Chaos & Complexity in Public Organisations

AT LAST – Chaos and Complexity theories reach the public consciousness as issues for management of organisations.
BBC Radio 4 Today – Analyst looking at Health Service organisation identifies these issues as blockers to predictable behaviour.
Tiny inputs – Large unpredicted outcomes, yes, but equally
Enormous inputs – No predictable outcomes.
Relevant message – Buisness rules for information management must be held separately from purely logical / deterministic codings, because these rules may turn out to be “fuzzy”.

The Learning Machine

The Learning Machine Challenge
Spin off from the AI Forum

Management Information Systems Quarterly
Academic & Research Journal on MIS
Includes “Qualitative” scope amongst more traditional aspects.
Has Mike Myers (Uni of Auckland) on the editorial board.
Previously associated with Geoff Walsham (Judge Institute, Cambridge)

Technology is Useless

Remember A.C. Clarke’s 3 stages of reaction to technological breakthroughs:

(a) It’s completely impossible.
(b) OK, it’s possible, but it’s practically useless.
(c) Well, I said it was a good idea all along.

And Douglas Adams (Quoting Bran Ferren) – “Technology is the stuff that doesn’t work yet”

Windows XP

Living with Windows XP

XP: Released last week

BBC News Online’s Paul Rocks explains what it has been like living with an evaluation copy of Windows XP for the last couple of months.

(Text copy deleted)

My six weeks with XP have been pleasurable. No system crashes, no major problems and no phone-a-friend to sort out areas I don’t understand. Just the way it should be.

Peer to Peer Explosion

Monday November 5 2:00 PM ET
Use of Napster-Alternatives Rose in Oct. -Webnoize
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Users swapped 1.81 billion media files on Napster (news – web sites)-alternative services like Kazaa, MusicCity and Grokster, which have seen usage rise since Napster shut down in July to legal pressures, a research firm said on Monday.

Web research firm Webnoize said these services’ October levels represented a 20 percent increase from the 1.51 billion files downloaded during September.

All three applications use software licensed from FastTrack, an Amsterdam-based peer-to-peer technology company, and share the same network.

“The growth of the FastTrack network continues to be astounding,” said Webnoize analyst Matt Bailey. “During the last four months the number of users typically logged on has risen by 480 percent, and in November will likely surpass the 1.57 million simultaneous users that Napster, the popular song-swapping service, enjoyed at its peak.”

During October, 1.3 million users were typically logged on to the combined network at any one time, compared to 1 million simultaneous users in September.

Scoffing at Autonomy

From: CorporateInfo (
Subject: Expert scoffs at Autonomy software
View: (This is the only article in this thread) | Original Format
Date: 2001-08-23 21:49:53 PST

At Genentech headquarters today in South San Francisco, there was a
seminar on “Metadata & Controlled Vocabularies: What Are they and What
is their Value?” given by Amy Warner, faculty member in Information
Architecture at UMichigan, Genentech’s consultant on taxonomy creation
and a well-known corporate consultant on information technology. Dr.
Warner had a final slide with “Autonomy”and “Semio” written on it, and
here’s what she said:

“I always get asked, aren’t there automated tools to build
taxonomies? There is some ‘Hiearchy Generation Software’ available,
but it generally relies on the principal of Collocation, not
aboutness, which is preferable. Collocation simply means statistical
clustering. Two examples are Autonomy and Semio. Beware of these.
They don’t work very well. They make many promises, but Collocation
only works some of the time. I shouldn’t bash, but I haven’t talked
to a company yet that likes Autonomy, including those that have bought
it. In many cases they are overselling their product.”

Jorn’s Ontology

From: Jorn Barger (
Subject: Semantics and NLP
View: Complete Thread (19 articles) | Original Format
Date: 2001-11-05 06:10:02 PST

Judging from the replies I got to my recent ‘newsdiff’ posting, it
appears university programs in AI are (still) doing an extremely bad job
of covering *semantics*…

An unabridged dictionary may have half a million entries. Roget tried
to sort these into 1000 categories, in a hierarchical tree:

1.abstract relations


1.formation of ideas
2.communication of ideas



Semantic AI has to wrestle with ontologies like Roget’s, using a
precisely-defined, *limited* vocabulary to express the very-wide range
of realworld concepts.

And I think so long as one stays in the top three categories of Roget’s
tree (abstract relations, space, matter) progress can be– and is
being– made.

But when human psychology enters the picture (intellect, volition,
affections) precise definitions and limited vocabularies instantly and
catastrophically *fail*.

And this barrier has apparently traumatized the field of AI so severely
that the topic is practically taboo! It’s just excluded from

*If* a neat ontology-of-psychology could be created, all the other
problems of NLP might just evaporate. Understanding a sentence would
just require finding the node in the ontology that expresses the exact
same meaning (in a generalised form).

I’ve been arguing that this ontology _can_ be built if we think of the
nodes not as dictionary-entries, but as the whole ‘usual stories’
surrounding a concept or word.

So Roget’s ‘intellect’ node would correspond to the whole usual-story of
human intellect: children are born with limited intellect, they learn,
some learn faster, some learn more, humans use intellect to solve
problems, they teach others, etc. (This could even be encoded in the
form a short, human-readable encyclopedia article, written in simplified

Particular concepts like ‘smarter’ can then be linked to specific parts
of this general story as ‘specialisations’. (The usual ‘smarter’ story
involves getting praised in school, becoming annoyingly self-important,
going to college, etc.)

But remarkably, the mental skill required to think in terms of these
usual-stories is much closer to the novelist’s art than to anything
taught in comp-sci– to such a great extent that barely
acknowledges the topic as appropriate!

But I think I’ve found a leverage point, finally: pseudo-XML tagging of
the entries in Web *timelines*.

Because the authors of timelines are trying to limit themselves to the
most significant discrete events (in all of history), timelines do an
excellent job of prioritising human behaviors, and so of identifying the
most-useful limited vocabulary for human history.


person1 is born at place on date to mother person2 and father person3
person1 is educated at place by person2
person moves from place1 to place2
person creates creative-work
person founds social-institution
person joins social-institution
person discovers theory
person1 fights person2
person leads group with persons2-3-etc
group fights group

These, then, become the ‘root-level’ usual-stories in the psychological

And my ‘newsdiff’ suggestion was about the need for a NLP to have a
mega-timeline of history that’s continually updated with new
news-events, winnowing just the new developments from the standard
high-redundancy journalistic style.

ai faq:
timelines project: “Relentlessly intelligent
yet playful, polymathic in scope of interests, minimalist
but user-friendly design.” –Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel