Joho the BlogMay 2006 - Page 3 of 9 - Joho the Blog

May 24, 2006


Does Joho look today a lot like it looked yesterday? Are your eyes still burning from the greatest concentration of orange outside of the MinuteMaid headquarters? Still headachey from reading posts so narrow your eyes have to trace a zigzag pattern with the turning radius of a 10th Century spiral staircase? Then I’ve succeeded!

Yes, today’s Joho is a faithful simulation of the original, now done in 98% pure CSS! Gone are the nested tables within tables within tables within tables and the “enough exceptions make a rule” mentality.

Now let the breaking of a formerly stable page begin! (And thank you for all the help! You’re a nice bunch of folks.) [Tags:]

Allow me to kick off the growsing. If you click on the “archives” or “Search” link right below where the home page page asks you if you’re color blind, in FireFox you get taken to the proper spot on the page but everything above that is cut off. Gone. Not easily brought back. I’m using a simple href=#archives. I didn’t see anything on the Web about this. Anyone feel like a little debugging?

I neglected to thank PositionIsEverything where there’s a spiffy interactive CSS generator for the CSS code for a page with equal-height columns. Well-done!


Preparing for CSS

I use a bunch of CSS on this page already, but I’m preparing to make the big jump from tables-based layout to using CSS to do the job. Take a look at the source HTML if you want to see why. It’s a freaking mess. Or run this page through a validator. It’s hopeless.

Making the small change required to make this site more readable on mobile devices requires making huge changes. So, I’ve spent a few hours translating this page into a non-table-based, CSS-based layout. Thanks to massive copying of templates (thank you, Web!), I’ve got something up and running that seems to work. (One enhancement I can’t figure out how to do: Have the left and right boxes be fixed in their size while allowing the center one to resize as the user resizes the window. I spent a few hours last night failing to get that to work.)

The new page looks like this one, but the cleanup behind the scenes is massive. But I haven’t posted it yet because I’m sure it’s going to break every way a page can break. I’ll try it later tonight, I think, while some of the US time zones are asleep. [Tags: ]

I’m trying to get my new pgae to pass the w3c xhtml validator I’m down to a mere 15 infractions. They are of two sorts. First, it doesn’t like Movable Type’s tags. Is there a “loose” DTD somewhere I should be using? If so, what is the exact and precise syntax? Second, it doesn’t like dollar signs and spaces embedded in name tags, as MT insists. So, it flags this line:

<a name=”<$MTEntryID pad=” id=”<$MTEntryID pad=”1″$>

Suggestions? Or should I just learn to love being an outlaw?


Net neutrality – The video


May 23, 2006

Day of Telco Outrage

Tomorrow is a day of national outrage about the telecommunication industry’s attempt to remake the Internet to suit their own interests. There’s a rally in Boston 1:30-2pm in front of the Mass State House, and other rallies in other cities. More info at


[berkman] Jack Goldsmith

Jack Goldsmith, a Harvard Law professor who wrote Who Controls the Internet: Illusions of a Borderless World with Tim Wu, is giving a lunchtime talk at the Berkman Center. He comes from studying multi-jurisdictional conflicts. [Note: All quotes are approximate at best. I’m paraphrasing throughout.] The book is a history of why the vision of the Internet as something apart from meatspace governments didn’t work out. The book makes three claims, he says:

1. Nations can do a great deal to regulate Internet transactions within their borders. States can do a lot more than people thought.

2. The Internet is becoming bordered by geography, i.e., it’s becoming balkanized. Some of the borders come from states applying their laws. But a lot is coming from bottom up pressures, i.e., Internet consumer demand. “This is most obviously true with respect to language.” A great deal of the information that people want is about local stuff. Geographic identity technology lets applications know where Internet users are in real space; this has started not because government regulators want it but because advertisers do.

3. This emerging bordered Internet is not a terrible thing. “Obviously, in most respects it’s a bad thing in China,” although the fact that the Chinese Internet is in Chinese is a good thing for the Chinese (Jack says). The bordered Internet is good for the same reasons federalism is a good thing: You can maximize people’s preferences if you allow them to have law at the local level. E.g., France forbids eBay from selling Nazi goods. Among democraciess, the differences in free speech are legitimate. A bordered Internet allows the French to use its own free speech laws, and the alternative would be for the US to impose it’s view of free speech on France or vice versa.

Self-governing Internet communities can’t flourish without government, he says. E.g., eBay relies on the government, including for fraud control. eBay employess 800-900 fulltime people who work closely with state and local prosecutors to minimize fraud. Without government assistance, eBay would be overrun by fraud. Also: Contract enforcement, postal services, etc. Government sponsored public goods are essential for the fourishing of Internet communities.

