eWorking Proposal

I would like to propose and participate in the development of comprehensive automation in routine work. As banks have eBanking, eWorking seems good enough for a working title for automation in diverse activities that currently rely on digital versions of paperwork. The proposed alternative is for experts in different fields to record their information in a reusable machine-friendly format. Large volumes of specific information can then be stored in private and public repositories for digital devices to help analyse and assemble into pertinent combinations for different purposes and output. It is the structure of the information that allows Web technology to be used to automate diverse activities.

To initiate the scheme I offer a prototype “JSON machine”. It provides a common means to assemble the sets of information and to identify and link in devices needed to automate related tasks. JSON is specially punctuated plain text that can be automatically turned into computer code objects. The machine itself is made up of a set of such objects; a universal code module turns them into a machine-like display.

Machines are freely distributed with set up objects, sample monitors for viewing objects as different types of multimedia and code module device for creating new objects and keys. Keys help define different aspects to be worked on but also provide links to code module devices that change values by selection or computation, as well as devices that find, analyse, interact and return pertinent results. For example, hotel operators add keys relevant to bookings to objects assembled to manage their whole business. Individuals attach the same keys to objects assembled as an itinerary.

Hotel operation/booking video

A device to analyse the key/values to those of participating hotels completes an open source alternative to proprietary websites that offer best hotel deals. The same concept can be applied to far more complex and diverse activities such as design and construction.

Hotel project video

The objects “attract” information from diverse interested parties. They form a complex network of connections for a comprehensive rather than cherry-picked automated world. The scheme promises a stronger more open Internet as more of electorates become increasingly dependent on it to do their work. The first question to kick off the discourse I suppose is whether staff and volunteers consider that Mozilla has a duty to the general public to follow up on any credible beneficial proposal.

Chris, a bit of feedback:
I’ve tried myself to understand this and passed it to a few people in Mozilla, including those with deep technical knowledge – but all of us are really stumped with what exactly you’re proposing here.

Could you try explaining this in slightly more lay terms and specifics on what you’re proposing to do/for Mozillians to do?

To help this community out, perhaps these few questions would be helpful:

  1. What specific problem/opportunity are you referring to? Could you describe this with a simple real-world example, including describing the “user” you’re referring to.

  2. How does this link to Mozilla’s mission of ensuring the Internet is a global public resource open and accessible to all, and our Manifesto?

  3. What are the tangible first couple of steps you would like to have Mozillians involved with?


I very much appreciate your feedback, @george, and have spent the last few days considering how I might best answer your helpful questions.

Here’s a first try.

I see the opportunity to use the Web/Internet to automate all sorts of tasks. It is already being done to a very limited extent, for example, by companies that find the best deals for hotel rooms. But we cannot expect the IT sector to do all the work nor do anything without related financial gain. So to progress we need to involve those who are able to analyse and detail the diverse activities they are responsible for, so that they can identify what aspects of what might be automated; for example, guestroom > booking or guestroom > furnishing. I believe a not for profit like Mozilla could provide the means for anyone to create information that is computational (JSON machine), just as W3C provides the means for anyone to create the websites (HTML markup) that might carry it.

I also believe that this approach supports Mozilla’s Manifesto. I find the following particularly resonant:

The Internet is an integral part of modern life (reduction in paperwork type processes; interactive search and analysis of information of all types including products)

The Internet must enrich the lives of individual human beings. (less tedious activities; more opportunity/reward for creativity)

Individuals must have the ability to shape the Internet. (anyone can initiate new ways of working)

… depends upon interoperability (protocols, data formats, content), innovation and decentralized participation worldwide.


a balance between commercial profit and public benefit is critical (all elements related to computational information have intrinsic value)

I see the first tangible step as development of the JSON machine. I rather obsessed about demonstrating it before, but it is very simple for a coder to take over and remake professionally. It immediately opens new areas for exploration and experimentation (for example, generating 3D models with js libraries like Threejs ).

I look forward to further feedback. I will be happy when the reaction is “it was obvious anyway”.

