Meta XRepublic

Design & Discussion on Computer Mediated Deliberation - Collaboration
Roberts Rules for the Future


April 2003
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Primary Documents
Conceptual Documents
Originating Ideas (Oct. 1998)
Current Implementation Ideas

David Brake
Yale Information Society Project

Other Tool Ideas

Orgnet Inflow
TouchGraph / Vanilla
Dialog Maps
Visual Vocab
Visual Thinking
Mapping Conversations
Visual Text
Visual Story
Topic Maps

Licensing Info
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

© Copyright 2003 Michael Bowen. Click here to send an email to the editor of this weblog.
Last update: 4/12/2003; 7:06:24 PM.

Sunday, March 02, 2003

This afternoon I took the kids ice skating at the top of Palos Verdes. While I still have my buddha working, there are times when older sensibilities take over, when I'm dressing, for example. I wore my A&F snowboard pants (not really thick at all). But to over compensate for the fact that I know that in such environments, I should wear no labels whatsoever, I wore a sheer RL Polo Sport shirt that says so right on the front. And furthermore, I wore that black Kangol skull cap my wife bought me for Christmas. Hedging my overcompensation, I brought along my black fleece with the zipper neck and no labels. Nevertheless I decided against the slightly worn cap with some obscure reference to yachting or golf. Needless to say, I was awash in mixed signals, then again, I'm quite a code-switcher. I also came armed with small talk. Get down to business quickly and get back out again is the rule. I think I ended up talking too much to one guy and not enough to another. Whatever. This is paragraph #1.

In paragraph 2, I relate a somewhat obscurely related fact, which is the matter of sunglasses on eBay. Some of you may know that if you have some difficulty registering, or are a newbie, or have changed your identity in the past 30 days, you will have a probationary thingy attached to your account in the form of a pair of sunglasses. This indicates to potential buyers of whatever it is you are trying to sell at eBay, that you may not be whom you appear to be and that only minimal information is available about you. Nice concept.

Here in paragraph three, I attempt to be a bit more serious and come to the real point of the discussion which is to reflect about some of my first thoughts about that which Howard Rheingold has provoked me into thinking. I have been unassiduous in my completion of his Smart Mobs, but yesterday somewhere just past page 176 he mentioned Auranet. Auranet is a 12 foot 'personal space' in which smart items located on your person will automagically coordinate and negotiate this and that information about you to similarly equipped persons at some point in the future.

Like what?

I'm married. Do I keep a copy of my kids photos, or do I protect those from all strangers? I've got a lot of money in the bank, which credit card do I expose - do I set a profile for when I'm slumming? I'm horny and on the make, do I set to beergoggle mode, and what if She is the Right One? How much do I go about wearing on my sleeve? Which labels do I select from my electronic closet? What's in your wallet?

In answer to the question of what we should be asking ourselves now that we are in the golden era of bigger and more pervasive is better of course, I suggest the following. This has always been the great warning I have held, which is to beware of perfect simalcra. As Marshall Blonsky instructs, very little of what we process as real information is actually authentic, and we are not protected. The news and information and knowledge we present in the future, about ourselves, about the world, about any and everything will come without a metadata guarantee. We will be so intent on getting the crap through the goose of the electronic global mind, that we won't pay much attention to its provenance. Instead we will rely upon systems of reputation to give us credibility, and these systems of reputation will be content agnostic. It will be more important to us to trust people and systems to connect with us than it will be that everything they tell us always be verifyable. Half the point of establishing a trusted friend is not having to second-guess everything they tell us. The problem, of course is that crap will get under the radar.

I'm thinking about this crap factor as I prepare myself to review the resignation letter I have recieved from trusted sources several degrees of separation from the originator. But I know that this letter has not got a PGP signature attached, and never would. I am not the original target of this letter, so I cannot know that it's not a fake, nor can I know if it is generally undoctored if it isn't a complete fabrication. And though I am likely to trust the folks that sent it to me, and having generally reconciled its existence to the fact that I have seen it coming from multiple directions of trust does not change the fact that the entire artifact may be a fabrication.

