March 17, 2003
The Web Matters: Familiarity breeds ennui.
A little wonder wouldn't hurt.
Why JOHO Now?
I'm rushing this issue into "print" rather neurotically. When I stop to think about it, I find two impulses.
First, it takes my mind off doing the math: Two bombs hit NYC and it took a year to clear the rubble, a year for each victim to be written up in the Times, and forever for their families to stop grieving. Now we are about to drop three or four thousand bombs in just the first two days of this trumped-up war.
Second, I figure I'd better publish while we can still pretend that JOHO and its topics matter even a little.
The Day before the War
It's a JOHO World After All, Part 1
The venerable The Well for the next ten days or so is running a discussion with me as the interview subject.
It's a JOHO World After All, Part 2
Salon is running "The Myth of Interference," an article I wrote about David Reed's idea that the federal policies intended to prevent radio signals from interfering are based on bad science.
There were over 500 comments on it at slashdot, some of them not calling me a total asswipe.
Swarming for Peace
Jack Bury, a 20-year old poet, is co-creator of a Microsoft IE add-in called Eyebees. If you join a "swarm" - people interested in the same topic - the add-in shows you the movement of all other swarm members as they go from site to site. Click on one of the dots representing a swarm member and you are taken to whatever site they're visiting. It's a visceral visual experience.
To join the peace swarm, download the Eyebees software from www.eyebees.com and join the "Eyebees March on Washington" swarm at Eyebees.com. Jack is suggesting that Friday at noon EST might be a good time to flock together.
This software is way new. There have been a handful of downloads so far. So if you don't see anyone in the Peace Swarm, check back later.
Writes Jack: "The enveloping presence of thousands of minds, tracing across the Internet Sky in strange union—hissing and livid and one in censure of war—would be a conspicuous, awe-inspiring sight of this next social revolution taking firm hold."
I somehow got slated to give the opening presentation at SXSW Interactive, the conference for latte-sippin', dogie-brandin' web designers and internetellos. My presentation's title somehow ended up "Why the Web Matters," requiring me to write new material. I don't like new material. New material is always worse than old material.
I decided to begin by taking a controversial stand: The Web does matter. There, I've said it.
As the Web becomes part of our background, it's getting easier to forget just how much it matters. Here are some ways we all know, but I sometimes find myself taking for granted:
I have 10 times as many friends as I used to. I know 100 times more people. I have 1,000 times more people I can call upon for help, support or a well-deserved kick in the ass.
My friendships last longer. I'm still in touch with people I worked with in the '80s even though in the real world, I forget relationships the way I flick crumbs off a table.
Not only is there a gazillion times more information available, we expect the chain of information never to end. Whatever the topic, we expect to be able to browse indefinitely.
Every conceivable topic has its own site and its own cluster of people around it.
If I don't trust the voice of authority, all I have to do is turn my head a quarter turn to hear the voices of those whose stories that voice is re-telling.
Our kids take it for granted that they can publish to the entire world without first having to get their writing accepted by a publisher.
Everyday I receive email from people I've never met pointing out amazing, funny, heart-breaking and sometimes merely amusing sites.
Those who we know by reputation are no longer inaccessible on their own private Olympus. It's likely we can find their email address. And when we write, we may well get an answer.
The largest network of human creativity and history's best operating system have both been created by distributed networks of people who never once have sat in on a weekly status meeting about the projects.
We are learning that the world consists of people joined by shared interests rather than simply countries divided by patrolled borders.
The Web matters.
Until the first bomb hits.
About ten days ago, Doc Searls and I put up a site called "World of Ends." It seemed to us that business and government generally are just plain wrong about what the Internet is, which is why they keep making proposals that would so radically diminish the Net's valuet. So, we decided to explain it in short words. For me, the "take-away" is:
1. The Internet is an agreement, and to succeed on the Internet, any new agreements — e.g., Digital Rights Management — have to be actually agreeable to users as well as vendors.
2. The Internet's ethos is governed by Doc's three rules: No one owns it, everyone can use it, anyone can improve it.
Sounds reasonable, doesn't it? But since Doc and I seem to become obnoxious whenever we're put together — it's apparently a recessive gene we both carry — the tone became "Yo, blockheads!"
The site generated more interest than either of us anticipated: 22,000 hits between 2am and 2pm on the first day, and that's before we were slashdotted ... twice.
And a whole bunch of mail came in. For example...
Paul Boutin asks a series of incisive questions, which Doc answered decisively. Here's my (edited) response:
1) Who is World of Ends intended for?...
The intended readers are the boneheaded captains of industry and government, but we didn't think they'd ever read it if we didn't make it highly partisan and obnoxious.
(I like Michael O'Connor Clarke's thoughts on this topic.)
3) Specifically who and what actions do you refer to in the passage about "government types ... tinkering with the Internet's core?"
The usual suspects, including DRM efforts, the "broadcast flag," the killers of Internet radio, etc. The "core" refers not to low levels of the stack but to the services and values that most users take as the heart of the Internet.