Looking back I see I was a bit lazy just giving activities related to a guest room as examples. @george, I hope this post makes amends.

guestroom > booking

Here a company like Trivago asks its web site visitors to select a location, bed type and check in/out dates. A protocol and mechanism exists for the relevant data to be extracted directly or indirectly from each hotel website for it to be analysed and returned as a clickable display of compliant deals.

guestroom > furnishing

In this scenario, it is the hotel owner/designer/operator who is seeking information for one or perhaps hundreds of rooms. The search is for multiple items - e.g. bed, nightstand, desk, minibar, luggage stand, closet, seat, sofa - as accountable selection is based not only on price but also compatibility of sizes, delivery, distribution, maintenance, country of origin and so on. Universal protocols and mechanisms are designed for such complexity.

The first search pass finds the sites that hold the data needed so that aspect pairs can be extracted and analysed to return unique keys and values. These are marked up to exclude those not required and next pass run. Clearly there is pressure to balance accountability with time available for the re-running, but this could be significantly relieved by devising conditional criteria, i.e. more sophisticated mechanism design.

I mentioned 3D modelling in my last post because this is important where subjective judgment is part of decision making. It also enables animation to be used to explain processes and visually track progress using input from diverse sources - the delivery guy, for example.

protocols and mechanisms

Those set up for furnishing also work for the simpler booking example, the company’s role undertaken by individuals’ JSON machines, with relevant imported monitors to generate different types of display as required.

What’s up with you people? Here is an opportunity to initiate widespread automation in the workplace based on mechanised records - a recommendation that goes back to 1945 to my knowledge.

Is it because new opportunities for general public participation appear to conflict with “unlocking a new level of value to Mozilla and Mozillians”. If so, then this needs to be discussed because it’s simply not the case.

I’m sorry I still can’t understand how this is related with the work we do at Mozilla or participation.

Maybe this is not the best forum to talk about it? Probably that’s why you are not getting a lot of replies.

Do you think this situation might be similar to the second of the classic trio of responses to innovation: “OK it works but it will never catch on”? If so this is the most difficult part to get to grips with. I remember personal computers initially being branded “just for hobbyists” and the Internet “just a passing fad.”

First bureaucracy should not be allowed to smother ideas. Second we should recognise this idea as an extension of, not alternative to Mozilla’s good work. And thirdly we should use it to acknowledge and pay tribute to the foresight of the Internet pioneers that allows us to build on first principles to satisfy the mission.

The term “Participation” seems to be a problem, so how about hoiking eWorking out of that section and giving it one of its own? It is quite a big idea after all. It could be renamed if you like.

I believe the more the Internet is used for mechanisation by more people in addition to browsing, the greater will be the influence of citizens (voters) to maintain it as sacrosanct as postal services.

I strongly recommend reading Vannevar Bush’s "As We May Think "(section 6 onwards). He may not be revered now as he was by MIT and other cognoscenti in the past, but Douglas Englebart and Tim Berners Lee acknowledged his influence on their developments of graphical user interface, mouse, online systems and so on as well as the Web itself.

Innovation is notoriously awkward in the initial stages but can become exciting if we can try and bridge the gaps. That’s the purpose of Discourse, right?

Yes but this concrete category inside Mozilla Discourse is to talk about the participation efforts inside Mozilla:


I’m not sure where your post would fit better, sorry.

I have just returned from a trip around the Indian Ocean. In Hong Kong we booked single tickets to Mauritius and three nights in a hotel in Port Louis, its capital. After that we moved around Mauritius, Seychelles and Sri Lanka booking hotels and flights on the hoof on the web. We used our credit and bank cards for payments and different types of cash. eVacationing if you like.

I mention this not just to praise the technology but to explain it changed the way we did vacationing, in my view more creatively. Since there is no doubt it works for vacationing, the only question should be simply how to get it going for working. Objections about not fitting with bureaucracy is surely contrary to the Mozilla mission, almost as iniquitous as the infamous “no reply” that has dogged innovation for centuries.

Can I ask you @george now that I see you have been able to get back to Discourse, either to explain to your people that eWorking really can be exciting or to me why this cannot be the case. Thanks.

