Joi Ito's conversation with the living web.

February 2003 Archives

Off to San Francisco »

Well, I'm leaving in 10 minutes for Narita airport to go to San Francisco.

My moblog »

BTW, we have an RSS Feed of the moblog.

alert - shields up - Richard Bennett filter ON »

Mr. Bennett has a very dismissive and insulting way of engaging and is a good example of "noise" when we talk about "signal to noise ratio".

I hope Google adwords on Blogger evolves to sponsor bloggers »

CnetAiming to expand its advertising network, Google is moving beyond selling sponsored links that appear alongside search results to selling similar links on partner sites, including on the pages of newly acquired Blogger. If they do this right, which I assume they will, they will give part of the revenue to the blogger and and create a better revenue model to sponsor blogging.Not to boast here, but I had this idea too. ;-) But as Carlos Ghosn says, execution is 95% of the work. Good job guys!

Dinner on the tax agency »

This evening was yet another surprising evening for me. After writing this morning about suing the tax office, this evening was my first day on the board of the National Tax Bureau's study group on IT and taxation. They served a yummy dinner which I mentally subtracted from the tax money they owed me... The irony of being threatened by some folks in the local tax office and being treated like an important expert by the head of the Tax Bureau was... ironic.

Banks try to use national ID, Ministry stops them »

Recently banks began allowing people to use their basic resident ID code as a method of identification for opening bank accounts. This is exactly the "function creep" that I had been warning against and protesting in my activity against the basic resident ID code. I received a letter a few days ago from the director of local governments in charge of the basic resident ID code reporting that they have contacted the banking community and notified them that their activity was illegal and they should cease.

Japanese judiciary? What judiciary? »

Then, I hear from my accountant that some of the tax agency guys are telling people, "Why are you doing this? Don't you know you can never win against the government?" They all deny saying this later, but I heard this from a credible source. Well it is true. the government wins over 90% of the time. Statistically, this is true. But to have the gall to say that "you can't win." TOTALLY UNACCEPTABLE FOLKS!

Emergent Democracy release 1.2 »

Allan Karl sent me suggestions and edits via a marked up word file. I've made some edits based on his comments and accepted his suggestions on grammer, etc. I've replaced the original file with the new file and put the old one here.

Breakfast at Okura with Thierry Porte and Jack Wadsworth of Morgan Stanley »

I had breakfast this morning at the Hotel Okura with Jack Wadsworth and Thierry Porte of Morgan Stanley.

i-mode 4th anniversary party/panel »

When I arrived, I was suddenly immersed in the i-mode of it all. It turns out that 5 of the i-mode council members were supposed to be on a panel to talk about how i-mode is changing society and where it goes next. It was the 4th anniversary of the launch of Docomo's i-mode, the widely popular Internet enabled phone.

Korea's new Internet president »

So I don't know how "emergent" this new Korean president is, but he is clearly much more aware of the Web than most world leaders. Korea has always been touted as leading Asia in Internet. It sounds like they are leading in Internet democracy as well.

RSS 1.0 Joi Ito's Web Lite »

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

Long RSS items »

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

Can we control our lust for power? »

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

Combating emergent terrorism »

I saw an interesting entry about emergent terrorism.The Art of PeaceThis brings us to emergent totalitarianism, or emergent terrorism. At first they may not seem susceptible to analysis as emergent phenomena, since by definition totalitarianism is a command system, and the greatest terrorist threat today demands obedience (at least nominally) to a strict and inflexible code of behavior. Yet many have noted how the decentralized network of Al Qaeda makes it difficult to cripple or destroy. This is not the first time they have been discussed as an emergent system, yet I think it's important to study their dynamics as deeply as possible if civilization is in a war to the death with them - we must know their strengths and weaknesses better than they know ours. And if we are truly to pit emergent system vs emergent system (rather than command vs emergent as the communists did economically) it must be at least in part us rather than our government who think about it.

Ivan's adventures in weblog space »

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

Blog style - am I alienating non-bloggers on my weblog? »

So, I've been told again that my weblog is really hard to understand. (By a non-blogger). The person said that if I could make it easier to understand, it would have so much more value. On the other hand, my blogging community network seems to be expanding and I generally get positive feedback. So what's one to do?

Are we not ants? »

In my paper and throughout the "happening" I have argued that we are similar to ants in that blogs are exhibiting a emergent intelligence beyond that of the individual blogs.

Protesting the National ID - an update »

So here's an update on my activity in protesting the National ID in Japan.

Blog Awareness Stage 4 - Blog addiction »

Actually, there is at least another stage:4) Oh, no. I'm addicted to blogging...You are addicted to blogging if you answer "yes" to at least 3 of the following questions:

Op-ed in South China Morning Post just ran »

An op-ed that I drafted with the help of everyone here and here (with a final re-draft by Pamela from WEF) just ran.

NoteTaker 2003 v1.1 does OPML! »

NoteTaker 2003 is a very groovy outliner that does lots of cool things like publish to the web, voice annotation and all kinds of other things that I haven't figured out yet. They shipped version 1.1 yesterday.