4) You say telecoms should "bite the bullet." Which bullet, i.e. what exactly should they spend on or write off at this point?
If you put me in charge of a telco, I'd hire someone competent for the job — how about David Isenberg? — and take a very healthy severance package. (Then I'd appoint Lawrence Lessig to the Supreme Court.) But I do believe that the telcos are standing in the way of what a free market would demand.
5) "The value of open spectrum is the same as the true value of the Internet." Help me out there...
I put that poorly. I meant that an open spectrum policy would result in a marketplace for innovation much like the one that the Internet has created. More here and here.
7) ...I sense that very little of this seems aimed at Microsoft per se. Am I right?
It's aimed at any company that thinks it can and should coerce us into accepting one-sided agreements (AKA "leveraging its market position"), so, yes, it is definitely aimed at Microsoft, among others.
If you want to see how this works with a company like Microsoft, see this article at InternetNews about how the new version of Office seems designed to lock us in further.
Bob Frankston writes to me and Doc to suggest two additions:
The net is meaningless. It just transports bits and bits, in themselves, have no meaning. The meaning comes from interpretation at the edges and the interpretations are not unique and do preserve ambiguity. The tendency to introduce social policy at this level has perverse consequences.
The net only operates if it fails. There must be sufficient disorder to assure that the ends are resilient (the analogy with our immune system) and there must be sufficient perturbation to allow new ideas to be reaped. We don’t solve problem as much as discover solutions in the turmoil.
Good points. I think the first one is implicit in our article or maybe I only assumed that it's implicit. I like Bob's second point a lot.
Jonathan Peterson has cogent comments on his blog. He begins:
Marc Canter sent an email pushing back on World of Ends, reminding David and Doc that the user’s end-game (two-way full-motion video), should be kept in mind. Doc and David’s (stupid=flexible above all else) is the visionaries’ message to the decision-makers. Marc is right about keeping an eye on what users want...
In truth, I worry about altering the Net at the protocol level to accommodate any service, including two-way video.
Eric Norlin thinks we ought to take notice of the face that the agreement that is the Internet is dynamic. True enough. But, as the article says, new agreements need to be voluntarily accepted and in the interests of all. In my opinion, digital ID, "digital rights management" and "trustworthy computing" fail that test: the demand is coming top down, not bottom up.
Arnold Kling has written a terrific piece that tries to cure the geek version of the "Repetitive Mistake Syndrome" (Doc's phrase) Doc and I talk in "World of Ends." Arnold's five points are:
1. Intermediaries add value
2. Property is not evil
3. Computer animation is not a killer app
4. Bashing Microsoft does not make you smart
5. Markets are not exploitative
Arnold also wonders at Corante how The World of Ends idea applies to spam:
The World of Ends would seem to imply that the only weapon against spam is end-user filtering. Any attempt to stop spam at the network level would require opening up packets and looking at them, which violates the world-of-ends principle
Instead, he suggests:
It is almost impossible to enforce a law against sending spam. So we should try to pass a law against responding to spam.
What I propose is that any American who makes a purchase based on unsolicited email be fined $10,000 and jailed for 30 days.
This is reminiscent of Chris Rock's suggestion that we make guns freely available but charge heavily for ammunition: If I want to shoot you, I'll first have to come up with $5,000 for a bullet.
But the World of Ends principle — which comes straight from the End-to-End argument by Clark, Reed and Salzer, and from Isenberg's Rise of the Stupid Network — doesn't say that no services can ever be built into a network, only that it's generally better to move services closer to the edge. So, as Arnold suggests, perhaps that means that spam needs to be trapped by the ISPs. I don't know if that's the case, but it could be.
Meanwhile, Popfile continues to work well for me here on my end of the Internet. I still have to look through the folder it filters spams into because about 1% are false positives, which means that a solution that works now when I'm getting 250 spams a day may not work in a couple of years when I expect I'll be getting 25,000 spams a day. Sigh.
A few bloggers take Doc and me to task (or, better, to school) for portraying the Internet as a world of ends when in fact those ends are joined in webs of personal connection. Why do we misleadingly talk about "ends" in "World of Ends?" Good question...
First, that's the language in the paper from which we took the article's main insight: "End-to-End Arguments..." Second, Doc and I wanted to talk about the Internet's architecture so that we could make the quasi-factual claim that boneheaded businesses and regulators are just plain wrong in their understanding; we didn't want to focus in this article on all the good things that come out of that architecture. Third, we liked the echo of "ends" vs. "means" as in Kant's Kingdom of Ends.
But, yes, absolutely and definitely, the value of the Internet is the groups it allows. In fact, point #7 is called "The end of the world? Nah, the world of ends" and says in the first paragraph: "...when every end is connected, each to each and each to all, the ends aren’t endpoints at all. " There's much much more to be said about this. Books and generations worth. But that wasn't the point of "World of Ends."
