Joi Ito's conversation with the living web.

January 2003 Archives

The New York Times
State Department Link Will Open Visa Database to Police Officers

January 31, 2003

WASHINGTON, Jan. 30 - Law enforcement officials across the country will soon have access to a database of 50 million overseas applications for United States visas, including the photographs of 20 million applicants.
Critics also point to what they call the unwelcome precedent of foreign-intelligence sharing with local law enforcement, even if the intelligence community's initial contribution to the new system may seem somewhat innocuous. That component is the Open Source Information System, a portal where 14 agencies pool unclassified information. Such material in the new system will includes text articles from foreign periodicals and broadcasts, technical reports and maps.

Cool. Ranger Joe will be able to read my blog on his PDA!

This sort of thing is difficult to "turn off" once it gets going. I think you should read "Law Enforcement officals across the country" to mean "just about anybody willing to bribe a cop." Scary scary scary.

e2c_leftbar1.jpgThe Shure E2c "in-ear" headphones are the best headphones I've ever used. They come with foam earplug style or rubber sleeves. They fit right inside of your ear like a hearing aid and the wire slips over your ear and down behind your back. There is no electronic noise cancellation, but the earplug-like sleeves shut out all outside sound and give you incredible sound with no outside noise. Absolutely incredible. My ipod experience just got one notch closer to a religious experience.

Thanks Barak!

UPDATE: Matt from Shure has started a blog. Check it out!

UPDATE: I've started a gadget blog called Joi Ito's Stuff

From: Bettina Anagnostopoulos Date: Thu Jan 30, 2003 05:01:08 Asia/Tokyo To: "''" Subject: Dayton Ohio Japanese Business Tutor needed

I just saw your web site while searching for Japan + Dayton Ohio on google. I hope you may be able to assist me in networking...would you know of professionals who are interested in teaching Japanese to a U.S. executive moving to Tokyo?

Thanks for your help!
Bettina Anagnostopoulos
Senior Language Training Specialist

One amazing phenomenon of blogs is that because of all of the linking going on they end up with fairly high google rankings. At Supernova, Cory of Boing Boing talked about how people email him asking about things he blogs because his blog entries show up on the top of Google results. Also at Supernova, Sergey Brin co-founder of Google talked about how important the ranking and results algorithms were for Google. For instance, first result for "suicide" can have a life or death impact on someone depending on whether it is a page to help you decide not to commit suicide or a page about how to commit suicide. I am the second entry for "Japan + Dayton Ohio" and #3 for "Takenaka media" for instance. At Davos, I talked to Larry Page, co-founder of Google about the phenomenon. I explained that I was very excited that my entry about how the media failed to report the public support of Takenaka showed up before the media reports. I mentioned that maybe it was the way blogs created a lot of pages and linked to each other a lot and how this was giving them unfair juice. Larry said he thought that blogs were getting higher rankings because they were becoming a more important part of the Internet and implied that he felt the high rankings were fair. Cool. I was beginning to feel a bit guilty about the high rankings and worried that Google would "figure it out" and start lowering the rankings for blogs. If Larry says they're fair, I'm assuming they're fair and I don't have to worry about a "correction" in my page ranking.

So, if anyone knows of a good Japanese teacher in Dayton, please send email to Bettina. She gave me permission to post her email...

So I was talking to Zai on the way to the Zurich AirportUnique and told him that I had heard that Munich Airport was closer to Davos than Zurich and that maybe I should have gone that way. He said that ever since the Swiss changed the name of the Zurich Airport to Unique, people mistake it with Munich. Why did they change it in the first place? Zurich Airport sounds just fine to me. Now, they are chaning Swiss Air to just "Swiss". Pretty confusing. What is the point? Monorom sent me a funny web page about all of this.

So people are getting fired for blogging.

The Register
Man sacked for blogging
By Tim Richardson
Posted: 28/01/2003 at 12:11 GMT

A Brit living and working in the US has been sacked from his job for running a blog.

Many of us are criticized for spending time "saving Japan" or blogging instead of working. "How do you have time to blog so much?" people say. Well, I get up at 4am and blog in the morning. I usually eat lunch at my desk and blog. The most important thing is that I have stopped going out drinking with Japanese businessmen. I do dinner, but I find that there is a point of diminishing return after dinner and that drinking and carrying on and calling it businesses is basically crap. If you need to get inebriated to "bond" you've got a psychological problem. (This is my personal opinion.) So, if you took all of the drunken businessmen in the 75,000 bars and restaurants in Tokyo (I saw this figure many years ago in Time Magazine.) and made them go home and blog, the revolution in Japan might happen much more quickly.

If they're not firing you for the time you spend on your blog, then they are firing you for the content of your blog. Remember that "the press" when the US Constitution was written meant individuals with printing presses printing their opinions, not big media companies. Freedom of the press is about the right to blog, not about the rights of some media conglomerate.

Thanks for this link Dirk!

Chris Anderson preparing to take my picture for his column.
Chris Anderson wrote about the Japan dinner in his column/blog on Slate. Chris is the editor of Wired Magazine. He attended the Japan dinner in New York last year where I was allowed to make a statement as well as this year's dinner where I was allowed to MC the session.

Coincidentally, the only song I can sing at karaoke is Anarchy in the UK by the Sex Pistols and Anarchy in the UK is the theme song I always play on my car stereo when I enter the National Police Agency building to park in the basement for study group meetings... or maybe it isn't coincidence...

Excerpt from Slate Dispatches from Davos by Chris Anderson

It started as a pretty formal-looking affair with a soporific agenda of greater understanding and friendship. But by night's end the event had turned into an anarchic generation war. A gang of Americanized upstarts, led by Joi Ito, a 30ish technology entrepreneur and power-blogger, dominated the discussion, blaming their risk-adverse establishment elders for Japan's slow-motion train wreck of an economy.

"The problem with 'destroy and rebuild' [the rhetoric then coming from the more radical reformers in the country] is that everyone immediately focuses on the rebuild part," Ito said. "What we need to do is just destroy." It was as if the Sex Pistols had crashed the party. Perhaps there was hope for Japan yet.

So, I was looking forward to this year's dinner and curious to see how it would compare. Surprise: Ito was now the official MC, with full license to shake things up after dinner. Either last year's intemperate outburst had been slightly less spontaneous than it had seemed, or the old guard had listened. Fireworks were on the menu.

Finally it was time for the Ito Show. Out came the acid candor, no less shocking coming in this ultra-establishment setting than it had been last year. He had been warned, he said: "Don't talk about complicated issues, the foreigners won't understand." Nevertheless, he railed. Reform plans read like "Zen riddles," and nothing ever comes of them. The bureaucracy is defined by its resistance to change; a system that "rewards people for their obedience" and leaves critics fearing retaliation. ("In fact," he half-joked, "fear of retaliation is what I'm feeling right now.") Japan had, if anything, fallen further since last year; Ito called again for revolution.

And so it went through the rest of the youth movement in the Japanese delegation; each speaker adding to the chant of national self-criticism. Japan needs a proper shock, not the slow leak of the past decade. Nothing else seems capable of toppling the entrenched establishment, the bureaucracy elite. It was grim message, made all the more so by the thought of what it must have taken for them to violate Japanese norms of public politeness.

I have had to remove two sets of comments from my blog since I've started. Both of them slandered the people who I wrote about and both were written from fake email addresses. Here is my policy on comments on my blog. Feel free to criticize governments, products, companies or me. Criticism about other people should be written from a verifiable email address and should contain logical arguments about policy, technical or other arguments and positions taken by the person being criticized. Slanderous comments intended to be hurtful rather than constructive will not be tolerated. If you want to post something that might appear slanderous or blow the whistle on something where you feel the fear of retribution, please email me directly. If you can convince me that it is important to get your message out, I will protect your identity and will post the item.

Thank you for your understanding. I was wondering when this was going to start happening...

Yesterday I attended a panel about Nanotechnology. Paul Saffo was the moderator and Howard C. Birndorf of Nanogen, Mildren S. Dresselhaus of MIT and John Gage of Sun were on the panel. You could tell from the beginning that it was going to be a really difficult panel for Paul to manage. The topic was difficult, there were PhD's, investors and mildly interested CEO's of big companies in the audience. It was also clear that everyone on the panel had their own opinion about what they wanted to say. Paul tried to structure the discussion from a discussion about scale (Gage went into a description of powers of ten) to a technology discussion. I think he wanted wrap up with a discussion about applications. It sort of worked.

