Monday, October 19, 2009

Integration Points

An integration point between systems is the point where value is moved from one system to another. Understanding and creating the integrations where the value successfully transfers between the systems is often quite difficult. Successful value transfer even between simple systems, such as two humans trying to do knowledge transfer, can be quite complicated.

When analyzing systems of systems it is useful and necessary to collect information about these transfer points. I find the most interesting and useful piece of information about integration points is the class (type) of the integration point. I like to classify the integration points as Human, Custom, Shared, Service, Linked, and Modeled.

A human integration point is one where the value is transferred by humans operating within human systems.

A custom integration point is one where the value is transferred by creating a customized transfer process.

A shared integration point is one where the value is placed into a central repository.

A service integration point is one where value is transferred by a service that is delivered by a tool system.

A linked integration point is one where dynamic, extensible data is delivered by a tool system.

A modeled integration point is one where value is delivered by collaborative models.

It is interesting to look at the characteristics of each of these types of integration. The following table takes a brief look at some of these characteristics. My apologies that this table is difficult to read. You can find a more legible copy on our web site Since it isn't as well known, I'll write more about modeled integration next time.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Contributions and Constraints

So many passionately want to make a contribution but often the value of the contribution is constrained by metasystems that are intended to enable contributor. What can be done to mitigate contribution constraint?

Leaders are part of the metasystem. What about leadership constraint?

If the team has a manager, the team is constrained by the capability of the manager. If the team aligns to optimize capability, the team is unconstrained.

Most organizations realize the difference between leadership and management. A good leader understands that everyone is a contributor, everyone is vital. The role of the leader is to enable and align the contributions into a symphonic whole. Leaders invest in educating and empowering workers, maximizing the quality of the contribution. Leaders understand that a well equipped team increases the inventory of substance which can answer any challenge.

However, even if the leadership is of the highest quality, if he/she must be consulted for every act of enablement, the team is constrained by the leadership. If the metasystem is built around an improvement community, focused on enabling the team, an amazing upward spiral results. It works because by focusing on team enablement, each member understands all individual contribution is essential, no matter the pedigree. The team affirms the value of each individual and aligns strengths to weaknesses to an optimized whole.

A mature team continues to optimize the optimization, improve the improvement. A mature team looks for team bottlenecks and marshals team resources to mitigate the constraints.

Tools are part of the metasystem. What about tool constraint?

If the tool has an engineer, the tool is constrained by the capability of the engineer. If the tool is built from collective intelligence, co-evolving the human and tool system, the tools are unconstrained.

Toolsets enable contribution when they adapt to the contributor, the contribution, the receiver, and the receipt, with self-adjustment to optimize each transaction. Engineered tools constrain the transaction to the engineer's view of the transaction, not the participant's view of the transaction. Often, participants must adapt to the engineered view in order to complete the transaction. Adding every flavor of a transaction to an engineered product forces the engineer into a dilemma of increasing the feature set or maintaining the elegant simplicity. That's a very tough choice with no good answer.

If the tool is an adaptive system, one that is easy to use and adapts to any current or future change, one that is composed of easy to understand models/systems, the engineering constraint is mitigated. The tool adds value to each transaction even if the particular transaction has not been preconceived.

The characteristics of an adaptive tool like this will be considered over the next several blog entries.

Sponsors are part of the metasystem. What about sponsorship constraint?

If the sponsorship is the elite, the result is constrained by the elite. If the sponsorship is based on value, the result is unconstrained.

There are places that do not value contribution that is not from the elite members of the internal society. They ask what is the value of leadership or tools that allow others to contribute something that is of little or no value anyway? However, sponsorship often comes from the elite. Often is an "us and them" mentality. Often the elite find it hard to believe that there would be anything of value from outside the closed society. Additionally, if the leadership and tools really worked to enable the masses, the elite would no longer be elite. The elite may be better off but they wouldn't be elite. Contrast the elite with the non-elite contributor who finds it very hard to believe that he/she does not have anything of value to offer. When the elite sing the mantra daily that only the elite can make a valuable contribution even the most enthusiastic contributors finally give up. Until the elite internalize that their biggest asset is the vast amount of people, globally, who want to make a contribution they will continue to impose constraint.

