15 Sep 2000 Raphael   » (Master)


It is nice to see that Ghostscript has a new maintainer, in the person of raph. Congratulations and good luck! Ghostscript is already very good, and adding better antialiasing and other stuff from Libart will make it even better.

Hmm... There seems to be an account for L. Peter Deutsch on Advogato. Not very active, apparently...

Diaries, yet another meta-discussion...

At the end of a previous diary entry, raph mentioned that the diary format is working, but is not ideal for question-and-answer discussions. Well... Obviously the diaries were not designed for that, but it is great to see how they have evolved. There seems to be a need (among the free software community) for this kind of discussions, which are more public than direct e-mail, mailing lists or IRC, but whithout being restricted to a particular topic like the articles on the front page.

A first step would be to use automatic bi-directional links whenever possible. Whenever someone posts a diary entry containing a link to someone else's diary, the filter that parses the submission would at the same time add a backwards link at the end of the other diary (e.g. "[1 comment by so-and-so]"). It would then be easier to check if someone has replied to your diary entry.

But as the number of diaries grows, it becomes increasingly difficult to keep up with the postings. It will not take long before the daily submissions cannot fit on the front page. Already now, it is easy to miss some parts of a discussion if you go away for a couple of days. And the only way to read the missing parts is to look at the pages of all potential participants and check their previous entries. This is not very convenient, because you may forget some of them and you may not know that a new guy has posted some interesting comments. Of course, that could be solved by another hack to Advogato: allow the "recentlog" to take a range of dates, or at least a starting date. It would then display all diaries that have been posted or modified during that time, so that you could read last week's diaries in chronological order if you missed them. (Implementation note: Advogato should store a chronological index of all diaries, otherwise finding and sorting them would be inefficient.)

But where does that lead to? If it is easier to discuss things in the diaries, that part of Advogato would become similar to a web-based bulletin board or chat room. Or a web-based version of USENET. The comparison with USENET and other chat rooms is interesting: they allow threading (using a "References" header in the newsgroups, or direct links in the web fora) and they provide easy ways to separate the unrelated topics (different subject lines, newsgroups or chat rooms). The Advogato diaries put everything in one large page and it is up to the readers to separate the interesting things from the noise. But on the other hand, this can be considered as a feature that reinforces the community, because all members get the opportunity to read some articles that they might have skipped if the topics had been clearly separated. Also, another feature of the diaries is that they do not have subject lines: those who want to add them can do it (using bold and/or indentation) but nobody is forced to structure their diaries in any way. It is difficult to please everybody...

So I don't know what would be best for Advogato (anyway, who am I to judge?) but I think that there are several significant differences between the diaries and a full-featured discussion forum, and these differences may be good for Advogato. If nobody has enough spare time to add a discussion forum besides (and not as a replacement for) the diaries, then I am happy with the current situation. Hmm... Maybe it would be better with the addition of bi-directional links...

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