Saturday, December 12, 2009

Organizational Design and Engineering

Today I presented a paper I wrote together with Marinka Copier and Thijs Gaanderse at the International Workshop on Organizational Design and Engineering in Lisbon. My participation in this workshop brought me a lot of new insights. Not just from the reactions to my presentation, but also from listening to the other speakers and participating in the discussions that went on here these past two days.

One early comment that resonated with me was the distinction that was made between "hard" and "soft" elements of an organization: on the one hand hard artifacts that can be designed (information systems, offices, business processes, etc.) and on the other hand the parts of organizational systems that cannot be designed, such as individual behavior and social interaction. This of course lies at the heart of my own research and of my interest in game design.

I was encouraged by the reactions to my conception of a rule-set as the minimal structure that an organization is looking for. Case studies like the one described in our paper were recognized as a valuable research setting that add an important empirical element to related conceptual and theoretical work (such as that by Joao Vieira da Cunha, also present at the workshop). One insightful comment was that the term "minimal structure" does not relate so much to the number of rules, but to their elegance and their affordance for emergent behavior.

The keynote today was given by Antonio da Camara, CEO of a company called YDreams. Besides some of the very interesting projects his company is doing, he talked about how he designed his organization. What I thought was his most interesting remark was: "If I were to start another company now, it would be less emergent but more based on my experiences in the past." This points to the need for supplying design knowledge to managers and entrepreneurs. It also addresses one of the questions that was raised during this workshop: who will use the results of our work? My answer to that question is - based on the discussions here - that the results of our work on organizational design are not directly applicable by managers or entrepreneurs. As a matter of fact, it was pointed out that there have been big failures when working from the assumption that everyone can use these methods themselves. Applying organizational design knowledge requires specific training, so a manager will need an (internal or external) designer to come in and help him with this task. Much in the same way that managers will not design buildings or information systems themselves.

A presentation that got me thinking was the one by Robert Winter. He has been doing very interesting work on what he calls method engineering. I did not know this label before today, but it is actually part of what I'm doing in my research: I am constructing (or: engineering) a method for organization design. His point was that there is often too great a distance between the method and the actual problem that it is being applied to. He used the example of Davenport's BPR method. This is a very general method, being applied to a great variety of problems. Sometimes it can be better to make a method adaptable to specific design goals or context contingencies. This is definitely something to think about in my research as well: perhaps the steps we go through in our method should not be the same for all design problems.

I look back on a very worthwhile couple of days. Interesting discussions with fellow researchers, much food for thought, and a feeling of validation for the direction that my research is taking.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

New Generations and Work

Last night @nalden was at "De Wereld Draait Door" a dutch daily news talk show. Nalden is a great guy living in the true sense of the new generations hitting your workfloors about now. In this show he talks about his blog and his way of live sharing his thoughts to those who are interested. And he can make a nice living doing just this. When he is confronted with the jobtitle 'trendwatcher', he denies this and says he is just a young man paying attention! This is a great way to illustrate the connected mode of Generation Y. I included the video is his discussion in Dutch so you can get an idea about what is going on with this generation that is wondering around inside your company trying to figure out why corporate life got alienated from what is going on outside their walls.

Nalden is making his living in his own unique way but these are a lot of people just like him that are looking for jobs inside your companies. They are making use of technologies that are not provided by most IT departments and in a way that is unknown to most managers.

Shouldn't your company be trying to make these talented people feel at home and challenge them to make a difference for their company?

Monday, December 7, 2009

The New World of Work in The Netherlands

I was trying to make an overview of communities and sites concerning the New World of Work in The Netherlands, "Het Nieuwe Werken". I came up with the following alphabetical list, which is not complete off course. I excluded all vendors and only added non branded communities.

  • Ambtenaar 2.0, a community with more than 2500 members looking into the new government worker, with regular open coffee events and lots of activity online. Ambtenaar 2.0 is a more open variety of Overheid 2.0, a more closed community on Government 2.0
  • Het Nieuwe Werken Blog, a pure blog written by some the thoughtleaders in the Netherlands on this subject, active since february 2009

  • Het Nieuwe Werken op Lindedin, a group with more than 4700 members and 154 recent discussions

  • Innovatief Organiseren, a platform started by, active since september 2006

  • Nework community op Linkedin, a closed community with 200 members (of which 88 registered at linkedin) and quarterly meetings

  • Over Het Nieuwe Werken, a community and conference initiated by Kluwer

  • Telewerkforum, a foundation active since 1995 and supported by 88 companies

  • Vernieuwing in Werk, a more recent community with more than 250 members, active online and in meetups

  • Werken 2.0, a blog with more than 563 articles on the subject and also an overview of the communities on linkedin and ning

To show how much content is being added on this theme I performed a Google search on "Het Nieuwe Werken" delivers about 72.400 results. A more loosely executed search on this theme gets you more than 4 million results. The theme is hot in The Netherlands and based on some discussions with people outside of the Netherlands I think were somewhat ahead of the troops. But I doubt if this is true...

