Forum OpenACS Q&A: What is a Community in 5.0?

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Posted by Jade Rubick on
Are there any docs anywhere that describe what a Community is?

I go to the /index page of my new installation, and it says I can create a new community.

Is this a Group?

A subsite?

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Posted by Randy O'Meara on
Jade,

All of my subsites show up in this area. I'm not sure if 2nd, 3rd, etc level subsites are displayed here bacause I haven't created any at those levels yet.

Randy

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Posted by Lars Pind on
It's subsites, yes. Only the first level down. Then they're called subcommunities and show up inside their respective parent community.

/Lars

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Posted by Tilmann Singer on
Can't we just call it 'subsite' instead? For new users, neither community nor subsite will mean a lot, since it's one of these application specific terms (such as 'container') that only become meaningful when using the application a bit and getting a feel for it, whereas those familiar with openacs terminology are confused by the term 'community' as this thread shows.
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Posted by Lars Pind on
Please no.

Subsite has no meaning in any normal dictionary whatsoever.

I do believe that community tends to have a meaning to most people, and it surely have a meaning in a dictionary. Even ArsDigita once had a tag line along the lines of "purposeful communities".

I'm absolutely willing to subject this to a usability test, but lacking that, my impression is that community makes a hack of a lot more sense that "subsite".

/Lars

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Posted by Malte Sussdorff on
Our Headline says: "The Toolkit for Online Communities". Why should we call it subsite (which is a pure development term). So I will go with Lars there and say: please don't.
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Posted by Torben Brosten on
relevant definitions from dictionary.com:

'site' means 1. a place where a structure or group of structures was/is/is-to-be located 2. place or setting of something, as in 'website'

'sub-' 1. below.. 2. a subordinate, subdivision

[to which one can infer: 'sub-site' and the compound word 'subsite', a place below another... a website within a website, a subspace, section or subsection of a website hmm..]

'section' 1. one of several components, a piece 2. a subdivision.. 9. a segment...

'subspace' 1. a space that is contained in another space

'community' 1. a group of people.. 3a. similarity or identity: a community of itnerests 3b. Sharing, participation and felloship

In my conclusion, it seems that community refers to the people associated with a website or subsite (a group), whereas maybe 'subspace' is a term more fitting as a common language usage for 'subsite'.

Of course, I haven't had a chance to use 5.0 yet, so maybe this is not relevant.

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Posted by Torben Brosten on
'subspace' may also fit in the developer context, as it relates to these terms in practice: 'namespace' 'file space' 'URI space'[1], 'URN space' and 'webspace'[2].

Subspace may also be more consistent for international English for translation purposes. 'subspace' (and admittedly 'subsite') could infer a definition similar to 'subset', whereas 'community' would likely imply translations more associated with groups of people.

Alternately, in defense of 'subsite': It is roughly defined in the OpenACS glosary (FAQ)[3]

1. http://www.tcl.tk/man/aolserver3.0/c-app2.htm
2. http://www.tcl.tk/cgi-bin/tct/tip/54.html
3. http://www.openacs.org/faq/one-faq?faq_id=122349#130364

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Posted by Simon Carstensen on
I think the most important thing here is what's normally used on the Web, what makes sense in this context. I've never seen the word "subsite" used anywhere on the Web. "community", although it might seem confusing to a small group of OpenACS developers at first, is pretty widely used in this context.
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Posted by Torben Brosten on
"the most important thing here is what's normally used on the Web, what makes sense in this context"

I agree, but..

Can you create a 'community' by submitting an html form or mounting a package?

If 'subspace' and 'webspace' do not work for this, what about 'community space'?

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Posted by Torben Brosten on
more in support of using 'subsite':

A google search for 'subsite' returns over 500,000 hits. Certainly many are related to ACS, but many are not, too.

Regarding the usability of 'subsite', Jakob Nielsen defined[1] subsite in 1996 consistent to how it is used at OpenACS.org.

1. http://www.useit.com/alertbox/9609.html

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Posted by Staffan Hansson on
This is one of those petty details that anyone can and everyone will have an opinion about... so here's mine:

I agree with Tilmann that the term 'subsite' makes more sense to OpenACS folks. And, like Torben, I believe that this term is in fact universally less ambiguous and more to the point than is 'community'. While anyone can deduce linguistically what a subsite must be, nobody can really know what a community would suggest in this context. (Is it a sect or a permissive gathering of independent minds?)

