Webstars

Table of Contents (links within this page)

  1. What is a web star?
  2. How is a webstar better than just lots of ordinary links?
  3. How does a webstar compare to a webring or webchain?
  4. How do you start one?
  5. What are the rules?
  6. How do you add new members?
  7. What is a satellite page?
  8. What if there are large numbers of members?
  9. What is the heart of a webstar?

What is a web star? ...[top]

A web star is a fully-connected web of interlinked web sites. It is a group of web sites with similar subject matter or philosophy or some other reason to join together. Every web site in the group has a link to every other web site in the group. Pages may also have links to other places too.

A two-person webstar happens every time someone says "I'll link to your site and you link to mine." Many websites have their individual pages within the site linked into a fully-connected web, so you can get from any page to any other page in the site with a single click. A webstar provides similar convenience for moving among a group of related sites.

How is a webstar better than just lots of ordinary links? ...[top]

Websites usually have links to sites that are related to each other in some way, but after doing a few jumps from site to site you can easily get somewhere totally unrelated to the site you started at. With a webstar, once you've looked at and liked two or three of the member sites, you know you'll probably want to visit the other sites too. You know that the authors have all been in contact with each other and have something in common.

How does a webstar compare to a webring or webchain? ...[top]

The idea is similar, but with a webring or webchain, from any one site you can usually only get to the next one and the previous one in the chain. A webstar is more convenient for the reader, because you can get from any member site to any other one with a single link. You can see immediately how many members there are in the group and what the titles of their pages are. A webstar is more closely interconnected than a webchain or webring.

With a webchain, if one site's computer is down, or if somebody made a mistake updating a web page, you might not be able to get to the sites past them in the chain. With a webstar, you can get to all the sites that are currently operating.

How do you start one? ...[top]

Get together two or three people with web pages. Choose a name and a theme for your webstar, and then have each person put something like this on their page:

This page is a member of the XXX webstar.
Other member sites:
  -- link to site 2
  -- link to site 3
(What is a webstar?)  [<-- link to the page you're reading now]

When you find other sites that you want to include, get the unanimous agreement of the other members, and then have everybody add them to the list of links on their site. There's nothing stopping you from linking to non-member sites, but you should make it clear to the reader which links are to member sites and which are not. A single page can belong to more than one webstar.

What are the rules? ...[top]

The people starting up a webstar can set up whatever rules they want. I suggest that unanimous consent be required for a new member to join, and that a majority vote be required to kick someone out, and only if they've made significant changes to their page. This way it's unlikely that someone will be kicked out, so people can make changes in their pages without worrying too much.

How do you add new members? ...[top]

The members of the webstar can confer by email; or each member can just start adding links to "satellite" pages.

What is a satellite page? ...[top]

A satellite, or planet, is something that is not part of a star but is intimately connected to it. A satellite page is a page which might become a member in the future, or one which someone thinks ought to be a member. A list of members and then satellite pages might look like this:

This page is a member of the XXX webstar.
Full member sites:
  -- link to site 2
  -- link to site 3
Satellite sites:
  -- link to site 4
  -- link to site 5
(What is a webstar?)  [<-- link to the page you're reading now]

If all members of the webstar include the same page as a satellite page, and if that page links to the webstar, then that page is automatically a member. Eventually people will get around to moving it up into the "members" list.

An advantage of listing a page as a satellite is that it's easy for other members of the webstar to get around to looking at it and evaluating it: it's just two links from their home page. This contrasts with an email asking them to look at a certain proposed member site, which might arrive when they're busy and get misplaced. Also, readers who like the webstar can go ahead and read the satellite pages if they want, before all members of the webstar have gotten around to approving them as full members.

What if there are large numbers of members? ...[top]

It can get inconvenient if each page has a huge list of member sites, and everybody has to keep updating those lists as new members join. In this case, the webstar can be subdivided into smaller stars (becoming a web "galaxy"). It will still be possible to get from any member to any other member in two jumps (instead of one jump for an ordinary webstar). The division into groups can be arbitrary, or can group together pages that share closer similarities. The list of links on each page would look like this:

This page is a member of the XXX webstar of the YYY webgalaxy.
Other member sites of the XXX webstar:
  -- link to site 2
  -- link to site 3
Other webstars in the YYY webgalaxy:
  -- link to ZZZ webstar
  -- link to UUU webstar
(What is a webstar?)  [<-- link to the page you're reading now]

The links to other webstars can simply link to one of the member pages of the webstar. To be fair, different members might use different pages within a webstar as the first link. In other words, if you follow "link to ZZZ webstar" from one place, you'll get one member of the ZZZ webstar, but if you follow "link to ZZZ webstar" from somewhere else you'll get a different page.

Alternatively, someone can set up a home page for each webstar which may simply contain the list of links to all members of the webstar, just as they appear on each member page, or it may describe the theme of the webstar. Then anyone outside the webstar who wants to provide a link to the webstar can link to that homepage. The homepages would be used in the "link to ZZZ" above.

It might still be desirable for unanimous agreement of the whole galaxy to be obtained for new members; but probably most webgalaxies would want to delegate the approval of new members to the substars, to save time and allow each star to develop its own subtheme.

What is the heart of a webstar? ...[top]

Each member might not want to have the whole list of links to members on their page, and have to keep updating it. Another way of organizing things is to have one homepage for the webstar, and the member pages just link to the homepage instead of having the whole list of links. The homepage is conceptually at the centre of the webstar and is therefore called the heart.

There are two main disadvantages of this way of organizing things. Firstly, the home page may be unavailable, due to computer failure; in this case one can't jump to any of the other pages. Secondly, it takes two jumps to get from one member page to another. A reader is more likely to jump to another page in the webstar if they see the titles and links of all the pages right in front of them, than if they have to decide to jump somewhere before seeing those titles. Pages which merely link to the heart of the webstar are not as closely connected to each other than pages linked together fully in a real webstar.

Nevertheless, an imperfect webstar in which some pages merely connect to the heart while others give the full list of links is still more closely connected than a webring. Complete connectedness in a perfect webstar is a good goal but it is not necessary to reach the goal; web pages are always under construction.

[top]
to Cathy Woodgold's home page
Send me email