Saturday, December 29, 2007

Good/bad media... BrinRelevance... and the ten-year anniversary of a disappointment

While most of this has little political relevance, it is filled with the kind of cool stuff that we OUGHT to be discussing... and WILL discuss much more, once civilization resumes its belief in the future.

First, some "Brin-related media" news.

My novel Earth has been nominated for the Stephen T. Colbert Award for the Literary Excellence. You are cordially invited to join the Stephen T. Colbert Award for the Literary Excellence Facebook Group and participate in this magnificently wise and forward-looking endeavor.

Watch your favorite Brin put down his pundit thing on the History Channel (again) on January 21, in a docu-future bit called Life After People... a fun look at what could happen to our cities... and animals... if humanity suddenly disappeared. Just in time for Wil Smith to rock ‘em in the third remake of I AM LEGEND (this time actually keeping to the original story title; but do also look at Charleton Heston’s old OMEGA MAN.) Anyway, feel free to let A&E/History know how much you approve of their choice of talking heads... and that they oughta bring back The Architechs.

Can’t help it. Some of you saw my ARCHITECHS show - the pilot about firefighting technology. But the History Channel never ran our other pilot on brainstorming and designing a practical and vastly improved replacement for the Humvee. Alas, since the Army is growing extremely disenchanted with the alternative that was chosen instead, a truly absurd Frankenstein monster called MRAP. Our design was so so so so so much better.

While we’re at it, are any of you out there interested in a wild ride through an idea-fest, ranging from the Fermi Paradox to existence tests for God, see my speech at the recent conference held at the Salk Institute -- “Beyond Belief: Enlightenment 2.0.” There were many other fine presentations on topics ranging from “The end of literary postmodernism” (about time!) to “the myth of pervasive Islamo-terrorism” (a stunning refutation of the entire basis of the so called war on terror.) Alas, a recurring theme at the conference was atheism, in its recent and ironically militant incarnation, featuring some very rich invective from Daniel Dennett, among others. Counter productive proof that incantatory self-righteousness addiction is not limited to deity-believers. Check it out.

Anyway, I thought I knew my “filmography” pretty well. Lots of TV and scripts... but only the Postman was produced, right? Only... what’s this other film that I’m credited as having “produced”? Um, it’s not that I have anything against Val Kilmer... but.

A final ego-and film-related note (phew!) I just dropped into my CD player - after a long hiatus - the soundtrack album from Costner’s movie of The Postman. James Newton Howard’s original score is a stirring and very dramatic symphonic work of art. Followed by a lagniappe of songs by John Coiman and Jono Manson. Give it a listen.

(Have a look at what the CDs are going for! The dawn of a cult following?)

Of course this makes the movie itself all that much more an alas-almost thing, since it was also visually stunning - small surprise since Costner is one of the finest cinematographers around. Many individual scenes were terrific, adrenaline or emotion-rich, and the version of the tale written by Brian Helgeland and reified by KC had a big, big heart. (A vast improvement over the original, truly vile and evil script by Erik Roth.) So, with many senses fed, what went wrong? I mean other than Costner’s confident announcement that “We have nothing to worry about. Our only competition is Jim Cameron’s silly remake of a flick about a sinking boat.”

No. What killed the flick was a few flaws in plotting, in storytelling logic... plus some howler-boner scenes... all of which could have been fixed, if he had simply talked to anybody. The way he talked to folks when making “Dances With Wolves.” The way any decent craftsman does, even after he has chatchkies on the mantelpiece Alas...

... and it suddenly occurs to me why this topic came up! Ah, the subconscious is amazing.

It is exactly ten years since the movie came out. Oh, but one needs a thick skin.

Anyway, try the music-score. Makes a good use of that iTunes gift card.


IS THE ERA OF SCI FI OVER?
goldencompass-poster-big

Just took the family to see THE GOLDEN COMPASS. In some other era, I would have enjoyed the special effects... while saving for later my inevitable grumbles about cliched talking animals and witches and foretold “chosen ones.” But, as a sign of our times, I instead found myself stirred by a few elements that weren’t tired old fantasy cliches. The previews in the theater showed us THREE upcoming fantasy flicks, each more staggeringly derivative than the last. Two of them about magical books whose characters come to life. Eek! Hence I was drawn to the fact that at least some modernist notions like academic freedom and scholarly curiosity and the importance of pragmatic skill. Still... an illogicality festival.

Want more depression? See Sir Ridley Scott grouse that Sci-fi films are as dead as Westerns.

Oh, we’re still influential on some levels. See a fun New Scientist article about How sci-fi influences today's gadgets. An article rich in ponderable links.

Still, if the signs are valid (e.g. the surge in feudal fantasy), then we may be in big, big trouble, fellow future-lovers and fellow lovers of freedom.

RESEARCH ASSIST?

Any of you out there good at a little quick, online research? I need an estimate of the approximate market size - both gross and net - for the following industries:

* Social networking sites

* Virtual/ avatar worlds

* Business "meetingware"

* Networked online games

==OTHER STUFF... some of it way cool==

I think I vaguely recall seeing this vision of "the future" when it was new. Pre Jetsons! Love the punch cards... and no mention of computers. Silly? Perhaps. And yet, not as awful or misguided as our cynical impulse would lead us to judge. Indeed, we could use some of this sense of boundless possibilities, right now.

This one is actually pretty eerily predictive (thanks Dave McCabe):

More from the transparency front. An article that aggressively touts look-back sousveillance, empowering the public to watch the watchers. In Popular Mechanics, no less.

In the long debate over whether it is wealth or democracy that undermine violence, there’s this just sent in -- ”In an analysis of State Department data on terrorism, Princeton University economist Alan B. Krueger discovered that ‘countries like Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, which have spawned relatively many terrorists, are economically well off yet lacking in civil liberties. Poor countries with a tradition of protecting civil liberties are unlikely to spawn suicide terrorists. Evidently, the freedom to assemble and protest peacefully without interference from the government goes a long way to providing an alternative to terrorism.’”

Oh, I have so much more stored up. But I want to take this chance to wish you all... fellow progress-oriented modernists, fellow citizens, fello humans and earthlings... and all you others who might just happen to be lurking in on all this... a happy new year, filled with ever-rising confidence, tolerance, patience, honest ambition... and love.

With cordial regards,

David Brin
http://www.davidbrin.com

92 comments:

Mark said...

David,

It appears you haven't read the Golden Compass or know much about it. The director was forced to cut almost an hour from the final version, including the ending. (The story actually ends on a very different note.)

But Pullman's book is the only fantasy I've read that is fundamentally about the Enlightenment and modernism. Sure, the girl is the chosen one, but she is the one chosen to end ... well to put an end to the whole 'chosen one' thing. This takes the classical archetypes and turns it on its head. (More so in the next two books, but it is still in this one.)

TwinBeam said...

Corrected link for "How Sci-Fi Influences today's gadgets"

http://www.newscientist.com/blog/technology/2007/11/how-sci-fi-influences-todays-gadgets.html

David Brin said...

Mark, you are right that I hadn't read the books, though my wife and two of the kids just did. Note, though, that I did pick up on those themes... while grumbling about some of the more fantasy-cliche aspects.

If those themes are even stronger in the book, then huzzah. Let's buy them up for other kids. Frankly, I was thinking of dipping into fantasy for just that purpose.

Anonymous said...

The Golden Compass was banned from Halton Catholic School Board libraries after one complaint.

Anonymous said...

David, if it makes you feel better, The Postman was one of the first DVDs I purchased. It may be flawed, but it's still better than most movies…

Anonymous said...

I'm suprised no one is sniffing around the screen rights on Earth - although I'm sure they'd probably want to nerf the ending.

It's looking like an accurate picture of global warming *if* we start making serious changes now, overly optomistic if not.

Mark said...

If you get around to reading the series, you'll discover that His Dark Materials isn't even fantasy, it is science fiction in disguise. (At least, it the way you define the term; I still consider it fantasy.)

The books were written as a rebuttal to the Narnia series (the wardrobe at the beginning wasn't a coincidence) and, to a lessor extent, Tolken.

Mark said...

For the record, here is how the movie was supposed to end. First, a scene the video game, which was not put through pre-screening:

http://youtube.com/watch?v=PtplnBb-dpM

Then, the rest of the ending as seen through the original storyboards:

http://youtube.com/watch?v=VvcZr_CHOj0

The second book, The Subtle Knife, begins in our own universe, where a scientist is discovering something we already know as dust, but uses far more recognizably scientific terms to describe it.

I can't imagine a worse choice for an example suggesting the era of sci fi is over. Reminds me of the time I read a film reviewer complaining on the effects of comic books on the movies. He use Laura Croft as an example of a bad movie based on a comic book; which is actually based on a video game. Then he used Road To Perdition as his example of what a classically good movie should be; which, ironically, is based on a graphic novel.

Ok, I've said my peace. I'll be quiet about it, now. :-)

Mark said...

Opps, meant to put those You Tube videos in link form:

First
Second

David Brin said...

There have been sniffs at Earth over the years. The one biggest chance was when the director of SPACED INVADERS was the flavot of the year in Hwood and said to me he wanted to do Earth as a meg- world changer! “I just have to earn my chops with one more money maker. So we’ll get to work on Earth just as soon as I finish BABY’S DAY OUT.”

Alas.

In case any of you missed it in comments last time... Eric Massa is the type of guy who the dems should be pushing in every gerried gopperhole. Yes, none of you live near Rochester. Still. Send him a few bucks, if you like. Say I sent you!
(http://massaforcongress.com/index.asp)

Zechariah said...

"The Postman" is actually how I discovered your books. I liked the ads and liked what I saw, but the film was rated R. I checked out the book instead because there were no household restrictions on books, just movies.

I did enjoy the books, but then I like childrens literature from time to time. They really are the anti-Narnia. I'm spoiling a little bit, but one of the goals the heroes have is too kill God (sort of).

If you want something that really screws with the "chosen one" concept, and also a childrens novel, check out "Un Lun Dun". It gets a little preachy with environmentalism, but the puns are great.

Zechariah said...

By books in the last second paragraph I meant The Golden Compass and the rest of the trilogy. Not your books. Darn not having an edit feature.

Jonathan said...

The closest Val Kilmer link I could find is that according to IMDb, he worked on the referenced film, Played, during a break in filming The Postman Always Rings Twice. Easily confused with The Postman, right? :)

It was also interesting to watch that Disney video about The Future!!! When they showed the "futuristic" RV, I was amused to note it had a tail number - NC-17044. Don't suppose another sci-fi icon was influenced by that, do you?

Pat said...

I saw "The Golden Compass". Being a lifelong science fiction fan, I learned almost in the cradle that "people" come in all sorts of forms and are people for a' that. So, I really didn't think of the Armored Bears as "talking animals" out of fairy tales, but as a sentient ursine alien race on what was plainly Not Our Earth.

Tony Fisk said...

