EDemocracy U.S.
eWeb Concept  

Tech Committee

Version 1.4
21 Sept 2004

Update 7 April 2005 

And the winner is:


Minnesota- based E-Democracy.Org is investing in enhancements to the open source GroupServer tool out of New Zealand for our UK funded pilot initiative. Talk about global.

Check out the message view in our LiftOff forum.

Ready to volunteer? 

Drop us a note.

    eWeb - Combining e-mail list and web forums in an equitable discussion platform

    E-Democracy.Org uses e-mail lists to build effective online public spaces.  E-mail, a technology most people actually use combined with our forum management and facilitation approach have served us extremely well for over a decade. 

    However, now it is time to integrate of our e-mail discussion lists with the web. 

    Jump right to our extensive list of related links or read our rationale below.  If you are really interested in this topic, you should wade through our raw materials as well.

    Use a web forum?

    You might say, "Use a web board."  That is not the answer.  Even with e-mail notification options built-in, web-centric forum systems tend to work best on high traffic sites or extreme niche sites.  Web forums are good for broadband users or for use with time-limited high interest online special events.

    Put bluntly, if citizens can't publish to a group via e-mail 100% of the time, the technology won't work for busy citizens and community leaders. Despite advances in web forums, blogs and the spam crisis, e-mail is not dead.  E-mail is still the killer ap.

    We seek a compromise. We call it "eWeb" - an equitable forum system that allows citizens to participate via their preferred medium - e-mail or web.  Equality is job one.  Think of an open source YahooGroups that you can host from your own domain with web friendly features and no advertising.

    With our model, we put our "public issues forum" in the center of real politics. We deliver discussions right to the "eyeballs" of elected officials, journalists, and citizens. No audience, few participants, no power, no forum. The simple fact that visiting a web forum requires a conscious choice each time a citizen is online eliminates web-centric system from our consideration. E-mail is all about ... location, location, location.

    We are missing half our audience ...

    However, we fully understand that many people prefer to read and participate in online discussions via the web.  When our current very basic web archives are unreachable, we hear about it immediately.

    Therefore we seek a solution that will first make our forum content highly accessible and usable on the web. Second, we seek a fully integrated, recipricol e-mail list/web forum system. Web-only options would be limited to auxiliary functions like a member directory and personalized tracking for keywords on multiple forums. (What politician wouldn't set a tracker on their name to see if they are mentioned?)

    We also envision the full integration of RSS headlines from our forums where people can follow a forum from their news reader, other sites, or receive special headline digests via e-mail.

    eWeb Phase One

    We envision a three part system:

    1. A database-driven backend for gathering e-mail list messages.

    3. A set of intuitive pre-defined message "views" - From Google Groups style-linear threading (one post after another by date with excess quoting removed) to the creation of specialized RSS headline feeds based on messages metrics (bursts, bubbles, momentums, virals, freshfolk, sameolds, etc. - you'll have to join our effort to learn more about these ideas).

    5. The ability to "skin" the message archive in various ways from a standard index of messages by date or thread to a version presents new topical posts on a weblog with replies posted as comments.

    We see phase one as a potential open source contribution that could perhaps be used with any e-mail list software package.  We also continue to offer our ideas and project requirements to other potential open source initiatives that might deliver on one or both phases. 

    Related links:

    Key projects we might involve ourselves with or encourage to collaborate on open source tools - together they might change the e-world:

    Some technology examples that demonstrate database-driven message views that may be of interest (dig in beyond the directory pages):

    Other resources that we are aware of in this niche:

    RSS headlines, XML and e-mail lists:

    Raw material: 

    Key text that needs to be integrated into project requirement documents:

    • Draft Project Requirement Notes - from late 2002/early 2003 - Fed by:
    • Some early thinking from 1997: "I am also more and more convinced that lower common denominator online conferencing (e-mail-based engine with newsgroup gateway and WWW archive-subscription center) that celebrates human nature (coffee shop talk versus structured meeting like work) surrounding time-based discussions is worth promoting and further developing." 
    • More thoughts, although today it is clear that newsgroups are too prone to spam harvesting to use with something like eWeb

    eWeb Phase Two

    In the long run, we envision a fully integrated e-mail and web discussion system.   Many of the features we seek, like a member directory, personalized message tracking, or enhanced forums directories (based on OpenGroups like ideas), need to be part of a complete and comprehensive system.

    We will strip this raw project requirements document of the big ideas that go beyond what a stand alone databased-driven e-mail archive can do and place those ideas here.

    Ready to volunteer? 

    Drop us a note.