Joho the BlogMay 2008 - Page 3 of 6 - Joho the Blog

May 19, 2008

The worst director in the world?

The NY Times has an interesting article about Uwe Boll, whom many consider to be the worst director working. I’ve only seen BloodRayne, which is laughably cliched and wildly incompetent. The top half of the graduating class of Emerson College (whose commencement is today … good luck, kids!) has to be better at the basic story-telling techniques than Boll is.

Still, it’s hard to call Boll the worst director in the world when this guy is still making movies. Have you seen Alexander?

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May 18, 2008

Blogher interviews Obama

Obama has gone on blog and on camera with Blogher.

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In memoriam of those we can’t remember

Note to designers of memorials: Naming your road “Memorial Drive” won’t memorialize the people you’re trying to remember because who it memorializes won’t outlive the memories of those who are currently living, thus defeating the very purpose of memorializing them.

Let me put this differently: When I asked a roomful of Bostonians who “Memorial Drive” is dedicated to, no one knew. Several guessed correctly — Google tells us that it’s those who died in WW I — but isn’t the point of a memorial to obviate guesses and trips to Google? You might as well name it “Think of Something Parkway” or “Guess Who We’re Honoring Turnpike.”

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May 17, 2008

OMG, would you just please look it up in Wikipedia?

Here’s 9 minutes of Chris Matthews trying to get a hollerin’ right-wing radio host to acknowledge that he (the host) doesn’t know what “appeasement” means. Clearly, neither does President Bush.

The notion that it’s weak to talk with your enemies is even more dangerous than the Bush preemption policy. If you don’t talk, you use force. Force is expensive. Force kills innocents. Force kills Americans. Force is wildly ineffective. Force makes peace harder to bring about. That’s why force is a last resort. The problem is, Bush doesn’t have a first resort.

That’s why during the cold war, every president spoke with the Soviet leaders, even while the Soviets were a launch-code away from obliterating us with nuclear weapons. Of course you talk with your enemies. What are we, inarticulate Huns? Blood-raged animals? Implacable minions of death? Jeez!

Talking with your enemies doesn’t mean you incrementally give them what they want in the naive hope that they’ll stop with that. That would be, um, appeasement. But refusing to talk with your enemies is — I don’t know what other word to use — wickedness.

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Inside Esther’s brain

Esther Dyson has posted the ultimately intimate photos: scans of her brain. Here’s one of my favorites:


Notice the eyes that seem to follow you wherever you move…

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May 16, 2008

[[email protected]] Unconf

This morning, we’ve had two unconference sessions, here at the Berkman tenth anniversary conference. And I have to say, as far as I can tell, it’s going really well. The participants (formerly known as attendees) filled in the grid of times and places with a set of great topics, ranging pretty far and quite wide. The people I’ve talked with so far have been enthusiastic about the sessions they went to.

I participated in one on reframing the Net. The discussion was interesting, with some particular insights. The next one was smaller, more like eight people sitting around the table, except four of the people were Charlie Nesson, David Reed, and Jordan Pollack, and Stuart Shieber. The topic had something to do with entropy in information theory and thermodynamics; complexity; the ontological status of math; and the beauty of numbers. It was, well, something. Fantastic. My brow may never unfurrow as I try to understand the implications of that discussion.

Now Josh Marshall is addressing the lunch about how the Net is bringing about the crumbling of the paper news empire. “These things tend to work out well over the fifty year timeline, but in the short term the human cost — and the journalistic cost — is awful.”

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Me on implicit governance and the Publius Project

Supernova has posted a 15 minute vcast interview with me, by Howard Greenstein, about the Berkman Publius Project and my op-ed in it about why tacit governance is usually better than getting all explicit about stuff.

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The elements of interference

The Union of Concerned Scientists has published a Periodic Table of the Elements, except instead of elements, it’s instances of US government interference in science.

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May 15, 2008

[[email protected]] Charlie Nesson

Charlie Nesson begins by saying that the morning had a negative cast to it. It was about fear. But he was uplifted when Yochai and Jimbo got to what Wikipedia is and could be. [Live blogging. Full of errors and omissions. Posted unedited and unspellchecked.]

He asks the general counsel of Viacom what he does in the course of a day. Mike: Viacom is an entertainment company, but it’s diverse, from cable TV to Internet. It has 140 channels around the world (ComedyCentral, MTV, etc.), video games His day consists of planning, managing, and dealing with surprises.

Charlie asks Esther Dyson what she does during the day. “I’m a court jester.” She swims every morning. She’s retired. So she does what she likes, including sitting on boards, giving advice, writing, giving talks, working with “do-good” groups trying to foster democracy in emerging markets.

Reed Hundt, former FCC chairman, says he’s on 7 boards, kibbitzes on politics.

Charlie says that he speaks for Eon, Dean of Cyberspace, and she has some questions. Wikipedia is the instantiation of the building of the knowledge commons. Why didn’t it come out of a university?

Esther: It came from neither the university nor government because they have rules and process. They don’t welcome strangers. Wikipedia is just a rule set. And, btw, you should check out barcode wikipedia. The topics are products with barcodes. [Ah, the power of unique identifiers!]

Charlie says to Mike of Viacom that Harvard is in a sense a public media company. We sit on a huge archive of material, most of which is copyrighted. The permission system is mired in transaction costs. So, we can’t use our treasure unless we pay a huge amount in time and money to free it up. So, it sits there. You too site on a huge pile ofassets. You’re looking at the system from the other side.

Mike: The system that creates those books depends on an economic incentive.

Charlie: Suppose we had the network infrastructure but no copyright. If we had to make a new system, can we agree that we would not choose the existing system?

Mike: Yes. We would have created something with many different features. You should be allowed to decide how to make your works available. But disrupting those expectations undermines people’s willingness to make works.

Charlie: The Net is a true inflection point. It changes defaults. It starts you from an open space, and you create private spaces within it. That means that the answer to Mike’s argument should be: Yes, except things have changed. We should be in a hurry to change.

Mike: There are tons of examples of those changes. E.g., the record companies have given YouTube site licenses.

Esther: If you’re really going to start over, there’s a principle that if someone creates something, they ought to control its distribution. But there are lots of business models and varieties of contracts.

Reed: Here are some facts that might be true. Over the past 20 yrs, if you look at all content, the price of the hardware in that network has continuously declined. The price of sw has stayed flat. So, the predominant value of the Net is now software. That inhibits the take-up rate in poorer economies. Linux is a response to that.

Esther: The price of the sw isn’t the inhibitor. They’re happy to use stolen sw.

Mike: There are a lot of new, efficient licenses that have developed, including blanket licenses designed to reduce the transaction costs. And we’ve developed ways to get our content out everywhere. And getting clearances are a pain in the butt for Viacom, too.

Charlie asks if we should worry about what JZ has pointed to, the locking down of devices.

Reed says that what happened to the music industry will happen to “elite universities.” You can tell by the fact that universities don’t spend a lot on IT that they don’t know how to accomplish their mission in the new world. E.g., bring Western knowledge to China.

Charlie says that the open access movement wants to bring all knowledge to everyone everywhere.

Esther: Education is about more than making info available.

Charlie: We should be able to make education that is interesting to people around the world. But can you do that with Verizon in charge of the connection and the cellphones?

Reed: In most countries, it’s a state-owned company and has nothing to do with education. We now know that within 15 yrs virtually everyone will have a Net connection, and most will be a wireless connection. Universities need to get ahead of this parade or they won’t be a significant part of how people learn.

Esther: In India, she saw the multimouse, so you can stick a single usb device into a port, and it connects to 8 mice, each with its own cursor. Eight students at a time. That’s MSFT investing in emerging markets. She tells a story about S. Africa to make the point that we shouldn’t be looking for government solutions. We need open markets.

Q: (David Marglin) How do we welcome strangers? How do we beat our swords into plowshares?
Charlie: Harvard has gone open access. That’s news. Other universities notice. Elsevier notices.

Q: You’ve addressed how you broadcast your ideas. But that’s easy. Paris Hilton does that. Harder: How do you listen to all the people who have ideas? How about if Harvard could listen to all those people. And how about getting the science dept to talk with the art dept?

Q: If there were no copyright, we’d have a digital library of Alexandria. Copyright is about providing incentives, not about lowering transaction costs, etc.

Mike: The library wouldn’t exist if people didn’t have incentives. It’d be great if al content had metadata so rights could be cleared automatically, lowering transaction costs. [So there we have the two visions: A system of perfect control to lower transaction costs, and a commons. Me, I want the commons. [Tags: ]


[[email protected]] John Palfrey: Poilitics and the Future of Democracy

John begins by pointing to Publius, a set of essays and discussions about the Net’s many “constitutional moments.” But his overall topic is, as Yochai Benkler frames it, whether the networked sphere expands democracy. E.g., photos and videos of the monks’ protest in Burma were spread through the Internet. [Live blogging. Sloppy. Incomplete. Inaccurate. Wildly incomplete. ]

Argument 1: “The Internet allows more speech from more people than ever before.” JP hands it to Ethan Zuckerman to talk about Global Voices. There are probably more than 100M outside of the US creating content on line, says ethanz. Global Voices tries to surface those voices. International news has gone from a supply problem to a demand problem. How do you find those voices? How do you understand (= translate, contextualize) them? How is your attention held? Ethan says that although he was initially skeptical of blogging, Salam Pax convinced him. But, it’s not perfect. E.g., governments (and sometimes corporations) try to cut down access to the tools. More worrisome, people don’t pay attention to much outside of what the mainstream media tell them to. “We haven’t found the way to shape the news agenda through social media.”

JP puts up the map of the Farsi blogosphere. In response to question about Cass Sunstein’s hypothesis, John Kelly (who made the map) that even though blogs cluster by political stance, they are still densely interlinked.

Argument #2: Although the Net lets more people tell the story, “states are finding more and more ways to restrict online speech and to practice surveillance.” JP points to the OpenNet Initiative, which tracks state blockage of speech.

Esther Dyson: To get Internet to help democracy, we need to fix the people. The Net is just a tool. We need profiles of courage. Also, there’s virality of protest.

Audience: We cannot rely on people doing the right thing. Many think that control and censorship are good things.

Audience: It’s not just a digital divide, but a media literacy gap.

Argument 3: “The Internet facilitates the formation of online groups, which in turn has great impact on democracy and governance.” Ellen Miller of the Sunlight Foundation talks about Public Markup, which enables people to comment on bills, etc. JP asks if there are downsides to this increased transparency. E.g., the star wars kids who didn’t want the exposure. Can people be harmed by transparency and the power of collective action without recourse? Ellen replies, “Not yet.”

JP calls on Yochai Benkler. What questions should we be asking in the next ten years? Benkler responds: “I’m sorry, prof., I didn’t do the reading.” His serious reply is that we are moving from imagining and fearing, to actually gathering data and doing detailed analysis.

David Reed: While the Net is great at group-forming, there is an upper limit. Each group demands attention. There’s an attention economy that limits this. In the political space, you can starve out attention. [Tags: ]


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