The technology discussion was a bit difficult for lay people. One person later described the session this way: It was like Milly dropped a stun grenade and the rest of the PhD's in the room were like Navy Seals who came in and took care everyone out. I think the panel quickly left many of the people behind. On the other hand, I was pleased because the technology discussion was quite substantive. Milly explained that real progress was being made in carbon nanotubes and in nanowires. She said that one of the problems as well as one of the interesting properties of nanotubes is that they can be either metallic or semi-conducting. The difficulty was that you couldn't control which you were making. It seemed like she liked the nanowires better. She said that you could put antibodies on the nanowires which would react when the antibody came in contact with the matching antigen. Lots of different antibodies on the ends of nanowires could be used to create a nanodevice to detect the presence of a variety of difficult to detect antigens. She also talked about nanolasers and quantum dots that can help you see the state of devices.

Everyone agreed that one of the biggest problems was how to interface with the tiny devices. Quantum dots and optical seemed to be a good idea. The Dean of engineering for Berkeley was in the audience and he explained that light moved slower around quantum dots and that this could be used to "store light" and could have a huge impact on optical networks and computing.

Some of the applications that people got excited about were RNA detection, bacteria that would manufacture nanotech devices, displays, computing... There seemed to be a myriad of medical applications as well. Having said that, it seemed like everything was about 15 years away and that the equipment necessary for research was still prohibitively expensive. Someone mentioned that Japan was leading in R&D spending on nanotech. Someone also said that maybe it could save the nano-economic recession. Someone else mentioned that the recession wasn't a nano-issue.

Later I was able to catch Milly in the hall and ask her what she thought about carbon nanotubes and hydrogen storage. She said that it was still quite difficult and it would require a breakthrough.

Interesting article in the Economist entitled: "A pervasive web will increase demands for direct democracy"
Good article that points out a variety of ways the Net moves democracy to the next level.
first seen on JD's Blog

Minister Takenaka talked about the special regulatory zones in Japan to stimulate new business. The Ministry of Economy Trade and Industry created a special law to allow local governments together with companies to file for regulatory waivers to help promote new businesses. We filed for two. One was a waiver to allow us to use higher power 802.11 base stations to try to create community networks.

We also filed for a waiver to permit Segway's to be used on sidewalks in Makuhari, Disneyland area and Narita Airport. Everyone's pretty excited about this. We're talking to Segway, but nothing is decided yet. We're hoping to get them to come to Tokyo to meet Governor Domoto in March...

I have been criticized as being a "Japan Basher" for my comments about the dysfunctional Japanese democracy. I'd like to point out that I criticize everything that I think is wrong and don't discriminate by nationality. I don't think Japan is the only country with problems. In fact, I think that many countries have similar problems with their democracy.

Joi Ito has posted some thoughts about Japan's problems, and he could just as well be speaking about the USA.

Some notes from Colin Powell's talk.

Colin Powell is turning the weapons inspection debate around and is saying that Iraq needs to account for the anthrax, the mobile labs, the delivery weapons and other weapons that the UN knows that it had. There are no tell-tale signs of disarmament. Iraq need to account for the weapons. The inspectors can't be expected to find the weapons. "Iraq must participate in disarmament process or be disarmed."

"We will not shrink from war if that is the only way to rid Iraq of its weapons of mass destruction."

"United States has no intention of invading North Korea... At the same time, we keep all of our options on the table."

Powell, is a great speaker and very convincing. He should be the President of the United States. He made me feel more supportive of US actions with his remarks about the thought process behind his decisions.

Comment from a fellow GLT: "Maybe Bush made Powell say he wouldn't run for President since he is so much more eloquent and much more likely to be successful in creating partnerships in Europe that he would be a threat to Bush and undermine his power." Interesting thought. That may be true. If that is true, maybe Powell will run for President once it becomes evident that Bush will not be able to win the next election.

Michael Porter was the moderator and I was the challenger for a 30 minute session with our Minister of Financial Services and Economy, Heizo Takenaka. I was allowed to ask one question to Takenaka-san. I told him about the conclusion of the two sessions from yesterday. The conclusion of the first session was that there was a basic lack of democracy and diversity causing many of the problems and creating a resistance to change. There was not multiple points of authority, only one. The LDP. There was an inability to criticize power without fear of retribution. Plans are easy, but execution is difficult. Execution is left to the bureaucracy which gets in the way and prevents execution. Media and the bureacracy were the problem according to the first session. The second session yesterday blamed the lack of political will. When Takenaka-san proposed a very aggressve plan to take care of non-performing loans last year, the press slammed him and mostly reported the position of the bank heads. The bureaucrats were not supportive and the LDP tried to crush it. The interesting thing was the a poll on the Monex site showed that 87% of individuals were supportive of Takenaka-san's plan but that was not reported by the press. (reported it on this blog) I asked Takenaka-san whether he thought it was an issue of political will or whether he felt that the bureaucracy, media and the LDP actively got in his way and whether this was a significant barrier to execution.

He said that Diet was in session and that this was a very sensitive time. He made a good point that the silent majority was supportive and that it was important to empower them. Having said that, he dodged my question, but the fact that he dodged the question was partially not to screw up the Diet process which is quite complicated and important. I think part of it was fear of retribution. I think his inability to respond was a response in itself.

Here are some notes...

Question: Japan lacks political will and requires BOJ and leadership
Answer: balance sheet problem requires balance sheet adjustment - NPL
We are in deflation - there are many reasons - demand shortage, demand supply gap is not that big - supply side problem may be big. China low wages... we can't stop that.
Deflation is fundamentally a monetary problem. Therefore monetary policy is important. Money supply is too low and we need to increase the money supply. We also have to pay special attention to nature of BOJ. BOJ is indepedent from the government so we are in discussion with them.

Question: BOJ would argue that the money supply need to get into the economy to do any good. Therefore the banking system needs to be fixed for that to happen. That's your job. What are you doing?
Answer: The amount of money being available by BOJ is growning, but the total money supply is low. The reason for the this difference is that the money intermediation process is broken in Japan. This is because of the NPL problem in banking sector. Now we have a very explicit plan to address the NPL. But, the total money supply is the responsibility of the BOJ.

Question: The government is in the position to influence the BOJ. Koizumi has the ability to choose the governor.
Answer: BOJ is independent from the government. The government and the BOJ should share common targets. Japan should be allowed to choose their own implementation tools. The BOJ established a new role three years ago and we are still in the process of developing the realtionship between the government and the BOJ.

Question: What inflation level target would be appropriate to deal with the deflationary problem.
Answer: The inflation target is not that important. The important point is to increase the money supply. BOJ may set a target. If the BOJ decides to increase money supply, then the target will be important.

Question: Yen is increasing when you are hoping that the exchange rate to stimulate the economy. Are you concerned.
Answer: I can't comment directly on the exchange rate. The rate should be set based on supply and demand. The impact of the exchange rate will be over 6 months later so I'm not worried about the short term impact.

Question: Is consumer demand a way to increase money supply.
Answer: Yes. BOJ can purchase assets and this will increase money supply. Banks say there is no need for lending. This is a good way for the BOJ to increase money supply.

The good thing about being a table host is that you can request certain guests to be assigned to your table. I requested that Bill Joy and Paul Saffo get assigned to my table so I would not be the only nerd at the table.
Every year, several associations in Japan host the "Japan Dinner" in Davos. Several years ago they changed the format from formal speeches, to a talk show sort of format where the extremely talented Professor Takeuchi would go around picking people out of the crowd to request comments. Since the format change, the dinner has become quite popular and this year there were over 200 people registered this year, the most ever.

I was chosen this year to be the moderator of the "talk show". I was VERY nervous. Takeuchi-san is by far the best at this sort of thing and I knew I would not be as good. Also, I don't know all of the people so it's hard for me to pick them out for questions. Anyway, I tried my best. I started out with a wrap up of the day's events and then went around and called an a variety of people to make comments. I asked Sadako Ogata, the former United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, one of the most impressive people I know. She wrapped up with with a very strong comment about Japan's role in the world. I wish everyone in Japan could hear her speak. She allowed us to end on a tone that made me proud to be Japanese.

