Coevolving Innovations

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Archive for the ‘technologies’

Towards a federated social web 1

Posted on October 30, 2015 by daviding

Systems Thinking World — a LinkedIn group with dialogue from over 19,000 members — ceased to exist by October 28, 2015.  It was a place where learners (new and old) of systems thinking came to overcome barriers, from 2009 through 2015.  A change in the terms and conditions at LinkedIn led to the group owner to move on.  The scale of worldwide participation in Systems Thinking World was significant, and the journey was the subject of a presentation at ISSS DC 2014.

While cleaning house, the Facebook Group formerly known as Systems Thinking World came into the hands of a new owner, and was retitled (at least temporarily) as The Ecology of Systems Thinking.  The new owner has a more open approach, and has authorized additional members to be administrators (including me).  The group had changed temporarily to be closed (i.e. content visible only to members), and Facebook won’t allow groups with more than 250 members to revert from closed to open.

Is there an alternative to the centralized structure of (a) forum owner(s) and members?

Actually, there is.  The diaspora* foundation has a different approach:

diaspora* is based on three key philosophies:

Decentralization: Instead of everyone’s data being contained on huge central servers owned by a large organization, local servers (“pods”) can be set up anywhere in the world.

Freedom:   You can be whoever you want to be in diaspora*.  [….]  diaspora* is also Free Software, giving you liberty to use it as you wish.

Privacy:  In diaspora* you own your data. You do not sign over any rights to a corporation or other interest who could use it.

The history of the diaspora* social network platform goes back to 2010, with a Kickstarter project.  Since 2012, it has been an open source community project.  The project blog shows a continuing stream of releases, so the technical community appears to be viable.

I have had a profile at since 2011, but haven’t had a reason to exercise the platform.  Maybe the demise of Systems Thinking World is a sign that it’s time for a big change.  I’ve started Systems Sciences groups on Google Plus, Facebook and LinkedIn.  I’ve been experimenting with federated wiki.  Although others may have become comfortable with ease of a corporation managing their content, I’ve always been an advocate for self-sufficiency.  So, in a learning-by-doing mode:

  • I, David Ing, pledge to post on diaspora* with the #systemsthinking tag, if at least 5 people join me.  I will post with public visibility, and others may choose to post publicly or privately.

Join me!  Signing up to diaspora* is easy.  The first decision is choosing a pod.  If you want to follow my example, you could sign up at  (The server is physically in New York.  If you normally converse in language other than English, you could pick a pod geographically closer that encourages dialogues in your native dialect).  It would be nice if you reciprocated with a real identity, and posted a photo.  You can even link your profile from Facebook, so you don’t have to fill in all of the fields.

Incubating Service Systems Thinking 2

Posted on August 26, 2014 by daviding

Evolving the Proposal to Collaborate on a Pattern Language for Service Systems from January, the initiative has now taken on a label of Service Systems Thinking.  The presentation at the 58th Annual Meeting of the International Society for the Systems Sciences in Washington DC was recorded, so that interested parties have the option of watching or listening ideas that have developed over the past six months, and reading the slides at their leisure.  Here’s the abstract:

“Service systems thinking” is proffered as a label for an emerging body of work that: (i) builds on social systems thinking (i.e. socio-psychological, socio-technical and socio-ecological systems perspectives) to advance a transdisciplinary appreciation of service systems science, management, engineering and design; (ii) explores opportunities to enrich Alexanderian patterns and categorized pattern catalogs into a generative pattern language; and (iii) collaborates on new platforms, moving from inductive-consensual wiki pages to a multiple-perspectives (federated) wiki.

