An Open Letter to

I'm hearing from more and more faculty about -- a "curation site" that they think might help them assemble resources for their students.

And I thought it was a great idea.

But there seems to be one fatal flaw. (apparently) doesn't monitor its user sites for active content.  Yet it assigns topic-based "vanity URLs" that, once taken, are unavailable for others.

So if you have a topic that you want to "curate," you'd better hope that you can find a word related to it that hasn't already been taken by a topic-squatter who's saying nothing about it.

  • "/religion" is taken... and was last updated in early 2011.
  • "/philosophy" is taken... and has only one link to one external page -- either a mistake, disinterest, or SPAM.
  • "/fatherhood" was grabbed by a woman a couple weeks ago and she hasn't posted anything at all.
(You can tell by the fact I got down to "fatherhood" as a topic that I was pretty desperate for a coherent topic.  Unfortunately, it was available last month and had I known that didn't care whether people posted any content I would have grabbed it "just-in-case." Instead, I was trying to be a good citizen and waited until I had some content lined up before I logged back in to assign it to myself... only to find it unavailable...)

And, no, I really don't want to invest any time in writing under "/fatherhood-as-seen-by-eric".

If these topic pages were active, I'd have no problem with other people "owning" them.  And if assigned everything by username (or, at least, "nested" them under a username directory) I'd have no problem, either -- "/fluffybunny12/fatherhood" could maintain a site separate from "/emlarson/fatherhood".

But if you're going to present something as authoritative -- if you're going to assign a URL like "/philosophy" to a particular user -- then, if you want to encourage people to participate, you'd better make sure that there's something there.

How can this be solved?

Simple:  Act on the existing TOS: reserves the right to revoke and/or reassign any username and/or topic name in its sole discretion. You understand and agree that reserves the right to change, remove, alter or delete any username and/or topic name, with or without prior notice to you, at any time and for any reason in's sole discretion.

Just set up a policy/practice that any topic not updated in x-many days (30? 90?) be revoked and "returned to circulation" -- either with the old content intact, or new-and-empty.  (Take your pick.)  Warn users of pending revocation with a friendly email.  Offer longer topic-ownership windows to users as a benefit of paid membership.

This isn't hard.  And it would make a much more interesting and viable resource on the internet.


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