Category Archives: Cooperation

Software is about cooperation. So this category is the buildup of the cooperation theory.

Open cooperation within an organization

Each employee can set up his profile, with information about expertises, past projects (possibly a portfolio),  what kinds of services he can provide, contact (email, messenger, phone, with one of them as preferred), available time slot (for online or off line assistance).

If the person has projects that need people to join, he can also post the new project, and specify ways people can participate (open bidding, for example).

This is the thought I have so far. I was experimenting with it recently. It can be within an organization. It can also open up for different kinds of professionals to cooperate online. I think eventually there should be some profile tools that people can use to create their profiles (probably can be different types of profiles geared towards targets). As they join a project or a service (such as providing tech support within an organization or for public), they can be pooled together (such as a pool of techies) (to provide the service). Of course, the process of pooling them together might consist of them filling out some info for that service. But people can always click on their personal profile to get to know more about them.

I guess technically there is nothing very new here, except now it is very easy to do all these things than before.  But the idea of practicing open cooperation within an organization is interesting, and is a challenge to the conventional ways of management.  When this happens beyond an organization to a larger scale, it would be more interesting.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Cooperation, Open Project

Open organizations

Consciousness flow will have no blockage anymore. Traditionally, it was blocked by military power, or by capital power. But in the web area, in the social domain, we will see that consciousness flow will be more and more natural.

In traditional industry, such as agriculture and manufacturing, there are a lot of physical barriers that can block the flow of consciousness. For example, to manufacture some product, a lot of things can be put in place to block competition.

But in the area of social domain, the physical barrier is very low, especially when web starts to connect people together. So for this kind of consciousness product (music, or a social solution), it is more about competing for people’s attention. That is why they have to be kept free. The same as open source, best solution wins. It is all about whether it is interesting or it really solves the problem. In my post Comments on whither the world, I wrote “Our time is about how to build better social products (such as learning, music, journalism and so on). It is about what really makes us happy.” The making of social products has very different characteristics from the traditional industry. For example, the coming of people together to cooperate is more ad hoc, more flexible and manifest more varieties of ways of organizing (as we can see in bar camp and unconference). The kinds of social products cover a very wide range of products or services. They address a wide range of need that was very insufficiently addressed in the past due to a lot of barriers. As agriculture and manufacturing industry satisfy our stomach and physical needs, the social products satisfy our spiritual (however problematic this term “spiritual” is) needs, and is the thing that really makes up happy. In the area of web, we are going to see more and more people coming together addressing those needs. The ways people cooperate in these areas will be very different from the traditional industries and the “core values” of human being will be more and more embodied in the process.

If we believe the “basic good” of human nature, we can believe this process will lead to a much brighter future. That is why we should be very optimistic.

It is along this line that I understand the meaning of (social) software. (Also this is why I understand computer science as a bridge between physical science and human science). Here the Python principle (the principle of play) applies, e.g. make things that are easy for people to play (interact) with. It is here the core values of human activities connect: play, learn, and create.

(To be revised)

Leave a comment

Filed under Cooperation, Open Project, Random Thoughts

Web Brain

Here I want to talk a little bit about Web Brain, which will lead the next generation of WWW.

Internet and WWW is all about global participation and cooperation. It provides a mechanism for people around the world to participate, and then CS works behind the scene to leverage the participation into global cooperation. In web1.0, the mechanism of participation is linking. Google leveraged this participation into global cooperation and build a top search engine. In web2.0, the mechanism of participation is tagging. (Of course, if I can elaborate, we can discuss how to look at various web2.0 features as new ways of participation.) Of course, there are a lot of things we can do on tags aggregated across the globe. (A simple example is to find all other tags closely relate to one tag.) So far, as much as I am aware of, not much work has been done to fully leverage this participation into global cooperation. If it is done well, what we will have is a Web Brain, which will really kick off a totally new area in human history.

What is Web Brain? At least, you can think of it as the next Google on a higher food chain. In essence, I think Web Brain is like connecting all the human being together to create a life on a higher level. We, all the individuals, will be like cells connected together into one large body. In a sense, the life on this planet evolves. We finally become one. Web Brain will connect all our consciousness together. We contribute our intelligence. We breath life into it. We ask it for information. We use it to act, for learning, for playing, for creating, for organizing, for equality… There will be consciousness flow, money flow in it.

The dream of AI might finally be realized on the web. Web Brain might be able to understand human language. When we were kids, we learn a new word from all the context it is used. The word is meaningful because it is associated with the context, the inputs and outputs.

