RE: [ba-unrev-talk] An important interview
It is indeed a tricky one, but I have seen group after group subverted and
destroyed because the members believed that everybody was nice and loving
and valued the same things that they did. The collaborating groups I am
discussing are *voluntary* associations, and if there is no way of handling
disruptive members the only alternative is for everyone else to leave.
Egroup members are removed for violation of the rules, individuals are fired
from companies for cause, friends can cease to be friends when their
behavior is too destructive, even relationships with relatives can cease -
if a group loses the ability to modify its membership it is in trouble. (01)
In any case I am speaking of a technical issue rather than a social one -
the membership of a peer-to-peer networked group must be controllable. What
use people choose to make of that feature is up to the sociology of the
group. It was not my intent to imply that this be the only means of
restoring order, only that the technical ability exits. (02)
Garold (Gary) L. Johnson (04)
[mailto:email@example.com]On Behalf Of Peter Jones
Sent: Sunday, July 21, 2002 10:25 AM
Subject: Re: [ba-unrev-talk] An important interview (05)
Garold's essay is superlative in the main.
But there was one piece that chilled my blood a little:
> * Groups must have joint control over who is a part of the group. The
> must be able to remove anyone who "doesn't play nice with others". (06)
That's a tricky one.
A means of restoring order is simultaneously one of denying representation.
Unfortunately, that is one of the persistent uglinesses in the history of
Perhaps all groups should be open and if a call for removal is made, another
three groups should be chosen at random to assess the call? (08)
----- Original Message -----
From: "Garold (Gary) L. Johnson" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Sent: Sunday, July 21, 2002 12:17 AM
Subject: RE: [ba-unrev-talk] An important interview (010)
> This is long, but I think it all needs to be said (or at least I feel a
> to say it).
> Jack Park quoted:
> "There are a few genuine legends in the Linux community, and among them is
> an Aussie named Carsten Haitzler. Who? [snip]
> "When projects get too big people spend more time in politics (talking on
> mailing lists and waiting for others) than actually doing something
> Generally, splitting something up, not autonomous units, and have them
> on their own and just end up working in unison ends up more efficient,
> imho. This still means people have to agree how they interface, but again,
> imho, the "benevolent dictator" method when one or a very small number
> decide the important bits (the glue between the parts) and then let the
> rest roll. I also don't see "the more the better" as better. Too many
> spoil the broth. Sometimes one or two really good people will easily beat
> 10 or 20 average ones only working on something in their spare time. I
> personally prefer the "crack troops" style. Get five or six really good
> people and they can do a lot. Hundreds of part-timers, imho, don't work as
> I completely agree on the superiority of small, capable, committed groups
> over sheer numbers. This is why I keep pushing for tools that support
> personal organization and collaboration within small groups as an
> starting point for any augmentation effort.
> Ideas and solutions originate in individual brains. Environments that
> support collaboration of comparably capable people can foster and support
> the generation of ideas, but ideas are still individual.
> In the current state of the art for technical development, we are still
> sure of all the elements that allow a "skunk works" to achieve the
> phenomenal results that it does, but it appears to be the case that no
> form of organization is as efficient at problem solving. Gather talented
> people with experience in the problem domain and necessary technical
> explain the problem to be solved well enough so that what you hear back is
> consistent with what you thought you said, and then get out of their way.
> Management of such a group then involves removing any barriers to
> and checking from time to time to see that the problem(s) they are
> addressing are still the ones that need solving.
> This method works, and hardly anything else does. We can complain that "it
> shouldn't be that way", but complaining won't change the facts. Given the
> facts, I submit that tools should focus on providing the support that will
> allow talented individuals and small groups to collaborate in a more
> productive fashion. Some of those groups will tackle larger problems with
> base of how to foster productive cooperation, and the larger problems will
> get better approaches if not solutions.
> The problems pointed out in the site that Eric Armstrong referenced,
> http://www.well.com/~doctorow/metacrap.htm which deals with metadata,
> impacts every activity of a large group. Expecting to solve problems by
> simply having tens of thousands of people chime in with opinions will not
> work except that it may allow individuals to find others with whom they
> form a working group that can actually produce something.
> I reviewed a partial list of what have been classified as the "complex
> problems" facing society that the tools we are discussing are to help
> and I think we are going about this in the wrong way.
> Question: What elements do these problems have in common that qualifies
> as "complex problems" in the sense that we discuss them? What are the
> elements of tools that would assist people in attempting to solve these
> I submit that one of the main elements that all of these problems have in
> common is that they all have large social or sociological components to
> them - a major part of the problem is getting all of the stakeholders
> involved to agree on whatever solution is proposed. These problems have
> technical components, but for the most part the technical aspects are
> solvable with sound (possibly large scale) engineering practices if it
> possible to get any sort of effective agreement as to what would
> a solution to the problem that all stakeholders could live with.
> In many instances all current efforts are opposed by some power group or
> other, and until that changes, no solution to the problem will be
> *permitted*. The fact that some power group or other has a vested interest
> in maintaining the problem, or is unwilling to take the actions required
> a solution to be implemented is a sociological problem, and without a
> resolution of the sociological component of the "complex problem", no
> technical solution can possibly succeed.
> Utopian ideas are always predicated on the idea that "if everyone only
> thus and so, there wouldn't be a problem". The statement is often
> true but not relevant because the reality is that "you can't get there
> here". Approaches that try to contradict reality will not work no matter
> wonderful the intentions, nor how great the idea sounds, nor how wonderful
> things would be if only things were different. One would have thought that
> we would have figured that out by now, but that is apparently a utopian
> On the other hand, when the workings of reality are correctly understood
> actions taken in accord with those understandings, we get workable
> that can be implemented. We are just now finding out that organic farming,
> once we understand and use enough elements of the system together, is far
> and away superior to the techniques we have been using. The technique of
> agroforestry that Eric Armstrong reported appears to do just this.
