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Organic stories

Dave Winer links to an essay he wrote 4 years ago about decentralized syndication:

“In our [UserLand’s] system, each story has a *single* location, the site where it originated. We think this is the way the web was meant to work. Stories can live and grow while new information is obtained. Comments from readers can add new facts and ideas and link to other related stories.”
(nb: emphasis mine)

Stories can live and grow…that is a wonderful image. I experienced this first hand over the past few days with my Microcontent Wiki story. First Don Park linked to it, then Marc Canter picked it up. Before I knew it the story was being linked to and commented on by others. Surprising discoveries came of this. For example when I read SÈbastien Paquet’s post, I discovered in his comments that Andrew Chen has already developed a “Subscribe to these Comments” feature using RSS. Then I read Phil Pearson’s post, which expands on the technical issues of notification and polling (Georg Bauer and Marc joined the party in the comments). Then I found a link from BlogStreet creator Rajesh Jain. Then I read Bill Seitz’s post and noticed for the first time his amazing weblog/wiki system (half weblog, half wiki – it’s like the blogging equivalent of the movie classic The Fly!).

So my story Microcontent Wiki did indeed grow and the idea of it is still floating around in cyberspace. It’s almost organic and the beautiful thing (to me) is that everyone who linked to or commented on my story brought something new to the idea. Plus, even better, it led me to discover some interesting new people to add to my RSS Aggregator and blogroll! So by writing something and being lucky enough to be read by a small part of the blogosphere, I ended up reading stuff by people I hadn’t come across before, who will further stimulate me to write more stuff. Now that’s the Read/Write Web folks!

But back to Dave’s 4-year old essay. Most of it is about generating “micro-payments” (btw whatever happened to that idea? Maybe it’s hibernating…). An interesting point in Dave’s essay, especially in the context of 2003 and the resurgence of microcontent, is the notion that “stories” have a single location. This is an important facet of the Microcontent Wiki concept, which bears repeating: content is always going to be tightly coupled to location and so the key is to make it easy to subscribe to the locations that interest you. It’s the combining and inter-linking of all these ‘location points’ that makes up the Web. To paraphrase what Dave said 4 years ago, we have to “embrace the distributed nature of the web”.

On the subject of the distributed Web, Phil Wolff has a nice post today about Usenet being a precursor to weblogs:

“Bloggers have conversations too. I post on my blog, you post on yours, and so on. Trackback helps follow these since they are in multiple places. Sometimes a post is followed in a comment thread.”

I have to say that trackback is an incomplete solution right now, as not all links to your posts will show up. For example only 3 trackbacks were recorded in my previous post, but I discovered many more via Technorati, referral logs and (best of all) serendipity.

However you discover links and comments on your weblog posts, it is thrilling to be involved in Web conversations. An idea is organic and once the initial seed is sown – on a weblog, a Wiki, a comment, etc – it gets blown into the wind and out into the ether… An idea takes on a life of its own, in this interconnected organism we call the Web.

p.s. no ideas were harmed in the creation of this weblog post (possibly some metaphors were bruised).

About ReadWrite’s Editorial Process

The ReadWrite Editorial policy involves closely monitoring the tech industry for major developments, new product launches, AI breakthroughs, video game releases and other newsworthy events. Editors assign relevant stories to staff writers or freelance contributors with expertise in each particular topic area. Before publication, articles go through a rigorous round of editing for accuracy, clarity, and to ensure adherence to ReadWrite's style guidelines.

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