Joi Ito's Web

Joi Ito's conversation with the living web.

As a result of a short, but useful discussion, I've decided to have have created a new RSS feed. Now I have four feeds for this site: RSS 1.0 Full Text Feed, RSS 1.0 Excerpt Feed, RSS 0.91 Full Text Feed, and RSS 1.0 Comments Feed. Now will someone create a way for people to post comments from the RSS clients?

Are long RSS items rude? More and more people are reading inside of news readers and not bothering to go to the blogs themselves. (My logs show this.) Should we put full text of the blog entry in the RSS feed, even if it's long? It will surely slow your refresh rate. Has anyone written a style guide for RSS feeds? It's a moving target, but I would be interested to hear about how readers and writers are designing their RSS feeds. Obviously, the people who are reading this in their RSS readers are going to have to get up off their butts and click on my blog to comment... ;-)

Inspired by Clay's claims about the power law distribution of blogs, I've been thinking and writing (with many others) about emergent democracy in the hopes that blogs will not create an elite ruling class, but will allow direct democracy to emerge from the chaos. The irony of my technorati and daypop rankings increasing because of this does not escape me. It feels good to get attention, and this feeling is the lust that drives people to stare at power law curve. Liz and I were chatting in IM about this today and she quoted: "One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them, One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them." So, who is the Frodo Baggins of the Internet? Are bloggers hobbits? Who can resist the power law distribution and try to create a more democratic process.

It is not just the Net that suffers from this. In my attempts to change Japan, Oki Matsumoto and I have been plotting the overthrow of the ruling elite. The problem is, to change anything in Japan, you have to be powerful and elite. Once you are powerful and elite, it is almost impossible by definition to overthrow yourself. We are thinking about setting up an organization with limited terms for leadership positions, mandatory retirement at a certain age (You can move on to the next platform.), and a variety of other measures to prevent people from accumulating too much power. I don't know about Oki, but I definitely have the "urge" to take control and lead this thing to the end. But I know from watching all of the others that it will eventually go to your head and you won't realize when you're not as smart as the "followers". It is only at this moment where I have enough power to organize, but not to control, that I must help forge the rules to prevent anyone from spoiling it for the rest of us in the future. I trust my ability to resist the urge to abuse power today, but history shows that most of us are not hobbits and this ability to resist becomes exceedingly difficult.

I would like to quickly point out here that competition is at the center of a healthy market and I would not want to question the value of competition where you have a mechanism to keep it fair. It is in power law distribution oriented situations where power accumulates beyond fairness. Bill Gates lives on the edge of this definition.

So, is lust for power uncontrollable? I don't think so. People have sexual lusts and they overcome them to make society possible. People lust for big SUV's but the US seems to be making it politically incorrect to fulfill this lust. We have lusts of many kinds, can't we try to condition ourselves away from the lust for power? Hollywood movies tend to reinforce the lust for power. Maybe it starts by changing the role models in society?

What is this leadership thing anyway? Dee Hock has a great piece about how leaders should focus on managing their superiors first and peers next and that the followers are the ones who manage the leaders. Emergent leadership is not about control or taking power, it is about ethics, integrity and holding together so that you are empowered by others. A system that promotes leaders quickly as necessary and destroys leaders who retain power for power's sake is what I want.

However, whether we promote good leaders or bad leaders depends on the people. The people will get the leaders that they deserve in such a system and the burden will be on them. (Which, I think is how a democracy is supposed to work.)

I saw an interesting entry about emergent terrorism.

