Joi Ito's Web

Joi Ito's conversation with the living web.

Ev writes about Google's new quicklink for whois. If you search for "whois [domain]" on Google you will get a link to a search on's Global Whois service for the domain name. I guess this is useful for people who won't touch a command line, but I don't think I'd ever use it. I will continue to open a terminal window and type "whois". That way I can continue to see whois spam too. ;-)

$ whois

Whois Server Version 1.3

Domain names in the .com and .net domains can now be registered
with many different competing registrars. Go to
for detailed information.


Eeewwww... What ARE YOU THINKING Apple Computer?

I just ordered it anyway, but this is crazy. Microsoft Office is the last thing in the world I'd want to compare iLife with.

via Zeitgeist

My last blog entry about blogs and justice was a bit theoretical and ended with more questions than answers. Maybe it was confusing. Let me try to be specific. I think blogging will go beyond text and by blogging I mean the whole space that includes all sorts of micro-publishing of micro-content in a highly linked and low-cost way. This includes camera phones, video and audio. There are many things going on right now that will be sand in the vaseline from a technology perspective. Most types of DRM will suck for micro-content distribution. So will things like the broadcast flag. The whole notion of architecting systems for streaming video on demand goes against architecting systems for sharing. These technology and policy decisions will greatly affect the ease in which we publish and share information in the future.

When else can we do? At the last GLT Annual meeting Ethan Zukerman raised an important question during a talk moderated by Richard Smith, the Chairman and Editor in Chief of Newsweek. He asked why the mass media didn't cover Africa more. To summarize, Mr. Smith answered that they were a business and had to print things that people cared about and that they had resource constraints that made it difficult for them to cover remote regions. Resource constraints and caring. Mr. Smith seemed genuinely distressed by the inability to report about things the he believed people SHOULD care about. In Aspen the year before last, Jack Kemp said an interesting thing, "It doesn't matter what you know if you don't care." I agree, and generally people don't care to learn about things they don't care about.

I think blogs can help on both points. There are lots of people in these countries that can help provide voice if enabled with some technology and some support. Witness provides a video voice to people who are oppressed in remote regions of the world. Take a look at the videos. Tell me if you still don't care. Salam Pax our Blogger in Iraq provided a real human voice before the invasion of Iraq. This human voice helped me care about Iraq much more than a statistical body count reported in the New York Times ever could. I'm hoping that Creative Commons licenses will allow musicians in remote regions to share music and culture directly so they have a voice, rather than being mined by studios and commercial interests and being turned into an mere ethnic overtone in an otherwise typically commercial business. I think blogs and technologies that allow people to produce and share information help greatly on the "make people care" part of the equation.

On the "we are resource constrained" part of the media equation, blogs can help too. Ethan Zukerman is planning his second trip to Africa with GLTs and other opinion leaders. I hope to join him on the trip after that. Ethan has been working very hard to try to provide technical support to NGO and other people working in Africa. As I propose in my Emergent Democracy paper, I think that there is a way for information to emerge from regions though several layers of blogs. A group of bloggers focused on Africa, working with people like Witness to try to identify issues, getting first hand sources and dialog onto the Net is the first step. We don't need a lot of these bloggers and they probably won't be your average person, but with a few well positioned bloggers in these regions, these regions can be "lit up" with a human voice and feed culture into our collective consciousness. These bloggers would keep in touch with sources and provide a network similar to the way in which a journalist creates a local network of sources and experts.

I think that bloggers can work closely with the mass media. Richard Smith expressed his interest in hooking up with bloggers and other sources with access to information that his journalists could use. The bloggers who are in or care about regions that are not well-covered by traditional media could become sources for traditional journalists and support by providing an audience that cares and resources at a very low cost.

These are just some examples of things that we can be doing to help make blogs provide real value to society, rather than becoming an echo-chamber for local values or chat rooms to promote new media assets.

So when Clay's asserts that:

I can’t imagine a system that would right the obvious but hard to quantify injustice of the weblog world that wouldn’t also destroy its dynamism.
I guess if the primary focus of a good system is to be just, I can imagine it trying to make technology more inclusive and thinking beyond the market of the privileged that danah refers to.

Lou Marinoff described one definition of Justice as "doing the right thing at the right time." He continued by explaining that it means you have to define "right thing".

There are at least eleven ways of being right.
  1. deontology - rules tell us what is right and wrong
  2. teleology - The end justifies (or sanctifies) the means
  3. virtue ethics - goodness comes from virtues, which are like habits
  4. humanistic existentialism - what we choose to do determines what we value
  5. nihilistic existentialism - "God is dead." And we killed him. So all moral bets are off
  6. analytic ethics - "Goodness" cannot be defined or analyzed
  7. correlative ethics - every right entails an obligation, and vice-versa
  8. sociobiology - ideas of "right" and "wrong" are motivated by our genes
  9. feminist ethics - women have different moral priorities: e.g. ethics of caring
  10. legal moralism - if it's legal, it's ethical
  11. meta-ethical relativism - each situation has its own unique ethical dimension

Aeons ago, Clay asserted that power-laws existed in blogs and that it was in-equal but fair. Maybe he is basically being a deontologists with a bit of legal moralism thrown in. The rules are fair so it's OK. Marko (a philosopher among other things) asks the question, "So the interesting question this raises is: What are the principles if satisfied that would show the blogging world to be a just institutional structure? And the meta-level question: How would we justify these principles to each other?" I know that Marko is an expert on "justice" and my simple explanation above is far to simple, but this dialog about whether blogs are fair, good or just forces us to examine what we mean by fair, right and just. I think that in order for us to justify these principles, we might need to define Virtue. (Since defining "right" is so difficult.) According to Lou:

Aristotle said that Virtue is the Golden Mean between two extremes. It was all about balance. "Rational" comes from "ratio". The idea was to triangulate from two extremes of vice. For example, Courage is the mean between cowardice and rashness.
I know Dave Winer likes the word "triangulation" and the blogs are good at that. Is it possible that blogs can help us get out of the echo chamber and achieve the Aristotelian Virtue of the Golden Mean? (I know many people disagree with this, but I continue to believe as I argued in my Emergent Democracy paper that this is possible.) danah expresses her opinion that blogs are not an equalizing technology and that it is the a technology for the privileged. To her, fair (and probably just) isn't about having rules that are difficult to game, but rather about being available and designed to promote equality. She is probably more of a teleologist with a bit of correlative ethics and feminism thrown in. (Sorry, just playing with the labels a bit. Don't mind me.)

To finally tie it into the discussion about technological determinism vs social constructivism, I think we need to be aware that we have an active effect on how the architecture of this technology evolves. I don't think we can yet "show the blogging world to be a just institutional structure", but rather we can try to determine what is just and strive to make the blogging world into something we feel is just. This requires us to dive into some of the questions that even Aristotle didn't answer. What is right? What is just? Hopefully the tools themselves will help guide this discussion, but rather than be nihilistic or deterministic, I think we should be actively involved in a dialog that best represents a consensus of our views. In order for this to be just, we must try be as inclusive as possible of everyone and on this I agree with danah. The tool is not yet inclusive. I think that blogs are right in many ways, but are far from right in many others. How can we try to make blogs as right and just as possible. I think that this is the question that faces us today.

For those of you who continue to argue that most blogs and links between blogs are an echo chamber, go to Barlow's blog and take a look. Barlow has stepped out of his Barlowfriendz mailing list into a community which includes the Barlowenemiez. Barlow eloquently discusses the experience of stepping out of the echo chamber.