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 Citation 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:
- In-Reply-To - Reference to message which this message is a reply to.
- References - In e-mail: reference to other related messages, in Usenet News reference to replied-to-articles.
- See-Also - References to other related articles in Usenet News.
- Obsoletes - Reference to previous message being corrected and replaced.
- Supersedes - Commonly used in Usenet News in similar ways to the "Obsoletes" header described above. In Usenet News, however, Supersedes causes a full deletion of the replaced article in the server, while "Supersedes" and "Obsoletes" in e-mail is implemented in the client and often does not remove the old version of the text.
- Article-Updates - Only in Usenet News, similar to "Supersedes:" but does not cause the referenced article to be physically deleted.
- Article-Names - Reference to specially important articles for a particular Usenet Newsgroup.
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:
- Property tdl:discusses - Relates a Post to a resource it talks about
- Property tdl:follows - Indicates that this resource comes no earlier than the specified resource
- Property tdl:inThread - Relates a post to a thread which includes it
- Property tdl:mentions - Indicates that this resource refers to the specified resource
- Property tdl:respondsTo - Relates a post to its parent(s) in a discussion
- Property tdl:respondsNegativelyTo - Relates a post to a parent post which it dissents from or corrects
- Property tdl:respondsPositivelyTo - Relates a post to a parent post with which it concurs
Discussion of TDL
- respondsNegativelyTo, respondsPositivelyTo are beyond the scope of this spec. They can both be implemented using vote-links.
- Without those, respondsTo remains the main connector between posts in a thread.
- mentions and discusses seem to be splitting hairs. It appears that both of them can be replaced by using the CITE tag.
- 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.
- The different node types are not necessary for tracking a discussion thread. Tracking the flow of the conversation, the arguments and flow of ideas is a wider more complex issue than just gluing together disparate pieces of an online discussion.
- Link type such as "generalises" and "specialises" might be useful but seem to require a lot from the user. If we allow for inheritance of link type they could be used as optional parts of the format but it appears that we can do well enough without them.
Examples of Use
From Email we get two basic relations between message:
- Reply - This message is a reply to the referenced message.
- Forward - This message forwards the referenced message to additional recipients.
From various publications (often of standards) we get:
- Updates/Obsoletes - This documents contains updates or even replaces the referenced document.
Citation of resources comes in several flavors:
- Citing a reference
- Via link/Hat tip (mainly in blogs)
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</a>, rather than an XML language:
<blockquote> <p>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".