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K5 User Groups?

By eann in Meta
Thu Jan 17, 2002 at 06:04:40 AM EST
Tags: Kuro5hin.org (all tags)
Kuro5hin.org

Members of not-necessarily-oppressed minorities often find ways to coordinate the sharing and discussion of items of common interest. In the techie community, there's a tradition of calling these "user groups" (with some variation, of course). Recently, I've had the idea that there may be a way to facilitate this kind of discussion here.

This proposal isn't about geographical (or other) groups of K5 users that would exist external to K5. This is about finding other K5 users that share common interests and using this as their public forum, because this is part of our culture.


Some of the ideas I've had for groups: specific programming languages (consider the Perl Mongers model), specific human languages (¿Wanna learn Spanish?), people taking/teaching similar courses at different colleges, those of us who use that non-free (gratis) web browser, hobbies/arts/crafts, non-"traditional" sexuality or gender, maybe even something like support groups for medical conditions (how many pregnant K5ers are there?) and diseases. Maybe some of those aren't appropriate. Maybe you can think of better ideas. I think the groups are most meaningful if we don't base them on geography—we don't need a web site to talk to folks a few kilometers away.

Competitive Landscape

We're not Usenet and we don't want to be. Nor are we Yahoo! Groups, nor do we want to be that, either. I think we've got a better discussion engine than ezboard and Ultimate Bulletin Board (and their many competitors), even though there are already sites about all of the things I listed above which use that kind of technology.

And I know we're not afraid of a little MLP around here, so applying K5-style cross-links and discussions to those other resources would probably do everyone some good.

Implementation/Interface

What would this look like here? This is the hard part. This is what we need to think about before we start mucking with scoop. So, discuss...

My first thought was something akin to the sections we have, but I realized that probably came from that other site's sections, and that the user-driven nature of things around here would cause stuff to overpropagate and bloat far too quickly.

So instead, I think it'd be something like hotlists of users. These lists can be individually managed, like the current hotlist but with the option of creating multiple groups of people regardless of overlap between groups), or there can be some that are independently managed by interested authority—individual sponsor or group consensus, more like a mailing list or bulletin board service.

The tough issue unique to the "private" first kind is management: how do I add/remove/shuffle people from my various groups? If my list of private groups isn't inordinately long, I can imagine a group management page with options to create/delete/edit them. The private group edit page lists the current members (buttons/links to drop them) and has some mechanism for searching for users to add (name or uin), but I'm more likely add people when I see a comment or diary of theirs. Why not have a new link on their user info page something like "Add to my groups", which takes me to an intermediate page on which I can select which of my private group(s) to add them to? Do we do anything about informing the person that they've been added, or even asking permission? Is there a way to see who's watching me? I don't think so. It's already possible to see what anyone is writing (me, for instance) without them knowing.

Details on that "public" second kind are fuzzier. How are groups created? I can imagine a Usenet-like process of RFC and community vote, but that's obviously not the only way. How do I become a member of one? How do I find one in a list of hundreds or thousands? How do I know if there's already a group for that? What if I don't like those people? Should I have the same lurking ability that I do on (some) mailing lists and bulletin boards? Is that even a meaningful question? Is it reasonable for some groups to be managed by a single individual (the "sponsor")? Should there be some mechanism for governance by group consensus? Is there a possibility for invitation-only groups? Is expulsion possible or meaningful? Moderation (as in newsgroups and mailing lists)?

And the big question, that applies to both private and public groups: What does it really mean to have a list of people in a group? I see a few options here. Most likely, they are orthogonal instead of mutually exclusive, and everything can be cleaned up by the ubiquitous "Preferences" form. For ease of discussion here, I'll say options can only be set as fine-grained as each private group, or for each person's display prefs within a public group. It may be possible to tweak things further using the group edit page described above, but that's a detail to work out later.

In some groups, I want to watch everything the user does. Scary-sounding, but easily possible already. I get the information collected for me about comments/diaries/stories they've submitted, like an overview of their collective user info pages. I can sort by time posted or type of post or number of comments or comment activity or some other variable(s) I haven't thought of yet. I can show only the titles, ratings, and replies, or I can show intro copy for diaries and stories, or even all content of everything.

Naturally, I can also say things like "only diaries". In other groups, maybe I want to narrow what I watch to stories submitted by my group's members, or those stories plus these others that I'm hotlisting for purpose of this group, minus these irrelevant stories that got included from one of my watchee's other interests. This sounds like multiple hotlist management, and may be implementable completely independently of the rest of this mess.

