Joi Ito's conversation with the living web.

February 2004 Archives

That' me holding Ben

Ethan and Ben

At the Emerging Tech conference, more than one person noted the striking resemblance between Ethan Zuckerman and Benjamin Franklin. Coincidence? You decide.

A lot of the people working on emergent democracy look founding fatherish. I wonder if you start looking like a founding father after you start pondering or whether looking in the mirror each day causes you to go down the "pondering about democracy" path. Where does that put me?

Interesting article by Mike Rogers describing the influence of the popular Japanese TV drama Oshin and mustached Japanese soldiers in Iraq. Also some interesting perspectives about the ability to identify with suffering and Japan's relationship with the Middle East.

Alright, think about Oshin. Think about that story and that kind of suffering. I don't think Americans can relate to that. Of course Japanese can.

And, get this: Oshin has been broadcast in most Middle Eastern countries for at least the last 12 years. Iran? Sure. According to the Nikkei Shimbun News Oshin scores a remarkable 82% viewer rating; Iraq? Of course 76.7%; Thailand? 81.6%; China!? I thought most Chinese people hate Japanese because of the war! Yeah, well, maybe so, but they love Oshin! 75.9% viewer rating in China; Poland? 70%.

Gee, I wonder if the people in the Middle East can relate to this kind of starvation, suffering, and pain? Of course they can.

Which brings me to the next part of this puzzle: The Japanese military has ordered all troops in Iraq to grow beards and moustaches. Weird, eh? Well, no... Smart. Besides understanding the ways of society in the Middle-East, Oshin's husband has a moustache. Don't believe me? Check this out:

* Japanese army opts for new form of camouflage

Via Bob

"We will not take part in the funeral for freedom."

A cell-phone text message circulated in Iran to protest against a clampdown on reformists in last weeks of parliamentary elections.

I woke up this morning with a headache and decided I needed to get my circulation going. I told Marko and he suggested avantouinti. Hmmm...

Marko took me to the Finnish Sauna Society sauna where we hung out in traditional smoke saunas for awhile with a bunch of naked Finnish men. The saunas were covered in soot from the way they prepare them using real wood fires. The experience was about as similar to saunas back home as eating real sushi in Japan is similar to eating California supermarket sushi.

After we were thoroughly heated, we sauntered out to a hole in the ocean and jumped in. Avantouinti! ("ice hole swimming" in Finnish) For a moment I lost touch with my limbs and wasn't sure I'd make it out, but I survived. Then, we did a rinse, heat, repeat. The second time around was much easier and thoroughly enjoyable and it did indeed get my circulation going.

One funny thing I noticed was that every time something strange was about to happen, Marko would say, "this is VERY traditional." I remember when I was taking Marko around Japan, that's what I would say to him when I was about to feed him something pretty weird.

Anyway, Marko may have been trying to get me back for feeding him snapping turtle in Kyoto, but I enjoyed my avantouinti very much and recommend it to anyone who gets a chance.

i_injailI was making fun of Marc Canter because he kept on ending up in Orkut jail, but I got this message today when I tried to invite a friend into Orkut.

To keep a trusted community, we have implemented an automated system that tries to identify members who may be abusing it. While your account is being reviewed, you will still be able to login, but the system will prevent you from performing any actions such as inviting friends or posting messages.

If your account has been flagged by mistake, we're very sorry. Certain actions can trigger our alarm by accident. If you think you have been mistakenly suspended, please send an email to with your username, and we'll review your account as soon as possible. We apologize for any inconvenience.

I haven't invited very many people and have only sent three private messages. I wonder what the triggers are. Maybe approving too many friend request. Hmm...

Loic's going to Germany and is trying to hook up with bloggers there.

brought to you by #joiito meetupster

I spent last month so excited by my Nokia 6600. Land in a random city, flip open my PowerBook, click, "connect" and I was immediately online via bluetooth, gprs and my T-Mobile roaming. Internet everywhere. It was sooo cool... until I got my bill. $3500 for one month of mobile abandon. At $3500 / month, I would say that it works, "technically" but is totally unacceptable socially and economically. It's like having a PowerBook stolen from the carriers and being beaten over the head with the stupid stick. It reminds me of the "good old days" of x.25. What's the point of broadband wireless unless people can afford it. This trip I'm hunting down the free wifi and only using grps when absolutely necessary.

NOTE TO CARRIERS: Make gprs cheap, flat fee and with free roaming or else... or else... you suck and I'm going to take my marbles and go play on 802.11.

UPDATE: I just got a Sonera account so I don't have to roam in Finland. It's about $20 for up to 100MB.

I just saw python running on the Nokia 6600. Soo cool. I can't wait to get my hands on it. You may have heard, but python is coming first, not perl. My next python script will be a bot from my phone.

A cool site with TV clips from the 60's.

via Markoff

At risk of being labeled an echochamberist, I'm going to agree that danah has a good point in her post about echo chambers. (See David Weinberger's article for more background.) I think it is natural to communicate most with people whom you share context and I believe that if you separate strong ties and weak ties a la Granovetter's Strength of Weak Ties, there is definitely a lot of "strong tie" hang-out-with-your-friends action that goes on on blogs. I think that's natural. Most blogs are conversations between a small group of friends.

It's clear that it's fun and easy to hang out with people you like and trust and shared context allows you to relax and communicate easily. I do not think, however, that hanging out with your friends is exclusive of caring about or listening to people outside your immediate group of friends. This is especially true if you care about diversity or the pursuit of truth. The difficulty with blogs is that a variety of contexts are collapsed and the conversation with your friends, the conversation with a larger community and the general pursuit of diversity and "triangulation" all happens in the same place.

Normally, chatting in the kitchen with my family, hanging out at a geek conference and giving a plenary at an international conference are different contexts for me where I am performing a different facet of my identity and where my mind is in a completely different mode. On my blog, I somehow mix all of these together.