Michael O'Connor Clarke writes, in part:
The rallying cry you've chosen to end on is lovely — but without over-complicating things, I feel the urge to make a distinction in this piece between 'stupidity' and 'stupidness'. Stupidity is indeed something we should hope to lose, or hope big business, the recording industry, the telcos will lose.
Stupidness, on the other hand, is a value to be treasured, protected, nurtured...
Michael then follows up with a lovely piece on "The World of Ands". As a new father, he is well-qualified to understand how AND-ing works where sometimes only an OR seems possible.
Tim Moors has written an academic paper that challenges the End-to-End argument. Much of it is over my head Much of it is over my head, so I assume it's all true.
Christophe Ducamp points to an article on "World of Ends" on the site of a French TV network. Google's automatic translation service tells me that the author finds our article "corrosive and didactic," although as far as I can tell, between the rest of Google's translation and my limited French, they actually sort of like it.
If you speak French and find I'm wrong, please don't tell me. Thank you.
The fundamental reason I'm sorry to see the emergence of digital ID is that until now, the default on the Net has been that we're anonymous unless we choose not to be. I hate to see that default change. In fact, I've sometimes thoughtlessly referred to a "right to anonymity." But is there really a right to anonymity on the Internet?
As far as I know, no court has recognized such a right. But not all rights come from law. For example, most of us feel comfortable saying that Afghan women under the Taliban had a right to be educated even though they had no such legal right. The Right to Lifers assert a right for fetuses that the legal system hasn't recognized. And the parents of the American Revolution certainly were asserting rights not yet recognized by law.
But what is a right? It's the other side of a duty. If I have a right to not be X'ed, you have a duty not to X me. Rights generally are not absolute if only because they sometimes conflict. For example, your right to privacy (a legal right in the US) can be overridden if you're at an airport and have criminally dark skin.
Rights only become explicit when we need others to perform duties. For example, we may have always had a right to clean air, but it only emerged as a right worth mentioning once our air got fouled. The emergence of a right can make explicit what had been an inconspicuous, default state.
That's how I see the right to anonymity. It's been the default on the Internet. A world in which that default is maintained is a better world than one in which our every click is tracked, our every purchase becomes a datum to be turned against us, our every download is assumed to be shoplifting. Anonymity has been and should be the default. It should be allowed to emerge as an actual right.
Constitutional Amendment anyone?
[Thanks to Eric Norlin for provoking this. Eric apparently is unconvinced. ]
Kevin Marks proposed to the emergent democracy list recently a way let us link to things we don't like without implying to some apps like Google that the link constitutes a recommendation.
After the mailing list kicked it around for a while — wondering whether we should call it "whuffie" and whether it should take a binary value or a range — Kevin formulated the proposal. We're calling it "vote links" (not my favorite since voting is just one application) and it's simplicity itself: you optionally add "vote=X" to any link, where X can be "1", "-1" or "0". To take Kevin's example:
<a href="http://ragingcow.com" vote="-" title="nasty corn syrup drink">Raging Cow</a>
The best place for info is Kevin's site where he has a discussion and links to other list members' blog entries.
I spent 4 days at the South by Southwest (SXSW) Interactive conference. Here are a couple of notes and comments.
Based on Doug Lenat's keynote...
Doug Lenat's been running the CYC project for twenty years. CYC is a software program intended to understand enough of common sense that it can answer questions and make deductions useful in the real world. To do this, Lenat's team — and now anyone with Internet access — feed it millions of rules about how the world and humans work. Lenat says that the project has now crossed the line from "priming the pump" to being useful. He pointed to some deductions CYC had made about oil shipments based on information from several large databases. The surprisingly labored demo showed CYC making reasonable assumptions about giving someone a gift of a Segway. For example, it "knew" that the Segway needs a light if it's going to be used at night. Big whoop.
Lenat said that CYC can think the way any particular culture does by specifying the rules relevant to that context. So, to use Lenat's example, it could think the way an 18th century Italian nobleman did, although it seems to me that that learning which rules would model such a person would require putting in more knowledge than we have and more than could result from the effort. A good book set in that period would probably do a better job of it.
My reaction to the presentation and the demo was that this just proves that humans don't think the way CYC does.
Cory Doctorow on Hollywood
Cory Doctorow talked about the Hollywood Agenda. (His desktop wallpaper is Dr. Bonner's label, a psychotic babble of philosophy, scripture and self-improvement aphorisms.)
Cory says: The role of technology is to create opportunities for the entertainment industry. The entertainment industry's role is to seek legislation that will close down those opportunities. From piano rolls to TV to Napster, that's been the story.
The most important theme in Cory's talk: Hollywood does not want us to have general purpose computing devices. The "broadcast flag" bit the FCC is considering would only work if all digital technology supported it and if devices that don't — like the computer you're reading this on — are outlawed.
Factoid: "If you were to tape digital movies and use Fedex to ship them to your friends, it would be about 100x less expensive than shipping them to your friend over the Net." Even at the fastest connections, it'd take several days to move a movie.
