Joi Ito's Web

Joi Ito's conversation with the living web.

I've had some interesting conversations about the role of transparency and privacy and I have an opinion about this. I think that we have a world where those in power have secrecy and citizen are forced to be transparent. I think that modern technology has made this increasingly so. I think that fundamentally, it should be the opposite. Public figures and institutions in power should be forced to be transparent and private citizen should have privacy and the right to speak without fear of retribution or persecution. I think this is essential for democracy and open society and we need to push for and enable this to happen.

As we work on this process of making the powerful transparent, we run into some difficulties because most institutions, even those that are for the most part well-meaning and good, are not robust against transparency because they haven't been designed to be transparent.

It reminds me of software projects that try to "go open source" after they've been written. It's often nearly impossible because the code is a mess. When people write software to be open, they typically write it in a way that is understandable to the outside and isn't embarrassing. For instance, I know some developers who use obscene words for their variables or vent their frustration about their love life in the comments in their code. They'd lose their jobs or their spouses if their code was suddenly "open".

In most powerful institutions, corners are cut and methods are used in a somewhat "ends justify the means" sort of way. There are a lot of things that are done and said behind closed doors that wouldn't survive public scrutiny, but have become common practice. In many cases, these practices aren't necessarily critically wrong, but just embarrassing or politically incorrect in some way.

I believe that Wikileaks is just the beginning of a bigger trend where it will become harder and harder to hide information and citizen counter-surveillance will become a norm rather than an exception.

I think that this will cause a lot of pain to powerful institutions - some will be overthrown or crushed. However, I think that we can build institutions that are robust against transparency if we design them that way from the beginning. It will be harder than learning to write open source software, but I believe that in the end we'll have a society that is better, stronger, more effective and fair.

At Safecast.org, I pushed our team to use the CC0 public domain dedication for the data that we are collecting through our radiation measurements instead of a Creative Commons Attribution license, which would require by law that people give us attribution. The reason is that we must give people the flexibility to use the data as part of an analysis or service that would be encumbered or impossible with the attribution requirement.

Many large data aggregation projects would fail with the attribution requirement. For instance, if each person with each sensor had to be attributed and our data got rolled up into a massive analysis of all historical sensor data to find megatrends, it would be impossible to provide attribution to every single provider of data. Open data is essential to allow people to write software that uses the data freely and combines it with other data.

Providing the Safecast data under a CC0 public domain dedication does not, however, make it ethical for people to take all of the data from Safecast, re-skin it and present it as their own. To understand why this is true, one must understand the difference between what is ethical or normatively true and what is legally true.

Plagiarism is when someone takes someone else's work and represents it as their own. In many cases, this is not illegal, just unethical. For instance, if I take someone's idea and use it in my academic paper, or take Safecast data and make it look like I did it all myself, that would be plagiarism, not a copyright violation. It is unethical, but not necessarily illegal.

On the other hand, using a picture of Mickey Mouse in a presentation could be argued as an illegal copyright violation, but most would probably argue that it is ethical.

It's very important to distinguish the difference between legality and ethics. Most of our society and our behavior is driven and guided by social norms and ethics. Just because something is legal, doesn't mean it's ethical.

In other words, just because you dedicate your data to the public domain, it doesn't mean that you don't have the ethical right to ask someone using your data to cite the source of the data on their website, just like you'd ask someone using your idea in their academic paper to give you credit for if they'd gotten it from you.

I've been wondering whether I should start blogging again. Twitter satisfied so much of my "updating" needs and I had become so busy that it was easy to stop blogging. It seemed that blog comments also lost their momentum as people took to Twitter to chat and hang out around trending topics.

However, as the years of not blogging have started to pile up, more and more of my thoughts are no longer online. Back in the day, I blogged nearly everything so giving someone my perspective on any topic required only that I copy/paste a URL into a chat window or an email.

These days I have to write a long-winded reponse or find a video of a talk or an interview. Videos tend to be 80% repetitive and difficult to scan or segment. The interviews are also repetitive and short.

As I begin what is might be the biggest transition in my life in my new role as the Director of the MIT Media Lab, it seems like my blog would be a good place to document my thoughts through this transition.

I'm not going to promise anything, but I'm going to make an effort to blog more frequently and try to get my "blog voice" back. Maybe I should read my own tips about blogging that I wrote back in 2005. ☺ And I'll try to stop blogging about blogging.

Does anyone read this thing anymore? I'm trying to decide whether I should start blogging actively again or not......

As many of you know, I've been working closely with Reid Hoffman for years now and one of the things that I've been working with Reid on from the beginning was thinking about LinkedIn, especially in the context of Japan.

As LinkedIn begins its global expansion, Japan is an important priority and recently I've been advising LinkedIn on a more formal basis.

Japan REALLY needs LinkedIn right now. LinkedIn is NOT a social network; it is a professional network. It is a network that allows people to build their professional identity, share business expertise and information, and advance your professional knowledge about subjects important to you. As privacy issues exceedingly become a concern, it's very important to keep your casual, gaming and social networks separated from your professional network. I think LinkedIn will be an essential tool for professionals in Japan as it is in the rest of the world.

So, this is my last "real job" before I transition over completely to the Media Lab role: helping to launch LinkedIn in Japan. And we're looking for the best talent out there. We need an awesome, dedicated team to run LinkedIn in Japan. This team will be responsible for the strategy, product roadmap, and growth in Japan - this the chance to be highly entrepreneurial while having the strength of a global brand behind your team.

We're Hiring!

We're looking for a variety of roles, and they are listed below. We are particularly looking for product and management leaders who want to take on this chance to manage user growth. LinkedIn is serious about Japan and this team would be working directly with a high-quality senior team in the US. I think it's a great career opportunity.

If you think you are a fit for for any of the roles we list below (or know someone who is), please apply for the role through the link below or email japanteam@linkedin.com. Please include your resume and/or a link to your LinkedIn profile.

These roles are currently posted regarding our growth in Japan:

We are also interested in general management and product marketing candidates.
I'll be blogging more about LinkedIn in Japan as we get closer to launching the Japanese product, but I wanted to get the word out that LinkedIn is planning to come to Japan in 2011, and we're hiring. Help me put together the dream team.