Joho the BlogFebruary 2004 - Joho the Blog

February 29, 2004

Meaningful NDA

In response to my griping about the Corbis NDA, Paul points to to one of his non-chron bloggish entries. Excerpt:

When I’m at an early stage in developing a new business plan, I just write the following at the top of the plan:

“Confidentiality: Paul asks that you not show or tell anyone this idea without first calling him to ask his OK. If you tell one person you trust, they will tell one person they trust, and so on. If this idea gets out too early, Paul’s business could be ruined. Thanks.”

This “NDA” actually builds trust rather than erodes it the way most do.

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I’ve taken a quick pass through, and I’m impressed. It’s a metasearch site developed by a small team headed up by Jeff Kang. From an email from Jeff:

It’s a team effort (a developer friend and myself) that made the Queryster Search Network. The objective is to make Web search easier and more fun. Also it would serve as a showcase for what we can do technically. We hope to turn our skills into a website development business.

Queryster has been online for two months now, and recently we have received a few positive feedbacks and suggestions for improvement. …


February 27, 2004

Are we Sodom?

Bob Herbert’s column today in the NY Times — “Bliss and Bigotry” — made me cry. It’s a good column, but it did not provoke my sadness and anger so much as allow it. I keep surprising myself with how much the issue of gay marriage means to me. Every day I find it means more.

When I was a young a-hole in the ’70s, my line of grad school patter said that homosexuality is an inferior form of love because the sex carries no risk. (Yeah, those were the days.) Homosexuals sex acts lack the existential possibility of creating new life, I’d maintain, affecting my best Norman Mailer-esque pose. This gave me sufficient cover for my homophobia even with my gay friends. But, as I became an older a-hole and saw those friends form relationships as loving as the best of my straight friends, I stopped spouting that particular form of stupidity. I shut up, and was a better person for it. Funny how often that works.

I thought my patter was cocktail-party interesting, but it was just a spin on the mainstream bigotry that pinned itself on the “promiscuity” of “the gay life style.” No commitment. No love. Just sex sex sex.

So, now we have gay couples standing in line to foreswear promiscuity, to embrace commitment and love. But it turns out that it’s not just their way of having sex that’s unacceptable to us. Even their love isn’t good enough.

Well, God damn a country that turns away love, that would diminish love, that would deny love. What purer gift could we be offered?

Aren’t we commiting the very sin that brought God to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah? It sure wasn’t because their citizens were just too deeply in love with one another.

History may give Bush a pass for his doctrine of preemptive war, because the country was traumatized by 9/11. It may chuckle ruefully at the brazenness of his oligarchical partisanship. But I do not think history will forgive George W. Bush’s attempt to turn our Constitution against the love our children have for one another.

And if history will, I won’t.

It’s a shame that John Kerry is once again taking a position that’s politically convenient. We could use a leader right now.

[Cross posted at Loose Democracy]


February 26, 2004


I found out this morning that I’ve been offered a fellowship at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard. I start officially in July.

What a great opportunity! I’m thrilled.


Metaphotos of the Bettman Archive

I spent yesterday underground at the Bettman Archive, the “picture mine” as Dirck Halstead calls it in an excellent article. The Bettman is one of the largest and most important collections of photographs, 11 million all told. They were moved from Manhattan to a former limestone mine in Pennsylvania in 2001 on the recommendation of Henry Willhelm, an authority on preserving photographs, not just because the site has iron gates and armed guards but more importantly because there they can be kept at sub-zero temperatures. Willhelm — who I got to talk with yesterday — believes that the photographs, which had been deteriorating badly, will now last for thousands of years. And it’s not just the photographs and negatives that were at risk: They are kept in paper sleeves that contains the metadata vital to finding and making sense of the images.

Bill Gates’ Corbis company owns the archive. Gates is personally responsible for the decision to pack the archive into 19 semi trucks and move it to safety.

Here are some snaps.

Card catalog opened to Einstein entry
The card catalog.

Old ledger
Ledger from 1926 listing entries in a sub-collection

The archive
The archive

The archive
Further back in the archive

A photo and sleeve
Photo of Mussolini holding the “Sword of Islam,” and a sleeve with the photo’s metadata.



Ok, first read the warning label in the orange ellipse to be puzzled, if not outright disturbed. Then notice the little baby doll decorations and be relieved.

Photo of cake with baby figures and an amusing warning label.


February 25, 2004

Passion memorabilia

How’d I miss this press release announcing that “Bob Siemon Designs is manufacturing and distributing officially licensed products for Mel Gibson’s new film ‘The Passion of the Christ'”? Available are lapel pins and pocket reminders that feature a “beautiful rendition of the Cross from the movie.” At least they don’t have a sticker across them saying, “As seen in Mel Gibson’s ‘The Passion’!”

Well, I suppose Mel has to make a buck somehow since the movie didn’t have a lot of opportunities for product placements.


Two broken TLA’s

1. GPS The GPS I rented from Avis for $10/day sucks. In the course of a 40 mile drive from the Pittsburgh airport to Butler PA, I got lost eight times.

The Avis GPS is a cell phone that audibly announces your turns and shows a graphic indicating which way you turn and how immediate the change is. That works ok once you get used to it. But the street data is terrible. It told me to take turns that don’t exist and didn’t tell me about road forkings that do exist.

A nice thing about the system: You can set your destination address not just by laboriously using the phone pad as a keypad, but also by calling a human operator will do it for you for free.

2. NDA I have many good things to say about Corbis, whose HQ I visited on Monday. It’s a fascinating place, very much in the metadata business. I got to talk with some of their image cataloguers and the person responsible for their thesaurus of terms and concepts. Really interesting. (And thanks to Dov Schiff, an extraordinarily helpful PR guy.) That said, I almost didn’t make it past the front door. When you sign in, you’re given a non-disclosure form that is short and to the point: You are forbidden from sharing any proprietary information (ok) and anything you learn on site is considered proprietary (not ok). Since I was there to write about Corbis as part of a Wired article, how could I sign their agreement?

This isn’t a case of overly-strict lawyering. It’s overly-stupid lawyering. It’s also very much contrary to the personal style of the half dozen people I met with, each of whom was friendly, open, personable, and eager to talk with real enthusiasm about what they do.

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February 24, 2004

Unfortunate phrasing

Heard on “All Things Considered” this afternoon: A lobbyist for the junk food industry replies to the idea that his ads ought to be banned from kiddie TV shows by saying that that would embroil us in a “fruitless conversation” about what constitutes junk food.

Fruitless, indeed. Isn’t that the point?

Comments Off on Unfortunate phrasing

“When I said I was a uniter, not a divider, I assumed you’d understand I meant a heterosexual uniter”

Cross-posted at Loose Democracy:

If I were getting married today, I think I’d opt for a civil union instead. Limiting marriage to heterosexuals feels so arbitrary that it’s, yes, weakening the institution for me.

I could argue in favor of my position, and you would hear nothing that you hadn’t heard from others. But I don’t think we change our minds about moral issues through argument…


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