Joi Ito's Web

Joi Ito's conversation with the living web.

I'm here in Switzerland at the University of St. Gallen ISC-Symposium again. I spoke at a leadership session last year about Emergent Democracy, but felt I didn't get the most out of the conference because I didn't get a chance to get to know the students who were attending, which is why I came. The 200 or so students attending this conference are chosen from hundreds of paper submissions from all over the world and they are an diverse and interesting group. In the addition to the students, there are a lot of government and business big-shots, but I get a chance to hang out with most of these guys at other conferences. I later found out that my friend Martin has been giving the pre-conference talk to just the students to prepare them for the conference and he said that this was a blast because he got to know the students.

This year, I asked the organizing committee and was able to get them to let me participate in the pre-conference too. Martin and I got a chance to do our respective rants about politics, racism, war and a variety of other topics. We asked the students to talk about what they thought was wrong with the world and their respective regions. It was quite enlightening and we had a great mixing dinner afterwards. There were people from just about every region, but the small number participants from the Middle East and North America was interesting. I could tell that the students were actively networking and I think this process can form the basis of a really important channel of communications for the future.

I talked a bit about the possibility of using social software to support this sort of global networking so I hope everyone takes a look at blogging, wikis and other tools.

I woke up at 7:30AM when my phone beeped with an incoming SMS. It was a message telling me that Min had just checked in. I forgot to turn off dodgeball and the SMS was telling me where Min was in SF and that she had checked in. Now I know why they call it "dodgeball". ;-p For those who haven't tried it yet, dodgeball is a cool new service that is a location based SNS that lets you "check in" and it sends a SMS to your friends to tell them where you are. But it's not very useful when I'm in Madrid and Min's in SF. ;-)

photo from Hoder's photo blog
The New York Times
Those Sexy Iranians

...True, girls and women can still be imprisoned for going out without proper Islamic dress. But young people are completely redefining such dress so it heightens sex appeal instead of smothering it.

Women are required to cover their hair and to wear either a chador cloak or an overcoat, called a manteau, every time they go out, and these are meant to be black and shapeless. But the latest fashion here in Shiraz, in central Iran, is light, tight and sensual.

"There are some manteaus with slits on the sides up to the armpits," said Mahmoud Salehi, a 25-year-old manteau salesman. "And then there are the `commando manteaus,' with ties on the legs to show off the hips and an elastic under the breasts to accentuate the bust."

Worse, from the point of view of hard-line mullahs, young women in such clothing aren't getting 74 lashes any more — they're getting dates.

Iranian blogger Hoder has started a photo blog and some of the recent images show us what they're talking about.

The Japan Times
Kidnap crisis poses a new risk

In Japan's case, laws are being proposed to punish those entering designated "danger zones" without an official reason.

Victims -- or their families -- will foot the bill for their rescue, which will amount to airfare, if not more. "This is standard practice for mountain rescues," one line of reasoning goes.

But consider two things: One is that an aid mission to a danger zone is not a forest stroll gone astray. The very comparison indicates a misunderstanding of what aid missions do.

The second is policy overstretch and political abuse. This law would place a degree of government control over aid organizations, something many don't want. Particularly NGOs (by very the nature of their title) eschew government support, especially when they take on problems governments would rather avoid.

Under this law, they would effectively need official permission to work in some places overseas. Those "unsponsored" who get unlucky will face a "rescue fine" -- which could bankrupt the person or the organization. Thus this new system of rents will curtail Japanese volunteerism.

The Japanese government is taking this way too far and totally agree with the author of this article that this is a bad bad thing. As I've said before, legislation during emotionally charged times often ends up being stupid and poorly thought through. The ramifications of such a law would be devastating for NGO's and aid workers from Japan, just when such activity is becoming recognized. It almost feels like some stupid conspiracy to use this incident to squash the NGO's in Japan. Bah. I have less and less respect for the Japanese government every day.

Off to Switzerland in a few minutes. See you on the other side. Going to St. Gallen.