Cory pulled together links to various bloggings of the conference. Heath Row, reporter for FastCompany, stenoblogged it here and here.
The man who enters
Lets the door slam behind him.
A fish flops on board.
Middle World Resources
For the Hyperlinked Organization
I just installed NewzCrawler, an aggregator of feeds, blogs and pages. After one day of using it, I'm impressed. It may even be a keeper.
It uses the standard Windows Explorer/Outlook arrangement of folders on the left and content on the right. The folders are in fact collections of links to pages you visit often or to RSS feeds from your favorite weblogs. (Just in case: if a blog is RSS-enabled — usually they put a little XML button on the page to let you know — that means that it automatically makes available to aggregators a snippet of each blog entry. Typically the snippet is the first 100 words or so.) Click F5 on a PC and it checks all the sites and flags any that have been updated. Click on the link and it shows you the RSS snippet. Double-click and it shows you the entire article.
I've tried aggregators before, but I never got into the habit. I might with this one. I may even pay them the $25.
I know many of you don't like my politics. At least you have the satisfaction of knowing that your politics kicked my politics' ass.
Kevin Sites, CNN reporter, is writing a blog (and sometimes audioblog) from Iraq.
USAToday recently ran an interview with President Bush. It prefaces the transcript with:
Excerpts from USA TODAY's interview Thursday with President Bush, edited for length and clarity.
Editing for length, maybe, although they could post the whole thing on the Web. But editing for CLARITY? Since when is a newspaper supposed to be fixing up a politicians garbled language? That's what we have PR flacks for.
I talked a few days ago with a visiting Dutch businessman. After introducing myself by apologizing for my country's behavior, he said that he was surprised by the loudness of the drumbeats. His example was CNN's official title for their coverage: "Showdown: Iraq." "It's as if they can't wait for it," he said.
Good point. A showdown has to have an outcome in which someone wins and someone loses. America would never "back down" from a showdown. But this is a showdown only because we have insisted that it be one. CNN calling it a "showdown" ain't journalism.
What does CNN think it is, a blog?
Here's a page that lists Bush's promises and what he's delivered. (Thanks, Stu Rubinow.)
Kevin Marks recommends (which is, of course, not the same thing as endorsing) an interesting essay by Roger Scruton about how a smart guy thought his way into a classically conservative standpoint. AKMA does an excellent job assessing and undermining it. AKMA's main point is that Scruton poses "a binary choice between banal liberalism and sensible, prudent conservatism" as if shallow liberalism were the only variety on the shelves. And yet there's a further irony here.
The issue for Scruton seems to come down to whether we humans can escape our traditions and culture. If not, says Scruton , then we must embrace who we are instead of thinking — as liberals do — that we can re-invent ourselves.
It is certainly the Enlightenment prejudice to believe that "abstract rational systems" should replace older prejudices, but that is not the only liberal alternative. For example: "Moral progress is a matter of wider and wider sympathy," writes Richard Rorty (in Philosophy and Social Hope); sympathy is not an abstract rational system. Further, the very person Scruton goes out of his way to malign rather nastily — Foucault — is in fact one our subtlest thinkers about the way prejudice (pre-judgment, not racial bias, of course) simultaneously enables judgment and undermines it. Rather than saying we are all open to radical self-reinvention — something no one except Sartre and motivational speakers espouse — Foucault provided exactly the sort of nuanced analysis that would help Scruton move past the simplification of naive liberalism vs. coldly-brilliant conservativism.
But, Scruton begins the article by saying that it was conservativism's bold statements that attracted him. So we shouldn't be surprised that his embrace of conservativism is in fact a rejection of nuance. The irony is that Scruton is so smart and subtle in his support of this position.
Public Conversations is a remarkable group, enabling and facilitating conversations among people across high fences. Here are ten questions they suggest as ways to start a real conversation about Iraq. Of course, that was back when we were pretending that our talk mattered.
You can listen to an NPR piece on Public Conversations here.
From Mark Federman comes a link to a press release from the Los Alamos Study Group (a "non-profit, research-oriented, nuclear disarmament organization...") that describes the recently-released minutes of a meeting of "thirty-two senior nuclear weapons managers from U.S. nuclear weapons laboratories, the uniformed military, the National Nuclear Stewardship Administration (NNSA), and the Office of the Secretary of Defense." The meeting was set up to plan an August meeting about how to build nuclear weapons that can be used on the battlefield, not merely for deterrence.
John Brady Kiesling, a US diplomat with twenty years of service, resigned a couple of weeks ago because "the Bush administration has squandered U.S. legitimacy through a 'swaggering and contemptuous' approach to foreign policy."
Now that I've registered at the GOP Team Leader site, the one that astroturfs newspapers and politicians, I've discovered two serious benefits ... three, if you count the points I'm earning towards Valuable Free Gifts by spamming my elected representatives.
