Joi Ito's Web

Joi Ito's conversation with the living web.

After reading the last post to Halley, acrobat asked if I was an alpha male. I don't think so. But I'll ask Halley. He asked me if I had take the Myers-Briggs test. I hadn't heard of it. It's very cool. I'm an ENFP. Hmm...

Halley of Halley's Comment, author of "How to Become an Alpha Male" is going to be in DC for Supernova and we're finally going to get to meet. We have some mutual friends like Dave and Gnome-Girl. I read Halley's blog, but I rarely link to it because she writes about all of the things I tend to avoid writing about these days. She writes about emotions. She writes about men. She writes about dating. Yesterday she wrote about me, and now I'm going to try to write back. ;-)

First of all, anyone who hasn't read "How to Become an Alpha Male", must. When I read it, I started reading it with "academic curiosity" but ended up learning a lot and reflecting on my past, present and future.

So Halley, I don't know many alpha males, but I know a lot of alpha females. In some ways my childhood was the reverse of yours. You grew up with an alpha male dad. I grew up with an alpha female mom. My name, Ito is my mother's name that I took when my parents divorced so that my mother could pursue her career. My mother's side of my family has had a female head of the family for just about as long as anyone can remember. There is a jinx that every other generation, there is no male head and the male is brought in from the outside. My great grandmother was a well known feminist and built the first trade school for girls in Iwate during the war. My grandmother was also a tough women. She stood up to the US soldiers who used our home as the local HQ and told us a story of how she had her men saw off half of a building that protruded into our property because the building owner thought he could take advantage of us because our grandfather had died. My mother was also tough. She had tuberculosis as a child which she caught from my sick grandfather and spent most of her childhood in a wheelchair. When we were very young, she got cancer and I remember being told several times as a child that she was going to pass away soon. She was always in and out of hospitals, but she managed to survive until we were grown up and passed away after asking us if it was OK if she could go now. She was a housewife until she was 35 or so, then joined the company my father was working at. She became head of personnel, VP of International, president of the Japan subsidiary, left to become the US rep of NHK (Japan's public broadcasting company) and grew to become a fairly influential "player" until the cancer finally took over.

During high school we lived in a big house in Tokyo. I was the only male. My mother, my aunt, my sister, our secretary, her sister, our dog were all female. When our dog had 8 puppies, they of course were also all female. They were all also "tougher" than me. ;-) Most of my friends in high school were girls.

But let me talk about my ego. I was born in Japan, but I moved to the US when I was 2 or 3 years old. (I don't remember.) When my father got a job at ECD in Troy, Michigan, where we lived until I was 13, I was the first Japanese kid in a school full of catholics. We lived in a school district that overlapped with an area of Michigan that had a bunch of trailer parks. Nothing against trailer parks, but back in the 70's, people were losing jobs because of Japanese cars and most of these bitter people ended up in trailer parks and their kids ended up in my school. My mother's love and our family friends were the only thing that kept my fragile ego alive. I was regularly beaten up by guys, tripped in the hall by girls, taunted, called "colored" and generally made to feel miserable.

When I moved to Tokyo with my mother my third year in Jr. high school, I was in heaven. I finally realized that being Japanese wasn't that bad. I found that I could melt in with the Japanese, but could hang out with the American's too. Being bilingual and looking Japanese I could get the best of both worlds. I kissed my first girl, had my first date and started going to night clubs. High school was even better. It made up for a lot of lost time in ego building, but I was still very insecure.

University in the US was tough. I dropped out twice and ended up as a DJ at Limelight in Chicago. The streets of Chicago rebuilt an important part of my ego. I became part of a great community of extremely diverse people who loved each other and supported each other through really tough times. It was when AIDS was hitting the scene and helping and being helped built my faith in people.

After that, I watched my mother slowly and painfully die. Then I watched my mentors, Dr. Fukui, Tim Leary, John Lilly, Chairman Shima of NHK, and others all die. For awhile, I had at least one death close to me every year. I realized that a lot of my confidence was still propped up by my mother and later my mentors who assured me that I was fine and that didn't have to worry about it. Now I was on my own. I realize now that it wasn't until the death of my mother that I really started to develop my sense of responsibility that would eventually get me over my self-pity that had haunted me since my childhood in Michigan.

