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Hi folks! I’m AndrewHoerner, a lawyer, economist, journalist and activist, living in Oakland, California. I have a big dream that needs a small boost, and am looking for help.


(1) I am Director of Research at Redefining Progress http://www.rprogress.org/newprograms/sustEcon/index.shtml, a sustainability think-tank oriented toward finding solutions that simultaneously promote a strong economy, a healthy environment, and a just society. I am best known as an expert in pollution taxes and other market approaches to sustainability. It is less well-known but still true that I am a leading architect of the recently-passed legislation capping California's greenhouse gas emissions (the Global Warming Solutions Act http://www.aroundthecapitol.com/Bills/AB_32, also called AB 32). I was co-author (with Jim Barrett) of the first (and still only) comprehensive climate plan for the U.S. to be endorsed by major labor unions, Clean Energy and Jobs http://www.epinet.org/studies/cleanenergyandjobs.pdf, and lead the team that wrote African Americans and Climate Change: An Unequal Burden http://www.cbcfinc.org/pdf/Climate_Change.pdf for the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation. That report included a prediction that more frequent and severe hurricanes would disproportionately harm low-income communities of color a year before Katrina struck.

(2) I am showing up here in large part because I am trying to organize something that I call the Convergence Institute for Essential Change. This is a project to promote dialog, collaboration and long-term thinking among progressive organizations, movements, and traditions, and ultimately to put us on the path toward becoming a nation where prosperity is widely shared and ecologically sustainable, and which is a force for these things in the world. It consists of a series of interrelated initiatives to support this goal, including (A) a residential center for activists and progressive scholars (currently planned for the San Francisco East Bay area) who share these goals to serve as a nucleus for organizing around them; (B) a series of Convergence Dinners: small, free (to the guests) gourmet dinners that bring together leading activists and scholars from diverse movements and traditions to discuss the most crucial questions that confront the progressive movement in a relaxed, informal setting and takes good notes; and (C) a software system that helps to unite these individual conversations, by uniting three components. These are:

Ultimately, I would like all of these pieces to be self-assembled by the community through a web-based interface, and the links between the three parallel ways of viewing the problem to be as transparent to the user and as automated as possible. Proximately, much of this will have to be done by hand, especially on the systems model end, and everything but the wiki will probably have to be run via some kind of virtual desktop system. but I am hoping that at least the links between the nodes and arrows of the dialog map and the corresponding wiki pages can be automated in both directions, so that Compendium nodes automatically create wiki pages and conversely. (I realize as i write this that I really want wiki pages for both nodes and arrows, where the node pages talk about a phenomena (vote, wages, union organizing, etc.) and how to measure it, while the arrow pages talk about the nature, strength and direction of causation and how to measure that. So this is not quite a SemanticWeb in the usual sense, in which the arrows would correspond to the page links. There are actually two distinct kinds of links here: mapped links, which always go from object pages to arrow pages or from arrow pages to object pages, and unmapped or conceptual links, which can go anywhere.)

I have been talking to folks on CommunityWiki about this for nearly six months as of May. Folks there suggested that I post here as well, stating that I might be more likely to get actual help over here, and I am finally getting around to acting on that suggestion. There is a longer description of my dream for this software support system here: http://www.communitywiki.org/en/StrategicDialogSupportSoftware


I am working on three main goals at the moment:

Devise and implement a climate policy in the U.S. that rapidly reduces global warming pollution to a sustainable level while simultaneously strengthening the economy and improving distributional justice. See (1) above.

Take a serious bite out of global poverty. See http://www.communitywiki.org/en/OpenSourceEconomicDevelopment

Revitalize and rebuild the American Left so that the U.S. becomes a force for national and global sustainability. This is the project that brings me here -- I am hoping for help and support, especially in automating the linkages between a dialog map like Compendium and a full-featured wiki. See (2) above. My own programming skills are negligible.


