Joi Ito's Web

Joi Ito's conversation with the living web.

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Interesting that Toshiba Elevator and Building Systems Corp. will use so-called mag-lev technology in an elevator for the first time.

Mag-lev allows near frictionless movement by suspending objects in midair through a combination of magnetic attraction and repulsion, but the story's kicker is that while the mag-lev elevators will be quieter and more comfortable, Toshiba said conventional elevators can travel more than three times faster.

Meanwhile, Fujitec has announced a system to organize elevator riders in order to stop bottlenecks and speed the flow of people to the correct floor. I have seen such systems in Hong Kong's municipal buildings. They are annoying at first ("Elevator 3 will now go to the 14th, 17th and 18th floor. Take elevator 4 to the 9th, 11th and 14th floor"), but they are efficient.

Regulating passenger flow is pretty low tech compared with suspending elevators on magnets, but that system seems likely to get you to your floor much more quickly. Are there any other notable low-tech solutions for high-tech situations?

(I cross-posted this conversation on the International Herald Tribune blog)

As part of my work with the Open Source Initiative, I've been thinking a lot about open standards. Open standards are a really important part of the open source, open network, open society ecosystem, but there is also a risk that big companies use the word "open standards" to attack the open source movement. For instance, many companies such as Microsoft would argue that even if they control a standard, just making it "open" makes it an open standard.

One of the biggest players in this space is IBM and I had the opportunity to ask Irving Wladawsky-Berger the Vice President of Technical Strategy and Innovation of IBM a question about this at the HICSS conference I attended in Hawaii a few weeks ago. Irving was the "Distinguished Lecturer" and I was "Plenary Speaker". I've been a huge fan of Irving's since I first met him in Japan. (He blogged about the conference.) I asked him what his definition of open standards was. The following is a summary of his response. (I just confirmed with him by email about its accuracy.)

If a crunch comes between the interests of the shareholders and interests of the community, a business has to choose the interests of the shareholders. A business creating a standard that it controls and says is "open" and that people should "trust them" is not robust from that perspective. Business should prevent itself from getting into these situation. Working with neutral professional organizations makes it impossible for such conflicts to corrupt the process and is key to good open standards.
This is great news and exactly what I think of when I think of open standards. Go IBM!

Live Door, one of the large Internet portal/verticals run by the now well-known maverick Horiemon, was raided last night the Tokyo District Public Prosecutor's office on suspicion of illegal securities trading. (Japan Times artice) Apparently they raided around 6PM last night and were there until this morning. One person who was visiting for a meeting reported that he was not allowed to leave for a long time and had to leave his papers there. Unlike the US, Japanese courts do not have a "discovery" process and often have to rely on these surprise raids to get necessary documents. It makes for good TV News.

Horiemon has been rubbing old-school Japan the wrong way by challenging the establishment with clever financing and takeover attempts of the media etc. I can see how he would get targeted. On the other hand Japanese companies like his tend to be sloppy so I wouldn't be surprised if they find something. It would be unfortunate if they end up slapping Livedoor down since I think he was serving an important function in Japanese business and this looks like a typical set-up.

Thanks to iMorpheus for reminding that I should probably blog this.

UPDATE: I haven't confirmed this, but I just heard a rumor that the National TV Network (NHK) was reporting the raid before people at Live Door knew they were being raided. ;-)

UPDATE 2: Live Door is Skype's Japan partner.

UPDATE 3: Apparently the first notice Live Door got of the raid was when Network TV called for an interview. TV knew before they did.

I blogged earlier that I had joined the board of my junior high school, Nishimachi International School in Tokyo. Yesterday was our first board meeting. I hadn't been to the principal's office there for over 20 years. We had the board meeting in the library. The last time I sat there, I was probably 3 feet tall. I know from my wrestling weight class that I weighed around 101 pounds at the time. I felt a bit like Alice in Wonderland after she drank that potion that made her into a giant.

It was a weird experience talking about my former homeroom teacher who had just retired and looking at the budgets of all of the activities that I was involved in when I was there in 1981. The school seems to be in great shape with a cool headmaster and a good board. Of course I can't influence admissions or hiring, but I'd recommend the school to any elementary or middle school teachers or students who are in, or want to be in a great school in Japan. The school is unique because it focuses on diversity and a multi-lingual environment and I was impressed at the energy that goes into maintaining the perfect balance.

Also, if you're an NIS alumnus and you're out of touch, let me know. We're going to be working on more and more alumni activities.

The lighthouse station called Arctowski is probably the most southerly lighthouse in the world. Built at the Polish research station in Antarctica named after Henryk Arctowski, the famous 19th century Polish geographer and Antarctic explorer. Situated on King George Island in the South Shetlands group, its geographical position is 62o10'S, 58o28'W.

The following is the transcript of the actual radio conversation of a US naval ship with Canadian authorities off the coast of Newfoundland:

Canadians: Please divert your course 15 degrees the South to avoid a collision.

Americans: Recommend you divert your course 15 degrees the North to avoid a collision.

Canadians: Negative. You will have to divert your course 15 degrees to the South to avoid a collision.

Americans: This is the Captain of a US Navy ship. I say again, divert YOUR course.

Canadians: No. I say again, you divert YOUR course.

Americans: THIS IS THE AIRCRAFT CARRIER USS LINCOLN, THE SECOND LARGEST SHIP IN THE UNITED STATES' ATLANTIC FLEET. WE ARE ACCOMPANIED BY THREE DESTROYERS, THREE CRUISERS AND NUMEROUS SUPPORT VESSELS. I DEMAND THAT YOU CHANGE YOUR COURSE 15 DEGREES NORTH, I SAY AGAIN, THAT'S ONE FIVE DEGREES NORTH, OR COUNTER-MEASURES WILL BE UNDERTAKEN TO ENSURE THE SAFETY OF THIS SHIP.

Canadians: This is a lighthouse, over...

via Michael

No idea if this is really a true story, but very funny. Does anyone else have a source for this?

UPDATE: Snopes says it's false. (Here's the US Navy denial.) Thanks Six Picas. I broke the first rule of blogging. Check Snopes first. Shows how out of it I am these days. ;-)