So a web brain based on tags will know how each word (tag) is used in different context. And if Web Brain also has an input and output (which it should has, otherwise there is no sense an independent brain), it will be able to parse language. Maybe its semantic brain is a little different from us human being as Web Brain has to serve its own inputs and outputs (which are actually connected to us human being).

If Web Brain is able to parse language or develop its own language based on human languages, then we can specify a domain semantic for Web Brain, for example elearning. Then we can ask Web Brain a lot of questions in that domain. I can also teach Web Brain to grasp my own methodologies in learning so it can apply them to all the resources it has.

As Web Brain’s language is based on human languages, we might use web brain as the translator of various languages. For example, it can parse English sentences, understand its meaning, and then express it again in Chinese.

Machines/applications embedded with a specific semantic can interact with Web Brain to provide its specific functions.

This web brain doesn’t have a self. Its self is all the people. Its intelligence comes from all the people. It serves all the people. It may be a little different from us human being’s self. Or maybe it is the same as our true self, not hindered by the illusionary self, serving the whole body from moment to moment. It doesn’t pursue happiness of its own. It pursues happiness of all the people, which is actually its self.

Someone called this web3.0 (http://turing.cs.washington.edu/NYT-KnowItAll.htm), which I think is probably a good term for it. In term of web3.0, it is closely related to web2.0. As it is to fully exploit the use of tag, just as what google has done with links.

Here are all the subjects related to Web Brain: the Nature of Order, biology, semantic web, AI, web fountain, elearning, organization management…

I haven’t been able to do a lot of research on Web Brain. So above are just some thoughts so far. But I certainly feel it very interesting work to engage in.

As I have done quite a lot of research in elearning, I will see how Web Brain can be used to help implement the new learning platform. Here are just some examples: find all the other topics related to bubble sort, find all the maths used in Automatic Control or in Imaging Processing, find the applications applying Automatic Control theory ranked by relevance and degree of complexity, find the best teachers teaching beginner musics in New York area…

The research KnowItAll (http://www.cs.washington.edu/research/knowitall/) has some interesting demos that can be applied to elearning similarly.

This new learning platform will make self-teaching very easy. Furthermore, we will have real capable full-time teachers, part-time teachers, independent teachers, everyone teachers. Corporations will also be brought into this platform via various means. We will break the rigid formality of education system and very possibly make it free maket based, as advocated by Milton Friedman, who just passed away. By doing all these, we will throw away a system that was borrowed from Germany to mass produce employable labors and enslave our minds (see http://www.johntaylorgatto.com/index.htm).

Leave a comment

Filed under Cooperation, Elearning, Essay, Featured Essays, Projects

Reading the book: The Search: How Google and Its Rivals Rewrote the Rules of Business and Transformed Our Culture

I am reading halfway through the book about google titled: The Search: How Google and Its Rivals Rewrote the Rules of Business and Transformed Our Culture. It certainly provides a lot of insider stories about silicon valley that would be hard for me to know without this book. More importantly, it gave me more concrete experiences of building IT startups in US, with all the difficulties and opportunities I should expect. It is like the kind of books (for example, Zeng Xianzi) I read in China that helped me get some basic understanding of doing business in China. In term of learning theory, books like this serves as scaffolding knowledge for beginners, while the real practice in society serves as the activities in so called Activity Theory that will shape your real thinking, and make you keep improving yourself by reflecting on your practices. Anyway, below is what I felt about reading this book.

It certainly makes me appreciate more of google’s position as the totally dominant search engine of the Internet. Yes, google is just the guy in the joke who wants to download the whole Internet. But google actually did it. This is really an awesome job. Imagine google downloaded the whole Internet and indexed it! (Well, who has an idea what fraction is google’s repository of the whole internet?) With the whole Internet in its repository and can be searched quickly, certainly that is a big asset. Furthermore, the author illustrates all the advertising techniques google can leverage by combining with other channels. I haven’t thought that far yet. But is the author exaggerating too much?

I’ve always dismissed google as a search company. Well, I should have appreciated more of a search engine as the gateway to all the scattered (distributed) websites on the Internet. But I did have my reasons to dismiss google. It is just a search engine, anyway. There is really not a lot of revolution or innovation there. The Internet and web, to me, offered endless space for creation than merely a search engine. What web2.0 differs from web1.0 is that web2.0 taps into that endless creativity and possibility. For web1.0, most of it is just a process of digitalization, moving traditional stuff online. That is it. But for web2.0, it is creating things that we don’t have in the past. Web2.0 is really in the true sense breaking all the physical limitations. Google’s grand mission to organize and deliver information globally, to me, is not that grand at all, at least not compared to what is hopeful to be brought about by what is dubbed web2.0. To me, the great hope of Internet and web bring to us, is not merely access to information (although it is certainly an important part), but more importantly or correctly is to leverage cooperation. The history of human being can be summarized as a history of how people organize/cooperate together. We formed various kinds of organizations in the history. Internet and web will change fundamentally the way human being organize together, by breaking down the elements and reassembling the elements through various forms in the fearless pursuit of the core values, being it free market, journalism, public administration, or learning.