Photos of tour of Chiba »

I just uploaded some photos that I took in during my tour of Chiba with Governor Domoto

Blogstreet launches visual neighborhood »

Blogstreet just launched a new tool that uses Java to let you view your Blogstreet "neighborhood" and click on your neighbors to expand and see their neighborhoods, etc.

Emergent Democracy Paper 1.0 »

Thank everyone for all of the constructive feedback and support in getting my thoughts to where they are. This was a community effort and a great example of emergent democracy itself. I've posted version 1.0 of the paper.

Amazing new photography book available online about Iraq »

I just received this email and downloaded the book. It's great.

In other news... »

In other news, Six Apart, LLC acquired a fax machine Saturday.... [Six Log]

Emergent Democracy Paper Draft »

I just finished the day pounding away at my emergent democracy paper. I am very tired. Today was the deadline. It's 1000 words short and I'm so tired, I think the conclusion is quite week. I'm going to beg them to give me another day... It's about 5000 words now. If anyone has the interest and the time to take a look, I would greatly appreciate comments. Since I still have 1000 words to write, I can elaborate on any of the points really.My thesis is basically that weblogs will allow the net to exhibit emergent behavior and properly used, this will allow us to create a new form of global democracy. I think the community of toolmakers is the key to getting this done.Here it is in html.Clay and Ross, can I use the images from your papers?

Google buys Blogger »

Dan Gillmor Google, which runs the Web's premier search site, has purchased Pyra Labs, a San Francisco company that created some of the earliest technology for writing weblogs, the increasingly popular personal and opinion journals. [...]How Google manages the Blogger software and Pyra's hosting service may present some tricky issues. The search side of Google indexes weblogs from all of the major blogging platforms, including Movable Type and Userland Radio. Any hint of proprietary favoritism would meet harsh criticism.This is going to be tricky. Is this good news for people using other blogging software or bad news? I wonder if the discussion at Supernova had anything to do with increasing Google's interest in blogs.

My paper on emergent democracy »

I've finally started working on my paper on emergent democracy. It basically tracks the "Happening" but it will be for a non-blogging crowd so I will have to describe blogging and a variety of other things we take for granted. I'm going to write it in OmniOutliner and will render it with ActiveRendere and upstream it to my Radio page.

Leadership in an emergent democracy »

I posted this back in 1998, but I'm going to post it again. Tocqueville was a Frenchman who visited the US and wrote a book called "Democracy in America" in 1835.Alexis de TocquevilleFrom time to time, indeed, enterprising and ambitious men will arise in democratic communities whose unbounded aspirations cannot be contented by following the beaten track. Such men like revolutions and hail their approach; but they have great difficulty in bringing them about unless extraordinary events come to their assistance. No man can struggle with advantage against the spirit of his age and country; and however powerful he may be supposed to be, he will find it difficult to make his contemporaries share in feelings and opinions that are repugnant to all their feelings and desires.It is a mistake to believe that, when once equality of condition has become the old and uncontested state of society and has imparted its characteristics to the manners of a nation, men will easily allow themselves to be thrust into perilous risks by an imprudent leader or bold innovator. Not indeed that they will resist him openly, by well-contrived schemes, or even by a premeditated plan of resistance. They will not struggle energetically against him, sometimes they will even applaud him; but they do not follow him. To his vehemence they secretly oppose their inertia, to his revolutionary tendencies their conservative interests, their homely tastes to his adventurous passions, their good sense to the flights of his genius, to his poetry their prose. With immense exertion he raises them for an instant, but they speedily escape from him and fall back, as it were, by their own weight. He strains himself to rouse the indifferent and distracted multitude and finds at last that he is reduced to impotence, not because he is conquered, but because he is alone.Sounds pretty lonely. Luckily, being a leader today doesn't mean you're along. In fact, you're just one of the catalysts. I felt a bit strange leading the emergent democracy "Happening" when we were trying to find emergence where there was not supposed to be a leader or a pacemaker. Mitch mentioned that management as defined by Dee Hock was about being lead by the group and managing things above you. (versus the tradition notion of management being something that leaders do to followers) You're a leader as long as people look to you to be the catalyst. So, I wonder... Do leaders "emerge"? What does leadership have to do with Clay's power law discussion? My sense that people who are "different" and express their point of view will be discovered when society needs that point of view. It's like some antibody or some catalyst waiting for the right situation to be useful. This is very different from the single source of power/power broker sort of control oriented leadership. The old way to lead was to find the source of power, take it over and then control. Now maybe it is to find some point of view, feel strongly about it and blog blog blog. Be the difference that makes a difference.

Let's call it a "Happening" »

Ming the MechanicJoi called it a 'happening' which is quite appropriate as it happened in several media at the same time.I called the meeting, but actually someone else first called it a "Happening". I think it was Ross. Does anyone remember? Anyway, I think that's the right word for it too.BTW, for all of you who didn't participate in the first two calls, it may be hard to understand why we are all so excited about a simple conference call. I think the multi-modal aspect and the integration of the Wiki is a new and exciting development. Ross does a good job explaining it on his blog.