> The issue for solving complex problems then, is largely one of finding
> approaches that we haven't yet found to issues of getting people to
> cooperate in the discovery and implementation of solutions to the
> difficulties that we face, and then developing technical solutions that
> rooted in reality rather than wishful thinking, and do not require the
> solution of even larger sociological problems.
> When a solution is such that it can be implemented by a small group or
> a single individual whether the masses support it or not, then those that
> can learn and are more willing to adopt a new way than to continue to have
> the problem, then large problems can have local solutions which it is more
> difficult for the opposing or neutral majority to obstruct. Home schooling
> is one example. It is possible to bypass the disaster that is public
> education entirely rather than trying to get the people who are
> for the problem to solve it.
> "There is nothing more difficult to carry out, nor more doubtful of
> nor more dangerous to handle, than to initiate a new order of things. For
> the reformer has enemies in all who profit by the old order, and only
> luke-warm defenders in all those who would profit by the new order. This
> luke-warmness arises partly from fear of their adversaries, who have the
> in their favor; and partly from the incredulity of mankind, who do not
> believe in anything new until they have had actual experience of it."
> -- Machiavelli in The Prince (1513)
> Notice the date - I see nothing to convince me that this problem has
> Assertion: Any proposed solution to any problem that requires all people
> involved to agree on a single solution at the same time just because it is
> technically sound is doomed to fail.
> By contrast, there are examples of working solutions that were never
> designed but emerged from the actions of numerous individuals whose
> interests overlapped in at least that one area. Adam Smith wrote about
> invisible hand" in "The Wealth of Nations" and so this idea has been
> discussed mostly in terms of markets and economics. However, such things
> language develop because all of the people involved find it to their
> to be able to communicate. Common law is a result of the actions of
> individuals with a common desire for ways of conducting their affairs
> peacefully, dealing with those that are not peaceful, and resolving
> by means other than violence. Conventions for use in email, netiquette,
> newsgroup protocols evolve and are (loosely) enforced due to the actions
> numerous individuals who have a shared interest in communicating over the
> This is an aspect of sociological reality. It isn't necessary to like it,
> but disagreeing won't change the fact that it is true.
> So, rather than concoct all manner of grandiose schemes or fanciful
> philosophies that require reality to be different in order to work, I
> suggest that, if we are serious about developing tools to augment human
> intelligence in resolving "complex problems", that we concentrate on
> of reality that can be validated and develop tools that allow individuals
> with common personal interests to solve their problems with respect to
> collaboration and productivity.
> Language and law evolved slowly because the experiments took a long time.
> Even after most of the principles were agreed upon, it took longer for
> to be captured in any sort of "standard reference" so that anyone who
> could learn what was known about the common agreements. If we develop
> that allow the same sort of evolution to proceed at speed within groups
> are interested in resolving *some* problem, working out the compromises
> best approaches, and capturing both the results of the effort and the
> of the process in a form that is then accessible to all others interested
> the solution, we will have contributed to mankind's ability to solve
> "complex problems" where there is a will to do so (where there is no will,
> no solution is possible).
> Since we are talking about augmentation of individuals and small groups,
> are not necessarily talking about huge amounts of resources. This effort
> doesn't require the approval of the planet, only enough agreement amongst
> those interested in solving the problem of creating tools that are useful
> this context. The initial solutions do not have to scale to millions of
> people because millions of people aren't going to use them at once and get
> anything done.
> Question: What are the elements (features) of a software tool that will
> support this sort of activity well enough to allow individuals and other
> groups to get on with the problem of solving "complex problems"?
> Some of these we know, and some can be extracted from the problem
> * An individual must be able to use the tool on his own machine(s) to
> capture, organize, and manipulate information, turning it into a useful
> repository of personal knowledge.
> * An individual must be able to publish some or all of the results of his
> thinking to a wide (public) audience.
> * An individual must be able to join with other individuals with interests
> in the same problem domain to manage and evolve their shared information
> knowledge jointly using the same sort of organization that works for him
> an individual.
> * Any individual may belong to multiple groups. The individual must have
> complete, simple control over what he shares and with whom.
> * Groups must have joint control over who is a part of the group. The
> must be able to remove anyone who "doesn't play nice with others".
> * The tools must stay out of the way as much as possible - provide maximum
> benefit for minimum extra energy. The benefits should arise while doing
> work that needs to be done rather than because of doing extra work.
> * The tool must provide retrieval of the information and its relationships
> is as many ways as can be done easily enough to justify the work.
> I had started to develop design elements, but decided that this is far too
> early in the cycle to be doing that.
> I assert that:
> * Any proposed solution to any problem that is not based in reality will
> work, no matter how many other supposed merits it may have.
> * "Solutions" are produced by individuals with common personal interests
> working in small groups with an intention to produce a workable result.
> * To be effective, any tool to augment human intelligence must support the
> individual and the groups that he chooses to join because of his own
> personal interests.
> * The OHS group presumably constitutes or contains at least one such
> * We need to start by building tools that will support the concepts given
> above for ourselves, if only because "you must operate where you are, you
> cannot operate where you are not".
> * If we who have an intense interest in such tools cannot agree on what
> should be built *for ourselves* and get it done, there is no point at all
> lamenting the "complex problems" that remain in the world and the fact
> we don't know how to build tools to solve them.
> * If we do build a set of tools that aids us in collaborating on the
> "complex problem" of building a set of tools with which we are (mostly)
> satisfied for ourselves, we will have made a significant, and perhaps the
> only possible, step toward tools that help in solving the "complex
> of the world.
> Garold (Gary) L. Johnson