Re: [unrev-II] Plan for HyperScope-OHS launch and development

From: Paul Fernhout (
Date: Mon Oct 30 2000 - 11:18:01 PST

  • Next message: Paul Fernhout: "Re: [unrev-II] Architectural Snag - Validation"

    Rod Welch wrote:
    > Jack,
    > Thanks for important perspective on developing KM. Here is some feedback...
    > Rod

    >From that page:
    > 491648 - KM is an operating system for people and organizations. It's new;
    > 491649 - and so hasn't been around for 50 years. There is no school where
    > 491650 - engineers can learn about KM. Education for KM was proposed to
    > 491651 - Stanford on 000929, but it is not a priority. ref SDS 21 RT6N
    > 491652 - There are a lot of of seminars, books and magazines on KM, but
    > 491653 - none explain how to produce KM; everyone shows up and asks what is
    > 491654 - it, as reported on 991217. ref SDS 3 9030
    > 491655 -
    > 491656 - As a result, On 000615 the DKR team reported 6 months of research
    > 491657 - at SRI showed there is not enough knowledge to develop Knowledge
    > 491658 - Management. ref SDS 15 6271,

    And later:
    > 491713 - The meeting at SRI on 001017 indicates work on OHS is pending
    > 491714 - award of funds from sponsors. ref SDS 26 4877 Open Source
    > 491715 - nominally thrives on volunteer work. Over 10 months nothing has
    > 491716 - been volunteered. This doesn't mean people are lazy, indifferent,
    > 491717 - or un-talented. Doug has assembled an outstanding team, and SRI
    > 491718 - is planning a strong core development team. However, if there is
    > 491719 - not enough knowledge, progress is difficult. On 001017 Eric
    > 491720 - notified the team he will volunteer source code soon, which is a
    > 491721 - constructive sign, ref SDS 25 0001, but that conflicts with the
    > 491722 - meeting at SRI where Eugene indicated the architecture will be
    > 491723 - developed by a new team. ref SDS 26 TJ3G
    > 491724 -
    > 491725 - On 001025 Doug Engelbart requested comments linked to the OHS
    > 491726 - Launch Plan. No one has done this because they are busy doing
    > 491727 - what they want, reported on 001012, ref SDS 24 PT5M, and they
    > 491728 - don't want to do KM, for reasons in the record on 001025,
    > 491729 - ref SDS 30 XF4N Software engineers want to work on interesting
    > 491730 - technology; but, KM is not interesting, because there isn't enough
    > 491731 - knowledge.
    > 491732 -
    > 491733 - This record suggests open source is a good development method for
    > 491734 - enhancing KM. A core capability may be needed to guide such an
    > 491735 - effort, as Eric noted on 000120. ref SDS 4 3002 Creating the core
    > 491736 - capability requires doing things people don't want to do, which
    > 491737 - conflicts with empowerment precepts of open source.

    Jack Park wrote:
    > We continue to confuse the notion of *Open Source Software* with the notion
    > of homebrew software. I do not believe (though I could be wrong) that Doug
    > ever had any notion of homebrew software. His goal, near as I can tell, was
    > and remains to create a body of software that is *Open Source*, and that has
    > a radically different and specific meaning from the notions of free software
    > that is hacked by thousands of individuals the world over, even though those
    > projects do, indeed, result in open source products. It appears, at least to
    > me, that a professionally managed project in which contributors receive
    > compensation for software development is a greatly different project than
    > one managed and built by volunteers.

    Rod, Jack-

    Interesting comments by both of you on the open source nature of the
    effort and related issues (including Jack's latest comment).

    While I am definitely very much "pro open source" (my wife and I
    released a six person year effort under the GPL), I do think Rod has
    some good points about open source issues in general and as evidenced in
    this project. Knowledge Management (in terms of software
    implementations) is indeed a newer field than for example OS
    development, and it is harder to get people together to make such
    solutions because less people are aware of the issues (especially given
    all the "hot" proprietary work happening in dot-coms).

