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i was active here many years ago but then my job (grad student in computational neuroscience) consumed my life. i'm almost done with my studies. i live in San Diego, California, United States with my wife Katherine.

Among other relevant topics, i'm into computer programming (current favorite language: Python), ideas for collaborative software, utopian dreams, individual freedom, open source, math, cognitive studies (especially A.I. and neuroscience), and parliamentary procedure i.e. formal group decision/GroupSpeech? procedures.


Here are some pages that I sometimes recommend to other people:

Future projects

I am co-founding an “open company” to create a reputation economy system. The idea behind “open company” is that the company will be run like an open source project:

“Amount of value contributed” will be estimated by using a reputation system (i.e. peer evaluation system, i.e. trust metric system). We will be using our own system to run the company. Contributors will submit peer evaluations of each other, and our algorithm will take all of these peer evaluations into account and compute how the profits will be shared.

http://pietrust.com has some details.

Send email to the address at the above link if you’d like to see the PieTrust? wiki (the wiki will be open after we launch, or maybe before, but right now it’s password-protected).

I would love it if any MeatballWiki regulars wished to join us. I am also reaching out to CommunityWiki.

I have been working on this on the side for awhile, and we already have a (pathetically incomplete) prototype and a list of 8 potential clients, organizations who think they might use it and who are eagerly awaiting the finished product. The product will be very valuable not only for open companies, but for traditional companies, in a variety of different applications, and I think the chance that we will be able to make good money is quite high.

We’ve already seen the first smattering of interest from investors. I am committed to working on this project full-time after I finish my PhD?, which will happen within a few months.

(please don’t call public attention to this as we do not yet have the time to handle a lot of publicity – i just wanted to invite any Meatball folks who are interested to join early on)

Current projects

My past projects, and my analysis of their fates


I wasn't a founder of MeatballWiki, but i consider it the project to be all of ours, so i list it here. At the time i dropped out from the online world, MeatballWiki was a big success, although i don't personally deserve much credit for that because it was already a big success when i arrived, and i was only one of many people there. It is still here (obviously), but I don't know how it has fared since i dropped out. For awhile before i dropped out, i had turned my attention to CommunityWiki and spent less time here.


i founded [NeuroWiki], a wiki for discussion about neuroscience research, but i failed, and it became a SpamGarden?. i attribute my failure to

  1. a lack of time (my advisor advised me not to spend time on it),
  2. a lack of networking/advertising (i mentioned the wiki to other students in my neuroscience program, but only once or twice because i didn't want to be annoying; in retrospect, mentioning it more often might have made the difference; i used to think doing that is selfish and bad, but now i think that its merely a necessary evil along the path to starting something; sometimes things can succeed without that, but it's unlikely),
  3. difficult positioning (neuroscientists just contribute to Wikipedia, because most people think that wikis are for encyclopaedias, not discussions), and
  4. lack of organization (DavidAndel hosted the site, and so when i wanted to upgrade the spam software, i had to coordinate with him; at the time i hadn't started using todo lists yet, and this made me ineffective at this).

I think it would have been feasible and worth it for me to have fixed these problems, so this is a failure. On the other hand, nothing would have worked without spending more time, and i was just following my advisor's advice, so i don't feel very guilty.


For awhile i was also active at CommunityWiki:BayleShanks, a wiki about communities with an open copyright, where i was one of the initial members. It is still here (obviously), but I don't know how it has fared since i dropped out. I count this as neutral, in between a success and a failure. We succeeded in creating an open copyright wiki about communities, and we built a community, and we created some good content. However, i will always wonder if it would have been possible to do more if we had collaborated more closely with Meatball, a possibility that was inadvertently foreclosed by some social/political decisions early on, along with impatience, both of which i hold much responsibility for.


i also count among my failures OpenMeatballWiki, although this was not my own project. Nevertheless i feel guilty because i'll never know if it would have succeeded if i made it a priority. This failure i attribute to bad time management on my part, and also to unfortunate timing, in that i believe that OpenMeatballWiki was created around the same time as CommunityWiki, which sucked away the attention of those MeatballWiki members most concerned with open copyright issues.


i am a cofounder of [Neurodudes], a successful neuroscience weblog.

Neurodudes didn't fulfill its potential, though, which was to be a SlashDot of neuroscience research. I attribute its failure to fulfill its potential to lack of time on the part of the cofounders to post enough interesting research articles, and a lack of networking/advertisement as with NeuroWiki. However, i don't think that we (the cofounders) could have afforded the extra time that would have been required, so this was not a preventable failure and i am not unhappy with it.

