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Topicless Forums That 'Derive' Gestalt Topics

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I've long had an irk about online forums and the similar, in that they tend to emphasise the current and recent activity among participants, but pretend that they focus on a specific topic (usually in the form of the thread 'title') instead.

People will tend to talk about whatever's on their mind at the time, and have to be shepherded back into agreement with the 'topic'. Of course, this is a constraint, some agree with, some might not.

What might be an idea is that different threads get started with no topic, no focus, and just using the magic of computers and programming, 'derive' a topic based on what it thinks the discussion is about (and this should be dynamic, and perhaps fairly 'deep' as well as having a simple surface 'label' form).

It should also be able to describe the thread by what it might know about the participants, and what it might know about related topics not yet mentioned but would otherwise form part of the 'set'.

It should also be able to describe the time that the main activity on the thread took place and use that as an influence in the topic description (perhaps a meme is going round at the time, or perhaps lots of people are currently under the impression that a thing is so, whereas it's not, but this doesn't become apparent until later or earlier) (or something).

Ian Tindale, Oct 23 2007

Total Non-Sequitur Total_20Non_20Sequitur
Reminded me of this magazine... [Jinbish, Oct 23 2007]

Not location specific, no rules and pants are optional - Could this thread be heaven? http://www.ilxor.co...d=40&threadid=54269
"This is the thread without purpose, focus or direction" [calum, Oct 25 2007]

[link]






       Do all these annotations have to be about your idea? I went canoeing at the weekend.
hippo, Oct 23 2007
  

       I'd love a sheepdog.
po, Oct 23 2007
  

       Wouldn't it scare the sparrows? (the sheepdog, not the canoe) (or the weekend)
Ian Tindale, Oct 23 2007
  

       Just number threads?
vincevincevince, Oct 23 2007
  

       i thought it said "topless forums." i was scared to come in.
k_sra, Oct 23 2007
  

       //i thought it said "topless forums."// So did I but That's the only reason I came in
dev45, Oct 23 2007
  

       A kind of virtual dinner table chitter chatter. Nice idea.
kinemojo, Oct 23 2007
  

       The recent activity among conversation participants is mostly pretty boring. No matter how much computer linguistics you throw at it, finding out that X just made tea and Y is playing with her cat won't turn those into long-term relevant statements. Are you sure that you're not trying to inject meaning into something that very fundamentally lacks it?
jutta, Oct 23 2007
  

       I need a coffee, brb
BunsenHoneydew, Oct 23 2007
  

       You may now change the title to "Topless Meaning Activity <undefined> Sheepdog Topic #REF!"
wagster, Oct 23 2007
  

       //Are you sure that you're not trying to inject meaning into something that very fundamentally lacks it?// - also, no one likes judgemental computers. If 90% of the time the forum topic turned out to be "Dull, pointless trivia, again" then the forum participants would start to get a bit irritated.
hippo, Oct 23 2007
  

       This would derive meanings from superficially meaningless chatter in a manner akin to Freudiam dream analysis. I am sure some discussion participants will be horrified to learn of the subtexts of their discussion, but there will be no arguing with cold machine logic.
bungston, Oct 23 2007
  

       hippo, - you'd think so, but last time I looked, facebook was still popular.
Ian Tindale, Oct 23 2007
  

       jutta, - to be honest I wasn't anticipating that topics would comprise of nothing but inanity, that somewhere in the soup there'd be some actual question/answer intercourse, and perhaps the formation of useful knowledge.   

       My irk was more along the lines of, for example, flickr groups, in which I spend quite a bit of time, developing into the same old patterns I see elsewhere: threads form under topic titles that vary from misleadingly useless to fairly succinct to stream of consciousness. Within the thread some form of topic evolution will occur, possibly reaching an absolute resolution of knowledge. Then at some point, the topic - perhaps past its peak by then - drifts or accumulates bolted-on aspects, and before long it sinks from sight.   

       A few weeks or months later, a near-identical topic forms, the knowledge plateau is established by various means - reinventing the wheel with new participants, quick interjection of knowledge by linking or directly relaying it thanks to available participants in the previous thread, or it just idles for a while until someone rants about how many times this is in the archives if people could be bothered to search.   

       This happens over and over and over. It's because of the temporal nature of thread formation that I keep banging on about. But this idea's solution is to accept that people have a novelty thirst, and why not keep all threads alive by unshackling the boundaries of threads. Experiment with no topics - or at least, no topic in the title. But then, how would one identify a thread?
Ian Tindale, Oct 23 2007
  

       I imagine that as you type, keywords from your text - perhaps extended via semantic fields - spawn queries that search past conversations for similar subjects. These conversations then bob up on the screen like memories in one's mind. A conversational Deja Vu Home where new comments get tacked on to the revolving donut of past dialogues. (Mmmh, revolving donut.)   

       Two obvious problems with that: (a) people can't read for shit, (b) half of the time, I'm not talking to you because I want information; I'm talking to you because I want you to like me.
jutta, Oct 23 2007
  

       I like turtles
evilpenguin, Oct 23 2007
  

       //I'm talking to you because I want you to like me.//   

       We like you, [jutta], we like you. And this observation of yours is not fatal to this idea. What it implies is that the main semantic payload of those phatic postings would consist of a contribution to our knowledge of the relationships between posters.   

       Technically, it could work like this: the site would maintain a model of 'relationship space' based on an extension of graph theory. Whenever someone posted, the site would look for things in the post which connect the poster to other posters (such as common references or mannerisms), and feed that data into a number indicating how much poster X thinks of poster Y, that number being associated with an edge on the graph. (This 'relationship space as graph theory' thing is an idea I've published elsewhere).   

       You'd need to combine this information with a bit of lurkometry - maybe cookie-based lurkometry.   

       Anyhow, all this could get the conversation tagged, not as "dull pointless trivia again", but as "[X] is on the flirt again", or "clique alert".
pertinax, Oct 24 2007
  

       Is that what blogatars do? That's not the impression I got from blogatar.com
pertinax, Oct 24 2007
  

       ...wanna talk about cameras?
xandram, Oct 24 2007
  

       Ian *always* wants to talk about cameras. When he's drunk he starts slrring.
wagster, Oct 24 2007
  

       he's great with beer too, & sex & lots of other stuff - he multi-tasks, believe me!
po, Oct 24 2007
  

       actually, could I do a poll here? does anyone believe me?
po, Oct 24 2007
  

       In general, or about Ian?
bungston, Oct 25 2007
  

       Well, I'm not in a position to confirm that sex with Ian was "great", but I can confirm his enthusiasm to talk about photography and beer.
hippo, Oct 25 2007
  

       //they tend to emphasise the current and recent activity among participants//
wagster, Oct 25 2007
  

       the.jxc has changed the topic to: "Wibble".
the_jxc, Oct 25 2007
  

       Thus, the title of this invention should be changed to "Favorite Animals Temporal Beer Relationship Space".
nuclear hobo, Oct 25 2007
  

       I beleive you, [po].   

       What were you saying again?
Jinbish, Oct 25 2007
  

       I forget and it all came out wrong anyway!
po, Oct 25 2007
  

       With more sophistication, you have invented a generalizing AI...
Voice, Oct 26 2007
  

       Rather call it "Collatz title generation", as po alluded to, most conversation, from any given starting point, will degenerate to Politics, Relegion, Sex. Akin to the 4, 2, 1, sequence. Will save the programmers some bother.
4whom, Oct 27 2007
  
      
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