Joi Ito's Web

Joi Ito's conversation with the living web.

Howard Rheingold, one of my mentors, friend, and former editor of the Whole Earth Review who has written some of my favorite books about the mind and thinking recently writes books about "the next big thing" in technology starting with Virtual Reality, Virtual Communties and now Smart Mobs.

The big battle coming over the future of smart mobs concerns media cartels and government agencies are seeking to reimpose the regime of the broadcast era in which the customers of technology will be deprived of the power to create and left only with the power to consume. That power struggle is what the battles over file-sharing, copy protection, regulation of the radio spectrum are about. Are the populations of tomorrow going to be users, like the PC owners and website creators who turned technology to widespread innovation? Or will they be consumers, constrained from innovation and locked into the technology and business models of the most powerful entrenched interests? HOWARD RHEINGOLD: SMART MOBS [7.16.02]
John Brockman, literary agent extraordinaire and editor and publisher of Edge writes about Howard's new book. (John Brockman is also the sponsor of the Billionaire's Dinner)
Introduction In 1999 and 2000, Howard Rheingold started noticing people using mobile media in novel ways. In Tokyo, he accompanied flocks of teenagers as they converged on public places, coordinated by text messages. In Helsinki, he joined like-minded Finns who share the same downtown physical clubhouse, virtual community, and mobile-messaging media. He learned that the demonstrators in the 1999 anti-WTO protests used dynamically updated websites, cell-phones, and "swarming" tactics in the "battle of Seattle," and that a million Filipino citizens toppled President Estrada in 2000 through public demonstrations organized by salvos of text messages. Drivers in the UK used mobile communications to spontaneously self organize demonstrations against rising petrol prices. He began to see how these events were connected. He calls these new uses of mobile media "smart mobs." For nearly two years, Rheingold visited hotspots around the world where smart mob technologies and societies were erupting. He had some idea of how to look for early signs of momentous changes, having chronicled and forecast the PC revolution in 1985 and the Internet explosion in 1993. He is now sees a third wave of change underway in the first decade of the 21st century, as the combination of mobile communication and the Internet makes it possible for people to cooperate in ways never before possible. — JB
Howard's been working on this book for awhile and this topic is perfect for Howard and perfect timing for us. It's amazing considering how much fieldwork Howard does, how Howard is always there at the right place at the right time. But I'm sure it's not luck. ;-) I think that people have all over-estimated the short term impact of the Net, but the issues that Howard discusses are many of the core issues that the Net combined with mobile communications will impact. These issues change the face of media and communications, which will change the whole notion of the "public." This shift will finally change the balance of power in economy, politics and society more and more to the people. (I hope. ;-) )

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We had a costume party today. We had an Indian chef come and cook a wonderful curry feast. (Thanks for the intro Kumi!) We invited people from Neoteny and it's portfolio companies as well as people from Mizuka's dental clinic. It's amazing how many people cancelled at the last minute. My guess is that many of the people wimped out. ;-) It was a lot of fun though. We prepared power ranger sort of wear for those who didn't come with outfits. Luckily there were five people without outfits so we were able to get a power ranger group photo.

Utsumi, the CEO of Genec, came as his head on a platter. I wonder if that had a deeper meaning...

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Bill Tai turned me on to the SliMP3 Ethernet MP3 Player made by Slim Devices Inc. It's $249 device that talks to a server installed on your PC via ethernet. It has a remote control that lets you navigate through the mp3's on your PC and plays them out through RCA cables that connect to your stereo. Pretty cool device which works well. I don't know if $249 is expensive or not, but in my house where my PC is in a room in the basement and my stereo is in my living room, it's a great thing. Setup and installation were easy as cake. The device talks DHCP so you literally just plug and play. I'm all for dedicated devices that make hooking up stuff in the living room easier!

Frank, who told me, "Oh No. Now all you'll be thinking about is whether something will be material for your blog," when I told him about my blog, has started his own blog. I met Frank through our mutual friend Hiroshi Lockheimer when they both worked for Be Inc. Frank was in charge of marketing and communications and they asked me to be on Be's advisory board. I was the first and last advisory board member I think. Anyway, since then we've kept in touch and Frank co-founded AirEight with his old pals from Vertus. I'm on the advisory board for AirEight as well. Looking at the web page, you might think that all they do is sponsor race cars, but they are actually doing some cool things. ;-)

Frank has a very geeky style that is really my favorite part of the US technology entrepreneurship thing, but he seems to feel a bit self-conscious about it. Another mutual friend we have is Michael Backes who David Smith describes as the only person he knows with terminal ADD. They both worked at Virtus. There something about people who worked at Virtus that I can't put my finger on... They are all have kind of a wacky sense of humor and seem to be part of some big long drama that reminds me of the Hitch Hicker's Guide to the Galaxy or something.

Anyway, Frank's blog should be fun. I look forward to tracking it. You saw it here first. My first scoop. I blogged a blog first.

Bloggers will already be aware of this, but web publishers are trying to make it illegal to link to pages on their site. The logic from some people is that it subverts the efforts of the publisher to manage the traffic, sell advertising and control the user. National Public Radio say that they just wanted to know who was using their stuff. The great debate following their taking this position seems to have changed their minds. The form one had to fill out in order to link to their page is no longer online and one day after the OJR article, June 27, NPR updated their Terms of Use Page which now says this about linking:

Links to NPR Web Sites
NPR encourages and permits links to content on NPR Web sites. However, NPR is an organization committed to the highest journalistic ethics and standards and to independent, noncommercial journalism, both in fact and appearance. Therefore, the linking should not (a) suggest that NPR promotes or endorses any third party痴 causes, ideas, Web sites, products or services, or (b) use NPR content for inappropriate commercial purposes. We reserve the right to withdraw permission for any link.

Anyway, as co-founder of Infoseek Japan (I'm still on the board), as a newbie blogger and as someone who believes that the contextual flexibility of the Internet is one of its most important attributes... I am horrified by the idea of limiting deep linking. It goes against the basic idea that brought us this medium in the first place.

A court in Copenhagen, Denmark ruled in favor of the Danish Newspaper Publisher's Association against the online news aggregator Newsbooster who was deep linking into the Newspaper's site. This is the first court ruling deep linking to be illegal.

I testified in a case in Japan where an Osaka court ruled that someone who linked to an illegal pornography site was actually running a pornography site and found guilty which has similar legal ramifications, but didn't seem to have the impact that the current deep linking debate has.

Sen proposes an interesting technical solution. (I always like technical solutions more than legal solutions.)

Frankly, I think that if people don't want to allow deep linking, people should just configure their software (probably requires some implementation work and may be some access control depending on how strict the site wants to be) to not permit browsers to reach portions of their site directly w/o a "legal" referer.

It's not a perfect solution, but I bet it would prevent 99% of people from reaching certain parts of websites directly...

Here are some links:

NPR's Mixed Messages - Online Journalism Review
NPR's brutally stupid linking policy - Boing Boing
Public Protests NPR Link Policy - Wired News
Danish Court Rules Deep Linking Illegal - Slashdot
Web site barred from linking to Danish newspaper Web sites - DigitalMASS.com