Joi Ito's conversation with the living web.

December 2008 Archives

Happy New Year
Photo by Joi Ito, Design by Matsuichi

While 2008 was a tough year for everyone, it was full of surprises and interesting connections. The most interesting connection was that Mizuka and I finally got married after living together for ten years. (See )

In 2008, I began to explore the Middle East and decided that complete immersion was the only way to do it right. This New Year's card is being sent from Dubai where I will be moving my residence and base from 2009.

I am really looking forward to an exciting and "changeful" 2009 with all of you and hope to continue my journey to find happiness for myself and you, my increasingly global community of friends.

Longer post about Dubai later...

Happy Holidays -- I hope many of you are getting a chance to relax after an incredibly difficult year for most people. However, take heart, I'm writing with good news. We're now entering the last couple of days for the Creative Commons annual fundraising campaign just $12,000 short of our $500,000 goal. In such a harsh fundraising climate, we're coming very close to reaching our goal thanks to the generous support of our community -- we need your help in getting all the way there.

My work this year has been primarily focused participating in Creative Commons as its new CEO, which has had its challenges and its reasons for hope this year.

Creative Commons is a not-for-profit organization run mostly by volunteers all over the world. The board and the CEO role are volunteer jobs and in fact each board member is also a financial supporter. Even with the support of a network of volunteers, Creative Commons requires a small number of underpaid staff and some basic infrastructure to survive and continue its mission.

Creative Commons started as a primarily author and musician focused idea from the United States and has grown to a global 50 jurisdiction project in contact with 80 countries making impact in the sharing of scientific materials and data to helping teachers to share teaching material. We have forged alliances with rights collection societies and other organizations that have been, at times, critical of our work. We worked together with the dedicated team at the Free Software Foundation to permit the FSF licensed wikis (including Wikipedia) to relicense to a CC license. We have many more countries to bring online and many more fields to cover, but I am very proud of our work and extremely confident of our ability to become the basic infrastructure to "save failed sharing" as our Chairman Jamie Boyle puts it. I believe that we will soon be another basic layer of interoperability, similar to the World Wide Web or the Internet Protocol.

It has also been a tough year for Creative Commons. It has been particularly challenging for us as corporations and major donors have had to slash, if not completely cut, their philanthropic support. However, we have had more individual and smaller corporate donors than ever in our history. I would like to thank, from the bottom of my heart, all of our current donors who decided to stick with us through this tough period and all the new donors who have chosen to give this year.

In addition, our project funding has become difficult in many areas and needs more support to survive and any funds past our annual campaign target will go to providing very needed resources. I apologize for continuing to pester you through the year and especially during this fundraising campaign, but your participation and contribution are extremely important for our future. I promise you that every yen, dollar and rupee is well spent on supporting and furthering the cause and I beg you (only if it helps) to consider making a donation if you have not done so this year.

Thank you in advance.

Reid and I recently invested in It's a service that allows you to update all of your social networks at once and is one of the few services I use every day. I've been talking to the founders Sean and Adam who I really like and am happy to be joining their team to build a simple but useful service.

I took my Canon 5D Mark II with a 50mm f/1.2 lens with me on my last trip. It's a larger than my Leica M8 so I didn't carry it around as much as, but I tested it in various conditions and liked it. I'd been focusing mostly on the video, but got to play with the photography more this trip. I am impressed by the quality of the images at ISO 3200 and 6400. It's OK at 3200 and sometimes usable, especially in B&W, at 6400.

As everyone should know, you are not allowed to edit your own Wikipedia article. The best practice for having edits made in an article about yourself is to add comments in the talk page of the article and ask neutral wikipedians to make the edits.

For awhile, I obsessed about the accuracy of the content in my article, but I realized after a bit that this was futile and now I go with the flow and enjoy my interactions with the Wikipedia community.

Sometimes the these exchanges become pretty funny. Here's an example. (Slightly edited for brevity...)

