Joi Ito's Web

Joi Ito's conversation with the living web.

Nice summary and a question on Marc's Voice about whether Sony is the answer to everything.

Sony may be the one to change all this. They certainly have the most to gain - even more than us plain old customers. What makes it REALLY interesting is that they own a label and studio. Which side are they on?
Sony is like a an ecology of competing components. Everyone is very proud of Sony and there is definitely a Sony DNA that keeps it all together, but it is not dictated top-down as you would imagine. Idei-san is almost like a coach, I think. In the Newsweek article, Idei comments on Kutaragi:
Kutaragi is the perfect example of Sony old and new. A fiercely independent engineering visionary, he created PS1 and 2 - and ran his division with cavalier disregard for the suits at headquarters. "He's kind of a symbol for Sony, how the rule breaker can survive with the rule maker," says Idei, who has tried to make Kutaragi more of a team player by giving him broader responsibility. "And now," says Idei, "the rule breaker has become the rule maker."
Idei-san definitely provides a vision a creates rules that guide the company, but it's the people like Kutaragi's that break that rules that create the breakthroughs at Sony. Sony is very good at allowing competing agendas to co-exist because of their structure. I think that where they suffer is that it's hard to connect a bunch of competing parts. Now that connectivity is the name of the game, Idei-san is changing the company to try to preserve the the Sony spirit of invention and leadership, but to network everything. What's really interesting to me about this process is that Sony is a microcosm of the basic software, standards and architecture issues that the world has.

So to answer Marc's question... They're on all sides. When the answer becomes clear, they will obviously lean towards that direction, but while the jury is still out in their minds, I think they will let competing business units compete. And they can compete harder because they are bonded together with the Sony DNA and there is constant communication at the executive level.

So there is a terrible flu making its way through Tokyo. High fevers that can take you out for a week or so. I've been in bed the last few days with this flu. Have you noticed that the flu seems to get worse every year? I seem to have more flu days every year. I wonder if the flu will become a debilitating problem for our global viral village? I went to the doctor yesterday and he gave me Tamiflu. It's a relatively new drug that fights the flu virus. I think I started taking it a bit too late to have maximum impact, but I looked it up on the Net and it sounds pretty cool.

Neuraminidase (noor-uh-MIN-ih-dase) inhibitors treat the cause of influenza infection by inhibiting the critical neuraminidase protein on the surface of the virus.
They have a cool animation on the web page. One more reason to love Google. You can pass the time in bed after a visit to the doctor's office googling all of the drugs you get. You can also check whether your doctor knows what he's doing.

So I hope this flu gets better soon since I have the go to Davos the day after tomorrow. I remember the last time I was in Davos I had to walk for miles through a blizzard...

I've been meaning to learn flash ever since Josh Davis called me "old school" during the Prix Ars Electronica jury meeting last year for discounting the importance of flash. With the cool political flash statements as well as some of the silly ones, I've been feeling more and more that flash might be an interesting medium for me if I could learn to use it well. So... On the flight back from Hawaii, I wrote my first flash "thingie". I don't even know what you call flash stories. I used Adobe LiveMotion... Anyway, technically, it's really stupid and simple and I wasn't going to publish it. A few people suggested that I post it anyway, and knowing myself, I think publishing is probably the best pressure/incentive for me to learn/do more.

It's 372K. It's a little slide show of people I've met recently and how they are influencing my thoughts about "IT"... (not information technology, but the BIG "IT")

Joi's first flash

Had drinks last night with some students from Bithaus, a school that I was the headmaster of for a year.

In 1997 an ad agency called Daiko came to me with a proposal to be the headmaster of a new school for multimedia and Internet. The idea of the school was that it would be a very hands-on trade school to help people learn how to make games, write Internet applications and make CG animations. The proposal involved working with a business partner who would run the day-to-day operations of the school. I would be in charge of the curriculum and the philosophy of the school. Sounded like a great deal.

The school was relatively successful in attracting a group of very interesting students. Most of them were quite young and some were very talented. I was also able to recruit a few good teachers with practical experience publishing games and building Internet services. Less than one year after the beginning of the school, and just after recruiting and receiving money from the second class of new students, the business partner's other business fell apart. I tried what I could and helped organize a deal to sell the assets of the school to another school which renamed the school "Silicon Hollywood". I was able to negotiate to keep the name. I joined the advisory board of Digital Hollywood and was allowed to set up the "Bithaus Lab" inside of Digital Hollywood.

The first class of students were clearly much more adventurous and risk-taking than the second class, although some of the second class students joined our "team". The first class of orphan's students planned and held their own graduation ceremony without help from the school. With the help of Digital Hollywood and the team spirit of the students, the core group has kept in touch and has held together as a group. Over a dozen of the students have worked for me over the years and several are in management positions in companies that I help run.

Anyway, we still occasionally get together for drinks and exchange notes about where everyone is and help those in trouble and congratulate those doing well.

Lessons learned: Don't put your name on a business where you don't know or can't control the person running the day-to-day operations. The "liability" of being responsible for people's futures is an incredible "asset" if you allow it to mature. Students willing to join a school with no history or name are probably pretty interesting...

As the US starts to spin up towards the war, the bloggers are starting to take positions. One of the things that Larry Lessig and I talked about a lot was the feeling that it was OK to talk about politics on blogs. Well, as thoughts turn to feelings and feelings turn to action, I think that we will start testing and stressing the little network of blogs we call a home. When I wrote about the Iranian round-up, I found some of my good friends disagreeing with me and even got email pointing out the irony of discussing US problems on a Japanese blog. Kuro5hin has an article bashing O'Keefe human shield. What's interesting is that just because we all agree on copyright, open standards and MetaWeblog API, it doesn't mean that we all have the same politics. I've generally been avoiding the topic of war and the peace movement and have been feeling VERY guilty that I haven't been writing more about Lisa Rein's activities in protesting the treatment of immigrants. I just sensed that it was a "hot" area and that I needed to prepare before going there…

Over the last few months I've heard arguments from some of the most persuasive pro-war advocates. My belief after hearing the arguments is that the war will probability be a long war with lots of stuff to do afterwards. (No clear opposition group in Iraq to rebuild Iraq after they oust Hussein.) If you consider the cost (human and financial) of what happens after the beginning of the war it's just not worth it. It looks to me like a re-election campaign for GW Bush causing America to make a very stupid decision which will cost the world money and grief. This is another Vietnam. I am against the war and anyone who is not should think carefully about the motives of the president of the United States and think step-by-step about what happens to freedom in the US after Total Information Awareness spins up and what happens in Iraq and the rest of the world after you have started the war. THINK ABOUT IT.