I think that in the real world the amount time communicating with your strongs ties is generally greater than the amount of time communicating with your weak ties. Weak ties are like transferring information across communities and boundaries whereas communicating inside of your group is more like digesting these thoughts. I suppose the question is whether talking about things among your friends tends to reinforce and amplify misconceptions or leads to greater understanding of the issues.

On the one hand, sharing context allows you to communicate efficiently and place new ideas into existing frameworks without the risk of constantly talking past each other. On the other hand, it limits your ability to "think outside the box" and a poorly organized group probably causes mutual back-patting. I think that's what the echo chamber is currently being blamed for causing. Shouldn't we recognize the fact that people will hang out with their friends and create communities and try to focus on how use these communities together with our weak ties?

I think that the project that Ethan and I are planning is an example of this. The idea is to take a group of bloggers to Africa. The strong ties allows us to have a group of people with whom we share a context so that we can support each other and work together to think about and create action based on things we see and learn in Africa. Going to Africa is an attempt to forge weak ties with a community outside. I think that without the smaller group of friends, trying to tie my Africa experience into my daily life would be more difficult and I think that going to Africa will enrich my local community with lots of new information and culture. I think the perfect balance is what we are trying to achieve.

I'm off to Helsinki. See you on the other side. Thanks for all the sushi!

Yesterday I visited Google Japan's offices then later had dinner with Yajima-san, the CEO of Digital Advertising Consortium (DAC).

We talked a lot about the future of blogging as well as the good old days. Sato-san who was recruited by Google to get the Tokyo office going and Mr. Yajima both worked with me in the early days of getting Infoseek Japan going. We recruited Sato-san from Asatsu to startup Infoseek Japan inside of Digital Garage and Yajima-san was at Hakuhodo in charge of looking at the Internet advertising business.

My company Digital Garage had just lost our offer to do Yahoo Japan because Softbank invested in the parent company in the US and got to do Japan as part of the deal. Softbank offered to give us 1% of Yahoo Japan in exchange for helping them with Yahoo Japan, but we told them to take a hike. (In retrospect, maybe we should have done this deal.) Anyway, I shifted gears and we ended up with Infoseek. I was convinced that search engines were going to be the next big thing.

Softbank needed to get Yahoo Japan's business going so they joined forces with Dentsu the biggest ad agency in Japan to make an ad rep company called Cyber Communications Inc. (CCI). In response, we decided to set up a competing ad rep company. It turns out that all of the non-Dentsu ad agencies combined is about equal to the total revenue of Dentsu. Hayashi-san, my partner at Digital Garage and I gathered all of the other ad agencies together and put together the first consortium of its kind in Japan. We spent close to six months explaining the concept of banner ads and ad impressions. I remember that we couldn't get the ad agencies to understand the notion of ad impressions and how ad prices should be set by page views and not page position. Yahoo was an easier sell because they framed their pitch in old-media terms. IE, the "top page" will cost you X, sponsorship of section Y would cost you Z, etc. I remember explaining that we should be able to target ads based on what people are searching for and that eventually you would even be able to track click-through rates and disintermediate ad sales guys. No one believed me. They did believe me enough to rally against Dentsu/Softbank and form DAC with us to sell Infoseek ads. The first year, our guys were in the market competing with Yahoo Japan, which had a clear head start and we struggled to make a million dollars in sales. That was about seven years ago. Now DAC is public and I'm happy to hear they've got about $100M in revenue and are neck-to-neck with CCI.

Yesterday, we joked about how I was basically dreaming about Google AdSense and AdWords seven years ago. We also talked about how Steve Kirsch, the founder and Chairman of Infoseek was right and the others were wrong. Steve wanted to keep working on the Infoseek search engine, but in the "portal days" Infoseek tried to become a media portal, hiring media people and eventually being acquired by Disney. Infoseek pursued a big media strategy and dropped its focus on search. It's not clear whether Infoseek would have been able to compete with Google, but if they had stayed "just a search engine" maybe they could have given Sergey and Larry a run for the money.

Anyway, seven years after I was getting all excited about search, the search engine has finally become an essential part of the Internet. Even Yahoo has built its own search engine. Too bad it's Google and not Infoseek. ;-p

Having said that, Infoseek Japan still exists and is the third largest portal in Japan after Yahoo and MSN. It is owned by Rakuten and I continue to actively advise the group. Infoseek Japan is a strong profitable portal business but alas, it uses Google for its search results. Considering the fact that most of the original search engine people are gone, I think that Sato-san, Yajima-san and I have probably been in the Internet search engine business longer than just about anyone else in the world... scary thought.

Albert Einstein
'We should take care not to make the intellect our god; - it has, of course, powerful muscles, but no personality.'

via JV

As a child I travelled a lot, but mostly between US and Japan. I dealt with a lot of bicultural issues, but the rest of the world seemed far away. In the 90's I started going to Europe and Asia more, but it was always to "civilized" places.

Several years ago, I became actively involved in trying to reform Japan and I was allowed to be quite vocal about this. Last year, I gave a rant at Davos about how broken Japanese democracy was. Afterwards, Ms. Ogata, the former UN High Commissioner for Refugees told me that I should stop ranting as a Japanese and think more about global democracy and global issues. These words stuck with me and last year I tried to think about blogs and emergent democracy outside of the Japanese context. With the US elections front and center, the obvious place to try to apply these thoughts was the US. Having spent a year or so thinking about US politics, I realize how important the US election is, but I'm drawn more and more to countries that need more help.

