SudburySchoolForAdults

We need to collaborate.

As of 2007, collaborating online is far more difficult than collaborating face-to-face. So there are 2 things we need to work on:


I wrote about a gathering place for adults on my blog; My inspiration was seeing how the kids interact at TheClearwaterSchool my daughter goes to, which is a SudburySchool, and my general feeling of being isolated, and feeling like it’s deadly.

I was reading AlanKay? on The Early History of Smalltalk, and it struck me how much bouncing back-and-forth of ideas there was. AlexSchroeder wrote a page here once on the energy that comes from working together, collaborating with people. The thing with the InterNet is that TheInternetIsSlow. Even if we max ourselves out with the collaboration tools that are available, (which is a huge expenditure of energy, on the part of several people,) it doesn’t hold a candle to the sheer enlightenment of material-world gathering.

TheInternetIsInadequate

Make no mistake- I’m no green technophobe. I don’t think the Internet is “destroying communities and minds,” or anything like that.

And I think the future of the Internet is bright– very bright. So bright, you’ll need to wear sunglasses, to recall an inspiring piece written by Philip Greenspun. We’ll all be collaborating over the Internet transparently, easily, and with greater intelligence than is possible in the material world even. I suspect there will be a day, where it’s not the Internet that is slow, but the material meeting that is slow.

But such a day is a long way off: A decade, minimum.

We need:

…and all this stuff needs to “just work,” on its own, without a lot of turning steering wheels, pushing buttons, exchanging coordinates, escalating mediums, rotating cameras, and so on.

TheNeedToCollaborate

I think there’s a very real need to collaborate materially.

The companies that I see out there, doing really amazing things, are for the most part all meeting in meat-space.

AlanKay? just couldn’t possibly be Alan Kay, working on his own, independently.

We can only specialize in one or two particular things. I’ve been researching business and corporations and companies, and I’ve come to see very clearly, that no one person can do it all. I mean, there are exceptions, but those guys (A) never have families, (B) kill themselves in the process, (C) aren’t like anything you’d really want to be. They’re amazing people, but I don’t think it’s realistically attainable. Alan Kay is not one of those people; He works very hard on working with others, as far as I can see.

You can’t do really interesting things, with appeal and so on, just working alone. You have to have a team. And if that team can’t communicate, it’s only a tenth of the team it could be.

I don’t think it’s a mistake, that the majority of companies have offices.

Anecdote of Harvey Mudd College

When I went to Harvey Mudd, there was brilliance everywhere. I swear to God, it was like walking on light. The world was a gigantic collage of idea.

I saw multiple 4’x2’ flat panel speakers casually produced at Mudd, on the floors of our dorm’s living area, put together by physics and engineering majors. It would be 4 more years before I saw similar things at an investors meet, downtown Seattle. It would be still many more years before I saw such things sold in catalogs.

I saw entire buildings converted into theaters, and I saw the kids producing games in mass array. I saw amazing programs being made, and movies put together. I saw people set up businesses out of server arrays. I saw people learning and teaching and collaborating everywhere.

You couldn’t get through breakfast without hearing at least 5 good, novel ideas.

And you could participate. If you had an idea, you could participate. Casually. Easily.

You didn’t have to “sell” the idea, because people were already interested, by default, in any new idea. It wasn’t hard to find “customers.” You didn’t even think of it that way, it was so simple.

TheTheaterAndItsDouble

I’m thinking of a book I just read: The Theater and it's Double, by Antonin Artaud. It’s really struck a number of chords with me, and opened up my thinking. I’ve been thinking about user interface as theatre. I don’t know where the article is, that first pointed out the connections to me, but there they are. 1

Antonin Artaud talks about how the theatre really opens up the life of the mind, and the spirit of life. There’s this semiotic madness that happens inside the brain, and the theatre pulls it out and lets us live in it. AntoninArtaud is the first person, as far as I know, to use the phrase “VirtualReality.” He was referring to the reality that lives inside the mind – think inscape, and story, rather than, (say,) 3D goggles.

