Doc Searls is looking for a "commons" which he feels is missing. He wrote it up in a piece entitled Mashing Up a Commons, in Linux Journal. The key point for me is this quote:
But many blogs together do not comprise a commons. Blogs are private and commons are public. Many blogs are like many silos. Together they are not a farm. Nor are they public parks or plazas.
Given the current state of technology, especially the read-only nature of the web, I'd say he's right.
We can do things to change that, however. Some require radical "boil the ocean" level coding (such as adding provisions to allow adding external annotation of a web page), others are more practical.
We can't go back to the golden age before spam... so just blanket read-write pages are out for good, at least in public. The next best thing is to try to make something workable out of the massive capacity we have for one-way publishing of pages.
The web works by making external links to documents. Google and others then attempt to distill value from these links by various clever methods. The system at present is however, one dimensional. Any given page is iteratively given a value (PageRank in the Google universe), to help determine which pages are worthy.
The single dimensional ranking has proven to be surpisingly useful in many cases, but has no value in helping to solve the problem of the missing commons. A more powerful set of expressions are necessary to help enable discourse, and conversation than the simple popularity contest of rank.
.... pause to check on servers....
A true public commons is a space to hold a conversation. The textual nature of blogging, and the need to write everything out, is severly limiting for many reasons.
There are many aspects of a face to face conversation that are lacking in online documents. One does not hear the intonation or emotional cues of the author. We've evolved smileys and other devices to partially get around things, but it's still an issue. (I never write emails about things that involve potential conflict, always opting for the telephone instead)
You can't simply mark up a web page with blogging tools. There's no way to highlight a section, and add a note, as you can with paper.
There's no way to just simply say "I agree" with something, without firing up the blog, and doing a bit of writing.
There's no way to hint to the search engines that something is interesting, insightful, funny, wrong, dangerous, or spam.
it goes on and on....
We need a way to make all these little assertions, and to tie our reputation to them. I'm open for any and all ideas to make that happen.
.... more server checking.... backup almost done ...
One of the reasons blogs really took off is because they have an embedded reputation mechanism. Only the owner(s) of a blog can write to it. This has the net effect of giving each and every post an assertion of the owners identity and reputation. It worked well enough to get network effects going, which then lead the toolmakers to help reduce the friction, and things worked nicely for a while.
Blog posts are text with embedded reputation. There are people and search engines that collect and categorize them into useable collections.
Imagine being able to add your own set of data to any given web page, file, photo, movie, or decernable chunk of data.
What's really needed here is a working system for meta-data. Since the potential value is much higher, the need for some form of reputation embedded is absolute.
I'm tired... I hope some of that makes sense...