This brings us to emergent totalitarianism, or emergent terrorism. At first they may not seem susceptible to analysis as emergent phenomena, since by definition totalitarianism is a command system, and the greatest terrorist threat today demands obedience (at least nominally) to a strict and inflexible code of behavior. Yet many have noted how the decentralized network of Al Qaeda makes it difficult to cripple or destroy. This is not the first time they have been discussed as an emergent system, yet I think it's important to study their dynamics as deeply as possible if civilization is in a war to the death with them - we must know their strengths and weaknesses better than they know ours. And if we are truly to pit emergent system vs emergent system (rather than command vs emergent as the communists did economically) it must be at least in part us rather than our government who think about it.
I have always believed that terrorism is emergent in a lot of ways. Steven Johnson points out in his book, Emergence that not all emergence is good. I think Danny Hillis once pointed out that destruction works to beat up an ordered system such as US troops in Desert Storm, but has difficulty fighting chaos, such as terrorism. So how do we combant chaotic emergent threats? David discusses this in his Art of Peace entry a bit. I think you have to understand the conditions that cause the emergence as well as the the nature of the "units". I think one of the big problems in our quest to understand terrorism is that we think that "they" are not humans. "How could humans hate America? How could humans try to hurt us?" "They're evil, so they're not human in the same way we are human." Well, "they" are among "us".
WASHINGTON, Feb. 22 -- The possibility of war with Iraq could unleash acts of anti-American violence in the United States or overseas by individual extremists who do not belong to Al Qaeda or other Middle Eastern terrorist groups but sympathize with their grievances, intelligence and law enforcement officials say.
I think the more quickly we decide that we are humans fighting humans and focus on the conditions that cause terrorism, the more effectively we will combat it. I think that using force and "order" against a chaotic system is a mistake and destined for the same results as the mayors who built "projects" to "get rid of" the slums. If you don't change the basic conditions through emergence, you'll never win.

A story about how Ivan, a meme, is created by Alice and makes his way through weblog space. I wrote this little story to try to illustrate how microcontent cruises through blogs. I try to include all of the applications and services that I use regularly when I blog. It's probably a good place to start in inspiring me to make my glossary. If anyone notices any technical mistakes or things I should add to make this story more interesting, I would greatly appreciate it.

Alice had been thinking about Ivan, the idea, for a while. At 2am, Ivan was ready and Alice popped open the sleeping PowerBook by her bed and opened Kung-Log, a client for posting entries to Movable Type. She typed Ivan into Kung-Log. She selected Ivan's category, clicked a button to include the song she was listening to on iTunes and clicked "post". Kung-Log connected to Movable Type running on her server AliceBlog. Kung-Log talked to Movable Type in metaWeblog API which allowed Kung-Log, who grew up in another neighborhood, to explain to Movable Type exactly what Ivan was, who wrote Ivan, and what category he should be in. Movable Type took Ivan and put him in MySQL, a database also running on the server. Movable Type then went to work. Movable Type called all of the Templates together and called all of the other microcontent who would be neighbors of Ivan (which Ivan was now one of) and got them together and rebuilt all of the relevant html and xml files of AliceBlog. Movable Type also connected to and a few other sites and talked to them in XML-RPC to let them know that Ivan had just been added and AliceBlog updated. Because Ivan was the newest microcontent on AliceBlog, MovableType put Ivan prominently on the top of the index page, included him in all of the category pages and even gave him his own html page and put a permalink to that on the top page. Ivan also ended up in the RSS file. The RSS file is an xml file, which included Ivan and a bunch of other microcontent. Ivan was very well defined with metadata including who had written him, when he was written, a picture that Alice had included to help explain Ivan and even a link to an explanation of the picture.

Bob was a big fan of AliceBlog. Bob lived in Tokyo and was running Radio Userland on his PC. He had his news aggregator page open. Radio Userland knew that AliceBlog had been updated because had added AliceBlog to the changes page as soon as it had received notice from Movable Type that Alice had updated AliceBlog. Bob saw Ivan and was quite impressed. He clicked "post" next to Ivan. Ivan showed up in a new window and Bob typed a few extra thoughts into the window and clicked "publish". Ivan and Bob's comments were saved in the Radio Userland folder on Bob's PC. Radio Userland called up the Templates and rendered all of the files just like Movable Type did, except it did this all on Bob's PC. Then, Radio Userland upstreamed all of the files to the cloud where BobsBlog lived. Suddenly, BobsBlog included Ivan, a link to Ivan on AliceBlog and some thoughts from Bob. Radio Userland also let know that BobsBlog had been updated.

