New Civilization News - Category: Internet    
 SAGE1 comment
28 Jul 2004 @ 14:59, by ov. Internet
SAGE stands for Simulation and Advanced Gaming Environments (SAGE) for Learning. This is a recently launched collaborative research initiative by Simon Fraser University in Vancouver Canada. Most of the initial work is for the purpose of collecting a foundation of information for using the latest computer technology and applying it towards the creation of learning environments. The expectations are that this will create a new industry in which Canada will be able to play a leading role.

SAGE is a wisdom project. We have evolved beyond facts, beyond knowledge, and now we seek wisdom on a mass basis. Wisdom to know what to do, and why and how. Wisdom which can be learned but not taught, earned but not bought, elusive but essential. Perhaps in virtual environments we can try things on for size and see how they fit before we commit. This is an option we really haven't had before.

SAGE is more than an academic exercise, it involves the academics but also the students and the general public as well. There is a theory side, a participatory side, and the observation of both. This initiative has the support of the universites, the government and industry. There are a lot of qualified people that are being paid to work on this project, it is not just a good idea being held afloat by a handful of volunteers, although I suspect there will be lots of volunteers involved, as well as by those that want experience for future monetary gain. There should be high interest in this project since the content involves health care which is probably the most popular political issue for Canadians.

Vancouver already has an established industry in electronic gaming. There is also a large number of people working in the film industry and the nickname of Hollywood North is well earned. Vancouver itself, along with the high concentration of creative people that have moved here, is probably the biggest asset for this project.

We already have some experience in new education forms such as high school classes where every student was provided with a laptop, which had wifi connection, and classroom projects were collaborative efforts; parents, teachers and students were so impressed with the results that there are plans to introduce this method into more Vancouver schools.

The SAGE project is hyper multi-media. It not only includes all aspects of online communication but a large off line component as well. It also involves that overlapping area where the mass population engages in collective dialogue. For example I heard about this project last week on CBC Radio where David Kaufman the project leader was being interviewed and was also taking telephone calls from the audience. The project brochure (at SAGE link) lists a multitude of well defined objectives, and seeing as how it is in that most disagreeable online format of pdf Adobe Acrobat it will most probably be printed out, and find its way into coffee shops around town, along with newspaper articles, and through word of mouth. Hyper multi-media is not restricted to a communication medium but is diffused throughout the culture.

Vancouver is engaged with experimenting in numerous forms of participatory democracy, and all of this comes together in a culture of creativity and creation.

It wasn't that long ago that I would get very discouraged by the fact that online worlds like Everquest and Ultima would have millions of users paying a monthly fee to engage in escapism, and yet it was damn hard to find more than a handful that would cooperate in an intellectual discussion in a web conference. It will be interesting to see if this latest Vancouver experiment will provide more than mere stimulation. If it can happen anywhere it will be here.  More >

 Synchronicity and the Web10 comments
picture 18 Jun 2004 @ 18:55, by ming. Internet
Richard MacManus wrote a couple of articles about synchronicity and the web: Statis and Synchronicity and A Theory of Synchronicity for the Web.
Synchronicity is a term made famous by the psychiatrist Carl Jung. He defined synchronicity as an "occurrence of a meaningful coincidence in time". Further, it as "an acausal connecting principle". Which is to say that a connection occurs through the sharing of a common meaning, not because one event caused the other. Jung went so far as to boldly state that "synchronicity could thus be added as a fourth principle to the triad of space, time, and causality".

Synchronicity has come to mean a variety of things. Laurence Boldt claims that synchronicity reflects the "underlying interconnectedness of all things within the Universe" [my emphasis]. An attractive theory for those of us addicted to Web culture! Stephen J. Davis states that synchronicity is "a very personal and subjective observation of this inter-connected universe of which we are but a small part". Another keyword that pops up in writings about synchronicity is "flow" - which of course reminds me of the Web's Information Flow. When used to describe synchronicity, it's all about the "flow of life". For example, this quote:

"When we are in the flow we experience more synchronous events, more pleasure and less pain. The flow of coincidences is our path to higher ground."
So, yes, we need more synchronicity and more serendipity. He doesn't really say how that actually might work, but nevertheless it is an important subject.

We could use a synchronicity engine, really. Some tools that increase synchronicity.

