Joi Ito's conversation with the living web.

June 2002 Archives

So what does this Worldcom thing mean? Many people saw it coming. I've been hearing about this possibility for a long time.

Many people are aruging that this is the beginning of the end for telecom because Moore's law applies to telecom and although bandwidth gets cheaper and cheaper, demand has slowed down.

There is an interesting comment from Professor Gerald Faulhaber on David Farber's list. His point is that we should be apalled by the Enron/Andersen of it all and that isn't directly related to the problem with the business model.

Having been through the bankruptcy of PSINet as a former CEO of the PSINet Japan, I have my own theories. I think part of it was the telephone companies trying to gobble up the ISP's that are a threat to their voice business and choking on their acquisitions while at the same time trying to use regulators to make it difficult for ISP's to compete directly with phone companies. The cool thing is that regulators in Japan haven't figured it out or NTT isn't good at lobbying them and Yahoo is providing voice over IP broadband and really starting to be a pain in the neck for NTT.

I heard a rumor that China bought out all of the backbone carriers and is running it as a state operation. Even if this isn't true, this makes sense.

Anyway, I think that trying to continue to charge for voice doesn't make sense and I think it is the freebie giveaway like email to get people to really go for broadband.

Here are some good articles about Worldcom etc.

This Week's Clue: The Telecom Crash of 2002
Gordon Cook on how regulators are trying to bail out legacy telcos at the expense of ISP's
Worldcom Reveals Accounting Scandal - Reuters
AS THE WORLDCOM TURNS: A blog about WorldCom


We had another meeting to plan our strategy to stop the implementation of the Japanese national ID program. This program, which as already passed as law will assign 11 digit numbers to everyone and will cause to be distributed by the local governments, IC cards that will become ID cards including the national ID. The network architecture is a mess, the security is weak, there is very little in place limiting the use of the collected information, there is no privacy watchdog organization and the privacy bill that is trying to be passed right now actually deliberately allows for the government to use collected information quite freely.

Originally, the privacy bill was supposed to be in place before the national ID could be implemented, but somehow the the bureaucrats have convinced themselves that they could move forward with the national ID without the privacy bill. The privacy bill is very poorly written anyway and doesn't protect us from abuse by the government and is overly restrictive for business.

I have been involved in trying to stop this bill since November last year, but since the law had already been passed (I didn't even know about it!) it's been quite an uphill battle. We are getting close though. There are very few politicians who feel strongly about it so I think we might be able to convince enough politicians to put the program on hold until we can discuss the risks more.

This process has really shown me how broken the law making system is in Japan. Almost everyone we talk to is now against it, but we still can't stop it. It is like a tanker with no one on board.

There is a Japanese web page describing our efforts.


Foma pcmcia card. A 3G data card that does 64K

My new SO504i

Today we had an i-mode council meeting. The i-mode council is a group of advisors for the i-mode group at NTT Docomo. It's an interesting meeting because we get to hear what NTT Docomo is thinking and the discussion is always very interesting.

I tried connect to the DDI Pocket 64K PHS Data network, but suprise suprise, I couldn't connect from the NTT Docomo meeting room. I complained and they lent me a new Foma 3G data card. It's much faster even though it is also only 64K because it doesn't have to go through the switch like the PHS card. It is much more expensive than the PHS network, but this one is Docomo's. On wonder how long I can keep it. ;-)

They also upgraded my SO503i to the new SO504i. The new i-mode phone goes 28.8K which feels MUCH faster than the old 9600 bps 503. The Java i-apli's run much faster and they can run in waiting mode and have news and weather pushed to them. We saw a demo of some old Nintendo games ported to the phone and they basically run as fast as the old game machines and the displays have more pixel depth!

Spam is an issue that has been discussed and discussed. Laws have even been passed about it. The reason I decided to write something now about it is because I've been using a spam filter for awhile and I think it is working. Usually. I also think it represents the proper way of thinking about Spam.

Sen and I have talked about spam a lot and we often talk about how it is yet another basic mistake in the way that the Internet was designed. If only smtp could let you authenticate the user before you received mail, we could make much better mail filter. Alas, this can not be changed now. (Or it would be very difficult.) So we have to come up with some solutions.

The best solution we have found so far is whitelisting. It is a way to make a filter that only lets mail from certain addresses through. Originally Sen had made a script for me where I had a separate mailbox for mail from people who were in my address book. Now we have moved over to TMDA which lets you create white lists, black lists and a variety of other things. I have mine set up so that I can create and maintain my own list of addresses and domains that I want to receive mail from. We also have it set up so that if someone sends mail that is from someone not on the list, they get a message asking to reply and confirm that they are a human being. Once we receive the confirmation, the mail comes through. To filter for humans I don't want to get mail from or for that intelligent spam robot, I can make black lists.

There are still various problems with the system, but it works quite well. I still have it set up so that I have a mailbox for all of the mail that is rejected and I go through this periodically to make sure I did't miss something important.

In Japan, spam has become a huge issue because the recipient has to pay for the mail on i-mode phones. NTT Docomo is trying very hard to deal with this issue with filters of their own, but there are still major problems.

I do think that spam should be solved by certificates, authentication, keys, etc. on the user side and not by some huge central server...


This is Yokoyama-san showing us his new Kyocera PDA. It was recently announced, but they haven't priced it yet. It is fast because there really isn't very much operating system to get in the way of performance. His company, MCT did most of the software inside in Java. He showed us a pretty groovy pinball game and it was FAST. It is running on Tao.

So what it is about embedded systems these days. Except for a very small number of companies, most of them are struggling. I hear they can't get funding in Silicon Valley. (Who can!) There's lot of work to do, but nothing huge and scalable. I think it is because the hardware companies are still in charge of what goes on inside. We need to figure out a new architecture that puts the application guys in charge of the hardware and the semi-conductors.

Yokoyama-san's PDA was definitely cool and impressive, but it probably would have been a lot more impressive if we had been able to design all of the architecture from scratch...

So it looks like my web site is finally ready for a soft launch. Now I have to figure out what to do with the Japanese version... Anyway, thanks Justin, for helping me get this far. I think this blog format is much better than my old static page which I had edit html directly. For anyone who isn't using blog software to do their web page, I highly recommend it. If you don't know what a blog is, google for it. ;-)

Any comments about the site would be really helpful.


Today was the first shareholders meeting since Pia went public. Pia is the largest ticketing company with 60% of the market in Japan. They started as a publisher of magazines about leisure such as movie guides and the publishing business continues to be a big business. The shareholders meeting was in a large event hall called Blitz in Akasaka. A pianist played on stage before the event which was very well produced and very appropriate for an entertainment and leisure company.

I was officially elected as their first outside board member at this shareholders meeting.

So I was with Frank Boosman in a meeting and I was talking about how excited I was about setting up a blog. He said, "Oh No. Now all you'll be thinking about is whether something will be material for your blog." Well Frank. That was material for my blog. ;-p

As Justin and I prepare this web site for our July 1 launch and I port over all of the old columns from Japan Inc. I am reminded about an issue that has been haunting my online and real life style. Most of the people who read my Japan Inc. column liked it because it presented a unique view, but several people commented that it was just a bunch of name dropping. I've also heard that people inside of a Japanese government agency call me a name dropper.

As Justin and I prepare this web site for our July 1 launch and I port over all of the old columns from Japan Inc. I am reminded about an issue that has been haunting my online and real life style. Most of the people who read my Japan Inc. column liked it because it presented a unique view, but several people commented that it was just a bunch of name dropping. I've also heard that people inside of a Japanese government agency call me a name dropper.

Name dropping is an interesting thing. I suppose it is annoying when someone is doing it for some sort of gain such as better treatment or just plain bragging. My Japanese elders often tell me that a true Japanese does not disclose one's contacts and that it is not cultured to talk about "who you know."

