I was just thinking of you…

I just had one of those damn computer things, where I send an email to someone who I couldn’t reach by voice, but just after sending it, I get an email from that person that changes the conditions of what I was writing to the person about. Arghh.

I’ve written before about how Croquet fosters both synchronous and asynchronous communication, like combining chat and email. Here’s how it plays out in this particular scenario. I go to the special space that Alice and I have created (with a few clicks or voice commands) for the stuff common to us. (Or maybe common to a group of three or more. It doesn’t matter.) I create a message in that space – voice, text, or video. The idea is that Alice will see that message (and possibly be notified) and will review at her leisure. Alice starts to do the same thing, but since each of us has a presence (an avatar) visible to anyone else in the space, we see each other. Then we just start talking, directly. While we do so, I can even point at the paragraph that I was just composing. Alice can edit it, too, so that she or I can then bring over the collaboratively revised version to Bob. No mail client. No telephone. No chat client. No whiteboard. No filenames or email addresses. No server.

OK, this isn’t that different in principle from the little colored balls in Macintosh Mail that tell you which addresses belong to people who are in your buddy list and available for iChat at this moment. But maybe it’s enough different to actually be useable.

About Stearns

Howard Stearns works at High Fidelity, Inc., creating the metaverse. Mr. Stearns has a quarter century experience in systems engineering, applications consulting, and management of advanced software technologies. He was the technical lead of University of Wisconsin's Croquet project, an ambitious project convened by computing pioneer Alan Kay to transform collaboration through 3D graphics and real-time, persistent shared spaces. The CAD integration products Mr. Stearns created for expert system pioneer ICAD set the market standard through IPO and acquisition by Oracle. The embedded systems he wrote helped transform the industrial diamond market. In the early 2000s, Mr. Stearns was named Technology Strategist for Curl, the only startup founded by WWW pioneer Tim Berners-Lee. An expert on programming languages and operating systems, Mr. Stearns created the Eclipse commercial Common Lisp programming implementation. Mr. Stearns has two degrees from M.I.T., and has directed family businesses in early childhood education and publishing.


  1. It may be a cliche, but when this becomes widespread and I join Croquet, I want my visual metaphor to be a telephone.

    And yes, my avatar will wear a long black leather coat. And it will wear sunglasses at all times.

    And its facial expression will never change.

    And it shall be called, neo-Neo. . .

  2. You know, I’ve seen one of those movies. Pretty cool, as I recall. Guess I’ll have to go rent the series. Do they still have video stores?

    By the way, you don’t have to choose permanently. You can change avatars at any time. We have a have virtual fish tank which automatically changes you to a fish as you enter. And we have a drop down that let’s you pick from your collection of avatars. Some days I’m a dragon, some days a bunny rabbit, some days a chicken, some days an F15.

  3. Life is too short to watch the entire Matrix series.

    The second one is a lame-o version of the first. And the third one is an abomination in the sight of the Lord. Consider suspect anybody who makes a defense of the third Matrix movie on any grounds at all.

  4. The more avenues you have to communicate, the harder it is to pick which one to use at any given moment.

    For example, late yesterday, I sent an instant message to my girlfriend, just to chat about the late afternoon blahs. I interrupted her while she was writing me an email about our weekend plans. "So… should I just send it to you?" she asked. "Um, I guess so… then I’ll read it, and I’ll reply." Meanwhile, we’re chatting about something else entirely.

    Things get weird when you can use multiple channels of communications at the same time.

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