Randomness is one way of going about it, even though it isn't enough in itself. If you look at some random, unexpected content frequently, you're likely to run into something unexpected that really fits for you. Random links used to be popular, but probably give you too much junk most of the time.

Collaborative Filtering might suggest new things to you that you didn't know about, but that fit your interest areas. E.g. Amazon will suggest a book to you that you maybe didn't know about, which has been bought by other people who've bought similar books as you. That's useful of course, but it is rarely what we would call synchronicity.

Blogging and the reading of many news feeds tends to increase synchronicity. You only look at a small sub-section of the world, as you read blog feeds you've already picked as being somehow interesting. You don't control what people write about, and you scan whatever it happens to be. And sometimes themes form unexpectedly. Several people write about the same things at the same time. Which might appear mysteriously meaningful and timely. OK, sometimes it is merely because they happened to read the same article and comment on it. The blog world is a bit inbred, as many people comment on the same things, and mainly scan each other's feeds and standard news sources for input.

Sometimes the most stimulating posts are either when somebody picks some unnoticed or old item or when they write about their own life, without referring to any news item. Looking around for unnoticed or new snippets of information is likely to increase synchronicity, as the item might appear timely and relevant for a bunch of other people, but also unexpected.

I like using semi-random content on some sites I've done. Quotes, web links, pictures, etc. The combinations of what pops up often seems meaningful to people. Like the quote was selected just for them.

It is like the old creativity technique of blindly finding two words in the dictionary, and then pretending that they relate to a particular situation or problem at hand, and looking for the meaningful connection between them. It is very often there, and it is often useful. That's a way of generating synchronicity.

There needs to be a wide-range freedom of motion for synchronicity to be more likely. If I only change between 3 quotes on my webpage, none of them will seem very synchronistic to most people. But if I have a few hundred, and they're good quotes in the first place, many people will find them strangely relevant.

Synchronicity is also increased the more different items I practically can manage to be shown. Again, if I see only one quote per day, chances are fewer that it will be really meaningful than if I could stand paying attention to 100. But I maybe can't. There's a sweet spot somewhere, where you're presented with enough diversity, but not so much that it becomes a blur.

If I go to a party with 10 people, and it turns out that two of us are wearing the same shirt, that's a coincidence I'll notice, even if it is not very meaningful. If we talk, and find out we were wearing the shirt for the same unlikely reason, then it begins being meaningful. But if there were 1000 people, and one of them was wearing the same shirt as me, that would just be statistics at work.

As to the net, the question is how to provide me with an increased number of coincidental fits, in a number that is great enough to be useful, and small enough to be remarkable.

There's probably some strange way of calculating the generative diversity in a volume of information, blog postings or whatever. And then maybe the synchronicity potential. You know, the information has to be sufficiently relevant to me in the first place, for me to bother paying attention to it. But sufficiently diverse and unexpected to supply me with new fits that I couldn't have guessed on my own.

In any stream of data one can measure the amount of information, at least theoretically. If I tell you 000000000000010000, then the information is in the part that is different. The 1 is the interesting part. The rest can easily be compressed into a very small space.

Same with the stream of postings in blog world, theoretically. How much of it is really people talking about the same things, and saying very similar things about them? How much of it is really new? How much of it is information? How much of it is knowledge being transferred, i.e. you actually get something you can do something with?

Synchronicity is often that you send out a signal you weren't aware of, and you get a response. If you're aware of it, it is something else. If I search for something on google, and I find it, it isn't terribly surprising any longer, and it isn't synchronicity. But it might be when I get an answer to something I didn't quite know I was asking.

I vaguely hear somebody mention a book at another table in a restaurant. I walk into a bookstore five minutes later, and there it is on the shelf, and when I open it, I realize it is very interesting and relevant to me. That's a synchronicity.

Aha, that gives some inkling of how we technologically can help it happen. Something needs to capture way more channels of information about you than you normally bother paying conscious attention to. At least not at the same time. What people have been saying around you recently; what clothes you're wearing; what's on your bookshelf; all the people you know; all the subjects you're interested in; all the projects you're working on. And something needs to be matching all these items with other people's items, and items in your surroundings, as a background process.

There's no reason you shouldn't be able to have access to sufficiently extensive and automatic information sharing that you can walk out on the street and something says "Beep! That person walking on the other side of the street is out to buy a washer. You have one for sale. Why don't you talk with him?"

We're simply talking about some kind of location-aware device that knows who's close by, in the real world, or in an online setting. And then some way of representing a large number of needs and wants and what's available. That's the harder part. Expressing a lot of fairly fuzzy human resources and resource requirements in a finite enough way that they can be automatically matched. Even if they might not have been deliberately voiced.

In principle the objective is simple. You'd carry a lot of informational receptors in your space. They will link up with matching reciprocal receptors that are available in your environment. If done right, it is a technology-assisted way of being in the flow all the time.

What most people want is out there, and probably close by. What most people offer is needed somewhere, probably close by.

We could very well get used to having things matched up effortlessly, rather than having to spend a lot of energy looking for things that aren't there. And lot of things would just be working, by lightning speed.

It can take several frustrating hours to look for a suitable plane flight that is cheap and actually available. There's no good reason you shouldn't get the information that you eventaully end up with, but right away, in the first try. It can take hours looking for the right product for some purpose. It can be a good deal of work selling some item, as you need to locate good places, and there are several of them, and you aren't in any way guaranteed to find the people who really want your item. All of that kind of thing could simply be an automatic underlying substrate of connectivity, that connects those things that fit, and lets you know about it, and which doesn't waste your time with all the things that don't fit.

The Synchronicity Engine. We need it soon.
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 Intimacy Gradient in Social Software8 comments
picture 14 Jun 2004 @ 18:29, by ming. Internet
Adina Levin, part of the SocialText team, talks about Chris Alexander's patterns that relate to levels of intimacy, and how that might apply to social software:
Alexander writes about an "intimacy gradient". There are some areas in a house that are public -- the front porch; areas that are indoors and public -- the living room; and areas that are indoors and more private -- bedrooms and bathrooms.

The design opportunity is to create livable, workable, more-public and more-private spaces, using a "social software method" that focuses on helping people connect and collaborate with people in the least restrictive, most appropriately trusting way.

This is a different design philosophy than the traditional methods for setting levels of privacy. The underlying traditional assumption is that information should be available, and users should have privileges, on a "need to know basis." Individuals should have as little information and as few privileges as they need to do their jobs.

The goal of a tool for group work is to be able to restrict access with as much control as possible. Content and privileges should be controllable at a highly granular level. A work process should be clearly defined, to determine what users should have access to what information, and a given stage of a process.

This methods depend on a highly-structured, formal process. Analysts and administrators need to carefully define the types of information, to parcel out privileges, and to be able to monitor information access.
So, the alternative might be to not have complicated and forced privacy and sharing settings, but rather to structure things so that the right things naturally tend to happen in the right places, and the right things tend to be seen by the right people? I'm all for it.

I've often thought about it, for that matter. A problem is that the hyperlinking nature of the web short-circuits a lot of what works in architecture, which is Chris Alexander's field.

In a house, different sorts of activities naturally happen in different places. That is in part based on how deep into the house those places are. The entrance hallway is easily accessible and has a number of doors. Good place to say hello and share general messages, but it is superficial. One can go further into the house, into the living room, which is more sheltered, and have a deeper conversation there. The bedroom is a step further, and feels more intimate, as it takes several steps to get there. Now, there might not be anything that physically hinders some guest from storming straight into the bedroom without being invited there, and start looking through the closets. But everybody will notice that it doesn't feel right, and will deal with it somehow. And it rarely happens in normal homes. You start in the entry hall, and if you sort of pass that test, somebody will take you further into the house, and for most people it doesn't feel right to overstep the norms for how one behaves in somebody's house.

But a website tends to have the equivalent of links that say "entry hall", "living room", "kitchen", "bedroom", all appearing at the same level. And with Google's help, there will also be direct links to "bedroom closet" and "the reading material next to my bed". Which sort of kills the gradients of intimacy.

The problem is that parts of the net aren't working as much as *spaces* as we think they might have. It is really just a lot of information. And we'd like direct access to information, with deep linking, without anything annoying standing in the way, like having to register.

Doesn't mean we can't re-invent *spaces* as a parallel effort. To get to certain spaces, to hang out with certain people, it is acceptable enough if I need to jump through some hoops to get there. I don't know how to design those spaces so it feels natural, but that is potentially solvable.

