Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Spread Memes, Grow Networks

I've had some free time recently and I went back and revamped the Dendrite Network to be simpler and more streamlined.
Try it yourself! This link is a "bump" URL for this very blog post.

From the main page it's a quick three-step process to create a "bump" URL (and I'll be adding a "Tweet this link" button soon to make it even easier to share the URL.)
  1. You choose an URL to represent yourself. This can be something like your twitter or facebook home page or a specific page you've created for this.
  2. Enter the URL of the meme you want to spread.
  3. Copy the generated "bump" link and send to your friends.
When your friends visit the link they'll see a page with two options: Pick an URL to represent them and continue to the normal "bump" URL, or just visit the shared meme URL directly (without participating in the DN.)

Once you've chosen an "avatar" URL to represent yourself it is stored in a cookie and picked up automatically when you visit a "bump" URL. The upshot of it all is that you no longer have to manually manipulate the tags, it's all done automatically.

As people share the "bump" URL, registering their own "avatar" URLs in the process, a graph like this gets built up:
Each circle is an "avatar" URL and each link corresponds to a visit to a (non-anonymous) "bump" URL recorded in the DN log.

The log is public, as are the URLs, so everyone can watch the network grow.  Part of the complete Dendrite Network concept includes various ways to provide feedback on the memes being spread, and this currently includes the rejection messages that you can post to the log about a meme.

Last but not least, if you have a commercial offering (like the course on web app development I'm thinking of offering soon) you can spread the information about it through the network and reward people for aiding you to reach interested customers. (Like a super affiliate program.)

I want to create a simple easy-to-use system that lets normal everyday people make a bit of income using the Internet.  If you don't have something to sell yourself you can use the DN to help those that do reach the people that want what they're offering.

I don't know if this will work, but I have high hopes once a critical mass is reached that it will really take off.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Seeing the Results of People Using Dendrite Network

The Dendrite Network works by logging interactions and publishing that log.  You can then use tools to sift through the log and find the information you're looking for.

The simplest tools to use are the venerable command-line file processing utilities that come with most GNU/Linux systems.  Here is an example of finding all the unique URL registration events in a log file:
$ grep register dendnet.log | awk '{print $4, $5 }' | sort | uniq

1fvuqxgdentxqnnpc0071hq45 u'https://github.com/PhoenixBureau/DendNet'
1p9d4ew8a7mf2gpabrdqhtgdh u'http://openkeyval.org/'
d2i04eshhhg10lz6szytitcsh u'http://www.phoenixbureau.org/'
If we break it down it works like this:
grep register dendnet.log
That command finds all the lines in the log for URL registration events.
awk '{print $4, $5 }'
This prints out each line with only the tag and URL, separated by a space.
 sort | uniq
Last but not least, we sort the lines and remove duplicates.

Sunday, April 22, 2012


UPDATE: November 2012, this blog post and previous ones talking about the Dendrite Network refer to an earlier incarnation. The current version is discussed above.

To everyone who's about to help me try out the Dendrite Network for the first time: thank you!

If you're reading this right now you almost certainly know me and you've come here to find out more about how to participate in the trial runs of the Dendrite Network that I have planned for this week.

It should be fairly simple and straightforward but because no one's ever done it before it will take a bit of explaining.  I'll be concise and break it down by the old "who, what, when", etc., format.

If none of this makes sense read the earlier blog post "Demo Dendrite Network" which explains a great deal, and/or just email me.


For the first few runs you'll all be people I know. You may not each all know each other but I doubt there's anyone reading this (at least in the last week of April 2012 here) that doesn't know me.   So we're all friends here! ^_^

You are more than welcome to invite others to participate, in fact I encourage it, but I'm not eager to grow the network any faster than it's natural organic rate.


My plan for the next few days is simple:
  1. Invite enough people to play/test to get a good network effect (I'm hoping fifty or so, but anything above twelve participants should start to be instructive.)
  2. Once we have a pool of players we'll pick websites to represent us and generate tags for them (you can think of these tags like avatars or game characters but it's just a website that can represent you for the purpose of the test run.)
  3. We'll each pick a few contacts and trade tags with them to form the initial network.
  4. Once the network is built we'll release a meme into it and watch the network graph grow as we build, forward, and visit Bump URLs.
  5. Some of us will click "engage" and I'll track that and pay out rewards for it.  (We'll use points rather than dollars, and if I can I'll get some cool schwag to give out or something. Yay!)
And that's about it.


