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I made an off-the-cuff suggestion on Hunter's Daily Kos 4.0 Suggestions Thread regarding changing the Diaries-and-Comments site structure of Daily Kos. The idea's been growing on me ever since; and I think it bears fleshing out in a separate diary.

See, the current structure of Daily Kos is like this:  Each story or diary acts as a "seed"; and the comment threads for each diary conceptually form a "tree". Each diary+comments tree grows for a while, until the diary scrolls off the list. Then the discussions end; the branches die out; new diary seeds are planted, and the old, abandoned diaries and their comment trees are filed away into the near-oblivion of the archives.

But with just a few changes (detailed below), that underlying structure could be radically transformed:  Instead of a series of discrete trees with limited lifespans, we could have a continuous, evolving "grapevine" of interconnected discussions. This would solve a number of persistent site complaints as a side effect; and it could be done without radically changing the site's interface or giving up any of the advantages of the current diary+comments system.

The fundamental changes that would need to be made are these:

  • Eliminate the distinction between diaries and comments. All user contributions would be of the same fundamental type (call them "posts"). (They would still look like diaries or comments; see below.)
  • Every post must be — in some sense — a reply to one or more existing "parent" posts. (If not otherwise specified, the parent post could default to the most recent Open Thread.)
  • Each post could appear in either "Diary Mode" or "Comment Mode". The initial mode would be set by the poster, but could subsequently change depending on circumstances. Only posts in Diary Mode would appear on the Recent/Recommended list(s).
  • Each post in Diary Mode would be presented like diaries appear on the current site, but with a link to its parent post(s) under the title. Beneath the post would be the replies thread, with reply posts in Comment Mode presented like comment threads currently appear. Mixed in with the Comment Mode replies, however, would be links to those replies which were themselves in Diary Mode and had their own pages.
  • In some circumstances, posts could automatically switch from Comment Mode to Diary Mode or vice versa. For instance, when a replies thread gets too long, the replies with the most recommends (and/or most replies of their own) "spawn" into separate Diary Mode threads (leaving links to the spawned threads in their place). Conversely, when a Diary Mode post fails to get enough replies or recommends, it switches to Comment Mode, "folding" into the replies thread of its parent.

That's the basic idea, but there are a lot of ways this concept could be tweaked and embellished. For instance, the interface for showing parent and reply posts could be used to show offsite sources and trackbacks as well. If a post were referencing a news article or another blog, a link to that reference could be listed among the "parents" of the post. Similarly, if a blog on a different site was written in response to a Daily Kos post, that blog could send Daily Kos a trackback ping which would cause it to be listed among the links in the "replies" thread. This would provide an organic way of showing the discussion flow between Daily Kos and other sites.

Another possible variation would be to provide an alternate "post browser" interface. This interface would be "centered" on one post at a time, but would show that post's parent threads and reply threads for a few steps in each direction. Clicking on one of these other posts would "re-center" the browser, allowing the reader to move up or down the various branching threads. Since all the posts on the site would be connected in some way, a reader could browse entire site by exploring the connections between posts.

Replacing diaries and threads with a single post type would have a lot of side benefits, too:

  • No thread would ever get too long.
  • Diaries that ought to be open thread comments would become so automatically; comments that deserve to be diaries would also become so, with existing replies preserved intact.
  • The best interface elements of comments and diaries would be available to all posts: "comments" could have polls and tags (and tags could be auto-inherited from parent posts); and "diaries" could be troll-rated when needed.
  • Diary whoring would be unneccesary. Instead of creating a diary and then leaving comments referring to that diary in the threads of other relevant diaries, your post could simply reference the other relevant posts as its "parents". Links to your post would then get automatically added to their reply threads.
  • When there are multiple posts on the same topic, their reply threads could be merged together by referencing both posts as parents. And in general, the ability to have cross-thread replies will tend to "de-Balkanize" the discussions.

Anyway, the more I think about this concept, the more possibilities seem to open up. What do you think?

Originally posted to Abou Ben Adhem on Mon Dec 18, 2006 at 01:36 PM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tips? (n/t) (7+ / 0-)

    <div style="color: gray; font-size: 80%">(-7.88, -8.97)</div>

    by Abou Ben Adhem on Mon Dec 18, 2006 at 01:35:46 PM PST

    •  i like the idea... would like to see it explored (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      possum

      could lead to something /nt

      Daddy, Papa & Me: Two dads, a daughter & the politics of it all.

      by wclathe on Mon Dec 18, 2006 at 01:38:27 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  I like your idea...and your name (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Abou Ben Adhem

      It was always one of my favorite poems.

