Decentralized Community Discussions

Say a community of twenty bloggers wants to all talk about a specific topic that is of importance to the entire community. How would you best do this based upon the following criteria?

  • Allow each person to respond to the topic on their own site.
  • Allow those viewing the response to see everyone else involved in the discussion as well, no matter what site you were on.
  • Allow others to easily add themselves to the discussion without having to sign up to anything at all.

In effect, the end result is that you are creating a sort of decentralized virtual gathering place. No matter which site you are on, you see all of those involved in the discussion.

Trackback Route

You could theoretically do this with trackbacks but it would be a major pain in the ass. Imagine if you wanted to be a part of the topic discussion that already involved twenty people in it. This means in adding yourself to the conversation, you’d have to send twenty trackback pings, one for each person already in the conversations so that your new response gets added as a trackback below each of their responses on their own sites. In addition, each of those twenty people, when seeing your new trackback added to their list, would have to send a trackback ping to your new response so that all of their previous responses get added as trackbacks below your response on your site as well. As I said, the more people involved in the community discussion the more complex and time consuming it gets.

Technorati Route

I also realized that you could just go to Technorati and see all those people linking to the originating question but there are issues with this approach as well. First off, it doesn’t allow you see those participating in the conversation on your site itself, as you have to go to Technorati’s site to see the list of people’s responses on the subject. Even more so, it requires that everyone who wants to participate in the community discussion ensures that they link to the originating topic question. This doesn’t always happen. Someone may come along and instead link to someone else responding to the question but not to the originating question. This happens all the time and, therefore, looking at Techorati doesn’t give you an accurate scope of those involved in the discussion. For extremely large community discussions though, this would be the way to go as showing a list of hundreds of people on your site wouldn’t be realistic. Instead you could go to Technorati and browse through those engaged in the community discussion.

Hmm, too bad the community itself couldn’t then rate these contributions to the community discussion somehow so that the best responses were always near the top. This would be kind of like how Technorati rates blogs right now but instead for a specific community conversation. Not sure how it could do it but maybe it might be feasible if your response you linked to those community responses you thought were good as well as the originating question. Therefore, on Technorati’s end, not only could they create a list based upon the originating question surrounding the community discussion but it could sort the list based upon the most linked to responses that originate from within the list.

Ok, wait a minute. I just realized that Technorati gives you an RSS feed for watchlists now. I haven’t used this yet but I’m assuming it only shows the latest feeds that were added to the watchlist. Therefore, if a community wanted to have a discussion around a topic, the originator of the topic could create a watchlist for it and relay that information as well. That way those engaged in the discussion could display the lastest people participating in the community discussion right on their own site’s using a utility like RSS to Javascript. And again, maybe the originator of the community discussion could give out this script code for others to use. Too bad that Techorati didn’t have some script code to show this directly somehow. You just insert the code and not only does it show the latest people engaged in the community "watchlist" discussion but it automatically adds you to the discussion and provides a link to show how others can join as well (i.e. Want to be a part of this community discussion? Here’s how you easily can with Technorati!). Everything in one small package! Now that would be nice!