Meeting The Hub

It’s been a busy time with my projects, too busy to keep up my blog. Of course, that is no excuse as very useful finally-get-into-and-stick-to-that-writing-habit sites  like Write to Done try to tell us all the time. Well, us lesser mortals will have to keep practicing to get more disciplined, I guess.

On August 11, I attended a very inspiring lunch meeting at The Hub Rotterdam. Guest speaker was Maria Glauser, a host and co-director of The Hub London.  We all shared stories about what we do and aspire as the “social entrepreneurs” of the present or near future.  In their own words:

The Hub’s business is social innovation. Our core product is flexible membership of inspirational and highly resourced habitats in the world’s major cities for social innovators to work, meet, learn, connect and realise progressive ideas. The Hub is currently located in London, Bristol, Johannesburg, Berlin, Cairo, Sao Paulo and Rotterdam. Hubs are being started in Amsterdam, Brussels, Halifax, Madrid, Mumbai and Tel Aviv/Jaffa

I particularly like the summary of their essence, as described on The Hub’s main site:

People who see and do things differently

Places for working, meeting, innovating, learning and relaxing

Ideas that might just change the world a little

The Hub is pioneering concepts, methods, and techniques for enlightened social entrepreneurship. They should be watched as a creative catalyst, linking the worlds of high ideals with practical business. Although small in size, their ideas could and should influence more traditional innovation initiatives and networks, so their impact can spread more rapidly. It will therefore be interesting to find out how all these initiatives best connect with and mutually benefit one another.

Design for development

Richard Heeks and Bill McIver sent useful references in response to my post on the Another Perspective on Design-symposium.

[Richard Heeks]

Just to follow Aldo’s original point, the whole area of “design for development” seems to be a growing one. Examples are the work of The Cardiff Group: (which helps organise the Development Studies Association’s Design and Development group:, and Design for Development: Up-and-coming are the outputs from the BGDD project – – which is approaching the issue from a computing/interface design-for-development perspective.There are also a lot of organisations working more to help multinationals understand and design for emerging markets, e.g. CKS in Bangalore –, in turn, have been involved in one of the main design-and-development functions, the Doors of Perception events:

Prof. Richard Heeks
Development Informatics Group
IDPM, SED, University of Manchester

[Bill McIver]

See also:Low Technologies, High Aims


Published: September 11, 2007

Re-engineering Engineering


Published: September 30, 2007

Outside the Box
Published: November 4, 2007

The inaugural International Development Design Summit (IDDS) at MIT on 16 July – 10 August 2007

Bill McIver,
Research Officer
People-Centred Technologies
Institute for Information Technology
National Research Council Canada

Second Life: Beyond the Hype

The hype is over. Whereas only a year ago, Second Life was everywhere in the mainstream media, the mad rush seems over. Then, every major organization seemed to try to establish a presence “in world”, and the virtual sky seemed the limit. Now, the number of active users seems to have stabilized, and many initially over-enthusiasts are disappointed, because their unrealistic expectations have not been met.

However, the dot com bust around the turn of the century did not kill the development of worthwhile applications of the Internet, on the contrary. Similarly, the current stage in the evolution of Second Life from mere vision to serious business, educational, and many other applications is a natural one. Consolidation and reflection on where to go from here is healthy and necessary. Issues to be worked on include tool systems and (workflow) process models.

For a nice glimpse into already existing “useful” applications of Second Life, check out Wagner James Au’s list in his “Second Life: Hype vs. Anti-Hype vs. Anti-Anti Hype” post:

He’d see applications in, for example, retail shopping (as here), online gaming and entertainment (as here and here), data visualization (as here), national security (as here), international relations (as here), non-profit fundraising (as here), architecture (as here), scientific simulation (as here), education (as here and here), and therapy (as here); just ten industries worth billions of dollars, which could potentially impact hundreds of millions of Internet users, quickly culled from my bookmark cache– and that’s not even mentioning the as-yet-unproven applications which have already gained traction, like in-world celebrity appearances (as here), political activism (as here and here), and marketing/brand promotion (as here.)

One particularly interesting use I have experienced myself is as a venue for cyberconferencing.

