Subject: Re: a mechanism for getting paid for support
From: (E. Dean Tribble)
Date: Sun, 15 Jan 1995 12:21:52 -0800

>My reading of the Amix docs and playing with the demo-disk (btw, are 
>there still copies of that self-running demo around anywhere?) made it 
>seem as though the "conflict resolution" parts devolved into what ended 
>up being a fairly fascist mail program, where every piece of e-mail 
>through the system had to be tagged explicitly as "proposal", 
>"agree", "disagree", "resolution", etc. etc. and there was a complicated 
>state-machine you worked through to get from first contact to final offer.

You are describing the first version of the contracting interface; the
dispute resolution system was a social process, not an inteface supported

The first version of the interface was based on the Coordinator work that
has the properties you describe, and the problems you described (which are
problems with the Coordinator ideas in general) were quickly obvious.  They
redesigned the consulting interface (this is the main place where I helped
AMIX) so that it was *much* better--enough better that people were starting
to use it instead of the more traditional email interface.

The interface was basically mail messages with an easy way to fill in a few
extra fields for the terms--how much to pay on agreement, delivery, and/or
acceptance (and there was a field that would show a running total), a date
at which the offer expired (which could be filled in with casual dates such
as "2 weeks", "next month", etc.)--and a check box that indicated whether
you were "signing" the contract.  Any response started with the terms
filled in the same way (which could then be edited).  An agreement was
reached when both parties had sent messages "signing" the same terms.  This
allowed you to send mail that just proposed terms to start a negotiation
(i.e. unsigned terms), or to propose a deal with your signature, so that
all they had to do was reply and "sign" the reply to agree, a change the
terms to counter-propose, etc.  Very few different kinds of messages were
required to ccapture all the aspects of agreements (because the mail
messages could include other terms), and they were all extremely natural to
use (we were all surprised by how easy people found them).  At no point
were you trapped in the Coordinator hell of having to make structured
replies and not having the option you desired.  This same interface
supported renegotiating terms after an agreement was already in place, etc.

It was extremely interesting seeing the use of the consulting mechanism
start to get used in place of email:  it started to feel rude to ask
someone a question without attaching at least a token amount (a dollar or
two) to the message to indicate that you understood their contribution was
valuable and to indicate to them how much you valued the answer (an
approximate priority mechanism).  People also discovered that they got
better and faster responses when they attached even small amounts to their

Eventually we'll get to see where such things lead to :-)