[PP-main] Now, let's see...

Joakim Ziegler joakim at simplemente.net
Thu Mar 2 16:14:03 CET 2000

I see there are quite a few people subscribed already, and more are sure to
come, so I think it's time to kick off the discussion. There are a lot of
issues to straighten out, I'll try to list them all, and state my opinion on
them, if I have one. If you're going to reply to several points here, it
might be a good idea to split the reply up in several mails, so we avoid the
monolithic mails that people can't be bothered to read. This is going to e
one of those, though, I'm afraid.


* What are the advantages/disadvantages of a system like this in general?
  I think we're pretty much agreed that it is a good idea, as a whole, but
	it's probably a good idea if we go through the advantages and disadvantages
	ourselves, rather than have other find them for us later.
	In particular, I'm concerned with the discussion I had with Paul Dunne over
	at Kuro5hin, about who this benefits, and how. His opinion was that the
	only ones to benefit would be the publishers, while the writers would
	starve (more or less). I see his point, somewhat. That is, this system is
	made for benefitting publishers most of all. Specifically, to make smaller
	and more niche-oriented news and discussion sites possible, without the
	administrator having to wear him or herself out looking for relevant news.
	Now, he states that journalists usually can get paid for every
	republication in the system as it is today. This isn't really true. The
	system of republication is a vastly smaller one than the one of wire
	services, in which the writer gets a one-time fee, no matter how many times
	things are published, and republication happens on an immense scale, world
	I think the recognition given to a writer by wide publication, especially a
	young, up and coming writer, far outweighs whatever compensation she would
	get from republication rights, especially in the long term.

* What do we want the license to allow/disallow?
  There are several issues that need to be sorted out. I think we all agree
	on some sort of copyleft-like base principle, but how infectious should it
	be, and what should it require in the way of returning the favour?
	There are some thing I feel strongly should be infected by use. All
	directly derived works, translations (which could be an interesting
	resource in themselves), and other things that obviously build on a story
	from Peer Press.
	Now, should we require the site to return the favour? I think this is hard
	to quantify. Should a site have to open up all their content just because
	they use a single item from us? Sounds a bit dubious. In particular if the
	item is used in a paper publication, which might not even publish all their
	content on the net themselves. Also, I would consider it a good thing if
	our content got picked up by more traditional sites, given that we would
	get attribution.

	Which brings me to that. The attribution should ideally both link to the
	site of origin, the writer, and to peer press, I think. That will make it
	easy for the sites to profit in the way of user mass and publicity, for the
	writer to get recognition, and for peer press to get some publicity as
	In addition, do we want to place any limitation on commercial use? That is,
	sites that have banners, are owned by big mean media syndicates, etc.? I
	say we shouldn't. If we really want to change the way news and media works
	(hey, we can dream, right?), we should aim for really wide distribution,
	and make sure we protect the core principles, while not messing around too
	much with the peripheral details. In addition, if some of the sites get
	cash flow through banners, and thus perhaps can pay their writers a bit for
	the stuff originating from them, it'll gain us all.

* What can/should be syndicated?
  Well, the news items/stories are the obvious thing. In addition, several
	other aspects of sites have been mentioned as candidates for syndication.
	Personally, I'm positive to this, but I strongly feel the other things
	should be optional. Optional to export, and optional to import. In
	addition, they should probably take second place in implementation, so they
	wait until after the basic news wire service has been implemented, and
	works. Things that have been mentioned are:

	* Discussions.
	  Could work, probably requires a bit of infrastructure. Also, the
		bandwidth needs increase quite a bit, and it's heavily dependent on
		syndicating things like user accounts and whatnot to work (see below).
		Also, I'm not sure if the gain is *that* great, this is a thing that
		might inflate the community sizes to beyond managable levels again. But I
		also see the interesting idea cross-pollination aspect of it... What do
		you guys think?

