Friday, October 29, 2010

The Uber-Tool

Notes from today's discussion in PLENK2010

- problem of multiple tools
    - individually they're very simple,
    - but together they are daunting

- similarity of function
    - aggregating functionality
    - similar interface

- eg Athabasca Landing

- that end-to-end functionality
     - workflow

- role of Education?
     - it seems that education is no longer innovating
     - now it seems private companies set trends, ed follows

Handbook of emerging technologies
   - need a tool that helps me synthesize
   - helps me put it all together

Building tools?
   - vs building skills and capacities
   - Mendalay?
   - because I do different things with different tools, I need a level of specialization

The Theory of Everything
   - physicist/surfer
   - might be different for everyone
   - enables me to be online/offline, in my head in my screen

The foundational elements of a discipline
   - that may be achievable - eg., critical literacies
   - but these would be reflected differently in different tools
   - eg., audio - will be different in local radio, satellite radio
   - but the core element remains the same - 'listening'

Can we keep the thing that changes hidden so that we focus on the core?
   - personal autonomy
   - distributed knowledge
   - social learning

It's the instantiation that confuses us, not the core idea
   - eg., twitter

How do we get at the core?
   - 21st century literacies?
   - pattern recognition?
   - two aspects: technical, and human - tech looks for connections, humans look for ideas
   - analysis versus discussion

Pattern recognition
   - beginning of theory generation

Pulling patterns together in this course - eg., posts, tweets
   - what a computer can do better - patterns of activity
   - a content analysis wouldn't get at how I do OLDaily
   - more at play than just simply running an algorithm

Human - assigns meaning to pattern - semantic
Machine - assigns structure to pattern - syntax

Tracking change - tracking trends - distinction between form and meaning
In Ed Tech that distinction is sometimes misplaced
   - eg you expect a person to do what a computer could do better - eg. lecture

This concept of sense-making, wayfinding, meaning
   - these patterns are emerging - what does that mean socially, economically, politically
   - eg. a computer can generate income data
   - but the person sees the decline in middle class as serious.

Assigning meaning to perceptions
   - is this something we do deliberately, or organically?
   - Eg., I see a person, I am drawing conclusions, I'm assigning something to that
   - When I assign attributes to an individual I am assigning meaning to it
   - two people encountering the same person will assign different meanings to it

Maria's presentation (Wednesday)
   - distinction between expert and novice is in assigning patterns
   - the purpose of thinking is to stop thinking - eg., driving - to drive automatically
   - but - the more we have to work, the more we will learn it

Reference - Sources of Power, by Klein
   - Cambridge Handbook of Expert and Expertise
   - we think in patterns if we're experts, we think linear if we're novice

Our capacity to recognize patterns
   - our eyes are moving all over, literally craving patterns
   - if there is a pattern to pursue, the mind will latch on
   - not just the eye, this is what we do

Is our uber-tool like the eye? Something that creates a certain level of expertise for us, allowing us to achieve some sort of higher expertise?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

What Is Democracy In Education

Posted to the UNESCO OER discussion, October 26, 2010.

On Tue, 26 Oct 2010 15:01:28 +0200, "Kizito, Rita"

Dear Anuradha, I love your quote " Learning should be democratised in practice, there should be openness in the field of education!" The question is how do we begin getting to this point pragmatically without theorising too much around what needs to be done ?

Democracy is typically represented as a system of voting and representation, or as instantiated through a set of rights, such as 'freedom of speech', etc. To my mind, though, these represent an emphasis on process rather than underlying principle.

At it's core, democracy represents a fair and equitable distribution of power in society. A society is more democratic when a person has more power to govern his or her own life as he or she sees fit. Or as I say on my home page:

"a system of society and learning where each person is able to rise to his or her fullest potential without social or financial encumberance, where they may express themselves fully and without reservation through art, writing, athletics, invention, or even through their avocations or lifestyle.

"Where they are able to form networks of meaningful and rewarding relationships with their peers, with people who share the same interests or hobbies, the same political or religious affiliations - or different interests or affiliations, as the case may be."

The answer to the practical question, "how do we begin getting to this point pragmatically," leads to a need to enumerate the principles and practices that will lead to this result. To my find, there are four such principles, each with wide-ranging and practical implications.

- Autonomy - the system of education and educational resources should be structured so as to maximize autonomy. Wherever possible, learners should be guided, and able to guide themselves, according to their own goals, purposes, objectives or values. It is a recognition that, insofar as a person shares values with other members of a community, and associates with those members, it is a sharing freely undertaken, of their own volition, based on the evidence, reason and beliefs they find appropriate.

- Diversity - the system of education and educational resources should be structured so as to maximize autonomy. The intent and design of such a system should not be to in some way make everybody the same, but rather to foster creativity and diversity among its members, so that each person in a society instantiates, and represents, a unique perspective, based on personal experience and insight, constituting a valuable contribution to the whole.

- Openness - the system of education and educational resources should be structured so as to maximize openness. People should be able to freely enter and leave the system, and there ought to be a free flow of ideas and artifacts within the system. This is not to preclude the possibility of privacy, not to preclude the possibility that groups may wish to set themselves apart from the whole; openness works both ways, and one ought to be able to opt out as well as in. But it is rather to say that the structure of the system does not impede openness, and that people are not by some barrier shut out from the system as a whole.

- Interactivity - the system of education and educational resources should be structured so as to maximize interactivity. This is a recognition both that learning results from a process of immersion in a community or society, and second that the knowledge of that community or society, even that resulting from individual insight, is a product of the cumulative interactions of the society as a whole. Jut as a language represents the collective wisdom of a society, so also an insight represented in that language is based on that collective insight.

These four principles, in my mind, constitute a concrete guide to action. When faced with, for example, a software selection decision, these four principles enable a mechanism for deciding: does the software support individual autonomy, or must the individual 'see'; the world a certain way to use it; does the software foster diversity, or must the person use standardized operating systems, applications, or data formats; does the software foster openness, or is access locked down behind a series of logins and other restrictions; does the software promote interactivity, or do users work alone or depend on centralized facilities for communication?

In a similar manner, a consideration of pedagogies and educational strategies is also informed by these criteria. Comparing the lecture with a cooperative activity, for example, we see that the lecture tends to foster less autonomy (everyone must attend) and less diversity (everyone must watch and listen). But a lecture, under certain circumstances, may offer increased interactivity, and an open lecture (which people can leave!) enables autonomy. So we have a guide, not only as to whether to offer a lecture, but also how to improve lectures.

I hope these considerations are useful.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Where I Draw The Line

I was asked today,

"I'm a little concerned about privacy on the net (I even wonder if I should be). I find it hard to find the balance between what you can post online and what you can't (or shouldn't). You talk about embarrassment and even job opportunities. Where do you draw the line for yourself? Are you concerned with your digital identity or is it realy becoming a world where privacy doesn't exist and if so, is that a bad thing?"

I’ll start with the easy question: where I draw the line

I draw the line at providing a physical address. Yes, you can get my office address (because I work for the government) but you can’t find my home address anywhere online (I hope not, anyways).

This protects me from the random crazies. You have to actually know me to interact with me physically (or at least, know the access code to my office). So this limits the harm anyone can do to me to whatever they can say online.

And, all in all, there’s not much harm they can do. Not that people don’t try…
- they’ve spammed me
- they’ve hacked my site
- they’ve complained about me to my employers
- they’ve spread rumours about me
- they’ve called me names

What I’ve discovered is, pretty much nothing I say or don’t say is going to change this. If I put all of my photos online, or none of them online, people will still do these things. If I am perfectly polite online, or loud and opinionated, I’ll still get complaints, and I’ll still be called names.

On the other hand, none of this – except maybe the hacked website – actually hurts me. My employers are grown-ups – they know better than to react to an internet rumour or to jump on the bandwagon over some accusation of bad behavior. And I wouldn’t want to work for them otherwise. If I were in danger of being fired today over some indiscretion I committed in 1985, I’d be looking for another job right now.

But I guess there’s another place, too, where I draw the line: I draw the line at stupid.

You will never, for example, find a naked photo of me, online or offline. It just doesn’t exist.

Nor will you see photos or video of me breaking into office buildings, shooting up with drugs, engaging in random violence, etc. – all of which are behaviors I would quite rightly be chastised for. I don’t use “keep it offline” as a synonym for “it’s OK so long as nobody’s recording video.” I don’t hack people’s websites, I don’t pull a Mel Gibson, I don’t use the internet myself to stalk, intimidate or harass.

In other words – if you’re a reasonable responsible citizen – not an angel (I’m certainly not) but not a walking trainwreck – then there’s nothing that people can find out about you or say about you that is really harmful to any significant degree.

