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after the 9th

the waters near Sausalito

We had a fantastic Saturday together on the 8th, with many participating in person and Gyuri, Timour, Irina and Shane joining us online:

The 9th was marked by a large celebration at the Computer History Museum, where we all demoed alongside such luminaries as Ted Nelson and Tim Berners-Lee:

So where do we go from here? We have all had some time to settle down from the events (and the work leading up to them), so we now need to decide how to move forward. It’s been suggested that we ‘eat our own dogwood’ and that we should therefore use Exaptive and KnowFlow, which I personally agree with. I further agree that we should use this blog for important updates, not necessarily for ‘everything’ but so that anyone new who joins has one point of initial reference. This blog does not need to ‘own’ the conversation but can provide a useful thread for jumping off to different spaces. I also suggest we continue to have chats, perhaps bi-weekly or even weekly to start in order to capitalise on the momentum we have, and then maybe go into a more monthly mode. Most importantly though, how do you feel we should continue?

It’s been suggested that our initial use-case could simply be augmenting our own ability to work together as a group. What are your perspectives?


  • Christopher Gutteridge

    The thing that really struck me about the history of Engelbart’s work, which I hadn’t fully appreciated until the event, was that he didn’t start out trying to make a cool demo. He started out trying to solve the problem of people solving problems. The Demo wasn’t the goal, the demo was an outcome from years of work and experimentation of a team.

    We have an amazing set of passion and talent in orbit around the community Frode has created, but I don’t feel this community have yet become “greater than the sum of its parts”. I don’t even know what that would look like, but this is the ideal time to think about it, and maybe start experimenting in the new year?

    So I’m going to start out with what I think unites us. This is a “strawman”, I don’t claim to speak for the group, just suggest this as a starting point.

    We believe:
    – better technologies and processes can enable individuals and groups to be vastly more effective.
    – we might be able to find or invent new ways of working that make people more effective.
    – it’s worth our time to try

    However, real life constraints make things harder. Our lives are very different. While that’s not automatically a bad thing, it is a complicating factor.

    – we all have egos! Although helping humanity is noble, it’s nice to get your name on the plaque!
    – we may have reputations to protect, for both personal and professional reasons.
    – we need to eat. For some of us this work is our life and we can’t afford to give it away uncompensated, for others this work is in competition with the day job
    – we have families, social commitments, feline overlords etc.
    – life happens; people lose or change jobs, families and friends have emergencies and tragedies
    – we have very different backgrounds
    – we live in different timezones
    – we have different resources for things like equipment and travel
    – our internet connections are varying quality
    – we have a wide range of skills, but don’t know what each other can do
    – we (so far) prefer to work on our part of “the elephant” rather than work together
    – we may have physical or mental health issues which effect our ability to work on projects, or are exasperated by how we work.
    – we use many communications tools. In this project I think I’ve used; email, face-to-face talking, phone, SMS, Whatsapp (both messages and audio), Facebook, Skype, Google Hangouts, several wordpress blogs, github(?)
    – we don’t understand each other’s technologies
    – not all of us are technical
    – our motivations and concerns vary
    – some people are skilled communicators
    – we are not very diverse, compared with the humanity we want to augment. The modal member of this group is a white man over forty. There’s nothing wrong with middle-aged white dudes, unless we inadvertently put off potential collaborators who’d bring important new ideas to the party.
    – our availability varies. Myself, I can “binge” on something, but slow-and-steady commitments I find far harder.
    – our professional priorities are different. We have, er, “different levels of passion” for software licenses, copyright law, test-driven development, documentation, version numbers, segregation of live & development, use of existing standards
    – we prefer to communicate in different ways. For me, writing a blog post is hard work (as it’s in public view, so it reflects on me, so I treat it with more polish than an email), and it’s only worthwhile if someone is going to read it. If I never have a multi-person conference-call as long as I live I could die a happy man.
    – our jargon differs. I’ve found use of terms like DKR very hard to get used to and I don’t feel it’s the words that matter, but rather the ideas behind them. Some Engelbart terms would be better replaced by modern terms that mean the same thing to people to reduce the cognitive load on new people.
    – because we are different, it can be hard to avoid causing frustration or offense by accident.

    None of these should be a surprise to anyone in the community, and none of these worry me. I just think we should be honest about them when trying to find ways to allow this group to augment each other.

