Ming the Mechanic:
Things I'm working on

The NewsLog of Flemming Funch
 Things I'm working on2002-02-27 14:17
11 comments
by Flemming Funch

Here are some of the things I'm planning for the NCN software. This is just to give a hint of what I'm doing and what direction my mind is going in. And there are a lot of details, but these are some of the headings:

- Surveying and Polling
- Shared connections with other sites and networks
- A market place for services offered and unmet needs
- Specialized workspaces
- More personal organizer features
- More simple, intuitive layouts wherever possible
- Access for people speaking different languages than English

Surveying and Polling

There are several important purposes this is needed for. One thing is to have better profiles of people, so we can better know who's available for what. So, one would fill in more detailed choices on how one likes to interact with others, what kind of activity one is looking for, etc. Some people want to chat, some people just want to work with others in their own profession, etc. So, if we're clear on that, it is more painless to connect up.

And then we need some ways of gauging the public opinion here. What do people think about various kinds of issues and questions. What do we prefer. Probably the ability for anybody to add polls, either generally in the member area, or for specific purposes in workgroups. So, a bunch of people answer some multiple choice questions and we see the result in some kind of graph.

Also, somewhat related to that would be features for gathering support arround a certain initiative or resolution. I.e. a mechanism for people to sign themselves on to a certain statement of some kind.

Connections with other sites and networks

I'm continuously trying to work out ways of establishing some kind of win-win sharing with other sites and networks. I'm thinking along the lines of technical stuff, like being able to incorporate event listings from another site, or to show newslog postings in other places.

There are certain Internet standards which could make that relatively painless, but it kind of needs to be demonstrated in a convincing way for other sites to jump on to the idea

Market Place

What has long been on my to-do list is mechanisms for offering services and for requesting services one needs. That might take various forms:

- Free services in a gift economy. Here it is mainly a matter of matching up the offers with the requests

- A local currency economy. I.e. people pay for each other's services with units that we make up on the spot and account for, like in Friendly Favors

- Offering one's services for sale, as in a yellow page directory, but with added features that might allow others to get commissions from sending you business.

See, I think it is important that we get our livelyhood involved in things here, so this isn't just a theoretical discussion we're having in our spare time.

Specialized Workspaces

Depending on what one is trying to accomplish, various kinds of specially configured spaces might make sense.

For example, some spaces are intended to get something done in, in a focused manner. I.e. it it supposed to lead to a result, and it might involve agreeing on a common plan, oulining some deliberables, and measuring one's progress towards a well-defined end. If that's the case, it would be useful with software that supports the group in staying on track and staying in agreement.

Other spaces have more divergent purposes, and might exist just to inspire creativity and brainstorming and lateral thinking and problem solving. That would require very different support from the software, such as ways of getting you to think in different patterns than you normally would.

So, the idea is that different virtual spaces inspire a certain behavior and makes certain outcomes more likely. Like, it isn't easy to get something actually done in a regular chat room, because the format tends to inspire people to go off in many different directions.

Personal Organizer Features

For it to be useful to hang out in a particular online environment it should be doing some of the things one often needs. So, features for keeping track of one's appointments, one's to-do list, one's contacts, etc. would probably come in handy.

Simplified Layout

That's easier said than done, but NCN is overdue for updates in terms of how things are laid out and how they look graphically. The public area of the site hasn't been updated much, and some of it is way out of date. And it is not clear how it relates to the member area.

Overall, it of course needs to be simple for anybody to see what is available and get access to it.

Different Languages

There is right now no good way of interfacing with NCN unless one speaks English. There ought to be at least a basic interface to the main features in several other common languages, such as Spanish. And it should be easier to find other people that speak your language.

And much more

There are many more things I'm working on or have in mind, but that are either too hard to explain, or that aren't clear yet. There are some things we definitely need some software solutions for, but those solutions haven't been invented yet.

Finally, let me clarify that these are things *I* am working on. I'm just one person. I'm very open to working with other programmers on this and more, and I'm open to incorporating pieces that others have that fit into this. I'm always open to suggestions and wish lists, and will accommodate them when at all possible. I'm *not* open to any committee forming that would try to decide what I should be working on instead. Might sound silly to even mention that, but it does happen once in a while.


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11 comments

27 Feb 2002 @ 15:50 by mmmark : Great Stuff Ming
Let me know if there is anything I can do to help designing the Work Spaces.  