Life at Harvey Mudd was like living in this sort of semiotic virtual reality.

Life working a job, and just being able to type with others, and share the occasional PhoneCall, is… …something much less.

The height of interactivity here is really RecentChangesCamp, and the occasional visit to see HansWobbe. 2 But both such things are so time-poor, that there’s really no time to do with other people. Only talk with. And doing with requires more interaction with people than the InterNet and these brief meetings can really produce.

Sure, there is OpenSourceSoftware?, but the interfaces are really tightly documented, and all our procedures are really carefully constructed, so that we can just interact. It’s really, really, really hard. It’s also often times firmly grounded in material world gathering and material world resources. It’s not a shot into the dark– you have real needs, or if you’re writing for the future, material people who you can perform various tests with, to see what will work, what won’t, what people will respond favorably to, and so on.

The kind of spontaneous interaction that happens in SecondLife is really great, but it is so, so far away, and SecondLife (as noted in DevelopersVirtualWorld) really lacks the facilities we need to make such a collaboration work for anything more than, … well, what SecondLife is presently good at: Making 3-D models.

We’re hardly close to living the life of ideas. We can watch the life of ideas, here online. The nice thing here, is that there’s no end of ideas to look at, and think about. But we can’t live it. We can’t really participate in it. We can’t see the look on the face of the person considering the idea. It’s a feedback loop with hardly any feedback. I mean, I seriously have to think before I decide whether I’m going to give a reply to a post, or not: It’s an economics decision. But faces have no such considerations to deal with– it’s all subconscious and automatic.

Web 2.0 participation isn’t all that distant from participation in mailing lists. “Yay,” we can write movie review for one another, and so on. “Yay,” we can write blog entries, and share and build up ideas in wiki. But it’s a far cry from the real virtual reality we’re seeking, the life of the mind.

Solution?

I see no clear solution, except the sort of idea I wrote about on my blog. That is to say, “Well, duh, get off the Internet, and start gathering in person, for protracted periods of time, on more casual, rather than intentional basis.”

Another possibility is to somehow attempt to make the richness of (say) Harvey Mudd online, by a super-nifty super-special amazing software system. But when I put the requirements together, I say to myself, “Oh God, there’s no way. There’s just, no, freaking, way. Not now. Not with technology in such the sad state, where it is.”

Whatever we were considering, we’d have to collaborate to produce. But we can hardly collaborate.

Ultimatum

I did not start writing this article with the intent of writing an ultimatum. Rather, it’s just ThePowerOfQuestions, doing it’s thing automatically: Escalating an emergenc(e/y) up the tech support hierarchy. But I find myself here, and the next reasonable thought to place itself before me, to channel out to all of you, is an ultimatum:

If we’re going to do this thing, we really really need to do this thing.

And here’s a few basic factors of what that would mean:

Specifically, we’d have to set up a very special communications infrastructure for ourselves, first, to begin with, even. We’d need to know that we were regularly communicating by voice at such-and-such a time. I would, personally, have to buy whatever computers, microphones, speakers, hardware, and install whatever software, so that I could reliably, easily, at the push of a button, be talking voice with MattisManzel, and whomever.

Presently, I’m hampered by non-working Skype, or Gizmo, or whatever. Or, “I can’t find my mic.” I mean, that’d have to be a totally dead argument, never arising. I’d set aside a cheap $500 computer, existing for the sole purpose, of collaborating with you all. The mic is permanently connected, the speakers are always on and at the ready.

Whatever the technical kinks are– they’d all have to be ironed out and go away, for each person collaborating in the project.

Honestly, I’m skeptical that we’d do such a thing. I’d be all for it, but I’m skeptical that we have it in our collective wills to do such a thing.

So, this is why I think I need to be looking at setting up a local geek house type thing, like I described in my blog post.

This is just– where I’m at. We’re dead in the water out here, as it is. We’re not going anywhere, we’re not doing anything. We’ve found a great launching point, but we have to leave it, if we’re going to do anything.

These are my thoughts.

