Gelertner (rightfully, in my opinion) points out that we should be less evolutionary and more revolutionary. I like that quote about information overload:
We're like asteroids getting showered by little space fragments. I think lots of people have the feeling that it's no gain to them to be hit by more little tidbits and fragments and jagged packages of information if they don't know the big picture, if they can't add it up, if they don't see where it's leading, if they don't understand the story line.
Such a solution is among the most perplexing to grasp because culture, at its core, is invisible. Like the air we breathe and walk through, its presence is only felt when itís resisted: at all other times itís part of the nothing-around-us that we rarely consider and almost never question.
The idea of cultural change is also often unpalatable because any sort of real, individual, personal change in beliefs and behaviors is so difficult as to be one of the rarest events we ever experience in our own lives or witness among those we know. Itís easy to send ten dollars off to the Sierra Club; itís infinitely more difficult to reconsider beliefs and behaviors held since childhood, and then change your way of life to one based on that new understanding, new viewpoint, or new story.
But if such deep change is what we really need, I see no point in pretending that something simpler will do it."
I need an index of "amateur" experts with proven track records who are available immediately for high per-minute rates which I only pay when I'm satisfied, which means they have to be confident that I'll be reasonably satisfied. So we also need a reputation engine in addition to an expert index. They need to be "amateurs" for the same reason that the best bloggers are amateurs....
The picture on the right comes from the Xpertweb site. Simplicity itself speaking. Although I'd have drawn the arrows in the opposite direction. It starts from you. You sense a need, you think about it, you articulate it, then you pretty much know what you need. But you don't know how to do it. You find a trusted expert who'll do it. The result comes back to you. Everyone is happy.
I think we need to develop tools both for figuring out needs and for finding experts. Such tools are likely to coevolve.
Walk into any workplace that is bubbling with innovation and you will find walls strewn with whiteboards covered with collaborative hieroglyphics. The ability for collaborators to sketch diagrams as a way to create and communicate ideas has considerable advantages over collaborating using a discussion forum approach that relies predominantly on text. The key difference lies in the fact that a diagram is co-created and its meaning is developed through the interchange between the collabotators. The meaning of words, however, are generally predefined and significant effort is required to convey accurately what you mean.
Most of the collaboration software programs provide an online whiteboarding facility but in my experience this is rarely used because most computers are not equipped with the peripherals required to effectively collaborate online. The standard mouse, for example, is a deficient drawing device. To draw on an online whiteboard, collaborators need a tablet that mimics pen and paper. To co-create a diagram online collaborators also need to talk to one another and ideally see each other. Discussion can be facilitated with a teleconference but if you have the bandwidth, online video and voice is the ideal solution.
As I sit here using my voice recognition system I have my headset on, mouse and keyboard in front of me, tablet to one side, printer nearby and scanner behind me. I am surrounded by add-ons. I think the all-important personal computer is overdue for a massive redesign. My work environment shouldn't need to be so complicated.
Good observations. Shawn writes that "The meaning of words, however, are generally predefined and significant effort is required to convey accurately what you mean". Actually, nothing prevents us from inventing new words and/or meanings. But text-only interaction does not let us convey tacit knowledge the way face-to-face whiteboard sessions allow it.
There are both a downside and an upside to this state of affairs. As Shawn observes, more effort is required to reach (and recognize) agreement. However, this effort carries its own rewards because it leaves better traces. The agreed-upon concepts are much more approachable by people who did not participate in the discussion, and they are easier to revisit. Think about it: is it easier to understand a text-only discussion thread or to decipher whiteboard hieroglyphics after the protagonists have left the scene?
I believe there's also a personal benefit. I have found that putting ideas into text instead of drawing vague diagrams and waving my hands helps make my thinking clearer and unravel my previously unspoken assumptions.
Gecko feet in-hair-ently sticky. Geckos have the ability to run straight up a polished glass wall with no more effort than they use when running straight up a rough tree trunk or upside down on a ceiling, and we finally know why: their feet bond on a molecular level to the surface using van der Waals forces, the weak electrostatic attraction between molecules. This hypothesis was first suggested in the 1960s, when a German researcher discovered that geckos stick better to surfaces with higher surface energy. When the electrons on an overall neutrally charged molecule move at random around the molecule, one end can be briefly more negative and the other more positive. In close proximity to other molecules, these charge fluctuations become synchronized and produce a steady electrostatic attraction between the molecules. [kuro5hin.org]
I find this is a stunningly well-written lead paragraph. The rest of the story is very good as well. If I were a chemistry teacher who needs to illustrate van der Waals forces, I'd try to show my students a video of geckos climbing up glass walls. I'm sure the image would stick.
Now that artificial setae tips have been successfully made and proven to stick as effectively as natural ones, the door is open for the development of a "gecko tape" that would have potential applications in nearly every industry, as well as in the home. [...]
A "gecko tape", like gecko feet, would be strongly adhesive yet easy to remove; would leave no residue; would be self-cleaning and reusable; and would stick to any surface (except teflon, which has such a low surface energy even van der Waals forces don't work on it), no matter how smooth or rough and under any conditions, including under water and in vacuum.
"You don't have to buy CD's. You just have to go to the band's official website and make a one-time donation of US$35 in order to get things..." [LoveBlog]
I don't know about you, but I'd much rather drop $10 in a PayPal tip jar for a band I like, knowing that most of it is going directly to the artists, than visit a store, pay $20, and know that less than a buck will end up in the artists' hands and the rest of it will go to support a system full of people who mostly hate their job.
"I think bloggers ought to realize there's nothing really new under the sun -- and some of what they're inventing has existed in very similar forms for 70 years. Which isn't bad -- but I think it gives the community an opportunity to understand those predecessors and perhaps avoid some of the mistakes or problems."
I always feel it's important to think about the parallels between what we're doing now and what people did then. Much of it boils down to the same thing, if you look beneath the surface. The basic needs we're trying to satisfy are the same. Come to think of it, community building probably dates back to the invention of language.