One of the lessons of the book is, Jack says, that geography matters and government matters. “The experience of the Internet over the past 10 years is an antidote to the breathless claims of globalization.”

Q: How about the segmentation of the Internet outside of democracies?
A: China’s deprivation of free speech is a bad thing. But the bordered Internet is good for the Chinese people in the use of the Chinese language and by the relaxed rules on IP. But the bordered Net argument doesn’t work as well where citizens don’t have control over their government.

Q: Corporate response to this?
A: I have much less of a problem with Google than Yahoo. As far as I can tell, the Chinese people are better off because Google is there. As far as I can tell, no one is made worse off by Google being there. Contrast that with what I think Yahoo is and was doing: To the extent to which a corporation’s making money requires turning people over for engaging in political speech…But it’s also a fault of the US government.

Q: So you must think the Global Online Freedom Act doesn’t have much chance?
A: I haven’t followed it since the hearings, but I don’t think there’s any chance of it passing because it would mean that US companies can’t do business in China.

Q: What about issues that can’t be controlled by individual governments, e.g., the Internet naming system?
A: Actually, that’s an example of something controlled successfully by a single country. Originally people thought ICANN was going to provide private control of the Internet. But it’s firmly under the control of governments. US control of it is not sustainable.

Q: [me] You’ve said a bordered Internet has advantages. The examples of natural clustering — around languages, e.g. — are not controversial. But the ones where it’s enforced by law are more so — e.g., French laws about eBay sales. If it’s goods for states to have this control, is it an implication that it’d be better if we altered the Internet infrastructure to put in more info to enable more local control, e.g., a copyright bit, author bit, adults-only bit, etc.A: I haven’t thought this much. But I suppose if you could increase the degree of control within democracies, that might be an implication. But you’d have to weigh that against the harm done within totalitarian states. But the bordered Internet is a metaphor. Most nations don’t care about most of what goes over the Internet. We’re talking about the small percentage of neutral between different regulations in demorcacy…or I don’t even want to go that far. I’d have to think about it in a discrete context. I guess I don’t have an answer to this question. [Hard to capture this. Jack was thinking out loud and an open and frank way. Nice to see.]

A: This book isn’t optimistic about what public international law can accomplish. Treaties aren’t happening. There are lots of things can’t control very well: gambling, pornography. Every new tech has a shock on the government. State authority persists. The state as an institution will survive this revolution because the revolution needs the state. In fact, every communication revolution has strengthened the state.

Q: Amara’s law says that first we overestimate the consequences of a new technology and then we ignore the long time consequences. There’s a possibility that we’ll start seeing each other around the globe as being more like one another than not. It seems to me inevitable that we’re becoming more alike. Our interests are necessarily merging if we’re to survive. That’s my normative statement.
A: Reinhold Niebuhr said that knowledge of difference increases hatred. Every communications revolution has said what you say, but it hasn’t worked out. It’s impossible to tell which way it’s going. Rorty claims that as soon as we see people as humans not as foreigners, we’ll cease to have as much conflict. That’s the hope of globalization. But I think the opposite is just as possible. I don’t know which force is more powerful and I don’t think we can say systematically. [Tags: ]

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Forced beginnings for mobile devices

Now that I’ve gotten a Blackberry — a satisfying device so far — I’ve found just what a drag it is to view JOHO on a tiny screen. To get to the blog posts, you have to scroll through an eternity of left column stuff.

Is there a way in HTML to flag which element should display first on a device? I’d like to be able to specify that the top of the middle column is the best place to start if you’re on looking at this page on a tiny screen.

Yes, I could put a name tag such as “start_here” where I want and load the url But everyone else would be stuck scrolling through from the beginning when they probably really came for the middle column. So, is there a general solution to this problem? [Tags: ]


May 22, 2006

Last chapter – Beginning of the end

I’m working on the last chapter of my book. I should be done with it in a couple of weeks. Everything I’ve written is in rough draft, so there’s tons still to do. Nevertheless, it has me thinking about what it would be like to wake up and not be writing a book.

I’ve been mildly obsessive about working on this book for the past 3 years or so, and more so in the past ten months of actual writing. I think of almost nothing else. It is a rich problem set and an interesting writing challenge. I feel privileged to be allowed to think about this stuff. Nevertheless, I do find moments of fear breaking through my usual baseline anxiety: What will I do when I’m not working on this book?

I’m jinxing myself even by talking this way in public. The book isn’t done. Must finish book. Must…finish…book… [Tags:]


May 21, 2006

Skype and Chinese censorship

Rebecca and Isaac Mao hold Skype’s feet to the fire for partnering with TOM Online in China. TOM censors Skype IM messages.