The session was conducted in two parts, each of about 90 minutes.  The first part had a soft start playing some videos on the Smallest Federated Wiki by Ward Cunningham, since participants were coming back from lunch in another building.  The presentation alternated between projected slides, and live content on the federated wiki at  The agenda covered:

  • 1. Service Systems Thinking, In Brief
    • 1.1 An intentional representation
    • 1.2 An object-process representation
  • 2. Conversations for Orientation
    • 2.1 Systems thinking
    • 2.2 SSMED (Service Science, Management, Engineering and Design
    • 2.3 Generative Pattern Language
    • 2.4 Multiple Perspectives Open Collaboration

Part 1 Audio [20140730_1453_ISSS_Ing_ServiceSystemsThinking_128Kbps.mp3]
(85MB, 1h32m25s)
Part 1 Video (1h32m26s) nHD qHD
H.264 MP4 [640×360
238Kbps m4v
] (243MB)
716Kbps m4v
] (846MB)
2028Kbps m4v
] (1.4GB)
3341Kbps m4v
] (2.4GB)
WebM [640×360
135Kbps webm
] (176MB)
289Kbps webm
] (282MB)
0688Kbps webm
] (557MB)

In the second part after the break, the agenda covered:

  • 3. Conversations for Possibilties
    • 3.1 [Multiple Perspectives Open Collaboration]: We could have federated authored content on open source platforms
    • 3.2 [Generative Pattern Language]: We could be reoriented for unfolding wholeness, layering systems of centers and/with creating interactive value
    • 3.3 [SSMED]: We could have trans-disciplinary cooperation on service systems improvement
    • 3.4 [Systems thinking]: We could have service systems evolving from the systems thinking tradition

Filling in a non-editable PDF form 0

Posted on January 19, 2014 by daviding

Have you ever been asked to fill in a PDF form given not as editable electronically?  The frustrated respondent may print out the form, fill in the fields — either by hand, or with a typewriter (!) — and then transmit the result as a fax. A more persistent respondent looks for a free program that enables annotating the form and preserving an end-to-end electronic format.

One way is to “Open and edit PDF files in OpenOffice“.  This way invokes the Draw program — not the Writer word processor in OpenOffice (or LibreOffice).  The PDF Import extension converts the field labels as well as entry fields.  The import tries to match up the field label fonts, but there may be some shifting.

Another way uses Jarnal — the Java Notetaker and PDF Annotator.  This feature was demonstrated in a Jarnal demonstration video, some time after the basic pen-based sketching features.

Jarnal is a cross-platform application written in Java, that runs on Linux, Windows and Mac.

I subsequently discovered that Xournal offers similar features and is simpler to install as an Ubuntu app.

Xournal is also written in Java, and thus also installable on Linux, Windows and Mac.

Technology-supported collaboration, Git and GitHub 0

Posted on September 15, 2013 by daviding

Through dubious television coverage on GitHub, some publicity on technology-supported collaboration have surfaced.  Business Insider reported:

Fox Business tried to use a bunch of coder lingo in a report on social coding startup GitHub — and failed.  [….]

The coders and developers over on Hacker News have been dissecting the video all day.

While there is technology involved, the challenge is better described as a change in style on collaboration around artifacts.  In an interview at Disrupt SF 2013, Tom Preston-Werner, co-founder of Github, said:

It’s looking more about what’s possible in the world of collaboration. It’s more about people’s behaviour. It’s more about what they’re doing.

If people are using e-mail a lot, to share documents back and forth, this is a huge problem. The work that people do needs to be next to the communication they do. This is our vision for the future. And this is why Github puts communication mechanisms, pull requests, like having discussions around work changes, and being able to document them, put them next to the files that people are working on. Most often it’s code, but put those things together.

The challenge, the real competitor is behavioral. It’s the technologies in general that we’re using, and e-mail primarily. It’s getting people away from the mentaliity that everything can be accomplished via e-mail, and that’s the best solution. That is not the best solution, for most problems. It closes things down.

  • Tom Preston-Werner | On Breaking Down Walls | Sept. 11, 2013 | Disrupt SF 2013

This web video led to presentation of an opportunity, and criticism, by Lauren Orsini.  GitHub is focused primarily on software development, although it the technology could be advantageous in broader contexts.

Here’s a secret: GitHub isn’t just for writing code. Too bad GitHub doesn’t seem to care.

If you’re not a developer and you’ve heard of GitHub at all, you probably only know it as an online space where developers work together on coding projects—one that’s only useful to the geekiest sector of the population.

