If it aint documented...
it aint science
A few things about this web site so that it does not drive you totally crazy.
It is a work in progress. And, it is very much a part time job. Pieces are posted long before they are complete - then worked and reworked. In fact, of the 100 plus essays you will find on this site as of May 2000, only a few are market done. You will see items put in as place-holders. This means that I wanted to connect to something but did not have the time to finish it. To wait, would risk losing the connection.
This site does have a specific mission - and this mission requires that its content be published real time in whatever state it it is in and then taken through many iterations of refinement.
I design by a method I learned a long time ago from Frank Lloyd Wright. He told us to conceive of the building totally in the mind before committing to paper - then put it into form. This method requires thinking things through in the fluid, adaptable mind-space where iteration and change comes easily. After it is formed, this concept then has to be recreated into some medium. The medium will change and collaborate with the process of unfolding the idea. The human will, knife and wood interaction leading to emergence that every true artist knows. This is not a casual sometimes method - it is a discipline, a way of working that is embedded into almost all the work processes I use and have created.
In our Modeling Language, we call this the 4 step Re-Creation Process.
No matter how clear the idea in mind-space, the media of its manifestation - any media - will alter and co-evolve the result. Use a different media and the result will be different - sometimes in profound ways. Selecting the media to work in is an important decision in the creative process.
When I design, it is totally clear in my mind before I start and a complete surprise as it unfolds on paper or electronic screen - or, in a DesignShop, a building, a dialog. This recreation is essential in all stages of the 4 Step model - it must govern if an idea is to get better through development and use. Without recreation, it degrades.
Consequently, I sign these articles by the time and place that I first thought them through. I then work on them, iteratively, at different times and places as my energy and calendar allows. I post them on the site when I need a link or a place holder, when they have been developed enough to have some value, or I just need to see them in the context of all the rest. Sometimes I get good feedback from readers this way that further facilitates the process of design evolution and completion. I am a visual thinker with a strong verbal subsystem. I am very eclectic in my thinking. The relationship between things is as important to me than the things themselves. Space is the real object of architecture - not the things in the space.
I always 3 Cat my way to solutions. The real content of this web site is not each piece (unrelated to each other). It is to be found in the connection between the pieces. It is the dialog that I have with myself - writing it, and that you have with yourself - reading it. No dialog, no content - just low level information that will, most likely, lead one astray. Data is data. Data organized is information. Information in context of a model, a purpose and action is knowledge.
It will be a long time from now before this site reaches critical-mass. Now, it is easy to get a distorted view of what I am saying. Everything is connected to everything else and a critical level of context has to be established before any one piece can approach an accurate account of anything. However, as the site develops and as many, many links are added, it will begin to create a field - that with proper exploration on your part - will start to say something significantly different than the common and popular world view found in what is called the real world of present society. If this is achieved, I will have accomplished a big part of my mission for producing this web site.
Context, in this media, can only be established by the writing - and reading - placing visual materials and looking - and, by the linking of several pieces, objects and graphics to others. It adds up to mostly nothing except for your thinking about it and connecting it to your own experience. Such is life.
At this point (May 2000), this site is more likely to misinform than inform. However, there is value - along with risk - in putting it out real-time.
Because this is a working site, as well as, a documentation, I use it to deliver specific content to those I work with and those who are interested in what we do. It is impossible to reach a large community-of-work with large amounts of information using only one-on-one methods. This site, and the connections to the MG Taylor, AI, CAMELOT, iterations, Yolke and KnOwhere web pages, helps me get the basics established once using the same materials over and over as context and content for many - very different - situations. Of course, this is only one step in a communication loop - but useful. None of this replaces one-on-one dialog. It is a process that supports a larger process. All together, there are several reams of information on these site if you were to print it all out. As imperfect and incomplete as it is, there is a great deal of content.
Even given the limitations of this media, I do get a bit annoyed when, at the beginning of work, someone says now what do you do? I do expect this material to be used and I put considerable effort into making it as rich as possible. This is my brochure, my read-ahead, my book. Before meeting and working with someone - if sent to me - I read their book or other materials. I study their approach, methods and philosophy as much as possible. I come prepared to engage with them from that base. Not to do this, to me is impolite and a great waste of time. I expect the same in return.
