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hank

About bliterati

Why did I create bliterati?

If I argued that there are not enough websites in the world, you would be forgiven for laughing. There is no shortage of blogs. In fact, it would be easy to argue that there are too many. The problem with our modern information environment is that it is overwhelmingly verbose. The quantity of words being recorded so vastly exceeds the capacity of any individual to keep up, that we must all select tiny portions of the total information stream to follow. So why create a new venue for web authorship? 

This site is not about creating more space for words, it's about creating better words. It's about helping us to sort and filter our world of ideas and discourse. It is intended to be a marketplace for ideas. A marketplace not just in the sense of a place for exchange, but also in the sense of a framework that gives participants a certain set of incentives. If your ideas and your expressions of them are subject to the moderation of a thoughtful group of peers, then you will be incentivized to improve your ideas and to express them to the best of your ability.

Consider, for instance, your favorite news site that allows user comments. Often, after you read an article, you probably have a strong reaction and would like to share your thoughts. For that reason you leave a comment. Often however, your comment quickly becomes lost in an endless stream of inane, repetitive, or inflammatory drivel. There is no mechanism to pick thoughtful comments out from the crowd. If your comment is bound to be lost in the noise, you have little incentive to put much time or effort into it, or even to write it in the first place. Once most of the thoughtful people have given up trying to be heard, all that's left is a mob of jeering soccer hooligans. At that point, executives could be forgiven for failing to see the potential value in adding comment systems to their content.

One site has long served as an example of what might be possible though. Slashdot, a technology centric communal blog, has been very successful for over a decade using a model that revolves around moderated comments. That is, while most providers of web content don't see a lot of value in comments, on Slashdot, comments are the content. Their system is not perfect, but it has been far ahead of the crowd for a very long time. For years I believed that it was only a matter of time before everyone was using a Slashdot style moderation system, since it can evidently draw hundreds of thousands of viewers just to read user generated comments. It creates an incentive for thoughtful and knowledgeable people to give their take on technology related current events and, given the opportunity to be heard, thoughtful and knowledgeable people obligingly come along and donate the valuable content that drives the Slashdot engine. Slashdot has (curiously) not been widely imitated however, and that was one of the factors that inspired me to start working on bliterati.

As on Slashdot, moderation at bliterati is performed, in part, by administrators, but also, more prominently, by the users themselves. As your content (comments and documents) accumulate positive ratings, the site comes to view your feedback (in the form of ratings of the comments and documents of others) as more significant. Thus the opinions of those who are themselves best able to produce quality content will come to serve as a human filter for the content of others. This separates the signal from the noise,  making it easier for visitors to find quality writing that would interest them, as well as giving writers reason to believe that quality authorship will be rewarded with the attention it deserves.

Like Slashdot, bliterati is communal. Users build reputations and participate in an ongoing conversation. Unlike Slashdot, bliterati is not intended to be newsy or bloggish. Blogs tend to be filled with pithy explosions of sentiment and first impressions on just about anything. The goal of bliterati is to bring a deeper conversation to the web. I want to take advantage of the opportunities the web presents for collaboration and communication to create networks of thinkers working on big ideas. I want to create the sort of literate communities that seem to have been more common in the 18th and 19th centuries than they were in the 20th. I think that we, as a society, have reached the point where virtually all of the aspirations of previous generations are within reach. We just seem to be too caught up in the swirl of events to figure out how to take advantage of the opportunities we've been handed. Bliterati is a place to slow down, a place to think more. A deeper dialog requires longer documents with longer writing cycles. Essays can help us to make sense of our world.

In short, bliterati is intended to be an immersive community of thinkers in which users build reputations and link, network, and develop ideas. It should inspire conversation, and pull readers into a world of thought, moving them from one essay to another in a natural way. A significant vector should be links between essays by authors who find another essay, theirs or someone else's, to be illustrative of an important point. In this regard I'm inspired by the essays of Paul Graham. His articles are so interwoven with links—and, of course, so interesting—that I'm drawn from one to another irresistibly and often get lost for hours reading them. Though I'm frequently left with a deep, unsated, desire to add my two cents, to make a comment, or even to write my own thoughts on the topic in my own essay. Here, you can.

 


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Comments


Re: About bliterat (Rating: 1)
[Thu May 24 09:32:33 2012] anonymous wrote:
Registered users can gain the ability to moderate comments.

This is a really nice initiative,

:-)

Congrats (Rating: 1)
[Wed Apr 18 01:14:30 2012] joe wrote:
Registered users can gain the ability to moderate comments.

First, Hank, congrats on the site.  I'm very impressed with what you've done here.  I really hope this takes off.  I've started working on my first essay, though it may take me while to finish it.

Second, is there a preferred way to submit site feedback?  I was thinking that you may want to add to your to-do list a feature to allow people to specify which comments to show/expand (similar to what /. does) so that I could select "expand all" or "expand all with a rating of 3 or higher".

Re: Congrats (Rating: 1)
[Wed Apr 18 02:24:25 2012] hank wrote:
Registered users can gain the ability to moderate comments.

Second, is there a preferred way to submit site feedback?

Currently you can go to the meta page in the footer or through the link I've put on the homepage. There you can create a feature request or bug report. This would create a unified place where people could share there ideas and vote other people's ideas up. 

"expand all with a rating of 3 or higher"

Right now you can specify the minimum rating you want to display maximized in the information section on your page. Though a more dynamic system would make sense. If there're only three or four comments on a page for instance they might as well all be maximized as long as they don't have a negative rating.

Both of these highlight the need for me to make features as accessible as possible. I think I'm going to put some work in on that later this week.

Re: Congrats (Rating: 1)
[Wed Apr 18 01:40:47 2012] joe wrote:
Registered users can gain the ability to moderate comments.

Also, comments  show <title><rating><first sentence> in the title bar when collapsed.  I think it'd be better if it was just <title><rating>.  It gets a bit messy looking with the sentence included (see the Phase Shift comments).

Comment Display (Rating: 1)
[Wed Apr 18 02:27:40 2012] hank wrote:
Registered users can gain the ability to moderate comments.

Yeah I've wondered about that. The way comments appear in streams doesn't seem optimal as is. I've considered trimming a lot of what's going on at the top to leave room for more of the actual content.

Re: Comment Display (Rating: 1)
[Wed Apr 18 13:03:28 2012] anonymous wrote:
Registered users can gain the ability to moderate comments.

On further thought, I think maybe it should be <title><rating><author>