February 29, 2008
February 29, 2008
From the NY Times article on Prince Harry being withdrawn from combat:
My MacBook continues to crash, even after the complete reinstall and upgrade to Leopard and even after a local geek shop put in a new motherboard. I’ve been collecting some of the crash reports the Mac generates and would like to crowd-source them to see if anyone can figure what the @!#$%! is wrong. Would I be violating my own privacy by doing so?
February 28, 2008
Clay Shirky is giving his book talk. Here Comes Everybody was released today. It’s immediately necome #1 at two Amazon lists. [Note: I'm typing quickly, getting things wrong, paraphrasing, etc. For an accurate report of what Clay's book is about, please read Clay's book.]
The Internet isn’t a decoration on society. It is a challenge. It is important on the order of print and broadcast. Previous media either were two way or they didn’t create groups. Now we have a network that is natively good at group forming. And this medium contains the contents of the others. In a single bullet point his book says: “Group action just got easier.”
Humans are great at forming groups. But they get complicated faster as they get large. A workgroup of 10 has four times more connections than a group of five. There are native disabilities once a group passes a certain size. The typical answer has been to install a hierarchy. Now we’re seeing a set of tools that make it easier to create large groups: Ridiculously easy group forming. E.g., email unexpectedly became the dominant service used on the original Internet. That was because of the “reply all” button, a social feature.
But there’s been an enormous social lag. This tech has not transformed society as rapidly as it might. That’s because groups are innately conservative. No one wants a protocol that shuts out group members. It needed to become ubiquitous and boring. That’s when the social effects become interesting. Clay tells the story of his parents’ first date, a story that is not about internal combustion engines but that depends on the presence of them. We needed the Net to be always present and invisible for it to have its social effect.
Sharing, conversation, collaboration, collective action are rungs on a ladder: How much does an individual have to work to coordinate with the group?
Sharing. E.g., Delicious.com has urls, users and tags. It lowers the difficulty of sharing, so the social effects are practically unintended. It’s “me-first” collaboration (cf. Stowe Boyd).
Tagging systems let you share and then aggregate, reversing the traditional order. E.g., the mermaid parade in Coney Island. Since Flickr added tagging in 2005, you can click mermaidparade and get all the photos. The photographers weren’t coordinated ahead of time. Sharing has become a platform for coordination, rather than vice versa.
The next rung up the ladder is conversation, i.e., people actually synchronizing with one another. Clay shows a “communty of practice” at Flickr: High Dynamic Range photography at Flickr. Pre-Web, it would have taken 5-7 yrs from a pro photographer figuring it out to people in the street doing it. At Flickr, it took 3 months because when a photo went up, people could talk and ask how it was done. People post photos, etc. The medium becomes the platform for a community practice where people help one another get better. No commercial incentive.
That’s an example of “every url is a link to a community.” The discussion can turn into a group sharing resources. Clay points to bronzebeta.com, a Buffy site. It came after the Bronze bulletin board shut down. The fans raised money for new software to create their own bronze. They told the designers not to give it any features: no ratings, no identity mgt. They just wanted the system they used to have, a very basic discussion board.
He also points to Aegisub, a project that required a division of labor. It was a huge collaborative effort without a commercial motivation, or an anti-commercial motivation. Their success resulted in making themselves unnecessary.
The fourth rung is collective action. That’s coming. Three stories:
In Jan, 1999, a Northwest flight was stuck on the tarmac fo 7.5 hours. NW signs a toothless bill of passenger rights. Same thing happened last year and it resulted in legislation. What happened? Kate Hanni was on the second plane. She googled for articles about the flight. She comments on all of them, in detail. At the end of each comment, she asked others on the flight to contact her. She’s coopted the media and turned them into sites for coordination. She goes around to legislators’ offices. William James, the philosopher, once said “Thinking is for doing.” We have brains because we’re deciding between courses of action. Now publishing is for acting.