(Additional)

TheatreLitmusTest

I think you’ll know you’re heading in the right direction with this stuff when people start using it to perform live “theatre”, with a live “audience”.ShawnKilburn

Discussion

I think you’ll know you’re heading in the right direction with this stuff when people start using it to perform live “theatre”, with a live “audience”.

HA! What a great litmus test!

Quite.

Quite!

Yes. Magnitudes.

We can do it. I still believe it. My ting-power dropped somehow, not completely, but initiating tings out of the blue is painfull when after two years still nobody ever asks: Are we going to ting next sunday? (K, sheep asked sometimes, I admit). I swear that weakness would be immediately wiped away as soon as there’d be a bit of …, whatever. You all know what i mean.
We’re too few. That’s the actual problem. We’re not many enough.

I think we can do it, but I don’t think that we will.

  • AlexSchroeder’s busy playing D&D.
  • BayleShanks is busy studying and doing… research things, I guess.
  • EmileKroeger and RadomirDopieralski have capacity, but I’m not sure this project is their gig.
  • SamRose is busy making companies.
  • HansWobbe could, theoretically, fund work, but that’d be a big process, and I don’t think the players are ready for it.
    • 070501 - I’m considering setting up something currently called VirtuallyCharitableFoundation?. I’d thought I’d make this statement simply because it makes me feel that the barriers to progress that I sensed when I made the preceding comment may be quite a bit lower than I felt they were at that time.
  • …and so on.

The reason people don’t ask for the Ting, (I think,) is that people don’t have something that they’re burning to talk about. That’s one of the pre-conditions for PhoneCall.

I’ve been in forums, where the people (or someone) has something that they’re burning to talk about, where they must talk about it, and it’s good for a 1:1. Here, much less so. I’m burning to talk about some things, but most people aren’t burning to engage in the communication. So, it doesn’t happen. Many (most?) people here don’t want to be an organized force, with agendas, goals, objectives, and so on. Ergo, no real incentive behind the Ting.

(This is my take on it, at least.)

I don’t know that we’re too few for social interaction– Our number here on CW is about right for a “creative network,” a “clique,” or whatever it’s called, by the EcosystemOfNetworks.

I have some thoughts on how to make Internet phone conversations work, and how to collect 150 people for the process. But that’s a different thing than the WikiTing. (Ask me if you’re interested in the “how?” here.)

I think the real problem here is that the InterNet is just really really low tech. If I could casually interact with you all, I would! I know that’s true, because Gmail’s IM system makes it easy for me to casually interact, and I do! And I think we could reach a tipping point, in terms of ease of use, where we started automatically and easily and regularly collaborating. It’d be awesome!

But the InterNet is just not there yet.

We have to like… Wait for 4 years, for it to start to get to that point, or something.

If we’re not content to wait, we can write software to make it take less time: Spend 2 years, writing the software we need and care about. But I just argued that that’s unlikely.

I’m ready to go into a holding pattern, and wait for the tech to catch up with us. In the meantime, I’ll be setting up an earth-side material gathering space, and see what momentum I can generate locally. See what comes out. Then when the technology catches up, or after I’ve written the necessary technology, likely with the help of local people, then we can get more permanent.

I want to make clear that I see this as a matter of time, rather than a matter of “stay or split.”

It’s only a matter of time.

Look, OverHear– I wrote it a year ago, and now here’s Twitter. We still don’t have the visual wiki. But the march is clearly on. When we strategize, we must do it against the backdrop of the continuous development of technology.

We’ll get our magnitudes, whether we participate in the production, or simply just wait for it.

I guess I agree that:

  • We can only specialize in one or two particular things. I’ve been researching business and corporations and companies, and I’ve come to see very clearly, that no one person can do it all. I mean, there are exceptions, but those guys (A) never have families, (B) kill themselves in the process, (C) aren’t like anything you’d really want to be. They’re amazing people, but I don’t think it’s realistically attainable. Alan Kay is not one of those people; He works very hard on working with others, as far as I can see.
  • I suspect there will be a day, where it’s not the Internet that is slow, but the material meeting that is slow. But such a day is a long way off: A decade, minimum.
  • The reason people don’t ask for the Ting, (I think,) is that people don’t have something that they’re burning to talk about. That’s one of the pre-conditions for PhoneCall.
  • If I could casually interact with you all, I would!
  • I think we can do it, but I don’t think that we will.