Charlie liked the design of BobsBlog and always visited BobsBlog first when he accessed the Internet. He saw Ivan on BobsBlog and thought Ivan was really cool. He noticed that Ivan was from AliceBlog, which he had never been to. He clicked on the link to AliceBlog and thought AliceBlog was really neat. He decided that other people should read AliceBlog. AliceBlog had a button that said, "blogroll me". He clicked the button and a script ran on his machine to take AliceBlog's address and send a message to to include AliceBlog in his blogroll. Charlie'sBlog knew to get an updated version of Charlie's blogroll every time someone looked at Charlie'sBlog and include it in the page and now AliceBlog was on it. Charlie also wanted to write about Ivan so he went to his Blogger page and copied Ivan into the window, added some comments and clicked, "publish". Suddenly, Ivan was on Charlie'sBlog and in Charlie's RSS file which live on Blogspot, a server run by the same people who make Blogger.

Dave was a very busy guy who liked Charlie's stuff, but didn't have time to surf the web. Dave ran NetNewsWire on his Mac. Every 30 minutes, NetNewWire went to all of the weblogs that were on Dave's list and picked up the RSS files from the weblogs. Since the RSS files included information about when Ivan was added, NetNewsWire knew that Ivan was a new piece of microcontent so NetNewWire highlighted Ivan as he came in. Dave hit the space key and NetNewWire diligently flipped through all of the new microcontent. Dave was really excited to see Ivan. Dave clicked "Post to Weblog" on NetNewsWire. Dave actually had a lot of weblogs that he wrote for and NetNewWire could post to any of them, even though they all ran different weblog systems because all of the weblog systems talked in an API that NewNewWire could communicate in. Dave decided to post it to his Movable Type weblog, DaveBlog. He added some comments and clicked "post". Just like Alice's Movable Type, Dave's Movable Type rebuilt DaveBlog, and sent an XML RPC message. Dave's Movable Type noticed that AliceBlog was a Movable Type weblog so it also sent a trackback to Ivan on AliceBlog. Movable Type over at Alice's server received the trackback and rebuilt AliceBlog to include a link to DaveBlog's permalink of Ivan in the trackbacks section of Ivan on AliceBlog. Now everyone who saw Ivan on AliceBlog could also see Ivan on DaveBlog, who was older and more interesting because he had additional comments from Bob, Charlie and Dave.

In several hours, Ivan was all over the place. Blogdex was crawling all over the web and noticed that everyone had links to Ivan. Blogdex compared the number of websites linking to Ivan with the number of websites linking to other microcontent and realized that Ivan had more links to him than any other microcontent. Blogdex updated its page and put Ivan on the top of the list with a link to a list of all of the weblogs that had links to Ivan.

Technorati, was also crawling the weblogs and noticed a lot of links to AliceBlog. The number of weblogs linking to AliceBlog had increased significantly since Ivan was posted and the total number of weblogs as well as the total number of links to AliceBlog were higher than any other weblog so Technorati put AliceBlog at the top of the list.

Alice had an RSS feed that Technorati created just for her which included all of the people who linked to her. At the office, she had a PC that was running FeedReader which received this Technorati feed and showed all of the people linking to her in little balloon windows on the bottom of her desktop. She was really excited. She could see Ivan growing into a meme and spreading across the world. Since so many people were linking to AliceBlog and to Ivan, Google ranked Ivan at the top of the page rankings. People who were searching for information about ideas similar to Ivan found AliceBlog and left comments about Ivan on AliceBlog. These comments became a dialog on AliceBlog about Ivan. She saw some particularly interesting comments about Ivan so she collected quotes and links from all of the weblogs and opened up Movable Type from her browser at the office and created Ira. Ira was even smarter than Ivan and was sure to be a big hit.

Evan, who tracks ideas like Ivan and Ira and is writing a paper about the subject drags them from AliceBlog onto NoteTaker and puts them in his outline with other ideas about Ivan and Ira. He selects, "save as web page". NoteTaker posts the whole notebook including the new entries for Ivan and Ira and they become part of Evan's online notebook, which is structured by topic, rather than by time like most weblogs. Evan also saves the notebook as OPML and emails it to Frank and Greg. Frank uses OmniOutliner and is working on the project with Evan. Frank is able to open the OPML file and add it to his OmniOutliner outline. Greg, a Radio Userland user, opens the file in Radio Userland and saves it to his outlines folder. ActiveRender, renders the OPML file into an html file with javascript to allow viewers to manipulate the outline and Radio Userland upstreams the nifty outline to GregBlog.