True sponsorship often comes from the bottom up. If the contribution works for another it will be sponsored. If the contribution does not work, feedback will be provided so the contributor can adjust the contribution (if desired). If the sponsorship is based on the value of the contribution, the sponsorship does not become a constraint. The contributions that add value will be sponsored.

Are you a contributor?

Do you think anyone else could make a contribution to your current work? If you believe that someone could help make a contribution, think for a moment about how you would like for that to happen. What is keeping it from happening today? Is it leadership, sponsorship, the toolset? Do you believe you can contribute something of value to the work of someone else? How would you like to make a contribution to other's work? What is keeping that from happening today?

What is constraining you today from making/receiving valuable contribution?

Think about it, and then let's collectively mitigate the constraint.

It will be up to you - To build the systems, to provide the leadership, to provide the sponsorship needed to make your contribution. It will also be up to the community to build the systems, to provide the leadership, to provide the sponsorship to your specifications.

We need your contribution and can't wait to see it.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

I Want My Tools to Adapt to Me

I want my tools to adapt to me...

I don't want to learn all about the latest gadget and then figure out how I am going to use it.

I want my tool to figure out what I am trying to do and then help me get the job done.

I want my tools to adapt to me...not me to an overly engineered world!

If this were true, if my tools adapted to me, what would the world look like? A wonderful vision is painted by Howard Rheingold and Brenda Laurel.

Here are a few paragraphs from this blog:

"Ideally, we won't see computers of tomorrow, because they will be invisible, built into the environment itself. Try to imagine a computer that is nowhere to be seen, and is set up to attend to your every wish, informationally speaking. You enter a room, and the room provides multisensory representations of anything, real or imaginary, you can think of to ask it to represent. You could, for example, go skiing in the Alps with wraparound full-color three-dimensional visual display, authentic panphonic soundtrack, biting cold air, ultraviolet-rich high-altitude sunshine, spray of powder snow on your cheeks, the feeling of skis beneath your feet, of being impelled down a slope.

But you shouldn't have to limit your use of such a universal information medium to a real terrestrial experience. You could explore a black hole in a neighboring galaxy, navigate through tour nervous system, become a Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's court. If you want to extend your senses into the real world in real time, you can look at quasars with x-ray radiotelescope vision, CAT scan everything you see, hover above the earth in a weather satellite, zoom down to take an electron microscopic look at the microbes on a dust mote on a license plate in Kenya.

If you want to communicate with one person or an entire on-line network, you have all the media at your disposal, along with additional "dialogue support tools" to augment the interaction. Or the interaction might be private, limited to you and the informationscape -- for reasons of work or play.

Perhaps you want to know something about blue whales. Everything written in every magazine, library, or research data base is available to you, and an invisible librarian is there you help you, if you wish; just focus your eyes on a reference file and it fills the screen. Ask the librarian questions about what you want to know, or allow it to ask you questions. But you don't have to just read about whales. You can listen to them, watch them, visit them. Just ask, and you'll be underwater, swimming among them, or in a helicopter, watching them while you hover above the crystalline Baja waters.

All the roles of the different components can be changed radically by adding a "help agent." The help agent oriented the user by saying things like "ask her about a place," or "ask him -- he knows what to look for." The idea was to create a kind of "informational butler" that would observe both the user and the information system, keep a record of that individual's preferences, strengths, and weaknesses, and actively intervene to help the user find or do what the user wanted to find or do.

What we are getting at seems so strange and so counter to everything we have been taught that it takes a while for it to sink in: In essence, we are saying that when it comes to computer software, the human habit of looking at artifacts as tools can get in the way. Good tools ought to disappear from one's consciousness. You don't try to persuade a hammer to pound a nail -- you pound the nail, with the help of a hammer. But computer software, as presently constituted, forces us to learn arcane languages so we can talk to our tools instead of getting on with the task. What people are going to want from us is not more deadhead entertainment, but personal power. "

This adaptive meta system is offering personal power. That is the first step. However, personal power that can not be shared does not seem like power at all. I want more than that from my tools. I want my tools to adapt to me so I can have not only personal power but I also want to affect my world. I want my tools to make my contribution available to others if they choose to accept my offering of added value. I want to be part of a meta system that needs and uses the results I have created.

This can happen if the meta system also empowers the meta offerings. That means the not only are the offerings accepted but the offering about the offerings, how to align them, how to improve them, how to evolve them to work together, offering value, affecting how quickly the entire system can evolve. The result is an evolutionary system that adapts not only to me but to the needs of all participants in the meta system.