Hopefully we can get together enough people to play by Monday, but I just realized that this is Earth Day weekend, so I'm sure a lot of people will be out and about tomorrow and not online.

With any luck we should have enough people (up to about 50 or so) by Monday to form a network and try out a couple of meme propagations.


Well, in the first place it should be fairly fun and interesting.  If it works like in my dreams it will revolutionize what we call the economy, helping to usher in a new Golden Age of abundance for all. (Dream big much?)

I don't think anyone will be getting rich overnight and anyway that's not the point. I'm not interested in making anyone rich, I'm interested in making everyone rich.

I think this system is a fundamentally new way to harmonize mercantile and altruistic behaviours, and I think it's something we should expect to be happening at this time..

There's only one way to find out.


Concretely speaking, if you're game to play, do something like this:
  1. Pick a website to represent yourself. It can be anything but the obvious candidates are things like your homepage or blog, or your public profile on a social network, or your Twitter page.
  2. Get a tag for your site's URL at the register page.
  3. [Optional] Introduce yourself in the DN Google Group. In order to coordinate and connect up I've created a google group. If you want, join up and introduce yourself (and publish the tag you just created in step 2.)
That gets you into the party. Once we have enough people I'll create a fake site (or just pick something) and a fun way to reward y'all and we can give it a try.

Thanks again so much for helping me out.  Who knows? Maybe you'll be telling your grandchildren about this someday...

Warm regards,

Friday, April 20, 2012

Demo Dendrite Network

I whipped up a toy version of the Dendrite Network.  It's experimental and highly simplified but it seems to enable the basic idea to be tried out in real life.

I didn't have a lot of time (or energy really) to work on it because I was only taking a break from my day job (we had a big push and I got a bit burnt out. In order to unwind from programming a big complex web app I went and programmed a small simple web app. Yeah, I'm a bit lopsided.) But I think I've got it implemented well enough now to actually work (if you're willing to help it a little, and maybe squint a bit.)

When I distilled the system down into the simplest form I could I realized that I had wound up with a split architecture:
  • A simple "graph-growing" substratum that makes it ridiculously easy to build connection trees between voluntary participants, and
  • Completely optional plug-in reward systems that folks can run on top of the substratum however they like.
In effect the Dendrite Network becomes a platform for experimenting with different ways of rewarding word-of-mouth participation in propagation of worthy ideas and causes (some of which are purchasable products.)

There are a lot of loose ends (in fact, it is mostly loose ends at this stage.) But if you want to be an early adopter and help me out here's how:

So How Do You Play?

Okay, to start with the experimental proof-of-concept demo you need to identity yourself to the system:

Step 1. Pick an URL to represent you and get a tag for it.

Pick an URL (website) to represent yourself (like your homepage, blog, Facebook or LinkedIn public profiles, Twitter page, Google+ profile, or a custom page specifically for the experiment) and then "register" the URL and get a "tag" for it. (Right now the tags are just 32-digit hexadecimal md5 sums of the URL's text. If you don't know what that means, don't worry about it.)

Save that tag. (Open a text file or something.) That's all you need to do to "register" with the system.

Next, you need something to promote:

Step 2. Pick an URL you want to send around and get a tag for that.

The whole point of the Dendrite Network is to propagate ideas and information to each other.  If you want to try out being an idea-source then pick out a webpage that represents that idea and get a tag for it at the same link.

You register both your own "ID" site and sites you want to promote in exactly the same way. The system treats them symmetrically and you can use the same URL/tag as your self-identifier and as the site you want to promote if you want to.

Once you have a tag for yourself and a tag for something you want to spread it's time to build what I'm calling "bump URLs" and give them to your contacts.

An aside about contacts and Bump URLs

One important, even crucial, aspect of the Dendrite Network is that most of the time you are sending and receiving "memes" only from a given set of contacts.

Except at the beginning it will be relatively rare to contact someone directly and "get them into" the network.

In the normal daily operation of the network you would generally only be connecting with your usual group of contacts, and you would already know their "ID" site tags.  Adding a new person to your set of contacts would happen much less often.