Web1.0, in this view, provided merely one way for people to cooperate, e.g. through links. Thus google took advantage of such inputs of cooperation by people across globe in its search algorithm of PageRank. Web2.0, however, added more ways for people to participate in this global cooperation. People participate more deeply in this global cooperation through web2.0. Tagging, as I said before, combined with links, can be very powerful. Actually, link is just one kind of tagging. Tagging is the more general form. So instead of just tagging it with a link, you can tag it with anything. Also you can tag anything. There are more ways of tagging things than what we have used so far. (To go deeper, actually we are conducting exactly the activities of living center forming patterns as theorized in the book Nature of Order.) Let me come back from the deep theoretic things to easy things now. To put it simply, tagging provides more easy ways for people to participate in the cooperation globally. Thus we now have a way for people to cooperate in various specific domains such as bookmarking, photo sharing, reviewing and so on. Tagging is a very good way to collect inputs from many people. Through global cooperation, we are able to tap deeply into the core values of various domains.

If just for search, I think google is more like a web1.0 company. The book confirmed my suspicion of google. As I have known for a long time, its founders cannot be counted as very great people, at least not compared with many great people I know in China, in term of broad and deep knowledge and life experience. (Or just compare them to Bill Gates and Dell. Both gates and Dell’s success is the result of long time pursuit since their childhood. They had a vision, and they persisted. Finally their vision paid off. But google’s success is more like accidental than a long time pursuit. The two founders discovered the idea of PageRank accidentally and at the beginning they didn’t know what to do with it. Simply, from what I have read, the google guys didn’t have a vision, at least at the beginning.  Although I trust some of my friends who lack vision. I generally trust people more if they have a vision. Especially for people who I have never met, I can trust them solely based on their vision. ) Their creativity is certainly not very impressive. The AdWord actually copied the model from Overture. Google was put into the category of web2.0 company by O’Reilly mainly because it figured out a way of making profits on the Internet. But this credit should actually go to that creative mind in Overture. What google should be credited for is probably their always customer first motto: don’t do evil. But this motto actually doesn’t always hold true for google either. Googel’s motto should actually be called “Don’t do evil (unless you are going to lose a lot of money)”. (Well, here is a philosophical question. Adam Smith argues that the grand mission of businessman is to pursue maximum profit. And by pursuing maximum profit, the businessman contribute maximally to society. The capitalism, as designed by Adam Smith, is a great design for people to cooperate with each other through free market. I do think it is a very great design. But is the free market always inline with moral values? Moral values, such as good and evil concepts used by google, are always non-scientific to me. What kind of market is real free market that will really align with moral values? I figured the Internet and web will play a very big part in bringing about the free market) In google’s China deal, there are better approaches to handle it. But anyway, if google claims “Do no evil”. Then that claim should mean something. If google gives an excuse of losing market, then it should change its motto to: “Don’t do evil (unless you are going to lose a lot of money)”, or discard its motto and tell everyone google is just using a mathematical function in guiding its conduct: putting all the inputs into the function, if the result is greater than 0, then do no evil. If not, do evil. Anyway, I always feel this kind of good and evil thing doesn’t stand looking deeper into it. It always messes you up.

PageRank and the scalable infrastructure to support massive database are great tech. These are what the two founders of google should be given credit for. They should also be given credits for a little belief in serving customers. However, my understanding of computer science is as a bridge between physical science and human science. If google just stays as a search company, I wouldn’t care about it much.

Only recently, I started to admire google, but not for their search. It is because of their adoption of open source model in their workforce. Well, I don’t know whether they are intentionally pursuing this direction. But it is the direction I would love to explore. It is revolutionary in releasing people’s creativity and let them cooperate creatively. It is only in this sense that I admire them. I would love to think they transformed from a merely a search company to a company really representing the promise of Internet and web.

Anyway, always solute to the winners.

BTW, the food in BN starbucks is really bad. I have to put up with it to save time.

1 Comment

Filed under Cooperation

Art, Zen practice and comments on Lung Yingtai’s articles

Note: This article is mainly a review of the author Lung Yingtai’s articles. But through this review, I put together how art and zen practice are related, how each individual should pursue his/her art, and how society should protect and support individuals in their pursuits.

