Paul, thanks for the interest in the suggestions. The heart of the matter to me is that we can talk all we want about doing this or that in the best of all possible worlds and try all sorts of technological gimmicks; but unless we find ways to get what people in the ad industry call the key drivers right, none of its going to work any better than what we have now. I can imagine all sorts of people coming to OAC for all sorts of reasons. Some are just curious about what's happening. Some are content to meet new people with whom they can continue familiar debates. Some may be freeloading, lurking and hoping to discover something that they can use for some other purpose. Some want help in getting some serious work done, like Keith, who wants anthropology to change the world, you who want to pursue issues specific to Southwestern Archeology, or me, who'd like to see what we'd better understand if cultural anthropologists combined sound scholarship with exploiting new technology—got to be, come to think of it, more like archeologists, who have always been forced by fragmentary data to carefully examine every shard and ready to use other science to date and explore the context. The critical fact here is that it's awfully hard to get anything serious done if you are constantly being side-tracked into the usual free-for-alls that groups and forums tend to become.
Suppose I put it this way: Serious work may grow out of idle curiosity but has to be isolated from it. But isolation should never be so complete that others cannot find their way to the serious work if they want to be involved in it. That is why all serious organizations have gatekeepers. Since we spent our summer in Cambridge, MA, I think of Harvard. There are tourists all over the yard, but to use Widener library, we had to get library cards. And even with library cards, we couldn't get into the private studies reserved for the faculty.
What I'm proposing is fundamentally a Harvard-like system. Tourists are free to wander around the outer circle; we might even want to lay on the equivalent of Hahvahd Tours to show them around the place. The more serious types get a pass to participate in the seminars. Some, who are ready to invite selected others to participate on a longer-term basis in ongoing research, will set up work rooms, with links to data, references, journals, whatever seems useful.
How does that sound?
This, anyway, is some of the thinking behind the outer and inner circles and the Work Rooms proposal.