I think many of us avoid thinking about or worrying about the rest of the world. We hear people talking about poverty, but it sounds like something in some far away country on a National Geographic special. Most people just don't care. To be honest, I cared, but in retrospect, I didn't REALLY care. I guess better late than never. As I prepare for my trip to Africa with Ethan and try to figure out exactly how I can contribute and what I should be studying, I'm drawn back to organizations such as the UNHCR. On the flight back to Japan, I saw Beyond Borders, a movie about relief work and the UNHCR, starring Angelina Jolie. The movie captured some of the experiences of being an activist on a global level and I watched it thinking about what drove some people to such high levels of commitment. Googling around, I found Angelina Jolie's journal from her mission to Russia last year. (We need to get her a blog...) What is really striking to me and something that I'm trying understand is the process that people go through to reach a higher level of caring for human beings outside of their immediate circle. I think that this process holds the key for some of the important contributions that technologies can make.

nohsI was excited when I got my entry in the Internet Movie Database. I was thinking about how vain it was to be excited by this. It felt like being in some sort of elite Orkut. Just like Orkut, there was a "click here to add photo".


$35 - Submit a Person's Headshot or a Film's Poster
Replace the "no headshot" or "no poster" icon on their main page with a headshot/poster or change the current headshot/poster to a new one.

$10 - Submit a Gallery Photo for a Film or Person
Add an image to your film's "studio stills" gallery or your personal "publicity photos" portfolio.

Why Do I Have To Pay?

When you use this service you get to make sure the image you want is on the first page people see when they look you up or look up your film, and/or that there are images you have chosen in the photo gallery.

Without this service, you leave all the decisions of what is used, when it is used, and if it is used, entirely up to fate and our editors.

There are many factors that make it just too expensive for us to provide this service for free, so we have to charge you for it or not provide it at all.

Ahh, the business model. ;-)

Larry showed me mozCC, a cool plugin for Mozilla based browsers that shows the Creative Commons license of a page on the browser window margin and also lets you examine the license in more detail. Can someone make this for IE and Safari?

I'm a Nominating Judge in The Webby Awards Community Category. Help me out by suggesting cool community sites.

Community: Sites creating and facilitating online community, connectedness and/or communication around shared interests. These sites can target either a broad-based or niche audience.

Please use this web form to submit your suggestions to me.

NKzone, the North Korean blog needs citizen bloggers to cover the Life Funds for North Korean Refugees (LFNKR) in Tokyo on Feb 22 and two human rights events in Seoul on Feb 23. If you're available, please help us out.

Bloggers will be reporters tomorrow in Iran

I'm trying to encourage Iranian blogger to go out tomorrow, the election day, and report what they see and hear in their city and blog it. I also plan to gather all posts related to it in one place either in my own Persian blog or in Sobhaneh, the collective news blog.

I also consider a place in iranFilter for those Iranian who know English to provide translations the reports that are gathered in Persian.

This can be the 9/11 for Persian blogosphere. It's the first event that potentially engages every body in every city in Iran and blogs can play a huge role in reporting the news, rumors, and all those things that traditional journalists usually miss.

Iranian bloggers do not vote tomorrow, but the blog.

Update: special page on iranFilter is now set up and it's ready for Persian bloggers' covereage on the election day. Please help us by translating whatever you find interesting in Persian sources into English.

A very important day for Iran and a chance for blogs to make a difference.

I'm at the San Francisco airport about to leave for Tokyo. See you on the other side. It's been fun hanging out in the US with everyone.

I'm sure everyone's seen this by now, but Yahoo has just rolled out their own search engine. I wonder what this will mean for Google. It sure does look a lot like Google, which I guess is good.


If you tilt a sealed, new Pepsi bottle at 25 degrees and squint at the underside of the cap, you can tell whether it's a winning free-iTunes-track bottle or a try-again bottle. Link (via Futurismic)
I guess this means the bloggers will be getting the music. ;-)

Phillip Torrone has programmed his aibo (robot dog) to moblog.

Seth says he wants to banish anonymous communications.

Seth Godin
Virus writers are always anonymous.

Vicious political lies (with faked photoshop photos of political leaders, or false innuendo about personal lives) are always anonymous as well.

Spam is anonymous.

eBay fraudsters are anonymous too.

It seems as though virtually all of the problems of the Net stem from this one flaw, and its one I’ve riffed on before. If we can eliminate anonymity online, we create a far more civil place.

I disagree. Although most vicious attacks I have received have been anonymous, I still believe there is a role for anonymity and that the value outweighs the cost.

The American Association for the Advancement of Science has a project on anonymous communication on the Internet. They list a few of cases where we might need anonymous communication on the Internet.

Case 1 - The Crimesolvers Website
Case 2 - Chatting Online About Addiction
Case 3 - The Case(s) of the Hot News Tips
Case 4 - An Anonymous Computer Hotline: Is it Worth the Costs?
Case 5 - Terror in Elb!
Case 6 - Good Communication Gone Bad
Case 7 - His Word Against Whose?
Remember that the Internet is one of the few tools for a variety of people who are at risk including whistle-blowers and human rights workers. It is very difficult or impossible to "fix" the Internet without breaking it for others.


Friends of mine who have been waiting for a long time were finally married as San Francisco allowed same-sex marriages. It was a day of joy. We drove by City Hall here and saw a huge line of people waiting to get married. This is a great thing. Dan Gillmor has sparked an interesting discussion about the legal ramifications of the Mayor's decision and Lawrence Lessig comments on this.

Lawrence Lessig
Presidents’ Day lesson: the mayor’s duty

The Mayor of San Francisco has decided that a state law is unconstitutional under the state constitution, and has therefore ordered city clerks to disobey the law and obey the constitution. This troubles my friend Dan Gillmor, who on last count was right about everything else. And it is an action by a mayor, who on last count was wrong about a bunch of very important things. So who’s right now? I try to answer that in the extended essay that follows.

Six Apart makes Fast Company 50. Yay and congrats!

My company Neoteny is an investor in Six Apart.

