Joho the BlogJuly 2011 - Page 3 of 3 - Joho the Blog

July 9, 2011

Berkman Buzz

The weekly Berkman Buzz:

* Citizen Media Law Project on Vermont’s amendment to its open records law.
* William McGeveran considers individual privacy and election law.
* Peter Suber breaks down the open access and copyright situation.
* OpenNet Initiative watches Australia turn on Internet filtering.
* Weekly Global Voices: “Togo: Fragile Truce Emerges After Five Weeks of Student Protests

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Conrad Wolfram on teaching math right

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July 8, 2011

What is Google+ for?

Edward Vielmetti asked on Google Plus “What is Google+ for?” I thought Peter Kaminski‘s response was particularly insightful. (Quoted in full with Pete’s permission.)

The purpose of Google+ is to keep you within the Google web (as opposed to having you outside anybody’s web, or in someone else’s web). Where “web” used to mean the spidered collection of documents and files available via HTTP, but has grown to mean your Digital Life.

Google’s business is to mediate as much of your Digital Life as it can — similar to the way Microsoft’s business in the old days was to mediate as much of your Digital Office as it could (back in the day when Digital Life and Digital Office were nearly equivalent). The monetization model is completely different, of course; but the more of your Digital Life Google can mediate, the more they can monetize, and the more sticky the whole suite is. Google wants to be as ubiquitous as Microsoft used to feel.

(Google and Microsoft have also had altruistic goals of making the world a better place while running their business, but of course that means they have to be successful at business to be successful in their altruistic goals.)

Google has been pretty good at understanding how far Digital Life will reach into Real Life. Want to find out where you are physically and where you’re going? There’s a Google (Maps) for that. Want to watch millions of channels of video? There’s a Google (YouTube) for that. Want to talk to your friends, family and business associates on the phone? There’s a Google (Android, Voice) for that. Etc.

It took them a while to figure out that “socializing with friends” was a big part of regular folks’ Real Life, and then it’s taken them a while to figure out how to make a Google for that. But it looks to me like they got it right with Plus.

Bonus look at the other players in the game:

Apple: understands the idea of a Digital Life, but hampered by its long-term view that Digital Life would be built around digital assets (documents, apps, media), instead of Real Life.

Facebook: has a huge head start on mediating your Digital Life, because it’s built on socializing, which is a big part of regular folks’ Real Life. May or may not figure out there are other parts to it.

Microsoft: mediated most people’s Digital Life for a long time. Parts of it understand that there’s more to Digital Life than Digital Office. But they may die by milking their old cash cow (Innovator’s Dilemma) before succeeding in the new game.

Yahoo: accidentally, subconsciously, understood Digital Life early on. Couldn’t wake up and realize it consciously, gave away the race.


July 7, 2011

1888 talking doll speaks again…by Science!

The National Park Service site has a fascinating article about the discovery of a very early talking doll made by Thomas Alva Edison. This was apparently the first commercially-available phonograph recording ever.

The artifact is a ring-shaped cylinder phonograph record made of solid metal, preserved by the National Park Service at Thomas Edison National Historical Park. Phonograph inventor Thomas Edison made the record during the fall or winter of 1888 in West Orange, New Jersey. On the recording, an unidentified woman recites one verse of the nursery rhyme “Twinkle, twinkle, little star”. The voice captured on the 123-year-old record had been unheard since Edison’s lifetime. The recording represents a significant milestone in the early history of recorded sound technology.

To “play” the recording, scientists at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory did a 3D scan of the grooves and reproduced the sound without having to touch the physical material.

Each phonograph was made live, rather than reproduced from a master, which adds just a little more of thrill to listening to it. You can hear the recording here.

[Tip of the hat to my brother Andy for the link. And see the excellent article in Science magazine.]


July 6, 2011

Hey, kids, let’s play Spot the Lobbyist!

The Sunlight Foundation is crowdsourcing the identification of lobbyists from photos of them at Congressional hearings and other such events. The aim is to get a better sense of the lay of the land. The first round is a hearing on the merger of AT&T and T-Mobile (because lord knows all that competition is driving telecommunications prices into the ground!). Go here for the photo and instructions. (And a tip of the hat to BoingBoing.)


July 4, 2011

Obama admin backs Berlusconi’s unfettered “anti-piracy” regs

Luca de Biase explains a new power about to be claimed by AGCOM, the Italian telecommunications regulatory agency, that would permit it to “remove content from Italian websites or to block access to foreign websites accused by copyright holders to break their rights.” The proposed powers implement a requirement from the Italian government that the agency take action to prevent piracy. The decision about the proposed AGCOM powers is due on July 6.

The Obama administration is backing the law, and perhaps the specific implementation. Writes Luca:

FIMI (association of music publishers) has circulated a mail about Obama’s administration support to AGCOM, quoting this US document: “The United States encourages Italy to ensure that the AGCOM regulations are swiftly promulgated and implemented, that these regulations create an effective mechanism against copyright piracy over the Internet, and that they address all types of piracy that takes place online.”

The quote comes from an April 2011 global roundup from the U.S. Trade Representative. Here’s the paragraph on Italy:

Italy remains on the Watch List with an Out-of-Cycle review to be conducted this year. Italy continued to make progress in improving its IPR protection and enforcement in 2010, including by increased cooperation among law enforcement officials and improved enforcement actions against certain types of IPR violations. The United States remains concerned that, overall enforcement against copyright piracy continues to be inadequate and that piracy over the Internet continues to grow, severely damaging the legitimate market for distribution of copyrighted works. The United States welcomes recent efforts to address piracy over the Internet, and looks forward to measures to help ameliorate this problem. Specifically, proposed regulations by the Italian Communications Authority (AGCOM) could provide rights holders with an avenue to curb IPR violations online in an effective manner. The United States encourages Italy to ensure that the AGCOM regulations are swiftly promulgated and implemented, that these regulations create an effective mechanism against copyright piracy over the Internet, and that they address all types of piracy that takes place online. The United States also encourages Italy to address other IPR issues, including a troubling Data Protection Agency ruling prohibiting the monitoring of peer-to-peer networks. While rights holders report good efforts by the Finance Police and the Customs Police, few cases reach final sentencing and courts still fail to impose deterrent level sentences. The United States will continue to work with Italy to address these and other matters.

It’s not clear that this an endorsement of what seems like over-reaching by AGCOM, but it ain’t pretty.


July 2, 2011

Tolstoy and the Shakespeare meme

Tolstoy really really doesn’t like Shakespeare. His polemic is a wonderful literary rant, taking him on for putting undifferentiated characters into ridiculous plots, speaking language no one would ever actually say, and betraying Christian values and virtues. His opening recounting of King Lear shows just how absurd the plot is, and he moves on from there.

So why is Shakespeare universally acclaimed? He thinks the Germans — Goethe, in particular — started it, and it became what would today call a meme:

With the development of the press, it has now come to pass that so soon as any event, owing to casual circumstances, receives and especially prominent significance, immediately the organs of press announce this significance. As soon as the press has brought forward the significance of the event, the public devotes more and more attention to it. The attention of the public prompts the press to examine the event with greater attention and in greater detail. The interest of the public further increases, and the organs of the press, competing with one another, satisfy the public demand. The press is still more interested; the press attributes yet more significance to the event. So that the importance of the event, continually growing, like a lump of snow, receives an appreciation utterly inappropriate to its real significance, this appreciation often exaggerated to insanity, is retained so long as the conception of life of the leaders of the press and of the public remains the same.”

His example of a story without merit is, alas, the Dreyfus Affair. Indeed, Tolstoy does a pretty bad job picking which of the current celebs would last. Among those he thinks are flashes in the pan are George Sand, Charles Darwin, and Hegel.

Now, I still like Shakespeare, although of course I wouldn’t be able to convince Tolstoy. The artificiality Tolstoy points to for me serves a greater realism.

So, Tolstoy is right that Shakespeare’s plays often begin by asking us to accept a ridiculous premise. Othello is both so in love and so untrusting that he won’t be persuaded away from the flimsiest of evidence. Lear so misjudges his daughters that he disowns Cordelia even though she could have explained herself over half a goblet of wine. Hamlet’s plot is put in motion by a ghost. But I don’t mind. I know I’m swallowing the premise so I can be put into a special space where a person — not a type, not a canned virtue or vice — will behave in a particularly human way. Shakespeare defines humans by their weaknesses, and those weaknesses are outside the simple categories of vice and sin, unlike in the morality plays that preceded Shakespeare. Othello’s weakness cannot be comprehended by the traditional vices, nor can the allure of Richard III’s evil. How else do you explain Hamlet’s coldness toward Ophelia? How do you explain Shylock except by his unique mix of avarice, justice, fatherly love…? Shakespeare redefines us as uniquely weak, flawed, and impossible to understand in the old categories.

To do so, he puts humans into unrealistic situations in which they speak in iambic pentameter, and occasionally voice thoughts only newly recognized as inner. Tolstoy makes his case clearly, but it only makes it clearer to me why Shakespeare’s standing is no mere meme.


July 1, 2011

Berkman Buzz

This week’s Berkman Buzz:

  • Dan Gillmor reviews Google+:

  • The Citizen Media Law Project explores the future of big journalism:

  • Ethan Zuckerman considers metrics for the civic impacts of journalism:

  • Herdict explains Google’s new Transparency Reports:

  • Weekly Global Voices: “Global Voices Podcast 1: Who do we believe online?”:

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