Man, I had a big epiphany about my PhD thesis earlier this week and I
think my brain exploded all over the inside of my head. I'm so excited
by the idea, I cannot bring myself to actually sit down and write about
it. I just want to hold it up to the light like a diamond with a
thousand points. I want to take this gem, put it in my treasure chest,
and bury it somewhere. An idea that only I can see. Actually, Rohit
knows it too, he can see it too, and the fact that he doesn't gag when
he thinks about it says worlds about the idea. But I'm afraid to let my
idea go, for fear others will mutate it, misunderstand it, kill it
before it is even born. Death before birth is the evillest of evils.
But like all ideas, there's a leap of faith involved. I'm almost ready.
Just not this week. This week, I'm in recuperation mode. I spent 80%
of the last 6 weeks not in Pasadena.
Speaking of ideas, has anyone else recently looked at The Other BillG's
web page for IdeaLab
We've talked about IdeaLab before on FoRK, but I recently explored their
Web pages and was taken aback by the utter *lack* of good ideas there.
It seems to me that the one minuscule thing that Bill Gross and his
partner Steven Spielberg are interested in is money: the goal of IdeaLab
is to produce ten $100 million businesses by the end of the millennium
The goal of IdeaLab is not really to produce good ideas. The goal of
IdeaLab is to make money. Don't get me wrong, making money is a fine
goal, but why not call themselves MoneyLab instead? I guess because
Gross is a smart guy and knows investors trust ideas more than they
Speaking of trust, the edits of our trust paper for the summer issue of
the Web Journal look wonderful, Rohit. I'm really proud of that paper
as it was published. And when the online version of the editted version
is made available, I'll incorporate the changes into our online version:
Also speaking of trust, there is an excellent book that just came out in
the business section called _Trust in the Balance_ by a Yale PhD named
Shaw. It does a fine job of classifying the foundations of trust in
business relationships, and its central thesis --- that trust is a
fundamental business resource that many companies are much too willing
to ignore --- is quite sound. A good night's read.
To me, trust is starting to become a hammer, and everything important is
starting to look like a nail. The naming problem is trust. The
disappearing data problem is trust. The routing problem is trust. The
automation-and-ontology problem is trust. Security, of course, is
trust. Archiving is trust. Privacy is trust. Payments are trust.
Ownership is trust. Sessions are trust. Methods and messages are
trust. Objects are trust. Events are trust. Task-oriented programming
is trust. The ramifications are staggering: until we have a decent
trust calculus, we cannot even begin to solve all of these problems, for
trust is the square root of every equation, and trust is in the
precipitate of every solution.
So this week I wrote and wrote and wrote and wrote, and finished off the
fourth green notebook. Tomorrow, Rohit, I start the fifth green
notebook. Would that those Personal Analog Assistants (the "Rif-PDA")
were easily made accessible online! As it is, I have to start from
scratch, to synthesize and analyze and write a cohesive ten to twenty
page manifesto of the research agenda I'd like to work on for the next
10 to 25 months... but that's an idea I have to think some more about
how best to present.
Speaking of ideas, I'm thinking about cold calling Bill Gross the way I
cold called Robert X. Cringely last year (and tried to cold call Jerry
Kaplan and Steve Jobs, only to fail :). I mean, he's *in* Pasadena, and
I just have to know firsthand if IdeaLab is an exercise in greed, or if
he really believes all of his ideas (which to me all seem to be
variations of the same idea) are profound. As I indicated before,
there's a difference between money and ideas.
This concept was summarized by Cringely in his PBS special "Triumph of
the Nerds" (which I watched last night) as the difference between Bill
Gates and Steve Jobs. Funny, I never thought of the names "Gates" and
"Jobs" before: gates being something imposed to prevent you from going
somewhere, whereas jobs being something imposed on people to prevent
them from thinking because they're so busy working. Jobs are much more
subtle than gates in their impositions and obstructions...
Anyway, as characterized by Cringely, Gates would rather make money than
have a good idea. And Jobs would rather have a good idea than make
money. Chris Espinosa said of Jobs during the Macintosh development
phase, "no design issue was too small and it was never too late to do it
right." A cut to Jobs later gave us this gem:
I don't care about success; I just care about being right.
And to me, that is really what FoRK is about. We have ideas, LOTS of
ideas, some of them better than others. In between coming up with
ideas, we spend lots of time pursuing points of information (BITS),
cogitating about the underlying principles (CLUES), and dropping pieces
of the puzzle into an interconnected jigsaw that may or may not pan out
into the next information/automation/communication revolution (VISION).
