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Re: [ba-ohs-talk] Collaboration Improvemenet Ideas

Rod-    (01)

I enjoyed your post.    (02)

First, I agree with you general sentiment you in particular have long
made clear essentially that Knowledge Management is a verb, and it takes
significant and continuing skilled effort to build and maintain a
meaningful and useful record, that there is value in restatement and
editing and summarizing, and these things are at the core of human
thought and can't easily if ever be automated (or if they can be
automated, the automations will essentially be virtual humans).    (03)

I agree further that existing KM technique could be improved, and any
OHS effort should discuss this, and also that existing technique (such
as your POIMS represents as one illustration) could simply be used more
to great benefit. The lack of adoption of such techniques is in part
culture and a matter of priorities, as well as the simple hurdles any
new technique faces in becomign widespread (like handwashing before
surgery took a long time to become accepted). Further, that in general
the application of these techniques using simple tools, like HTML and
hand coding (or simple scripts) on important issues is probably of more
immediate value than lots of new code (unless, in my opinion, that new
code really leverages some key enabling idea, which is my hope with some
of my own free software work).    (04)

Consider this article that just came up in Slashdot:
> "ThinkCycle is an MIT Media Lab
> project to apply SETI@Home principles to design
> problems for underserved communities. Only, intead of donating
> spare cpu cycles, you donate spare 'think cycles.' Their aim is to
> build a community of designers, inventors and innovators that
> want to collaborate on developing novel solutions to some what
> intractable problems like clean water access , cholera treatment
> and appropriate shelters. Their aim is to encourage an "open
> source" ethos for tough design and technology challenges."     (05)

There is a long discussion there about "ThinkCycle" and effort to get
people to collaborate on solving world problems. While most applaud the
effort, a lot of negative things are said about the approach,
essentially that at some point one has to translate thoughts into
action. To put it in the words on a card I saw Marty Johnson of Isles,
Inc. have on his monitor -- 
"You can't plow a field by turning it over in your mind".     (06)

Much of the discussion in the slashdot article is relevant to consider
as regards an OHS for solving world problems -- in fact, to an extent
"ThinkCycle" is another OHS attempt. That said, sometimes enough
thinking comes up with an innovative solution or approach that requires
less effort to implement, thus reducing a sort of quantum barrier to
human activity relative to available community energy, which allows a
solution to tunnel through. Yet, at the end of the day, some actual work
must be done, money and resources transferred, hands held, stories told,
holes dug, houses built, wires run, fields plowed, and so on. When I was
a kid, I received an invitation to apply at Deep Springs college, and
sometimes I regret not pursuing that, since a key aspect of the
curriculum is taking care of cows, where the point is, no matter how
much you debate philosophy, the cows need to be milked. 
On the other hand, as mainly a bright but lazy person, my response is
still generally to automate when possible, even if it takes a heck of a
lot of work to automate 
since I've been fond of robotics since seeing "Silent Running" as a kid.
Or alternatively, and even smarter, it is to simply choose a path that
neither needs much automation or much work, like Permaculture 
or Passive Solar.
[And it looks like Eric is pursuing some of these ideas as well with 3D
forest agriculture and such.]    (07)

At the very least, spending a lot of time thinking prevents one from
doing harm. The first part of the Hippocratic Oath if often paraphrased
as "first, do no harm" (although that exact phrasing isn't actually in
the oath):
The orginal open source version of the oath (at least as regards
offspring of your teacher):
> and to teach them this art, if they shall wish to learn it, 
> without fee or stipulation
A modern version allowing more commercialism of medical knowledge says:
> in the same spirit and dedication to 
> impart a knowledge of the art of medicine to others.
Shows the changes in our society over thousands of years. So, open
source and free software is "radical", where radical means a return to
the roots.    (08)

