There is no Spoon – A taste of my own medicine

Today I noticed @ansi on the twitter stream mention this (very long) article at on the neuroscience of leadership. It is based on the merging of some of the sciences and the ability to understand how psychology and chemical changes in the human brain drive behaviour.
This article caused me to stop and think about how I do things, why things have worked out the way they have. In some ways its a taste of my own medicine, the things I try and get across to people, in particular as a metaverse evangelist, but do not have the scientific backing just gut instinct to work with. So to quote The Matrix – “there is no spoon”.
There is no spoon
One of the most interesting points,  that gave me an “oh I try and do that” moment was this statement.

“For insights to be useful, they need to be generated from within, not given to individuals as conclusions. This is true for several reasons. First, people will experience the adrenaline-like rush of insight only if they go through the process of making connections themselves. The moment of insight is well known to be a positive and energizing experience. This rush of energy may be central to facilitating change: It helps fight against the internal (and external) forces trying to keep change from occurring, including the fear response of the amygdala”

“When people solve a problem themselves, the brain releases a rush of neurotransmitters like adrenaline. This phenomenon provides a scientific basis for some of the practices of leadership coaching. Rather than lecturing and providing solutions, effective coaches ask pertinent questions and support their clients in working out solutions on their own.”

Insights, discovery, making an idea real to oneself produces a very different and positive chemical response in the brain. This is presumably why I often say I try and make things personal to people before the “business case” unless of course the “business case” or logic is the thing that will generate insight. This lets people feel why the concept would be useful for them, generating insight and synthesis making them feel good and able to explore the possibilities then based on their own mental model.

Another part of what the article states is that focus on an area or skill makes peoples mental models locked in more to that way of doing things. This stands to reason, but is good to see documented in this context.

“Attention continually reshapes the patterns of the brain. Among the implications: People who practice a specialty every day literally think differently, through different sets of connections, than do people who don’t practice the specialty. In business, professionals in different functions β€” finance, operations, legal, research and development, marketing, design, and human resources β€” have physiological differences that prevent them from seeing the world the same way.”

The implications of knowing or feeling the ideas in this article can be far reaching. Much of this requires, as they indicate, and ability to observe ones own motivations and patterns. Organisms strive for equilibrium apparently, that bubbles up into collections of organisms, corporations. I think though we have a fair set of people in the circles I move in whos equilibrium state is actually one of change and of new ideas, who instincitvely do things the way that this article suggests might work. If more people did it, I am guessing we would be even more effective?

So check out the full article, its very interesting, and try a bit of “self-directed neuroplasticity”

Thus endeth the pop science πŸ™‚

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Come hear my dulcet tones on Dogear Nation

On Friday I had the pleasure of being invited to the Michael and Michael Dogearnation show to talk all things metaverse. As Michael Rowe pointed out the last time I was on the show it was not a public gig as it is today. So if you have a few minutes to hear us jam on various metaverse subjects and the odd anecdote then the podcast is here.
Michael R. was streaming to from his end of the podcast, though Michael M. and I were on Skype seperately to be recorded, so the live video at the moment has a comedy one sided conversation only ehearing Michael’s voice. We did use the backchannel of text too though.
Another great experience, I particularly like the fact that it is really a live show. Whilst there is editorial considerations and timing for some editing the flow and feel was very live and again different to other media style interviews that I have done. The content for the show is both driven by the guests and the hosts interests and by the articles that have been tagged dogear-nation on delicious


CBR special on 50 years of Hursley Cool

Andy-SC just twittered the link to this great article from Computer Business Review on Hursley’s 50th celebrations. It is particularly good as it documents the complete set of things that Hursley have done and are still doing including virtual worlds. Fellow eightbar author Rob (is there anything he cant do) Smart was interviewed by CBR and is quoted throughout. Its well worth a quick read for anyone who has not quite grokked Hursley yet.
As we started eightbar to try and explain some of the ethos here, it is good to see it professionally written up.

Webflock by the ESC

I was tempted to do lots of Flocking jokes in the title of this, but I will leave that as an excercise for the reader. I had a chat today with Giff and Swords from Electric Sheep Company anout their virtual world product/service that they have created called Webflock. There is a much richer description on this page.
Image from
I think the natural thing with all the Googleness around with Lively is to make a comparison, but I think that is a rather misguided one as there really is not that much similarity once you drill down.
Webflock is Flash based, so yes runs in a browser. I agree this may be regarded as “not a plugin” as its so pervasive, though technically it is and still needs patching when adobe updates it, but it is a very standard plugin so thats a good thing. It uses papervision3d as part of the rendering engine. Its intended use is for branded experiences with a very low barrier to entry. In many ways this is the same challenge that we face in the CIO in IBM. There is a balance to be had between just letting people get in quickly, to experience something avatar based, with video and a small degree of interaction and a fully immersive, user generated content 3d world.
Being flash based Webflock is able to be driven from javascript in other pages, hence allowing for on glass integration with other web applications, rather than inserting the application in the environment. Though video is able to be played (and presumably any elements that flash wants to deal with too)
Its a very interesting model and direction to take. For those of use already immersed and bought in it may seem a step backwards, but I have certainly experienced the need for some of the steps to need to be slightly smaller for the vast majority of people, so this may just be the right way to go.
It can of course evolve, having a seperate backend system “Aspen” as the model and sometimes controller in this Model View Controller (MVC) application is an architecture that many of us techies are used to.
Some other interesting features we talked about was the emdebbing of game related content. Being able to initiate a quiz where you have to alk to the answer. This is very easy to do, may be slower than a quick click of a question but gets people considering the 2.5d space and moving around in it. The real interesting parts are when that is not simply a HUD for one person but a view shared by all. This is possible with the underlying model.
The system is designed as part of the more normal tool chain you might expect for web development. It is not currently aimed at excessive user customization, though no doubt that will creep in as its not long into grokking this that people want to do that as we have found inside IBM too.
So it does have the potential for a private view of the world, and a public shared view of the world.
Expect more in the next few months as some projects come on line. I look forward to seeing how these targetted customer spaces work and fill a gap to get even more people understanding the richness of human communication possible over the web. (its not all facebook you know)