I'm still a bit insecure, but secure enough to not let it show too often. My ego is a bit slapped together, but it's stable enough so I don't have to actively work on it anymore. My sense of responsibility showed up late, but probably overshot a bit and now I feel responsible for everything and everyone. I just lost 14 kgs, I probably have a drinking problem, I am in a happy and stable relationship, just bought a house in the countryside where I will move in the fall and will see you in DC on Monday!

PS Thanks for triggering this gush of memories Halley. It was fun to write. Apologies to anyone who finds this [insert negative word here]. Now back to regularly scheduled programming...

According to the Swedes on #joiito, a Japanese space probe just crashed in Sweden. I can't find anything about on English or Japanese language sites. Anyone know anything about this?

Erista has blogged about it in Swedish with a link to the to the original article. Manne first discovered the link.

Should I move my sidebar to the right so that the content of the blog loads first?

I apologize for the light blogging the last several weeks. All of my spare time has been consumed by IRC. acrobat on #joiito compared it to a well placed water cooler. I drop in in the morning with my coffee, between meetings, from cab rides and after dinner before I go to bed. Some people who work in front of computers for a living "park" themselves in the channel. There are about 40 people on the channel now, only a half dozen or so are actually focused on the conversation. We've got a pretty interesting distribution of people. Most major time zones are represented and there are quite a variety of personality types and professions. It's also interesting to note that there is probably an equal distribution of people who are using IRC for the first time, rediscovering IRC and are IRC regulars. The conversation is much more random than my blog, ranging from total silliness to heated debates about RSS. I do think most of us agree that IRC today (or at least my #joiito channel) is much different from the IRC we used to use. I think the blogs help people identify each other and the wiki creates a bit more context and memory for the channel. IRC has definitely reduced my blog output, but in exchange, it has helped me make a much stronger emotional link to many of the people I blog/email with. I think it is the sense of spending time with people that creates this new sense of connection. It's almost like Sims Online. You see people drop off to take care of kids, cook, shower, go to work, come home, etc. Some of the more persistent personalities update people on what's happened during the "day" when you check back in after a being away. It's like being flat-mates with 50 people from around the world. "Hey, if you see so-and-so, tell them I'm looking for them and if so-and-so drops by while I'm out, be nice to them and introduce them to everyone..."

A useful thing about the IRC channel is that it is a 24 hour support system for a variety of issues. Just this week, Dave Sifry "held court" about Technorati, Mark Pilgrim explained python unit testing to me, Doc talked about the 17" PowerBook he was testing out, I got rojisan to book the venue for the DC party, I got Kevin Burton promise to finish the OSX version of NewsMonster and sniffles wrote a bot to remind me not to drink too much. ;-)

A controversial, but interesting thing in IRC are the bots. They are programmed to do a variety of tasks. There are bots that log, take notes, post stuff to wikis, answer questions or annoy people. The bots are probably how IRC will be integrated better into blogs and wikis. There are a few bots on #joiito. Jibot has become a collaborative effort with regulars pitching in via CVS on Sourceforge to add features to the bot.

As I continue to be immersed in IRC, the question that I am struggling with is how better to integrate IM, IRC, wikis and blogs. There are so many ways to do this yet no one seems to have done it well. There is also the issue of the metadata and meta-services like reputation tracking, search, identify management, etc. I'm sure different communities will find different combinations of tools useful.

Even though I call my blog "a conversation" I now realize after using IM and chat a lot that it still looks more like publishing or giving a speech although the comment threads are like conversations. IM chats can be like transactions. IRC is conversation or even "hanging out" with friends. The wiki is where we collaborate. The core strengths of each of these tools is very important and I think we all do a little bit of each of these activities. The alchemy of these tools is really interesting and I urge people to get over the hump and try these tools in combination and join us in thinking about what this all means. ;-)