14744848)

I've seen this problem here (I'm in IT). A really smart Actuarial creates a very good, effective spreadsheet. It becomes both production and "mission critical" to them. The Actuarial leaves. Oh, did I mention that there is nothing documented? And the person is a Ph.D using calculations that are not understandable to mortal man (or even a woman!). Who supports this? Especially when it breaks because desktop support rolls out the next version of Excel. Screams abound!

And I giggle because I'm a dino running on old, obsolete mainframe technology where the end user can't just slap something together and put it into production.

a way to put things in columns (3, Interesting)

Expert Determination (950523) | more than 8 years ago | (#14744849)

So true. I wonder if someone could release a spreadsheet for a few hundred bucks that has no computational facilities only. Just arranges things in a grid and allows you to choose your font. That would probably satisfy 95% of users of Excel.

Personally, I was disappointed when I found that spreadsheets only ran the formulas forward so that if I typed in A1=2*B2 it wouldn't work out B2 from A1. Seems almost as useless as formattable grid to me.

Re:a way to put things in columns (2, Funny)

d'fim (132296) | more than 8 years ago | (#14745058)

If you consider auto-increment to be part of "arrangement", then I'm with you.

Re:a way to put things in columns (1)

MindStalker (22827) | more than 8 years ago | (#14745104)

Personally, I was disappointed when I found that spreadsheets only ran the formulas forward so that if I typed in A1=2*B2 it wouldn't work out B2 from A1. Seems almost as useless as formattable grid to me.

Your kidding right???

Re:a way to put things in columns (1)

mikiN (75494) | more than 8 years ago | (#14745295)

Maybe the GPP is generalizing too much on all spreadsheet software out there, but I can think of several scenarios which many spreadsheets may have difficulty solving.

Given the example, what if B2 contains a formula which itself (recursively, conditionally) depends on A1?
Only if the spreadsheet app contains or has access to a reasonably sophisticated CAS (Computer Algebra System) like Maple or Mathematica can you expect it perform well in this regard.

Re:a way to put things in columns (1)

MindStalker (22827) | more than 8 years ago | (#14745332)

And what I meant was he has to be kidding if he seriously expects a spread sheet to do that. Yes possibly a very specialized app but not one included with every office suite.

Re:a way to put things in columns (2, Interesting)

Expert Determination (950523) | more than 8 years ago | (#14745497)

You don't need a computer algebra system at all. There is a tendency for people to reach for computer algebra tools (that cost thousands) when a much smaller tool would do. In this case every numerical methods book has algorithms for solving nonlinear sets of equations. They fail for many problems, but most are good enough to solve the kinds of equations that might occur in everyday life for spreadsheet users: eg. "what time period should I pay this loan over if I can afford this monthly payment?" or "how many of these widgets do we need to sell to break even next quarter?". I was so let down when I first discovered that most spreadsheets couldn't do this. (Though you can buy plugins that will.)

Re:a way to put things in columns (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14745688)

Why should he be kidding ? Excel killed the competition.

I remember when TK!Solver (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TK_Solver>) on the Mac was the hot thing (ouch, I show my age). Of course, if you want to go to the current TK website, you'll end up with deserved error messages (hey, the web site is .asp with sql server, what would you expect ?), but you can get screen shots on the web anyway (http://www.economicsnetwork.ac.uk/cheer/ch15_1/tk solver.htm>)

Unfortunate that excel killed competition and failed to innovate. A spreadsheet could be much more than what excel is...

Re:a way to put things in columns (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14745871)

(With working links)

Why should he be kidding ? Excel killed the competition.

I remember when TK!Solver (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TK_Solver [wikipedia.org] ) on the Mac was the hot thing (ouch, I show my age). Of course, if you want to go to the current TK website, you'll end up with deserved error messages (hey, the web site is .asp with sql server, what would you expect ?), but you can get screen shots on the web anyway (http://www.economicsnetwork.ac.uk/cheer/ch15_1/tk solver.htm [economicsnetwork.ac.uk] )

Unfortunate that excel killed competition and failed to innovate. A spreadsheet could be much more than what excel is...

Re:Yup, exactly what buisness needs (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14744899)

TWikiCalc [twiki.org] already exists, but could be better. If anyone used it (they don't locally anyway). Someone imagines this can be turned into a business?

Re:Yup, exactly what buisness needs (3, Insightful)

dr.badass (25287) | more than 8 years ago | (#14745343)

I figure 90-95% of all the spreadsheets I see don't do any calculations, they're just used as a way to put things in columns.

This is exactly the reason that one of my favorite apps, OmniOutliner [omnigroup.com] (Mac OS X) was created.