Overall, I think my speech was OK. I think my choice of speakers was weak. I didn't choose enough non-Japanese and I wasn't able to manage people who were talking too long. I don't know if they will ask me to do this again next year, but if they do, I'll make sure and study the attendee list and know the backgrounds of everyone in the room in advance.

This is the second panel on Japan. This panel represents more of the more established figures in Japan. The Challenger is Paul Krugman, the moderator is the Chairman of Fuji-Xerox Yotaro Kobayashi, Professor Takatoshi Ito, Masayuki Matsushita the Vice Chairman of Matsushita Electric Industrials, Junichi Ujie, President and CEO of Nomura Holdings Inc., and Malcolm Williamson, President and CEO of Visa International.

This panel is focused primarily focused on more pressing issues than our panel and is more economics oriented.

Here are some notes.

Professor Ito presented a variety of short term and mid-long term scenarios.

Williamson "You can defy gravity for awhile, but eventually you fall. The longer you defy gravity, the harder your fall. This is what is happening to the Japanese banking system... Good bank mergers can reduce costs where 1+1=1.5. In Japan, bank mergers end up with 1+1=2.5. Banking is the most important issue. I've never seen a country come out of a recession with a bankrupt banking sector, which what I think is what Japan has."

Mr. Matsushita is saying that industries that were protected now suffer from weak management, elevated cost structure and dependency on government grants and subsidies. The elevated cost structure reduces the global competitiveness of these industries. Japan needs to supliment it's dwindling work force with skilled foreign workers and students. Do not limit internationalization to a select sectors.

Mr. Ujiie is saying that the Nikkei is hovering at the 8000 yen level, the level 20 years ago indicating the markets negative feeling about the probable scenaro. On the other hand, the policy makers seem to be following Ito-san's best case or base case scenarios. It is beomcing popular in academia and policy to talk about inflationary measures. Such initiatives must be accompanied by an increase in money supply. There must be regulatory reform along with monetary policy. For instance, tax reform.

Kobayashi-san is asking whether banks are taking actions in response to Takenaka's plan. Are the current signs of change in the banks a real sign that the Japanese economy is really moving towards reform, or are these changes real?

Professor Krugman says "no." Deflation is key. Deflation is not responding to conventional monetary policy and the analogy with the UK is not a very good one. They did not have a real deflationary problem. What kind of structural problems cause a deflationary tendency. Most problems cause inflation. The cause of a deflationary tendency. Non performing loans may not do much for the economy and it isn't clear that it isn't just a result of the deflation problem. People blame the banks for the fact that an increase in a monetary base does not result in increased output from banks. Well, if banks have increased money supply at 0 percent interest, there is a good reason just to keep in reserve. Regarding industry structural reform... "sometimes a kick in the rear helps gets us going, but sometimes it just hurts." It's unclear whether it will help the economy. He sees two upside and two downside scenarios. Upsides are new technology forms the basis for recovery or a radical expansionary policy. Down side is a full deflationary spiral or government defaut to which deflation plays a major role.

Kobayashi-san asks the panel for action ideas.

Ujiie agrees with Ghosn about execution being key. We have had a plan. Lets stop debating and implement.

Matsushita-san says that he doesn't think that structural reform will fix deflation, but that such reform will be necessary for companies to become competitive internationally which may indirectly help the economy, but that he is not a macro-economist. (Sounds like something I would say...)

Professor Ito thinks that the most important thing is the leadership of Prime Minister Koizumi who can coordinate all of the monetary policy.

Mr. Williamson agrees with Professor Ito and thinks that Professor Krugman sounds a bit defeatest. Leadership is very important. Korea and UK were both highly influenced by leadership in getting out of the crisis. It is a combination of factors, but the biggest thing is the change in psychology of the people who don't see the problem.

Question from the floor: Is there enough political will to give a leader the power to establish a political mandate which is necessary for political leadership.

Ujiie-san thinks that the people are prepared for the pain so the people have given the political mandate for structural reform. It is unclear exactly who takes the burden.

Krugman thinks that the structural may be exaggerating the pain that is required. It may not. Maybe it is just rolling printing presses is what is required, not blood and sweat. Maybe it's not leadership but just clear thinking that is required. Japan may stress the leadership and pain and make it much more complicated than you have to make it. Leaders will try, they will fail, there will be pain and we may just have another lost decade.

Question from the floor: Where did the "fire in the belly" go that used to be in Japan.

Professor Ito says that there is no sense of crisis on the streets.This isn't a generational change. It is the reflection of a more pessimistic view of the future. It's a reflection of macroeconomic pessimism and stagnation.

Question from floor to Professor Krugman: But the "new technology saves Japan" scenario. Will the banks fund it?

Professor Krugman says he thinks so. I commented that VC's in Japan are few and big companies are focused on developing very large business units that are core and innovation in the form of ventures is stifled. Ujiie-san mentioned that there are some attempts such as the angle tax law, but they are so poorly written that they don't work. Mr. Williamson thinks that it is an issue of a lack of VC's, not a banking problem.

Kobayashi-san is wrapping up by saying that the leadership of Koizumi is key in delivery of the package a reality. Commenting on our session... the system may seem broken now, but it used to work. The "iron triangle" is losing confidence and is maybe a source of political will to change. Maybe this enough to make the Prime Minister to listen to the micro side and maybe he can listen to Professor Ito and Krugman on them macro side.

Yu Serizawa and her team worked on some great slides including the problems that we all traditionally talk about, a picture of Koizumi-san trying to attack the difficult problems on the surface, and the dysfunctional democracy which resists change.

The members of the panel were Carlos Ghosn, President of Nissan, Nobuyuki Idei, Chairman and CEO of Sony, Jiro Tamura Professor of Law, Keio University, Motohisa Furukawa, politician, Oki Matsumoto, the CEO of Monex and me. The Moderator was Karl T. Greenfeld, Editor of Time Asia.

Reuters did a great summary

Here are some of my thoughts from the panel.

Japan has tended to talk about problem in Japan that are easy to understand in the Western context and doesn't generally discuss domestic issues at Davos. Today, discussed some of the more complex issues that are very important and are the cause of some of the more well known problems. Japanese tend to feel to feel that social issues are best discussed and solved at home in a more gradual way and that the West would never understand them. I think that trying to help the world understand the issues that Japanese believe only Japanese would understand is an important step in opening up Japan.

After we spent close to 40 hours trying to come up with a blueprint for Japan, we realized that the plan was the same plan that everyone always comes up with. Actually, most people in Japan agree on the plan. The problem (as Mr. Ghosn pointed out later) is that 95% of the issue is execution. The problem is that Japan has a system that is resistant to change and has given most of its execution authority to the administrative branch. (As Tamura-san explained eloquently.) We need to focus on the basic cause of the problems which we have identified as a dysfunctional democracy and a lack of diversity. We must also understand the reason Japan has such execution problems. Idei-san talked about Japan being a refrigerator where domestic companies and the administration freeze change. He also talked about Japan's "middle age crisis". I thought this was a great phrase.

Tamura-san and I talked a lot about democracy. Multiple points of authority, competition of ideas, critical debate. Tamura-san mentioned that the judiciary in Japan is neutral and fair, but so small that it is weak.

Carlos Ghosn said that he thought the problem was that the vision for Japan was not clear.

Anyway, I said what I usually say here which is that we need a revolution, not reform. To use Idei-san's words, a quantum leap. Democracy requires that you trust the people. Mass media focuses on ratings and then cause a kind of populism that makes people feel negative about the ability for people to be rational. In fact Japanese are rational and all we need is the media (or the Net) to focus on the real problems and wake the people up. Carlos Ghosn said that EVERYONE at Nissan knew that they were on a burning platform. After they got all of the facts out, it was all-hands-on-deck getting the company running. No bullshit. Idei-san suggested we focus on tax issues. I agree that this may be good. Follow the money. Tax is what fuels the administrative power. Shed light on the relationships. Show where peoples' money goes. Then maybe people will wake up and have a Boston tea party. I think that it is, at the end of the day, about trusting the public and empowering them. Tamura-san said that we already have all of the laws of a democracy. Just no power or will to execute.

