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June 28, 2005

Supernova roundup

Quick before it goes behind the Boston Globe pay wall, you can read Scott Kirsner’s Supernova primer:

…the conversation was thick with concepts and terms that may be familiar to those who marinate daily in the blogosphere, but are novel to those of us who are still retrograde enough to read (or write for) an ink-on-dead-trees publication. Let me try to explain a few

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June 27, 2005

In case the Grokster decision didn’t depress you enough…

…read Susan Crawford on the BrandX decision that gives the FCC regulatory control over all bits. [Technorati tags: ]

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NECC talk – New Shape of Knowledge

I’m keynoting the National Educational Computing Conference today in Philadelphia. Here’s a sketch of what I plan on saying. (The first two paragraphs are a variation on my “stump” speech, and you may recognize bits from elsewhere.)

Knowledge is being shaken to its roots. Knowledge began in ancience Greece as a way of sorting through conversations to discover what’s the right advice for guiding the state. Over time, it got associated with certainty and became more and more restricted and less in touch with the messy human context. In fact, it took on four properties, two of which mirror the nature of reality and two of which mirror the nature of autocratic political reality: 1. There’s one knowledge to serve all humans. 2. When sorting ideas, we have to put them in separate bins. 3. We need experts to do the sorting. 4. These gatekeepers have power.

But in the digital age, we snip the connection between how we organize physical stuff and how we organize knowledge. Four principles of organization change: A leaf can be on many branches, messiness is a virtue, the owners of the information no longer own the organization of that information, and users are contributors.

So, what is the new shape of knowledge?

First, Andy Clark in Being There reminds us that we have always externalized thought, which is a good thing: We got smarter when we learned how to write on walls to express more complex ideas. We used to worry about the effect of calculators on children’s cognitive abilities. Now we worry about Google. Books made us smarter. Now bits are going to make us even smarter.

So, what happens when we shake knowledge off of paper? Quick example: Freed of the limitations of paper and publishing, topics get smaller and better aligned with human interests.

But, you can see with Linnaeus how the use of paper shaped knowledge. The fact that he recorded species on index cards led to him organizing them one way and not another.

And we’ve treated documents as if they were containers. That’s because we’ve thought of our minds as containers. But the Web is made of links — pages pointing outside of themselves to other pages — each a little act of generosity.

But why believe what anything on the Web says? Yes, why believe even Doc Searls? Because are now capable of multi-subjectivity: many voices in conversation. Knowledge is becoming conversation.

Two further effects: 1. On the Web, we don’t have to settle every dispute. Thus, knowledge can stay local and ambiguous. 2. We don’t insist on a perfect beer before we drink one, and we shouldn’t insist on perfect knowledge; since knowledge is social, it’s as flawed as we are. (Of course, the criteria of belief vary by domain. I want more certainty from my doctor than I do from Jon Stewart or Michael Moore.)

So, how do we teach our kids? Do we cram their heads full of content and then test them on it? As individuals? Do we imply ambiguity is a failure? Do we insist on being right? Or do we say that knowledge is an unending conversation? Do we teach children to seek ambiguity and love difference?

Conversation is a paradox because it iterates difference on a common ground. That a paradox happens every day is a miracle. [Technorati tags: ]

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Steven Johnson in the funnies

Everything Bad Is Good for You got an oblique reference in the Sunday Doonesbury. That, along with appearing on Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show, has to be on Steve Johnson’s life list… [Technorati tag:]

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June 26, 2005

MoveOn and other enemies of democracy

I just made the mistake of turning on the TV and seeing the George Stephanopoulos show just at the moment where George Will, minimizing Karl Rove’s dangerous disconnect from reality, lumped MoveOn.org and Michael Moore as “extremists.”

Say wha’????

