Saturday, December 22, 2007

Peter Suber, Open Access News

Peter Suber, Open Access News

In this article the link between open software and the evolution of school organizations I have discussed in other venues and here is explored.

BBC NEWS | Programmes | From Our Own Correspondent | Bible bashing dying out in Kansas

BBC NEWS | Programmes | From Our Own Correspondent | Bible bashing dying out in Kansas

Structure...this time fundamentalism in Kansas...melting.

While this represents an extreme, even for America, the point is the same. In a world of complexity and interaction what dies is hard lines and borders.

Friday, December 21, 2007

End of passport control as east meets west in EU without borders | Special reports | Guardian Unlimited

End of passport control as east meets west in EU without borders | Special reports | Guardian Unlimited

Completely consistent with "melting."

Melting as disintegration

I never think of melting as disintegration...I think of it as, well, melting. But disintegration is definitely starting to occur in more structurally rigid organizations...churches, governments, other old and brittle institutions.

Complexity is the solvent. So we say we want to define complexity. It's hard. Complexity is interaction, but not of any one particular sort. It is the unexpected and unplanable (Bruce Goldstein). But it is also movement. Think airports. Complexity.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

E L S U A ~ A KM Blog by Luis Suarez » Blog Archive » What’s in a Name? - Knowledge Management 0.0 2008 Conference Event

E L S U A ~ A KM Blog by Luis Suarez » Blog Archive » What’s in a Name? - Knowledge Management 0.0 2008 Conference Event

Luis Suarez's (oh sorry Luis...OUR) conference...of several KM interested persons he has roped together.

I particularly like this definition which is spot on for my blog:

Dave just put together the very exact purpose of the conference I would love to make happen in 2008 in Gran Canaria. And all of that because of this particular definition on Knowledge Management:

"KM is simply the art enabling trusted, context-rich conversations among the appropriate members of communities about things these communities are passionate about"

Whoooaaahhh! Never thought I would feel so identified with a KM definition like that one. And one that clearly represents the spirit of the conference event I would love to host, if everything works out all right.

Hueniverse: Reflections of the Open Web Community

Hueniverse: Reflections of the Open Web Community

Very well thought-out article that makes my point on melting quite well.

Half an Hour: Free Learning and Control Learning: On the So-Called Failure of Constructivist, Discovery, Problem-Based, Experiential, and Inquiry-Base

Half an Hour: Free Learning and Control Learning: On the So-Called Failure of Constructivist, Discovery, Problem-Based, Experiential, and Inquiry-Based Teaching

Really superb little write-up. Bravo, Stephen.

Dark Roasted Blend: Exclusive: Interview with John C. Wright

Dark Roasted Blend: Exclusive: Interview with John C. Wright

I particularly like this paragraph/portion...

Q: Who influenced your work early on; influences in art, fiction, life experiences?

JCW: In order: A.E. van Vogt, H.P. Lovecraft, Lord Dunsany, Peter S. Beagle, Olaf Stabledon, Robert Heinlein, Keith Laumer, Jack Vance, Gene Wolfe.

A.E. van Vogt taught me that a hero is a man who is saner than his foes, not necessarily the stronger. H.P. Lovecraft and Lord Dunsany taught me of things in the twilight lands beyond the fields we know. Peter S. Beagle taught me magic walks among us, unrecognized, but fair and elusive as moonlight. Olaf Stabledon taught me that eternity is vast, man is strange, life is precious, and the universe is indifferent. Robert Heinlein taught me to sneer at others and mock deep wisdom, and call this attitude virtue (this is one lesson it took me many painful years of effort to unlearn). Keith Laumer taught me that heroes keep staggering clumsily on no matter how badly beaten they are. Jack Vance taught me that even exquisite self-justifications uttered by villains are, in the end nuncupatory. Gene Wolfe taught me that mysteries can be hidden in plain sight.

I also read and was influenced by Epictetus, Seneca, Cicero, and Marcus Aurelius.

Q: If given a choice, who of the great science fiction / fantasy writers you would have a pint / coffee with?

JCW: Gene Wolfe.