First, I'm encouraged to send letters to newspapers and politicians. All I have to do is press a button, and the pre-written, pre-thought message will be fired off. Of course, you can edit the text. In fact, I wrote a message to Senator Bayh that began as follows:
IF YOU GET EMAIL THAT SOUNDS LIKE THIS ONE, it's coming from the GOP "Team Leader" site and is spam. Speaking for myself: PLEASE KEEP ESTRADA OFF THE BENCH. Thank you.
Second, yesterday I received in the mail a lovely faux-signed photograph of President Bush along with a request for a donation to the Republican Party. I'm getting to like being a Republican!
If I were heading Bush's PR campaign, I'd have Tom Ridge immediately block all broadcasts of Tony Blair's question period in the House of Commons. The implicit comparison is just too painful. In fact, David Deans recommends that Saturday Night Live do a sketch in which Bush steps in for Blair.
Niek Hockx, who takes beautiful photos, blogs from the Netherlands about about one detail Bush and Rumsfeld might want to consider.
According to Human Rights Watch, in order to protect US soldiers from being brought to justice for any war crimes they may commit, Bush last August signed a law that
... authorizes the use of military force to liberate any American or citizen of a U.S.-allied country being held by the [International Criminal] court, which is located in The Hague.
Since the Hague (or "den Haag" as those beastly Dutch refer to it) is in the Netherlands, this has stirred up some consternation, including in Dutch blogger and future enemy soldier, Niek Hockx.
In protest of Holland's outrageous aiding and abetting of The Hague, I pledge that from now on, when my wife and I each pay our own way, I will refer to it as "going freedom." Also, I'll refer to the tree blight as "Freedom Elm Disease." That that, Wooden Shoe Legal Pot boy!
John Perry Barlow has written a surprisingly even-handed message to Farber's list that says: "With the possible exception of Bill Gates, Dick Cheney is the smartest man I've ever met." So, he asks, what's going through Cheney's head? How can the world's only super-power protect its global interests and stabilize the world? Answer: By acting like
"the Mother of All Rogue States, run by mad thugs in possession of 15,000 nuclear warheads they are willing to use...By these terrible means, they will create a world where war conducted by any country but the United States will seem simply too risky and the Great American Peace will begin."
Yes, that Cheney is brilliant! And the plan can't fail ... so long as the people we're subjugating can't get their hands on any box cutters.
I got asked on a mailing list why my views on the Iraqi war are so simplistic and one-sided. Ouch!
Actually, I'm ambivalent about it. I am completely suspicious of the actual motives of the Bush administration and don't trust the information it's providing. But I don't need Bush to tell me that Saddam is a horror whom we should never have supported in the first place. That doesn't necessarily mean that this war is the best way to get rid of him. Our only hope for long-term safety, IMO, is to live in the world generously, building bridges and trust by showing the generous and loving side of the American character. So, even if all goes perfectly with the war, it will (I'm afraid) establish a policy that I think makes us and our children far less safe.
Ambivalent but not undecided.
Reading the Circulars the Week before the War
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At the odd 20x2 event, Neal Pollack used his 2 minutes to kick off a campaign to get every weblogger to make fun of Lynn Cheney on April 1 in response to the White House's heavy-handed attempt to censor a parody of her at WhiteHouse.org.
Fine idea, although we've gotten to the point where blatant attempts at censorship by the White House now are way down on my list of Things to Worry About. Sigh.
I'd suggested, lamely, that sites post a notice that they support the You First policy guaranteeing maximum anonymity to the people who buy from them.
From Phillip Wolff comes these comments:
Potential additions to your pledge:
- Transparency/FOIA. If it's about you, you can see it when you want. We will share with you all the information we hold that describes you or is associated with your identity. This includes data provided by others.
- Two-Degrees Exposed. We'll keep a list of those people/accounts/organizations that called up your information. You can see the list.
- Three-Degrees Transitive. Here are the policies agreed to by those third parties (employers, headhunters, et al) who call up your information as our customers. May be less stringent than our policies.
- Sunset. We will expire our copies of information about you according to rules we'll publish. Old data won't haunt you.
- Amnesia on demand. If you want us to purge our databases of information about you, we will, subject to legal obligations.
- Bind successors. If we sell off the business or a part of it, we'll shred your data or force the new owners to abide by all this. See opt-in.
- Civil Rights. While we will cooperate with law enforcement, we won't ebay your information. Our policies will defend your information like it was our own, requiring court orders or other lawful compulsion to turn over your data.
Excellent! Thanks, Phil.
Gary Lawrence Murphy actually put a "You First" pledge button on the Teledyn site.
It looks sort of nice there And it actually feels pretty good to press the button and read the pledge. Thanks, Gary.
Two vendor sites down, 5,433,22 to go!
[Note: All numbers in JOHO are guaranteed to have been made up.]
My name is Andy Hudson.
I'm an online marketer, and am currently searching for like minded individuals and web site owners to network with, and to explore potential opportunities that can bring mutual benefit to both of us.