But GitHub is actually an incredibly useful tool that could be used to organize any group project online. And the day that “regular” people begin adopting it is closer than you think.

On Wednesday, GitHub CEO Tom Preston-Werner said normals are welcome to join the party. “We want to make [non-development] use cases possible,” he said at the TechCrunch Disrupt 2013 conference. “Now, we still optimize GitHub for software developers. This is something that’s very important to us. Software is the future of the world.”

With a lackluster welcome like that, you could be forgiven for not rushing to sign up for an account right this instant. From a technical standpoint, though, GitHub isn’t at all specific to code projects. It’s open to anyone. If only GitHub made more of an effort to make those others feel more welcome.

I had previously looked at GitHub when I noticed that Ward Cunningham (the original inventor of the wiki) has been hosting the Federated Wiki project on Github. I played around with it enough to get a basic appreciation of the technology. Other non-technical people might appreciate a bit of a primer.

  • 1. What is Git, and GitHub?
  • 2. What is the promise of Github, in changing the way workers collaborate?
  • 3. Are there alternative to the Github technology?

While Github is the most advanced way for developers to track changes in code, features of real-time collaboration for non-technical professionals first emerging in Google Wave (now Apache Wave) have shown up in Google Docs and IBM Docs.

1. What is Git, and GitHub?

HD video: on my own domain,,, Vimeo or Youtube? 0

Posted on December 27, 2010 by daviding

There’s so much video content available on the web today, with many different styles for sharing.  The variety of considerations can lead one person to favour an approach that isn’t quite right for someone else.  After months of trial-and-error, I’ve compiled a comparison of web movies hosted on (1) my own domain, (2) Community Video on, (3), (4) Vimeo, and (5) Youtube.  I was motivated to share the experience of the Beat, Breaks & Culture festival at Harbourfront Centre in Toronto on July 11, in which my third son Noah performed in the final battle between Ground Illusionz and The F.A.M.

I’ve summarized my assessments in a table near the bottom of the (long) page.  The essential considerations include:

(a) Website blocking / Internet filtering? Is web site blocking (more formally known as Internet filtering) by national governments (e.g. by China and other countries); in public libraries (e.g. content judged offensive or inappropriate); or in workplaces (e.g non-work-related use) a concern?
(b) Media containers? The H.264 (MPEG-4) standard is emerging as a new leader, with Flash Video common as a plugin to most browsers but not supported on Apple products.  Digital cameras may produce AVI, MOV (Quicktime) or other formats, while different browsers natively support Theora (Ogg Video) and WebM.
(c) Browser embedding and linking? Once the web movie is on the Internet, how easy is embedding into a blog post, and/or creating a web link?
(d) Streaming and downloadable? Is it possible to both watch the video online in a browser, and download it onto a mobile device for later replay?
(e) Input formats and transcoding? What video formats are accepted on web sites, and/or is transcoding conversion required before uploading?
(f) Uploading (and transcoding) Is content uploaded through a browser or fat client, and is online transcoding an option?
(g) Streaming performance? Since video files are large, how do they look when streamed on the Internet?
(h) Copyright? Does the web provider have legal constraints or guidance?
(i) Cost Will an outlay of money be required (or desirable, if effort can be reduced)?

We’re on the edge of a emerging standard that is well described in the Dive into HTML5 online book.  We may be approaching an era where we can share movies and not have to worry (too much) about obsolescence.  Let’s look at each of the alternatives.

1. HD video content on my own domain and web site

Streaming media is better controlled by servers running RTSP (Real Time Streaming Protocol) rather than the HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol) designed for web pages mostly of text.  Under HTTP, however, pseudo-streaming has recently become an option within the reach of do-it-yourself types.

Watch the larger 720x400px video or the original size 1280x720px video hosted on

This pseudo-streaming takes advantage of the open source VideoJS script, either on manually-coded HTML5 pages or with WordPress plugin scripts.  VideoJS builds on the Video For Everybody code that determines an appropriate video format for the player in the browser.

Blogging, microblogging, webstreaming 3

Posted on November 26, 2009 by daviding

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).


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