April 30, 2004
China's Digital Future Conference
Just started. Webcast there as well. First introductions....
Orville Schell, dean of the JSchool at UCB: Now in China, there is the question, what does it mean to be Chinese? The internet is one of those places where you begin to see the discussion, weblogs, chatrooms, txt messages.
Will China change the internet? This is an old theme in China: use technology from the west but then also reject politics, value, all the things that create revolution and radical change. Can China use what it wants but keep its own identity, keeping out what it finds too foreign? He quoted John Perry Barlow: the global space you are building will naturally be free of the tyrannies you are imposing... and then noted the posting on the internet in China recently with 14 questions for the propaganda department, why they exist, posing the kind of challenge that Barlow would have been proud of.
Annalee Saxenian, our new dean of SIMS: The Politics of Standards. Some people refer to it as the politics of protectionism.... And key for future development in China: applications, content, engineering and design. And the internet.
Panels on Internet Development in China and Regulation and Control of the Internet. Here are some notes from the second panel this afternoon:
Cindy Cohen, EFF: every time there is a new tool, a free speech mechanism, it has to fight for it's survival...
regarding privacy, the record of the internet has been more mixed... on balance. Architecture as policy - Mitch Kapor. That is an important observation, because the architecture will determine people's rights. In China we see the worst story around, where greatly accelerated internet use, 78 million users in China and 4 million broadband users.
Original strategy was filtering content. But the strategies to get around those are easy to implement and widespread. So now the reaction is not so much content filtering, but a distributed system of surveillance, with systems installed on users computers and used by ISPs -- often made by US companies and government who are trying to use those things here. And the US government has started this with Kalia, and forced it onto foreign governments through standards. China has taken the lead on doing voice recognition software for the purposes of surveillance and for doing video with almost instantaneous high speed transfer.
Bill Xia, pres of Dynamic Internet Projects -- and makes technologies that can get around the surveillance systems: He says the biggest challenge in China today is not technology, but the social issues. In China, surveillance occurs during the routing of packets where the to and from are watched. Also, the government claims that they are blocking things like porn sites, but in fact when you look at the blacklists, this is not true. There is severe overblocking of all sorts of things, including sites like 3dweb.com. Fear: truth or illusion? People say they don't worry because they have nothing to hide. But it occupies people's minds. And destroys traditions, as well as changes language: traditional Chinese characters have been filtered out of the culture. He thinks that there are cracks in the Chinese control system, and the fact that there are 500k users in China of his company's system to get around the control (out of 78 million users in China).
John Battelle (moderator) asked if users feel it's dangerous to use the product. And Xia responded no for regular users, but yes for some others, but then got cut off on the next presentation.
Jonathan Zittrain: Gave a chilling effects example where a DMCA C&D letter caused Google to remove a site, where on the supply side, the links then went to the original info at chilling effects. But on the other hand, other sites are deleted entirely from French and German search sites.
On the demand side, if you go to Google.com in China, you are redirected to the University of Beijing search site. Also, some testing of sites showed they were blocked by China, as well as many key word searches like "std" or "revolution." Found a few thousand sites that were blocked, including news sites, UC Courts, British Courts, porn, etc.
Tracking filtering is becoming more difficult, because there are new forms of filtering including the client side stuff. Also, if you do the wrong search, you are blocked from Google for about 20 minutes. Including searches that are not subversive at all. Comparatively, in Saudia Arabia, it's more bark than bite, verses China, which is the opposite.
Opennet Initiative is Zittrain's latest project examining filtering, along with folks from other universities. Examples of filtering they've found: the word "ass" in any domain gets blocked, which ends up filtering the "US Embassy" site. He clearly relishes giving this example, as with the rest of the presentation. He's having a lot of fun here.
He also challenges the NYTimes to get involved, so that when things open up, they have established their brand, since they are now totally blocked in China.
Jie Cheng, associate professor at Tsinghua University Law School: talked about how the filtering standards need to be revised. The social norms are more important than what the normative law. Later at the cocktain party, she talked about how China needs to be better with filtering, so that they don't block so many harmless sites. Obviously she has a hard job, coming here to explain her country's actions and policies to this audience but she and the audience were cordial in explaining questions and positions. It's a difficult position she's in.
Best quote of the day: Tom Vest, Packet Clearing House: "ruling a great nation is like hooking a small fish, a light touch might be best."
Dan Gillmor: Linking to Your Competitors is a Source of Your Own Authority
The second panel today at UC Berkeley's Journalism school, some loose notes (not comprehensive):
Dan Gillmor: love the idea that everyone in here can be a global publisher.
Neil Chase: CBS Marketwatch -- we are a scrappy little news room -- somebody in this room said to me a few weeks ago, why don't you just get rid of all the reporters and instead have bloggers, and you just edit.. but people like reporters and our reporters are still important hiring 40 people through journalism.jobs.com and craigslist.org.