Like Bill Gates, we have the fear that more good ideas may not come, and
we'll have to get them from somewhere else (I kid you not, he said this
in the last hour of "Triumph"):
There's always the fear that once you're beyond 30,
you won't have the greatest ideas anymore.
Like Steve Jobs, we have the goal of an endless pursuit of perfection.
The truth is out there, and it's up to us to find it. It even led Bob
Metcalfe to say of Steve Jobs:
He's also obnoxious; this comes from his high standards...
and demands that others follow them.
Now, in our endless pursuit of ideas as puzzle pieces to fit into the
grand vision, we are willing to look anywhere and everywhere, for We
Believe in the Interconnectedness of All Things. (Yes, Wayne, I read
the other Dirk Gently book and this line is not in there, either.
This line is therefore the "Play it again, Sam" of FoRK.)
Insights may come from the craziest places; perhaps, insightfulness
comes from the incitefulness of the friction within FoRK. When Steve
Jobs says "I have a problem with the fact that they make really
third-rate products," that is inciteful. For Bill Gates is not an enemy
to be shunted away; he is smart, and fast, and knows a good thing when
he sees one. He is as much an ally in collecting new insights as Steve
Jobs is. Perhaps even more so, because of his escalation. Remember
Ernie's Rules of War: (paraphrasing) keep your friends close, and your
Speaking of Ernie, that Koanhead post was a classic, no doubt about it.
Ernie has talent of which even he is not aware. Rohit sees that.
Cringely sees that too. (FWIW, Cringely is currently in LA.)
So yes, I liked the Koanhead post, which is why Ron's followup is
> Go Koan yourself on the head, Ernie. There's no enlightenment in this
> crap and you know it.
There *is* enlightenment in it. There's enlightenment in anything, it
just depends on how hard you look.
For example, there are several religious references in the FoRK FAQ that
I guess JoeK was either unwilling to acknowledge or unwilling to see.
He was shocked when a FoRKmember pointed out the fact, but the plain
truth is that insight is divine, and we are always looking for new
epiphanies (anyone who's had one knows what a religious experience they
> Tim can call people fuckin stupid, but no koans are necessary.
Tim calling people fucking stupid is his way of demonstrating affection.
If you don't like it, hit the delete key.
> Someone else tells it like it is, and we gotta call the local
> cop/chaplain out to keep the peace. Go stick a fork in it, furshur.
There are no cops here. No one has EVER gotten kicked off fork;
everyone who has left has requested to do so. The archives are made
publicly available for ANYONE who wants to read them; I believe this to
be quite the act of altruism on Rohit's part, offering bits and clues
and vision FOR FREE to anyone willing to take the time to read them and
Sure, not ALL of the details are in there, but I guarantee you we've hit
on every major insight we've had somewhere in the archive. And slowly
but surely we get the time to refine ideas, assemble more bits and clue,
and articulate the vision better. But no, we're not even close to being
Let's see what Ernie had to say in response.
> Okay, for those who tread not the difficult waters of self-enlightment,
> let me spell it out.
For those who tread not in the difficult waters of self-enlightenment,
you should think again. The unexamined life is not worth living.
Even Madonna was smart enough to steal that line from Socrates.
She didn't COPY it, she stole it. Remember, good artists copy, great
artists steal. And if anyone asks you, I said that first.
> FoRK is a virtual community. A community defined, in this case, as a
> group of people who jointly share some finite resource for a common end
> The resource in this case being attention span and mailbox windows, the
> end being increased bits.
FoRK is the ultimate democracy. Anyone can post, even people not on the
list. Anyone can read posts, even people not on the lists. The
decision of what to post is solely the choice of the poster; we have
ZERO censorship. No one is more equal than anyone else.
It's quite the virtual experiment, IMNSHO. Can a list such as this
survive without imploding under the weight of the members who want
100% (or even 97%) signal-to-noise ratio? I say yes. Remember, I say
the signal-to-noise ratio should be 3%, because any more than that would
cause a person to go insane ("Too many bits!! Too much clue!!! Argh,
> As a community, we are composed of people. It is my personal belief that
> all people should be treated with respect, not matter who they are or how
> they behave. Obviously, Tim, Jim and Ron all disagree with my standards
> for that, though for different reasons. That's OK.
That's right. We respect your right to treat others as you see fit.
As long as you respect our right to judge you accordingly.