I bring this up in part because the Hippocratic Oath is to an extent a
constitution for how a group of doctors works together to develop and
share medical knowledge. I think software licensing choices (such as
using the GPL) also implicitly define constitutions for working
together. While there are many difficulties to both building and using
an OHS (not the least of which is all the other related efforts out
there already and concern over reinventing the wheel), licensing is one
of them, because it reflects the rules of the collaboration. We need to
resolve all of these issues to an extent before we have code. While it
is true some code has been produced related to purple numbers or
translating Augment documentation to HTML, I see those as more utilities
than the fundamental core of an OHS system. So licensing for them hasn't
been such a big issue because they are more "leaf nodes" as opposed to
"trunk" code. I could potentially use such leaf code and replace them
more easily if there was a licensing issue than I could deal with having
to replace a trunk supporting all my own leaves.    (09)

And frankly, to respectfully disagree, I think the indemnification
aspect of permision to use is a major stumbling block. One may think I'm
paranoid, but if such legal actions and related large costs weren't
possible or even likely down the road, then why is that phrasing in
there at all? It is precisely because such problems are possible and
perhaps likely. And if one admits that there is a reason that clause is
in there, then the issue becomes fairness and respect towards volunteers
and their contributions. One might argue the indemnification clause is
mereley in there as a deterrent to dishonesty, but again, what message
does that convey to volunteers as an expectation of their behavior?
[Note: I have no problem with asking contributors to positively affirm
contributions are original, or authorized, or fair use, or so forth;
that level of butt protection is quite OK and prudent.]    (010)

There is a core group here of ten or twenty posters here, but an OHS
effort, especially one rallying around a historic yet still vibrant
figure like Doug, could and should have thousands. Where are they?
Surely thousands have read these email archives or come across them in
Google or on Slashdot. I think part of the issue is a matter of respect
for the volunteer, lack of which has reduced bootstrapping. As I've said
before, my wife has seen the same thing at zoos, and I at other
non-profits, so this is not an isolated issue. It is just a typical
common place non-profit issue related to social engineering, and
mishandling volunteers has torpedoed projects many times in the past,
and handling volunteers well has also made thousands of projects big
successes. Obviously, you also want somewhat thick skinned volunteers
too, since no organization is perfect.    (011)

Respectfully, while I as an individual or a project manager completely
agree with your magnifying glass focusing metaphor from an effectiveness
standpoint of much conventional software development, I completely
disagree with it from a free software or open source perspective. In a
free software project a coordinator has essentially no control over
volunteer contributions (except as far as rejecting them from a
repository one has sole control over, in which case the contributor can
post them elsewhere). One can at best provide interesting things to
inspire people, whether ideas or code. At any minute, at any
misunderstanding or disagreement, or at any unpredictable change in life
circumstance, a volunteer can disappear, to be never heard from again,
without even an explanation. Worse, they can get really pissed off and
widely badmouth the project. [And I am sorry to the extent my criticisms
come across that way; the intent is to bootstrap thigns here.] Perhaps,
at best, a volunteer coordinator can occasionally develop mutually
advantageous personal relationships of trust and commitment, which can
help smooth over the rough edges of any relationship.    (012)

Look at it this way, money is to an extent like your magnifying glass to
get a bunch of minds somewhat focused on whatever problem you want to
think about. Well, there is no significant money here, and even if there
was in the order of billions, it would still be many orders of magnitude
below the total needed to do the job of reconstructing society on a
fairer, more just, and more sustainable basis. Yet, even if there were
trillions of dollars available (which there actually are!), effectively
in knowledge work most productivity is voluntary, because it is so hard
to monitor productivity of knowledge production. For example, one great
web page saying something new and important may be far more valuable
than 10,000 mediocre ones, but one may not know the value of that great
web page or its author until years later, and in fact that great web
page may be actively dismissed and edited out [negative productivity,
probably accounted for as positive editing productivity] because it does
not fit in well with the other 10,000.     (013)

So, I would argue the effective relationship of volunteers is essential
to future success of the OHS and beyond that to humanity as a whole.
Note, I said "relationship" implying volunteers relating mainly to each
other (and to anyone fortunate enough to have a source of support
telling the employee to work in the area for pay). I did not write
"management"of volunteers implying paid people ordering volunteers what
to do. Naturally, if you respect someone, you often listen to their
advice, so any organization does develop its centers and hubs. It's just
a complex and dynamic social process. Perhaps because I have spent more
time consulting than managing, and when I have managed it has been
mainly college students who could easily quit anytime, I have a style
that essentially is persuasion not command. Perhaps this idea may help
when thinking of "managing" volunteers, instead consider volunteers more
like clients who are paying you (with their occasional attention) for
your advice on what are good things to do and good ways to do them.
Remember, volunteers can fire you at any time and for any reason, simply
by stopping to pay you (in their attention).    (014)