We do take political ads, and it's great, but also get a lot of hate mail.. went to candidates and said you need to be online, but only Kerry took them up on it,
serving a wide audience...
Bob Magnuson: If things are going well, why do you need pearson and viacom?
Ken: Why is the guy from Spokane talking about this? not a lot of innovation in this area, get invited to a lot of these things. He suggests that news sites do any one of the ten new things they are trying all the time, and the guys at those news sites say you don't understand, there's a bureaucracy, we don't even have access to our own servers... so he asks, why is really interactive on news sites online? those stupid forums at the NYT aren't even interesting. Dan's book is good, interesting. But trying to get people to participate online, so that when there is an issue of journalistic credibility or news, they can get info from readers
Vin: News biz in trouble, more shovelware than ever.
Dan: eBay and Google don't do journalism, ebay wouldn't do it because it would be ridiculous.
Neil: Numbers don't say journalism or media is dead. Nnumbers say big media companies have done a bad job of doing journalism and media.
Dan: What people say to each other is most interesting to people.
Neil: blogs do two things, share opinion and point to stories -- both very important.
Dan: Missing the point here: linking is the most important thing.
Vin: Traditional news companies have to pick stories for the most wide demographic with limited paper real estate, but online those constraints don't exist....
Ken: Example, media companies, think about how they operate now and how they can adapt, but they don't think enough about the needs of the users, want to find everything you need to know online.
Dan: Linking to you competitors is a source of your own authority -- we become more authoriative by showing the best stuff now matter where it comes from.
Susan Mernit from the audience: making conversation - short discussions, across news sites to blogs, to commenters on blogs and news sites, make conversations... thinking about your readers instead of yourselves as a news site is really important.
Vin: Bloggers aren't making money. We're hardpressed to find bloggers who are.
Dan: we've trained the world to think newspapers are free anyway...
Neil: it's always been valuable to know journalism skills, and to know about areas of the world, so that you can write about it.
Dan: I don't know if the general interest reporting skill will be valuable in the future. The most valuable course, though, that I took in HS was typing. Blogs are a big step over hand coding
Vin: used to be that Asia and Europe had to come here, but now we are five or six years behind here in the US, and we have to go there to see the latest in technology and social development, and the internet.
Dan: Recommendation: Smart Mobs by Howard Rheingold. Absolutely essential.
Revisiting Virtual Communities
This panel just finished, and here are a few noteworthy remarks:
Susan Mernit was live blogging from the panel, during the panel. Markos Moulitsas (Kos), Craig Newmark (there is a new documentary about craigslist called "24 hours on craigslist.org" and Fortune just did a story on them) and Mark Pincus of Tribe.
Mernit: Tools and technology adoption are key to what's happening with people and technology. Online communities are about people and people in turn drive technology development to support themselves and their communities.
Newmark: We've collectively managed to reach a few million people between social networks, blogs etc. but how do you get past that echo chamber.... When you grow up as a nerd, you learn what it feels like to feel left out, and when you gow up, you think about it and figure out how to include people, which is what craigslist is working on now.
Pincus: All leads aren't the same -- just like search results were too much on alta vista in the beginning, as we deal with each other now on social networking sites, we need filters and ways to qualify information so that we get better info. We also choose to expose ourselves to each other and we want to get good things back, not bad. The network is the database -- tell the network who we are and then automagically, the network will help us find a group that we could be a part of... the genesis of tribe was political - though I have no interest in public interest job. The process is the platform.
Kos: There is no fair and balanced media -- I think everyone has bias and it seeps into coverage. Fox has viewers for a reason, ABC, NBC and CBS are boring -- and newspapers lose readers for a reason, but newspapers in England are a lot more lively.
Pincus: Google has proven that if you put things in context, and clearly identify things people like it. They did tests, and people said they liked craigslist because it had no ads, but actually it's all ads, but the ads are content and they are where people expect the ads to be. If I see an ad before a movie, I'm annoyed, but I want to see them in the right categories on craigslist. We are in an age of "utility media" that moves away from "entertainment media", where it's like a free cab ride in Mexico to the time share, but then you have to listen to this ad.... Craig has proven that it's sustainable, Tribe hasn't proven it yet, but there is no reason to have it be an adversarial relationship.
April 29, 2004
Both JD Lasica and Christian Crumlish blogged the dialog, and they were a whole lot nicer than I would be recounting it. The panel was all over the place, totally unfocused, though people said interesting somewhat random things. Most interesting was the small disagreement between Ray Kurzweil (on video) and Howard Rheingold (who didn't wear his usual cool shoes -- which is an important reason to attend any panel with Howard, in addition to his usual insightful and brilliant remarks -- so disappointing that he wore what looked like gardening clogs). From JD:
- Kurzweil pointed out that information is becoming a more important component of society's values and services. "We have a crisis in copyright protection. It does take capital formation to create these intellectual properties like music and movies."