I’m also willing to wait until the tech comes. But it’s not so much of a holding pattern for me; my internet to-do list has plenty of little things that need to be done by one person before serious team interaction is required. (e.g. finish coding version .1 of the project that Ruadhan and I are working on, improve WikiGateway, write more protocol pages for Pica wiki, rework pages here at CommunityWiki, code CommunityProgrammableWiki 0.2; the reworking is teamwork but i think it can be done efficiently in writing; the other projects will all require more interaction after the initial coding/writeup stages are done, but they’re not done yet).

By the time I do all that, maybe 4 years will have passed and the casual communications environment will be ready!

Lion, Bayle, Mattis

These are the same issues that I keep running into with different groups. Issues that prompted me to write SocialSynergy:SynergizeWorkflows

At this point, it is my opinion that the best the current technology affords us to do is to allow our individual works to benfit one another as easily as possible. To think about where areas of CollectiveProblemSolving align, and how to mesh together, to spread value and innovation across networks, etc. We are already doing this to a degree. But, I think that things can be taken further. How can the activities of SamRose directly benefit the activities of LionKimbro, while still solving the problems that SamRose is currrently focused on? How can everyone else be brought into the mix? How can conflicts be avoided. What is the best way hat is beneficial for everyone to focus energies?

For me, it is to figure out how to connect what you are doing with what I am doing. This is what I am trying to do right now. I am trying to integrate concepts that have evolved from communities I am interested in (like CommunityWiki and Meatball wiki, the smartmobs and cooperation commons communities, microformats and pinko marketing communities etc) and I am trying to use technology that has emerged from these communities (like OddMuse wiki engine, moinmoin, and LocalNames, other OpenSource software). But, I may be pursuing things in way that is actually not highly benficial to others, and not realize it.

So, I ask: How can I better help you while doing what I am doing? Do we need to communicate more? Do you need me to try to use your innovations in a certain way that will be more benficial to you? If it is possible for me to do, I will try to do it I think we need a sort of a human version of an “API” of our activities, because of the limitations of technology. We have to start somewhere. If we wait it out, and let others develop the best ways to communicate and collaborate, we’ll be stuck with what they have developed. I’e already been in that situation many times over, and it’s an ugly experience.

Fascinating. This is a great conversation. I’m too busy right now, but I hope to post a response today.

hihi, like a red giant I’ve been wandering wikilandia for 2 years and imploded into the wiki-hives as a white dwarf during the last year. Just a temporary rage. Greetz. Yes, I’m also pretty interested how it will go on. I’d like to take part in it.

Another reason that I am content to wait for better multimedia collaboration: I don’t have much free time and I suspect that involvement with a multimedia community will take more time than involvement with a society of letters. When I do have time, I feel like I should just work on the projects that I have already taken on (ThinkTalkAct).

Sam, perhaps we were thinking similar things on SocialSynergy:SynergizeWorkflows and CollaborativeTodo?

The idea for a Sudbury School For Adults has really taken off.

I’ve already received 3 enthusiastic “YES!”‘s from people I’ve apprached about this (I’m batting 100%), am probably going to hear from the 4 others who Brian saw fit to CC: in an announcement email, and have already received a “YES!” from a person I didn’t even solicit, and have no idea who they are, and no idea how they even learned about this.

I think it’s been all of 24 hours since the initial posting.

I haven’t even started on my official invite list.

That there is energy here is clear. That this is financially achievable is also clear.

That this will work, (to me,) is clear.

BayleShanks’ argument is persuasive.

SamRose’s argument is passionate, and also spot on.

These are not contradictions, either: My criticism of online intelligence is accurate as well, I believe. We do our online activities despite of the problems, not in contradiction to them.

