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news and thoughts on and around the development of the iCite net
by Jay Fienberg

Forget email, I want my cmail, but I'd try your Gmail in the meantime

posted: Apr 21, 2004 10:15:05 PM

This week's Infoworld features article about how E-mail is broken. Perhaps of related interest: BoingBoing linked to this review of Google's new Gmail service, Agog over Gmail.

I am interested in using Gmail when the Gd says I can, in particular because it tries to redefine email messages as "conversations" (yo! are post cards conversations?). With the iCite net, as one application, I am looking to remove some of the barriers between email, blogs, discussion forums and wikis—and, so, hey, I'll admit I am maybe working to basically replace broken email, and, so, yeah—it's called cmail <g>.

Here are some of scenarios for cmail that I think illustrate what's it about. I'm going to use the word "box" to mean the part of one's iCite that can act like a message inbox or outbox. Our characters will be Iggy Pop and Elaine May (who both celebrate birthdays today!).

Iggy can grant Elaine permission to post directly into Iggy's own box (e.g., like a comment on a blog). But, otherwise, and typically, Elaine can post with a link to Iggy in Elaine's own box (e.g., like a blog post with a link).

Elaine's link to Iggy registers a backlink in Iggy's box (e.g., like a trackback). But, Iggy typically sees his box through a view that automatically filters these backlinks.

Iggy's box can, first of all, automatically verify the source of the backlink (i.e., the backlink says its from Elaine and it can be verified because a corresponding link appears in the message in Elaine's box). If the backlink doesn't verify, it is (or can be) automatically deleted.

Once verified, Iggy's box can tag the message based on properties it can discover on the iCite net about Elaine. The first set of things to discover are whether Elaine is on any of Iggy's lists, e.g., either she is a contact whose messages are worth seeing or she is a no-contact whose message should be ignored.

If Elaine isn't on any of Iggy's lists, Iggy's box can query the iCite net for info about Elaine like: is Elaine on a bad-reputation list (i.e., blacklist) that Iggy trusts, is Elaine on a contact list of one of Iggy's contacts (i.e., friend-of-a-friend), or is Elaine a member of any group / site where Iggy is also a member (i.e., with member or public viewable iCite directory lists).

Iggy's box can also check the date Elaine's identity was created on the iCite net. Iggy could choose to only view messages from unknown senders if those senders' identities are over a certain age (i.e., not their physical age, but the amount of time they have used this identity online).

So, stuff could still go wrong with this, but it would create some accountability. Other scenarios are also possible in terms of, say, Iggy's box sending a message back to Elaine indicating that Iggy would like Elaine to get a reliable source (e.g., on one of Iggy's lists) to somehow verify Elaine.

Finally, the other thing about this is that cmail functions as a higher level protocol (e.g., it can run on top of HTTP or POP/SMTP or Jabber). So, for example, if Iggy lists Elaine on his "love to get messages from" list, her message to him might route from Iggy's box to whatever he designates as his priority interface, say a Jabber IM client. Less anticipated messages could route to lesser priority interfaces, like a compiled news website.

And, of course, even if this works and is groovy, we still have email with all of its fine benefits. (And, in terms of the accountability aspect of the iCite net, besides there inevitably being ways to game it, we likewise still have the web gone wild.)

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