Which brings me to a point about modifying the architecture of the XRepublic to accomodate the blogosphere. What would it take to completely defraud the blogosphere? How difficult or easy would it be to get the top blogsources commenting about X knowing that X would inevitably lead to certain conclusions being drawn by rational people? I'm suggesting that such a thing, if not practical now, could be done with a sophistication heretofore unknown. I am suggesting that the margin for error is significant. I'm saying that anything can ultimately be hoaxed. I'm also saying that we'll be used to that.

This is the context for the discussion of sunglasses in the Auranet.

Maybe I don't want you to know that I'm married. Or maybe I just brought my kids to the ice skating rink and stood around taking digital pictures like an idiot because I was really spying on Mr. D who I just happen to know would be there today. Maybe I'm just shy and not from around here and don't really want to talk to anyone today. One never knows, does one?

The more we depend on our electronic auras to present ourselves, even as we get more and more sophisticated with our labels and social signifyers, people will remain as opaque as they wish to be, and sometimes inadvertantly more than they want to be. I raise the flag because we may lose the skill. Just as some of us smalltalk well, others of us are completely awkward. We depend on some electronic Cyrano to express ourselves, and wind up incapable. We will literally be at a loss for words from processing so many digital signals and icons. Who hasn't been tongue tied? Who hasn't found the perfect personal ad and found ourselves practicing dozens of times what message to leave on Her answering machine, only to sputter like an idiot. Maybe she had Caller ID and I am screened for life.

Which brings me to the second to last paragraph, which was The Last Castle on television last night. Robert Redford spoke to a dyslexic corporal sharing the same bighouse prison yard. The corporal was 2 years into a 7 year bid. He had been in the service 13 years, and committed a crime that took 15 minutes. Redford suggested that he was more Marine than anything else. This is easy for a certain type of human to do face to face...

Today, I'm very concerned about my privacy. I want to wear sunglasses and I don't want to submit to mind-cavity searches by the authorities. In that, I am like many of my peers in the information technology business.  We may come to regret that. We never know when we may have to run down the street screaming for assistance like Griffin Dunne in After Hours.

10:53:52 PM    comment []

Tuesday, February 11, 2003

I'm somewhat skeptical of this, but it makes for a fine theory.

A persistent theme among people writing about the social aspects of weblogging is to note (and usually lament) the rise of an A-list, a small set of webloggers who account for a majority of the traffic in the weblog world. This complaint follows a common pattern we've seen with MUDs, BBSes, and online communities like Echo and the WELL. A new social system starts, and seems delightfully free of the elitism and cliquishness of the existing systems. Then, as the new system grows, problems of scale set in. Not everyone can participate in every conversation. Not everyone gets to be heard. Some core group seems more connected than the rest of us, and so on.

7:28:58 AM    comment []

Saturday, February 01, 2003

starting today, every blogger and his mama are going to be talking about the shuttle disaster. you will read through a million blogs before you find out more about what actually happened to cause the explosion. you certainly will have a wealth of tangential information (if you can call that wealth), but the core truth of the matter will become distributed like light through a house of glass and mirrors after an earthquake.  take away one shard/blog and what do you have? an imperceptible loss of value. add another million shard/blogs and what do you have, very little more light.  

now the analogy breaks down because these blogshards are more like transducers of light with their own power supply than inert glass, so they add their own light which may amplify, distort, color and block out the original source. but they do so without any coordination or direction. they merely zoom in on a few reliable sources of light, link and then do their translating/transducing business. what you get is a marvel of emergent behavior, but it is still incomprehensible. you cannot ask anything of the blogosphere and get a coherent answer. for that, your best bet is to go back to the source and make your own interpretation from that.  

now that i've used the word 'coherent' in the context of light...  

what if you could smartly coordinate all these blogshards in such a way that they continually reflect upon their collective reflections and transductions? what if you made it impossible for light to escape the blogosphere until it had reached a certain threshold of uniformity? what if you designed a chamber in which all the little mirrors with all their own sources of power focused issue by issue until they had a resolution? and finally what if you looked not at the reflection business but the resolved light? you would be blinded by the power of that light because you would be staring into a laser!  

building that chamber is my aim. until that time, i view the blogosphere as a house of broken mirrors reflecting the news of the day every which way. very nice for the connoisseur of the eclectic, but practically useless for seekers of verified knowledge.  

