Joho the BlogJune 2008 - Page 2 of 8 - Joho the Blog

June 26, 2008

Embarrassing Idiot Moment

I was having breakfast in the lobby of the lovingly eccentric Fox Hotel in Copenhagen this mrning, wondering why the staff didn’t answer the particularly loud and annoying phone that rang the entire time.

When I heard the same electronic ringing tone in the elevator, and then in the hallway outside my room, I thought that perhaps one of the hotel alarms had been triggered.

When I got into my room and heard it I realized I’d set the wake-up alarm on the cellphone strapped to my hip.

My only question is: On whom can I blame this? I’m thinking Dick Cheney, and I’m open to suggestions for possible causal chains. [Tags: ]


June 25, 2008

Did lord knows how many books just enter the public domain, thanks to Google and some good-hearted folk?

Jacob Kramer-Duffield at the Berkman Center explains the significance of Google’s new ability to search the copyright renewal notices for books published between 1923 and 1963. Publishers of those books had to file a renewal notice to hold on to their copyrights. It’s been very difficult to determine whether those notices were ever filed, so, when in doubt, we’ve assumed that they’re protected, even though most of them undoubtedly are not. This is known as the “orphaned works” problem.

But, thanks to a gargantuan effort by a whole bunch of people — thank you! — that information has been digitized and Google can search it. Google Book Search and The Open Content Alliance will use this list to provide open access to works that otherwise were kept out of the hands of the public because their copyright status just couldn’t be determined.

Project Gutenberg, The Universal Library Project, and the Distributed Proofreaders deserve a lot of credit, praise, and hosannahs for accomplishing this task. [Tags: ]


Chase Bank credit cards: Incompetent or scammy?

I received two Chase Quicken Visa credit cards yesterday. Neither were numbers I currently hold. So, I called their support line.

They told me that my current Citi credit cards had been bought by Chase, and would expire as of June 29, even though they’re marked as continuing into 2010.

The support guy couldn’t answer the most basic questions, including which new card number mapped to which old card number. So, I got Citi on the line while I escalated the Chase call. With one support person in each ear, I discovered that my two Citi cards were not being transferred, but an old Citi Quicken card was. And what about that second Quicken account for which I had received a new card? The Chase person explained that this was a card for an account that I had closed two years ago.

Why did they send me a card for a closed account? The Chase person said it was done automatically. So, presumably, thousands of cards have gone out with no indication that they’re for closed accounts. Was it a simple mistake, is Chase hoping that we’ll call the 800 number listed on the sticker on the front, thus re-activating accounts we’d closed?

I have now canceled my every single Chase Quicken account. (I don’t even use Quicken any more.) And I’ve asked for an acknowledgment in writing that I have done so. [Tags: ]


June 24, 2008

Free ‘n’ censored Internet

Scott Bradner has a terrific column on the FCC’s idea that it will make some spectrum available for free Net access, so long as it’s censored. If the naughty bits can’t be stopped by filters, then the FCC wants the carriers to block it using other means, e.g., perhaps by blocking encrypted data?

I don’t know why the FCC thinks that it has the mandate to censor the Internet. And if they do, why don’t they insist on a morally pure telephone network? Why do they think the Internet consists of content instead of people communicating? And why does the FCC care so much about boobies?

More info: The company behind this. The .doc file with the FCC text. Reuters. M2Z comment (type “m2z” in “filed on behalf of”). DailyWireless.

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Berkman lunch: Karim Lakhani and Ned Gulley on collaborative innovation

Karim Lakhani of Harvard Business School and Ned Gulley of MathWorksMathLab are giving a Berkman talk called “The Dynamics of Collaborative Innovation: Exploring the tension between knowledge novelty and reuse.”

Karim begins by looking at research by Meyer on the airplane’s hidden collaborative history: It didn’t spring whole cloth from the brow of the Wright brothers. E.g., Chanute served as a hub for pre-Wright research and innovation. The Wright brothers actively corresponded with him. Once the Wright brothers patented their inventions, innovation moved to Europe (which is why so many of our aviation terms are French … l’fusilage, anyone?).

Ned talks about the contest MathLab (where he works) runs every six months– sixteen times so far — designed to encourage the free flow of ideas. It’s a week-long open collaborative competition for MATLAB programmers. Entries are displayed, scored, and ranked immediately. Anyone can modify anyone else’s code and resubmit it as their own. The leader is determined objectively by putting it through some hidden tests that judge its efficiency. (They don’t make the optimization suite public because they don’t want people to “game” it.) The prize is a t-shirt or baseball cap, although the real prize is reputation.

Ned shows a graph of entries and processing times. It’s quite a dramatic set of cliffs. On the other hand, there are lots of dots representing people who make “improvements” that aren’t improvements. This may be people with bad ideas or people whose ideas happen not to work the way MATLAB prefers.

The winning entries on average have contributions from 30 people. Ned says that when some code leaps ahead, you’ll see “splash” as tweakers try to improve it marginally, often making it marginally worse.

Q: In the commercial realm, what happens when an early innovator patents it?
You don’t get collaborative innovation.

People name their entries, and sometimes sell social signals with them: “Tweakfest” or “I wish I knew how this works.”

Ned says that if a chicken is only an egg’s way of making another egg, then a hacker is only code’s way of making more code.

Karim talks about some statistical analysis of entries into the contest. He looks at how many lines an entrant borrows and how many times the entry’s reused. There is a power law distribution: A few lines are used thousands of times, but most are used zero to three times. His analysis shows that when it comes to entries that become leaders, borrowing pays off more than novelty.

Q: Have coders evolved in these games?
Yes. More collaborative. And more sophisticated in their gaming of the contest. uses this model to develop code solving practical problems. [Tags: ]


Babbage’s Noise pReboot podcast

Nicole Simone interviewed me about what I’ll be talking about at ReBoot. It’s posted here.

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Obama addresses his staff

This is a video of a nice moment: Obama addressing his staff after clinching the nomination. [Tags: ]

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Enterprise 2.0 in Germany: a podcast

The Berkman Center has posted a video (also available as an mp3) of me and Persephone Miel interviewing Willms Buhse and Tina Kulow. Willms is one of the editors of a German anthology, Enterprise 2.0: Die Kunst, loszulassen. (Disclosure: I contributed a chapter.) We talk about how Enterprise 2.0 is being received in Germany, given the inevitable cultural differences.

Unfortunately, because I insist on dressing like a 12 yr old going to summer camp, my polo shirt creates a hypnotic moire pattern, so please shield the eyes of your household pets.

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Sppechology – Fact- and argument-checking

From an email from Matthew Burton, one of the co-founders of

Speechology is an archive of political debates and campaign advertisements, all of which are subject to fact checking by our users. We created Speechology because we were tired of watching politicians fudge the truth in ads and dodge questions during debates.

YouTubes. Ratings. Comments. Tags. What’s not to love?

There’s not a lot of content at the site yet. It’ll be interesting to see if useful analysis and fact-checking emerges.

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June 23, 2008

73% of American atheists don’t believe in God

Yes, that’s how devout Americans are. Even a bunch of our atheists believe in God.

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