Project Places

A space starts as a lonely noun. Eventually it might be filled with other nouns.

A space becomes a place when it is full of buzzing verbs.

Project teams, team coaches, and community builders, often have the notion of space as the means to facilitate and channel interaction between team members.

Space is our latitude and longitude. Place requires a bit more thought and adaptability.

Space provides our locus, but not our focus.

We’re located in a space, but we act in place.

In the oft-cited PARC paper Re-Placing-Ing Space (Harrison and Dourish, 1996), the authors draw from experience in architecture and urban design, and their research findings, to make a distinction between space and place vis-à-vis collaborative environments.

Harrison and Dourish argue it is the notion of place that frames interactive behavior in real and virtual space.

Space is the opportunity; place is the understood reality ~ Harrison and Dourish

Observing a variety of collaborative systems, Harrison and Dourish say

Place derives from a tension between connectedness and distinction, rather than from a three-dimensional structure.

Think of the symbiotic relationships of a bee colony in a three-dimensional hive.

In  A Place of My Own, author Michael Pollan argues that thoughtful crafting of space has the potential to give us a place in the world that serves our bodies, minds, and aspirations.

Behavioral Framing

A place is a space that is valued like a home might be valued over a house. Harrison and Dourish point out that the same physical space can function as different places at different times framing the appropriate behavior.

We fill our places with cultural expectations and notions of appropriate behavior.

In The Timeless Way of Building, Christopher Alexander discusses reoccurring Patterns of Events. He says,

all the life and soul of a place, all our experiences there, depend not simply on the physical environment, but on the patterns of events that we experience there

Places exist within a space. A place is within a space where we’ve added social context and cultural understandings that help frame and cue behavior. Something is out of place when it feels out of context.

The Forward Edge

Stanford d.school believes we can design for innovation. Planners, students and staffers have spent six years brainstorming, designing, and tweaking their environment to make it fertile ground for ideas.

After a May 7th ribbon cutting at the d.school, Fast Company will go behind-the-scenes to document how

every nook, cranny, and fungible wall system has been smartly designed to maximize collaboration.

I will be following the d.school and Fast Company’s findings with interest.

Will Google Wave Overtake Microsoft Groove?

The reception attendant at my community gym scanned my membership card.

He then observed me stuffing a 1/2 inch lithology of plastic commerce back into a 1/4 inch slot in my wallet.

You should carry fewer cards“, he suggested.
Or get a bigger wallet“, I said.
If you get a bigger wallet“, he said, “You’ll only need a bigger pocket.”
A googolplex is 10googol. For carpal-tunnel-free typers with an aversion to acronyms, it is also expressed by a 1 followed by a googol of zeros. This prosaic number should not be confused with the audacious googleplex. Googleplex, a pretentious, self-satisfying wordplay on an ordinary – albeit large – number, is the name of the corporate headquarters of Google.
The Googleplex is situated on a huge 26-acre campus in Mountain View, California. It is built on Brownfield land and populated with smart, un-jaded, and largely under-30 geemers working on “pet projects”. As a graybeard with a cheesy pedigree and disappearing gray matter, Google is a lofty place that wouldn’t hire me even if I purchased, set, and tuck-pointed all of the gold bricks needed to line the hiring manager’s koi pond.
If you have occasion to visit the Googleplex, skip the nutritionly-bereft continental breakfast at your Comfort Crib and proceed directly to Joanie’s Cafe (kitty corner from Stanford University in Palo Alto).
My yet unabated prejudice is that some of the projects being worked on at Google are more grounded in the real-world than others.

Nonetheless, I traveled to and spent the early part of last week at the Googleplex with my business partner Garry Smith to learn the secret handshake and to dig into Google’s new collaborative software Google Wave (see Ben Parr’s Google Wave: A Complete Guide).
At its core, Google Wave is an extension of XMPP (Jabber). Wave is not a mature product. Google is open-sourcing its development. So far, there are implementations in Java and Python.
I have been exploring a preview of Google Wave via my sandbox account on FedOne hosted by Google (ping me at bmacneal@wavesandbox.com).
Google Wave has a polling widget called Polly. At the Google Wave hackathon, I included Polly in a Wave thread. I triggered the Wave with the question
Will Google Wave Overtake Microsoft Groove?

I assumed that not many people, other than Microsoft Chief Software Architect Ray Ozzie and a few Microsoft devotees, had heard of Microsoft Groove. I also assumed that most people attending a Google gathering might harbor unfounded ill-will toward Microsoft.
I wanted to test the Polly polling widget, so I wanted a provocative question. I invited the Google Wave disussion group (wave-discuss@wavesandbox.com) to the thread.
After a few unseemly burps, Polly worked like a charm. One could see live updates in the Wave including the commentary (or blips in Wave parlance) of the poll participants. Wave blips and voting peaked after Garry posted a link to a June 09 interview Ozzie at the Bat where the Microsoft oracle and Groove inventor, Ray Ozzie, opines about Google Wave (e.g., “its complexity might curb its adoption”).
Of the 150 or so attendees at the Google Wave hackathon, 92 people indulged me by voting and sharing their opinions. Polling is still open, but if you want to weigh in, you’ll have to post a comment below or apply (subsequent plead and re-apply) for a sandbox account.

Poll Results

Will Google Wave overtake Microsoft Groove?
Yes 73
No 3
Maybe 16

I don’t know what my over-stuffed wallet encounter with the attendant at my gym has to do with this post other than its parallel to my quest for finding a wagon to hitch to…only to remind myself that
everyone is looking for a bigger wallet, perhaps forgetting that they’ll soon need bigger pants.
Of Interest