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Distributed Conversation

This is an exploratory page to document various methods used to anotate online conversations both distributed and not. The purpose of the studies on this page is to serve as background for the design of a microformat to anotate distributed conversations on blogs and other online media.

see distributed-conversation-brainstorming for more discussion on this topic.


Examples of Related Solutions


Email and Usenet both keep track of discussion threads in a non-central manner using headers and references to message IDs. Some common headers and their use are highlighted in RFC2076 - Common Internet Message Headers section 3.6:

Thread Description Language

Thread Description Language - TDL is an RDF vocabulary for describing threaded discussions, such as Usenet, weblogs, bulletin boards, and e-mail conversations.

TDL v3 defines the following properties:

Discussion of TDL

  1. respondsNegativelyTo, respondsPositivelyTo are beyond the scope of this spec. They can both be implemented using vote-links.
  2. Without those, respondsTo remains the main connector between posts in a thread.
  3. mentions and discusses seem to be splitting hairs. It appears that both of them can be replaced by using the CITE tag.
  4. follows seems to be designed for use in a central registry that tracks threads and therefore is useless for a distributed solution.

IBIS - Issues Based Information Systems

Kunz's Issue Based Information Systems (IBIS) provide a framework for collaborative understanding of the major issues and implications surrounding what are described as ``wicked problems (problems that lack a definitive formulation). Understanding is achieved by using hypertext components to create structured arguments surrounding the issues. (Weblog Kitchen)

 The hypertext model of IBIS consists of three node types:
  1. issues
  2. positions
  3. arguments
 Eight link types represent the allowable relationships between these nodes:
  1. generalises
  2. specialises
  3. replaces
  4. questions
  5. is_suggested_by
  6. responds_to
  7. objects_to
  8. supports

Discussion of IBIS

Similar to TDL, IBIS seems to tackle a bigger problem than the one discussed here.

SIOC - Semantically-Interlinked Online Communities

SIOC (Semantically Interlinked Online Communities) is an ontology for describing discussion forums and posts on topic threads in online community sites. This includes but is not limited to: blogs, bulletin boards, mailing lists, newsgroups, etc.

Relevant properties defined under SIOC:

Discussion of SIOC

Examples of Use

From Email we get two basic relations between message:

From various publications (often of standards) we get:

Citation of resources comes in several flavors:

Web Examples

Author, href and blockquote

 <p>His column was picked up all over the web, including by Danny Ayers. He
   dives into discussion about 
   <a href="http://dannyayers.com/archives/2006/01/10/new-data-languages-harmful/">
       how to build an RDF model
    ,rather than an XML language:
   When working with RDF, my current feeling (could be wrong ;-) is that in most cases it’s probably best to initially make up
   afresh a new representation that matches the domain model as closely as possible(/appropriate). Only then start looking to
   replacing the new terms with established ones with matching semantics. But don’t see reusing things as more important than getting
   an (appropriately) accurate model. (Different approaches are likely to be better for different cases, but as a loose guide I think
   this works.)


Danny Ayers is the author of the pieces being referenced. The href identifies an article the blockquote comes from. "How to build an RDF model" may be considered a short description of the link, however sometimes this text is as short as "writes".

Cite attribute in blockquote or quote

From Les Orcahrd's 0xdecafbad:

 <blockquote cite="http://vrypan.net/log/archives/2006/01/19/delicious-as-fedd-manager/">As far as I know, the most popular link
  managment tool is del.icio.us, a tool I love for its power and simplicity. del.icio.us allow you to export all your links in RSS 
  which is   cool. So, I wrote a quick and dirty PHP script that converts this RSS export to an OPML list (see at the end of this 
  <p><small style="text-align: right; display: block;">
     Source: <a href="http://vrypan.net/log/archives/2006/01/19/delicious-as-fedd-manager/">
        vrypan|net|log » del.icio.us as feed manager

The cite attribute of the blockquote tag is defined in many standards but is not well supported by browsers and is therefore hidden from the user. This requires the author to repeat its value later, in the form of a link.

A similar example from Ryan King's blog:

  Intuitively, we’d expect a group to balance each other out, but 
  <q cite="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Risky_shift">
     people with relatively moderate viewpoints tend to assume that their groupmates hold more extreme views, 
     and to alter their own views in compensation
  [<a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Risky_shift">source</a>]

cite href

Another one from Ryan King (hopefully this is from before he discovered Tantek's presentation about markup).

  <div class="entry">
     <p>From <cite><a href="http://www.skirsch.com/humor/techarg.htm">
        Things to say when you are losing a tech argument</a>
        2.That’s been proven to be O(N^2) and we need a solution that’s O(NlogN).<br>
        15. Oh, I played with that approach back as an undergrad. Got a D, too.<br>
        18.That’s totally inefficient on modern hardware.<br>
        26. No, no, no. It’s fairly important that the database be in THIRD NORMAL  FORM.<br>
        28. I don’t think that’s altogether clear. Please write it up in UML for me.<br>
        39.This is all covered in Knuth, and we don’t have time to go over it again.<br>
        65.Yes, but we’re standardizing on XML.

Ryan uses the <CITE><A href="source">source name</A></CITE> structure.

href inside blockquote

From Stowe Boyd

  <p>Umair Haque is worried that a steady diet of tech.memeorandum is making him stupid:</p>
     [from <a title="Bubblegeneration Strategy Lab" href="http://www.bubblegeneration.com/2006/01/problems-with-2.cfm">
         The Problems with 2.0, pt 34514
        I luv Memeorandum and all it's reconstructor cousins. It's one of the first things of my reading list. 
        It's hugely slashed my search costs in finding new stuff.But there's a problem. Ever since I've started using
        it to the point where it replaces many of my other sources, I have gotten stupider.I can feel it - I don't 
        think as fast, flexibly, or freely.

The link to the quote's source is embedded inside the BLOCKQUOTE element as part of the text of the quote.

distributed-conversation-examples was last modified: Wednesday, December 31st, 1969