I’ve deliberately left things very minimal so far, here at the beginning of the BBS. But, I’ve been thinking for a long time about how things might be organized. There are of course certain design constraints, such as I have in mind certain particular uses for the BBS related to the library. There are also certain prior art and inspirations, as I have my personal experience with running some BBS systems, based on Citadel style software, but also I have in mind both the current Boing Boing BBS and venerable Barbelith in my thoughts.
First off, one of my personal pet theories about the perennial so-called decline of Barbelith, in spite of its factual longevity: I believe that one of the reasons that the board felt like it was dying, and sometimes the only traffic was lengthy and lively threads bemoaning that it was dead, is that in the beginning what exists now was in many ways an emergent feature that came from organizing around the annotations project The Bomb. Take a gander at the Wayback archive of Barbelith’s forums from back in 2001 and note that there are three primary superfora: Supercollective, Underground and The Bomb. This is particularly interesting to me as it demonstrates that the board had an overall organizing activity driving use, the annotations of Grant Morrision’s work, as well as Meta and Topical areas. Eventually, what was once the Topical areas, Underground, became the entire site as the board took over the identity of the site itself, and what was once a superfora became the identity of the entire site. There’s also an even earlier iteration of Barbelith in Wayback from 2000 as well, which show similar organization, as 2001. As an aside, It’s unfortunate that many of the posts are not also captured, but at least there are these snapshots.
On a 2001 archive of the About page, Barbelith was a place for The Bomb annotation project as well as a Webzine, Underground board. There was also a Collective that was the aggregated personal website and blogs of some members, similar to what I’ve been trying to do with the root Hrmtc Underground network of blogs. The Collective was later replaced by an Interviews section in the site navigation.
Anyhow, one of the important parts of this new BBS for me is that it have a reason to exist that is sufficient, and that means that it be a place for particular projects. The primary project that is probably first up is to integrate discussion links back into the site navigation for each page at the Hermetic Library. Back when I first started thinking about and redesigning the site, I had created the Hrmtc Underground as a full blown WP Multisite / BuddyPress installation, which included discussion groups and member blogs. Unfortunately, that didn’t quite work out, and I ended up scrapping most of that and moved on from my hopes of what that might have been for the time being. But, the point I was making is that there used to be a discussion link on each page, in the header where the site search, bookmarks and so forth still appear. One thing that this BBS can provide is a way to add that option back to the site, thus I have already created a category for the Hermetic Library where these discussions can happen. For me this is an example of the kind of ongoing organizational activity The Bomb had for the old Barbelith, and there are, of course, other such tasks I have in mind.
I hope to use the BBS for activities like an actual submission pool for Arts & Letters on the blog, a place to engage with Patrons of the patronage campaign, and adding a place for other opportunity for two-way communication.
If you gander at the current Boing Boing BBS Categories page, there is one category for the comments from their blog and several others. The other categories include one for Meta discussion, a place to post links to things of interest from around the Internet, and so forth. Almost all of the activity there is driven by, and comprised by the posts to the category for the blog comments, and quite a lot of the rest is very slow. (In fact I noted that there are already people posting on the Boing Boing BBS that the board is dead, even so early on, much as there have been for years on Barbelith.)
I am interested in having a place for people to post items that may be of interest similar to my own Omnium Gatherum posts to the blog, and frankly I hope to steal the inspiration from some of those on occasion for my posts. I also have interest in having a place for people to post Goods and Services that might be interesting, and a place for Events and Calendar items.
But, I’m also trying to decide whether, at some point, to try to include the overall emergent Barbelith Underground / Revolution / Spectacle array of fora. I’m pretty sure it is still too early for creating a whole host of fora, but it is something I have in mind for the future; space for emergent categories around various topics not directly related to the Hermetic Library.
I don’t know if I had more to say on this at the moment, but that’s probably plenty for now. Suffice to say, I have been thinking about how to organize this place.
What do you think?