Since we're into fantasy adaptations, and since I've just finished watching it, I have to point you to Terry Pratchett's 'The Hogfather', wherein Death is shown to be a truly life-affirming force!

Anonymous said...

Others? Lurking? Hm.

Jonathan David, SCV Pace Chair said...

I don't think film is a good medium for Science Fiction.. unless its all special effects. I would think games might be better.. but my experience of film for science fiction is that I don't really get the "new" (or as Charlie Stross calls it - "shiny" ideas from film, like I do from Print. Even "I robot" left me wanting more..

panzerjensen said...
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panzerjensen said...
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Kevin Brinck said...

If you haven't read The Golden Compass (first of the His Dark Materials trilogy) a description of the books and Phillip Pullman is available from the New Yorker Far From Narnia.

The reviewer makes the point that Pullman's heros are not Wizards or Chosen Heros but Scientists and Explorers who seek to understand why the world is as it is. Pullman's attitude to J.R.R. Tolkien seems dismissive, and positively hostile towards C.S. Lewis.

As it seems you haven't read them, I regret not pointing out that review when I was lurking here two years ago.

-Kevin

Zechariah said...

panzerjensen, has anybody taught you how to engage in polite converstation?

David Brin is actually very receptive to the citokate he espouses. Not long ago he was commenting on how he thought "Sunshine" was clearly a ripoff of "Sundiver". I told him he was overreacting and being just a little egotistical. He conceded the point and said he'd wait to see the movie before making any more such claims.

But I said those things politely. The things you just posted don't belong here. They are trolling.

Pat said...

Thanks to the link to "Far From Narnia." I can't agree with Pullman's certainty that there is neither a God nor gods nor spirituality - how does he know? And is it possible that those who know for sure there is no such thing are like the tone-deaf person at the concert?

But what struck me was his approval of learning morals and ethics through fiction. Most of my most deep-seated moral convictions came to me through reading science fiction, and I was a minister's daughter. Most of what I was taught tended towards good = obedient and good = unselfish = never ask for what you want. Very thin stuff for daily life.

From science fiction I learned that people are people regardless of physical appearance. That you do not abandon a cat. That competence and reason are good. Others far too numerous to mention. That this mode of learning has been backed up by Pullman, rather than dismissed as "You learned your ethics from WHAT?!?!?) is heart-warming.

Just my $0.02

Matt DeBlass said...

Yes, but the fight between the armored bears was really cool.
I've read, and enjoyed, Pullman's whole series and it does get more "science fictiony" as it goes, although the science end of it is pretty soft. It does stand out as a bit different from many of the rest, in that science is considered a good thing and not some horrible entity that smothering all the magic that used to be in the world, etc, etc.
I can second the recommendation of Terry Pratchett's Hogfather, although Pratchett's Discworld series is more of a satire than straight up fantasy.
It does, however, contain elements such as the rightful heir to the throne (magic sword and all) who refuses to take the crown because, he says, people should make up their own minds, not do stuff "because I tell them to." A magical equivalent of an early computer made using magical and organic parts ("Anthill Inside") and a very straightforward assessment of what evil really is: "treating people as things, that's where it starts."

As for Science Fiction, yeah, it's been pretty lame lately, either an excuse to show off with effects or settings for some sort of horror movie. I'd love to see an adaptation of Earth or even a take on Kiln People could be a lot of fun.

Doug S. said...

Speaking of ethics, Ultima IV was a pretty big influence on me...

Also, speaking of science fiction movies, did anyone here see Deja Vu? That was good, although the ending feels a little but like a cop-out.

Joel said...

Have you tried pitching Earth to Darren Aronofsky? He's been doing sci-fi since Pi, at the latest. He has screenwriting chops, even for difficult-to-adapt material. And if there's one person you can count on not to nerf an ending, it's him.

The Big Rodent said...

Dr. Brin,

You wrote (in passing): “The end of literary postmodernism” (about time!)

Really, isn't literary theory/criticism the best place for postmodernism?

Not only is postmodernism not about to die in literary theory or in the majority of the humanities or social sciences, but it is very unclear to me (as an anthropologist/ archaeologist of a rather modernist bent) that such a death is something to look forward to.

My impression has generally been that those (and no, I'm not assuming that this is the fact the case with you) who are dismissive of postmodernism in the humanities and social sciences often are reacting not to what such postmodernism really is, but rather to popular accounts and impressions of what it means.

As I noted above, I'm not much of a postmodernist myself, and I don't have time now to talk about my understanding of it. However, I can highly recommend the writings of Michael Berube on the topic. See his What's Liberal About the Liberal Arts?, especially chapters 1 and 6, and Rhetorical Occasions, especially the series of chapters on the Sokal Hoax. You can also check out the archives of his (alas, now defunct) blog, especially "Theory Tuesdays".

Even if you don't change your mind (I haven't completely changed mine--I'm still a modernist when it comes to my research, but I'm much less dismissive of postmodernism than I used to be), you'll definitely come away with a better appreciation for what it is you disagree with!

David Brin said...

Postmodernism subsumes a large landscape. But it is indicted by some overall generalizations that - not universal - are still generically valid.

1) the name itself is a rejected of modernism, Not just the blatant (and admitted) faults of modernist arrogance and mage-like egotist architects, but its ESSENCE of belief in assertive and confident, rational and open-negotiated problem solving. That is essential and irreducible.

2) Postmodernist philosophers have tried in recent years to deny i, to backpedal. But there is no doubt that they seriously tried to push the notion that all is subjective. That there is no objective reality. They NEEDED to do this as a logical outcome of their fundamental hatred of science.

This hatred is fundamental as it is based upon CP Snow's two cultures rivalry. When you claim to be the arbiters of truth, it is very inconvenient to have a center of truth that can keep disproving your scientifically ignorant pronouncements. This can be erased if truth becomes "truth" and nothing is provable or disprovable.

Make no mistake, this is a fundamental rejection of the Enlightenment and a return to the tradition of scholarly "what I say is true because my incantations are better."

3) If you missed my lengthy essay on all this, have a look at:
http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/2005/03/modernism-part-16-it-goes-beyond-arts.html
and the parts that preceded.

4) I admit some bias. Postmodernist lit types express deep and relentless and unalloyed hatred of science fiction and everything it could remotely stand for. I wonder why.

The Big Rodent said...

Dr. Brin,

I agree with everything you've said, but would offer some qualifications.

Re. your point 1. Not to be overly pedantic, but "post" of course means after, not against. Yes, much of the mishmash called postmodernism is also anti-modernism, but not all. As you note, the term arose in architecture where nothing about the "modernism" that it was "post-" can really be considered a critical aspect of enlightenment attitudes.

Re. your point 2. There are a number (I'd like to think this number is increasing, but that is probably only wishful thinking) of postmodernists who are friendly to science because they see a difference between statements about things and statements about human concepts. To offer a somewhat random quote from Michael Berube (who is one of these people):
[I] consider things like gravity and slavery to be qualitatively different kinds of objects: the first a natural phenomenon whose laws can be discovered by humans with great diligence..., the other a cultural object created by humans, contested by humans, and gradually--and fitfully, and still not universally--abolished by humans.... I believe that gravity and slavery are different kinds of things, and that objective, observer-independent knowledge about gravity is possible but should not be taken as a model for knowledge about human affairs. I believe there are mind-independent entities, and that you can check this for yourself by kicking a stone; but I do not understand how people...can insist on the existence of mind-independent concepts.

By seeing not a "two cultures rivalry" but rather two distinct types of things under intellectual investigation--things that exist independent of people and things that have meaning only because people exist to invent them--one can avoid the "fundamental hatred of science".

You continue this point by saying:
When you claim to be the arbiters of truth, it is very inconvenient to have a center of truth that can keep disproving your scientifically ignorant pronouncements. This can be erased if truth becomes "truth" and nothing is provable or disprovable.

Make no mistake, this is a fundamental rejection of the Enlightenment and a return to the tradition of scholarly "what I say is true because my incantations are better."


Many postmodernist recognize that because they are very uncomfortable with--or even opposed to--the idea that one can ever say something is true, they are similarly precluded from saying that one can't say that it's true that things aren't provable and disprovable! To quote Berube again (about a comment made by a postmodernist that fits your description):
It is strange to hear social constructionists say...that they have demonstrated once and for all the social character of knowledge. One would think...that the recognition of the social character of knowledge would prevent one from believing that any proposition about the social character of knowledge could achieve such a permanent status.

One of the key concepts of postmodernism is indeed the rejection of absolute truth. However, when one limits this to only the non-science world (as discussed by Berube above), this takes on a very different character. After all, in what way could it ever be objectively proven or disproven that abortion is morally wrong? We may have very good or very bad reasons for the side of this issue we come down on, but I don't see that they are amenable to proof. This is the way most day-to-day postmodernism is "post-" modernist.

Re. your point 3. I think I've read all the essays on your other site, but I'll take a look in case I missed that one.

Re. your point 4. My impression has long been that they don't hate SF because they're postmodernists, but rather because they can't yet pretend (give it a couple centuries) that it wasn't written for money. Still a stupid attitude, but hey, I read SF so of course I'd think so.

I guess my general point is that one should be careful not to throw out everything that goes under the label of postmodernism just because some of those things are nutty or anti-Enlightenment. The best postmodernism often gets no publicity, and believes not that it has THE TRUTH but rather that it has better questions. And even if the questions aren't better, they're still worth addressing.

And in case I haven't been clear enough on this, I'm not the best apologist for postmodernism, because I, too, think most of it is bulls**t. So I'll finish by reiterating my strong recommendation that anyone interested in what's going on inside the head of a postmodernist read Michael Berube (if nothing else, you may reach the conclusion that you and he are in a position of incommensurability on this issue and that you therefore have no choice but to kill him*).

*A little joke for those who have read What's Liberal About the Liberal Arts?.

David Brin said...

Yes, rodent, there are reformers in the postmodernist movement, who - partly driven by the incredible “Sokal Scandal” - are trying to reclaim some relevance amid the gales of laughter. Especially, the recent effort to disavow the rejection of objective reality.

Alas, admitting the validity of science still leaves them with a problem. Science will not accept the boundaries that they lay down. It will keep encroaching.

I never thought of it this way before. But the process is very similar to what science did to religion. Each time clerics laid down boundaries between the objective and subjective... the “merely” real and the more-important sacred (incantatory)... the pragmatic men did not accept the deal. Galileo, then lavoisier, Mendel, Darwin...

These neo-postmodernists are trying the same thing, laying down a line in the sand and telling science not to cross it.

Likewise, the drivel -sanctimony that their cant somehow helps “liberate” the suffering and oppressed from subjugation by oppressive western/colonialist memes. Find me anyone, anywhere, who was “liberated” by some postmodernist professor! While one inventor can help transform lives in developing nations.

They and other incantors had their chance to improve human societies by telling incantations. And they have failed. The Enlightenment succeeded. End of story.

They do not hate SF because of money. Lots of their approved arts make money and plenty of SF doesn’t. It is guilt by association. And hatred of progress.