    This UnRevII effort is in my opinion not very much an "open source" one
    to date. Even though it wants to be one, organizational issues and
    attitudes and habits formed from decades of doing things in a
    proprietary way have shaped key decisions and assumptions. There is
    little code contributed to any core -- on my side certainly in large
    part because "Permission to use" is not an open source license (but
    still governs this list). Several people here have done independent open
    source things, for example I've made the Pointrel system available under
    an open source license, but for liability and other reasons wouldn't
    ever consider "contributing" it to the UnRevII effort under the
    "permission to use" license. I understand there is another more open
    source license for the contributions made on the other list -- so that
    is an improvement, but it still has some ways to go (i.e. a distinction
    between (multiple) licenses for code, content, and collection) as well
    as not (yet) having much to put under it. Most of all, the UnRevII
    project is not open source because there is no body of work under an
    open source license. (There is some content produced like this list, but
    it is under a proprietary license.)

    It is hard to explain everything that has been said or done on this list
    over the past year to violate the "spirit" of open source development
    (especially without sounding overly critical of people who are trying to
    do good stuff and make the world a better place). Perhaps it started
    with the lack of open sourcing Augment (i.e. there was no initial "gift
    of code") or the DARPA related development (although I'm very pleased to
    see the recent efforts like Augment->HTML).
    Recently, for example, the suggestion Doug and SRI outline for picking a
    core team is not really open source (as I usually think of it) in
    spirit. To me, it indicates a collision of the corporate notion of
    software development with the notion of volunteerism (i.e. you don't
    pick a core open source team if much of the work is voluntary -- the
    core team in effect picks you, and then maybe you negotiate what that
    participation means or whether they can join the core.) Obviously, if it
    is a paid effort, it is typical for a manager to pick employees from
    candidates, so I understand Doug and SRI's reason for planning to do it
    that way.

    Again, for example, bringing in an outside manager is not really open
    source in spirit as opposed to management by founders or participants.
    I'm not saying bringing in an experienced manager from outside the
    effort is not a good idea, or not required to get a grant, or won't work
    (or wouldn't be a smart move in any conventional software effort) -- I'm
    just saying that is a very different than open source as usual given the
    context of an active discussion list. But then again, open source means
    a lot of things to different people, and obviously Software Carpentry is
    a novel attempt to do open source in a environment involving some money
    changing hands in various ways.

    Can the result of such efforts be "open source"? Of course -- just use
    such a license at the end and it technically qualifies. Lots of people
    get paid to develop open source software as part of their jobs. Can it
    succeed? Quite possibly. Perhaps it is the best way to go, given that
    Doug has a very specific idea in mind of what he wants to see
    implemented (a better Augment). I think the Augment approach has
    weaknesses (especially in the issue of the notion of documents vs.
    nodes, and in the notion of linking vs. searching) but I'd still like to
    see Doug and others make the attempt to build on that.

    But, if you think deeply about the psychology of such announcements as
    the effect existing (many silent) participants on the mailing list, you
    will realize they would tend to make volunteers and potential volunteers
    less enthusiastic. Both my wife and I have seen such things happen at
    some established non-profits we have worked at (like zoos and
    environmental groups), where there ends up being a huge distinction
    between staff and volunteers, with volunteers sometimes treated as
    cannon fodder to do scut work, and staff feeling entitled and
    prestigious. Volunteers have to be pretty committed to persist in the
    face of the difficulties and unpleasant environment the staff (or even
    other "more senior" volunteers) at such organizations often
    (unknowingly) create. Rather than foster a sense of inclusion into an
    ongoing public efforts, some announcements sometimes make the OHS/DKR
    effort sound more like a for-profit venture producing a product (with an
    open source license admittedly) with some expectation of leaching off of
    technically adept but otherwise socially stupid volunteer programmers. I
    understand that may not be the intent -- but it is to me the way things
    sometimes come across, based on the limitations email has in conveying