You can also think of this web site, for those of like mind - as an invitation to play. There are many projects that will require many creative players. How you play, of course, is up to you. Like most people, I play by a set of rules - unlike many people my rules are very clear to me. There are many opportunities present throughout this web site - and some take a little digging to get at. There is a reason for this, of course.
In this way, my site develops as the result of a push-pull dynamic. A dialog between what I want to talk about and what my current activities require that I do focus on. So, it is a history looking back tying the past to today, and, it is a documentation of today going forward and linking with many possible futures. Life is emergent - a non linear exploration. Both the future and the past can make sense (because they can be conceptually organized) but the present rarely does. The process of trying to make sense of it all is an important activity, however, - no matter the results. The why is critical - even if elusive. Working on this web site is usually the last thing I do at night and the first thing I do in the morning. I work on what is reasonable given what is happening in my life. Sometimes, I indulge myself and work on what appeals to me most even if it does not relate to currant activities in some practical way. This is, for me, a form of invention, documentation and meditation.
Each piece, at the bottom, states its own percent of completion. In addition to this measure of stand-alone-completeness, of course, is the factor of critical mass - the number of nodal connections (links) required to properly frame each statement. I claim that it takes a large number before proper framing is accomplished. The more links, the more places to go to that add both context and content. Added to your own experience and thinking, it may sum up to something.
If things are not framed, then careful, accurate, useful messaging becomes difficult - if not impossible. Messaging is not communication but is necessary to it. Messaging is like a good drawing - it wont guarantee you a great building but is sure helps the process. The message, of course, becomes information and knowledge when you do something with it. Later, there will be a place of this web site for you to feedback what you have done with what you have found here.
The problem with many real-time, un-facilitated dialogs is that the starting dynamic can arbitrarily set the range of the result. They tend to go off randomly on one track that does not necessarily add up. The written word is better, in this regard, because time-space can be handled differently. However, the written word can be too linear and restricted. This is where Hypertext comes into its own - I encourage you to use it extensively with this site and with other opportunities. There are thousands of links in, to and from this site - and when used, many new connections and meanings will emerge that exceed the foresight of myself or others.
No work is done in a vacuum. It has to be taken in an environment like it was created in. If you read the pages of this book top to bottom, without following the many eddies and trails, you will be deprive yourself of most of the potential value in the experience. If you read a given piece only once, you will miss many opportunities - and many revisions.
All this says that you will have to go back and review old materials, often, to get the most from them - most likely the essays, themselves, will be different - surly, new links and related articles will provide new richness. This is a good thing because the you that reads today will not be the you that reads tomorrow. I am often amused when someone says I read that book when I was 18 and did not get much. (Or did). What might be the experience today - 30 years later? Most people follow a life process that is one years experience 40 times. The trick is to have (at least) 40 years experience 40 times. This is accomplished by rigorous review and iteration of prior experiences.
The me who experienced what is documented here and made the designs shown, is not the me that is building this web page today. I try to speak in the voice of that time, of course - but that is not really possible. I never saw this stuff before, either. It is not by accident that Gails and my new enterprise is called iterations.
The same is true for you, of course. We all have a sense of continuity in our lives - a sense of self that goes from day-to-day and year-to year. The reality is that this is mostly illusion. We change. We change a great deal more than we think. The trap of a sense of continuity is that we often do not realize and make the best use of that change. This is one of the values of personal documentation. It is essential to science and the design of complex systems. It is even more essential to conducting a life.
The brain changes about 20 minutes after an experience. Every thought you have is thought somewhere. Every node on the virtual network - is somewhere. Every thought changes the architecture of your brain. Thinking is a physical experience. Memory is a linkage of many new and old experiences - a network of associations. Any valid system of thinking has to take this into account. Any effective self-directed process of learning has to be built around this. The architecture of how we communicate with each other should do likewise. The structure of how we build organizations should also reflect this architecture.