Switching from a 15 inch to a 12 inch Powerbook - 802.11g is a go »

The hinge on my 15 inch TiBook broke. The Powerbook display was hanging on from one hinge. I had to write a paper. My 802.11g base station had just arrived. What to do. I always use the opportunity of giving forward as my excuse to buy new stuff. So, I went out and bought a 12 inch PowerBook G4. I copied the system from my 15 inch to my new computer using Carbon Copy Cloner, which is one of my favorite utilities. No go. The new machine didn't recognize the system. I did a fresh re-install and randomly dragged folders to the new machine that looked important. That worked, but took way too much work. Anyway, I'm switched and have set up my 802.11g connection at home and I love it. I just uploaded a 1.7MB QT movie to my blog. zip... Done. ;-) I'm sitting here gloating instead of writing my paper on emergent democracy which is the excuse I gave myself for making such an impulse buy. Better get back to writing.

Movies from the anti-war parade in Shibuya »

I've posted a two movies clips I took at the anti-war parade in Shibuya. The first one is a 1.7MB QT movie of the Japanese drummers and the second one is a 780K QT movie of the big black flags of the anarchics waving in the air walking down Koendori in front of the Marui department store. I imagined that we were marching for the overthrow of the Japanese government for a moment. ;-)

Anti-war parade in Shibuya »

It was dark so I used the infrared nightvision mode on my Sony video camera to capture the sceneWent to the anti-war parade in Shibuya today. It was the biggest protest of its type that I've been to. (Although I think the gay and lesbian parade I went to with Kara and Megan was bigger and more fun...) I heard that it was the first protest that circled through the Shibuya route completely before the last team had left, making a full circle.We were the bloggers against war. We were stuck between the semi-left wing Asian group and a bunch of strange folks with messages on their umbrellas. Later, we ended up next to the Japanese drummers, which was much better. I guess they wanted to do this at the same time all over the world so Japan got stuck after dark. We were a pretty diverse group. I liked the Japanese drummers, the anarchists with the BIG black flags and the "Love not War" folks.It was pretty interesting and mayb 20% of the people were really having fun. Regardless of the logic, I think it is definitely more fun to be against the war than for it.

My position on warblogging »

Recently I've been getting email and comments in my blog pushing me to try to elaborate on my position on the war or to engage in the debate. I don't want to right now. I have several reasons.

The Meta Network celebrates 20 years of conversations that matter »

The Meta Network and the Electronic Networking Association were just about where it all started for me. My first real company was MDG Japan, a company that distributed Jcaucus (a Japanese version of the Caucus groupware product that MDG was marketing). The ENA was the first computer networking conference where we really started hashing a lot of the issues involving the scaling of online communities. We're still talking about a lot of the same things though... hmm...Lisa Kimball2003 is our 20th anniversary year for The Meta Network!We are planning many festivities - including a linked-up set of celebrations the weekend of March 22-23.We're also looking for artifacts, copies of conversations from the early years, and reminders of some of the highlights and special events we've shared on MetaNet.If you have something to share or would like to know about special events, join the ANNIVERSARY conference on MetaNet and join the fun!http://www.tmn.com

Webby Judge this year »

I'm a Webby Judge in the "community" category. We're nominating sites first. If anyone has suggestions, please post them here and I'll take a look. Thanks!

Congress shuts down Total Information Awareness »

Good show US democracy! Now if you can just shut down that war of yours.Howard RheingoldIs there still a pulse in the badly injured body of American democracy? Cynics will say that it will go underground, but I choose to believe that the US Congress has succeeded in shutting down the ultra-panoptic Total Information Awareness program -- the scheme to protect Americans from tyranny through total dataveillance of our every move. I say yay. Maybe those telephone calls you and I made to our Congressional representatives made a difference.Virtually without dissent, the House conferees accepted a bipartisan Senate provision written by Charles Grassley, an Iowa Republican, and Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat, stipulating that the program cannot be used against American citizens. The conferees also agreed to end research on the program — in effect shutting it down — in 90 days unless the Pentagon submits a detailed report on the program's cost, goals, impact on civil liberties and prospects for success against terrorists. What this means, in effect, is that if the program continues at all, it will be as a low-intensity research project under close Congressional supervision.

a "happening" on "emergent democracy" »

We just had a "happening" on "emergent democracy". (A conference call about blogs ;-p ) It was great. On the call were Clay Shirky, Ross Mayfield, Pete Kaminski, Gen Kanai, Liz Lawley, and Sébastien Paquet. One of the great things about blogs is that it accelerated the the conversation on the web and increased the bandwith. Phone calls are even faster. We decided that this format was useful. Happenings should happen when some blog meme starts to pick up speed and reaches escape velocity. We are going to try to develop this form of communication as an extention of blogging but use other tools such as Wiki's, chat and IM. We are going to do another 7am Sat Tokyo time. Click Here to see what time that is in other time zones. We will be continuing our discussion on emergent democracy, but will be testing this "happening" method of communication.Send me email with your IM address and blog URL (if you have one) if you want to join the next one.Sebastien Paquet made a topic exchange feed. You can send trackback to:http://topicexchange.com/t/emergent_democracy/and they show up in this RSS feedhttp://topicexchange.com/t/emergent_democracy/rssPlease trackback your entries about emergent democracy and read the RSS feed to keep track.