A few factual additions/deletions if anyone has time and is interested in doing update...
I'm now a Senior Visiting Researcher of Keio Research Institute at SFC. see program on this page as a neutral source: --Joi (talk) 02:41, 16 November 2008 (UTC)
I update it if Joi gets round to uploading some more photos :-) Davis Guggenheim is missing, if we get a photo of him I update his Profile as well.--SasiSasi (talk) 17:41, 17 November 2008 (UTC)
Haha! So demanding. ;-)

Davis Guggenheim with daughter Stella

How's this? --Joi (talk) 23:51, 17 November 2008 (UTC)
dont want to come across as demanding, but can we have a picture without baby...? Its a lovely baby, but I guess if we have a picture of it in his article we have to establish its name and occupation, and origin. So no pressure.
by the way, I have created an article for Kevin Werbach and have submitted his and Susan Crawford's selection to lead the FCC review on "did you know.." If the nomination goes through (dunno, let see) this info should be on the front page in next couple of days. Could you upload a picture of him for his article?--SasiSasi (talk) 16:55, 19 November 2008 (UTC)
OK. I'll work on a better isolated picture of Davis. ;-) --Joi (talk) 17:37, 19 November 2008 (UTC)

How's this?
I'll try to get a better photo this summer when I'll see him again. --Joi (talk) 17:48, 19 November 2008 (UTC)
Thanks for trying with Davis' picture :-) maybe try and take a picture when he is having less of a good time...--SasiSasi (talk) 18:04, 19 November 2008 (UTC)
Added a photo to Kevin's article. --Joi (talk) 20:16, 19 November 2008 (UTC)
Nice ta. I update your article.--SasiSasi (talk) 22:09, 19 November 2008 (UTC)
Thanks for the edit.--Joi (talk) 12:22, 22 November 2008 (UTC)

The panel discussion at Berkman Center was a lot of fun. It was with a very friendly crowd and we didn't have to spend time preaching or explaining Creative Commons. A nice change of pace for me. It was also very cool hearing some of the history of Creative Commons that even I didn't know. Jonathan Zittrain was great and hilarious as usual.

The panelists were: Jamie Boyle, Lawrence Lessig, Joi Ito, Molly S. Van Houweling, and Jonathan Zittrain.

One regret was that Tim Berness Lee was there and I didn't get a chance to meet him... he was among the many many cool people who were there that I didn't get a chance to talk to.

Thanks to the Berkman center, our CC team and everyone who helped organize and run the event.

Elliot Noss, the CEO of Tucows is an old friend. He's the one who convinced me to join the ICANN board. He's a fellow World of Warcraft guildmate and an inspiration to me in many ways.

For the last few months, we've been talking a lot about his company Tucows and I've been trying to help. I love Elliot's attitude and style and really like the staff and board of the company. I have joined their board and we announced this today.

50 prints of a luxury box set and 1024 prints of a limited edition of Freesouls have been run. These numbered and limited versions will be sold directly by Christopher from the website. Once we get a better feel for the demand, Christopher plans to print a general release which will be more widely available.

Thanks to Christopher for driving this process and for Boris on the website.

Now the question is whether the demand for this book will actually exceed the number of people who appear in the book. ;-)

Larry is having some trouble with his blog so I am posting this important news from him on his behalf. - Joi


It is with a complicated mix of excitement and sadness that I make the following announcement.

As some of you remember, just over a year ago I reported that I was shifting my academic (and activist) work from free culture related issues to (what I called) "corruption." At Stanford, a year ago, I outlined what this work would be: To focus on the many institutions in public life that depend upon trust to succeed, but which are jeopardizing that trust through an improper dependence on money. Read the New York Times Editorial of last week. Or think of medical researchers receiving money from drug companies whose drugs they review; legal academics receiving money to provide public policy advice from the very institutions affected by that advice; or Congress filled with Members focused obsessively on how to raise money to secure their (or their party's) tenure. In all these cases, dependency on money in these ways tends to weaken public trust. Or so was my hypothesis when I launched on this project.

But how I would pursue this work has been a constant challenge. I started immediately to devour the books recommended to me by colleagues and on my wiki. I attended conferences and gave talks about the subject. I began a series of interviews with insiders. And with the help of Joe Trippi, I launched Change Congress, which was designed to focus these issues in the context of American politics.

