Communication across the Internet generally consists of text being sent between people. It is like a conversation but there are long pauses between each person's input. People can be involved in many different conversations at the same time. To make the context of what is being said clear people quote parts of the message they are replying to. The quotes are signalled by a '>' before each quoted line. This works to some extent but once the flow of the conversation has passed between people a few times it is hard to know who said what and the context of each quote. If someone replies to a message you sent, quoting your message, and you reply, your reply could quote your own message as well as theirs. If they reply again they could quote your reply, their first reply and your original message. Currently the only way to see what is going on is by looking at the number of '>' before a line. This is inadequate and hinders communication.
One to one discussions generally involve people emailing each other
directly. However, there are many different types of group discussion.
There are mailing lists where people send their message to a list and everyone
on the list receives the message. There is USENET where people put their
message in a central store, like a notice board, and anyone else can look
at this notice board and add their comments. There are pages on the web,
using different styles, where people leave messages and comments can be
added. The web has advantages because it's generally easy to access but
you need to be online to use it. On USENET you make your own copy of discussions
but you have to set your computer up for this. Different people have access
to, or prefer different formats. Soon there will be more available. Some
examples are formats for interactive TV and mobile phones. At present a
single discussion only exists in one format. There are some applications
that can convert between two, but there is no general solution.
The second program manages messages in a group discussion. It should
show quoting more clearly to people who ask for messages using the first
program. This second program is not expected to improve the display of
quotes for people who use other programs to look at the messages. The most
common alternatives must be supported as well as a simple mechanism for
supporting new alternatives as they appear.
Harnad, S. (1991) Post-Gutenberg Galaxy: The Fourth Revolution in the
Means of Production of Knowledge.
Public-Access Computer Systems Review 2 (1): 39 - 53
Harnad, S. (1995) Interactive Cognition: Exploring the Potential of
In: B.Gorayska & J.L. Mey (Eds.) Cognitive Technology: In Search of a Humane Interface. Elsevier. Pp. 397-414.