Friday, December 22, 2006

"The Inner Ring" and "The Fight Club"

This short post is juxtaposition of two links: The Inner Ring and The Fight Club. Isn't "The Fight Club" really about how being in the "Inner Ring" has more 'meaning' and is more psychologically rewarding than material success?

Friday, November 24, 2006

"Democratizing Innovation" and web sites

Can web sites use the 'Lead Users' idea from the von Hippel oeuvre? For sure, all his ideas are applicable here. What I would like to see are some more practical methods on finding the 'Lead Users'.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Individualism as a Socio-Economic Phenomenon

Individualism lets the society test new ways of doing practically everything. The costs are beared by the individual - while his success can be easily copied by others and become beneficial for everyone. Those statements are true in our current socio-economic reality but they are not universal (imagine an nomadic tribe - at least some individualism for example in choosing the direction of the wandering cannot be copied by others after it proves successfully) - so individualism is not universal either. This might also explain the success of the western societies with very individualistic culture - this was a good adaptation for the changes or recent history.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Reading "Democratizing Innovation" by Eric von Hippel

The tile is about innovation, but the subject seems to be a bit broader and include also design. Of course innovation involves design - but design not always involves innovation. The example of user designing his pizza by choosing toppings shows this quite well.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Teams and interfaces and disintermediation

At my current job there are repeatable tasks that require coordination between teams. For the beginning no one knows what information the other teams need to complete the task. We talk to each other, we send emails and the understanding what the counterpart expects from us is gradually building. Then we don't need to talk any more - we gather the needed information in advance and email it to them. The information exchange is less frequent but richer, the process is smoother. Then we create Excel templates - so that we have a list of all the needed info and we make less mistakes. We send the Excel attached to the emails, the other side receives it and relying on their experience semi automatically fulfills their part, usually this comes to entering the information that we gathered into the required computer systems. It fast, semiautomatic, smooth and everyone is satisfied, but what if it did not stop there? What if the information from the email was not cut and paste to the appropriate system by humans - but by a special input program? What if the whole process was not just enabled by email and Excel, but rather the communication software really supported and facilitated it?

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Mailing Lists and WWW

Long after email announced dead mailing lists still constitute for me the main source of information in the most important for me topics.
Their publish-subscribe nature and the universal availability makes them an ideal tool for many communities of practice. The archives of many mailing lists represent major source of information on many topics - but the exposition of this information is far from being perfect. I can see one small improvement that would help a bit - the mailing list servers should put in the footer of the letter a link to the archived version of it. This would spare a bit of work for anyone wanting to publish a link to some interesting email conversation and in effect would improve the flow of ideas between www and email.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Why Scaffolding? Validation and learning.

The text below was first posted on the Catalyst mailing list. It is an analyzis of value of the code generation technique that was popularized as 'scaffolding' by Ruby on Rails. It describes what makes the scaffolding so efficient in converting newcommers into avid users of the framework.

I would like you to imagine you in the position of a developer that has some idea for a web project, thinking about trying a new web programming framework. There are many to choose from, or you can also go the simple way and use or develop something for his own - how would you decide? Every framework is lots of code, lots of documentation so it's not an easy task. After reading those mountains of manuals you can discover that some limitations make the framework not really fitting to your project (some related thoughts in This is that risk that scaffolding mitigates - you generate your application with minimal effort and you have a working example tailored to your database schema. You don't need to think if a example from the manual can be adopted to your data structures - you have it adopted automatically. This is the first advantage of scaffolding - easy evaluation.

The other important advantage is that it helps in the learning process. You get a non trivial working example. And again this example is based on your database schema - from the starting point you at once know much about the program. You don't need to internalize the arbitrary business rules of some unfamiliar application - the business rules are yours - so at once you can start and play with it. And a good scaffolding will give you much space for simple but meaningful modifications to tweak and play with.

Of course there are also disadvantages to code generation. It is impossible to come with a good schema to update the generated code when you release a new version of the generator and we don't want the programmers who use the scaffolding to be stuck forever to the version that they used the first time. One solution can be to limit the code generator to really most trivial part and move all other logic into traditional libraries that just happen to cooperate with the generated code - and this is what I try to do with InstantCRUD.

Friday, July 14, 2006

'Vacations with stars'

'Vacations with Stars' is a concept that for now I have seen only in Polish info space. It is about tourist agencies offering holidays with some polish 'stars'. Of course the stars get the vacations for free or even are being paid for having a good time.

It seems like exploiting popularity is more and more simple - is it really a harbinger of the 'attention economy'?

Monday, July 10, 2006

The one red paper clip project suceeded

One red paperclip traded in a chain of barter transactions into a house (via Ming the Mechanic: Paper Clip to House)

What does this mean?

Perhaps it has got no meaningfull meaning at all - but maybe, I say maybe, just like The other project it shows a trend?

Monday, June 26, 2006

The magic experience of VOIP in the background

This weekend I finally got all the needed prerequisites for a Skype connection with my fiancee with whom I am currently separated by the distance of 1000km. We talked for hours but what was really magical was when we finally stopped the direct conversation and left to do our daily chores but did not switch the communication link off. This way I heard her as if she was in a room just behind a wall, talking to a friend, using the vacuum cleaner, watching TV, I even heard her shouting to me from the kitchen where she prepared some food. This was as if some magic connected our, thousand kilometers away, rooms.

When I left the flat I forgot to switch the connection off. There was a thunderstorm and I received a SMS reminding me that I left the window opened as well.

Friday, June 09, 2006

A quote

"Well, one day I was at the Institute of Advanced Study, and I went to Gödel's office, and there was Gödel," the professor recalled. "I said, 'Professor Gödel, what connection do you see between your incompleteness theorem and Heisenberg's uncertainty principle?' And Gödel got angry and threw me out of his office."

from: STEPHEN BUDIANSKY On "Gödel in a Nutshell " By Verena Huber-Dyson

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

The failures of the online collective mind

There is a nice rant at: On "Digital Maoism: The Hazards of the New Online Collectivism" By Jaron Lanier. I do agree with it in many points - but I don't agree with the overall diagnosis rejecting the online hive mind as 'too collective'. I would rather talk about particular systems and their failures than rejecting all of them in one sweep. It is not that digital communication forces us for more collectivism or less collectivism - digital communication is the most malleable form of communication there ever existed and we can change it and amend to fit any model we think of. There are more collective trends in it with wikis, aggregators etc. - but blogs composite a completely opposite trend of total autonomy of the individual.

In this vein I created following list of digital media failures:
  1. averaging everything to the mediocre, homogenized pulp - this is the sin of aggregators and very big wikis
  2. Skewing the process of averaging towards people who have too much time or some freaky motivation (this is what I was analysing in One email per day - a moderation scheme and Online Debate (continuing 'One email per day'))
  3. Accrection of information without the balancing force of forgetting it - this is the primary problem with wikis (adding new comments is easy, refactoring is hard), blogs and email lists solve that by 'forgetting' the older content and letting it resurface if it is really important
For sure there are many more of them - but I believe by splitting them into more concrete and better described chunks we can analyze them and then try to fix them in our online communication tools.


Friday, May 26, 2006

Founding Myth and reality

Nick Carr attacked the feasibility of the founding myth of wikipedia others treat it as if it was an attack on wikipedia itself

Can we every have a massive collaborative movement without basing it on a myth? Could wikipedia be successful if it started with a thoroughly thought over policy of balance between openness and closedness instead of the myth of 'encyclopedia that everyone edits'? Would we have The French Revolution if people knew all the consequences that became evident after Thermidor the 9th?

Update: Re: [ox-en] Re: Business opportuities based on Free Software - another critisism of wikipedia.
Update: The Law of Focus - marketing says that you need to craft your message to fit as few words as possible

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

The value of nice graphics for software libraries and frameworks

Some time ago I had an idea for a web site and some spare time. I chose the Maypole Perl framework and coded the whole thing. It took me just 2 weeks and I had something to show to my friends. It was not perfect and the framework was a bit constraining, it made some things easy but it was hard to extend it in directions that were not previewed by the authors of the framework, but in two weeks I really had something to show to non programmers. It was so liberating that I did not need to ask some graphic designers to create some skins for the web site or struggle with the graphics myself but I had a nice look out of the box. I am now moving the code from Maypole to the more powerful Catalyst/DBIC frameworks but still I reuse the page design my Maypole app had. I am a programmer, I know how to program but graphic design is alien land to me so to build a nice looking site I need to get the design from someone else.