So my flu is basically better, but I'm really nervous today. Just when I thought I was getting over my chronic butterflies, I've got them again. In a few hours, I'm the first one up to bat on the panel about the Blueprint for Japan. It's going to be in the big room here and is a full blown plenary. Later in the evening, I will be the coordinator at the Japan dinner. For some reason, this year it's quite popular and there are over 200 people registered. The coordinator is a position that professor Takeuchi created where he acts like a talk show host going around the room asking for comments. He's VERY good at it. The Japan dinner became very popular after they changed to this format. I'm definitely not going to be as good at it. I tried to get out of it, but Idei-san told me I should do it. (gulp) Then, tomorrow morning, again in the big room, I am the "challenger" to Heizo Takenaka, our Minister for Economic and Fiscal Policy and Michael Porter is the moderator. Takenaka-san will be coming just for the day and it is a short 30 minute session. I like Takenaka-san at lot, but my job is to "put him on the spot." Hmm...

So maybe this is what I get for saying that they never invite me to speak at Davos. At least it's all at the beginning. It's all fun stuff after that. The other good think is that since they are both plenary sessions, they are the part of Davos that will be covered by the media, which means I can blog them. ;-)

In Marc's response to my response to Russell Beattie's comments on moblogging he talks about "Shared Reviews servers can house moblogging reports on various resturants, movies, clubs, museums, art galleries and any meatspace location."

So there is another very important part of this "location thing." Servers should be distributed too. You should be able to talk to a local server. A server in your restaurant, billboard, vending machine, car. Local servers can be higher bandwith and can have lots of cool local features. You can leverage things like bluetooth and IR on devices that don't talk location very well. This decentralization is important and relates in a weird way to Dave and Evan's discussions about RSS aggregation. So what if you had RSS aggregators where you had to physically be there to see stuff. You had to be able to physically get into a nightclub before you could see the news feed for what the club members were doing... It sounds backwards to what the Net is about, but I think that there are some applications. It definitely helps on the privacy security issue if certain kinds of information are stored only locally in servers that you trust.

I think unless you're a student who's always out and about or a mover and shaker like Joi there's not a whole hell of a lot to moblogging. It's more of an instant online scrapbook than a real communications medium. With blogging there's that level of interactivity which makes it very interesting. I read blogs, I copy permalinks, I write my posts and post links, and I check my referrers for people who linked to me. With moblogging, I take a picture, send off an email and then I'm done. There's nothing else to do - no interaction. Photos don't link. And browsing the web from a 2" x 3" screen is difficult at best. [..] However there's a kernal of an idea there. I don't think it's the equivalent of weblogging, so maybe moblogging isn't the right name for it. But that power of instant communication from your always-on connected wireless device is incredible. Truly "smart mob" stuff. There's going to be a killer app for these devices soon along these lines, we just need to find what it is. I have my doubts whether moblogging - as a mobile version of weblogging - is it.
I guess I would disagree a bit. Moblogging is still in its infancy. (Although Steve Mann has been doing stuff with mobile camera on the web for a long time...)

I think the cameras and the other attributes of the device will get better. Imagine the Sidekick with a built in camera and a color screen. The new Sharp phone has a full VGA color screen! Foma mobile video phones do 384K. So, the dinky sreen, gritty image, thing will be fixed soon.

Although the conversation style of moblogging will probably be different than weblogging, I think you have other ways to thread things.

For example, if you leave messages and images in locations for people. For instance, if you go to a restaurant, you can push a button and it pulls up all of the interesting things people have written while they were there and threads you to other places those people have been. If you're going to a place, you search for people who have moblogged from that location, finding links to their images and maybe their weblogs. In an "augmented reality" (see my brother-in-law Scott Fisher's work on this. He's actually done a system of using mobile phones to annotate space with content.) sort of way, it's like annotating the real world. That's how I look at it. I'm this little thing crawling around the earth, annotating it with images, sounds and text. You leverage being mobile by being able to add location. This database can be viewed by time/location/ID and we can create meta information from that. (Yes, there are security/privacy issues.)

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.

So Larry may have been on the ropes for a few days, but he's back. He has a great proposal.

Here is something you can do right now. In this NYT op-ed, I describe a proposal that would move more work into the public domain than a total victory in the Supreme Court would have. The basic idea is this: 50 years after a work has been “published,” a copyright owner would be required to pay a copyright tax. That tax should be extremely low--this proposal says $50, but it could be $1. If the copyright holder does not pay the tax for 3 years, then the work is forfeit to the public domain. If the copyright holder does pay the tax, then its contacting agent would be made a matter of public record. Very quickly we would have a cheap, searchable record, of what work is controlled and what work is free.

If Justice Breyer is right that only 2% of the work from the initial period affected by the Sonny Bono Act continues to have any commercial value at all, then this proposal would mean that all but 2% will move into the public domain within three years. And as the proposal applies to all work that is more than 50 years old, it would apply to a much larger range of work than would have been affected had we prevailed in the Supreme Court. This could give us (almost) everything we wante--98% of the public domain that our framers intended. Not bad for government work.

There is an FAQ about the proposal. Also found the infoAnarchy International movement to save the Public Domain on Boing Boing.

I appears that one blog, DynaWeb was the concern of the Chinese government (I read this first on Dave Winer's Weblog) which had information about how to get around the government filters. According to the DynaWeb site, Blogger/Blogspot seems to be available again with only DynaWeb's DNS being screwed up by the government poinpointing the target. According the DynaWeb, it was an article in Forbes by Juliana Liu that pushed the Chinese government to remove the filter on Blogspot.

OK I thought it was kind of cool to be censored by the Chinese and even bragged about it on TV, but I just got an email from Jason and I think it's time we get serious and get all hands on deck trying to fix this silly situation. You can start by reading the entry in Jason's blog. If anyone from China is reading this and has a good idea about how to get blogspot uncensored, email or post something here. I know some people, but don't know exactly which buttons to push...

Poor Larry. But I think Larry's right. MAYBE this will get people to realize that the default path is that we are stripped of our rights. I hope people get pissed off and get up off their damn butts and do something about it. Larry's not giving up.

Justices Uphold Copyrights in a Victory for Walt Disney
Filed at 10:21 a.m. ET

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld longstanding copyrights designed to protect the profits of songs, books and cartoon characters, a huge victory for Disney and other companies.

The 7-2 ruling, while not unexpected, was a blow to Internet publishers and others who wanted to make old books available online and use the likenesses of a Mickey Mouse cartoon and other old creations without paying high royalties
The Constitution ``gives Congress wide leeway to prescribe `limited times' for copyright protection and allows Congress to secure the same level and duration of protection for all copyright holders, present and future,'' Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said from the bench.
Congress passed the copyright law after heavy lobbying from companies with lucrative copyrights.

Today was a strange day. I had to give two presentations. The main one was to the Sony execs and other people that Sony had invited to the Sony Open Forum about the future of Japan. The discussion was extremely productive and I got a lot of feedback that will help us in Davos.

Then I walked next door to the Sheraton Waikiki to give a short presentation about Trust and Security in Ecommerce. It was a Public Voice/OECD sort of thing that Marc Rotenberg was organizing. And there was Dave Farber, a surprise guest. We gadget talked for awhile and IM'ed on our Sidekicks during the panel. It was fun to see Dave and I did the blog song/dance on him and he agreed to try it.

Later Mizuka and I were having cocktails with Chairman Idei of Sony at the Halekulani just standing around when out of nowhere appears John Patrick and his wife. Hello! I knew John was in town for the GIP conference, but what a wonderfully random thing. He was off to give a talk somewhere so I made quick introductions.

It's really a small world... or everyone is in Hawaii today...

Ever since I started REALLY counting on my RSS feeds for my news, I realized that I read Declan's Politech and David Farber's IP list less. I took matters into my own hands and in the last week talked both David Farber and Declan into at least giving blogging a try. They were on the top of my list of mailing list operators who REALLY need to become bloggers. Please email Declan and Dave and give them your vote of support.

It's part of my new Switch campaign. RSS and MetaWeblogAPI for everyone. ;-)

Ben and Mena Trott, the duo behind Movable Type, are visiting Tokyo. Hoping to do a MT users meeting. Fill out the form on their site if you can come.

Michael from Danger says that they have been moblogging internally since the launch and I think that some of the code from HipTop Nation came from Michael. Michael, is this the same code you are running on Hiplog? Anyway, congratulations. This is great. Bridging the gap between hardware companies and the Net...

January 12, 2003

Danger, Inc. is finally catching up with its fan base, launching Hiplog for users of the Danger Hiptop to moblog — months after HipTop Nation was launched by Danger HipTop enthusiasts.

(Thanks, Fabio!)

Got a hiptop? Then spit it out!

Hiplog is blogging by hiptop. Send email from your hiptop to The subject of your message becomes the title of your hiplog entry. The text of your message become the text of the entry. Want to make your hiplog a photojournal? Take snapshots with your hiptop and send them to hiplog. It's as easy as sending email.

Posted by Howard at 10:54 AM

Was just on Hodo 2001, one of my favorite morning news programs. Mr. Kuroiwa, the announcer is quite an outspoken investigative type who is not affraid to question authority and Mr. Takemura, the comentator is also extremely sharp and says it like it is. Today, was the first program of the year and we talked about the outlook for 2003. The other panelists included Professor Yonekura who will be moderating my talk in Hawaii, Chairman Idei of Sony, Mikitani-san, the founder and CEO of Rakuten and the Chairman of Infoseek Japan, which I am on the board of, and Minister Hiranuma, the Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry. It was a much friendlier panel than the last time I was on the show protesting the national ID head-to-head with Minister Katayama, Minister of Public Management, Home Affairs, Posts and Telecommunications.

Today, we started out by talking about Idei-san's new book about the quantum leap necessary for reform. This section of the program was very similar to what we have been talking about here on this blog and in preparation for the Blueprint for Japan 2020.

I was asked about venture businesses and their role and the Internet bubble. I said that venture businesses are about high risk/high return. The bubble was about people thinking there was no risk and just high return. Post-war Japan, there were people working hard, taking lots of risk building companies. Most failed, but some turned into companies like Sony. I think that the young people today do not understand that there is no "easy road" and that the low risk / high return days of big company elitism doesn't work, and that this lack of entrepreneurial risk taking is hampering Japan's ability to be innovative.

We talked about how Rakuten was enabling people to go to market very cheaply (the story is similar to eBay in the US). Takemura-san talked about how the Internet is enabling people.

When asked about what barriers and regulatory restrictions we had to overcome, I said that it was less about overcoming rules and more about overcoming misinformation by people like the mass media. I talked about blogging as an example of how the Internet can help give a voice to the people. I mentioned that blog sites had been blocked in China. (Since I have some stuff on BlogSpot, me to!) I'm glad I got to say "blog" on national TV. ;-p

I talked about how I blogged the public support of Minister Takenaka which was under-reported and even spun by the mass media and how Mr. Kuroiwa protested on my blog (Japanese blog) that he wasn't doing that.

Since I was talking about blogging, people didn't seem to mind me taking pictures. Unfortunately, my best shot came out blurred.

I did get a chance to moblog Idei-san and Hiranuma-san as well as myself getting make-up put on. Make-up is a bit embarrassing, but I realized that people with make-up on look "cleaner" on TV. I didn't get makeup until recently. Another way Mass Media makes the important people look better. ;-P (just kidding)

Saw this first on Boing Boing

Well, you know you're onto something BIG when China bans what you're doing...

Blogistan, 2000[GMT] 10 January, 2003:

"Bloggers" from all over China are reporting that they are unable to access their on-line journals or "blogs".

Journals hosted at and other blog providers have joined a growing list of sites blocked by Chinese authorities.

OK I had to bring my Windows machine out of storage to play Sims Online. Blah. But the game is great. I'm still a newbie, but if anyone else is playing, look me up. I'm "Joi Ito" in the Test Center. I still have my other two sims so if you tell me where you are hanging out, I can put a sim there.

Idei-san pondering the future of Japan...
We had a meeting of the members participating the World Economic Forum panel at Davos on the Blueprint for Japan 2020. It's such a huge issue... I showed everyone the picture that we drew (on my Mac... oops! ;-) ). Idei-san has been using the term "quantum leap" instead of "reform" and shared some of his views of Japan's problems with us. We still have some more homework to do before the panel, but I think we all agreed on the major points. I was appointed to be join Heizo Takenaka, the Minister for Economic and Fiscal Policy and for Financial Services on his panel which will follow our panel. There are three panels on Japan and I'm the messenger from our panel to his. I wonder who's on the other panel. Anyway, we're the first one so I think we can set the tone.

Hey Dave, when do we get to start using newMediaObject?

As a case in point: If hardware devices support the metaWeblog API, they'll need some method of directly uploading image/media files to a weblogging tool. Enter the (proposed) metaWeblog.newMediaObject method. As Joi writes:

It would be easier if someone added more image handling in the API.

Once Dave lifts the caveat, we'll support metaWeblog.newMediaObject in the next Movable Type release.

Congratulations Dave! This is great.

It's true, it's true. I've been offered a fellowship at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard Law School, and have, of course, accepted. It's a very exciting opportunity. Check out this section of yesterday's DaveNet for an idea of what we're going to work on. And of course over the coming weeks and months I'll write more. I'm going to spend a lot of time in Cambridge this year. Totally looking forward. Onward!

Saw this on David Farber's IP list.

The Biggest Threat To Peace
Which country really poses the greatest danger to world peace in 2003? TIME asks for readers' views

YES! Cory also puts his money where his mouth is. Good for him!

Cory Doctorow’s brilliant novel, Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, is out today. Buy it early and often. Cory’s book is also the very first to be offered initially both for sale and under a CreativeCommons license. That means you can also download it for free. As Cory describes it,

“The entire text of my novel is available as a free download in a variety of standards-defined formats. No crappy DRM, no teasers, just the whole damned book.”

But as he (and I) expect, once you start the book, you’ll see you want it in its bound form. So again, you might as well buy it too.

I think we're at a very exciting point in the history of the future. Dave wrote a great essay to kick of the year just as I was trying to collect my thoughts. Let me also be a bit optimistic for a moment and share with you what I WISH will happen. Consumer electronics and mobile devices are where computer networking was before TCP/IP. Nothing talks to anything else and everything is vertically integrated and "intelligently" organized. TCP/IP changed that for telecom/computer networks. We all know the story.

Same thing with consumer electronics. It's a very different market with lots of different constraints like power consumption, price, etc. There are a lot of people working on various layers trying to standardize with mixed results. Apple is clearly making the move into consumer electronics. Sony is trying very hard to integrate network services into its hardware. It still doesn't work well. They're too "smart". The Tivo Rendezvous support is an example of a step forward and shows the potential of open standards in this space. Apple's Safari which is based on KHTML, from KDE's Konqueror open source project is also an interesting example as well.

So, here's what I think. We all know that the network should be stupid. Network providers will be a basic utility like electricity, but they'll still make money if they stick to the network. Where is the next focus? In the hardware, content and tools. If the hardware companies are smart, they will support open standards and let the users create the content, let the community create the tools and provide API and support for open standards. Yes, they will give up some control and yes they will eventually become more of a commodity like the network, but the scale will increase and they will make money.

So here's my offer. I'll focus on trying to pitch the hardware companies in Japan to look at the MetaWeblog API and other standards that we are developing. I will TRY to invest the rest of the $15mm I have into companies that develop things are end-to-end stupid network oriented, open standards compliant, blog community supportive, non-proprietary OS based and generally un-evil. I will also try to get others to invest with us. I'm going to try as hard as I can and still be fiduciarily responsible to my investors. I want everyone else to try very hard too. Let's see if we can make this happen. Think twice before going to work for you-know-who. If you go work for you-know-who, try to get them to support open standards. If you can choose, choose something open. If you can buy/license something from the developer community vs. building it do so. And most importantly, now that we have blogs to talk on, engage us in the dialog and try to break open mobile devices and consumer electronics platforms and get them to take advantage of the most talented group of unemployedself-employed developers since before the bubble. Let's convince the consumer hardware guys to open up and focus on their strengths and benefit from this just like IBM and others were able to benefit from the Internet by supporting and embracing the developer community.

