e$: Plus ca change, and the 'begats' of ProjectServer


The running joke in all this discussion of project management, of course, is that Shipwright Development Corporation, or what's left of it, was founded in, (what, Joel?) 1992? to market a project management system called ProjectServer. ProjectServer used AppleEvents, Frontier, MacProject, and FileMaker to build a workgroup project management environment for a local network of Macintoshes.

Project managers could put their MacProject files into a 'blessed' folder on a shared server, and, overnight, or on a batch basis, anyway, a Frontier script called ProjectServer would hoover out the records from the MP file and stuff a multiuser FileMaker database, which in turn put do-lists in front of the people who actually did the project's work. When people were done with a task, they checked a checkbox, and, when ProjectServer ran that night, the task on the MacProject file would change. Joel Bowers, who's a DCSB member, was the person who did the FileMaker stuff for ProjectServer, and Scott Lawton, of PreFab Software, did the Frontier script. We even had a ProjectServer flyer stuffed in MacProject boxes for a while.

It was when I figured out that I couldn't quite market ProjectServer at Egghead :-) that I got interested in the newly commercialized internet in search of special interest groups in project management to 'narrowcast' ProjectServer to.

I knew about the net from the middle 80's, when I was trying to go to the University of Chicago. In order to go to school there so I could someday learn about how to finance space projects, I used to work in the Computation Center, and run giant mainframe jobs all night, and eat lots of pizza, and smoke baseball-bat cigars (I had an office, I wasn't in the machine room), and read usenet news when I wasn't doing any of the other things... Anyway, because of my net.time at Chicago, I knew what the internet was, at any rate, and when the terms of service stuff started loosen up, and you could finally buy internet access for commercial purposes, I came back.


When I got on the net again, it soon dawned on me that selling ProjectServer wasn't nearly important as figuring out how to sell it on the net was, and the most interesting part of *that* was what I eventually called financial cryptography. So, I started hanging out on cypherpunks, where all the cryptographers, or at least the cryptographic enthusiasts, were.

The cypherpunks list got me interested in www-buyinfo, which I inadvertantly turned into the prototype for e$pam, when people stopped posting on the list and I started forwarding relative articles to it to keep things entertaining. After starting e$pam to replace www-buyinfo, I started the e$ list as a reply-to for e$pam, and now e$ is a watering hole in it's own right.

Rich Lethin and I had a beer after something I wrote for cypherpunks, and when I speculated openly about an arbitrage market for digital cash certificates, Rich started the ecm list to actually do it. Peter Cassidy and I had lunch after something I wrote for cypherpunks, and that meeting turned into DCSB. When Peter and I started DCSB, Rich started the dcsb list as well.

Vinnie Moscaritolo was a friend of mine before I got back on the net, and is the person who got me back on the net in any real fashion with my first SLIP feed at TIAC (subscriber 700-something, I think). Vinnie went to work at Apple and I started bombarding him with this crypto stuff I was learning. When he was sufficiently 'evangelized' :-), he put up the e$ home page for me, and then started the mac-crypto list, which we then used to start the mac-crypto conference with. My efforts to tell Apple what to do with geodesic networks and cryptography ended up getting me published for the first time (in InfoWorld), and, even though Apple didn't quite listen ;-), shooting my mouth off about the Mac has gotten me articles in Mac magazines, and now I'm going to speak at MacWorld next month.

Finally, last year, I e-mailed Vince Cate, a cypherpunk in Anguilla, and Ray Hirschfeld, who I met at last year's Computers, Freedom, and Privacy conference (where I went to meet canonical cypherpunk Eric Hughes, for a contract Peter and I did for his company, which will now and forever remain nameless -- along with Mr. Hughes, I should think), and together, Vince, Ray, and I put together FC97, the world's first conference on Financial Cryptography. Financial Cryptography is a handle I came up with to describe, um, financial cryptography. It seems to have stuck. :-).


So, after all this, here's Peter asking a project management question on the dcsb list.

The wheel turns...

The answer I have about project management these days sounds pretty much like what's been said here on dcsb already. The closest thing I think the net will have to project management will be some kind of mapping of a chaotic but successful event's preceeding workflow, and then using that "roadmap" of preceding tasks over again in a bottom-up fashion, rather than the execution of top-down "strategic" "directives" from some boardroom, or, worse, some executive retreat somewhere.

After all, modern manufacturing project management is mostly just a linking of CAD files and a database to assembly instructions. At least that's how Boeing did it with, I think, Primavera and the 777. (You can tell it's been a while...) In software development and other creative enterprises, you run into the mythical manmonth (nine women having a baby in one month kind of stuff) problem real quickly, and so it seems to me that eventually software will be done more like the way books are written, where someone writes new code and then hustles it on the open market. This is pretty much how the GNU/GPL stuff is developed without money changing hands, and I expect that when we can finally clear and settle software transactions on the net, this is probably how the business model will go as well.


Sometimes I think of Bill Gates as the last industrial tycoon because of this. He's literally manufacturing and distributing software, when you think about it, sort of like the way petroleum was originally used for light and was shipped around by horse-wagon and steam engine as a cheaper replacement for whale oil. The net's going to change software development, I think, in the same way that the internal combustion engine changed petroleum and the rest of the world. But, rather than making things bigger, the net creates actual diseconomies of scale because it surfacts the rent out of vertical integration, and "rational" management. Bye bye top-down project planning. And, someday, the "manufacture" of software.


When Josh McHugh and I went over to see Ron Rivest after the DCSB meeting this week, so that Josh could interview Ron about financial cryptography for Forbes, Ron was talking to Josh about his "lottery" protocol for micropayment, which Rivest presented in its early form during the rump session at FC97 in Anguilla. The central feature of this protocol (which, while kind of sexy, I don't like nearly as much as Rivest/Shamir's MicroMint) is the idea of probalistic payment. That is, the expected value of a lottery ticket is, say, a penny, but the winning ticket would be $10.00 or something.

Anyway, I think that like efficient markets everywhere, payment for intellectual property on the net will be a probabalistic affair. People will write code, or movies, or rants :-), or something, and they won't have any idea what will sell or not, but they know that if they keep working at it, they'll eventually sell something which will pay for all the other work they've done.

I see this as new twist on John Adams' "law begets politics which begets art" generational progression, in that, in a sense, the work in a geodesic economy will operate more like the art markets today do. Gerry O'Neill, the father of the large space habitat (take a look at Babylon 5 sometime) once said that we would get to the end of physics someday, and we would thereafter become artists. I thought it was laughable and told him so at lunch one time, but, here it is, back at me, in the form of the geodesic economy, something I thought was as far from my space enthsiast days (which got me into finance, to Chicago and to the net the first time around) as it was possible to be.


Will the net revenue to your average jamoke in a geodesic society be higher than it is for the same person in an industrial society? My rather tautological answer comes from Peele's 'Demographic Transition', where the efficacy of industrialism is measured by the most fundemental variable of all: human life expectancy. In other words, if it doesn't make more money, and we all don't live longer as a result of our new wealth (ala Joel Mokyr's 'free lunches'), than it ain't progress, and it won't happen.


So, is an emergent market for discrete tasks what most people would call "project management"?

Well, no.

It's chaos.

Which doesn't do Peter a whole hell of a lot of good in his search of an integrated project management system, but I've not been much good to Peter lately, anyway. ;-).


Bob Hettinga

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