      "may his tribe increase"...something so desperately needed just now...
      "mark me as one who loves his fellow man" ...what we also so desperately need right now instead of all this factionalism. All this tripe about religion and intolerance. Sheesh, everything has become subverted.

      It would be great to see some discussions continued after the post has faded..even if it continued for only a few days...so many great ideas get buried and lost.

  •  How does a post become a parent post? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    possum

    (- 4.63, - 5.18) "Orthodoxy means not thinking -- not needing to think. Orthodoxy is unconsciousness" - George Orwell, 1984

    by mkfarkus on Mon Dec 18, 2006 at 01:40:54 PM PST

    •  The easiest way (0+ / 0-)

      would be to just click the "reply" button on a post; that post is then the parent of your reply.

      That would work for the first parent; additional parents could be added by creating a dropdown menu from your hotlist. As you read other posts, you could hotlist any you wanted to reply to. Then when you created a post in reply, you could use your hotlist menu to select them as additional parents to your post.

      <div style="color: gray; font-size: 80%">(-7.88, -8.97)</div>

      by Abou Ben Adhem on Mon Dec 18, 2006 at 01:45:44 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Sounds like an old BBS tree structure... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Abou Ben Adhem, possum, malharden

    ... used by Magpie BBS software (and its predecessor, the Ailanthus Tree).

    It definitely had its good points, from a management standpoint.

    "You have to keep your knee on [Bush's] windpipe until the danger is past." -- Garry Trudeau

    by tbetz on Mon Dec 18, 2006 at 01:44:49 PM PST

    •  I can't tell from your links (0+ / 0-)

      how those systems actually function(ed).

      But I'm guessing from the "tree" description that each post in those systems has only one parent. The critical part of this concept is that posts can have multiple parents; the resulting structure wouldn't be treelike at all.

      <div style="color: gray; font-size: 80%">(-7.88, -8.97)</div>

      by Abou Ben Adhem on Mon Dec 18, 2006 at 01:55:19 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Good point. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Abou Ben Adhem

        Yes, each post had only one parent, and all posts except the root were children of some other post.

        "You have to keep your knee on [Bush's] windpipe until the danger is past." -- Garry Trudeau

        by tbetz on Mon Dec 18, 2006 at 01:58:37 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  I do not see how that is possible (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        MarketTrustee, lemming22

        You are describing what, in database management, is called a "many to many" relationship. I do not see how the concept above would result in more than two parents, and one of those would simply be the author's diary page.

        Among my 24 suggestions for Daily Kos 4.0, one of them is a suggestion to be able to hotlist comments. I think that a combination of existing tags and the ability for each Kossack to save a thread on a hotlist would be implemented easier and would satisfy at least a large part the need you describe.

        Torture is wrong even if Christians do it

        by Ken Comer on Mon Dec 18, 2006 at 02:40:56 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Many-to-many (0+ / 0-)

          Yes, it would be a many-to-many relation. But why would that be a problem? You'd just need a separate table of parent/child pairs.

          And I'm not sure why you think the number of parents would be restricted to two. I was picturing being able to add an arbitrary number of parents, including off-site links...

          <div style="color: gray; font-size: 80%">(-7.88, -8.97)</div>

          by Abou Ben Adhem on Mon Dec 18, 2006 at 02:54:36 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Hmm. Yuck. (0+ / 0-)

            I absolutely hate the idea of a "poster" being able to edit the parents of his/her comment. Editing a diary to indicate its parent (singular) would be okay, but that is easily accomplished by acknowledging the source in the "above the fold" part of the diary. Making off-site links parents would be something I would utterly despise.

            The limit of two would be imposed if you did not allow a poster to edit the parents of the comment/diary.

            Torture is wrong even if Christians do it

            by Ken Comer on Mon Dec 18, 2006 at 03:33:54 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Editing parents (0+ / 0-)

              I'm not sure what the objection to the poster's ability to specify a post's parents would be.

              Adding a parent to your post would have three effects:

              • It would add a link to that post to your own post, essentially just acknowledging what your post is responding to. (For off-site "parents", this would be the only effect.)
              • It would add a link to your post to the thread of the parent post. This would be similar to adding a comment to a diary saying, "I've written a diary that addresses yours; click here to read it" -- only less obtrusive.
              • If your post doesn't get enough replies or recommends, it would be folded into the parent thread. Obviously it would only be added to the first parent; having additional parents wouldn't make a difference.

