I've been spending some time thinking lately about online discussion groups like Slashdot and Kuro5hin. Having just run across Advogato, I'm very impressed with some of the ideas implemented here, though a little disappointed that there's still a single point-of-view imposed on all participants. Much of what I was thinking of (except for individualized points-of-view) are already in Advogato. Kudos, raph!
It just occurred to me that perhaps we might step back and question the very idea of discussion forums, instead of merely pondering their implementation. As a couple of people here have pointed out, it seems inherently impossible for a discussion forum to grow bigger than a certain size -- even if all content is top-notch -- and function properly. What if 50 people post brilliantly written reviews of the latest version of fillInTheBlank(TM)?
Advogato's notion of diaries intrigues me. People like their ideas and ruminations to be heard (at least I do), and like to hear the better thoughts of others (read: high s-n ratio in a discussion forum). Perhaps what we need is a better vehicle for people to air their ideas. What I'm imagining is a site (assuming it would be delivered through HTTP) that is fairly similar at first glance to Advogato's diaries. People post entries and ideas. But each person's diary is partitioned from everyone else's. You can browse others' diaries and comment on entries just like a regular discussion group. Your comments become linked into both your diary and theirs.
Different levels of "trust" expressed towards different participants make their entries more visible to you; perhaps their diary entries appear on your home page. You might also be able to rate individual comments, as well. By expressing high trust opinions of other participants or their comments, those who trust you highly are in turn more likely to see those same diary entries. Certain comments may be so insightful that they make it to the home page of just about every user.
The core difference is that there is no front-end to this discussion forum; you view only those diary entries ("articles"?) of those people you choose to. Yet there is nothing keeping you from exploring the user base to discover others whose comments interest you. Moreover, the commenting and cross-linking aspect allows discussions to spontaneously form. Moreover, threads can continue to generate discussion, perhaps even weeks after the original posting, when someone new and fresh runs across a comment in the thread.
The one snag I can think of is that, without controls on cross-linking comments into others' diaries, one could pollute others' diaries very easily. I'm sure that it wouldn't be too hard to overcome such problems.
I'd love to help out with such an idea, though at this point I think I probably don't have enough time to do more than design. Often that's the coolest part, though.
Given my luck with ideas of late, I'd be willing to bet this is already being done.