Interesting work at VPRI –

Xerox PARC developed Notecards, then Apple implemented HyperCard, a system that allowed non-programmers to implement “stacks” of information, based on a model like a stack of index cards. Xerox alumni at VPRI ( have implemented radically smaller (or less complex) implementations of common software systems, including text editors, networking stacks, and recently, a system capable of HyperCard-style behavior.

It will be interesting to see how these systems evolve over time, and whether an Objects/Services dichotomy will develop once scaling concerns force services to be distributed over a network.


Will systems thinking help our political leaders?

Has our new administration embraced systems thinking?

By systems thinking, I mean the holistic perspective – systems thinking attempts to illustrate that events are separated by distance and time and that small catalytic events can cause large changes in complex systems. Acknowledging that an improvement in one area of a system can adversely affect another area of the system, it promotes organizational communication at all levels in order to avoid “stovepipe thinking”.

Systems thinking techniques may be used to study any kind of system — natural, scientific, engineered, human, or conceptual.

Several people, including Charles Brown, LJ Furman, and Linda Booth Sweeney all have commented on President Obama’s tendency to think this way.

Can we build models and find a path out of the multiple dilemmas we face?

Summary of 2008 – nothing is perfect

Two highlights as we ponder the end of 2008 and look forward to 2009:

Technology can fail, as this video from the DARPA Urban Challenge 2007 shows

People are fallible, too:
Crowdsourcing isn’t a panacea for identifying tough problems

And finally, Internet security is still broken (this one requires people and computers together)

For 2009, let’s be more careful out there. The best watchwords are: trust, but verify

The future history of the Education Commons

MIT Press has released a PDF version of the book “Opening Up Education”, (new link here -on dropbox) which is a series of articles on open educational content.

I found the most interesting piece was David Wiley’s “the OpenCourseWars” – 2005-2012, some speculative fiction on what will happen with the open content movement over the next few years.


Software security is still a mess

Maybe it’s just a bad dream, but it seems like 2008 has been a year of serious security issues, which have the potential to cause major problems on the Internet.

First, there was the OpenSSL vulnterability, which seems to greatly affect Ubuntu Linux (there is exploit code in the wild)

Then the DNS cache poisoning vulnerability was disclosed on 7/8/2008. Most systems had patches available within 3 or 4 days. Microsoft’s fix for that broke many installations of the ZoneAlarm firewall on Windows.

The combined effects of these two vulnerabities are significant, you may not be able to verify you are connected to the correct web site, even if the SSL connection appears to be good.

Keep up with those patches, and remember:  Some user have even more basic problems