As Conway states in his retrospective summary:
To save you the trouble of wading through 45 paragraphs to find the thesis, I’ll give an informal version of it to you now: Any organization that designs a system (defined more broadly here than just information systems) will inevitably produce a design whose structure is a copy of the organization’s communication structure. This turns out to be a principle with much broader utility than in software engineering, where references to it usually occur. I invite you to read the paper, then look around to find applications. My current favorite is the complex of social issues encompassing poverty in America: access to labor markets, housing, education, and health care. After reading the paper, think about how the structures of our various governments affect their approaches to this system.
Does this principle also work inversely? In organising productive communities, especially those working on sourcecode, my working thesis has long been that the architecture of the code informs the architecture of the community. “Monolithic” architectures (which some would just say is another term for, “too big”) tend to processes that more modular ones would find at best hierarchical and probably unacceptable. And we all know how very hard it is to change a system of power, especially one that has operated more or less well enough for years, to something that implicitly limits the power of those who had it before.
Conway’s very famous paper is here.
This blog nicely centralises several threads. It’s anchor lies with U of Manchester (land of the origin of the Industrial Revolution, so long ago), but its reach goes far beyond that.
For me, as a community strategist, I am keenly interested in the kinds of technology that any given productive community adopts. There is no single flavour that suits all tastes; much depends on locality and on the quality and nature of the infrastructure, and this is true regardless of the ultimate (or even initial) internationality of the project.
The article doesn’t really touch on the technological element. Professors use university-provided infrastructure, usually of the bricks and mortar variety (ivy optional); Moocs may use a variety of technologies but not bricks nor mortar. Moocs are probably–one hopes–more than videos or fancy PowerPoint slides. They could include a range of interactive elements. And the particular technology used by a Mooc is likely owned by the institution employing the professor, who has created the course. Moving from one institution to another, in many places an exceptional area of intellectual property identity favouring professorial ownership, thus could be complicated by differences in technology and infrastructure.
The differences that technology make to community identity and possibility, as well as to the degrees of practical freedom, come up all the time in open source environments. Having such a manifold of technologies, as well as, inevitably, licenses and governance protocols, does not produce the best environment for collaborative work and innovation. But it does provide for no end of political machinations and tactical market plays; for business (and politics) as usual.
“Storage of IBM record cards at the Federal records center in Alexandria, Virginia, November 1959. Between 1950 and 1966 the records centers received millions of cubic feet of records, saving the federal government more than the total spent for the entire operation of the National Archives Records Service.” Note: There are about 20 rows of pallets visible, each row is 15 pallets wide, pallets are stacked two high (at least). Each pallet contains 45 boxes of punched cards. Standard card boxes contained 2000 cards. Each card held up to 80 characters, for a total of about 4.3 billion characters of data in this storage facility – about the same as a 4Gb flash drive.
The Journal of Community Informatics Vol 10, No 1 (2014) Table of Contents http://ci-journal.net/index.php/ciej/issue/view/48 Editorial -------- Beyond Access: Libraries are the New Telecentres Michael Gurstein Articles -------- Local e-Government in Sweden - Municipal Contact Center implementation with focus on Citizens and Public Administrators Irene Cecilia Bernhard Bridging the Digital Divide in Dunn County, Wisconsin: A Case Study of NPO use of ICT Elizabeth Bogner, Kevin W. Tharp, Mary McManus Community, Group and Individual: A Framework for Designing Community Technologies Sheena L. Erete Shared identity and personal tie in influencing cooperative behavior Hao Jiang, John M. Carroll Failures and success in using webcasts, discussion forums, Twitter, and email to engage older people and other stakeholders in rural ageing Ray B Jones, Janet Smithson, Catherine Hennessy From Pebble to Avalanche: How Information and Communications Technologies Empowered Underprivileged Actors Through Ages Piotr Konieczny Exploring the Formation of Social Capital in a Malaysia Virtual Community Dr. Shafiz Affendi Mohd Yusof, Kamarul Faizal Hashim Emergent digital activism: The generational/technological connection Fernando Adolfo Mora Drive-by Wi-Fi and digital storytelling: development and co-creation Jo Tacchi, Kathi R Kitner, Kiran Mulenahalli How Does Internet Usage Influence On Social Capital, Connectedness, Success And Well-Being Of Grassroots Level Inventors In Sri Lanka? Chaminda Nalaka Wickramasinghe, Nobaya Ahmad Internet Access At Public Access Venues In A Developing Countries: Lessons from Yogyakarta, Indonesia Stevanus Wisnu Wijaya, Agnes Maria Polina Reviews -------- Changing youths role in development through ICT enterprise and investment Michael D Williams Research Methods: Information, systems and contexts Martin Wolske Case Studies -------- Engaging Stakeholders: The First Step to Increasing Digital Inclusion Abstract Angela Siefer Notes from the field -------- An Inquiry into Community Members’ Use and Attitudes toward Technology in Mishkeegogamang First Nation Connie Gray-McKay, Kerri L. Gibson, Susan O'Donnell, The People of Mishkeegogamang
No doubt, the reader, if any, of this incredibly boring blog has already learned of how some UK government offices are supposedly switching to open source alternatives to that moneysucker, Microsoft Office. Included and named: OpenOffice, my old and continuing love and life (and destiny, it seems).
But here’s a charming article on the joys of Excel. Granted, Excel has seldom given me joy. But I do recognize that it is the best of Office and the one module that few who use it dedicatedly would want to give up. (I actually believe no one should really give up the tools of production they prefer but that all tools of production should be made available to those who need them, and that implies sustainable development à la open source.)
…. and I, like many others, have probably come across more than enough companies evidencing these flaws….
The point is not to treat the participants as children or to offer more or less bogus rewards for work (and then pretend that it’s been turned to play) but to articulate an environment where free flows of ideas and achievements are encouraged.
These are not dumb ideas. They are kind of obvious, but that’s only because I and others have also thought of them. But that’s also irrelevant. These ideas actually work, and there is even theoretical backing that I can cite for them–always a plus, for me.