This is important to keep in mind because you need three tags to connect with someone through a "Bump URL":
  1. "From" Tag (that's you.)
  2. "What?" Tag (what are you telling your contact about?)
  3. "To" Tag (the tag of the contact to whom you're sending the "Bump URL")
Once you have those three tag you can build a "Bump URL" and send it to your contacts.

Normally you would already have your contacts' tags. When you become contacts with someone the two of you exchange "ID" tags and that's how you get them. I think for this experiment I'll start some sort of mailing list or "guest book" where we can publish our personal tags. We'll see.

Spread the News

This is the heart of the Dendrite Network operation. Making connections and spreading the idea(s) is what we're all about.

In order to spread an idea and track the resulting network graph of its spread you visit the Bump URLs your contacts send you and they visit yours.  There's more to explain but first let's look at how you build a "Bump URL".

Step 3. Build Bump URLs and send them to your contacts.

A "Bump URL" is just an URL that starts with http://dendritenetwork.com/bump/ and has the three tags above in it like so:


That's it.

The resulting URL is pretty long and unwieldy but you can pass it through an URL shortening service (Twitter even includes it own URL shortening in tweets, so a Bump URL in a tweet only takes up twenty to thirty characters.)

Get that URL to your contact (the contact whose tag is third in the URL) and when they browse to it they should see a page like this (showing Tru Spa site under the Dendrite Network controls):

That horizontal white panel with the three buttons is the Dendrite Network "control panel".  Everything below it is an iframe containing the contents from the "What?" tag's URL.

When your contact loads your Bump URL it takes them to a Dendrite Network page like the one in the screenshot above that shows them the site you're propagating. It also makes a note of the "bump" in the DN system log (more about that below.)

On the control panel there are three buttons:
  1. Engage
  2. Forward
  3. Reject
and a link to the (website of) the person who created the URL (that's you in this case.)

Now, I'm still building this. (And slowly too because I have a day job.) So the functionality here is still a bit on the vapor-ware side (he said, waving his hands fiercely) or even speculative, but here's how the buttons work:

Clicking the Engage button means that you like what you see (the webpage in the iframe) and want to engage with it.

What that means is kind of up to you and the site. If it's a product or service it means you want to purchase it or at least find out more. If it's an online petition engage might mean signing it. Whatever. It's up to the site owner to make it clear what they're after from you, as the Dendrite Network does not manage the actual relationship or transaction, if any, between you and the site.

What actually happens when you click engage is this: 1.) a note is made in the DN system log indicating that your tag engages the site's tag; and 2.) the page goes directly to the site in the iframe (meaning the DN controls go away and you're just at the site itself.)

Clicking on the Forward button is the normal, default action you would take. It brings up a dialog that contains a new Bump URL with your tag in the first place.

Eventually this dialog will have various means to easily send those URLs to your contacts (via Twitter, email, SMS, IM & chat, Facebook, our own dedicated hub, whatever...) but for now all it does is generate the first part of the Bump URLs (i.e. http://dendritenetwork.com/bump/{you}/{what}/ ) for you. You have to manually take that and add your contacts' tags to make full Bump URLs and then send each full URL to that contact.

I know, it's a lot to ask. I'll be automating it in various ways as soon as I can but for now you've got to want to play at least enough to do a little text editing.

Once you've sent these Bump URLs to your contacts and they click on them they will see the page you saw.

When they do it will be noted in the DN system log, connecting you to that contact (in the network graph for that particular website/tag) just like your "bump" was noted connecting you to the contact who originally sent you your Bump URL.

That's how the Dendrite Network tracks the growth of the network graph connecting all the people who've told each other about a given tag/website.

When you visit a Bump URL the DN log records the fact that you heard about the displayed site from the contact that sent you that Bump URL.

Then when your contacts visit the Bump URLs you forward to them the DN log records that they heard about that site from you.

Simple and elegant (once the cut-and-paste bit is automated anyway.)

Last but not least, clicking on the Reject button means that you have found something objectionable in the site and "DO NOT WANT" it.

Eventually the Reject button will bring up a dialog that lets you, if you want to, send a message to both the site and to the person who sent it to you telling them why you're rejecting it.

This is a crucial point to the system: it is not about pushing ideas and products, it is meant to foster feedback and dialog and build community. You should be encountering only good stuff in the sites your contacts send you.