Peace protest in Tokyo on Saturday, let's go! »

Lenz BlogI plan to attend the anti-war demonstrations on February 15th in Shibuya, Tokyo. This is likely to become the single largest day of protest in world history.I'm going too. Thanks for the tip Karl-Friedrich. Should we try to organize a blog mob? Who else is going? Is there a poster party before?

Conference call about democracy and the emergent behavior of blogs »

I'm going to miss Live from Blogosphere where Doc says they will talk about all of the stuff rippling out of Clay Shirky's comments about blogs and the power laws. Drat. I'm in Tokyo... AND I need to write a paper this weekend. I want to write about democracy and the emergent behavior of blogs. So, I have a plan which may or may not work. I am going to set up a phone bridge for 7am Tokyo time tomorrow morning. You can see what time that is where you live from this table. If you're interested in joining me in my quest for some answers and some thoughts, send me email including your real name, any IM accounts you use and your phone number and I will send you the bridge number and a passcode. I promise I will upload my notes here.I am particularly interested in emergent behavior of blogs, is there a higher level order developing in blogs because of their 2-way linking nature? How should we measure and visualize this behavior? Are power laws relevant to this line of thinking? Will this change the nature of democracy and media? If so, how?I know this, short notice, self-centered mini-conference is a bit... well, selfish, but this is an experiment in whether I can use real-time voice to make up for my physical distance from y'all.

Bush's new song »

Just got this via email. Don't know who wrote it. Thanks Michael!Bush has a new song.... he composed it himself.... Must be sung to the tune of "If you're happy and you know it, clap your hands":

Habbo Hotel Japan Opens »

Neeraj just launched Habbo Hotel Japan. I wrote about it before, but it is a cool 2.5D chat space where you can build your own room and play games as well. It's a shockwave and it takes about a minute to set up an account and it's free. It's less sophisticated than Sims Online, but maybe better because it focuses more on the community aspect. I sometimes have difficulty with Sims Online because the balance between gameplay and socializing is kind of difficult. Sometimes it feels like you're "in the way" of Sims trying to make money doing stupid repetitive tasks. Habbo (maybe because it's free) has a younger and more social population, generally speaking, although I HAVE met some nice people on Sims Online.I'm Joi and Neeraj is NikoNiko in Habbo.

Working for Nagano »

I'm a "Mentor" of the prefecture of "Nagano". I'm not sure exactly what that means, but it does mean that even though today was a national holiday, I spent the afternoon in the Nagano office with the Governor's staff giving advice with the other Mentors on a variety of plans that they had. Actually, it was fun. We are trying to set up a lot of interesting trials involving wireless network webs, community VoIP networks and lots of other rather subversive, but community oriented projects. Nagano is the home of Governor Tanaka, who I wrote about before.After the trip to Chiba, Mizuka and I are thinking about moving to the countryside and just keeping a small apartment in Tokyo. The Governor's staff in Nagano said that they would help us look for places. I told them we were thinking of moving to either Nagano or Chiba. Nagano is closer, but it's colder. It's a bit classier than Chiba as well... but Chiba has an ocean. hmm...

Peugeot commercial shot in India »

I heard that there are more movies produced in India than anywhere else in the world. I saw a lot of Indian movies on my flight to India and have started to really enjoy their interesting style. Here is a very funny Peugeot commercial that looks like it was shot in India.http://www.peugeot.de/aktuell/video.php3#Thanks for the link Neeraj!

BBC News Moblog »

Great example of the media harnessing new technology. Now all we need is video. Interesting, this was EXACTLY the example I always used to give when I talked about the future of Internet and IT. This was also the example I gave to Chairman Shima of NHK to get him excited about getting online. It's a great feeling to see your "dreams come true." I also remember the news people who laughed at me. I wonder where they are? They're probably still editing tape in expensive studios instead of using a iLife on the Mac. ;-pBBC NewsBBC News Online wants to report the world from your perspective. And the digital revolution will help us to do that. So, if you have been active with your phone camera, or any other digital camera, send us your pictures. Thanks for the link Matt. Dan Gillmor talks about this too.

Business Week article about government funding for ventures »

I did an interview with Irene a couple of months ago about the government's idea about bailing out small businesses. I blogged about how throwing it around or letting so called "experts" doesn't make sense. Having said that, we received funding from a government backed fund which is managed by professionals. Singapore also has a variety of well manged government funds. If the government is going to put money into the market, choosing the right people to run the fund is essential. The "old way" just greases the political machine. The difficulty is choosing the people who choose the companies and make the investments. Transparency is probably a good place to start. Incentives are also important. The devil is in the details and it's quite difficult.Business WeekFEBRUARY 7, 2003 By Irene M. Kunii Don't Stifle Your Entrepreneurs, JapanThe bureaucrats and politicians who have presided over a decade of economic woe need to encourage startups, not stymie them[...]Koizumi seems to understand that Japan can only benefit from more entrepreneurial activity. Now he needs to realize that serving up fresh pork isn't the way to nurture the young business leaders the country so desperately needs.

