Project maplesync: an inclusive, open-source distributed economic decision making system for Canada

Hi all,

I am a student at strategic foresight and innovation at OCADu. I have developed the basis of an open-source/access project for a 21st century Project Cybersyn. I would love to hear your opinions on it. Please let me know if I have posted in the wrong forum.

It is called project maplesync: an inclusive, open-source distributed economic decision making system for Canada - that could be applied elsewhere in the world.

Maplesync is a proposal for open-source national level accounting and strategic indicative planning systems that anyone can contribute to. The idea is that by providing better baseline information to entrepreneurs (and more) we can build capacity for greater prosperity in terms of economic, social and environmental wealth.

Indicative planning simply means to draw attention to strategic options via collective intelligence design techniques.

Visit for a one-pager and a very dense (sorry) project “kernel”.

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Okay, @gceh, I’ll bite … at least a little bit. I’ll play the strong cynic.

I read the one-pager, and wondered: should I care about this project? As someone who has worked a lot in market development, I’m wondering, who is the customer or beneficiary for this? And is that stakeholder the same someone or someone different who would fund this?

In the one-pager (and in a thesis), I would expect a statement of what’s wrong with the way we’re seeing the world right now. If the focus is an …

… well, I’m someone who considers himself in the open source community. (Using a Linux desktop since 2008 is enough to classify me as a freak, not to mention the tools and technologies I choose for moral reasons). Would I be a candidate to contribute? What happens if I don’t contribute? Or am I the wrong “anyone”?

Is it the fact the there’s an “national level accounting and strategic indicative planning systems” isn’t open source that’s the problem? What is the ask that you’re making (and of whom)?

I’m familiar with Project Cybersyn. Are you saying that Statistics Canada doesn’t provide information sufficient to the needs you’re looking for? Would we just be better lobbying to get Statistics Canada, or some other existing institution to take on this mission, rather than create even more bureaucratic overhead?

I’m confused. If you’re early in the project, maybe more writing doesn’t help. (The project kernel looks intimidating). May you could show one of those nice synthesis maps that are inviting to look it?

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Hi @daviding ,

Thanks for the rigorous reply, as this project is in its early stages and needs a lot of work in exactly this area of marketing and communications.

I wrote an updated plain language, “dejargonized” one pager here. I an attempt to address your very valid concerns that I completely agree with. I will also reply directly here to address some of the other concerns.

WRT the cybersyn/statscan point, I think it is a Marshall McLuhan “medium is the message” type issue. Many people may disagree with me, but I believe that high level economic decision making should be democratic (at least in parallel to existing structures), and should have its own dedicated, real-time platform. If someone disagrees with this idea, they are not going to like the idea of maplesync at all (and I imagine its a lot of people). Therefore, I go at it from the vantage point that this can spur growth, which I believe is true. I can go into this more, but I write about it in the new 2pager.

I agree that where possible this should be done by existing entities, what I am trying to propose is an open source movement to build the fundamentals of the constituent tools of maplesync so that any jurisdiction could use them at any level. I agree, for me this is a bit of an intuition at this point, but it is so fundamental to the project. But for instance, the dream is that an economic development entity at any level in Canada could assemble an economic development platform by cherry picking the modules that are relevant and building on them.

I think a synthesis map is definitely the right answer. A few friends and I are pulling together a practical plan for build a first iteration of maplesync.

Thanks again,


You buried the lede … or am reading this in the wrong way?

for eCanada - inspired by eEstonia

I recall that to get people understanding the Internet, sometime it was described as interactive television. (But then, why would anyone want an interactive television? I did try out Minitel in France, and was unimpressed).

Is that because they disagree, or because they don’t understand? Are you selling cold, dead fish … or does it make a difference if we’re talking about sushi?

One of the principles in IBM First-of-a-Kind projects used to be that a live customer needed to be interested in the technology. If you’re can’t get one customer interested, then how are you supposed to get a market interested? This could be the difference between a megaproject, and an Minimal Viable Product. (Having a One-of-a-Kind project is also a problem!)

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So I know what “burying the lede” means in general but I am not precisely sure what your are referring to here. So I will respond to my assumption which I think is an important point anyways. I am going to talk about the theory of change.

Maplesync itself is a platform repository project with the goal of generating a whole bunch of open-source modules for plug and play from different contexts and instances. So, Maplesync needs a story to build up and seed an understanding of what indicative strategic planning means (the core of project) - which is how I attempted writing that 2 pager. Why?:

Maplesync depends on interpretations of the kernel and a wide variety of MVPs being produced and a constant culture of remix. Thus, it’s more of a movement than a pure technical project. For instance, an economic development agency for a city or region might be inspired the ideas of the maplesync kernel, and after building and testing an interpretation - ideally- share back the source code and learning of what the module they came up with back into a repository and wiki held by maplesync. Then another might remix that kernel and module, feed it back into the repository and wiki… and so on. Maplesync is a spark and a vessel.