I just visited your site, and would like to congratulate you on a nice clean, crisp site - it's very professional.
Oh yeah, this is a guy who's looked at my site. If ever there were three words to describe it, I think we'd have to go with "clean," "crisp" and "professional."
Here are the closing lines from this Seasoned Internet Marketing Professional:
It's ok not to realize that "Your name" is placeholder text in the spam generator you're using, but it is most definitely not ok to spray your spam around without even first testing it on yourself.
So, when I say "Shove your spam up your integrated marketing portal, Andy Hudson," I hope you understand that I mean this only in the most clear, crisp and professional sense.
Creative Labs, the people who pretty much own the default for audio cards for PCs, continue to publish ugly ads. The current one shows the back of a bald head with a third ear attached. The point: You really want to add a rear center speaker to your current five-speaker set-up.
To me, the ad says: You need a sixth speaker like you need an ear in the back of your head.
There's an excellent article by Sir Lawrence Lessig on Open Spectrum here.
Sarah Lai Stirland has started a new blog called Connected: Nodes & Networks over at Corante:
This Weblog is meant to be an accompaniment to my work as a journalist. It’s also meant as a discussion forum between myself and people whom San Jose Mercury News columnist Dan Gillmor calls the "former audience." As Gillmor puts it, the media world has evolved from Old Media to New Media to "We Media," or to Journalism 3.0. The term refers to the fact that "readers" can now participate in the journalistic process through online publishing and the use of digital devices.
It's off to a promising start. (Here's an interesting article by Sarah on the difficulty of putting things into the public domain.)
William Du Bois has written an article on a possible conservative bias in the Encyclopedia Britannica. I didn't find the article entirely convincing, but it was thought-provoking.
David Spector, on a mailing list, points us to some parodies of the inadvertently absurd Homeland of Office Security site, Ready.gov.
John Luke, reading my ramblings about selves, recommends Robert Kegan's work: The Evolving Self and In over Our Heads. But I ask: Why should I read people who have thought deeply about this topic and have developed ideas based on observation and research when I can make up whatever I want? I mean, really!
Eric Norlin has a good explanation, based on Bryan's explanation, of how the Liberty Alliance spec handles account linking. There's a comforting indirectness about the scheme.
Mike O'Dell sends us to a site with images from the past of our present. Very cool.
Firesign Theatre has a home page and a moribund 'zine. How about a weblog, boys?
Michael O'Connor Clarke points us to the new color-coding of airline passengers based on their perceived threat level and suggests his 5-alarm system.
David Isenberg's new SMARTletter is terrific again. This one leads with the story of oil and applies it to the telephone system:
If John D. Rockefeller were alive today, he would be building fiber to the home...
And that David goes on to explain everything you need to know about how the future of telecommunications will unfold. Must reading.
And David has unearthed a graphic that's astounding because of its source.
In a wide-ranging interview (with with Julian Matthews), Vint Cerf the serendipitously-named Father of the Internet, explains the popularity of blogging:
I think this is merely an indicator that we would collectively and individually like our lives to "count" somehow and if someone finds our blogs of interest, it is confirmation that our lives and opinions are making a difference to someone.
I am not that pathetic!
Ok, yes I am.
The new issue of Mark Hurst's newsletter, Good Experience, has links to fun stuff in addition to its normal load of useful ideas and pointers about designing web sites real good:
A really fun and elegant game from my friends at gameLab here in New York. You can play the first three levels for free. I wish there were more games as well-designed as this.
A difficult version of the old Lunar Lander arcade game.
A well-done movie quiz, using visuals from the film, except without the characters' bodies. If you're a film buff, well worth a look.
And finally - the coolest thing I've seen online in months. It's creative, fun, friendly, thoughtful, and very funny in certain parts. Best of all, the design is understated and seems to use very little technology to accomplish its magic. Turn the sound on.
By the way. Good Experience is having its first real world conference on May 2. Quite the eclectic line-up.
Jonathan Peterson recommends what he calls "haiku games" at orsinal.
Michael Pusateri, whom I met at sxsw and who helped connect me to an smtp server (thanks, Mike), points us to a vidblog at unrelatednews. The vidblogger writes:
All in all it was fun to try it out. With the shooting/capture/edits/compression taking just over 15 minutes per clip to get done, it was not bad. If you are just doing one or two it'll be fine. But it still took too long for it to be a realistic thing to do everyday. Until there's an easier way to streamline the process I'll keep this idea as a fun little thing I'll do every now and then.
(I couldn't get the audio to work. Damn Intermenet!)
JD Lasica talks about blogging as "random acts of journalism." Good phrase, good thoughts.
Halley continues her descent into the heart of the alpha male. The series started out as scandalously entertaining. It continues to deepen.
AKMA reflects beautifully on the essay and points us to Trevor's commentaries on the impossibility of individuality outside of community. It's a deep thread well worth following. (Disclosure: Trevor says good things about my book.)
