In the last weeks I've been posting here and there about topics, aggregators, K-collector
and other assorted stuff.
Maybe it's the case to recap and try to explain a little bit better what we are up to.
Our main goal is the development of an enterprise news aggregator that leverages the power of shared topics to present new ways of finding and combining the real knowledge in your organization.
Weblogs are very good and efficient writing tools and we do believe that weblogs, together with wikis and other collaborative tools, can really make the difference not only on the web but also inside companies.
Weblogs and personal aggregators are great for instant communication, I can read what my partners are working on next to the New York Times titles next to the opinion of many people next to contents coming from other sources in the news aggregator running on my desktop.
What is missing from our point of view is a system to organize contents created with these powerful yet simple publishing tools and allow people to easily browse these contents at any time.
Also if search engines can help finding stuff, using a topics based directory can be a better way to organize information.
We decided to call this architecture k-collector.
Adding Topics to posts
The part of the system is a tool that easily allows users to add topics to their post. The k-collector client is a Radio UserLand tool based on Matt Mower's LiveTopic tool, which allow users to easy choose topics from a list or add new topics to their post with a few clicks.
The tool is automatically synchronized with the server application, meaning that every topic added by anybody within a group is almost immediately spread to all other users via TopicRolls, which are OPML based lists of topics.
The tool does also a pretty good analysis of the post and is able to suggest topics based on the post's contents.
Moving Topics from the weblog to the server
News aggregators use assorted types of RSS feeds to retrieve posts from weblogs and other news sources.
We needed something more than the official RSS 2.0 specs to be able to transport Topics along with posts, so we designed Easy News Topics 1.0, a RSS 2.0 module that fits our needs and should at the same time be useful to others working on similar or related projects.
Server side we have build our application on IdeaTools, which is the content management system we have been developing for the last 4 years.
We improved the aggregator code we already had, added an agent-based system which organizes posts appending them to a directory and creates relations between topics and posts.
One of the keys of this system is that there are no pre-existing lists of topics that must be set up and configured. Topics get on the server via RSS feeds while users create them, and they are distributed to all other users within the same cloud via TopicRolls.
The basic idea is to allow for topics and posts to somehow self-organize without any top-down design approach (also if rules can be enforced if needed by the system administrator).
The first application
The first k-collector based application is our w4Server.
We think that an interesting way to organize contents within an organization is by answering the simple questions "Who?", "Where?", "When?" and "What?" when creating a post.
So, after a few days of posting by our great beta testers, we are proud to announce: