timothy falconer's semantic weblog
Big Fractal Tangle

11) substance of change

This morning I woke with designs floating through my sleepy brain.  They first appeared as problems to solve, stumbling blocks on my way to the next Tidepool thing.  As short term solutions occurred, they mingled together to form something more general, more powerful.  Crystallizing from the depths of my subconscious came an old friend, the core of my Gravity architecture from the late eighties: the message.

Yes, the term is impossibly vague, and hardly new.  But 27 years ago, as I walked the top of the Alpine Palisades, writing in my design books, imaging a world of interconnected agents, the Gravity message was central to my designs and my life.  Everything hinged on agents sending messages to each other.  The very substance of change was encapsulated in these tiny commands.  I made up words for the core agent actions … IM (impression, input, receiving a message), MU (change, context, processing a message), EX (expression, output, sending a message).  Agents received, processed, and sent messages, which collectively I called IM-MU-EX-A, the name of my current company.

Over the years, messaging as a general concept has seen some success.  First with email (TOs,  FROMs,  SUBJECTs, bodies), then instant messaging (nicknames, channels, buddies, text), then the Web (headers, markup, requests, responses).  Through the veins of the Internet course little message packets from machine to machine, the very life blood of our civilization and culture.

This morning, as I woke further, as the emerging design became clearer and clearer, I began to remember all of it: the why behind messages and how they would help Tidepool.  I made coffee and began my ritual of pacing in the basement with my voice recorder, taping “Kismet 168” for a good eighty minutes till I’d nailed down the design.

And now, just before typing “class SbMessage” for the first time, I imagine these little packets of change streaming their way from Tidepool to Storymill to Tidepool, from agent to agent around the world.  I envision a child in Rwanda changing the color of her illustrated dragon’s eyes, then a little message being made and sent through the Internet to another child’s machine in Vienna, who sees the color change and types, “Oh I like that”, a new message which gets sent back to Rwanda.

I could write about how my new (and old) message designs enable versioning, replication, infinite undo, timestreams, and more.  Instead, I’ll simply click “Publish,” imagining who might someday read this message (IM), who might be changed, if only a little (MU), and what they might say (EX).


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