Your bosses or friends or relations who lose it over some minor transgression posted online were going to lose it over some minor transgression in real life anyways. You cannot eliminate the possibility of someone going off the rails and holding something against you for no good reason.

And the behavior that gets you into real trouble online would get you into real trouble in real life as well. It’s like the guy who posted a video of him driving 80 mph over the speed limit and then blaming the internet because he was charged and convicted of dangerous driving. It was the speed at which he drove his car, not the recording onto video, that cost him his driver’s license.

So, when I comment on things like ‘stalking in English class’ I start with the presumption that my readers are reasonable people. That they are well-behaved adults (or well-behaved minors) who are not a danger to society or to others. Who do not act like delinquents.

These people – including children – are not in any danger from the internet. It is only when they engage in behaviors that would endanger them in real life that they are in danger online. They are in danger only when they put themselves into positions of vulnerability – like walking down a dark alley at night, light getting into a stranger’s car, like inviting a brief acquaintance into your home – and only when they behave badly.

Now, finally, notice, that this does not mean nothing bad will happen to people who haven’t done any of this.

I’ve been harassed and attacked and bullied both online and offline. Sometimes you can be completely innocent, and have bad things happen to you.

I will say this, though. Though the technology makes it easier for people to, say, bully other people, it’s also a lot easier to deal with when it’s online as opposed to in person. Go ask any scared skinny little kid in the school gym locker room whether he’d rather be tormented in person or online, and he’ll say online. Every time.

And I’m sure he’d say that if teachers, parents and administrators were half as vigilant over what happens in locker rooms or playgrounds as they are over what happens online, a lot of very miserable lives would be a lot better. That’s not to say cyber-stalking and cyber-bullying are OK. It is to say, though, that people ought to get their priorities straight.

Children shouldn’t be told, “don’t give out your address to strangers online,” they should simply be told, “don’t give out your address to strangers.” School boards shouldn’t say “we will not tolerate cyber-bullying,” they should say “we will not tolerate bullying.”

So I guess that’s my third line: I focus on the threat, not the internet. Because that’s where the real danger lies.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Open Education and Market Forces

Posted to the UNESCO OER Discussion list, in response to the following exchange between Steve Foerster and Franco:

Foerster: Education is an important service,
Franco: Education is a service? It is a huge mistake to consider education as a market commodity: Education is a human right. 

Foerster: These aren't incompatible positions.  One describes the level of  importance it has.  The other explains how it can be provided most  effectively.

I think the point being made is that education is not something that is simply bought and sold, as a commodity, but rather something a society does to advance its own objectives. That it is, therefore, something too important to be left to the whims of the marketplace. And that the content of an education cannot be determined merely by economic pressures, but by the wider set of values of a society as a whole.

A private company traded on the stock exchange is required by law to maximize profits for shareholders. This often works to the detriment of society as a whole - McDonald's, for example, maximizes profits by selling people fat and salt, while Coca Cola maximizes profits by selling people flavoured sugar water. We allow this not because it's more efficient, but because as a society we respect the choices people make. But my the same token, we do not allow people to bottle and sell poison as food. If allowed, free enterprise would undoubtedly offer such a product (generally to be given as gifts, I would imagine). But the social harm that would be caused outweighs the profits to be made.

Most societies have decided that the management of education is too important to be left to private enterprise, that there would be too many poison pills to swallow, and that society would be irreparably damaged as a result. That even if private enterprise were to be able to manage education more efficiently, the product offered would be harmful to society. The United States is almost unique in its belief that these services can be managed by private enterprise. The current crisis in the U.S. education system is good evidence of that, as private educators attempt to finish off the public education system it has been attacking for some decades now.

I get frustrated when I see the same sort of argument posted here or in similar forums (there was a recent troll in WikiEducator to the same effect recently). Education isn't about making money; the provision of an education isn't about charity or philanthropy. The large cash donations provided (with strings) by people like Gates or Zuckerberg do more harm than good. The fostering of an educational resources regime where publishers and academics produce, and everyone else consumes, at once promotes their business objectives and undermines our social objectives and disempowers learners as a whole.

We need and must recognize that open educational resources are at once both the product and the property of those people who are intended to learn from them. That our role, as a wider society, ought not to be to shower free resources upon people, in the hope of somehow lifting them up and maybe enlightening them, and certainty of creating lifelong customers, but rather in the fostering of a social, legal and cultural climate where people are empowered and encouraged to create and share artifacts of their own learning. To do any less is to cheat them not only out of their own education but also of their own social values and cultural heritage. The goods Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg would deliver will not do as a substitute for a free and freely-formed curriculum, no matter what the price.

Follow-up. The comments are Foerster's.

On 10/11/2010 11:36 PM, Steve Foerster wrote:
Hi Stephen,

The ideological difference we seem to have here is that I don't believe
that decisions are made by "society" or that "society" has values.
Instead I see there being networks of individuals, who make individual
decisions based on their different goals and values.  Similarly, events,
policies, and so forth are neither good nor bad for "society", most are
presumably good for some individuals and bad for others.
I am well known in my own circles for advocating a network view of society. So this is not the difference that we are having. I also agree that society is made up of a network of individuals, who make decisions individually. And when I speak of a 'decision made by society' what I am describing is an emergent phenomenon, a pattern that though attributed to society as a whole, and recognizable only when viewing society as a whole, nonetheless represents a set of individual decisions, as we would see when, for example, a flock of sparrows suddenly changes direction in mid-flight.

This description of society as a network does not counter the assertions I made in my previous email; indeed, it supports them. When I describe the decisions made in a society, I am describing the wider set of decisions - social, cultural, political, economic. The market-based approach you described in your previous email, however, takes into account only economic decisions. This, because of the extreme inequality of economic power in some societies, distorts the depiction of what we would call the decisions made 'by society', greatly weighing it in favour of the rich. Thus, the patterns found in the network as a whole are determined by only a few, who distort the network to support their own individual self-interest (this is how they became rich in the first place).

When making decisions about education, if we attend only to economic decision-making, and not the other sorts of social, cultural and political decision-making, we are establishing a framework for policy that is at the outset distorted in favour of a subset of society, and in all probability harmful to society as a whole. It diminishes to insignificance the wider social, cultural and political wishes of society, as expressed by the individual decisions of members of society participating (as well as they can) in this network.

The argument from the perspective of individual freedom is not an argument in favour of market determination of educational policy; it is an argument against it.

It's interesting that you note that the Americans are unique in
believing that education can be provided privately.  This is much more
the case at the higher education level than at the primary and secondary
levels, and sure enough our universities habitually top international
rankings, while our primary and secondary schools fare poorly against
other developed countries' systems.

One of the characteristics of a system managed by economic priorities, rather than social, cultural and political priorities, is that it amasses wealth and influence in a few. We see this most clearly economically, where the United States also has the most billionaires in the world. And that is why we also see a number of elite post-secondary institutions located in the United States. I have no doubt that if we looked for them, we would also find the most elite primary and secondary schools in the United States, though they prefer to operate under the radar.

But what is very good for some operates at the detriment to the larger whole. As noted, the primary and secondary system is in trouble in the United States. The higher education system is also not healthy. Though there is no shortage of MBAs and lawyers in the U.S., there is a chronic shortage of science, technology, engineering and mathematics graduates. And even when it is operating as it should, the American system offers a post secondary education to much fewer of its citizens than Canada. And when looked at from the perspective of graduates per per-capita GDP, a measure that takes national wealth into account, the U.S. fares poorly against a number countries. Here is the 'educational index'(1) of various countries

US                7.5
Canada        11.0
Ireland        9.2
Japan            10.4
Finland         9.5
Australia     7.5
France           6.8
Italy              3.4

So it cannot be argued that the American system of offering post-secondary education is the most successful at serving the needs of its citizens. It is already the case that the United States is trailing those countries that it trails (not coincidentally) in PISA rankings. (2)

Now, with all that said, I'm not saying that all education *has* to be
about the profit motive.  
And let me be very clear in saying that education should not be subject to the profit motive, that even in cases where private suppliers are involved, these suppliers should be subject to a set of constraints determined by a wider range of decision-making, and more purely market factors.
There's obviously a role for non-profit action
in a marketplace.  
I do not deny this. I expect commercial companies to continue to manufacture chalk brushes, computers, bricks and windows, and a wide variety of other materials purchased and used by the educational system.
In particular, I was drawn to OERs in part because of
my dislike for commercial textbook and journal publishers.  In an era
when online collaboration is readily accessible, I see them as an
unnecessary middleman that offers little.
In this we agree.

But we need to be clear. There are different models of supporting OERs in education. For example:

a. the private sector creates OERs, which are purchased by public institutions and distributed for free to students (this is in fact how library books and primary school textbooks are sources in Canada today)
b. the private sector creates OERs, which are purchased by charities and distributed for free to students (this is the philanthropic model; notice how the 'puchase' decision-making has shifted from public to private institutions)
c. the public sector (ie., governments, colleges and universities) produces OERs directly, and distributes them for free to students (this is the non-commercial institutional model of OER production in the favour of many today)
d. the public sector (ie., governments, colleges and universities) produces OERs directly, and they are distributed to both commercial and non-commercial education providers (this is the model that requires CC-By licensing, specifically to allow commerical companies to resell OERs at a profit)

The model I advocate is none of these. The model I advocate is:

e. (i) the production of OERs is crowd-sourced; public institutions provide policies, (iI) resources and tools to support this production; resources are vetted and selected through a society-wide network-filter process (which is the natural point at which qualified and expert review takes place) and (iii) distributed through the educational process itself.

We don't agree that open educational resources should be the property of
those who learn from them, since I don't accept that ideas should be
property at all. 
Probably more accurately, you support a licensing scheme consistent with model (c), above. But note that in option (e) resources may remain the property of those who produced them, and may be distributed through a variety of licenses, including CC-NC. Because there is no need for commercial providers to be implicated in the production and distribution of educational resources at all, there is no need for licensing that supports commercial distribution.

But I do appreciate your vision of this movement being
geared toward creating a collaborative culture in which all can
participate rather than just a top down curriculum delivery system.  It
almost sounds like a free market. :-)

It is exactly a free market, but with the following vital caveats:

1. It is composed not simply of economic decision-making, but of social, cultural and political decision-making. That is the point of the society-wide vetting process (stage (ii) in my model). Decisions about the selection of learning resources are not made on the basis of economic considerations, or even partisan political considerations, but as the result of the wider variety of factors deemed important by society as a whole.

2. The network structure itself is tended and maintained. Free market capitalism may form a network-like decision-making process, but as suggested above, the network is distorted and ultimately damaged by participants with excess wealth, and therefore, excess control. Just as excesses in capital markets ought to be managed through taxation and regulation, so also constraints ought to be placed into educational content networks, precisely in order to ensure that the networks are stable, and promote the maximum participation from all sectors of society.

-- Stephen

(1) Educational index = GDP per capita divided by percent of population with PSE, x 10,000
US   GDPpC: 49K    %Edu: 37    %Edu/GDPpC: 7.5 e-4    (ie., 0.0007)
Canada   38K  42  11 e-4    (ie., 0.0011)
Figures from

(2) PISA rankings

Confirming Theories

Responding to x28's New Blog.

Interesting points. So we have three possible sources of the multiplicity of theories:
- belief one’s own learning style is universal
- study bias
- pressure to publish

This is probably a good case, though it should indeed be supported observationally.

How would this be supported observationally? There are two approaches:

1. Conduct a study, asking people how they reach their theories, bolstered by redactive accounts of theories proposed in the literature. This is the usual method.

2. Put the idea out there, and ask whether it accords with other people’s experience. In a network of sufficient breadth and diversity, if it reflects most people’s experience, it may be said to be supported observationally.
I think that it is interesting that, if we follow the second approach to theory identification and confirmation, we are less likely to result in a multiplicity of theories, since the theories produced by the three possible sources will accord with only a small number of people’s experiences, while deeper theories will be more universally experienced.


(p.s. this is obviously much too superficial an account of how we confirm theories, and is intended as an overview only)

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

TTI Vanguard Conference Notes - 7

Chris Wanstrath, Github
Collaborative Softwrae Development in teh 21st century

We do collaborative software development. This is the way software is usually developed. But a lot of the methods were developed in the 1990s.

Linus Torvalds. Linux. Which is everywhere now. Firefox, another really successful open source project. Google Chrome, which is another, based on the Webkit project, from Apple. Which also powers Safari, the iTines store, as well as a whole bunch of smart phones.

Open sources is a success, we all know that, it's nothing new.

But how does open source software development work? How do you organize that, which evolved from chaos, with no CEO.

(Flow diagram of how to create a Firefox patch)
Preparation -> Module ownership -> Creating a Patch - >Testing -> Gettkng Reviews -> Committing the Patch -> You are now immortal

The two parts where there's no code are 'module ownership' and 'peer review'.

Linux - a hierarchical structure. Linus at the top. A dozen or so lieutenants. And then the great unwashed. This all evolved out of the needs of the community. So Linus delegated to trusted associates. But Linus is still a developer.

Firefox - modules have owners. Really, what this means is, modules have editors' - I oversee all the content, I make sure it's the right format, etc. - code review is like peer review. Almost every open source project uses peer review.

A patch, to me, is a dead butterfly - it's just a slice of time. What's interesting is living butterflies. What I mean is taking the social networks like Facebook and Twitter.

Diagram - 'coverall' the lines represent development. Each line is a separate branch of development. We go to this other world of revision control and fancy graphics to see this living butterfly. What we're doing with github is taking this to the next level to get more butterflies.

What Wikipedia is that model applied to an encyclopedia. What github is it applied to code. I can see the changes made over time, just like Wikipedia. See the changes, the actual diff. Start a discussion - an ad hoc Wikipedia.

Now - what if we had a hundred butterflies. What github does is allow your entire open source development is open? Then you push your changes to that copy, which everyone can see, and then when you;re ready, create a patch, or if you want, just pass a link. Basically, if I want to work on Firefox, I fork it. Then I just work on it. And then anyone can look, comment, add, etc.

(What about overwiring code)

This is called distributed version control. In the classical model there is a canonical version. In our system there are multiple versions. Nothing has changed but the visibility. Then eventually, we just merge them back in. Yes, there's a huge aspect of human curation, but the system makes it easier. Example of Iceweasel, which is the Debian fork.

(You have a much more flexible process, at the human level, just because of the visibility).

(I can see fear on the faces of managers)

Do we see this in enterprises? yes. Linux is a big serious project with a lot of money. What we're interested in at github is where we take all these ideas, and put them inside a firewall, with permissions, etc., but, for other things, why not share them inside a company. Cut down on duplication of efforts. What we put on top of all this is access control.

Forks enable collaboration. There aren't those formal rigid processes that keep you from innovating. Maybe you just want to try something out. But with github there's a place to do that, try it out, and discuss whether it belongs in the main code.

Some examples:

node.js - 3311 watchers, 345 forks. They care about every line of code in node.js - they;re very technical people.

jQuery - 4454 watchers, 390 forks. Started out in the formal model, now a very dynamic open source project.

homebrew - 2818 watchers, 1123 forks. All about contributing recipes that do what you want them to do.

One of the great things about this process is attribution. (Great video of the Ruby on Rails collaboration network after it joined github).

Yesterdaym 900 projects were forked. 50,000 changes pushed. This is boxes of butterflies.

We think that people prefer live butterflies. It's a better way to work. It started with open source. It's a better way to work. It gets rid of ownership, inflighting.

(Challenges of open source in interprise?) besides lawyers and IP?

Big project - open source with RIM. But the open source methodology is clay. You can shape it how you want to. Open source survives influx - but may be not all do. The biggest thing we fight is the mindset that everything we do is perfecvt, because we know it isn't.

What about private projects? Well, what about them? I can't insert code into Linux. I can't insert into your personal code. All you do is take the visibility, and flip it from public to private. We even have some people who own projects that have their own fork of the project, because they don't want to experiment with the canonical.

Open source, and peer review, create some really interesting and useful things.

(It's not just visibility, though, right?)

Yes - there's a lot of high tech going on here. Stuff even from Linus. But it's when I saw the visible that it all came together for me. The technology is all based on the visualization of version control.

We don't care about facebook and how people are optimizing their relationships with their friends. We care about the power things like Facebook give you.

David Fetherstonhaugh, IDEO
Reputation is the New Black... Box

This is a nod to the new algorithmic reputation systems now coming online today. Riley - temporary links are the innovation that will happen. But a person asked, "where's the business modelhere". My presentation addresses both things.

12 years ago, Harvard graduate Mark Bening (sp?) had a great idea. He though, if eBay can create a market for stuff, we can create a market for non-stuff - expertise, etc. He launches - exp for expert. But it turns out there are really tough problems to solve.

The second problem - the transaction platfrorm - is the linchpin that makes it work.

Google, and Gerson Lehrman Group (an offline expertise hiring  system)

They're all basically decision engines. They reduce uncertainty by gaining information you didn't have beforehand. Each serves a different spectrum of the market.

Google - very good, fast, smart - but not smarter than a fifth grader. The Google inbox guesses at what you want.

Gerson Lehrman is pretty fast - a couple of days - and really smart. But it's not scalable. is all of these. But it's a failed company. It owes venture capitalists millions -VCs have thrown millions at this space. It's odd - we can have anyone online meet anyone online almost instantly, basically for free. But to have them enter a transaction - it puts all sorts of risks on the buyers, plus all the resources to vet people, only to find you've hired a false positive.

We're missing the big middle market.

Why do these things fail? Why do knowledge networks fail? Reference to George Akerlof, who wrote on the lemon problem - buyers who enter a market, who are willing to buy, but who fear lemons, and sellers of good products, but can't sell because buyers are afraid, and all that's left are lemon sellers and the suckers that buy them.

We don't understand trust very well, or how to design reputation systems that solve this problem. Some examples to show how they fail...

One way: reputation is social collateral. Your reputation is your 'security' (for a loan, transaction, etc.). Reputation is a form of social control. Suppose Hal burst into song in the middle of a conference - he won't do that, because he might be lambasted and kicked out, so he won't do that. You are holding this collateral. But... Chatroulette. This is a site without a reputation system. Tere's no collateral given - people are free to act and there's nothing to lose. Or, Yelp it has a five star system to find restaurants, etc. But we pay more attention to the comments.  This is a demonstration of the failure of the reputation system. It works OK for restaurants, but not for $100K decisions. I might add that Google had a Google Answers system, and they closed it down, because it wsn't scalable.

The NY Stock Exchange - when you buy a stock, this is a reputation system. It is based on a reputation created by market processes. We don't wonder whether people are gaming the system. We agree that these are representative of the company's value. We want our reputation system to be like that.

(So - why did facebook work?)

Well - like eBay or Google search, is a winner-take-all market that may be independent of quality. Diaspora may be better than Facebook, but they may not succeed because of this.

So - knowledge exchanges will feel just like stock markets.

Three design principles that led to our solution:

1. Couple reputation with behaviour. Higher ranks, the more you can do. Military ranks, frequent flyer plans. Different levels of reputation give you access to different levels of resources. Credit score, for example - a higher credit score gives you access to more credit. or, from World of Warcraft, in-game privileges. The motivation occurs intrinsically, without cognition. That's how it should work in a reputation system.

2. Incentivize honest peer review. All the peer review processes suffer from the same thing - the freeloader problem. We want to enjoy ratings, but we won't spend our time rating them. So the ratings are not very good because of this dynamic. The goal is to incent people to rate other reviewers. So yo wouldn't collude because your reputation would suffer.

3. Think beyond identity. We tend to think of reputation through identity, so we tend to think that identity is central to reputation, but a robust reputation in knowledge exchanges do not depend on identity. Eg., again, gaming experience. It's not about who you are, it's about what you do. That's what you care abut as a buyer of expertise. Reputation through identity is a rabbit hole. "Are you the person you say you are." And you get the whole system of Federated ID. Then, the question is, do you have the expertise. But - as a buyer, I still don't know if you will do what I need.

The reputation statistic is essentially a summary of all your previous transactions in a market. A lot like the value of a stock in the stock market. It isn't who you are. It's what you do.

We tend to think of knowlddge networks as a part of social networks. LinkedIn, for example - we thionk of it that way. But it has a failed expertise system, 'LinkedIn Answers'. Rather, we're after 'reputation through algorithms'.

the inputs to the black box: expert behaviour, buyer rating, peer review.

Example: stackoverflow. There's lots wrong with this, not robust, but it's an interesting application of some of the principles.

Why does this matter? At IDEO we are approached by lots of firms that want us to design exchanges. There's lots of other companies - like Intuit. They for years have been trying to figure out how to tap the experts to support small businesses.

This is probably a much larger market even than eBay, but what's really interesting are the social implications. It may result in a fairly massive redistribution of wealth from developed countries to developing countries. There are very qualified people anxious and willing to work at a quarter of the price.

(Reputatoon is like brand? Is it something you establish on your own, a reflection of how other people see you? But it's also evident that people work really hard to build a reputation - that's were it becomes confusing. To what degree can reputation become self-driven?) Brand is really about identity. In a pure knowledge network, it's not really about brand, it's about cold hard evaluation of your performance. It would operate best anonymously.

Bob Lucky, TTI Vanguard
Conference Reflections

We heard about reputation and social capital and you;'re looking at someone who has lost it all - a bunch of people got one of those emails from me "I'm stuck in London, please wire me some money." I fell for a scam, lost access to my email, and had the email sent out. Then, someone else wrote me, "You don't know me, the hacker is in Nigeria, you're in Vancouver, and here is your password." Heh.

Warning - don't fall from the "confirm a purchase from iTunes" email. I'm afraid to click on anything these days.

Some things I took away.

John Kelly's talk - the pictures of the networks. What is the real meaning here. We see isolated communities and bridges - the US looks so homogenized. I'm not sure we're looking at the right thing.

I'm fascinated with the office stuff. From ownership of individual offices to shared space. Proprietary business models to peer production.

Ted Rybeck - the things is it's so surprising that so many people are interested in Oreo cookies.

Susan Bonds - crafting thes devious games. Who has all this time?

The museum director - who deals in tangibleheritage - who had no slides for his talk - the relation between tangible and intangible cultural heritages.

Lili Cheng - a lot of stuff going on. Making email better. It would be better if it were better. Do you really trust Outlook to surface important email?

Brian Behelendorf, with open government. I have trouble with open government. But I had experience - every meeting had to be open. I thought it was great. But all you get are special interests and crazies.  And you saw this in this talk because of the birther thing.

Erin McKean - interesting to see someone who cares about words. Really cares about words. I thought about looking up some words - but then  thought - I'll never see this word again.

Riley Crane - I was pretty interested in this. But the real answer was in the end - "we were really lucky." What was interesting was putting together a social network, Crafting viral messages. they got picked up by Slashdot - but it turns out they did that themselves.

Craig Newmark - a highlight. Maybe he was lucky too - it's a winner-take-all thing, and mayb e he's just the one who won. I was really charmed by his humility.  And he said, "I used to do things, now I just talk about them."

Fernando Flores - the same charm as Craig had. A sense of purpose, commitment. Other people seem to be faking it, but you are really doing it. How to deal with trust.

Me - picked up from more technical talks in London about how networks work. Principles of association. Cascade phenomena. Network death - loss of plasticity in the network.

Jordan Raddick. Looking at the galaxies. It's amazing that people want to do these kind of things. But people want to contribute to the scientific process. It's like SETI @ Home. Could you crowdsource looking at Afghanistan?

Donna Cuomo - handshake from MITRE. Not many companies with something similar to this? Will people spend more time screwing around with this than working. We don't have metrics, we can't tell whether it's helping.

John Perry Barlow - a really uplifting talk. Heh.

Github - Chris Wanstrath - this might be a takehome, to see if you can use this for software development in your company.

David Fetherstonhaugh - would I want to change last names with him? But a great talk! It cogently and concisely addressed one of the key issues of the meeting.

TTI Vanguard Conference Notes - 6

Stephen Downes, National Research Council
Dimensions of a learning Network

In this talk I overview the major elements of Connectivism and learning network theory, explaining how networks are used to foster learning,and describing the properties of stable or effective networks.
Please see

Jordan Raddick,Johns Hopkins University
Citizen Science: Using the Wisdom of the Crowd to Advance Human Knowledge

With huge amounts of data, sometimes we have problems that are very hard to compute but easy for people. Sorting galaxies into sphere or spirals, for example. So the idea here is to use large numbers of people to accomplish the task.

One example is the 'Gulf Spill Bird Tracker', where we collect observations of birds impacted by the gulf spill. It lets us create maps that help us understand the effect of the spills. There's a long tradition of having citizens heklp by collecting data.

But this is a next step: the analysis of that data. So we created 'Galaxy Zoo' that asks volunteers to select the shape of the galaxy. It was the result of the initiative of a grad student named Kevin at Oxford who was asked to classify 50,000 galaxies. During a pub conversation it was suggested that he get online volunteers to help. Galaxy Zoo was later carried on BBC, which caused it to take off.

We asked what the motivation was of the volunteers. Mostly, it was a desire to contribute to scientific research (39%). 12% picked 'Astronomy'. Discovery, beauty, vastness were other choices. (80 percent men, 20 percent women, similar to other astronomy projects; a bit more educated than most, but not heavily PhD or professional).

(Questions about using specialized skill sets; incenting with money like Mechanical Turk). I think that if we tried that, we would get less use (there is related research on this, Dan Berounelli (sp?)). (We do this at JPL, the participation points, being at the height of your peers, motivates, not money.) We thought about having top contributors, we found it got too competitive - each othe top 4 accused the other 3 of cheating - it became about the points, not about the science, so we had to take the feature off. Also, we don't want to give people feedback about how they compare to others, because this is new knowledge that is being created here.