As your esteem goes down in anyone's mind here, each person is more
tempted to use the delete key before even reading your email. If your
esteem hits rock bottom, procmail will filter you out before you even
get to our mailboxes. It's up to you not to flip the "bozo bit" in our
> My personal preferences are not the rules for the list. My annoying
> personality quirks (like this tendency to preach at the drop of a hat)
> are not grounds for removal from the list.
And this is the foundation of freedom of speech: we respect each other's
desire to say what we want, even if we find that speech disgusting, or
insipid, or clueless, or wrong, or repetitious. But we reserve the
right not to listen. And we reserve the right to argue.
> That is the way that FoRK was meant to be. A real community. Not some
> sanitized classroom or business office where everyone is on their best
> behavior. Real people, with all their warts and hypocrisy and temper and
> anti-cluons. If you're gonna play in the FoRK kitchen, you gotta be able
> to handle the heat-death of bits.
Some would say that FoRK is the second Hell's Kitchen. But Ernie's
characterization is right on. With most lists, it's "Leave your egos at
the door." Here, we have the audacity to believe that "More egos make
for a better omlet." After all, you can't make a decent omlet without
cracking a few egos.
> Do I wish people were better? Of course! But as a Christian, I believe
> it is always true that improvement is possible, perfection is impossible,
> and personal choice is necessary. [You can quote me on that, Adam]
And I will. :)
And even not as a Christian, I believe in it too. Anyone ever try to
take a religious pulse on FoRK? We have several devout Christians and a
few lapse ones, some Jews, a couple of atheists and agnostics, and at
least one Moslem, Hindu, and Buddhist that I know of.
> I would go further to state that persuasion is the key tactic to use if one
> is really concerned about creating change. Ridicule, mockery, and
> name-calling may be fun, and occasionally necessary, but I don't see them
> as terribly productive.
Depends. And I don't been Depends as in adult diapers, I mean depends
as in there is a fundamental interconnectedness in all things and one
man's incite might be another man's insight.
> But again, that is each person's choice. This community is intended to
> be self-policing. If people are out-of-line, they should get negative
> feedback. If the negative feedback gets negative feedback, so much the
> better. Hopefully people will learn the hard way (via criticism) if they
> don't learn the easy way (by positive example). But it is intended to be
> an organic process. Neither I, nor Adam, nor Rohit want to be in the
> position of saying "You are justified" and "You are condemned." We just
> each share our personal perspectives and get on with it.
Exactly, and it works both ways. If I post old, wrong bits, I deserve
twelve pieces of email in my inbox telling me what a bonehead I am.
Even hiding under my own blanket of arrogance and snobbery, I know that
I couldn't possibly have a decent post and/or insight but maybe 3% of
the time. If that.
> That isn't to say that we wouldn't take action if it was required. If
> somebody sold our names to a spammer so that all of our mailboxes were
> flooded by solicitations for days on end, we'd do something horrible like
> make them eat Rohit's cooking.
Or make them travel around the world with him. Including plopping them
in Narita Airport customs (or maybe Singapore) with him drunk and
singing the Star Spangled Banner at the top of his lungs, having
consumed enough Blue Label to yawn in technicolor with various protein
spills all the way to the hotel. Rohit is gozilla, and we are thousands
of fleeing Japanese...
> But frankly, nothing I've seen is so very
> far out of the bounds that it mattered. And most of those actions that
> were out of bounds received appropriate negative feedback, and the
> behavior subsided. That is how it is supposed to work.
Exactly. I'm a strong believer in feedback cycles.
> It seems like people want a "censure" of Tim Byar's tendency to give bits
> with minimal context. For those who skipped the commandments and the
> kaons, or didn't understand them, let me give you my opinion, which is
> probably commensurate with Adam's and Rohit's.
I actually like when Tim gives bits in minimal context, and it's not
just because I like to solve puzzles. It's because that is a style that
is uniquely Tim's own, and the posts put forth in my mind the good
memories of times I've shared with Tim. I like him as a person, and
whenever I see one of his posts, I wonder what aspect of him as a person
led him to post it. And that helps me to understand him better.
For as much as I enjoy pursuing the bits, clues, and vision of
technology, I enjoy pursuing the bits, clues, and vision of people more.
I like to understand relationships, and communication, and the way we
all deal with brittle situations, and the way we interact with each
other and with technology, and the abilities and limitations of human
nature. To me, those insights are as important to the overall puzzle ---
climbing clueful mountain, if you will --- as are the technology insights.