Are 2D power law graphs the way to look at weblogs? »

Clay Shirky has a very interesting piece about power laws. He explains that just as with everything else, some blogs get more attention and in fact, the 2nd place blog has 1/2 the value of the 1st place blog, etc. in a 1/n sort of fashion. If you plot this power law distribution, you find that 2/3's of the blogs are "below average" and that this sort of inequal distribution of attention is natural if you think of the way the system works.Dave protests and says that blogs are different.Dave Winer To get an idea of what I'm talking about, skim Clay's article. How many of the weblogs he mentions have you heard of? I found that most of them were strange to me. So if we're hitting a scaling wall, why are these blogs becoming popular, even dominant, without any of us knowing about them? If we were all on a mail list together, believe me, we'd know the names of the people who dominate.So I am reading Steven Johnson's book Emergence - The connected lives of ants, brains, cities, and software trying to prepare for a 8000 word article I have to write for Illume on the future of information. I've been thinking about just this issue for the last month. I think that trying to connect the discussion about emergence with this issue is key to understanding how blogs are different.Steven Johnson - EmergenceThe technologies behind the Internet--everything from micro-processors in each Web server to the open-ended protocols that govern the data itself--have been brilliantly engineered to handle dramatic increases in scale, but they are indifferent, if not down-right hostile, to the task of creating higher-level order. There is, of course a neurological equivalent of the Web's ratio of growth to order, but it's nothing you'd want to emulate. It's called a brain tumor.[...]by definition, no page on the Web knows who's pointing back.[...]Self-organizing systems use feedback to boothstrap themselves into a more orderly structure. And given the Web's feedback-intolerant, one-way linking, there's no way for the network to learn as it grows, which is why it's now so dependent on search engines to reign in its natural chaos.So as the former Chairman of Infoseek Japan, I use to think about this power law and tried to figure out ways to get EVERYONE on the net to hit the Infoseek top page. We were able to route a significant amount of the Net's traffic through portals because the web pages weren't self-organizing into anything intelligent enough to sort itself out.Blogs are different. Although the search engines and metaindexes are useful, they are no longer the first place you go. I read my RSS news feeds before I go searching on a portal for news. As Dave says, don't know most of the blogs on the top 100 list and I don't care. We are organized into more intelligent communities and although there is a power law of sorts with respect to blogs that get a lot of attention, there are many local peaks. I think it looks much more like clusters of blogs with interconnections between communities. A lot like a strength of weak ties sort of map.I'm going to focus on this for my paper. Any references to things I should read or any comments would be very helpful. Sorry to use you all as my editorial support team for my writing all of the time. ;-)

The Tokyo University Forest in Chiba »

helping plant a tree with Governor Domoto at the Tokyo University Forest in Chiba.Yesterday, we visited the Tokyo University Forest in Chiba. It was established in 1894 and has been vital in studying forestry issues. In the book Dogs and Demons, Alex Kerr writes about how the national policy to plant Cedar is misguided and is the cause and an example of many of the problems in Japan. He uses it as an example of bad bureaucratic policy and inability to change once something is on track. We talked a lot about the cedar problem. We saw sketches by researchers from the early 1900's trying to think about how to manage forests and increase productivity. This planning didn't look or sound nearly as stupid as it sounds in the book. Also, the problem with forests and big forest projects, is that they are quite difficult to change. The Tokyo University Forest is a multi-generational project and has some research projects that are now almost a century old. It seems understandable that the researchers in 1900 didn't realize that Japan would be aging and importing in 2003... So, the take-away for me was that although Kerr's book captures many of the facts, it didn't seem like the researchers were as ignorant, stupid or evil as you might think after reading Dogs and Demons. They are concerned and are trying to figure out what to do and there is the problem of a bureaucracy with a lot of inertia that they must deal with.

Nobuo Ikeda attacks, I parry »

Nobuo Ikeda has recently been attacking me. I wrote about this before. He recently wrote an email to Dave Farber's list attacking me again. This attack seems to have more substance so I have tried to address his points. I wonder if this is the "critical debate" I've been fighting for. ;-p

Touring Chiba with Governor Domoto »

Domoto-san was very excited about find a busy bee in one of the flowers she picked.Mizuka and I are with a small group of people in Chiba touring the countryside with Governor Domoto for two days. We visited several flower farmers today and had lunch at a restaurant where all of the fish were caught today. We're staying in a small hotel with a... pulse dial phone. ;-) Unfortunately, my PHS wireless Internet doesn't seem to work here. I brought my Hassy with me and most of my lenses. Hopefully I'll get some nice shots... There is a strange similarity between camera gear and guns & ammo. Every place we stop, I have the trunk open snapping this on, reloading that, etc. Luckily, the bodyguard with Domoto-san is the one who likes to talk to me about cameras...

