Helping people take good care of their stories.

Frequently-asked questions

Got another question? Send it to cfkurtz at cfkurtz.com.

Rakontu 1.0 is still available for use with the Google App Engine. However, it was last tested something like two years ago, and the GAE has changed, so it is not currently usable "out of the box." Anyone who really wanted to make it work with the current GAE platform could almost certainly do so. If I was going to work in the Rakontu software again I would probably rebuild it on a new platform; but at the moment that appears unlikely.

Note: The rest of these questions and answers are somewhat out of date, since they refer to functionality in Rakontu 1.0 and the Google App Engine, which might be different now.

Rakontus can invite new members to join in two ways: explicitly or implicitly. With explicit invitation, a Rakontu manager has to add a new member's email to the list by hand. With implicit invitation, the Rakontu manager sends out or publishes a web link, and whoever clicks it can join the Rakontu. In practice most Rakontus will probably use the two methods at different times. Perhaps they will use implicit invitation when they are getting started but switch to explicit invitation later, after the group has formed. In any case none of the information in the Rakontu is visible to anyone outside the group.

The reason Rakontus are more private than some other social networks is because telling and working with stories is a different type of activity than posting product reviews or giving opinions. Stories tend to be told more in small groups of people who know each other. I wanted Rakontu to be a safe place for serious storytelling, and for that you need privacy and a sense of community. Real, personal, raw, wild stories are shy creatures. They don't like the limelight.

Also, I think there is a sort of backlash going on right now on the internet, where people are wearying of the carnivale atmosphere and are longing to hang out in places "where everybody knows your name" again.

No, Rakontus are completely private spaces. Unlike on many discussion groups, only people who belong to the Rakontu can see any of its content. If you want to publish some of the content from your Rakontu to an external site, you can copy and paste texts to a blog or some other area, as long as you have permission from the storytellers and everyone on the Rakontu is okay with doing that. (In the future, I would like to add something where you can export things from your Rakonta to a blog or a book-printing service easily, making this transition simpler.)

When you say a story was told by a Rakontu character, nobody in the Rakontu will see that it was really you that posted it, except of course yourself. When you view the story again, there will be a little "Change" link that indicates you wrote it, even if it says "Old Coot" did. So unless somebody is looking over your shoulder and sees this "Change" link, it will be anonymous.

However, in order to create that "Change" link, the system needs to know who posted the story. Hence, the link to your membership is in the Rakontu database, which your site administrator can look at and query like any database. So, the information is still there, but it requires some digging out to find, and in practice nobody will probably ever look for it. So it's nearly anonymous.

Rakontu managers can see the emails of every Rakontu member. (That is, the email associated with the Google account they are using to sign up for Rakontu.) Non-managers cannot see your email, only your nickname (which appears in the upper right-hand corner of every page). When you first join the Rakontu, it may use your email as your nickname as a default (that depends on the group), but if it does, you can change your nickname immediately after you first sign in.

If you send any member of the Rakontu a message through it, the email will come "from" your email account, just as if you had sent it from there. This is because the Google App Engine only allows Rakontu to send emails from the account of the user who is signed in (or a registered administrator). If you don't want the non-managers to know your email, don't send them messages. If you don't want anyone to know your email, simply create a new email for your Google account and use that account to sign in to Rakontu.

A Rakontu site administrator can enter and leave any Rakontus on the site at will in order to answer questions and fix problems. They can make site-wide changes to how the software works. They can also backup all of the data there, and thus see unencrypted versions of all of the data on the site. So, you should trust them. My assumption is that people will set up Rakontu sites and invite people they know to use them, or that people in positions of authority (ie non-profits, companies) will administer sites, but not so much that random strangers will run things for random strangers. (Although there is nothing inherently wrong with that, as long as nobody minds other people seeing what they are saying.)

Rakontu doesn't include any forum-discussion elements. It would just add too much extra functionality. My suggestion is to set up a Google group or Yahoo group or mailing list to complement your Rakontu, so that people can make general comments about it and ask questions of other members. You can put a link to your discussion group in the description of the Rakontu, and everyone will see it when they look at the "About this Rakontu" page.

Yes, one biggish one. You can have no more than one thousand entries, of all types (story, invitation, collage, pattern, resource), including all drafts and batch-entered stories. If you try to put in more, Rakontu will stop you. Most small groups will take a long time to get to 1000 entries, so this should not be a big issue.

I debated making a similar limit to how many people could be in a Rakontu - say 100 - but decided not to in the end. Probably groups will stop at a reasonable size anyway, because it will just get too confusing (and the site might get too slow) if there are more than 100 people in a Rakontu. So consider that a de facto limit, even though the software doesn't enforce it. There is an actual limit of 1000 members, though in practice I think few Rakontus will reach that level. Even if the technology scales that high, I don't think storytelling does.

Sadly, the Google App Engine only seems happy to accept attachments of 1MB or less, even though their stated policy is to accept up to 10MB. Unless this changes, my suggestion is to keep large attachments on a separate site (perhaps a forum?) and simply link to them from your stories.