Second, flash mobs started as a critique of hipster culture. The guy who started them said he could get people to do anything at all if you tell them that it’s a protest against the bourgeoisie. It spread to Belarus: They’d go to a square in Minsk eating ice cream in January. Cops arrested them. It was illegal to form groups in October Sq. The kids turned the joke on hippies into a genuine form of dissident action. They provoked the government into reacting, and documented it. Media led to collective action, and the action led to more media. They thought publicity would make a difference, but the West turned out not to care much about Eastern European dictatorships. The tools are very different when deployed in high or low freedom environments. (They’d also done a flash mob where people walked around October Sq smiling.)
Third, a group ran around Palermo putting up stickers protesting the prominence of the Mafia. It was a big story. Now they’re reversing it. They put up a Web site at which businesses can agree to refuse to pay the protection money. If an individual business were to do this, the Mafia would act. They also let citizens search the site for businesses who’d signed.
So, ridiculously easy group forming improves sharing, convesation, collaboration and collective action. Clay is watching now and in the future to see how collective action evolves, for that is the hardest but could be the most important.
Q: Yochai Benkler is working on whether you can explain this other than by enlightened self-interest?
Q: What are the downsides you see?
A: My nightmare is that the advertising budget for print shrinks and we lose newspapers in mid-size American cities. We lose investigative journalism. Every city under a million goes back to endemic civic corruption. The newspaper industry is not ready now to talk about how to save investigative journalism as we lost print.
Q: [couldn't hear it]
Have you looked at the mechanics of collective action?
Q: [me] Why did you choose the axis of groups that take actions? I can feel I’m a member of the Group That Likes Obama without actually doing anything…
Q: Mobile streaming and virtual worlds. How do they fit into collective action?
Categories: Uncategorized Tagged with: berkman • books • culture • digital culture • groups • social networks • sociology
Date: February 28th, 2008 dw
Clay Shirky is giving a small talk at the Berkman Center, before giving his bigger talk this evening. His topic this afternoon is “protest culture.” [I'm live blogging, getting it wrong, etc. This is certainly far less coherent than Clay's actual presentation, which was (as always) pristinely structured and clear. His talk will be up at Media Berkman before too long.]
One of the easiest examples of this, he says, started in early 1999. A NW Airlines flight was landed in Detroit and got stuck on the tarmac for 7.5 hours. There was a class action lawsuit that got settled out of court and agreed to a toothless code of conduct. Last year, an American Airlines plane was stuck on the tarmac for 8 hours. A Napa Valley real estate agent got off the plane pissed. She googled all of the traditional media outlet stories. She left comments on them, and asked others on that flight to call her. Within a few days, she’d used the mainstream media stories to pull people together. They put up a passenger bill of rights. Eight months later, the NY legislature passed it. The airlines didn’t know what hit them. The group didn’t create this by suing but by organizing the unorganized. The difference between 1999 and 2006 wasn’t a change in tools but a change in audience density.
Second example: John Geoghan was brought to trial for abusing 130 boys in 2002. A group of people came together in a church, called Voice of the Faithful. By summer they had tens of thousands of members. Organizations don’t usually grow that faith. The Catholic Church responded by not allowing people to organize across parishes. “They were explicitly trying to extend the hierarchy to the laity.” Yet exactly the same thing had happened in 1992: A pedophile priest who had raped 90 boys, the Globe covered it, etc. What changed? For one thing, the Globe wasn’t global in 1992, but in 2002, when the Globe published the story on the Web, it went global. “The audience for the story became larger than the audience for the media outlet.” Also, “Voice of the Faithful is a very Google-friendly name.” Google it and you’re one click away.
Voice of the Faithful is now really suffering. After their initial success, they now have to institutionalize. Should they have dissolved after their initial issue ran its course? If not, they run into other Catholic organizations.
Third: The sf show Jericho was canceled and the fans get upset. But they’ve learned that email is ineffective. The last line in the series was “Nuts!” So the fans decided to send peanuts to the executives. Twenty tons of peanuts. The loading dock at CBS is not optimized for handling 20 tons of peanuts, and “peanuts are not easily deleted.” CBS relented. The Jericho example is a repudiation of the MoveOn model of political engagement, because email is too easy to send. There’s too much astroturfing, so on the Hill, email is discounted, generally. The Jericho found something that was much higher cost than email: People had to pay for the nuts and the shipping.
