Joi Ito's Web

Joi Ito's conversation with the living web.

The panel discussion at Berkman Center was a lot of fun. It was with a very friendly crowd and we didn't have to spend time preaching or explaining Creative Commons. A nice change of pace for me. It was also very cool hearing some of the history of Creative Commons that even I didn't know. Jonathan Zittrain was great and hilarious as usual.

The panelists were: Jamie Boyle, Lawrence Lessig, Joi Ito, Molly S. Van Houweling, and Jonathan Zittrain.

One regret was that Tim Berness Lee was there and I didn't get a chance to meet him... he was among the many many cool people who were there that I didn't get a chance to talk to.

Thanks to the Berkman center, our CC team and everyone who helped organize and run the event.

Elliot Noss, the CEO of Tucows is an old friend. He's the one who convinced me to join the ICANN board. He's a fellow World of Warcraft guildmate and an inspiration to me in many ways.

For the last few months, we've been talking a lot about his company Tucows and I've been trying to help. I love Elliot's attitude and style and really like the staff and board of the company. I have joined their board and we announced this today.

50 prints of a luxury box set and 1024 prints of a limited edition of Freesouls have been run. These numbered and limited versions will be sold directly by Christopher from the website. Once we get a better feel for the demand, Christopher plans to print a general release which will be more widely available.

Thanks to Christopher for driving this process and for Boris on the website.

Now the question is whether the demand for this book will actually exceed the number of people who appear in the book. ;-)

Larry is having some trouble with his blog so I am posting this important news from him on his behalf. - Joi

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It is with a complicated mix of excitement and sadness that I make the following announcement.

As some of you remember, just over a year ago I reported that I was shifting my academic (and activist) work from free culture related issues to (what I called) "corruption." At Stanford, a year ago, I outlined what this work would be: To focus on the many institutions in public life that depend upon trust to succeed, but which are jeopardizing that trust through an improper dependence on money. Read the New York Times Editorial of last week. Or think of medical researchers receiving money from drug companies whose drugs they review; legal academics receiving money to provide public policy advice from the very institutions affected by that advice; or Congress filled with Members focused obsessively on how to raise money to secure their (or their party's) tenure. In all these cases, dependency on money in these ways tends to weaken public trust. Or so was my hypothesis when I launched on this project.

But how I would pursue this work has been a constant challenge. I started immediately to devour the books recommended to me by colleagues and on my wiki. I attended conferences and gave talks about the subject. I began a series of interviews with insiders. And with the help of Joe Trippi, I launched Change Congress, which was designed to focus these issues in the context of American politics.

Throughout this process, however, I have felt that the work would require something more. That the project I had described was bigger than a project that I, one academic, could pursue effectively. This wasn't an issue that would be fixed with a book. Or even with five books. It is instead a problem that required a new focus by many people, across disciplines, learning or relearning something important about how trust was built.

About six months ago, I was asked to consider locating this research at a very well established ethics center at Harvard University. Launched more than two decades ago, the Safra Center was first committed to building a program on ethics that would inspire similar programs at universities across the country. But the suggestion was made that after more than two decades of enormous success, it may make sense for the Center to consider focusing at least part of its work on a single problem. No one was certain this made sense, but I was asked to sketch a proposal that wouldn't necessarily displace the current work of the Center, but which would become a primary focus of the Center, and complement its mission.

I did that, mapping a five year project that would draw together scholars from a wide range of disciplines to focus on this increasingly important problem of improper dependence. Harvard liked the proposal. In November, the Provost of Harvard University invited me to become the director of the Safra Center. Last week, I accepted the offer. In the summer, I will begin an appointment at the Harvard Law School, while directing the Safra Center.

This was a very difficult decision to make. Stanford is an extraordinary law school, and I have loved my time here. The students are brilliant, yet balanced. The faculty is brilliant, yet surprisingly humble. The Dean has an amazing vision of the future of legal education, and is redefining the law school in ways that I completely support. I am endlessly proud of the Center for Internet and Society and the Fair Use Project. I have the very best assistant in the world (and she promised at least 5 more years if I stayed). I have written four of my five books while here. I'm almost finished with my 6th, the book I am sure I will be most proud of. This is a place that has given an enormous amount to me, and from which I have benefited greatly.

