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philosophical imaginary

I don't understand the rooms/floors thing. What's with all the weird terminology?

First of all, keep in mind that Citadel originated in 1981, so it probably pre-dates whatever software you consider “normal.”

We are often asked why a Citadel system is made up of containers called “rooms” rather than something more common – folders, databases, forums, or any of a thousand other things.

The short answer is that in designing the Citadel system, we are not attempting to clone some other product that is already out there – we are trying to fundamentally change the way people think about collaboration.

Throw away your preconceptions for a moment and follow the metaphor. You enter a building and move from room to room. In each room there is something that needs to be brought to your attention. As you enter the building you pass through the lobby and are greeted with important announcements. Then you might stop by the mail room, gather up messages addressed to you, and perhaps answer some of them. You then move on and might pass through a meeting room where important topics are being discussed. Then you might spend some time in a lounge, taking in some mindless entertainment. You stop by a planning office to check and update your calendar. The next room might contain endless rows of filing cabinets where you need to check up on the newest documents that have been added.

This is the workflow we call “Goto.” Whenever you click “Goto next room” in WebCit, or push the G key in the text mode client, you are taken to the next room that has something new for you to read. Some rooms contain messages, others might contain calendar items or other types of data. You can act upon those new items (perhaps by replying or responding) if you wish, and then you move on. When there is nothing new left for you to see, you are returned to the Lobby, where you can then exit (or begin the cycle again).

This workflow quickly brings important collaboration tasks to your attention without your having to manually browse through dozens of data sources, using different tools for each type of data. Instead it uses a familiar metaphor to keep the user interface simple and consistent.

This metaphor is made even more powerful by the fact that participants in a Citadel system are able to create new rooms at any time. If someone wants a new room for a particular new discussion topic, project, calendar, or whatever … they simply create it. Anyone who has access to it will automatically be brought there during their next trip through the system.

The addition of rooms which carry external data feeds via RSS make it even more powerful. News, blogs, and other up-to-the-minute information sources integrate seamlessly into the workflow, once again keeping the user interface simple and consistent – regardless of whether the user is reading information that originated locally or in the outside world.

This is our user interface model and we're very proud of it. If you insist on something more conventional then perhaps Citadel is not for you. However, we strongly suggest that you try it out. You just might find that it's far more powerful and useful than you expected.

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