Here's the fun one, and it's really relevant only to public groups: a separate kind of submission. I can't decide whether it should work like a diary entry (i.e. posted without vote) and be attached to the public group, or work like a moderated story submission and potentially have the opportunity to spill out of the group into general section or even front page discussion. My best guess is that we should allow both, possibly constrained by any particular public group's sponsor/consensus mechanism.

And with something like that in place, how do we keep general discussion going? Wouldn't everything fragment into groups, and we'd see site-wide articles less often? Is that a bad thing? Yeah, probably. Here's a thought to prevent that: public group diary-style submissions are attached to the diaries section as well. Anyone can read and comment. Groups are a convenience for the people who know they have something in common to share. If User X posts a group diary entry (hmm...need some better terms), it shows up on my group page, but if he/she/it posts a "regular" diary entry, it doesn't unless I've asked to see group members' regular diary entries also. It's a way of topicalizing diary entries, in case we're part of a collection of people that's using topics. Public group moderatable story submissions could be treated a couple different ways. Maybe they all go up as regular submissions, and group members get an orthogonal vote for whether it makes it to the group page or is "only" part of general discussion. Or maybe it goes through the group queue first, and anything that makes it through is automatically carried to the general submission queue (with some restriction on group members being able to cabalistically vote it up). Or maybe clicking "submit" simply links it from both queues, which each maintain their own vote count.

Okay, I think I've communicated the core of the idea, and certainly left more questions than answers. What do you think? If it looks like there's some general agreement that this could work here, and how, I'll take it to the scoop site.

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Poll
K5 User Groups?
o Great idea. 11%
o Good idea. 22%
o Comments below. 0%
o Doesn't matter. 20%
o Bad idea. 28%
o All of the above. 17%

Votes: 63
Results | Other Polls

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K5 User Groups? | 17 comments (12 topical, 5 editorial, 0 hidden)
Why re-invent the wheel? (4.50 / 2) (#1)
by Wondertoad on Wed Jan 16, 2002 at 12:29:28 AM EST

The system in my sig, like thousands of other small forums in the world, is based on vBulletin. But if you don't like vBulletin's license, there are many other, similar forums you could investigate.

vBulletin and such don't scale well to 500,000 users like Slash. But that's OK; they're meant to run the smaller communities. Which, in many cases, can be just as fulfilling or MORE fulfilling than the big communities... which, I might add, I wouldn't consider communities at all.

Then, instead of forcing the current K5 crew to take on the administration of yet a more complicated system, why not propose a franchising system? Define which package should be used, what quality levels are acceptable, and anyone can open a franchise forum, linked into a common directory. This distributes the system (always a good thing), while also giving it a focus and a common user interface.


Waitamin, you mentioned them (none / 0) (#2)
by Wondertoad on Wed Jan 16, 2002 at 12:40:05 AM EST

OK, sorry, I must have had a blankout when I was reading the sentences you had about other forums.

And I disagree. For what they are needed for, the smaller forum software has a very nice interface. It's for the reason in my sig. What happens on Scoop or Slash when there are 6 replies to a common thread?

When would you have 6 or more replies to a common thread? That's the most natural human communication in the world; I talk to you, you reply to me, we could go on all night. But in software that enforces the threading, with one message per link, it's terrible to read and difficult to participate in.


[ Parent ]
The wheel's fine. I'm working on the chassis. (none / 0) (#12)
by eann on Wed Jan 16, 2002 at 11:10:32 AM EST

I really prefer the Slash/scoop/weblog/etc. style of discussions to the bulletin board style.

In any significant discussion, threads, despite their name, are rarely linear. They always branch. I don't care about replies to the first, third, and fourth person who responded to the original post/topic/whatever, nor to the three people that responded to that fourth guy. I want to answer the second response, and if I'm the first person to do so, I don't want (in this example) 5 other posts between mine and his/hers/its.


Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men. —MLK

$email =~ s/0/o/; # The K5 cabal is out to get you.


[ Parent ]
LiveJournal (5.00 / 1) (#3)
by wiml on Wed Jan 16, 2002 at 02:07:21 AM EST

I'm not sure whether LiveJournal fits what you're thinking about or not, but it's pretty similar. At the least it's something to examine for things that do and don't work. It's evolved from a weblog site (as opposed to k5, which evolved from a news site) so it's pretty user-centric, but look at the "livejournal communities".

Okay, yeah. (3.00 / 1) (#8)
by eann on Wed Jan 16, 2002 at 10:48:54 AM EST

That is similar to the idea that I had. K5 "evolved" from a news site, but Slash and scoop are clearly the ancestors of the later-arriving weblog.


Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men. —MLK

$email =~ s/0/o/; # The K5 cabal is out to get you.


