Author: Nollind Whachell

What Do We Care About The Most?

More and more people always say that the Web is conversations about things that we care about. I wondered today what is the thing that we care about the most. My answer was that I thought that we cared about each other the most.

I found this quite ironic though considering how much we as a society are pushing each other apart. We all seem to be screaming for comfort and companionship from each other and yet, at the same time, we are yelling at each other to be left alone.

Forest, World, Web

Tree -> Forest
Person -> World
Site -> Web

Walking through the UBC Endowment Lands today, I had a strange vision. Each tree in the forest in front of me was replaced by a person and all of those people together were the world. Immediately the vision changed again, instead of trees in the forest in front of me, I saw each tree as a website which together made up the Web. Everything seemed connected in small pieces loosely joined and yet this loose union enabled some pretty amazing things.

Yentl Is So Wise

Hehe, ok this is hilarious because I found this bit of information off of a joke link on Boing Boing that said if you don’t like the content matter on their site then just go read Barbara Streisand’s news statements. Hilarious I know but I found this quote below by her which I found quite relevant to what I’m talking about.

I love information, but I’m afraid of the information age – too much information and not enough spiritual growth to handle it. I’m still afraid our technology is more advanced than our hearts. There’s something lacking now – this gap, this void between technology and compassion.

I’m hoping that our cultural values, the things that we care about the most, can hopefully change this and give our technology the heart it needs.

Anyways I’m off to watch Yentil, The Way We Were, Hello Dolly!, Funny Girl, and A Star Is Born. Laters! 🙂

More Realizations of Small Pieces

It’s strange. I’ve been thinking more about David Weinberger’s book title of Small Pieces Loosely Joined and its relationship to other things I’m observing and realizing. I’ve already mentioned that I think posting small pieces of thoughts loosely joined initially is a better approach to take in this journal because it keeps my thought flow going, whereas if I focused on organizing a solid idea it would take longer to structure properly and thus slow me down. It is interesting that a lot of writers today are also using this same approach very effectively (including David with his book).

Now here’s where it gets slightly strange. I’m noticing comparisions to other things that emulate this same approach. A person could be no better of an example of this. So many people today in social settings are asked what they do for a living and then others define that person by their job. This couldn’t be further from the truth. A person is defined by many things, not just their job. I think this causes stereotyping too much and yet it always interesting to see peoples shocked reaction when they notice a female store clerk reading The Prince by Machiavelli instead of reading People magazine. People are diverse beings. Never underestimate them and what they can offer you and the world.

Nature is another perfect example of small pieces loosely joined. Diversity is natures greatest attribute as it allows it to sustain itself and grow. I remember watching a show by David Suzuki where he stated that the areas of forest with more diversity of life (i.e. animal, plant, insect) within it always regrew faster after a fire compared to areas that were less diverse. It makes a lot of sense though as it follows the don’t put all your eggs in one basket approach. The more diverse your assets and abilities, the more likely you’ll survive and overcome obstacles that may come your way. It is kind of strange though that we avoid using our collective diversity as a way of overcoming the world’s problems though when it may actually be our greatest strength.

Random Thoughts on a Web-like Business

So how would a business work and act if its culture matched that of the Web? Let’s see if I can dump some of these ideas down.

Some people (aka “management”) decide to create a business to pursue an idea that they are passionate about. They look for other people (aka “employees”) who are as passionate as they are to help them achieve their vision. Everyone cares about everyone else in this endeavour because they are all passionate about the idea which unifies them.

People are found who are as passionate and have excellent ideas to pursue the idea. They are treated as equals and trusted because they share the same passion about the idea.

No matter what a person’s background or knowledge, everyone’s diverse input is valued and appreciated.

The business is the collective idea pursued by the people. The people represent the business idea instead of the business idea representing the people. Therefore, in communicating with the business, people talk to other people (not to the “business”). These people pursuing this idea have diverse backgrounds and interests just like you and me. People outside of the business see those inside of the business as real people and trust them because they have shared information with them as well. The business website just describes the collective idea that the people of the business are working upon. People outside of the business can discover more about these people by visiting their individual sites.

