Culture Clash, Shared Language, and Story Telling

Speaking of names, a recent Newsday article on Viggo Mortensen, who plays Aragorn in the Lord of the Ring trilogy, notes that Danish people find his name:    (KK)

“Corny?” he says. “Yeah, I know. It would be like being called Oscar. Or Otto. It’s an old name. A really, really old name. And a little bit corny. Like Oswald or something …”    (KL)

Elmer?    (KM)

“Yeah! Elmer. Yeah,” Mortensen says. “I think there’s a comic strip in Denmark, a Dennis the Menace character, and his name is Viggo. He’s all over the place.”    (KN)

Names are a great example of how our different cultural backgrounds can make Shared Language challenging. There are many great examples of brand names gone wrong because they mean something obscene in other languages.    (KO)

When we first started discussing patterns of collaboration at Blue Oxen Associates, I identified casual social interaction as an important pattern, and I called it Water Cooler. Shinya Yamada, a collaboratory member based in Japan, had no idea why I chose that name. Shinya had worked in the U.S. before, so he understood my explanation. He also noted that he had never seen a water cooler in a Japanese office before, and that — unlike in the States — casual social interaction with strangers in the office was unusual.    (KP)

Another great example of the challenges of Shared Language cropped up at the GivingSpace workshop in San Francisco last Thursday. Six of us were discussing small, concrete steps that lead to transformation, and Heather Newbold described how Matt Gonzalez for Mayor campaign buttons had galvanized the progressive community in San Francisco. Four of us knew exactly what Heather was describing, because we lived in the Bay Area and followed local politics. All she had to do was mention the buttons, and we understood what she meant. The other two people at our table, however, had no idea what we were talking about. One was from San Diego, and the other simply didn’t follow politics.    (KQ)

Language itself is not enough. Telling stories is what makes language shared.    (KR)

Why I Have Three Names

One thing that the articles cited in my two previous entries is that they both mispelled or misarranged my name. This is actually a relatively common phenomenon.    (K9)

For the first dozen years of my life, I went by my middle name, “Eric.” Using one’s middle name is also a relatively common phenomenon. What’s more unusual is that, upon changing schools in the seventh grade, I decided to go back to my first name, “Eugene.”    (KA)

It’s been long enough now that most people know me as, “Eugene.” Notable exceptions include my family, all of whom still call me, “Eric,” and the few people who remember me from way back when. I think my brother-in-law, Isaac, is still thoroughly confused as to what to call me, although he seems to be settling on “Eric.”    (KB)

In my bylines, I use my full name, Eugene Eric Kim. This is partially an acknowledgement of my dual identity, and also a feeble attempt at uniqueness in a world with way too many Eugene Kims.    (KC)

A surprising number of people get confused by the three names and call me “Eric,” even though I introduce myself and sign my e-mails as “Eugene.” This phenomenon has always fascinated me. Do I seem more like an “Eric” than a “Eugene” to some people, or do some people naturally gravitate to the shorter name?    (KD)

These folks often apologize to me when they catch themselves doing this. No need to apologize. I don’t mind at all. You do it at your own risk, however, because on the occasions that you need to refer to me in the third person, your brain will have to context-switch. Freshman year in college, my roommate — who was not yet up to speed on my name situation — complained, “Some nut keeps calling us asking for Eric, and I keep telling her she has the wrong number.” That nut, of course, was my mother.    (KE)


Many moons ago, Danny Ayers reported the successful prototype of WikiWhiteboard, a simple tool for creating editable SVG images on Wikis. Motivated by the simplicity of the design and a little subtle prodding by Danny, I ported it to PurpleWiki. (See PurpleWiki:WikiWhiteboard.) Danny’s writeup on WikiWhiteboard, “Creating an SVG Wiki”, appeared last month at    (K4)

The WikiWhiteboard code will be released in the next version of PurpleWiki, although I will be happy to release code early to anyone interested.    (K5)

perlIBIS: The Virtue of Thinking Out Loud

Read Danny Ayers‘s blog this morning, and saw an entry describing Ken MacLeod‘s recent experiment with IBIS Dialogue Mapping. I took a look, and was surprised and thrilled at what I saw. Ken had used (and improved) perlIBIS, which I had written and last released two years ago.    (JU)

I note this not just because I’m pleased (I am), but because it also shows the importance of knowledge capture and thinking out loud. I had announced this work to members of the small Dialogue Mapping community, and had received some positive feedback but little else. That was fine; my motivation in writing the tool was to Scratch Your Own Itch and experiment with some ideas, and I accomplished that. That said, it was gratifying to see that the ideas and the tool had propagated outside of that community, and that someone else was doing something valuable with it.    (JV)

Perhaps this will be the kick in the pants I need to finally write up some of my notes on Dialogue Mapping, both for synchronous and asynchronous collaboration.    (JW)