Joi Ito's Web

Joi Ito's conversation with the living web.

Since I live in Japan and most people here read mostly Japanese, I've been trying to write in Japanese and read Japanese blogs. (Although I speak Japan fine, my reading and writing has never been that good.) I just spent the last few hours reading a bunch of articles and entries about myself and my friends that were quite negative. I'm pretty good at taking criticism and I actually believe that reading it is important for self-improvement. Having said that, it's quite tiring. Especially in Japanese.

One thing I've noticed is that people have more "local conversations" behind your back and tend to be a bit more personal and biting in their criticism than in the US. (Although it was sort of personal when Tim May came after me for being on a government crypto committee...) I wonder which is worse, getting really negative people writing comments in your blog, being ripped apart in a mailing list, or having to hunt down negative comments... Anyway, I blogged a rather negative comment I found by an intelligent sounding guy on my Japanese blog and pinged him for a response. Let's see if this turns into a mess. An experiment in the strength of weak ties... ;-p

What I am often criticized about is trying to "take all of the credit" or creating some sort of power structure or insider group. It's really frustrating because that's exactly what I am trying fight against. How do you try to evangelize when the people you are trying to reach react negatively towards people who get attention? It's quite a dilemma. This sort of thing does exist in the US, but I think to a lesser extent. For instance, I find that the Linux community in Japan is much more closed and populated by many people who pride themselves in how much they know, happy that so many people can't use Linux. I think there is much less evangelizing to the masses.

I wonder if this us/them closed mentality is what keeps Japanese from being more politically active. It reminds me again of Toshio Yamagishi's discussion about how Japanese come from a "closed" culture...


I have thought about this issue several times, concluding that many Japanese individuals that are highly knowledgeable or cutting edge in their respective field do not derive any pleasure from educating the masses about their discoveries. Whilst you often find their US counterpart really exited by the fact that he or she is cutting edge and leading the masses.

Joi, you enjoy educating people and the masses about discoveries (regardless of whether they are your own or not) - and people get defensive and protective when you start to open up the genie bottle on their sacred territory. Then after the genie bottle is open to the masses, you end up getting some of the credit. Not your problem in my opinion.

I read through Yomoyomo's comment on you and Eno san and suspect this is the case. I would be very interested to hear Yomoyomo's response. Keep us posted. Good luck.

As much as it may sting to read negative comments about oneself, or to see people misrepresenting your work, it's clear that you have the advantage right now. You're doing something right or else you wouldn't be so busy and in demand for your perspective and opinion. So chalk some of that negative stuff up to jealousy and keep on moving forward. Keep on reading that stuff though- it keeps one humble and often you can learn more from the negative comments than from the people that always agree with you.

I personally like the American-style of broadcasting one's opinion and open discussion of decisions rather than waiting for nemawashi and endless consensus-building (the latter way is so time-consuming, more than anything else.) New Yorkers are especially vocal in their opinions and I appreciate that. The backbiting is definitely more insidious, but less visible to the masses too. It seems like both have their advantages and disadvantages.

It's clear that it's as important to have people to advertize/evangelize/get the word out as it is to have people who do the making/doing/building/ etc. Maybe these days it's even more important to be able to gather an audience than anything else because we're all so short of time and attention.

More than anything else though, I believe that Japan needs change agents at every level of society. That may be a naive and American perspective of Japan, but in my mind the house is on fire (and has been for much longer than the 12 years of the recession) but everyone's ignoring the smoke and the flames.

A comment from jun-japa (typical not-so-outspoken Japanese);

I found some negative articles on you and JBA members myself but never thought you'd act so quickly and sincerely.
Personally I think they're just trying to make fuss over something as trivial as the definition of the word "blog". Trying to sound sarcastic, revealing simple jealousy...
Maybe those people who started blogging without blogging tools from overseas long before the term "blog" popped alive were subtly insulted by your presense feeling that they were ignored, and in making reaction they just took the wrong path. They could have reacted more directly... That's what this textfield is for, isn't it? Well, it's always easier to look down upon someone than to talk in the face :(

But from the look of things it's never too late. If your 'experiment' succeeds, it might lead to a better turnout like fusing the U.S. type of blogging and Japanese way of blogging into something even more powerful... Ignore the other losers who wander spilling their guts outside 2ch.