The relationship is symmetrical: just as you wouldn't spam your contacts they wouldn't spam you. Otherwise why have that person as a contact in the first place?

Right now the Reject button does nothing, but that's the idea: it will let you give feedback to both the sender and the vendor (the site owner) to keep the system clean and "above board".

So what does all that get you?

Public DN System Log

So far this isn't too different from something like Stumbleupon or Twitter.  What makes visiting these Bump URLs any more compelling or valuable than reading my Twitter feed or favorite RSS feeds?

Well, in a sense, nothing, at least not by itself.

The real magic value comes from how the site owners want to reward you for letting them know how people are hearing about them.

You see, the Dendrite Network logs mentioned above, the ones that record every "bump" (connecting two people around a tag/site) and every "engage" (indicating that someone has found that tag/site valuable and wants to engage with it), are totally public.

Anyone can download the entire Bump/Engage log and grok it to their hearts' content.

That means that all the network graphs for each "What?" tag are public, showing the connections between people and how the tree of word-of-mouth is growing over time for each tag/site, for anyone who wants to download them and chart them out.

The engage events are public too, so anyone can look and see who engaged with what, when.  This implies that purchases made by hearing about something through the Dendrite Network are publicly known as well, but again that's really up to the site and you.

Reward the Folks Who Help You Reach Your Audience

And that's the final piece of the puzzle: folks with sites that are getting traffic and engagement via the Dendrite Network can easily figure out who's helping them and reward them.

Again, it's all manual right now but I'll automate it soon.

If you promote your product or service or cause or idea over the DN you'll be able to see who is passing along the word about you and who wants to engage with you, all for free.

Your decision is how to reward the folks who have helped you reach those interested engaged people.

Flipping back around to the point-of-view of the regular participant, the reasons for forwarding a given site will vary. Sometimes you'll just want to pass along interesting or compelling sites, but generally speaking the DN is designed to work with something I call "long-chain" affiliate programs.

Basically, you pass along any site (other than the ones you reject outright) because if any of the folks who hear about it from you, or who hear about it from someone who heard about it from you, and so on... —if anyone engages and buys whatever it is the site is peddling the site owner can use the DN logs to figure that out and reward you for it.

The obvious thing to do would be to give, say, the last six people in a given chain of word-of-mouth contacts that result in a sale a portion of the sale price.

That way every time you pass on a tag/website you basically earn a chance to get a percentage of any sale to a (potentially large) group of your contacts and your contacts' contacts, and their contacts, etc..., up to the fabled "Six Degrees of Separation".

Now obviously you might not be able to retire on that any time soon, but it's a better deal than your Twitter feed gives you, isn't it?

And anyway, that's not how you earn a living using the DN. You earn a living using the DN by creating and offering valuable, fun, and interesting products and services, making Bump URLs for them, and passing those along to a handful of contacts. They spread the word, you reward them, and we all stride into the abundant new future together as a community.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Toy Dendrite Network Interactive(-ish) Demo

I don't have a lot of time just at the moment to implement the Dendrite Network (because we're pushing hard at work to get our site ready to launch) but I took a minute to whomp up a simple dynamic graph to kinda-sorta illustrate how the network looks and grows.

It's on the DendriteNetwork.com site at this link, and here's a sooper-kewl still image to whet your appetite. ^_^

A very tiny Dendrite Network. Ain't she cute?

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Sweet Spot

I'm interested in the overlap between three relatively obscure but vital areas which we can refer to as Permaculture, the Techno-Singularity, and work on our internal being or "Success Metaphysics".
  • The term Permaculture (permanent agriculture) refers to a form of applied ecology that develops agricultural yields in harmony with the physics of Nature.
  • The Techno-Singularity is the idea that our accelerating knowledge and technology are approaching a mathematical limit beyond which lies a totally new world.
  • By Success Metaphysics I mean to indicate all the various methods and systems (The Silva Method, "The Secret", etc.., there are hundreds of paths and modes) that exist to help people with self-transformation.
Each of these areas has a huge and potent following, but (strangely to my mind) there seems to be very little going on in the sweet spot where they overlap.

I want to expand that little triangle in the middle. I think it's really great down in there. Let's talk a little more about each area and then about what we might find in the middle.

