Conversational Paradigm LO5733

Michael McMaster (
Fri, 16 Feb 1996 11:25:02 +0000

Replying to LO5657 --

I can share some experience and insight about the software developed
on the Winograd/Flores model. I was an active user of one of these
systems until about 6 years ago.

First, I think that the system broke new ground and can be credited
for that. Second, the productivity of the organisation that I headed
and my own productivity were greatly assisted by the system. We were
an internationally distributed consulting group and spent
considerable time developing the linguistic distinctions independent
of the software.

My observation of others using the system - and of some users in our
own system - was that they turned the parts of the system that suited
their forceful, manipulative and coercive ends. This is bound to
happen with anything that is put into such a system. That is, into
the ordinary hierarchical, command and control culture. (If you were
around for "I'm OK You're OK" you saw managers accusing others of
being in the inappropriate state, etc.)

Does this one lend itself in particular to force? I don't know. It
is likely to attract those who want to be coercive.

However, I will point out that both the language distincts and the
system are far more than "promising and requesting". The system is
based on types of conversations and only "conversations for action"
have the request and promise built in. There were also, for
instance, conversations for possibility and, in my interpretation of
the linguistic technology being used, these would normally precede
any requests or promises.

So the rigidity was largely in the use of the system rather than in
the system itself.

Also, there are those that hate this system - whether embedded in
software or not - because it does not allow room for evasion, fuzzy
"promises" and other escapes from direct conversation about

I hope this is useful to those considering this issue.

I no longer use the system because I've formed my own company which
is small and we're all educated in the language distinctions being
used. (I also saw it as a useful educational tool.) As we grow, I
begin to miss some of its features.

Michael McMaster

Michael McMaster <>

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