Administrative / Plan / 4
First-Level Data Repositories
At the core of Phase I is a repository of Member Data which contains information about each member in the community. This contains such things as basic member data for constructing member homepages on-the-fly, advanced member data for relay to others if desired, voting and survey results for every applicable survey in the system, personal system preferences, lists of activated user groups, and links to personal web sites. Member identities form the core of the community
     A relatively simple (but fun) application of the Member Data repository is the Community Map. This is a two-dimensional representation of the community -- a street map in the traditional sense, with rows of houses and criss-crossing and winding streets -- all represented using imagery based on road baseplates and roof bricks. Each member of the LUGNET community chooses a location on the map and establishes a virtual house. The house may be oriented in one of four directions and may be positioned in any of the four corners of its baseplate cell or along any of the four sides. This, along with a choice of roof colors, provides a bit of variation. A traditional map provides an alternative view of the community

(See and read more about this)
     One thing that might be fun with the roads is giving them names and labeling them on the map, for example...

  • Redbeard Road
  • Spyrius Circle
  • Wolfpack Way
  • Blacktron Boulevard
  • Armada Avenue
  • Lego Lane
  • Freestyle Parkway
  • Maniac Drive
  • Hemlock Terrace
  • Fabuland Trail
...or countless other possibilities that people may think up. The challenge here is in labeling these on-the-fly without wasting bandwidth and without using too-new browser technologies such as Layers in Netscape 4.
Roadways may be named and labeled
     In the final working version, houses on the map are hyperlinks to member homepages. And for convenience, every member homepage contains a small 3x3-baseplate section of the Community Map with that homepage at the center. This means people can place their virtual houses next to their friends or other people whose pages they wish to associate with -- in a type of giant community link exchange. Member homepages contain tiny versions of the big map
     A hierarchical system of User Groups organizes the membership data repository into a vast but manageable and flexible network. Participation in groups is voluntary, and there is no limit on the number of groups joined once having joined LUGNET. Some groups may decide to screen membership through an elected moderator or group voting, but groups are typically open to everyone. The exact nature and hierarchy of the groups is decidedly undefined at this point, so that it may evolve to fit community needs. Sure to pop up quickly, of course, are mainstream thematic-interest groups such as Trains, Technic, Castle, and Town, and niche thematic-interest groups such as Fabuland, Paradisa, and Forestmen, all of which parallel the historical LEGO product line. Non-LEGO technological groups such as Ray-Tracing and Robots are sure to pop up quickly as well. Creation of any and all interest groups under the sun, however, is not automatically granted by the system, and there will be a small review process when new groups are proposed. The main function of the review process is to prevent excess fragmentation, breadth, and depth in the hierarchy of groups. If sufficient need and relevance can be demonstrated for, say, a LEGO-Fest advocacy group, a Christianity interest group, or an I Hate Imitation Brands support group, then those groups will pass the test. User groups form the next layer
     Once a system is in place for establishing User Groups, a repository for Message Boards is created which mirrors the User Groups hierarchy -- one message board per group. Message boards allow users within a given group to conduct relevant, focused discussions without distractions from other groups. It will be up to each group to decide whether "crossposting" to the group is allowed, and whether members from other groups may read and/or contribute without first joining. Message boards provide focused communication forums
     For those who want to read everything, a method for coalescing multiple message boards will be available to each user, with configurable options such as "show me everything in this group and on down the tree," and "show me everything in this group and on up the tree," and "show me everything in this group and in all of its siblings." Additional filters may also be available, such as "don't show me anything containing what I define to be foul language," or "show me only messages posted by my children." Message boards can be melded for simultaneous viewing
     Since LUGNET is a world-wide network, message boards can be set up for other languages in addition to English. Whether individual message boards will allow a single predefined lanaguage, or a set of predefined choices, or any language, is a detail best left for later. In any case, power-users can set up optional filters which hide or flag messages written in languages they do not understand. Message boards can be set up for different languages
     It should be noted that the LUGNET message board facility is emphatically not designed as a replacement for RTL (short for, a popular USENET newsgroup), since it is a purely web-based approach, and as such it cannot be everything to everyone. It should also be noted that although it is likely to offload a portion of the RTL traffic, its real purpose is to add value rather than to subtract. It is believed that there are large numbers of LEGO enthusiasts on the Internet who currently know about RTL but avoid it because they feel it has become too big, too hostile, too political, too commercial, or too ethnocentric. The LUGNET message board system will hopefully appeal to everyone in some way or another. Message boards augment rather than replace existing communication forums
     A special case of the message board facility is the ever-popular personal guestbook. Each member of the community can create, simply by clicking a checkbox, a small message board on his or her member homepage. This message board can be configured to run as a guestbook in the traditional sense, or as a feedback device for sharing project ideas, or as a "topic du jour" spewbasin, or even as a "Dear Abby" or "Miss Manners" type of advice column. Users may restrict readership of and contribution to their personal message boards to specific User Groups, and may also restrict either or both to themselves only. Message boards also double as guestbooks
     A by-product of User Groups and Message Boards is a repository of Community Resources. These are User Group messages or external documents deemed generally useful by User Groups and organized for easy reference. Examples of external documents are links to FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions with answers), links to other LEGO-related web sites, and links to generally anything a given User Group may consider relevant. Community resources are organized by group
     Most of the organized resources will be external to LUGNET. One type of resource which could be collected and organized internally is a hyperlinked lexicon or dictionary of jargon. Each User Group could create a local lexicon of terms so that members within the group could have a common reference, and so that members outside the group could get up to speed quickly on terminology. These lexicons could be woven together by the system into a larger, all-encompassing lexicon, which could be filtered and refined by the reader at various levels. A giant dictionary of jargon can be created
     The Voting data repository is tied closely with the User Groups and Community Resources during Phase I and allows members within a group to assign relevance factors, "coolness" factors, or comprehensiveness factors to the various resources it creates or organizes. In Phase II, the Voting repository is linked into all of the Phase II repositories, so that groups may rank official product offerings using a variety of criteria. Members can vote on various aspects of community resources
     Connected closely to the Voting repository is the Survey repository. Surveys could consist of any combination of multiple-choice questions, yes-no questions, and fill-in-the-blank questions. Voting is similar because voting is simply a special case of a survey. Surveys and vote tallies could be reported graphically with colored bars using simple HTML tables and GIF expansion, or maybe other graphical ways. Surveys are another way to gather community opinions
     The Member Data repository plays an important role here in the realm of Voting and Surveys, for without a unique ID for each member of the community, people could potentially skew results by voting twice. The unique member IDs help enforce the rule that each person cast at most one vote in any given sphere of influence. (Note that e-mail addresses cannot be used as substitutes for member IDs because several people occasionally share a single e-mail address, and many other people have more than one e-mail address.) The member IDs also are important when someone leaves a given group -- so that the respective tallies can be subtracted. Member IDs guarantee uniqueness
     A final, more fundamental reason for the member IDs is so that all pieces of contributed information in the system can be tracked back to their creators. This is useful for giving credit where credit is due, as well as for holding people accountable for their actions and contributions. It is critical in ensuring the highest possible level of accuracy that important pieces of information can be double-checked by other members, and that people browsing a given piece of information have access to who and how many people have reviewed the information so that they may make appropriately-informed decisions based on the information. ...And this is a nice segue into Phase II -- "all of the tweakie LEGO information under the sun." Member IDs track the origins of information in the system

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