[EM] <process> Collective ordering of SW standards

Steve Eppley seppley at alumni.caltech.edu
Wed Mar 6 11:17:52 PST 1996

Rob Lanphier wrote:
>My brain isn't disciplined enough to deal with coming up with brackets 
>and symbols and little squirrelly things just to get a subject line.  

I didn't propose putting those things in the subject line.  See my
example message on 3/5/96 on Hitler-Stalin-Middle.  Each argument in
the message is categorized with the keyphrase syntax located just
beneath the argument.  Sticking them in the subject or at the top of 
the body will be less useful than placing them with the argument.

I've been putting <process> (and some other variations of it, sorry) 
in the subject line as a courtesy to distinguish these administrative 
messages from the methods debates.  It's not important.  The subject 
lines won't be relevant if keyphrase discipline is applied in the 
message bodies.

>I suspect that mailing software is going to get smarter over the
>next year or two, anyway, 

I want to deliver the SW and MW election reform reports sooner than
that time frame.

>and that doing full text search on all of your saved messages won't
>be that big of a deal.

A full text search of all the messages will return too much, totally
disorganized, and will break down if we don't standardize our 
keyphrases.  The results will have to be read carefully (and reread
and reread upon subsequent searches) to organize the relevant

>I really don't want to impose a burdensome system to deal with a
>problem that is likely to go away.

It won't go away soon enough.  I don't think it will go away at all 
unless we agree to use identical keyphrases, or are willing to 
assemble a thesaurus.

>Please, let's not get bogged down with administrivia.

If you make your ideas hard to find when we're in the process of 
assembling the report from messages, then why write them?

We have an opportunity to test both two proposals.  We can discuss
one standard without the keyphrase syntax and one with, and write up
those two sections of the report.  If I'm right, then the time we
invest on the discipline will more than pay for itself (principle:
write once, read many), and will give us confidence we didn't
overlook any arguments.  If you're right, we can proceed with less

Another principle: the chore of converting messages to readable 
report needs to be as simple as possible, to increase the likelihood 
that it will get done.

Perhaps there's a middle proposal which will be as effective with
less discipline?  You didn't comment on whether you will have a
problem sticking to commonly accepted keyphrases, which is the most
important element of my proposal.

Even if we were all in consensus to try the keyphrase discipline,
I'll want us to test it by writing up one section of the report at
the earliest opportunity.

>If we must have keywords, though, I suggest that we use the standard 
>"Keywords" header that many newsgroups have used for years.

Maybe your suggestion here was based on misunderstanding that I
wasn't talking about the subject line.  If not:

1. Won't work unless we have the software tools to do complex text 

   keywords:  Majority Rule Plurality Centrism 
A search for "plurality" will find all instances, not just the
instances which are near the pattern "keywords:".  At the very least,
we'd have to pass the search result through an additional filter
which can find the nearby pattern "keywords:"

My syntax is a shorthand equivalent to:
   key: Majority Rule key: Plurality key: Centrism
which permits any search engine to locate the Plurality key without
also returning other instances of Plurality.  And if we always place 
the standard key in front of the method(s) key(s), we can easily do 
tighter searches.

2. We're dealing with phrases, not words.  Isn't a delimiter between
keys useful?

3. We'd still need to agree on a common set of phrases to avoid a
major search headache.  (You could suggest using common phrases with 
the "keywords:" syntax.)

4. There won't be a way to see at a glance that two messages are
about the same argument unless the arguments are categorized with
standardized keyphrases.  (You could suggest using the "keywords:" 
syntax at the location of the argument instead of at the top of the 

5. There are more keystrokes in "keywords: " than "{{".

I suggested the "{{" shorthand for "keyphrase: " after only a couple
minutes thinking about squirrelly patterns.  It has to be a unique
pattern.  I welcome other ideas: maybe [[ to avoid the shiftkey? 

It could be a "beginphrase phrase endphrase" pattern like {phrase},
but {...} doesn't look unique.  {{phrase}} might be unique, but adds 

Rob, if you can come up with something less squirrelly than {{ which 
delimits phrases from each other, we can both be happy.

>> We'll have to maintain a list of accepted keyphrases to name the
>> Standards and the Methods, and maybe also the Arguments.  This
>> should be easy to maintain.  We can rotate this secretarial duty
>> among volunteers.  (Don't everyone stand up at once...  :-)
>This is your baby.  I've got enough on my hands, thank you. :)

The big question is whether you and others will try to use the
common keyphrases in your messages.  No one will maintain the
keyphrase faq if it isn't useful.

>> Rob has written about hypermail.  Maybe he can suggest how we can 
>> structure our messages to take advantage of it.
>I don't know of any way to take advantage of keywords in Hypermail.

Do you know of a way to take advantage of other structure, besides


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