I have liked Lung Yingtai’s articles for several years. She is one of my most favorite writers. I remember the first of her articles I read is “oh, Shanghai men”(a, shanghai nan ren). Up to recently, I like her article ”bai(3) nian(2) si(1) suo(3)”( http://www.shuku.net:8080/novels/lyt/lytdyjbnss.html) the best. She recently wrote a serial of articles regarding Taiwan’s election and democracy (http://forums.chinatimes.com.tw/report/lonin/l_main.htm). I regard these articles as the best of her articles. I like them very much. These articles are much deeper and closer to the core values. It seems that three years’ holding position as the cultural administrator of the Taipei city has promoted her to see things much deeper and realize the underlying principles.

This world is now a very troubled world. Taiwan’s democracy is greatly questioned. America is misled by the Bush administration. The Columbia local Chinese community recently had a very heated debate. All these raised questions in my mind. Why the liars always get their way? Why nice people always get cheated and misled? Why they cannot learn from history and people in other countries, but have to learn from their own lessons? Why they are so insensitive to things happening around?

That night, I just heard Bush’s primary speech on Iraq. I got very furious. On the TV, Senator Biden got the same furious. This stupid American president. The last chance to get the Iraq thing right is wasted again. He violated freedom in the name of freedom. He has had a chance to compensate for it by establishing the real democracy in Iraq, but he wasted. Now Iraq is in so much trouble, the world is in so much trouble and he is considering withdrawing? And there is no specific guideline about how to balance the power in Iraq. His 5 steps are really not significant. He just doesn’t understand anything at all, including the word “freedom” he has claimed to protect. American people can elect a president as great as Clinton. They can also elect a president as this Bush. What is wrong?

Then I read Lung Yingtai’s article “bai(3) nian(2) si(1) suo(3)” again. She said that literature is to enable people to see things normally invisible. Suddenly, I understand why many people are so ignorant and insensitive. Good literature is a super ability to realize the underlying principles, thus various things can be connected. Also the sense of seeing the underlying principles constructs a sense of beauty. It brings you back to the pure experience, pure activity and no thinking.

The same as I experienced in engineering training, literature is to grasp the underlying principles. The same with philosophy and history. They are all trying to grasp the underlying principles thus connecting different things. Also as Lung said, it must be centered on people. All thinking or all knowledge has to go back to the human being. This would explain why there are so many seemly knowledgeable people backing Bush up. Everything, no matter democracy or freedom, has to be centered on people, asking how it is related with every individual. So how should they be related? They should protect every individual’s right in pursuing at least one domain of art (For me, it is CS and elearning and I use this art to achieve the best balance). So that’s why I said everyone must focus on one domain of art. And no matter what domain of art you are focusing on, you will have to relate to other domains of arts and only after you do that can you achieve the highest form of your art. So democracy or freedom, they are to protect each individual’s pursuit of art and the sharing of their arts, to build a comprehensive learning environment for individuals pursuing arts, an environment both horizontally (involves various countries, areas, races. Thus the internationalization and diversity count) and vertically (historically) (exactly what Lung has been trying to do as the cultural administrator in Taipei.) In the process of pursuing my art, I am experiencing all of these. Democracy itself is useless. It is only a way to protect those essential things. We surely still need to do a lot of work to develop those essential things.

So we see again Zen is here: separate and connect. We have to enter the human world to experience being a human being, thus in a sense we are separated from other individuals and the world. We have personal experiences and we rely on it. But Zen is again saying we have to be connected to the world again. We have to be connected with other people and be connected to the whole world. We have to let the self dissolve. The article Zen Practice (zenpractice.html) is the best article for this “separate and connect”.

Please allow me to spend first a few words on the “separate and connect”.

The art is to experience the fundamental truths Zen has told us. One fundamental truth is separate and connect. How to be independent? How to connect? More specifically, how to cooperate? How to grasp the underlying principles thus various things can connect?

If we can connect, we achieve certainty. Certainty again connects us with our direct feelings. Our direct feelings are actually all we need (as sitting meditation in Zen). We connect via openness.

