Even the structure of the typical outline is a eurocentric idea, it is basically unheard of in some Asian cultures. I work with exchange students from Japan, the hardest thing they have to learn is how to write papers in English. It's hard for them because they have no idea of how to make an outline. HTML does a pretty good job at outlines, I'll do a representative example of an outline for a story.
- State the Main Thesis
- Main Body
- Supporting Points
- Each point supports the following point
- Each point is a link in the chain of argument
- The chain of logic will lead inevitably to the Conclusion
- Restate Main Thesis as a conclusion
This structure makes absolutely no sense to the students from Japan that I've encountered. They were trained in a system called "kishotenketsu" that is an entirely different structure for stories. In this system, the supporting points loop around the main point without creating a linear argument. The points are intended to only obliquely reference the main point, it is up to the reader to infer how this relates to the main thesis. There is no firm conclusion, only an ambiguous ending that may point to several possible outcomes. Again, it is up to the reader to form their own conclusion. Perhaps the best example of kishotenketsu is the movie "Rashomon." The movie explains a crime from the point of view of 4 different people, each of them claim to have committed the crime. We see the crime repeated 4 times with subtle variations, in the end there is no clear indication of who really is the criminal, the viewer must decide.
The kishotenketsu structure is so predominant in the minds of Japanese students that it is really hard for them to come out and make a straightforward argument in a term paper. Japanese textual styles are quite indirect, they must lead but not push the reader towards the point. It takes a lot of effort for these students to learn new structures, but I always admonish them, that's the whole point of learning foreign languages, so you can learn to think in new ways.
I sometimes show these students an old standard journalistic technique, "pyramid style." It's much more practically oriented so they catch on to it immediately. The first paragraph of the story, the "lead," must have all the important facts, who what when where why how. The facts are presented in the order of importance, with no conclusion at all. This style is primarily intended for the convenience of editors, who can lop off a few paragraphs at the end and not lose anything important.
There are many other valid structures for stories and libraries of stories. The reason I'm describing these in detail is because I'm fed up with Radio 's outline-centric structure. It is amazing how much Dave can blather about how his awesome algorithms are changing the world, but it is clear that he's oblivious to what he's really doing. There are professional writers, editors, linguists, and librarians who have studied these ideas for decades, but Dave has no use for them, he's too busy trying to change the web to reflect his own scattered thinking processes. There is an old hacker saying, "the Street finds its own uses for things." The "semantic web" will not be created by coders like Dave, it might happen with his tools, but certainly not in the way that he designed it to work. The world has moved on since Dave wrote his first outliner, but he has not.