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TopicQuests Engineering Prototype

TQPortal is an open source (node.js, Apache license) portal designed to explore a collaboration space where the working hypothesis is that every act (node created or edited) at the portal is or can be a part of one or many structured conversations. The platform presently includes these applications (apps):

  • Blog
  • Wiki
  • Bookmarklet
  • Structured Conversation
  • Topic Map
  • Tags
  • User
  • Admin
  • Cross links (KnowledgeWorkbench)
  • GeoMap
  • Research -- an instance of the Carrot2 clustering websearch engine
  • DbPedia -- a search page for DbPedia, also for research

The platform is in the process of adding a full Role-playing Game system which includes these features:

  • Issues: hot topics for crowd-sourced research, such as Climate Change
  • Quests: containers for collections of challenges related to specific issues
  • Guilds: private spaces where small groups form to accept challenges and, as game moves, respond to those challenges

Entailed in the game platform is the usual game mechanics: scoring metrics (Dino's ValueMatrix is in play throughout the entire portal).

While TQPortal uses a topic map as its knowledge store, it also includes a topic map application. A part of the working hypothesis behind TQPortal is this:

  • There are specific kinds of work flows in collaboration. Those workflows engage both fast and slow thinking.
  • Fast thinking includes backchannels (emails, chat rooms, etc), and structured conversation.
  • Less-fast thinking includes blog posts which can summarize thoughts which occur during fast thinking
  • Still-less-fast thinking, slow thinking, includes wiki topics, where summaries of topics are starting to form; many different participants at the website can create blog and wiki nodes
  • Slow thinking occurs when topic map topics are created. They are intended to be curated objects, not really created by any participant, rather, by those who, in then terminology of game mechanics, level up (demonstrate capabilities) to achieve curator status.

How does that all combine into a conversational experience?

  • Each node can serve as a root for a conversation. For example, a blog post can be viewed as a conversation, which then gives authenticated viewers controls which allow to ask questions, make statements, or offer pro or con arguments.
  • Any node (except user or tags) can be remembered and then transcluded into any conversation, either as a response or as evidence for some claim.
  • When a given node is cross-linked to another node, say, "A is similar to B", the cross-link itself is a node, which can serve as a root for a new conversation

Thus, it is possible to roam about the entire site and start or enter a conversation about topic.

The game platform is one of many possible routes to understanding. Using game mechanics and the natural curation processes which occur in guilds (well documented in research related to popular games such as WorldOfWarcraft), we seek to elicit what we call omni-partisan, well-justified world views about issues that matter. We do not seek any neutral points of view; rather, we seek all points of view. Topic map processes then serve to federate all contributions (game moves) into a conversation tree that is free or redundant responses.

TQPortal is very much still in prototypical stages.

The system's source code is here.

A working prototype (not entirely bug free) is here.

TQPortal is my first collaboration platform to use a full topic map as its knowledge store. That topic map is TQTopicMap, similarly open source (node.js, Apache license) which uses Elastic Search as its database and index.

TQTopicMap source code is here.

TQPortal, as a GitHub project, is intended to be forked into other GitHub repos where it can be customized to satisfy different needs.