Each person pursuing this business idea may be pursuing other business ideas at the same time. Each person shares and helps not only each business idea they are pursuing but the entire world as well because they share their ideas with everyone. Therefore, no single business idea benefits at the expense of another or can be controlled. By sharing, all benefit together and all collectively “own” the idea so that others can experiment and build upon it.

More to come but going to take a break for a bit.

The Web as a Business

Feeling, Caring, Loving, Passionate, Open, Trusting, Flexible, Equal, Whole, Connected, Shared, Diverse

The Web is successful as a business because it is a system which workings are rarely seen. Instead what is seen is the people and their creations which make the business so successful. The Web is like a coach on the sidelines providing support to the team to help it achieve its goals. The collaborative effort of the people and their content, however, are what are seen the most. Most important of all though is that the realization that one cannot exist without the other. Leaders need followers just as much as followers need leaders. Both have a common vision, dream, or goal that they wish to achieve and by working together collaboratively as equals and trusting one another, they can achieve it.

Small Thoughts Loosely Joined

Haha, I can’t believe this! I just realized something else in creating my last post. I was getting frustrated because I was having these other ideas but wanted to get my last post finished first before I continued on. This is very linear thinking and makes it difficult to progress before gathering and structuring your thoughts.

What I realized I was doing wrong though was that I was taking too big of a bite with regards to what I was talking about. Instead I realized, I should be focusing on and posting my thoughts as they happen, without expanding on different ideas. For example, my last post focused on three different groups of ideas. I really should have broken it down into three posts so that I could interject other posts in between them that deal with other topics. Instead though, I felt I had to finish all three posts before I could proceed.

In other words, smaller is better (i.e. baby steps). Or put in more relevant words, small bite-sized pieces of an idea can be loosely joined one after the other and then later organized into a more structured cohesive idea. Quite appropriate considering David Weinberger’s book of the same name.

The Culture of Startups

Holy crap! I just discovered another article (via Asterisk) entitled What Business Can Learn From Open Source. Why I’m so excited is that this is SO CLOSE to what I’ve been searching for with regards to defining the culture of the Web. While the article talks about things from an open source perspective, what I found interesting was how often comparisons were made to how startups work. This got me very excited because I’ve realized a couple months back that I would prefer working for a startup company if I could get the chance. I wasn’t really sure why but after reading this article, everything makes perfect sense. It is the culture of startup that I crave so much because it fits in with what I desire and more importantly what I can offer (which is something that a normal company probably wouldn’t be interested in).

Feeling / Caring / Loving / Passionate

As I mentioned in my last post, I strongly believe that feeling emotional about something gives you a greater feeling of connectedness with others.

That’s why the business world was so surprised by one lesson from open source: that people working for love often surpass those working for money.

This has already been mentioned in numerous business magazines (i.e. Fast Company) as the golden key to the future of business. If you can obtain passionate employees who care about what they are doing, then you can achieve almost anything. There is one big obstacle to this though. The existing culture of the business. I don’t know how many times I’ve seen companies looking for “passionate dynamic creative people”, yet I just laugh my ass off because once they get inside the company that person will be put literally into a cubicle box with rules that state not to “step outside of it” if they want to be considered a “good employee”. Bullshit! Good employees are those who push the boundaries of the company because they do care about it. If they didn’t care about it then they wouldn’t say anything because they don’t care what happens to the company. Therefore, businesses that want passionate people need to be easy-going enough to let their employees be passionate.

Open / Trusting / Flexible / Equal

Trust is a crucial component in any relationship. If trust isn’t there, then more often than not the relation will never last that long. Once people trust someone, they let down their guard and be themselves. They open up about themselves and are more flexible with that person because every relationship has some give and take. If all you are doing is taking though, then once again, the relationship will probably not last that long.

Things are different in a startup. Often as not a startup begins in an apartment. Instead of matching beige cubicles they have an assortment of furniture they bought used. They work odd hours, wearing the most casual of clothing. They look at whatever they want online without worrying whether it’s “work safe.” The cheery, bland language of the office is replaced by wicked humor. And you know what? The company at this stage is probably the most productive it’s ever going to be.