Anonymous said...

"Find me anyone, anywhere, who was 'liberated' by some postmodernist professor! While one inventor can help transform lives in developing nations."

Amy Smith, for example?

http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/view/id/2

"Fumes from indoor cooking fires kill more than 2 million children a year in the developing world. MIT engineer Amy Smith details an exciting but simple solution: a tool for converting farm waste into cleaner-burning fuel. Plain-spoken and passionate, Smith talks about some other tools she and her students are creating, including an incubator that stays warm without electricity and a grain mill that frees women from hours of grinding every day. These are basic tools with world-changing results."

Stefan Jones said...

Another thumbs-up for Pullman's "His Dark Materials."

I think it shows that fantasy lit can be used for Enlightenment ends.

Since I'll likely be immured in airports and delayed jetliners tomorrow evening, a HAPPY NEW YEAR to one and all.

Anonymous said...

Oops! I meant Amy Smith as an example of the inventor, not an example of a postmodernist wordsmith.

David McCabe said...

Dr. Brin, you have a high rate of erroneous links leading to 404s. It makes me wonder what you're doing, as I'm not aware of anything that can go wrong in the process of copying and pasting a URL from an address bar into a text field. You're not typing them hand, are you?

I don't remember if this was mentioned here before, but did you hear that Fermilab may have to lay off 200 scientists due to the recent budget cut?

Why don't you just pay some smart teenager $1k to do a basic Holocene implementation over the summer, so that it won't be vaporware anymore? It is now seriously easy to write webapps thanks to JavaScript libraries and other recent happenings.

Maybe your son could write it in BASIC.

You might ask Monroe about online communities, as it looks like he's already done some research on their sizes.

David Brin said...

I have spent more than 10 grand$ on our present prototype of Holocene. It works fine, demonstrating a dozen features never seen online.

But people who try it out seem to be arrayed along a perfect curve. Those who see the unique features are almost always impoverished nerds and geeks. Not one of the money people I have ever shown it to could look past the basic (visually crude) nature of text boxes moving around a screen,

"Where are the cool avatars?"

I try to explain "Avatars and glossy visuals are virtually public domain. Any fool can add those. Just throw some money. But what you are looking at here are basic human interaction modalities, allowing people to allocate scarce attention better! And, as far as using them online is concerned, I have them patented."

Never does the slightest good. I swear, the 1990s were a complete anomaly. Nobody today has any vision or guts. (grumble, gnash, snark!)

Mark said...

I think the biggest problem with Holocene is those people who actually get it are the same people who would consider going to a cocktail party to be a punishment worse than death. Remember to really push the invisibility feature! Otherwise it feels like you are replacing the nice and comfy internet with exposed public humiliation.

But those with money love cocktail parties; you'd think they'd get that.

You know, I never thought of this before, but Holocene goes against most people's views of privacy the same way The Transparent Society goes against the grain. One of the great benefits of Holocene is the ability to see what other people are taking about and jump into the conversation. But this means that conversations that otherwise would be considered private, like a one to one IM, are not. That's a hard sell.

Tony Fisk said...

David: pragmatism!

If cool avatars (or... daemons?!) are what your target audience appears to want, then that's what you should give them (especially if it's easy to add them). They might pay more attention to what you consider to be cool features if you satisfy their basic needs for eye candy first.

Avatars do, at least, provide an immediate recognition cue.

The problem I had with the HC demo I attended was that what are normally auditory cues were being given visual tags. Moving around a room, the direction and volume of conversation is continuously changing as you home in on exchanges of interest. Ears can cope with this far better than eyes. Following independently moving text messages around was difficult (although the lock mode helped a lot)

Tim Bray of Sun Microsystems was mulling over similar ground about a month ago. He was trying to work out where the next big thing in communications might appear from current spaces in modes of communication. I pointed out that, by his measures, HC filled a gap, but I guess nothing came of it.

James Patrick Joyce said...

The movie Played has another "David Brin" who (according to IMDb) was an Associate Producer.

This is his only credit.

The Big Rodent said...

Dr. Brin,

I must admit to being far less impressed with the Sokal hoax than you appear to be. Sokal did indeed succeed tremendously in skewering postmodern attempts to encroach on science, but the subsequent reaction among those of the general public who know about it at all and among many scientists has been somewhat excessive. It amounts to a straw man argument: Basically that because some of the most egregious proponents of anti-realism got fooled into believing that a physicist agreed with them, all of postmodernism is therefore bunk. The logical flaw here is pretty clear, I think. Of course, that doesn't mean that postmodernism isn't bunk....

It is certainly true that the more reasonable postmodernists will nonetheless find that science encroaches on their self-drawn boundaries. They will undoubtedly scream bloody murder when it happens, too. And I won't have any sympathy. But I have to admit that I find your implied (at least to me, sorry if I've misunderstood) argument that this somehow invalidates their position to be facile at best.

I like your comparison to the science-religion relationship. But I think it also shows the limits of the future "encroachment" on postmodernism's "turf". Science has done a great job on a large range of aspects of human existence and the world around us. But there are limits. Science, almost by definition--and I realize you're aware of this--really can't deal with the question of God/gods, for example, because there is no apparent avenue to disproof.

As to the new realms on which science will encroach, I haven't read your Foundation book, so I don't know how you dealt with the patent absurdity that is "psychohistory", but unless one actually thinks such a thing could someday be achieved, a large realm will remain in the humanities/so-called social science where science can tread only lightly and down narrow paths. Whether postmodernism is the right thing to fill the remainder of that realm is a different question, of course.

As I alluded to above, science itself defines a realm in which it cannot act, by declaring that any idea that cannot in principle be disproven is not subject to scientific inquiry. This is a postmodern, post-Enlightenment idea. The very idea that observation and experiment and reason have limits is one that science and the Enlightenment were slow to accept, though it now forms a core principle. And the realm in question is at least potentially one in which postmodernism might contribute. To return to my original impetus for starting this conversation, I really don't see science encroaching on literary criticism--I can't even imagine what it might mean for it to do so, not and remain science. (Though, again, this doesn't necessarily mean that postmodernism is the best basis for literary criticism.)

Likewise, the drivel -sanctimony that their cant somehow helps “liberate” the suffering and oppressed from subjugation by oppressive western/colonialist memes. Find me anyone, anywhere, who was “liberated” by some postmodernist professor! While one inventor can help transform lives in developing nations.

You'll get no argument from me on this one.

The Enlightenment succeeded. End of story.

Again, no argument. Whether it will continue to do so, is of course, a matter for restrained skepticism (in the Enlightenment tradition) and hard work (again, in the Enlightenment tradition).

They do not hate SF because of money. Lots of their approved arts make money and plenty of SF doesn’t. It is guilt by association. And hatred of progress.

Well, this has not been my experience, but I'll concede that my experience with postmodernists has largely been among cultural anthropologists, who tend to see any commercial endeavor as inherently crass and of low worth. My one direct experience of a postmodernist literary type came in the form of a college English course where the professor was a big fan of the postmodern elements of a number of SF novels--none of them the type of SF I like, I must admit. He complained occasionally that his colleagues couldn't understand why he spent so much time on fiction-for-the-masses. Just an anecdote, though, not real evidence.

Anyway, I suspect we've beaten this dead horse enough for awhile. I would, of course, be happy to continue the discussion, but we're probably boring and/or irritating your other readers. Feel free to drop by my new, and as yet all-but-readerless blog if you'd like to expand the discussion. (Though I'm sure you have better things to do with your time - like more fiction, or better yet a real version of The Transparent Hand from Earth.)

David McCabe said...

So add the goddamned avatars. Hiring a graphics designer would probably be worthwhile.

I don't see any prototype on your website. You might garner more interest if people could actually play with it.

Aside: getting rid of the purple on davidbrin.com was a great idea. Next get rid of the Comic Sans.

Yours, with the highest regards,

Woozle said...

Beyond Belief 2.0:
- video links with timing for each speaker
- discussion

There may be more video segments; ran out of time to look for them. There also seem to be a lot of shorter segments which would be useful to have catalogued, for sending to various people.

I went into this only planning to watch the Brin segment and find the one on terrorism; got sucked in........ fascinating stuff.

Naum said...

If you really want HC to take off, open source it. Get more folks working on it, especially from a testing, pound-on-it, improve it approach.

Or at least get something up and running, open to all (or limit to an email select process like so many other recently released and soon to be released net software apps are done) that would attract a set of early adopters and users who would pledge their allegiance via their keyboard and net connection.

Any other approach, at least when it comes to communication/"social networking" software (as it is termed by commentators today) is doomed to failure.

Build it, and they will come.

I have spent more than 10 grand$ on our present prototype of Holocene. It works fine, demonstrating a dozen features never seen online.

But people who try it out seem to be arrayed along a perfect curve. Those who see the unique features are almost always impoverished nerds and geeks. Not one of the money people I have ever shown it to could look past the basic (visually crude) nature of text boxes moving around a screen,

Doug S. said...

David, have you checked your Facebook account recently?

Doug said...

Brin said: "I swear, the 1990s were a complete anomaly. Nobody today has any vision or guts. (grumble, gnash, snark!)"

Speaking as someone who's seen his industry turn from the new and wonderful Internet to being just another tentacle of the telco industry, its probably worse than you imagined. There was a time bandwidth was scarce due to lack of capacity; there's no reason we couldn't all have multi-megabyte pipes at home for about what we're paying for POTS, but the industry refuses to accept the innovations already in place in much of the rest of the developed world, won't spend a dime on any new technology they aren't forced to by government or necessity, and who view the Internet as a burden rather than the core of their business.

David Brin said...

Doug, thanks for the friendship on Facebook. Though I seldom log in. I have yet to spend a single minute on a social site that I did not feel took more lifespan than it saved. Alas.


Tony & Mark, you give me half a million and I will give you an avatar rich – Holocene-augmented – world that will blow Second Life away and take over a billion dollar industry.

There are plenty of folks with that kind of money to gamble on such odds. I am not one of them. I got three kids approaching college and my 1% of the Postman movie paid zip. I have already spent two books’ equivalent time on Holocene, plus a book’s earnings in cash spent on prototypes.

The patent came through with nary a hint of “prior art” and nobody else has found any, either. What the patent covers is auditory as well as visual attention allocation. My demo may be crude, but it should have conveyed the general idea of how GENERAL all this is. Or at least offered clear assertions to be refuted.

Alas, I have come to realize that I cannot even get any of the money folks to paraphrase back at me what they think they are seeing. It’s like a trance comes over them, their eyes glaze over and they cannot even parse, in words, what the problem is! Instead, they wander away, muttering “It CAN’T be that simple… it just can’t be.”

Mark touches glancingly on one of the problems addressed by Holocene. Very few “get” the distinction between Synchronous and Asynchronous online presence.

