“... once any one difference of any sort, even an idea, exists anywhere, then it demands or creates conditions for the evolution of subsequent events.”
Bill Mollison

Permaculture: A Designers' Manual

On Ceptr and Wagn and WordPress

n

This post, in addition to its subject matter, is offered as an experiment / demonstration for:

  1. This format of communication / expression (even though it isn’t published where it should be) as having intrinsic value as a collaborative tool.
  2. Coordinated, distributed and asyncronous work while potentially reducing the need for yet another meeting (face-to-face or online).
  3. If this was discussed in (yet another) meeting, the contents may have not made it into this written form and been available only to the participants of the meeting,
  4. That the written and published form creates a referencable / sharable / discussion point resource for others who would not have attended the (yet another) meeting.

This is a followup to a conversation with Arthur and Jarod about creating a collaborative work (codenamed: make.ceptr.org)

Personally

I’d like to clarify that in an ideal situation I would prefer to not get involved “under the hood”. I enjoy applying these tools more than creating them. I’ve been using WordPress for 10 years and have formed a satisfactory relationship with it, in that empowers me to express myself and create things I’d like to see in the world (that no one else has created or will create for me). Given that there aren’t technical resources available in the Ceptr team, I am offering to create what I can.

Wagn

I am curious about Wagn and what it can do. I apperciate the approach it takes and maybe in another context (not after a year of challenging coding work) I would be interested in exploring what can be done with it. However it feels to me like a technology and not yet a usable tool. I can imagine that for someone who is closer to a developer mindset it is more of a tool. But I am not of that mindset.

Lets assume that an in depth suitability analysis of Wagn as a technology to create a clearly outlined solution were conducted and gave a clear resounding yes. If I am the one who has to now create with it I would have to enter a learning curve which 1) I am not interested in and 2) would divert energy from creating a solution for Ceptr, to investing in Wagn.

I do, however, want to dedicate a few more sentences to Wagn as a technological manifestation.

Solutions and Technologies

Wagn highlights a fault-line I have been observing for many years in IT and more endemically in open-source. A technology is not a product. An engine is not a car. Technology is only one dimension of creating good applications that provide valuable solutions. RSS was an oh-so-simple protocol/technology for connecting people that wasn’t properly productized. Facebook did fill that void with an exploitative product.

I would like to avoid this shortcoming in Ceptr.

I realize that Ceptr & Holochain ARE technologies. Ceptr & Holochain are on par with developing an operating system like Linux. For Linux to “succeed” it took many others who built upon it distributions that were targeted for more specific contexts / applications.

My understanding is that a similar view is currently shaping Ceptr & Holochain. That others will adopt Holochain and build solutions upon it. But I am not convinced that can happen, or that if even if it did, that it would necessarily be be a good thing.

Yes Ceptr can be framed, for example, as a Blockchain alternative. But, in my mind, that isn’t true. Ceptr is designed for a different mindset … heck … lets say it out loud … to a different heart-set. Those who see and embrace it as a Blockchain alternative will not be manifesting that different heart-set. They will be applying pressure to get Holochain to do their bidding. The question is what will give? Will Holochain bend their mind-set and bring them closer to its mindset? Or will Holochain itself be bent to be framed into their expectations?s

This is why I believe that it is up to us, the makers of Ceptr & Holochain to also create applied solutions to really give them life. When we do, please, please, please … lets avoid making Wagns.

For anyone interested in reading more on this I recommend The Inmates are Running the Asylum by Alan Cooper.