    Open source done with some money involved can be a very complex
    political animal. I guarantee the SRI effort will have internal
    conflicts as it tries to decide how much to open source and what not to
    (no matter what is said at the start), as usually government grants let
    the contractor keep all rights (except some the government has just for
    itself). And if not expressed directly, it will be expressed in what
    employees are assigned to an open core and what are assigned to a
    proprietary surrounding layer. I'm not singling out SRI specifically.
    Most non-profits can't do open source well for the same reason -- they
    need continued funding, and thus a desire to charge for information or
    for an effort to become "self supporting through sales" (as many grant
    request-for-proposals require) gets in the way of the desire to be open
    with information. What non-profit manager wants to think about letting
    loyal and hardworking staff go at the end of a contract? This is also
    one consequence of granting agencies still not "getting" open source,
    given the academic culture of copyrights and competition most reviewers
    are steeped in. There is little acceptance or understanding yet in
    granting agencies of the concept of "getting over a hurdle" by seed
    funding a specific open source effort done by committed people and then
    seeing what emerges and grows from that seed.

    I had been reluctant at the start of the year to get involved with
    Bootstrap because there was no open source track record (i.e. no actual
    code or content put out there). I still feel this reservation was (and
    is) warranted. Nonetheless, I continue to participate on this list
    anyway because I see the value in communicating with the others on this
    list -- not because I expect SRI (another organizations without a
    significant open source track record to my knowledge) to swoop in and
    implement something open source after they get $5M. I've seen large
    organizations that can consume $5M without even blinking (sometimes just
    by putting the first footstep in the wrong direction and refusing to
    acknowledge that until miles later). I've even done some of that myself.
    :-) Obviously, Augment is definitely in the right direction (my comments
    on weaknesses not withstanding) and so it's likely good will come of the
    money, if only an up-to-date agument that runs under Windows or Linux. I
    wish SRI well, but somehow their effort feels to me very disconnected
    from this forum -- perhaps because I haven't noticed SRI people as key
    continuing on-line discussion participants. (Yes they do post, the issue
    is how much and with what effect.) To an extent, the same thing happened
    earlier with the local UnRev meetings at Stanford vs. using this list.

    The biggest thing that would change the open source situation regarding
    UnRevII in my opinion of this is the release of significant preexisting
    code and content by the main participants under one or more specific
    open source licenses. That action might also attract more developers.

    Still, one should not underestimate the value of UnRevII as a good
    forum, even if no open source software is produced directly from it.
    UnRevII has succeeded at bringing together people interested in using KM
    to help solve some global problems, and it has served to collect
    pointers to much of the state of the art in that field. UnRevII has
    succeeded at that, even as some open source developers have come by,
    scratched their heads, and gone on to other projects. In that sense,
    Bootstrap and Stanford have played a key facilatory role, and I thank
    them for that.

    As I have said before, perhaps UnRevII would have been even more
    successful if the original mission had been explicitely a more
    conservative one not involving any direct software development or
    related IP assignment, as "a forum to discuss global issues KM could
    help with, discover the state of the art in KM, and hopefully foster or
    inspire independent efforts to make open source / nonproprietary KM
    solutions building on the Augment legacy." If the charter was that, I
    for one would get more out of the list and use it slightly differently
    (in the sense of discussing more technology details without fear of
    potential "permission to use" liability, and propose and comment on
    short term small collaborations of a few people to code open source
    things on specific issues, again without fear from "permission to use").

    As for me, I'm starting another contract tomorrow (Java & XML <sigh>) so
    I'll be a little less vocal on the list for a while.

    -Paul Fernhout
    Kurtz-Fernhout Software
    Developers of custom software and educational simulations
    Creators of the GPL Garden with Insight(TM) garden simulator

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