Joho the BlogNovember 2010 - Page 2 of 4 - Joho the Blog

November 22, 2010

Copps shows gumption at the FCC

While FCC Chair Jules Genachowski has hesitated so long on Net Neutrality that he’s lost his legislative majority, explaining that he’s trying to balance the financial interests of providers who have already been heavily subsidized and given near monopolies, and who nevertheless have given us an unevenly distributed sub-par infrastructure, one of the other four commissioners is standing up without equivocation for an Internet equally open to every idea.

Commissioner Michael Copps calls for re-classifying the Internet as a telecommunications service, undoing the mischief of classifying it as an information service. “[Let’s] actually call an apple and apple!,” he says.

Commissioner Copps also excoriates the Google-Verizon proposal because it excludes wireless and because it would create “tiered Internets”: “‘Managed services’ is what they call this. ‘Gated communities for the Affluent’ is what I call them.”

You can read Commissioner Copps’ comments here (pdf). (via Slashdot) [Me on Googizon, and an interview with Rick Whitt, Google lawyer.]

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November 21, 2010

What the inside of a computer looks like

Silestone — ‘Above Everything Else’.

By Alex Roman. Completely computer-generated. More here.

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Circumvention is not enough

Rebecca MacKinnon argues forcefully in a Wall Street Journal op-ed that merely funding circumvention tools is not enough if the State Department really wants to support Internet freedom around the world. Circumvention tools enable citizens to get around government censorship of the Net, but these tools are often imperfect, carry their own risks, and require more than average technical skill. Meanwhile, Rebecca argues, there are many threats to Internet freedom other than government blocking of access fo Web sites. She writes:

A range of fast-evolving technical problems requires an array of solutions. Activists around the world need technical assistance and training in order to fight cyber-attacks more effectively. We need more coordination between human rights activists, technology companies and policy makers just to understand the problems, and how they can be expected to evolve in the next few years.

What\\\’s more, existing research indicates that many of the problems aren\\\’t technical, but rather political, legal, regulatory and even social. Other obstacles to free expression are probably best addressed by the private sector: Social networking platforms like Facebook and Twitter should be urged to adhere to business practices that maximize the safety of activists using their platforms.

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November 20, 2010

You’re welcome :)

When my wife and I spent a year in Portland Oregon in 1979 or so, we went house to house for Ron Wyden, who was running for his first term as a Congressional Representative. This was so early in his career that when my wife first called his headquarters to get his position on some issues (that’s what you did before the Internet, children), Wyden himself called back that evening and talked with her for half and hour.

So, now Senator Ron Wyden has put the kibosh on the awful bill that would have let the government censor the internet.

I understand that if I had stayed home instead of knocking on doors for a few afternoons, Wyden would still have won and history would have unfolded in exactly the same way. A volunteer could not do much less than I did for the Wyden campaign.

Nevertheless, I have three observations:

First, I have felt attached to Wyden (who obviously wouldn’t remember me) ever since pitching in three decades ago. Silly, but there you have it.

Second, a relative handful of people — there were maybe dozens of volunteers? scores? — did make some difference to the campaign, and those little actions have unrolled to much larger consequences. One might even say that history consists of disproportionate effects.

Put the first and second observations together and you get the fact that even though your individual action may have no decisive effect, it can contribute to a tiny nudge that ends up making a difference, and, in any case, you can feel connected to a cause and a narrative.

Third, thank you, Senator Wyden!

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Berkman Buzz

This week’s Berkman Buzz,, as compiled by Jillian York:

  • Dan Gillmor [twitter:dangillmor] mulls over Facebook’s latest announcement: link

  • Ethan Zuckerman [twitter:ethanz] shares some thoughts on libraries in the digital age: link

  • Alumna Rebecca MacKinnon [twitter:rmack] offers suggestions on U.S. Internet freedom policy: link

  • Radio Berkman 168: Rethinking Music, Part I – Creativity, Commerce, and Policy: link

  • VozMob (Mobile Voices), co-founded by Fellow Sasha Constanza-Chock [twitter:schock] , wins a World Summit Award: link

  • Weekly Global Voices [twitter:globalvoices] : “Cuba: Fiber Optic Cable May Not Bring Greater Internet Access” link

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November 19, 2010

[2b2k] Curation = Relevancy ranking

I was talking with Sophia Liu at Defrag, and disagreed with her a bit about one thing she said as she was describing the dissertation she’s working on. I said that relevancy ranking and curation are different things. But then I thought about it for a moment and realized that given what my book (“Too Big to Know”) says, and what I had said that very morning in my talk at Defrag, they are not different at all, and Sophia was right.

Traditional filters filter out. You don’t see what fails to pass through them: You don’t see the books the library decided not to buy or the articles the newspaper decided not to publish. Filtering on the Web is different: When I blog my list of top ten movie reviews, all the other movie reviews are still available to you. Web filters filter forward, not out. Thus, curation on the Web consists of filtering forward, which is indistinguishable from relevancy ranking (although the relevancy is to my own sense of what’s important.)