I have built my life around the belief that single individuals can produce deep change in arbitrarily large systems; that we are, all of us, vastly more powerful than is immediately obvious. I imagine the econo-politico-eco-system as a complex web of non-linear feedbacks, resonating around some very high-dimensional strange attractor. This means that _some_ small changes will be enormously amplified, shifting the world into other behavioral regimes, while most quite large changes will simply initiate counter-forces to restore the previous equilibrium.

The trick, of course, is knowing which is which -- deciding what you care about, choosing your battles, and using what the Buddhists call "skillful means." I think I have a talent for identifying such battles and means -- I must think that, or my view that I can type onto my computer, make phone calls, and give an occasional talk, and by doing so have some personal impact on the temperature of a planet would constitute a psychotic break with reality. Believing this, if correct, gives the believer obligations under the SpidermanRule.

A work in Progress

Much of what is on this introduction page should probably go on a project page, if there is any community interest in supporting the project that I am describing. I have poked around this site a bit, and still don't have a clue how to ask for such support in a way that gives me a yes or no answer. I gather that most of the people who seek such support are quite a bit more computer-savvy than I am, and are seeking help at a higher level. But I believe that the technical problem is inherently interesting; that a solution would be useful to many people, not just me; that the context of creating something that could assist a truly vital dialog will motivate some; and hope that this will somehow suffice.

Peace & Joy, AndrewHoerner


Andrew, wow. Welcome to MeatballWiki. Have you heard of http://www.webofchange.org? It's the kind of conference where you'll meet people with similar drives, goals, and interests. Plus, it is an awesome life changing kind of conference. -- SunirShah, (alumnus, WoC?'04)

''Thanks! I have heard of it but never been to it. I feel a little conflicted when i hear about cool conferences, because on one hand i think meeting talented people is the only way i'm going to make anything happen, and on the other, I have now gone to four conferences and given some kind of presentation, and always gotten very positive feedback and lots of interesting and sometimes useful advice, but have yet to find anyone who actually wanted to help.

I'm trying to bootstrap this project out of nothing. Once i get some kind of mock-up up and running so I can present on it, and have started hosting dinners and incorporated the first few discussions into the dialog map, maybe I can raise some money. The project is not entirely a hallucination -- I've found a chef who has agreed to supervise the food part; Redefining Progress has agreed that i can set up Convergence as an RP project so that I have non-profit status until we are ready to incorporate; i've come up with a really clever legal and financial structure that lets residents gain the tax advantages of home ownership while gradually transferring title into the hands of a non-profit; and I am prepared to sink my entire retirement savings into a down-payment on the living center. But i personally don't have the required computer skills to get even the mock-up up and running, and there is no money yet. My belief is that if we put somebody who already knows how some good wiki works in a room or on a phone with one of the Compendium developers, we could get the most crucial features up in something between a couple of hours and a couple of days, but this is just a guess. One of my hopes for the software is that it is the kind of glitzy thing that persuades potential donors that here is something new and different.

Is this mainly a conference of people who are doing software development with projects already? Or is there some significant group of attendees who have the skills and are looking for a project? -- AndrewHoerner''

Andrew, welcome. Did I mention, at CommunityWiki, AndriusKulikauskas and his OurCulture? network as a possible source of support? Did you ever get in contact with him? -- HelmutLeitner

''Hi Helmut! If you did, I did not do it. I did a quick Google and found at least ten different things called "Our Culture." Care to give me a pointer to the right one? And I'll ask you the same question that I asked Sunir: do you think that this is a good place to go looking for volunteers, and not just people with similar interests?

I feel that I am being rather ungracious in response to these really wonderful resources that people are offering me, for which I apologize. But the truth is, I have too many balls in the air and am feeling a little overwhelmed. What I really want is someone who will have a long conversation with me and then take over the software end so that I can focus on the two remaining pieces: finding and buying the living center and recruiting people -- the _right_ people -- to form the initial organizing core, including the residential fellows of the Institute. I suspect that that kind of ownership of the project is more then I'm going to get, and I'd be extremely grateful for a whole lot less, but that is what I want. --AndrewHoerner''

Andrew, I think it will be unlikely to find a volunteer like that. What is your plan B, if you don't find such a person? -- HelmutLeitner

''As I see it, I have three hopes for getting somebody who will really take it on.