So, at this stage, I want to make the core idea understandable at a first glance in terms of the value - drawing attention to the problem in an easy to understand way. It might seem like “burying the lede”. That, and making the conclusion of 'indicative crowdplanning" seem as obvious a conclusion or anti-conclusion as possible. I am trying to get 3 main groups to care about this concept that originate from deep abstraction: developers, contributors, and voters. Right now, the focus is mainly on gaining the interest of developers - and outside groups like say a government agency at any level that might want to build a first iteration. The 2-pager is ideally a plain language attempt at routing different groups to media tailored to them.

Therefore, the 2-pagers emphasis on storytelling first. This doc is of course is a companion piece to more technical versions which do not “bury the lede”. I believe it is possible that one could start at those first principles in the plain language 2pager intro section and even come up with a different approach to the overall platform design - ie something besides strategic indicative planning. It definitely needs more work, re: your second point - to make this idea seem so obvious and so needed. As I said, that’s why this is more communications project at this point. I plan on doing my OCAD MRP on this.

I realize this is long. In sum, I want to express that the ideal scenario is a full build out of an independent maplesync, lets say “maplesyncalpha”, that embodies all 12 main modules that are articulated in the kernel. Obviously it is not realistic that this will happen on a first glance. Therefore, we need an inspiring narrative that captures the spirit of those 12 modules to that construction can begin through different attempts at an MVP unified under an open-collaboration project.

Again, as you rightly pointed out - this is a communications project. The technical aspects already exists, could be built or could be recombined. But how do you get people to care overall? I know, from my heterodox economics research over the past 7 years, that this concept is important and integrating this information will have huge value. But that doesn’t matter if you can’t persuade developers, contributors and voters that this is the case. Incentives are key. In collective intelligence speak, participation is motivated and incentivized in terms of money, love and glory.

Couldn’t agree more. We are working in parallel on conceptualizing an MVP that would could take to a municipality, region, province etc for a first instance to be built. This MVP is focused purely on an online strategic planning process and possibly open consulting and big data entrepreneurship - OPSFIRE in the kernel.

The idea is that the IP of the MVPs would feedback into maplesync as a fourth sector, independent repository. Then it could be easily replicated or remixed elsewhere, again feeding back. Once enough of the base modules are there, it turns into a regenerative megaproject where completely independent (like wikipedia) instances could be run, and some could be run by governments and large companies, with instances developed around the world. The megaproject is a bit of a pipedream, but I at least have a theory of change of how it could get there. In sum, who are we trying to convince now to get an MVP up and running? Economic Development organizations.

Yes, I would like the elevator pitch. Do I have to read the two preceding paragraphs … whoops, this is my floor, I have to get off.

That’s two entirely different constituents. An elevator pitch should be something that would cause any person – technical or non-technical – to say: hey, that’s interesting, do you want to step out of the elevator and tell me more?

Uggh. What do you mean by a theory of change? As someone who has spent enough time in graduate school to appreciate theory, does that mean that you’re going to create a hypothesis that will be proven or disproven with an action research method? I was serious enough to pursue to term to blog:

This was leading up to the work that has become the Systems Changes Learning Circle (based on observing a lot of people using the term System Change, but seemly unwilling to define what they meant by it).

I think that part of the challenge is that to get understanding, you have to come down the ladder of abstraction to something relatively concrete. In our exchanges, the two ideas I’ve seen are Project Cybersyn (which takes more explaining, and has some baggage in Chilean politics) and eEstonia (which is easier to explain, but I think that you’re not proposing that).

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The elevator pitch is in the logo/the email that someone would receive: “Canada’s Collaborative Economic Strategic Plan”. And I mean, in fairness, the 137 word intro of the plain language is about a minute in speech. If someone said “well, tell me more” after hearing the slogan, it’s an economical way to spark the imagination.

I am not arguing here that I have the right answer or answers, yet. I obviously don’t. But, so far it has worked to get in the door with a variety of people in the areas that I mentioned. It’s ripe for iteration and that is exactly what I desire. If you have any specific suggestions for a general elevator pitch, I would be very open to hearing them.

I’m using “theory of change” in a very loose sense: a strategy for the order of operations regarding actors and levers - all the way through desired impact. Given your limited resources, if you don’t know who to reach out to first - you don’t have a theory of change.

Maplesync lays the foundations for a new area that has the potential of integrating a ton of opposing theory and is basically unprecedented for its scale. It certainly does need to come down from abstraction - that will be done through iteration and dialogue. The whole intent is for people to build practical iterations inspired by maplesync as simply a big idea.

I wish there was a precedent more in line for what I am talking about. That is why I use the metaphor of the “digital fire” - a gathering point to discuss the direction of the community. This ladder of abstraction visual is quite useful.

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