Joi Ito's conversation with the living web.

February 2006 Archives

MX TV and Digital Garage approached me about hosting a TV show on MX TV's new terrestrial digital high definition broadcast channel. The market is quite small, covering only Tokyo and only viewable by people who have terrestrial digital tuners, but the good thing is that I'd be free to do just about anything I want. Starting July, they will broadcast to mobile phones with the proper tuners as well.

Originally, the plan was to start in April, but I'm arguing that we should push the launch back to July when we have the mobile phone viewers. This will also give me a bit more time to organize this. I've hosted TV shows in the past and I'm not particularly fond of them, but it sounded like I would have a lot of freedom and since it looks like they will agree to allowing me to license all of the content under a Creative Commons BY license, we could all use the footage for other stuff and maybe I could launch a video blog.

I just set up a wiki page where I will be posting thoughts and ideas. Justin Hall will be helping me shoot some footage for the show at SXSW as well. If you're interested in participating in this project in some way, sign up on the wiki or comment here. It's still basically wide open at the moment, but here's what I have in mind.

- Weekly live broadcast for 30 min, Sat night 10 PM JST broadcast on MX TV as well as the net

- Show and B-Roll material available for download

- Active integration of #joiito IRC channel for feedback and participation

- Japan blog roundup using Technorati Japan

- Interviews of bloggers and other people by pre-recorded video and video conferencing/iChat AV

- Feature Global Voices stories

- Feature Metroblogging bloggers

- See if I can do interviews in Second Life or World of Warcraft

- Feature amateur and viewer content and try to collaborate with schools and artists to make cool stuff

- Video blog format output of show

Anyway, we have a few more week before I have to start actually committing to the format so any thoughts on what would be cool would be greatly appreciated.

I'm sitting in an airport lounge remembering a story I should have blogged earlier. A few weeks ago when I was in the city of Aizu in Fukushima, Japan, there was a panel discussion which included the mayor of Aizu. Aizu is famous for being one of the places of the final resistance against the anti-samurai Meji government after Admiral Perry triggered the opening of Japan. It's a famous story involving young solders watching their castle fall after a long siege and committing ritual suicide. It also involves betrayal by their former allies, the Satsuma clan. The story also involves the Choshu clan which lead the rebellion against the Shogunate/Bakufu. At the time, the Choshu clan had been terrorizing Kyoto, bombing the imperial palace and trying to "steal the Emperor". The history of this period is way too complicated for me to describe in a short post, but suffice it to say that the people of Aizu feel that the people of Choshu are enemies since the days when the Aizu clan was trying to protect the Emperor from the Choshu clan and that the Satsuma people were turncoats.

The panel discussion involved a letter from the major of the city that would have been the capital of Choshu asking the governor of Aizu whether they could forget the past and just get along. The incidents were over 130 years ago. There was a heated debated that involved a lot of cheering and jeering from the audience, but it was clear that Aizu would not forgive these two clans and that most people in the audience didn't even trust many of the politicians such as Koizumi and Abe because they were from Choshu and Satsuma. The panel pointed out that it was it was the victim that should reach out for peace, not the aggressors. One of the panelists pointed out that Koreans have mentioned that it will take 200 years to forgive Japan for its aggression. Considering the fact that Aizu still can't forgive the Choshu after 130 years, I can understand why the Chinese and the Koreans still can't forgive the Japanese.

The conclusion of the panel was that there would be no "forgiveness" but that "dialog" should continue. It was interesting for me to see how much animosity and local patriotism still exists in a country that appears so homogeneous to the outside. It is probably important for outsiders to understand these sorts of things and for reporters to discuss them as well.

Another anecdote that was mentioned several times was that the bodies of the Aizu soldiers were left for months on the battle ground before they were tended to and in the end were not buried in Yasukuni Shrine with other Japanese war dead. Therefore the Aizu people have a much different opinion about the prime minister's visits to the shrine and still hold the "new government" of Japan in disdain.


Add international money transfers to my list of activities that are now easier
online than in the "real" world.

I had always found bank transfers a pain because they generally required a
visit to the bank with stacks of forms to fill in. If lucky, my money disappeared
for up to eight working days before arriving in the destination bank at a horrible exchange rate.

Recently I wrote about my experiences using an online foreign currency exchange service that was easier, cheaper and faster than the bank.

Since it is easy to transfer small amounts, I now find the service a lifesaver.

What other new Web-based services could be useful for people who live abroad?

Note: I may cross-post comments on the IHT blog and they may be reproduced in the paper for publication.


For me, e-mail has long been the Internet's killer application, but isn't it ready for a makeover or update?

Some things I would like to include:

-- Delayed sending of e-mail to hit people at the most appropriate time (sometimes to myself as a reminder)

-- Conversely, a smart filter that knows when to send me what sort of e-mail. This system would alert me by SMS when I had an urgent message and hold some messages until Monday if I checked my e-mail over the weekend.