Virtual worlds are not enough

I had an interesting conversation yesterday with Philippe Kerremans, who through his Louis Platini company is implementing Second Life business solutions. We agreed that building virtual worlds in, for example, Second Life is not enough. Additional necessary conditions are an accompanying website in “ordinary cyberspace” and process models that can be used to ensure that available functionalities are actually being used by community members in all their various roles.

What is the Pragmatic Web?

The Pragmatic Web is still in its infancy, as are the explanations about what it is or could become. Here is one of my recent takes on the matter trying to answer some questions by Paola di Maio on the Pragmatic Web mailing list.

——– Original Message ——–
Subject: Re: [PragmaticWeb] following on
Date: Thu, 14 Feb 2008 10:31:54 +0100
From: Aldo de Moor <>

Hi Paola, wrote, on 14-2-2008 9:33:

> – to fill such a gap, a new paradigm shift is now emerging called
> ‘pragmatic web’ designed primarily to support and automate the
> human-human web based knowlege exchange, particular emphasis is being
> place on – rule based reasoning and intelligent applications based on
> NL

To me, the PW is basically about context and purpose: making web applications more context-aware and serving purposes of (their communities of) use. In a nutshell, one could say the PW is about how to make (semantic) web technologies serve collaborating people in their messy, real-world, evolving domains of interaction. Rule-based reasoning and intelligent applications are but one of several possible “enlightened web technology” applications. Another stream that I and
several other current members of the budding PW community are particularly interested in is the marriage of web technologies and large scale, distributed argumentation support systems.

> – pragmatic web technologies are designed to function on http/ip
> protocol, and are likely to adopt owl/rdf representation if thats the
> way knowledge is going to be represented on the web, therefore cannot
> be distinguished from SW on this account.

Owl/RDF etc are the main focus of SW R&D. PW can use these representations, but is definitely not limited to them. In fact, PW research may lead to completely new forms of representation and
reasoning, much better suited to deal with the context and purpose issues mentioned above.

> – However PW research and possibly future technologies is aimed to
> study and capture the human interaction with web based technologies

Yes, it’s about putting people first. Whereas current systems development often just distinguishes “The User”, PW tries to open this box, and discover innovative ways to model human goals, communication and collaboration patterns, norms, preferences, etc. These much better understood characteristics then could and should inform the design of much more useful knowledge bases and web systems. “Intelligence” is thus not something to be captured, but an intricate interplay between human interpretation and context-aware, _augmenting_ formal knowledge systems.

Efficient Task Management

Efficient task management is an essential component of community workflow management, all the more as standardized organizational structures and procedures for coordinating activities are often lacking in collaborative communities. Before starting with group task management, first the task management for individuals (“to do lists”) needs to be taken care of. Countless task management tools, planner web sites, Personal Information Managers etc. are available. However, task management tool support is not enough. Efficient task management requires some form of task management methodology.

Having tried many approaches, I finally chose David Allen’s Getting Things Done methodology. It offers the right mix of comprehensive, yet flexible procedures for collecting, processing, organizing, reviewing, and using to do-items.

As to the tools that best support this methodology, I have settled down on the following two, MonkeyGTD and Remember The Milk.


MonkeyGTD is a tool specifically tailored to the GTD methodology. The second version (MonkeyGTD2.1 alpha) is much more powerful than version 1, yet robust enough to be actually used in daily practice. MonkeyGTD itself is built on top of TiddlyWiki, which is characterized as a “reusable non-linear personal web notebook”. One powerful feature of MonkeyGTD (TiddlyWiki) is that it is just a simple html-file which can be read with a Firefox browser. No other software is needed. Another, very useful characteristic is that it is based on the principle of “tiddlers” which can be very easily cross-referenced and searched. Some disadvantages are that it can only be read by Firefox, the file can become very big over time and does not allow for easy separation of data and code (cumbersome with upgrades or reorganization of data), and that it is not a server-based solution, so that file management and synchronization can become tricky.

Continue reading “Efficient Task Management”

Community Lending

An interesting development where web technologies meet real societal needs is the rapidly growing phenomenon ofcommunity lendingMicrocredit has been around for longer as a concept to empower poor people and communities by letting them help themselves by creating social systems to provide small loans. These systems help create the trust, do the administration, etc. With the web, however, new socio-technical dimensions are added to the idea. For example, small loans can become global instead of just local in scope, much more background information on debtors can be provided, risks can be reduced by automatically distributing a loan over many lenders and so on.

Some links: