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~~~ Ramana Rao's INFORMATION FLOW ~~~ Issue 2.1 ~~ Jan 2003 ~~~~

~~~ IN THIS ISSUE ~~~ January 2003 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

* Introduction
* A Thought
* Themes 2003
* Coincidences Redux

~~~ Introduction ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Reactions from readers and audiences on blogs brings me back to
earth on the issue of how everywhere they are. Okay, I knew
intellectually that blogs were big, but not yet mainstream. Yet
I still had perceptions warped by my interests and beliefs. A
warped-ness that the bloggerati seem to suffer as well.

In this issue, I guess somewhat driven by the practicality of
shipping quick, I take on a bloggier style. A buddy once
characterized my style in a particular talk as "confessional." I
guess that would have been a bloggier talk. A point or two of
personal connection, though not necessarily wholesale gut
spilling. Notes to yourself that you don't mind showing, just in
case anybody bothers looking. Some things set in juxtaposition,
a simple thought held in an easy strength, to see how it might
warp everything thought afterwards.

~~~ A Thought ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

As scary as the world is these days, as tough as many things have
been for many, I find that I'm quite hopeful. I am grateful to
have a deep sense of connection between long time interests and
new happenings, and across my thoughts and my activities. I feel
like I'm sitting up in my skin a little taller. Yet, sitting up
a little taller, I also realize that there are many things
happening that are really scary.

~~~ Themes 2003 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

If December sees the media do their end of year recap/reflection
pieces, then January sees predictions and looking forward. I
can't help but fall to the collective tendency. Of course, not
as the media does, but in some other fashion.

I'm just a person, been interested in some set of ideas for a
really long time, amazed that the ideas seem so alive right now.
In a way, more alive now than during the bubble years, when they
were perhaps drowned out in the coverage of how everything was
being dot transformed.

First the old angles. Memes that I might have stated as lovely
say even ten years ago. Many of these influenced even the
earliest years of computing, but it really was the influx of the
psychologist, social scientists, philosophers, and humanists that
ripened them.

* Human resourcefulness in the face of all manners of constraints
* The role of language in cognitive activities
* The role of language in social activities
* Interaction between people and information
* The nature of information in heads and in the world
* The nature of formal representations
* Structures for organization
* Documents as containers of thoughts and drivers of activity
* The power of interaction
* The power of visual representations
* The power of software
* Designing with stuff that's lighter than air
* Designing around the laws of reality
* Designing around what we were before we were born
* Mind tools using software and knowledge representation
* The opportunity to make people, organizations, society smarter

Countering the so-forever and the so-what-the-hell-does-that-mean
of that list is a list of the current topics that make me sit up
as I run across them in blogs, mid-media, or big media. They
connect to my.memes, but they also mix-in a great deal of
economic and societal grappling.

* Web Services as the next software platform
* Next round of Browsing and Search
* Semantic Web, Knowledge Representation
* Next round of Interactive Development Environments (IDEs)
* Next round of Personal Tools for writing, research
* Did I mention Blogs?
* Spam and Content Blocking
* Intelligent Content Routing (push redux)
* Content, File Sharing
* Balancing Privacy and Security
* Diffusion of Information Visualization
* Business Intelligence, Knowledge Management
* Broadening of Open Source Philosophies e.g. Creative Commons
* Impact of Open Source on Commercial Software
* The Software Empires fight back
* The Media Empires fight back
* Social connection across time and space
* The death of expensive, monolithic enterprise applications?
* The death of expensive, monolithic desktop applications?
* Societal Transformations, Technological Diffusion

In a wind tunnel for testing "wings for the mind" made from stuff
lighter than air, you can begin to believe they will work. But,
that an idea can work doesn't mean that it will work.
Immediately. Or at all.

It's a lot harder to make things work in the big world with
millions of people, not to mention billions. Add in economic
competition, with the powerful trying to stay power. Add in
societal sensemaking and assimilation of all kinds. Add in the
government serving citizens, but really add in politics, special
interests, bureaucracy, good intentions, unintended consequences.
Definitely take away the assumption that people will just behave
with no education, that progress is linear, that people can even
understand the basics of what each other are saying across time
and space.