James Grimmelmann at LawMeme shows the rest of us how to blog a conference. His report on the Boalt Digital Rights Management Conference is brilliant: hugely informative and entertaining.(Thanks to Arnold Kling for the link.)
Ken Camp, the author of the excellent IP Telephony Demystified, has started a new blog and posts an email he sent to me about trustworthy computing. Here's a snippet:
If we extrapolate trustworthy computing to it's obvious extensions, don't we move toward an Orwellian society of complete control and observation? Consider "trustworthy transportation" - your automobile, sensing rage at the pressure of your foot on the pedal, shuts off, thereby not allowing you to pass a car and avoid problems. "Trustworthy refrigeration" - Sensing overly high fat content in the inventory within, your net-connected refrigerator notifies your insurance carrier, who then raises your rates based on an unhealthy lifestyle. "Trustworthy photography" could ensure that the bathtub picture of a toddler immediately be reported to those in pursuit of child pornography rings.
Mitch Wade recommends an article he found at slashdot "about how software and being online will effect how prices are set."
The Theseus Institute in the south of France (swim out of the Mediterranean, towel off in Nice, and go north a few miles) is hosting its annual conference, which this year is on "Digital Personae and Privacy: the business, technological and social implications":
Nope, I'm not going. But I can dream, can't I?
By the way, the Theseus Institute is a remarkable business/management school, and not just because it's on the Riviera, although that sure don't hurt any. It's quite progressive. Here is part of its mission statement:
The "information revolution" is bringing about a fundamental change in where and how value is created along the "value web" and, even more critically, who will be able extract and lay claim to the value being so created. This is not a marginal change along the edges of our understanding of management; it requires a fundamental rethink and re-conceptualization...
Unfortunately, I'm pretty sure that there are no more football scholarships available for the upcoming year.
If you want your heart to break, view the photos (as a QuickTime slideshow) that Kristen Ashburn took in Zimbabwe.
Ian Campbell writes in response to last issue's article that struggled to understand why some very smart people think that the universe is a computer.
Thought I'd comment on the UAC [Universe as Computer] concept. The problem is there are 3 states, not 2. A bit can be either on or off (2 states), but we need a third state telling us we're about to change states. Sure, it can be a clock signal, but it's got to be there or we have no way to count the stream. We may not notice the saw-tooth pattern in a CD, but even at a rapid rate I think we'd notice the starting and stopping of the universe as we signal a state change.
I purposefully left out this clock problem because I figured the UAC boys must have an easy answer to this. I'm glad to hear that someone who actually knows something has a similar problem.
Kerry Nitz writes on the same topic:
I think the big argument against the idea of the universe as a computer (the Neo-Newtonian universe?) is that the universe encompasses entities and relations with emergent properties - that is, complex structures with powers that are irreducible to the component parts of the structures (many human relationships have such emergent properties, such as the sense of community - the web seems to be a rich source of it as you seem to be well aware).
Roy Bhaskar's critical realist ontology discards the Newtonian view of the world as a set of causal relationships in favour of this more complex view, and seems to be gaining a bit of favour in some of the social sciences.
Anne Galloway recently blogged a quote on emergence
If you want to pursue it further try the critical realist archives
My own blog has excerpted a few quotes here and here.
Bruce Burn writes:
UAC? Its from Bits? Both would seem to imply a Great Programmer In The Sky? Sounds like an old concept; where's the New Paradigm? More importantly, the concept does not seem to stand up to the Great Question: "...well, okay, but does it get the dishes washed?"
Well, it is a new paradigm: binary bits instead of ambiguous, indeterminate quanta. And rather than a Programmer in the Sky, there are a handful of simple rules (yet to be discovered) that explain how you go from simples to incredible complexes that are able to wash dishes and call bombs "smart."
Mind you, I don't believe it. I'd probably have to understand it first...
Hanan Cohen writes:
Incidently (or not), today I received the latest issue of Netfuture with the main article titled "Does the Future Compute?".Good reading.
Tim McKenna writes:
...[T]he map is not the territory. The universe is not a computer but the analogy is so daring, so clever, so very "Wow, why didn't I think of that?", so, so, so, that all us dumb clucks should overlook that little cranial-rectal inversion. Besides, Douglas Adams, bless his soul, dealt with that years ago.
I thought after quantum mechanics, the Zeitgeist gave up the notion of an inexorable, algorithmic, clockwork universe. Once again the comfy allure of fate (I didn't do it) overcomes the annoyance of free will (who, me?).
John von Neumann used his understanding of the brain as a model for the digital computer he was inventing. His book, The Computer and the Brain, was published in 1958. It is the rambling of a genius who didn't know an axon from a dendrite but he managed to invent the modern computer nonetheless. The book is almost unreadable, the brain and von Neumann's computer are mercifully different and not really analogous but the title sure stuck in modern parlance for years as a simple way to explain complex things most of us know nothing about.
