440 Davis Court #1602
San Francisco, CA 94111-2496
415 781 5700

Date: Wed, 10 Oct 2001 15:12:37 -0700

04 00067 61 01101002

Mr. Unfinished Revolution
OHS DKR Project
SRI International
333 Ravenswood Avenue
Menlo Park, CA 94025

Subject:   Communication, Intelligence Require Research

Glad I am not the only one frustrated by call routing. I try to avoid yelling, which Eric explains in his letter today, but have taken to pressing 0, # * anything to get a person on the phone, who can perform the "librarian" function described in Eric's first letter.

I am not sure we solve the problem of communication by giving up on clicking links in correspondence, as some would have it. Eric's proposal to make a judgment based on context sounds useful. What is most evident from Eric's letter, shown below, is that experience, research, training and transitioning on making the best use of new tools and methods would be helpful.

You may recall we discussed a concept of command and control of the record in our meeting on May 17, 2000.

If there is enough time to click on the above link, it shows that "Command and Control of the record" incorporates Eric's call for "context" management. A lot of frustration arises with links because people lack command and control, as related on May 17, 2000, and in POIMS.

Daily experience encountering thousands of links, and feeling comfortable, shows SDS provides additional usability that empowers people for deciding which to open and which to ignore by determining relevance to objectives, requirements and commitments. As you say, context is the critical ingredient. On any given day, we only open at most .1% of the links available, because the others are irrelevant to tasks at hand. But the next day, different links are needed, and so become powerful paths into knowledge of cause and effect that impacts current context. So, being able to command and control this environment that replicates in useful ways the web of connections in human thought, noted by US Army Corps of Engineers in a report on Communication Metrics published March 28, 1997, and using a variety of tools to solve the problem of meaning drift that burdens human biology, may provide part of the answer on improving communication, which worries many.

Indeed, Peter Drucker says people have given up trying to improve communication because it is too complex. As you have discovered, opening a link into SDS reveals a lot of complexity, like looking into the subconscious memory that stores links to a lifetime of history. Somehow, the human mind exercises command and control that makes us comfortable with the complexity of our lives, and that method needs to be deployed more widely to manage context, as you propose.

So, rather than give up, we need to experiment, struggle and provide feedback for improvement, because experience is the only path to progress. It may be that only funding a big research program to pay folks to click on a few links can develop the feedback needed to move forward. In any case, your input is instructive.



Rod Welch

Eric Armstrong wrote:

Rod Welch wrote:

... (I) wonder if you can explain what more can be done to make communication clear, concise and complete, beyond empowering people with access to context that is accessible at their time and convenience, and is summarized and linked to relevant details, emulating the architecture of human thought, and how a system of "ratings" can be applied to links that takes less time and expense? How does the mind rate its connections?

First, I commiserate with you on the "routing" systems. I just called Sprint PCS to complain that callers were not being given the opportunity to leave a voice mail. I was greeted by a voice-activated routing system that had no option for reporting problems, and no option for contacting a person.

I wound up screaming at it in frustration, cutting off its every attempt to give me another prompt (I'd heard 30 of them, by that time), until at last it delivered me to a human being who had enough intelligence to deal with the issue constructively. I have rarely been so frustrated.

As for what people can do to improve communication: The first rule of sales is to answer the question, "why do I care?". Posting a link is nice. I won't visit it. Summarizing what is in the link is helpful. If I happen to see a connection between what's been posted and what I'm working on, I may choose to visit it. But if someone really thinks a link is good, it needs a summary of "why we care" -- what good its going to do us, how we're going to use it, etc.

In other words, a link is only as good as the surrounding information that tells me whether or not is worth the time to follow it. There are various ways to do that. One way is with typed links, that would display differently, or perhaps have a little explanation when I hover over the link, so I know whether the material is reference, or argument, or what have you. Another way is with the text surrounding the link, as in "For more information, see xxx."

In general, I see the man/machine interaction systems as the most likely to produce useful results. I don't think we spend near enough time designing those kinds of systems. Most are either all one way, or all the other.

I wish there were an opportunity for me to focus more effort in this area. There isn't. The best I can do at this juncture is to outline the big picture, as I see it. Everything that has usable results provides useful design principles for the eventual "solution". I need to make time to look at Alex's stuff more closely. I'm sure he has incorporated several good ideas, based on his posts. I look forward to discovering what they are.