It's possible to have deeper engagement. So, for example, we've had people teach themselves spectroscopy so they can talk to each other on the Zoo Forum. We have other projects in the Zooniverse - Moon Zoo, Solar Stormwatch. We also have a supernova project - The Hunt for Supernovae - having people look for supernovas, the volunteers find objects that are then observed by telescope the same night. Also the Galaxy Zoo Mergers project.

Advantages to science:
- reporting measurements over a wide area
- quick, accurate analysis of large datasets
- finding the needle in the haystack
- opportunities for serindipity

Lintott's Three Laws of Citizen Science
1. Create only projects that require human participation (don't waste people's time)
2. Tell volunteers what you're doing with the work - volunteers are research collaborators
3. Recognize volunteers collectively, and individually where possible

The thing that this is leading to is the Zooniverse - the universe of zoos.

What is the big picture - the big dream of volunteers?
- we would like to see participation is science have as much commanality and importance as participation in sports is today
- the work that people do counts for everyone
- the dream for science is to have this toolkit of citizen science is to have this toolkit as a standard tool that scientists can use - a bit like a telescope

Donna L. Cuomo, MITRE Corporation
Handshake: A Social Intranet

(Overview of what MITRE is)

If we could have a collaborative social place where we could break problems into smaller chunks, then these tools could support that model. (Slide cinnecting MITRE, industry, military, academia)

The challenge - a range of security from 'behind the firewall' to 'no securoty', based on information sensitivity. No tool will create all our users' needs, to we have a suite of tools we use.

(Demo of the social networking platform it's based on ELGG)

We have about 3300 users already, 800 from outside the corporation - our users latched on to it because it did fill a need in having multi-organization groups.

(Longish discussion of how the system has different levels of security, isn't cleared for top security (FUOU or whatever), where Sharepoint is used.

John Perry Barlow
Twilight of the Nation State

Back in the day, I made some predictions:
- everybody would have a voice nobody could silence
- democracy would be transformed
- individuals could be empowered to take on nations
- weakness of monotheism
- friction-free economy
- distribution of wealth to the rest of the world
- decreased borders, less risk of war

These all happened, more or less, but am I happy about it? No. One of the beliefs I had was that the internet would be tough on the nation-state as an institution. In a global world, the role of the nation-state would be diminished.

But while the nation-state has taken a beating, especially the US, this hasn't been positive.

Eg. the power of one person to state something the whole world can hear is increased. But a lot of people, it turns out, have very unhelpful things to say. Eg., the fascination over whether Obama is a Muslim. People like to spread untruths. This is not helpful. We have a fractiousness in politics where people are arguing not based on facts but on emotions, and these are transmitted rapidly through the internet.

We have serious problems we are confronting - crushing deficits, worsening global problems - the internet, rather than helping us solve those problems, is impeding those solutions. There is increasing heterogeneity online of various groups, but I never counted on them not liking each other very much. We get a system for people like Osama bin Laden to organize. They were able to spend $500K to cause the US to spend trillions. And it may be true that fundamentalism may be under assault, but things under assault react in an angry brittle way. The major religions are all behaving badly at the edges. The more they are threatened, the worse they get. Or, the frictionless economy enables things like the Flash Crash, or amounts of money can slosh around in ways that are increasingly stupefying.

Global online communities do increasingly include everybody, but facebook is a long way away from being the small town I hoped it would be - it's the online suburbs. People thing they are engaging in a way that has meaning and force, but they aren't. They manage Facebopok relationships to the diminishment of relations they have IRL. The end of the nation state may have made war obsolescent - but led to the rise of groups that cannot be identified, that move across borders fluidly.

There are some benefits. The president was elected without relying on the usual fatcat money sources. But that doesn't mean it's possible to govern as president  from the edges - that may yet happen, but it is not happening now. We are in  a very awkward phase of a negotiation process where most of the existing powers of the world are losing what they have, we we don't know what the emerging powers will have.

(Difference between grassroots networks to campaign, vs grassroots networks to govern)

We need to start defining the what, rather than the how. An overdefinition of the how has led to a real paralysis. The medicare bill was 1000 pages long - people react because they don't know what's in the thing. They can't react. Money spent on New Orleans - we can't find out where a lot of the money went. Or Donald Rumsfeld talking about billions of dollars going missing.

There are many ways people are organizing themselves for positive purposes, using tools they barely understand, to do good. It was a delight to interview Craig, who really is like that. This can happen in a lot of instances.

(I've seen a transition in my lifetime from professional caring companies to an environment almost entirely driven by greed). Well the problem is that companies were too paternalistic - GM had pension plans, etc., which made it too hard to make money.

(Look at the way nation states were wired, it was basically a linear system - but today it is highly non-linear - part chaos, part disorganized, small effects can have huge differences - our inability to predict the future is related to our inability to understand non-linear systems.)

TTI Vanguard Conference Notes - 5

Craig Newmark, Craigslist 
Interviewed by John Perry Barlow
Trust is the New Black

Trust issues dominate our daily lives, whether dealing with a laundry or buying food. The internet is about people, not the technology. It allows us to scale up what we always do. You already know this stuff. The internet just lets us do it bigger.

Pretty much everything you see on Craigslist is driven by community - we sometimes do inferences, like category headings, but it's driven by community. And it's largely self-policed. The good news is that the good guys are in the majority; you treat everyone as trustworthy and they normally respond. We do have some proections, but we don't talk about them. I still do customer service for people - I get emails. If I can answer it "yes, that's a fishing scam" I do. I've committed to doing permanent customer service.

(Craig can be found easily.) Yes, there are bad guys out there. But mostly it's OK. And mostly what I'm doing is some kind of public service, either Craigslist, or some other project, like Donors Choose (I'm thinking of that because I just got email relating Donors Choose and Colbert's 'Rally for Fear'). I find out that what people in government want to do is to do the right thing, do their job well. I am looking at what the impediments to that.

(You've been involved with veterans' affairs, to try to treat them well.) Yes. After Vietnam returning vets were treated pretty shabbily. So, got involved with a group (IAVA).  The idea is to actually listen top people, and then do something about it. The VA is beginning to move on a lot of things. They have this blue button initiative, where they can get their health records. I used to do technical things, but now usually people want me to talk about things. What I do, which seems to work, is that I try to find small things I can do - I work with people that have real identifiable needs. Eg. tomorrow there's a health technology conference that will have some announcements along these lines.

The hard part is to get out of the way. The hardest part of leadership is to get out of the way.

(Question about trust). In a free country and a democracy, people need to know what's going on. But in the news cycle these days, where people can make up whatever they want, the truth can get lost. So I'm speaking to newspeople, and then I guess I repeat what I her. A lot of news organizations have given up on fact-checking, objectivity, professional ethics. But there is a small number of news organizations which have decided to recommit themselves to these principles. ProPublica, for example. NPR. Huffington Post... (Barlow interrupts). I spek to them about how to set up a network of fact checking. Politifact, for example.

I am really no good with the top-down stuff. My constituency is with the rank and file. Maybe if someone gives me a feed with quality material and I'll subscribe. uch of the press these days is motivated by drama. When something goes right, it generally doesn't get reported. They'll report on scandals, exaggerate scandals, sometimes make them up. Trust in the press has gotten pretty minimal. I prefer not to complain about that, but to try to restore those old-style values.

(You were exposed to a thing that distorted reality about Craigslist recently - how do we resit those powerful distortions?). I don't know. I try to talk to people doing the job. I'll make an attempt, in my own amateurish way. The only thing we can do as individuals is talk about the good stuff, talk again about it... I have a bully pulpit right now, I have no need of it, but if I can talk about good stuff, that's what I'm doing.

(Comment on which stories you decide to print can be biased - if the context is not there then it becomes a distortion.) 've given up in general on the subject of truth, what's truth and all of that - I look at Wikipedia and they focus on what's verifiable - they used to rely on magazines, but that's not reliable any more. I sometimes do this - I can open up a ticket in Wikipedia to help people counter against distortions. I can mark a page 'pending changes' to allow for a second look. Anyone in the audience, if you have a problem like that, let me know, I know a guy. I'm working with people in Washington trying to prevent Wikipedia from being a partisan battleground.

The way to do the right thing is primarily engagement in the community. If you trust people and give people the power to do things, like flagging, if you listen and then do something about it, that creates trust, that gains trust. It's about what you already know - listen and do something about it, and then repeat that.