Life: What Is A Cognitive Snap? | Hackosis

Life: What Is A Cognitive Snap? | Hackosis

Science advancing

I read somewhere that Max Planck said science advances one funeral at a time. That's not very hard to put into my structural terms.

Is age itself the freezer, or is the experience of living through a time what makes it so difficult to let go of the past?

Cross sections and melting

What do we find out when we see those incredible cross-sections like Stephen Biesty draws?

How does this relate to melting? We see components, modules, elements as essential...atomic. They are in fact more like processes...even the terms of phenomenology seem too discrete.

Imagine a cross-section in motion.

Legitimacy and authority

Legitimacy and authority derive from identity.

Identity and structure are very nearly the same things, if not the same things.


Weakness is submission to someone else's being controlling.

To empower would be roughly to assist in removal of a controlling force. Ignorance, in an actor-network-theory sense is controlling.

What does it mean to be controlling?

If I am controlling I attempt to impose social distortion on someone else so that they apply my view of structure.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Excellent post -- How to argue!

From the Dumb Little Man blog...a good one in my opinion, here's a guide to arguing that so many people I know could use!

See it HERE.

Bloggers I particularly like/use

There are a number of great blogs...too many to follow all of them as I wish I could.

Here are some I find essential:

Peter Levine's blog.
Deric Bownds' MindBlog.
JOHO -- David Weinberger's blog.
Wirearchy -- Jon Husband's blog.

Each of these four blogs have influenced me as much as any writing I have read in any other, journal, etc. I'd like to think that in some ways my blog fits in with those, but that is shooting very high.

I should also add Chris Anderson's work from Wired...the long tail theory stuff: HERE.

I collect many other links on Tumblr HERE. You are always welcome to browse there.

The core of Web 2.0 is RSS/atom or other forms of simple syndication...I like the following chart to depict role: SEE IT HERE... or on page 1 or 2 of my Tumblr notes.

Q: Is enabling a negative concept? As in certain psychologies?

This from a private e-mail question... Do I mean the enabling that carries negative psychological connotations?

My answer:

Words do not generally connote something desirable or undesirable a priori in my view of open learning as leading. When I define something, I am not stamping my foot so as to say this is the lawful meaning of this word. I am attempting to illustrate a narrative that makes sense about how I see leadership evolving. Thus, enabling cannot have one connotation. But that is an easy semantic/postmodernist retreat I don't much care for as an answer.

More substantively, I argue that a moral weight is necessary in leading. What that means for me now is that people must struggle with challenges in order to lead. Specifically, it is a demand to lead as a servant (yes, Greenleaf's servant leadership...of a sort.)

Enabling (what?) is the full question I want a leader to ask. There is no pat answer and cannot be if leading occurs. Too much structure and one gets "right" answers--agenda-based conventional leadership. I don't buy that form as current in most instances. I would call that form of leadership the politics of "I know better...follow me."

Of course certain situations are comparatively easy to judge (don't kill [usually]) but only those involving real moral weight of service really entail leadership. Where leaderless orgs take us is to a much more open and flat environment--not one where there is mayhem and libertarian nonsense, but one where responsibility is cultivated through demands for mutual respect.

In that sense, the enabling I speak of isn't the enabling of a enabling the taking of a controlled substance abusively. It is the choice of enabling a positive capacity to cope (learning). This sort of leading is much more dialogic and collaborative...leading to "flat classrooms" and learner-centric environments of work and human development.

Hope this makes my point a bit clearer, but there will be more to come in the blog. I hope you choose to comment there...your thoughts always welcome regardless.

Social distortion

[ht Geoff Livingston]

Social distortion is the notion that one set of structure is privileged, advantaged, better, superior, etc.

facilitates one's capacity to see and understand structure--both one's own structure and external structures.

Leadership avoids the use of social distortions.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Leadership versus management -- Drucker

“Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.”

Peter F. Drucker

Borrowed from Grow your organisation blog on Wordpress found HERE.

Time decay melting

I learned about time decay of information while working for the Chicago Stock Exchange as Director of Special and Strategic Projects some years back. You see stock exchanges get paid for "tape prints" which is a report that a trade occurred...each one goes across the famous "ticker."