12:32:27 PM    comment []

Wednesday, January 29, 2003

This is the closest thing I've seen to the kind of reputation management I envision for Sleeves. I'll investigate further. It looks very good.

Millions of individuals turn to the Internet to provide or receive support via discussion style mailing lists and forums in health, travel, technology and others. With Affero, those who receive support within these forums or through private discussions can now say "thanks" quickly and easily through ratings, comments and donations to the causes an expert that provides support selects

11:51:05 PM    comment []

"Since Godwin's law actually only provides a metric for prediction the mention of nazis in a thread, it is impossible to violate except with an infinitely long thread that doesn't mention nazis."

6:05:10 PM    comment []

Saturday, January 25, 2003

Graph Theory Research 

Duncan J. Watts in the news.

2:18:39 PM    comment []

 DenhamGrey reveals some very interesting links.

Visual approaches  

1:22:12 PM    comment []

Colburn pointed me to the Carnegie website Crisis In Iraq, which appears, like the Volokh Conspiracy, to be a multi-authored blog type deal with a bevy of brains on the back end. Clearly they are pushing and selling their own analyses, but there is plenty of free content.

My ego immediately told me that this can be the wave of the future, an important development in the disintermediation of major media - a fascinating detour in the information supply chain. In XR terms, Carnegie could be a private house which is federated into multiple republics. Or they could simply be a special resource for XR citizens cobranded with the Republic's sponsors and thereby available at a lower per customer cost.

When you understand that your policy terms are incorporated into a community of decision makers, and resolution crafting, putting them directly into the computer mediated deliberation machinery is an excellent benefit. As I am seeing in the blogosphere multiple heads are better than one.

These new subject matter expert domains, public think tanks, as it were, are smaller than newpapers and involve people with deeper insights than journalists. As they write for audiences a bit more self-selected than general media but a bit less sophisticated than those who subscribe to $1000 journals, an interesting new medium can develop.

10:20:39 AM    comment []

Friday, January 24, 2003

I've updated my conceptualization of the Point Path, but I still haven't been nailed down all the terms. This is part of the thought process. I have spoken of 'floated arguments' before. It is not entirely clear what the nature of the points might be in any topic thread. Some folks might post one paragraph that is easily digestible, others may rant on and cover several points.

In usenet, one is accustomed to seeing some posters number their points and then see responses to these multiple points go on for some time. This is excellent dialog, but it may be too large a chunk of information to sit as one Relevant Point in the Sidebar, especially since one can Augment each point with Support, meaning more text or artifacts can be attached to an original comment. This will get unweildy for sure. I hope that calling a 'floated argument' a Point, helps folks to narrow the scope of their comments.

From the POV of the Point Path, it becomes unclear as to how and when citizens will make direct judgements about each other or if that's even necessary. If, for example, I am attaching Support to a Relevant Point, should that automatically accrue mojo to the author, or should that be done separately?

I still think that it's important that some nature of the character and temperament of individual participants be denoted, understanding that folks can work in relative anonymity by rolling up their Sleeves. Currently the set of attributes I like are {Irreverent, Ironic, Funny, Insightful, Helpful, Troll, Clueless, Didactic, Wooly}

It also occurs to me that while it seems counter-intuitive to have {Trite, Ridiculous} as attributes of Repute on Relevant Points, it makes sense that people will want to single out certain Points which have credibility in general discussions are urban myths or popular lies. Hmm.. this suggests extending the list.

11:51:29 AM    comment []

Wednesday, January 22, 2003

According to Wild Monk, I'm a 71 on the war index and a 10 on the rationality index. Thus in the eyes of the left, I'd be a Capitalist Stooge. I prefer 'realist'.

This is an ideal kind of litmus test and precisely what I have in mind for the XR.

4:42:16 PM    comment []


cobb, the blog