I was talking to Peter yesterday about the risk of accidentally getting on weird lists or being profiled as a threat. Hanging out with, or communicating with the wrong people online or on the phone could land you on a list that might get you hassled at the airport or worse. They apparently used social network theory to find the person who would know where Saddam was. Similarly, I could see people using all sorts of social network theory to figure out who to wiretap or hassle. The thought was that if you hang out with enough people, you might be able to confuse such analysis or profiling. Name-dropping on my blog is a form of social chaff since connections to random nodes must be confusing to analysis. I can see the gapingvoid card, now: "I'm just talking to you because you're social chaff". (Chaff is the strips of foil that fighter-planes drop to confuse radar as countermeasures to tracking.) has started a campaign to petition the movie industry to vote against "Lost In Translation" for the Academy Awards.

My sister blogs about the negative depictions of Japanese in "Lost in Translation". She links to a UK Guardian and New York Times article that point out similar issues with the movie.

When I first saw the movie, I thought it was funny. After reading the articles and the asianmediawatch site and thinking about how much influence Hollywood has on the way the world views cultures, I can see their point.

Shelly asks the question "What part of you, the writer, is part of a community? Where, within yourself, does community leave off and you begin?" and says, "But I guess we're accountable to each other, and that's the most dangerous censorship of all -- it's the censorship of the commons." This is an interesting question that Shelley has pointed out to me and I have been thinking about. In the comments on Shelley's blog, Doc ties it to the notion of the "echo chamber," the effect where we're all just talking to each other oblivious to the outside world. Many people blame the failures of the Dean campaign to this "echo chamber" and point to this "echo chamber" as a problem that is prevalent on blogs. I do see the risks, but I don't think criticizing the existence of communities or friendships is the solution. I think that communities and friendship are the foundations of trust and love and I do not agree that an aggregate of facts and single voices are the solution to finding the "ultimate truth" in writing.

I believe that communities and the feeling of community are an essential part of the equation, but that the goal is to bridge many communities and try to expand one's notion of community the largest possible size.

For instance, I believe that you can feel your ultimate loyalty to your family, company, city, state, race, religion, nation, type of government or the world. I believe that by putting your loyalty at the highest level allows you to be a global citizen and helps you recognize the importance of whistle-blowers who are often betraying local loyalties for a higher good. I believe that the whole notion of civil rights is a struggle to elevate and increase the emotional size of the community we identify with.

One way to increase the size of the community one identifies with is to participate in multiple communities or to include members from others communities. This is an important part of the "caring problem" that Ethan and I often talk about. I often quote Jack Kemp who once said that, "it doesn't matter what you know if you don't care." One of the problems that mass media faces is that they can report on Iraq, Iran and Africa, but most people don't identify with the people there and they don't care. Salam Pax showed that a single blogger with a voice can increase the caring. Salam Pax is part of our community and we are proud of him and we care about him. Through his eyes, we see Iraq as part of our world and because of him, other Iraqi bloggers have joined our community.

I think the key is to understand that it's not just like a high school. In high school, there is group of friends and everyone spends all of their time concerned about being in that group or not in that group. My life is a jumble of relationships and memberships in a great variety of sometimes conflicting communities of all different sizes and doesn't feel like high school to me. As Ross has pointed out, these can be roughly grouped into three sizes. Big power-law shaped groupings, which are political, medium sized groupings which are social, and smaller groups which are strong-tie/family/close-friend groups. My sister used the word, "Full-Time Intimate Community".

The behavior at each of these levels is quite different and it is when we collapse the context that we get in trouble. Comments made between intimate friends are different from the comments that are suitable for a discussion at a cocktail party. Comments made at a cocktail party are often not suitable for a public speech. One of the problems we have on blogs is that all three of these contexts are often collapsed into one blog.

On the notion of "censorship of the commons," I guess I'd disagree with Shelley. I think censorship by a minority of people with influence over the majority is much more dangerous than "censorship of the commons." If the commons represents a general consensus of the views of the community you choose to participate in, they should have some influence over you. I think censorship is really bad when it is exercised from a position of authority, especially one that has the ability to assert such authority through force. I am personally pulled in many directions from all of the communities I participate in and these tensions are interesting and useful. I see them less as censorship and more as points of view that help me triangulate. My traditional Japanese community, my crypto/security community, my feminist friends, my liberal political community and my latte-drinking, orkut-loving, IRC-addicted community all have opinions about what I write. I think about what their opinions will be when I write and I find that this helps me look at any issue from a variety of perspectives. They are each echo chambers in their own way, but I try to escape this echo chamber not by denying their existence or their influence over me, but by recognizing them and using a combination of communities to help me and my readers triangulate.

I knew I would not be able to compete with the other bloggers in covering the content of ETech so I focused on photos. I've finally uploaded most of the decent photos here. I took the photos with my Canon 300D. I used a 55-200mm telephoto zoom lens which helped me be more invasive and catch people off-guard. It looks more like a collection of snapshots of my friends than anything resembling photojournalism. For some real photojournalism, take a look at the World Press Photo awards.

This is not interesting unless you're tuned into the blogsphere sit-com so I'm posting my thoughts on my Live Journal.

I finally met someone who went on dates with three people she met on Orkut. So far so good she reports.

Orkut is supplying me with a life so, via orkut, I got comped into Etech, I got a meeting with VCs, 3 dates had, three arranged, and lots of people have walked up to me and said, "oh! hi!"

Christian is "Mr. UI" of Nokia. He gave me this cool application yesterday.

Christian Lindholm
Pertti Korhonen, Nokia’s new CTO introduced PhotoBlog for Series 60 in his keynote at ETech in San Diego. This application proof-of-concept is supporting the Atom API enabling users to post to leading blog platforms. The application was developed by Futurice, who is developing a Photblog platform.
This lets you post photos to your TypePad (or any other Atom API compliant) photo album directly from the phone without going through email.