As long as a certain chat room or wiki page is accessible directly with a deep link, it is going to be very hard to make it feel more intimate than any other place I can reach with similar ease. So a hierarchical structure of links doesn't do it. On the web you can't force people to accept your hierarchy if it is all just links.

One thought is that the spaces that need to be more intimate should not have permanent locations, but rather a dynamic location. E.g. if I wanted a certain type of conversation with certain people, I might have to go through those people and get their agreement that they're up for such an interaction with me today. Rather than me linking directly into it. Even if we had a very similar conversation yesterday.  More >

 Technical Working Paper - InterMix API7 comments
7 Mar 2004 @ 21:54, by mre. Internet
A previous article, A New Heaven, has an overview of the voice of humanity (voh) concept.

InterMix is middleware; it can be thought of as an "engine" or black box whose working details can be ignored. The Application Programming Interface, or API describes exactly how programmers can connect their applications to the InterMix engine in order to participate in the voh network. This is where we begin to bring the concept down to earth and it has to be done right. Our goal is to keep the interface simple enough that web scripters, of whom there are millions, will feel comfortable using it. As you will see, this article is very much a rough draft.  More >

 Moblog2 comments
28 Feb 2004 @ 17:10, by ming. Internet
Alright, so having a mobile phone with a camera I of course need to have a moblog. "Moblog" is an even worse word than "Blog", but that's somehow what it got to be called. It is essentially that you can make a posting on your blog while on the go, from a phone or PDA. Typically it is done by having the latest picture in a sidebar, which then links to the gallery of past pictures. So it becomes sort of a different track, with smaller snapshots of things one is doing, without having to be able to say something clever about it.

I had in mind programming it myself, so that it could be integrated with my NewsLog blogging program. So, the first thing needed was a gallery. And there's of course no reason one should only be able to post to it with a phone, so I made it so one can upload from a normal file too, or grab a picture from a URL. And so one can edit the titles, delete mistaken pictures and stuff like that.

OK, then the aspect of how we get from my phone to a file on the server, if I go that way. I could make my own approach, but I glanced at other people's suggestions to see what might be the best practices. Like this how-to guide by David Davies.

So, I set up a separate e-mail account for the purpose. No problem to send a picture from the phone to an e-mail address. Then I'll put a password in the subject line, which will ensure that no random spam gets posted. And I'll put some descriptive text in the message itself.

Now, picking up e-mail from a pop account, and finding an attached picture, is not quite as trivial a programming task as it might look like. It is no wonder that most e-mail programs do something different and often screw up each other's messages. The standards are rather complicated, and everybody doesn't keep them. So this part took the longest time. I used PHP's built-in IMAP functions, which is based on a common IMAP library. Which exposes a lot of the dirty detail, rather than just doing the job for me, like handing me the attachment no matter where it was hiding. For starters, I made it so that it at least picks up the text and attachments the way my phone sends it. Which happened to be two different ways depending on whether it was a photo or a drawing. Next I'll try sending pictures from my normal e-mail programs and debug what goes wrong with that. Anyway, I made the program pick up mail once per hour, as the mail pickup is rather slow, and I don't want to overload anything if there ends up being many of these accounts.

You can see the current result in my right sidebar. Just a few pictures so far, but you get the point.

And for you other guys who use my NewsLog program, I need to work out a few more details, then this functionality will be available for you too. I.e. you can have a picture gallery, and optionally post to it via e-mail. Only hurdle for that part might be to acquire an extra e-mail account for the purpose.  More >

 A New Heaven24 comments
picture2 Jan 2004 @ 20:31, by mre. Internet
At this point, the plans for a voice of humanity are sketched out and time has come to begin coding. Fact is, though, a combination of the flu and the holidays has slowed me down and I'm finding it hard to switch over from the 2 percent inspiration stage to the 98 percent perspiration long haul, so I've decided to recap what has been developed so far before settling down to work.  More >

 Ghost in the Machine2 comments
picture24 May 2003 @ 14:53, by quidnovi. Internet
"A bamboo forest stands next to the property. It is a wonderful world...

Yesterday's dinner was enjoyed at Lake Mitchell's gourmet cafe. The special dessert was Georgia peach crème brulée. Someone wanted me to translate "beurre blanc." I translated, but I did not consume.

The docks at the lake restaurant stretch out over green waters, rippled by geese and baby geese, pontoon boats and gentle southern breezes. A couple of children sit on the dock on the other side of the river, fishing. You stare at them for several minutes before you realize they are carved of wood."