- Rheingold then broke in, saying, "Ray, I'm astonished you're falling for that. It's not about only protecting property, it's about incenting people to be creative." He cited the wording of the U.S. Constitution about promoting the arts and sciences, and said that balance has been lost. "I could care less about the business model of the motion picture industry. Certainly we can come up with ways to use p2p without having to prop up archaic business models."
- "It's clear IP laws are broken," Denise chimes in. "Every regulatory agency is busted. How do you foment an uprising and get people to move en masse to effect change? It seems that with big media there's a very thick crust that's very difficult to break through."
Overall though, talking about how we should do this, that and the other, generally, about the whole world, non-specifically, imprecisely, covering things that everyone would agree with, is a boorish waste of 5 really smart interesting people who could have focused on one aspect of science, ethics, the internet and new technologies and iterated, telling us something we could think about and get challenged by. Instead, the moderator, Christina Desser, let the discussion veer all over, so that they just made bunch of random useless remarks about how we should should should.
The reason I stayed? I had a really nice chat with Isaac Mao, the first Chinese blogger, who's been followed into blogging by 300,000 others in China. Also, lots of other interesting folks came, including Sylvia Paull who had the same reaction as I did to the panel. I wished she'd been moderating. She would have turned that whole thing right around and gotten them focused on something constructive.
April 28, 2004
Blogging and Social Networking on Ebay
By now, 2 hours and 24 minutes before the close of horseplaypublishing's auction, and 4.8 million page views later, this wedding dress has a bid price of $15,100.00 (pdf or htm). Yesterday at noon there were about 683k page views and the price was $690. The guy selling it (he's also modeling it) has written commentary as well as additional information about the auction responses, including media interviews and tons of email, after the initial post on the dress itself. His motivations for selling? His wife left him and he found the dress in the move, and he wants to get money for Mariner's tickets as well as some beer -- noble goals for any eBay seller.
I'm waiting for eBay to set up comments, trackback, and of course, links to this post from other bloggers. Actual online social networking here. And his website will be coming soon. Hopefully he does a blog himself because the writing is so funny. Though horseplaypublishing does report that, "EBay has graciously allowed me to update this page once more. So I will keep it brief." EBay has something on their hands that they may not understand the extent of, or if they do, it's not reflected on their site, but it's incredibly cool. Let users play and they'll come up with something really interesting.
April 27, 2004
18 Months of Phone Cam Photos
April 26, 2004
Today, instead of blogging myself, I've decided to leave comments on other blogs. Some on grade information and inflation at Freedom to Tinker and some with Jeff Jarvis on representation of the public by the press and some with JD on the DMCA and search engine C&D's. It's just easier than figuring out what I think here, right now, in a state of anxiety.
Trying to finish up school, everything that isn't about finishing (working out, spending time with a couple of people, and sleeping are excepted as big stress relievers) just leaves me racked with guilt. This includes blogging. I've got two major papers and a system due by May 13 at 5pm. Every piece of extraneous paper or any dirt in the house is driving me nuts. I just want this to be over, and yet I don't because I also enjoy the people I work with at Berkeley, and my experience there. But I can't sit in this spot for very much longer. I need it to be over soon.
April 25, 2004
Silicon Valley Lamented
Thomas Friedman writes that the SV folks (and I think more generally representative of innovators and developers in the greater US) he just visited think we are losing our edge. Can't disagree. Various reasons are cited, including universal health care offered in other countries, tax breaks, better education of the populace, getting bogged down in political issues like Iraq and a competitiveness-and-innovation struggle between India, China, Japan and their neighbors. Apparently we are sort of ignoring that last one in the US. Too complicated to address, no?
But what Friedman totally neglects, our fearless leader marginally gets, according to Jeff Jarvis: "We're lagging a little bit on broadband technology." Try a lot. Add to that mobile and wifi culture, and an understanding of digital media in all forms, possibilities, limitations and manifestations. This is knowledge that develops from using technology, interacting with gadgets and people, communicating and creating communities of shared digital media, ideas, people, interest. You have to play with the stuff to know it. How do you build on this digital culture, which is status quo in parts of Asia and Europe, but 5 years behind for people in the US, if you don't have the infrastructure, and open standards, and a critical mass of users playing and an IP regime that encourages the push and pull of data. Those users will take frameworks of technologies in their heads, then understand it enough to build on it, innovate, make something for sale. These communities exist in Japan, Italy, the UK, Finland, South Korea, India and on and on.
Graduate classes here in the US read papers about people in those places using these technologies. Better than nothing, for sure, but how stupid are we, to have such ridiculous closed standards and IP lock-down and backward networks and pricing structures. Can you say FCC and the BF? It's our own fault really. We're doing this to ourselves.
April 23, 2004
Giga... Tera... Peta. Got it.
Brewster Kahle is chatting up front at CFP (where I've been all week; conf mood? lite paranoia peppered with ironic humor) about the Internet Archive, and the may-we, will-we, should-we questions of archiving the entire universe of digial stuff. It's a lot of stuff too. Peta's full.
Rest of the week has been interesting, RFID, voting issues, awards to the likes of Avi Rubin, a big vote off between Avi and Deirdre Mulligan (one computer voting system said Avi won, one said Deirdre won -- who can tell, no paper trail), ethics of online data collection, privacy statements, the FCC and DRM, music distribution. All the usual folks. And guess what, in the midst of the issues they can laugh at themselves. Like John Gilmore today, at lunch doing a low hiss at one thing the keynoter, Rachel Brand from the DOJ said, and when I turned around and peeked at how serious that was, he giggled.
Honestly, I'm kind of tired and don't have anything interesting to say about these things right now. But still the conference was well put together, had humor and the folks that care about this stuff and doing interesting things.
Brewster just finished with a story: a man who had a bookmobile on a camel, and the answer to he gave to the problem of stability in his system? Have two camels.
As Mike Godwin said later over drinks with the cfp crowd, best cfp in 10 years.
ps, Joe Hall did some great CFP blogging this week.
April 22, 2004
News panels and then The Internet and China Conf Events next Thursday, Friday and Saturday at UCB JSchool
Xiao Qiang's conference looks to be very good, with a cool list of participants and focus on Asia and the Internet in ways that I haven't seen at any of the conferences I've been to in the last year or two.
Revisiting Virtual Communities: The Internet's Impact on Society and Politics Friday, April 30, 2004, 9:00 am -- 10:15 am in the Library. Criag Newmark, Markos Moulitsas Zuniga of Daily Kos Weblog, Mark Pincus of Tribe Networks and Susan Mernit.
Disruption the News Industry: Media Concentration and Participatory Journalism next Friday the 29th at the JSchool at UCB: 10:30 am -- 12:00 pm at in the Library, Berkeley. 5 solid people on the panel: Neil Chase, Vin Crosbie, Dan Gillmor, Ken Sands and Bob Magnuson, who is moderating.
China's Digital Future: Advancing The Understanding of China's Information Revolution bet 1:00 pm -- 5:00 pm, and Saturday. Keynote: Larry Lessig, with these speakers...
Duncan Clark, BDA China Ltd.;
Stella Xi Jin, Vantone International Group;
AnnaLee Saxenian, UC Berkeley School of Information Management and Systems;
Cindy Cohn, Electronic Frontier Foundation;
John Gage, Sun Microsystems;
Andrew McLaughlin, Google Inc.;
Haibo Lu, Sohu.com;
Chunyuan Liang, Sina.com;
Xiao Qiang, UC Berkeley China Internet Project;
Susan Shirk, UC San Diego's Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation;
Andrew Lih, University of Hong Kong;
Richard Baum, UC Los Angeles Center for Chinese Studies;
Benjamin Liebman, Columbia University Law School;
Bu Wei, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
Also, Thursday night there is this:
Technology and the Quest for Human Mastery Thursday night the 29th, 2004 7:00 pm -- 9:00 pm at Pimentel Hall, UC Berkeley with Denise Caruso, founder and executive director of the Hybrid Vigor Institute with Ray Kurzweil (By videoconference), founder of Kurzweil Technologies, Inc. and author of The Age of Spiritual Machines, Howard Rheingold, Richard Rhodes, Mark Schapiro. Moderated by Christina Desser, co-editor of Living With the Genie, and Introduced by Michael Pollan.
April 19, 2004
I wrote this up Sunday morning after Bloggercon, but then had trouble finding wifi in Cambridge (wifinder only showed Starbucks which requires a TMobile account which I don't have) and forgot my cable for using pdanet (d'oh) and no Cingular www access for some reason on my phone, so I'm posting this upon returning.
Like a lot of conferences, there are interesting talks, but I go for the people, a certain subset of the communities I'm in, and Bloggercon was this way too. I loved meeting a bunch of bloggers I hadn't known in person before, and reconnecting with the ones I do know. Betsy DeVine waxed sweetly about Kevin Mark's helpfulness at the last Bloggercon and lamented his absence, and Micah Sifry, Dave Winer (our host) among others.
