Joi Ito's conversation with the living web.

August 2006 Archives

In the woods behind our house we have a Castanopsis cuspidata, or 椎 (Shii) tree. It is one of the largest and most elder trees in our village. It overlooks our house and is on a ridge. Over the years, it has grown more on the side facing the sun and is beginning to stress the tree and is at risk of falling onto our house. The next door neighbor who helps us with our gardening told us that we needed to prune the tree, but that we needed to pay proper respects to the spirit of the tree.

We prepared the proper offerings and asked a Shinto Priest to come to perform the ritual. The ritual involved putting a rope with Shinto folded paper around the tree. Then a temporary shrine was set up with the offerings. The priest first called the spirits with a chant and opened the sake and other offerings. We then did a ritual where we were blessed, the tree was blessed and we paid our respects to the spirits. Then there was a closing ritual which ended in drinking sake to toast the home and the tree. I took the salt and rice from the offerings table and sprinkled it around the tree.

Immersed in an orchestra of various insects, I stared at our Shii tree for half an hour or so and felt really good. There is something about Shinto ritual that stirs something deep inside.

I know it's old news now but I'm really bummed that Boeing is shutting down its Connexion online wifi service. At $30 for the full flight on a long haul flight, it was not a bad price. I always used it on the Tokyo-Frankfurt LH flights. I thought it was going to change air travel for me forever. Now it's going away. I guess when something doesn't pay, it can't really exist yet... but I can't help feeling like we're going backwards with this. :-(

I have to go AFK for a few days to rush to a funeral back in the US. If you send me email in the next few days, I may not get a chance to reply until next week. Sorry.

Today I heard a presentation by Michael Molitor from Climate Wedge. He is an expert on environmental issues and his company has created a fund that buys and sells "Voluntary Carbon Units" (VCUs).

Carbon credits or Carbon Units are basically a unit that represents one metric ton of CO2 emissions. The EU has a market called a Compliance market where companies can buy credits to offset their EU Allowances. For example if company X only has an allowance of 100 tons of CO2 emissions, they have the choice of either buying carbon credits on the market or lowering their emissions by that much. Emission allowances will continue to go down driving prices of credits up and/or causing companies to innovate instead of paying for these credits. It is any interesting and now exceedingly common practice that makes it easier for companies to become "carbon neutral" while providing incentives for companies to innovate.

In addition to the formal compliance market which is mostly for EU regulated companies to buy and sell their credits to meet their allowances, there is a voluntary market which involves "softer" carbon credits and allows companies that are not yet regulated to play in this market. HSBC, for instance has announced that it is now "carbon neutral". It is not required by law to do this, but as people become more sensitive to the issues of global warming, carbon neutrality will have an increasing impact on customer and investor relations.

There are a number of individual level carbon neutral initiatives. Airlines, automobile companies, oil companies are beginning to provide carbon neutral products where a portion of the cost or the payment of an addition expense go toward making the use of that product or service carbon neutral. The interesting thing is that in most cases the costs are quite small. To make your whole life carbon neutral it costs roughly 1% of your income.

I think this is a great idea and the notion of being carbon neutral is very appealing. I am going to try to do this immediately.

However, a few things concern me.

I've googled around for companies and non-profits that offer carbon units and some look rather sketchy and/or expensive. There is also the issue of the quality of the carbon unit. Some little city threatening to build a coal power plant, then not doing it in exchange for carbon units seems less sincere than someone rolling out a photovoltaic power generator. "Good" carbon units like those on the Compliance Market trade at a premium because they are more closely audited and provided from reputable organizations. I think that these markets will grow quickly and hope the scam artists don't steal money from too many good intentioned people.

The other thing that scares me a bit is that although I like markets, I worry that a lot of money will flow to companies trying to innovate in this space. I see a VC bubble in energy technology right now too. When I see lots of money pouring into an industry like this, I worry that a bubble will form causing inefficiencies, reduction in quality of investors, noise level increases drowning out experts and other things that I saw during the dot com bubble.