Synchronous - content provider and content acceptor are present at the same time. E.g. games, avatar worlds, chat, synchronous meetingware. Except for the latter, adults positively loathe the synchronous realm! It demands money, in exchange for draining you of valuable lifespan, while doing almost nothing to empower discourse or help you get ambitious goals accomplished. Meetingware is meant to do the latter, but it is primitive, and most adults view it suspiciously.

This is not to say that games and avatars ain’t fun! There is a place for absurd fun, uselessness, flirting and ROTFL. But most of the executives who swoon over 2nd Life and MySpace spend very little of their OWN time there. They see these as products to siphon cash from others.

ASynchronous - content provider and content acceptor are NOT present at the same time. E.g. email, downloads, attachments, the Web. (And please do not cite IM! When adults use IM it is as a form of rapid but still asynchronous email. When IM is used as synchronous “conversation” it dumbs discourse down to sniglets and ROTFL silliness.)

Adults love the asynchronous world because they can maximize exchange of somewhat prepared content and use it as they see fit. Producers can create cogent thoughts, paragraphs, even. Recipients can choose either to read the paragraphs carefully or else skim and gist them (sometimes successfully and sometimes disastrously misinterpreting; I never said this was a perfect realm!) Moreover, adults can use this realm at their own pace, adjust their attention at will… and MOST OF THESE SERVICES ARE FREE. Adults hate spending money for things that should be free.

Here’s the crux. Both realms are absurdly stupid, encourage wasted time, misunderstandings and debased discourse.

Naum, you suggest I open source Holocene. I have offered online test communities. It is easy for you to suggest things, as if I have not tried. But I have. I cannot find any more than twos and threes of people who get it, far from anything even remotely like a critical mass. It is very very easy to preach “build it and they will come.” I have built it – an early version.

Problem is that my writing these words sound whiney. I can see it. Hence, I am mentioning Holocene less and less, over time. In a few years, all of these ideas will be out there, incorporated in products, and then this bitter old man will emerge with his patents and sue everybody in sight. What will all the open source guys say? “Evil!” Yeah, right. But I spent ten years offering it.

Enough. Either whole bunches of people are stupid, or I am. I can posit the latter possibility. I just wish someone - once – would paraphrase what’s on the table, prove they understand the concepts, and then show me why I’m the stupid one. Once.

David Brin said...

Rodent, I never claimed that a disproof-by-absurdity – like the Sokal affair – can be used to demolish an entire realm of scholarship. Even though Sokal thoroughly indicted the emotion-drenched and illogical bad habits that filled postmodernism. At minimum, Sokal chastised what had become a lazy and self-referential circle-jerk, forcing the best of the PMs to stand up, wash their hands, and admit the need for reference to the outer world.

No, PM is best repudiated in other ways (1) by its pragmatic fruits, which amount veritably to zero, (2) by its blatant tendentiousness, (3) by the mean and narrowminded way that it evades critique and fosters tribal in-group defense, (4) by the fact that it is, inherently, a romantic scholasticism and an incantatory system.

The last of these is fundamental, inherent and pervasive. I can recognize such things. I come from an ethnicity that took scholastic incantatory reasoning to one of its most egalitarian and self-critical extremes. And I can sympathize with the many generations of scholars who deeply believed that strings of words could both describe and coerce the world. After all, for millennia, words WERE the chief method people had, for achieving change!
You might not make the rain fall, but chant well enough, and you COULD make other people feed you, even in a drought.

The very best of these scholastics abandoned incantation, as soon as science and technology came along. Because, at last, we had something more effective than words. Still, many thousands of years of tradition had their pull. Karl Marx, who I semi-praised as brilliant in my last column, was an acute observer. He shed much light. But, in the end, he succumbed to the lure of incantation and became just another tiresome prophet, detached from any connection to the real world.

Thus, any new attempt to impose incantatory, pronouncement-based catechisms upon “truth” must bear a steep burden of proof. This is an expression of a vile and mostly counterproductive human scholastic tendency. One that did far more harm than good and most often served as an excuse/rationalization-generating system for elites. Just because PMs claim to be liberationists, doesn’t make it so! (Indeed, their greatest historic effect was to serve as strawmen to help empower the neocons. Think about it.)

You say there are realms science cannot go. I say prove it. EVERY time some incantatory priesthood made such declarations, they have done so out of bitter, tendentious rivalry against a much more powerful memic system. And they proved wrong. (In Kiln People I even portray a science and engineering field called “soulistics”.) Indeed, our greatest hope, in coming years, will come from science shedding more light on human nature, empowering us to make ourselves better. (Ideally, in eclectic and wise ways.)

Yeah, yeah, fields that are inherently and by-definition subjective may evade invasion by science. Fine. I do not see science encroaching on lit crit, either. The arts are inherently incantatory, romantic, illogical, impulsive, fashionable, immature… and that’s fine.

What I detest about the PMs’ lit crit is that they are bullies! They have dogma and they will grant tenure to nobody who does not hew to it. The result, within their field of “art”, is very very very BAD art.

David McCabe said...

I'm afraid I don't really 'get' Holocene, either. This is probably because everything you say about existing systems is contrary to my experience. Sorry.

> I have built it – an early version.

Where is it?

> When IM is used as synchronous “conversation” it dumbs discourse down to sniglets and ROTFL silliness.

Maybe what I've been through is more unusual than I think. But what IM and IRC are really good for is long, meaningful conversations with friends who aren't local. This use might be less relevant if you aren't in the boondocks.

Mark said...

And please do not cite IM! When adults use IM it is as a form of rapid but still asynchronous email. When IM is used as synchronous “conversation” it dumbs discourse down to sniglets and ROTFL silliness.

This is where you are wrong and part of the reason you have trouble selling Holocene. What you state might be true for IMs over cell phones, but is completely false for IMs over a computer screen, such as AIM or Yahoo. Also, it can be as synchronous as your ability to type and read.

(I use IM at work to talk to coworkers thousands of miles away. We really do type full paragraphs, sometimes. Although, to be fair, once the detail reaches a certain point it is easier to just pick up the phone.)

I also dispute the synchronous/asynchronous thing a bit, though I think you get it. These really aren't two different categories, but a continuum. The sweet spot is near real time, but with the ability stretch out the conversation to the less synchronous as the situation warrants. Again, you clearly get this as it ties into your point on attention.

But I believe that for just two people Holocene is exactly the same as any random IM over a computer. Ultimately, it is just two people typing. All the benefits come when more people are added.

Of course, if you add more people to an IM, what you have is a chat room. And as you say, executives hate the thought of using a chat room; those are for teenage girls.

The selling point is you've come up with a way to organize team communications, even for very large, loosely correlated teams with multiple sub-teams. That's a big deal. Today, teams tend to have members all over the world and the communication and organizational problems are very real.

For businesses to take this seriously, it would probably need to tie into something like Windows SharePoint to handle the purely asynchronous stuff like shared documents. At least, it is this kind of tool that currently claims to solve the same problem, though obviously in a very different way.

Mark said...

http://www.holocenechat.com

Mark said...

ou say there are realms science cannot go. I say prove it. EVERY time some incantatory priesthood made such declarations, they have done so out of bitter, tendentious rivalry against a much more powerful memic system. And they proved wrong.

Yep. The amount of potential knowledge is infinite and I believe all of it is theoretically knowable.

But while the line that separates what is knowable (by science) and what is not constantly moves, it also exists. What is currently knowable by science is finite, leaving the infinite rest to other, non-scientific crowd.

Since we need to deal with all that other stuff every day, seems that other crowed is pretty dang important. I'm willing to give them the respect they deserve if they give it back to me. :-)

Come to think of it, that is a pretty good bargain. They get the infinite while the scientists only get the current finite, but we get to keep moving the line.

(Ok, I'm not actually a scientist, but I put science on "my" side, anyway. So sue me.)

David McCabe said...

I assume that your URL is in reply to my query, "where is it?". All I see here are some powerpoint files.

Dr. Brin, if you have a working prototype, what do you need more money for? Just put it up on the web with some ads by Google, get the word out on blogs, and let it grow organically from there. Don't give your potential profits to investors. Plenty of successful web startups got a product out to the users with virtually no money.

The Big Rodent said...

Dr. Brin,

Rodent, I never claimed that a disproof-by-absurdity – like the Sokal affair – can be used to demolish an entire realm of scholarship.

Sorry. I said I might have misunderstood.

And I can sympathize with the many generations of scholars who deeply believed that strings of words could both describe and coerce the world. After all, for millennia, words WERE the chief method people had, for achieving change!
You might not make the rain fall, but chant well enough, and you COULD make other people feed you, even in a drought.


But this is one of the core ideas of postmodernism! Why do you think they spent so much time (it's less common today, though certainly still a big deal) trying to treat everything as text?

PM is best repudiated in other ways (1) by its pragmatic fruits, which amount veritably to zero

Has non-postmodern literary criticism produced any "pragmatic fruits"? How about non-postmodern art history?

(2) by its blatant tendentiousness,

I've never considered tendentiousness a negative, personally. Science, for example, thrives on it. But then, maybe I'm just focusing on a different connotation than you are.

(3) by the mean and narrowminded way that it evades critique and fosters tribal in-group defense,

Definitely a problem, but certainly not a characteristic uncommon to some non-postmodernist disciplines. I'm an archaeologist and let me tell you, the people who kicked off the dominant (very NON-PM) approach of the 2nd half of the 20th century had a hell of a time. They won in the end, but several people were denied careers by the then in-group.

(4) by the fact that it is, inherently, a romantic scholasticism and an incantatory system.

I'm not a Platonist, so I don't think any conceptual framework can inherently fit these categories, though I certainly don't deny that much of postmodernism falls withing romantic scholasticism and some of it is undeniably incantatory.

You say there are realms science cannot go. I say prove it.

Okay, here goes: Yeah, yeah, fields that are inherently and by-definition subjective may evade invasion by science. Fine. I do not see science encroaching on lit crit, either. This is exactly what I was talking about--nothing more.

The arts are inherently incantatory, romantic, illogical, impulsive, fashionable, immature… and that’s fine.

The arts themselves, sure. And much of the interpretation/ criticism/etc. is as well. Some of it though is a serious attempt to understand other people, especially in other times or places. Postmodernism takes a different approach (actually a lot of different approaches) to this part than does more traditional interpretation, but it still does it.

I'll leave the rest to lie, because it's become clear to me (rather belatedly, I admit) that we're talking past each other. All I've been saying from the beginning is that post-modernism's (prematurely declared) demise in literary critcism is not necessarily something to celebrate. Nor is it the monolithic bogeyman you've been attacking. Sure, you drop a caveat or two about the "reformers", but then proceed to indict tens of thousands of demonstrably divergent and internally contentious points of view within postmodernism as if they are all more or less the same and had the same agenda.

Seriously, if you value reasoned argument and evidence, as you have shown yourself to do on so many other topics, consider investing a couple hours in reading one of those "reformers", like Michael Berube--though I doubt he'd appreciate the label. I suspect you'll have a lot of trouble finding anything that you can honestly call part of an "incantatory system". Sure, there's jargon, but not nearly as much as I think you expect, and we all have jargon.