Flash mobs were synchronized by “Bill” from NY — everyone would go to Macy’s and pretend to be shopping for a love rug for their commune. Bill said that people are so malleable they’ll do anything if you tell them it’s cool. In Minsk, there was a flash mob of kids who all ate ice cream. And then there are photos of those kids being arrested. Eating ice cream is legal, but not being in a group in a square. These kids took a tool designed as a a-political tool in America and used it politically in Belarus, and did it in a way that can’t be stopped: The flash mob doesn’t exist before it flashes into a mob. One of the flash mobs: “Let’s all go downtown and smile at one another.” The kids did these actions to document them; they came with their cameras. The bug in the system is that the kids think the West still cares about oppression there.
“Here’s the conundrum.” A commonality is that these cases are hard to fake; enough people are signing on that you couldn’t just astroturf this. These protests get around the fact that the ease of communication makes protests less effective. And these are non-professional: This isn’t an institution to institution clash. There was no horse trading to do with the airline passengers because they only had a single issue; there was no horse-trading to do. And that’s why Voice of the Faithful worked in the early days; you couldn’t write them off as professional dissidents.” Finally, there’s surprise. The “protein code of protest is mutating faster” than ever. Institutions don’t know how to respond.
“By making it easier for more to participate, you change the calculus of trying to get people excited about improving their lives.” Usually, a handful of people are the instigators. Now, caring a little a bit is enough to get people to participate.
But, Clay asks, how do you lower the hurdle to participate while maintaining the hard-to-fake characteristic?
Working backwards from non-professional, hard-to-fake, surprises. But once you get a tactic that works well, the surprise doesn’t work as well. So, this may favor the people who can wait out surprises. E.g., the success of the Jericho protest may have created anti-bodies that will make TV execs less susceptible to this.
And because there is no institution on the other side, it may surface only the most egregious examples. So, “if investigative journalism goes away in every city of half a million or less, institutional corruption may come back in through the door through which it left when we got good investigative journalism in the 1950s…I’m not convinced that an active blogging community has the same effect as a beat reporter going back down to City Hall to check again on something that doesn’t seem right.”
Finally, human emotion is a lousy filter for reporters. People forward puppy stories, not Abu Ghraib stories. We may therefore get a lighter-weight protest culture. Clay says he doesn’t know where this may go.
John Clippinger: Great. You’re starting to reframe how we think about these things. I agree that you’re going to need persistent institutions. Do you see emergent institutions.?
Almost everything that happens on the Net happens in an un-democratic ways, says Clay. We’re blinded to this by the drone of the Internet being democratizing. Credentialed reputations.
Clip: We’re here looking at how to create layers that provide the underpinnings of persistent groups. E.g., the Higgins ID project. Do it on an iPhone.
Clay: The surprise is that the mental models of the users is as important as what’s under the hood. One of the great advantages of Wikipedia is that it had a pedia suffix. There was a shared mental model of what goes into an encyclopedia. It’s now gone beyond it…
Gene Koo: You seem to be opposing institutions and non-institutions, but movements are something in between. To build a long-term strategy, a flash mob mentality won’t work. How do you group a long-term group of people but not so sterile as an institution, that’s what communities organizers think about. Organizers try to get commitment, which maps to hard-to-fake. And part of what you’re describing is authenticity: A movement succeeds when it finds its authentic voice. E.g., the Farm Workers tried to import “We Shall Overcome,” but it failed because it didn’t come from that group. That links to your third point, that human emotion is a lousy thing to mobilize around. Organizers try to find people’s stories and link to the objectives of the group. That’s a more disciplined emotion than the flash in the pan sort of thing.
Clay: What’s happened to the protest march?
Gene: Lack of a tie between the act and the long-term goal. The aim is to threaten a power structure. If it’s just a flash, it doesn’t have that effect. Another aim, though, is to create a group identity.
Clip: There’s a cost. E.g., sit-down protests in the South. Lives were at risk.
Me: The Jericho execs wouldn’t have reacted if people had donated $2 each instead of buying $2 worth of peanuts. This is a non-rational response. Why did the execs respond to the peanuts? And will the culture adapt so we can skip the $2 reaction?
We’re struggling through this. The response was imaginative — self-organized and a thematic response to the show. Part of this was a counting problem — they had missed the people watching over the Net. And the people inside CBS thought they had an opportunity to work with the viewers. They responded in part as an experiment. Can we get past the $2? Well, I like the notion of authenticity. Money is one way to say that this is a hard-to-fake activity. On the other hand, if people can reliably get together and say we’re going to watch the show, and we should be counted, that might be effective. What determines how you get elected is how interested the least interested voter is; you’ve got to swing those people. Pledgebank stuff and ThePoint.com — I’ll do this if 10K other people agree to do this — are interesting social ideas. Can you make a bonded agreement that you’ll act in a particular way.
Sally Walkerman: Advertisers are used to being to surprise us. It’s getting harder. Advertisers therefore get more specific. Protestors can get more specific, too. The peanut protest is an example of that. Protestors will figure out what will surprise their targets.
Clay: Surprise isn’t as much of a wasting resource as I think? Hmm. The protests will get more specific? Is it happening organically?
Wendy Seltzer: I love your point about every URL being a gathering point. Every cease and desist letter can be a gathering point. E.g., wikileaks right now.
Clay: What had been two-party transactions are now multi-party transactions. The message that is hardest to get across to my students that in the early 1990s, if you have something to say, you couldn’t. The C&D is a great example of what used to be 2-way simply because there was no way to turn it into a multi-party transaction, and, as with Groklaw, that can change the course of a multi-million dollar case.
John Kelley: There’s a professional class of activists in DC that’s not doing a very good job of coping with the new way. To them, a measure of effectiveness is whether they can make their budget. How do the people who are professionally organized hear what people are saying?
Clay: Sometimes it’s the role of an institution to ignore some demands of its users. E.g., in ’03 or ’04 the Sierra Club had to decide if it needed a stance on immigration. The more you’re channeling the members’ leverage, the clearer you have to be that these are their one or two issues. I suspect that multi-issues organizations will have a harder time. But orgs that coordinate their customers with one another will probably have to learn how to listen better, e.g., IBM WorldJam. We’ll need new organizations to be exemplars before the old will change.
Rob Faris: Is the future single issue movements? Is the Sierra Club dead?
Clip: There’s an effort to aggregate markets to create collective actions…
Bruce Ettinger: Why haven’t there been effective protests about the Iraq war?
Charlie Nesson: What do you think of Lessig’s strategy?
[Great talk and conversation.]
Categories: Uncategorized Tagged with: berkman • digital culture • leadership • politics
Date: February 28th, 2008 dw
Clay Shirky is talking about his ultra-new book, “Here Comes Everybody” tonight at 6pm. Here’s the official announcement:
See you there!
*I am hoping that this hip and with-it formulation does not mean tonight we will either be having sex with or doing illegal drugs with Prof. Shirky. — The Management
Categories: Uncategorized Tagged with: clay_shirky • digital culture • social networks
Date: February 28th, 2008 dw
February 27, 2008
1995-6 I was VP of strategic marketing at Open Text, right when it went from search engines to intranet collaboration software. I’m at a CIO ass’n meeting in Waterloo, Ontario, where Open Text’s exec chair, and my old boss (and current friend), Tom Jenkins is giving a talk on Enterprise 2.0. Also, last year I did a paid consulting day at Open Text. So, I am biased in just about every way a person can be biased, from sentimental memories to the possibility of future consulting. With that in mind, here goes:
Tom begins by pointing to the Obama campaign. “2.0 is here,” he says, pointing at Obama’s “community blogs” page. Politicians are breaking out of the confines of the media. But, of course, not just politicians, he says.