At any rate, a subsite is not equivalent to a community. A subsite is the web infrastructure where a community may or may not evolve. And if it doesn't, this could be intended; the subsite may well be created to contain a sub-section of content or applications, rather than a sub-section of users. 'Community' is an assumptuous and non-generic term (almost qualifying as a euphemism); 'subsite' is not.

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Posted by Don Baccus on
How about "community subsite"?  Doesn't this capture fully what we have here?  Each subsite defines a new community of users (strictly speaking, a subcommunity if we're going to glomp "sub" onto words - "subcommunity subsite" [no, I'm not serious!]).

Our subsite package defines a new community which is a subset of the parent subsite's community.  The two notions are tied together.  There's no way to create a subsite that does not define a new community.

It's always been that way, the only problem being that until 4.6 it didn't really work :)  4.6 fixed the guts, 5.0 improves the UI making it usable by non-OpenACS experts (or at least moves us in that direction, it's been a moving target and I haven't looked recently to see just how far Lars got before we froze 5.0).

A single word would be better if someone can come up with one.

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Posted by Staffan Hansson on
How about "subsite"? ;-)
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Posted by Don Baccus on
Well, when I type "subsite definition" at Google, this is the first item returned:

"Content or program areas on program sites that have their own set of unique, left navigation. Subsites must reside within one of the main program sections. However, when the user selects the subsite from the main section navigation, the section's left navigation is replaced with the subsite's left navigation."

Now ... where in this definition (or similar ones you'll find) is there anything that truly fits what our subsite package does?  Where does it capture the notion that every acs-subsite defines a new community?

I suppose you might try arguing that user and community management are minor things not worth emphasizing but ... if you believe that, why use OpenACS?  Why call it a *community* system?  Because user and (now that we're fixing the subsite package) community management are among the most important features of the toolkit.

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Posted by Tilmann Singer on
Lars, I agree that 'community' has a meaning for almost everyone, whereas 'subsite' has not. However I think this is exactly the reason why we should not call it 'Create new community'. As Torben said, a 'community' sounds to most people like a non-web thing - a group of people. But the thing that is created with this link is not a community like that, it's something else, that cannot be easily described by a single word, so why name it in a way that suggests it can?

An openacs subsite is a url space, an associated group of members, a place where admin rights can be granted, a group of pages that can have a different layout ... This bunch of facts forms the understanding of the term 'Openacs Subsite' for those who have used the functionality on openacs. Those who haven't will think of 'It's some concept of openacs that I havent grasped yet.'. They will grasp it when using the functionality, reading bits about it in the docs and finding references to the word in the UI. E.g. in the group admin pages there's a blurb: "select an existing person from this subsite" - it's a horrible example because the group UI is horrible, but someone who just 'added a subsite' might get an idea what that means, whereas someone who just 'added a community' will propably not.

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Posted by Carl Robert Blesius on
Considering "Community" is THE OpenACS superset it makes sense for it to show up in this context. Don's suggestion (Community Subsite) fits well (and it might even satisfy all the community subsets taking part in this thread right now ;-).

Carl

P.S. I had a similar terminological crisis a while back
http://openacs.org/forums/message-view?message_id=77853
with little result (other than a little personal clarity).

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Posted by Matthias Melcher on
First of all, the "historical" "potential nomenclature confusion" mentioned in http://cvs.openacs.org/cvs/*checkout*/dotlrndoc/www/doc/nomenclature.adp?rev=1.3&root=dotlrn must be resolved which can still be seen in messages like dotlrn.Join_A_Group .

Furthermore, I think it is not useful to try and totally ignore the competitor SharePoint where "subsite" is a central concept.

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Posted by Staffan Hansson on
"I suppose you might try arguing that user and community management are minor things not worth emphasizing but ... if you believe that, why use OpenACS?"

Yeah, I suppose you might, but I myself am not going to do that (the slope I'm on isn't that slippery ;-). Obviously community management is at the core of what OpenACS is all about. But that doesn't mean we have to make a point of it in every possible and impossible context. In fact, simply because this is so essential we need not emphasize it.

It's one thing that certain features that we are proud of and that form our competitive advantage have to be brought to people's awareness when we market the toolkit. But this does not necessarily mean we have to plant our buzz words in the toolkit UI. Let the features speak for themselves, and let's not be over-explicit.

Sure, if we feel we have to qualify exactly what kind of subsite we are talking about, "Community Subsite" would be a pertinent term (certainly better than "Yellow Subsite" or "Large Subsite" at any rate). But we don't have to do that. It is sufficient to say that it is a subsite, and the exact quality of the particular subsite will become clear to the user soon enough.

By being too specific you risk not being generic enough. For, in practice, the fact that you have community management features doesn't guarantee that the site or subsite you create will house what you can honestly call a community. I run a "Humanistic Learning Community" website that isn't really a community by any standard. And yet I've had great use of the user and community management features of OpenACS.

(The upgraded and more contribution friendly version of that website will be called "Humanistic Learning Center" instead. It's more to the point, and doesn't scare off the individualistic target audience who welcome a platform for communicating ideas but wouldn't dream of joining a sect.)

That said, I'll gladly accept whatever term those actually creditable for the superb subsite feature see fit. :-)

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Posted by tammy m on
It feels to me, as a newer user of OACS, that subsite is more descriptive and useful to learning/using OACS. "subsite" is a subset of "community" ... community does not convey much information to new OACS admins/developers/users. At least to me, I would be looking for more descriptive, technical terms that convey more, not less, (abstract) information. "community" in this sense almost sounds more like marketing jargon is creeping into tech docs;(
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Posted by Andrew Piskorski on
"subsite" sounds much clearer to me than "community", but I've never used dotLRN, what do I know. "subcommunity" might be a good alternative.
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Posted by Tom Jackson on

I know it isn't a great word for this, but something smaller than a community, I usually call a 'neighborhood'. I've never had trouble with 'subsite'.

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Posted by Torben Brosten on
'subsite' is my choice, and Jakob Nielsen's long-time pertinent definition solidifies that for me (see link above in thread). I can post a summary for anyone too busy to read it.

Otherwise consider 'world' in place of 'community' or 'neighborhood'. It's very nontechie, and used this way in TV land ("Andrew's world" "Sewing world" etc from "While you're out" "changing rooms", BBC-,Mysterious- )  and movie land (ghost-, Buster's, etc.) and book land (Known-, Brave New- etc. including one of my favorites: Carl Sagan's Demon-haunted-).  Can you see it? Developer's-. Openacs-, dotWRK's-, Talli's World..

Hmm.. 'land' and 'planet' are variations. 'Planet' doesn't translate as well. 'Land' is too 2D.

Enough! back to work, Torben! =)

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Posted by Torben Brosten on

Since this is now to be a topic at an OCT meeting[1], here's a summary of Jakob Nielsen's definition:

"subsite" ..a collection of Web pages within a larger site that have been given a common style and a shared navigation mechanism. ..can be a flat space or ..have some internal structure, but in any case ..should probably have a single page that can be designated the home page of the subsite. Each of the pages within the subsite should have a link pointing back to the subsite home page as well as a link to the home page for the entire site. Also, the subsite should have global navigation options in addition to its local navigation.
..subsite ..emphasizes the proper relation between the full site and the specialized content..
Subsites.. [handle] complexity of large websites with thousands or even hundred of thousands of pages: By giving a more local structure to a corner of the information space, a subsite can help users feel welcome in the part of a site that is of most importance to them. Also, a large site will often contain heterogeneous information that cannot all be squeezed into a single standard structure, so the ability to have subsites with somewhat different look-and-feel can provide an improved user experience..
A subsite is a home environment for a specific class of users or a specific type of usage within a larger and more general site.

1. http://openacs.org/forums/message-view?message_id=145279

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Posted by bill kellerman on
small detail, but...  nielsen's definition is pretty much how i see it.

even though openacs is "community software", oacs subsites may contain content that is not community-related.

to a developer, subsite is easy to visualize.  users would expect only areas with that level of interaction and functionality to be labelled a community.

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Posted by Stan Kaufman on
"communities" suggests to me a construct related to "parties", "persons", "users", and "groups" -- not an structural division within an OpenACS web site.

"subsites" doesn't imply such a notion of "people who may use this site" but rather suggests "a section of the site that people use". This seems clearer to me, FWIW.