WordPress

I would like to keep this short:

  1. WordPress, in addition to being an application / product has been, for me, a vivid example of distributed collaboration. I have enjoyed watching (though not as an active participant) how it grew as a collaborating community. WordPress, to a large extent, was used to create itself. I would like to bring that morphic field into Ceptr.
  2. Part of what I bring with WordPress is … what I bring with WordPress … the way I personally create with and use it. I would like to try to demonstrate the difference between engineering a theoretical process vs. a gradual unfolding and emergence of process. This can happen when we enter a cycle in which 1) a tool is being used; 2) the usage provides feedback; 3) the feedback can be converted in short iterations into changing the tool itself.
  3. If the unfolding experience pleases us we can apply it with other online contexts (websites and what not) because WordPress can be used for those too.
  4. WordPress, in my experience, brings with it many subtle assets. If we opt to use it I will try to make a conscious effort to highlight them as we encounter them. This touches on what it truly takes to elevate a technology into a solution.
  5. WordPress is fully open and documented, lock-in to it comes not from it but from the gains and satisfaction of using it. It is not the Hotel California or Google … you can always leave.
  6. WordPress can potentially be an agile, living mockup-tool for us to experiment in what we want collaboration to look like … so that when the time comes we can be better informed about how to build alternatives in Holochain.

Actionables

  1. Review the beginning of this post and reflect on its format as a collaborative tool.
  2. Communicate contents to others who you feel are vested in the next question.
  3. Do you feel you have sufficient information to make a decision about using WordPress to create a collaborative work space? If not, what is missing?
  4. Do you want to move forward with this experiment?
Posted in Ceptr, outside | You are welcome to add your comment

Ceptr CEO

n

A few days ago I was invited to listen in on a conversation where some Ceptr friends tried to deal with questions on organizational structure and whether whatever organizational structure there was needed a CEO and/or COO. I am going to try to zoom in on the CEO question as a reflection on the wider context.

I will start with what wasn’t brought up in the meeting at all: what is a CEO? Because this wasn’t brought up the conversation seemed to gravitate towards an unspoken but conventional assumption of what a traditional CEO (at least in my mind). I would vaguely describe it as someone who is brought in to introduce and sustain structure and order through authority (in this case authority that would be willfully given). Given some of the core narratives that have shaped Ceptr this felt like an inconsistency at least, possibly even a betrayal of values. Ceptr is about creating a technology which evokes dyamic and adaptive self-organization – an idea inspired by nature. I would want to see the organism that is Ceptr live in such a way. A forest doesn’t have a CEO, why does Ceptr need one? Can centralized authority be a foundation for creating a system of distributed authority?

Can there be another kind of CEO? These thoughts are inspired by the work of Frederic Leloux and his work Reinventing Organizations and by some of the inspiration I experienced in the existing examples introduced in Better Companies: Equal Footing.

The primary responsibility of a CEO is to listen to what wants to be. It is not to figure out or decide where an organization needs to go. It is to listen to listen carefully to what an organizations is asking to become. The primary action of a CEO is to direct attention and energy throughout the organization so that it can gracefull move as a whole towards that which wants to be. It isn’t to make sure that everyone is executing a predetermined plan. It is to notice and share with others that by bringing together our wills, resources and gifts we have created emergent conditions and that something is emerging.

Such a CEO cannot exist in a hierarchical and centralized organization. Such a CEO resonates with a different form of organization. If there needs to be a process of recruitment (whether its direct hiring or onboarding) then that process needs to be informed by the emerging story not by some centralized decision about recruitment which falls on the shoulders of one person. If there needs to be a process of funding then that too should not fall upon the shoulders of one person to direct and control, but is shaped to be in service of what wants to emerge. Maybe this CEO is a modern-day shaman-like figure … an intimate keeper of story.

If I look at Ceptr in this context, it already has a defacto CEO. If I try to imagine this defacto CEO being placed in a traditional CEO role, I can see him rejecting that notion … which is what seems to be happening. It goes against his nature. A traditional notion of CEO would undermine him and undermine Ceptr. His rejection of it is an act of leadership. I believe, the challenge we are left with is not to find a CEO, but to find a way to create conditions for an organization to emerge around the CEO we already have.