(Craigslist now has a culture that is very much the culture of Craig Newmark - the assumptions you have made have scaled quite well.) I'm like the Forrest Gump of the internet. Engage with people. Talk with them. Make their feedback mean something. The message again is that, next time you're on the phone with the phone company or cable company, instead of getting angry, try top treat them like people. I'm also trying to get that message to their management. (Talked to someone & said you'll never beat Craigslist, because he cares more about money than people)

(People say Craigslist is almost anti-innovation). Well it depends on how you define innovation. A lot of the new gagets don't really help people. We keep working on the back-end, to keep it fast. I love the idea of reputation systems, and I ask the CTO to pay attention to that, and to pay attention to Facebook, and Facebook authentication. It takes a lot of time and energy to fake a Facebook profile.

(Back to journalism. Is there a way to generate interest in the general public, because we have accepted the lowering of the bar?) It's because people doing the right thing, are not telling people, and telling them again, about the right things they are doing. The Daily Show, ironically, has some of the best fact-checking. You are pushing me to maybe do my own little trusted newspaper.

(You have an implicit model of trust based on history and perhaps the golden rule, but there are other models of trust, eg., assurance that people are pursuing the same goal, or some system of escrow.) In terms of the site, not really, it's about basics and the way people interact normally. The level of trust you need for, say, buying a house, is higher. Digital certificates, I speak to people in Washington, saying we have to start with basics, and do simple things. People agree with a lot more than they know about, so by getting people to work together you can get more.

My secret is to listen to people, repeat what they say, and then get out of the way. The biggest temptation of a boss is to interfere.

(You are very optimistic - what would you say to the pessimists). A lot of people are doing these good things. For the most part I'm pushing the work of others.  I just do what I do. I read history. Trust worked pretty well for Gutenberg and Luther. The big lesson they learned is that when you use social media you lose control of the message, and you lose control of the community. You have to truth the community. But they reciprocate - they respond with your own version of the message.

(Is your new title 'social fscilitator'). I think about it, but I don't do titles too much.

(Are you a social entrepreneur? Is that something unique to people who own their own companies?) In my head, maybe that's what I'm doing, in my gut, I don't care much.

(About the eBay relationship, and their buyer-seller relationships?) They're a shareholder, that's about it. I had an employee who had shares and sold them - I gave away shares to fight against any tendency to meglomania.

Fernando Flores, National Innovation Council for Competitiveness, Chile
Trust, Collaboration and Innovation in Virtual Environments

(Co-Author of Disclosing New Worlds)

I asked to speak the second day because I knew nothing about TTI Vanguard. I aksed how I can be useful at this meeting. Many of you are looking at trust. What is trust?

We live in a global, network world that needs to be plural, but is not, yet. We have global corporations, but we don't have global pluralistic corporations - we have Japanese coprporation, American corporations, etc. We don't know yet how to live i  what we call 'pluralistic networks'.

Pluralistic networks are ... networks in which people of different backgrounds, nationalities, cultures and belief systems commit to living together, respecting their differences, and collaborating to create value for others.

Emotional Fortitude is... "a skill set that includes new sensibilities and skills including the ability to cultivate a flexible identity without alienating roots, and the ability to cope with change and disturbances on an ongoing basis."

We are so obsessed with knowledge because we are so obsessed with control.

Who we are depends a lot on the relationships that we have.

Interesting observations. China, which is supposed to be communist, is one of the most capitalist countries. And if we go to graduate programs in engineering, we see the best students are from India and China. They are based in a culture of respect. In America we don't see that.

I was listening to Craig. When he began, he appeared shy, but I learned who he is - "I am a nerd, I care about customers, I am not a manager." That is a goodexample for a person who has developed emotional fortitude.

But there are people who are trapped in a different way. Let me talk about President Obama. He was a genius to produce hope, to work as an ambassador of home, to make politics trust people. But unformtunately he had no way to create trust. When you create expectations and have no trust you have problems.

Human beings sooner or later have to create promises. these aren't just an exchange of information; you are making a commitment that has an ethical consequence. I don't see anyone talking about commitment. People talk about data, information, but you can have a commitment.

Basic trust:
- pronises and commitments as linguistic universals
- trust as an assessment
- "I trust you" is an assessment, which results in a relation. Two aspects:
    - you trust the sincerity
    - you trust the competence
- you not only have promises, you also have offers. Offers and promises are what create social capital.

(Barlow - Obama seems to be the first president in my life who seems to have said what he meant - why then is he not trusted?)

John Kelly's maps - I asked, how could we make maps like that that represent trust?

Basic Trust (continued)
- trust and distrust are not always explicit. They can be transparent
- they can be in the back=ground; they can show up as a feeling, a hunch; they can exist as an attitude or a prejudice
- these empotions are deeply embodied and embedded in communities of social practice.

Relations of trust (or distrist) can be part of a social identity. Wondering - how do you break the embodiment of distrust. (longish story about playing online games)

Some interesting things:
- the nervous system does not distinguish between relativity and illusion - that's why flight simulators work - so why not have simulations where you build trust
- neural plasticity - the neural network can change itslef - you can learn and unlearn - you can learn attitudes - not only by playing games - and the purpose of the game must be to cooperate - without this in life this will not be in an identity

You are a very interesting group (Vanguard). You have created a relation of trust. This is familiarity - you don't need to think what they'll do. Yesterday, the person from MIT talked about the new way to have acquaintances.

Now, about Obama - you (America) are beginning to miss a narrative about what the nation is about. It is incredible how the goodwill from 9-11 was destroyed in a few months. But - on the other hand - the US is the only country where people can come from elsewhere, no matter what they did before, and be listed to, accepted.

Obama - New Orleans oil - made threats he could not back up. A threat is a promise - if you can't fulfill it, you lose trust.

My basic message - we are entering a difficult world in which we have to learn to live with people who are different. We may have basic emotions that are the same, but we don't have the same norms. We have to dislearn out prejudices (learn new prejudices). All along the game has been proceeding as if by accident. But we need to focus on it more clearly.

(Trust is a comutational or real thing, not just an abstract - Shannon defined information theory about measuring differences and bits, but can you measure promises and fulfillment in some computational way.) We are already doing it.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

TTI Vanguard Conference Notes - 4

Erin McKean, Wordnik
The language is the Dictionary

If you took the language, and you got rid of the dictionary, what would be left would be awesome!

Language is a shared delusion that we all have - each word that we use means - and only means whatever we agree. In order for a word to really mean something, we have to agree with other people - words do  not mean whatever you want them to mean.

We can get words from wherever we like. We get them from other languages. We mix and match parts. And as long as we agree, it's a word. And, you can't unword a word once people start to use that word as a word. Nobody can force you to use a word - that's the beauty of a shared delusion.

Wittgenstein - the meaning of a word is its use in a language.

So where do we go to find the meaning of a word? A dictionary? Yes - that's where most people go to. But - Dean Trench - talked about the meaning of words - paper presented to the Philological Society on deficiencies in the dictionary. "Let's find a bunch of uses of words, and get as much information of the word as we can." And that's how dictionaries have been created ever since.

If you think of it - a dictionary definition is a very lossy representation format. The definitions are taken from actual uses. And the contributors constitute (a limited) social network. A limited number of people to get information from.

Interestingly - the more a person wants to know a word, the less likely it's in the dictionary. People want definitions of the rare, the new, the usual - exactly the words you don't expect to find in tne dictionary (survey: most people who bought dictionaries bought them more than five years ago).

Back to Wittgenstein - why not just get rid of the 'lossy filter' and just show me the sentences where it occurs. If a word is important enough to somebody, and you look long enough, someone will have defined it somewhere. 'geeksta rap' for example. Or 'graphere' - a close cousin of carbon nanotubes. Invented in 2004. If you look hard enough, somebody will give an explicit definition of the word somewhere.

On Wordnik we try to show you as many different sentences as we can (up to 20), ranked according to how well the sentence makes clear the meaning of the word. Interestingly - journalists tend to be better dictionary editors than most dictionary editors - there's something at stake, so they do a good job.

(Because words are defined in the sentence they're in we have this idiosyncratic ideas of meaning - even the common words where we think we agree on the meanings of we don't. (My view too)). Using 'the meaning' in the same way as 'the dictionary'. Discussion of metaphors - metaphors are well all the fun is. In dictionary editors - we have 'lumpers' and 'splitters' - trying to join or split definitions of words.)

What about made up words - like 'madeupical'? They are like placeholders - something's going to be here eventually. "Of course it's real! After all, I made it up, and I'm real! Case closed. Besides, no one ever puts madeupical words on Wordie. Ever"

(What about words that are better to use, or shouldn't be used. -- think of words like that as social constructs. Like attitudes toward drunk driving. We've changed the social construct around that sort of behaviour. Or, consider hats. Or pantyhose. Or ties. Or bowties.  Or XKCD's fake Wikipedia article about a fake word. malamanteau. Newness counts.