When a tape print occurs, a stock exchange gets a few dollars for publishing that information. In a market, knowing the price of a good is all-important, so recent stock prints on a stock are vital data.

This information decays rapidly. With stocks, 15 minute old prints are generally available for free to organizations like online stock information sources.

In a similar way, all networks decay. They are under constant time contraction but the rates vary depending on the type of relationship. The more structure, the less rapid the decay. On the other hand, the more interaction, the more problematic the structure. Time and interaction are key variables for structure.

Moral insight -- Richard Rorty

Moral insight "is a matter of imagining a better future, and observing the results of attempts to bring that future into existence". Richard Rorty

From HERE.

Melting like radioactivity

Melting is analogous to radioactivity. Large nucleus organizations shatter and decay rapidly. Thus, larger organizations must be under the control of a dominant few or risk self-annihilation.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Relationship of learning to innovation

Innovation is the construction of new structure. It reduces dissonance by extending structures to be at ease with inconsistencies. This may entail totally new structures--institutions, technologies, norms, styles, etc. or simple revisions and extensions that achieve the desired sense of improved adequacy.

Learning is different. Learning is more a growth of potential than it is a solution. Between learning and structure lies competence. Competence can be compiled learning directed at a given consistent source (or source set) of dissonance(s). One can extend the idea of a given competency (e.g. being a surgeon) through innovations.

Learning is a capacity. Its application is a move toward competence.

Competence and competency-based instruction

Competence is a capacity to cope with expectations of a given sort. It is achieved by learning. There are many types of competencies which can, in turn, be combined into other more complex competencies.

Competency-based instruction is the process of enabling people to build elemental competencies that are generally recognized as starting points or building blocks for other more complex competencies.

My graduate work

I am writing a PhD dissertation in the field of Planning, globalization and governance.

My advisor is Max O. Stephenson, Jr.

My committee includes the follow:

Bruno Sobral

James R. Martin
Bruce Goldstein

It's a really great set of advisors and I feel quite fortunate to have such a strong committee.

My topic is leaderless organizations and humanitarian relief. A lot of what is in this blog is related to my theory development in that work. I hope to finish sometime in 2008. Someday I hope it will be a book called Leading as Enabling.

It is always cheaper to try than to think about trying

Kottke gets one exactly right about the Internet...


Differences between generations in using technology?

I agree with the graphic concept in this EDS fellow's post: HERE.

But I disagree with generational segmentation. It isn't about age even if that's the averages. It's about the attitude toward structure. True, structure is on the outs with younger folk, but it just isn't about age.

Borders and boundaries

The formation of structure entails borders and boundaries. Structure is fueled by agreement and acceptance. When agreement and acceptance exist, there is a natural dichotomy between those who participate and those who do not.

Traits/issues like identity, sovereignty, race, gender, economic philosophy, etc. entail borders and boundaries in association with the structures they create.

Borders and boundaries melt through interaction. They harden through identity. Thus, in a very real sense, interaction destroys identity...structure, which are one and the same. Identity is a form of structure...perhaps the most important form of structure for humans.


Innovation is new structure designed to put a prior dissonance to rest.

In highly structured environments, innovation is difficult. Stability becomes the dominant norm and tends to suppress new structure.

Innovation is thus a creates new structure...and structure tends to minimize innovation.

Learning increases the prospect of innovation, but it decreases the prospect of rigid structure.

Learning and innovation tend to counteract agendas for hegemony thus giving rise to leaderless organizations. Leaderless organizations either gain structure and become organizations, or they exist and thrive where the advantages of structure are outweighed by the advantages of learning, free association and innovation.


I use the term melting frequently. I hold mental pictures of shaving foam sagging or snow dissolving in the sun. My favorite is chocolate shapes turning into gooey messes. When I was boy my mother would give me a hollow chocolate bunny at Easter and it would invariably melt. I see those bunnies.

Melt is the (often spontaneous) decay of structure. It is usually caused by dissonance in trying to apply structures to phenomena where outrageous conclusions must be drawn when that structure is applied. It thus can arise when two (or more) structures come into conflict (e.g. religion and science, or East and West).