I think one of the most important advantages of frameworks like Ruby on Rails, Django etc is that they let the programmer program and not worry about the graphic design.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

One note on using Internet for public discourse

Internet does have many desirable qualities as a medium for public discourse, but nonetheless there are also some less attractive features. One of them is the total control the publisher exercises over his message, and that means he can change it over time without any notice of the change or manipulate it to fit a particular audience or even exclude some audience from receiving the message. To make the point more clear I created an example - a simple web page that publishes three distinct messages to readers according to their IP address. One is praising Microsoft the other dissing it and the third I won't disclose here.

This total control was not available for print or wireless media. TV and radio stations emit the same signal to all receivers, the same with printed papers. In the print case the printed paper was additionally a proof of what was really published.

Update: Detecting Cloaking in Web Pages

Friday, May 05, 2006

Notes on online news business models

In "The Wealth of Networks" Benkler two times mentions that newspapers don't rely on exclusive copyrights in their business models. Copying would delay the news too much and readers would not buy it. Online this does not hold anymore - articles can be copied in no time, but still 50 years of exclusive copyrights seems excessive to me.
There should be a Creative Commons license crafted specially for online news - with exclusive copyrights for a much shorter period, let's say 24 hours. This should be long enough to destroy the business of blatant copy-cats but short enough that it has value to those that really want to add something to the articles.
A business model that charges for real time news but opens the archives for commenting and weaving the articles into the public discourse seems a lot more compatible with the Internet economy than publishing current editions of newspapers and charging for the archives that some journals do.


Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Peer Production and Market

After "The Wealth of Networks" the question if peer production is desirable and viable is answered. What remains is how to mix it with the market economy. If peer production is going to play that revolutionary role that Yochai Benkler predicts it will this shall be a crucial question for all kinds of businesses. And it is not trivial - as psychology shows (see for example: "Effort for Payment - a tale of two markets") monetary reward crowds out other incentives. We need to divide the work very carefully so that the market part does not destroy the peer production. And to make this precise division we need to know more about the psychological mechanism of incentives crowding out and also about the economic feasibility of provisioning a particular work by peer production. Even a nonprofit organisation needs pay some bills - and what are for profit business models compatible with peer production? Some first answers were worked out by the Open Source and Free Software movements (for example
Open Source Case for Business), but I have not found any more systematic treatment of that subject - a framework guiding us when evaluating not yet discovered business models.

Friday, April 28, 2006

One email per day - a moderation scheme

I am a participant to a few online mailing lists and I am worrying about the flame-wars that from time to time burst on them. I am pretty much against moderation as it always brings some political issues so I thought that perhaps setting a limit of one email per day for each participant would break the pattern.

Here is some analysis supporting my point.

The mechanism of flame wars:
1. People interpret textual communication to be more emotional than it
was really written, so one more emotional letter can lead to a vicious
circle of more and more emotional answers (see DampenEmotions, Flames: Emotional Amplification of Text)
2. Emotions crowd out deliberation so anything that is below the
emotional level of the flame war is not even noticed by anyone

The negative effects:
1. Avalanche of automatic, not thoughtful responses that clutter mailboxes
2. Reasonable opinions are not noticed
3. Those that can post more than others can use this as a political power - this benefits those who work less on their posts at expense of the readers, it also undermines the democrating notion of everyone having equal votes

I would expect that the one day wait time would
cool down the emotions and also give people more time to think about
what they want to say. The participants would value the chance to be
heard publicly more and put more work into crafting their message,
that work would be not lost in the noise of the mass posters. It
would also give everyone more equal standing.

The delay of one day is of course something that can be adjusted to
the circumstances – but what I propose is that it was something
substantial not like the seconds used in Slashdot.

Update: It's all about me: Why e-mails are so easily misunderstood

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Reading: "The Wealth of Networks : How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom "

Yochai Benkler did it again: "The Wealth of Networks" . After reading the first 200 pages my verdict is - 'a must read', for anyone wanting to understand our world and our civilisation at the beginning of the 21 century. Impressively broad and systematic analysis, not only of the economic mechanism, originally covered in "Coases Penguin", but also all the political, cultural and sociological consequences of Peer Production.

The chapter on individual autonomy was really resonating with my feelings as an Open Source author. Yes - this is the feeling of freedom, the feeling that you really choose by yourself, that you don't need to ask anyone what to do but really weight all the input data by yourself - this is what attracts programmers to Open Source. I found the approach of analysing the autonomy of individuals much closer to me than the dogmatic discourse of Stallman.

Brudnopis reloaded

I think the Brudnopis wiki lacked the narrative that attracts people to blogs - so I hereby restart the blog version of my notebook (and yes Reloaded was the best, least trivial part).