Zope BackTalk


See the Zope Developer's Guide, which runs using Zope BackTalk software.


See the SourceForge project page. The feaures described in the summary below are available in the CVS version, but may not be available in any "release file" version.


Zope BackTalk is a document editing, commenting, and publication system for book-like content. It has the following features:


Zope BackTalk comes from an idea originated by Bruce Eckel and Bill Venners. Bruce and Bill are technology authors and consultants (see their respective websites: Mindview and and Artima). They needed a system to allow people to easily comment on booklike content, because they value their readers' feedback.

I also wanted a system that allowed folks to comment on booklike content (see the Zope Developer's Guide). Bruce and Bill had already commissioned work on a Java project to service his need, but in its original incarnation it was experiencing performance and stability problems. Bruce is a Zope and Python fan, and I got to talking with him as a result of meeting with him at the 2000 International Python Conference, where he gave they keynote speech. We chatted a bit through email about the current Java implementation, and we got to talking about how a Zope-based editing and commenting system would work. I prototyped a simple implementation. Bruce liked it well enough to continue to give me feedback about how such a system would work.

Eventually, Bruce decided it would be a good idea for us to get together and come up with a system that could do the job of the Java implementation plus some editing features. We had a "Zope Backtalk Working Session" in Crested Butte Colorado (a beautiful place) along with another developer where we created a system that did almost slightly less than half of what Bruce wanted for his day-to-day work. This is the termed the "BackTalkWorkingSession" code. It is based on Zope's CMF and is very specific to Bruce's requirements for such a system.

Unfortunately, the BackTalkWorkingSession code produced at the session reached a development terminus after the session. It was far too slow for real usage, and it was actually not useful at all for me because it had a built-in presupposition that its users wanted to author content in Microsoft Word (which I really don't). Bruce doesn't even use it, he eventually developed a very simple and cool system himself (also named BackTalk, because that's actually his name, I stole it for this project) using Zope's Python Scripts and DTML that does exactly what he wants. Funny how that works. ;-) But we had some fun and learned a lot.

I still had my own problems to solve, which were somewhat different than Bruce's, so I went back and revived the prototype implementation (based on Zope's Structured Text text markup facility). This implementation makes the simplifying assumption that is users (content authors) were willing to live with the constraints of Structured Text when authoring content. I put up a SourceForge project to handle the details.

Have fun!

- Chris McDonough, Zope Corporation (chrism@zope.com)