[ Parent ]
if you basically want topicalized diaries.... (4.00 / 2) (#5)
by Eight Star on Wed Jan 16, 2002 at 09:07:35 AM EST

Why not just allow people to sort their diaries into the same categories we have for stories, with the added options of none/none, for standard diaries.

Add a few links for everything-diaries (and allow users to set that as default) and diaries by section. No, you won't get Diaries- for- people-with- ATI- graphics- cards, but do we really need that here?

Need? No. (none / 0) (#9)
by eann on Wed Jan 16, 2002 at 10:55:19 AM EST

Want? That's what I'm asking.

I don't want stuff shoved into the sections we've already got. The group of people who have ATI graphics cards might be interesting, though (I doubt it, but I'm not part of that particular minority). That is the kind of thing I was proposing.

And I don't want anything about the facts that we have ATI users and that they're aware of each other to take over the K5 home page, or the diaries, or any of the sections. I just want to facilitate that underlying awareness if it's something ATI users would like.


Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men. —MLK

$email =~ s/0/o/; # The K5 cabal is out to get you.


[ Parent ]
In the name of All That's Holy, no! (4.66 / 6) (#6)
by wiredog on Wed Jan 16, 2002 at 09:36:43 AM EST

That could create a Cabal-like group, or groups, of high exclusivity, where people only vote for things that are submitted by their particular in-group! It has great potential to fracture the board into multiple competing groups constantly trolling each other. Not that we don't have that now, but let's not formalize it!

If you want to start some sort of special interest group type of thing, start your own scoop site! In AA we say that new meetings get started because someone has a resentment and a coffee pot. Kuro5hin is made up primarily of refugees from slashdot, if people want to leave this place and be part of a smaller, more like-minded community, let them. Don't make it easier for them to go off in their own corner of k5 where they can ignore, and be ignored by, the rest of us.

Yeah, some stories get old after a while, but people who only read opinions from people like themselves, only hear themselves.

And, please, Think of the Children!

Peoples Front To Reunite Gondwanaland: "Stop the Laurasian Separatist Movement!"

The Children and/of the Cabal. (none / 0) (#11)
by eann on Wed Jan 16, 2002 at 11:06:02 AM EST

Yeah, that's what scares me most about the idea. But there is no K5 Cabal, right? :) My only thought of a way around it was to propose keeping the queues separate, or even not letting group members vote on a group story for general publication.

However, it now occurs to me that having authors be anonymous while a story's in queue might be an interesting feature, with or without user groups. I still maintain that there should be a "failed stories" page where stuff hangs around for a day or so. Once a story makes it to home page, section, or the reject bin, you can see who wrote it if you want to follow up non-K5-ly.

If users didn't know who writes the stories, would they vote differently? Would that actually reduce cabalism (or cannibalism)?

How do we refuse to let cliquishness ruin our interaction with the rest of the community, and keep working on ways to combat it?


Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men. —MLK

$email =~ s/0/o/; # The K5 cabal is out to get you.


[ Parent ]
Between diaries and articles (4.50 / 2) (#10)
by Scrymarch on Wed Jan 16, 2002 at 10:55:53 AM EST

There seems to be a desire for items at a granularity between articles and diaries. Diaries are great if you're just scanning the crowd, or hunting down a particular user. Articles are good for wide-audience, fairly considered, discussion. It might be useful to have something between these. This gem probably isn't article material, but it deserves more attention than just a diary (jacob was moved to put it in his sig). See also the more democratic weblog article.

A useful first cut might be the ability to put sections on diaries.

This article's suggestion is both way over the top and too vague to boil down to anything in particular. I understand the author's desire to discuss this stuff before floating an idea though.

Voting -1, because articles need something more concrete, even though groups could have merit. It seems the sort of item that could be usefully kicked around by a group ...

not for me (5.00 / 3) (#14)
by adiffer on Wed Jan 16, 2002 at 08:13:57 PM EST

I have ample opportunity to participate in user groups on other sites having bulletin boards with focused topics. On those boards, I have found we rarely get new blood, let alone new ideas. After awhile we are essentially preaching at each other or do not have much to say.

I came ot K5 to get away from that approach. I've preached to the choir long enough to get bored with it. My memes need to evolve, so I would not be in favor of sectionalizing this community.
-Dream Big. --Grow Up.

What about a diary hotlist? (none / 0) (#17)
by Your Mom on Thu Jan 17, 2002 at 05:28:31 PM EST

I'd love a page that has the most recent diaries from the 10 or 15 people whos diaries I regularly follow... Add all your group to that that page, and it should be that not quite a story / more than a diary size that would be great...

--
"As far as I'm concerned, Osama bin Laden can eat a dick." -trhurler
K5 User Groups? | 17 comments (12 topical, 5 editorial, 0 hidden)
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