Throughout this process, however, I have felt that the work would require something more. That the project I had described was bigger than a project that I, one academic, could pursue effectively. This wasn't an issue that would be fixed with a book. Or even with five books. It is instead a problem that required a new focus by many people, across disciplines, learning or relearning something important about how trust was built.

About six months ago, I was asked to consider locating this research at a very well established ethics center at Harvard University. Launched more than two decades ago, the Safra Center was first committed to building a program on ethics that would inspire similar programs at universities across the country. But the suggestion was made that after more than two decades of enormous success, it may make sense for the Center to consider focusing at least part of its work on a single problem. No one was certain this made sense, but I was asked to sketch a proposal that wouldn't necessarily displace the current work of the Center, but which would become a primary focus of the Center, and complement its mission.

I did that, mapping a five year project that would draw together scholars from a wide range of disciplines to focus on this increasingly important problem of improper dependence. Harvard liked the proposal. In November, the Provost of Harvard University invited me to become the director of the Safra Center. Last week, I accepted the offer. In the summer, I will begin an appointment at the Harvard Law School, while directing the Safra Center.

This was a very difficult decision to make. Stanford is an extraordinary law school, and I have loved my time here. The students are brilliant, yet balanced. The faculty is brilliant, yet surprisingly humble. The Dean has an amazing vision of the future of legal education, and is redefining the law school in ways that I completely support. I am endlessly proud of the Center for Internet and Society and the Fair Use Project. I have the very best assistant in the world (and she promised at least 5 more years if I stayed). I have written four of my five books while here. I'm almost finished with my 6th, the book I am sure I will be most proud of. This is a place that has given an enormous amount to me, and from which I have benefited greatly.

On a personal level, too, this was a difficult decision. California has become our home. My wife is strongly attached to everything Californian; we both have very close friends here; I hadn't ever imagined raising my kids in anything but the social and political environment of San Francisco. I still find it hard to imagine that I won't, if not now, sometime. And the enormous beauty of the environment here still takes my breath away. A year into my time at Stanford, I was certain I would never leave. After a blissful weekend with my family last week, it still hasn't registered that I will be leaving.

But in the end, it was impossible for me to be committed to the project while turning down this opportunity. It is not just the institution, nor the (partial) freedom from teaching. It is the chance to frame a large-scale project devoted to a large, important and complex problem. Once we saw it like this, my wife and I decided that returning to this old home was the right thing to do. And so in June, we will pack up the car for a cross country trek, back to Harvard.

Of course, I have no objective cause to complain. Harvard too is an extraordinary law school. As anyone who knows me knows, some of my closest friends in the world are at Harvard, including the Dean (or at least until Obama steals them all away). Harvard has grown and changed in wonderful ways over the past eight years. It will be an enormously exciting place to teach and learn.

But I regret deeply doing anything that is hurtful to those I respect and like. Worse, I hate doing anything that can be misunderstood. When Dean Sullivan recruited me, she said Stanford was paradise. I thought that was just a slogan. It isn't. I consider the 8 years I have had here to be the most important and invigorating in my career. And I will miss everything about this place.

Some things won't change. I will continue to work with Joe Trippi to build Change Congress. And I will continue to explore how best to incorporate this space (the Net) into this research. But I will do all of this, and my work, in the context of Harvard's Safra Center and its Law School, and of old friendships, revived.


John Markoff

"John is switching from Business Day to Science." Congratulations John! This is great news. This is perfect. I think Markoff's ability to dig into the science and explain it to everyone is important and key right now and my bet is that he's going to enjoy this new beat much better too.

I've know Markoff for... a long time. I met him through John Perry Barlow at Marc Rotenberg's house in the early 90's. Markoff wrote the first article where I appeared in a US newspaper in 1994. I just reread this article and there are some pretty prescient quotes...

Here's the internal email about Markoff's position change at the New York Times. Hopefully he can help keep the franchise going.

New York Times internal announcement


John Markoff, whose trailblazing work for The Times is a virtual history of the computer age, is taking an exciting new assignment. John is switching from Business Day to Science, where he will write widely and deeply about the impact of computer science in every modern endeavor.

