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Understanding Infantilism (.org)

What is with the Puzzle Piece Icons?

By BitterGrey

The puzzle piece icons are there to remind and promote. The infantilism community on the web has grown to include dozens of different voices. Each of these authors have their own unique perspective and a special contribution to make. The icons are to remind readers that by joining together, the community can be far richer than any individual can be. By interconnecting, the web pages can provide a much bigger picture that any one piece can show.

To take more full advantage of this potential, the pages should be designed to interlink. That is, new pages should focus on topics where there is a need: where there is a piece missing, a blank spot in the big picture. They should also connect with neighboring topics, pages that cover the sub-topics in more detail, and summary pages with a broader scope but less detail. The icons are to promote this concept.

The first step, of course, is to connect with a circle of developers to discuss how we can achieve the benefits of teamwork and overcome the hurdles.

What are the benefits?

Better teamwork and cooperation gives more benefit to the reader while reducing the effort required from the authors. For example, consider a simplified topic that had three sub-topics, A, B, and C. It also has three websites devoted to it, numbered 1, 2, and 3. If we could rank each site on their handling of each subtopic, it might look like table #1. This table also shows the total effort that all three websites put in, as well as the value of the best handling of the subtopic.

subject Site 1 Site 2 Site 3Total EffortReader Value
A 2 3 2 7 3
B 4 5
1 11 6
C 7 4 3 14 7

Table #1 - Maintenance Effort Without Specialization

The first thing that the table shows is that even in this simplified system, the return on effort isn't good. Topic C receives 14 points worth of effort, but the best page on the topic is only a 7. Sites 2 and 3 are spending time and effort to reproduce site 1's work. Of course, this system also has potential that each page can tap with ease. When the time comes for each site to develop, they can take advantage of this by specializing.

An example of specialization would be my artwork.  Understanding.infantilism is an educational page.  Were I to post my art here, it would be a mediocre art page.  Instead, it is hosted at a dedicated media page, Proxima Centauri's Nursery Tails .  As a result, there are two great, specialized pages instead of three lesser pages, that try to be everything and fail.

If number 3 is a new site, it's author might realize that it's second-best in everything. He can stay general, and stay second-best. He could focus on topics B or C, but then he'd still be second best unless he can come up with 4 points of content, fast. Alternatively, he could focus on A, where the need is. This way, he can contribute and have the best page on subtopic A while reducing his total effort.

Of course, he'd discuss this with the author of site 1. This would then free up the author of site 1 from maintaining his page on topic A. He'll put some of the free time into his best page, on topic C. The author of site 1 replaces the links to his old page on topic A with links to Site 3's topic A. In turn, site 3 replaces links to it's old pages on B and C with links to Site 1 and Site 2, respectively. Finally, the author of site 2 will spend his time on topic B, because that's his best page.  Etc.  After the changes, we'll get something like this:

subject Site 1 Site 2 Site 3Total EffortReader Value
6 6

  13 13

Table #2 - Maintenance Effort With Specialization

The total reader value has nearly doubled, increasing from 16 to 30, while the authors aren't working any harder.  The  reader will also only need to sort through three pages, instead of nine.  So the readers' bang-for-buck' ratio has increased from 16/9 = 1.8 to 31/3 = 10.3.  This results in a five-fold increase!   The above example is an instance of Metcalfe's Law, which held that the value of a network varied with the square of the number of nodes.  This is the value of specialization.

What are the hurdles that need to be overcome?

While the value of specialization is clear when looking at the big picture, there are a few factors that make stand-alone pages look easier to maintain at first.

People want to have 'THE' site

It is understandable for authors to want to have the Amazon.com of infantilism. Toward this goal, they select a general subject - infantilism, and list all subtopics on their menu - pictures, stories, sounds, essays, reviews, and 'the usual'. A new visitor comes in, clicks on one subtopic, and gets a "under construction" icon. He clicks on the next subtopic, and gets a "content coming soon" message. Finally, he clicks on the third, and gets a "page not found" error, and gives up. There may have been good content on the page, somewhere, but it wasn't found. It was lost in the ambition.

This can be avoided by a depth-first building strategy, like Amazon.com used. They started out by selling technical books, and only technical books. They defined their sub-topic and developed it. Only after they were the Amazon.com of books did they spread out horizontally, and start selling other things.

Constraints on scope and division of content

For pages to interconnect, they need to be roughly compatible in topic and scope.  This can be done informally, as authors write to fill a need.  It could also be done by circles of authors, trimming, focusing, and specifically developing their pages as a team.

"Readers will follow links away from my page."

True, this will happen, but it may be offset by three benefits. First, if the pages you link to are fair, they will have a link back to your page. This way readers will be able to move from site to site, and find what they are looking for. Second, readers will remember well-connected sites and revisit them each time they want to use those connections, or check for new connections. Third, new search engines consider a page's connectivity, knowing that the better page is probably also better connected.

"The different sites will have a disrupted look and feel."

Different sites will have a different look and feel. However, the disruption can be minimized by using a familiar structure, labeled with the usual "you are here" signals. These signals the the reader three things; what type of site this page is at, what else the site has to offer, and how the current page fits into the site as a whole.

Here are a few examples:

An example from Road and Track
An example from Sun


While there are hurdles to overcome, the benefits to working as a team of specialized members is vast.

Email BitterGrey[mail] Last Update: 12 August 2001

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