Fact, is, I probably wouldn't know what to do with a billion dollars a
year anyway as far as focusing people on an OHS or anything else. I'd
probably just rent a big building (I know one for rent next to IBM
Research Hawthorne), hire bright people based on their past
accomplishments and volunteer work and previous commitment to free
software, bring in interesting speakers and toys, send congratulatory
emails a lot, have daily teas, and mainly just let people do what they
want, encouraging them to collaborate when they can, and maybe nagging
people in a nice way where they have the option to ignore me.
[Definitely would hire Eric!] Then I'd give everything away under free
licenses and hope for the best. Ah, what a fantasy -- not the funding
part, since there's plenty of money sloshing around for those who can
turn the right taps, but when I start thinking about HR, salary
squabbles, convincing people to move near the building, claims of
unfairness in hiring practices, people fighting over credit and
recognition, sexual harrasment lawsuits, bad press, etc. Probably easier
to just give grants to individuals with proven track records in free
software.    (015)

Actually, now that I think of it, I know of such a place, and I used to
walk there sometimes, the Institute for Advanced Study (as Freeman Dyson
put it more or less, it is a successful place because it is just a motel
for scholars):
However, it is very steeped in an academic culture, not a world changing
or tool building one as in a free software sense.
> The Institute has no formal curriculum, degree programs, schedule of courses,
> laboratories, or other experimental facilities. It is committed to 
> exploring the most fundamental areas of knowledge, areas
> where there is little expectation of immediate outcomes or 
> striking applications--nonetheless, the long-term impact of Institute 
> research has sometimes been dramatic. No contracted or directed
> research is done at the Institute, and it receives no income 
> from tuition or fees. Resources for operations come from endowment income,
> grants from private foundations and government
> agencies, and gifts from corporations and individuals. 
> It has no formal links to other educational
> institutions, but since its founding the Institute has enjoyed 
> close, collaborative ties with Princeton
> University and other nearby institutions.     (016)

Don't have a billion dollars a year, but mailing lists are cheap, and so
perhaps what I can afford is a poor man's research institute -- just a
mailing list as a sort of salon with interesting people collaborating on
the list in their spare time. This list could become that by developing
the right constitution and bootstrapping on past "permission to use". If
that issue isn't resolved (although it looks from what Doug writes like
the ice may finally be about to thaw), I'll just keep on doing stuff
anyway, although I do acknowledge the difficulty of connecting
visionaries which Doug has always gloriously accomplished (as was
pointed out to me in private by a list member).    (017)

Look, let me put it this way. We already have an OHS. It consists of the
email archives on the web and Google.
I use it all the time, even if to just find links to my past posts.
This query pulls up stuff on you:    (018)

So, we're really just bootstrapping this into something better. So there
is code, just running behind the scenes at Google!    (019)

But beyond code, what we need in my opinion is still a better
constitution for working together than the non-consititution of
"permission to use". That isn't enough -- we also still need code, and
we still need the techniques and habits of thought to do good knowledge
management, and we need content. And we need to bootstrap on what we
have to get to other levels, since the level we are on now (e.g. North
vs. South divide) just isn't stable even if we wanted to maintain the
status quo.    (020)

-Paul Fernhout
Kurtz-Fernhout Software 
Developers of custom software and educational simulations
Creators of the Garden with Insight(TM) garden simulator
http://www.kurtz-fernhout.com    (021)