Frank Schmidt writes:
...uac is our latest metaphorical attempt at defining "what really is", and by because it's a metaphor, it is not "what really is"
my gut feeling is that "what really is" seems to be more analog than digital?
and if digital, why binary, anyway?
aren't quantum choices infinite before the probability wave is popped?
and if discrete, why not a zillion discrete possibilities?....what's the deal with only two?
but, as wave and particle are interchangeable, and energy and matter are interchangeable, then perhaps "what really is" is interchangeably continuous and discrete....depending on how you view things
i tend to equate digital with artifact and analog with nature
So do most of us. I don't know what the evidence is that the universe resolves into a very large number of digital states. The fact that that's how computers work does not constitute evidence. Or even common sense.
Kevin Marks in his blog writes about the Kevin Kelly article in Wired that first set me off on the UAC topic:
I think what Kelly is getting at is quantum mechanics — Hydrogen bonds with Oxygen by finding the minimum energy state, thus solving a complex wave function equation with a single quantum resolution (join or not join). In effect all the probabilities are evaluated at once in the quantum superposition. Not sure what that has to do with Wolfram's thesis though.
I still don't see what sense it makes to say that oxygen solves an equation, even if Hydrogen helps and she did get like 790 on her math SATs. Does a ball arcing through the air solve a parabolic equation?
Universe as Computer does explain determinism differently. Wolfram shows that complexity can emerge from very simple rules, in Cellular automata and many other interacting systems. However, although deterministic, they are not predictable. The only way to find out what comes next is to run the program.
He proposes a theory of computational equivalence, based on the Church-Turing thesis that any sufficiently advanced computer can simulate any other....
Thus although the world is deterministic, following known physical laws, you can't find an analytic solution that gives the answer - there are no short cuts.
You just have to live it and see what happens next.
Even if we do have to live through all cycles (and I thought that was only for some physical phenomena), that doesn't change the effect it will have on our culture's notion of determinism: it will *feel* more determined than before because with Newton (yeah, I'm skipping quantum because it's too hard) there are "causes" that have effects that may be as deterministic as a computer running software, but at least stuff is happening in the world, whereas with UAC all we have are rules and on-off states.
I still don't get this Universe as Computer stuff.
Dethe Elza of Living Code writes:
Just wanted to give you my take on reading the headline "The 'You First' digital ID pledge." My first impression was that you were going to say something like, "You want me to commit to a digital ID? OK, but you go first. I'll be right behind you, honest." Which pretty much sums up my feelings towards digital IDs. Norlin and Doc can go ahead and ID themselves and their friends and their dogs if they want. I haven't needed a digital ID up to now, I've got too many damn IDs already, and I'm not planning on needing any more in the future.
My sentiments, too. But reality is going to conspire against us, I'm afraid. We will be faced with the choice of not doing business with Amazon, eBay and the NY Times because they will insist that we get a digID. Of course we can refuse and build our shack in the digital equivalent of Montana. But I'm a pop cultural guy. So, I'll eventually get my stinking digID. And we'll have the public net where we're ID'ed and the private net where we're anonymous, and all of us except the Koczinskis will live in both.
Just in case war and politics aren't enough to keep us busy, Stu Rubinow responds to my saying that Jewish law makes applying the death penalty just about impossible:
Well maybe that's right; you could engrave everything I know about Jewish law on the head of a pin with room left over for the entire Book of Psalms. But it also seems to be fairly easy to carry out the death penalty: Check Deuteronomy 21:18-21. Teenager getting stoned? *Have* him stoned.I'm sure the rabbis have figured out a way that this doesn't mean what it says, but it sure says what it says.FWIW, verse 22 implies that the death penalty wasn't all that uncommon. You can also be killed, in this same chapter, for committing adultery, or for claiming falsely to be a virgin at marriage. And the death penalty also for murder (Numbers 35:16-21) and in Leviticus 20:27 for telling fortunes and predicting the future, and in Leviticus 24:20 for blasphemy, and probably in other places for many other etcs that I don't know about.
The text doesn't just speak; it has to be interpreted, and there is a mechanism for interpreting it. That mechanism is embodied, in part, in the Jewish court system that traditionally set the hurdles for imposing the death sentence so high that if it happened twice in 70 years, the court was considered blood-thirsty. Further, for a death penalty to be imposed, there had to be "two simultaneous witnesses to the crime who not only viewed the perpetrator but also saw each other and had time to properly warn the perpetrator of the nature of his crime and his punishment prior to him committing the act." For a balanced commentary from an orthodox point of view, see http://shma.com/oct02/nathan.htm.
I'm guessing thehe Illinois court system fell just a wee bit short of those standards.
When you create a wireless network, you have to give it a name. If you're Starbucks, perhaps you might call it "Starbucks Net." Your job is to come up with oxymoronic network names. Or at least names that don't fit well with the company offering the net. For example:
Hair replacement center
MTV Jackass set
Speech Improvement Center
Why, Er, Net
Yeah, it's lame. So make a fool of me by coming up with something good.
And, now let us huddle with a loved one and find a child to weep for.
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