---i2i [Floating Bridges]
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 Social Software11 comments
14 May 2003 @ 15:01, by ming. Internet
There's a buzz about social software, software for better connecting people together, facilitating that they find like-minded people, work more closely together, etc. Ray Ozzie, the creator of Lotus Notes and now Groove, says:
"What's incredibly exciting to me is that a confluence of factors e.g. ubiquitous computing, networking, web and RAD technologies, the state of the job market - in essence, loosely coupled systems and loosely coupled minds - have created what amounts to a petri dish for experimentation in systems for social network formation, management and interpersonal interaction. An exciting time to be exploring what may happen to social structures, to organizations and to society when the friction between our minds can be reduced to zero ... to the point where we can truly have superconductive relationships."
Superconductive Relationships! Yeah, that's what I'm looking for. But, if you follow the link to Don Park's Blog to "Misgivings about Social Software", you'll see that there are also potentially negative sides to examine.
"Korea is emerging as one of the most advanced Internet nation in the world. Young Koreans, in particular, live and breath Internet, each belonging to large number of online communities. One would expect them to be well informed and objective, yet they are not. Their views are warped and often radical. While all the world's information is at their fingertip, they consume information subjectively and produce misinformation biased by their views. Adding highly effective social software to this is frightening to me.

When I was last in Korea, a close friend of mine told me he was thinking about sending his six-year old daughter to schools in the US. I was shocked. How could he think this way? He said he initially thought the idea ridiculous, but he changed his mind after talking with people he knew, people who are just as well-to-do as his family. Apparently, they are all thinking the same thing and this warped his common sense."
There's a point there. Sufficiently pervasive and effective social software might allow groups of people to walk around in a completely different reality, and have it be continuously reinforced by people you're connected with. I suppose we're for example talking about players of online multi-player virtual reality games. And I do notice that for my 16 year old son, his social relationships within Asheron's Call, or whatever he's playing right now, often are more real than then ones in this world. And if we make the software better and better? Hmmm.  More >

 Fallen Jedi5 comments
picture16 Mar 2003 @ 21:21, by quidnovi. Internet

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 Give me personalized collaborative ranking13 comments
picture 18 Feb 2003 @ 03:07, by ming. Internet
This is what I want: resources of all kinds that are filtered and ranked according to people I trust and respect.

I assume it is a complicated problem, since I don't have it yet, because I'm for sure not the first person to think about it. But I believe it can be solved, if some capable person can work out the math.

The Google PageRanking mechanism is the most successful collaborative ranking mechanism there is, which is able to successfully operate on a huge dataset. For those of you who for some strange reason don't know, Google will rank webpages not only based on what words appear in them and how prominently they appear, but based on how many other websites carry link to that particular page, and how many websites carry links to those websites, and so forth, producing a surprisingly accurate and fair ranking mechanism.

I wouldn't know how to implement that myself. But the basic formulas are available, and Google does it with hundreds of millions of pages, so of course that can be figured out.

But what I want is to do a personalized version of that kind of thing, based on choices I've made about other people, other websites, or about anything else, like books or movies or brands of shampoo. I want not just to get the aggregate 'best' choices, chosen by all websites in the world. I want the best choices by people I know, like, respect or trust, or by the people that they again know, like, respect or trust. And I want a similar, complicated huge matrix calculation that adds all of that up, just for me. And for you.

I'm also talking about involving more dimensions than just the number of links. I want to add up the qualitative judgements of people I have a high opinion of, or that I'm likely to have a high opinion of. So, the further that gets from the choices I explicitly already made, the less value they'd have.

No, I'm not just talking about Amazon being pretty good at recommending books I might want to read. They do that well, and it is a practical and working example of collaborative filtering, but I doubt that their math is very fancy, as they really just recommend other popular choices in the categories I've looked in myself.

I want the algorithm that accurately and fairly adds up the collective advice implicitly given to me by my friends and friends of friends by their aggregated choices, weighted by how trusted their opinions are in relation to me. I mean, I suspect that it is just a formula and an algorithm for calculating a ranking value. Something that can be explained in abstract math, and then we can go and figure out what specific values are included and where they'd come from. If it is impractical to calculate at this point without quantum computers, I'd like to know that too. But I suspect it is perfectly feasible to do this well.  More >

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