Ming the Mechanic
The NewsLog of Flemming Funch

Sunday, September 28, 2003day link 

 Finding Patterns
picture I'm going to make a more concerted efforts to collect patterns. It is something that well summarizes something I care a lot about. I'm talking about patterns that make things work well, in contrast to patterns that don't work well. Uplifting patterns, transformative patterns, generative patterns, ecological patterns, synergetic patterns.

It is an activity that probably doesn't make sense to everybody. A meta level of dealing with the world. But patterns are essentially a way of successfully navigating an otherwise confusing world. A pattern is the way things are arranged. Without worrying too much about the exact things that are arranged, one concerns oneself with the arrangement they're in. Structure as opposed to content.

I know that very well from my work as a personal counselor. NLP is essentially all about patterns. Discovering what patterns people think in, and how they do things. And then either using the existing patterns for doing what one really wants to do, or adjusting the existing patterns so they work better.

E.g. many people have a pattern in their mind where they make clear pictures of something, and then they get a strong feeling about it, and then they tell themselves things that reinforce a course of action about it. If they make the clear pictures of something they actually want, and they get an energized feeling about it, and tell themselves encouraging things about it, they might be very productive and effective. But if they make pictures of what they don't want, and get freaked out about it, and then feed themselves pessimistic and discouraging statements about it, they might just be a mess. It is the same pattern, but depending on what content you put into it, it might be more or less useful.

Procrastination is a pattern that usually doesn't work well. One notes something that needs doing, and one places it out in the future somewhere, and then it feels like one has cleared space for doing something else in the present. The thing to do pops up once in a while, presenting itself with some kind of bad feeling, and one lessens it by again putting it out in the future. One can either change that pattern, by putting things into a different order, or one can use the pattern itself, and, through a kind of mental judo, realize that one can just procrastinate "later". Try it sometime. You can procrastinate tomorrow.

Anyway, now I'm also interested in patterns of personal organization, business, and group collaboration.

A website has things arranged in a certain way, and that way will greatly influence how people use the site, and what is accomplished. Apparently tiny details that are casually decided at design time might have enormous consequences later. For example, some things I've noticed are: If you make a list of people or weblogs, sorted by update time or popularity or something else like that, people will get into a competitive mode in order to end up on top of the list. And/or others will start feeling differently about the people who happen to be at the top. And I've noticed that if you list a bunch of items, like people or websites or weblogs, in one place, in one list, people will start believing that they have a relation to each other, even if they don't. If you put an item on top of a page, people will consider it more important than it it is at the bottom. Many of these observations are "duh, of course!" kinds of realizations. It is simple in retrospect, but not necessarily in advance.

Here's an article: "an Building Communities with Software" by Joel Spolsky about a number of the design issues in community software, which contains many intelligent observations. If you put a button people need to click on at the bottom of the page, below a bunch of entries from other people, it is more likely that those entries will be read. If you send people in e-mail responses they've gotten to messages posted in some forum, it is much less likely they'll go and browse around there. The design choices in Usenet readers makes for long-winded threads that people lose track of the start of. The mechanics of IRC groups makes for lots of effort spent on fighting for specific group names and handles. All because of the patterns things are arranged in.

Chris Alexander talked about "Pattern Languages" as it applies to architecture of buildings. And it has spread to software.

But we need pattern languages in all aspects of life.

There are patterns for organizations, which can be well represented in system diagrams. Gene Bellinger has an exellent page, "Mental Model Musings", containing lots of system diagrams for organizations.

Various good people are thinking about Uplift Pattern Languages.

For a while I would draw diagrams of patterns I noticed in a book I kept next to my bed, the same that I wrote dreams and good ideas into. I will continue that habit.
[ | 2003-09-28 15:44 | 12 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

 Networks for Networking
Recently online business networks have become a more important interest of mine. In part because I actually have a need for networking, because I need new business. So, there's one point there. A lot of people who are networking are doing so simply because they're looking for a job or project to do, and when they've found it, they disappear. But some people are great networkers AND are already busy doing great things. The latter are the people I expect to learn the most from.

Anyway, these are the networks I currently use occasionally, and what I've noticed about them.

Ryze has become a huge network, and a lot of people I know are in it. It is also the network that has been most useful for me in finding local contacts in my new home town. I was at first a little puzzled at ryze's success, as the site does a number of things I absolutely hate, and which normally would make me leave and never come back. Such as frequently popping up screens saying things like "You would be able to actually see the results of this search if you were a gold member, which is only $9.95 per month". I.e. it is deliberately crippled and pushy on signing people up. But somehow it is also very easy to find people, particularly after I finally broke down and paid the stupid gold member fee. Leaving a message in somebody's guest book is the main way of contacting others. And looking at other people's contacts is a good way of finding other people one might share something with.

tribe.net is new, but expanding very quickly too. It takes a bit more work to find people, and you're not talking with them out in the open like in Ryze. But it doesn't have those annoying signup screens, and it seems to have some good features, like classified listings and job search.

ecademy has good features like seeing who's online and good searches. If one has the right kind of membership, which is free the first month, but then costs money. I like that way of doing it better. A business oriented network, also connected with business coaching services from the British company that created it.

LinkedIn has probably the most high-level business contacts. In part because it is rather hard to contact anybody, and you need to be introducted through shared contacts, potentially through several steps. So you can expect to not be bothered very often. That also means it is rather hard to find anybody, and it isn't a good place for making new friends. But I wouldn't be surprised if it is useful for doing serious business for a number of people.

Friendster is huge and my daughter seems to find it very useful for finding people to chat with. For me, it just makes me feel sort of old. But if you're vibrating at the right wavelength, it is probably great.

Friendly Favors remains a network I feel connected with, because its creators are friends of mine and I was there when it started. And I did find new contacts in France through it. It is useful to do a search in, but it isn't suitable for hanging out in, or communicating through on an ongoing basis.

The New Civilization Network is of course my home network. Not just because I started it and maintain it. It is where I go first every morning. It is good for ongoing support, and a sense that there's a place there one can come back to. But it isn't particularly useful for finding people to do business with.

Now, jumping around between several of these, one of the things that immediately becomes apparent is the repetitive effort of linking up to people as your friends or contacts. It is often the same people on the various networks, but even though they're your *friend* in 4 other networks already, you still need to request it again in the 5th. I'd much rather see a standard in place where we each could record on our own computers who we think are our friends, and those networks could be fed that information.
[ | 2003-09-28 16:50 | 0 comments | PermaLink ]

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