December 2005 Archives

I just finished my keynote for the 22C3 conference. I'd been mulling over what to talk about from about 2AM or so this morning. After reading the program and the amazing breadth of the 150 or so talks and imagining the 3000 leet hackers that I would be talking to, I decided to put together a brand new talk hitting a lot of the points that often skip because they are controversial or difficult for me to discuss. I was a bit nervous kicking off what I think is one of the most important conference I go to. I am happy to report that it was the best crowd ever. ;-)

Although there is a bit of preaching to the choir, (I got cheers for just saying "open network"), judging from the hallway conversations I had afterwards, it was a smart and motivated crowd and I'm honored and happy that I was able have people's attention to allow me to talk about some of what I believe are the most important things going on right now.

The Syncroedit guys set up an instance for my talk where you can see my notes and things others have said. (Use Firefox please.) http://22c3.ito.com/ Please feel free to add stuff. It's still a test install and fragile so please don't try to break it. It's not a challenge. ;-)

Anyway. Thanks much to everyone at 22C3 for the invite and look forward to spending the rest of the week hanging out with everyone.

A video of the presentation should soon be up at http://22c3.fem.tu-ilmenau.de

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I was down at the sumptuous French National Assembly (A building that looks like a Greek temple from the outside and a livingroom overdosed with red velvet on the inside) yesterday because a group of latenight legislators this week amended a bill to include a global tax for people wishing to share files over the Internet.

Once a user (an "internaut" in French) has paid the fee, that internaut is free to share music or movies on the basis that they are for personal use only.

Result: Hey presto! Kazaa would suddenly be legal in France. What is considered piracy in other parts of the world would be available here in France.

Also: Artists would recieve payouts from the tax money raised (Systems for copyright taxation are not unusual in Europe. Germany, for example, imposes a 12 euro copyright levy on the sale of each personal computer purchased.)

Needless to say, the music and movie industry people were not terribly pleased.

Those AGAINST include the French Rambo!


"This law throws us back to before the French Revolution," said Alain Dorval, an actor who dubbed Sylvester Stallone for the Rambo series of films. "France invented property rights for artists in 1791 and now this Parliament wants to vote them away."

"Since the pay TV channel Canal Plus finances a huge portion of the cinema production, an attack on pay TV undermines the structure for the creation of cinema," Seydoux said. "To be in cinema you must be optimistic and I am optimistic these amendments will fail."
Not only are the amendments bad, but their implication is dangerous, said Michel Gomez, an official with the Association of Directors and Producers. "The message sent by this law is that creative works can be bought for free," he said. "This may be very seductive to Internet users, but it will bring down the structure of entire creative industries."

The arguments FOR:


Patrick Bloche, a pipe-smoking Socialist deputy representing Paris, who was a co-author of the amendments: "We are trying to bring the law up to date with reality." "It is wrong to describe the eight million French people who have downloaded music from the Internet as delinquents."

"We are only leading in a direction that is inevitable for the law everywhere," said Christian Paul, a Socialist deputy who was also a co-author of the amendments. "You will see other European nations adopting such laws in the future because they just make sense."
"Artists currently get no money from peer-to-peer sharing, and with this fee at least they would get some," said Aziz Ridouan, a 17-year old high school student who has fought for Internet rights as president of the Association of Audiosurfers. "If the government and industry attack downloaders aggressively, we will just go underground with encryption and all chance of revenue will be lost."
Ridouan added that the amendments would finally legalize behavior that has become commonplace among young Internet users. "We need protection. It is not nice to feel like you are acting illegally," he said. "They cannot use the law to stop people sharing music just because the music industry missed out on the digital revolution."

If this blog-ization of the article is not clear, check out the full IHT version here.

Which arguments have the most merit and can creative industries survive in the face of peer-to-peer?

This blog is moving to a new machine tonight. I'm updating the DNS now. You may experience some slight problems in accessing it. Apologies in advance. Thanks.

Interesting article in eWeek about the business of registering domain name typos and how they game Google. "Some of the domains move around between domain parking services or between anchor domains over time as part of a 'multi-layer redirection structure' that makes it difficult to trace". The bulk of the data and analysis comes from Microsoft Research. Again, I'm not going to "judge" this business, but clearly it's a large business that is becoming exceedingly complex with some cat-and-mouse going on. One thing I wonder about is whether there is a whole lot of incentive for the cat to catch the mouse if the cat gets a share of the mouse's take.

I'm going to Berlin for the 22nd Chaos Computer Congress. I'll be in Berlin the 27th-30th of December. I'm going to be working on my notes for the talk on my wiki. I also made a page for my schedule. If you'd like to get together or can recommend events that I should attend, please add them to the wiki. Thanks!

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English was already the lingua franca of science, business and academia. Now English appears to be fast emerging as the media language of choice. Al Jazeera is preparing to debut a 24-hour news channel in English. A TV station in Russia also started English broadcasting this month (but got hacked down).

Recently, an ex-FIFA sports official praised the French newspaper, L'Equipe, for some of it's hard-hitting doping coverage, including revelations about Lance Armstrong. But, he added, they just don't get the same notice because their reporting is in French.

His implication: If news is not in English, it didn't happen.

Have you seen any examples of growing use of English in media or backlash against it?

Disclosure: This question is asked in preparation for writing a story for the IHT, so I may get back to you for follow-up.

Mitch Kapor has been working with Todd to scratch and itch that I think all Firefox users with more than one computer have had - synching bookmarks. They're now starting a serious beta of Foxmarks. Foxmarks is a service that allows you to upload and synch your bookmarks to their WebDAV server. Up until now, I was using a utility to sync my bookmarks to Safari and .Mac to sync between computers. Much better now. Thanks Mitch and Todd!

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Turns out that disasters nowadays do not seem to turn away tourists for long.

From a story I wrote on trends in Disaster Tourism that is in today's paper:

The number of leisure travelers visiting tourist destinations hit by trouble has in some cases bounced back to a level higher than before disaster struck.
"This new fast recovery of tourism we are observing is kind of strange," said John Koldowski, director for the Strategic Intelligence Center of the Bangkok-based Pacific Asia Travel Association. "It makes you think about the adage that any publicity is good publicity."

Is the acceptance of disaster a good thing - because it shows people are no longer so frightened to travel - or is it a bad thing - because it shows a tolderance for bad things happening in the world?

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Looming French copyright law may not be as dire to Open Source as Cory Doctorow suggested on Boing Boing.

In one strongly worded post entitled France about to get worst copyright law in Europe? Cory said French lawmakers had "run amok" and were "subverting the lawmaking process" to pass a law that would hinder the development of Open Source and even ban some software.

It appears that the main source for Cory's assertions are statements by an Open Source advocacy group EUCD.

Kevin J. O'Brien, my colleague at the International Herald Tribune, contests that stance in an article on the law:

BERLIN: In the places on the Internet where free-software activists hang out, discussion groups are abuzz with news of the French government's plan to ban open-source software.
The problem is that there is no such plan. But the French do have some proposals to revise copyright law, changes that could affect programmers.

Any reaction to the clashing perspectives?

I'm sitting in a car on the way home from the airport after arriving in Japan from New York. I had a 14 hour plane trip where I caught up on email and wrote some reports. As it has been noted, the frequency of my posts (as well as the number of blogs I read) has decreased significantly since I started playing World of Warcraft. Originally I was attributing this entirely to the addictive nature of WoW, but I'm wonder if I'm also slightly bored.

I'm an early adopter type and I'm not asserting here that I represent any normal person. Reflecting back on my personal early days of blogging, there was something nifty and cool coming out every week. Blogrolls, facerolls, Technorati, etc. My traffic was growing, blogs were becoming global, and it was all new... at least to me.

