Subject: Re: funding indirect services
From: Crispin Cowan <>
Date: Mon, 31 Jul 2000 10:44:13 -0700

Rich Morin wrote:

> Crispin Cowan wants a "short, pithy paragraph describing the proposed
> work that makes it blindingly obvious why one would want such a widget,
> and if it's an infrastructure thing, how we might get there without
> breaking the world".

Believe me, I know how hard it is to write such paragraphs.  Writing these
things has become one of my core activities, and it is a right bitch to keep
it short, make it compelling, and remain credible.

> I don't feel capable of all that, but how about this:
>    Meta is a unified interface for system information, where both "system"
>    and "information" are interpreted very broadly.  It maps documentation,
>    system state, and other useful information into a single "name space",
>    easing the creation of powerful support tools (e.g., system browsers
>    and administrative tools).  Initial versions of Meta will concentrate
>    on package management metadata and assorted documentation resources.

Thanks very much!  Some commentary (even though you didn't ask :-):

   * In some sense, it sounds like the value proposition of X.500 of old (now
     morphed into LDAP) which would let you look up a machine in a vast
     network by value, i.e. "where is the color printer on the 3rd floor of
     the Catbert building?"  X.500 used a truly global (i.e. world wide) name
     space tree, with the top level classification being "country".  Here, the
     ISO lineage becomes obvious, and one of the major simplifications that
     allowed LDAP to succeed where X.500 failed is that LDAP's name space is
     as global as you wanna be, not a branch of the Big Brother Global
   * Is there an access control scheme?  This sounds like not only the kind of
     info that your average sys admin wants for hir own network, but also the
     kind of information that your average cracker wants to enable break-ins.
   * Documentation?  Sounds like Meta is trying to manage information that
     doesn't exist ;-)

Do I want one?  No, not really.  If it was free, I might think about it, and
then decide that just installing and maintaining it is more effort than it is
worth.   I probably would not pay for it.

And there's the rub:  once you clearly explain yourself, you give pople
concret reasons to say "no" :-(

Bringing it back to topic:  a "diffuse" effort has to be of global interest.
*Everyone* has to want one.  If that's not true, then you have a niche market
product (for some value of "niche") and you need to market it to your

>From the sounds of it, Meta sounds more like a niche market product than an
diffuse project.


Crispin Cowan, Chief Scientist, WireX Communications, Inc.
Free Hardened Linux Distribution: