Joho the BlogMay 2010 - Page 3 of 4 - Joho the Blog

May 8, 2010

Semantic Web: The Film

Kate Ray has created a short, clear video about the promise of the Semantic Web. It consists mainly of snippets of interviews with various folks (including briefly and vapidly me). It’s got snazzy graphics and a balance of views. Nicely done.


May 7, 2010

Washington court decides the Net is its content, not access to content

I’m not saying that there’s an obvious answer to this question, but a court in the state of Washington has decided that libraries have the right to filter Internet sites available on library Net connections.

The court came to this by choosing among analogies. The Internet is like a library’s collection:

“A public library can decide that it will not include pornography and other adult materials in its collection in accord with its mission and policies and, as explained, no unconstitutionality necessarily results,” wrote the majority, led by Chief Justice Barbara Madsen. “It can make the same choices about Internet access.”

Ok, I can see that. But the Internet is also not like a library’s collection. It is a protocol that gives access to materials, not the materials themselves. Why then should a library be able to control what (legal) materials I want to access? Why isn’t that plain old censorship?

On the third hand, I do understand that libraries may not want porn on display to people who are just passing by a terminal; nor do they look forward to guys viewing porn with one hand in their pocket.

Nevertheless, if I were the judge, I would have decided that libraries ought to be in the open access business, not the censorship business. (Found via ResourceShelf)


Harold Feld’s FCC explainer

Harold Feld explains the FCC “third way” reclassification decision. He goes into a moderate amount of detail, but this is perhaps the takeaway:

…I call this a “legal reset.” Basically, Genachowski is saying “Back in 2002, when we moved cable modem service (and later other forms of broadband access) into the Title I/information services/ancillary authority box, we thought we would still have authority to protect consumers and do other necessary policy things. The Comcast court told us we were wrong. So now we’re going to move broadband access service into the Title II/telecom service box. But nothing substantive/policy changes. We’re just doing what the DC Circuit told us to do by articulating a different theory of authority.”


May 6, 2010

New novel by Bob Katz

My friend and speaking engagement manager, Bob Katz, has a new novel out. Third and Long is about a former football star out to save a dying town. I’ve just ordered it, but it’s got some great blurbage from Frank Deford and E.KJ. Dionne Jr. I look forward to reading it …

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Google’s videoadprmeme

Google’s video showing how quickly Chrome paints the screen is a good example of the lines blurring between advertisements, memes, and PR. It’s informative (including a making-of video), convincing, and totally geeky in the MythBusters blowing-sh_t-up way. And beneath its shambling nerdiness, there’s some damn fine direction and production values.

It’s an ad I watched voluntarily, which makes it hardly like an ad at all.


[A few minutes later] If I’m going to tout that Google vid, then I definitely need to push this amazing, non-commercial piece of footage about nature, numbers, and geometry.


May 5, 2010

FCC to announce a “third way”

The FCC has said it’s going to announce on Thursday a “third way” to regulate the broadband access providers to make sure that they leave the Net open and neutral. The first two ways are (1) to give up on protecting the Internet, or (2) to reclassify the Net as a communications network that counts as a common carrier (i.e., it has to let all bits go through equally, regardless of the app, origin, content, etc.).

The Washington Post headline of the AP story unfortunately reads “FCC to impose some new regulations on broadband,” thus reversing the actual meaning, which is expressed in the lead sentence: “Federal regulators plan to impose additional rules on broadband providers.” Big, big difference.

Anyway, this is a happier day than two days ago. For how happy, we’ll have to wait until Thursday’s announcement…


Good Govt 2.0 news from Australia

The chair of Australias Government 2.0 Taskforce, Nicholas Gruen, is very happy that the government has accepted his groups proposals, starting with making Creative Commons CC-BY the default license for government documents. Disclosure: I was on the advisory group for the report.

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May 3, 2010

FCC Chair caving on protecting the Internet?