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November 18, 2010

[defrag] Semantic 10 minute sessions

Ann Hunt is describing Primal‘s ability to let people create what she calls “idiosyncratic ontologies.” It wants to let two people have differing tags and ontologies about the same objects, and see the shared and social point of view. From the Primal site: “The Primal Semantics API helps users find material of interest in a larger collection of information. It organizes responses into hierarchies of concepts, with broad topics leading to more specific ones.” Ann stresses that it’s cool to bring together individual points of view and semantic networks.

Bob Smith of ISYS Search Software says that most people don’t find what they’re looking for on Google the first time they search. Google is an ad company, not a search company, so “you shouldn’t buy your next search service from an ad company.” Today, we need search everywhere, for everything. Bob then pitches us on Isys.

Brian Cheek of TigerLogic says he’s in the search enhancement business. Links make problems for searches, he says. Google instant preview helps a little, he says, if it’s for a site you’ve been to already. He focuses on YoLink, which provides more intelligent searching and browsing within particular domains. It’s a browser add-on that’s available for incorporation into apps by developers. YoLink mines links, extracting content from them based on your key terms. You can check-of the returns of interest and publish them directly into a Google Doc or tweet them. You can explore a set of links without having to browse to each of them.

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[defrag] JP Rangaswami

JP Rangaswami begins by talking about watching Short Circuit in 1986. Robots only have information and energy as inputs. What if we thought about humans as having the same inputs, JP wonders.

NOTE: Live-blogging. Getting things wrong. Missing points. Omitting key information. Introducing artificial choppiness. Over-emphasizing small matters. Paraphrasing badly. Not running a spellpchecker. Mangling other people’s ideas and words. You are warned, people.

Think about cooking as the predigesting of food — making it easier for food to be digested. Cooks prepare food in external stomachs. Our brains evolved because we discovered how to cook. Can we look at information that way?

We talk about info overload, but not food overload. Having too much food isn’t a problem so long as we make sure that people have access to the excess. As JP thought trhough the further analogies between info and food, he realized there were three schools of how to prepare food. 1. The extraction school divides and extracts food, and serves them separately. 2. Another ferments food. You put foods together, and something new occurs. 3. Raw food is like the Maker generation of information: I want to fiddle with it myself, and I need to know that it came without additives.

We can think about what we do with information using these three distinctions. Some of us will work with the raw data. Some of us will prefer that others do that for us. Information should learn from food that it needs a sell-by date. E.g., look at how the media use Twitter. Twitter is a different type of food — more like raw — than you get through the institutional delivery methods.

Should we have an information diet? Would watching a single news outlet be the intellectual equivalent of the Morgan Spurlock “Supersize Me” movie? Maybe information overload is a consumption problem. We need to learn what is good for us, what is poison, what will make us unhealthy…

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[defrag] Jud Valeski

Jud Valeski of Gnip is talking about the rise of APIs. There’s ben a doubling of publicly available API’s in the past few years, Jud says. He shows Wired’s “The Web is dead” chart that shows the proportion of bits moving through the tubes. But, API usage shows the Web is not dead.

NOTE: Live-blogging. Getting things wrong. Missing points. Omitting key information. Introducing artificial choppiness. Over-emphasizing small matters. Paraphrasing badly. Not running a spellpchecker. Mangling other people’s ideas and words. You are warned, people.

He divides APIs into two buckets. Functional APIs make periodic calls for bits of information, and are heavily cacheable because there’s static data on the other side. Most of the problems are solved: REST has won, along with Curl.

Volume APIs are a different matter. Call frequency and throughput are high, “and things get wonky.” The call characteristics change. Local programming challenges fall out into the network and cause problems, e.g. queuing.

We don’t yet know how to deal with SLAs (service level agreements). Open network toopology APIs don’t have clear SLAs.

He minimizes the shock by leveragng best practices, finding comonoality in the frameowkr (mashery.com, apigee.com, gnip.com), builing APIs that set the standard.

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November 17, 2010

[defrag] Scott Porad on how we fileter 0,000 user submisses per day

Scott Porad from the Cheezburger Network, a network of humor and entertainment Web sites, including I can Has Cheezburger. Memebase, The Daily What, and Failblog.

NOTE: Live-blogging. Getting things wrong. Missing points. Omitting key information. Introducing artificial choppiness. Over-emphasizing small matters. Paraphrasing badly. Not running a spellpchecker. Mangling other people’s ideas and words. You are warned, people.

It’s mainly user-moderated. As an example, Scott takes us through the steps for the Cheezburger site.

First, the home tab where you can submit content. The LOL builder makes it easy for users to add captions to images. They get 300,000-500,000 submissions to their network every month, but they only publish 1-2 percent. How do they cull? There’s no secret sauce, no magic algorithms. It’s a four-step human process.

Step 1: All submissions are screened by an editor, looking for image quality (not taken on a cellphone at night, etc.), appropriateness (no nudity, violence, racism), germaneness (a dog photo submitted to the cat site?), and keeping photos of humans out. Most of what gets submitted is junk, and gets screened out.

Step 2: Using the second tab, users vote or add a submission to their favorites. They also look at which content has been shared on social networks.

Step 3: User screening for offensiveness and copyright violations.

Step 4: Editorial curation.

They tried outsourcing it, but there’s too much specific to our culture, and requires too much editorial judgment.

Scott shows us his the favorite photos in his own account profile. ([Some very funny ones.]

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