Recovered from the Wayback Machine.
Serendipity is such a major component of my life, never more so than when I read Gary’s attempt to manually connect the multiple threads to the whole discussion about Identity.
While I’m on my long journey through distance and time, I’m working on a new application that will provide a means to track cross-blog discussions, such as those my own virtual neighborhood (and others) participate in. The specs for the application are:
Project is called Thread the Needle, or “Needley” for short. Its purpose is to track cross-blogging threads.
How it works:
You register your weblog, once, with an online application I’ll provide (i.e. provide your weblog location, name of weblog, email). Frequently throughout the day, the Needle service bot will visit the weblog looking for RDF (an XML meta-language, used for RSS and other applications) embedded within the weblog page. Note that this may change to scan weblogs.com for changed weblogs that are registered, or based on the first time a person clicks the link or some other procedure – testing these out as you read this.
The RDF will be generated by the service now and copied and pasted into the posting; hopefully someday it will be generated automatically by the weblogging tools.
The RDF either starts a weblogging subject thread – starts a new subject – or continues an existing thread. The bot pulls this information in and when someone clicks on a small graphic/link attached to the posting, a page opens showing all related threads and their association with each other.
AKMA writes a posting on Identity. Because he starts the discussion thread he creates and embeds RDF “thread start” XML into the posting (generated by the tool using very simple to use form, results cut and pasted into posting). Included in this RDF is thread title, brief description, posting permalink, weblog name, and posting category, accessed from pulldown list.
The generated code also contains a small graphic and link that a person clicks to get to the Needley page. Clicking another small graphic/links opens up a second form for a person wanting to respond to this posting, with key information already filled in.
The posting would look like:
This is posting stuff, posting stuff, words, more words more words
more words and so on.
link/graphic to view page Needle thread page,
link/graphic to respond to current posting
Posted by person, date, comment
The embedded RDF is invisible.
David Weinberger creates his own posting related to AKMA’s posting, and clicks AKMA’s “respond” link and a form opens with pre-filled fields. He adds his own permalink info, pushes a button and a second page opens with generated RDF that David then embeds into his posting.
Stavros comes along wanting to continue on David’s discussion and follows same process. Jeneane responds directly to AKMA, and Jonathon, responds to Stavros, and Mike responds to David, and Steve responds to Jeneane and AKMA responds to David and Steve, who responds back to AKMA.
The Needle page for this thread shows:
Each of the above names is a hypertext link to the discussion posting. Some visual cue will probaby be added to assist in the reading of the hierarchy of discussion. (I’ll also work to make sure that this page and its contents are fully accessible.)
If a person is responding to two or more of the threaded postings, they can add the generated RDF for each posting they’re responding to – there’s no limit. So Dorthea responds to Jonathon’s and AKMA’s original posting:
The asterisk shows that the posting is one response to multiple postings.
It will take approximately 30 seconds to click, complete, generate, cut and paste the RDF for a response; about 1 minute for starting a thread.
The results can either be hierarchy ordered, by response, or time ordered. The thread page starts with the thread title, category, description, date started, date of last update and each weblog entry is associated with a link that will take a person directly to the specific posting.
With this, people can see all those who’ve responded, can reply with new posting, and the conversation can continue cross-blog, many threaded.
I’ll probably try to add in graphics to create a flow diagram, similar to the RDF validation tool (see at http://www.w3.org/RDF/Validator/ and use http://burningbird.net/example12f.rdf as test RDF file to demonstrate).
Discussion thread titles and associated descriptions and categories will go on a main page that is continuously updated, with a link to the main thread page for each discussion. I’d like to add search capability by category, weblog, and keyword.
(e.g. “Show me all discussions that AKMA has originated that feature Identity”)
I’ve already incorporated RDF into Movable Type postings and have been able to successfully scrape and process the information.
I’ll be asking for beta testers of this new technology in July, and will be hosting the discussion server at first. My wish is to distribute this application rather than centralize it, and will look at ways this can occur (one major reason why I went with embedded RDF).
Update: AKMA and Gary Turner are collecting suggestions and requirements from the weblogging community for this application. A basic infrastructure is in place, but the user community needs to provide information about how this product will work, and what it will do. Please see AKMA’s posting to get additional information.
Just read Meg’s What we’re doing when we blog article. Though I can agree with many of Meg’s sentiments, I totally disagree with Meg’s philosophy that the weblogging format is the key to weblogging. Last time I looked, I thought it was the people. Meg truly missed the boat on this one. In fact, she wasn’t even at the dock to wave her handkerchief good-bye when the boat left.
The Thread the Needle application will help weblogger discussions, but it’s just an enabler – weblogging discussions can continue without it. We are connecting because of what we say, not the technology we use. Weblogging tools help, but they don’t create community.
Another instance of serendipity because the same day Meg’s article appears, I stated in the Pixelview interview:
Too many people focus on the technology of the web, forgetting that technology is nothing more than a gateway to wonderous things. The web introduces us to beauty, creativity, truth, new people and new ideas. I genuinely believe there are no limits to what we can accomplish given this connectivity.