Dinner Friday night was a lot of fun. Sitting near to Jeff Jarvis and Jay Rosen, Henry Copeland walked past near the end, looked at me and said, "Oh, you're part of the blogging journalism mafia." I had no idea. But I guess so. I have sort of been actively keeping my picture off the internet for a while, at least associated with my name, but Dan Gillmor posted it, so here it is, kind of cinema verite. I actually kind of like it (I usually don't like photos of myself). I was thoroughly enjoying talking with Halley Suitt and Werner Vogels there.
Saturday morning, lots and lots of bloggers in the rooms. So many, it's hot hot hot. We are wondering about whether they have the weekend settings for airconditioning on, because so little air is coming out. But Wendy and Dave and others have done a nice job of putting on a (free!) conference on a limited budget so you really can't complain, can you. Spend much of the day IM-ing with people who couldn't get on the IRC, but were listening though the audio webcast which was dropping people regularly. Just ended up typing the dialog in the room to them. Later as the IRC was on the wall in sessions, Loic LeMuir got on, sending me a "hello mary" to hoder, who responded that he was not me (two d's in my name verses hoder's one d) and this flashed behind the speaker and sat there on the wall for a while. Then someone in the room put the IRC on notice that they were projected on the wall of the room, for the benefit of those outsides the room (Loic was in Spain yesterday). Lot's of smiles on the IRC.
So Jay Rosen's session was my first, followed his essay Friday where he said it was his most misunderstood post ever; that everyone fixated on one line, "Blogging is not journalism, but bloggers now filter and edit journalists, and journalists read blogs.
". He turned those thoughts right around positively as the basis of the most interesting discussion of what happens when blogs move toward journalism and journalism moves toward blogs without descending into the either/or problem. Great audience participation discussing these issues, with journalists, bloggers and heavy readers there giving perspectives, and Jay channeling us toward more constructive thoughts on this than many recent conferences. We talked later and agreed that with an audience that spends so much time online and on blogs, maybe a critical mass has witnessed and discussed and hashed enough previously online that we could quickly move right to the good stuff in discussion. Jay is so masterful. If I could ever lead and speak half as well I would be happy.
David Weinberger's session was on the use of blogs in business settings, and blog ROI, both the internal knowledge management kind and the external sorts including marketing, pr, conversing with your customers, Scobelizer-transparency as well as the Raging Cow debacle and Rick Bunner suggesting that like media training there should be blog training. My thought on the internal sort of blogs is that the same problems that hit knowledge management systems in the 90's may affect internal blogs. (link to examples) where people in various sorts of businesses would reject them because they were afraid of losing control over their biz contacts as well as their most important business information and the context it is associated with, refused to use them, especially in partnership types of businesses, or where competition amongst the staff was part of the culture. Most useful was a thought at the end of the session that if any of the external business blogs are to work, people in companies have to stop thinking of their communications as one-way, and start sniffing around the internet for the cultures and conversations that matter to their business and marketplace. And then, their blogs may turn out to be little conversations, with 25 people at a time, as specific issues and perspectives are addressed. Microclimate markets.
Nice lunch at Casablanca, which I recommend for the Salade Nicoise, which turns out to be really terrific, with Vin Crosby and the always lovely Susan Crawford, who is working hard on mapping legal issues to the practical and social interactions we engage in online, for the purpose of finding ways to self-regulate things like spam. She's iterated further since she presented her work-in-progress at the Yale talk two months ago.
Rebecca MacKinnon talked about international blogging communities and communications. Great discussion. Ethan Zuckerman talked about his visualization of blogger coverage vs. Google news coverage of different places.
The red areas are places that blogs talk about more than traditional news, the blue areas are places they speak less about and the white areas are places with equal frequency of discussion (Ethan admitted in the session that he has a visualization problem with the colors he chose and the way they represent the information and so will work on this problem further"). But the discussion nicely outlined the issues where often the focus of blogs is American or Western, and international issues are left out. Jeff Jarvis pointed out the idea of adopting a country, and conversing with and highlighting bloggers is a start. And thoughts about blog software available in other languages (why isn't Google making a localized Blogger?), when we focus on the international (Jay Rosen notes the compelling nature of traditional media coverage of international events and how the bloggosphere often follows that lead, as well as his desire to be a more international blogger but for the translation hurdles), and Jeff noting how in the bloggosphere, its still an American-centric situation where things become important when American bloggers talk about it. We agreed that better tools for translation, connection, seeing conversations and more attention to this issue are key. Finally, it was noted that "international" was a word he heard once come up once at Bloggercon I, and so having this session, getting this issue out explicitly, was really a great leap. But then again, there is so much to improve still.