The Washington Post reports that FCC Chair Jules Genachowski is intending to give up on regulating the access providers – Comcast and the gang — leaving Internet users unprotected and at their mercy.

The Post implies that the Genachowski thinks of this as leaving “broadband services deregulated.” The problem is that that will also leave broadband unprotected. We need to regulate the providers of access so that they don’t get to regulate what we’re allowed to do on our Internet.

This is Chairman Genachowski’s chance to make a difference. That he would abandon the Net to access providers who have already shown that they don’t care about an open, free, innovative Internet is just about unthinkable. Unfortunately, as of today we have to add the “just about.” Let’s hope it’s just a trial balloon.

(Marvin Ammori has a worst-case scenario list of what unregulated access providers could do to the Net … except that almost all of the items are things they’ve already tried to pull.)


[2b2k] What’s it all about?

At FOO East, at a small session, I gave a brief re-cap of what “Too Big to Know” is supposed to be about, and asked for help, particularly with the chapter I’m about to start writing (on “difference”), and with an upcoming chapter on how we make decisions. The “difference” chapter deals with the question the prior chapter — a history of facts — leaves the reader with: If we no longer (at least in many fields) have the comfortof thinking thatt what we know of the world rests on a bedrock of facts, then what do we about the, um, fact that we don’t collectively agree about anything?

The discussion was quite helpful about those two chapters, especially the one on decisions. I may blog about that later, but something quite disturbing happened during the hour-long discussion. About three-quarters of the way in, someone (let’s call him Seth because that’s not his name), said, kindly, “I understand what this book is about, but with your other books I knew why they mattered. I’m not getting why this one does.”

The problem is that Seth is just about my ideal reader. He even liked my other books. So, if I can’t explain to him face to face why 2b2k matters, then I have a problem.

Now, maybe I just did a lousy job in my overview. And, actually, I did. I got snared by some abstract points I happen to find interesting. Plus, since it was an overview, I didn’t go through the examples in the various chapters, which made the book sound more theoretical than it is. But Seth’s problem is real and worrisome.

His comment bothers me particularly because I worry that I am peculiarly hung up about knowledge. I think we’re undergoing a revolution in knowledge, but most of the world doesn’t think about it in those terms, and most of the world has been making the transition in a pragmatic and effective way anyway. This is one reason why the topic of expertise is better for the book than the topic of knowledge, although the book has slipped its leash and now seems to be chasing knowledge through the underbrush. People know that the role of experts and expertise matters.

So, here’s what I’m going to do. For now I’m going to leave chapter 3 — the history of facts chapter that’s actually about removing the hope of hitting bedrock in our arguments — as is (especially since I just finished a draft of it three days ago). I’m going to make sure that the next chapter, on the inevitability of difference and disagreement, gets pulled back toward pragmatic questions. Inevitably, in that chapter I’m going to talk about the assumptions that underlie our belief that since diversity is good for decisions, radical diversity is even better. Some of that will be theoreticalish. But I will be sure to stress practical considerations, especially how to scope difference, i.e., how much diversity of opinion is good and when does too much diversity get in the way of progress towards accepted goals. (Scott Page’s “The Difference” is useful here.) I hope also to talk about homophily, serendipity, and curiosity (= demand-side serendipity).

Addressing Seth’s question makes the chapter on decisions especially important, because decisions are where the questions of knowledge come to a head. Difference, diversity, blah blah blah, but now does this affect me at the moment when I have to say yes or no?


Legal brief for reclassification

Marvin Ammori, Susan Crawford, and Tim Wu — all professors of law — have sent a letter to Julius Genachowski, Chair of the FCC, “to support the proposition that the Federal Communications Commission has the legal authority to classify the transmission portion of high-speed Internet access–but not “the Internet”– as a telecommunications service.” This would enable the FCC to hem in the restrictions on Net access that access providers are so intent on imposing on users.


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