    So all we need to do is find a way to change the world for the better, while respecting the many challenges to inter-working. I think we start by finding ways to augment each other’s work.

    I’m not going to make lots of suggestions just yet but I have two. I think it’s important to find things that are realistic, achievable, and don’t start with what could be an unlimited commitment of time or energy!

    1. Blogging can feel like shouting into the void sometimes, but I was once ranting about technology to a bartender in the bar I go to most Friday nights. He cut me off and told me “I do read your blog, you know. I read this entire rant last week”! I was so surprised but proud that people actually read it. If you read a blogpost by someone else in the community, make a comment, even if it’s just “read”– If you find out 25 people read your blog post then it makes the effort of composing the next one easier to justify.

    2. Eating each other’s dogfood; we’re not yet one harmonious ecosystem, but I feel I’ve concentrated too much on my tools and not enough on the amazing other tools in the mix. I propose that we each try to review one of the other tools people have put together (tools could be a process or media, not just software). This may require licenses or other agreements for anything commercially sensitive, but if you’re the only person who’s installed your software then it’s bound to have issues that other eyes will find faster than you. Where possible, actually use each other’s tools to do our own activities and provide feedback either directly or by blogging as people feel appropriate.

    I’d like to end this by telling you all how proud I am to be a member of this community and by thanking Frode, who’s enthusiasm, idealism and optimism brought us all together this year.

    How else can the group members realistically augment each other’s activities in 2019?

    • Frode Hegland

      This is quite excellent Chris, thank you. There is A LOT in this post and I think one research objective could be to make dense (in the good sense) posts like this easier to grasp and do something with. Maybe a way of making it more listy and connected and visible in the liquid space? I think that specific issues like this can help us move forward: how to make articles more effectively readable. Not just vague ‘changing the world’ notions 🙂

    • skreutzer

      There’s a reason why Doug engaged in the technical work he did, precisely to address problems of complexity and problem solving. His attempt also demonstrated yet another time the difficulties inherent in complexity, far from being mastered by anybody, and we still continue to not realize them or knowingly pretend that they’re not there. System thinkers claim that they can manage it, but they don’t apply it in practice/reality; tool builders don’t even study it seriously; despite the combination of both would probably be most fruitful. There’s also a certain risk that it is unsolvable, non-reducible. If Doug were young again today, I think he would look at totally different approaches and other technology for great advancement towards that goal. At the same time, text on a computer + related capabilities are in a worse state than 1968 and the time of dedicated word processor machines (could also be analog ones), and it doesn’t look like improvements are on the way for these most basic capabilities, so how could anything reasonably bootstrap from it?

      With the complicating factors, well, why wouldn’t one look at every single difficulty and think/discuss whether or not something can be done about them? I would even claim for the sake of argument that bootstrapping hypertext, hypermedia and “groupware” are supposed to help with all of the complications, without exception. It might be tedious and take quite some time, but there might be no shortcut and time there is (at least some) until the 60th anniversary of the great demo.

    • Gyuri Lajos

      Christopher, I am proud to be in this community, too.
      Our joint efforts on articulating use cases that connect the projects in a demo indicated that there is plenty of scope for intreroperability across our projects. Whatever else we may decide to focus on in the future, I think we all share a commitment to this goal.

  • skreutzer

    After a year trying to 1) get any practical collaboration going without success, 2) my demos for illustrating some core principles ending up to be completely irrelevant and 3) no sign that a capability architecture that powers a hypertext infrastructure might eventually arrive, I wonder why it should continue like this in 2019. It is well apparent that a) the issues of ownership, books, copyright remain unresolved, b) there is literally no discussion about the glossary capability appreciated as everyone builds his own, c) there is no real bootstrapping/dogfooding happening with the written records of the group, and d) the surprising “new” question turns out to be what problem/topic could be augmented by the tool system. You don’t have time or intention to seriously consider these issues, I can’t afford any more time with waiting until you find out about them yourselves the hard way.

    In case that there’s still somebody left in 2019 who is enthusiastic about basic, plain text capabilities, its organization and semantic structuring, a system architecture standard that allows its processing/augmentation, not necessarily requiring connectivity and leveraging the capacity of the underlying computing facility and under libre-free licenses as a first start to not do something new and amazing, but to at least recover what has been lost from earlier hypertext systems and dedicated word processor machines (could be analog ones as well), please don’t hesitate to send me a message, and be it via the contact form at, which should always work.

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