"when the Excel product manager got up on stage at MacWorld several years ago and said, "We've found that 85% of our customers use Excel just to make lists and outlines," we (Omni) said, "Shoot, that'll be our next product. We can do a GOOD job of making lists and outlines, and sell it for a lot less."" -- Wil Shipley, Omni co-founder [wilshipley.com]

It seems like there might be a market opening up in the "things that people are already misusing Office for" sector.

mod parent "insightful" (1)

Brunellus (875635) | more than 8 years ago | (#14745372)

Most people I work for seem to think "oh, Excel. Great--something we can use to make tables!"

They'd be shocked to know it calculates.

Prior art? (5, Funny)

grub (11606) | more than 8 years ago | (#14744741)


a new wiki that is trying to combine the collaboration of wiki technology and the data manipulation attributes of a spreadsheet.

Isn't that how Enron ran its entire accounting department?

Prior bad art (1)

digitaldc (879047) | more than 8 years ago | (#14744936)

Isn't that how Enron ran its entire accounting department?

No, they just lied and made stuff up. No need for any data entry, ingenuity or even common sense.

Cool (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14744743)

It'll be useful for general estimates and stuff but if I really want to know the reliable accurate values, I will have to look elsewhere.

Re:Cool (1)

Jonnty (910561) | more than 8 years ago | (#14744934)

I hope you're joking.

Internal Audiance (1)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 8 years ago | (#14744973)

I would agree with you, unless you restrict access to 'trusted individuals' only. Then its not much different then sending a spreadsheet around the office for updates.

Databases and custom UIs (4, Insightful)

truthsearch (249536) | more than 8 years ago | (#14744759)

spreadsheets have traditionally been a single-user application screaming for functionality that could let multiple people edit data quickly and easily.

Hence corporations all having relational databases with custom GUI applications. Spreadsheets are most useful for tabular data, which of course works well in relational database tables. While spreadsheets are great at free-form manipulation and "playing" with the data, it's the custom apps that are required to sqeeze that data into the corporation's customs workflows. For at least 20 years what corporations have been doing is creating the custom apps and having them export to more freeform data models like spreadsheets as needed. This seems to work pretty well.

But "supercharging" spreadsheets won't really be providing power to the people that need it. The people that most need power over large amounts of data have hundreds of people working in their IT departments.

Re:Databases and custom UIs (4, Insightful)

hey! (33014) | more than 8 years ago | (#14744862)

preadsheets are most useful for tabular data, which of course works well in relational database tables.

I'd go farther. Spreadsheets exist to capture the structure of calculations. Data should as far as possible never go in them. The only unequivocal exception to this are parameters used in the calculations (e.g. "assuming the rate of inflation is i...").

In practice people do have to stage derived data in their spreadsheets, but this is dangerous and leads down the road to the major use of spreadsheets in businesses today: as an ad hoc "direct manipulation" database. This is a dreadful, hair-raising practice. Many a time I've looked at results that don't make sense, because one cell got separated from its brethren in a sort.

Re:Databases and custom UIs (2, Interesting)

hazem (472289) | more than 8 years ago | (#14746179)

because one cell got separated from its brethren in a sort.

I was "upgraded" to excel 2003 this summer, which caused such a decrease in my productivity.

One new "feature" is that the ever ubiquitous ctrl-A, which every other app, and all older versions of Excel used to "select ALL", no longer selects ALL. Excel 2003 now tries to look at the group of cells you're currently sitting in, and selects what it thinks is a convenient group. The problem is, if there's a gap in a column, it won't reach across all of your data - just to that column-border.

So, you do a ctrl-A, and a sort, and all of a sudden all your data is no longer correctly associated across the row like it used to be.

What a great surprise that was, to get this great new feature... especially when I got to throw out an entire day's work because I had no way to rearrange my data back into the correct order.

The fix is to use the box at the corner of column letters and row numbers (upper left). Or, as is entirely obvious, and just like all other aps... hit ctrl-A twice.

Thank you, Microsoft.

that's the point! (4, Interesting)

poptones (653660) | more than 8 years ago | (#14744880)

But "supercharging" spreadsheets won't really be providing power to the people that need it. The people that most need power over large amounts of data have hundreds of people working in their IT departments.

Your last sentence summed it up very well: companies presently pay a LOT of people simply to move data from app to app. A collaborative spreadsheet could change workflows in significant ways that we, having never before used such an app, cannot readily predict.

I think it's a bloody fantastic idea, and so simple and obvious it seems odd to think such an app doesn't yet exist.

Re:that's the point! (2, Insightful)

poopdeville (841677) | more than 8 years ago | (#14744920)

It does. This is obviously just an RDBMS with a web front end and hooks for writing (and probably saving) your own "mathematical" SELECT statements. Big deal.

Re:that's the point! (2, Insightful)

rsborg (111459) | more than 8 years ago | (#14745988)

It does. This is obviously just an RDBMS with a web front end and hooks for writing (and probably saving) your own "mathematical" SELECT statements. Big deal.

And a podcast is just a RSS based distribution of sound and video media. But it is a good implementation and use of RSS, and a WikiCalc would be a great use of wiki.