Last Post

It’s my last day in the office today before I leave IBM, so it’s time to have a final cup of tea (and pint of something stronger) with my many friends at Hursley. To mark the occasion, I spent last night building Lego representations of the Emerging Technology Services team, with whom I’ve had such a great three years. Several of them are contributors to Eightbar, and as well as everyone’s individual blogs (Twitter, Flickr, etc) of course I will be following Eightbar closely after I’ve gone to stay in touch with what’s interesting at IBM.


Thanks for everything.

Private beta access to Shapeways 3d printing community

For anyone interested out there in the 3d printing community Shapeways have a first come first serve access to their private beta (which we are not affiliated to in any way other than interested).
On a first come first serve basis
BetaCode: EightBar8
You can also follow them on twitter
I will let you know how I get on making some 3d eightbar products.

Yet more 3d Printing

I am a big fan of 3d printing . I tend to use it as an example of the next stages of virtual world interoperability with the real world. So when I see a new service pop up I always like to follow it (having not purchased my own printer yet as all my personal investment money is still in Second Life)
This video just popped up on youtube for Shapeways I have signed up for the beta and will see what happens.

PS3 Home vs Xbox 360 new look dashboard vs Nintendo Mii

The explosion of avatar based interaction outside of the context of an actual game is well and truly on a roll at the moment. It is akin to when evrything and everyone started to allow profile pictures. These pictures are of course a low grade avatar expression of a persons intent towards you and a system. Inside IBM we have a corporate bluepages, everyone has a space for a picture. It is intended to be a recognizable passport style. However use of it it broken into 1/3 regular pictures, 1/3 expressive, different and innovative pictures and 1/3 no picture at all. I have many conversations around this. (The numbers are not actual numbers btw, just classifications of people). It seems there is a percentage of any population that just does not want to let you know anything about them, they either dont have time, inclination or ability to share. The other 2/3 though are more interesting and whilst may seem to be opposing camps they are willing to share something of who they are online in a particular domain. It would be great to be able to have more than one picture, a straight laced on and an expressive one to further explore who people are and get a sense of them before meeting or talking.
Of course this is where the avatars burst into life. The gaming community is used to some of this expression from within the games. This is now very much bleeding out into the lobby, and going cross game experience.
The Mii’s started to let people created a persistent character when playing in a game. They allow a degree of portability, carrying the Mii around in a WiiMote to a friends house, or travelling around via the slightly over regulated(IMHO) friend system. The problem is the connection to others is not really there online, though is certainly there when all crowded around a TV.
The PS3 Home system promises to enable every PS3 owner to have an immersive virtual world experience, share content, provide game lobby brokering, win new avatar and room related things in games etc. At the moment the PS3 experience online is not great in terms of conncetion to others. The friends list is a bit light, just an icon and a sense you might connect with people in a game somewhere. Recent patches start to change this, but it is a long way behind in terms of feeling of being connected.
The 360 has Live, and this really does seem to have been an integrated community success. You feel always signed on and connected, in game, out of game, watching a DVD. The comms and invites to places, tracking friends achievements and a whole host of other things feel really good. The player pictures from games or from cameras work as an expressive low grade avatar. Of course now after E3 we know that the flat almost web2.0 experience of Xbox live is going to have the brightness turned up on it with avatars. It is a combination of the Mii and Home but will just be there in the autumn no fuss no bother. There is a (not very good) press release page here the videos dont seem to work. So lets hope for a smoother release on XBL.
As per usual all the companies are influenced by one another, trends sweep through, but I think the underlying need we seem to have (atleast 2/3 of us) for digital representations to be more rich is the interesting point.

Unity3d gets even better

Rob just called me over to talk about Unity3D. A newer version has been released onto the world and it looks very exciting for development of virtual worlds MMO’s and all the metaverse things we have come to love.
Rob has been doing some Unity exploration for a little while now, and a few other colleagues from over the pond are excited about it too. Anyway, check out the website for the new range of features that they have rolled in. Grab yourself a Mac and get developing (of course it will run on anything just the IDE is Mac only).
Yes its a plugin when you are browser based, but so is Lively and so is anything with Flash (just the flash plugin often comes as standard on browsers) in fact the browser is a plugin for your operating system.
Rob’s demo has all sorts of mini features already that are of interest from a proof of concept. Object creation, cubes, cylinders, sphere and an odd capsule shape that causes much amusement.
There will be more to come on this thread of investigation. I will of course have to get a Mac now to help too.