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[b@10] Charlie Nesson

Charlie Nesson begins by saying that the morning had a negative cast to it. It was about fear. But he was uplifted when Yochai and Jimbo got to what Wikipedia is and could be. [Live blogging. Full of errors and omissions. Posted unedited and unspellchecked.]

He asks the general counsel of Viacom what he does in the course of a day. Mike: Viacom is an entertainment company, but it’s diverse, from cable TV to Internet. It has 140 channels around the world (ComedyCentral, MTV, etc.), video games His day consists of planning, managing, and dealing with surprises.

Charlie asks Esther Dyson what she does during the day. “I’m a court jester.” She swims every morning. She’s retired. So she does what she likes, including sitting on boards, giving advice, writing, giving talks, working with “do-good” groups trying to foster democracy in emerging markets.

Reed Hundt, former FCC chairman, says he’s on 7 boards, kibbitzes on politics.

Charlie says that he speaks for Eon, Dean of Cyberspace, and she has some questions. Wikipedia is the instantiation of the building of the knowledge commons. Why didn’t it come out of a university?

Esther: It came from neither the university nor government because they have rules and process. They don’t welcome strangers. Wikipedia is just a rule set. And, btw, you should check out barcode wikipedia. The topics are products with barcodes. [Ah, the power of unique identifiers!]

Charlie says to Mike of Viacom that Harvard is in a sense a public media company. We sit on a huge archive of material, most of which is copyrighted. The permission system is mired in transaction costs. So, we can’t use our treasure unless we pay a huge amount in time and money to free it up. So, it sits there. You too site on a huge pile ofassets. You’re looking at the system from the other side.

Mike: The system that creates those books depends on an economic incentive.

Charlie: Suppose we had the network infrastructure but no copyright. If we had to make a new system, can we agree that we would not choose the existing system?

Mike: Yes. We would have created something with many different features. You should be allowed to decide how to make your works available. But disrupting those expectations undermines people’s willingness to make works.

Charlie: The Net is a true inflection point. It changes defaults. It starts you from an open space, and you create private spaces within it. That means that the answer to Mike’s argument should be: Yes, except things have changed. We should be in a hurry to change.

Mike: There are tons of examples of those changes. E.g., the record companies have given YouTube site licenses.

Esther: If you’re really going to start over, there’s a principle that if someone creates something, they ought to control its distribution. But there are lots of business models and varieties of contracts.

Reed: Here are some facts that might be true. Over the past 20 yrs, if you look at all content, the price of the hardware in that network has continuously declined. The price of sw has stayed flat. So, the predominant value of the Net is now software. That inhibits the take-up rate in poorer economies. Linux is a response to that.

Esther: The price of the sw isn’t the inhibitor. They’re happy to use stolen sw.

Mike: There are a lot of new, efficient licenses that have developed, including blanket licenses designed to reduce the transaction costs. And we’ve developed ways to get our content out everywhere. And getting clearances are a pain in the butt for Viacom, too.

Charlie asks if we should worry about what JZ has pointed to, the locking down of devices.

Reed says that what happened to the music industry will happen to “elite universities.” You can tell by the fact that universities don’t spend a lot on IT that they don’t know how to accomplish their mission in the new world. E.g., bring Western knowledge to China.

Charlie says that the open access movement wants to bring all knowledge to everyone everywhere.

Esther: Education is about more than making info available.

Charlie: We should be able to make education that is interesting to people around the world. But can you do that with Verizon in charge of the connection and the cellphones?

Reed: In most countries, it’s a state-owned company and has nothing to do with education. We now know that within 15 yrs virtually everyone will have a Net connection, and most will be a wireless connection. Universities need to get ahead of this parade or they won’t be a significant part of how people learn.

Esther: In India, she saw the multimouse, so you can stick a single usb device into a port, and it connects to 8 mice, each with its own cursor. Eight students at a time. That’s MSFT investing in emerging markets. She tells a story about S. Africa to make the point that we shouldn’t be looking for government solutions. We need open markets.

Q: (David Marglin) How do we welcome strangers? How do we beat our swords into plowshares?
Charlie: Harvard has gone open access. That’s news. Other universities notice. Elsevier notices.

Q: You’ve addressed how you broadcast your ideas. But that’s easy. Paris Hilton does that. Harder: How do you listen to all the people who have ideas? How about if Harvard could listen to all those people. And how about getting the science dept to talk with the art dept?

Q: If there were no copyright, we’d have a digital library of Alexandria. Copyright is about providing incentives, not about lowering transaction costs, etc.

Mike: The library wouldn’t exist if people didn’t have incentives. It’d be great if al content had metadata so rights could be cleared automatically, lowering transaction costs. [So there we have the two visions: A system of perfect control to lower transaction costs, and a commons. Me, I want the commons. [Tags: ]

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