New things continue to be developed, but more and more of the work seems to involve growing pains like scalability, oversized communities and integration of "normal people" as we cross the chasm. Also, the new consumer Internet bubble is attracting attention from non-participant investors. This is an important part of making blogs a truly ubiquitous phenomenon, but it definitely feels more and more like real work.

When I was in Helsinki visiting Nokia a few days ago, I playing with my phone waiting in line and in cabs. It dawned on me that what I really want is better moblogging. Now, when I am in front of a computer connected to the Internet, I'm mostly immersed in IM for business or Warcraft for fun. When I am mobile, I have idle time that I could spend reading blogs and writing to my blog. I guess this is a sign that, at least for me, blogging has moved from my primary online activity to my idle time filler. However, considering how much idle time I have with my phone, I think I could still blog at a relatively consistent rate. Also, I wish there were better ways to read and write when I am with my computer without a connection.

Anyway, I'm going to have to think about how I can have more moblog... Also, maybe my site needs a redesign too.

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Been testing out how to most interestingly Podcast a written article.

Problem: How do you best express quotes in spoken form?

Newspaper stories often use quotes in these two forms:

But the arrival of dot-eu is also dividing the Union. Some of those who run the domain names for individual EU countries are preparing a campaign to promote their own national addresses, arguing that .fr for France or .it for Italy conveys important cultural information.
"In this case, there is an inherent competition between individual countries and the EU," said Alberto Pérez, deputy director for international relations at Red.es, the government agency that manages the registration of the nation's .es suffix. "Our duty is to promote our country's domain name, not the EU."
The company overseeing the .eu domain name, a Brussels-based nonprofit called EURid, dismissed the idea that there could be any rivalry with national domain names. "We have no intention of being competitive," said Kurt Vincent, spokesman for EURid.

Both forms make it difficult to know it is a quote without saying "quote". That is clearly unacceptable.

Only alternatives I see are:

1- say before the quote begins: "Alberto Perez of Red.es said..."

2- just adopt a slightly different tone and hope people understand. this could be confusing when a paragraph of a story begins with a quote that is broken in the middle.

3- get rid of exact quotes and do them as attributed speech in a normal sentence

Which one is best?

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Europeans seem to be taking their real-world battles online with different views on domain names.

Wrote on it today: Cyberspace Unity Eludes Europeans

The EU wants people to use the newly launched .eu, while the national domain registries want people to use country domain names.

Neat fact:

The second largest domain suffix after .com is .de for Germany, according to Verisign.

Do domain names matter? Hasn't Google killed the need for them?

Dec505 Gala Frontcvr-1
Last night Mizuka and I attended the Focus For Change gala benefit for WITNESS in NYC hosted by Peter Gabriel and Angelina Jolie. I first became interested in WITNESS when I met Gillian Caldwell the Executive Director in Davos in 2004. I started talking to her about blogging then. I helped Gillian get her blog set up when she and Angelina Jolie were headed off to Sierra Leone to deliver the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's recommendations to the government in May. The blog was a success. We've been talking about other ways to use the Net. She invited me to attend the Gala last night which was an amazing event.

The videos and comments from Peter Gabriel, Angelina Jolie and Gillian were awesome and inspiring. However, the main event for me was Ishmael Beah, a former child soldier from Sierra Leone. He talked about how his life started as a happy kid who played soccer in the streets. As the war swept across the country, he survived the loss of his family and fled from village to village as he watched them being ravaged by the war. He eventually ended up being recruited as a child soldier. He was able to leave the military and attended college and appear before us last night to express his hope for lasting peace in Sierra Leone. It was an extremely well delivered and moving speech and really highlighted the strength of the words of a witness.

The festivities were also great. There were a number of great performances, but my favorite part was when Nile Rodgers and CHIC rocked the house with their classics. They did an auction with some pretty cool things. The only thing I bid on was the Nano programmed by Lou Reed, but I wasn't able to keep up and didn't get it in the end. ;-)

In total, the event was the best fund-raiser gala sort of event that I've ever attended. It had a clear and moving message and vision, it was fun and it was extremely well executed. Congratulates to everyone involved.