Fo you know of other initiatives in The Netherlands or Global initiative? Do you have an opinion on the state of The New World of Work in a global perspective? Let us know!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Groudswell part II

Yesterday Josh Bernoff presented the table of contents of the sequel to Groundswell. In his new book the groundswell inside the company gets more attention than in the first book. Four chapters will be dedicated to "Your People". I am looking forward to the contents of these chapters! These chapters will discuss empowerment, collaboration and leadership.

In his blogpost he mentions one of the principles they came up with: "If you want to succeed with empowered customers, you must empower your employees to solve their problems". This principle will have big impact on IT and Risk for making it possible for employees to actually design their own IT to fit their needs. IT have to hop on to the trend or be left back and actualy lose the role they were designed to do! The risk people have to figure out a way to empower employees to make smart decisions and minimize risk at the same time. The current financial crisis illustrates that these two do not necessarily go together well...

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Groundswell: POST and implementing new ways of working

Last weekend I finished reading Groundswell by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff. They describe strategies for winning in a world transformed by social technologies. To start of an organization needs to think about POST (People, objectives, strategy and technology). As I look back in doing implementations of new ways of digital working inside companies, I see the same pattern in all of my projects. At the start we try to analyze the current state of an entire company. Our analysis does not stop with people but considers processes and IT and the physical workplace. The social technographics profile tries to standardize and benchmark the population you aim for. This is essential because you need make sure your solutions are going to be used by your chosen population. When you are profiling an organization you will encounter differences within parts of your organization. These differences will occur between divisions and team, between countries between generations and between male and female.

The conclusion is you should use some sort of profiling at the beginning of your project, this will result in multiple different profiles. Some companies transform profiles into persona's to better understand needs and considerations for a target group. You need to analyze work processes to grasp the work that is being done inside. Plotting these processes inside a matrix to see differences between collaborative nature and complexity of work. This complete analysis will give a good base for designing a new way of working!

What are your thoughts on this? How do you think POST can be enriched to cover more ground?

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Bringing game design to the workplace

I was invited to give a presentation about my research today at the CoreNet Global Summit in Las Vegas. CoreNet Global is the world's leading professional association for corporate real estate and workplace executives. They have been active in organizing a dialogue between researchers and practitioners. This session was part of that effort.

I started out with a very brief overview of the history of computer games, leading up to MMOGs and World of Warcraft. I then went over some principles of game design and how it can be used to inform organizational design. I explained the importance of the rule set as the means to induce certain behavior. This led up to an explanation of the methodology that I've developed together with Marinka Copier, that has the organizational rule set as an end product.

The link to the workplace is something that I've been exploring recently. I put forward the idea that the workplace could be used as a means to express this organizational rule set and communicate it to employees. And with this idea, I put the audience to work. Of course we didn't have time to go through the entire design process, so we did a highly condensed version. I gave each group a desired behavior as a starting point (such as: collaboration). I then asked them to choose one or more rules that would induce this behavior and to describe how the workplace could communicate these rules.

I was pleasantly surprised by the energy that this exercise generated. Here are some of the ideas that came out of it:
  • If the desired behavior is collaboration, the rules could be: you answer the phone when it rings, you are available 50% of your time to connect, 50% of those connections have to be face-to-face.
  • A second group came up with these rules for collaboration: all ideas are welcome and valued; experiences, abilities and ideas are always visible; all members must participate.
  • To express these rules for collaboration in the workplace, a group developed workplace interventions such as: colocating individuals or units to mirror certain behavior and strategically locating visible, high energy business units.
  • For customer focus, one group wrote down the rule that "we actively solicit our customers' opinions about how effectively our products and services have performed"; a way to express that rule in the workplace could be a wall of customer comments
  • Several groups worked with the rule that employees who live more than 20 miles from the office would be there a maximum of two days a week (to induce sustainable behavior); as an expression of this rule in the workplace they came up with maximum technological support for the virtual workplace and maximum support for "non-task objectives" when in the office: celebrations, feeling good about the company, building trust, managing conflicts.