Russell says:
Interesting conference - too bad I wasn't there to get a longer impression, but boy it seemed like there were some serious pecking orders there.
And someone else I know there said this via IM last night:
You are missing some good conferences this week here, although I have come to the conclusion that a lot of the bloggers are pretty pompous.
I'm not sure what to make of that. Pecking orders? Pompous? It bothers me, I guess.
That's odd. I haven't noticed pecking or being pecked. Pompous? Nothing more or less than I would expect. I wonder if I'm missing something? I'm generally fairly sensitive about this sort of stuff. Anyone here at ETech have any specific examples?

I DO think we're talking about blogging too much, but pecking?

Via Yusuf

I just heard from Paul Martino, the CTO and Founder of, that they were working on FOAF and RSS support for Tribe. Cool. There are going to be a lot of issues such as privacy, but I think that having companies like Tribe seriously working on FOAF will bring these issues front and center and make some of these theoretical discussions very concrete and productive.

photo_library_3208Yesterday, Jeff Jarvis introduced us to the Iranian blogger, Pedram Moallemian. Pedram blogs at the eyeranian. He is one of the outspoken Iranians who blogs in English and help us understand what's going on on the incredible number of Persian blogs. He explain that the Persian blogs can be traced to the short explanation written by Hoder at explaining how to use Blogger in Persian. There are now over 100,000 Persian blogs. Most of the blogs are about politics and sex as well as other things like poetry. The suppression of free speech in Iran is one of the explanations for the number of Persian blogs, but the notion that one short page of Persian documentation for Blogger starting this incredible trend is also very important. Many countries and languages probably just need a small seed to create an emergent cascade of blogging adoption.

Jeff writes about an arrested Iranian blogger who was recently freed. Great post with links to other interesting posts about Iranian blogging.

Is this an interesting question? What's the difference between a journal, a diary and a blog?

Sifry, "Blog this link." Cool Amazon hack. Dave whipped it together at 2am last night after a chat with John Battelle.

The cosmos that shows the people who have just blogged the link is here.

"Do you know about power laws? Well fuck it, I've got the data."

An interesting point David made was that there are a huge number of blogs with 4 links.

Ethan prepared some notes for our session which starts in 2.5 hours.

The conversation so far:

Ethan's critique of "Second Superpower", "Emergent Democracy"

Joi's response, on finding the next Salam Pax

Examples of emergent democracy from Joi and Ethan's readers

Views from the rest of the world

Hossein Derakhshan, Iranian pied piper for blogs

IranFilter - translated overview of 100,000 persian language blogs

Living on the Planet - global blog content aggregator

Narconews - trilingual news on the drug war


BlogAfrica catalog and aggregator

Adam Chambas's Accra Crisis Blog

Rebecca MacKinnon's NKZone - alternative reporting from North Korea

Oh My News, South Korea's brilliant citizen journalism project

Ghana Web, news and opinion

Subang Jaya e-news from Malaysia

Blogalization, content in translation from blogs around the world

Efforts to build cross-cultural dialogue, give a voice to people in developing nations

Open Knowledge Network content from the developing world, for the developing world. And, in Kiswahili

Voices04 Voices for folks without a voice in the 2004 election

SARS Watch. Became a platform for Chinese voices on SARS to communicate, uncensored

Taking IT Global

Kabissa - online discussion for African NGOs

What could we do we do:

Online legislation in Estonia

SARI - leading application became lobbying regional government via wireless internet.

Cellphones, talk radio and election monitoring in Ghana

Smart mobs, SMS in Kenya

What does a cellphone-based anticorruption system look like?

How do we launch OhMyNews in every nation

Rob Kaye is promoting bluetooth this year...

My ETech 2004 photo album (feel free to use any of the photos)

I'll be uploading through the day.

Arrived at ETech. Lots of people and not enough time to blog. The Internet in my room isn't working, but hopefully, they'll fix it today. Today is the Digital Democracy Teach-In. Should be fun. I'll try to post notes.

A few one liners I scribbled in my notebook:

"I wanted to be a revolutionary, but all I got was this stupid blog."

"I'm not an academic, but I play one on my blog."


from gapingvoid

I was going to write "hitting the road now, see you on the other side," but I realized that I'm going to be flying, not hitting the road, and I'll probably see you a few times along the way. Leaving on a trip is really not an important event anymore except that the likelihood that something bad is going to happen to you increases for a period of time.

Anyway, for those of you who are going to ETech, see you you face to face soon.

Please help Ethan and I find some projects that might be examples we could use when talking about Emergent Democracy. Ethan describes more clearly what we are looking for.

I was playing with Bo all afternoon, thinking about what her blog would look like and was reminded of this funny comparison between cats and dogs. Thanks to Google, it was easy to find.

Roger Clarke, one of my favorite privacy experts, rips apart the Australian Government's attempt to make their face recognition technology trial look good. Face recognition systems have not been found to work well and are very intrusive. Here's another attempt to make them look better than they are.

Japan Today
Friday, February 6, 2004 at 14:00 JST

TOKYO - Tokyo police sent papers to prosecutors Thursday on a businessman over use of the U.S.-made Segway scooter vehicle on a public road, an unusually strict move that marks the first time in Japan that police have taken action over people riding the two-wheeled novelty.

The police allege that the 42-year-old president of an import company in the capital's Setagaya Ward violated the Road Traffic Law by having a person drive a Segway on a public road in July last year for advertising purposes.

Last year I tried to get the government to relax its regulations to allow people to ride Segways, but they wouldn't. I gave up the idea. I actually know this guy and he was insistent that he could build a business importing Segways. I guess not. This is pretty "unusually strict" but the police hate it when you make money doing stuff that they don't approve of.

