Archive for September 15th, 2000

Friday, September 15th, 2000

Ghostscript

It is nice to see that Ghostscript has a new
maintainer, in the person of raph. Congratulations and good
luck! Ghostscript is already very good, and adding better
antialiasing and other stuff from Libart will make
it even better.

Hmm… There seems to be an account for L. Peter Deutsch on Advogato. Not
very active, apparently…

Diaries, yet another
meta-discussion…

At the end of a previous diary
entry
, raph mentioned that
the diary format is working, but is not ideal for
question-and-answer discussions. Well… Obviously the
diaries were not designed for that, but it is great to see
how they have evolved. There seems to be a need (among the
free software community) for this kind of discussions, which
are more public than direct e-mail, mailing lists or IRC,
but whithout being restricted to a particular topic like the
articles on the front page.

A first step would be to use automatic bi-directional
links whenever possible. Whenever someone posts a diary
entry containing a link to someone else’s diary, the filter
that parses the submission would at the same time add a
backwards link at the end of the other diary (e.g. “[1
comment by so-and-so]
“). It would then be easier to
check
if someone has replied to your diary entry.

But as the number of diaries grows, it becomes
increasingly difficult to keep up with the postings. It
will not take long before
the daily submissions cannot fit on the front page. Already
now, it is easy to miss some parts of a discussion if you go
away for a couple of days. And the only way to read the
missing parts is to look at the pages of all potential
participants and check their previous entries. This is not
very convenient, because you may forget some of them and you
may not know that a new guy has posted some interesting
comments. Of course, that could be solved by another hack
to Advogato: allow the “recentlog” to take a range of dates,
or at least a starting date. It would then display all
diaries that have been posted or modified during that time,
so that you could read last week’s diaries in chronological
order if you missed them. (Implementation note: Advogato
should store a chronological index of all diaries, otherwise
finding and sorting them would be inefficient.)

But where does that lead to? If it is easier to discuss
things in the diaries, that part of Advogato would become
similar to a web-based bulletin board or chat room. Or a
web-based version of USENET. The comparison with USENET and
other chat rooms is interesting: they allow threading (using
a “References” header in the newsgroups, or direct links in
the web fora) and they provide easy ways to separate the
unrelated topics (different subject lines, newsgroups or
chat rooms). The Advogato diaries put everything in one
large page and it is up to the readers to separate the
interesting things from the noise. But on the other hand,
this can be considered as a feature that reinforces the
community, because all members get the opportunity to read
some articles that they might have skipped if the topics had
been clearly separated. Also, another feature of the
diaries is that they do not have subject lines: those who
want to add them can do it (using bold and/or indentation)
but nobody is forced to structure their diaries in any way.
It is difficult to please everybody…

So I don’t know what would be best for Advogato (anyway,
who am I to judge?) but I think that there are several
significant differences between the diaries and a
full-featured discussion forum, and these differences may be
good for Advogato. If nobody has enough spare time to add a
discussion forum besides (and not as a replacement for) the
diaries, then I am happy with the current situation.
Hmm… Maybe it would be better with the addition of
bi-directional links…