[unrev-II] Meeting Summary

From: Eric Armstrong (eric.armstrong@eng.sun.com)
Date: Fri Apr 21 2000 - 21:21:39 PDT

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    We had a rather good meeting at SRI this month.

    Highlights of the Formal Meeting
    This was the official meeting, held at SRI.

    * Joe Williams gave a high level "markety" overview
      of the thing we are planning to build. There was
      a strong general feeling that the picture he was
      presenting was not accurate, but the style and sense
      of focus was good. When *do* have an accurate
      picture to portray, I suspect he'll summarize it

      [One nice thing that came out of that presentation,
      for me, was that it brought it into clearer focus
      why I have been wrestling with data types. His desire
      to identify the "fundamental information unit" of
      the DKR made me realize that the real goal of the
      data structure design I have been doing is to
      (hopefully) identify one (or at most a few) "atomic
      data structures" that can be strung together to make
      everything else in the system. I think I may be
      close (future email).]

    * Lee Iverson gave a great overview of use case
      scenarios, describing the activities that actually
      go on in a software development project. Since we
      all agree that our initial target is to augment
      open source development activities, his overview
      (coming soon to a mailing list near you) provided
      a good list of activities to start on.

      To anticipate Lee's email just a bit, he divided the
      activities into 4 general scenarios:
        a) The (primary) development activities that go on
           before the product is released (designing, planning,
           coding, documentation, etc.)
        b) The (primary) development activities that go on
           after a product is released (bug tracking,
           suggestion lists, and enhancements).
        c) "Breaking in" a new developer (choosing a bug to
           work on, mining the code for rationales)
        d) User activities (reading documentation, asking

      In an effort to prune the list down to the "first cut"
      activities, it was observed that some of the activities
      represented "formal language" processes, or "formal
      processes". Those activities included project management,
      coding, bug management, and testing. The rest of the
      processes were "natural language" processes, which means
      that the system which is effective for one is likely to
      be effective for all of them.

      [My inclination is to counsel a sharp focus on those
       activities, excluding the formal processes for the
       moment. The only conceivable counter argument is that
       the design really needs to take them into account, in
       order to ensure future compatibility with those systems.
       For some reason, my "gut feeling" is not to worry about
       it -- but I want to leave the door open for alternative
       views. It helps if we can restrict our focus, but...]

    * Doug is going to work with Lee Iverson to put together a
      system he can use to demo Augment in the very near future.
      Whenever that is ready, it will be item #1 on the agenda.

    * It is apparent that a large number of projects are currently
      underway in the "distributed collaborative project" design
      space. It was felt that we should use one or more of them
      to replace the fragile email medium we are using, so that we
      can get a better idea of what needs to be done, and use
      whatever the system gives us to help us do the design work.

      [I sent out the list of candidates yesterday. Apologies if
      I overlooked anyone's past contributions. Send them to me
      and I'll start v.2 of the list.]

    * Doug mentioned that Sun had donated a server for Bootstrap
      use. Whatever system we select might be hosted on that

    * We identified several important agenda items, and prioritized
      them. [Upcoming email.]

    Highlights of the Informal Meeting
    This was the unofficial meeting, held at the Applewood Gourmet
    Pizza palace, where they have salmon pizza and barbeque
    chicken pizza, and all kinds of good stuff...

    * For maybe the first time, I articulated clearly the
      reservations I have about the transcoding approach:
        a) It *could* be a coding dead-end.
           That is, it might take us part of the way to where
           we want to go, but leave us with no good way to
           progress from there. I don't *know* that to be the
           case, but I'm concerned that it may be.

        b) The rather interesting tidbit of information that
           surfaced recently: That the folks who build the
           HTML-page-annotation system (Crit) found themselves
           using EMAIL to carry on discussions -- even though
           they tried to get each other to annotate HTML pages.

           [This led to the observation that there is something
            seductive about the email interface -- the immediacy,
            the way information comes to you, and asks only for
            a reply. That, in turn, led to the realization that
            email the right interface, but the wrong data
            structures. Add good data structures to the system,
            and the result should be interesting...]

    * A new member of the group, Debra England from McKinsey and
      Company (a group that focuses on defining and promoting
      organizational "best practices") kept asking: What is it
      that we are building? What are we about, anyway? I came up
      with one possible statement. Debra suggested that it would
      be a good assignment for the group to ask *everyone* to
      write up a concise statement (a sentence or a paragraph).
      [That "homework assignment" will be in my very next email.]

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