[PP-main] Oops.

Joakim Ziegler joakim at simplemente.net
Thu Mar 2 16:16:18 CET 2000

So, I'd been up for too long, and tabs to spaces conversion messed up. Here's
the corrected mail:

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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