What features would you add to e-mail?

Note: I may cross-post comments on the IHT blog and they may be reproduced in the paper for publication.

Today Elisabeth Shue hosted a Creative Commons screening of Teach by her husband Davis Guggenheim. Davis is a fellow board member of Creative Commons. The documentary is available for download and is licensed under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND license. It is a short excerpt of a longer documentary and is extremely moving. Download it, view it and share it please.

Creative Commons
A Creative Commons-licensed film by Davis Guggenheim

Experts predict that the US will need more than two million new teachers in the next decade. So, how do we inspire today’s young adults to become tomorrow’s educators?

In 1999, director Davis Guggenheim and producer Julia Schachter undertook an ambitious project — to document the experiences of teachers in the Los Angeles Unified School District. In examining the trials and rewards that come with educating our children, the filmmakers created two powerful documentaries: the Peabody Award-winning The First Year; and Teach, a short film created to attract talented and passionate people to the teaching profession.

Teach is available under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND license and is offered online to the public for free. By using a CC license, Guggenheim and Schachter are allowing people to legally download and share Teach, so that its inspirational message can be easily seen by anyone in the world.

Download Teach via Bittorrent
(hosting provided by LegalTorrents).

I've generally stopped making new investments other than in particularly exceptional situations. However, is one of those exceptions and I wanted to let you know that I invested together with Reid Hoffman, CEO of LinkedIn and Stefan Glänzer, CEO of 20six Weblog Services AG in the UK in October. It is the first time I've invested in this trilateral formation, but with the company in the UK, a lot of potential partners in the US and a big market in Japan, this team seems to make sense. Apologies for the late announcement, but we've been working on some deals that made it difficult for me to talk about our investment publicly. I wrote about the first in 2004 and later in 2005 after they did the redesign. I'm really happy that after working with them for years now, our relationship is now more formal and aligned. Please see the links above or go to their site for more information about the service.

I'll be in SF briefly for a Creative Commons board thingie this weekend. I'm arriving on the 16th and if I'm not too tired, I'll try to make it to the Supernova Party. Maybe see here there.


Thursday, February 16
5:30-9:30pm (come whenever you can)
Cha-Am Thai, 701 Folsom St. (at 3rd), San Francisco

Cost is $20 per person, which includes a full Thai dinner and non-alcoholic drinks. RSVP and pre-payment details at the wiki URL above.

UPDATE: A dinner meeting ran late and I'm too sleepy to go tonight... I'm sorry.

I did a funny interview with Jane Pinkard from gamegirladvance for 1up. It also ran in PC Magazine, The Inquirer and got picked up on slashdot. In it, we talk about WoW being "The New Golf". For the record, the first person I ever heard referring to WoW as "The New Golf" was Cory Ondrejka from Linden Lab when we were waiting for our flight in Berlin after 22C3.


Yahoo has once again been accused by Reporters Sans Frontieres, the Paris-based press freedom watchdog group, of turning over information about a computer user in China.

Reporters Sans Frontieres said the user, Li Zhi, was sentenced to eight years in prison for "inciting subversion" based on electronic records provided by Yahoo. Li, a 35-year-old ex-civil servant from Dazhou, used the e-mail address and user-name lizhi34100 to post comments in online discussion groups about corruption of local officials.

Yahoo declined to comment, according to CNET's report.

On a personal level this raises the privacy issue: How can I know the extent to which a company is protecting my private information?

One solution: Encourage companies to disclose each time they have received a subpoena. This would not be perfect, but it would at least give an idea of the threats to privacy. Any other ideas?

Note: I may cross-post comments on the IHT blog and they may be reproduced in the paper for publication.


I am planning an event that will use input from the participants and am looking for suggestions for the cheapest (preferably free) shared document platform.

Wiki? Writely? Anyone with experience using any of these?

Note: I may cross-post comments on the IHT blog and they may be reproduced in the paper for publication.


I recently heard about lobbyists in Europe fighting for the rights of peer-to-peer software users by employing a peer-to-peer platform to analyze the law extremely quickly.

Any other recent examples/new uses of peer-to-peer software in politics?


Wired magazine writes about the so-called phenomenon of podfading: When someone stops doing a podcast.

Reasons cited for stopping podcasts:
- Boredom
- No success
- Overwhelming success
- No money

Meanwhile, the US-based National Public Radio this week reached the milestone of 13 million podcasts downloaded just six months after it started podcasting.

At the pace mainstream media is entering the new media space, will today's star bloggers and podcasters be tomorrow's roadkill?

Note: I may cross-post comments on the IHT blog and they may be reproduced in the paper for publication.

Dave has posted Part 1 of another round of his now regular State of the Blogosphere reports. Part 1 is about Blogosphere Growth.