27 Feb 2002 @ 16:50 by ming : Workspaces
Well, I do need help on some of that. I can most easily think up a workspace that inspires creativity and lateral thinking and brainstorming. But I have a harder time coming up with exact elements that would act in a focusing manner. I'm looking for a model of the workflow that leads a small group of people towards agreement and then carrying out a common plan, adjusting it along the way if necessary, but nevertheless moving towards a certain end. And I'm kind of looking for exact steps and elements. Ideas off the top of my head are: Roberts Rules of Order for meetings; having to fill in progress reports at certain intervals; having to sign a contract of sorts when entering into the group.  


27 Feb 2002 @ 21:48 by ashanti : You're an angel, Ming
Thanks for all you do. My immediate thoughts is that I've noticed, in some areas, it is hard for groups to get off the ground. I am thinking of pointers from the formation of traditional organizations, which can be adapted as necessary. But first, the PURPOSE of the groups has to be agreed upon. I think that is vital. After that, one hammers out a Mission, Vision, Goals, and Action Plans. Most traditional organizations follow this, and it sort-of works - the foundation structure puts in place a stability from which branching out, a.k.a mind mapping, can occur in the form of task-teams focusing on specific angles. Task teams arefluid - formed and then terminated as the goal is achieved, to then go on and form new task teams for the next areas of focus. It's flexible, as it allows, within an organizational structure, the ability to diversity into areas of interest/ability. Flexibility within an overall framework.  


27 Feb 2002 @ 21:56 by mmmark : Great Stuff Ming.
Let me know if there is anything I can do to help designing the Work Space.  


27 Feb 2002 @ 22:04 by ashanti : Project management
Oh yes, forgot, for the task teams, its good to map out milestones, target dates, and so on. Not to stifle or cramp creativity, but it is like having a map while driving in unchartered territory. It helps. It's fun to take turns off the road to explore, but sooner or later, you need to get back to the road to reach your destination (purpose). So, maybe in the workspaces, there could be virtual forms, with fields to be agreed upon, and periodically reviewed. I have found that a group of people do need some foundational structure, in order to be effective. Just enough to keep the cohesion, but not too much to stifle the creativity. The standard steps for project management are a pretty good framework, in my experience.  


28 Feb 2002 @ 00:04 by ming : Milestones
Thanks a lot, Yashmir. That is exactly the kind of input that is helpful. I have a couple of project management books on my shelves, which I probably should take a new look at.  


4 Mar 2002 @ 12:54 by magical_melody : Looks Great!
Ming, Wow! I am so impressed with this site, and where it looks like it is going. I will check in with you again soon to see where I may assist. Right now, I am limited with my time. I am focusing on trying to get a cultural creatives network established in the Twin Cities area, so need to put some energy into that one first. Also trying to establish some ongoing paying work. Lots of irons right now. Thanks for all you are doing. It blesses us all!!!
Peace, Alana  



6 Mar 2002 @ 01:30 by ov : Focused Conferencing
Some good stuff happening here Ming. I am particularly interested in the section on the work type conferences; it's been the direction that I have been looking at for the last five years or so, been thinking of ways to work with hypertext on the web for over twelve years. An easy to use linking system between posts is essential. I've done some interesting things with Motet, and think that these principles could be incorporated into other sites and software.  


6 Mar 2002 @ 01:44 by ming : Conferencing
Yeah, the ideal is that everything can link to everything else, and that it is somehow intuitive and easy. We're certainly not there yet with all of it here. And how to both have public spaces and private spaces for many different purposes, and it being easy to get around, it isn't easy. Are you familiar with CommunityWare? I spent a lot of time in that, because I was administering a server running it, and making modifications to it, and my friend Casey Hughes used to run the company that developed it. It had some nice features, but it was extremely hard to get an overview because there were threads all over the place, and people were just jumping around and continuing conversations everywhere, and it was never clear where there was something going on.  


9 Mar 2002 @ 12:09 by ov : CommunityWare
A couple of years ago I hung out for awhile in E-Minds, over in the Barn which was there meta conference on conferencing. I believe that they were using either CW or an enhanced version since they were also in an ongoing development mode. This version had both linear and threaded options but I can't remember the threaded options. As a general rule I avoid the threaded systems, but it's nice to have them as a secondary structure through embedded links.

I think that problems with having threads running everywhere has as much to do with how the software is used, as it does with what kind of software. If there is a shared protocol or methodology then a very organized structured discussion can be developed. OTOH if somebody wants to prevent a structured discussion, they can, simply by running threaded dancing bears through any audience that accumulates.

A lot depends on the collective purpose of the participants.

ov  



14 Mar 2002 @ 22:22 by ming : CommunityWare
Yes, E-Minds was using CommunityWare. And, sure, it depends on how the place has been arranged, of course. But, also, what I was missing there was a way of seeing the volume of new stuff in different places. I couldn't see how much was going on before I entered a particular forum, and there were dozens and dozens of those.  


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