I would like to also touch lightly on the subject of man/woman. I believe we need to better discern between man/woman and masculine/feminine. I believe we need to give rise to feminine qualities and that confusing that with woman can be distracting. I would very much like to create and partake in an organization that is shaped by a better feminine-masculine mix (to avoid male dominance). I  believe our defacto CEO is a good example of this.

 

 

 

 

Posted in AltEco, Business, Ceptr, Community, outside | You are welcome to read 1 comment and to add yours

Frederic Leloux – Reinventing Organizations

n

I should have posted this a long time ago. I didn’t because I felt that I was too distanced from any organizational work to truly relate and engage with this work. But I have mentioned it numerous times and decided it would be easier for me to have it here as a reference.

This is Frederic Leloux talking about an evolution in thinking about organizations:

 

This is his website where his book is available. The books is also offered in a pay-what-feels-right-after-reading model.

I also noticed that the home page now includes an invitation to make the book freely accessible  “For networks engaged in societal and environmental transformation”.

 

Posted in AltEco, Business, Intake, outside | You are welcome to add your comment

Justin Searls: How to Program

n

I enjoyed this talk by Justin Searls who highlights what should be an obvious subject (for anyone who programs). There is a gap between knowing the semantics of a programming environment and being able to program with it to create something useful. Justin sheds some interesting light on this fundamental subject.

Though I still live in my intimate bubble with software at my fingertips, I am no longer actively involved in any “communal” making of software. When I do program it is because I want to do something and I have no one else who can program for me. Programming is an edgy experience for me. On one hand I appreciate the potential power of programming. On the other hand I don’t like doing it … and this talk touches on a lot of what I don’t like about it. (It is also another indicator to me that Ruby on Rails is … interesting).

How to Program from Test Double on Vimeo.

I am fresh off a year-long, focused programming effort. During this time I explored,  within my own private bubble, applying some of Christopher Alexander’s ideas about unfolding wholeness in the context of creating software. At the heart of Alexander’s view is that to achieve wholeness we need to create wholeness at every step of the way. Nature does not create separate parts which are then assembled into wholes. Am embryo in a womb is always whole, it is never in a temporary state where parts need to come together (fingers are not created and then attached to form a hand).

I found places to apply and express wholeness on many levels …  from code constructs (a single line of code, a function, a class) through to underlying processes and overall design. At every point I aspired to have something whole, sensible and working (even if not necessarily “producing tangible results”). It made me wish I’d known of these ideas when I was involved in software professionaly. I would want to explore these ideas in more depth and in the context of collaborative work.

For me, there is a subtle fault line in Justin’s talk. I sensed it when he qualified some of his choices as “personal preference”, evoking a sense of openness and pluralism instead of asserting “rightness” or “wholeness”. Alexander offers a parallel from his world of architecture using an example of a door. If we say a door is  3 feet wide, 8 feet tall, made of wood, painted green with brass hinges … these “facts” will not be disputed. But if I say that moving the door 3 inches to the left will give the room more life, that will be written off as opinion and just a matter of taste. Alexander’s work is an attempt to show that this is an error. That there is an empirical (thought not necessarily quantifiable) truth there, as true as the “more factual” attributes. If we are to get better at making rooms (or writing code) we need to learn to see and recognize this “wholeness” so that we can get better at creating it.

I feel that unfolding wholeness can be a meta-process that can embrace Justin’s observations and give them a deeper and more profound home.

 

Posted in Intake, Open Source, outside, Tech Stuff | You are welcome to add your comment

Paul Krafel – The Upward Spiral

n

I first came across Paul Krafel in the video of a conversation between Matthew and Arthur, where they mentioned his book Seeing Nature. I paused the video and immediately ordered the book. It felt like it could be a kind of nourishing experience (that is rare and precious) like I had last year reading Christopher Alexander’s The Nature of Order.