Last session was with Jeff Jarvis on business models for blogs. Jeff is hilarious, starting us off a little like a real estate seminar, asking who wants to make money, and yet he's very serious about making blogging more sustainable for bloggers. He's working of his wiki, and going through ad models and interaction models and uses of blogs to get other work. In the end, we voted on 7 or 8 different things, choosing what was most important to address in the bloggosphere. It came down to a vote between two things: stats on blogs and traffic, and a trade association for blogs. Doc (in Santa Barbara) voted for stats, as did I, and the final count was for good reporting and stats. Then Tristan Louis asked Oliver Willis what he would do if the Kerry campaign offered him $100k to place ads on his site, with the condition that he not criticize or embarrass the campaign. Oliver thought a bit, smiled, said he might consider it, but quickly decided that he would lose readers and cred if he did that. So it wouldn't be worth it. Debra Galant noted in the end that things are transparent online, that eventually disingenuous behavior is found out, and people don't trust it, so there is incentive to stay honest or no one will interact with you, link to you, read you. And so it's self-policing.
This session had so many people pouring in, I was on the floor (and damned lucky to get a step to sit on) and still more came, and it was so hot, eventually my trackpad froze. Then, there was a power surge on my side of the room and about 15 of us crashed, though I didn't completely. But my system froze more still, unable to save after the surge, I lost IM and all my session notes in the last 5 minutes, so I might as well of crashed.
The last event was Dave's Fat Man Sings, but approaching the door, the room was totally packed, a wall of heat, so I sat down on the window seat outside, an airvent under my feet, next to Betsy DeVine, who was watching a webcast of Dave, and recommended restaurants and very kindly offered me a ride back to the house where I'm staying. Scott Johnson was there as well, and Kerry Campaign rep. And Hylton Jolliffe of Corante fame, Seth Finkelstein whom I've been wanting to meet for the longest time who is very interesting, and Jay McCarthy. And Chris Lydon, Tom Biro, Renee Blodgett. And Rick Heller who is making an open source novel.
Had a lovely dinner at Legal Seafood, and one of the best lobster bisques (better than the lobster cappuccino at Le Bernardin, more lobster and nicer flavor). But now it's back to work. I have a month to go of school and getting to a certain stage in my projects, CFP next week, another blogging and China conference the following week at the JSchool at UCB, and so much work to get done. However, it was completely worth coming to Boston for the weekend. I came for the people, and they did not disappoint. Reminds me a little of the end of Lily Tomlin's one woman show "Search for Signs..." where the aliens are talking with the homeless lady, whom she has been schooling in human behavior and culture, and she asks how their trip to the theater was, and they say they spent the whole time watching the audience. She is surprised, and asks why, and they tell her that like the comparison of a soup can to Andy Warhol "Soup Can", the play was soup, the audience was art. In this case there was less play, some very good moderating, with mostly audience participation, so really I'm not discounting the sessions. Just that I really enjoyed the participatory nature of the discussions and the wide range of comments from lots of different very interesting people with the desire to figure out the best possibilities for moving forward with blogging.
On Sunday afternoon, I was walking with my friend in Cambridge, and surprise! bumped into Werner Vogels, who most helpfully told me about the MIT Hotel two blocks away with wifi. The MIT Hotel is really cool inside with displays of interesting art/sci projects (what else). Alas, it was only for guests....
April 16, 2004
The Practice and/or The Tool: Journalism and Blogging
Usted habla espaņol
April 15, 2004
IBM Says Let the Napsterization Roll
So, the age of open media? Game? Well IBM is. They are predicting in Entertainment Media 2010 that in the next 5 to 7 years media will be open, both for distribution and copying, and recommends that content companies let the rip, mix, burn thing contribute to their business model.
- ...in order to survive, media companies will have to move to a truly open environment, allowing consumers around-the-clock access to protected media content for variable fees and the ability to largely control their own media and entertainment experiences.
- The report recommends that companies convert all content to digital formats and open digital doors to let consumers contribute, produce or author dynamic content. Companies that make it in the new environment will allow customers access to information on their own terms, including the ability to purchase and download the rights to a book, or other media and have it configured for one or more types of devices, or delivered immediately in traditional hard or soft cover.
Mmm, show me love babe. Prrrrrrrrr.
April 14, 2004
A9 Search Goes Live... With The Attendent Privacy Issues
- Search Inside the Book: In addition to web search results we present book results from Amazon.com that include Search Inside the Book. When you see an excerpt on any of the book results, click on the page number to see the actual page from that book. (You will need to be registered at Amazon.com.) Search and Click History of sites visited including the last time you visited that site (I can see the tracking now across users of the same computer... though it is a password protected feature) mouse over Site Info, Web search results licensed from Google, the A9 Toolbar which includes Web Search of the web and Amazon.com's Search Inside the Book, Your History regardless of computer used to access the info, take notes on a webpage with the Diary and do it from any computer, Site Info and stats, Pop-up Blocker.