I want to thank everyone who participated in the session today for their enthusiasm and input and I'm looking forward to continuing the conversation with some of you.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Two brief updates

The paper I wrote together with Marinka Copier (Utrecht School of the Arts) and my colleague Thijs Gaanderse about our first case study with applied game design was accepted for the International Workshop on Organizational Design and Engineering in Lisbon this December.

And next week I will be at the CoreNet Global Summit to discuss what implications my research on game design could have for new ways of working and the design of the workplace. Incorporating the workplace is a recent perspective I've been taking that looks quite promising. More about my CoreNet presentation and the subsequent discussions next week, when I will report from Las Vegas.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Collaboration and Communication

In today's world of work the need for effective and efficient collaboration to create value is big. To create value we collaborate with coworkers, peers and customers form around the world to solve problems or create new and better products. Collaboration is for the most part communication between the collaborators. Communication is one of the hardest things to do out there. There are three mayor challeges in communicating to collaborate.

The first one is about communication in general. If we want to collaborate we have to communicate to express our thoughts on the subject, get feedback, discuss new ideas, summarize and make conclusions. This is a very hard thing to do effective and efficient. We need to know our own communication skills and preferences and know about these skills and preferences for the people we collaborate with. I think the MBTI assessment is a great way to figure out personal preferences and their impact on communication.

Second challenge is about language. The current playing field is a global one and thus we communicate in different languages. The langauage that is used in communication between people with different languages is mostly english. Let's call english the global interaction language. If you are a native english speaker you have some advantages here, but for the most of us this is a challenge to translate ideas of others and your own ideas from the interaction language to the native language. For me this blogpost is witten in english (as my cobloggers and myself want to engage the largest possible crowd) but my thoughts are in dutch. Somewhere between my mind and fingers my ideas get translated. Just the use of the interaction language is not enough because the crowd out there does not have the same level of english. For everybody including native english speakers another challenge is to use terminology that the reader can comprehend.

The third challenge is about cultural differences that have impact on communications. The sender and receiver of communication both have mental models in which they interpret communication. This interpretation is after translation. So in this blogpost I am thinking in dutch and writing in english. But I am writing this from a dutch mindset and chances are the you, my valued reader ;-), are interpreting my english writing with a indian mindset. Differences in your culture colour your reading and comprehension of my thoughts. To make this post succesfull I should have written this post with your cultural background in mind and you should have read this post with my cultural background in mind aswell! This is a very difficult task because I am not familiar with indian culture and I don't want to focus on indian readers but to a global audience, so where to start? For the reader this is also a hard thing to do, because it implicates you need to know about dutch culture as well! Some of the best examples on this challenge I read the other day in Outliers a book by Malcolm Gladwell. He talked about communication in the cockpit of aeroplanes and the possible destructive power of culture on collaboration.

If we take these challenges into account it is a mirracle that communication is succeeding in the first place. The question is if this mirracle is a consequence of contious actions or uncontius behaviour?

Friday, August 21, 2009

The Information Age and the effect on the middle class

Nicholas Carr’s book The Big Switch has been on my mind this week. In my opinion: a must read. Besides the IT impact, it also looks at Cloud Computing and the networked world from a social-economical point of view. For instance: the similarity and difference between the shift into the Industrial Age and the shift into the Information Age is explicitly made.

But, I’m not sure if I totally concur with the proposed negative effect on doing work and the erosion of the financial strength of the middle class.

Without a doubt, when shifting into the industrial age, the way of doing work and business changed completely. Forever. Part of this was the introduction of the efficient production process and the big corporations (as we still know today). Economy of scale.

Because of this (but not only), the middle class flourished and became wealthier. Workers got more, and bought more. And, this new and readily available thing called “electricity” meant never before seen products. Which were sold. More production was needed. Bigger salaries. Et cetera, the virtuous circle is clear. (I’m leaving the big depression out of this, which you might not agree uppon). This process gave a more healthy spread of the wealth.

The statement that is given is that when the Information Age enters its mature state, the effect on the middle class will be totally different. The middle class will financially lose ground and the rich/poor ratio will skew; like it did before the Industrial Age. Perhaps even more (one signal is the Long Tail paradigm seen “dark”, were everybody can join in for nothing, and only a happy few take all the apples. I.e.: YouTube.).

This got me wondering. Is this true for all? Make no mistake, I think there’s a clear-cut case for the media industry: newspapers, music, films, et cetera. It’s being overwhelmed with free and readily accessible information, sharing and amateur production(s). The real deep professional's part gets lost in the shallow waters of information overload (although, "gets lost" doesn't mean "dissapears").

In fact, one can state that: everything that can be virtualized or digitized can succum to the zero cost of (sharing) information-paradigm.

A small, non exhaustive list of industries:

- Automotive

- Consumer Products

- Energy & Utilities

- Financial Services

- Healthcare

- Industrial Machinery

- Nonprofit & Public Sector

- Retail

- Technology

- Telecommunications

- Transportation Services

And Media

I’m a strong believer that the true digital (and networked) world in which we live (and which will further mature), combined with the steep increase in abundance of bandwidth, will have a massive impact in the way we do our work and how we organize our industries and business (although, a shift to IPv6 will be mandatory). A signal as “going in to the cloud” is one of them (let’s try to use this phenomenon to take on the energy problem the world faces?). Another one is the further and more swift rise of the knowledge worker and the service sector.

But, does this mean that all the industries and its workers as we now know them are threatened in their existence? (Here, I over-dramatize the statement to try to make a point). My statement: Does every industry, as summarized above, “suit” the thesis presented?

If not, what will be the effect for the middle class and the way of work? Will there come another (not anticipated?) positive spiral to next nirvana (again, dramatized)?

What’s your opinion?

Friday, August 14, 2009

Cloud Computing: not the same pattern all over again?

Being a consultant in the field of Enterprise Content Management and Knowledge Management (or is it now called E2.0?), one tries to keep a sharp eye on the next thing on Strategic Technologies. Recently, I’ve had the luxury of getting some air instead of being swamped by my projects, so I plunged into the subject again (not sooner, unfortunately); trying to get the latest essence from the overall Information Randomness out there.

As Gartner stated earlier this year, Cloud Computing is, and will be, hot. Hmm: SaaS, PaaS, IaaS. It feels like its to a going to the top of the hype and the labels are rolling over each other and screaming for attention. What ever happened to Mutually Exclusive labeling (or for that matter: Outsourcing)? I mean: SaaS is also seen as a form of Green IT. Okay, that’s true, but an information architect would have sleepless nights trying to find the mother of this taxonomy… I’m still thankful for the rise of the folksonomy as an augment on that one.

Any way, don't get me wrong. In my humble expertise and experience I'm a believer of the notion that the big switch (as Nicholas Carr eloquently puts it) is tantalizing for organizations (or, for the normal human being at home, it’s already in full swing); but is it growing out of proportions? I mean, just a few years ago the statement that you do KM when you “put all knowledge in an IT system” (logically!) turned out to be cutting a few corners, to say the least…

Going from hindsight to foresight, I read that leaders in the field are putting up some warning flares to neutralize the phrase “it’s just like getting electricity out of the wall” a bit.

First of all: if it were true, why don’t we all have it then? Secondly: If you go to Nigeria, as a colleague of mine did, you’ll find out that getting electricity out of the wall isn’t a commodity as one would suggest! Finally, as I stated in one of my Tweets, Cargo transport isn't "just moving something from A to B" either... If you peal the outer layers of the business process, one can see that hauling cargo is infinitely more complex.

The "danger" of using the methaphor like that, is that it might end up oversimplified and then, overhyped.

In my experience I find it remarkable that patterns of (over) hype-ness and oversimplification don’t fade away but tend to rejuvenate with every new instance of the “next big thing”.

Why not really find the benefits of a shift to off-premises information systems? Try to find a correct translation for a business; not a one size fits all. Maybe not all companies should ride this wave (or "stop" at IaaS?). And finally let’s say that “doing Cloud Computing” doesn’t always mean instant “lower IT-costs” or “higher efficiency”. In my opinion it’s a strategical endeavor, and a complex initiative, just like any other one on that level.

Cloud Computing: "It’s not an instant plug-in. But it can be very electrifying".

Monday, August 10, 2009

Learning and Creativity

This week I read the article "Teaching Smart People How to Learn" by Chris Argyris. It is a great piece of work discussing the idea and practical application of double loop learning. The examples in this article are very vivid and really get to the point why proffesionals or knowledge workers avoid learning.

Defensive reasoning is a big barrier for double loop learning. Teammembers search for solutions and reasons to problems outside themselves. They are affraid to acknoledge failure and thus are preventing themselves from learning. Success in their careers is the main source for them to be affraid of critisicm.

Learning and the educational systems are two subjects rather close to each other and there is a great video from TED by Sir Ken Robinson.

Ken argues that educational systems kill creativity. Kids are not affraid to be wrong and if you are not prepared to be wrong you never come up with something original. Kids lose this ability to be wrong and turn in to adults that are affraid to be wrong. Education is telling students that mistakes are the worst things to make.

In sports it is a common sense that mistakes and losing are needed to win matches and achieve goals. If a player makes a mistake during a match this is the only moment you can make them see how to perform better and to avoid the mistake. When I am coaching I always try to make teams lose bigtime during the training season. That is the time when they learn the most and create a bigger appetite for succes.

Chris and Ken are both stating that the inability to make mistakes, to be wrong and be defensive about them is a big problem. This problem leads to the inability to learn and the inability to be creative. We need to start learning again to make mistakes, be honest about them and learn from these mistakes to do a better job!

Friday, July 31, 2009

Teamwork in The New World of Work

Last weeks I have been working on my thoughts about the new world of work/enterprise 2.0 trying to find new of more meaning. Collaboration is one of the most used word but a google search for collaboration delivers a lot of technical results. Tech companies trying to promote the newest most sophisticated collaboration tools. These tools are very interesting and all but are they the most important aspect of collaboration. I am sure they are NOT and research proves this! Erik Brynjolfsson of MIT is doing some excellent research in this area, explaining the relationship between productivity and social networks. The quote "You can see the computer age everywhere but in the productivity statistics" of Robert Solow is world famous and is saying that only investment in computers just is not enough.

The soft, intangible side of collaboration in teams is a topic that I am going to exam for the coming period. It seems that a clear talent development program has to be in place aligned with overall workstrategy, physical workplace changes and digital workplace changes. Empowerment will be an import topic in the program. Management needs to learn to lead workers to make their own decisions on goals and strategies. This is just on of the many topics that is relevant to the soft side of collaboration.

What is your opinion or are you willing to help me in this quest?

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Planet Google and Your Company

Last weekend I read the Planet Google,; One Company's Audacious Plan to Organize Everything. I want to layout some lessons to be learned from the ambitions and results Google made. The first one is Open vs Closed. Google needs every piece of information to be free and open to let the Google spider index it. This is needed to make all information on earth searchable. This ambition is a big challege that will take Google another 290 years to accomplish.

From a business perspective it is a challenge as well to open up every piece information within the company and make it searchable. The access to information can provide your organization a lot of insight in the way customers are being serviced, processes work and the performance of business units or teams. This information is both structured and unstructured. If done in a good way this can prove a competitive advantage for an organization.

One other lesson is to disobey your superiors from time to time. During the development of Gmail the AdSense program was discovered after a programmer showed that it was possible to read a e-mail message and show some ads on that page. This discovery generates more revenue than Gmail will ever do. The lesson here is to follow your instincts and view a problem and a solution from different standpoints. Thinking out of the box and linking stuff together will generate a lot more profit than sticking to the default path.

A challenge Google and every company has to work on is that not everything can be done by an algorithm as good as a human can do (yet). The only problem is the amount of data. Google outsmarted Yahoo with the algorithm versus the human input. The problem with some tasks is that humans can apply knowledge and do things way faster and better than a computer. Flickr solves this problem, they let humans add tags to photo's. Even though they get enormous amounts of photo's everyday they manage to engage enormous amouts of people as well to do the tagging for them. Indexing is done by hand and supplies a great way to navigate through all photo's on flickr.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Work the movie

Hi there all,

It has been a while since we posted, sorry for that. We have been very busy with all sorts of work! One of the most interesting part is a movie Guus Balkema made. This movie features some of the brightest minds in the field of Work, like Larry Prusak and Tom Davenport.

Give us a comment on what you think about the trailer! If you are interested in the complete movie please contact us (our e-mail adresses are at the top of the page!).

Monday, January 19, 2009

Designing an organizational rule set

Last summer, I blogged about applying the principles and process of game design to organization design. At that point, it was no more than an interesting theoretical notion. If you want to know more about it, it’s more or less what I talk about in this presentation.

