Mark Ackerman- Configuration Work and the Escalier System

If ubicomp is to come into being, user issues in the dense ecology of computational services will become paramount. In this talk, I argue that there is a new kind of interactional work coming to the foreground, configuration work - the work that is involved in keeping systems running, running together, and running over time. This is work we do now but is largely invisible and unremarkable; in the future, it may be overwhelming. One way to deal with this problem is have proprietary stovepipes. Another is to automate the process. The first does not provide an open systems solution, and the second is likely to remain brittle. As another line of attack on the problem, I present Escalier, a system we are developing that uses social computing techniques to help people with their configuration work. Using system configurations gathered from the crowd, the Escalier system can help users know what configurations are stable and reasonable. Escalier creates a Bayesian map of the crowd's settings, but also contains an expertise layer to know which crowd members to trust. In this talk, I will argue for configuration work, and then provide an overview of our work on Escalier and its applications.