Some of the best most obvious innovations seem rediculously obvious in hindsight, but that doesn't detract from their greatness (in fact, you could just say they were elegant [retrologic.com] )

Re:that's the point! (1)

poopdeville (841677) | more than 8 years ago | (#14746062)

The point is that it's been done. Many times. myspreadsheet.com is an example. It wasn't just obvious in hindsight. It was always obvious.

It has been done before. (1)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 8 years ago | (#14746100)

"I think it's a bloody fantastic idea, and so simple and obvious it seems odd to think such an app doesn't yet exist."

It *has* been done before and it *does* exist, in fact there are loads of them... All you have to do is look.

 

WikiCalc (5, Funny)

gEvil (beta) (945888) | more than 8 years ago | (#14744770)

WikiCalc - the site where you get to decide what 2 + 2 equals...

Or... (1)

truthsearch (249536) | more than 8 years ago | (#14744820)

Calcopedia?

Calco Anarchy?

Re:Or... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14745556)

Do the world a favor and never try to name anything.

Re:Or... (1)

mikiN (75494) | more than 8 years ago | (#14745586)

I vote for Wikimathica, to go with the lingo

Total Bullshit (5, Informative)

chill (34294) | more than 8 years ago | (#14744775)

"With (Excel), you get people playing e-mail volleyball with attachments all day long, so it's grossly inefficient," Mayfield said. "How do you track changes on a spreadsheet? What happens if you don't have just two people going back and forth, (but) have a finance department of 40 people trying to roll up numbers."

Share the workbook and multiple people can edit at the same time. I do this daily and have been using this feature for quite some time. Changes are highlighted w/notes on who made what change whenever you save. I haven't played "e-mail volleyball" regarding spreadsheets.

  -Charles

Re:Total Bullshit (3, Informative)

chill (34294) | more than 8 years ago | (#14744799)

To clarify, he's talking about doing instantaneous updates which would be an excellent feature that Excel does NOT have. But, to slam Excel as not being able to share AT ALL is pure BS.

  -Charles

TurboDbAdmin? (3, Interesting)

poopie (35416) | more than 8 years ago | (#14745224)

Sounds a lot like the turbodbadmin demo to me... just with support for formulas.

http://turboajax.com/turbodbadmin.html [turboajax.com]

in other words, "ajax-based web spreadsheet that uses a databse for backend datastore"

Great idea - it effectively could kill excel for always-connected corporate environments where people are constantly fighting with different spreadsheet revisions and 2nd hand data.

Give users the interface they know and mostly seem to love. No stupid ODBC drivers necessary. Works in any modern browser. Give the company accurate data in a real database. Win-Win.

Re:Total Bullshit (1)

rachit (163465) | more than 8 years ago | (#14745389)

I think you need to chill.

Mod Parent UP! (2, Informative)

mekkab (133181) | more than 8 years ago | (#14744811)

We have conference calls sitting around an excel sheet populated by other data, and we make our updates, save 'em, and let the main conference holders know, they reload, and its all populated and shared. In near-real time. And we use net meeting, too.

Re:Mod Parent UP! (1)

ediron2 (246908) | more than 8 years ago | (#14745157)

Yeah, that's as good as a wiki.

Not.

One company I was at (several hundred very-distributed people) paid $45000 to put in a conference call server. It paid for itself in a few months, we'd gotten so addicted to conference calls without paying attention to the per-line per-minute costs. Even WITH the conference server and a VOIP or similar way of making intra-corporate calls insanely cheap, there's still a per-office broadband cost to shuttling a gig per day of voice data around, especially when you're talking about something as lightweight as a few fields changing in spreadsheet data.

Meanwhile, a wiki server runs on old crap hardware from anywhere, the client is ubiquitous and can run on even the oldest PC, and the wiki tracks changes automatically. I'd imagine a wiki-spreadsheet would allow people to create personal sheets that wander off on tangents (blue-sky ideas, projections, personalized metrics that they care about) and still retain source linkages to *real* data. Those tangents would be shared by default, which would be cool considering off uses like field-editing crappy company phone/email directories and etc. I've encountered over the years.

Don't get me wrong, there's *VALUE* to quick/easy solutions like conference-calls for discussing revisions. The best tools are ones easy enough to be widely used, after all. But don't mock a wiki for being useless just because other tools exist. Besides, hitting 'refresh' on a browser is faster and easier than any shared-Excel paradigm you can possibly contrive. It just IS.

Re:Total Bullshit (2, Interesting)

verisimilitudo (908674) | more than 8 years ago | (#14745025)

Shared workbooks in Excel are very good for specific instances: they work fine, so longs as the datasets aren't huge, everyone knows when they're going to synchronise/update, nobody, but nobody get's a connection problem, Excel doesn't crash and nobody's box goes down. And if one of those happens mid-save, your spreadsheet could be toast.

