Joho the BlogNovember 2008 - Page 3 of 8 - Joho the Blog

November 21, 2008

I can haz bailout?

LOLfed — all the economic news you want, now in LOLcat.

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Ripped, from the headlines

From today’s Boston Globe, about Framingham, MA:

For five weeks, butcher-quality cuts of red meat – it appears to be beef – have been appearing regularly beneath a tree in the historic Town Centre Common

It’s be fun to see this ripped-from-the-headlines taken up by, say, Monk and Dexter.

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November 20, 2008

Internet not the child-devouring swamp many adults fear

A three-year research project, headed by Mimi Ito, involving 28 researchers and 800 subjects, and sponsored by the MacArthur Foundation, finds that the stereotypical idea of the Internet as a soul-devouring, anti-social wasteland for our kids is just plain wrong. If you suspected otherwise, now you know you were right.

The report makes a key distinction that helps explain some of the confusion we’ve been living through. From the press release:

The researchers identified two distinctive categories of teen engagement with digital media: friendship-driven and interest-driven. While friendship-driven participation centered on “hanging out” with existing friends, interest-driven participation involved accessing online information and communities that may not be present in the local peer group.

Here’s one interesting observation, from the overview:

Some youth “geek out” and dive into a topic or talent. Contrary to popular images, geeking out is highly social and engaged, although usually not driven primarily by local friendships. Youth turn instead to specialized knowledge groups of both teens and adults from around the country or world, with the goal of improving their craft and gaining reputation among expert peers. While adults participate, they are not automatically the resident experts by virtue of their age. Geeking out in many respects erases the traditional markers of status and authority.

The study’s implications for education are significant. From the overview:

Youths’ participation in this networked world suggests new ways of thinking about the role of education. What, the authors ask, would it mean to really exploit the potential of the learning opportunities available through online resources and networks? What would it mean to reach beyond traditional education and civic institutions and enlist the help of others in young people’s learning? Rather than assuming that education is primarily about preparing for jobs and careers, they question what it would mean to think of it as a process guiding youths’ participation in public life more generally.

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Daily (Intermittent) Open-Ended Puzzle: Monty Python headlines

Monty Python has announced that it’s making all many of its works available for free on YouTube. Yay!

What is the best Python-referencing headline for a post announcing this? “A hovercraft full of reels”? “Not pining for the fee(ords)”? “Wring out your dead”?

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November 19, 2008

Electoral Windex tells you who voted, based on public election records. So far it’s only ratting out those dirty stinking voters in four states (Florida, Idaho, Ohio, and Washington).

Who voted and who contributed money to campaigns has always been public info in the US. But when you had to blow dust off of ledger pages in the basement of your town hall, we didn’t feel quite so exposed. Welcome to the fishbowl!

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Bertha Bassam lecture

I gave a lecture at my alma mater, the University of Toronto, a few weeks ago, at the Faculty of Information. The video is here. (Nit: The slides have the wrong font.)

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Tech community party in Boston

Harvard Free Culture, ROFLCon, and Public Radio Exchange Proudly Present…

A Gathering Of Boston Tech

November 29th, 2008, 8:00 – 12:00
Berkman Squared, 50 Church Street, Cambridge MA
RSVP on Upcoming:

Boston is full of cool Internet people. Why aren’t they meeting each other?

INFORMATION SUPERHIGHWAY is Boston’s monthly party gathering hackers, activists, artists, designers, nonprofits, startups, academics and general geekery to hang out and connect with one another.

*No agenda, no “networking,” no presentations. Just beverages, food, ideas and cool people.
*Best of all the price is free, just like your courtesy black helicopter flight to A Secure Undisclosed Location

*This time: come out and meet Boston’s Secret Masters of Hidden Hackspace, Homebrew Mad Science, and Cyber Revolution
*Also: hear about our scheme to rent a decommissioned missile silo. And how you can too, on less than $10 bucks a month. (No, seriously).

With Featured Guests and Organizations:
*Jason Bobe, (DIYBio)
*Meredith Garniss and Andrew Sempere,(Willougby and Baltic)
*Alex Hornstein, (NUBLabs) (FabLab)
*David Weinberger, (Joho The Blog) (The Berkman Center For Internet and Society)
*Jake Shapiro, (The Public Radio Exchange)
*Jason Scott (Textfiles)
*Matt Lee (The Free Software Foundation)

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November 18, 2008

[berkman] Michael Heller

Michael Heller, from Columbia University, is giving a Berkman lunch-time talk on his book, Gridlock Economy. He says the nutshell version is that when too many people own pieces of one thing, no one can use it. Too much ownership creates gridlock, he says. [Note: I’m live-blogging, getting things wrong, missing stuff, introducing typos, etc.]

Example of gridlock: Too many owners of fragments of mortgages leads to a meltdown because there are too many people for renegotiation of the loans.

Another example: Too many patents to deal with to make advances in bio-tech. There are about 40,000 DNA patents now. Patents have gone up, but fewer “pills in bottles” to cure people. The patents are upstream from the work done to actually save people’s lives.

Another example: “What is the most underused natural resource in America?” A: Spectrum. 90% in this country is dead air. We haven’t updated our allocation system since the 1920s. Geographic licenses with restricted uses and no transfers. That makes it extremely difficult to assemble national wireless networks. We are now almost out of the top twenty for broadband.

Another example: Why do we waste so much time in airports? Why not build more runways and airports? Air travel was deregulated in 1978, and since then only one new airport has been built. If we have 25 new runways, it would end gridlock. But every community is able to block the assemblage of land you need.

We could move from 1% to 20% of energy from wind power, but we can’t set up the transmission from one place to another because of gridlock issues.

Rap no longer raps over samples. Gridlock caused by the recording industry “trying to monetize every shard.”

All of these problems are the same problem. There used to be a fairly tight link between the patent and the product, the land and the subdivision, etc. “That’s the old style economy.” The new style is a funnel. The new style economy is about assembling resources. “The breakthroughs come from assembling multiple pieces of protected property.” The same is true in arts, history, documentaries. “The cutting edge is mashups, is remixes.” “Even with land, the most socially valuable projects require the separate assembly of pieces of property.” But ownership has not caught up with this.

One of the great opportunities is figuring out new tools for assembling resoures, and for updating the structure of ownership to conform to the new structure of innovation.

Tragedy of the commons is that when there’s no clear ownership, shared property may get overused. This was a powerful concept when it was introduced in the 1960s. I was a turning point for the environmental movement because they could see that a bunch of resources issues were really structurally the same. It was also the spur in the push towards privatization: Private property was seen as the solution to the tragedy of the commons: If you own the lake, you have an incentive not to take the last fish out of it. But, privatization can overshoot. But, you can get the tragedy of the anti-commons: Too many owners and not enough use. These tragedies are often invisible: you don’t see the waste of what you’re not using.

Michael’s aim is to make the tragedy of the anti-commons visible by roping together many instances to show they’re structurally the same.

We need to reform spectrum allocation, he says. Patent hasn’t been structurally reformed since 1952.

Q: Pharma and biotech disagree on patent policy. Pharma is more like to change its view. Why?
A: Pharma wants to protect its current pipeline, so it tends to favor strong patents. They are willing to sacrifice more speculative research. Biotech companies like to show VCs that they have patents. They worry about weakening patents.
A: [Jim, who’s written a book on this] Molecules are clearly identifiable. But it’s much harder with software and prcoesses.

Q: [jim] The biotech’s having problems, not mainly because of patents. The joke is that a biotech’s main products are patents. That aside, where’s the evident than the anti-commons is a real problem?
A: So far the best evidence is from Walsh, Cohen. They interviewed scientists who said the anti-commons is not a problem. They’re not blocked by patent law. So, this goes against my thesis. But, those studies wouldn’t get at my concerns. Scientists uniformly say that they simply pirate dozens of patents. That works until they get sued. And the Walsh study doesn’t consider commercial R&D. In pharma, they’d rather extend their current drugs. I don’t think I’ve proven that gridlock is the crucial issue, but it seems to be an issue. By not changing the patent law you’re implicitly making policy as well.

Q: Does what you describe impact innovation driven by money or across the board?
A: Across the board. The open source model gets past this. But even assembling multiple open source licenses can lead to gridlock.

Q: We had an open source CEO summit at Harvard last Friday. There was consensus that this more open approach to sw development would help them economically. Between the commons and the anti-commons, is there a commons that isn’t tragic?
A: Sure. My aim is to encourage people to come up with ways of overcoming the problems, once the problems are visible.

[yochai benkler] This is fabulous. Can you say more about what you think the solution is?For anti-commons to be the problem, you have to assume the problem isn’t with property itself. Is the solution a better idea of property? A better understanding of rights? Transaction costs? Is this about the rapid change of uses so you’re always be behind? How do we move ahead? E.g., what do we do about spectrum? How do you tell what to do? Can you think about this independent of the particular resource?
A: So, Yochai in a polite way is saying, “So what? What do we do about it?” E.g., we all agree that the current telecom model is terrible. Everyone loses. Should the solution be full privitization or a commons? If we have a technological way to get past the scarcity of spectrum, then creating private property is the wrong solution. The freedom-enhancing way is to have a commons, if we can get past scarcity. I am agnostic about this because I don’t know if we have solved the problem of scarcity. But I hope my book moves the debate forward by providing another way of showing what’s wrong.
Q: [yochai] I think the solutions lie in the particulars of the domain. The range for me is models of appropriate based on relations (software services) relative to appropriate based on units that are relatively stable. For me, the anticommons problem is a subset of the spectrum problem, in which rapid innovation renders obsolete. The real problem is that spectrum isn’t a resource. Information doesn’t fall on the floor and get lost.

Q: The public is acquainted with gridlock but frame it through government ownership or intervention, with gridlock arising from regulation. How does your framework frame intervention?

Q: In pharma, ownership incentivizes development. Can you break gridlock into communication and action? You can tell people that the 12 owners of a patent that they’re blocking development. Action would be getting them to do something about it. How do you decide whose valuation is more important?

Q: To what degree is the gridlocked society a description of a set of problems or whether it’s a metaphor. If the latter, where does it get too broad? My mortgage doesn’t really resemble my ideas. What’s the larger mechanism here?

A: On politics: There are lots of areas we deliberately design in gridlock, e.g., criminal justice system or preventing parks from being developed. There’s also regulatory gridlock that stops anything from being built.
On limiting scarcity: When is the right measure the subjective one that lets someone refuse to give up property, and when should you just have to pay the market price? It’s an old question and I don’t have a general answer.
Is it a metaphor? I think there’s more commonality in these diverse areas of the economy. So it’s partially an organizing metaphor, but it’s also meant to describe a new way the economy works. [Tags: ]


PR pitch subject lines I didn’t get past

Meet the Rockstar of SEO

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If spoilers were as incompetently directed and edited as Quantum of Solace:

Kwantom of Solars begins with this bigg car chase where it luks like a heliokopter is going to smash into a tunnel, but it turns out that the haliockropter is rally just where the camera is. Anyways, Jammes Bond lives at the end of the caar chase. Oh, but first there’s this carr chaise where three carrs are all the same, even the colorr is the same because they’re black, and they’re filmed like all quick and everything. So, one of the carz is going real fast, and another car is oh and there’s a truck, but it’s all smudgy in the shooting, so another carr or maybe the first carr is shooting at the second smudge and then the first smduge, no wait, it was the second no wait it was the third, well, no then the third smudge would be shooting at itself, anyway the blurry one is now the traffic is going the other way and there’s a truck and two of the smudges are clunking up against one and other, and wait one of them probully has Jumms Bornd in it and twank twank you here the zounds of them bullits twanking and it’s really exxciting what harppened?

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