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So, Who's Behind This--Really?

It's a Triad, to be sure, just not one from Hong Kong or Shanghai! The three primary perpetrators, who have had substantial help from a number of others, are Gordon Harper, Len Hockley and Tim Wegner. That may be all you want or need to know--but if these are strange names, a bit of possibly pertinent background on each below.

Len Hockley: former Burroughs (remember it?) mainframe guy, daughter Wendy's death gave rise to the Order's creation of the double X, red and black symbol in the mid 60s. Among his many sins, an early addiction to ICA's global interoffice communication systems, including email ventures like FidoNet and user groups (what would come to be known as listservs). Made friends with the pioneering folks at EcoNet (later IGC, then Mindspring, now Earthlink), which allowed our first everyone email addresses to sprout around the world. Developed and facilitated earliest ICA listservs for many years. Retired May 06 from years of being the computer guy at White Bird Clinic in Eugene, OR, where he and Phyllis still hang out.

Gordon Harper: always hated and feared computers since his traumatic exposure to the punchcard sorting room on the West Side in the mid 60s. Felt he finally had to get one and learn how to use it in order to host IERD Asia Pacific Regional Assembly in Taiwan in '85. All downhill since then. Became fanatic about connecting Asian offices electronically, bludgeoned colleagues from Bombay to KL to Hong Kong andTokyo into email connectivity. Blackmailed ICA International that Taiwan financial support would be withheld until Brussels got an email address. Hosted first paperless ICAI Conference (Taipei, 1990), where delegates went home with all documents on a floppy disk rather than a suitcase full of paper. Set up and faciliatated many listservs for a number of years, including those for the IAF and the US and international ToP trainers. Created first website for US ICA in 1996. Became ICA Senior Staff Emeritus in January 05. Tries to keep a low profile and stay out of Roxana's way in Seattle, WA.

Tim Wegner: only member of the team still gainfully employed (the young one among us). Genuine computer programmer, but stays mum about just what it is he's programming (it's actually pretty easy to get me to talk about it - think of me as, more or less, a Rocket Scientist - TW). Contributes the hosting of our current Dialogue and Order listservs and this site on a commercial web host, where they seem to be much happier than they were on Topica. Was silly enough to start the Wedgeblade website and offer it as the locus for this venture. Only one on the team as a result who is putting real money into supporting the project, as opposed to just long hours of sweat equity. The Go To Guy for all really technical matters related to the Wiki software on this site. Last spotted with someone named Sue in the vicinity of Houston, TX.

How It All Came About

A few words for those of you interested in on how this all came about. The idea for this site has been percolating, in my mind at least, for the past several years. Couldn't we create a website where individuals could find and place archival materials from our community? And make it as well a place for sharing some longer reflective writings, talking papers—oh, all right, hold collegia!—on aspects of our work and our journey--what significance it has had for us individually, for our families, for our world? As well as where it's calling us today, toward the future?

The difficulty was, after putting together the first website in 1996 for ICA USA (along with a volunteer here in Seattle who knew a good bit more about the technology than I), I had a pretty clear picture of the work and time such a project would involve, to say nothing of the skill sets required (and which I largely lacked). It's only been since taking on my new role as Senior Staff Emeritus, that things began to converge that moved this from a nice idea to something real.

One of these impelling forces was learning about wiki software. I'd been aware of Wikipedia (its most famous application) for some time--even used it on occasion--but it was only after the US ToP trainers began to use a version of wiki software a couple years ago, that I was able to see this dream as suddenly feasible. Once you got into it, the wiki software was truly amazing. It transformed a come-and-just-look-at-what's-here website into a genuinely participatory venue! Ordinary people could log in and actually add their things directly to the site. Collaborative writing and editing was made simple. True, there was stuff to learn (isn't there always?), but these were things that normal computer users like the ToP trainers could quite quickly get the hang of. Nothing like mastering HTML or graphic design codes or FTP uploading skills. Bells started to go off in my mind.

The second thing that broke through the clouds was Tim Wegner's little comment on the Dialogue listserv in July, 2005, that he'd started a Wedgeblade website on his server, It was empty of content, and he invited people to think about possible uses for it. I don't recall that he got many responses to his invitation, but it was an Aha! moment for me. Tim and I talked about the possibility of making this a wiki project, and he was very supportive. I then immediately got in touch with another old friend and colleague in the region who knew something about things digital, Len Hockley, and the terrible triad was born.