Hey, your enthusiasm about this idea inspires me. Are you trying to say that everything on the Web should have a json api and mozilla should be the standardization body that standardizes the API, and also makes it easy to create a standard API?

I definitely believe “OK it works but it will never catch on”. And I don’t agree with the logic that Internet was called a passing fad by some people and therefore there can’t be any bad idea in the world.

Are you trying to say that everything on the Web …

I am not trying to say anything. I am saying that if people get the opportunity to create their information as objects (in JSON format), the IT industry will get more opportunities to automate tasks for the good of the Society as a whole. I would like a non profit like Mozilla to take over and distribute an open source JSON machine, much as Mozilla did with the Netscape browser. I did not say or infer anything about APIs - that is your non sequitur.

I definitely believe “OK it works but it will never catch on”.

I’m glad you agree it works. I have some ideas why it may never catch on but would be interested in why you think so.

And I don’t agree with the logic that Internet was called a passing fad by some people and therefore there can’t be any bad idea in the world.

Again I did not say or infer that - please be more careful with serious discourse.

So, you want to give people an easy way to create information in json format? So that for example, if say the govt published data on e.g. crime rates, a non technical person could convert/create it in Json?

I think your example could be misleading since the vast bulk of information is produced by the general public in their day to day activities. The basic idea then is to enable anyone to create (or use if already existing) digital representations of things of interest. They can then attach information as key/value pairs that are useful to progress their tasks (whether for work or leisure). These can be simple values or criteria that provide the basis for automated computation. The representations are of course digital objects that can be parsed and used to generate different types of multimedia output including text, voice, graphics and animation.

It might well be, if the representations (objects) are in the public domain, that governments will analyse aspects of them from bottom up to produce the much vaunted BIG data of the type you mention.

Makes sense now, my concern is, the average user doesn’t really care about these things

Exactly … hence the problem is more social than technical … the real challenge … but then there is offset marketing … more tomorrow.

My experience is in the building industry and although I have been deeply involved in iconic projects like the Hong Kong Bank, Chek Lap Kok airport, Bibliotheca Alexandrina and Ishtar Sheraton Baghdad, my real interest is in social housing. Responsible parties I see range from the voters (supposedly the strongest but most difficult to influence) to the designers (the staunchest proponents of the status quo).

So if social housing is to be made cheaper, quicker and more creative by automating essential tasks, then marketing the idea needs to be offset progressively away from the self-interested towards society as a whole (via its institutions and elected government). Not many people here will grasp this immediately but I saw it happening to some extent with Computer Aided Design. It was only when institutions like UNESCO and HK Airport Authority required electronic documentation that CAD became widely adopted as standard.

This aspect of eWorking needs to be discussed; technical solutions require little effort.

See also https://github.com/chrisglasier/eWorking.

It is generally a good idea to avoid comitting zip files to git because it makes git useless as a code versioning system.

Read more about using git more effectively here or in more detail here.

I’m sorry I’m on a metered connection and can’t download these large files, and therefore, can’t comment on the code now.

Yes I understand that. But here is the problem perhaps you might help me with:

The blazer and monitors work on the desktop in nwjs (node-webkit) windows. This software needs to be downloaded from nwjs.io (about 24mb). My part of the blazer is about 60 kb. The libraries in the remote folder (they might be anywhere in the future) are selected jquery (491 kb) and selected threejs (1 mb). I understand both of these can be linked but that requires being on line.

The images for the product models account for 2 mb (not used yet) and the rest of my stuff in the remote folder is about 115kb.

So version control is needed for files totalling about 175 kb (2.2mb with images).

I can ask visitors to download nwjs and the other libraries separately and tell them which folders to put them in … but that seems a bit much for an introduction.

I am happy to do that as an option. What do you think? And thanks by the way, your comment is most useful and appreciated.

One option is to put those 2.2 MBs in git and the binary that visitors need in releases.

I would even use bower or npm to exclude jquery and threejs too.

Check this nw boilerplate repo to see how it can look.