But where's the awesome? It's in looking at the traffic of where people use words and looking at what the patterns are. What sio the GPS of a word? The reason words are better than planets is that words change more. If you have all these words and you know what they're doing - what would you do with ti? Maps are inherently worth having. What would you do with it?

(Where is the shared meaning? It's in the way we agree to use the word - the conventions - like we don't say "yes" when someone says "Can you pass the salt.") It's kind of like a distributed authority.

(SD  - this was a remarkable fascinating witty talk, much more so than is apparent from this summary).

Riley Crane, MIT Media Lab
The World Is becoming More Responsive (but it's not there yet)

Talk is about how we're not quite there yet, but how we can get there. In particular, talking about how crowdsourcing can make things more responsive.

An early example of crowdsourcing - a trail in the woods. We are seeing the digital equivalent of this in things like Google Instant. It's a form of crowdsourcing.

These forms of crowdsourcing do not solve problems that require coordination or collaboration. They are taking some aggregate statistical picture of likes or dislikes, and using that to make suggestions to us. They are enabled by the great evolution of the link - from ARPANet to the WWW to the Social Web. Evolution of the link.

Can we design systems that leverage the new hyper-connected web to solve really hard problems. ARPAnet did the '10 red balloons' challenge. We learned about it four days before it was announced. What is the role of the internet and social networking in solving these real-time communication challenge. How quickly can you mobilize society?

Duncan J. Watts, et al. "We conclude that although global social networks are in principle searchable, actual success depends sensitively on individual incentives."

Basically, they build a pyramid scheme (the network is a classic tree, with levels, etc). Nothing really happened to start. Then it was picked up on Slashdot. Then we got some results. This is a social cascade. (we hear a tone version of the cascade). The network - in 36 hours, 5000 participants.

So - how did we win the competition? We basically built a spontaneous human sensor network. Easy, right? If we had been foresightful, we would have had systems to manage the data coming in. We found that there's a lot of sabotage in social networks. (people thought Media Lab was doing military-funded research; others were from other teams).

Information was filtered in various ways - there was eg. information in the noise - eg. valid reports would have many different accounts, not exactly the same account. Or we could detect photos - not photoshopped versions. Or just a simple filter to take information only from people whose IP filter says they were near where they reported the balloon to be. And at the end of the day, we used a whiteboard to aggregate all the information. Often what we need are toolkits, not tools - you can't always scope things out ahead of time.

In the end, it took us 8:52 minutes to find all 10 balloons. Half the people who found balloons were people who signed up first and found a balloon later. Incentives are important, but perhaps social capital is more important.

(Comment - the key seems to have been being picked up by Slashdot - could that be engineered - it was engineered - we planned that - also being picked up by a CNN reporter - we sent links to anyone who talked about the red balloon challenge).

(SD - what this shows is that we're still in a mass media environment & whomevr has access to mass media still wins.)

Could this be extended? To find say people who can operate backhoes? Foind missing children? Etc. Or an example from the Haitian earthquake that needed coordinates for the locations of people who were trapped, using Ushahidi.

The story of the balloons, etc. shows: our communication paradigms are broken. If you think about these examples - they cobbled together a communication network, they cobbled together a bunch of tools to create a spontaneous communication network. We can distinguished between strong ties, weak ties, but also spontaneous ties (or temporary ties - like the bus drivers, or all of you in this room - we're spontaneously connected, on a temporarily connected).

Twitter and Facebook have started to solve some of these problems with our communication paradigms. Facebook tackled the problem of keeping track of weak ties - people didn't want to go through all that effort. Facebook lowered the cost of communicating with our weak ties. Twitter solved the problem of sending a message to everybody you know - but we allowed anyone who is interested to follow. They solved the problem (?) of spontaneous communication. The next breakthrough will be solving the problem of digital communication with temporary ties.

John Perry Barlow, EFF and TTI Vanguard

What happened today was something that so often happens, where a subject that seemed familiar, was filled with things that hadn't been seen before - things really right on the frontier, where there are still the fundamental human problems, how to deal with authority, what is trust, what is true, what rings true, and how we deal with reality in the most efficient way, especially some that comes in huge flat chunks of data.

Riley said our communications paradigms are broken. We knew - in 1990 - that we would be flooded with information, and we would go into data shock. But just as we navigate the phenomenal worls, we've evolved the ability to make a pretty reasonable sort. Now, each of us is part of the sort. We need to be a part of the engine of doing that.

Gladwell piece - the revolution won't be tweeted. It seemed grumpy, but some of the things he said were difficult to argue with.  I was involved in helping people, set up proxy servers, etc., but i couldn't sort out what was important, and in the end the revolution did not happen. A girl getting her cellphone returned wasn't really impressive.

But what we have is the ability to form very brief, but useful, ties, and to turn very weak ties, into strong ties. (Digression into an  explanation of ball and spring maps - interesting that everybody talked about something that was map-like - not maps of geographies but spaces that we don't understand).

(Discussion about the day)

(SD - my own impression is that we got a lot of surface phenomea today, but not so much in detail.)

What I would have said, given a chance...

What we've seen today is mostly surface phenomena - that's why there's so much use of maps - and ver little ability to see the deeper phenomena.

Eg. what constitutes 'agreement'? How do the networks actually produce knowledge / insight /awareness etc.

This is complicated by the almost unremitting desire of people in the room to attempt to interpret these according to old-world values and explanations - things like 'power', 'trust', 'incentive', 'propagation' or 'broadcasting' or 'messaging'.

Also complicating any analysis is the mix of actual examples of peer production, and what may most generously be called 'assisted' peer production. A rock band uses a marketing firm to generate buzz. MIT Media Lab uses Slashdot and CNN to get a boost. Cluster analysts use humans to interpret the meanings of terms and to screen data. Etc. These are cases where old media creates results, but where these results are interpreted to be a consequence of peer phenomena.

What contribution does the network make? There's no evidence that people even see this as a question yet.

(I had someone say, "it's more efficient to think of a task problem as being addressed by the running of a script in the mind, as opposed to the very inefficient neural net mechanisms I describe. But this simply offloads the problem. What is running the script? )

(And someone else said, "where is the impact of all of these technologies? When will the GDP go up?" And I thought, that's exactly the wrong question - we want the GDP to go down, because all these things we used to do that were so expensive, are now nearly free.)

day two - and my own talk - tomorrow.

TTI Vanguard Conference Notes - 3

Lili Cheng, Future Social Experiences (FUSE) Lab, Microsoft
Designing Applications and Services for Our Social Nature

We asked people in a mall who they interact with, they would put themselves at the centre and different groups of people in clusters around them. So we tried to do was to do the same sort of thing with your email, and it builds a similar sort of cluster map for you. This theme of self-organizing and origanizing things in a gorup for you is something you'll see in a lot of our work.

This team built the matchmaking behind xBox 360, Bing search stuff, Bing Twitter maps, Windows desktop search index, aggregation, etc.

Example: Bing social search, called 'Twig'.  See - it is a good breaking news service.  (Some other examples - Montage, Spindex - URLs are obscured in IE display so it's hard to show them - also you have to have a Windows Live ID to use Spindex). Annoying.

Example: Inner Circle. Based on the idea of 'wallop' applied to email. And we wanted to bring social information into email - view of 'Salsa', which shipped with Outlook.

(Discussion of Microsoft vis-a-vis Facebook, whether people use Sharepoint, its relation to open source, etc.) for Facebook - we wanted to explore 'what happens when work software moves out into other areas'. We worked with Facebook, they gave us access to their APIs. It was interesting to see how people in Facebook use docs. It was modeled after the photo app. One thing we discovered is that people don't really want to create docs in that way - so we created a document that will create themselves - eg. an excel doc that is created from your friends graph.

Brian Behlendorf, Apache Software Foundation
Peer Production and Public Policy

Talking about trying to encourage government and the private sector to work together to solve some of the big problems of the world.

Obama's open government initiative memo - order to make government more transparent, participatory and collaborative. Led by Beth Noveck, the idea was to create a document the president could sign actually created by the participants. The website is

People decided that policies related to illegal immigrants were in scope, that the birther issue was a transparency issue, etc. And we realized that there was maybe something amiss. A bunch of issues, very little to have to do with transparency, were promoted to the top.

But the next tier had some real ideas. Eg. whistleblower protection, open CRS reports, online interactive federal budget website, stand-alone (no earmarks) bills. Etc. These then went back into the bureaucracy to be redrafted into forms that could actually be implemented.

Since then, HHS has been active with See also Sunlight labs, 'Design for America', which uses the HHS data set. One of the winners of the contest was the 'county sin' rankings.