One of the more alarming areas John will explore - you don't even want to know - is cyberwarfare and cybersecurity. He will cover, too, advances in computational science that are transforming the pursuit of other kinds of science. And he will peer into the future of computing to tell us how our everyday lives may change.

Another important part of his portfolio will be national science and technology policy, as the Obama administration gears up for a new era of government investment in research and development. To the extent that this push is tied to hopes for economic recovery and American competitiveness, John will often find himself in the thick of the news.

For more than three decades John has been the pre-eminent chronicler of Silicon Valley, having started as a defense and technology writer for Pacific News Service in 1977. He joined The Times in 1988, and has since been regaling and informing readers about this fascinating and increasingly important part of our world. He was the first to report about malicious software code, called a worm, that was devastating the then brand new Internet. (That was 20 years ago last month and he's still writing how we haven't been able to beat the bad guys.) He revealed how the Clinton Administration was trying to install something called the Clipper chip on computers and telephones, which would give the government a backdoor into our communications. He later wrote about another government attempt to watch us in  John Poindexter's Total Information Awareness program. And he was the first to write about the ever-evolving World Wide Web.

Among his most celebrated stories were on the hacker Kevin Mitnick. He turned the reporting into a very readable book, "Takedown: The Pursuit and Capture of Kevin Mitnick, America's Most Wanted Computer Outlaw," co-authored with Tsutomu Shimomura, who helped track Mitnick down. He also wrote "What the Dormouse Said: How the Sixties Counterculture Shaped the Personal Computer Industry," and two other books about the technology world.

Science (and Times readers) are fortunate to have John writing about technology from a new perspective; indeed, one of the great things about John is that his passion for technology has never faded. But we confess it is hard to imagine Bizday without John, because he has contributed so much in making it a robust, must-read section, not only for people in the tech world but far beyond.


Just arrived in Boston after Le Web. As usual, it was great seeing old friends, hanging out in Paris and watching Le Web evolve. Sorry I missed a bunch of people I was hoping to connect with.

We officially launched the Fotonauts web site during Le Web. Please visit the Le Web page on Fotonauts for more images.

Lots of Creative Commons events over the next week. Hope to see you at some of them.

Also, Freesouls will go on sale at the Berkman event.

Creative Commons Blog

On Dec. 12th, 2008, CC will be pairing up with two of the most influential and innovative institutions in the "open" movement: MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) and Harvard's Berkman Center for Internet & Society.

For those of you interested in the tech side of Creative Commons, MIT's CSAIL is hosting CC's second Tech Summit from 9-4:30. The first Tech Summit, held at Google this past summer, was a complete success; those archived presentations are here.

And for those of you interested in CC generally, CC and Harvard's Berkman Center for Internet & Society have joined forces to bring you the panel discussion: "The Commons: Celebrating accomplishments, discerning futures." Panelists include James Boyle, The Public Domain; Lawrence Lessig, Remix; Joi Ito, Free Souls; and Molly S. Van Houweling, Creative Commons' first Executive Director. Jonathan Zittrain, of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society, will moderate. A reception will follow at 7:30 pm. Details are here.

We hope you will join us in celebrating Creative Commons' sixth successful year and the culmination of our 2008 Annual Fundraising Campaign, "Build the Commons." This event is open to the public, but because we're closing in on the end of our campaign, we encourage you to bring your check books (or cash rather) and help sustain CC by donating at the door!

Space is limited. Please RSVP by December 1st to Melissa Reeder, Development Manager, at

Creative Commons Blog

CC is Turning 6! SF Birthday Party Announced!

To celebrate six exceptional years for CC and the December 31st wrap-up of our 2008 fundraising campaign, CC headquarters is hosting a birthday bash in San Francisco! The San Francisco party joins the ranks of other global birthday parties in Berlin, Brisbane, Guatemala, Seoul, and New York. The San Francisco event will be held on Thursday, December 18th, 2008, from 9pm - 2am at 111 Minna Gallery (Map and Directions).


For 16 years, WITNESS has harnessed the power of video to advance human rights. In honor of the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on December 10th, we've put together this short video with different WITNESS staff talking about images that opened their eyes to human rights abuses around the world. To learn more about the images mentioned in this video, click here. Now we want to hear from you.