These are tough issues. I am not convinced that companies should entirely spurn China rather than give in to any measure of censorship. I’d feel differently if I thought a worldwide boycott by tech firms would actually make a difference to the Chinese totalitarian government. But from what little I know (basically what I’ve read by Rebecca, Isaac, and at the Skype site), TOM seems like an egregiously bad choice, and it would indeed be good to know what the banned list of words is. Some public outrage from Skype would probably make me feel better, although it wouldn’t actually do much. [Tags: ]

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McCain at the New School

Here’s a transcript of John McCain’s talk at the New School, where he was jeered and booed.

On the narrowest possible issue — McCain’s attitude towards blogging — he makes a little but telling joke. When he was young, he says, he was sure he was right and loved to argue:

All their resistance to my brilliantly conceived and cogently argued views proved was that they possessed an inferior intellect and a weaker character than God had blessed me with, and I felt it was my clear duty to so inform them. It’s a pity that there wasn’t a blogosphere then. I would have felt very much at home in the medium.

Ouch! Blogs being teased! He goes on to say “It’s funny, now, how less self-assured I feel late in life than I did when I lived in perpetual springtime.” Sen. McCain, that means you should feel even more at home in the Blogosphere.

On more important matters, he makes the same point as Gov. Warner: We Americans love to argue, and that’s a good thing. But, unlike Warner, he doesn’t conclude that therefore no one can know she’s right. Instead, he uses it as a way of softening the audience for the statement that he supported the decision to invade Iraq. He rejects three reasons for supporting the war — empire, racism, cheap oil — but doesn’t explain why he supported it, other than that he believed “rightly or wrongly, that my country’s interests and values required it.” Specificity would be really helpful here. It’d also be nice to know whether it was rightly or wrongly. If he believed we were going to be attacked by WMD’s, how does he explain the wrongness of his belief?

But this is a commencement address, so he skips that topic in preference for saying we ought to respect the opinions of people with whom we disagree:

Americans deserve more than tolerance from one another, we deserve each other’s respect, whether we think each other right or wrong in our views, as long as our character and our sincerity merit respect, and as long as we share, for all our differences, for all the noisy debates that enliven our politics, a mutual devotion to the sublime idea that this nation was conceived in – that freedom is the inalienable right of mankind, and in accord with the laws of nature and nature’s Creator.

Then he tries to curry some favor by using Darfur as a case that unites us all. We all believe (where “all” means something like “right-thinking Americans”), he says, that “people have a right to be free.” He then explicitly rejects relativism as a “a mask for arrogance and selfishness.” He says, rather effectively, I think:

All lives are a struggle against selfishness. All my life I’ve stood a little apart from institutions I willingly joined. It just felt natural to me. But if my life had shared no common purpose, it would not have amounted to much more than eccentricity. There is no honor or happiness in just being strong enough to be left alone. I have spent nearly fifty years in the service of this country and its ideals. I have made many mistakes, and I have many regrets. But I have never lived a day, in good times or bad, that I wasn’t grateful for the privilege. That’s the benefit of service to a country that is an idea and a cause, a righteous idea and cause. America and her ideals helped spare me from the weaknesses in my own character. And I cannot forget it.

He closes by recounting (again) the story of his relationship with David Ifshin, a Vietnam war protestor who changed his mind about America and became McCain’s friend. It’s a good story, but it’s somehow slightly odd to hear a story about someone else’s journey of self-discovery. It’s the sort of story speakers usually tell about themselves. Anyway.

This is the type of speech that will, I believe, convince swing voters that they’d rather have McCain as president than someone more ideologically/politically motivated, even if they marginally agree more with the ideologue’s positions. Yes, I’m talking about Hillary. Gore, Biden, Warner, Edwards, Oprah, not so much.

And, by the way, I hope the students unwilling to listen to this speech read it now and regret their rudeness. Thirty-five years ago, I probably would have joined them. Now I’d wear a peace symbol, but I’d listen. I’d walk out on a Donald “Abu Ghraib” Rumsfeld commencement address and it beats the hell out of me why Boston College would choose to give an honorary degree to Condi Rice, but if you can’t respect McCain enough to listen to him, what does a person who disagrees with you have to do to get you to listen for twenty minutes? Agree with you?

(I am now officially my parents. Sigh.) [Tags: ]


Draft blogging survey

Paul Gillin is preparing a survey of bloggers for a book he’s working on about social media. He’s looking for comments on a draft of the survey… [Tags:]


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