Brains Trust

I had a couple of good meetings last week with smart guys who want to make the world more sensible. It’s pretty amazing how universal that urge is and how many smart people there are, especially among the bottom 98% of the people in the big-E Economy who do the heavy lifting.

Erick the Well-Read

On Thursday, spring smiled on NYC and I met with Erick Herring at a sunny table at the Redeye Grill, named in honor of the number of its patrons who fly the redeye between the coasts. Erick Herring is the proprietor of Lasipalatsi, Finnish for “Glass Palace”. He spent his formative years in Denmark and Norway and speaks fluent Danish:

“During that time, he built the higher education segment for NeXT Computer’s dealers in both countries, ran a private consulting practice, was the chief architect for the first Internet-enabled library system deployed in Europe, built a secure, nationwide IP network for the Aalborg University Library in Denmark, taught courses and lectured on the Internet, network security, software development, and operating systems, and served as a Senior Management Consultant and lecturer at the Danish Technology Institute. Erick attended the University of Texas at Arlington and Aalborg University Center in Denmark, is published in English and Danish, and founded the Danish Java Developers Group (DJUK) in 1996.”*

. . . meaning he actually understands the terms I fling around so cavalierly. Erick had quoted extensively from five of my little essays, so I wondered if we might get together. Sure enough he was headed to New York on a consulting gig. (Coincidentally, I had stayed at a hotel 5 blocks from his Santa Monica office about a week earlier—life is a karmic strip). Erick is the Chief Security Officer for Digital Evolution, inventors of the DE Management Server. As I understand it, it’s like a firewall with a bigger brain that assists people in an enterprise to safely engage open standards services without being exposed to security risks on ports that the firewall doesn’t monitor.

Erick knows there’s a better way to run our society, and is willing to help out with the Xpertweb design study. Aside from being off-scale smart, he lives close to our code architect and deep thinker Flemming Funch, who’s Danish! I’m probably spoiling the surprise, but I can’t wait for Flemming to pick up the phone to hear a Danish greeting about tech rather than Havarti. That’s the good news. The bad news is that Mitch and I may have to decipher tech notes that look like this.

Erick generally agreed with my take on the Liberty Alliance DigID initiative, as much due to its grand ambitions as its tech, which he feels serves us better than MS PassPort. His greatest contribution to Xpertweb may be to ensure that our DIY DigID is actually useful. Under the Xpertweb model, the risk is to the vendor, who delivers value before the buyer pays, as discussed by Mitch in his Caveat Venditor post. Since every Xpertweb buyer maintains a DigID file on her Xpertweb site, the seller’s site can require the buyer to pass an authentication test at her own site prior to committing to the task or sale. Then the seller knows that the work is being requested by the person who owns the reputation on the buyer’s site. Did that make sense? Well Erick says it can be the basis of a Good Thing, and that’s what’s important.

Isn’t that cool? Xpertweb code flowering under the care of a couple of guys with Scandinavian sensibilities who believe thoughtful people can live together in peace and prosperity.

Spiral Unbound

Stuart Henshall’s Unbound Spiral and this blog have cross-linked a few times, so we met by phone on Friday. Stuart’s firm consults to organizations to get them to act smarter by realizing they need to see their work as “serious play.” The operative word is serious, not solemn, to correct how too many groups approach progress. He must be good at it, if you trust the recommendations of people like Jay Ogilvy and Gary Anderson, Chmn./CEO of Dow Corning. Actually, Stuart’s insights are about how to employ the fact that we trust those men’s ratings more than others.

He’s been doing some deep thinking about the core value, trust, as opposed to the general description, reputation, especially in his “Identity Trust Circles” post on March 24. As we talked I understood Identity Trust Circles for the first time, and a very cool way to apply Stuart’s principles to Xpertweb.

Since Xpertweb users expose their transaction data as willingly as we blog our thoughts, It’s straightforward to find all the plumbers who work in your zip code, or all the programmers in Bangalore who hack PHP-XML. It’s simply a matter of applying Google APIs to find instances something like,

<xwspecialty>residential plumber</xwspecialty> and <workzip>98040</workzip>
<xwspecialty>web programmer</xwspecialty> and <skillset>PHP</skillset>
and <skillset>XML</skillset>

There will also be RSS feeds aggregated up through the mentor chain to find skills. Once you find the skill sets you need, they can be filtered by average grade overall, last 6 months, by product, etc. We had already envisioned all that, calling it reputation.

But Stuart suggested that finer level, trust, by using an even more Googlish approach. We each develop confidence in others through their blogs and acquaintance and probably by how they handle their transactions. So Stuart suggested that we need to be able to filter ratings by who made them. How do the people in our Identity Trust Circle rate potential vendors? How do other skilled judges rate providers? For instance, what do people who write O’Reilly books think of programmers? Stuart has provided an important insight.

Such filters are easy for any reasonably skilled mentor to set up in a couple of hours. It also occurred to me that we might also weight opinions by location. For instance you might want to know–in a hurry–how people in your small census tract rate the local plumbers.

In his Identity Trust Circles post, Stuart notes something that Doc has also been alluding to. There are a lot of people working the reputation meme and providing the web services to back up their op
inions. Technorati and Ryze and BlogShares come most easily to mind, but there are others, like our gestating favorite.

This flowering wouldn’t be possible if the Net hadn’t progressed beyond its basic protocols to the point we’ve reached: a permission-free zone where anybody with an idea can launch a web service without a preliminary buy-in by existing vested interests. This freedom to innovate is the third leg of the Net’s NEA stool: Nobody owns it, Everyone can use it, Anybody can improve it. If the Net’s open protocols weren’t in place and agreed upon, we could never improve it with the more highly abstracted, software-only, permission-free improvements, social software really, that we can now imagine together.

Our primary hope depends on our shared imagination, freed from the limited horizons of those who would manage us into irrelevance. As the ad says, we’ve already got the shoes. Now Just Do It.

11:10:12 PM    

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