Thanks for the link Chris

In case you were wondering why the rover failed...


via Markoff

Two blanks against the trend! The band has decided to make a statement for its fans and for music consumers in general and is releasing the album including a bonus DVD with 2 blank CD-Rs which have the same label as the CD itself. Alexx Wesselsky (singer and head of the group): "We are of the opinion that the music buyers are criminalized enough and have been made responsible for the wretched state in the music industry. We are giving them the chance to make 2 legal copies for private use with 'official blanks'. It can't always be that the end users have to take the blame for something that international corporations have arranged with their artist-burning methods."

via rojisan

A great parody of the Pepsi / Apple Superbowl commercial. (Thanks RS!)

You can see the original Pepsi / iTunes ad here. (Thanks Shawn!)

It's also on the Apple site.

I guess, as Boris says, it's not so much a parody as what they really wanted to say, but couldn't. Those kids probably got paid more to do the ad than they paid the RIAA. The RIAA is getting so stupid that it's getting cool to make fun of them. Sounds like the beginning of the end when your business involves being cool.

Don't forget to check out

Rebecca, from CNN, who is now at Harvard on sabattical, has just launched a new blog about North Korea. It's an cool experiment in blogging/journalism by someone who has a lot of on-the-ground experience covering difficult topics like this.

This is an experiment in interactive, participatory journalism. And in the new age of internet web-blogging, we are ALL journalists.

NKzone is NOT a conventional news or information website. Our members will build NKzone collectively with unique, personal, and (whenever possible) first-hand insights about the world's most mysterious country. Please approach this site not as a "viewer" or "reader", but as a "participant" and "contributor." NKzone is non-partisan. It seeks to generate interest and debate about North Korea. It seeks to include many clashing views. It is not advocating a particular cause, other than the desire that people be better informed about North Korea.

Jim Moore blogs about the lessons that DeanforAmerica has learned and how it continues to evolve. He gives the example of which started as a movement to "move on" from the Clinton impeachment, then broadened its mission to counter the selling of the Iraq war, and now is purchasing ads to get Americans to think. Obviously, Jim and everyone at DFA is still hoping for a Howard Dean victory, but Jim also muses about the idea of DFA continuing to gain momentum and power.

Jim Moore
DFA's role in American politics

DeanforAmerica will have powerful mission in American politics.  DFA will work out new and effective mechanisms for citizen invovlement.
But win or lose in any particular struggle, we have power.   This is the deepest lesson of MoveOn--win or lose in the Clinton impeachment, MoveOn had and has power.

Rational Ignorance

Academic life is ruining the internet for me. An example: Today I read Joi Ito’s wandering entry on money, economics, and physics, and the first thing I thought of doing was to post a bibliography of all of the reading that should have been done before that post was made. And then I realized that posting such a bibliography is the equivalent of shouting at the television. It doesn’t matter what I say about it. The TV (and the internet) can’t really hear me.

Lago reacts to an interesting point that I in fact pondered yesterday before posting my thoughts from my lunch with Seth. Is it better for me to post my superficial musings with Seth in the one hour that I had before I needed to move on to the next thing, or do I scribble them in my notebook and write a more rigorous treatment with references. I decided, as Cory often says, that my blog is my notebook and that even though many of my thoughts were half-baked, it was better to write early/write often than to back burner the thoughts and probably never get around to posting them.

If you read on in Lago's post, he does raise a very interesting way to look at the trade-offs of shallow vs rigorous. What is the cost of rigor and is it worth it?

I am not an academic. I am an extremely busy businessman who happens be lucky enough to meet quite a few smart people from a variety of fields. As one good friend has told me, my primary purpose is to connect people. It probably adds more value to society for me to spend one hour getting two people excited enough to talk to each other than to sit and ponder a notion by myself. My blog is not a rigorous treatment of the topics that I'm interested in, but rather a collection of links, questions, thoughts and points of view. A great variety of people read this blog and I'm sure that just about any professional thinker in on any topic I write about will find my treatment of the topic rather superficial. The question is to me is whether this is valuable or whether my lack of rigor could actually be a disservice to the discourse.

Getting back to my last post... I actually did think about spending the weekend dragging out my old notes from Hayek, Coase, Arrow, Chandler, Shannon, Mauss, Simon, etc. and digging into my memory and trying to tie all of this together. Instead, I posted a my rambling thoughts because I knew I'd never do it if I put it off. Also, I realize that I will never be able to compete directly with full-time academic and that it is not my position to answer these questions in a rigorous way. I suppose that if I can end up getting Seth, an economist and a rabbi to sit down and chat about world views over dinner at some point, I will have served my purpose.

I don't want to ignite a academic vs non-academic flame-war here. I'm just trying to point out, as Lago does, that we are all making decisions about how much to study in order for us to make the right decisions. I don't have the time or the ability to do "all of the reading that should have been done before that post was made." Having said that, I would encourage people to post "a bibliography of all of the reading" since I am interested and so are many other people.

sethlJohn Brockman, literary agent extraordinaire and editor/publisher of Edge introduced me to Seth Lloyd via good old fashioned email. I had lunch with Seth today.

Seth is known for his seminal works in the area of quantum computing and is visiting Japan for a year. We talked a bit about Japan, but I jumped at the opportunity to talk to him about some of the loftier things that are puzzling me these days. My first love was physics, but I dropped out when college physics turned out to be more about math than the art of physics. I'm now a repressed physics lover who can't keep up with the math. Therefore, I always jump at the opportunity to have someone explain physics to me in an intuitive way.

Seth explained that historically, physicists have always talked a lot about energy and the conservation of energy. Energy changed form, but there was always the same amount. They later found that you would lose a bit of energy over time and they attributed this to entropy. Recently, people have realized that entropy is sort of randomized molecules and looks a lot like information. Seth explained that the whole universe could be viewed as a big huge computer and you could apply information theory on physics and vice versa.