Finally, I never expected to convince you of anything--I just found myself unaccountably annoyed by your passing reference to it being about time literary postmodernism died. I'm NOT a postmodernist (even about literature), but I have never regretted learning more about what modern postmodernism (pun intended) really is, rather than what it appears to be from the outside.

Woozle said...

Dr.B -- if you haven't already seen this, I thought you might enjoy it:

Video: Inside the Ron Paul Blimp

The surrounding text is attacking Paul, so you get to see what the neocon negativity machine has come up with. (Personally, I'd like some sources on this "writing pork into federal budgets", which doesn't sound at all like him.)

On Holocene Chat -- an idea you might consider at some point:
- Release the source code of your demo software under a Creative Commons - [noncommercial - attribution - modifications allowed] license (more info) -- with the understanding that many of the underlying concepts are patented
- Offer to cut any group or individual who produces a shiny, finished product in for a percentage of profits (to be negotiated)

(I'd offer to work on it myself, except that graphics are (sadly) not my strong point in programming.)

Basically, I can't see any open-source-community goodness happening if the source code isn't available. You're protected from having the idea exploited by the fact that it's patented, and perhaps this amount of openness and offering something in exchange will help overcome hostility towards the intellectual property protection evilness aspect.

(I have so many ideas that I know they can't possibly be worth as much as a dime a dozen or I'd be rich by now, so take this as my 2.0e-7 cents worth...)

Woozle said...

Oh, and duhhh, I also meant to give Dr.B this link:

microPledge: "Have an idea? Just need funding? Want to join with others to support an idea? This site is for you."

(I hope I'm not suffering from link echolalia... I can't actually remember where I saw this, so for all I know it *could* have been here.)

David Brin said...

Grouchiness alert! I will grumble at a couple of you, below! Then I will apologize and wish you all (especially Dave, Mark, Rodent and Woozle) much joy in the year ahead!

Dave, the holocene demo is available by appointment. That is normal for innovative startups. As for your “Just put it up and they will come” suggestion, I am simply boggled. I will refrain from taking insult, since I know you mean well. But it could be taken as deeply offensive for you to assume that I have not tried hard to form test communities. Moreover, I have offered source code several times, with no takers.

May I gripe? You lecture a one-sentence nostrum at me, instead of showing the actual curiosity to actually learn what we are actually talking about. And thus (without intending to) you demonstrate precisely what the problem has been. I have been lectured to by every smart-ass from MIT to Silicon Valley... without one of them ever bothering to paraphrase or give the slightest hint that they have a clue what it is I am talking about. Must be more than a hundred, by now. Not one of them curious enough even to ask :”What does attention allocation mean?”

Oh, and prior art. At least forty guys have said “Of COURSE all that’s been done before. It HAS to have been! It's too obvious!” When I ask where, they mutter and walk away, shaking their heads, promising to get back to me.

They never, ever do.

Mark, you too are doing the typical thing, grabbing some statement to disagree with and diagnosing - on that basis - other things that have nothing to do with that statement. In fact, we hardly disagree at all. It sounds like you are using IM as a rapid form of email conversation. Fast but asynchronous, allowing participants to divide attention as they choose, not as slaves to a demanding virtual “environment” that gives nothing useful back, in return.

Problem is tha, again,t you seem incurious about what the cues and tricks are, from real life, that might help users allocate attention better. Not your fault, since this incuriosity seems to be endemic.

Again, to both of you, thanks for the input. You are valued fellows on-blog. But really, look in a mirror and ask : “Why am I lecturing, instead of curious?”.

Mark (another Mark?) says about postmodernists: “Since we need to deal with all that other stuff every day, seems that other crowed is pretty dang important. I'm willing to give them the respect they deserve if they give it back to me. :-)”
Rodent, sorry to have annoyed you. I will try to read some Berube. But since all of the PM I have seen has been not only incantatory, but built upon premises that incantation is paramount, I find it hard to even begin to picture a non-incantatory postmodernism!

Except that the PMs give no respect and they earn none. There isn’t any way, wither in the tangible pragmatic realm nor in the realm of subjective art, where they can point and say “We did this and it unambiguously advanced human souls or lives or civilization.”


===

GROUCHINESS LAMP IS OUT!

May God bless you all and your rambunctious hearts. May our Earth and our civilization endure and protect you all and thrive in the years ahead.

Mark said...

Problem is tha, again,t you seem incurious about what the cues and tricks are, from real life, that might help users allocate attention better. Not your fault, since this incuriosity seems to be endemic.

No, I do get this. My only complaint, and I guess this is a nit-pick, but it seems you bring up a straw man about what is currently out there instead of the real thing. Perhaps I'm just overreacting to the tone; I do that with much of what you write here, actually. It's more my problem then yours. (Unless you hear other people say the same thing.)

I'm not sure why you think I miss this or think I am incurious to the clues that help users allocate attention better. What gets me is when you state what current art is and hammer for things aren't really true and, more importantly, aren't really the things you fix.

(The point on IM that you seem to be missing is it used as both the short sentence, quick communication and the longer, email like detail in the same conversation. Just like in a phone call, sometimes it goes back and forth and sometimes one goes into a long monologue, even in the same phone call. But your right, we aren't really disagreeing with each other, probably; this isn't worth going into. Yea, I just did... sorry.)

I haven't looked over he Holocene stuff recently, but several months ago I went through the whole presentation. As I see it, you are actually doing two things, both of which seem the same but are slightly different. The first thing is to use those clues that we already have evolved to handle group communication. That's the cocktail party I mentioned.

The second thing is to use the ideas of these innate abilities, and give the computer the clues. In other words, let the computer play the role of the subconscious and help us detect when and where we should be direction our attention.

Just the single word "attention" is fundamental. The idea of helping people direct their attention to where it is most useful is a big deal and a very good idea.

Hopefully, I just restated the main points correctly in my own interpretation well enough to convince you I get it, so please don't confuse any disagreement I have on some level with not understanding. I'm pretty darn certain I do, at least to the first level approximation. (Unless, of course, if you think what I just said missed the big picture, then go ahead an say what I missed.)

Just out of curiosity, do you agree with my statement that Holocene is only interesting with more than two people? And do you also agree with my assessment that it will require people to use the system for what would otherwise be a private conversation, but to have it in the open where others can drop by and join in?

And yea, there is only one Mark here, I've just been separating my responses to different posts.

Happy 2008 to you all!

Naum said...

Happy 2008 to all in Contrary Brin land…

David, with all due respect, in 2007, for web/network application/ communication software, "available by appointment" is not normal modus operandi anymore for "innovative startups". I'm not going to bore everyone with an extensive list, but off of the top of my head I could list a couple dozen startups that simply put an unfinished "beta" out there and ran with it…

As a software developer, I am puzzled why you would take insult at suggestions to "put it up and they will come"…

HC offers some innovative and interesting features, but it might be a deal that somebody has to use and play with to really "get"… …I know I would be most interested in exploring it.

But again, in 2007, for network applications, that's not the way to enable it to go viral…

It's why Microsoft isn't innovative anymore and web applications are wildly successful… …and like I stated, it doesn't have to be completely open — could be a limited beta with email signup, and then those testing would have to submit to EULA/TOS if concerns about "IP" are paramount…

In 2007, demoing software "private appointment" or offering to private entities (did you offer for sale?) is just not going to get it… …the state of software is such that folks have attention deficit disorder and with so many offerings, really need to have it on their computer monitor (or cell phone) before becoming adherent believers or even customers… …perhaps you discount my word, but the leaders in the field would all agree — see Paul Graham (who's produced a bunch of startups), Facebook, Myspace, Skitch, the authors of delicious library, Skype, 37 Signals, dozens of google products, etc.…

Dave, the holocene demo is available by appointment. That is normal for innovative startups. As for your “Just put it up and they will come” suggestion, I am simply boggled. I will refrain from taking insult, since I know you mean well. But it could be taken as deeply offensive for you to assume that I have not tried hard to form test communities. Moreover, I have offered source code several times, with no takers.

TwinBeam said...

Holocene Chat:

It MUST be made dead simple - HC prototypes look too feature rich. Start out much simpler - one "big idea" investors can latch onto and say "Aha! That'll sell ad space!" Other ideas can be added later.

Doesn't need eye candy - else IM wouldn't work. But don't regress either - readable fonts, smilies and a personal icon/pix are pretty standard.

Your presentations DO need to be "eye candy", for potential investors. The ones on the website remind me of Ted Nelson's great ideas and crappy presentation. Investors won't look beyond the awful amateur graphics to see the Big Concept.

Mash HC up with existing successful stuff. E.g. a free chat facility enhancing existing web pages, that draws people to an ad supported service that shows conversations attached to thumbnails of web pages. Listen in, or click on the thumbnail to browse to the page and chat with an improved interface.

Tony Fisk said...

Climate trivia: in Melbourne, 2007 was the hottest year on record, and went out on the hottest day of the year (41 celsius, and still 32 celsius at midnight!)

Anyway, happy 2008.

Anonymous said...

Holocene Blog
A comment from general response tail for Blog post “CITOKATE - Holocene Blog the fist hundred days” ContraryBrin April 25 2009

Occam’s Comic

I have to say I loved the changes to this blog and others. But I have to admit that part of enthusiasm may be due to my new I-Scroll. It’s awesome, I got the 10x11 model. The screen that unrolls is real high quality, the multi-touch and simple voice commands work great, I have never had a problem.

The Add Border - Its OK with me as long as you keep with the decision to use only static text or graphics adds. I have more trouble concentrating on what someone has written, if something is moving around in the periphery.

Best Feature - The Integrated Troll Management System (aka reputation based attention). I bet the time that I spend reading the rantings of Trolls has dropped by more than 95%. When I do come across the occasional Troll its fun to crush his box on the screen with my fingers.

Typical Visit - I start off with just your most recent post filling the screen all the way to the add border, I go through and read it and click through some of the links.

Then I will shrink your box to about 20% of its size. I start scrolling through your post looking for any section specific or link specific comments or comment branches (aka Zargon Trees) that pop up from people with a good reputation. (I love that reputation is correlated with size.)

I then read the general comment tail. I find the Gisting tool to be moderately useful in helping me scan though the comments.

If I have something to say I will insert it at the proper location. I sometimes rate the links and comments provided, usually more carrots than sticks.

I then scan the older posts to see if anyone has responded to one of my comments or to a subject I have flagged.

David McCabe said...

Nice one, Anon. How do I get on the beta test for iScroll?

Dr. Brin: I don't think you need to worry about being grumpy. It was kind of you to bless those who persecute you. I will say that when I posted my first comment here, I didn't know that Holocene was any more than a hobby for you. On the second comment I should have known better, though. Thank you for not taking offense.

I'd be thrilled to make an appointment the next time I'm in So Cal, assuming you give demos to poor people. I already watched a video and read your documents a while back, so though I still don't really get it, curiosity is not the problem.