  * User accounts.
	  This is something I like. Perhaps we could/should do a central
		authentication server, so that you log into one place, and get a
		ticket/cookie thing, Kerberos style, that you carry with you around.
		Would make it easy to set your preferences, user info, etc., etc. in one
		place, and this feature is also fundamental to sharing discussions, trust
		metrics, etc.
	* Trust metrics.
	  This one, I really like. It needs to be figured out, but I can see
		several options. One is a basic shared trust metric, like Advogato's, but
		shared between sites. Another is to do different trust metrics that
		influence each other, so that for instance the admin of site A thinks
		site B metrics have a relevance of 0.5 for site A, so they play in half
		as strong as the native ratings. Or you could do entirely user-centered
		metrics, where what you see and how people are rated is determined by
		your own ratings only. Or a combination. The advantages is that it's
		low-bandwidth, and could be a truly unique thing we could show off with a
		lot. Raph, you're the trust metrics guy, what are your opinions? And
		other people too, of course.

* What should the Peer Press site itself do/have?
  I mentioned on Advogato the possibility of making Peer Press itself a
	discussion site, the target audience being the writers, publishers and
	other people related to Peer Press. I don't think a forum like this really
	exists anywhere (except for general journalism newsgroups/mailing lists),
	and it could probably be a very interesting forum in itself. I wonder if
	the people who admin/write for/contribute to web logs/news sites are as
	varied a group as I imagine they could be. What are your opinions on this?
	The site should also offer an index of member sites, info on how to make
	your site a member, how to get a feed, etc., etc.

Technical/implementation matters:

* What format should news items be in?
  I've given it some thought, and I think this should definitely be a rather
	formal and verbose XML datatype, or something giving similar semantic
	structure. It'll allow us to do a lot of things that aren't possible with
	pure text exchange, HTML, etc. I have some particular ideas about meta data
	and how that could be put to good use. In addition to the normal meta data
	news items would obviously have, like author name, keywords, etc., we
	should have things to aid quality control/fact checking. For instance, a
	list of URLs that back up the story, phone numbers you can call to confirm
	it, etc. I'd love to get more feedback on this, and I think we should get
	the spec down soon, and then get some of the XML knowledgable people around
	here to work on making a DTD proposal.

* How do we exchange them?
  There are two or three basic ways to do it. First of all, should it be
	centralized or not? That is, should there be a single point all the data
	passes through? I think so. This is dependant on timely delivery, so a 100%
	distributed system would be too slow, and would also consume a lot of
	excess bandwidth. The other question is, do you poll for new items once in
	a while, or do you open a connection and get all the stuff pushed to you as
	it happens? Or maybe you do a combination. I don't really have an opinion
	about this, input would be appreciated, as usual.

  But I strongly believe the stuff should pass through a central server. To
	make it scale, we can just add child servers that get their info from the
	central one. One level of indirection is cheap, and you can scale *really*
	high that way, especially given that the system won't really be used
	directly by the general public.

  Member sites should have a client system that lets them filter by keywords
	and whatnot. Perhaps the filter should be possible to upload to the server
	they use, so that they don't need to transfer the full feed first, and
	filter on the local box. Should be possible.

* How does an origin site push a news item into the system?
  This is also interesting. We will need some sort of interface system that
	can plug in to the different systems people use to run their sites,
	obviously. In addition, there should be a strict requirement on filling in
	metadata and whatnot, so there needs to be an interface to do that, which
	is also efficient. This needs some thought.

* How can we keep the quality level up?
  Trust metrics are probably a good idea. That is, intra-site trust metrics.
	The editor(s) of a given site are the ones that pick the items that go up
	on their site, and also which ones are sent out over the wire. Thus,
	editors of other sites can use trust metrics to certify them, and how good
	they thing the editorial policy of that site is. That will let you sort
	things out quickly. Trust threshold should be one of the filter criteria,
	obviously. Perhaps a combination of site and author metrics would be in
	order, to get a more fine-grained mechanism (author first, if the author is
	unknown or has a low rating, that can be rectified by the item coming from
	a well-respected site).

What else? I'm sure there's a lot. This mail is getting even longer than I
intended already, though, so I'll stop here, and let the discussion begin. I
have more opinions, and probably more ideas that I didn't think of at the
moment, and so do all of you, so let's see what we come up with. Oh, as a
side note, I've grabbed the relevant domains for the site (peerpress.org, com
and net, just to be sure), and I'll be putting up some kind of preliminary
site as soon as things take shape here on the list.

Joakim Ziegler - simplemente r&d director - joakim at simplemente.net
 FIX sysop - free software coder - FIDEL & Conglomerate developer
      http://www.avmaria.com/ - http://www.simplemente.net/

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