In a world free of interface and engineering constraint, where the tools adapt to the task at hand, future outcomes can be investigated and mitigated by the tools before changes are found to be flawed…or unsafe. We can proactively decide our future and the future of our children.

In this world everyone has personal power… and personal responsibility. The meta system has power…and the group has responsibility. The world has power…and responsibility.

Why Meta and Why Me

In this blog you will see the word "meta" used a lot but what is meta? Meta is just a fancy word for an abstraction. A meta system is simply a system of systems.

We live in a meta system. Our bodies are a system of systems. We have a respiratory system, a digestive system, a circulatory system and so on. Those systems combine to create a system of systems which we call the body. Each system, like the digestive system, can be broken into it's own system of systems, a mouth, an esophagus, a stomach, and so on.

We live on earth with is part of our solar system. Our solar system is part of our galaxy. Our galaxy is part of the universe.

There are many examples of systems of systems in our world. When a product is manufactured, the supply chain provides a system of systems which transforms raw materials into finished goods. When you look at your car you see systems of systems. Actually, it becomes hard to think of something that is not a system of systems. If you can find something that isn't a system of systems it is called a primitive. Optimizing the way systems interact to provide the absolute best whole is the job of the metasystem analyst. We look at systems in multiple levels of abstraction and we look at how meta systems interact with other meta systems. We look at both human and tool systems. It is extremely important to remember that every meta system includes both people that participate in the system and the tools they use.

My work has always been in reflexive meta systems. That means systems of systems that can create (and recreate or evolve) themselves depending on the directions of a user. I work on things like:

Programs which create programs
Data which represents data
Interfaces which create interfaces
Robots (or agents) that create robots (or agents)
Dynamic Repositories of Dynamic Repositories
but my favorite of all is working on improvements which improves improvements, improving the way we improve (credit to Doug Engelbart)

There are people who think that ultimately reflexive meta system will do all known activities for humans. They will build all our products, provide answers to our questions, even clean our houses and do our dishes! They will do anything for us that we can imagine. If this ever happens we will enter what is being called the age of singularity. The thought leaders think this may happen as early as 2020. Change is always worrisome but many of us are thinking hard about how to make sure this change happens in the right way. Correctly creating the systems of systems that can be used to help create real solutions to the very biggest of our global problems is a challenge that many of us are working on right now.

One of the communities working on this challenge is Program for the Future. If you click on this link and then click on the about tab you can see us hard at work.

So, why meta? We believe that improving the improvement is the best way to provide the future we all want for our children and grandchildren. Meta provides answers the two important questions -

How do I/we get what I/we want?
How do I/we know this is what I/we really want?
(credit to Sam Hahn)

So, why "me"? Every person is capable of making a small improvement. Small improvements when added together create big improvements and those big improvements ultimately will benefit not only "me" but we can pass off a better world to our children and grandchildren.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Thank you Dan Brown

Today I started to read Dan Brown's new book, "The Lost Symbol". I couldn't believe he actually created a character who was a metasystems analyst - Trish Dunne. It is so exciting that someone, even if she is fictional, is actually working in this space. Of course, I immediately ran to my computer to see if there actually was an industry blog, "Future Applications in Computational Metasystem Analysis". If there is a blog, I couldn't find it.

Several people over the years have suggested that I create a blog about what I do. I never did because I, like Trish, seriously doubted that anyone would read it. However, if Future Applications in Computational Metasystem Analysis is becoming mainstream enough for Dan Brown to write about it, maybe it is time for me to start blogging.

So, thank you Dan Brown for giving me hope that someone, someday may actually read and follow this blog. For those of you who have found this blog, thank you for stopping by. I'd love to hear from you.

Friday, October 2, 2009


Meta system analysis has many names. I am going to post some commonly used vocabulary to make sure meta systems analysts and those interested in meta systems can find this blog using search engines.

This blog is intended to be a resource for those are interested in:

meta systems architecture
meta systems modeling
rules processing for meta systems
abstract data representation
abstract knowledge representation
reflexive meta systems
reflexive meta modeling
data fusion
ontology construction
ontology core construction
middle-out architecture
self generating systems
self correcting systems
collaborative computing
value networks
sustainable value networks
system augmentation
computational metasystem analysis
future applications in computational metasystem analysis
future meta
dynamic knowledge