Here is the Summary:

* Technorati now tracks over 27.2 Million blogs
* The blogosphere is doubling in size every 5 and a half months
* It is now over 60 times bigger than it was 3 years ago
* On average, a new weblog is created every second of every day
* 13.7 million bloggers are still posting 3 months after their blogs are created
* Spings (Spam Pings) can sometimes account for as much as 60% of the total daily pings Technorati receives
* Sophisticated spam management tools eliminate the spings and find that about 9% of new blogs are spam or machine generated
* Technorati tracks about 1.2 Million new blog posts each day, about 50,000 per hour
* Over 81 Million posts with tags since January 2005, increasing by 400,000 per day
* Blog Finder has over 850,000 blogs, and over 2,500 popular categories have attracted a critical mass of topical bloggers
See his blog post for pretty charts and lots of details.

Martin announced today that FON as accepted 18 million Euros in funding from Google, Skype, Sequoia Capital, and Index Ventures. They are also going to support FON strategically. I blogged about FON earlier when I joined the advisory board, but FON is an innovative company that is starting a movement to allow people who have Internet access to create wifi hotspots.

If you’d like to join the FON Community, register with us at You can select the user profile that most suits you. FON is now working in a Beta phase and is only available for Linus. A Linus is any user who shares his/her WiFi in exchange for free access throughout the Community wherever there is coverage. In the future, FON will also be available for Bills. Instead of roaming for free, Bills are users who prefer to keep a percentage of the fees that FON charges to Aliens. And Aliens are those guys who pay to connect.
The strategic relationship with Google and Skype is quite amazing and a key point. The telephone companies have been trying to prevent Internet companies from "free-riding" on "their" infrastructure. For instance:
"(Telecoms) and the cable companies have made an investment, and for a Google or Yahoo or Vonage or anybody to expect to use these pipes (for) free is nuts!"

-- SBC Communications CEO Ed Whitacre

There is clearly a battle between telephone companies who believe they deserve to recoup their investment in infrastructure by gouging people for voice and soon wifi access. On the other hand, companies such as Skype and now FON are trying to push the bottom-up Internet philosophy to one of the final layers where the monopolistic dinosaurs still reign. FON's ability to get Skype and Google who are natural competitors to work together to try to lower the cost of access to for users reminds me of Yahoo and Google both supporting Firefox to provide users with an free and open alternative browser.

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Warning: World of Warcraft post

World of Warcraft was architected as a "sharded" system. There are probably over a hundred servers, each with a unique realm. There are several different types of servers like Role Playing, Player vs Player, Player vs Environment, etc. The rules are slightly different, but the games are essentially the same. The problem is, each world is unique and players can't move between the servers. Therefore, even though World of Warcraft is "the new golf", it very unlikely someone you meet in real life will actually be on a server where you can play together.

The other big problem with this sharded system is that some servers are very underpopulated and some are overpopulated. The server that our guild was on, Khadgar, became overpopulated. We often had to wait in a queue to log in, there was terrible lag and worst of all, new players couldn't create characters on our server. This meant that we couldn't invite real life friends to create characters in our guild. This quickly put a halt to the growth of our guild.

Note to self: When I make a MMORPG to beat World of Warcraft, make sure it is one world like Second Life is.

Recently Blizzard announced that they would be allowing people to transfer characters from Argent Dawn, Bloodhoof, Khadgar, and Zul'jin to a new server called Eitrigg. Transfers would start at 3AM PST on February 1st and end at 3PM PST February 8th. Transfers could only be requested from 3AM to 3PM each day.

A long discussion ensued on the mailing list and in guild chat. Many of us had built relationships with other guilds and other players. On the other hand, many were fed up with the lag, wait and inability to invite our friends into the guild. Several friends from other guilds said that they were ready to move. As I was being wishy washy trying to get consensus, Slashar aka Don Park, pulled what we call a Leeroy Jenkins and move his main character to the new server. It is a one-way transfer. Slashar is probably the most respected officer in the guild and his lead by example started an avalanche and we are now on a one-way street to our new home.

Interestingly, many great players from other guilds have joined the exodus and are joining our guild on the new server. It looks like our guild will be larger and possibly more unified after our move. However, I think several of our core guild members won't be able to leave their friends and family and many of those who are moving will be leaving their best friends. Watching all of the sobbing and heartfelt goodbyes to our friends on Khadgar reminds me of some sort of mass displacement... like a whole clan deciding to move to the New World...

Eitrigg will be closed for new character creation until the transfers are complete. If you are transferring to Eitrigg or want to create a character there and join our guild, let me know. There should be "We Know" people hanging around who you can ask for an invite. We have a healthy batch of low level characters, but also have enough experienced level 60's to probably be running MC shortly. See you there!


Has MP3 killed the radio star?

A number of youth-oriented radio stations around the world have reported falling listenership.

Ironically, the rising popularity of music through MP3 may be the cause. (Someone told me today that some radio stations have a playlist as short as 25 song that they play in different order, so not surprising if they are losing listeners to an iPod with more songs.)

Will podcasting kill the radio station? How have people seen their radio listening habits change?

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