The Book of Sand is online

It’s been quite a long time since I posted about the Book of Sand. This is not, I hasten to add, because the project’s been on hold. On the contrary, I’ve been holding off posting until we had something in the public domain for a reader to play with, and the existence of a public instance of a Book has been delayed not because of the project stagnating, but rather because we’ve kept having ideas for “must-have” features that have taken time to incorporate. (As with so many small-scale web projects we’ve been using the sort-of-but-not-actually-Agile development methodology.)

However, Book Of Sand 0.6 has now seen the light of day in the guise of the Clockwork Quartet forum.

A quick reminder of what the Book of Sand is: It’s a big old conversation tree that lets anyone create new nodes/posts/lines/branches (one of the hardest things has been finding and maintaining a consistent terminology) and allows you to traverse the tree following any conversation that takes your fancy, using indicators such as node popularity and creation date to help you decide which nodes to follow. Ed, from whose fertile imagination the concept sprang, describes it as an answer to the question: How can a million people have a conversation?

Simple, right? Well, it was in version 0.1. However, in the subsequent revisions we’ve added bookmarking, searching, a two-step captcha-ing registration process, spam- flags and an RSS feed, as well as several visual re-designs to optimise the way each node and its accompanying statistics are laid out on the page.

The potential applications of the BoS engine are pretty varied. It could be used for collaborative fiction, interactive fiction, user guides, info-bases (we use the site as its own bug report repository) and, well, anything that puts information into your standard hierarchical/taxonomic structure. Which was, until the introduction of tag clouds, pretty much how all knowledge was stored and how the world was analysed since the time of Aristotle (the ever-insightful Sinead Doyle pointed this out to me, and I’m sure would elaborate further on her related theory of knowledge if asked nicely).

However, in the first instance we’re using BoS as a forum. Why? Partially out of convenience – this idea came to fruition at roughly the same time as we started thinking “Wouldn’t it be nice if the band had a forum?”. But also because while BoS is still in its infancy we want to try it out with some sympathetic users who’re prepared to take an idea and play with it. Our experience of CQ fans so far is that they’re generally open to new ideas and won’t reject the whole concept just because it requires slightly more thought than a boring normal forum to start off with.

(Of course, having said that I’m almost inviting a bunch of angry, lazy CQ fans to fill up the site with casual abuse before hacking the site and using it to push evil viruses onto everyone new who visits.)

Anyway, the first Book is up. It’s not perfect. There are a few bugs we know about already, and probably several more that we don’t. We’re hoping that people will take the time to tell us about any that they find, as well as suggesting any bright ideas they have about how to make the forum better. But it’s working, and it’s there to be played with. So consider this an open invitation:

Come play in the sand.


One Response to “The Book of Sand is online”

  1. Yo!
    Have had a quick play and looks most interesting! And full of possibilities. :) But, foolish layperson that I am, I wonder what kind of license/IP you were thinking of applying to it?
    just a thought!
    Looks like much work, and good stuff!
    Admirations and encouragements,
    A. :)

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