At this point I tossed out some of the questions I've been asking all of the smart people I've been meeting these days. What is money? Is economics really the way we should be analyzing and managing the exchange of value in society? How are non-financial assets such as trust, beliefs and culture created and transmitted? Does more money beyond a certain point really make you happier and if not, what is happiness?

Seth talked about how money was similar to energy in that it was conserved, at least on paper. Seth pointed out that most things that make you happy require money and energy, but that money and energy in themselves do not usually make you happy. In a sense, they are a necessary part of the process, but not the end. You do get an endorphin rush from the process of scoring more points in a game, gambling, or making more money, but the happiness you get from chasing these obsessions is not the same happiness you get when you finish a great meal or finish a session of meditation.

Seth pointed out that if you are struggling to survive in a tough environment, eating fatty and sweet foods and conserving your energy are probably good things. When you have enough food, sitting around eating sweets on the couch suddenly becomes detrimental. Is there an equivalent to this with money? I believe that free markets and democracy are great things and are the foundation of civilization and progress. I believe that efficiency and greed play a big role in creating healthy economies. Having said that, I do not believe that just because we have free markets and democracies, that people will be happy or that we will have peace. My question is, at what point, if any, do you have too much money? At what point is greed pointless and destructive? Can countries and economies become addicted to economic growth or become financially obese?

Neoclassical economists tend to model human behavior with a simple formula where more money makes you happier and people will do everything they can to earn more. This is like saying that the more calories you take in the healthier you will be and that eating more makes the world a better place. It's obvious to most real people that we decide what to spend our time and money on based on a variety of psychological, cultural and societal influences. Very few of us only spend money to make more money. The question I posed to Seth was whether there were models from the study of energy and entropy or from quantum computing that could be applied to try to understand some of the issues at the edges of economics? Are there ways of measuring and analyzing non-financial, non-conservative value such as culture, love and trust? Were there non-economics models for modeling some of these things? Was there a way to determine whether certain types of pursuits of happiness tended to help the human condition more than others? Was there something in information theory that could help us understand the value of social networks or ties?

Seth said he would ponder some of this stuff and get back to me. I promised to try to render some of my thoughts into a more focused question or problem.

I'll be in Austin, Texas in March (13-16) for a conference called Wireless Future, actually a "mini-conference" that's part of South by Southwest Interactive. I think I'm on two panels. According to Jon Lebkowsky, who's one of the organizers, the conference focuses on developers, entrepreneurs, and creative thinkers who're interested in wireless technology and mobility. The program includes major presentations by Howard Rheingold (the keynote, called "Mobile Communication, Pervasive Computing, and Collective Action") and Kevin Werbach (the opening presentation, called "The Open Spectrum Revolution"). Other presenters include Cory Doctorow, Dewayne Henricks, David Weinberger, David Isenberg, Dave Hughes, and Justin Hall. We're also throwing a big EFF/Creative Commons party on March 15.

I need to figure out how to blog about upcoming conferences in an organized way. I wonder if I should have a rotating banner in the sidebar. Do you think that putting them in on my travel page is enough?

Ethan and I will be leading a discussion called Emergent Democracy Worldwide at the Digital Democracy Teach-In in San Diego on February 9. Ethan has posted a critique of Jim Moore's Second Superpower and my Emergent Democracy paper. He asks some important questions. One of the questions, which gets developed more in the comments is what made Salam Pax successful? One of the most difficult things that the we face is getting people to care about people in developing nations. Somehow, Salam Pax was able to get Americans to read his blog and get them to care in a way that statistics and objective reporting could not.

Salam Pax wrote English like a native, he was relatively well off, he shared a cultural context (his music, his humor) with his American audience. What else? Will a Salam Pax of Congo emerge? Ethan talks about the current small percentage of privileged elite who currently blog and how this is not representative. I think that Salam Pax is also not representative of the average man in Iraq. From a practical perspective, I think that we are going to have to start by finding a small number of interesting and articulate translator/bridges in each of the developing nations. These people, like Salam Pax, will most likely come from privileged positions, but if they, like Salam Pax strive to recruit more bloggers and help provide voices to those who are less technically or otherwise not currently capable of expressing themselves, this is a start.

I think the two key pieces to work on first are to report on issues in under-reported regions and to help people care about issues in these regions. As Jack Kemp once said, "It doesn't matter what you know, if you don't care." Salam Pax was able to help many Americans care and know more about Iraq. How can we seed this in other countries and increase the scale. Iraq is much wealthier and advanced that many developing nations and it is unlikely that there is a Salam Pax in every country that needs a voice. I'm looking forward to talking to and discussing with Ethan and others who are in or work in developing nations to try to think of ways to make the technology more accessibly and their voices more interesting to the rest of the world.

Ethan's post is quite long and he asks many other questions that are quite important, so I suggest you read it. I thought I would highlight just this point for now.

I'll be giving a plenary keynote at MILIA in Cannes, France on Thursday, April 1 at 9:30 AM. The title of the talk will be "Mobile Lifestyles" but, I'll build on the presentation at I gave at the Sony Open Forum and add some stuff about mobility. I'll be in Canne from March 31-April 3. If you're going to MILIA this year, let me know.

Wiki page of talking notes. Please make suggestions here.

I've been hanging out with knights lately and had been thinking about British knights vs honorary knights and how strange the idea of American knights was. Just when I was pondering the weirdness of Bill Gates becoming a knight, Dvorak rants.

Gapminder is a truly amazing site of visualizations of stunning facts and statistics.

Thanks for the link David!

A: How many people with ADD does it take to change a light-bulb?
B: I don't know? How many?
A: Want to go to the movies?