A video by the WITNESS team on the Universal Declaration of Human rights. Please watch and participate with your feedback!

Dopplr Blog

Dopplr appoints Marko Ahtisaari as CEO

Today we're announcing a new addition to the Dopplr team. Marko Ahtisaari will be joining us as CEO, while Lisa Sounio will continue on the board as Chairman. We're very excited about this news. For the details, here's our press release in full.

Marko is a founding investor in Dopplr and super-qualified as a professional manager, artist and web savvy product person. I think this is a great addition to the Dopplr team and as an investor, this makes me happy. ;-)

Good luck Marko and the Dopplr team.

Video by Jesse Dylan - director of "Yes We Can" video with Available under a CC-BY-NC-ND-3.0 license.

Making the Web Work for Science

Science Commons

Science Commons designs strategies and tools for faster, more efficient web-enabled scientific research. We identify unnecessary barriers to research, craft policy guidelines and legal agreements to lower those barriers, and develop technology to make research, data and materials easier to find and use.

Our goal is to speed the translation of data into discovery -- unlocking the value of research so more people can benefit from the work scientists are doing.

Science Commons is a new and important part of Creative Commons. Although it's based on Creative Commons, it's not as simple as "Creative Commons for scientists". There is a lot more than that and we've struggled to explain past this over-simplification. Thanks to Jesse Dylan for this great video helping to make Science Commons easier to understand.

House of Light from Joichi Ito on Vimeo.

Joshua read about the House of Light designed by James Turrell on PingMag. We decided to try to get a group together to go out and stay there. As usual, we both got so busy, we ended up going by ourselves.

The art installation/house is in Tokamachi, Niigata, which is relatively out-of-the way in the countryside of Japan. The area is well known for the Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennial. The House of Light or 光の館, is a beautiful house that can hold seven people. It has a Japanese style bath, sleeping quarters and a kitchen. The main event a room that goes through a subtle light display during sunrise and sunset. The ceiling opens up framing the sky in the lighting around the ceiling of the room.

The whole house as a very Japanese-style attention-to-detail, a practical and livable layout and a well-designed art installation feeling.

I'd recommend it for any group of up to seven people who want to spend a weekend together in a beautiful and peaceful place.

I took some photos as well as the video above.

Downloadable MP4

This year, the Digital Garage New Context Conference and Ellen Levy's Silicon Valley Connect worked together on a program for visitors from Silicon Valley to Tokyo. Silicon Valley Connect is a program that Ellen runs which brings executives and visionaries from Silicon Valley to various parts of the world. This year, we organized a group to visit Japan.

As part of the "cultural program" we decided to take a tour of Akihabara, the mecca of all things otaku, anime and electronic in Japan. I asked a very special friend, Danny Choo, son of the famous shoe designer Jimmy Choo, to lead the tour. I call Danny "The Prince of Akihabara". He is one of the world's experts on Japan's otaku culture and has one of the most popular English language websites about Japan.

One of his favorite things is to dress up as a storm trooper and spread his love and happiness in Akihabara. He is often accompanied by his side-kick Darth Vader, played by Hector Garcia who also has a super-popular blog about Japan. (Danny on CNN talking about this hobby of his.)

When I talked to Xeni Jardin about this, we decided that this might make a good Boing Boing TV episode... and I think we were right.

Thanks to everyone who participated and helped.

Participants from Silicon Valley included Ellen Levy (LinkedIn), Ken Glidewell, Loic Le Meur (Seesmic), Geraldine Le Meur (Le Web), bunnie Huang (Chumby), Jean-Marie Hullot (Fotonauts), Matt Flannery (Kiva), Julie Hanna Farris (SocialText) and Chamath Palihapitiya (Facebook).


As announced [ ], Creative Commons is studying how people understand the term "noncommercial use". At this stage of research, we are reaching out to the Creative Commons community and to anyone else interested in public copyright licenses - would you please take a few minutes to participate in our study by responding to this questionnaire [ ]? Your response will be anonymous - we won't collect any personal information that could reveal your identity.