Excel has many features that allow it to be used as a sort of database - I've even seen heavily 'locked down' workbooks relying on enormous quantities of VBA code working as client applications to databases. Encouraging that, though, is a sure-fire way to ensure that you IT/IS department will have to intervene when the next system upgrade breaks something.

Don't use them for anything mission-critical. That would be silly. You'd even be safer with Access for that.

Re:Total Bullshit (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14745209)

Groove (MS) already does this, although updating conflicts do limit it's utility when many people are saving at the same time.
http://www.groove.net/index.cfm/pagename/hp_forms? home=hp-data [groove.net]

Re:Total Bullshit (1)

sootman (158191) | more than 8 years ago | (#14745811)

Except that turning on sharing doesn't work well across teh intarnets.

Don't discount it... (4, Insightful)

New Breeze (31019) | more than 8 years ago | (#14744782)

Think about things like budgeting/forcasting in a large operation with multiple departments, all of whom need to work on their individual sections. You end up with either lots of spreadsheets that are linked together if you're lucky, or everyone taking turns at the master spreadsheet. If they get a decent selection of formulas working this could really simplify things for stuff like that.

It's dead if it doesn't do Excel macros (1)

winkydink (650484) | more than 8 years ago | (#14744832)

because that's what a lot of the budgeting and forcasting stuff is built on. Think those bean counters are going to take a flyer on some new app, learn a new way to write macros and see what happens? In every company I've worked for, the finance department is an extremely busy place.

Re:Don't discount it... (1)

truthsearch (249536) | more than 8 years ago | (#14744837)

I don't see how this could really be accomplished anytime soon without custom apps. Any large corporation has hundreds of software developers. One core job the IT department is workflow. They've been writing custom apps to handle this sort of thing for decades.

Would it be nice for a more generic app to save on software development? Of course. But I can't imagine a magical tool that easily fits in without needing massive customization.

I don't even understand what that means (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14744788)

What exactly would you do with a spreadsheet/wiki cross if you had one? I just can't visualize a use case. It sounds like the people doing this chose their product by taking a bag full of buzzwords written on refrigerator magnets and pulling out two at random. "Oh, we're going to make an AJAX... microcontroller!"

AJAX.. hmm that's Good (TM) .. Microcontroller! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14744951)

Can I invest... pleaze!!!! I only want 60% of the returns when Google buys you out!

Re:I don't even understand what that means (1)

koh (124962) | more than 8 years ago | (#14745094)

You want a use case? I'll give you a use case.

At home, my wife and myself already use a wiki to keep track of things to do, current events, the progress of our baby, etc.

A wiki coupled with a spreadsheet would bring us:
- An easier way to share tabular content or to format content in tabular form (file listings, tasks, events),
- An easier way to balance accounts. Well, easier than GNUCash anyway :)
- A collaborative framework to implement useful computations. If you consider formulas as functions, you have an easy-to-use language to create, use, or extend functions, coupled with a transparent revision control system.

Needless to say, since Visicalc was The First One, I'm more than interested in this idea, and I think that, properly handled, it has quite a potential.

Re:I don't even understand what that means (2, Interesting)

coofercat (719737) | more than 8 years ago | (#14745273)

I've got another one:

In my small business, I have to send my accountant monthly spreadsheets of the bank activity, what invoices I've sent, and what expenses I've claimed. Pretty simple stuff.

Now if I have two people doing that, we can both be adding stuff in, and our accountant gets to see it as it happens.

Granted, this is possible with Excel sharing, or SharePoint, but the point here being that (a) it's simple and (b) is web based and (c) it doesn't require all of us to share a fileserver and (d) it's open (standards|source).

If I could convince my accountant to use something like this, it would save a lot of batting spreadsheets about (since we don't share a file server).

I'm not convinced it's 'revolutionary' (or even that unique), but It's certainly a Good Thing, and no doubt has possibilities I/we haven't thought of (just like Wikis a few years back).

JotSpot Tracker? (1, Interesting)

br0ck (237309) | more than 8 years ago | (#14744815)

This sounds pretty similar to JotSpot Tracker [jot.com] .

Great, he's handing... (2, Insightful)

WED Fan (911325) | more than 8 years ago | (#14744826)

...a new tool to add money to the big boys' pockets. Saw an interview with him years ago. He tried to make it sound as if creating a program that eventually put billions into the coffers at Lotus and Microsoft but left him with a teachers salary didn't sting all that much. But, it was evident in his eyes that he was stung and felt he missed the boat that made young millionaires out of the geeks of the late '70s.

OT: Check out his "Writings" page (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14744827)

On his "Writings" page [bricklin.com] he has some interesting thoughts about the music industry. He seems like a pretty levelheaded guy to me - not one of the "downloaders should be jailed" types, but not a raving "everything should be free" fanatic either. Worth your time IMO.