Applied Ecology

I've been a fan of Permaculture ever since I first heard about it. The founder Bill Mollison is an ecologist and the discipline itself has its origins firmly in the scientific paradigm.

By observing Nature and using the natural patterns we elucidate we can develop agriculturally productive ecosystems that take care of our needs while they improve the health of the land.

The ecosystem (what most people mean when they say "the environment") is the only context we have for health and sanity. Without grounding ourselves (both figuratively and literally) in Nature we risk our technological power running away with us as we approach the...


Bucky Fuller was among the first to point out that our accelerating ability to "do more with less", solving all our physical problems ever more cheaply and easily, would catapult us into a strange new (possible) future by the mid-1970's.

Bucky was an engineer and a student of humanity's progress and he calculated that, if we used our resources and technology sensibly, by sometime in the 70's we would be able to work only about two years and then retire, having paid for all our future expenses for the rest of our lives by dint of the effort we expended in those two years.

Work two years and then retire. That's the future we should expect to have (or have had since about thirty or forty years ago.)

The new book "Abundance" by Peter H. Diamandis and Steven Kotler, which my sister recently bought thinking it was a "success metaphysics" book (see below), does a marvelous job of bringing Bucky's message up to date and showing that we really are on the cusp of a fantastic world transformation.

All we have to do is get over our baggage, which brings us to...

Success Metaphysics

For me the current best example of the kind of thing I mean here is the great FinerMinds blog & site (which is where my sister heard about the "Abundance" book.)

There is far too much to describe in a brief few sentences, but the crucial point here is that there exist myriad methods to work on oneself to heal and grow and, eventually, transform yourself.

Some techniques are as simple as adjusting your internal "self-talk" or repeating positive affirmations, others are more involved or require (professional, responsible) guidance.

Some things are fairly conventional, such as hypnosis and prayer. Others are still unusual in some places but are growing in acceptance: meditation, EFT, and Reiki are good examples.

Some things are totally off the charts of consensus reality. Things like past-life regression, telepathy, communication with "higher beings" (the list goes on and on) are considered fiction in some circles and commonplace in others.

There are even books like "The Charisma Myth" by Olivia Fox Cabane. It purports to be a perfectly nondescript manual for increasing your charisma but, if you read between the lines just a little, it's obviously a manual of spiritual practice.

The Sweet Spot

The place where these three general areas overlap is the sweet spot I want to expand and dwell within.

The science and technology of the Singularity "call off" the Horsemen of the Apocalypse if we can get our collective act together.

The [scientific but non-reductionist] study of and interplay with Nature will prevent us spinning off into our own artificial constructs.  True health and happiness involve participation in the greater systems within which we are embedded and no matter how powerful our technology makes us we are still beholden to the whole.

The spiritual journey that we are all inevitably on is both the means and the meaning.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Infinite Income, Throughput, How much is Enough for You?

With the unlocking of Nature's secrets, mapping math to phenomenon in a way that allows us to develop clever technology, we have come upon a strange and new world: A world of infinite resources.
Your infinite gifts come to me through these small hands of mine. Ages pass and still you pour, and still there is room to fill.
The "hard science" limits for effectively infinite resources come from nanotech and fusion power. There may be some crazy free-energy generator out there but it doesn't matter, fusion is good enough.

(Consider the Sun. That's a fusion power puddle nearly a hundred million miles away and if you look at it too long the energy it emanates will destroy your retinas permanently. Respect.)

In personal terms, imagine that you could write a check and in the space for "amount" put "∞" (that's the infinity symbol) and hand it to people and they would give you whatever.

Sounds like a crazy dream world, right?

Well get used to it. It's coming.

There is a catch though: everyone else can do the same thing.

So the question becomes, "What does that world look like?" How would we operate in a land where anyone has access to tremendous power (in the scientific, physical sense) and resources?

Not everything would be abundant, to be sure.

Time is one limit that never goes away. Our friend the Reaper gathers us all to her strange purpose one day, never forget that.

The surface of the Earth is another "resource" that's not getting any bigger ("Seasteads" notwithstanding.)

When I was a kid I thought that if we could just create a good enough system the people in it would be happy and content.

I read something that Gandhi said that stopped me in my tracks, to the effect that "you can't create a system so good that it relieves the people in it from the effort of striving to be good themselves."

