Frassle User’s Manual

Preface: Work in Progress

This manual is not complete. Users are welcome to suggest additions (or in fact, to write them and send them for inclusion) to frassle@rura.org.

Introduction

Frassle is an interpersonal content management system. It helps groups of people read, write, and publish messages on the web. Its usage is similar to many blogging tools, but frassle integrates an aggregator, recommendation engine, and powerful search. As you use frassle, the system adjusts how it presents information to you. Over time, using your own blog and other blogs tracked by your frassle installation, frassle will help you sort through the deluge of available content.

A frassle installation can be used in a variety of contexts. You can use frassle to:

  • host personal blogs
  • support knowledge management in a company or workgroup
  • run a complete blog-based community in an educational or research context

Frassle Features

Frassle’s mission is to provide a highly cohesive set of functions. We believe that tools for finding, reading, writing, and sharing information can only be utilized to their fullest when their user experience and back-end data are connected. Frassle is not likely to provide a single better stand-alone tool than the best internet-scale search engine, personal blog publishing system, or aggregator. Instead, it attempts to thoughtfully combine these functions in order to support a maximally efficient and effective workflow across all of these tools.

Frassle’s primary features include:

  • a weblog authoring system, where users can quickly publish brief thoughts and links or develop highly organized information libraries;
  • an aggregator, which collects and organizes information of interest to the user when it is published in a weblog or other news source;
  • the frassle studio, a uniquely easy-to-use environment for building dynamic websites using any content in frassle; and
  • frassle offers these features in a community-ready system, which can be easily deployed to meet the full-cycle blogging needs of your workgroup, organization, or other community.

Although frassle’s comprehensive functionality makes the tool difficult to categorize, we hope that it also covers many of the gaps of the individual tools–making frassle an easy to learn yet powerful platform.

Comment on your own Blog

One goal of frassle is to connect all your writing to your blog. We believe that the cycle between discovering information and producing new information is (1) more personal and (2) more tightly integrated than conventionally understood.

By (1) we mean that the process whereby interesting ideas you read contribute to giving you interesting ideas to write about is centered around you. It doesn’t matter whether you read something in a book, on a web page, or heard it from a colleague. Your mind takes in knowledge from all these sources, and they can potentially influence anything you create. So representations of what you’ve read and written should be attached not just to their subject areas, or the sites where you typed them, but to you personally.

This is also a psychological issue. When interacting with people in physical space, or even when using our voice on the telephone, our identity is attached to each interaction. That identity helps to give these interactions context; people we talk to get to understand who we are and can develop trust. A blog provides a similar kind of long-lived identity online. Putting comments on your own blog – though not necessarily on the front page – is frassle’s way to do this.

Our assertion (2) states that the cycle between discovering information and producing new content is tighter than conventionally understood. This means that when people produce new content, they are mostly just rearranging and reproducing things they read. Although this sounds meaningless, it is actually immensely useful: people contextualize new pieces of information based on their expertise and the challenges they are currently facing. People take abstract themes about how to work efficiently and apply them to their particular jobs. When someone you work with, or someone who has expertise in an area you care about, does this, it can be extremely useful.

Because what you read so strongly influences what you write, and what that writing means, frassle tries to integrate reading and writing. Want to respond to something you read in your aggregator? Just click the comment link right there. Has some web page about blueberries made you want to write about making pie? Just hit your “frassle it” bookmarklet, and write.

(Future Direction) Currently, “comment on your own blog” works perfectly when the blog you’re responding to is hosted on frassle. When it’s not, thing don’t work as well:

  • If you’re responding via frassle’s aggregator, your comment will show up in your blog, but the blog you’re commenting on isn’t notified. This can be partially solved when trackback support is added.
  • If you’re responding via another blog’s comment form, your comment may be irretrievably lost to frassle. With more flexible commenting standards, and perhaps some clever javascript, we might be able to solve this problem in the future.

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