Then in one of the online Ceptr meetings, Art mentioned a video edit. When I went searching for it I came across this TED talk:

During my recent conversation with Jarod he mentioned the book again and also pointed me to this video edit that Eric made of a movie Paul Krafel produced. The video and audio quality is poort and it takes effort to overcome it,  but it is well worth the effort of watching. It is to me a precious gift from Ceptr, following closely in the footsteps of Daniel’s Emergence talk.

The rest of this post is written with the Ceptr project in mind and heart. Two clear things emerged for me, in the context of Ceptr, from this initial exposure to the video. The first is about storytelling, the second about breathing.

Cyclic Storytelling

One of my interests in the Ceptr project is to contribute to storytelling … the membrane with which the project meets the world. For me personally, the challenge is how to share Ceptr with others. The spirit of Ceptr is rich and profound, while its current manifestation is technical and complicated. As my interest and potential for involvement with the project increase I find myself wanting to tell others about it and hitting a wall. It is difficult to communicate Ceptr. That aspect of storytelling is well-recognized in the Ceptr team.

As I was watching the video, I realized that this is a one-directional view of story-telling, from the inside out. I believe that for the story-telling to be complete and potent the other direction of flow also needs to be considered. What role does story-telling play when facing inwards? What role does storytelling play in resonating from the outside world into Ceptr? I feel at ease saying this because Ceptr is saturated in storytelling (which is one of the reasons I find it appealing).

My impression is that Ceptr itself was born this way. Ceptr is a child of MetaCurrency. Storytelling seems to have been a key element of MetaCurrency. It is through that story-telling that I discovered MetaCurrency and then Ceptr. I believe that storyelling generated feedback for the team … a storytelling from the outside in. That, in turn, led to the creation of Ceptr.

I believe that the story-telling effort can be just more than “explaining Ceptr to the world” but also about “shaping Ceptr into a story that the world can hear”. Any effort to build something within Ceptr resonates outwards through storytelling. Any effort to tell the story of Ceptr can resonate with feedback into what is being built. This feels to me like a potential spiral worth exploring

Breathing & Wholeness

As I listened to Paul Krafel’s description of the upward spiral that created the natural world, I thought about the sentience of nature and the sentience of human beings. Every water flow, evey fallen leaf, every stone, every beaver is responding to a web of forces acting on and around it and “making a choice” that reflects an integration of all those forces.

Then came to me a question I’ve lived with for some years: how can we (as human beings) learn to live, be and act in the world in this way? Our evolved consciousness can have both an upward and downward spiral effect on how we experience the world. Our evolved consciousness is more susceptible to both confusion and insight.

During my conversation with Jarod we talked about intuition. Robert Pirsig’s words created good context:

“Any person of any philosophic persuasion who sits on a hot stove will verify without any intellectual argument whatsoever that he is in an undeniably low-quality situation; that the value of his predicament is negative. This low quality is not just a vague, woolly headed crypto-religious, metaphysical abstraction. It is an experience. It is not a judgment about an experience. It is not a description of experience … The value itself is an experience … It is verifiable by anyone who cares to do so. It is reproducible. Of all experience it is the least ambiguous, least mistakable there is … Later the person may generate some oaths to describe this low value, but the value will always come first, the oaths second.”

Robert Pirsig – Lila: An Inquiry into Morals

For the last few years I’ve had the privilege of being in what I like to call my “Yogurt Practice.” My first few years living in the village were demanding and required that much be done, sometimes with urgency, to make basic living possible. After that first stretch I found myself at a doorway to a new kind of experience. I was able to ask myself “what do you want to do now?” and only do things I wanted to do. Yes, wood needs to be chopped by winter, but there can be plenty of time to do it so I can only do it when I want to.

And so I settled into a practice.Constantly asking myself what I want and listening for answers (sitting on a hot stove). Learning to discern between those answers and my opinions about them, opinions that can appear in a blink of an eye, so close to the answers that it can be difficult to discern between the answer and my thoughts about them. Finally, acting on those answers (sometimes going against my better judgement of them).