I have come to a number of realizations about LocalNames. I don’t have time to tell the whole story here, now, but the short version is that I am putting the project to a transformed end. I live by the code, “You do not quit a project. You either (A) complete the project, or (B) have an incredibly well thought out, and documented, and learned-from reason, for why you are switching from the project, for another project.” I believe I have found (B). I have searched for (B) many times before, in the past 3 years, but never found a reason that was persuasive. For the first time, I have found a reason that is persuasive, and “the spell is broken.”

I’ll talk more about that in a blog post on my blog later. For the time being, know that, even though it is no longer my central project, I will continue to advocate for Local Names. This strategy may be even more effective: I will operate from now on, for Local Names, at the memetic level. That is, I will tell people, “This is how you bind names to URLs.” And I’ll say, “Your program requires URLs? Allow people to use names.” I will write web pages and produce fliers and argue and explain. But I won’t be the one to tell people, “Here is your technical infrastructure, use this, use that, to bind names to URLs.”

But I’m starting to get “into it.”

For the time being, let me finish my statement here by saying: I will continue to participate on CommunityWiki. I will of course continue to be passionate about online communications technology. I will continue to develop software. I will continue to contribute to online efforts.

But I am now assembling the Xavier Institute for Higher Learning, a material world assembly point for geeks, developers, activists, thinkers, introverts, financers, artists, analysts, pilots, hardware guys, networkers, business folk, and so on, to interact, play, collaborate, read, meditate, study, sing, ask, live, talk, question, teach, think, and so on, in the supra-high-bandwidth material world protocols. This will be a base of power, that will extend power and influence for all of its members, and I strongly believe that that power and influence simply must spill out and grow into the cybernetic world that we are all part of and immersed in here, that we love and believe in so strongly.

This is simply something that I must do. I am irresistibly pulled to this vision.

Oh, and I’m intrigued by the vision of an API for human collaborations, that you mentioned, Sam. I envision something like a protocol, expectations, for project sharing and collaboration, similar to FridemarPache’s WebWeaving, which I think is a good idea. Yes, totally. And I would see a lot of value in it's articulation.

We must form inventors collectives. We must take our inventions, find the other inventors, and say, “We’ll use yours if you use ours.” We must make use of each other’s inventions. We must co-brand. It’s the only rational thing that makes sense. George Lucas’ advice to young filmmakers everywhere, (I am reciting from memory,) was: “Do what we did. Find the other people doing creative things, and make your own environments, theaters, bills, universes together. You can’t do it alone, but you can do it with the other up-and-comers. It helps all of you to cooperate like this.”

Totally.

And I am completely and utterly swayed by your invention of the Internet shareholders agreement, or whatever you’re talking about. Points systems and so on. I see it so clearly now. I absolutely agree. It meshes perfectly with what I’m learning from HansWobbe and Kevin Kelley about how businesses start, and how shares are partitioned, and so on. It’s great, and it will definitely work. I don’t have any doubts about it.

That’s what’s sad right now: I’m not going to do Local Names right now, so I can’t do that stuff right now. But you can be sure that it’ll come up in my next project, whatever it is.

You have a disciple of the HansWobbe & SamRose school(s) of business here, in the person of LionKimbro.

But, I’m setting this house up right now, it seems..!

This is looking very cool! I haven’t seen Harvey Mudd College, or Sudbury Schools … so I can’t imagine it that vividly; Seems like a part-time anarchist commune, without all the “living and working together” aspect.

Maybe there are a lot of things you can’t really build on the Internet, at least, not yet. Maybe what CommunityWiki is trying to be would work better in meatspace than online

Well, Lion, I think your idea is awesome. So, the same offer still stands: If there is anything I can do to help you solve your problems of launching a Cooperative “Co-Presencing” in Seattle, please let me know. I’ve been researching Cooperative business models (for profit and non profit) at OBM Wiki: http://socialsynergyweb.net/cgi-bin/wiki/Cooperative

I am convinced that Cooperatives are a tremendously useful way to co-govern the management of group resources.

