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

December 13, 2010

Dan Gillmor’s Mediactive now active

Dan Gillmor has posted his new book. Mediactive is a handbook for anyone who consumes news, produces news, does both, or cares about either.

Dan’s published it under a Creative Commons license on his site, so you can read it for free and share it with friends. It’s also available in print from Lulu and Amazon. Dan views the book as just one more step in a long-term, continuing engagement with the topic.

Dan is one of the good guys of the Net. I’m off to Lulu to buy myself a copy!

Howard Weaver noted in the comment to a previous post of mine that he’s posted a scan of a typewritten 1976 memo [pdf] he wrote when he was at Alaska’s alternative newspaper, urging it to become more engaged. Prescient doesn’t begin to express it.

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FCC: Do Net Neutrality right

Brad Burnham, a well-known and thoughtful venture capitalist — I know him a bit, and like and respect him — has posted a letter to the FCC explaining why it ought to reject Chairman Genachowski’s compromised version of Net Neutrality (AKA “I can’t believe it’s not Net Neutrality”) in favor of something more clear and powerful.

Barbara van Schewick, an authority on Net Neutrality, has posted about a very specific example of the harm that would be done if the Chairman’s version becomes public policy: Zediva is a online DVD rental start-up that needs Net Neutrality to be viable. Zewdiva says in their own letter to the FCC:

By enabling users to watch new DVDs online, our service may be perceived to directly compete with the VideoLonLDemand service, PayPerView or other PayTV services offered by cable providers and, in some cases, the providers of fiber networks and wireless networks. At the same time, we depend on the broadband Internet access service offered by these providers to reach our users. In the absence of strong nonLdiscrimination rules and meaningful restrictions on what constitutes “reasonable network management”, these competitors will be able to exploit their control over the provision of broadband access to put us at a competitive disadvantage.

Here’s hoping that Chairman Genachowski can put on a pair of man pants and propose some real Net Neutrality (while maintaining his sense of humor).


December 12, 2010

Weizenbaum interview notes

I just came across a 1985 printout of notes I took when I interviewed Prof. Joseph Weizenbaum in his MIT office for an article that I think never got published. (At least Google and I have no memory of it.) I’ve scanned it in; it’s a horrible dot-matrix printout of an unproofed semi-transcript, with some chicken scratches of my own added. I probably tape recorded the thing and then typed it up, for my own use, on my KayPro.

Weizenbaum was a magnificent person. An early computer scientist, he was a thoughtful social critic who worried about the connection between computers and authoritarianism. His Computer Power and Human Reason is a classic.

He’s probably best remembered as the author of ELIZA, the pre-graphics faux psychoanalyst. In fact, the first thing I asked him was what was the short way to identify him. “For example, I could just say you are the author of ELIZA.” “It’d be very nice if ELIZA didn’t get mentioned at all. I’m so sick of that thing. But, what the hell.”

The scan is ok (with some cut-off margins), but my notes are occasionally cryptic and contain about 9 typos per line. But, what the hell.


December 11, 2010

Ordering your video store

Roger Beebe has posted a fascinating, polemical explanation of the thinking behind the way he physically arranged his Gainesville, Florida video store. He takes educating his visitors as an obligation of the layout. Here’s an excerpt:

There’s a pedagogy to this arrangement, and it’s clearly making a case for a certain kind of engagement with the cinema and with film history. The prevailing first-order logic is one of national cinemas as a way of thinking about large groups of films together. Within those national cinemas, there’s a decidedly auteurist bent, privileging works by significant directors (toward the start of each section) followed by non-auteurist works from those regions. US films get further important subdivisions based on the mode of production and circulation; they are subdivided into Sub-indie (underground, avant garde, etc.), Independent (following the standard nomenclature of that fraught area), and Hollywood. Hollywood is then subdivided further between auteurist works (with a breakdown stretching from Woody Allen to Robert Zemeckis) and non-auteurist works that are then subdivided by genre.

An additional strategy—and this may be more ideological than pedagogical—is the arrangement of sections from the front of the store to the rear. The store has a narrow central corridor with small alcoves of videos along each side. We consciously front-loaded the store with documentaries on one side and our Sub-indie section on the other. The more mainstream Hollywood fare is pushed much further back in the store, forcing anyone seeking out those titles to run the gauntlet past all of these alternative cinemas.

Roger makes reference to Everything Is Miscellaneous throughout, a book about which he has at best mixed feelings. He understandably takes it as an unabashed, “boosterish” argument in favor of the multiple categorizations and sortings that the digitizing and networking of information enables. But, I disagree with part of his interpretation of the book. I did not intend to argue against careful organization of physical goods (the prologue waxes enthusiastic about Staples’ store layout) or against the value of expertly curated collections. Rather, we benefit on the Web from having expert curations as well as curations by multiple, multiple experts, both professional and amateur. Mortimer Adler’s Great Books would have been a welcome addition to the Web, but it would have been only one of many “playlists.” The fact that Adler’s list would have had to compete with those of UnNamed_Teenager at Amazon is a serious problem on the Net, but it’s balanced by the unavoidable harm done during the Reign of Paper by the impact Adler’s list had on which books were actually printed and placed in libraries.

Of course, I’m responsible for not having communicated my intentions adequately.

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Boston Public Library has 15,827 photos on Flickr

The Boston Public Library has put 15,827 photos into Flickr, using the least restrictive Creative Commons licenses possible. Tom Blake, the Digital Projects Manager at the BPL reports “he images on our Flickr account have been viewed collectively over 1.6 million times since we launched the account in March of 2008.”

The photos I dipped into were well marked up with metadata, and tagged. (Their new collection is called “Misc.” :) Some great stuff there. E.g., if you’re interested in the early Red Sox, try these. Or stereopticon images.

