Abelard

From Eugene Eric Kim
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Collaborative tool for thoughtful discourse. Inspired by the art of letter writing. The name refers to the scholar Abelard, who was famous for his love affair and letter correspondence with Heloise.

Features

  • Enforced pacing.
  • Encourages the summarizing/refactoring/synthesis process in individual messages, so messages stand alone.
  • No threading! Context comes in the form of Collab:WikiWords, Forge:Transclusions, and Forge:Backlinks.
    • Uses Forge:PurpleWiki for text formatting.
    • Open API for plugging in custom-clients, supporting alternate syntaxes.
  • Similar to group blogging, but with a UI optimized for interaction.
  • The resulting discourse is organized in an emergent and useful way.
  • Complements, rather than replaces, existing tools.
  • E-mail notification (text or HTML), with links to new content.
  • Open Source, of course.

Use Cases

  • View Posts
  • View Post
  • Add New Post
  • Save Post
  • Edit Post
  • Preview Post
  • View Profile
  • Edit Profile
  • Search Posts
  • Subscribe to Posts

Random Thoughts

Enforced pacing is inspired by letter writing and also H2O Rotisserie. Current thinking:

  • Restricted to one post a day
  • Possibly allow additional posts based on the number of times previous posts are linked/transcluded
  • Possibly disallow weekend posting, or at least restrict to one post per weekend, with notification appearing on Monday. Suggested by Collab:Chris Dent.

An example of the kind of synthesis Abelard is trying to facilitate is when columnists respond to multiple letters in their columns. This has two effects. First, it saves the columnist the trouble of having to respond to everybody individually, especially when there is repetition in the feedback. Second, it allows the columnist to synthesize the feedback into a larger context. Both the columnists and their readers get a better sense of the big picture as a result. The Perl 6 community introduced a similar pattern in order to help Larry Wall work more effectively with the community. People would discuss ideas on the lists (and synthesize them in RFCs), and then Larry would respond in his Apocalypses, which would inspire further discussion.

Users must introduce themselves (fill out a profile page with few fields, mainly a large textbox for sharing a story) before being allowed to post. See Introduce Yourself pattern.

While Abelard will not be response-based like e-mail or threaded forums, it will support a granular thread view based on links and transclusions.

Definitely support e-mail notification. I'm not keen on an e-mail gateway (for posting); folks like Collab:Chris Dent, who live in their e-mail client and already practice transclusions and granular linking, might want one and could build one themselves. For everyone else, the Web-based client will be extremely important, because it will encourage and facilitate good linking practices. E-mail blasts should support plain text and HTML. See Eric Armstrong's comment about plain text being the right medium, but probably not the right message.

Possibly require reading previous posts before posting new messages? (Trying to facilitate a pattern, but haven't decided what to name it yet. Something like, "Look Before You Leap" -- research what others have done or what's already been said before you try something you think is new.)

I'm going to make heavy use of Forge:PurpleWiki's Forge:Transclusions, so it's time to take a closer look at the implementation and clean it up a bit. At minimum, there needs to be some mods and pruning of the NID-to-URL map. At maximum, it would be nice to draw data directly from docs, rather than screen scraping them.

Future release should integrate the UI with a (purple, logged) chat room. This facilitates the energy that Abelard will eliminate, while encouraging the complementary usage of the two.

I'm not crazy about having a rating system for posts, but it might be good to facilitate Gush.

References