ICANN
NEXT STEPS ON PROPOSED .COM SETTLEMENT On 21 October 2005, ICANN announced proposed settlement terms between ICANN and VeriSign, including a proposed new .COM agreement. Since then, ICANN has been conducting extensive public consultations on the proposed settlement. At its 24th International Public Meeting in Vancouver this week, the ICANN Board has been engaged in consultations with the ICANN community on this topic, among others.

Today at its Board meeting, ICANN Chairman, Vint Cerf, announced:

"The Board has listened long and hard this week to all constituencies with regard to the .COM agreements

"We are deeply grateful to the efforts made by all constituencies to respond to the Board’s invitation to organize comments on the proposals and to provide, where possible, concrete suggestions for improving them.

"We are also very grateful for the time each constituency spent going over with the Board their ideas and reactions.

"We ask the staff to accept any further written comments until December 7 and to produce for the community a public report summarizing, analyzing and organizing the feedback provided on the .com and settlement agreements by December 11.

"We recommend that staff approach VeriSign with the results of the report on the proposed contract and settlement. We remind all parties that the Board has not yet agreed to the terms of the contract and settlement.

"We also note the existence of a policy development process on new gTLDs and strongly believe that this policy development process should be informed by the results of the comments received on the proposed contract for .com and settlement with VeriSign."

I realize there is still a lot of work to do, but as Vint is quoted in saying above, I really want to thank the community for a constructive and intense week of discussions. I hope that VeriSign and staff have fruitful discussions and that we can come up with something that reflects the issues raised this week. I was sincerely moved by the ability for the rather complex process to function in such a productive way and am proud to be part of this ever-improving "experiment" in bottom-up consensus.

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I will be attending the Les Blogs conference in Paris. Any readers of this attending, be great to meet you there!

I'll be on a panel about new media. Look forward to learning about the latest in Podcasting, etc.

I was recently appointed to the board of directors of Nishimachi International School. I attended NIS 9th grade. I had just moved to Japan from Michigan with my mother and sister. It was a turning point in my childhood. I had been attending a public school in the suburbs of Detroit as the only Japanese kid in the school. It was a somewhat miserable experience where I often regretted being Japanese. At Nishimachi I joined a small but extremely diverse group of students and teachers that rebuilt my self-esteem and taught me the value and possibility of tolerance and diversity. My one year at Nishimachi was the most significant year at any school I've ever attended. I think the school produces an incredible group of mixed culture citizens who can really contribute to global communications. I'm excited to be able to participate in working on this important institution.

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The entire country of Macedonia will be covered by Wifi, according to an announcement by Strix Systems.

There could be many uses for unlimited ubiquitous broadband.

Some of my ideas:

- Wifi webcams filming from a flock of sheep could make a great art project.

- Wifi webcams facing the stove would confirm that nothing is still turned on.

What other Wifi devices could be useful? (Even if it adapts current technology).

Yesterday, I wrote a post about the parked domain monetization business. Since then, I've begun talking to a variety of people here at the ICANN meeting. It is clearly a complex issue and I have decided to suspend judgement until I have more information. I think that these "professional registrants" are clearly a different group than "user registrants". I think we should differentiate people who buy domains as their primary business to people who use domains to use in their business. It could be argued that professional registrants "use" their domains to run ads, but I think most of these professional use tools like Google AdSense for domains which automate the process and does not require the professional to engage in the business of actually running a web site or service.

I am going to try to gather as much information as possible before I come to any conclusions. I urge people, especially those people who are in this business, to help me understand the issues and nuances. I've just started a page on the ICANNWiki about this. Please contribute there as well. Thanks.

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New Orleans mayor just announced free Wifi for the city.

John Dvorak says vested interests are just too great from telecom providers to let it last.

Can free Wifi survive?