Since I quit drinking, I've been doing a lot of talking and reading about addiction and the psychology of obsession. One path of inquiry lead me to the notion that obsessive compulsive disorder was often behind addictive behavior and that replacing one type of obsessive behavior with another wasn't a "cure" for the "disease". They seem to have a name for just about every kind of behavior, and interestingly enough, a medical "cure" for such diseases. I've been trying to face my demons and banish them so I can lead a more simple and fulfilling life.

Recently, someone told me that psychiatry was the only area of medicine where doctors "voted" to determine what sorts of behavior were considered diseases and should be treated. The assertion was that the drug companies created incentives for doctors to classify behaviors which had medical methods of neutralization as diseases. Many of these behaviors, my friend asserted, were natural human behaviors that some people had and didn't require a cure.

Now I'm back to trying to figure out what parts of my personality I should change and what parts of my personality are actually features and not bugs. Of course the first step is to know yourself and identify the demons and quirks. Most personality traits have benefits and drawbacks and designing your life to maximize the benefits and minimize the liabilities is probably a good thing.

Today, I had dinner with David Smith who has ADD. I think his ADD is worse than mine. We talked about a mutual friend who has, as David puts it, "terminal ADD". We talked about the hyper-focus that ADD provides and ways that you can use ADD to do things many people can't do. Harnessing ADD, rather than neutralizing it has interesting benefits. We talked about how modern society has allowed many people, who might have been dysfunctional in the past, to make valuable contributions to society. It's interesting how labels and the notion of disease can cause people to blame these things for their problems instead of trying to figure out how to turn these bugs into features. I realize that some people really do have diseases and I'm not trying to belittle their struggle. What I'm saying is that before we label ourselves and start taking therapy and drugs we ought to think about how all of these elements interact to create the human being that we are and place this in the unique context that each of us are in.

I received a request to help figure out a way to organize people hooking up at ETech. I set up a wiki page for that. I've posted my schedule. Feel free to add your stuff and post things. I guess we could have used to ETech Wiki, but I wasn't sure what was appropriate behavior there. If there is already such a page set up, let me know and I will refactor. In particular, I'd like to know how the participant session date/times are supposed to be decided. Does anyone know? Also, people planning parties, please post them on the wiki if possible. There are a bazilion things going on at one time which is going to be great fun, but a logistical challenge. ;-)

WDFA - Radio Dean for America

Lots of stuff going on at the Dean campaign, but the Net team just keeps chugging along. Zack has been working on the idea of "happenings" for the Dean Campaign, combining chat and Internet radio. They just did the first trial run and it was great. Anyone who has any thoughts or ideas, please contact Zack directly.

Zack is uberzacker on AIM and his email is zrosen at deanforamerica dot com.

As a former student, I sure wish I had had (via Seb) when I was in school. I would have had a lot to say and I would have felt justified. Maybe I wouldn't have had to start our underground newspaper. On the other hand, I can see how this might be abused. There are some thoughtful comments from many people about the "Adopt A Reporter" idea over on PressThink. This is not a new issue, but an old issue that continues to accelerate. As Loic points out, blogging helps you manage your own identity instead of leaving it up to others. Having said that, any notion that you can "control" your identity is a myth.

Over at Chanpon, someone blogged about a teacher from my high school who passed away. Some students posted some allegations in the comments. Obviously, since the teacher was dead, he couldn't defend himself. On the other hand, the students obviously felt justified and there are very few opportunities for students to speak up about their teachers. We ended up removing the entry and the comments. It was a very difficult decision, but we did what we thought was right. Blogs and other forms of publishing come with a great deal of responsibility and it is very difficult to judge what is right and wrong. That is why we need to think about justice and how we can make the institution of blogs and the Internet just. The technology influences what we can do and how people use it. Having said that, just as with politicians, we get what we deserve. Unless we have a strong sense of justice and speak up, we'll end up with bad technologies in the same way we end up with bad politicians.

I will be moderating a panel at ETech at 2:45pm on Feb 10 called "Untethering the Social Network or What Happens to Social Networks in the Untethered Wilds?" The panelists are danah, Scott, Mimi and Howard.

It should be one of the less geeky panels at this geek-a-thon.

And yes... Mimi is my sister and Scott is my brother-in-law. This is what happens when you talk about work at home too much. This is the first time my sister and I will be on a panel together.

Untethering the Social Network or What Happens to Social Networks in the Untethered Wilds?

Joichi Ito, Neoteny
danah boyd, U.C. Berkeley
Scott Fisher, Division of Interactive media, USC School of Cinema-Television
Mizuko Ito
Howard Rheingold

Track: Untethered
Date: Tuesday, February 10
Time: 2:45pm - 3:30pm
Location: California Ballroom C

Users, not vendors, create communications revolutions, and the untethering of social networks from desktops promises a user-generated revolution over the coming decade as profound as the Internet revolution of the 1990s and PC revolution of the 1980s. This panel addresses how the coordinated actions of diverse connected users challenge fixed visions of technology deployment, particularly as social software migrates from the desktop into the mobile settings navigated by handhelds. We will discuss how undisciplined behaviors and places push back on models of social software and how this can and should affect technological development. We will consider the role of social networks in the development of and participation in mobile technology. Case studies used in this conversation include pervasive gaming, media mixes, mobile texting, and mobile blogging. This panel presents a good opportunity to discuss the role of social research in technology development.

I just updated the JoiTravel page on the wiki. As you can see, I continue to burn a lot of jet fuel and I apologize for that. Also, apologizes in advance to people I will be missing along the way. Feel free to add to the wiki if we're crossing paths, particularly in Tokyo.

Version 1.0 of ecto, the blogging client for Mac OS X has just been released. It was written by Adriaan Tijsseling who works for me.

What "version 1.0" means is that you can now pay real money for it.

PS In case you were wondering, this is a shameless plug.

The "hot" Reverend AKMA says about Orkut, "That’s the way, uh-huh uh-huh, I like it."

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