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Subject Structuring a conversant based site from the ground up.
Posted 12/6/2000; 12:39 PM by Lyle B. H°jbjerg-Clarke
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Hi Seth and Macrobyte team.

I've spent the better half of this evening reading about Converseant and checking out the your 'power users' are using it. For example, Brian Carnell, Duncan Smeed, Mark Morgan, Jim R°peck, and Seth's site. I've also been reading through your documentation, experimenting with everyone elses sites, and mapping out diagrams of what I believe is going on in the heart of Conversant.

My main goal with this is to figure out the best ground-up structure for a site based on Conversant.

From what I can see, none of Conversant's heavy users , and not even the free-conversant site itself, are even getting close to pushing the edge of what Conversant is capable of.

Here are some observations: Several users are taking labels and twisting them around to turn them into 'categories'. Brian Carnell takes this a step further in his own site with a query that uses the Label field to create a 'category' view.

The postings/replies ratio at most of the most of the main sites is also very very low. Most people's posts never get a reply. This is not a bad thing. It is just a fact. After all, with self-publishing so easy today, most potential prolific posters choose to make post their comments/opinions about your opinion on their own web site. I have seen several instances of the 'reply' function being used to point a site's author to a writer's reply at another website. (For example the sequence of Brian Carnel's Manila comparison, Dave Winer's reply, and then Seth's reply/comment to Dave). ------- I have a bunch of other observations as well, but I'll rather leave them and get to the point. -------

My point is this. Conversant is incredibly powerful. It can do EVERYTHING. Or if it can't, is not far off it. Really guys, you've done a top notch job so far. However, as it is standing right now, Conversant's "defaults", lean it into a direction which is shy of reality for your everday average Internet self-publisher.

Conversant defaults to a 'discussion group' kind of situation, where people get together and collaborate. Meanwhile, the reality for the average power-user is not about 'collaborating' with others, but about managing their own personal "shouting from on top of a hill".

(Here I would like to add that I realise this is your night gig, and that during the day you may well be implementing hard out, discussion centric, collaboration based, high 'post/reply-ratio', corporate intranets etc. If this is the case, cool, and I can thus understand why the product needs to be collaboration centric.

However, for the everday average weblogging, opinionated web-writer/journaller. I think that by limiting Conversations down to ONE, from scratch, you are burning your fingers by 'mutilating Conversants built in coolness'

For example, when everyone uses the 'label' tag to describe categories, then within a category, they can not give posts relative importance to each other. This is a problem. Think how cool it could be (for example), if Brian Carnell was able to run a 'conversation' on every one of his fave subjects, and then still have the label tag free to give articles a 'highest-lowest' rating. Can't keep up with all Brian writes? No problem, then just check out his 'ranked' weblog, where articles with a ranking above 'high' come in. Now you only need to read the most important or best stuff.

Another problem, is that at the moment, 'topic' is used the same way as it is Usenet. This is fine, and has advantages when lots of people are posting to the same thread, but how much sense does it make to start a new 'thread' for every single post, and then have no-one reply to it anyway. In situations like this, where websites are "one person's voice", the 'Topics' view becomes a huge long list of single articles, and not a list of 'Topics' at all. (Which is why Brian needs to use the 'Label' tag as a 'topic' tag. ------

Here is the way that I believe small groups of avid writers (typically one, maybe two) can get the best of conversant, using its current capabilities).

1. Each 'main topic' (specific subject that people like to write about (i.e. chess, animal rights, cycing etc.) is run as a 'conversation').

2. 'Threads' are used as 'specific topics' within the main topic (main topic =conversation). If a writer chooses to write several times on the same specific topic, he replies to his original post. Other people may also choose to reply. (This is fine and dandy.)

3. The writer should change the 'subject title' to acurately represent the content of each new post/reply to his own threads (specific topics).

For example, in a website of an American, and in his 'conversation' about politics, and under the specific 'topic' he started about Florida situation, he might article with commenting on a CNN article and give it a 'subject title' both reflecting the CNN article, and his opinion. His own article he rates from highest to lowest, and then (if high) it is displayed on the main weblog of his homepage for everyone to see, instead of just people that read his political 'conversation'.

By structuring a Conversant website, using the above format, you retain all the super cool benefits of Conversant's ground-up coolness, without losing ANY of the features that anyone is using right now.

AND, apart from the weblog that only takes the 'highest' ranked articles to put them on the weblog, I haven't even suggested anything 'fancy' yet. -------

The main 'disadvantage' that I can see with this kind of a set-up, is that it requires that you makes mulitple 'conversations' available, where in the past you only do this if people host with and pay $35 per month (or whatever it is, I can't quite remember). Yes, I realise that you do have to make money. So I totally cool with that. What I am now wondering is, where are you costs. Traffic? Server space? Would opening up multiple conversations hurt you if the amount of content to be handled remains the same and it is just handled in the method I suggest, instead of the way that it is handled by default.

------Lastly (finally)

I spent 1 & 1/2 hours writing this e-mail, mainly because I am so excited about Conversant. I was from the first day I saw it. It is my belief that you could benefit from a real 'power-user', someone that is experienced with both 'data' and its 'flows' (I know that sounds 'artsy fartsy').

I have had a vision now for several years about the type of website that 'should-exist' based on what the Internet makes possible. I've tried out everything I could afford and could get my hands on, and everything so far has fallen short, EVERYTHING. I've even tried to go to school to learn the programming skills needed to build it myself, but sadly, I'm not a coder. I'm JUST a data guy. That's all. Data and it's flows. Then, when I found Conversant, that all changed. I could see straight away that THIS was THE product, the first one that I had ever seen, that has the potential to go the distance, to fufill my vision, to build that perfect website. Seth revived that spark this weekend when he showed me how beautifully simple it was to add javascript syndication EVEN THOUGH THE FEATURE WAS NOT YET A FEATURE (WOWWWW!!!!)

Do you want me as a 'power-user?' I promise I'll be noisy, use a bunch of different browsers, give you feedback on every single error that comes my way, particpate willingly in help groups and support forums, envangelise, and everything I do (structure, not my websites artisitic/textual content) will be yours to take, improve, or do whatever you want with. It won't cost you anything either, except (of course) giving me the ability to run as many test 'conversations' as I need on my free-conversant account.

Anyway, what do you think of this? If you need more information about me or why it is that I want to do this or why I think that I even can do do, or need anymore information of any kind at all. Please, do not hesitate to mail me. at lyle@mooloo.com . Of course, I will also check for replies to this post.

Cheers Lyle B. H°jbjerg-Clarke

PS. I apologise that this post is so long. I hope poking it up and down your pipes doesn't break the bank :-)

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Re: Structuring a conversant based site from the ground up.
12/6/2000 by Brian Carnell
> From what I can see, none of Conversant's heavy users , and not even the

RE: Structuring a conversant based site from the ground up.
12/6/2000 by Mark Morgan
I know how you feel; Conversant, when I first saw it and as I continue to understand


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