Contacted by whistleblower on TEPCO nuclear reactor cover-up »

In September last year, I blogged about the Tokyo Electric Power Co., lying to the government about the cracks in the nuclear power plant. This was a huge scandal where the president and the chairman of Tokyo Electric Power resigned. Asahi had reported that the whistleblower was fired after the whistleblowing and METI had reported that he was fired before.As you know, I am a strongly in favor of figuring out how to protect whistleblowers. They may seem "unethical" to typical Japanese small group oriented ethics, but when thinking about global ethics, it is essential that people think ethically outside of their groups and speak up when necessary... I've been working on the Japanese whistleblower protection bill. (Although the final version seems quite weak and not at all what I had recommended...)Sakiyama-san wrote a comment in the entry today about this and also mentioned that Asahi has removed their article about the TEPCO incident. Coincidentally, I have been exchanging email with the whistleblower and just got permission to post the email exchange.Disclaimer: I have no way to confirm for sure that I am interacting with the real whistleblower, but I can't think of a motive to lie to me and he sounds sincere.Date: Fri Feb 7, 2003 06:52:53 Asia/TokyoTo: jito@neoteny.comSubject: Tepco ScandalTo JoiI saw an article off the Internet that stated the individual who brought to light the Tepco scandal was fired from his job. That is incorrect. I was laid off in June of 1998 and due to GE's overwhelming integrity throughout my career I was compelled to reciprocate in June of 2000. GE Nuclear is rampant with cronyism, riddled with nepotism and racism in my over 20 years of service with them.Former GE Senior Field Services Engineer --- Joichi Ito wrote:To clarify... You were laid off before the scandal, but you participated in the whistle blowing in June of 2000?When you say, "overwhelming integrity" at GE, what are you referring to?I'd love to write something about this if possible.Thanks! - JoiDate: Fri Feb 7, 2003 15:37:05 Asia/TokyoTo: Joichi Ito Subject: Re: Tepco ScandalJoiOverwhelming is my sarcastic reply actually meaning they GE have no integrity. I gave GE a chance to show integrity for two years after my layoff but they refused to come to the table.I had no choice but to come forward with integrity. I had no idea it involved so many but I am not surprised.Date: Fri Feb 7, 2003 15:38:13 Asia/TokyoTo: Joichi Ito Subject: Re: Tepco ScandalJoiI don't want my name released to the public at this time although Japanese news agencies received leaks and contacted me in California last September. No interviews were given. METI will not even release my name or allegation documents. I just wanted to make a correction to the Internet article.I wonder who leaked the information about him/her to the press. What prevents the same sources from leaking information to other sources? Doesn't sound like very good "protection" to me.

Scandal at Nikkei »

The weeklies in Japan are writing about a scandal at the Nikkei, one of the largest Japanese newspapers. They report that a whistle blower inside of the Nikkei sent email to the management at Nikkei about the 10's of millions of dollars worth of fake checks that were issued by a Nikkei subsidiary. The whistle blower apparently claims that the president of the Nikkei was involved and these funds were used to create dirty money. According to the weeklies, the president is being bumped up to chairman, which is a Japanese way of removing him from operations. It's the talk of the town. The weeklies are notoriously slanderous and the Nikkei is apparently threatening to sue. This is an interesting incident worth following because a scandal by the head of one of the biggest newspapers is going to be difficult for the mass media to report. Currently none of the major newspapers have reported this incident.

Other things I've written about Japan »

I gave a presentation about Japan last year at the Trilateral Commission which ended up in the Wall Streeet Journal and also did a presentation with Oki Matsumoto for the GLT Annual Meeting which are both a bit more fact based than the current essay I have written...

Some facts about Japan »

Here are some supporting figures about the aging population and the lack of diversity and risk taking in Japan.

Draft of opinion piece for Keizaidoyukai »

Here is a draft of my opinion piece for Keizai Doyukai the Association of Corporate Executives. I wanted to focus on identifying the dysfunctional democracy as the core problem and to encourage public debate and a global dialog without fear of "revisionists" bashing Japan as a result.

Draft of op-ed for the South China Morning Post »

Thanks to everyone for the feedback on my essay draft. I will try to break it up into the two specific essays for two very different targets. The first one is and op-ed for the South China Morning Post. (Not sure if it will be published yet.) I am going to try to focus on a brief history of the problems in Japan, the fact that the dysfunctional democracy is the root of the problem and some examples of how a revolution might happen. Again, comments would be greatly appreciated.

Mitch comments on my essay »

Mitch Ratcliffe comments on my essay and writes about how the US faces similar problems. He makes some great points about how corporate interests are taking over the political system.

A Cluetrain moment »

We recently had a cluetrain moment on my blog. I wrote an entry about the Shure E2c in-ear headphones. We got a discussion going about great headphones. I don't know if it was because Google indexed this entry on the first page of search results for "Shure E2c", but Matt, the product specialist for the E2c, dropped in and joined the discussion. He wasn't the marketing or sales guy, but the product specialist. This combination of Google and blogs may create an opinion management and cluetrain manifesto sort of human conversation about products in a much less centralized method than some of the earlier models like epinions.One more thing that I've been thinking about more and more these days is what Howard's been saying for awhile now. How do we get comments to become a more important part of blogging. Slashdot and Slashdot-like sites thrive on comments. Many blogs have very active comment areas. Is there a better way we can structure the indexing so that people have more incentive to comment? I have a feeling that either RSS feeds or how blog entries show up in Google results might be able to highlight comments more.I sense a fairly active "comment" community developing on my blog. Maybe I should figure out a way to allow active comment contributors to spawn their own blogs on my site...

My draft essay about the revolution in Japan »

I've been asked by a variety of publications to write about my thoughts about Japan. I would love comments of my first draft.

