A Review of the Solutions

As stated, individual solutions (a blog, a wiki, a news site, etc.) are only sufficient for certain scales of community and collaboration. One of the main capabilities missing for these 'individual' models is the ability to document trends and decisions made by people. Some degree of documentation is performed today through a mnemonic process of new posts being reflective of previous. Thus documentation still largely occurs in the human brain - in its recognition of history. Part of the intention here is to use a web-based system as an extension of our memory, rather than purely a stimulator of it.

Thus, CMS systems are presented here as the next stage in our collective training and extending of human faculty. They are not expected to be 'the best,' or any other absolute, but rather another step to understand clearly and through which to understand the terrain in which we are walking.

Pragmatically, we consider whether one of the existing systems is suitable for realizing the initial model. A short review reveals that none, in their present state's, are suitable for the task. All would need some greater of less degree of modification. The intent of our initial, and targeted, system model is to facilitate collaborative decision-making, research, and education. These aspects of culture are broad and institutional. They all suggest governmental processes, and the system being explored here is beginning to touch on civic affairs.

If an existing product is to be used, in any form, it would be best if it were to have acceptance at these traditional social levels. In this case all of the products fade from focus with the exception of Zope/Plone, due to its acceptance and use by academic and governmental groups. As well, several industrial partners contribute to the development of the product. It is convenient that the package is also one of the most robust models present in the Open Source spectrum.

A Model Solution

Below is presented a schematic model for our 'Model Solution'. Much of the proposed work can be accomplished within Zope's existing Component Architecture. Essential operation is in the components for major interaction forms: news, wiki, forum, blog, and galleries. The associated infrastructure of these components are user accounts, basic search, caching, tags, administration, layers and skins. Developing these all first will allow the system to begin to conceive of its future growth. The next step will involve basic internal / external data exchange, including file handling and syndication, basic ephemerides, and versioning (as well as other infra-structural components).

The following development step begins the initial implementation of research capabilities. These include a notebook, data visualization, scheduling & timing extensions, plus data and contact management. Through tightly integrating the interface of the notebook and visualization components information can be logged, browsed, summarized and reported upon - collaboratively or individually.

Addressing this step as the foundation for collaborative research and education, the next step would extend the capabilities through component access to grid-federated data and other resources, specialized client and server-side applications, and interfaces for mobile or other (tangible?, etc) accessing. All of the above development steps will each require a design document to provide a reference for team or individual development.

Versioning & Genealogy

Component interactions for Versioning could be more complex than the infrastructure comfortably allows, and as such may be opportunistic enough to inform modifications to the underlying framework. At worse, the existing framework is more than sufficient to the proposed scenario and a simplification of the system schematic could occur. The assessment cannot be made in further detail without some hands-on experience in the operation of Zope.

Versioning of topic material, and ultimately the genealogical documentation of material, is a key novelty in the envisioned system. Integrating this functionality throughout the interface and architecture is a challenge of the development of a new system. The added functionality will particularly facilitate education, civic affairs and governance, in that those systems define themselves by their history.

There is a particular interest in considering how this model could interact with matters of governance. In a forum discussion there was casual mention, received with humor of "Forking the government"4.11 (Fork: to duplicate its 'code' for purposes of alteration, testing, and stress-free re-integration). I find the suggestion to be revolutionarily inspiring as it suggests a new approach to peaceful changes in broad social matters. Civil growth could occur with more open awareness through people accessing information relative to their personal interests or social context - raising the baseline of public knowledge.

Aside from the civic and government scene, collaborative, genealogically versioned planning could be used in the development of academia. In order for this concept to work, there must be an involved and interested community of collaborators. The ideas in development could migrate from private ideas in stewardship by individuals to being more fully supported by the individuals' host organization. Clusters of supported ideas can then be drawn together into studio-like cellular formations exploring works along a line of inquiry, and being self-sustaining in terms of access to unique resources. Continual cultivation of these studio programs can lead to the development of a school-level body (most likely an Arts School) that is a directorate for the exploration of several cohesive cellular studio-programs.

Sufficient cultivation at this level will give foundation to the viability of methodologies at the school level, allowing the formation of a college to oversee 'show-piece' resources the equivalent of theaters, studios, lab equipment, darkrooms, and budgets. Further development from this level will focus on the systemic inter-working and exchange between academic units of this scale, leading to the creation of a framework that can be chartered as a full university, supporting inter- and intra-disciplinary education between a robust gamut of academic fields. Due to the extensively journaled developmental history alterations of any scale can be accommodated, allowing the rise of departmental units, studios, labs, and even whole colleges, to meet the needs of society at the time.


Integration of Grids and other distributed architectures is a highlight of the re-design aims, as distributed operation is the general vision of present day systems design. Though there are significant engineering challenges to grid integration, the larger challenge perhaps is the design of a sensible interface. Just giving people visual access to these approaching seas of data is challenge enough let along envision what the next generation of applications will be to emerge.

A guiding concept is that of technology as a meta-body of society. It consists of bones (metals and materials 'stronger' than the flesh), muscles (engines and pistons to drive the bones), blood (fuel to power the parts), and a nervous system (telephone and wireless communication to transmit messages). Within this structure, silicon-based machines have come to represent an emerging consciousness. The next phase could see the 'mapping' of DNA in place of the silicon CPU via a distributed grid-based operating system, which will inform the next phase of body/tool symbiosis. More along these lines is discussed in the appendix Ecology as the joint between Aesthetics, Religion & Science.

A broad-reaching as the suggestions may be, they are an eventual possibility along the lines of technical development laid out here. Most charted, perhaps, is the interface metaphor used to access this gestating resource. In terms of the pragmatics of our Zope-based model system, the implementation of a new interface design philosophy will greatly evolve Plone for research and educational applications. Plone would be drawn in to be a particular layout within the envisioned system, with additional layout frameworks being designed for other applications in research, education, and decision-making - or it would be re-designed altogether.

Implementing the Model

No code has been written toward the envisioned system design due to the enormous amount of existing material that was discovered in research up to May 2005. Prior to this research there was no thorough review of the domain of material. The process from this point will be crafting of a design document for development of the system. Interaction and dialogue with the Zope developer community in particular will also be part of this next stage. This document will also serve as a discussion-piece for interaction with individuals on the issues it presents.

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© New Alexandria 2002