META: re: Improving the Extropians list

Dancing Heart Rising (
Thu, 17 Jun 1999 09:56:16 -0500

On 17 Jun 99, Timothy Bates wrote:
> What this list needs is informative subject lines: [...]
> Posters can do a service for lovers and dislikers both by always including
> a key word in their re-mailing posts. - like [news] you can kill or
> highlight on that easy enough. We could publish a list of key > >
words [and have the server require a known keyword]

We tried keyword prefixes before, without any automatic enforcement (e.g., the META: in this subject), and as you can see, the practice didn't survive. I seem to remember that META: was the most frequently honored keyword back when others were in use.

A strongly-keyworded list and email filters is one way of modelling multiple lists (analogous to using concatenated keys in a database). This makes it a little easier to change "subscriptions" as one's interests change, or as threads deteriorate.

Indulging in simplification for a moment, the problem with mailing lists and newsgroups is their sequential nature. Various other models for online discussion forums, such as the many variations on hypertext, attempt to add "random access" to the medium.

The www is roughly half of a hypertext system -- it's missing a commenting feature. Considering the uproar about the recent introduction of "postits" [1] (memory failure: I just saw this on wired news and don't remember what it's called), it seems unlikely that the www as a whole will embrace dynamic commenting any time soon. This doesn't mean that a site couldn't implement it, and maybe some have (research topic for later).

Another interesting example is dejanews. By archiving netnews and providing a searching and thread-following front-end, it has improved the usefulness of netnews greatly. It's sort of like a very watered-down hypertext.

Sorry to present all questions and hints and no answers here, maybe I can improve on that later. Perhaps this is a good topic for the chat.

[1] The gist of this was that someone unleashed a browser, or browser plugin, that allowed anyone to attach notes to any www page, and other people using the same plugin could see the notes. A lot of site owners were all huffy about this, considering it a form of electronic graffiti, and citing examples of abuse, like people leaving notes about their porn sites all over pages that had nothing to do with adult content, and other such spam. I guess the real fundamental issue is that people need to grow up.