Existing systems do leave much to be desired, from IM to blogs like this one. I would be thrilled to see a better system come along. But your presentations are really hard to understand. Sorry.

What might be really helpful is use cases. Give us some examples or stories about how Holocene might typically be used. Who are people talking to? What else are they doing at the same time? Why are they using Holocene instead of this or that? Etc.

Here's where you don't seem to quite get what we're saying: If you have a working implementation, you're done. What do you need investors for? Investors give you the money you need to get a working implementation. Stop worrying about them and worry about getting your implementation into peoples' hands. What is the problem with this that I'm not seeing? Getting it into peoples' hands does not mean carefully selecting a hundred people to form a test group. It means letting curious people (like us) find you!

As Naum rightly mentioned, a tremendous number if not most web startups got going this way, especially since the bubble burst. 37signals.com is a great example; they even wrote a book (which I haven't read) about how to write software with no investors. Their products are tremendously successful.

>Benediction!<

Naum said...

The communication tools continue to evolve though in some respects, don't seem anymore advanced than Usenet in the early 1990s (before all you got on my internets!… …) )

OTOH, while the commenting system on this blogger platform is rudimentary, don't discount the positive effect it has had — around the first bubble, I tried to interest a number of folks to just give me enough money so I could eat so I could rollout my own developed version of "build your own website via a web browser"… …while I have earned gainful employment in writing web applications, I was not alone in seeing the possibilities… …consider that before the advent of blogger and other such like platforms (wordpress, livejournal) have enabled otherwise non-technical users to "do it yourself" website posting and push button publishing… …prior to, one had to be a tech nerd with knowledge of FTP (or tunneling into a server) and fluent on how to installing and modifying scripts…

Now, the tools are propagating to cell phones, where half the world will be instantly connected on the internet, without even access to a "computer"…

The tools will continue to evolve… …and no doubt, eventually, one way or another, we'll get the good stuff in HC…

Oh, and it's probably cited elsewhere here, but I found your (DB) answer on edge ("WHAT HAVE YOU CHANGED YOUR MIND ABOUT?") today, and thought it was pretty cool…

http://www.edge.org/q2008/q08_2.html

In fact, everytime I stumble upon that site, I get lost, and start rereading the posted answers for previous years… …I love reading what smart people have to write on matters, even if I disagree…

Existing systems do leave much to be desired, from IM to blogs like this one. I would be thrilled to see a better system come along.

David Brin said...

Mark, thank you for spending the time to attempt to paraphrase what you are criticizing. I confess that, for a short paraphrase, you had a good stab in the right general direction. NOW I am in a much better mood to feel your crticisms are aimed at me and my invention.

>>Just out of curiosity, do you agree with my statement that Holocene is only interesting with more than two people? And do you also agree with my assessment that it will require people to use the system for what would otherwise be a private conversation, but to have it in the open where others can drop by and join in?<<

Interesting question. There are certainly aspects of Holocene that will still pertain when only two people interact. Tools to reveal another person’s global reputation (in whatever community context) and to rapidly adjust personal reutation, then to allow that factor -- plus many others -- automatically affect the degree to which his presence in your world expands or contracts. To sift and gist his words in real time, so that you can pay close attention to however much or as little as you like. To store a running transcript of his statements, distilled down to gist or in detail, with links? To constantly be offering links to other conversants interested in the same topic?

Naum, look at the open source demos you are taliking about. They arose from trained and dedicated software guys putting in heaps of their private time to get it ready to be tested online. Or else money. Part of the problem is that I am doing this part time. The cliche tale is that you are supposed to drop everything, mortgage the house, ignore the kids and devote everything to your dream. But this is not my dream. It is a huge, gaping hole in online interaction that (apparently) only a few people can see. I am not a software engineer. If a software engineer had taken this course, he or she might have pursued it competently. All I have is perspective. Plenty of it. Enough that I am (frankly) getting bored with this effort of trying to get people to look through their blind spot.

Can I express this in any other way? It seems impossible to explain. We have a demo that shows many of these concepts in action. It is inherently NOT in shape to be released on the net -- it is cranky and creaky. Moreover it has no gloss, no avatars or gamestuff. Don’t you think I have tried test communities? Here’s an alternate hypothesis. I think you profoundly over-estimate the non-imitative imagination of most geeks.

Twinbeam, I agree that H needs an aha momet. “We can use that to make money.” Problem is that the broad pallette of new capabilities IS the product. I cannot make something glossier-looking. All I can do is offer sets of tools and show them at work. The thing ultimately on the table here is a designer’s pallette of site -creation and site-operation tools that should be as general as the web browser.

I think one problem is that you guys think I am looking for “investors.” But what Ive actually been looking for is partners... some guys “from the 1990s” who can actually see the same gaps and who want to create the sexy demo that you guys are all demanding from me. I have come to see that there aren’t any “guys from the 90s” anymore.

Dave, write to me at davidbrin@sbcglobal.net and I will add you to the list of folks we are slowly working our way through, continuing to (dispiritedly) offer demos.

Tony Fisk said...

I can appreciate the frustration and diminished enthusiasm you must feel about even getting people to come to HC. I've had a milder but similar experience getting my local bushwalking club to take up a wiki for online club information. (The cog. diss. seems to be that most people are used to reading websites, but not writing them.)

Do you have any idea why setting up a public 'common room' for test purposes hasn't worked? It would seem to be an obvious thing to try (especially with a patent granted), it would run itself, and promote informed commentary.

When I suggested avatars, I was thinking of something simpler than half life: an image to insert as a background to one's 'teardrop' marker to add a personal touch and promote recognition.

Oh well. As I said, I've been there.

Naum said...

I think you profoundly over-estimate the non-imitative imagination of most geeks.

/yes, perhaps that is true :)

Well, I hope you find a technical champion… …10 years ago, it might have been something I would pour in full time even with a fulltime… …I just don't have that much energy anymore, and need to finish the "side" projects I' engaged with now…

As an aside, advice given by Jamie Zawinski to developer friend on groupware software development…

http://www.jwz.org/doc/groupware.html

Tony Fisk said...

...Oops! Freudian slip! I meant 'Second Life'

t said...

"Alas, since the Army is growing extremely disenchanted with the alternative that was chosen instead, a truly absurd Frankenstein monster called MRAP. Our design was so so so so so much better. "

Really? Do tell.

I love 'em, the MRAP that is. Wish we had more of em.

I might be biased though, I know guys who have been saved by that 'truly absurd Frankenstein monster'.

I hope whatever you designed isnt just a humvee with some armor slapped on. I am of the opinion that the press missed the boat on that. They should have been asking Rumsfeld why we didnt have real armor, or something like the Buffalo or Cougar MRAPs, not why our Jeeps (which is what a Humvee truly is) didnt have armor.

adiffer said...

David,

At the risk of raising your frustration level, I do think you are missing an important business angle with respect to Holocene. My space frontier friends tend to miss it too in their work. I did for about 12 years with various projects involving solar sails, amateur space flight and so on.

I've looked through your Holocene presentations and I think I understand your point regarding attention allocation. I've lived in the customer support market for a number of years now writing applications meant to facilitate support processes. Even your 2-D text boxes would make for a handy front end. My friends write ticketing systems till the cows come home, but we always fail at the human interface. My users get swamped by the information and have to turn to reporting tools as that is all we have. Reports are useful for health measurements and after-the-fact analysis, but they fail in real-time situations. I think our failure is exactly what you are describing. So, let me say that I don't think you need a lot of gloss. What you need is a product to sell instead of the idea itself.

The mistake my friends make is pitching the solution instead of the business that provides the solution. Unless you find a hungry customer who wants to incorporate the ideas you demonstrate into their package you will have to do it yourself. That hungry customer you have tried to find is probably also a start-up, hence cash poor, so I don't see that working. The only way out is to latch on to a few friends and build a business that sells your solution directly as a packaged product. Pick the easiest thing I would suggest. If that works, your business has a case for licensing to other potential hosts.

I don't know what the business smart-asses have told you and don't need to know. But if you aren't focusing on selling the business instead of the solution you will stay as frustrated as my friends do. Your slide shows sell the solution while barely mentioning the business.

David Brin said...

"t" I am glad MRAPS are saving lives. But they cannot turn worth a damn, they flounder off-road, they are utter fuel pigs, and can be heard blocks away. In fact, they can achieve very little more than helping troops survive their street patrols. That's great. But try maneuvering. Try using them for some OTHER war-fighting purpose. Above all, they are part of the destruction of US Army capabilities while our budget is torn to shreds.

The ARCHITECHS "new hummer" design was entirely new. Four independent hybrid-electrics, on each wheel, silent mode, well-protected, super-maneuverable (turning 180 inside its own footprint)... a dozen innovations... too bad the show never ran. I'd love for the troops to see it.

adiffer - I know I am not a good salesman or market developer. I was naive to think that "doing an order of magnitude better than Second Life or MySpace and stealing THEIR markets" might be enough to interest some folks. Especially since the IP is protected and the initial investment would be trivial.

I haven't a clue what this naivete means and it is starting to concern me less and less. If nobody shows up who wants to get rich by helping to develop these fundamental concepts, I will finish my current novels, then find partners who want to get rich by suing folks. Because these capabilities WILL come into play. Sooner or later.

And now I am tired of this. My eldest was a baby when I started trying to wake people up. Now I'm teaching him to drive. There comes a time when a guy has to recognize a tar baby for what it is. Hell, I regret even bringing it up, this time.

Thanks all, for your interest.

Rob said...

In a few years, all of these ideas will be out there, incorporated in products, and then this bitter old man will emerge with his patents and sue everybody in sight. What will all the open source guys say? “Evil!” Yeah, right. But I spent ten years offering it.

All you would have to do to silence them is arrange things with your defendants creatively, and then be open about the money generated thereby.

Anyone who isn't satiated after that body of information is not worth listening to anyway.

atolley said...

David Brin - interesting "rant" in the Beyond Belief meeting. Could you expound a little on why you think that there are 4 "error correcting" systems? I was particularly struck that you included law - how is that error correcting and over what time frame were you thinking?

David Brin said...

atolly, this is about a PROCESS by which four very different arenas pursue four different kinds of "product"... but with uncanny similarities

For a rather intense look at how "truth" is determined in science, democracy, courts and markets, see the lead article in the American Bar Association's Journal on Dispute Resolution (Ohio State University), v.15, N.3, pp 597-618, Aug. 2000, "Disputation Arenas: Harnessing Conflict and Competition for Society's Benefit."

Or at: http://www.davidbrin.com/disputationarticle1.html

atolley said...

"Want more depression? See Sir Ridley Scott grouse that Sci-fi films are as dead as Westerns."

What we need are good scripts of good novels. I would LOVE to see the Harlan Ellison version of "I Robot" done.

The problem with SciFi today is that it isn't even SciFi, just standard plots with backgrounds.