Don't think I'll be installing the toolbar anytime soon. Reminds me of the GMail controversy in terms of the privacy concerns. While I don't think either create enough problems to warrant not using them at all, I would be careful with both systems.
Update: check out danah's excellent "ickiness factor" and more privacy write-up. She articulates very well the issues around our discomfort with private information leaking out all over, and what designers might do to make things better.
One additional thought has to do with the "A9+everything you every bought at Amazon+everything is that there in your search history" information -- it's a preference threat, as it were, where your preferences are used to make decisions about you because someone can, because they gather your purchasing and browsing data, and decide you are X thing... and then redline you, or treat you differently or one-sidedly change what is happening without your knowing or consenting. It's a kind of threat that can have many manifestations, because the information leaks out to places the person did not intend when exchanging personal information for some purpose. When I get a driver's license, I think of this information, my driving record and the data on the license, as associated with driving, and some kind of state identification. When I purchase at Amazon, I think of that purchase as something between me and Amazon, not me+Amazon+all their partners+those that want to check out my interests beyond purchase (searches and intentions using A9).
April 13, 2004
JD Lasica writes in The Killing Fields "of culture" about "copyright law and its challenges" and Jed Horowitz, who made Willful Infringement (a documentary for $15k!) during and after being sued by Disney for copyright infringement. Horowitz was making his own trailers for the Disney movies he was lawfully selling through Video Pipeline. He lost, because it's not fair use to make trailers of copyrighted movies. But the experience made him very aware of how copyright law stops innovation and shuts down certain kinds of expression. Many of the movie’s examples show much better than his particular story how copyright law in the digital era has been abused. Disney it seems to me had a case with Horowitz, though I think they should have worked with him, not sued him - and this is part of the problem: copyright holders only seem to know how to work the most extreme angle instead of figuring out a better solution against infringement.
One of the stories from the movie is about two party clowns who've been warned not to make balloon animals that resemble too closely any Disney characters. That seems utterly ridiculous and heavy handed.
April 12, 2004
Broadcast Flag Event April 21 in SF
Public Knowledge is hosting an event next Wednesday at the Frey Norris Gallery
in SF to celebrate the 21 tech companies that signed off recently on a letter objecting to the Broadcast Flag to the FCC. April 21st, 6:30pm - 9pm.
Companies that signed the letter include:
Aereal Inc., Bauhaus Software, Bitfone Corporation, Blossom Research (“GNU Radio Project”), CEDX Corporation, Damage Studios, Dandin Group, Feedster, Gibeo LLC, Lulu Enterprises, Inc, MySQL, Peak Internet, Slim Devices, Socialtext, Solari, Inc., Sputnik, Stonebrick Group, Ted Roche & Associates, LLC, Webmatter.com, Whizspark Corporation, and Wifinders. Download the attachment.
I can think of many more companies that should have signed off and should be involved going forward, because the BF affects so many technology innovations. But this is a wonderful start!
April 09, 2004
unmediated: tracking the tools that decentralize the media
Last night Ryan Shaw, also at SIMS pointed me to his new group blog: unmediated. Interesting stuff. Like the current top post on Participatory Panopticons, talking about 1 mpix camera phones and how all this photo/photo/video stuff changes us and we change it, and asks a few interesting questions about the surveillance, transparancy and whether society will use these tools for good.
I am about to start testing a new game prototype developed by other SIMS people with a few friends who have Treo 600's or similar stuff, that will use our camera phone web access tools to play a photo challenge game. We take pictures, post them to the web from the phone, challenge the others to match it in a short period, and then they post. Lots of txt messaging etc. But I think it will be really fun. I can't wait. And who knows, maybe that will shift again the surveillance thing. In fact, I'd feel more comfortable knowing that anyone on the internet could see something I just took a picture of, that they might recognize it (locationally) upon my posting it to a website, than someone seeing my location on their phone, without my knowing, via dodgeball=YASN+phone. At least I'm putting the info up, and can walk away from the photo site. It doesn't mean everyone will know where I am, but instead where I was. Even if where I was with the photo happened just a few minutes before. I'd rather someone I know call me on my phone, and give me the choice of revealing where I am. The phone/photo game seems much more fun and unlikely to cause that same discomfort I feel with dodgeball. But I'll play and report. Have to wait and see.
Anyway, Ryan says he hopes they keep growing into a more cohesive topic blog covering the unmediated. I think it's a great topic blog and look forward to more stuff from the group.
April 08, 2004
Dodgeball? Your Stalkers Can Kick Back and Take it Easy
But do I really want Dick who is a friend of my friend Jane's dog Spot to know that I'm standing at the corner of 24th and 3rd right now, blogging this? I mean, I guess that anyone reading this on their web phone could run over, but then I'm choosing to blog this info, and of course, my friends can call me because I've given them my number, and the can see when I'm on IM. But I choose that too. I let it happen because they are my friends and I know them. But everyone on Friendster three degrees out? That was the last time I checked in the hundreds of thousands.
