Ming the Mechanic
The NewsLog of Flemming Funch

Thursday, July 10, 2003day link 

 Xpertweb - distributed data
The approach in xpertweb is to make somebody's data so easily accessible in a standardized format that others will be likely to pick up and keep a copy of it. There are several incentives to do that, actually, and several positive outcomes of that.

Each person will have mentors who receive a small cut of the business, in exchange in part for helping that person get going, and also for acting as backup and validation nodes. So, if you yourself wipe out your disk and lose your data, you can be pretty sure that your mentor will have a copy of it, and you'll be back in action shortly.

Multiple copies in accessible standardized form will also allow others to verify the completeness and integrity of your data. For one thing, it makes it much harder to cheat. If somebody gave you negative feedback, and your mentor, amongst others, picked up a copy of that, you can't just cheat and go and delete it, even though the primary storage place for your activity is your own site. The people you carry out transactions with will also keep a copy, which again will stop you from messing with what really happened.

So, it is not only like double entry book keeping, where each action is debited in one place and credited in another. It is also like the entries are continuously being photocopied and mailed off-site.

This is all possible because the amount of data per person is relatively small. We're talking about transactions as a record of two or more people who come together to make an agreement for something to done, where that something then gets done, and where the parties then record their satisfaction with what happens. And if we were talking about the sale of a service, money would then change hands. But what we're recording is simply the steps of that cycle. Look for a person/product/service, negotiate an agreement on what should happen, make it happen, record comments and ratings about the whole thing. That's not much data. You could quite easily store the activity for hundreds of people.

And the point is exactly that an easily accessible, distributed, tamperproof information network, recording in simple terms what business transactions people agree to engage in, and how happy they are with the results - can possibly add up to a reliable picture of reputation.

If it were controlled from any one place, it probably wouldn't be reliable information.
[ | 2003-07-10 03:09 | 3 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

 Los Angeles
picture So, 3 days left as a resident of Los Angeles. I sort of had in mind I'd have spent some more time appreciating it before leaving. Driving around taking pictures, taking a ride in the underground, etc. But these days are hectic so it doesn't seem like I get around to it this time.

When we got here 18 years ago it seemed like a huge and amazing place. A paradise with perpetual sunshine, blue sky, broad boulevards lined with palm trees and filled with luxury cars. I had never seen a 10 lane freeway before, let alone a city that seemed to stretch continuously for 60 miles in all directions. I soaked it all in with my eyes wide open.

But, well, the magic gradually rubbed off. We lived at first in a small apartment in Hollywood, which sounded like a glamorous thing to write home about. But the drug dealers on the street and the helicopters with search lights circling overhead all night sort of gave a different picture. And the sun and the palm trees stopped being very interesting once it was established that they were always the same. It was close to a year before it rained the first time.

After a few months my life was suddenly hectic like everybody else's. What at first looked like a perpetual vacation spot is really a lot of people who are in a terrible hurry, stressed about catching up with everything, working overtime, paying the mortgage, getting the right car, being dressed right for your bicycle ride along the beach. And everybody has some level of ADD. There so much going on, so many people to see, that you can't easily commit to very much, or remember what you committed to.

Various big events further eroded the image of paradise at different times. For a while the joke was that the four seasons in Los Angeles are: Fires, Floods, Riots and Earthquakes. Indeed. Once a brush fire was burning from close to here, all the way down to the beach in Malibu, more than 20 miles on each side. And, you know, the LA River is a strange thing to look at when one first gets here. It is all made out of concrete and with no water. But 2 or 3 times during our stay, we realized what it was about, as it was all full of raging water. As was Balboa Boulevard, and the local park was under 10 feet of water. The riots was probably the scariest time. Not that it got too close to where we live, but the air was still full of smoke from many large fires set by angry people.

And then there are earthquakes. If you look at the map of the disasterous 94 Northridge quake, we live in the middle of the red dot. It was measured as 8.2 on the richter scale in our particular zip code. Quite a mess. Freeway bridges falling down up to 20 miles from here. The epicenter was actually a couple of blocks from here, and luckily the shockwave was mostly going in the other direction, so our own damage could have been worse. But I got reminded of it when I was packing my books, many of which had been water damaged from a broken water pipe that fateful morning. Lots of stories to tell about that earthquake, which actually included many synchronistic and miraculous elements, but that will be another time. I actually kind of like earthquakes. They make me feel connected with the earth somehow.

But nothing much has happened recently. Life has just become a bit too much of a routine. I no longer go exploring parts of the town I don't know well. It all sort of seems to look the same in my eyes now. Wall-to-wall suburb with a 7-11, a McDonalds and a Mobil station on every corner. Of course I live in Van Nuys, which is a particularly unremarkable place.

But it is also an easy and pleasant place to live in many ways. And of course there are lots of things to do. Yes, you can go surfing by the beach and skiing in the mountains on the same day, and take a walk in the desert while you're at it. Not that I've gone surfing or skiing at all here.

I have many friends here. I'm sure that won't change. And maybe I'll appreciate the town again anew when I come visiting.
[ | 2003-07-10 20:37 | 4 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

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