Talkshot
When I got off the plane in Zagreb, Croatia, my phone rang. "Hello? Mr. Ito?" "Yes?" "Are you in the US, this is Richard." "No. I'm in Croatia, who's this?" "I sent you an email about speaking at a meeting about the "Knowledge Economy in Paris on the 1st of December." "I'm sorry, I can't be there. I'll be in Vancouver for an ICANN meeting." "Oh, will you have an Internet connection?" "Yes." "Will you be available at midnight?" "Ummm... I guess so." "Great. I will send more details by email. *click*"

Of course, I'm probably free at midnight, but I wasn't sure if that was great. After a bit of juggling around I got everything set up with a pretty neat presentation client they were using. I was all ready to go at 11PM for the sound check etc. "Ah, we will start one hour late. At 1AM. Please take a break." Take a break? I forgot that even though I was in Vancouver, the conference was actually in Europe and it wasn't CNN. Hmmm... I was a bit sleep and a bit cranky from lack of sleep, but I was able to give a short talk to 600 people in Paris from a conference room in a hotel in Vancouver and interact with them. All of this was coordinated with a few casual phone calls and an "umm, yeah, I guess I'll be free at midnight." It's 1:30AM now and I have to be up in another few hours.

Just "dropping in" is becoming very easy and on the one hand you don't have to travel all the way to participate in things. On the other hand, you end up on "global time" and have perpetual jet lag. I'm not sure if I like this trend, but one thing for sure, I'm sleepy. Good night.

I think that a large number of people buying domains can't get their first choice name because some "parked domain monetization" operation (cyber-squatter) owns it and is making money running ads on the page. The trick is to sign up for millions of domain names; set up pages and run ads on them; after 1 day delete domains that have no traffic; after 3 days delete names that have some traffic; after 5 days delete pages with marginal traffic; keep the 1% of pages that have enough traffic to be worth keeping the domain. Because of the refund policy, the 99% of pages deleted before the 5 day grace period are refunded in full and the "monetizer" gets to keep the ad revenue generated over those 5 days. (This is called "domain tasting".) See the DNForum page for more information on how this business works. Interestingly, I think Google AdSense probably has boosted the viability of this business. I wonder what percentage of Google's posted $2bn (or so) / yr "traffic acquisition costs" goes to this business. According to Ram Mohan from Afilias, 3 of the big 5 registrars say that they make over $5m-$8m / year from parked domain monetization pages. This means that these people are making more than that from these pages and Google and other ad servers even more.

I wonder if there is any way to close this loophole that effectively enables a no-risk business. I think these monetization businesses are a net-negative value to the community and seems like a loophole exploit. On the other hand, refunds are a legitimate service for legitimate registrants. It is VERY difficult to tell the difference between a legitimate and illegitimate registrant.

In the jungle of such pages, the Kevin Kelly page stands out as my favorite example of responsible domain name use.

UPDATE: WSJ November 17, 2005: "Revenue from text ads on these sites will total $400 million to $600 million world-wide this year and may reach $1 billion by 2007, according to Susquehanna Financial Group analysts Marianne Wolk and Roxane Previty, who track the online ad industry."

UPDATE: Google has an AdSense page targeting domain name parking businesses. I wonder if these Google folks will talk to us? They should know the size and shape of the "professional registrant" community better than anyone else and it appears they are "taking to them" directly from the looks of this page.

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Just read the newly crafted elevator pitch for Benetech in a letter from Jim Fruchterman, the CEO, Chairman and Founder.

His pitch:

Benetech creates technology that serves humanity by blending social conscience with Silicon Valley expertise. We build innovative solutions that have lasting impact on critical needs around the world.
Webcams and other digital communication could give ordinary people feedback on results acheived due to donation of their money and time.

This would give the power of oversight formerly reserved for wealthy philanthropists.

Does this hint toward disruptive digital technology underming the NGO world with individualized philanthropy that cuts out the middle men?

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