The western was revived with interesting treatments - e.g. "Little Big Man", and more recently I would argue that "The Unforgiven" by Eastwood was a very good genre example.

I can see that SciFi flicks could easily be restored by just focusing on good stories and intelligent scripts.

BTW, I think it would be very hard to make "Earth". It is such a sprawlingly large book that much would have to be excised for a 2 hr. movie.

Tony Fisk said...

I think 'Earth' would fare better as a mini-series.

How many seasons would 'Uplift' need?

Speaking of which, is that CGI competition still on the cards?

Mark said...

How many seasons would 'Uplift' need?

While the first trilogy would probably be best as movies, the second trilogy would make an excellent tv series, assuming the CGI was good and cheap enough to pull it off.

I've recently come to the conclusion that a good tv series is better than a good movie.

Naum said...

For the prediction registry:

From John Robb blog:


As oil hits $100 a barrel, it's worth reviewing where you get insight into the oil industry. In the energy marketplace, the volunteers at the Oil Drum beat the pants off of the high priced pros (and by extension the mainstream media) at CERA (Cambridge Energy Research Associates). The product comparison isn't not even close across all areas of measurement: data, insight, and accuracy (as in CERA's projections on oil production are so "off" it's laughable).

Marc said...

Brin,

I was visualizing a bit on your last explanation of Halocene...
... I was picturing a Digg-style voting system on conversations. The best way to socially accept eavesdropping on an otherwise thoughtful conversation is to give people credit for their thoughts.

But DIGG does this completely wrong. If you compare SlashDot to Digg -- you see that a limited and trusted group of "voters" does a much better job of promoting thoughtful comments, over the shouting match that is Digg. The problem is; if you don't value your own votes -- who else should? I'm all for Democracy, but between Digg and Slashdot, merit seems to follow the opinions of thoughtful people.

What I'm proposing is a better comment moderation system coupled with the virtual presence A-synchronous interaction you are suggesting. I've suggested the same sort of system to create safer drivers on the road and remove spy cameras and highly paid yet cranky State Troopers.

The car analogy works great as well as the moderation system;
You have anonymous participation, but only registered voting.
For a short period of time, registered voters can moderate on the quality of comments. They cannot also contribute at the same time.
>> A modification of the slashdot system; frequent negative votes from different voters, or positive votes from different voters, can change the status of the Contributor. Multiple votes from one source (someone with a grudge), only counts if there is some consensus, otherwise they would be ignored as a grudge (or as a buddy if positive).
Individuals can mod up or down a specific contributor.
>> A modification of the slashdot system; new accounts are provisional, and are labeled as such.
The point is, that contributing over time as a thoughtful member is rewarded.

>> Limiting the number of votes someone has, also reduces the "LOL" factor of just voting for someone saying an obvious and emotionally satisfying comment of little value -- as seems to be the best way to get a score of 251 Diggs.

>> Also, I further suggest that a tally of moderations for a specific contributor from a specific moderator be tracked to avoid the "cliquish" effect that many social networking sites seem to promote. If you and ten of your friends join a group, you can rule -- because you always give the other 9 moderation points, and -9 to anyone that argues with them. Unless someone quickly makes a popular comment, they get buried by a small group of thugs. The answer to this is voter to moderator tracking, that would successively reduce the value of a vote for the same person by the same people. If too many votes are cast pro or con for a specific person, then the moderator gets a warning. They can lose moderation privileges for buddy or grudge like behavior.

>>> Visually, you can incorporate social-networking preferences by the user however, in how "close" a speaker is at first. People can create friend and foe lists and conversations populated by them would be weighted by those factors in addition to general moderation. Instead of moving things further away, you could consider that negative votes move them down, while positive elevate them.

>>> Going back to my point about cars; I'd thought for a long time that we could all have bar codes (updated to RFID for today of course) on our cars. Police would be replaced by everyone having a car tagger device. If someone's driving is scaring you... you zap them with the tagger. People who excessively zap (some old folks too scared to be on the Interstate, for instance) would be ignored. Local people who constantly zap the same person would also be flagged as having a grudge -- but it would still be investigated. However, with those caveats. people getting a certain number of "zaps" a month would then get notices in the mail-box to watch their driving habits. I'm not sure how best to deal with someone who consistently annoys other drivers -- it would be interesting to collect the data and provide warnings and see how it goes from there. Most people want to be good, so I'd think this would moderate MOST behavior.


>>> Another modification. As I'm into building kiosks that pull data from the web and then animated the information or respond to data in a certain way, you might do something with Yahoo Pipes or Google Filters to automatically latch onto conversations reference information. It's obvious that wikipedia might help expand on an obscure term if you hover over it, but you also might help show cross-referencing data as well. If someone mentions something like "War on terror" you would search for a modifier like; "war on terror is failing" so the search would find RSS feeds that support that view. While someone saying; "war on terror is successful" would get the latter. Over time, a conversation might have a trend, such that the person who originally said, it's working out, would trend down because it would be harder to find support for that. However, such a system would depend upon an honest media -- maybe in another 20 years when we sort out our current descent in the USA we might revisit that. Or just be the dictator and say; "we think BBC is honest -- forget CNN" and tell them to take a hike if they don't like it. It works for the bad guys, eh?


>>> Money. If you want to make more money, buy up stocks on companies that supply seeds [not investment advice]. Things like Burpee will start seeing a lot of interest soon. Even if our current CorpGov is intent on selling security, and China is getting our manufacturing -- everyone still needs to eat. And with a 25% increase in the Producer Price index last year (somehow sat upon, but it usually leads by a year consumer prices) and about a 40% increase in the winds,.. growing things to eat will once again be very popular.

My rant last year was for Liberals to buy Gold, and Conservatives to buy all those wonderful stocks the MSM tells them to buy. With Oil up $100 per barrel, and gold fast shooting up over $860 an oz -- I don't know if it's because the dollar is less or the value is more. You would have made over 30% if you just had Canadian money the past two years.

So, for the trends -- just look at all the musicals they had during the great depression if you want to look at what sells when things suck. Escapism of magic and fairies -- especially singing fairies, will outsell well-made dystopian future stories like Blade Runner. The Postman was awesome, for instance, but nobody is going to like that book if they have to live it, right? I don't have great advice for making a bundle of cash being part of the solution. In the Scandinavian countries where things are getting better -- it might work. Translate your books into Norwegian, Chinese, or Spanish?

Last year I emailed all my friends a few articles about Bill Gates and that guy who owns Berskshire Hathaway moving their money out of US currencies and I titled it; "The Smart Money is Leaving." Of course, since I don't have enough money to "invest" I'm not really a capitalist yet so I can't follow my own advice. Mitt Romney, apparently knows capitalists, and that's why he is getting some heat over helping them offshore their money and not showing income in the USA. Perhaps you can get your 1% proceeds of Postman sent to a PO Box in Chile, call it research expense and just look poorer on paper.

If it were my vote, I'd say you deserve to be richer than Crichton. While Sphere was a nice short story, Uplift War rocks! You have more concept in background in that story than Crichton has in his whole career. I'm just glad that Golden Compass even got made. Even though I enjoyed Tolkein -- I never thought his ideas translated into what one would want for modern government. We'd have to go out and fight trolls and wooden tree Ants every generation and hope that our king didn't just go plain loopy, as most of them seemed to in LOR, which King fans seem to ignore the plethora of bad rulers in their pax worship.

Marc said...

Brin,

I almost forgot.

There is a lot of need for good writing on the Indie circuit. I do some work in Video and there is a really great site for budding film-makers on a budget, it might be a source for getting a script out that might be impossible in the simplified CGI-fest of Hollywood; www.hdforindies.com

>> Better than research for how big Social Networking sites potential is -- just look at the purchase of FaceBook. You can then extrapolate the number of users to the total dollar value. This gives you a per-user cost. I think it's about $10 a head. In unrelated news, it cost Fox News about $20 per subscriber to push themselves onto cable -- about ten times the average rate (demand?).

>> Our company uses meeting exchanges like WebEx and GotoMeetings. This is becoming pretty commonplace in the business world -- we also have a lot of meetings to keep everyone excited (biggest use is going to be in commission sales with a large and spread-out work force. You could get some real money if you solved a few things; Ease of Use.

People want to talk and show at the same time. Some of these companies require a separate deal for voice, and/or an 1800 number for teleconferencing. Various participants need some usability on lower bandwidth. The ability to EASILY vote on things within the sharing session is useful.

Apple's latest Leopard OS, seems to allow this in iChat automatically, and you can just drag and drop files to another person's screen. YOU SEE the desktop, and you can control it. The DEMO is the action. As good as this is, it requires rights -- it might be better to have a virtual desktop that people can control but that isn't real (make sense?) -- something that everyone hosts and you just update the motion changes of the mouse (this is much like how computer games can have super fast response -- everyone hosts the 3d game, but they just send the data of how the characters move and fire, etc.,).

Something that could tie into skype would get a leg up.

The biggest issue is downloading and installing software on a system. At our company you CANNOT install anything without going through major hurdles. So cached files are fine -- executables are forbidden. Think about the barriers of proxies and such, so that if you want something like this to get acceptance in the corporate world, it has to compute in the web browser and certain things must be hosted.

Flash or CSS2, maybe CSS3? Whatever it is, it has to allow for caching of files, and then updating the file -- not sending a screen grab, to beat the competition in bandwidth (bandwidth is being artificially throttled in this country to justify "solving" this problem and ending all the pesky truth on the internet -- many other countries have much faster and cheaper internet access than the US). Someway to detect if an image is original and not in the cache, and to determine if something is important or not, so that those with fast connections get it, and those on modems can skip it.

But Apple's Leopard is the one to compare to -- everything else is cumbersome in relation. It just doesn't scale to multiple users very well.

Look at some techniques in the world of file sharing for sending large cache files. A company called "Pando" software is using a bit-torrent technique to send gigabyte or larger email attachments. You upload the file to them, and they give you a link. Then, various computers in the network get an encrypted chunk in exchange for participation, and even if you computer is off, you can send a 15k email that has a download link of a 2 gig attachment streamed from many computers at once (I haven't used it yet). But the idea here is, that some virtual meeting place you set up, can use all the computers involved as a peer-to-peer network. They can share those bits that they have downloaded with other peers so that everyone need not get the file from the host.

>> Anyway, if you need any help on anything, ask away. I remember being almost kicked out of one of the countries first creative problem solving courses in college for having "too many ideas, slow down a bit." I gave them 225 ideas for a paper clip in 30 minutes and the class combined had 75 -- most of which were ideas I discarded as "un-useful." OK, enough bragging. I'm just a frustrated race horse being used to plow a field of clay, if you get what I mean.

Mark said...

For those that missed the spelling, that would be the other Mark, er, Marc.

For those that are interested in something a bit lighthearted, I posted my 11 year-old's five page pamphlet she made for a current events class on the Democrats running for President over at dailykos. Interesting to see the world from the eyes of a smart 11 year old.

Tony Fisk said...

Marc, I believe the current version of HC uses flash.

I've been mulling on whether or not a variation using SVG, PHP (or whatever serverside language) and javascript would be feasible. I've certainly seen some nice demos of this sort of thing.

And, since we still appear to be flogging a dead horse, I'd like to drop the user perspective into the plane for a more true to life interface.

David McCabe said...

I don't see why you'd strictly need SVG -- which is good, because it'll probably be another decade before IE supports it. It's pretty amazing what can be done with only the DOM these days. On the other hand, Flash is probably more compatible, ironically.

Tony Fisk said...

True, SVG isn't essential, but it would enhance the interface.

I have no idea what SVG/CSS support improvements have occurred since IE6 (anything would be an improvement!), but IE can support SVG via an Adobe plugin. Which is ironic, considering my thought was to lower the entry bar by getting away from plugin dependencies. Oh well, I guess the thought still works for other browsers.

atolley said...

Holocene: I think I get it. Conceptually very interesting conversation ideas.

Adiffer makes a good point about the site not addressing a problem to be solved, but rather a solution. Having said that, just look at the crap sites that TechCrunch shows - the trick to getting attention is about pitching to influencers and hoping to get something viral going.

My thought for a problem to be solved that this software could address is managing blog conversations. In other venues, there is a lot of fun in "comment stalking" essentially running to where someone of interest is joining or starting a conversation. I could easily see that your software would be very useful in this regard, streamlining the conversation switching and helping navigate the user to where the interesting conversations are happening at that moment. There is a lot of interest in exploiting "social graphs" at the moment, and again, your ideas mesh nicely into this arena.

I'm sorry you are so dispirited about the results to date, but perhaps you were premature only now is environment ready to accept your ideas.

adiffer said...

Flogged horses are part and parcel of trying to predict the future. You get too far out in front of the horse and the whip will just drive it the wrong way. 8)

The problem my customers face (the support techs and their employers) is that they can't allocate their attention sensibly. They spend too much time deciding what needs their limited time when they need to be helping someone or fixing something instead. That failure leads to lost value which can be calculated. A good UI for a ticketing system, therefore, addresses the loss and creates competitive advantage. ROI's can be calculated.

I understand the exhaustion though. Unless you plan to license the patent outright, creating the company that sells the application is the only money path and that involves a ton of work. The Brin fan club would probably lynch anyone who convinced you to do that. We rather like what you write. 8)

Doug S. said...

Just how much money would it take to hire some underpaid Indian programmers to write up a "really cool" version of the software, anyway? If you state a dollar amount, I just might be able to raise it. (I'm young, idealistic, have way too much time on my hands, and can't tell the difference between the possible and the impossible. Therefore, if you give me a dollar figure and ask nicely, there's a good chance I could actually get the money.)

David Brin said...

Wow, a truly thought provoking relevance-tsunami from Marc. And cool 11 yr old perspectives, Mark. And Tony, yes, there are a zillion implementations of Holocene ideas possible, in many dimensions and formats. I had the cash and time to make the simplest possible one... expecting confidently that people would say - hey that’s never been done before! Let me at it!

Har.

David Brin said...

Doug, we have scoped out a nested set of possible costs/outcomes.

For half a million we would end forever the 1969-era alternating-scrolling "chat" format, selling modules to 2nd Life and/or anyone interested in not being left in a cloud of dust. Included would be a basic site creation kit, allowing anyone (for $39.95) to create sites that let users allocate attention far better and converse like human beings, with a greater than ten second attention span.

A million would let us incorporate all currently fashionable knicknacks, like avatars, kiosks, and such, and blow away every static site/service, from MySpace to Second Life.

Along the way, meetingware and collaboration-ware for businesses, allowing them to flexibly merge contributions from team members, both synchronously (in real time) and asynchronously (offline improvements on a document or prototype or plan).

There are strong possibilities in gaming and VR, but, frankly, I doubt more than a million would be useful. The prospects for a self-supporting income stream are so strong, I doubt more than than could be spent before self-support would make further investment irrelevant.

The combination of minuscule cost, short time scales, minimal risk and strong IP should seem a no-brainer. But there comes a point where a guy has to admit: maybe I am the no-brainer, here.

Enough. And this time I mean it.

Milton said...

David,

Commenting on your Holocene product (this is from the pov of a long time internet software engineer/ now in management).
This is a revolutionary product hence you are faced with certain problems re VC and people with deep pockets..
1. VCs are normally not revolutions and I don't trust them to grasp revolutionary products either. You need a pitch (a dumbed down pitch that they can understand).
2. The pitch should give concrete "business" benefit that they can grok.
3. The pitch need to be short and to the point (I think your Powerpoint prezo are too much of a "forest", didn't show enough of the "trees" for VC to hang their thoughts onto.

Some suggestions to for a better pitch:

1. Drastically simplify your prezo to maybe a series of simpler prezos, each one addressing a specific use case to demonstrate why Holocene is BETTER than existing solutions (maybe a side by side comparision: "here a conversation in IM", here's an equivalent conversation in Holoscene, notice you can now do X & Y which you couldn't do in IM").

2. You commented on not wanting to commit additional resources to put in "eye candie" which is completely understandable, but there's another alternative:

Get someone who can do a "mock up" (common skill in web app land), maybe using FLASH to make a movie to show what HOLOCENE in action would LOOK LIKE and show that to the VC. It's much easier to do that then changing the app to do the same thing.

3. COme up with a specific business application (i.e. "here a group of sales professional from diverse geographical location engaging in a sales strategy discussion") then have a FLASH movie demoing what the screen would look like in such a conversation, then highlight all the advantage of your approach comparing with existing solutions.

MY BOTTOMLINE:
There are many cool technologies that are revolutionary which do not make it through the VC, not because of lack of merit, but because technologist can't make that killer sales pitch to them to help them "get it". We might pooh pooh that, but as my VC buddy tells me, they read upward of about a hundred proposals a day, if they can't grok the idea within 3 pages of a PP prezo, then they can't be arsed to spend more time on it. I would be a shame if we can't find a better "killer prezo" to get their attention, and from what I read so far that might be the issue here...
(feel free to contact me offline and I'll be glad to offer more).

David Brin said...

Milton thanks. If you download the power-point Guided Tours at http://www.holocenechat.com you'll see that an awful lot of effort has been put into "eye candy" to explain the tools and concepts.

I did have help with these from a number of young techies who "got it" and had enthusiasm... but little else to offer. Also included are some screen shots from the crude-but working demo.

At the urging of several folks, I have just been drafting out an even simpler slide show, emphasizing the size of the social-net and VR and other markets waiting to be plucked by anyone eager to "take their lunch."

If you want to critique this new one (after seeing the others) drop me a line at davidbrin@sbcglobal.net and I'll send it over. But I am drafting this more out of momentum than enthusiasm, anymore.

thanks
db

Doug S. said...

So, $500,000 is your dollar figure? Well, I'll see what I can do. ;)

Marc said...

Brin,

Perhaps you could NOT do an open source model -- but do something more along the lines of a "People's Venture Capital Fund."

Write up a good resume of successful projects. A corporate outline of what you plan to do, then some sort of financial commitment gets you X amount of shares net of profits from Y outcome agreement for those who just donate small amounts based upon trust. Write up a non-disclosure agreement, and send it certified mail to those who pony up $100 or more and express a bigger interest. Get a lawyer friend to donate so mind time to make sure it's safe for you, and protects all parties.

Most ventures fail because of insufficient funds. You should look at what you think you need and double it. What would it cost you and one other person to get it done having no other income for two years. Make sure you don't put too much money into it -- trying to scrape by will make you less productive in the end.

A real VC firm will want at least a 500% increase on investment over a few years to justify their investments that fail. A venture like this might eke out a living or explode -- but you will take more the risks and see less of the benefits with a VC. I'd think you'd could get a much better chance if you just create the VC fund yourself and sell a FIXED amount of shares in the first tranche (round of financing) and guarantee them to be at least 25% of the total shares given.

You will need some patentable or copyrightable IP to get another business to put some skin in the game. I have at least a dozen ideas like that floating around -- about 14 years ago I was bouncing around some ideas with some fellows I was working for when we were trying to create a new system of trading that didn't require transfers of capital between countries. I'd suggested that we take the bidding system and start everything local -- basically, I spelled out for them EBAY about 4 years before it started (so maybe that's more than 14 years -- I can't tell time). But of course, nobody listens to the smart-aleck kid who works for them. I also came up with an active "search agent" called a drone that used a bit-torrent like networking scheme that would create intelligent agents out of simpler, hive-like functions, I also came up with a concept for "network compression" that I've yet to see used -- though I haven't looked too hard. Anyway --whether or not you NEED IP to get it going isn't the point, that idea about "making things look cool" -- is what it is all about.

In marketing, there are about 5 hot buttons. It's best if you hit all; Making a difference, making a bundle, recognition, sex, and friendships. OK, best if you hit 4. There are three types of learning -- and that means "a person with money making things happen" and those are Kinesthetic, Auditory, and Visual. So you can TELL some people a great idea, but at about 70% of the population has to SEE it. That's why I make a living with Kiosks and Presentations. You often don't have the chance to let people see the fancy marble at your company -- that's why people spend money on brochures, sexy web sites and multimedia, it's the digital equivalent of status.

So that's how I see my business; as a Status Producer. And I can tell you, about half of your money will go to lawyers, and a good 40% will go to building status with the pitch. That's just to get the interest of someone who will take the lion's share of the money. You could create a total fake demo of how it works without one line of code, and get more interest than if you made a working prototype that moved around stick figures. As far as I can tell, that is the nature of the world.

Let us know what we can do to help.

Jonathan said...

>> Going back to my point about cars; I'd thought for a long time that we could all have bar codes (updated to RFID for today of course) on our cars. Police would be replaced by everyone having a car tagger device. If someone's driving is scaring you... you zap them with the tagger. People who excessively zap (some old folks too scared to be on the Interstate, for instance) would be ignored. Local people who constantly zap the same person would also be flagged as having a grudge -- but it would still be investigated. However, with those caveats. people getting a certain number of "zaps" a month would then get notices in the mail-box to watch their driving habits.

I think Gallagher came up with this too. His idea was to issue each driver a child's spring-loaded suction-dart pistol, with each dart bearing a flag reading "STUPID". Every time you see another driver doing something stupid, you shoot a dart at their car. If a cop sees a car with three or more flags on it, he pulls the driver over and gives him a ticket for being an idiot!

Yours is a bit more practical, of course... :)

Janus said...

Dr. Brin,

I have to say I'm puzzled by these words of yours:

Alas, a recurring theme at the conference was atheism, in its recent and ironically militant incarnation, featuring some very rich invective from Daniel Dennett, among others. Counter productive proof that incantatory self-righteousness addiction is not limited to deity-believers.


Why is it ironic that the new wave of atheism is militant?
What part of Dan Dennett's speech at BB2 do you think deserves to be called "invective"?
What is it that left you with the impression of self-righteousness?