This is so true! I remember when I first started working with the web firm that I used to work for. We worked in a slightly seedy part of town out of a long single-roomed apartment that we nicknamed the “submarine” because it was long and slightly dark with a set of windows at end. The feeling working within this environment was incredible! Since we were all in the same room, it gave this incredible feeling of togetherness. You could pretty much overhear any conversation going on and you could jump in if it interested you. Even more so, everyone helped out with what needed to be done and you never really thought about people’s titles since we really didn’t use them unless a client needed one. We were just a group of people who enjoyed working together creating things and solving problems. It was such an amazing experience that I even remembered commenting to one of the owners of the company that “I enjoy working so much here, that if I win millions in the lottery, I’m still going to show up for work.” Can you imagine the feeling I must have had to have said that? Can you imagine every single person who has a job today having that same sort of feeling? The productivity, creativity, and innovation that would be achieved in the world would be incredible.

Whole / Connected / Shared / Diverse

When I’m writing or hacking I spend as much time just thinking as I do actually typing. Half the time I’m sitting drinking a cup of tea, or walking around the neighborhood. This is a critical phase— this is where ideas come from— and yet I’d feel guilty doing this in most offices, with everyone else looking busy. Working in crappy informal spaces is one of the things startups do right without realizing it. As soon as you get into an office, work and life start to drift apart.

That is one of the key tenets of professionalism. Work and life are supposed to be separate. But that part, I’m convinced, is a mistake.

Again this makes perfect sense and it reveals a lot of why I’ve been so frustrated lately. I’ve been fooling around with various business ideas but everything I start working on doesn’t feel right, as though something is missing. I may come up with an interesting idea but it feel lifeless and disconnected in some way when I try to put it together. The same problem happens when I focus on a more personal site. Something feels like it is missing. Now I realize what it is. I am the missing ingredient! A person isn’t just their job and a person isn’t just their personal life. A person is like a gem with many faceted sides, all working together to create something unique and wonderful. The Web is the same way. It is owned by no one person, instead it is shared and collaborated upon by many. This complexity and diversity is what makes each person and the Web itself special.

Feeling Connected – The Sequel

Doh! <slaps forehead> How could I be such an idiot? I was thinking about what I said in my last post about “Feeling Connected” and was remembering back to a comment I’d made on a website about gaming culture, about how emotions are a strong element of the word cinematic (i.e. movie-like). Then I started thinking about stories and wondered what is the core element of a store that connects us. I realized it isn’t the story itself. The story needs an ingredient for that connection to occur. Think about it. If I told a story about how I went to the corner store to grab a litre of milk, you’d be like “Who cares!”. Exactly. Yet, when thousands of people shared their stories about 9/11, it was the emotions that raged through those stories that connected people all around the world and make them care. We shared in their sorrow and loss emotionally. Of course the icing on the cake is when I looked at my subject title for my last post which was “Feeling Connected”. When I saw “feeling” in this instance, it isn’t referring to “touching” something, it is referring to the emotional feelings inside of us. So when I say I’m “feeling connected” to everyone around the world, I’m really saying I’m feeling “emotionally” connected with everyone. Our emotions are what connect us the most because emotions (such as love) create the greatest invisible bonds or connections between each of us.

So how are these emotional connections made? Well, I think pretty much as I said in my last post. It is almost as though when we hear a story that stirs our emotions, this virtual holodeck is created in our imagination which make us share the experience within the story. It is the same thing that happens when we watch a great movie. Here’s my comment from the website on gaming culture captures what I’m trying to say here and wraps it up nicely.

If you’ve ever read a really great book or watched an incredible movie, ask yourself what made you enjoy it so much? For me it is not just the vividness of the environment that is being relayed but more importantly it is the emotional connections that are created between myself and the medium. It is these emotional connections that put me in the shoes of my hero because emotionally I’ve been in the same situation he or she may be put in. The only difference is usually the scope of the conflict. I may face dissention from a group of co-workers and have to win back their support, whereas he may face dissention among the crew of his pirate ship and have to win back their support. Different scope, same emotions.