Keiji Shima »

I found an interview with Keiji Shima on Charles Whipple's page. (I found his page linked from his comment on my retribution item.) He is more relevant than ever. Keiji Shima who passed away several years ago was the chairman of NHK, Japan's national TV station and the largest broadcasting company in the world. He started his career there as a political journalist and eventually became chairman. My mother was hired by him to represent NHK in the US. I often worked for him as his assistant and translator. My personal opinion is that Shima-san was ousted from NHK when he tried to make it "independent" and free from LDP control. Some people say it was the CIA. (I think this is unlikely.)I remember sitting in his office when he was chairman and watching the Diet session with him. He once picked up the phone and shouted at someone that he had told "so-and-so" not to say that in the Diet. My exposure to the tight relationship between the head of the biggest broadcast company and the politicians as well as the extremely brutal ousting of Shima-san by THEM was my first exposure to THE SYSTEM.After Shima-san was ousted, I showed him the Internet. To be exact, I showed him Adam Curry's MTV.COM and downloaded and played one of the first video clips Adam had posted. At first he wanted to know who controlled it. He asked, "Does Murdock own it?" I said, "No... No one does." He then asked, "Can I own it?" ;-) He quickly figured it out though and paid us to set up a server for him so he could launch The Shima Media Network in 1994. It was the first paid web page that Eccosys built.Very few people showed up at his funeral and even today I am sometimes "blocked" by people who know about my relationship with Shima-san and were enemies of his. Having said that, many people respect what he tried to do and believe that he was a visionary before his time.

Japanese version of Creative Commons? »

Andreas Bovens"Free use label" for webcontentLast week, Niko pointed me to an interesting article at Asahi.com: "New rules and copyright labels to let users copy Web content". A quote: "There are three labels. One will say, "This mark indicates material can be copied." The mark lets users copy or print material from Internet Web sites and distribute it without specific permission from the copyright holder, as long as the labeled content is not altered.Two other labels will permit unrestricted use of copyrighted material by people with disabilities and for school."Creative Commons WeblogIn Japan, a project called the "Intellectual Property Outline" started in July 2002 and includes some provisions that seek to accomplish many of the same goals as the Creative Commons. While it is clear they were not influenced by us directly, it's interesting to watch the convergence of alternate forms of copyright come from governments world-wide.So I hope we can make sure it "converges" in a world where divergence is quite common.Thanks for the pointer Andreas!

Lunch with Iwao Nakatani »

I just had lunch with Iwao Nakatani. I met him at the Sony Open Forum. Nakatani-san is one of the outside directors of Sony. He suprised everyone when he left his position at Hitotsubashi University to join Sony's board. Hitotsubashi is a public university which does not allow professors to take commercial positions. Nakatani-san is also well known for being very outspoken on political and economic issues. He held important advisory roles for the Hosokawa and Obuchi cabinets. He is now a professor at Tama University.At the Sony Open Forum, he commented that he agreed with me that the dysfunctional democracy was one of the core problems with Japan. We talked a lot about the Japanese system today. We both agreed that "change was in the air" and that somehow we needed to change the system. It was very interesting getting his insight and advice. He liked the idea of blogs driving change, but he thought that I should also write a book. I wonder if I could write a book that ties together emergence, blogs and democracy in Japan...Encouragement from intellectuals who actually try to change things like Nakatani-san is exactly what I need right now...

Croquet, the OS of the future? »

From left to right: Kazuya Minami from Neoteny, David Smith and his son AsherYesterday morning, I picked up David at Tokyo Station where he arrived on the bullet train from Kyoto with his son Asher. We went to the Tsukiji fish market for some morning sushi and then I took them to our office where everyone was anxiously waiting to see David's Croquet demo.David's demo reminded me of the early days of BeOS. Trying to explain the potential of an operating system, especially one with such a completely new and unlimited architecture is quite a task. David wrote the thing so there is also something mystical about getting a demo of a new OS by the person who wrote it.Croquet is an amazing concept, but it is an old concept. It is based on Smalltalk/Squeak and is a totally object oriented collaborative environment. David is a 3D guru so he has made the interface completely 3D where you can fly around, see other users as avatars, create 3D objects with scripts and share them dynamically and in real time in the shared space. He is working on all of the necessary pieces to deal with identity and security as well. It is totally cross-platform and is "pure" in its portability. The architecture is incredibly clean and you can tell it is being designed top-down by someone who's done this before.The main problem with new operating systems is that you need a killer ap to get it into the main stream. David calls Croquet a broadband phone call. There are obviously A LOT of educational applications.When I saw the system, I thought of a few things. It would be a very cool environment for blogging. (When you are a blogger, everything looks like a blog or blog tool.) It would be really neat if you got an IM when your fellow bloggers were online and you could switch into the broadband/rich interactive mode and browse and point at micro content together. Last night I came up with what I think might be what I'm trying to say. I think we are mastering the art of micro content journalism. What Croquet made me imagine was some sort of object oriented journalism with smarter micro content which had behaviors and attributes. The Creative Commons license being one attribute that could be included in such an object attribute.The other thought that I had was that the ability to change the attributes of the objects and environment (color, shape, etc) would be a great way to help people track privacy and identity issues. It would make the concept of access control and permissions much more intuitive for the average user and would help make clear the delineation between different computer spaces and who you are and what information you were bringing with you as you moved from server to server.