I'm thinking dodging the ball seems like the right metaphor. I can see it now, people suddenly realize that so and so can "see" them, turn off their phone/web access and make for the nearest unlikely location (I just discovered the Hell's Angel's SF house a block away from here... I bet you wouldn't suspect I'd be there, right? And they are probably a whole lot nicer than that stalker you're running away from....) Okay, I probably wouldn't run away, but geez man, get over this YASNs/FOAF+something thing already. I don't want to be tracked everywhere, even if I am boring and go to the same places most of the time -- work, school, home.... I like it when I serendipitously run into people, love it, happens a fair amount, but it would drive me crazy if dodgeball were behind it.
April 04, 2004
Cost Sharing Your Computing Load Across Your Neighborhood Community Flashmob
A few thoughts from yesterday:
"It's a bloodbath down there," said Monica Ortiz, who does marketing for ClusterWorld. I met her first in the exhibits area, but an hour later she was taking refuge in the media room across campus in Koret Gym. A few journalists were in there, restless, about 3pm. One guy just said, "I want it to be more of a horserace." Parker Thompson told him that if one machine goes down, the whole test will be ruined, but it's 3:10pm and they are still doing the test across what we've been told is now 750+ machines. Parker then joked that he was betting some guy who had a machine with a broken fan, not understanding the situation, figured he'd lend it, and eventually, poof! We hoped not. But that's what they were dealing with at this event.
3:30pm, In the gym, where the computers are running, there is a loud hum echoing off the blond wood floors. There's a platform in the middle which is command central for the people running this, and a few other folks around them, but mainly it's just rows and rows of laptops and boxes.
The class that originated this project are all wearing black t-shirts with the project logo, sitting to the side of command central, at a row of tables that didn't get filled with nodes/computers. They too are playing xbox games. They all look very happy, pleased with the event and the fact that in the middle of the hum, they can pass the time with group video games while the test runs.
4-5pm, Brewster Kahle talked about his cluster setup at the Archive. He was his usual funny, enjoyable self with nice insight into the issues ("the future of anarchy net") they have putting together archives located around the globe. "Giving away something for free, if it's popular, can cost a lot. One slashdot can ruin your whole day." So he focuses on distributed bandwidth.
6pm. the results:
- FlashMob I was very successful and a lot of fun. Over 700 computers came into the gym and we were able to hook up 669 to the network. Our best Linpack result was a peak rate of 180 Gflops using 256 computers, however a node failed 75% through the computation. Our best completed result was 77 Gflops using 150 computers. The biggest challenge was identifying flakey computers and determining the best configuration for running the benchmark. Each of the 669 computers ran Linpack at some point in the day.
Also, watched them breaking down the setup, returning computers to owners. Impressively accomplished in about an hour or so. (Sorry about the blurry Treo 600 pix; it's just doesn't take great shots, esp inside in low light.)
One of the shared computers came in a little box:
Afterward, at the event party nearby, a lot of the students, sponsors and organizers congregated. They said they learned a lot. If nothing else, they realized they need to gather a more reliable set of nodes to do something like this but also plan more for the lack of reliability. As always, it's the little things.
April 03, 2004
Flashmob Supercomputing at USF Now
The project came up in a class around 6 weeks ago, where John Wichel, a grad student at USF, asked why not? By the end of class after a little arguing, they figured it was possible and put out a call for 1200 systems. Today they are flash-testing whether they can make a supercomputer that can compete with the top 500th biggest computer in the world which cost around $25 million. But this one is essentially free, because it's made up of 600+ computers lent to the project by students, faculty and the community. Mostly over the last month, he said they, the students in the class this project originated in, have been trying to figure out how to architect the software, to get all the computers connected. Some students were up all night last night still writing code. They did a lot of small scale testing the past couple of weeks until yesterday when they tested about 100 computers.
It's "super computing in a flash," says Andrew Bolles, hired documentarian for this project. A media science undergrad, he's been filming, tagging along behind the makers of this supercomputer for a month. He's doing all the editing and storyboarding too, and will make a documentary so that the makers of this project can show people what they did to pull this event and supercomputer together.
The idea has been out there for a long time, and one example is the SETI@Home program, which I've been doing for the last 5 years. Users donate their systems when not in use to SETI which harnesses the processors using highspeed bandwidth connections across the internet. The Flashmob Supercomputer in the middle of Koret Gym is doing the same thing today, all at once but all in the same location.
At the end, the project makers want to hand out CDs to laptop donators and post an image of the software to the web so that people can do the same thing with small groups of computers at home, etc. Also, they are licensing it open source so that people can modify and improve it.