Coevolving Innovations

… in Business Organizations and Information Technologies

Earlier this year during the Russell Ackoff memorial, I reconnected with some members of the systems community in Philadelphia.  This event was taken as an opportunity to reinvigorate the systems community, in honour of Russ.  With his colleagues and former students scattered around the world, an Internet-based presence seemed appropriate.

Systems Community of InquiryWe’ve now formally launched — the Systems Community of InquiryIt is intended as open, worldwide network of individuals interested in systems thinking, the systems sciences and/or systems practice.

Inquiry is “an activity which produces knowledge” (Churchman, 1971).  The shared foundations and perspective in systems suggests more than a community of interest, but less than a community of practice (Wenger, 1999).  The interactions as a community aim to (i) foster interactions contributing knowledge and wisdom to the online world, and (ii) cultivate social relationships between systemicists.

The web interface follows an activity stream style of interaction, as has become popular with Facebook.  In the interest of completely open communications,  content posted on is visible anywhere the Internet is accessible, and actively crawled by search engines.  There is no ambiguity about privacy with this online community: all communications are public.  The feature of choosing your “friends” on this web site enables following a smaller set of contributors, as the size of the social network increases.  Discussions with longer-running threads can be organized with groups and forums provided on the site.

July 24th, 2010

Posted In: blogging, systems

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As much as I read content from the web — either through a feed reader (I’m currently favouring RssOwl) or a browser (I read with Firefox, and post comments with Flock and Cocomment) — there are times when I want my eyes and hands to be free.  I maintain a queue of MP3 audio recordings on a Creative Zen V for listening when walking or driving, and subsequently report on lectures and interview worth noting on the Media Input Queue blog.

The content on this Coevolving Innovations blog is text intensive — people who prefer photos are better to follow the Distractions, Reflections blog — so I have sympathies for readers who find the length tedious.

I was following through on some dialogue on mentoring from Sacha Chua (@sachac) to a blog post by Brian O’Donovan on social software (@bodonovan).  I noticed he had a “Listen” button on the entry, so I pressed it … triggering an automated reading of the content in a woman’s voice. This experiment gave me a close-to-perfect reproduction of the text content (and I could guess the meaning of the mispronunciations).

Following through the links, I discovered ReadSpeaker webReader, which originated as a service for the visually impaired.  For personal web sites, webSpeaker Free is an ad-supported service (with pre and/or post audio, and banners in the player).  It took me less than ten minutes to install on this WordPress blog (as one of the benefits of self-hosting on my own domain).

I noticed that Brian preferred a female voice with a British accent.  I’ve tried that, and the American male voice, and somehow find the American female voice the easiest to my ear.

The structure of WordPress plugins makes adding and removing ReadSpeaker webReader easy, so the added function will be another natural experiment over time.

January 8th, 2010

Posted In: blogging, web tools

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While some of my activity on the Internet is recreational, I continue to play with web tools to learn about the ever-evolving technology.  While the average person has become comfortable with e-mail, web feeds are still pretty much a mystery to many.  The RSS and Atom specifications first used by newswires has become the principal form of web syndication for blogs and social media.

I’ve recently rearranged my pattern of web use (again).  To encourage readers to think about how they use the Internet, let me pose four questions.

  • 1. Which principles on web content do I have in mind?
  • 2. How do I post content, and flow it?
  • 3. Why have I recently changed my use?
  • 4. What consideration should web users have for their content?

With the way that technology continues to evolve, the specific web applications may change … but the pattern should remain the same.

1. Which principles on web content do I have in mind?

My attitude is reflected in two ideas:  (a) open content with attribution, and (b) open platforms with interoperability.

(a) Open content with attribution reflects that I like to share my learning with other people.   Posting the content on the Internet improves access and distribution.  I understand the workings of copyright — there’s a Creative Commons license on this blog — which means that I retain ownership of my words, on the condition that if someone wants to formally cite the work, he or she should cite me as the source.  I’m not an author who makes his living at writing, so simple acknowledgement is normally sufficient.

(b) Open platforms with interoperability means that I don’t want my content inappropriately trapped in places inaccessible to others.  I appreciate instances when content should remain private, respecting the needs of others and/or commercial conditions, but secrecy should be the exception rather than the rule.  The content should flow freely (i.e. free as in liberty), rather than having to stumble through technological obstacles.

2. How do I post content, and flow it?

With these principles in mind, I’m reforming the way that I interact on the web.  Here’s a diagram (linked to another page in an interactive map).


November 26th, 2009

Posted In: blogging, technologies, web tools

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,


Over the past few months, you may have noticed some changes in this Coevolving Innovations blog, or the Distractions, Reflections blog. It’s been two years since I wrote “the why and how of establish your web persona“, and “installing and customizing WordPress on your own domain“.  Those reflected the state-of-the-art in 2007, which is a long time in technology.  To explain these changes, I’ll relate my thinking in three parts:

  • 1. What do I want with my web persona?
  • 2. How has the technology changed (in ways that I didn’t foresee)?
  • 3. What have I done with my web activity?

These topics are described from the viewpoint of an “advanced blogger”.  New technologies emerge continuously, and I try many of them out.  I use some tools that novices find cumbersome, but that’s the way that I continue to learn.

1. What do I want with my web persona?

My first blog entries date back to October 2005, and they’re still available on the web.  In December 2006, I split my professional persona (mostly serious writing) from my photoblogging (easier on the eyes and brain), particularly for readers who subscribe via e-mail rather than using an RSS reader.  During this period, my perspective on my web persona has been constant in three ways:

(a) I want people to find appropriate information about me

In the test of “googling myself”, I’m pretty satisfied that people can find me.  Actually, a searcher will find me in multiple places, and should be able to navigate to his or her specific interest.

(b) I want to post durable content that reflects my personality and style

A major complaint of people who don’t read blogs is that it seems that people blog about their cats, or what they had for lunch.  I try to minimize that.

I do use Twitter and Friendfeed for short commentary, Google Reader Shared Items for popular news, and Diigo and Delicious for social bookmarking.  Since I travel a lot, I use Brightkite to give people some sense of which city I’m in, and Dopplr for which cities where I have travel planned.

On my professional blog, I post content that isn’t appropriate for publishing in journals or ideas that I’m working out.  On my photoblog, I take care to crop and edit each photograph, rather than just uploading snapshots.

(c) I want clear ownership of (and access to) my content

June 21st, 2009

Posted In: blogging, technologies

Tags: , , ,

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One of the downsides of managing a blog is having to fight comment spam. The first defence against spam is moderating comments — actually approving a commenter, the first time he or she adds to the blog post. This means that readers of the blog don’t see links to undesireable sites.

Automation helps sort out most comment spam. Akismet has become a standard spam detector for WordPress, and I’ve used it since day one. I’ve also now installed Bad Behavior and Referrer Bouncer, but they don’t really reduce the workload.

I’ve resisted using CAPTCHA — “Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart” — because I’ve been trying to ensure that my blog continues to be readable by the visually impaired.

I’ve just implemented the reCAPTCHA plugin for WordPress on my blogs. There are multiple reasons for this:

September 4th, 2007

Posted In: blogging

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Having satisfied the publishing of text — with a WordPress blog installed on a hosted domain — the natural next step is publishing photographs. While it’s easy to upload and embed images in a WordPress post, it’s better to have a specialized image gallery when the photo archive is large. The long term goal is to show random thumbnails on your WordPress sidebar, inviting the browsing images in your gallery, but that’s a feature for some later day.

July 8th, 2007

Posted In: blogging

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