Outlines for everyone?

I’ve been reading Scripting News for at least 6 years. I agree that Dave Winer is most interesting to read when he’s working on shipping some software, as he is now. His exuberance is impressive sometimes. He and John Robb predict a BusinessWeek cover for his new Instant Outliner.

Here’s what I find interesting about this: Dave Winer has been doing outliners *for twenty years*. You have to figure that when you do something for twenty years, it’s going to reshape how your brain works. I’m certain that Dave thinks in outlines. Not everyone does, however.

I’ve worked in a few different offices, and seen a number of people using Microsoft Word. None of the people I’ve worked with have used Word’s Outline view, even though Word is arguably the world’s most deployed outliner. In my view, outlines are a niche way of working today.

That said, people are always looking for better ways to collaborate and that sounds like the real thrust of the Instant Outliner. Dave says that the Instant Outliner is going to be free (and largely open source) and cross-platform. If he can deal with the deployment issues, he may indeed have a winner.

It boils down to this: have people not been using outliners because they don’t like to work that way, or because they’re unaware of the tools? The answer to that question and how easy deployment is will determine how successful Instant Outliner is.