Maturity of alternatives (1)

Lord Satri (609291) | more than 8 years ago | (#14744830)

From TFA: WikiCalc's potential success, however, also assumes that Bricklin--who in recent years has been consulting, speaking and running his small software company, Software Garden--can effectively get the word out.

This appears to be a main point to me. Marketing and user adoption. The article refers to various existing alternatives: honestly, I don't care that much about having 5 collabo-spreadsheet alternatives, I just want one that will do what I want bugless with plenty of features. Take OpenOffice spreadsheet (I love OOo :-), you can't export spreadsheets to html (xhtml actually) with graphics and diagrams. This is only one example. I want mature OSS, and only once that is achieved, then OSS becomes really interesting alternatives to commercial software. (and yes, I do help the developers to the best of my abilities)

Uh, sharepoint? (4, Informative)

briancnorton (586947) | more than 8 years ago | (#14744840)

I know there isn't an opensharepoint yet, but MS Sharepoint lets you do much of what they discuss. It was developed for exactly the same reasons, and it does a pretty good job if people know it and use it.

Microsoft Products ..... (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14744985)

Are illegal to be mentioned here on /.!

You must be new here. So, I'll explain, Microsoft is Evil. Apple is Good. Google is in Pergatory.

Gates is Satan, Jobs is God. McNeally of SUN, is good even though he is a MBA. Bill Joy, another God. Metcalf another member of the Panteon. You will learn about the others. Unfortunately, it will cost you moderation points and, maybe, have to post at -1 until you start another account.

Excel Services (1)

umeshunni (37684) | more than 8 years ago | (#14745321)

Not just that - but Office SharePoint 2007 includes Excel Services so that you can work with spreadsheet from your browser
see http://blogs.msdn.com/excel/archive/2005/11/08/490 502.aspx [msdn.com]

Re:Excel Services (1)

molarmass192 (608071) | more than 8 years ago | (#14745428)

Yeah ... but it's implemented as an ActiveX control ... so scratch "from your browser" and make that "from IE".

Re:Excel Services (2, Informative)

BradleyUffner (103496) | more than 8 years ago | (#14745553)

Yeah ... but it's implemented as an ActiveX control ... so scratch "from your browser" and make that "from IE".


Umm... NO, read the artical linked. Read the snpped section below and note how it specificly says "No ActiveX".

So what happened, exactly, to get the spreadsheet in the browser? Behind the scenes, Excel Services opened the file the sales analyst saved to SharePoint, refreshed any external data in the spreadsheet, calculated any formulas, and rendered the results in the browser. Specifically, Excel services sends only DHTML to the browser (no ActiveX), so the sales manager could be using any modern browser. The result is a very high-fidelity version of the analysis that the sales manager can interact with in the browser or, if they have permissions to do so, open up back in Excel. One point I want to make clear is that Excel 12 is the authoring tool for spreadsheets that run on Excel Services.

Re:Uh, sharepoint? (1)

bill_kress (99356) | more than 8 years ago | (#14745441)

PLEASE tell me how to use it!! We have been trying for ages now.

The biggest problem is that it is virtually impossible to navigate the areas. For word documents you get a semi-sharing system. It's sort of what you'd get if you put a document in version control--the merge isn't good, but it's possible.

However, as far as I can tell, the Excel portion is horrific. There is really no decent merge, it's no better than putting it in version control.

If I'm wrong about it, would you please refer me to a summary of how to use this tool?

Thanks

Careful where you tread... (4, Funny)

RyoShin (610051) | more than 8 years ago | (#14744854)

This is all well and good, until every cell reads "Penis".

MediaWiki already has semi-protection (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 8 years ago | (#14745166)

The possibility of vandalism is why most publicly visible wiki spreadsheets would be run in semi-protected mode [wikipedia.org] , where only logged-in users can edit. Many wikis already use semi-protection as the default for most or all pages.

Disconcerning (1)

chill (34294) | more than 8 years ago | (#14744859)

And what happens when, like the author suggests, you get 40 people together to edit a single spreadsheet? Let me see how well they -- the people -- handle seeing a spreadsheet automagically updating it self from 40 different sources at once. They're not going to know what is safe to touch, what is up to date, or WTF is going on. It is going to be sensory overload as stuff keeps chaning on your screen while you're typing.

  -Charles

Re:Disconcerning (1)

poopdeville (841677) | more than 8 years ago | (#14744968)

Have you ever used a wiki? If two people edit simultaneously but one finishes first, the second has to merge the first edit into the second. That's all. SVN works like this too. There's no "stuff moving on the screen."

Re:Disconcerning (1)

chill (34294) | more than 8 years ago | (#14745024)

Have you ever used a wiki? If two people edit simultaneously but one finishes first, the second has to merge the first edit into the second. That's all. SVN works like this too. There's no "stuff moving on the screen."