By participating in this site - as I develop it - is one way of getting into my personal creative process. This is a place where my past work, future goals and present processes, merge. This place, because of the nature of my purpose is an intimate space - this kind of sharing is very personal.
Doing this site this way creates a certain tug and pull with myself. Should I go for a few postings, slower - all well worked out? Develop for critical mass and range at sacrifice to more polished writing? Is time better spent putting in the years of backlogged, unpublished material - or, the contemporary stuff? What about neatness, good editing and proper spelling versus more content, sooner? Risk getting something so unconnected or underdeveloped and posted too soon - and, thus, misleading - or be safe and maybe miss the opportunity to get something important into play in real-time. In the doing of it, these decision have to be balanced - more important than all the rest, this has to be fun and it has to provide value. Every life ever lived has value - it has aspects that are totally unique and non-repeatable. Each of us are stewards of those totally personal aspects of our experience. They go when we go. The www is humankinds experience-base. In time, it will be made up of billions of people constructing a vast Earth Library. When billions are on the web, economics as we know it will be forever altered.
The architecture of this site makes for some unacceptably long download times for many readers. Some of this I will fix by spending more time reworking the site architecture from time to time. Some of this can be improved by creating alternative gateways that will allow direct access to specifically targeted places. I will do these things as the site develops. However, I suspect, the the volume of this site and the minimal required complexities of it, will grow faster than any improvements.
Therefore, this environment assumes late-model Browsers and very fast access times. I have access to my server through a T1 line at KnOwhere and a DSN line at home. Except when I am traveling, when I have to use phone lines or a wireless modem, speed is not an issue for me.
When on a slow line, I connect and then go do something else while the site loads. Once that is done, the rest works fairly fast. Remember, if you are going back to a specific article or looking for something that I have asked you to access, you can always scroll down to the linking work, icon or button and click on it before the site finishes its initial download. Also, when going back to something to remember to use the refresh button - the piece may have been changed and your browser may, otherwise, give you the old version.
No matter, this site assumes fast connect times and computers with large memories. There is no getting around it. For $75 a month you can have a lighting fast machine and very fast connect speeds. As time goes on, more sites will assume you have the equipment and design to these higher standards. It is the cost of playing. It is better to drive an old car but not a computer that is a year behind the curve - the information highway is far more demanding than its namesake. Soon, there will be video clips and three dimensional spaces. It goes on.
Since this is not a data base, my standard is not how well information is organized (by some commonly accepted principle) and easy to access. In fact, just the opposite. Organizing schemes are efficient but often obstruct exploration and serendipity. In time (even now!) you will find there is stuff buried away. There is usually, however, several paths to each piece. This is deliberate. You have to find your own way around. I hope this will lead to some pleasant surprises and unexpected outcomes. In the end, this is not about me. It is about you - or more precisely, the unique experience you will have exploring this site. This book has many ways to be read. In time, the site will organize more like the mind that creates it then that of an imposed linear, sequential structure. I believe that this is the only way that I can achieve my purpose. This site becomes a network of nodes in a larger network of nodes. An analog of the human mind, itself, and the larger human society of which we are a part. These networks within networks make a new place and a new economy.
Like all systems, all technology, this new economy runs by a set of rules. Kevin Kelly has done a great job of outlining some of these rules. He provides a guidebook to a new, emerging land. New kinds of enterprises will evolve by both adapting to and changing this landscape - co-evolution will predominate.
Kellys Rules may, in the end, be superseded by better insights. Today, they are the best distillation of a subject that we have been studying and actively engaged in for over 25 years. I use them to as a check list to test against everything we do.
A few words about finding your way around my part of this network. You can, of course, go directly from page-to-page by following the URLs and links. You can use the Navigation Bar provided (http://www.matttaylor.com) . It is this piece that requires the longest (initial) download.
Typical Navigation Table
The Navigation Bar is divided in to a number of sections as illustrated above. Each has a subject or theme. There is usually a Title, a graphic and one or two horizontal name bars and the three vertical bars on the right. In this case, 5 of the 7 areas are linked to some article, space or other web-site. You have to use your cursor to discover which are - or not - linked. Remember, it will change!
