Joi Ito's Web

Joi Ito's conversation with the living web.

You thought I had blog-block? Actually, my autoblogger was just broken.

Vanwolferen
The night before last I had dinner with Karel van Wolferen at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan. This was a very appropriate place to meet. Karel van Wolferen is the author of The Enigma of Japanese Power. Although it was written in 1990, it remains one of the best books in understanding the way the Japanese government works. I recommended this book in addition to Alex Kerr's Dogs and Demons as two essential books in understanding the dilemma the Japanese face today. Karel said that, in a way, Dogs and Demons is a followup book to The Engima of Japanese Power. We both agreed that Japan has changed a great deal since he wrote the book, but that most of the basic arguments in his book are still valid today. Japan still lacks one of the fundamental requirements of a healthy government - political accountability. We both agreed that people don't understand how the Japanese system works, including the Japanese.

Although Karel is a professor at the University of Amsterdam, he spends a great deal of time in Japan, writing for various publications, debating Japanese politicians and working very hard to try to help Japan. He had read some things that I had written and I was happy to have Karel say I was a "kindred spirit."

We discussed the history of postwar Japan and how Japan had missed an opportunity to build a more functional democracy because of the focus on fighting communism driven in large part by the American occupation. The US Occupation helped fund the conservative "Liberal Democratic Party" which co-opted or crushed most of the so-called "left-wing" liberal groups that were trying to emerge. A particularly unfortunate victim of this effort was the The Japan Teachers Union. Many teachers in postwar Japan felt a great deal of guilt for having taught children Imperialist warmongering based on the right-wing central government produced texts of the time. There was a strong desire among teachers to turn this guilt into something constructive. The Teachers Union confronted the LDP and the Ministry of Education and pushed for decentralization of education and fought against textbook censorship. The conservatives attacked them and marginalized them, effectively crushing the effort. In light of the recent discussion on Japanese historical revisionism and the festering right-wing, it is really a pity that this movement was crushed since it could have become a positive movement to help face the facts of Japanese Imperialist history. (The union still exists, but is taking a much more moderate stance on reform.)

We talked about the Internet and Wikipedia and how facts and history are being collectively created online. One interesting problem that he has is that many people spell his name as "von Wolferen" instead of "van Wolferen". Even editors of major newspapers consistently "correct" the spelling and change it to "von". It has gotten so bad that there are more results for the wrong spelling than the correct one on Google. It's funny to imagine people who are so sure of their spelling that they would change the spelling of someone's name without checking.

We promised to keep in touch and try to collaborate in the future.

I just read through my daily dose of blogs in my aggregator and scanned the email from people asking / telling me to blog stuff. I realized that there are a great number of things that I would have posted to my blog a year ago, but I won't now. I have argued a number of times that this is my blog and if you don't like it don't read it. However, as I read criticisms in the comments and on other blogs about what I write, I have become increasingly sensitive about what I say here. The criticism is often valid. "Check your facts before you post." "Read before you write." "Don't be so self-obsessed." "That was stupid." "The tone of your post was offensive to me." "So this guy posts every time he's 'off' to somewhere new. Is he boasting about his travel?" I know it shouldn't, but these voices yap at me in my head and cause a kind of chilling effect. I fear that my jokes will be misinterpreted and the irony lost. I fear that someone will take offense. I fear that a post will sound boastful.

Of course, this is just a rehash of an old discussion of collapsing contexts, but I find myself struggling with this bloggers block more and more these days. I find myself hanging out on the IRC channel chatting about things that in the past I would be blogging about. I definitely feel like my blog is going edgy to broad and boring.

What do you think? (And to be clear, I'm not fishing for compliments here.) Do you think I should post silly and sometimes no-so-well-developed posts or do you think this rigor of taking more responsibility and being more politically correct is a good thing? In a way, this bloggers block could be viewed as a developing bloggers ethic in my head and something normal and good.

I'm sure everyone knows what BitTorrent is, but it is the most popular peer-to-peer file sharing protocol for sharing large files. Before you had to have a tracker to create "torrents" which coordinated this sharing, but now you don't. This should make it even easier for people to make BitTorrent enclosures in blog entries and otherwise use BitTorrent to share files. Having said that, there are value added trackers like Prodigem which I'm sure people will use to charge for and otherwise track their files.

BitTorrent
BitTorrent Goes Trackerless: Publishing with BitTorrent gets easier!

As part of our ongoing efforts to make publishing files on the Web painless and disruptively cheap, BitTorrent has released a 'trackerless' version of BitTorrent in a new release.

[...]

In prior versions of BitTorrent, publishing was a 3 step process. You would:

1. Create a ".torrent" file -- a summary of your file which you can put on your blog or website
2. Create a "tracker" for that file on your webserver so that your downloaders can find each other
3. Create a "seed" copy of your download so that your first downloader has a place to download from

Many of you have blogs and websites, but dont have the resources to set up a tracker. In the new version, we've created an optional 'trackerless' method of publication. Anyone with a website and an Internet connection can host a BitTorrent download!

[...]

Although still in Beta release, the trackerless version of BitTorrent, and the latest production version are available at http://www.bittorrent.com/

I had a public To Do list on my old wiki, but never set one up on my new one. I just set one up. My inflow of email consistently overruns my ability to act on them and I am feeling increasingly guilty about stuff that I miss. If you're waiting for me to do something or would like to suggest that I do something, please feel free to add it to my public To Do list on my wiki. You'll have to register in order to edit the page if you haven't already. This doesn't guarantee that I'll do it, but at least I won't forget it or lose the email. Sorry to push this burden on you and I realize that I SHOULD really do this myself, but it will help me track stuff and be a bit more responsive. Thanks.