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About H2O

About H2O

The H2O project is building an interlocking collection of communities based on the free creation and exchange of ideas. The recent development of the Internet has been overwhelmingly driven by commercial interests. Commercial websites must ultimately focus on making money. The founding premise of the H2O project is that the university world has something to add to the growth of the Internet that the commercial world cannot contribute. H2O aims to apply Internet technologies to the underlying aims of the academy -- the free creation and exchange of ideas and the communities formed around those ideas -- both within and beyond the confines of the traditional university setting.

This site is a public host for kernel of H2O functionality -- anyone is welcome to use the services on this site, including hosting his own project. In addition, we have published all of the H2O code as free software under the GPL. For more information about the H2O project or to download the code that runs this site, visit our umbrella site:

H2O umbrella site

About the Rotisserie

H2O currently provides the Rotisserie. The Rotisserie implements an innovative approach to online discussion that encourages measured, thoughtful discourse in a way that that traditional threaded messaging systems do not. The basic concept of the threaded messaging board is to enable broadcast-to-broadcast communication among a group of people, meaning that every participant in the conversation receives every post from every other participant. This mode of discussion inevitably leads to the domination of the discussion by a few very verbal participants and silence by the lurking majority. The Rotisserie breaks this mode by assigning every post within the conversation to another, specific participant for response. The resulting conversation guarantees that every post will be responded to by at least one other participant and that every participant must respond directly to the post of another participant.

Rotisseries are organized into projects, which are loosely analogous to courses, but usually less formal. Some projects are open to all users, some are open to applications from all users, and some are invitation-only. Every rotisserie belongs to a specific project, and the typical rotisserie uses the participants of its parent project as its participants, though it will be possible to include individual users and even entire other projects in the participant list of a rotisserie.

Anyone can create a project. We heartily encourage anyone who wants to create communities based around the exchange of ideas to host their projects on this site. Even better, the code that runs H2O will soon be freely available for use, modification, and redistribution, so if you don't want to run your project on our site, you will be able to download the code and run your own version of H2O with your own modifications to the code (though we hope you'll share any changes you make with us so that they can benefit everyone!).

H2O 1.2.1 Release!

Improvements in the 1.2.1 release include changes to the layout of the project page and the display and editing of the project syllabus:
  • New, simple project page and navigation: the old dashboard project page has been broken up into a number of smaller pages based around the different elements of a project -- the syllabus, readings / resources, rotisseries discussions, and message boards.
  • New syllabus display: the new syllabus display page displays the outline of the project topics as a single syllabus document that include all of the project's readings / resources and rotisseries.
  • In place syllabus editing: links to edit the syllabus elements are embedded in the syllabus itself for project leaders, making it simpler and easier to edit the project structure and contents.
  • Readings / Resources, Rotisserie Discussions, and Message Board pages: each of the above types of content have their own page for each project, making it simpler for participants to navigate the project and find a specific element.
  • Resource specific message board threads: message board threads can now be attached to a specific reading / resource, and these threads are displayed on the reading / resource page, making it easier to collaborate around specific resources.
  • Improved poll based routing: poll based routing now looks back to the most recent poll within the rotisserie, rather than only considering the poll for the previous round.
  • Improved Browse Project page: the Browse Projects page now includes the description and dates of each project and defaults to sorting by recent activity, placing the most active projects at the top of the page.
  • Many bug fixes: many bugs have been fixed, including issues with small fonts, with resource download file names, and with leader message board permissions.

H2O 1.1.1 Released!

The 1.1.1 release is a minor functionality release:
  • Per user dicsussion participation: project leaders can use the participant preferences screen to manage which users can participate in rotisserie discussions and message boards, respectively.
  • Cross project message board discussions: message board threads now have an Invite Similar Projects link that allows a project leader to invite another project to participate in a given message board thread.
  • Project announcements: project leaders can email announcements to project participants.

H2O 1.1 Released!

You may have noticed that the H2O system looks different! We have added these exciting new enhancements: