2012 and 2013

Last year was really busy, and the first quarter of this year was no different. I accomplished about three of the four goals that I had for 2012. I had finished analyzing and published  my study results, demonstrated my prototypes, and presented my ideas at various settings.

However, I was not able to improve the Flora test bed as planned, primarily because I had to adjust to my data visualization role at work. I had also wanted to attend more conferences at the beginning of this year to network, listen, and collaborate but had not much time to do so. There are lots to ponder with regards to how to move forward.

I feel fortunate to be working at a vibrant research institute. It’s instructive to see how much work goes into researching and communicating ideas. In some ways, my unwritten hopes were too ambitious for a project with so little dedicated resources. While I’ve learned through the years to temper my plans, my expectations were still somewhat unrealistic.

This is not to say I have regrets  — I don’t. I’ve really enjoyed the process of learning from my successes and mistakes, and the process of cultivating patience, skills, and determination to keep moving forward the best I can. I will also keep making plans to get me moving, otherwise it’s very easy to get into a rut.

So, for 2013, I have these goals:

  • Make at least one improvement to Flora. I’m thinking along the lines of user interface.
  • Attend at least one conference. The options are CCS conference at the Hague, ICTD/ACM Dev in South Africa, IEEE Vis at Atlanta.
  • Long shot goal: publish another paper

Hope to see some of you in one of the conferences in my list.

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2012 Q3 Update

Yesterday at the University of Washington, I gave a seminar talk of my thoughts on community and alternative currencies. Lots of good, challenging questions. This marks the first time that I presented TraceEval to a group of people, and although I was nervous at first, I was glad that I did it.

I’m also waiting to hear back from  other opportunities to present my ideas. In addition, I want to finish prototyping an easy-to-use implementation that I’m hoping to deploy next year. I will follow-up on the invitation to try Flora as a testbed and continue prototyping for the remainder of the year.

Merged Blogs

It was getting obvious that I could not actively maintain three blogs – tyaga.org, satconomy.org, and edgarsioson.com. Maybe I was thinking that establishing a new blog would reinvigorate my motivation to post more frequently. But it was just wishful thinking. It is very easy to get used to not blogging if I’m really busy at work, writing up a paper, or traveling.

I had resisted the urge to establish another site for more than a year, but finally did it early this year out of the compelling need to better organize my thoughts and message. I also don’t like the situation of feeling stuck and felt compelled to make a decision as needed to get out of a rut.  But three blogs was too ambitious and even silly. The main thing now is to use categories (duh!) and let readers choose whatever topics they want to read. So, I merged the three blogs here, adopted the most up-to-date theme to suit my purpose, and recategorized my posts as needed.

One of the lessons learned ties up quite well with my preferred approach on ‘handling messiness’. Having three blogs to segregate my thoughts in three smaller and neater piles seemed like a good idea, but my tendency is really to let machines organize things as much as possible. I don’t want to log on to three different admin panels and figure out first where I want to post. That’s too much work just to get started. It’s much better to just start writing a post and categorize when the thought has been laid out for review.

I still think that having a personal site was and is a good idea. Only now, the self-titled site will just have mostly static content with links to my various projects and interests. With the merged blogs, there is a risk of turning off tyaga.org readers who are just interested in technical ideas and updates. However, the upside is that readers could get a more holistic picture of me. There will be more transparency and better likelihood of detecting bias in my writings. I’m hoping that amid the mixed bag of topics, the increased transparency will lead to better understanding overall.

 

2012 Q2 Update

Really busy first half of the year. Finally, I am able to announce the study results as published in JASSS at the end of June. In early July, I presented a brief summary of the paper at the ESSA summer school in Toulouse, France. I also posted an invitation to a friendly competition next year using social simulation to test proposed currency and reputation systems.

So while there was a break from coding of prototype systems, last quarter was definitely not the usual yearly break where I mostly relax. I was actually busy working on other projects, also involving programming, that I’m hoping will help in the next stages of my personal projects.

I’m planning more outreach for the second half of the year. There is also much work left to develop Flora into a more user-friendly and intuitive simulation testbed. I’m eager to continue working on all these projects, and maybe post updates sooner rather than later.

2012 Q1 Update

I have to qualify the achievement of my goals for Q1 of this year, as far as not being able to broadcast results or videotape a demo of the study prototype. Instead of posting a draft of the study and results, I have submitted a paper to an online journal. It is currently under a second round of review. Once a final decision is reached by the journal editor, I will share the paper online. Email me for a preprint request if interested.

I have also demonstrated a tool for conducting studies of decentralized currency systems at ICTD2012.  It was good to hear positive feedback on the idea and to see so many academics and techies who with a passion for socioeconomic development. Compared to another conference that I attended lat year, I prefer meetings with lots of presentations on case studies and demonstrations. Too bad I did not learn about Unmoney Convcergenc 2012 until it was already done, as it would have been good to experience that event as well.

