Date: Fri, 4 Jul 1997 18:57:52 -0400
From: Robert Hettinga <email@example.com>
Subject: e$: Plus ca change, and the 'begats' of ProjectServer
The running joke in all this discussion of project management, of course,
is that Shipwright Development Corporation, or what's left of it, was
founded in, (what, Joel?) 1992? to market a project management system
called ProjectServer. ProjectServer used AppleEvents, Frontier, MacProject,
and FileMaker to build a workgroup project management environment for a
local network of Macintoshes.
Project managers could put their MacProject files into a 'blessed' folder
on a shared server, and, overnight, or on a batch basis, anyway, a Frontier
script called ProjectServer would hoover out the records from the MP file
and stuff a multiuser FileMaker database, which in turn put do-lists in
front of the people who actually did the project's work. When people were
done with a task, they checked a checkbox, and, when ProjectServer ran that
night, the task on the MacProject file would change. Joel Bowers, who's a
DCSB member, was the person who did the FileMaker stuff for ProjectServer,
and Scott Lawton, of PreFab Software, did the Frontier script. We even had
a ProjectServer flyer stuffed in MacProject boxes for a while.
It was when I figured out that I couldn't quite market ProjectServer at
Egghead :-) that I got interested in the newly commercialized internet in
search of special interest groups in project management to 'narrowcast'
I knew about the net from the middle 80's, when I was trying to go to the
University of Chicago. In order to go to school there so I could someday
learn about how to finance space projects, I used to work in the
Computation Center, and run giant mainframe jobs all night, and eat lots of
pizza, and smoke baseball-bat cigars (I had an office, I wasn't in the
machine room), and read usenet news when I wasn't doing any of the other
things... Anyway, because of my net.time at Chicago, I knew what the
internet was, at any rate, and when the terms of service stuff started
loosen up, and you could finally buy internet access for commercial
purposes, I came back.
When I got on the net again, it soon dawned on me that selling
ProjectServer wasn't nearly important as figuring out how to sell it on the
net was, and the most interesting part of *that* was what I eventually
called financial cryptography. So, I started hanging out on cypherpunks,
where all the cryptographers, or at least the cryptographic enthusiasts,
The cypherpunks list got me interested in www-buyinfo, which I
inadvertantly turned into the prototype for e$pam, when people stopped
posting on the list and I started forwarding relative articles to it to
keep things entertaining. After starting e$pam to replace www-buyinfo, I
started the e$ list as a reply-to for e$pam, and now e$ is a watering hole
in it's own right.
Rich Lethin and I had a beer after something I wrote for cypherpunks, and
when I speculated openly about an arbitrage market for digital cash
certificates, Rich started the ecm list to actually do it. Peter Cassidy
and I had lunch after something I wrote for cypherpunks, and that meeting
turned into DCSB. When Peter and I started DCSB, Rich started the dcsb list
Vinnie Moscaritolo was a friend of mine before I got back on the net, and
is the person who got me back on the net in any real fashion with my first
SLIP feed at TIAC (subscriber 700-something, I think). Vinnie went to work
at Apple and I started bombarding him with this crypto stuff I was
learning. When he was sufficiently 'evangelized' :-), he put up the e$ home
page for me, and then started the mac-crypto list, which we then used to
start the mac-crypto conference with. My efforts to tell Apple what to do
with geodesic networks and cryptography ended up getting me published for
the first time (in InfoWorld), and, even though Apple didn't quite listen
;-), shooting my mouth off about the Mac has gotten me articles in Mac
magazines, and now I'm going to speak at MacWorld next month.
Finally, last year, I e-mailed Vince Cate, a cypherpunk in Anguilla, and
Ray Hirschfeld, who I met at last year's Computers, Freedom, and Privacy
conference (where I went to meet canonical cypherpunk Eric Hughes, for a
contract Peter and I did for his company, which will now and forever remain
nameless -- along with Mr. Hughes, I should think), and together, Vince,
Ray, and I put together FC97, the world's first conference on Financial
Cryptography. Financial Cryptography is a handle I came up with to
describe, um, financial cryptography. It seems to have stuck. :-).
