ThreadsML: Ben groks it and raps it out…..

ThreadsML: Ben groks it and raps it out…...

Ben Hammersley gave a session at ETCON on Mail List bots – but it was actually on ThreadsML.

He started off by introducing everyone to Geoff Cohen's email header, which had in it – all sorts of meta-data. Ben then showed the equivalent meta-data inside of an RDF file.

He then introduced everyone to the concept of ThreadsML – which is a format that Steve Yost and David Weinberger had come up with last year, but which has remained pretty stagnant since November '02 (but we've picked up on it lately.)

The idea of ThreadsML is that it's standard for interop between various forms of conversations; email, IM, message boards, blogs or all sorts of new kinds of tools.  It was originally defined as an RDF 'mod_thread' – but I recently had an epiphany that Matt and Paolo's ENT could implement ThreadsML as well. 

And to prove that, Ben stood up and discussed how ENT could do the same sort of things as ThreadsML.  Ben proved that by showing Paolo's new kind of aggregator called the k-collector, which currently categorizes blog feeds (using ENT.)  ENT uses RSS2.0's namespace feature, and support many other uses besides just embedding topics into feed. ThreadsML would require the path of a thread to stored, along with any special convertors or adapters necessary to support all the features folks have asked for.   So by taking advantage of namespaces in RSS2.0, we can achieve teh same functionality as the “RDF” version.  ThreadsML would then be able to facilitate conversations to move between a wide range of ThreadsML aware apps and services, whether they were RDF or RSS2.0/ENT based.  It was a glorious moment! 

Ben groks ENT MUCH MORE than I do, and he not only explained it perfectly, but he asked me to help moderate an open discussion on “what benefits could we all imagine an open standard like ThreadsML could do for interop between conversations.” 

I started off by talking about the TopicExchange – and how we should imagine a repository of conversations – which were renetrant – which we all could share.  I also brought up the channel I created on the TopicExchange – “theMatrix” and how the movie was about to come out…..

David Weinberger asked for 'easy conversion' of an email thread into a ThreadsML document space, viewable in whatever system you prefer.  Allow for ready reentry.  He described one of the original notions of ThreadsML was to be able to move a thread from email to a discussion board and then to a Wiki.

Someone else asked for Adwords as an economically viable way to sponsor expenses.

Someone then wanted to use email to interface to read blogs, wikis, mailing list archives, etc.

Someone else asked for the same conversation happening in a world of networks (domain names, for example?) 

Yet another person asked to be able to link threads to a “backstory” of a conversation.

Greg Elin asked for two things: an IM client to respond to an email and presented an idea of flowing conversations onto a site, so that anyone could subscribe to the thread.

Others asked to be able to filter a blogroll based on topic dynamically.  And do these threadings on a local system or set of systems, rather than on open network.  (Ben then references AgentFrank, an RDF local repo, tracking into database.)


I then chimed in that I wanted to make sure that ThreadsML would work for media of all types (video, graphics and music.)

Someone then said they wanted to be able to associate a set of documents into an email, and use it to move threads between email systems on the same machine.

Pete Kaminski wanted to do the inverse of Greg – use just the email interface to read whatever thread they wished.

I then mentioned that ENT and Matt are enabling us to flow through all sorts of additional sources, like email, or IM – not just blog feeds – and that this maps to Anil's concept of Microcontent.  I stressed my longtime dream of creating a new microcontent for reviews.  And I mentioned blaxm! as an example of a reviews format.

So that's what happened at the meeting.  I think the idea now is to take these requests and the existing ThreadsML spec, and matrix it across 2 schemas – one for RDF and one for RSS + ENT.

Paolo has an amusing viewpoint of this session – monitoring it remotely – live (via Mikel Maron.)

BTW don't even TRY and get, .org, or .net.   Dr. Weinberger's got dibs.  BBTW Top Photo is of Ben with Fiona, middle photo of the 2 Davids: Isenberg to the left, Weinberger to the right and bottom photo of Eric Sinclair – our transcript/note taker.   Thanks Eric!  (I also got notes from Joho the Blog as well.)

[Marc's Voice]

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