Slime Mold Splendor- System inspirations

As a grad student, I was TA for a developmental biology class (it was, for a while, my PhD target). Almost all of the aspects of the lab excited and fascinated me, but I was especially taken by the slime mold. It remains one of my favorite organisms ever.

Back in 2000, when I first saw Javaspaces demonstrated at the JavaOne conference, I immediately got excited and started babbling to fellow geeks about how the ultimate design for a self discovery middleware/messaging system would be modeled after slime mold. They are the perfect model for small message/self discovery systems. They mostly looked at me like I was slightly insane.

I love that others are now using slime mold as a model for networks, and have mathematically mapped the algorithms of slime mold network forming. Time for us to realize that we are not always discovering brand new things, but are just describing things that much simpler organisms discovered millenia ago. I think I want that algorithm… there is a next generation self assembling messaging system buried in it.

What biolgical inspirations drive your designs??

Looking for design that drives intelligent behavior

I am tired of software that is trying to be “intuitive” or “friendly”, but instead forces its users into behaviors that make it impossible to feel like an intelligent adult.

Let me given you an example. The company I work for recently switched to Interwise for Web-based conferencing. Interwise has this nifty “raise hand” feature. If you are a participant in a session, you can click the raise hand button to let the leader/speaker know that you have a question. Polite, helps discussion flow, would seem to make sense. The problem comes when you actually click the button. Your hand is raised as seen by the leader, but nothing in the interface changes for the participant. There is no obvious way to “lower” your hand. The correct answer is “click ‘raisehand’ a second time to lower it”, but this is FAR from intuitive. I have been in a number of meetings just this week where I had to listen to intelligent, creative adults reduced to saying things like “can you lower my hand for me?” or “I am sorry, you have to lower your own hands”.

This might make you smile reading this, but situations like that do not foster continued intelligent conversation. Taking architects/designers or executives into a situation where they have to feel like they are sitting in the small desks in a classroom again does not assist with the collaborative process.

I am waiting for the software designers who really ‘get’ what online collaboration should feel like to be most effective. Do you have suggestions or experiences?
Do you have other examples of design that forces “awkward” behavior? Help me feel like I am not the only one frustrated and comment below.