The idea indeed looks very promising – as I recall, I was always the most creative when I was forced to do boring things with other people – usually wait for the next lecture. And I think it can be used to “bootstrap” it – new ideas and solutions will surely appear. I’m thinking how a similar thing could be done on a smaller scale…

The house is awesome. I don’t know how to say it, beyond that. I hear more interesting ideas in 30 minutes there than I hear in several days online. There’s simply no comparison. I want to predict and attract a future where people are doing this all over the place, just as the BarCamp spread.

But my loyalties are also “online.” Trying to figure out how to bridge “the house” with the online world is a challenge several of us are thinking about. For the time being, we are recording conversations with neat tiny MP3 recorders. We need to automate the uploads to a website, but I think we’ll get there. There is no way of humanly keeping up; We’ll need speech-to-text; But I’m sure it will arrive. I want to see if we can set up a computer for easy spurious blogging. We are using a FreeNode? IRC channel, too, though I don’t know which it is; I’m rarely on there.

I just saw something interesting – check out this "Starfire" concept video.

If we had trivial distance video and large comfortable displays, then we’re moving online.

We’re still not all the way there yet, but we’re moving there.

If we combine it’s vision with speech-to-text, then we have something like IrcTranscripts?. I would imagine that we would take our favorite insightful speech acts and realizations, and summarize them, or include them literally, or attach them “in the margins” to summaries and such.

Sam, thank you for the offer; I am definitely keeping it in mind.

I’m … struggling to be both online and off. The pull of the house is strong.

I am excited for Lion. I wish I was closer than a 26 hour drive. I’m hoping this will be one of those amazingly successful projects where people looking back will go “Why did we wait until 2007 to start?”.

I see the TechShop idea (started in 2006) as very similar – both include a place full of tools where people can work on their own projects and also learn from each other. Alas, it is also 26 hour drive away from me.

I see that the people who started TechShop? in Menlo Park CA also want to start others in other cities.

I wonder what would happen if a TechShop? landed on a SudburySchoolForAdults.

Or will mixing hardware people and software people only lead to violence again?

Again? What happened last time?

The last time we allowed hardware people and software people to come into contact, we got BattleBots. :-)

It seems like this is two projects. One, to do it in real space. Two, to use internet technology to augment our personal spaces to turn them into shared spaces. Correct? I think both projects are worthwhile, though I imagine they might turn out somwhat different from each other (and be useful for different kinds of purposes/experiences.)

Just as an aside, I have a friend that went to the original Sudbury Valley school. She and her friends did a whole lot of hanging out, hiding from teachers (not hard, due to the open nature of the place), and smoking dope :) So you need to be pretty self motivated or have actual goals for what you want to do there.

I hear people say that you have to be “pretty self motivated, or have actual goals” a lot, for it to “work.”

But when I look, as far as I can tell, it “works” for all the kids I see there. I don’t see why this set of kids should be particularly different than any other set of kids.

So, I personally reject that line of argument. It seems more like an argument from inertia, than an actual argument to me.

Note that, “I have heard,” that smoking dope happens on high school and college campuses, as well. In fact, I would be surprised if there were not a “dope smoker” amongst us here, on CommunityWiki. And yet, we learn.

Well, there’s a difference between being 16 years old and not sure what you want to do, and kind of starting to discover ideas and stuff (and getting excited about them) even without doing too much “work”, and being 20-whatever years old and having more concrete goals regarding accomplishments. Both things are good and important; just commenting on the reputation that Sudbury Valley has, which is in a lot of ways just a reaction to how different it is from conventional schools (and it includes ignorance, jealosy, etc.)

Footnotes:

1. Here's an interesting article, I’ve just skimmed through, but I don’t think it’s the one I read.
2. It’s interesting to me to note that, the majority of my personal growth in these domains, the majority of my gains and changes in perspective, have come, really, from my brief interactions with HansWobbe, time spent with others at SeattleMindCamp, and with RecentChangesCamp. The online gatherings, much less so, except considered over the long term.

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