Quoth the article: "Bricklin's answer is to make it possible for anyone using WikiCalc to enter data and for anyone else to edit that data and have those edits be reflected on everyone's computers instantaneously."

I updates come across to my screen when someone else merges, then that is what I'm talking about. What happens when 20-30 people hit "merge" a few seconds apart? What is *my* screen going to do? If it starts popping in updates while I'm scrolling/typing/editing it is going to create serious problems.

Spreadsheets aren't text documents. With a traditional wiki the vast majority of your users are doing one word edits then updating. If this thing automatically updates when someone finishes editing a cell, then chaos will ensue in direct proportion to the number of people editing.

If it doesn't do this, then how the hell is it all that different from Excel or any traditional spreadsheet that allows multiple users to edit at the same time? If it is just because it is "on the web", that isn't a huge deal and not what they seem to be pushing.

  -Charles

Database? (1)

j_kenpo (571930) | more than 8 years ago | (#14744900)

Hmmm lets see. A rows and columns type structure similar to a spreadsheet that lets multiple users edit and view data, and can link in other similar structures in some sort of relational way.... and provides simple functions for doing calculations... this sounds like a RDMS. Im not sure, but I have the feeling this technology has been around for many years.

Re:Database? (1)

j_kenpo (571930) | more than 8 years ago | (#14744933)

Oh... almost forgot. It uses the technology of the minute, AJAX, so it must be revolutionary.

While I admit that an AJAX front-end giving the look and feel of a spreadsheet that allows large-scale collaboration for companies is a cool concept, now it will allow for any idiot to change those crucial forecasting numbers for the 4th quarter, which is kind of from a business standpoint, even if it is internal only.

Re:Database? (1)

Zigg (64962) | more than 8 years ago | (#14745054)

it will allow for any idiot to change those crucial forecasting numbers for the 4th quarter

Riiiight... because "any idiot" is the policy Wikipedia has chosen, therefore anything with "wiki" in its name must also adopt the same policy!

See if you can try to separate the technology from the policy. It's fun!

(And if this hasn't beat some sense into you, then I'll spell it out plainly -- wiki technology is widely used in restricted environments, usernames and passwords, people with varying levels of access to the documents, etc., audit trails... nothing about this project suggests it's going to be a security nightmare.)

Re:Database? (1)

j_kenpo (571930) | more than 8 years ago | (#14745357)

http://politics.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=06/02/ 09/0433252 [slashdot.org]
http://politics.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=06/01/ 29/1732238 [slashdot.org]

Even with usernames/audit trails, the only difference is the "idiot" is identifiable. I'm not condemning Wiki, in fact as far as knowledge bases are concerned, it is incredibly powerful as a starting point of research, and for the most part fairly accurate. But erronious information does make its way into Wiki, and as the above artcles point out, people with an agenda of their own can make changes, and no amount of "accountability" is going to change that. The same thing will occur with an online spreadsheet like application with Wiki-type properties. While it has potential to be a useful technology, just like anything, if not set properly, it will be abused.

So I defend myself from your virtual "beating sense into my head" with an opionion better expressed by others. [penny-arcade.com]

Or better yet from here. [blogspot.com]

Re:Database? (1)

Lugae (88858) | more than 8 years ago | (#14745245)

A database is the correct structure for this kind of thing. However, not all of us want to us a database. Actually, I do. I prefer use a database to a spreadsheet any day. It's handy. I ask for the information that I need, and I get it back. I write a script to help me visualize the data or perform calculations, and it's great.

However, to a CSR, a spreadsheet is life. Unfortunately, the RDBMS isn't what a CSR is ready to use. CSRs want auto-filter, column-rearranging, sorting, etc. And they don't want to wait for a RDBMS geek to write them a script for their one task. They want to be able to do it immediately without asking anyone else.

This is an Awesome Idea!! (1)

logicnazi (169418) | more than 8 years ago | (#14744912)

I'm not entierly sure how many buisnesses will be willing to trust such a system. One needs to be carefull that your competitor hasn't inserted some special logic to screw things up when *your* data is entered into the system. Unlike wikipedia where everyone can see any devious attempts to change things code or calculations can seem fine and work fine on most data but contain subtle bugs.

However, for plenty of individuals and personal buisnesses this seems like a great idea. All the time there are common calculational tasks we do that are programed over and over again. Super simple examples are dates being turned into days of the week or dollar amounts in various years being turned into 1970 (or some other amount) dollars. Some of these are tought because they require the right data (rate of inflation for each year) others are tough because they just involve lots of special cases. In any case having a wiki where people can use other people's work and build off of it seems like a great idea.

In particular it seems like a code repository where you can just run the code right there. This is the biggest problem with code repositories now, often downloading the already written code and figuring out how the API works just takes too much time and since there is no guarantee that someone will download a whole code repository people tend to reinvent the wheel many many times.

