Conversations Threading

Conversations (threading) --- RichardGabriel 22 Dec 2001

... In TheContextOfOurLives every interchange has its own RhythmOfConversation. People expect a TimelyResponse, even when working in a Workgroup (GroupDiscussions)...

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Electronic communication is so effective that people will sometimes carry on a discussion almost as if they were sitting together in the same room, perhaps over coffee around a table. But two things get in the way that don't in most face-to-face discussions: People will apparently stop their end of the discussion, and other discussions will be going on at the same time. These are both the result of the virtual nature of the conversations: Even though some conversations proceed nearly in real time, others are spaced out because discussants are doing other tasks while occasionally attending to the messages that make up a coherent conversation, and this causes other conversations to be interspersed with each other.

Most electronic textual communications systems receive messages in the order they are received, and some can display them in different orders or grouped by certain similarities-such as alphabetically by sender. But this can help only to some extent because the conversation threads are tangled. The same people can be involved in several conversations at the same time with overlapping people, And sometimes other apparently fixed and useful grouping indicators such as the subjects of messages will change over time as the topics of conversation change over time.


Make it possible for conversations to be kept separate from each other by textual electronic communications systems, especially clients. Make it possible to see clearly which messages were in response to which other and to understand easily the temporal flow of the discussion. Enable everyone to be able to see all the different views.

This can sometimes be accomplished mostly by automatic means if there were an inter-client protocol for describing the relationships between messages so that an accurate representation of the message graph can be built in each recipient client.

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People will want to do many things with conversations: put them in Archives, annotate them (AnnotatedMessages), label them (FlaggedMessages), and work with them in various ways (GoodIntegrationWithOtherTools). People will want to join and leave such discussions (SmallWorkGroupsComeAndGo, EasyToUnsubscribe), provide them to observers in the form of Digests (MorningPaper)


Last edited December 24, 2002
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