Project Comet Revealed?

The following is what I believe Six Apart’s Project Comet will entail (and a lot of it equals the approaches that I’ve been researching myself). I started writing this out earlier today and it kept getting bigger and bigger in detail. Too big actually. Therefore, here is the extremely short version (which is still lengthy).

Instead of breaking a single blog down into parts using category tags, think instead of creating small focused micro-blogs or "streams" that are connected together (like the strands of DNA) into one overall encompassing blog. Yes, we’re talking small pieces loosely joined again. These streams can be anything and everything. They could be a micro-blog specifically focused on web design, cooking, restaurants, movies, music, books, your podcasts, documents, whatever! The idea here is to break down your thoughts into these basic building blocks of streams which you then combine together to create your entire "river" of thought. Of course what was stopping people from doing this before in the past (as I tried to do it myself more than few times) is some way of connecting or aggregating these streams (which TypePad now has incorporated within their system).

What’s the big deal? Why break content down in these streams? Well since they are the basic building blocks for a website or blog, you can mix and match these streams anyway you choose and even more importantly you can create multiple dynamic blogs on the fly to better suite their intended targets. For example, lets say I talk about web design, gaming, cooking, travel, and then the typical stuff like movies, music, and books. I decide to create a stream for each of these topics. From the backend management tool, I just manage all of these separate streams from one location. From the front end though, my visitors actually see three different websites that I’ve dynamically built using these streams. My web design site uses a techno design and template to show off my web design, movies, music, and books streams. My social weblog utilizes a stylish lounge design and template to show off my cooking, restaurants, travel, and music streams. And finally my gaming blog utilizes a kick ass gaming design and template to show off my gaming, movies, music, and books streams. In effect, I’m using the same content streams but reconfiguring them together in different ways to match my target audience.

Of course the next step is community aggregation. Let’s say I have couple of friends who also do web design but they have streams that talk about gaming, movies, music, and books as well. I think their content in these streams is great so I ask them to collaborate with me on it, invite them to my gaming blog via the backend system, and voila their streams (which they manage from their own backend panel) are inserted and mixed with my own stream automatically. Now we have a group weblog on gaming that is starting to kick ass with our combined content. Whoa, wait a minute were doing so good that we start getting decent traffic. Wow, it looks like a lot of traffic. So we decide to throw up some Google ads to see if we can make some money. Wow, we do! Hmm, but how do split the money we make? No worries, the system has already figured that out for us by calculating how much we’ve made and dividing those funds proportionally between each stream based upon the traffic and popularity of the content from each one.

I think you can figure the rest out now with regards to how families would create their own private dynamic sites with their collective streams on pets & animals, books, movies, and so forth. Also, to start doing working with streams right now yourself (no matter what blogging software you’re using), all you need to do is divide up your content into these micro-blogs (like different channels on a TV set) and then find some way of aggregating your latest content from each of them on the homepage of your site (either via server side scripts software or maybe something like FeedDigest). BTW one of the nice side effects of this approach is that not only do you get a focused feed for each stream but you also get a separate focused feed for the comments for that stream as well.

6 thoughts on “Project Comet Revealed?

  1. I’ve been thinking about something like this for a long time. It’ll be fantastic if it’s like this.

    I wonder how they’ll make it easy enough for ‘ordinary’ people to use (like my Mum) – or whether the more advanced features are only accessible to those who are tech-savvy?

  2. That’s exactly it Peter. I seriously believe that once other blogging software companies launch their own initiatives here, the one who will win out will be the one whose system is designed with usability in mind. What good are powerful features if you can’t figure them out?

    That’s actually one reason why I chose Squarespace (see the link in the sidebar to the right). TypePad has some great features too but Squarespace’s backend is SO nice to use in comparison (and it allows you to build more than just blogs). I’m sure with Six Apart’s TypePad 2.0 being launch early next year, which uses Project Comet technology, the backend will be extremely simple to use in comparison to TypePad’s confusing backend right now.

  3. I like the look of SquareSpace, but a hosted solution is going to cost me more than running my own, and give me less flexibility (even though I don’t find the time to use this flexibility…)

    But I hate all the solutions out there free of charge for weblogs and managing my knowledge.

  4. If you don’t mind me asking, how would it cost you more? Would you be sharing large files and the like which would raise your bandwidth costs?