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Posted by Don Baccus on
But, Stan, that's exactly what a subsite is - it partions the user community into two sets - those who can use that subsite, and those that can't.

So you're saying "subsite" is clearer because it doesn't convey that impression?

Hmmm...I've always had trouble with logic of this sort.

Regardless, subsite has won out and Tilmann Singer is changing the code now.

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Posted by Staffan Hansson on
Just like you build a house that can contain a family, you build a subsite that can contain a community. The term "house" actually conveys the impression that a family lives in it (and has the key to it), so we don't normally refer to such a building structure as a family house - and referring to it as a family is just plain wrong.

Those who cannot see this logic and, despite complaining that this is a pathetic non-issue, keep on protesting and thereby prolonging this discussion are the ones who are guilty of bikeshedding, IMHO. If the North Koreans have built yet another "nuclear power plant" while we were talking, you've got yourselves to blame...

Well, OK, I too have a small part in that guilt. :-)

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Posted by Don Baccus on
OK, you win the dick-measuring contest, you're smarter than all the rest of us put together.  Since you've won the argument, one might think you'd have the good grace to shut up.

But before you get too full of yourself ... while "family house" would be an somewhat unusual (though not unheard of) construct, "family housing" is a very common one, as a quick search in Google will show you.

Of course, the primary difference is that "house" implies "habitation for people" while Nielsen's definition of subsite says nothing about "community".  Therefore "community subsite" is not redundant in the sense that "family house" may be thought to be redundant.

This is why I suggested "community subsite" ... and if you can't see the logic in that, why, I won't be the least bit surprised.

Now, where is that "this thread is closed" button, anyway?

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Posted by Stan Kaufman on
Don, I risk reopening the thread you want closed purely on the grounds that you've convinced me: I was making a distinction without a difference.

These "whatever you call 'ems" define what a set of users can do within a location of the site; they involve actors, actions, locations. The different terms being debated emphasize one aspect more or less than others ("communitities" <-> actors; "subsites" <-> locations), but they all represent different blind men touching different parts of the elephant.

It seems likely that if anyone wants to prolong this (a doubtful situation I gather), there might be a term that more satisfactorily captures the three dimensions of meaning implicit in these "whatever you call 'ems". Off hand, I can think of several possibilities: fiefs, sectors, galaxies, realms, firms, confederations...

Granted, most of these are either silly, clumsy or too clever by half, but possibly someone more inventive or better plied with beer can come up with a better term?

Or perhaps the OCT has spoken and this is all moot. Fine by me either way.

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Posted by Dis Continued on
How about "satellsite" as is in Jupiter is Mum and Io, Europa are... ..well, like those planetary satellites?

For Torben... a Google search on "satellsite" returns precisely zero hits.

I will not reply to extinguish the flames.

Bye

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Posted by Jeff Davis on
I was thinking it should be something so horrifying that everyone will feel compelled to change it (I like CommSubPortalSiteNode personally). Then in two years we can spider the sites registered at openacs.org, deduce what people changed it to and use that as a vote for what it should really be.

Even better we could auction it off as advertising space and it could be the NikeTown®Node...

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Posted by Torben Brosten on
"satellite" get points for originality in my "world", but Jeff is clearly on to something else. Maybe a mainsite parameter default with user-preference so that each can make it whatever they want in their own world. =)
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Posted by Staffan Hansson on
Don, I'm glad my patronizing and uncompromising post pissed you off, because that means you will have no trouble understanding that your condescending sarcasms on the OCT meeting (regarding those community members who expressed their opinions in this thread) were out of line. Arrogance sucks, whoever is guilty of it, but perhaps leadership arrogance sucks the most, because it shuts people up.

Just so nobody will think that I've developed some sort of personal enmity or aversion toward Don, I want to make it clear that I've always totally respected the leadership of the confident Don; I just feel a little less strongly about the superior Don, that's all. If I were a bit more intelligent and well hung, I would have told it to you straight instead of performing some silly tit-for-tat social experiment. My bad...

Anyway, the sun has just returned to Stockholm after a month's absence, so it's likely that my mood will improve noticeably from now on. Sorry for being a jerk.

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Posted by Tilmann Singer on
Changed it to 'Subsite' in oacs-5-0.