RE: Happy 5th Birthday!

From: Jeffrey Kay (jkay@ENGENIA.COM)
Date: Tue Jan 02 2001 - 09:26:05 PST

Tony --

As you might expect, I disagree with your definition of content. Content
doesn't have to be written to be "high". Your use of the term fidelity is
interesting and could likely replace my use of the word "content", but it
doesn't really change the point. The point is that as a society we have
become increasingly disconnected by our use of technology (as it exists
today) and generally this is because the modes of communication and
collaboration lose content (or fidelity) as they have become advanced
"technologically". If you really want to be deconstructionist about the
comment, I really point to technological popularity, rather than
technological advancement. As we all know, e-mail and instant messaging
aren't really the state of the art of computer-based communications, but
currently they are by far the most popular.

So the point is sociological and could probably be better stated as follows
-- use of popular collaboration technology is inversely proportional to
fidelity of the communications. Stating it that way just doesn't have quite
the ring that the original does -- technology is inversely proportional to
the amount of content transferred. Keep in mind that this isn't a purely
scientific maxim -- it's an observation about how we live.

Efficiency isn't really the point at all, although I could make a reasonable
argument that all this "efficiency" has reduced the amount of content in our
conversations. For example, this note is a very efficient way for us to
have this conversation -- piecemeal, as we have time -- but you miss the
intensity of which my fingers are hitting the keys on the keyboard (viz. the
expression on my face, the volume and intonation of my voice) in making
these arguments. For all you know I could be sitting back, uncaring, making
this response or I could be really angry at your assertions below. There's
no way for you to know this because this part of the content isn't making
the transition through the technological medium that we've chosen for this

If you want another rule to add to the mix, try this one -- the intensity of
e-mail flames is directly proportional to the distance between the sender
and the receiver. The closer you are (proximity) to the sender, the lower
the intensity of the flame. I experience this often when I travel -- when
I'm in the office, I rarely receive flames from other folks here, but when
I'm on the road, I get some dandies.

cheers --

jeffrey kay <>
chief technology officer, engenia software Inc.

"first get your facts, then you can distort them at your leisure" -- mark
"golf is an endless series of tragedies obscured by the occasional miracle"
-- sports illustrated
"if A equals success, then the formula is A equals X plus Y plus Z. X is
work. Y is play. Z is keep your mouth shut." -- albert einstein

-----Original Message-----
From: Tony Finch []
Sent: Friday, December 29, 2000 6:50 PM
To: Jeffrey Kay
Cc: 'Dave Winer '; 'Rohit Khare '; ' '
Subject: Re: Happy 5th Birthday!

Jeffrey Kay <jkay@ENGENIA.COM> wrote:
>The interesting point here is in the almost 20 years since I built
>that system, very little has changed in the way we used computer
>systems to collaborate. The technology has advanced, but the
>metaphors are the same -- lists, instant messages, e-mail, pages.
>What I look forward to most in the 3rd millenium (starting Monday,
>right?) is some way to break out of that mold and really
>substantially change the way we collaborate using computers.

Every kind of computer-based communication has a pre-computer version.

lists == newsletters / 'zines
instant messages == ham radio
e-mail == letters
pages == telegrams

Computers have just made existing modes of communication faster and
easier, rather than adding fundamentally new modes.

>Face to face -- low tech, highest content, including facial expressions,
>voice inflections as well as the words themselves
>Telephone -- higher tech than F2F, lower content, loses facial expressions
>E-Mail -- higher tech than telephone, lower content yet, loses voice
>Instant Messaging -- higher tech than e-mail, lowest content yet, loses
>thought out paragraphs of information (excluding this post, of course :-).

This is all wrong -- you don't have enough dimensions. Fidelity or
bandwidth or whatever you want to call it is not the same as content.
Most f2f interaction is not high-content: written communication is,
because it allows you to take the time to make more reasoned arguments
with references to sources etc. Not only that, written communication
is more efficient since the writer doesn't have to repeat the same
message for different audiences, and the readers can skip the parts
that aren't relevant to them; with f2f communication you have to trade
the two off against each other.


" ``Well, let's go down and find out who's grave it is.''
``How?''  ``By going down and finding out!'' "

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : Fri Apr 27 2001 - 23:17:43 PDT