¶ 1 Leave a comment on paragraph 1 2 The such next venture was, in certain ways, the most ambitious: the Institute teamed up with Lewis Lapham, of Lapham’s Quarterly, to publish a commentable version of the Iraq Study Group Report. This version of the CommentPress templates carried over from “Holy of Holies” the ability of readers to discuss full sections of the text as well as comment at the more fine-grained paragraph level, but added three important innovations: first, a space for general comments about the report as a whole; second, the ability of a commenter to reply to a comment, providing at least one level of threaded discussion; third, and most importantly, the ability to read comments organized not just by section of the primary text but also by commenter, enabling a reader interested in the responses of another particular reader to see those comments as a group.
¶ 3 Leave a comment on paragraph 3 0 The Institute followed this with a treatment of President Bush’s televised address to the nation responding to the report, interweaving the transcribed text of the address with streaming video of the speech, opening the content and the delivery both to discussion.
¶ 4 Leave a comment on paragraph 4 3 Interestingly, however, the entire Iraq Study Group Report received a total of 92 comments, fewer than did Mitchell Stephens’s much shorter — and arguably much less pressing — paper. The reasons why in no small part have to do with the structure of the two social networks into which the texts were released: Stephens put his paper into CommentPress as a means of presenting it to a working group at the Center for Religion and Media at New York University; this group was organized around the discussion of texts like Stephens’s, and so the technology facilitated the interactions and exchanges they already wanted to have. Lapham’s project, by contrast, brought together what the site referred to as “a quorum of informed sources (historians, generals, politicians both foreign and domestic),” as well as a number of writers and reporters, all of whom had a vested interest in the material, but most of whom were unaccustomed to working either in such a mediated or in such an interactive vein. (In fact, over 1/3 of the comments on the report came from one participant, novelist and political Kevin Baker, who maintains an extensive web presence.) CommentPress, then, is not a panacea; publishing a text through it will not get any randomly selected group talking. It will, however, facilitate discussions among those who want to have them.