Mark Szpakowski


Core Interest and Avocation

 Software, human interface, and cognition in support of online collaborative learning and action

Current Activities

  • developing online collaboration services (cf coachingplatform, MyLearningPlace)
  • design and architecture of web systems/human interfaces for growing and sharing knowledge
  • strategy, use cases, design, and coding of infrastructure and product


  • Design: modelling, object orientation, systems
  • Development: Agile, Test Driven, Eclipse
  • Languages: Java (with Spring, Hibernate, ...) and Ruby (with Rails)
  • Databases: object, XML, and relational (SQL)
  • Standards, Tools and APIs: XML, JDom, XML-RPC, RSS, LDAP,
  • Web technologies: HTTP, X(HTML), CSS, Javascript, Wikis, Weblogs, AJAX
  • Open Source: Tomcat (servlets), Lucene (search), Slide (WebDAV), Blojsom (weblogs), Wikis
  • Knowledge modelling, metadata, tagging, agents, symbiotic intelligence


  • Took some of the first steps in cyberspace, co-designing the world's first public electronic bulletin board system, Community Memory  (1972-74)
  • Wrote custom minicomputer-based e-mail system (1980)
  • Ran international BBS (1982-88)
  • Prototyped an intelligent messaging and information gathering agent ("co", 1985)
  • Wrote Patient Simulator II, featuring disease courses competing with medical interventions in an object-oriented emergency-room simulation (1986-87)
  • Did high-level language and user-interface design for the Prograph object-oriented pictorial language and environment (1987-95)
  • Designed MyLearningPlace / szpace, a user-controlled web-resident space for learning and collaborating, with multiple customizable topic-oriented workspaces.

coachingplatform, Inc  2002-
Halifax, Nova Scotia

Chief Software Architect

Developed szpace technology, to support topic-oriented, multi-workspace, agile web collaboration for project teams, informal learning, and coaches and coachees. This is java servlet-based, uses XML-RPC communication with other servers, integrates a number of open-source libraries, and aims to be a personal and shared knowledge studio.

Knowledge Navigators International, 1997- 2001
Halifax, Nova Scotia 

Senior Architect, Chief Scientist

Designed Learning Engine and its successor bizgrokker. Learning Engine provided internet management and support for learning communities, enabling authoring and delivering courses, re-usable learning objects and richly metatagged information items (infs), for formal and informal education, and for knowledge management. bizgrokker (a public site is MyLearningPlace) is a user-centered collaboration home on the web, with multiple topic-oriented shared workspaces, each of which can host a home page, discussions, and libraries. Worked with senior management, development manager and small team of Java/Javascript/CSS developers.

Internet Consultant, 1996 -1997
Halifax, Nova Scotia

Internet Presence Strategy

  • Design and implementation for
    • virtual communities, collaboration spaces and mutual presence
    • on-line education and training
  • Netscape LiveWire, client- and server-side JavaScript, database-driven interactivity, Java, and related technologies
  • Implemented WebCel™, a web-interactive server-side spreadsheet system.

TGS Systems / Prograph International, 1987-95
Halifax, Nova Scotia

High-level language and user interface design, product design, and product management.

  • Introduced object-orientation to the Prograph visual, dataflow language in 1987.
  • Designed User interface, including icons, gestures, words, graphics, and the user/developer experience (Prograph won a MacUser Magazine Eddy award in 1989, and has won major recognition for its innovative and enabling user interface).
  • Managed product design, including identification of appropriate technologies to be implemented (object orientation, user-level scripting, database and client/server functionality (Oracle, Sybase, ODBC), add-on and extension products): presented marketing requirements and functional specifications to development; presented the product to its markets.
  • Interfaced with users, starting with alpha and beta testers and continuing to reviewers and feedback from early adopters and mainstream users.
  • Documented Prograph (see Prograph Raises OOP To New Height, MacTutor, July 1989), writing significant portions of the Prograph Tutorial and Reference manuals. Created example and tutorial programs, and online documentation and guided tours.
  • Developed product demos, examples and presentations.
  • Wrote product specification, product marketing and press release copy.
  • Gave Prograph International an online presence, starting with e-mail and BBS systems in 1987 and continuing to the comp.lang.prograph newsgroup in 1993 and a WWW server in 1994.
  • Designed and managed the Prograph Consultants Network and the Prograph Object Developers (POD) programs.
  • Gave classes and presentations on object-oriented design and development, the Prograph language, and the Prograph class library and visual component editors at conferences, trade shows and corporate sites.
  • Edited and produced the Prograph Developer Network CD-ROMs and the Prograph Magic Carpet CD.