On a personal level, too, this was a difficult decision. California has become our home. My wife is strongly attached to everything Californian; we both have very close friends here; I hadn't ever imagined raising my kids in anything but the social and political environment of San Francisco. I still find it hard to imagine that I won't, if not now, sometime. And the enormous beauty of the environment here still takes my breath away. A year into my time at Stanford, I was certain I would never leave. After a blissful weekend with my family last week, it still hasn't registered that I will be leaving.

But in the end, it was impossible for me to be committed to the project while turning down this opportunity. It is not just the institution, nor the (partial) freedom from teaching. It is the chance to frame a large-scale project devoted to a large, important and complex problem. Once we saw it like this, my wife and I decided that returning to this old home was the right thing to do. And so in June, we will pack up the car for a cross country trek, back to Harvard.

Of course, I have no objective cause to complain. Harvard too is an extraordinary law school. As anyone who knows me knows, some of my closest friends in the world are at Harvard, including the Dean (or at least until Obama steals them all away). Harvard has grown and changed in wonderful ways over the past eight years. It will be an enormously exciting place to teach and learn.

But I regret deeply doing anything that is hurtful to those I respect and like. Worse, I hate doing anything that can be misunderstood. When Dean Sullivan recruited me, she said Stanford was paradise. I thought that was just a slogan. It isn't. I consider the 8 years I have had here to be the most important and invigorating in my career. And I will miss everything about this place.

Some things won't change. I will continue to work with Joe Trippi to build Change Congress. And I will continue to explore how best to incorporate this space (the Net) into this research. But I will do all of this, and my work, in the context of Harvard's Safra Center and its Law School, and of old friendships, revived.

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John Markoff

"John is switching from Business Day to Science." Congratulations John! This is great news. This is perfect. I think Markoff's ability to dig into the science and explain it to everyone is important and key right now and my bet is that he's going to enjoy this new beat much better too.

I've know Markoff for... a long time. I met him through John Perry Barlow at Marc Rotenberg's house in the early 90's. Markoff wrote the first article where I appeared in a US newspaper in 1994. I just reread this article and there are some pretty prescient quotes...

Here's the internal email about Markoff's position change at the New York Times. Hopefully he can help keep the franchise going.

New York Times internal announcement

JOHN MARKOFF TO JOIN SCIENCE

John Markoff, whose trailblazing work for The Times is a virtual history of the computer age, is taking an exciting new assignment. John is switching from Business Day to Science, where he will write widely and deeply about the impact of computer science in every modern endeavor.

One of the more alarming areas John will explore - you don't even want to know - is cyberwarfare and cybersecurity. He will cover, too, advances in computational science that are transforming the pursuit of other kinds of science. And he will peer into the future of computing to tell us how our everyday lives may change.

Another important part of his portfolio will be national science and technology policy, as the Obama administration gears up for a new era of government investment in research and development. To the extent that this push is tied to hopes for economic recovery and American competitiveness, John will often find himself in the thick of the news.

For more than three decades John has been the pre-eminent chronicler of Silicon Valley, having started as a defense and technology writer for Pacific News Service in 1977. He joined The Times in 1988, and has since been regaling and informing readers about this fascinating and increasingly important part of our world. He was the first to report about malicious software code, called a worm, that was devastating the then brand new Internet. (That was 20 years ago last month and he's still writing how we haven't been able to beat the bad guys.) He revealed how the Clinton Administration was trying to install something called the Clipper chip on computers and telephones, which would give the government a backdoor into our communications. He later wrote about another government attempt to watch us in  John Poindexter's Total Information Awareness program. And he was the first to write about the ever-evolving World Wide Web.

Among his most celebrated stories were on the hacker Kevin Mitnick. He turned the reporting into a very readable book, "Takedown: The Pursuit and Capture of Kevin Mitnick, America's Most Wanted Computer Outlaw," co-authored with Tsutomu Shimomura, who helped track Mitnick down. He also wrote "What the Dormouse Said: How the Sixties Counterculture Shaped the Personal Computer Industry," and two other books about the technology world.

Science (and Times readers) are fortunate to have John writing about technology from a new perspective; indeed, one of the great things about John is that his passion for technology has never faded. But we confess it is hard to imagine Bizday without John, because he has contributed so much in making it a robust, must-read section, not only for people in the tech world but far beyond.

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