Whether your backyard is an alley full of trash or the whole solar system this fundamental challenge remains: What are you for?

In the face of the on-rushing techno-Singularity the whiz-bang factor is something of a "red herring".

The deeper story concerns us confronting ourselves inescapably and deciding once and for all: Shall we destroy ourselves or transcend our limited self images together as one family?

Let's assume you are on "Team Love".

You can have anything you want, so how much is enough?

Here's my list:
  • Most of the time I'm perfectly happy with a very small studio apartment, as long as I get a lot of sunlight and it has a large garden. I also want to be within walking distance of a nice cafe and a large wild forest.
  • Sometimes I'd like to visit places like Hawaii and Antarctica, and every once in awhile I'd like to stay in something like a luxury condo or hotel suite.
  • I want to visit the Moon, and I want to visit Jupiter and hang-glide in the clouds there.
Not so much, eh? Not going to "break the bank" is it?

The simple fact of the matter is that desire operates like a fire: the more you feed it the more it consumes, leaving nothing.

No technology in the Universe can change the fact that you will die and happiness doesn't flow from things nor impermanent fleeting experience.

Your real challenge is not acquiring things or running around chasing whatever. Your real challenge is sitting down and learning who you really are.

(And for meeting that challenge you can have whatever you want, just ask for it.)

Monday, April 9, 2012

So What Is This "Dendrite Network" Anyway?

The basic idea is pretty simple, but the ramifications are pretty intense.

It's a little bit like an MLM business and a little bit like an Affiliate Network, but it's also a little bit like Twitter, or Stumbleupon.

Let me start by pointing out some aspects that are important but not part of the main thrust of the network:

First, the entire system will be run on an "open books" basis, meaning that all income and expenses of the business will be open to the users and the public.

You'll be able to watch us operate.

Second, I am not running this business to make a profit (although I have no doubt that it will make a lot of money.) I'm running this business to help people, so after all expenses and payroll are met any excess profit will be disbursed back to the network in creative ways. (Grants, zero-interest loans, scholarships, gifts, etc...)

Third, although there is a strong financial component to the network, it is intended primarily as a means of information exchange and collaborative thought. I originally called it the "Automatic Single-In Many-Out Propagation Network". (Now "Dendrite Network" doesn't sound so unwieldy, does it?)

Okay, now let me describe a few important ways that this Dendrite Network differs from an MLM program:

There is no central product or product line. This is a service to help you promote and sell your product or service.

There is no centralized hierarchy. (In MLM terms, your "upline" is also your "downline" and vice-versa.) Sales and information travel from node to node (that's you bub) in all directions. There's no center to the network. The company administers the system but does not sell a product "into" it.

Put another way, I don't give myself a privileged position in the network. If I want to profit from it I will simply sell my own services (I'm a computer programmer) to the network.

You're not expected to rack up "recruits". I expect most people using it to communicate with, on average, around twelve to twenty-five other people, and for that group to remain relatively stable.

There is no cost to participate and no required purchases. You can join the network as a vendor or just participant and not make any purchases. It's perfectly alright to earn money from the network simply for facilitating other peoples' connections to each other.

It's too soon to know how well the network will function to provide income to non-vendor participants but it is part of my dream for this that people will be able to make significant changes in their lives through participating.

So, how does it work?

Let's break it down by the three different "roles" a user can play: vendor, customer, and participant.

Everyone is a participant. You receive "packets" of information from your immediate group of contacts. These packets talk about some offer or other (hopefully not too spammy) news about interesting things on the internet. The packets could be tweets, SMS text messages, emails, etc...

You, as a participant, take a moment to review each packet (like reading your Twitter feed or something) and you have the option of:
  • Rejecting it. If you don't like it for any reason you can tell both the person who forwarded it to you and the original vendor who created the offer.
  • Forwarding it. This is the default action. If you find nothing objectionable in the message, you pass it along to the other members of your immediate group of contacts who haven't seen it yet.
  • Accepting it. It turns out this message was for YOU! You engage with the offer. Make a purchase, sign a petition, donate to find a cure for breast cancer, whatever worthy cause or pleasure you have found.  "HOORAY! The system works!"
So that's the "cycle" for a normal user or "Participant". You get interesting offers (and if they're not interesting you can belly-ache about it!) and you pass them along to your immediate group of contacts.