Again let me refer to what I said yesterday about the difference between having sex and making love because again this is a perfect example. Having sex is like a story without an emotional element, whereas making love is a story with a deep emotional element to it. And I think this is why I’m having this “empty” feeling with regards to the Web right now. I’m not finding very many “emotional connections” on the Web right now and thus it isn’t giving me the meaning I’m looking for. If we could create connections that someone contain deep emotional meaning for us all though, then I think the Web would finally make us all truly “feel” connected instead of justing being connected. The final question is what is required to create these emotional connections? Do we just need to change our content and structure it to create these emotional connections or does it require a technological evolution of the Web to achieve this?

Oh, one last thought. Remember I said I couldn’t understand why I feel so connected out in nature, all alone? Well, if we look at emotions as being the ingredient for this state of connectedness, then it fits in perfectly. I “feel” connected within nature because of all the emotions I am having within it which in turn makes me feel connected with everyone else.

Feeling Connected

I just want to put this down before I forget about it. I’ve been noticing something very strange lately. Basically the more time I spend on the computer because I’m hungering for that “connection” with others on this planet, the less connected I actually feel. In effect, our world is more connected than it has ever been, yet people are more disconnected than they have ever been. Why?

And what is more amazing is how come it has been this way for so long, yet nothing has seemed to change? You see Charlie Chaplin hinted at this in his Final Speech of The Great Dictator back in 1940 before computers and the Web really took off.

We have developed speed but we have shut ourselves in: machinery that gives abundance has left us in want. Our knowledge has made us cynical, our cleverness hard and unkind. We think too much and feel too little: More than machinery we need humanity; More than cleverness we need kindness and gentleness. Without these qualities, life will be violent and all will be lost.

What stood out for me were these words: “we…feel too little” (need more meaning to connect us emotionally), “we need humanity” (and humanity was mentioned in Tim Berners-Lee’s speech), “we need kindness and gentleness” (need a culture that promotes these values).

And yet if I watch a movie, read a book, or listening to music and immerse myself in what is being said in these mediums, then I actually feel more connected to the world around me than I do sitting upon the computer. Why?

I’m guessing because all of these things (movies, music, and books) are basically just stories. But that’s just it. I think we as a people don’t really realize how powerful stories are in the sense of how much complex data (for lack of a better word) can be stored within something so simple. In other words, a single story can provide a multitude of connections and meanings within it. To me it almost feels like these multitude of stories are creating invisible bonds and connections between each of us that creates this “Web of life”. Yet if you look at the Web with all of its own connections and links, it seems so empty in comparison because it seems like these connections are so one dimensional. Another way to look at it would be comparing the complex connections within a story to that of a string of DNA. My question, though, is can we enhance the Web so that these connections we make can actually can contain complex information as easily as a story does? Is there a way to add meaning to these connections?

But here’s another twist that blows this idea out of the water. How come when I go outside and sit in the middle of nature alone, with no one around me, I again feel more connected to this planet and everyone around me again? I’m not hearing a single story while I’m sitting there, yet I still feel so connected. Why? What am I connecting to in this instance? Why do I have the same thoughts and feelings as I do when I’m hearing a story? It is because of the sensory stimuli that I’m getting which is firing off emotions and thoughts in my head? Is that what stories do for us? Do stories create this same sensory stimuli because the stories are played out in a our imagination like a virtual holodeck and thus make us experience the same sort of sensory stimuli which again enages our emotions and minds?

In closing, I think the Web is connecting us, which is why so many people are draw to it, and yet at the same time it isn’t providing a deep and rich enough connection that we would get in comparison to a story, which is why I think there is this sort of “emptiness” with the Web as well. We need to figure out how to add these deep and rich connections to the Web, so that it can evolve and connect us in a much more deeper and meaningful way.

I just had one more thought and it is kind of a weird one but I think it is a good example. Think about the difference between just having sex versus making love to someone you truly care about. If it is just sex where you are focused more on your own needs versus your partners, you more often than not feel exhausted and still feel “empty” afterwards, as though you haven’t been satisified. Yet when you are fully in love and you place more of an emphasis on your partner than yourself, then afterwards you often feel so satisfied, energized, and connected with that partner. Hehe, so….in effect, the Web right now just feels like cheap sex! You keep craving it but it isn’t really satisfying you because it is lacking that deep meaningful connection.