Web 2.0 really points to two facts: We have bandwidth and an enormous volume of users. (Web 2.0 was always with us in some ways, says Tom, as I nod vigorously.) In 2.0, everyone gets to talk and everyone gets to listen.
He points to the dangers of a 2.0 world. E.g., a Canadian passport control person blogged about the secret marks on passports. The blog site had been intended to increase productivity, but because it was a public site, a secret was blown. Nevertheless, says Tom, “You can’t bury your head in the sand. In the long term, you’ll be at a competitive disadvantage with companies that do embrace these productivity tools.” Not to mention, you won’t be able to hire and keep under-30s (Tom says).
Tom calls Web 1.5 what happened around 2000. Also around then, the lawyers started getting nervous.
Tom contrasts Web 1.0 and Web 2.0: from inform to engage, from few authors to many, from few contributors to many. In Web 2.0, treats the Web as a platform with “desktop-level bandwidth” (or so).
Tom places metadata at the center of content management [and literally points to me in the audience <blush>]
We’re starting to map the business processes to the social and human processes, Tom says. This requires getting past technology lock-ins.
Some random facts from Tom:
Alp Hug from Open Text takes up the talk, to explain how to take advantage of 2.0 technology in the organization while avoiding the dangers, which — what a shock! — happens to map to Open Text’s software and services. [It's good to see Open Text embracing this social software stuff.]
February 26, 2008
Since over a hundred people were turned away, this papering of the house is not just a bad joke. Although it also is a bad joke.
Categories: Uncategorized Tagged with: comcast • net_neutrality • uncat
Date: February 26th, 2008 dw
I want to pull on just one thread in the argument against Net neutrality: The claim that it’s obvious that some types of applications deserve priority. It’d be crazy not to give priority to Internet telephony packets or to heart monitoring packets. Right?
But given finite bandwidth and an indefinite number of jitter-sensitive, delay-sensitive app types, it’s not obvious that the ISPs are the ones who should make the decision about how to prioritize the packets. That is, it makes sense to give vehicles with sirens priority in the streets, but when an indefinite number of vehicles have sirens, who decides which vehicles get priority? If I’m not a VOIP user and if I don’t care about watching videos over the Net, why should my World of Warfare packets suffer? Why should your interest in high-def ESPN packets shoulder aside my SecondLife packets? Do my in-game chat VOIP packets deserve the same — or greater? — priority than your VOIP business calls? If I’m a Boston researcher who is engaged in some obscure (but important to me) delay-sensitive research with a lab in Japan, why should I have to hope the ISPs will decide to honor my packets’ sirens? Will my physician have to petition Comcast to let my kidney monitoring data have priority? Diabetes monitoring vs. thyroid info? Who decides if routine heart monitoring data should go at the same speed as critical care heart data?
And if I invent a new type of application that happens to be delay-sensitive, who has to approve it to get it onto the priority list?
If the only way to manage this were to rely upon the ISPs, then we’d just have to hope they’d make decisions that are genuinely in the public interest. But, if end-users can instead make those decisions, why not give them the power to say that they want their heart monitoring data to have a huge siren, and VOIP to be a Yugo that needs a valve job? And when their hearts stabilize, let them turn down those packets’ priority. in order to avoid an obvious gaming of the system, only let users change their designated siren vehicles once a month or so. And, I’d prefer that the ISPs not charge for this service — it’s simply a bit of network mgt — because I don’t want to give them an incentive for keeping the system sluggish.
There are some easy ways to present this to users, ways that never use the word “packet” or “jitter.” Let them designate some sites as high priority. Let them specify some application types (telephone calls, on-demand video). Even maybe let them choose “What type of user are you?” from a list.
It’s entirely possible that the solution I’m proposing is technically impossible or too expensive. IANAG (I am not a geek.) Nevertheless, thinking that some packets obviously should have priority doesn’t resolve the problem of figuring out how to prioritize packets. The more you look at it, the less obvious it becomes.