Information, after all, isn't just bits. Information is bits *IN*
*FORMATION*. There is a structure to that knowledge which requires more
than a brute force understanding of technology. Rather, the ontology of
everything depends on the ontology of everything else. The principals ---
not just people and technologies, but the organizations whose scope
outlives people and technologies --- are free flowing in a web of
interconnections. Marking up these principals with their relationships ---
and remember that we believe TRUST is the fundamental currency for the
establishment and maintenance of relationships --- is what will allow us
to automate, accelerate, and escalate this knowledge lattice IN FORMATION.
Rohit, am I getting close to the insight put forth in the final section of
> There are many aspects of Tim's lifestyle and behavior which I find
> positively abhorrent, and context-free bits is surely the least of them.
Believe me, context-free is *much* more tractable than context-sensitive.
> And he probably feels the same way about me. But I can distinguish
> between Tim the person and Tim's behavior. Tim as a person I find a
> helpful ally, resource, and even friend. I am grateful to have him as
> part of the community. Sure, there are many things about him that I wish
> would change, but I am not going to -force- him to change, nor reject him
> if he doesn't change. Instead, I will accept him as he is, and draw the
> appropriate personal boundaries to be able to handle him.
I'll go one step further and say I like both Tim the person and Tim the
behavior. I find him a fascinating individual, through and through.
> The same holds true of FoRK. It has its warts, but I have decided to
> accept it, make it part of my home, and try to improve it as best I can.
> I draw boundaries - sometimes I delete entire threads, or just ignore it
> on days I am busy - but I can live with it.
And if ever you want to ketchup, the archives are always there.
Albeit without a search engine; after all, we don't want to make it
*too* easy for anyone. :)
> FoRK as a community has its own personality and style, which is driven
> by but largely independent of Rohit, much less Adam and me.
I'll never forget the day Rohit lost several ego points into the void
when he realized that FoRK was a runaway train that not only could he
not control, but also that he had no idea where it was going or if it
even needed him to get there.
But like a host whose party has taken on a life of its own, Rohit's been
very gracious in letting us have the keys to the place and keep breaking
things. Heh heh.
> After all, this is FoRK, not CoRK (Cult of
> Rohit Khare, coming soon to a server near you).
Can we apply for tax-exempt status?
> Which is the point of Koan 4, for those of you who still don't get it.
> Tim Byars is *precisely* the kind of person we allow, even welcome into
> FoRK. You don't have to be like him. You don't have to like him. You
> don't even have to contribute to his retirement fund (though it is highly
We're up to 89 cents!! There's almost enough here for me to start
> But you have to be able to accept him and deal with him.
> If that means storing up your anger for a month and then exploding
> periodically, fine. But please don't get it into your head that it is our
> job to "protect you" from Tim being Tim. If you can't handle him, you
> are welcome to try to change him, or to leave.
A word of advice about trying to teach a pig to play Hamlet: don't.
You won't get anywhere; in fact, the only thing you'll be able to do is
annoy the pig.
> Don't forget, he was here first.
> -- Ernie "Voltaire" Prabhakar
> FoRK Chaplain, High Pundit and First Mocker
In adding to my "FoRK as the perfect democracy" argument, this is an
interesting twist: we have an open immigration policy. Anyone can join,
and anyone can leave, and we will not make you have to take a test for
> P.S. If it sometimes seems like I criticize other people more than Tim,
> it is because I know which battles are not worth fighting with him. I
> still have hope for the rest of you. :=)
Ernie knows of what he speaks. His rules of war were only forumlated
after years of careful market research.
Oh man, Apple's above 30... I could cry. Not tears of joy for Wall
Street finally embracing the company. Not tears of sadness for Apple
needing the help of Microsoft, Oracle, and Intuit to get out of its
funk. But tears of greed that I bought a measly 100 shares back when
Apple the stock was cheaper than Apple the fruit. I wonder how much
money Forrest Gump has made in the last two weeks...
Gump, proof that an idiot can succeed. Patron saint of the idiots.
They should name a beer after him. The Bubba Gump Microbrewery.
Ah, beer. How I miss thee.
Dough, the stuff, that buys me beer,
Ray, the guy who sells me beer,
Me, the guy who's drinking beer,
Far, a long way to go for beer,
So, I'll have another beer,
La, I'll have another beer,
Tea, no thanks, I'm having beer....
that will bring us back to....... D'oh
D'oh! It's happy hour and I'm missing it posting all this nonsense
about ideas and beers. Trust me, it gets better after a few drinks.....
I don't know what they want from me,
it's like the mo money we come across, the mo problems we see.
-- Notorious B.I.G. (rest in peace, buddy)