I'm definitely sitting up in my skin. Tell me about you.

~> In this shockingly-almost-intelligible paragraph, Steve
Gillmor has my hair sitting up in my skin too.
~> http://www.infoworld.com/article/03/01/03/030106opcurve_1.html

"Blogs have nurtured a growing circle of trust, the mulch for
building directories of digital identity based on expertise,
communication skills, and critical intangibles -- sense of
humor, ethical infrastructure, shared values, and contributed
resources. Weblogs provide a variety of Web services for the
community: a kind of protective gauze for standards warriors,
viral marketing for independent developers, and a watchdog
mechanism for legacy media."

~> Read the quote again after reading the excellent Jon Udell

~> Books bloggers talk about, talk about warped

~> Steven Levy on Google

~> My favorite 2003 list, half connect to my sit up list

~> Tony Perkins asked me to blog at his new business geek's network

~~~ Coincidences Redux ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Once, I shoe-stringed around the world, most of the time in Asia,
where my savings bought the most time and time paid me back.
After returning to the States, I'd tell stories in which I run
into somebody that I'd met somewhere else in Asia. Most people
would be surprised by these coincidences. Yet, to the contrary,
when I was in Katmandu after ten months of traveling, if I
didn't run into somebody every day, I felt somewhat cheated.

As I said, last month, you can't count the coincidences that
didn't happen. But, it doesn't stop humans from trying to assign
meaning to events.

When I wrote last month's issue, I should have expected what
happened. I got quite a few messages back which demonstrated the
themes of coincidences and connections. And they started to map
out the social network using radial-thought-ography.

By coincidence/connection, a reader had studied under Mihai Nadin
(who I linked), and thus Mihai received the issue and sent me
email. By coincidence/connection, another reader who I didn't
know told me of somebody that we both knew, and in the same
message, mentioned several companies that were connected in one
way or another to Inxight. Another correspondence caused me to
reveal a shared connection to Mark Stefik, an absolute titan of
being early with big ideas, and a point in time in maybe 1995
when he was thinking about dreams and digital rights managements.

A couple of messages reflected on the words serendipity and
synchronicity, both words that I turned over in drafting the last
issue. I can't resist slapping the three words up together:

coincidence: the occurrence of events that happen at the
same time by accident but seem to have some connection

serendipity: the faculty or phenomenon of finding valuable or
agreeable things not sought for

sychronicity: the coincidental occurrence of events and
especially psychic events (as similar thoughts in widely
separated persons or a mental image of an unexpected event
before it happens) that seem related but are not explained by
conventional mechanisms of causality -- used especially in
the psychology of C. G. Jung

Last year, I read a couple of the recent books that cover the
topic of the small world phenomenon and social interconnectedness
e.g. Tipping Point, Linked, Nexus, Emergence (notice how active
these books are in the blogosphere in the allconsuming list
above). I was quite familiar with the small world phenomenon,
but reading the books now, besides teaching me new things, took
me to a heighten state of watchfulness. Learning or engaging an
idea is like learning or engaging a word. You see the idea

And when the events happen, you experience surprise, wonder, a
sense of meaning. Then you begin to understand why the events
are happening. Or you just get use to them happening. But before
you get back to a knowing state or a lack of interest, you can
have a lot of fun.

Last month I was searching on the web for a crawler written in
Python. I ran across a guy named Nick Arnett. I recognize the
name, so I searched around and discovered that a fact that
reminded me that I would know his name because he worked at one
of Inxight's customers years ago. I also discovered that he
started a company which was acquired by one of Inxight's

Last week, I was trying to decide which book to read on Privacy
issues. I think I'll read David Brin's Transparent Society
first. One of the reasons is because of Nick Arnett's review on

Nick Arnett, are you out there?

Ramana Rao is Founder and CTO of Inxight Software, Inc.
Copyright (c) 2003 Ramana Rao. All Rights Reserved.
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