              None of these effects seem like a particular problem to me; is there something I'm missing?

              <div style="color: gray; font-size: 80%">(-7.88, -8.97)</div>

              by Abou Ben Adhem on Mon Dec 18, 2006 at 04:37:08 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  Why I hate it. (0+ / 0-)

                I do not have to have a reason for hating it. I do, but that's unimportant because you are talking about a significant change--and one you did not clearly specify in your diary--and a simple "yuck" is a sufficient to constitute a reason why it should not be done.

                If five people vote against something, they could have five different and possibly contradictory reasons. There were a zillion reasons not to vote for Bush. Does it really matter which one you used?

                That having been said, here's why I don't like it:

                It would add a link to that post to your own post, essentially just acknowledging what your post is responding to. (For off-site "parents", this would be the only effect.)

                Links that take me off-site without clearly specifying that they are doing so piss me off. When I click on them by mistake, I have to wait for my bandwidth to stop being wasted.

                I don't want to go to another site. I want to put my content here--that's why I am here instead of another site. Got it?

                Moreover, if you can't sum up what it is about the other site that you're "being a child" to by excerpting the relevant parts and then putting an accreditation link above or below it, you're wasting my time. Like this is wasting my time, but I'm doing it out of very reluctant courtesy.

                It would add a link to your post to the thread of the parent post. This would be similar to adding a comment to a diary saying, "I've written a diary that addresses yours; click here to read it" -- only less obtrusive.

                If you are talking about only having that information in the CHILD diary and not putting the "child relationship" in the PARENT article, then yes it is less obtrusive. Of course, if you are doing that, why are you not simply putting that in a link in the teaser part of your article?

                Otherwise, I don't think it would be less obtrusive. I almost always put "WHORING" in the comment heading so that it is clear that I am trying to direct people to the article I wrote in response, but even when I don't (as might occur when I put links to multiple diaries, possibly including someone else's), if it is "on topic", it isn't unreasonably obtrusive in my perspective.

                If your post doesn't get enough replies or recommends, it would be folded into the parent thread. Obviously it would only be added to the first parent; having additional parents wouldn't make a difference.

                You do away with part of my objection by pointing out the non-obvious obvious fact that you are only adding it to the first parent. Still, I just flat don't like what you are suggesting over the current practice of putting links to other ("parent"?) articles in the flow of the text. I think it is "clunky" to stick that information arbitrarily (at the top?) of a post. The functionality already exists, is clear to even novice users, makes it read more like a diary or article than a form. Why change? You never specified what was wrong with my comment above where I said

                that is easily accomplished by acknowledging the source in the "above the fold" part of the diary.

                And, if you are talking about folding a DIARY into a COMMENT, then you're trying to put a square peg into a round hole. I can't speak for others but, for myself, when I write a diary I want it to have a larger audience than my comment did. I write my diaries to be independent even when they constitute a reply to a specific article. If you like my diary, you might be tempted to click on my name and see my other diaries, which it sounds like it might not happen as it got folded into a comment on another thread.

                And, if you are saying that you want to treat everything as a post and cease the distinction between comments and diaries, I REALLY don't like it. Like I say, when I want to look at a person's diaries, I don't want to be weeding through their comments. I think the same holds true for others who might look at mine.

                Torture is wrong even if Christians do it

                by Ken Comer on Tue Dec 19, 2006 at 02:56:15 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  OK, good points. (0+ / 0-)

                  As to offsite links, I see where you're coming from. But what if, instead of linking directly to the offsite source, the link went to a "source discussion" page on this site with a list of posts replying to that source, a place to discuss the source itself, and a (clearly-labeled) link to the source for those who do want to follow it?

                  As to adding links to the threads of parent posts, I'm specifically thinking of something analogous to (and perhaps incorporating) the "TrackBack" system on other blogs, with an interface similar to the way that's usually implemented. (i.e., a clearly-labeled section at the bottom of the thread saying something like "other discussions about this post".) The links would only need to be "in-thread" if the post you were replying to were itself being displayed in threaded view. But in any case -- do you dislike the trackback concept in general, or do you not think it's appropriate here?

                  As to "folding" posts into reply threads -- maybe I didn't make this clear in my description, but post length would need to me a major factor in determining whether to display a post on its own page or in another post's thread. What I had in mind were the brief, comment-like diaries you see sometimes that mostly just generate requests to the diarist to delete and re-post as an open-thread comment. Also, the "folding" wouldn't happen until after the post had had a chance to generate recommends and replies, and had failed to do so. The goal would be to increase the visibility of neglected posts by moving them to their more-trafficked parents.

