Architecting the Flock Content Platform

The Future of *

I had a meeting with Daryl, Vera and a sleepy Lloyd the other day to figure out how to bring the website properties forward, in terms of both design and utility as well as towards an architecture for participation (thanks Tim!).

So what’s gong to happen to * Simple: massive syndication, resyndication and the collapse of web development as we know it.

Using Drupal as our core platform enables us to move content back and forth between all the different platforms that we use (and trust me, there’s quite a few (password: flock). It also means that the content building blocks that we’re using to build our site will be available to our community to mashup pretty much however it wants (sticking within some liberal licensing scheme, of course (thanks Larry et al!)).

The implications of moving to such an architecture are significant.

To begin with, it means that besides producing content ourselves, we’ll be able to consume feeds seamlessly that our community produces. Yeah, so we can pull in other people’s blog feeds, Flickr feeds, forum feeds and on and on (thanks for adding RSS to Basecamp, Jason!). If it’s got an API or feed output (password: flock) (or is marked up with microformats) figure that at some point we could use it somewhere on our site. It’s like one big disgusting paste-board exercise. Glorious, glorious!

Roadkill ElmoSo get this: this is where web development is going; this is also where Flock is going. Static websites are a relic of a foregone era. It’s no surprise that when you come upon a prone animal on the side of the road, it’s a good bet that it’s dead. Roadkill or natural causes or radiation sickness. Same thing is true on the web.

Yeah, if this direction sounds like chaos, it’s not. It’s ordered madness, which, you’ll note, has massive amounts of potential energy in its structure. Go ask a physicist what that means coz I have no idea. Fortunately, we’ve got some tricks up our sleeves to tame this beast. Check it out.

One thing that’s important here is being able to 1) navigate your way around the site and 2) get back to where you were many days or weeks ago (in an event stream, how do you hit pause?). Well, for one, tagging. Duh. And rich, full-text search (thanks Google!). And a social network thingamabobber. And favorites. And outgoing feeds. With permalinks.

Gee, a website that mirrors Flock’s featureset? Eeeenteresting.

No but seriously, back in the days of Round Two we were building both a browser and a web service. Why? Well, it’s actually pretty interesting when you’re designing both the content source and the user agent. It’s like choosing both the bread and the cheese for your fondue. Or chocolate and fruits. Um yeah ok, but why? Because intimate knowledge of both sides of the equation helps you fill in other variables that much faster!

Consider: 1 + x = 3.

Easy right?

So try this one on: APIs + Feeds + Drupal + Microformats + Flock + mojo, baby = you figure it out.

But I’ll tell you one thing, it’s going to kick ass.

Author: Chris Messina

Head of West Coast Business Development at Republic. Ever-curious product designer and technologist. Hashtag inventor. Previously: (YC W18), Uber, Google.

3 thoughts on “Architecting the Flock Content Platform”

  1. Well, this really looks interesting, though admitting that I haven’t understood everything…

    Also, I think a word you might consider is ENTROPY, the measurment of chaos (whether ordered or not!).


  2. factoryjoe, thank you for the sharing the ideas! –and i should thank gmail’s webclip as well / and it’s addictive to click it back and forth to check around some entries which were four-day-old until i’m late for work, even pretending checking emails while still trying to click back and forth / .. should see the doctor and ask him about this webclip thing–
    the platform architecture is lots of inspirations to me. people do have different considerations. The idea of RSS Entropy is also very interesting – probably there should be one-time-use RSS in a very short time 😉 since my job is mostly banging my head against the wall for all those mojibake in between different websites/platforms, i will litmit myself within a drupal to … what did you just say .. “mirrors Flock’s featureset” — speaking of which, it’s not a bet although i’d better win 🙂

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