It would be great if ultimately this could support more than just a spreadsheet interface. A general wiki for *online* DHTML calculation tools, especially if it also had functionality to let you download the code or acess it as a web serice, would just be awesome. Maybe this already exists somewhere and I don't know about it but the idea seems great.

Where ohh where will the magical internet take us next?

That Will Teach Me to Post So Fast (1)

logicnazi (169418) | more than 8 years ago | (#14744942)

I was being an idiot. He doesn't actually seem to be setting up a public wiki to host these kind of calculations but creating a spreadsheet sharing system for inside a company. Still usefull but much more boring.

Hopefully someone will come along and do what I suggested anyway.

WikiPoop (2, Funny)

GweeDo (127172) | more than 8 years ago | (#14744915)

I have just started working on WiKiPooP.com [wikipoop.com] . This is a colabrative site where people can help each other figure out how to poop. Anyone can edit anyone elses poop to make it more accurate and to the point. This just goes to show that the WiKi is the future of allt hings!.

Re:WikiPoop (2, Funny)

Quintios (594318) | more than 8 years ago | (#14745021)

I could be wrong, but dang, http://www.wikipoop.com/ [wikipoop.com] got /.'ed... :(

Re:WikiPoop (1)

chris_eineke (634570) | more than 8 years ago | (#14745646)

POOP: Professional Object-Oriented Programming :-)

In other words.. (1)

tirnacopu (732831) | more than 8 years ago | (#14744922)

Dan Bricklin is currently the CEO of an unknown company, trying to make a living by selling a 27-year old idea with the "collaborative" buzz-word attached.

and you're a bigger loser then? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14745040)

And you, what are your lame acheivements? This guy changed the world with his idea for the spreadsheet.

Your worth to us is a lot less.

Num Sum (1)

k3v1n (262210) | more than 8 years ago | (#14744926)

It's been done...

Num Sum [numsum.com]

Sounds like... (3, Informative)

slappy (31445) | more than 8 years ago | (#14744941)

Dabble DB [dabbledb.com]

Sudoku! (1)

cching (179312) | more than 8 years ago | (#14744949)

What I really want to know is, can multiple people play Sudoku using it?!

Origin labs (1)

andy314159pi (787550) | more than 8 years ago | (#14744972)

I think that they should use the origin labs program for feature ideas and whatnot. Linux needs a data visualization program like this. In the science community this is a final barrier for linux adoption. It is easy to write specialized programs for particular problems in linux, but for general data visualization and curve fitting there is no good alternative. The current spreadsheet programs are modeled after excel which is much more limited.

And in other late breaking news ... (1)

grouchobear (831312) | more than 8 years ago | (#14744983)

Microsoft announces WikiPoint as an robust alternative to the venerable PowerPoint.

Re:And in other late breaking news ... (1)

chivo243 (808298) | more than 8 years ago | (#14745678)

is this taking wikipower to the breakingpoint?

Wonderful... (1)

Hank Reardon (534417) | more than 8 years ago | (#14745008)

Now managers everywhere will have a Web-based, collaborative application to use in place of a database...

Revision Tracking with multiple users in Excel (3, Informative)

everphilski (877346) | more than 8 years ago | (#14745015)

On the Tools menu, click Share Workbook, and then click the Editing tab.
Select the Allow changes by more than one user at the same time check box.
Click the Advanced tab.
Under Track changes, click Keep change history for, and in the Days box, type the number of days of change history (change history: In a shared workbook, information that is maintained about changes made in past editing sessions. The information includes the name of the person who made each change, when the change was made, and what data was changed.) that you want to keep.
Be sure to enter a large-enough number of days because Microsoft Excel permanently erases any change history older than this number of days.
Click OK, and if prompted to save the file, click OK.
easy enough. Straght from TFM

Curse of dependencies (2, Insightful)

G4from128k (686170) | more than 8 years ago | (#14745091)

The intricacies of spreadsheets make them much harder to edit in parallel. On a wikipedia entry it doesn't matter if one person edits something about the history of something while another person expands a section on the future. Aside from minor inconsistencies, which are easy to spot, the document is essentially the sum of its parts.

In contrast, the parts of a spreadsheet have strict dependencies that can span the spreadsheet and affect correctness in subtle ways. For example, if one person adds a row in one section, how should formulas in a different section react (do range references to the row above expand to encompass the new row or do range references to the row below expand or neither?). "Trace dependencies" functions can help but only if each editor recognizes that the scope of their edits is potentially unbounded.

The point is that it's harder to allow simultaneous independent edits because the internals of a spreasheet don't have independence.

"New"?!? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14745116)

Ever heard of ODBC?

calculation collaboration? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14745140)

Yes, but...

In Soviet Russia, the expression evaluates you.