    As for flexibility, I’m not sure what you mean by that as well. For example, you can get tons of flexibility with blogging software packages out there now but often the ease of use and maintenance gets thrown out the window. Before Squarespace, I was going to use WordPress with Dreamhost as a hosting provider. You get tons of space and bandwidth from Dreamhost but the disadvantage was that I lost the ease of use because I had to use WordPress (which is still my top choice for blogging solutions after Squarespace). The ultimate solution would be Squarespace software running on a Dreamhost hosting account because you’d get the best of both worlds. Maybe later it will be released as standalone software not sure. But again, if Squarespace offered tons of space and bandwidth for cheap, would that change your mind?

    With Squarespace at least you are still getting a degree of flexibility and control because you can dig into the templates if you want and the software isn’t just focused on building weblogs but any kind of website. I’m only doing a bit of templating myself because I find it gives me most of what I need. And if it doesn’t, I recommend features to Anthony, the owner of Squarespace, to see if he can include them in the future. I’m actually in an extensive discussion with him about that right now and so far he’s liking what I have to say.

    Oh, BTW WordPress is supposed to be undergoing a major remake of it’s backend. Once that is done, you could always try that out again to see if it gives you the ease of use that you need.

    I guess it’s like you said though, you have to make a decision between balancing simplicity and management versus flexibility and openness. After I reviewed a ton of software, Squarespace was still the choice that balanced out best for my needs.

  5. So theoretically I could do this right now with my blog if I use my category tags for defining my localized meaningful content “streams” (i.e. Our Change Of Culture) and I use Technorati tags (added manually at the bottom of each post) for my more general global tagging of information (i.e. Web 2.0, technology, etc).

    You may have already seen my thoughts on Cataga, or Categorised Tags that I did a mockup of for WordPress. I didn’t do it for WordPress. I did it initially for a project of mine. I have been thinking along these lines as the best way to currently manage my content. I had been doing what you describe in your update for a while on one of my WordPress blogs but found the current interface restrictive. I was also looking at extending that further with something like streams of my own. A personal thought section, public thought section, automotive section, web section, a car photo section, me photo section, adventure photo section, link list section, etc. Creating those on the fly as I created my content and later arranging that into a number of blogs. Much like what you describe here I was going to use Cataga’s interface to manage my tags, my categories, my sections and then some. I didn’t show my sections handling because I was still fine tuning it…and haven’t done any more since.

    Kinda lost motivation to…

    I’ve also noticed recently on my blog the “I’m feeling suicidal again” post and the conversation happening. I see a lot of conversation happening in comments around the blogosphere. I see few in regularly updated blogs too. I don’t think its being exploited as it could be. Comments are content afterall. I had planned on including comments as sections. Each users comments becoming a section I could arrange. They could arrange. Also allowing users to tag and categorise their comments if they wish to. Later aggregating their own comments on my blog back to thiers as say a comment history. I’ve been grappling with thoughts on how best to present that. I visit blogs, read the posts, then the comments. Everything else comes second. Comments in my mind are in need of better representation in allowing readers to follow conversation.

    I hope I’m making some sense, I was interrupted by the phone and lost my train of thought somewhere there.

  6. Everything you’ve just described above I’ve been thinking about as well and it makes perfect sense. And now you’ll see why I believe a simple solution is needed to a complex problem. The more complex this technology becomes, the less likely people will use it. Structuring your content needs to be done in a very natural and easy way. I think my post on striking a match said it best. In striking a match to light a candle, a ton of memories and thoughts came flooding back to me of being in a warm and cozy home or of camping out in the woods as a kid in front of a crackling fire. I realized it would be amazing if you could aggregate thoughts just as easily and quickly as what occurred in striking and lighting that match.

    How to do this I’m not exactly sure yet. However, I have realized that my NowBlog approach may be a great stepping stone because not only can I list links to other people talking about the specific topic of interest but I can link to all of my journal posts that talk about it as well. Therefore, when I create my Connected Communities nowblog, it will most definitely include all of the posts that relate to it the most. Again, maybe I should just start on this today and do it in realtime to show people the building process and what I’m working towards.

    Oh, also with regards to comments, I sometimes wish that posts and comments almost becamed merged with one another like an aggregated RSS stream on a specific topic or conversation. I mean think about it. When you post something on your site, most often times it is in reaction to something someone posted somewhere else. Therefore, your response really is just a response to their conversation which may be the response to someone else in the very same conversation. This conversation stream is basically winding through the Web and the world but it isn’t connected today. It isn’t something you can easily visually see. Hehe, this is funny but it would almost be like Neo from the Matrix seeing the streams of code that are flying by him. Imagine if you could see the streams of conversations of the world. Obviously the more specific the stream the easier it would be to see. If you wanted to see the stream of conversations on “technology” in general it would probably fly by too fast. Hmmm, althought I wonder if you would see patterns in the stream? Interesting, this again relates to permaculture.

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