I definitely feel that I made progress towards my goals for Q1. However, since I have not announced links to the paper and study tool, I have fallen short of being as open as possible with my ongoing work. There is a balancing act of being open and trying to minimize wasting people’s time with poorly baked ideas and prototypes. I believe that by initially limiting sharing to reviewers and conferences, instead of broadcasting online, other’s would benefit by waiting and seeing more polished deliverables.

Looking ahead, Q2 will likely be a downtime for me. Usually I take my break around Q1 of the year, but I have not taken a prolonged break since Q1 of last year. I have been switching between developing work-related auditing systems and study tool/visualization almost nonstop for over a year. I need time to refresh and also plan for an upcoming summer workshop/vacation. I will also use Q2 to catch up on the projects that I follow online.

TraceEval

TraceEval is the new, unifying project name that ties-in the various components that have been proposed and prototyped on this site. ‘TraceEval’ evokes the main goal of tyaga.org, which is to prototype a framework of traceable currencies that are evaluated for acceptability at the time of payment. The primary considerations in TraceEval are:

(1) Brands

A currency ‘brand’ is traceable to the issuing person or organization the serves a market or social need. This approach is different from both community currencies, such as LETS, and peer-to-peer lending systems, such as Ripple. There is no guarantee of currency brand acceptability between entities. For example, a seller would only accept a payment, or a nonprofit would only accept a donation, if the recipient supports the mission and activities of a payer or donor.

Prototypes that are planned under the ‘brands’ category are example websites, inventory systems, and simple online commerce systems. There are older prototypes using blogger, and the obviously made up ‘iSchool.edu’ and ‘food2go.com’ on this site, but those were part of Prowl which I consider outdated and pretty much abandoned (unless I could be convinced to go back to it).

(2) Budgets

Currency is self-issued periodically as revenue and expense budgets of an entity.  This is how currencies are made traceable in TraceEval. Budgets are non-transferrable between entities, which lessens the pressure for an entity to accept payments, since every entity is able to issue its own expense budget.

Prototypes that fall under the ‘budgets’ category include the proposed OCAUP accounting lifecycle/convention/model, the implemented NPX accounting system with the smart-phone inspired user interface, and the Interentity Payment Protocol (IPP).

(3) Bots

Indexers, auditors, and other service providers are needed to make sense of published currency activity and to advise on currency brand reputation. The evaluation part in TraceEval would not be possible without these service providers. The expectation is for TraceEval service provider to spontaneously arise much like the diverse offerings of browser options or search engines in the early days of the Web.

There is much work to be done as far as prototyping TraceEval bots. So far, there is only a mock-up of what a currency brand index website might look like, maybe similar to a NASDAQ of currency brands. The only other prototype to-date was coded as part of simulation studies.

Most of this post was borrowed from another post in another blog. There will be a slow shift away from the ‘satconomy’ moniker in favor of TraceEval. The philosophical or conceptual framework in satconomy is, I think, still valid. TraceEval just happens to be a better term that captures the goal of the framework and the motivation behind the prototypes.

A Look “Behind Deep Blue”

There are a few books that I like to reread especially when I need to recharge my motivation. One of these books is “Behind Deep Blue” by Feng-Hsiung Hsu. It is a well-written story about a small team who, as the subtitle says, built ‘the computer that defeated the World Chess Champion’, aka Gary Kasparov. Despite the technical implications in the title, a person moderately familiar with chess and computers would not have any problems following the story. The few geeky parts, scattered here and there, can be skimmed in favor of what really stands out, the human narrative.

The fateful night and soul-searching described in Chapter 3 is one of my favorites. Hsu finds himself at a cross-roads, and only hesitates for a bit before committing to the task at hand. One of the reaffirmed lessons for me is the need to identify the root of confusion and doubt before one could proceed into effective paths. Hsu found the 64-chip design odd even from the beginning, but for various reasons he did not think about alternative solutions. Until he was asked to help out, and he started to look deeper into the technical issues, and then that fateful night of introspection, … and the rest is history, or more precisely, a 12-year endeavor by dedicated individuals.

I really don’t want to give a long book review or spoil the story. Let me just say that there are many lessons in Deep Blue that I find relevant to my own pursuits. Dedication to a task is one of them. Not the ‘blind’ variety, but dedication that springs from the process of working through doubts and the careful assessment of one’s capabilities and limitations. It’s been seven years since I first took the time to really reflect on recurring questions; six years since I decided that yes, I could do something about these questions and started to search for potential paths; four years since I committed to training towards a technical role as warranted by my natural inclinations; and now I’m again purposely moving out of my comfort zone towards unfamiliar territory. Who knows if anything will come out of my projects, but it’s all worth it as I really enjoy the self-imposed challenges.