Heard from Nishida-san you had a meeting on blogging in Japan today. Hope everything goes for the better.
Oh, before I forget, I'm the writer who helped you write and weave your thoughts in Japanese for Internet Magazine (remember me?);)

Boy is it nice to hear kind words from friends. ;-) My English side of my blog is so much more comfortable. They're evening making fun of my Japanese. ;-p

Actually, on reflection, I am finding some similarities between the Free Software Foundation and the Open Source movement. They have worked so hard building tools and thinking about the issues that it is really annoying to have somewhat shallow people come in and say, "wow! This is such a cool think that I have discovered!" The thing is, we are obviously much probably much more approachable than they think so instead of contacting us directly, they keep it inside their community.

This reminds me of the "strength of weak ties" discussion... I think CLOSED COMMUNITIES are VERY different from OPEN COMMUNITIES. Although a closed community is still a community, it is MUCH different from an open community that actively links with and has a conversation with the outside.

I also realized that by linking to sites that are negative, I am increasing their rankings in Google. ;-p

The saga continues. Now 2ch is on my case and I have been criticized that I should have written this comment in Japanese instead of English. Someone has run this entry through an auto translater on Excite which butchered it. Sorry Chietto-san, you're now involved! Anyway, I just finished doing a better translation of this into Japanese and will post it on the Japanese side. The rumblings of "The Net" in Japan is turning into a mini-feeding frenzy... The traffic on my site has doubled in the last day, mostly from links calling me a fool. :-(

Having said that, I have been a bit foolish. What I did was basically do something equivalent to telling Richard Stallman that Open Source is the next big thing. I had under-estimated the Japanese blog-like bbs, diary and wiki sites and pissed off a bunch of people by talking about how blogs are the next big thing. This triggered a wide range of Joi haters to come out of the woodwork. It is a great opportunity for me to get a lesson on where the state of the technology is in Japan. It's actually quite interesting. I will post a more positive entry about these technologies once I have it all sorted out.

I'm curious then who are the other evangelists for this kind of technology in Tokyo? My kanji skills are too weak to explore and discover. Energetic evangelists are rare. But they're important because they help galvanize community activity. I wouldn't let this deter you too much. The important thing is your motivation was coming from the right place. Wasn't it?

Yomoyomo-san wrote a fairly positive note on a bbs to me and we suggested we move on and that it didn't really matter what tools we used or what we called it as long as we built cool stuff. (Or something like that.) So now that I THINK the two of us are OK, I hope the sites bashing me will cool down a bit. There is even a site going through line by line in this entry and picking apart even the comments. I guess they don't like that the style on my Japanese side is different than the style on my English side. This will probably be picked apart too...

But I am not deterred. I think I just have to be thick-skinned and nice. I've gone through this before.

There are other evangelists in Japan of course. Many of the people who are mad at me are mad because they have been evangelizing and some people have not given them due credit.

One very good diary site is (This guy REALLY hates me.)
There is also which is the huge anonymous bbs. This one is also ripping me apart. ;-p

There are more. I'll make an entry describing the various Japanese sites once I am a bit more organized.

I think it's hard to just forget it, but you should just forget it. From what I read, (before my eyes got tired), 90% of the criticism was unconstructive. You didn't learn anything useful about online community building and communications. If more of these guys would try to challenge you intellectually rather than badmouthing your personality or writing style or vision, it would be such a great feedback mechanism. What would be great would be to have an intelligent agent that could troll the web for comments about you but screen out the bits that were stupid, but give you the stuff that might educate you. . .

Jun, that's actually a good idea. Seriously. If you could have a little search engine that tracked down comments about you by people you respected or knew and also kept track of who they linked to, that would be quite useful. Kind of a feedbackseek...

Just an interesting note... When I mentioned that many of the notes used the wrong kanji for my name, one of my guys told me that it was on purpose so that search engines wouldn't find them. ;-p

hey! You were sad that most people here speak and read in japanese... well, japanese to me is just like chinese. I don't understand a word! but it's funny to visit strange blogs... if you want to try something new, try to visit a Brazilian blog. I write in Portuguese and english. Visit me!

I personally feel that negetive criticism comes with the territory if you or anyone is wanting to instigate change with certain issues or push new ideas in whatever field. Not everyone is going to agree with certain ideas, approaches that one may take. So I agree with what Gen says that some of this negative stuff can be chalked down to jealousy. Some may have valid statements and opinions while others may simply be unconstructive. As I stated before it is impossible to win over the minds of everyone. On another note I think it is fantastic that you have taken the time to post your stuff in both English and Japanese despite, as you say, your reading and writing has never been that good. In the end there are always small lessons learned. I for one know this all to well. Wish you the best.


If they are replying to you, then they must be reading and if they're reading then there is hope.

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When I wrote about coining words like blog, and being wary of it seeming as if you were claiming the invention and ignoring the fact that other languages and cultures may have something similar, called something else, I hadn't realised... Read More