I attribute the overall success of the weblog to being in the right place at the right time. We were one of the first (possibly the first?) neuroscience research news blog.

neurodudes is still alive but i am transitioning out of neuroscience, at least for now, so although i post there when i see something interesting, i don't plan on spending energy to move it forward.

Interwiki software

i started a Sourceforge site and mailing list where wiki developers could discuss interwiki software projects. This was initiative was brief but successful (in that there were useful discussions; i don't mean to imply that all of the potential interwiki projects we discussed came to fruition), and then the discussion was moved to WikiSym lists. I haven't kept up, so i dunno what happened after that.


i created a open-source middleware library that provided a unified API for communication with wiki servers.

i successfully completed the initial version of it, and i'm sort of proud of that, but the project as a whole was a failure, because the library was never used much (although i still use it myself) (although someone once told me it had been forked, which i would consider a success, but i think they were mistaken).

i attribute the failure to

  1. not having enough time to maintain and update and expand it
  2. not having the time to network with other developers who could have used it

this lack of time was unavoidable, but had i been wiser, i would have forseen it beforehand, and not undertaken the project in the first place.

1st phd project attempt: all-optical electrophysiology

this section may not make sense to non-neuroscientists.

my initial attempt at a phd thesis project was to use light to do fully automatic I/O with multiple neurons in a cell culture on a tight budget. This was just barely feasible at time i started doing it, and it turns out i am not a great experimentalist. The project could have been completed but it would have taken too long -- i spent a few years on it and then my advisor told me to switch to something else. I think if a student started the same project now they could succeed in a reasonable time due to the advancement of technology since then.

i attribute my failure to being too ambitious. i should have tried to just read, or to just write, to the culture, and to manually do the other side. i should have given up on trying to do temporally precise I/O (at the time, there was a harsh tradeoff between temporal precision and signal/noise ratio, which made it either prohibitively expensive or technically difficult to get both). Recently a paper came out which successfully did a less ambitious experiment along these lines, and in slice no less. So it was both more scientifically relevant and more feasible than what i was trying to do.

i don't feel bad about this though because a beginning phd student is not expected to know how to choose and manage a phd project. It was a good learning experience.


i wrote a lightweight, wiki source-like, markup language that compiles into LaTex?. I don't know if anyone else uses it, but I use it all the time, and it saves me a lot of typing and makes my document and presentation sources much more readable. it's worthwhile for me to maintain it because it saves me time in other things i have to do anyway. This is a success.

i attribute the success to the fact that the project's goal is to help with a task that comes up often, and to the fact that i personally need it enough that even if i am the only user, that's enough gain to make it worthwhile.

parliamentary procedure helper

A colleague and i wrote a program that can be used by participants in parliamentary meetings to help them keep track of what is going on and what they are allowed to do. It was actually used in UCSD student government meetings. I haven't heard of it being used outside of that. I'm not sure if this is a success or a failure. Probably a failure, although it was at least a good learning experience for me; i learned about parliamentary procedure and i got to program a GUI for the first time, which i had always wanted to do.

voice keyboard

because i used to be on the computer too much, a few years ago i hurt my hands with RSI (i guess this is when i dropped out of online stuff). Using a foot-controlled mouse and an on-screen keyboard, i programmed a frontend to the Sphinx voice-recognition package that allowed me to type keys with my voice. i maintained the package for a little while and then stopped, and it since has become incompatible with the latest GNU/Linux kernels.

i consider this a success because it allowed me to use the computer a little bit while my hand healed, and there was at least one user besides myself, and i developed a package of scripts along the way which helped other Sphinx developers. it's a very small success, though, because i didn't maintain it, and i don't know if it was worth the time it took to write it.


i created an emacs package that is a variant of viper mode (vi mode), except that the position of the keys are remapped to more efficient locations (e.g. all of the main movement keys are on the home row). this not only makes typing quicker, but it seems to make it less hurtful to my hands and wrists, so i credit it partially with my recovery from my RSI. i don't know if anyone else uses it, but i use it everyday so this is a success.



HansWobbe -- Wed Mar 23 17:17:29 2011

Congratulations on having the courage to produce a Summary. I'm not sure I'm up to that challenge. -- Hans.

HansWobbe -- Wed Mar 23 17:19:37 2011

Congratulations on having the courage to produce a Summary. I'm not sure I'll ever get around to even trying to do that. -- Hans

BayleShanks -- Wed Apr 20 19:08:23 2011

thanks :)

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