I know this is rather obvious and I'm probably preaching to the choir, but I'm serious. ;-)

I'd like to ask Joi to tell us all, how his moblogging implementation works. What is the mechanism of getting that photo from the phone, to the PC and then into a blog. I know you use Moveable Type. Do you send the photo as an email attachment or some other form? Do you completely bipass the 'mobile carriers' or simply pay for he usage/bandwidth time? If your scenario is other than email, then what routing, access or commercial gateways do you have to navigate through - to get data onto the net?
We use email. Email is received and processed by a Python script. The script stores the attached jpg image in a directory and renames it with a unique name. It then posts the entry to MT using the MetaWeblog API to create an entry with the subject of the email as the title and puts the body of the email and an img src link to the jpg in the entry wrapped in div tags. Pretty simple. It would be easier if someone added more image handling in the API. Take a look at the Python script for more details.

We pay the carrier for the transmission of the email. Wish it were flat fee, but it's by the packet. Need to find a less "intelligent" network.

The results of the poll asking whether people liked the new big font style were: YES=40 / NO=46 even though most of the comments in the item were supportive of the bigger fonts. I've set up the big font style sheet as the default, but have added the option to select either the polite (big font) style sheet or the cool (small font) style sheet. If you accept cookies, it will remember your preference once you've set it. Also, I stopped the poll because we discovered that the micropoll script was not checking its input which is a security risk.

found this on Smartmobs

iSee is an inverse surveillance application for wireless devices and web-browsers that enables users to monitor and avoid CCTV surveillance cameras. iSee users are presented with an interactive map showing the locations of known CCTV cameras in public space. Users click on the map to specify a point of origin and destination, and iSee employs artificial intelligence algorithms to determine a path of least surveillance between the two points that avoids as many cameras as possible.
So Cool! I want iSee built into my phone. I guess we could just write an i-Apli Java script to do it on our Docomo phones... hmm...

Moblogs going commercial. Marc and Dave talk about how moblogging should support the MetaWeblog API. I agree. Having said that, I think many carriers will go try to build the whole shooting match on their own. They don't understand the value of the community or the tools. At least in Japan, carriers are very cocky and relatively well funded so I bet they will go it on their own, generally. (Not that I won't try to get them to use open standards.) I think another more interesting target are people who don't have a network of their own. People like digital camera companies, hiptop device companies (Danger and Good), and cell phone companies like Nokia and Sony Ericsson. Anyway, doing a simple moblog is easy. (Posting pictures from a phone.) Making it REALLY interesting is going to be very exciting involving hardware, firmware, embedded software, DSP's, wireless technology, camera technology, identity, voice, privacy, security, GPS, IM and LOTS of other stuff.

Start-up marries blogs and camera phones
Posted: 08/01/2003 at 11:03 GMT

A Dublin-based start-up is to offer software to mobile operators that will enable mobile phone users to create and maintain Weblogs or "blogs" using only their phones.

The article about The NewBay FoneBlog originally appeared in

I told Hirata that Howard and I had been talking about giving comments more attention on blogs. I thought that having an RSS feed for comments would be very useful. A few minutes later, he made one for me. Thanks Hirata! So I have an RSS feed for comments to my English blog and my Japanese blog.

Had lunch with Ejovi Nuwere today. He's a friend of Ken who used to work for me and they did some security work together. Ejovi has a new book, Hacker Cracker which was picked up in Wired News recently. It's an amazing story about Ejovi who grew up Brooklyn's Bed-Stuy and how a tech oriented kid used computers to build his life. He's lived in Japan and is now here writing some articles getting more and more into policy and privacy related issues. We had a lot of interests in common and it's great to meet a like-minded person from a very different background. He's got a blog and a site for his book.

They say this is from The New Republic, but I can't access the article so I will credit Plastic...

"The problem is one of correlation vs causation. Research has been done correlating being statistically obese with a shorter expected life span. In more detailed studies found a stronger correlation with lack of activity and a short life span than being fat. So if you exercise and stay fit but can't lose pounds don't fret. You're likely more healthy than your thin couch potato friends."
So for someone exercises regularly, but is fat, this is good news. I'll live long, but I'll probably still be fat. Now all we need is, "Survey shows fat people are considered more attractive in light of recent survey that they live longer..." ;-p

Interestingly, I found this on Mitch Ratcliffe's blog. Now I'm reading US blogs for Japanese news.

Mitch Racliffe
I wonder what Joi Ito thinks about this approach.
Ministry wants techs to go it alone - The Asahi Shimbun

The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry is looking for ways to motivate technical experts working for large companies to start up their own businesses.

The measure is an attempt to make more efficient use of skills that remain underutilized in corporations.

The ministry intends to establish a 10-member study group comprising academics and industry experts this month. The group will discuss specific rules and measures for supporting technicians who are willing to set up new companies. The results will be compiled in a March report.

Well, I think people's first impression is probably the right one. Sometimes these study groups are interesting to participate in, but usually no one reads the reports. It may end up turning into funding, regulatory waiver laws or something like that, but it won't change the basic underlying reason people don't spin out of big companies. Big companies are comfortable, low risk, still relatively high returns (big retirement bonuses) and very prestigious. There is a survey by the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor that shows that in 1999, people asked whether "people around you respect entrepreneurs" 90% of Japanese answered "no". Almost 100% of the people interviewed in Spain and about 80% in the US answered "yes". Why? Because, you have to be damn stupid or a loser to not keep your cushy job in a big company. Japan is still low-risk / high-return for people following the "elite" path. There's not much a committee can do about this, and most people are already aware of this.

Stall with young priestesses selling charms
Ever since I was co-CEO of Digital Garage, I participated in a common practice in Japan which involves going to the local shrine, paying them for a ritual blessing and receiving a variety of charms for protection and good businesses which you display in your office. After the ritual, our tradition was to go to the office and slam full glasses of sake and say our New Year's resolutions. (And get wasted.) This year, our pragmatic chairman Jun moved that we don't do this anymore. We took a vote and decided not to pay the Gods. Having said that, the only official way to dispose of the charms from last year is to return them to the Shrine to have them ritually burned. So I gave a little money, took a sip of the ritual sake with my small team of charm returners (again, scenes from The Lord of the Rings come to mind...) So, we'll see what happens to our business this year without "protection."

code.jpegA bureaucrat that with whom we have had numerous debates suddenly visited my office today wanting to talk. Gohsuke had told him to read Lawrence Lessig's book, Code. The bureaucrat read the book over the holidays and wanted to see me right away to tell me about it. (Today is the first day of work after the Japanese holidays. He said he, "got it." He liked the book very much and finally realized the scale and the context of the issues we had been debating and now understood what we were talking about. This story has several lessons... Focusing on specifics before you share a framework is futile; a well written book by an important person (the bureaucrat insisted on confirming the social status of Lessig) can change everything; the "meta-discussion" is less threatening than specific issues with responsibilities and associated budgets. ;-) Anyway, thanks Larry!

So here goes my first poll... (thanks for the pointer to micropolls Jason!)
Do you like the current style with larger default fonts better than the old smaller font style? YES=40 / NO=46

(of course it doesn't concern you RSS feed people...)

Alex posted a comment in Lessig's blog that since Japan has an over 90% conviction rate, it didn't matter that you are guilty until proven innocent. ToastyKen else said it was because the government prosecutes only when they know they are right. Both have some truth. The problem is that judges are reviewed by the bureaucrats and their careers depend on not rocking the boat. It is NOT an independent judiciary.

I found an interesting paper about this. Too bad I can't download the whole thing.

Ramseyer & Rasmusen
Why Is the Japanese Conviction Rate So High?