Michael Moore is an irresponsible provocateur and humorist who sometimes raises topics — and says truths — the mass media is too craven to discuss, so I can see why Will might confuse him with an extremist. But MoveOn.org, which came into existence with the radical extremist notion of censuring Clinton and then moving on? Is this a conscious effort by Will to shift the table to the right, or is he really so lacking in vision and historical perspective?

You would think that a vibrant democracy would take as a matter of pride the range of opinions it embraces… [Technorati tags: ]

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June 25, 2005

Technorati Live8

While I’m talking about companies I am an official advisor to, Technorati is serving as “blog central” for the Live8 Concert. Live8 wants your voice, not your money: The idea is that lots of our voices maybe can influence the G8 to put an end to poverty. The goal is to get a million posts supporting this idea. I don’t actually believe that even ten million would make any difference to the leaders of the G8, but what can it hurt?

Dave Sifry, Mr. Technorati, talks about this in my video interview of him at Supernova, which you can see here at C-Net. (The aggregation of v-blog interviews is here.) [Technorati tags: ]

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New in BlogBridge

BlogBridge, a free open source aggregator client for Windows [added:], Mac and Linux, put together by my pal Pito Salas, has announced two cool features. [Disclosure: I'm an unpaid advisor to the company, but I had nothing to do with these features.]

First, BlogBridge is recruiting subject matter experts who want to put together sets of feeds on a topic. For example, Amanda Watlington is aggregating feeds on search engine optimization.

Second, BlogBridge now lets you create “smartfeeds,” feeds made of other feeds based on rules you specify. E.g., you could ask to see all the feeds you currently subscribe to that use a particular keyword. Or, you can have it fetch tagged feeds from the likes of del.icio.us, findory, flickr and technorati.

I’ve been using BlogBridge as my main aggregator for a few months now, and I’m happy with it. Yes, there are a couple of edges that I consider rough, but BB is free, it’s open source, and I’ve known Pito long enough to know he’s a really good guy. [Technorati tags: ]

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June 24, 2005

Wifi-ing the Big Apple

Andrew Rasiej, running for the obscure post of NYC Public Advocate, has put forward a plan that would connect wireless routers on city lamp posts using the city’s dark fiber. The total cost would be less than $10/person (= $80M) and would provide free wifi access in public places; businesses and residents would pay about $20/month for basic high-speed service.

Of course, the incumbents, always zealous in their protection of the free market (hah!) are lobbying hard to prevent municipalities from providing this service. [Technorati tags: ]

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KM, Beeb style

Inside Knowledge devotes 2,300 well-written words (by Sandra Higgison) to the work of Euan “The Obvious” Semple at the BBC. Euan has been leading the BBC down the social software path before software was called social.

Meanwhile, I’m trying to wrestle my 75+ pages of notes on the Beeb’s digital make-over into 2,500 words for Wired. More words! I need more words!

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June 23, 2005

Karl Rove: Apologize, resign, or both

As a liberal, I’m not insulted by Karl Rove’s remark that “liberals saw the savagery of the 9/11 attacks and wanted to prepare indictments and offer therapy and understanding for our attackers.” He’s just demagoging based on a seed of truth: I do want to understand our attackers (because it’s stupid in n dimensions not to understand the people you’re fighting) and I do want a nuanced, well-thought-out response that will actually make my children safer, rather than the kneejerk Bomb Someone strategery we got from Bush and Rove. So, fine, politicians exaggerate the positions they don’t like and even end up stating utter falsehoods like Rove’s.

No, what gets my goat is his unthought assumption that every issue and event is fodder for political advantage. So he goes into the very city where firefighters ran up the stairs instead of down, and he mouths off to score some points at a fund-raiser? Tell me now who doesn’t take 9/11 seriously, the liberals or callow, unfeeling, assroves like him? This split from reality — he was in New York City! — is where evil takes root.

Karl Rove should apologize or resign…apologize not because our poor widdle feelings are hurt but to acknowledge that reality still matters. [Thanks to the Daou Report for links and fire.] [Technorati tags: ]

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