Kicks Condor

Hypertext 2020: Metachat

Thoughts surrounding group hyperconversations wrt “hypertext 2020”.

One of the surprising parts of the chat so far has been that personal 1-to-1 conversations have emerged and seem to coalesce naturally into the rest of the chat!! I expected that we would throw out prompts and everyone would respond as a group, like you’d see when a band gets interviewed by a magazine, then we would move on to the next batch of prompts.

But this is almost like a forum with a bunch of panelists who field questions, then discuss between each other - except that side conversations can happen simultaneously, which would be impossibly noisy in real life. (This is a real problem: a panel is not only limited by time, but if a certain set of panelists takes the conversation in a new direction, there is often no chance - or desire, probably - to return to the original question with a new set of panelists.)

I’m also very heartened that there is so much longform writing occuring. I wasn’t sure how everyone would feel comfortable responding. And, if the chat is to happen naturally, it shouldn’t be needlessly gimmicky. We don’t want to just use hypertext like we’re pressing vinyl records. It should be used because it is worthwhile. But it’s like a dream - conversing over a broad time span, low-key, exploring each other’s side thoughts, ducking in and out of those newly found corridors - and I feel like I am getting to know everyone better. I’m bracing myself for a downside here.

We should set a end date - like end of December? Earlier?

There should also be a new prompt later this week perhaps. To give the group a central point again. Wondering if it should be a new prompt or a natural next segue? Maybe both - and if one is ignored, we leave it behind.

1 Dec 2019

Many of the ‘features’ of hyperconversations (drafting in public, heavy footnotes, branching discussion, more-is-more) seem to be attempts to break through possible communication problems by providing an excess of communication to draw from or to replicate the kinds of real-life annotations (body language, grunts, pointing at things) that we give in-person conversation. When someone is drafting a letter publicly and recants some words - or an emotional sentence evolves from reflexive disgust or confusion to a sentence of rationality - you catch a peek at the mind, much like you might in the corner of someone’s eye.

So, since hyperconversations continue to push toward an attempt at a ‘transparent’ view of someone’s side of a conversation or an early revelation at their motives[1] - I’m going to lay out some of my intentions for doing this chat and everyone can fix me from there.

One of my main goals from the start is to see what editing and human curation can bring to a chat (or threaded discussion). While formulating Notes: We’ve Got Blog (2002), I noticed that one of the prevailing notions of the book was that blogging improved on journalism (and presumably op-eds) by simply removing editors and publishers from the process and letting the audience decide what is good.

But this reasoning does not hold up - blogging doesn’t simply make everyone’s writing better. (It would be harder, right? New medium?) Sure, it may produce more public writing, with some very high quality at the top end - but someone still has to weed through it all - and that’s a tough job that most people don’t want or know how to do in their spare time![2]

I have a hunch that there could be some remaining value in weeding through a hypertext conversation and polishing it, as a service to readers. I don’t see myself removing any of it - I think the job could be to simply highlight parts of it into a running conversation, moving the rest out of view, but still accessible. I don’t think all readers will appreciate this - some will want (and deserve) the raw text. But I think having an initially truncated version to read can help the reader get into it a bit easier and help them decide if they want the full dump.

This also seems to tap into some design skills - and I think it’s possible that an editor/designer hybrid craft could come out of a project like this.

h0p3:
I’m excited to learn how to write in this format. I’d prefer to think inside this tiddler, but it takes a while for a message to settle sometimes, so please wait until I have a timestamp and ‘draft’ lock is dropped before quoting me.

Just to set you at ease, nothing will be finalized until the chat is over. So I won’t begin wrapping it up until everyone has pulled their stuff out of ‘draft’. Yes, this gives you a chance to edit yourself and mess with old chats - I’m not sure what you all think about the ethic of that - but I’m great with that, we can accomplish more if we trust each other.

As for quoting you while you’re drafting - since we’re all drafting, too, it seems fair game, right? As long as we source YOUR final quotes from YOUR finalized wiki, right? And if certain quotes don’t add up, we’ll footnote it and maybe it’ll add to the fun of the sprawl.


  1. I’ve gotten this sense during some of my hyper-Cs that we all lay our cards down face-up on the table (as best you can I guess) and then work backwards from there. ↩︎

  2. It’s also terribly ironic to me that, given the constant lauding of blogging as ascendant in We’ve Got Blog, they still chose to edit and curate an anthology of blogposts. ↩︎

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