| by Flemming Funch|
It is probably a good idea to do an inventory once in a while of one's projects and interests. Particularly when one is interested in connecting with others working on similar things.
It would also be nice if one's public presentation actually matched what one is doing or what one is aiming at doing. Once in a while I notice with some chagrin that I've left behind a number of websites and profiles and bits and pieces that mostly are either completely outdated or entirely misleading. Most of them covered with cobwebs. Some of them were cool in the 1990s, but are a bit of an embarrassment today. Then again, I've also left behind stuff that was ahead of it's time, that if it had been taken a slight bit further, or the timing had been slightly different, or the right people had come together, or I hadn't made some crucial mistake, would have been something really big that everybody would know about today.
I'm focusing on collaborative Internet stuff here. Software. Patterns. I could probably make other inventories for other areas of my interests. But there's a bunch of stuff that goes together here, which relates to how people connect and work together, how information and people get organized, how society might work better, how humanity might operate at a higher level. It is really all one subject, which can be addressed from many different angles. Creativity. Synchronicity. Conversations. Synergy. Emergence. Collective Intelligence. New Civilization. And how we might use computer and communication technology for doing it orders of magnitudes better. Which at a local level might make us personally more effective and which might get small group activities off the ground faster. And at a bigger level, it might just save humanity from going extinct within the next century or two.
Here are a few bullet points of stuff I previously have worked on:
OrgSpace has been my code word for creating a better way for individuals or small groups to organizing any kind of data related to what they do. The basic idea is that there are as many dimensions to data as there needs to be, everything is linked in several directions, any item can exist in several places, because it has several dimensions, folders and categories are the same thing, just seen differently. Somewhat similar to the idea in Ted Nelson's ZigZag project. Which never really happened, because, well, it is a hard thing to create something super simple and universal. I went through a couple of early prototypes of that kind of OrgSpace, without getting very close to what I had in mind.
Eventually I settled for a more pragmatic OrgSpace, a collection of modules that could be reconfigured for various collaborative purposes. Wikis, blogs, calendars, project management, contact database, event planning, ad hoc databases, forums, chat rooms, picture galleries, e-commerce, and more. All of which I programmed from scratch. Each user could add one or more of any of these modules, and create workgroups and networks of people, and decide who to share which pieces with. And they could embed them in public websites. A pretty clever system, but way, way too ambitious. Oh, it is 95% done and parts of it are still used by clients or friends or by myself. But there's just no way I, one single programmer, could keep all these modules current and keep up with an evolving world. But I tried for a while before giving up, more than 5 years ago. If you look at orgspace.com you'll see... basically nothing. It is an example of one of those misleading websites I really should do something better with.
New Civilization Network
I should probably have put that first, as it happened first, and some of the software I developed there ended up being used in OrgSpace. NCN wasn't particularly about software, but about creating a self-organizing network of teams that would work on building a better world. It grew out of a Whole Systems discussion group I ran in a mailing list in 1994-95. The initial vision of the infrastructure was developed with Max Sandor. The idea was to inspire the creation of a network of online communities, existing on many independently operated servers. Protocols would be developed to allow interactivity and portability between these different sites. Essentially one should be able to join any group, hosted on any server, and that group might have it's own particularities and features, but at the same time one should be able to interact with and be found by people on any of the other servers in the network. You'll notice that we're talking about a universal login and about data portability and interoperability, stuff that doesn't even really exist today, so it was maybe a bit ahead of its time. It could still have happened, if anybody else had chosen to join the effort. There was one server, run initially by Max, and later by me, but there was never more than that one. So, the imagined network became just one online community on one website. Granted, it was one of the very first social networks, which isn't half bad. I developed a lot of facilities for the site in 1995-96, like friend lists, workgroups, forums, chat rooms, and a couple of years later blogs. The blogging system I created was quite possibly the best thing around at the time, but I didn't quite realize it, as I wasn't myself happy with it yet.
NCN is quite a long story and a a lot of learning took place there. Some patterns worked, some patterns didn't. As a global movement, it looked quite promising in 1995-96. Eventually it didn't take off as envisioned. For various reasons, most of them most likely my fault. It is surely not easy to launch a global self-organizing movement that aims at creating a new civilization. Anyway, if you go to newciv.org you'll see the website, pretty much like it looked in 1995. It is still active, people are still joining, there are hundreds of blogs, people use the member area, etc. But at least the public site is way overdue for a redesign and relaunch. I'm working on that.
My own vision of how a New Civilization should work can be found at holoworld.org. Again it is something that I haven't really touched for 10 years or more. I still stand by it, even though it needs to be extended and updated and developed.
Essentially it is imagining a world that entirely would work on the kinds of principles that are touched upon in Open Space conferences, in Open Source software, in P2P anything. It is a bottom up grassroots self-organization kind of thing.
It is an anarchy where real community is possible. If you're free to do what you feel is right, you'll of course get together with others who want to do similar things as you, and there's a certain market economy of ideas and resources that naturally takes place. If nobody tells you what to do, and there's nobody who'll automatically do things for you, self-organizing community is what takes place. That's how people get together to develop open source software together, or how Wikipedia gets updated. Imagine if everything in the world worked like that. Well, it would only be possible if certain safeguards would be in place, primarily to avoid that a very few anti-social people would monopolize all the resources for themselves.
There are other things I intend to work on, but I don't have much to show for them yet:
Tools for Creativity
I'd be happy just spending my time making better tools. Software tools, for enhancing the creative process, for assisting various kinds of group activities. I'm interested in patterns. Generative patterns. Certain patterns make certain kinds of things happen. Yet, a lot of software doesn't really help you much in doing what you're trying to do. You can have a meeting within a piece of conferencing software, but the whole thing is not at all patterned to help do do what you have in mind. E.g. if you have a meeting specifically to arrive at a common decision, the software should be organized so as to help you make that decision. Duh. Most software isn't structured remotely like that. These projects would probably go on my cr8.com domain. Cr8 means Create, in case that isn't obvious.
Synchronicities are subjectively meaningful coincidences. Something happens that clicks in a surprising way. I believe that's related to being in the flow and to collective intelligence. Imagine that you can increase the number of synchronicities in your life. Things just sort of surprisingly fit. Stuff appears out of the blue that happens to be exactly what you need, even if you didn't know it before. It is a state of mind, but it might very well also be something that can be amplified and enhanced.
Genes have receptors. Certain things will connect. You can increase the amount of connections by bringing in more stuff that might connect, by increasing the opportunities for connections. Similarly, the increasing interactions that the Internet has brought us can, if properly structured, increase synchronicity, increase the number of things that will connect, surprisingly.
There are other things I do than these. Some are more pragmatic, ways of making a living, or minor interests. Like, I've gotten back into webcam websites recently. And, generally speaking, I'm interested in the structure of success, how one can set one's mind to do something, and then actually do it. Which includes how one deals with one's own thoughts and emotions, and what the characteristics are of viable activities. All of which are other stories.