Knowledge House, 1986-87
Halifax, Nova Scotia

Director of Research and Development

Designed and wrote Patient Simulator II, along with an associated authoring system, in ExperCommon Lisp (for the Macintosh), using object-oriented and expert systems strategies. The product provided a virtual emergency room experience for doctors, with each scenario modelling the patient's course of disease as it interacted with the medical staff's interventions.

Kingfisher Systems, 1982-86
Halifax, Nova Scotia

Principal of consulting company, with work on Unix, uucp, IBM pc (C), and database systems (dBase, Zim, Informix).

  • Established and managed a worldwide BBS/mail system (Dharmanet).
  • Founding member of Electronic Networking Association (ENA).
  • Prototyped an intelligent personal messaging and tagging agent ("co"), in TLC Lisp and Golden Common Lisp.

Environmental Protection Service, 1979-82
Halifax, Nova Scotia

Programmer/analyst: managed and wrote software for laboratory data collection and analysis systems, on Datapoint, CDC Cyber 170, and remote systems. Wrote a multi-user electronic mail system for the Datapoint; applications for ISAM (Databus), hierarchical (System 2000, using Fortran API) and relational (Questor) database systems; communication and data-transfer utilities to link these systems together.

Microcomputer Techie, 1975
Berkeley, California

Wrote hardware and firmware documentation, including assembly and operating instructions, for Processor Technology's SOL microcomputer 3P+S I/O board. Did  assembly language debugging in the process.

Bay Area Air Pollution Control District, 1975
Berkeley, California

Fortran II programming of air quality data, on CDC Cyber 6600/7600.

Community Memory Project, 1972-74
Berkeley, California

Photo shows ASR-33 Teletype, in acoustic-shielding enclosure, at the entrance to Leopold's Records in Berkeley, connected by 110-baud line to XDS-940 host in San Francisco. Anyone could Add or Find messages (by keyword).

Co-designed and implemented (with Efrem Lipkin and Lee Felsenstein) world's first electronic bulletin board system, Community Memory, with public-access terminals in San Francisco and Berkeley locations. Wrote programs in SNOBOL and QSPL, introduced information husbandry techniques and practices, wrote manuals and documentation, trained Community Memory workers, generated periodic directories from the message streams, conversed on-line with Benway, found that even then net.culture was already full-blown and, in retrospect, recognizable.

Learning, Teaching, and Related Experiences

Member, Board of Directors, of private school in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

MacWorld Expo, Toronto, 1994. Presentation on object oriented programming theory and state of the art.

Technical University of Nova Scotia, Extension Division, 1981-1990. Gave classes and presentations on Unix, C, expert systems, object-oriented programming, Prograph.

Awareness Practice. Studied, practiced, and taught buddhist and shambhala meditation and philosophy, since 1972 (at Karmȇ-Chöling 1976-79)

North Peralta Community College, Oakland, CA, 1972-74 (part time). Studied Electronics and acted as Teaching Assistant. Developed teaching aids, both written and graphic, for use as concept commercials for basic ideas.

World Game, San Francisco, CA, 1971. Attempted to apply Buckminster Fuller's comprehensive anticipatory design science process to simulating global problems, actions and their results.

University Without Walls, Berkeley, CA, 1970-71. Taught and participated in experimental learning environment.

Fordham University, New York, NY, 1967-68. PhD work in Philosophy, including cognitive science topics: hermeneutics, linguistics and symbolic logic.

Boston College, Chestnut Hill, MA, 1963-67. BA Magna cum Laude in Philosophy and Liberal Arts, including mathematics, logic, physics, physiological psychology, epistemology and phenomenology.

Contact Info

Mark Szpakowski
Halifax, Nova Scotia

Updated January, 2006