The Yogurt example is one event that demonstrates the nature of this practice. I was filling a wheel-barrow with some wood-bark to move it from a pile into place to be used as mulch. The barrow was half-full when a question appeared “What do you want?”, followed by an answer “Yogurt.” Sure enough, thoughts quickly came: Yogurt? really? now? that simple? I can go to the fridge and get some yogurt … but maybe finish just this wheel-barrow and then … When the thoughts had passed I still had access to the original answer, left the wheel-barrow, took off my gloves and went to have Yogurt.

Living this way is  fascinating experience. To constantly witness a gap between cutting-edge experiences and answers, and the echoes of thought processes that follow. I am exploring trusting and following that edge of experience – my intuitive voice. I believe it is a voice of integration of the kind of rocks and grass and fallen leaves. Though it sometimes seems to be in contradiction with my “reasonable thought processes”, I believe it integrates them too.

I have found that waiting to want requires patience and trust (that wanting will come, what laziness will not emerge, etc.); that when I act from wanting I act with more clarity, motivation and vitality; that I do get around to doing everything that needs to be done; that I do not get around to everything that I think I want to do; that the overall rhythm is finely tuned to me; that I get a lot more done then I think I can; that the things that in retrospect the things that don’t get done didn’t need to.

Christopher Alexander describes a “Fundamental Differentiating Process” that describes how he believes living things come into being. This is the closest description I’ve found to what rocks, grass, leaves and beavers “do”. To me it resonates strongly with the Paul Krafel’s observations:

  1. At any given moment in a process, we have a certain partially evolved state of a structure. This state is described by the wholeness: the system of centers, and their relative nesting and degrees of life.
  2. We pay attention as profoundly as possible to this WHOLENESS – its global, large-scale order, both actual and latent.
  3. We try to identify the sense in which this structure is weakest as a whole, weakest in its coherence as a whole, most deeply lacking in feeling.
  4. We look for the latent centers in the whole. These are not those centers which are robust and exist strongly already; rather they are centers which are dimly present in a weak form, but which seem to us to contribute to or cause the current absence of life in the whole.
  5. We then choose one of these latent centers to work on. It may be a large center, or middle-sized, or small.
  6. We use one or more of the fifteen structure-preserving transformations, singly or in combination, to differentiate and strengthen the structure in its wholeness.
  7. As a result of the differentiation which occurs, new centers are born. The extent of the fifteen properties which accompany creation of new centers will also take place.
  8. In particular we shall have increased the strength of parallel centers; and we shall also have increased the strength of smaller centers. As a whole, the structure will now, as a result of this differentiation, be stronger and have more coherence and definition as a living structure.
  9. We test to make sure that this is actually so, and that the presumed increase of life has actually taken place.
  10. We also test that what we have done is the simplest differentiation possible, to accomplish this goal in respect of the center that is under development.
  11. When complete, we go back to the beginning of this cycle, and apply the same process again.

The greatest challenge, I have expereinced, to applying such a process is my ability to perceive wholeness. I believe that wholeness is that which is brought to me in my “Yogurt practice”. It is something that I place more in the realm of “somewhere I arrive” instead of “somewhere I can go” … or “something that happens to me” instead of “something I do”. However I do believe that the odds of “me arriving” or “it happening” can be improved 🙂

I believe that much of what I was taught and practice in Yoga supported me in this direction. It is in that spirit that I offer the Ceptr residency program a practice of breathing. It it something I believe I can offer effectively remotely and is closest to my gifts and my heart. My wish is to:

  1. Create a shared opening where fundamental breathing technique can be introduced.
  2. To offer personal guidance to individuals who wish to experience a systemic yet magical evolution and change in their practice over the residency period.
  3. To periodically connect as a group and talk about the experience of breathing.

 

Posted in Ceptr, Enjoy, Expanding, inside, outside | You are welcome to add your comment