If I can not find someone to really take it on, I’d like a more moderate commitment to help me set up a sort of working “mock-up” of the system – one with a working and full-featured wiki, and a dialog map created in Compendium, both viewable via web, but probably behind a password. In this scaled down vision, I am maintain the dialog map and building the links between the map and the wiki by hand. Such a system could work for the first several dialogs, or even for the first year, but it would give me something to show donors, or IT volunteers – something working that can be gradually improved, and individual maintenance tasks automated as we go along. --AndrewHoerner''

''Hi Hans! Well, let's see . . . There is a minimum level of help that i need to get this off the ground. That is enough help to create a working "mock-up" as described above. I would like to acomplish this by early fall if at all possible. From there, there are two different kinds of help that I need. One is programming, basically improving the interface between Compendium and the chosen wiki, to automate tasks that I am doing by hand. I have a list of capabilities that it would be nice to have in such a system, and an order of importance for each. I do not have any good estimate of the difficulty of each. So I would tend to start with the ones that are easy and not too trivial, or important and not too hard, and go as far down the list as my volunteer has energy for, and somewhere down that road we may get some donor money to pay for additional features.

The second is just basic maintenence and tech support. The most important part of this job is probably going to be initial setup and teaching me to do an increasing amount of the routine maintenence.

I will admit that I am thinking of this project as a one-off, of particular interest to those who like the idea of supporting _this_ dialog. If my volunteer was more interested in thinking of this as creatig a general capability, then the feature list and prioritization would have to be reconsidered. For instance, one would place more importance on creating map features from the wiki, while my priorities run to focusing on creating wiki pages from the map. In this case, there is also probably a higher minimum level of contribution, as I think you need more integration before you can tell other people that you have a working and integrated system that they can use. --AndrewHoerner''

Andrew, welcome in the MeatballWiki, a well-connected, even overlapping wiki-community with that of the CommunityWiki. -- FridemarPache

''Thanks, Fridemar! Glad to be here. -- AndrewHoerner"

Andrew, your situation is a tough one, and I was wondering what to say in response. If I were to approach a similar problem, given my style, this is what I would think--my style may be different than yours, mind you. The first thing about all volunteers is that they are essentially SelfishVolunteers unless you have a pre-existing PersonalRelationship with them. Right now, you have little leverage or demonstrated value to someone willing to donate a significant amount of time and effort since you are just starting. This does not make the task of finding a technical volunteer impossible, just less probable. Finally, technical volunteers prefer to express their own personal visions, not someone else's, so you also need to focus on making your vision more persuasive, or finding people who are more easily persuaded. Towards the latter, there are a set of people who wish to intersect wikis with visual maps, like MindMaps and ConceptMaps. MartinCleaver is the most committed of all such people that I know, but he's not likely to volunteer.

So, as you say, skillful actions. To increase the probability of moving forward, think about where you are situated right now and what are the maximally effective actions you can take to increase your gravity. Clearly, erecting a building is a huge gravitational pull. Having your own space and hosting regular events is what establishes you as a brand. I can't help but look at similar initiatives in Toronto like http://www.socialinnovation.ca/, 401 Richmond, the Gladstone Hotel, http://indoorplayground.ning.com/. Not only did they create beautiful spaces, which are always in short supply, but they opened those spaces to their TargetAudience?s and kept hosting events, or letting others host events there.

The goal is to increase your SocialPower? in your local community by becoming a CentralFigure. The super-connector. Once you have everyone's attention, it will be easier to find volunteers that will align to your vision, rather than the current situation where you need to focus on aligning your efforts around others visions. i.e. You need to consistently AddValue? to your focused TargetAudience?, establish-maintain-strengthen PersonalRelationships, connect disparate communities, and in the background build some inertia around your pet project by doing whatever you can to start it going. For instance, start with the SeedPosting, or a visual sketch. The more you have pre-established, the more effective you will communicate in the final negotiation for the technical vision.