The space program should continue »

As I read some great comments by Dan Gillmor, Dave Winer and other bloggers about the shuttle tragedy, I was reminded about the story of one of the first Japanese submarines. Japan was doing research on submarines, but one of the first trials went terribly wrong. The submarine sank to the bottom of the ocean and the men began to die as oxygen was depleted. They recovered the diary of the captain of the ship. In the diary, the captain pleads to the government and the people of Japan to continue the research and not allow the failure of the mission to slow it down. The diary is quite moving. I bet that if the crew of the space shuttle had had the time to write, they probably would have written something similar.

Daiichi, my favorite restaurant in the whole wide world »

The steaming suppon potThe okogeToday, we had lunch at Daiichi. It is my favorite restaurant. I first went to Daiichi with Shigeaki Saigusa, Ryo Hato and Hiroshi Yanai. Since then, Mizuka and I make it a point to go whenever we are in Kyoto. Daiichi is a suppon restaurant. Suppon is a kind of soft-shelled snapping turtle. There is no menu. The meal starts out with suppon blood (optional), pieces of suppon chilled, then the main course. The main course is suppon chopped up and stewed in a very heavy clay pot with sake and soy sauce. The chopped suppon is very gelatinous and tastes kind of like a cross between fish and chicken. You add hot sake to the amazing soup and drink it in a cup.The pot is a special pot that requires extremely high temperatures to heat. These high temperatures can only be achieved using special coal which new restaurants are not approved to use. Once heated, the pot retains the boiling hot temperature for the duration of the course. They use sake instead of water and this sake is essential. During the war and in post-war Japan, sake was not available so you had to buy a bottle of sake on the black market and bring it with you in order to be served.After the suppon stew comes the ozoni. The ozoni is prepared by putting rice in the pot with the soup, breaking a few eggs and stirring. After the first servings are removed from the pot, there is a little left on the bottom. This heats and gets crispy and brown. This crispy rice/egg stuff is very good and is called okoge. You have to be very careful when scraping the okoge from the pot. The pot is fragile and VERY old. If you break a pot they get VERY mad. If you ever break two, you are banned from the restaurant.I think it must have something to do with the pot, but the suppon at Daiichi is superior to any other suppon I have ever had and it is consistently great.

Dinner with Alan Kay in Kyoto »

From left to right: Joi, Alan, DavidDavid Smith has been trying to introduce me to Alan Kay for quite awhile now. We also have a bunch of other mutual friends including Scott Fisher, my brother-in-law who used to work for Alan at Atari and Megan Smith. Alan, David, Kim and the "team" were visiting Kyoto so I invited them to dinner at Minoya, my favorite tea house in Kyoto which I've written about in my blog before. I found a picture of Kaoru, the owner and me from when she was staying with us in the US. I am 3 years old and she is 18 in this photo.It's a bit difficult to talk about the past, present and future of computing surrounded by geisha in a tea house, but we tried. Alan talked about how so much of great computer science was invited in the 60's and 70's and we're just getting around to re-discovering some of it. It reminded me about my thoughts about ECD. People like to talk about quantum computing and nanotech because it is a long way away and is not threatening to the current products. Technology such as ECD's technology and Alan's architectures which have been feasible for decades is often ignored because it threatens business models and architectures today.It's great that Japan really respects Alan Kay and gives him a great deal of credit for his discoveries. I think Ted Nelson also gets much more credit for his discoveries in Japan than he does in the US. Maybe foreigners aren't as threatening. ;-)Alan and David are working on Squeak and are also developing a completely object oriented, cross-platform, networked, collaborative environment called Croquet which sounds very exciting. David's supposed to give me a demo tomorrow.

Fear of retribution »

Yesterday was an interesting collision with reality for me. I had dinner with a business partner/friend and I talked about my thoughts regarding the problems with Japan. He asked me whether people called me a left wing radical. He said that many people would probably find what I was saying to be rather threatening and anti-establishment. That's probably true.Later, I met some other friends in a bar and a very senior executive from a BIG Japanese company came over to our table and began talking to my friends in a rather rude tone. (He was able to do this because of the position of power he was in.) It was very annoying so I cut him off told him that I thought his tone was rude. He then threatened me, told me I was a threat to Japan and stormed off. After talking to people like Idei-san of Sony and Kobayashi-san of Fuji-Xerox, I think I had forgotten that there were still a lot of REALLY SCARY people in Japan. I should be careful. On the other hand, I think that unless people speak up against those who abuse power, no one will have the guts to begin to criticize the establishment.It's easy to criticize the establishment in the mountains of Switzerland, but continuing to deliver the message in the halls of power in Japan will be difficult. I have to be smart about picking my battles, but I have to promise myself not to allow fear to stifle me.Note to myself... Avoid going to bars likely to have powerful drunk people, even if invited by friends...Update: I just talked to a friend who knows the "BIG company" well and he said that the guy who threatened me is on his way out and one of my friends in that company, who is actually quite a gentleman, is "on his way up." Good news. Maybe the world is getting sick of people who abuse power...
Whiplash by Joi Ito and Jeff Howe
Freesouls by Joi Ito

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