So, after all this, here's Peter asking a project management question on
the dcsb list.
The wheel turns...
The answer I have about project management these days sounds pretty much
like what's been said here on dcsb already. The closest thing I think the
net will have to project management will be some kind of mapping of a
chaotic but successful event's preceeding workflow, and then using that
"roadmap" of preceding tasks over again in a bottom-up fashion, rather
than the execution of top-down "strategic" "directives" from some
boardroom, or, worse, some executive retreat somewhere.
After all, modern manufacturing project management is mostly just a linking
of CAD files and a database to assembly instructions. At least that's how
Boeing did it with, I think, Primavera and the 777. (You can tell it's been
a while...) In software development and other creative enterprises, you run
into the mythical manmonth (nine women having a baby in one month kind of
stuff) problem real quickly, and so it seems to me that eventually software
will be done more like the way books are written, where someone writes new
code and then hustles it on the open market. This is pretty much how the
GNU/GPL stuff is developed without money changing hands, and I expect that
when we can finally clear and settle software transactions on the net, this
is probably how the business model will go as well.
Sometimes I think of Bill Gates as the last industrial tycoon because of
this. He's literally manufacturing and distributing software, when you
think about it, sort of like the way petroleum was originally used for
light and was shipped around by horse-wagon and steam engine as a cheaper
replacement for whale oil. The net's going to change software development,
I think, in the same way that the internal combustion engine changed
petroleum and the rest of the world. But, rather than making things bigger,
the net creates actual diseconomies of scale because it surfacts the rent
out of vertical integration, and "rational" management. Bye bye top-down
project planning. And, someday, the "manufacture" of software.
When Josh McHugh and I went over to see Ron Rivest after the DCSB meeting
this week, so that Josh could interview Ron about financial cryptography
for Forbes, Ron was talking to Josh about his "lottery" protocol for
micropayment, which Rivest presented in its early form during the rump
session at FC97 in Anguilla. The central feature of this protocol (which,
while kind of sexy, I don't like nearly as much as Rivest/Shamir's
MicroMint) is the idea of probalistic payment. That is, the expected value
of a lottery ticket is, say, a penny, but the winning ticket would be
$10.00 or something.
Anyway, I think that like efficient markets everywhere, payment for
intellectual property on the net will be a probabalistic affair. People
will write code, or movies, or rants :-), or something, and they won't have
any idea what will sell or not, but they know that if they keep working at
it, they'll eventually sell something which will pay for all the other work
I see this as new twist on John Adams' "law begets politics which begets
art" generational progression, in that, in a sense, the work in a geodesic
economy will operate more like the art markets today do. Gerry O'Neill, the
father of the large space habitat (take a look at Babylon 5 sometime) once
said that we would get to the end of physics someday, and we would
thereafter become artists. I thought it was laughable and told him so at
lunch one time, but, here it is, back at me, in the form of the geodesic
economy, something I thought was as far from my space enthsiast days (which
got me into finance, to Chicago and to the net the first time around) as it
was possible to be.
Will the net revenue to your average jamoke in a geodesic society be higher
than it is for the same person in an industrial society? My rather
tautological answer comes from Peele's 'Demographic Transition', where the
efficacy of industrialism is measured by the most fundemental variable of
all: human life expectancy. In other words, if it doesn't make more money,
and we all don't live longer as a result of our new wealth (ala Joel
Mokyr's 'free lunches'), than it ain't progress, and it won't happen.
So, is an emergent market for discrete tasks what most people would call
Which doesn't do Peter a whole hell of a lot of good in his search of an
integrated project management system, but I've not been much good to Peter
lately, anyway. ;-).
Robert Hettinga (firstname.lastname@example.org), Philodox
e$, 44 Farquhar Street, Boston, MA 02131 USA
"... however it may deserve respect for its usefulness and antiquity,
[predicting the end of the world] has not been found agreeable to
experience." -- Edward Gibbon, 'Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire'
The e$ Home Page: http://www.shipwright.com/