Soon, I will be providing some interactive areas where dialogs can take place using conferencing software.
Several parts of this site are password protected areas and confidential. I ask you to respect these proprietary areas and not to hack them. If you do, a bunch of people will be unhappy and their lawyers will be interested. If you want access to one of these areas, e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org - if appropriate, you will be given a password. These and other features will develop, organically, in time.
You will find that I error on the side of maximum disclosure of information - even stuff that many would keep private. One reason this can be done is that our community has taken the effort to define and protect our Intellectual Property. Some think that because something is published it is, therefore, not protected. Not true. The reason for IP is so that it can be published and shared without the owner being at risk. We want our work to become ubiquitous. We also want to participate in how this is done and share the rewards of its value.
One more thing. I am approaching this work with a high level of personal candor. I have had an unusual life and it continues to evolve towards the creative fringes. Like any explorer, I bring back discoveries that may be useful to some. In my case, creativity - both the theory of it and the practice of it - has stood at the root of everything that I have done. Consequently, few things go unchallenged. I simply do not accept many constraints as givens - as immutable, unchangeable. This makes me good at what I do - it also make me, now and then... annoying (some have used stronger terms). I am not really concerned about what you end up believing - or even what you end up doing. This is your choice. I am very concerned that hidden design assumptions get challenged - mine and yours. It is my experience that this is essential to good design. It is also my experience that a proper design process usually leads to a useful end. You will find that I am very consistent with this point of view - in both theory and practice.
Because I believe experience is everything, I am, of course, reporting my experience. For this to mean anything at all, it is necessary to reveal things that many would be reluctant to publish. It often means being critical of something that you may hold sacred, or important. I will mention people, organizations and activities of which I am only a part. Of course, I will protect confidentiality, but offer my view of things where possible and appropriate. It is important that you remember that those I mention (individuals and organizations) have their own - and often different - reasons, purposes and viewpoints. It may be important to you to check out these vantage points directly, yourself. Each of us has our own slice of reality. It takes many slices to add up to something useful. Criticism, to be useful at all has to follow certain steps. I work to be consistent on this point also.
Most of us spend a great deal of our time doing business. Much of this business is transactional in nature and does not involve a great deal of general exploration or the explicit sharing of desires and values. This is usually appropriate for this 6th Stage of the Creative Process. However, the pressure of day-to-day business can slowly cause the loss of context and human sensibilities. Too many live and breathe and stay locked in this one modality. In our work, Gail and I do everything we can to bring a larger perspective and values back into the learning and planning processes. This is always important but critical in times like these. Getting caught in one - any one - Stage of the Creative Process is how good people do bad things. Organizing in functional ghettoes is how organizations, of essentially good people, become destructive to life.
In addition, different kinds of work require different environments. What is a proper environment for design is not proper for project management of corporate decision making. This is why the environment has to easily shift to facilitate the many modes the modern knowledge Worker actually employs.
Please take all this in the spirit in which it is offered. The objective is learning. Please remember that I am, basically, a shy person and a private one. I reveal things here, not because I like to expose myself, but because there may be something useful to be gained. Be responsible for how you read this and how you use it. There were a number of highly accomplished individuals who shared freely with me what they had learned in their lifetime of work and play. Frank Lloyd Wright, Ayn Rand, C.S. Forester, Bruce Goff, Bucky Fuller to name a few - there were, of course, many others - never having achieved the same level of brand-equity - whose name would mean little to you. But, nevertheless, they left an indelible mark on me. Bud Gilmore stands high in this class - so does Max Stormes. They gave unguardedly. They provided me with a glimpse of the me that I myself could choose... and become. Without them, my life would have been greatly impoverished. Without them, I would have started from a much lower base. They were my true mentors - my intellectual fathers and mothers.
This web site is one way of passing the favor on. Doing this, may be more important than all the rest of it...
SolutionBox voice of this document:
posted January 16, 1999
revised July 2, 2000
(note: this document is about 98% finished)
copyright© 1999, 2000