The problem is, I think one of the most interesting things about me is who I know. When I meet other people like me, we usually do a quick brain dump of who we know and try to zoom in on a few mutual friends. More like name "dumping." This is a sort of standard protocol for me. For instance, I recently met David Smith we instantly bonded through our mutual relationship with Michael Backes and our similar view on how crazy and wonderful he was. ;-)

I'm also fascinated by interesting people. I have my views about other people and am very interested in other peoples' views about people. Trading list of "people you should definitely meet" is a very important part of initiating friends into my network. So I can't imaging not talking about all of the interesting people I meet.

Anyway, I guess I am trying justify myself. Maybe I shouldn't worry. Actually, I've never had anyone I truely respected be bothered by my "name dropping" so maybe it is an attribute of people who are concerned by their own lack of friends. I guess I don't need to respect of people who confuse me with the petty businessman who waves the name card of a politician when dealing with bureaucrats...

There is something special about good old American Lasagne done well. I personally like it better than traditional Italian Lasagne. Recently, I've been using a ragu sauce taken from the Harry's Bar Cookbook (thanks to Christine Schoepf of Ars Electronica for recommending this great book to me!) with a more traditional American Lasagne recipe. The ragu may be a little to... "fancy" tasting for the lasagne, but I'm not sure. I'm going to try to modify the sause a bit in the future... But below is my "current recipe" for my favorite lasagne. (If you like the Ragu, by the book. The link above is to's entry for the book.)

The Ragu

  • 1 carrot, peeled
  • 1 celery rib
  • 1 small onion
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1/2 cup tomato paste
  • 2 table spoons flour
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 quart veal stock
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • fresh ground peper
  • bouquet garni (1 fresh rosemary sprig, 1 fresh thyme sprig, 2 flat-leaf parsley sprigs tied in cheesecloth

Chop carrot, celery and onion. Use 1/2 of the oil and saute the vegetables over medium heat for 10 minutes. In another pan, heat remaining oil, add garlic, cook for about 30 seconds and discard garlic. Add the beef. Cook the meet until brown (approx 10 min.). Combine everything and add the tomato paste. Cook for 2 minutes. Add flour and cool another 2 minutes. Raise the heat, add wine, evaporate wine, add stock, salt, pepper, bouquet garni. Bring to boil, reduce heat, add and simmer for 1 hour stirring from time to time.

This sauce makes a very good spagetti sauce too.

The Lasagne

  • 8 oz. Lasagne
  • 15 oz. Ricotta cheese
  • 8 oz. shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 2 tables spoons grated Parmesan cheese (grate yourself!)
  • 1 egg
  • 2 teaspoons dried parsley flakes
  • salt
  • fresh ground pepper

Boil pasta. Lay flat on foil to cool. Eat oven to 350F. In a bowl, stir ricotta, 1 cup mozarella, parmesan cheese, egg and seasonings. In baking dish, spread 1/2 ragu, place pasta 1 layer, spread 1/2 ricotta mixture over pasta, cover with 1 cup ragu. Repeat layers of pasta, ricotta mixture and ragu. Top with pasta, ragu and mozzarella cheese. Cover ith foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake for another 15 minutes or until hot and bubbly. Let stand 10 minutes. 10-12 servings.

He shows that in closed systems people who focus on the relationships of the members and who do not trust work well whereas in open systems where it is more important to find many trustworthy people, it was better to assume people were trustworthy at the beginning.

He is a social psychologists and talked about some experiments he did where he found that people who trusted people more generally did better in his open market simulations. He found that people who trusted people more tended to be better at quickly discerning the trustworthiness of the partner. He shows that in closed systems people who focus on the relationships of the members and who do not trust work well whereas in open systems where it is more important to find many trustworthy people, it was better to assume people were trustworthy at the beginning.

Anyway, I don't do his work justice with this small comment. His most recent paper is not yet available in Japanese, but his early work on trust is also very interesting and is available on his site.

Here is his web page.

We have formed a Japan chapter of Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility. Shinji Yamane, who has been working on this project for quite a while will be the chair. Kazuo Fujimoto will be the secretary and I will be the treasurer initially. I am trying to get CPSR to help me show the technical problems with the National ID program that Japan is trying to implement. We have a local movement protesting the national ID.

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