J. Mark Ramseyer (Harvard Law School)

Eric Rasmusen (Indiana University)

Conviction rates in Japan exceed 99 percent -- why? On the one hand, because Japanese prosecutors are badly understaffed they may prosecute only their strongest cases and present judges only with the most obviously guilty defendants. On the other, because Japanese judges can be reassigned by the administrative office of the courts if they rule in ways the office does not like, judges may face biased career incentives to convict. Using data on the careers and opinions of 321 Japanese judges, we conclude that judges who acquit do indeed have worse careers following the acquittal. On closer examination, though, we find that the punished judges are not judges who acquitted on the ground that the prosecutors charged the wrong person. Rather, they are the judges who acquitted for reasons of statutory or constitutional interpretation, often in politically charged cases. Thus, the apparent punishment of acquitting judges seems unrelated to any pro-conviction bias at the judicial administrative offices, and the high conviction rates probably reflect low prosecutorial budgets instead.

Last night Larry Lessig asked me if I had read his blog entry about the new Japanese copyright law that will put the burden of proof on the defendant. I had, but I didn't blog it because it's sort of the same-old same-old. To me, what was interesting was how suprising it was to Larry. ;-) Of course it is a bad law and a stupid thing and I will now point out this stupidity and unfairness when I have the opportunity. But on reflection, I realize that I had recently gone through this with the National ID so I'm burned out.

So... It's unfair. What do you do? Call your congressman? Nope. That doesn't work in Japan. Protest? No one cares. Write the paper? Nope. They're biased. Go to the bureaucrats? Sue the government? Get the signatures of all of the heads of all of the factions of the LDP and push on the cabinet? I tried that, it doesn't work. Vote? The problem is... Even if EVERYONE thinks something is stupid, you can't stop what has been set in motion. Having said that, there are the occasional journalists and writers who seem to be able to make a difference after a multi-year campaign, fighting in public, but it's quite an effort. The other problem is, there is no shortage of stupid laws. I feel like Bilbo taking on Saurons' army by himself. Arrgh. Sorry if I sound frustrated.

Lawrence Lessig
IP extremism moves east

The Nikkei is reporting today that the government will propose a law to "enhance copyright holder protection." You can't read the story without buying a trial subscription (aka, that's bad enough). But worse is the substance of what the Nikkei reports. The story reports what has been reported often before: That the legislation will increase copyright terms for movies and games from 50 to 70 years (again invoking the bogus harmonization argument). But the most amazing proposed change is this:Plaintiffs in lawsuits defending their copyrights often have difficulty submitting evidence that offenders have infringed upon their rights. So the government aims to shift the burden of proof to the defendants, requiring them to prove that they have produced and marketed their products without violating the plaintiffs' rights.

That's a quote from the story, and as the story has a bunch of factual mistakes in it, I can't be sure it is accurate. But if true, it means that in Japan, you're guilty until proven innocent.

I'll be reviewing the draft law as soon as I can, and reporting more. But the bottom line is the same: IP extremism continues unabated. There's so much to praise in this amazing country. It is sad to see them following the extremists.

Had brunch with Yu Serizawa of the World Economic Forum and Oki Matsumoto of Monex and talked about the Blueprint for Japan 2020 and the panel in Davos. Oki drew a pretty interesting picture based on the discussions we've been having and I doodled it on my Mac. There are a lot of missing components, but the story goes like this.

We have efficiency problems because the markets that traditionally allocation resources efficiently are dysfunctional. One of the reasons that they are dysfunctional are because of the dysfunctional democracy which causes the inefficient insider circles which act in their self-interest without check. The dysfunctional democracy is driven by the lack of diversity. The public are educated to be risk adverse and obedient, the media are huge and controlled and speak with almost a single voice and the judiciary do not have an ethics of independence and are part of the "group". This cycle perpetuates the central harmony and concentration of power. Even if once piece of the cycle changes momentarily, the cycles co-opts or ejects diversity and everything continues along the same path. We need some sort of external influence which is more resistant to this cycle which can break the loop. Also, I think the idea is that things like "values" and "spirit" of the people are probably more important than specific rules and laws. It's probably a combination of social changes, pressure from the outside and some leaders (the governors?) that might be able to break this cycle and cause change and a more democratic ethic. One thing to focus on is that we have a legal (albeit not enforced) framework for a democracy and it's probably the ethics of each of the organs and individuals which makes it dysfunctional rather than the structure. Thus, it's probably a deeper issue...

In my entry about style, Cory commented on the difficulty of reading tiny grey fonts. I've gotten a lot of this kind of feedback. So... I just changed the style sheet. I made the fonts all default size and black. Tell me what you think. Actually, on most browsers, if you do a command-"-" and reduce the size of the fonts, it looks like it used to. Now it is a bit more flexible on the browsers that don't let you resize fonts defined absolutely in the style sheet. On the other hand, it looks a bit more childish in defalut mode. Your feedback would be greatly appreciated. (I wish there was a polling feature in MT. Does anyone know of a polling feature that I can use on my site in situations like this?)


House Majority Whip Tom Delay (R-Texas)
DELAY: John, we're no longer a superpower. We're a super-duperpower.
At least we don't have politicians in Japan calling us a "super-duperpower". How embarrassing. Looking at the press these days, it almost seems like politicians in the US are sounding stupid on purpose...

I'm one of those people who hates reading books and hates writing stuff. I love talking to people and I do most of my thinking when I'm talking to someone or when I'm preparing to talk to someone. That's why I love blogs so much. I feel like I'm talking, not independantly cogitating.

Now my question. In a discussion, you're allow a certain amount of sloppiness and you mold your position and you develop a model together with whoever you talking to. I feel similarly when I blog. Having said that, what you write persists and you can get criticized for what you write. Larry Lessig's blog is "tight". I mean, it's well thought out and non-sloppy. (He IS a law professor. ;-) ) On the other hand, Marc Canter's blog is a bit more sloppy, but quite interesting. Dave Winer seems to have mastered his style, a combination of short references, personal opinions and technical clarity.Doc, Meg, Dan, almost everyone on my blogroll has a pretty cool and unique style that works. One of my problems is that I think and talk differently depending on where I am and who I am with. This is helpful in providing myself with a variety of models that represent mutliple points of view when I think of an in issue. On the other hand, blogged, this turn into a mish mash of styles. Does this work? Can people filter the stuff that doesn't interest them? I assume they can.

I LOVE "10 Tips on Writing for the Living Web" It was a great help when I started blogging. Tip 3 is "Write Tight". So... that's my dilemma. Are people interested in the stream of consciousness sort of blogging I'm doing right now, or should it be tighter? Should I be MORE introverted and personal about my feelings, or more organized and intelligent. Is it OK to use my blog to think out loud? Do I have to check my spelling? ;-p Hmm...

So this Blueprint for Japan 2020 that Klaus Schwab of the World Economic Forum got us started on is not ready, as you can tell from my sloppy postings still groping for the question, let alone the answer. But January is the due date and we're on primetime now.

Next Sunday, Sony's chairman, Idei-san, has invited me to join him on Hodo 2001, a Sunday morning news program which is fairly widely watched to talk about the future of Japan. The week after that, I've been invited by Idei-san to to join the Sony Open Forum in Hawaii where I will be one of two speakers. My topic is... "Blueprint for Japan." The other speaker is Richard Smith, the Chairman & Editor-in-Chief of NewsWeek. It's a small but interesting group of a dozen or so outsiders and Sony top management. The theme this year is "Management in the Era of Uncertainty". Also participating are Rob Glaser, the Chairman of RealNetworks, Yoshihiko Miyauchi, the Chairman and CEO of Orix Corporation and Hisashi Hieda, the Chairman of Fuji Television. Unfortunately, the details are confidential so I can't blog much. (I got approval to blog the above.) Then I've got the panel at Davos which I think will be moderated by Carlos Ghosn, the president of Nissan Motor Co., and Oki Matsumoto, Idei-san, maybe a politician and I will be on the panel. Later that evening, we will be presenting the Blueprint at the Japan dinner hosted by the Association of Corporate Executives. So... I'm not asking for sympathy, but at least you know why I'm in a bit of a pickle since I don't know exactly what my position is on "this whole thing." It's really both an opportunity to sound really smart or look VERY stupid over and over again... I will write another entry about the style on my blog, but I just want to apologize in advance for possibly dragging everyone through a rather sloppy thinking process as I try to figure stuff out.

