Good reasoning that belongs in the DKR keeper pile, similar to your planning on
Eric Armstrong wrote:
> In the discussion I had with Lee last week, a couple
> of thoughts came out that I would like to post to a
> wider audience. (As usual, I'm thinking in email. I'll
> post as an HTML page later.)
> The core is this: The concept of an eternal and unchanging
> archive of exactly what was expressed, when, and by whom,
> is highly overrated, in my opinion. In my opinion, we think
> that way because we are only used to two options: full
> history, and no history. Of the two, we prefer having a
> Let's consider that we have a collaborative email-ish
> discussion going on, most likely based on an IBIS-style
> investigation of issues, and that we have our dream data
> engine (Nodal, in all liklihood) powering it.
> Now, lets consider a few cases.
> CASE #1: Wrong audience.
> I post a message to the group that was intended for an
> individual. Or I accidentally post to the wrong group.
> As the author of the message, I have a perfect right to
> press the "retract" button, as it were, and remvoe the
> noise from the wires.
> CASE #2: Wrong assertion.
> I post a message that says, "A is true", and someone
> replies, "no it's not", with canonical proof that I
> am wrong. Well darn it all, I want to remove that
> hare-brained, addle-pated, wrong-headed, idiotic claim,
> so I don't look a fool for all eternity. And as its
> author, I have a right to do that!
> Now maybe I just have to file the "desire to delete",
> and when the person responding takes away their
> contradiction, then the whole thing can disappear.
> Or maybe I can at least edit the thing to say that
> "you'd think, on the surface, that A is true, but as
> Ralph so alerty points out, ..." Or words to that
> effect. Details to be decided. But you get the idea.
> CASE #3: Civil Discourse.
> Here, tempers flare. I say, "you rat-brained son of a
> skunk". He/she says, "you pig-eating, flaming goose
> neck", and we're off to the wars. After a while,
> everyone calms down. I edit my message to read, "I'm
> not sure you're right about that". He/she edits their
> message to read "I have to disagree". Later on, reading
> the archive, the information content is the same. It is
> only the emotions that have been extracted.
> The bottom line here is that the overall readability and
> usability of the archive is improved as a result of the
> editing. At the moment, an archive is a huge field of
> wheat, with needles strewn about. You search the field
> looking for needles, and of course you spend a lot more
> time "hopeless separating the chaff from the chaff".
> Message threads begins to organize the wheat into haystacks.
> But as we all know, often a message that belongs in a
> thread is posted outside of it. The ability to edit the
> archive makes it possible to put it where it belongs,
> which reduces the number of haystacks and makes them a
> more accurate reflection of the dialog.
> Similarly, removing material helps to reduce the size of
> the haystack. Both reorganization and removal help you
> narrow your search and make it more effective.
> The alternative -- the unedited archive -- is a mass of
> detail that no one ever sees. If you can link to it --
> but you can't find anything in it, and you don't even
> want to start looking, then the archive loses much of its
> potential value.
> The archive, should, over time, become a "narrative
> history" of the discussion. What options did we consider,
> which ones did we reject and why. What did we learn. What
> did we end up with, and why.
> Like any narrative -- a story told in a novel or over a
> campfire -- it benefits from revision and editing. Rough
> drafts are simply not all that much use, except to the
> That leads to the first of two arguments in favor of fixed
> archives -- the value of maintaining a complete history.
> The second argument is over the possibility of broken links.
> COUNTER ARGUMENT #1: History
> For the process-gurus, a history is invaluable. How did
> we get here? How did that group *actually* arrive at
> those conclusions. For such folks, the fixed archive, IN
> COMBINATION WITH THE EDITED VERSION, is invaluable.
> Tracing the evolution of the archive lets them see when
> tempers flared, how things were retracted, the deals that
> were made. "I'll remove my comment if you'll remove yours",
> etc. Then, when the whole ball of wax disappears, the
> process folks can dissect the social processes that made it
> That kind of archeaology can certainly be valuable. And
> it makes it worth considering retaining the original
> archive via versioning, as the edited archive is constructed.
> But it is important to remember that for everyone *except*
> the process historian, it is the readable version of the
> archive that is most valuable -- it contains the distilled
> collection of "knowledge nuggets", with the minimum of
> excess material.
> There is a space consideration, though. Since the archiving
> and versioning consumes additional space, resource constraints
> may play a role in the deciding whether or not to retain
> the unedited archive.
> Then, too, when I accidentally post a note that was intended
> for my girlfriend, I unequivocally reserve the right to
> remove it, I care not what!
> This kind of case happened just the other day.
> At home, I have the alias "sun" for my work address. At
> work, I have (HAD) the alias "sunstatus" for the folks who
> stay abreast of what I'm working on. I was creating an alpha
> test-list for my learn-by-ear, see-how-its-played tune teaching
> program, and mailing it back and forth between the two accounts
> as I thought of additional people to put on the list. At work,
> I typed "sun" without thinking, and autocompletion expanded it
> to "sunStatus" and mailed it to the gang of folks I do projects
> for. Not good! In such cases, "retract" is really necessary.)
> COUNTER ARGUMENT #1: Broken links
> The second counter argument concerns broken links. That is
> of course a serious technical consideration. What if I have
> a pointer to a node, and that node has disappeared? Given a
> data engine like Nodal, I believe that the issue is largely
> First, note that Nodal specifies that the default linking is
> to the latest version of a node. So when a node is replaced
> by an edited version, no broken link results.
> Second, since the back link facility keeps track of who is
> has pointers to the node, the engine knows when the node can
> be retired, or when it needs to be kept around.
> Implementation note:
> The node would be marked as deleted. If no links exist to
> the node, it would be targeted as a *candidate* for
> removal. But there could still be external links who have
> not "synced" with the system recently. The "ok to eradicate"
> process would have to work like this:
> a) For each node, maintain a list of folks to whom
> he node is potentially visible.
> b) Maintain a master list of delete candidates.
> c) As each person syncs up, check the master list. For
> any node on it they haven't referenced, remove them
> from the potentiallyVisibleTo list.
> d) When the potentiallyVisibleTo list is empty, the node
> can be garbage collected.
> The value of an archive, like the value of a novel, depends on
> its *readability*. Editable archives allow for discussions
> that, over time, reflect the best possible reasoning and
> explication of issues. Whether or not an unedited version is
> retained underneath, it is the edited version which should be
> the topmost, publically visible layer.
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This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : Tue Jul 24 2001 - 14:47:30 PDT