Idea Tracking

September 30, 2008 | 1 Comment

Category: Activism, Auto-Biography, Future, Society, Web

Lee Goodman has a talent for being present when my life takes a radical shift.  In high school, as we became close friends, Lee introduced me to the hippie protest movement.  In 2002, Lee brought me back into the protest movement when he invited me to a peace march in Northbrook.

Four days after returning from the United States Social Forum, Lee and I were in my living room discussing the commercial possibilities of an application my firm was developing when that underground aquifer of inspiration offered me a taste and then complete emersion of an idea.  Yet, it was more than an idea.  If felt like I was looking into a window of how the future would unfold.  Directly connected to the revelation in the convertible with Marcia earlier in the week, the idea was about interconnection, the neotenization of society, with an outline of specific features of the next step in the transformation of our species.  It hit me as Lee stood to leave to head back home.  I rose, my tongue between silence and stuttering as I watched him depart.  Later in the week, I called Lee to share the vision.

Integrated into the online campaigns being developed for the Actions Options Tool (AOT) was the ability for a user, through his or her social networking page, to note the user’s participation in an eletter, fundraiser, boycott or petition.  In addition to being able observe his or her own participation in a fundraiser, for example, and the amount of money contributed, the user could also observe how many people he or she brought into the fundraiser and the cumulative total for his or her contributions and the friends’ contributions.  When this idea came to me in December of ’06, I was not aware it was already being used by some donor software.  The unique addition to this process was our developing the AOT to make it possible for any user to observe multiple degrees of separation, indirect influence on friends of friends, friends of friends of friends, etc., providing the ability for the user to experience his or her vast indirect interconnection with the larger community.  The AOT seeks to provide an experience of empowerment by making the world transparent in a way that enhances our ability to intuit our connection to that world.  By providing a lineage chart displaying these cascading relationships, the AOT provided an instant snapshot of how we affect our community, and at the same time one sees how large that community is.

Standing there watching Lee depart, I realized that an individual using the AOT did not have to be limited to participation in an online campaign created by one of the participating organizations in the network.  The software could be designed to accommodate individual users creating their own campaign, their own idea, their own bit of gossip and then passing it on to friends and watching it disperse.  When an idea is created and sent on to a friend, that friend clicks on a link that carries him or her back to his or her AOT social networking page, where he or she can continue the chain by continuing to disperse the idea.

Any user can generate his or her own lineage tree of indirect influence based on any idea, file, resource, video, bit of news or revelation.

Programmer Dave Larson and I began working out the details and following the implications.  With a central database offering an environment for these lineage trees to grow, users could revel in the speed, breadth (how many other users were participating in their idea or campaign), depth (how many degrees of separation were engaged) and geographic span (tracking zip codes).  The programming could be designed to create reports at any user request that would offer an ability to run comparisons over time of various campaigns, thus allowing an ability to weigh the strength of different ideas.

Human hubs would emerge.  Those people at the center of idea dispersals, either as creators or prime disseminators, would become clear.  Those folks with the largest number of influential relationships would be rewarded by appearing on pages dedicated to revealing the ideas or campaigns with the most powerful metrics (depth, breadth, speed and span).

David and I concluded that this task would have to be done in a noncommercial environment.  We discussed how best to invest not only users with an experience of empowerment, but developers, so that the concept could grow organically.  We’d need to make it open-source.  We’d need a test environment where developers could experiment with new features.  And it strikes me now as I write this blog that we need an evaluative protocol that allows those ideas most respected by the developers to be then integrated into the application.

An alternative world would emerge, inspired by social networking, which would allow individuals to be creative, share what they created and then watch the creation’s dispersal through society in real time.  Observers could conduct searches of any subject and jump aboard the threads streaming through this alternative universe, making contributions, adding to and modifying them.

We will be able to watch the birth and evolution of ideas.  We will be able to run reports looking for patterns in the breadth, depth, speed, span, distribution and human hubs.  We will be able to seek, find, and understand the environments most likely to encourage ideas that lead to deep, lasting, positive social change.

The foundation programming architecture is completed.  We need volunteer programmers to make this network grow.  Readers, if you think this idea has potential, pass it on and have programmers contact me through this blog.

I’m not sure what it is about Lee that brings this idea generation out in me.  Like the mysterious elf in mythic stories when the youngest son needs assistance, Lee appears.  It’s possible that in this virtual tracker of gossip and concepts, idea-inspirers like Lee will be noticed, tagged and then deeply respected for their contributions to our community.


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This entry was posted on Tuesday, September 30th, 2008 at 6:44 am and is filed under Activism, Auto-Biography, Future, Society, Web. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
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  1. Cell Phone Idea Texting/Tracking : Neoteny, sexual selection, cause of autism, human evolution, social transformation, left organizing and internet activism - how they all connect on June 8, 2009 7:15 am

    […] mulling over an idea that involves tracking ideas as they move across the web.  I posted that idea here.  I’ve talked to programmers and various other folks.  Responses have ranged from deep […]

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