I'm still working on my Blueprint for Japan 2020 for Davos and focusing on trying to figure out what we need to do to "fix" Japan. I'm digging around trying to define the problem.

The biggest problem is the recession, but it's just one piece. It's also a very visible piece. There are other less visible indicators such as the lack of entrepreneurs, high suicide rates, mental health problems, lack of political participating of the people, lack of diversity in politics, huge media companies with little diversity, 4% of the universities providing over 30% of the CEO's for public companies, the medical scandals, a judiciary that is unable to enforce the constitution, the difficulty in filing claims against the government and corruption at many levels.

Reading Hiroo Yamagata's interesting proposal (from 1998) to increase VAT to simulate inflation, based on Paul Krugman's proposal in Japan's Trip. He says:

Hiroo Yamagata
But wait! You've been reading the papers, and they say that structural reform and bank clean-ups are essential for Japan's recovery! What about those? Well, those are definitely good things and should be pursued in their own right. But neither have too much to do with the recession.

I think he has a point, but I think that's not a reason why we shouldn't continue to push structural reform. Although reforms don't have as much of a direct effect on the macro-economy as people say per Hiroo's argument, it's difficult to have a healthy economy without entrepreneurs, a healthy, open market, transparency and a democracy that people trust. I think that it is much easier to cause reform during a down market because people are willing to bite the bullet and change in order to survive, power-structures are more fragile and susceptible to change and people are in pain and possibly willing to become more politically active. Now there are a lot of "maybe's and might's" here but I think that when people are happy shopping and getting paid for doing almost nothing, it's pretty hard to stage a revolution. I guess one might argue that we don't need a revolution in Japan, but I think that without one, we won't be able to change into a truly functional democracy. Without a democracy, it is unlikely that Japan can be a global player in the 21st century. Again, a pretty bold claim... So now I think I've identified my homework.

Is there really a problem with Japan or are people just upset because of the recession?
IF there is a problem, how do you cause change? (You need power to change and you don't have real power in Japan unless you are on the inside and therefore unlikely to change.)
Will structural reforms, in the long run, help the economy?

I guess one of the short-term questions that I have to answer is whether we should talk about the economy and involve a bunch of economists in the debate or focus on democracy and deal with the law professors and politicians. ;-)

After reading Phil Wolff's blog entry about CV's, I decided to immediate convert my CV to OPML and start immersing myself in the microcontent of it all before I even started thinking about how to make it more intelligent. I started using Radio Userland's outliner, but found out that after a bunch of new entries, the top of the list "scrolled" off the top and couldn't be accessed in the window. I saved it and opened it with OmniOutliner. OmniOutliner at least dealt with the content, but I had difficulty editing the text. (Maybe I'm just not skilled yet. I've found both Radio's outliner and OmniOutliner to act funny why are you doing copy/paste) Since OmniOutliner is not native OPML, but exports, it's a bit of a pain. Also, to create links that Radio understands, you have to create extra columns and enter "link" in the "type" column and the URL in the "URL" column. This format can be imported from a Radio created OPML outline. Then, finally, I had to open the file again and set which sections to have expanded and collapsed since OmniOutliner's state didn't seem to save into OPML in a way that ActiveRenderer could understand.

So... I'm totally getting into outlining, but I can't find a perfect tool. OmniOutliner is nice, but still a little clunky, and editing acts a bit weird. I've tried NoteTaker from AquaMinds which LOOKS very cool and lets you mess with a lot of media types, but doesn't talk OPML so no go. I've also been messing with StickyBrain by Chronos. It is a fancy "sticky note" program that lets you index, categorize and search sticky notes which become your little pieces of microcontent. It's too disorganized for me and doesn't talk OPML. So, what happened to cool programs like MORE? (MORE was an EXCELLENT outliner that Dave Winer made in 1991.) Are we moving backwards?

Here is what I want:

Easy to use outliner that reads and writes OPML like a pro
The ability to import and deal with many media types
The ability for leaves to have multiple parents (MORE let you do this...)
Smart search/index
Easy linking between outlines

That would be enough for now, thanks.

Has anyone found the ultimate solution for managing and publishing your microcontent? Or, is that what we're all working on now?

Regarding Dave Winer's post about looking for a job in academia (which I think is perfect for Dave), Phil Wolff writes the following.

a klog apart
p.s. Now is the time for Dave to make weblogs more useful in job search.

Start by acknowledging that CVs are made from microcontent. Then...

1. Support HR-XML résumé protocol, syndicate CVs via RSS.
2. Create a blogging user and programmatic interface for creating and maintaining a CV.
3. Make it easy to associate posts with specific jobs, projects, and skills.
4. Make job availability clearly visible.

A big "ah ha!" I've always had trouble keeping my CV up to date. This would be very cool. In any event, I am going to start by moving my CV over to a Radio Outline RIGHT NOW.

I had just finished reading Philip Jacob's piece and was preparing my thoughts for a panel on spam that I THINK I'm on in January when I saw this piece by Larry. It's great. It's right on and he's putting his job on the line. I totally agree. We CAN NOT give up the stupid network just to stomp out spamming. I think that the label/punish idea is great. I only worry that the punishment loop is more difficult internationally. Maybe you'll end up with a lot of spam from Japanese, Chinese and Russian spammers. ;-) Larry will still keep his job though, because it will still be siginificantly less spam than you get now.

Lawrence Lessig: putting my job where my mouth is

Lawrence Lessig
A kind-hearted email and a nice analysis of spam have given me an idea:

First the analysis: Philip Jacob has a great piece about spam and RBLs. The essay not only identifies the many problems with RBLs, but it nicely maps a mix of strategies that could be considered in their place. But, alas, missing from the list is one I've pushed: A law requiring simple labeling, and a bounty for anyone who tracks down spammers violating the law.

Then I got an email from a kind soul warning me about my work—"do you know how powerful your enemies are?" this person asked. No, I thought, I don't, but let's see. If I've got such powerful enemies, then I've got a good way to do some good.

Here goes: So (a) if a law like the one I propose is passed on a national level, and (b) it does not substantially reduce the level of spam, then (c) I will resign my job. I get to decide whether (a) is true; Declan can decide whether (b) is true. If (a) and (b) are both true, then I'll do (c) at the end of the following academic year.

So: Is there anyone else advancing a spam solution who would offer this kind of warranty?

PS We've had this discussion on spam on this blog before and my current position considering the technologies we have is that we use local whitelists (I use tmda) instead of central blacklists.

I was dreaming about trackbacks this morning (really) and I was thinking about how cool the Blog Snowball Fight was. Then I realized that of COURSE you should trackback ping your friend with your greetings.

So Happy Blog New Year everyone! Here's to making blogs a bigger and bigger part of the freedom of ideas and creating a global dialog for a blog enabled global community and a more democratic world.

New Yera's Eve moblogging

New Year's moblog going. The New Year's Moblog is going. Please take a look... [Joi Ito's Web]

We got left in the dark :-(
So it's 5PM here in SF - which makes it 7PM in Chicago, 8PM in NYC and already 2AM in London.
But the site is dark and empty. I wonder what that means?
- it's too late for us West Coasters to post - we don't have our New Years Eve on the same day as everyone else
- Trilateral commission retribution for negative economic policies (and overall underground interests and sympathy penalty)
- never happened - it was just a figment of Joi's imagination
- the site was flooded by millions of uploads
- some other conspiracy involving the Taken, Joi, Tim Leary's spirit and a patridge ina pear tree

My sincere apologies. We had the site turn on at GMT 12/31 0000 and turn off at 1/1 0000. For some reason, we thought this would sweep around and give everyone 24 hours to post. Kind of a "Day in the Life" sort of thing. It also reflects no one on the team wanting to have the responsibility of monitoring the content of the uploads over New Years... just in case... (we should have trusted everyone more...) Anyway, I apologize to everyone who wanted to post, but couldn't. We'll do something again soon and will plan it better.

Anyway, the site is back online. We'll try to figure out a better way to display the content. Maybe a slide show? Anyone interested in trying to figure out how to do that? ;-)

Although it does remind me of all of the times that US web sites do maintenance based on US time zones and take critical sites in Japan off-line during the busiest times. ;-) Unintentional Time Zone fascism....

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