Just what I need... (1)

Kozar_The_Malignant (738483) | more than 8 years ago | (#14745168)

A whole bunch of people mucking about with my data.

the mire of shared documents (1)

kevin.fowler (915964) | more than 8 years ago | (#14745183)

I work in content development that requires lots of data tracking, with multiple people working with the data at once. More than a few times, a shared doc has lead to some data toe-stepping. We actually use expressions to generate monthly reports, so I could see some sweet applications of this in-house.

Wiki (3, Funny)

BigZaphod (12942) | more than 8 years ago | (#14745207)

Uh oh... Is "wiki" becoming the new "i" which was the new "e" a few years ago?

SubEthaEdit (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14745346)

It'd rather have SubEthaCalc, like the awesome OS X app "SubEthaEdit which allows you to edit a document with multiple users at the same time (easily!)

existing browser-based spreadsheets? (1)

uw_badgers (889261) | more than 8 years ago | (#14745399)

Are there any currently existing broswer-based, sharable, editable spreadsheets? Or a place that hosts a sandbox for wikiCalc? I couldn't find a place to test out wikiCalc online.

Next up: Wordstar (3, Funny)

maynard (3337) | more than 8 years ago | (#14745492)

Yup. Now all we need is Michael Shrayer, the original author of The Electric Pencil [digibarn.com] , to write a decent wordprocessor / text editor for Wiki and we'll have an online Office replacement with wiki capabilities....

Oh how I love all the recent computing innovation!

Already Out There? (1)

wolff000 (447340) | more than 8 years ago | (#14745496)

I can see a use for it but why not just stick a regular spreadsheet out on a server and just have a shortcut. My office uses this for numerous things. The information is centralized everyone sees the updates and it's already in a format people are used to manipulating. So why make something else when we have solutions? I guess just becuase they can.

Bricklin has screenshots on his blog (4, Informative)

elwinc (663074) | more than 8 years ago | (#14745680)

At the risk of injecting facts into an otherwise perfectly pleasant slashdot discussion, I thought I'd provide a link to the wikiCalk post [danbricklin.com] on Bricklin's blog. Oh, and while we're on the subject, how about the "home page for the wikiCalc Alpha Test." [softwaregarden.com] You can download Mac, Windows and Perl versions there, assiming Dan's server can handle the load. Uh oh, I better paste in the text of the page; hopefully most of you will read this rather than crash Bricklin's host...

This is the home page for the wikiCalc Alpha Test

Introduction

The wikiCalc program is a web authoring tool for pages that include data that is more than just unformatted prose. It combines some of the ease of authoring and multi-person editing of a wiki with the familiar visual formatting and data organizing metaphor of a spreadsheet. It can be easily set up to publish to basic web server space accessed by FTP and there is no need to set up server-side programs like CGI. It can, though, run on a server and be used with nothing more than a browser on the client.

wikiCalc is currently released in Alpha test. This means that it is largely untested, has bugs, and is missing features that will hopefully be in the 1.0 release (and Beta versions leading up to that). It does, though, implement a large enough subset of the targeted features to get a good idea of what the product is all about. It is also useful in its own right and seems to be able to create, publish, and maintain a wide variety of web pages already. For example, this page and many of the ones it links to about wikiCalc were created with the wikiCalc Alpha. (The graphical design comes from a CSS file and the side bar is in a simple custom template. Much like a blogging tool, you can automatically wrap the output in static nice-looking stuff if you don't want the default.)

The Alpha release is available for use on Windows, Mac, Linux/Unix, and other platforms that can run the Perl language. On Windows you need only download a single .exe file that will install wikiCalc, a Perl runtime, and assorted sample files. Other platforms need to have Perl already installed (but they commonly come with it pre-installed).

The program is written by Dan Bricklin (me) and is available under a GPL 2.0 license. When shipped it will also be available with a dual-license non-GPL proprietary license. You can read my essay explaining a little more about what wikiCalc is and why I created it on the "About wikiCalc 0.1" page on my blog.

Note that this is the 0.2 alpha version which uses AJAX techniques when editing cells. It includes a "Demonstration Setup" option to get you up to speed quickly if you just want to see what a browser-based spreadsheet feels like.

wikiCalc is currently aimed at users who are comfortable figuring out how best to use a new tool. It is very flexible and there are many options to meet many different needs. It should be especially of interest to the DIY (Do It Yourself) and VAR (Value Added Reseller) crowd. Such people can set it up for use by others.

. . . skipping part about downloading and running . . .

News and Reviews

Here are links to some of what others have written about wikiCalc:

David Berlind on ZDNet [zdnet.com]

Only Three words (1)

chivo243 (808298) | more than 8 years ago | (#14745755)

FileMaker Pro 8.

This has been out for a while (1)

Jenova_Six (166461) | more than 8 years ago | (#14745763)

The OP says Bricklin's been working on an alpha, that will be out soon.

Does nobody here realize that version Alpha 0.1 and 0.2 have already been released, and are available for anyone to try? And have been for a while?
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