Glacial Erratics

Blue Oxen Vision

April 13, 2003

I was recently in California for the Blue Oxen launch party. As one of the cofounders of the organization, I was expected to participate in a presentation given to the party guests. In the presentation we hoped to give an overview of where we were coming from and where we hoped to go. To prepare, and clear my head for things more practical, I wrote the below on the airplane on the way out to California. Due to sickness, a busy schedule, other flavors of chaos and what basically amounts to an unfortunate lack of guts on my part much of the message below did not make it into the presentation. This remains a fairly accurate statement of what motivates me and what I hope Blue Oxen can achieve.    (0000D8)

We live in a time when the decisions of our governments are made outside any appreciation for reasoned and reasonable consensus. Information is delivered to us, packaged, shiny, and full of persuasive power but often lacking in the awareness of past, present and future required to make wise, lasting and honorable decisions.    (0000D9)

I am tired of this. I'm tired of feeling powerless and listening to my self, my friends and my colleagues, filled with good ideas, swing in and out of a lonely and ineffectual desperation.    (0000DA)

While it took me some time realize it, helping to start Blue Oxen is my small way of saying I've had enough, it's time to do something. I'm here to suggest that we can make the better world we believe is possible: one where people truly communicate and communicate truly, one where ideas are shared, one where the goodness that is our nature is allowed to emerge, in concert with one another, our neighbors down the street and our neighbors around the world.    (0000DB)

I want Blue Oxen to catch and enhance the building wave of people who have acknowledged that sharing ideas, openly and frankly, is a creative force for improving the world and for motivating action. I seek not a free marketplace of ideas, but a free community of people collaborating to create and refine new thought.    (0000DC)

Collaboration is a fully buzzword compliant term these days yet it is still an undefined discipline. Eugene and I connected over a casually tossed phrase that I made in response to the question of what is augmentation for. I said, "To make me less dumb." It's now several months later and while I still believe this is an important aspect of what collaboration is for, my close association with Eugene and the members of our first collaboratory and the looser collaboration with disparate voices discovered by the simple act of making some noise has revealed a larger focus: Less dumbness emerges from open communication.    (0000DD)

When the internet reached the public, it was hailed as a compelling democratizing force. The power of personal publishing was going to alter the face of society. It didn't quite happen like that. I remember being disillusioned as the significance of my own web server faded in the face of the shine, the gloss and the money of centralized media.    (0000DE)

We are, today, thanks to motivated and idealistic people, in a new phase of enthusiasm. Systems such as weblogs and wikis and the developing genre of social software are birthing dynamic social networks that produce new understandings. In and of themselves these tools are nothing, it is the people who use them and what they do with them that matters. People are exploring, communicating, generating and accepting feedback; using their freedom to generate more freedom.    (0000DF)

I want Blue Oxen to be an experimental gardener in this realm. Our task is to participate in the discovery, engenderment, development, evolution and facilitation of the patterns of behavior and process—and the tools the patterns use—that bring the ecology of collaborative evolution we need as a society. Our challenge is to see that the communication facilitated by collaborative systems continues, stays open, and creates artifacts that are accessible and reusable by others. Openness leads to shared and knowledgeable understanding, shared understanding leads to shared goals. Goals lead to motivation and motivation leads to action. Let's do what we can.    (0000DG)


On April 14, 2003 01:52 AM poupou said:

I'll buy *that* for a dollar! Give me seven shares! Or something.

I promise I am not reading weblogs but am instead working on a draft.

On April 14, 2003 01:56 AM Chris said:

Hey, you got a first run t-shirt. You're a member of a select group.

On April 18, 2003 12:36 PM Tom Munnecke said:

Great stuff, and I like the passion you express, but I wonder if you aren't banging against an open door. There already is tremendous self-expression and adaptation of the democratic process via the web... look at has done, for example.

Regarding the "becoming less dumb" phrase, this strikes me a little like "trying to stop thinking about pink elephants." Being guided by what you want to stop is a recipe for great frustration. People have been forming communities, trust, identity, and collaboration for millenia; the problem with most technologies is that they get in the way of this collaboration. We descend into the cynical "tragedy of the commons" thinking rather than a "jubilation of the commons" which is the necessary way out, I think.

To do so would require a "flip" in thinking. Rather than designing specific tools to fight specific problems, I think we should imagine ourselves supporting a speech community which aligns the core values desired of the community. Things which further these core values would thrive. just a different perspective... hope to apply these to the Imagine Iraq Uplift Community

On April 18, 2003 12:38 PM Tom Munnecke said:

somehow the URL for the Uplift Community got lost; it is    (0000M3)