Zen is the art of all arts. It is about separate (independence, individual) and connect. It is to dissolve all set patterns. It is to realize each basic component and compose them freely in any condition. (Bruce Lee JKD, http://www.brucelee.com/jeet.htm) Like Bruce Lee said in his JKD, a kick is a kick, you use it when needed. You practice to make a kick a good kick. You combine various components to express yourself. Similarly in a society, we need to dissolve the set patterns (government, big companies and so on), we need to recognize the basic components (independent individuals with free wills and different interests). An individual needs to freely express himself/herself. In a larger scale, we need the fluidity to let the components (individuals) to be combined freely according to various conditions thus a society can freely express itself. That is why I believe our world is becoming more human because IT empowers individuals and gives individuals various forms to cooperate. The new options for cooperation greatly exceeds what can be offered by the traditional forms of social organizations (government, company and so on.) (Bill Joy said he believes small company as small as 20 people is the best.) (Democracy, for us so far, is to allow the regime change without shedding blood).

Thus how to identify those basic small components, let those basic components be independent and how to let them cooperate in different ways are the key of all. And this is what I am working on in elearning. Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Chan/Zen, Cooperation, Essay, Liberal Arts

Why IT/Software makes our world more human

When we are choosing the topic of the first CBSA Panel Discussion, we mainly hope to use this chance to introduce IT world to the business students. So they can have a general picture of the IT world and such understanding may help them if they want to enter IT enterprises. In the recent two weeks, I felt that if I use “why IT/Software makes our world more human” as the topic, I can connect all the exciting things I have witnessed in the Computer Science field through these two years’ study. So suddenly I felt I can talk a lot. Thus I will occupy more time in today’s panel discussion.

Let me first talk about the limitations of my talk today. The first limitation is that this is what I felt recently and it has not gone through a long time’s filtering. I need time to explore all the logics inside it. On the other hand, I may not have enough examples or I may not be able to explain things sufficiently or in an appropriate way. The second limitation is that I haven’t gone back to the society for many years. Staying at school for so long probably make my talk more academic (theoretical) or bookworm-like. It may not suit the reality very well. So these are the limitations.

Now I will begin my talk.

Let me start with a little story. When I was applying college, I don’t know which major to choose. My elder brother asked me one question: do you like to do things related with human or related with physical world? I don’t know how to answer this question. I guess I am more interested in human being. But I have always been very good at Math and Physics, and I like them much although they take harder mental work. I also have a science/engineering family background. I don’t want to totally give up on this aspect. But I surely don’t want to lock me up in the science/engineering for my whole life. On the other hand, I don’t feel that I need to study the human science in the school. So-called major study in human science without real practice is useless and dangerous. At least I can teach myself human science by reading a lot and practicing a lot. The threshold of physical science, however, is much higher. What you learned in school on physical science is more reliable. Also science/engineering training is important. Thus I chose engineering at that time. But for some reason, I didn’t choose computer science.

But the question my brother asked me left in my mind. In college, I read all kinds of books and get to know about individualism. I had contact with computer. And right from first touch with computer, I started to like it and knew that this is what I want to do for my life. I saw that I can transform the ideas in my brain into a concrete form and can execute it and get result. That it is really exciting. I saw a bridge, bridging the gap from physical world to human. I also see that computer science major can participate in all kinds of walks. This is exactly what I want. At that time, the Internet boom and many people were talking about the so-called revolutions brought by Internet. Thus I went extra way to change my major. Now two years have passed. I have seen many exciting things in the Computer Science world. Just as I have expected, Computer Science makes the world more human. From my studying and hard working in CS, I also penetrate deeper into the meaning of individualism. Now I am going to use the topic “Why IT/Software makes our world more human” to thread all the things I have seen.

Let’s first talk about how the programming languages developed. We, CS people, always have a dream. The dream is that we hope one day everyone can program. But this dream is impossible. We need some modification. How? Let’s change it to: all people, who has a good Math background and expertise in domain knowledge, should be able to program in this domain after some minimum programming training. Human language is too ambiguous. All concepts are mixed up. With human language, human brain is not trained and things are not looked through. If you don’t know how to do something logically, how can you expect the computer to do it right? Thus you have to have a very good training in Math, know how to express your ideas with clean logics. Also you need to understand a domain and have the full experience in it. Thus you will know the logics in this domain. If you have these two perquisites, our job, as CS people, is to let you be able to express you domain expertise by programming after a minimum training. This is our dream.

Let us jump over the machine language and the assembly language. We only talk about the high level language. First is the procedural language, represented by C. Then we will have the object-oriented language, represented by Java (java.sun.com). Then we will have pure interpreted language, represented by Python (www.python.org). (This is only a simple classification. The real situation is more mixed up). We will mainly focus on these three languages. The three, the former, more tuned to machine and running faster; the latter, more tuned to human and running slower. Continue reading

1 Comment

Filed under About Software, Chan/Zen, Cooperation, Essay, Liberal Arts, Programming