Rod Welch wrote:
> Recent comments on license issues demonstrated brilliant talent by
> many contributors.
> Eric's letter today (shown below) referencing his excellent Treelight
> web site focuses on adding value to knowledge work, and seems to
> propose a technology project to improve collaboration.  I believe this
> is an error.  The first order of business should be intelligence based
> on an architecture of human thought.
> Earlier Paul worried that the license issue has prevented code from
> being contributed for the OHS/DKR.  While I have admired Paul's
> analysis on many issues, this particular point is not clear in the
> record.
> A simple test is work product.
> Whether someone submits code or not is irrelevant if there is no work
> product that demonstrates added value to existing capabilities.  An
> example is Doug's purple numbers system demonstrated in a letter on
> 001025 that showed added value, so people might ask to have that code,
> and at that point licensing becomes an important concern.  Similarly,
> Eric, Paul, Jack, Lee, Eugene and others have made helpful
> contributions, and so licensing is critical, based on a demonstration
> of added value, as Doug did on 001025.  For example, Eugene made
> improvements in purple numbers and Jack planned to produce an engine
> to organize the record.  Eric planned to create something on version
> control and categories.  Show work product that shows added value to
> generate demand for the code; then address licensing.
> This still leaves open the question of whether meaningful progress has
> occurred on producing an OHS/DKR, or is deterred pending resolution of
> license matters?
> OHS/DKR capability is so valuable, as explained in Eric's letter on
> 000120 citing Doug's vision presented in the Colloquium at Stanford,
> and on Eric's web site, per his letter below, for solving world
> problems, that it seems implausible for people to hold back creating
> useful code simply because of worry about licensing.  In other words
> the needs Eric related on 000120 and later on 011003 are so huge and
> painfully frustrating that no one would stand by and endure suffering
> if they knew how to fix the problem. In that case, work product would
> demonstrate added value.  Since there is no work product, this
> indicates that people don't know what to do.
> Eric's letter on 000503 made this very point.  Earlier on 000405 Paul
> said close to the same thing.  Nothing in the record shows that lack
> of understanding the design of KM has been repaired.
> Consideration might therefore be given to reviewing Eric's letter on
> 000423 talking about augmenting intelligence, because experience
> indicates intelligence helps collaboration.  This requires re-thinking
> the meaning of "knowledge" based on Eric's letter on 000212 by
> applying the rigor invested the past week or so re-thinking license
> ideas. There is plenty of brain power in the group, but it needs to
> focus on things that make progress, rather than whatever pops into the
> mind at the moment, as Grant noted on 001012.  In this respect I
> differ slightly with Paul on the Termite production method used at
> Microsoft, Boeing and with the OHS/DKR effort the past few years.  A
> million bright stars light up the heavens but do not produce enough
> energy to light a fire; while a simple magnifying glass focuses light
> in sufficient measure for ignition.
> The missing ingredients then are focus of management and focus of
> design on cognitive science, noted by Drucker in his article published
> in October of 1999. Recall that Mary Keeler discussed this somewhat in
> remarks at SRI on 000518 citing work by Peirce on semiotics.
> Once you establish an architecture of human thought that can be
> addressed with computer programming skills, you can build a technology
> that enables a dynamic knowledge repository to solve world problems.
> When people are able to work "intelligently," then there is
> opportunity to improve collaboration, as called out in Eric's web
> site.  So long as knowledge and intelligence are ignored, people will
> remain in the dark using information technology which means continued
> dominance by Microsoft that has been a sore point in the group.  The
> only way to transcend Microsoft is to leave them the monopoly for IT
> that is document centric, and move the market to KM by advancing
> alphabet technology beyond the model of documents in the same way that
> automobiles outflanked covered wagons.  It is an old story that may
> not be played out in our lifetimes, but at least we have the
> opportunity to witness the  majesty of a powerful new wave forming on
> the horizon, if only we would lift our eyes to see, and then perhaps
> nudge things along as best we can.
> Once a better foundation for knowledge work is in place by
> strengthening alphabet technology, then folks are positioned to
> accomplish Doug's goals for improving improvement using open source
> modalities.  First, however, we need a better way to leverage
> intelligence, as explained in NWO....
> http://www.welchco.com/03/00050/01/09/03/02/03/0309.HTM#42HC
> This requires focusing brilliant talent for analysis, demonstrated on
> the license issue, on "knowledge," which is painful in the beginning
> as Eric noted on 000503, but very soon rewarding, satisfying and fun
> to work intelligently.  It only takes a little focus.
> Rod    (022)