Melt is part of life when order is under stress by learning. It is also a byproduct of innovation.

A leaderless organization is one where melting is minimized by dis-association with structure.


Hegemony is the imposition of structure on others. Attempts to achieve hegemony often result in structural melting of both the aggressor and the target.


What do I mean by structure?

Structure is the patterns of living developed to simplify complexity. It is rules of thumb...symbols, semiotics, institutions and norms.

The purpose of structure is stability--the reduction of cognitive dissonance (see learning). It enables us to be "efficient." But efficiency is I think a tautology meaning that we act in such a way that is structured and stable. That is, it becomes a goal only when we set it as a goal. It defines itself a priori.

We create language and culture to reinforce structure. When we act out those languages and cultures we claim to be efficient. But structure naturally melts in the presence of interaction between those within a structure and those who do not enclose themselves with that same structure. Thus, globalization melts structure.

In what fields does my view of leadership apply?

"Fields" is an interesting term...and one I would push back on. Fields are melting.

For example, EDTECH is the hot topic now in education research, teaching, and lots of related technology areas. Now, it's hot for me because it's about to become a lot of my life again. But I think it is fair to say it is still hot in the general buzzosphere.

Is EDTECH education? Technology? Org theory? Management? Human ecology? Training? As it becomes more diffuse and's all of these in my opinion...and more.

In technology "clouds" I think we are seeing a move toward a network of "servers" and a set of very light clients called "appliances" or the iPhone or the ASUStek Eee PC 4g or the new ultra portable PC by Everex called Cloudburst, etc.

On the software side, you see it in things like Twitter, which a lot of people don't understand even while others say it defines the future of net interaction--immediate, personal, ephemeral and ad hoc. Twitter is, in my view, a way for humans to "implant" light connections to each other...what sociologist Mark Granovetter called "the strength of weak ties." It's like building a network of thousands of people you ride the bus with every day. You don't really know them...but you do know them too...and then when a snowstorm are mates of a sort to solve ad hoc problems. These are leaderless organizations in a proto-state.

FedEx/UPS and Amazon/Ebay have a similar relationship with "sellers" who are melted retailers. We're not sure what relationship we have with them or their brands. It becomes buzzed at times...when some brand or need heats up or our needs become highly specialized because we want to brew our own beer or take a trip to conquer K2.

RSS is the circulatory system of the new economy. Leadership as enabling comes from Google, Firefox, people who build free (libre) software, and their supporters.

Sunday, December 16, 2007


Leading, or leadership, is the process of using our own learning to enable the learning of others.

Leadership without learning is impossible as I view it going forward. Old ideas of leadership focused on expanding or advancing an agenda for people who held a certain identity. That isn't leading as I view it here. I call that identity-based agenda pushing form... "old leadership." Old leadership is used in bureaucracies, feudal systems, hierarchies and command and control sorts of systems.

But there is nothing very new about what I call "new leadership." It's always been around. What's new is the recognition of its power to deal with environments where the old leadership literally crumbles. I will elsewhere define something I call "melt" to describe this crumbling.

My research often concerns why this melting occurs and what it means.


If I had to name one word rapidly that I associate with learning it is coping. Coping is the capacity to deal with that which causes us cognitive dissonance...unrest with the seeming facts.

If we feel shaken by what we experience, learning is what puts us at ease until we again become shaken. We can still be shaken even with learning, but things seem more coherent and we can make sense of things.

Some people, myself included, seek out this unease in certain measures. Cognitive dissonance is a sort of excitement for us. People who have learned a lot are often able to cope with a lot of dissonance--particularly in areas where challenges relate to what we have previously learned.

But learning can also lead to short rules of thumb called heuristics, and these can lead to huge errors and really shocking dissonances if they are applied too casually. Heuristics are essential to human ways of living, but they are dangerous fire or weapons.

For me, learning isn't know-how. And learning sciences are not the technologies of training. Training is something much more rote and less interesting. Learning is about studying the possible strategies of a game rather than learning how to execute one play (which is more like training.)

One can never learn rules. Rules are always guides. Learning is something one does in the presence of rules.