What did we learn from this? Here's a set prepapred for this presentation:
- we weren't driving toward specific outcomes - just created a way for flash mobs to vent
- transparency from day one in processes and assets
- recognition of participant motivations - a lot of people participate in government because it's part of how they make their living - the process should recognize these different roles
- facilitation by third parties or participants themselves (ie., humbling the brand of government) - the challenge is to establish distance between the government and the participants
- an expectation of perpetuity, but also an eventual hand-off to an NGO

From open source software communities (a "do-ocracy"), we get the ideas that:
- ways to make consensus decisions while maintaining place
- ways to effectively re-use prior work
- peer ownership and stewardship - we're all in this together, it's not just government asking for your opinion, but rather we're all doing something
- a reinforcing of open standards, and vice-versa
- a connection to reality - this is not an ivory tower process - code used in production serves as a grounding purpose

(Comment on how transparency is not an unalloyed good. But... there's a skill set. There's a way to make decisions, a way to have discussions, even when people are watching. Ways to have consensus even when not everybody has responded.)

Asked how to help, the 'Connect project' at HHS. (See O'Reilly article here.) A lot of the money in health care is spent by governments. Eg. wounded soldiers (just one example). They may touch a variety of different services. This group was charged with allowing patients to go from one to another and to bring their own records with them. This is the big problem with health care. The mandate was, 'come up with a standard to do this.'

The first effort was a top-down effort, to get the agencies to have 'must have' features in the standard. Eight separate consultants created these lists. A second try was to try something different, that would aggregate the demands of different agencies, and run them as pilot projects.

"CONNECT is an open source software solution that supports health information exchange – both locally and at the national level. CONNECT uses Nationwide Health Information Network standards and governance to make sure that health information exchanges are compatible with other exchanges being set up throughout the country." Apache (BSD) licensed. It's basically a gateway that can talk to other similarly-configured service. We created a 'partners list'.

(Is this a model for other countries, not just the U.S.? Nobody else has really come up with a systematic way of building this. A lot of the tech uses US-specific terms, data sets, etc.)

(Is stuff like this being mission-critical for businesses? The whole social media thing generally? More adoption of standards is important, it can help create good positive outcomes, using public collaboration as the tool to get there faster.)

(This is an interoperability initiative at core. But all initiatives that try to create interoperability by publishing large stacks of documents fail. But with open source, they are almost by definition interoperable. So governments that don't implement using open source - forget the licence, it's the source code there - are going to fail. It really feels that where government impacts people really happens day-to-day in the agencies.)

(Open health tools initiative - intended to be source that is released - they are building good libraries for parsing various health care documents.)

TTI Vanguard Conference Notes - 2

Ted Rybeck, Benchmarking Partners
Member-Oriented Management Systems

Story about a program to revive industry in a dying town in the Ohio River valley. I was a 'Watson Fellow' studying how dying companies turned themselves around. Built Walmart's supplier collaboration management system. The system was shared with other vendors, eg., Home Depot, in order to help vendors be efficient across the board (and therefore, with WalMart).

There was a transition from CIO-oriented management systems to CEO-oriented management systems to customer-oriented management systems. The problem is, if there's defective plastic in a toy, the source of the problem is not the vendor, but a supplier way down in the chain. This demonstrates the need for a knowledge-based content management system.

How could we do free, trusted, ubiquitous, very wide and very deep, that changed processes for everyone in the ecosystem. There have been seven big collaboration systems that spent a billion dollars. The problem is, they have to charge for every transaction to get their billion dollars back. 

Some questions about WalMart - people don't find it a pleasant and rewarding shopping experience, people do not fill out the little warranty cards. But WalMart is changing - and has said they will now source produce from local grown organics - because customers say they want that. (SD - that simply means that's another group they'll drive into poverty).

During Katrina - magazine article (Fortune) claimed that the government didn't deliver but private enterprise did. After Haiti, one has the sense that in the U.S. and Canada people would be waiting for the government to deliver. But in Haiti they helped themselves. (SD - OMFG - Haiti touted as a success story?) (Update - clarification - the point was, how could you have grassroots activism here, so the public would be a resource?)

(Segue into editing Wikipedia, view history, reverting)

If each of us are members as individuals, then what would that architecture look like? If it doesn't have some free base, it won't have the level of innovation anf contribution it needs.

Example (it's just an amalgamation of a bunch of social media stuff on Oreos) from but you have to have a login ID to view it - and this is a login from Dossia Electronic Health Records -  (SD - annoying)

Some discussion on why the intelligence community can't use Wikipedia.

More examples from worldlinkedwikis - 'neighbour to neighbour exachange'.

(Question on whether there's a de facto set of standard web sites or services that you would go to? For the bombings, the intelligence people thought the best site was Wikipedia.)

What we've done is gone from a Yahoo world where we build a directory to Google coming along with a secret algorithm to a billion people who input things with understanding that can do things an algorithm can't.

Susan Bonds, 42 Entertainment
Personal and Global: How Deep Media Has Transformed the Power of Storytelling and Entertainment

- Boundaries - the boundaries of entertainment have been erased; blending stories and gameplay
- Expectations
- Consumption
- Participation

An alternate reality game (ARG) is an interactive experience that immerses audience in a story via the content platforms that intersect their daily lives
- what's neat is that they create 'evidence' that the story actually happened and plant it IRL (in real life)

Key ingredients of ingagement in an ARG:
- hide in plain site ('look', 'whisper', 'discovery')
- evokes collective intelligence
- unique storytelling - distributed narrative
- unusual platforms - cross-media, 'the world'
- inspires participation and 'respects the audience'

Eg. 'Year Zero' - a record that began as an experiment with noise in a laptop on a bus. Then, a hidden message in a Nine Inch nails concert t-shirt. Then an iconography to indicate that some content had been sent 'back in time'. Then the mystery of 'parepin'. The fans quickly discovered where there were more sites to be found. Then, leaks of the music - putting the very first single on thumb drives left around the concept venue. Apparently 90 perecent of the world will pick up thumb drives and put them in their computer. And the song immediately propagated.

(It's touching something inside the people who are involved in this - but - it also expands that audience - eg. the core audience is 900K or so, but this expanded it something like 10 times - yes but this isn't going to work with something like, say, toothpaste - but this transcended the music, and became something like a social activation. Eg. the Art Is Resistance site. You have a voice, you can speak up. Etc. And people began to mimic the idea of "--- is resistance" sites. All these economies kind of happened within the community.

Anthony Shelton, UBC Museum of Anthrpology
Museum Futures

The major part of a recent $55 million project at the university was to build a research infrastructure. Not just rooms at the university, but also a digital research infrastructure, to bring together different segments of the population, dispersed geographically, to share research interests.

Jim Clifford 20 years ago wrote about new types of museums that are beginning to emerge. The idea is that there is an engagement between the museum community and visitors. So we are not doing this research in various different areas, including the use of IT, museology, and copyright.

So what are the implications of new technologies for museums? People used to say they would close down, but the reality is more complex:

1. The relation between tangible and intangible cultural object. The museum deals in historical artifacts. There has been an increasing pressure to take management of any form of intangible cultural propertty, including eg. dance performances, etc. So museums were selected to take charge of this. Museums came up with the idea that these could be collected and retained by being recorded. But what we're wondering now what the relationship is between the intangible cultural heritage and the material artifact. I think we are creating a new third term of culture, because you need to make a bunch of decisions (eg. angles) in the recording. (And this brings up the question of who curates that).

2. The relationship thetween three different areas of knowledge at least. The second area is the shift from a --- museum to a (motor?) museum. Traditionally museums have seen themselves as encyclopedic. Smaller museums have seen themselves as being a smaller part of tat encyclopedic picture. But recently museums have been working more with communities - we've been showing material in the collection, asking for their interpretation, and how they want it to be shown.

3. There has been a shift in the soft sciences, which were originally presented as universal, toward a representation as relativist. This gives us a new type of universalism, which is based in the creation of digital types of knowledge.  The idea is that we would come up with a software system that would allow searches across the different collection management services that different institutions use. We needed to put in various protocols to accommodate this search system.

4. It creates a crisis of authority. It provides a kind of feedback of what you are doing. The authority that used to be the privilege of curators is now open for comment, and this will modify the kind of content that is displayed. In Canada we define ourselves as a multicultural country, and that means we look at different cultural universes in a society, and now we ask, "where is the consensus," because there used to be a consensus. In a way this has produced a new insularity - "you can't understand this culture unless you have lived in it,." And that just creates enclaves, solitudes. (Perhaps you could have stories involving artifacts that could blend...)

In the 1970s and the 1980s, with the decline of heavy industry, we talked about the museumification of society, making museums out of industrial enterprises. Today, we've moved to the idea of the societization of museums themselves; they are being incorporated as essential institutions within society. (Comment on the parallels between libraries and museums - in libraries the number of visits has gone up because of the expansion of the number of people who want to participate in the experience).