When you see something you like you purchase it (or otherwise engage with it) and become a customer. Nothing shocking there.

Now let's examine what happens for a vendor.

In order to be a vendor you have to first agree to live up to certain simple standards, mostly involving promising to operate in good faith and not abuse the system. (I'll write up those standards in another blog post soon.)

Next, to create an offer, you need a product and you need to pick a retail price and a margin for that product. We'll have to see how it goes, but I expect margins of between 5% and 50% to be common.

When a sale is made through the Dendrite Network, you take the retail price minus the margin amount.  The margin is divided between the (up to) six participants in the chain of connections between you and your new customer.

If there are more than six people connecting you to your customer then the six "closest" to the customer get the margin.  If there are less than six people connecting you to your customer then the Dendrite Network keeps the extra portions, which is the only way that we (the company that administers the network) make money. (And remember, any extra money over operating costs are "recycled" back into the system.)

That's the core concept: everyone passes information back and forth; up to six people who facilitate a sale collect a portion of the retail price of the sale.

There are a ton of implications!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Service First, Profit as a Side-Effect

My primary goal in business is service, and that takes two forms.

First, you take good care of your customers, treat them fairly and well, and you "go the extra mile" to make sure their experience with you is a good one.

Second, I believe that you should be in business to provide value to your customers.

I know there are a lot of businesses and even whole industries we could talk about that are exploitative, that make a buck on some sort of gradient or scarcity rather than providing value, but I don't really feel that those are worthy of my time and energy to pursue personally.

In my mind, in order to deserve to be in business and be successful, you should be concerned first and foremost with providing value to your customers.

A long time ago, when I was a young man and trying to figure out my path in life, I read something in the Whole Earth Catalog by J. Baldwin about Bucky Fuller and how he had dedicated his live to "advantaging all World-around humanity while disadvantaging no one" that really stuck with me.

Baldwin said something to the effect of (I'm paraphrasing here): "Look around for that important, valuable task that all the world needs doing and that only you can do, and do it, and you'll never have to worry about 'earning a living'."

It struck me as a truly wise way to operate (of course I was just a dumb teenager, so I could have been naive...)

The interesting thing about that plan was that even if you fail completely, you'll still have had a better time of it than someone who picks the straight-and-narrow path.

And, in my life at least, it has been a good way to operate.

There are so many ways to make a buck in this world, but there is only one YOU and your deepest, most personal dream is also the most profound way to contribute back to the whole world.

Be brave and stay awake!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

"Truth is One, though the sages know it variously."

You know how an orchestra sounds when they're tuning up?

The different sections and players are tuning their instruments and the overall sound is unmelodious and confused.  It's not quite unpleasant but it's not music.

Eventually they settle down and prepare to play together and when they begin each section and player has their own part to play that contributes to the whole.

I view the different religions as the various sections in an orchestra.

So far in history everyone has been tuning up and the resulting cacophony has assaulted our reason and feelings for centuries.

I think very soon the younger folk (and the more open-of-heart older folk) of all the religions will begin to reject the mutual exclusivity of their traditions and live up to the universal love and peace expressed in and central to all of them.

What a wonderful music that would be.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Honest Business and Open Books

One of my favorite business books is "Honest Business" by Michael Phillips and Salli Rasberry. It's an oldie-but-goodie from the hippy days here in the San Francisco Bay Area.

In it the authors espouse a radical idea of open and transparent business that sets economic activity into a healthy and integrated harmony with the greater social and natural systems within which it operates.

I've always wanted to found a company that would include the Honest Business philosophy as part of its core "DNA".

With the Dendrite Network I have my chance. All of our own books will be open to our members, customers and vendors both, and even to the public and our competitors. Experiment and feedback will determine the limits, but I also want users' transactions to be public (or quasi-public) as well, to build openness, trust, and honesty.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Time to Make a Meta-Brain

I've sort-of launched my old/new project, the Dendrite Network (http://dendritenetwork.com/) which is partially a huge neural network with people as the nodes.  The other part is a get-rich-quick scheme.

No, not really.

The idea is complex and doesn't fit into an "elevator pitch" but it is meant to help the transition to a "Star-Trek"-style golden age happen smoothly.