My original image was of a site organized simply by years. It seemed to me that the initial backbone might appropriately be the timeline of events first gathered, I believe, by Beret Griffith and then expanded, updated and published in the year 2000 by Brian Stanfield and ICA Canada. I contacted Brian and Jeanette, and they were kind enough to encourage the venture and send us their files. You will find their work as the basis of the Years Index. Our team would later expand the structure to include the Subjects, Places and Reflective Writing arenas as well to that of the Years.

A consideration that gave us a certain sense of urgency was the recognition that there simply was not a long window of opportunity to tap the first hand memories and resources of the earliest members of our community. We are all getting older. To be sure, others in times to come will interpret our life together and appraise its significance. However, if most of us are to participate in this activity, it had best happen now.

Since July of last year, the three of us have conversed over the telephone, exchanged emails, and finally started using the site itself for logging our discussions. We tested various versions of wiki software, considered different ways to structure the site, shared individual visions, learned what was feasible given the technology and tried out a lot of things in the Sandboxes we created as our test sites. (For those of you interested in eavesdropping on the most recent of those conversations, visit the Site Launch Talk page, which we continue to use for this purpose.)

We set ourselves a date for its public unveiling--June 10th, the occasion of a major gathering of ICA folk from Washington and Oregon around the first visit to Seattle by Elizabeth Houde, new Chief Executive of ICA USA. Inviting our regional network to this event, we announced that there would also be a surprise component of the gathering, relating to our history. This moved things up to the front burner for us, and we got very seriously to work. We were determined not to make the site public until we had the basic structure solidly in place and had tested it all as thoroughly as we could. On three occasions over the two months prior to the deadline, Len, Phyllis, Roxana and I travelled to the other's homes in Seattle and Eugene to put in a few days' work on laptops atop dining room tables.

On June 10th, 2006, at the NW ICA Gathering Extraordinaire, hosted by US Board President, Dick Wilkinson, colleagues old and new greeted Elizabeth Houde, and we made the first public presentation of the site. Following this event, announcements of its existence and invitations to participate went out to ICA networks around the globe. The Repository was alive and in history!


It's always an impossible task to name all those who have contributed to an effort like this, spread out as it has been over the course of a year. Still, we'd like to mention a few whose assistance has been especially appreciated. We've noted the foundational assistance of Brian and Jeanette Stanfield from Australia. Checking with our ICA colleagues in Canada in August, 2005, about the use of Brian's timeline, we received very helpful early input on the overall project from Duncan Holmes and Wayne Nelson. John and Ann Epps from Lens International in Malaysia brought the perspective of the recent publication of Joe's talks to reflecting on the venture when they spent time in Seattle in December. A workshop on the structure of the site, with flip charts spread around the Jewell's dining table and living room floor, included Jim and Dorothea, Fred and Nancy Lanphear, Len and Phyllis Hockley and Roxana Harper, and jump started the Subjects page on the site. When Elizabeth Houde and I met for the first time in January, 2006, we shared the various projects each of us was pursuing and were pleased to discover some common objectives between this effort and an anticipated Library Project in Chicago that she hoped to have ICA USA undertake.

A week spent in January in Litibu, Mexico, included thoughtful discussions on the nature of the project, with Ray Caruso and George West, along with Jack and Judy Gilles from India, all adding new perspectives (and challenges) to the project. Jonathan Bucki, the US ToP Trainers' Network Wiki master, visited the site, gave us helpful hints about Wiki software and was kind enough to allow Len and Tim an opportunity to see how the trainers' site was set up. Finally, we should acknowledge some of our early visitors to the site, including Dick Wilkinson, Joe and Marilyn Crocker and the Richmonds and Maguires from Australia, along with the beta testers who courageously jumped in and tried out actually posting items to the site, Sharon Fisher and of course Roxana and Phyllis. We anticipate this number growing, perhaps exponentially, in the coming weeks and months.

There have been others who participated at different times in the design phase of this in various ways, all with helpful insights and perspectives. There is a great deal of work yet to do on the site itself, and we recognize the site as well as its content to be a work in progress. Some things here still don’t work as well as we’d like, and you may find things that don’t work at all, at least for you. Please join in the conversation about what you feel works well, what doesn’t, and what you’d like to see (click on Your Comments for general feedback or Site Help for specific technical issues on the opening page sidebar). By all means, let us know if you have skills in this arena that you’d like to contribute.

Wherever in the world you are, we look forward to our sharing of this incredible journey.

-- GordonHarper - 02 Jun 2006
Topic revision: r5 - 12 Jun 2006, GordonHarper
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