Sunday, February 15, 1998 at 3:50:29 PM Pacific

Meet an Outliner

For the last few weeks I've been writing about outliners and people who use them. For background, see Scripters & Outliners, 2/2/98.

We also started a mailing list for outliners. Some interesting discussions, interesting people there.

One of those people is David Drumheller.

Here's his story, how outlining snuck up on him.

David Drumheller:

People have no idea how an outliner could be useful to them. That a word processor would be useful is a lot more intuitive.

A co-worker told me about ThinkTank (an early outliner), and suggested that I try it. Knowing the type of person I am, he was sure that I would find ThinkTank useful.

I, however, was certain that I didn't need help with outlining - I thought that I was pretty good at it (done "manually") anyway. So, though I had the opportunity, I never tried ThinkTank, I never even consented to watch a demo.

A year or two latter, I attended a meeting where a projection panel (laid on an overhead projector) was used. It was connected to a briefcase-sized portable PC. GrandView (an outliner) was used. At the start of the meeting, the meeting agenda was on the screen. We modified it, slightly. A list of attendees was added. We all helped the secretary with the spellings of our names, as they were entered into the outline.

During the meeting, a record of our discussions was added to the outline. The attendees caught on, quickly, to the usefulness of this tool. Suggestions were repeatedly made for adjustments or corrections to the outline. We moved sections of the outline around to optimize the categorization of topics, etc. The outline was kept mostly collapsed, except for the part to which we were adding at the time. We could always see the details in the context of the structure of higher levels of our outline.

From the hotel's AV service, the meeting host had rented a laser printer. Before each break in our meeting, the outline was printed and taken to the hotel's copier, just down the hall. We would all be given fully-expanded copies of the outline to review during the break. That way we could see parts of the outline that the secretary had generally kept collapsed. After each break, we would spend a few minutes making corrections and adjustments to the outline.

The ability to change and adjust outline labelling was impressive and very useful.

At the end of the day, we all took printed copies of the outline with us. The minutes - in the composition of which we all had participated - were already in our hands.

I was sold.

When I was back in my office, I immediately arranged for the purchase of MORE for each of our Macs. (I also ordered a projection panel.) MORE has been my most important application, at work and at home, ever since. (I've used MORE's features that go beyond outlining very little.)

So - I had to experience the usefulness of an outliner before I could envision using one, to advantage, myself.

My feeling is that more people would become outliner users if they could, somehow, experience the use of an outliner. It may well be that certain kinds of people are more likely to become outliner users than are others. However, those who may be able to benefit most from an outliner may just not realize what an outliner could do for them.

If there is to be a market for outliners, potential users must be given some exposure to outliner use. And they may not come, willingly, to a demo.

David Drumheller
Lockheed Martin
Moorestoen, NJ

This page was last built on 4/21/98; 6:21:40 PM by Dave Winer. dave@scripting.com