                  I picture "folding" happening only rarely in proportion to "spawning", which would be the main point of the system. If you were searching for a user's top posts, what you'd get would be something like a current diary list plus any "comments" that had engendered enough discussion to get their own pages. But you could also tweak the search interface a bit to allow searching only for posts that had been explicitly marked by the poster for "diary-style" display.

                  Obviously, there's a lot of room for "tweaking" with this concept, which is why I wanted to discuss it further. Thanks for the feedback!

                  <div style="color: gray; font-size: 80%">(-7.88, -8.97)</div>

                  by Abou Ben Adhem on Tue Dec 19, 2006 at 08:08:58 AM PST

                  [ Parent ]

            •  Another advantage to using external links (0+ / 0-)

              as "parents" is that you could search for all posts written in reply to a particular news story or offsite blog. Otherwise you'd have to rely on less precise textual searches.

              This could be used to automatically warn posters if someone else has just posted a response to the same news story.

              <div style="color: gray; font-size: 80%">(-7.88, -8.97)</div>

              by Abou Ben Adhem on Mon Dec 18, 2006 at 08:39:30 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  marginal benefit, at best (0+ / 0-)

                It could not warn you if someone has posted a response to the same AP news story from a different AP source. Moreover, it could be a link to the same AP source with a different URI because they got there different ways.

                Another thing. Frequently, when I go to check the facts on a diary by clicking on a link, I find myself on another blog! I do not consider blogs written by people I do not know as authoritative sources (yuck factor is high). But wait! Sometimes THEY have a link to the story in an AP Wire or Reuters news source.  Again, your alert system would not catch this.

                Besides, the mechanics of how to go about notifying a Kossack that another Kossack has just posted a story from a source that matched exactly is non-trivial and non-obvious.

                Torture is wrong even if Christians do it

                by Ken Comer on Tue Dec 19, 2006 at 03:07:00 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

          •  problem with M2M design? (0+ / 0-)

            DB normalization, i imagine, of duplicated data.

            over the long-term, there's likely to be a trade-off between data integrity/scalability and server performance/speed that doesn't quite justify the benefits you describe, generally, as automating the writer's editorial perogatives or reader's convenience.

            i like your alternate browser interface and believe it relatively simple to implement. then again, search features and algorithms come to the forefront of planning as does attention to server load.

            Diversity is the key to economic and political evolution.

            by MarketTrustee on Mon Dec 18, 2006 at 04:07:42 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  But there must already be a many-to-many join (0+ / 0-)

              with the diaries-to-tags table on the existing site. That doesn't seem to be causing any problems.

              <div style="color: gray; font-size: 80%">(-7.88, -8.97)</div>

              by Abou Ben Adhem on Mon Dec 18, 2006 at 05:20:27 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  ask yourself (0+ / 0-)

                why is there a tag clean up project? why can we NOT search by tag cross-ref by x attribute(s)?

                the short answer is normalizing, manually, the tag DB index and keys. taxonomy isn't just an subjective issue or an XML fancy dance. classes and objects must be anticipated and hard-coded by someone, otherwise you're lookin down a semantic hole qualified by regressive methods of selection. adverse selection. quality of info suffers along with real costs of server traffic (sheer num of requests).

                at the end of the day, people think faster than machines compute what they are thinking.

                refining client-side preferences makes more sense, economically and dialectically, than providing more info. it attenuates possibilites and implementation but not probabilites. that's why i like your alt "browser" GUI more.

                Diversity is the key to economic and political evolution.

                by MarketTrustee on Mon Dec 18, 2006 at 07:50:47 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  A couple of things... (0+ / 0-)

                  First, the Tag Cleanup Project is for cleaning up ambiguous tags, not for fixing any kind of database integrity problem. We're trying to figure out a way to change the tagging interface to help with data entry; it's ultimately a problem with the interface, not the database table structure.

                  Second, you CAN search for intersections of tags with other attributes; you just have to write the query out by hand because the search form doesn't support it. Again, the problem is with the interface, not the database.

                  Third, it's true that there are semantic and taxonomic issues involved with tagging (and the current implementation has serious problems), but I'm not talking about changing anything with tagging, just the cardinality of the nodes in the threads graph. I was just using tags as an example of an existing many-to-many relation that isn't having a big performance impact (setting aside the interface problems.)