Finally, you also need to be personally detached from your vision. If you cannot personally achieve it, you have limited control over how it will shape itself in the end. You can increase your control through renumeration, such as money, services, or materials, but this will be less satisfying I think. -- SunirShah

An opportunity to work with the Compendium developers

[new:AndrewHoerner:2007-05-21 13:11 UTC] Good news! I now have a Compendium developer who has said that she would be willing to work with a wiki developer to link Compendium with a wiki in the way I have described. Now all we need is a wiki developer.

Aside from the inherent interest in the projct, why should someone who is basically interested in wiki visualization tools want to do this?

There are a number of tools for creating maps that help to visualize wikis or that can be used in wikis. These include Morcego, http://morcego.arca.ime.usp.br/tiki-index.php, to visualize the local vicinity of a page, VisualTour?, http://c2.com/cgi/wiki?VisualTour, to map an entire wiki, the ability of some wikis such as TikiWiki, http://tikiwiki.org/, to import FreeMind? maps, http://freemind.sourceforge.net/wiki/index.php/Main_Page, via a plugin, etc. The maps that these tools create can all show linkages between pages, but they usually don’t do much more. Here are some things that one might want such tools to do. Most of these things are done by no existing wiki-enabled mapping tool. A few tools may do one or two of these things.

Compendium is a feature-rich dialog mapping program. It does all the things listed above already (except the last two). It is intended to support and preserve every key part of large, complex, long-term dialogs, including supportive documentation and the like. Compendium has an active community of developers that are adding features in an ongoing way, including one paid staffer and numerous corporate users who are also developers. Creating a link between Compendium and a wiki would therefore add a much larger array of mapping abilities to a wiki than any other existing visualization tool, and those abilities will expand with time, with no additional work by the linking individual. Compendium is a quasi-open source program, and the Compendium Institute, which owns it, is committed to migrating to a fully open-source license over time.

If links were to be established between a wiki and Compendium, several members of the Compendium community have stated that they would use it. One could reasonably anticipate that this use would spread, and that maintenance and further integration of Compendium and the wiki would be largely taken up by the Compendium community. A desire for new Compendium-wiki linkage capabilities would naturally arise in a community of users and would go into the hopper of their feature request system.

One can develop additional capabilities in Compendium by exploiting its XML scheme, the Derby or MySQL? relational database, or the public Java classes to connect Compendium to other databases and computational services. (I don’t understand this last sentence, but it is taken more-or-less directly from their website, and I assume it makes sense to many of you here).

I have described a way of connecting a map to a wiki. What if you are mainly interested in the reverse connection, from wiki to map?

The Compendium development community consists of people who start with a lot of big maps that they use for a variety of purposes. In at least one case that I know of it is the primary planning tool for a division of a major corporation with more than 100 employees. In order to fully engage the Compendium community, we need to start with tools that automate the linkage from map to wiki. Once that linkage has been establishes and people start to use it, interest in the reverse linkage, from wiki to Compendium, will grow rapidly. There is little doubt that the Compendium developers community will rapidly come to see its value and support it directly.

Please feel free to forward this information to anyone who you think would be interested. AndrewHoerner

Hi Andrew, what wiki or what online-community, in which you are engaged, do you suggest for CreatingAndSharingWealth, based on new ideas. As a personality with a great Online Reputation and a lawyer, you could et. al. offer and share an escrow service for selling and buying Domain Names, that are centered around concepts, developed in the community. Each contributing community member as a SelfishVolunteer would have as incentive the chance to sell their fostered concepts, bound to owned domain-names, whereas the service provider could support the escrow-service by a TechnologySolution. You would share the revenue with the provider or could yourself develop attractive concepts, based on domain-names. Believe me this is a billion market and 5% for the escrow-service is good for funding. -- [fridemar]

Thanks for the idea, fridemar. I am afraid that it is a ways away from my expertise and current work, but I'll keep it in mind. AndrewHoerner

Hi Andrew, I think we've been thinking along very similar lines, and I'd like to start talking to see if we can join our efforts. I'm a programmer. --NathanielThurston


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