[the next day:] Jon Udell, in a tweet [twitter: judell], points to Keene Public Library’s recent Flickr uploadingg. ” KPL nicely models photo curation,” Jon tweets.

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December 10, 2010

Berkman Buzz (Special Wikileaks Edition)

Here’s this week’s Berkman Buzz, as compiled by Jillian York [twitter:jillianyork]

  • John Palfrey hits the radio to talk about controversial site

  • Alum Derek Bambauer discusses the USICE’s seizure of 82 domains:

  • Jonathan Zittrain evaluates the latest developments for net neutrality:

  • The OpenNet Initiative looks at Net censorship in Syria:

Special Section: This Week on WikiLeaks

  • Clay Shirky envisions what a post-WikiLeaks future looks like:

  • Jonathan Zittrain and Molly Sauter provide an A-Z of WikiLeaks:

  • Dan Gillmor argues a defense of WikiLeaks:

  • The OpenNet Initiative analyzes Twitter’s trending topics vis-a-vis #WikiLeaks:

  • Radio Berkman 171: WikiLeaks and the Information Wars:

  • Weekly Global Voices: “Special Coverage: WikiLeaks and the World 2010”:

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December 9, 2010

How the Egyptians multiplied

The title refers to The Maths, people! Get your minds out of the gutter for once, will you? Jeez!


December 8, 2010

A blog not to trust

Just a note: if you’re going to Barcelona and come across blogs that favorably review the BCNinternet guide site, you should be aware that the site pays bloggers to write reviews and link to them. I know because they asked me to, and then confirmed it in an email.

Hmm, I wonder if this post counts as a review…

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[2b2k] Too Many Leaks to Know

Jeremy Wagstaff has a terrific post looking at the leaked cables not as a security problem but as an information problem. Too much data, not enough metadata, not enough sharing, not enough ability to sort and make sense of them all.

I hesitate to excerpt some key paragraphs from it for fear of distracting you from the post in its entirety. Nevertheless:

..,the problem that WikiLeaks unearths is that the most powerful nation on earth doesn’t seem to have any better way of working with all this information than anyone else. Each cable has some header material—who it’s intended for, who it’s by, and when it was written. Then there’s a line called TAGS, which, in true U.S. bureaucratic style doesn’t actually mean tags but “Traffic Analysis by Geography and Subject”—a state department system to organize and manage the cables. Many are two letter country or regional tags—US, AF, PK etc—while others are four letter subject tags—from AADP for Automated Data Processing to PREL for external political relations, or SMIG for immigration related terms.

Of course there’s nothing wrong with this—the tag list is updated regularly (that last one seems to be in January 2008). You can filter a search by, say, a combination of countries, a subject tag and then what’s called a program tag, which always begins with K, such as KPAO for Public Affairs Office.

This is all very well, but it’s very dark ages. The trouble is, as my buff friend in the Kabul garden points out, there’s not much out there that’s better. A CIA or State Department analyst may use a computer to sift through the tags and other metadata, but that seems to be the only real difference between him and his Mum or Dad 50 years before.

Read the whole thing here.

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Standing with the Net

Life is complex, but sometimes it comes down to taking sides.

I don’t mean about Wikileaks. As Micah Sifry [twitter: mlsif] has tweeted, “I don’t know if I’m pro-Wikileaks, but I know I’m anti-anti-Wikileaks.”

Me, too. Especially when the full power of government and commerce is unleashed against it. Wikileaks embodies transitional ambiguity in several intersecting, crucial social processes normally handled unambiguously by traditional institutions. So, ambivalence is a proper response, and, arguably the only proper response. (For contrast, see the right-wing American Enterprise Institute’s reaction, by Mark Thiessen.)

I know I’m anti-anti-Wikileaks not because I know I like Wikileaks (although I do lean that way). It’s not Wikileaks that has summoned the wrath of the incumbents. It’s the Internet. The incumbents have now woken up to the Net’s nature, and are deploying every weapon they can find against it, including siccing Interpol on Julian Assange for incidents of what were reportedly consensual sex. (You’ve probably already read Naomi Wolf’s scathing, hilarious response.) [Later that day: Wolf’s casual assertions are likely wrong. The charges are more serious than what I said.] As Milton Mueller writes at the Internet Governance Project:

Whatever one’s opinion about the wisdom, responsibility and ethical justification of the revelations, it has shown that there is a new countervailing force in the world that the militarists and diplomats don’t know how to control yet. This is, on the whole, a good thing. It is true that the disclosure power Wikileaks invoked can be abused. It can do real damage. But in relative terms, it is far more benign that the power it is being used against in this case and its legitimacy resides more in public opinion than anything else. The hysteria generated by foreign policy hawks polarizes the world around the internet and its capabilities and shows that, all too often, those who claim to be defenders of freedom are its worst enemies.

Denizens of the Net are choosing sides. To my dismay, Amazon and eBay’s PayPal have decided that they are on the Net but not of the Net. When it comes down to it, they have decided they don’t really care for the Internet all that much, except as a low-friction cash register. How we would have rejoiced if Amazon and eBay had stood up to those who want to stop the flow of information that they don’t like. Instead they folded.

Amazon’s capitulation is especially disappointing. It has so benefited from its enlightened ideas about trust and openness. Yet, because karma does occasionally get itself out of bed in the morning, they will pay: What business is going to trust its data to Amazon’s cloud, knowing that one phone call from Senator McScrooge is enough to get Amazon to inspect or destroy its data?

I have my leanings, but I am ambivalent about everything in the past fifteen year’s messy cultural, societal transition. But my ambivalence shows up in how to navigate on the unambivalent ground on which I stand. I stand with the Net.


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