                  That said, I should stipulate that the parents field should be read-only after the post is created (or after the first reply, at the latest), so the thread structure can be cached instead of rebuilt dynamically with each view. This shouldn't present any problems that the existing comment threads implementation hasn't already solved.

                  <div style="color: gray; font-size: 80%">(-7.88, -8.97)</div>

                  by Abou Ben Adhem on Tue Dec 19, 2006 at 04:57:57 PM PST

                  [ Parent ]

      •  Why multiple parents would be critical: (0+ / 0-)

        Just merging all posts into one giant tree wouldn't keep the community discussion from fragmenting into isolated branches -- especially if branches were continually being "spawned off" from other discussions. Allowing posts to reply to several other posts at once would allow disparate branches to be periodically merged -- when several threads arrive at the same point from different directions, for instance. It would be ideal for the times when you end up saying, "this sounds just like a discussion I just had in diary X..."

        <div style="color: gray; font-size: 80%">(-7.88, -8.97)</div>

        by Abou Ben Adhem on Tue Dec 19, 2006 at 02:08:23 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  thanks for the diary (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Karmafish

    back in 2003, back when dkos was first getting on, i used to post over on the politics form of the atlantic monthly. what was great there was that when a new post/diary was made, it went back to the top of the list with each new comment made.

    in other words, each diary would hover at the top of the list until the issue/idea/discussion covered everything and died out.

    .02

  •  Interesting idea (4+ / 0-)

    and mostly good, I think.

    I'm skeptical of the automatic promotion to diary mode feature, though.  There are lots of short comments that get tons of recommends but don't have enough independent content to warrant being diaries.  And it's hard to see how the software could determine the content threshold issue - length by itself isn't adequate, I think.

    "When watchdogs, bird dogs, and bull dogs morph into lap dogs, lazy dogs, or yellow dogs, the nation is in trouble." - Ted Stannard

    by jrooth on Mon Dec 18, 2006 at 01:58:38 PM PST

    •  Maybe a combination of (0+ / 0-)

      recommends, plus comments, plus length of post (minus blockquotes), plus how crowded the parent thread is, plus whether the poster originally checked "comment" or "diary"...

      If that didn't work well enough, there could be a separate "promote to diary" button in addition to the regular "recommend".

      <div style="color: gray; font-size: 80%">(-7.88, -8.97)</div>

      by Abou Ben Adhem on Mon Dec 18, 2006 at 02:04:33 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I'd like the idea... (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Abou Ben Adhem, drchelo

        ...of three options when posting:

        1. Comment (the post will always be a comment)
        1. Diary (the post is intended to be a standalone diary)
        1. Comment/Diary (the post starts as a comment, but if it receives enough recommends (or a special kind of "diary recommend") or enough replies, it becomes a diary)

        I've never been a big fan of the word "diary," however; would it be more helpful to change the term to "column" (not only to make it seem less like a personal reflection and more like a mature thought/position, but also to differentiate it from "diaries" under the old system)?

  •  Let there be light (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Abou Ben Adhem

    This is the root post.

  •  WHORING: 24 Suggestions for Daily Kos 4.0 (0+ / 0-)

    I read ALL of the comments on the Daily Kos 4.0 Suggestions Thread, then put in a request for 24 changes and 2 fixes. See them all at After reading 1000+ DailyKos 4.0 Comments.

    Torture is wrong even if Christians do it

    by Ken Comer on Mon Dec 18, 2006 at 02:42:02 PM PST

  •  I'm skeptical of the idea myself ... (0+ / 0-)

    One of the problems with DKos's interface (as opposed to other formats -- e.g. Usenet, message board styles, etc.) is that it encourages extremely short comments, as opposed to well-thought-out answers.  A post that on Usenet would seem short is here ridiculously long, especially if it's indented a lot.

    By promoting comments to diary level, you'd be essentially taking this format to the extreme: now diaries (which are the main source of information) would also be extremely short.

    I like DKos' format myself, although I also wish that we could have some method of promoting stuff once it gets dumped off the front page -- a lot of good discussions seem to get rehashed over and over again, just because we can't bring a previous thread to the "front" of the board.

    •  Good point, re: post length... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      lemming22

      but on the other hand, I think Daily Kos is generally more thread-centric than post-centric. This idea would help optimize thread length, possibly at the expense of a smaller average top post size. On the other hand, it might encourage people to post longer, more thoughtful comments if any comment could potentially become a diary.

      <div style="color: gray; font-size: 80%">(-7.88, -8.97)</div>

      by Abou Ben Adhem on Mon Dec 18, 2006 at 03:59:41 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

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