Five Tenets: Referenceability

This post is part of a series on the Five Tenets of a Modern, Multi-Modal, Real-Time Communications Application.


As daily users of the web and the internet, we’ve all become very accustomed to the idea of clicking on things to see more information. Perhaps the most powerful and enduring gift that Tim Berners-Lee gave us was this concept that documents could be linked together in a permanent and shareable way. If I want to tell you how to see my blog posts, I can give you a link like this, or I can point you directly to the article that is an Overview of the Five Tenets.

ReferenceabilityWhile we’ve come to take this for granted when concerning documents, images and other web content, our communications should be no different. Like other documents, our communication can be captured and consulted later.

Conversations have a life-cycle. They begin when we decide to communicate. This may be as formal as sending a meeting invitation (including the URL, obviously). In this state, the URL for our conversation may list the agreed-upon time (adjusted for the viewer’s timezone) as well as a list of participants. Perhaps it also includes documents relevant to the conversation, or a list of people who will be participating.

Of course, many conversations are casual, and for these it should be no harder than creating a link to our future conversation and sharing it with you.

Once the conversation is underway, this same URL can provide the entire communications application. Whether as simple as a voice bridge, to real-time HiDef video, or even desktop and document sharing, a single URL can provide access to all the necessary context. With WebRTC the beauty is in providing the entire communications interface in a single view, without forcing everyone to install a single application, or use resort to a least-common-denominator, such as a telephone.

After the conversation has concluded, a memorial of the conversation remains behind. This can include the aforementioned documents and participants list. But now of course it can also include a recording of the conversation, perhaps even augmented with a partial or full transcript, which aids in search-ability. This URL can also be shared with those who were unable to make the original meeting, but could benefit from hearing the context of the discussion.

Building on the concepts of Adaptability and Contextuality, Referenceability gives us the ability to reference conversations before, during and after they occur. Referenceability is a fundamental element of sharing, and it’s sharing that has made the Web a truly revolutionary place.

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