My ITP thesis project, the current working title of which is Banyan Speak, is, at its most basic, an attempt to decouple public/semi-public internet-based discussion from specific URLs. Or, put another way, it’s an attempt to make discussion threads embeddable, or at least portable, objects on the web.
Which isn’t much of an explanation, so let’s see if I can expand a bit on that. At the bottom of this specific blog post, you’ll find that you have the option to leave a comment. Maybe by the time you read this someone will have done so already. In fact, maybe they will have left a comment, and someone will have responded to it with something incredibly insightful. And perhaps that’s kicked off an incredibly intelligent discussion only partially prompted by this initial post.
Now, if you wanted to send an email, or talk on your own blog, or make a post to a forum and you wanted to draw ideas from my blog post itself, that’d be easy. You can just highlight what you want, copy, and then paste. Then, maybe, you include a link back to my original post for people who want to do more in-depth reading. But if you want to excerpt part of the discussion at the bottom of my post? Not nearly so easy. Sure you could highlight, copy, and paste, but you’ll find that because of all the meta-data about who said what when, it doesn’t actually move very well. And, further, if the discussion is ongoing, then the people who see your excerpt might well miss out on awesome new developments. And that doesn’t even get into the complexity of what it would be like trying to copy and paste a discussion that used an organizational technique like threading.
Banyan Speak is an attempt to take that discussion at the bottom of a post, and make it easy to display that discussion elsewhere on the web in a way that keeps itself updated. That allows people to participate in the discussion from my blog, or from the email you sent about my blog post, without privileging one over the other or requiring users to go to one location on the web or another.
There are quite a few reasons I think this is an important project to undertake, and I’ll probably try to outline a number of them as the project moves forward, but I think that’s enough for now.
Tags: banyan speak