Like all good working algorithms, this one needs a name. And not just any name either, but one that captures the possible madness and inefficient, byzantine nature of communication along with a Pennsylvania-appropriate utopian vision—one of a better tomorrow. A tomorrow where people look back and laugh at ideas presented about communication in the four hour work week because they already happened (not the four hour part, just the e-mail ideas, etc.). A tomorrow where a bit of ceremonial pomp prior to the unveiling of an idea becomes the de facto standard of speaking. And now, for the name: sustainable informatics.



Sustainable informatics is the honing of communicated information producing the most efficient and simple method possible to pass information between parties—whether wetware, hardware, or energy. Etymology: Sustainability is the balance of inputs and outputs so that one does not outweigh the other and can thus be run indefinitely. Informatics is the organization and management of information. Together, sustainable informatics balances inputs and outputs in the organization and management of information so that the information system does not produce a variety of unsustainable states including information overload, an unbalanced signal to noise ratio, and unnecessary central control.



Now, in order to better understand what this is, let us begin with what it is not. E-mail is not informatically sustainable—many instances of communication cut relevant parties out of a discussion and many salient points may get easily buried in the overflow. If the volume of information gets high enough, information overload may occur, rendering useful decision-making impossible. Thus, cutting down absolute volume encourages more sustainable communication—each communication instance is likely more relevant and encourages further relevant communication so as to avoid waste. The initial increase and subsequent propagation of communication relevance also lowers the signal to noise ratio.



For example, daily information movement within a working entity does not have to flow through closed circuits. The emailing "on/off" method of selected destinations is a flawed strategy that keeps certain party members out of the loop, thus inhibiting ideal flow. The inhibition of this flow leads to a direct information volume increase via the downstream consequences of the initial blockage.


Solution: open all closed channels permanently to the "on" position to promote a sustainable decrease in volume.

Response: Too much "on" produces overload all over again. Also, there may be many messages that people don't want--having all on for everyone may be equally disasterous. When planting crops, they are only watered enough to grow at the right pace--never enough for mold, never too little for wilting.


Solution: design algorithm that funnels communication to parties most likely to be interested in message types--can one choose channels rather than people?

Response: way complicated; machine-controlled. May prove effective, though. Imagine: RSS feeds or similiar with relevant tags and group-votes for new channels--the channel would be infinitely complex, but has user-based volume control. If one cares little for messages concerning accounting, they can be turned off. This feed would replace need to tacky and expensive "intranets" or even web development services. Scenario: Marketing director scores good deal and wants to advertise. Could be tagged in the sales channel, and the web channel so that it would appear on the website as well be announced to the sales people simultaneously. Can also plug in outsiders via the direct feed.



Three-prong smack down on idea:

overload: lessened because any given user can tune in or out as per their interests. If, because of a tech calamity, the user suddenly becomes interested in feeds from the IT department, they can tune into the major channel or any of the minor ones. Or, if company-wide exchange rates are known to change soon, the user can tune into the accounting channel. Turning on and off various channels can also help them tune their own messages.

control: every user is responsible for their own tagging, and (hypothetically) anyone can tune into any channel. Thus, the messaging system is totally user-centered and the best one could hope for in terms of "control" is triggering all-on, which would be of such volume as to be hopelessly overloading.

signal-to-noise: one problem here…this system rather restricts the ability to send a single message to a single person. Thus, the high signal "hey, Joe, did you finish x?" message would be either a)lost or b)sublimated via more passive-aggressive approaches. It is possible that messages could be posted with a specific person's name within a feed, which would be the equivalent of public shaming—certainly not a unique social construct, but could quickly reduce morale. This would almost certainly require a supplementary technology. Wikis could be used here as pages can be updated with personal messages and could trigger RSS feeds.


Methinks that overload and signal to noise are two sides of the same coin. Restate three prongs:



input/output balance


I/O looks at how easy|difficult it is to generate and discover messages and looks at the overall organization of the system. This will couch better with the other two points and make all three required for any one to be meaningful. For example:

1) If the signal to noise ratio is too far from center, that means it is either too easy or hard to get meaningful results and will cause over|underload if out of balance

2) If control is too far from center, either too few people can contribute reducing community and thus meaningfulness, or there is no control at all and thus authenticity is lost--without a meaningful way to produce a handshake and a set of protocols, members may lose sight of the forest for the trees.

3) If I/O is too far from centered, than the difficulty to generate and retrieve content can mess up the signal-to-noise ratio--as the noise of the system itself is too high and produce tech-skill-control-problems--as only the most skilled people can participate.


Some practical outputs

SMS|IM, USB-based Linux builds promoting increased personal responsibility for information, leveraging well-designed databases, xml, and display for more efficient and standardized communication—the assumption here is that better designed information spaces increases efficiency of passing (ideally more useful) messages and thus cuts down on high noise and possible overload.



Theoretical backdrop:


Crowds and Power

Programming Collective Intelligence

Information Theory, especially discussions of signal-to-noise ratio

Ambient Findability

Future Shock and subsequent discussions of information overload (of which there are shockingly few—we are not overloaded with discussion of being overloaded)


22 April 2008 Tuesday


Meeting: 8:00 PM





1. Business Plan


2. Business Model

a. Communication—No Email


3. LLC/CC Confirmation Date—23 May


4. URL Purchase—


5. Delegation of Current Workload


6. Business Abstract—Future Goals and Aspirations


7. Personal and Corporate Income—What We Need To Survive