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Eran's blog

Using a DNS-like model for Distributed Conversations

One of the goals of cite-rel is to enable tracking of distributed conversation by aggregators (like technorati or memeorandum) over multiple blogs. Using a simple microformat like cite-rel to solve the problem has the advantage of a very low cost of entry. Any user can employ cite-rel and any blog software, indeed any tool that publishes HTML can support the format. The downside to that is requiring a third party – the aggregator – and the possibly large amount of work required by that aggregator. It is possible, however, to build a different solution to the problem that would not require any third party and would only require analyzing the conversations each participant is a part of.

DNS is a distributed publishing mechanism. Each DNS server is in charge of only a small subset of the entire domain system but using recursive queries each server can serve information about every public domain. Recursive queries work as a distributed search mechanism that leads your DNS server to the servers with the authority to answer the query. Your DNS server then caches the reply for a limited time so that repeated queries for the same domain would be served faster. We can employ a similar solution with blogs.

To implement such a solution we require two elements:

  1. Support for recursive queries.
  2. A search mechanism.

The search mechanism can be based in existing web technologies – pingbacks. Blog software already supports sending pingback and tracking them, this allows blogs to store references to all replying posts. Further, when posting a reply to a post on a different blog, the blog software can keep track of the original post. With these two mechanisms in place we can completely reconstruct the entire thread, even though each blog only stores links to directly connected posts.

Recursive queries for thread information will come in two different flavors.

  1. A request for an entire thread from a specific post. This type of request will be recursively redirected to the blog hosting the original post, unless this it is already there.
  2. A recursive request for all replies starting with a specific post in a thread. This request will recursively propagate down using pingback information to all blogs that published replies to this post.

Using these two simple requests any blog can give access to full threads for every post published on it. If we add a simple caching mechanism, the performance of the system should improve dramatically without using too much space.

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Filed under: Aggregation, MicroFormats, Projects

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  1. […] Social Anything, wherein he discusses a “distributed version of Tribe.net” and Using a DNS-like model for Distributed Conversations, in which he talks about a hypothetical protocol for tracki […]

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