In hierarchically structured communication flows, viz., 1-to-many/ many-to-one, a request for comments to a community can produce a stream of responses likely to overwhelm the source of the request, but miss other interested parties. Directing the response stream to all members of the community in a many-to-many pattern just compounds the problems of message volume (gain) and recipients' discrimination of messages that interest them. A strategy to meet this challenge is the decomposition of both the request and response streams, according to a taxonomy of the issue space. This was done for the on-line meeting by considering the NPR reports on the operating systems as subdomains and their respective proposals as categories in a reinventing government domain, and requiring that a comment be subsumed by a proposal. A comment either had to target a specific proposal or another comment descending from it. Instead of being asked "what are your views on reinventing government," a participant was in effect asked: "Should government offices be issued credit cards for making small purchases?" by the presentation of that proposal. Users could find proposals and later comments on them that interested them by drill down through the hypertext o rhrough a taxonomic listing. They could subscribe to receive comments added to such a proposal or, even more finely grained, to a node subsumed by it.
Decomposition of the domain was facilitated by NPR having prepared each of the reports according to the same strategic-plan like format: an Executive Summary described the problems in the respective system, a set of Recommendations proposed how to fix them, one or two Actions were described for effecting each Recommendation, and Appendices added some details of the implementations. These parts were easily reconfigured into a hypertext, using a standard node architecture, that replicated the structure across the main branches of the hypertext (the individual reports), simplifying implementation and providing a consistent user interface. Eleven such nodes, one for each operating system, were linked to a root document which presented the plan and procedures of the meeting. The standard node eventually had links to the parts of the report, including a link to each recommendation, and to other relevant documents, including a short Overview of the system problems, official examples of practices that satisfied a recommendation, and newsletters, which summarized the ongoing discussions of the proposals.
The decomposition is based on the idea that knowledge can be hierarchically localized in the sense that understanding in one branch or area of a domain requires knowledge of more general domain principles but not of fine grained propositions in other branches. The decomposition was intended to reduce the number of people in a conversation and the circulation of their comments, enhance their interest and focus and make the conversational threads easier to follow. The resulting topology was small circles of lateral communication, i.e., several dozen to several dozen, with isolation of conversations from one another being overcome in practice by users' visiting several conversations. Systematic, updated overviews of the discussions regarding an operating system were provided by the newsletters. These were hand-made summaries by the moderators, but automatic summarization or gisting which exploits the hypertext links is an important focus of work to extend the system.