Zest: Discussion mapping for mailing lists

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Citation: Ka-Ping Yee (2002) Zest: Discussion mapping for mailing lists. CSCW 2002 (RSS)
Internet Archive Scholar (search for fulltext): Zest: Discussion mapping for mailing lists
Download: http://zesty.ca/pubs/cscw-2002-zest.pdf
Tagged: Computer Science (RSS) argumentation (RSS), mailing lists (RSS), discussion mapping (RSS), email argumentation (RSS), online argumentation (RSS)


Zest uses the existing structure of email messages to generate thread-based summaries without user effort. Zest can also generate argument maps using a very simple typographic convention: users can optionally add 'criticons' at the beginning of the each paragraph to indicate the relationship:

  • [?] for a question
  • [#] for a statement
  • [+] for a supporting argument
  • [-] for an opposing argument
  • [!] for a resolved discussion

Yee says that these criticons include the most useful and clear parts of IBIS;

Criticons break up the structure of a message, can be helpful to human readers, and can be learned by example.

Thread overviews

Zest provides an overview of each thread. Rather than just showing the reply structure with subject headings at the message level, Zest provides a more detailed overview with content from the thread: each quote or unquoted section (and each section broken at a criticon) is represented by the sentences in its first two lines. This allows a quick overview of the thread, without use of NLP, but only relying on the reply structure and quote-reply chains. Further, when writers use topic sentences, the overview corresponds to a summary of the thread.

Easy path to adoption

Its 'gentle seduction' philosophy* emphasizes predictability, backward compatibility, the ability to learn by example and visible payoff.

Zest provides summaries of email using reply structure and quote-reply chains, and can generate argument maps from optional criticons, improving organizational memory and decision support from email.

Selected References

*The 'gentle seduction' philosophy is drawn from J. Grudin. Groupware and social dynamics: Eight challenges for developers. Comm. of the ACM 37(1), p. 92–105, Jan. 1994

Argumentation references are

Theoretical and Practical Relevance

Zest can be run on listserv archives since it requires no special structure.

This was a demo paper at CSCW 2002. A later paper, Content-Centered Discussion Mapping (Online Deliberation 2005), evaluates and iterates on this work.