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To vastly oversimplify, HyperChat is going to be my implementation of an idea that was largely given to me by a book, David's Sling (ISBN 0671653695 – see in particular the "information duel" scenes.), though I may have taken some of the concepts and run with them further than envisioned by the author.

While hypertext and wiki are good tools for handling multithreaded discussion (see Issuepedia:Dispute Resolution Technology), they lack a certain ability to handle real-time discussion. "Chat" formats, such as IRC and IM, are excellent for realtime discussion and have very low barriers to participation (type something, hit enter; done), but again lack any innate thread-handling ability. It seems to me that some kind of hybrid between chat and hypertext, possibly with miniature windows instead of separate pages, should be developed. Chat also does not archive very well; many IRC clients can automatically log conversations, but there are very few tools for making such conversations available for further/future reference.

This is my project page for designing that hybrid solution, when I finally get time to work on it.

More Explanation

I probably need to do an interface mock-up to really get this idea across, but... if you can picture an online discussion between (keep it simple) two people. Person A says something with two angles to it. Person B replies to both angles. Person A replies to the second reply alone, and the conversation follows that thread; the important point raised in B's second reply is lost.

I picture a process something like this:

B sees that there are two parts to A's statement, so B highlights part of A's statement, right-clicks and selects "create thread". Then B highlights the relevant phrase for the other part of A's statement, and does the same.

On both screens (A's screen and B's screen), A's original statement now appears in (let's say) a box, with two lines coming from it; each line leads to another box with just the portion highlighted by B in each case.

Each of these new boxes is a chat interface with essentially the same features as the original conversation had -- but now, when either A or B says anything in either of the new boxes, it is clear which point is being responded to. It also becomes clear when a point has been "lost", because it will stand alone with no replies.

I can also imagine there might need to be ways to flag these thread-boxes, e.g. for importance (crucial? side-issue?) or completion (was an agreement reached?) The software could then filter intelligently, if the screen got too cluttered – "show only incomplete", or "show only crucial", or both.


  • David Brin sets forth some related ideas
    • Holocene Chat: another attempt (apparently a Brin invention) to create "next generation" chat, apparently the tech will not be open-source :-(