Design Principles

29 Nov 2014

Building Meaning through Semantic Alternation

in Ceptr, Design Principles, Meaning, Semantics, Structure

In designing Ceptr we’ve discovered a pattern in how systems build meaning. It’s likely that someone else has already written about this, but we haven’t found it, so we don’t know what anyone else calls it. We’re calling it Semantic Alternation.

Something has meaning or significance in a particular context. This object (a physical structure) is footstool when in front of the easy chair, a table when holding the chess board between two chairs, and when we’re low on seating for an event and put it at the end of the dining table, it’s a chair. (See more pictures below)

Meaning is not fixed and independent; it is fluid and bound to a context.

22 Nov 2014

Answers are Truly no Better than Questions

in Consulting, Design, Design Principles, Education

Or stated more clearly -- the answers you have are limited to the quality of the questions you asked.

This is a way bigger deal than we think.

You see… Our culture, our institutions, and our educational system all teach us that it’s very important to have the right answers. The people with the right answers are the powerful ones.

Well, there’s a big hitch in that equation. Having the right answers to stupid questions is the same as having stupid answers.

21 Nov 2014

Designing Social Flows - Chapter 6 on Designing Incentives

in Collective Intelligence, Culture, Currencies, Currency Design, Design Principles, Social DNA

[This is an original / pre-edit draft submission for a book on Designing for Social Flows. It is being curated by Jean Russel and Herman Wagter collecting pieces from thought leaders in the field. I will edit this to link to the book once it is published.]]

Social Network DiagramBecoming a Culture Hacker

When I learned that building things alone is just not as interesting as collaborative creation, community became my canvas for building new things. In the mid-1990s, this surfaced as a calling to create “community at WORK together.” So I started a company with some friends with only a commitment to build co-creative magic. By ‘only,’ I mean we had no real business experience, no business plan, no revenue model, no product and no clear idea of what value we had to offer. But we had plenty of lofty ideals about how we wanted to build community, relate to each other, and work together.

We were extremely successful at building community, and surprisingly, it turned out we even did fairly well as a business. We found ourselves as an Internet company, growing quickly in the midst of the dot-com-boom. We were a self-organizing company, structured such that people did not have managers (only projects did) and growing like that presented us with a worthy challenge. How do you build an inspiring community of friends, peers and collaborators, yet still ensure the accountability, reliability and results needed for everyone to take home a paycheck with no management or supervisors?

19 Nov 2014

The Laws of Thermodynamics Reinterpreted

in Commonwealth, Currencies, Design Principles, Evolution, Flows, Generosity Economy, Paradox, Thermodynamics, Upward Spirals

Let's do a quick review of principles of thermodynamics for those who may be rusty. Remember, there are many different ways of precisely stating the Laws. I'm paraphrasing to convey basic meaning and context.

  1. The First Law is about the conservation of matter and energy. They can be neither created nor destroyed, but can change form.
  2. The Second Law is about entropy or energy dispersal. Whenever you use energy to do some work, or whenever energy is converted from one form to another, some of that energy is lost (dissipates as heat) in the process. 

These "laws" are understood to have been universally empirically validated. But mostly they are interpreted in a fairly restrictive sense to mean things like: the laws prove that perpetual motion machines (of the first and second class) are impossible.

Having spent so many years looking at the world through the lens of currencies (current-sees), I have to admit, it's hard not to also see these Laws through that lens. I'm used to seeing, and using currencies to help groups collectively see, system behaviors that emerge from making seemingly small, and simple decisions about flows which over time create huge changes in direction. For example, the seemingly small rule of issuing money as debt which bears interest has massive consequences on the large scale pattern of the economy (forcing economic growth to stave off currency collapse, creating artificial scarcity and competition between people, consistent wealth transfer to those who already have it, etc.)