Because we want to reach as many people as possible, this is an open access poll, meaning the survey is open to anyone who chooses to respond. We hope you will help us publicize the poll by reposting this announcement and forwarding this link to others you think might be interested. The questionnaire will remain online through December 7 or until we are overwhelmed with responses -- so please let us hear from you soon!

Questions about the study or this poll may be sent to

Thanks for your help. This is a very important survey and the input from as many people as possible is really important to us and we don't have much time left.

Mizuka and Joi's Wedding from Joichi Ito on Vimeo.

Mizuka and I just got married. We went to the Inbamura town hall, filed our papers and visited the local Shinto shrine, Munakata Shrine.

It's the second marriage for both of us so we decided to keep it pretty minimal.

The only non-minimal thing was setting up and taking shots of ourselves...

UPDATE: Message from the WITNESS team. Thanks!

Congratulations Joi & Mizuka from WITNESS from Blogger WITNESS on Vimeo.

Six Apart Japan 5th Anniversary Party from Joichi Ito on Vimeo.

Today was the fifth anniversary of Six Apart Japan. I had to talk about how it all started and tell funny stories about Nob.

I decided to try to shoot people for today's video. I experimented with timing my transitions with music. I used Garage Band to make the "music".

I was using the cheesy random loops as a place holder and was going to try to do a real track, but I ran out of steam for the night...

Also, some of the colors seem blown out and the white balance seems a bit off. I guess I need to start looking into either white balancing more properly in the camera or post processing the color.

I wonder how long I can keep this one video a day thing going...

I used a Canon 5D Mark II with a 85mm f/1.2 lens. Shot in 1080i, edited with Final Cut Express, exported to 720p. Music made with Garage Band.

Make sure you watch the video in "HD" mode.

Heading in to Tokyo from Joichi Ito on Vimeo.

Today, I left my home in the countryside to attend meetings in Yokohama and Tokyo, ending up at the Century Hyatt Hotel in Shinjuku. I grabbed movies here and there and picked up a tripod in Yurakucho after getting tired of hand-held shots.

Still have a lot to learn... I need to remember to leave enough room before and after my shots for the transitions, among other things. Also, video takes a LOT longer than post-processing my photos... *eep*

Shooting moving things is a lot harder than taking movies of leaves waving in the wind. ;-)

Most of the scenes were taken with my 85mm at f/1.2 on my Canon 5D Mark II.

Make sure you watch this in HD if possible.

Creative Commons Blog, the website of US president-elect Barack Obama's transition team, has undergone some important and exciting changes over the past few days. Among them is the site's new copyright notice, which expresses that the bulk of is published under the most permissive of Creative Commons copyright licenses - CC BY.

Except where otherwise noted, content on this site is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License. Content includes all materials posted by the Obama-Biden Transition project. Visitors to this website agree to grant a non-exclusive, irrevocable, royalty-free license to the rest of the world for their submissions to under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

I know the transition team is super-busy right now with very important things and I'm very thankful that they had the time and the will to pay attention to this kind of important detail. Thanks a lot Barack Obama and the transition team!

Jamie Boyle, Duke Law School Professor, the Chairman of the Board of Creative Commons, good friend and one of most interesting and articulate scholars on copyright, free culture and the public domain has just released a new book called The Public Domain: Enclosing the Commons of the Mind.

You can download the whole book for free as well as buy it if you like. ;-)

I'm still only part of the way through, but it is classic Boyle and a joy to read and full of great thoughts.

Our music, our culture, our science, and our economic welfare all depend on a delicate balance between those ideas that are controlled and those that are free, between intellectual property and the public domain. In The Public Domain: Enclosing the Commons of the Mind James Boyle introduces readers to the idea of the public domain and describes how it is being tragically eroded by our current copyright, patent, and trademark laws. In a series of fascinating case studies, Boyle explains why gene sequences, basic business ideas and pairs of musical notes are now owned, why jazz might be illegal if it were invented today, why most of 20th century culture is legally unavailable to us, and why today's policies would probably have smothered the World Wide Web at its inception. Appropriately given its theme, the book will be sold commercially but also made available online for free under a Creative Commons license.

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