Finally, this is not enough. This is all a huge step in the right directly, but we need to be doing everything we can, and even that may not be enough. It will sure feel good to be carbon neutral, but we definitely can't stop there.

On Friday, I met John Buckman. He runs Magnatune, a record label that uses Creative Commons. I've been a huge fan of Magnatune and had been looking forward to meeting him. At the meeting he told me about BookMooch which just launched today.

BookMooch is very cool.

It reminds me a bit of BookCrossing, but the approach is different. BookCrossing is a way to leave books for people in public places and allow people to find these books. You get to track your book and has a neat book-as-artifact element.

BookMooch is more systematic. On BookMooch, you register your books and others search for books. You use points to get books that you earn by listing books. Unlike many other used book services, they don't get involved in the shipping and payment. It's peer-to-peer. Of course, if the book isn't available, there is a link to

John is very good at combining clean sharing with business to provide a win-win for the various players. BookMooch and Magnatune both have John's sensibility. I view John as a rare example of a serial sharing economy entrepreneur.

I heard a horror story the other day about someone who was traveling for an extended period on a ship. His phone was from Europe. In LA, he placed one called. For a month or so, people who called his phone got voicemail. Because he was last seen by the network as being in LA, all of his voicemail calls incurred roaming charges and he ended up with a $3000 voicemail bill. He argued, but they did not refund it.

I checked the T-Mobile web site and sure enough, after a bit of digging, I found this (link):

Unless you switch your device off or activate Unconditional Call Forwarding on your device, you will be billed for calls delivered to your voice mail box while you are roaming internationally.
The odd thing is, I'm quite sure he didn't have his phone on during the travel period. He said that they had told him that even without the phone on the call was still routed through LA. Does anyone else have any experience with this?

Last year, I blogged about how one of my favorite DJs from my DJ stint in Chicago back in the 80s, Jeff Pazen, filled up a Nano with music and made a few great playlists for me. They were playlists by club, year and tone. I nearly stopped carrying my iPod around and just carried the Nano picking the playlist that best suited my mood. It was like playing that favorite DJ tape over and over again.

The problem was, the iTunes Music Store music was registered under Jeff's name. In other words the Nano was "loaned" to me, so I didn't really own the music. I could listen to it directly from the Nano, but on on my computer or elsewhere. When I played the Nano through the computer, it would get stuff on the licensed music. I started buying the songs from the music store, one by one by hand. Then I noticed that there was an operation that said it would convert the ownership to me and copy over the songs with my copies. I, stupidly, thought it would be a fast way for me to purchase the songs on the playlists that I didn't own. Instead of doing that, it "reset" the Nano to an empty state. I was devastated.

As Tower Records Japan says, "no music, no life." So content I had been with the Jeff Nano, I hadn't been playing with that much lately so I decided to fire it up. Congrats guy on a great redesign. I fell back in love with which saved my day. I had left the comfy familiarity of the Nano and enjoyed wandering along a sometimes annoying but fun and eclectic musical journey.

Browsing the playlists of various people I know or saw, I realized how different my taste was from many people I know and like. One in thing that struck me was how even after almost 20 years, Jeff's taste in music, even the new stuff, hit the spot for me and was perfect. Somehow, during my immersion in the music scene, my musical taste was set on some trajectory that included cycles. Somehow I am still in sync with Jeff. I'm not sure what this means exactly, but I found it interesting.

As I sat listening to radios of various people, I realized that continuing this process for a long time would make your "taste" appear similar to theirs and you would eventually show up in their neighborhood on as someone with similar taste. This would be a kind of weird stalking method if you were obsessed with someone enough to listen to their music collection all day every day. ;-P

Conversely, I won't say who, but looking at their music, I realized how difficult it would be to hang out with them too long even though I consider them my friend. I don't think I could ever take a road trip with someone who didn't share any favorite artists with me.

Disclaimer/Disclosure: I'm an investor in

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