November 17th, 2004


Collaborative Editing

A long time ago, I posted an "Open Letter" to the CodingMonkeys, who created SubEthaEdit, an application for real-time collaboration, available only on OS X. After that letter, I had a chance to talk to one of the Developers of SubEthaEdit in a collaborative document hosted on the SubEthaEdit server, Dominik Wagner.

In that chat, we discussed a number of things about why I was interested in SubEthaEdit, and why I felt that releasing the code would most likely be a good thing for the application and the development team. I mentioned that if another application came out which were able to perform the same functions on other platforms, it would really be a SEE killer, given that Macs only corner less than 5% of the market. Nonetheless, the response was that SubEthaEdit would remain a Mac only product for the forseeable future.

Someone else recently asked a similar question on the mailing list for SubEthaEdit, the response to which is available in the gmane mailing list. The response is the same there as it has been the whole time: We have no reason to offer source to our product, as we hope to make money off it in the future.

I have many reasons why this upsets me, not the least of which is the fact that I am upset easily by anyone who doesn't do things my way. (There is more truth to this comment made in jest than many realize.) More importantly to the project, I personally feel I would be able to benefit significantly from an application that did even part of what SEE does in a cross platform way. So, after my first talk, I created a project and recruited some bright people to help me out on it, working towards creating something that would start to mimic SEEs capabilities, integrating what other projects had done before me.

I didn't get very far, not the least because this is not a trivial problem, and I got bogged down in implementation details. However, the release of SEE 2.1 has me itching to work on this again, especially as my other pet project (an interactive IRC RDF query bot) is in a stable, relatively documented release state, meaning that I can let it sit and other people play with it for a while.

So, this is announcing the restarting of work on the FortyTwo project, with a goal of creating a bare bones collaborative editor for use cross platform. The current prototype will be using Python and wxPython, which are available on Windows, Mac, and OS X. The goal is to create a completely open system such that any application which can be sufficiently hacked can support a bare minimum of editing functions.

I've already got a wiki set up: Accessible at, with some links to code and research, as well as other projects. In addition, there's an IRC server on, in #collabedit. There's SVN, too. I've got some ideas on how to get things done, and if you're interested in participating, or just sitting around and watching, please stop by. I've let the project group I had atrophy, and that was a mistake I don't plan to make again. I feel a burning desire for this application, and come hell or high water, I will get it done.