Board, Units, and Views

The large document (board) can be imagined as a cross between a wiki and a discussion forum. Its basic building block is the unit, which contains a pith: textual content, such as a section heading, support, idea. The board is ultimately a network of such units, of ideas, linked together.

A large group of people use the board to reflect the state of their large discussion on some theme (e.g. climate change solutions). People in the group can form chat-like discussions with each other based on the current state of the discussion. For example, they can initiate a small discussion on a unit and welcome others to join. Maybe over the course of the discussion, they meet several people they hope to talk to further. They can also create discussions with select people. They can also create discussions with no defined, initial purpose and just talk to others. Perhaps over the course of such a discussion, they will be exposed to a lot of viewpoints potentially relevant to the theme at hand.

During the course of the discussion, people can examine the board together. The board is organized in two views: as its inherent network structure and as a list. The former view will show the units laid out in a "map" with links between connected units. Units can be connected if one references the other, for example. The latter view will show the units as a list so it is easier to read the content. This can be especially helpful if the linkages between units are not as relevant. Units are also hierarchical. By clicking on a unit, you can create a list or a network of children units (subunits). Thus, there are many ways to organize and view information. Anyone can add content to any unit.

Beams

A beam, which can be added by anyone to any unit, is a highlighted unit. It can be used to suggest topics that the large group should consider more. For example, someone could raise a call to focus on "Renewable Energies". It may also be used to highlight content of special interest, maybe developments in recent news. People can suggest organizational changes, such as moving a unit elsewhere. Because beams are given a higher status of importance than normal units, their use should be motivated by a reason. For example, "we haven't talked enough about renewable energies, but we should because it has recently shown great promise". We hope they will further a large group's ability to meta-cognate.

Phases and Stakeholders

By default, anyone within the large group can add subunits to some unit. For example, maybe you want to add your thoughts on the unit of "Nuclear Plants" and see what others have said. However, over time, the unit, i.e. "Nuclear Plants", may become overcrowded with so many contributions. Therefore, we propose a peer-moderation system to allow users to maintain the quality and readability of their units. People who are particularly interested in the upkeep of "Nuclear Plants" unit or some other unit can become that unit's stakeholder. Anyone can be a stakeholder for a unit (at least for now). Stakeholders help organize that specific unit's structure.

A unit undergoes a cycle that is based on the iterative thinking, where ideas are first generated, such as through a brainstorm, and then are tested or reflected in greater depth. In the generative phase, anyone can add subunits and links to a unit. In the reflective phase, stakeholders meet to reflect upon the content of the unit and can combine similar subunits, remove redundant subunits, and create or destroy links between subunits. They can also choose to move the unit, perhaps under a new category, and perform other moderative duties, such as removing clearly undesired content. A board or unit may require a minimum number out of the total number of stakeholders to be present to make changes. While the unit is in the reflective phase, others may be temporarily disallowed from adding to it.

In the future, people may be able to extend upon this iterative thinking process, such as by adding a finalizing phase or other phases.

We plan to test key aspects of this design through user testing in the coming weeks/months.

Floating Ideas

  • We are also thinking of creating a hyperbolic view to allow a user to explore the entire board and all its units at once in a focused way. This view should be able to show connections between subunits of different units, for example.
  • Have optional flairs to note what a unit is, i.e. topic, support, idea, etc.
  • People should be able to search for some keyword through the board, within a unit, etc.
  • People should be able to bookmark units of interest.
  • In order for a group of users can pin a unit/subunit to show that they are currently discussing it. This can help members quickly get to the next unit topic and can be used to allow people outside the discussion to join.
  • Allow units to be polls to help people make decisions quickly, such as what topic to focus on next as a large group.