To make it a bit more tangible, Marinka Copier and I developed a methodology based on the game design process. This past fall, we have completed our first project using this methodology. There will be a formal write-up of this project - to be presented at an academic conference later this year - but I wanted to take the opportunity to share some preliminary results with you. Disclaimer: these are just reflections on my part, not conclusions based on our data.

We did the project at one of the largest non-academic hospitals in The Netherlands. This hospital was in the midst of setting up a new unit for elective care. They asked us to use our applied game design methodology to develop a set of starting points for their new elective care unit. These starting points should then be usable to guide the design of their IT systems, real estate, work process, etc.

We labeled the end result of this process as “meta-design”, which should basically be a rule set for their new organization. We planned three workshops that followed the steps in our methodology. The first workshop was a brainstorm about the building blocks of the new organization with the core design team. In the second workshop we invited the players who would play a role in the new care unit (such as doctors, nurses and insurers) and asked them to further develop their “game characters”. In the final workshop we did a playtesting session with a paper prototype of our meta-design. In other words: we played a game (with the same players of workshop 2) according to the rule-set we designed for their new elective care unit.

In general, the process and the results were very encouraging. Our client was very pleased with the results and to me it showed that the theoretical potential is there in practice as well. The workshops were energetic and united the perspectives of the various stakeholders in a playful way.

But of course I also see room for improvement. The biggest need for improvement for me lies with the core of the design process. Once you have collected all the building blocks and have explored the characters, it all needs to come together in a design. In this project, that has proved to be the most difficult step. It is difficult because the rule set we are designing has to reflect the organizational system, but also has to conform to game design principles (at least, that is our ambition).

I see two important avenues for improvement of our methodology. The first lies with the process: a deeper understanding of the system we are designing needs to come first, then more focused workshops and finally several playtesting sessions (one is not enough). A more fundamental improvement lies with the use of game design principles. I would like to see how we can incorporate some of the design knowledge that is being formalized in game design. For instance, I’d like to see if Jussi Holopainen’s Gameplay Design Patterns can somehow be used.

However, it has also become clear to me that some sort of x-factor will remain in this process. What I mean is that not everything about it can be formalized. Much will still depend on the skills of the designer. And that is something that game designers have been warning me about since day one.

So yes, I am still very optimistic about this notion that game design can enrich organization design. On to the next project!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Putting a price on your social network

Edward Castronova is an inspiration to many of us interested in virtual worlds and MMORPGs. He set the tone for much of the research in this field with his classic 2001 paper on the economy of Everquest and his book Synthetic Worlds. I'm not such a fan of his later work, but that's beside the point. Ted decided about a week ago to put his theory on virtual economies to work by announcing that he would start using Serios. The Serio is a virtual currency that can be attached to e-mail messages. It’s a product of Seriosity, Byron Reeves’ company. The economic principle behind it is that Serios are scarce (as is attention), so the more Serios I attach to a message, the more important it is to me. The receiver - who is assumed to attach value to this virtual currency as well - will read the messages with the most Serios attached first and may even ignore the ones without Serios. Ted announced that he "will not be responding to emails that have no Serios attached." See his complete announcement and the reasoning behind it on Terra Nova.

The principle seems elegant enough at first glance, but Castronova's announcement drew massive criticism. There were two main points made by the detractors, one practical and one more fundamental. The practical problem was that Serios only work with the Microsoft Outlook client. So Mac and Linux users complained that they were now automatically cut off. The fundamental problem was best described by Randy Farmer (himself a virtual world pioneer as the co-designer of Habitat in the 1980s) in comments to Castronova's post on Terra Nova. What his point boils down to is this: I have invested time and energy in building a social relationship with you and now you are going to throw that out the window and are making me pay for your attention. I don't think so. Quote: "You can view this as success (you'll now get less email) or failure (you've burned pile of professional reputation), your choice."

After trying to argue his case - using an ill-founded metaphor involving the role of gifts in social relations, which was adequately refuted by Thomas Malaby - Castronova caved with his announcement on Terra Nova yesterday that he would go back to trying to read all e-mails, not just the ones with Serios attached.

This post may come across like a case of schadenfreude, but that is not what I am trying to express here. I honestly applaud Edward Castronova for initiating this public experiment. And especially for sharing his rationale and the outrage it created and for admitting it didn't work. A seemingly sympathetic idea turned out to have many pitfalls. Trial-and-error, this is how we learn.

Ted’s apologies were accepted by Randy, by the way.