Joi Ito's conversation with the living web.

January 2009 Archives

The rules:

1. Link to your original tagger(s) and list these rules in your post.
2. Share seven facts about yourself in the post.
3. Tag seven people at the end of your post by leaving their names and the links to their blogs.
4. Let them know they've been tagged.

I was tagged by Mitchell Baker.

  1. My first memory is of my father scolding me for putting sand into a fishing reel. Apparently we were very poor but my parents had the brilliant idea of driving across America in a beaten up old car. At one point along the way, they had to decide whether to buy food or buy a fishing rod. My father decided to buy a fishing rod and try to fish dinner. I put sand into the fishing rod reel and broke it and we went without dinner. At least that's what I'm told. Anyway, he was so mad and that scolding was etched into my childhood memory. I think I was three years old.
  2. My first job was working at a tropical fish store called "Wet Pet" in Southfield, Michigan. I knew the Latin names of all of the fish in the 100 or so tanks there and tropical fish were my first real obsession. I think I was 12 years old or so. I think this was the year that the Tandy TRS-80 came out. I was also into reptiles, bugs and amphibians and once smuggled a pet tarantula to Japan in a hollowed out clock radio.
  3. My first real drink in a real bar was when I was around 15 years old. One of my mother's Japanese businessmen friends took me out drinking and introduced me to everyone as his Filipino girlfriend.
  4. I co-founded and co-edited an underground newspaper in High School called "Entropy". Re-reading it recently, I noticed we spent way too much time criticizing the official school newspaper and stressing the unimportance of grammar and other rules. I remember breaking into school after hours and running them off on the mimeograph machine. Thanks to my co-editor at the time, Eiji Hirai, for finding copies. Eiji reminded me that we used WordStar to edit the paper and were super proud of ourselves when we figure out how to print words in bold. This was 1982-1984 or so.
  5. I'm shy and relatively lazy. I've worked most of my life overcoming my fear of meeting new people and my tendency to slack off. I actually remember a conscious moment when I noticed that the things I wanted to do the least were at the bottom of my to do list and never got done. I started working on my to do lists from the bottom instead of from the top. I forced myself to do little things like this to overcome my problems. It turns out that I may be lazy but I'm trainable and have trained myself to be a bit more productive than I was as a youth.
  6. I've always wanted to sing but I suck at singing. My mother was good at singing and many people in my extended family are professional musicians. I flunked the choir entrance test in Jr. High School and always embarrass myself at karaoke when I'm forced to sing. I hate that I suck at signing. My father can't sing so I blame him.
  7. I was second place in my weight class in High School wrestling at the 1984 Far East tournament which was (I think) about 27 US military and international schools in the Far East. I lost first place to Mike Rothstein from Yokota US Air Force Base. Sports-wise, it's been all downhill since then.

I tag Sean Bonner, Mimi Ito, Lawrence Lessig, Michelle Levesque aka Catspaw, Loic Le Meur, Ethan Zukerman and Thomas Crampton

The new twhirl looks great. Twhirl is a client that lets you track a bunch of different services like Twitter,, FriendFeed and Seemic. The new version lets you record to Seemsic, search Twitters (in a very smart way) and post via For me (I'm biased), the integration is key. Now I can do my posting and reading from Twhirl. The service is in a closed test period, but I think it will be released very soon.

My status update streams are still a bit of a mess with comments all over the place, but this is a step in the right direction to try to help make it easier to keep track of things.

Following up Larry's appearance and challenge on the Colbert Report. Just awesome.

2008 Dopplr Report

Dopplr has created personal reports for its users for last year. They come in the form of a PDF that you can download from your Dopplr page. It's a pretty nifty visualization licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution license.

For some reason, I thought I was away from home more than half the time, but according to Dopplr, I was home 184/365 days last year. My travel coincided most with Lawrence Lessig. I took 49 trips and traveled 143% of the distance to the moon (521,809 km/324,237 miles) and had an average velocity of 58.43 km/hr or the speed of a whippet. (My mileage program total for actual travel miles is much higher than this. I wonder if Dopplr measuring the direct distance vs the actual travel paths by the airlines would account for this...)

The thing that weighs the most heavily on my heart is the approximately 60 ton (6 Hummers worth) carbon footprint that I have. I think this is about three times the 20 tons or so of an average American. I do offset my carbon with a number of offset services, but I still think that the carbon cost of my travel, more than anything else, is the main thing I should consider when I try to decide whether to take a particular trip or not.

Dopplr also published Barack Obama's report.

First of all, a teary-eyed congratulations to all of my friends in America. I'm really proud of and happy for the Americans and I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for making such a great choice and proving to us that democracy works in America. My faith in America has increased substantially today and I look forward to the leadership it may provide.

I'll write more about this when I calm down a bit and get some sleep. (It's 3AM here.)

However, before I went to bed I wanted to thank President Obama and his team for bringing a copyright notice to the White House website which includes Creative Commons. Thank you very much.'s 3rd Party Content Under CC-BY

As you may of heard, the new launched today at 12:01pm during Barack Obama's inauguration. What you might not have noticed is that the copyright policy of the site stipulates that all 3rd party content is licensed under our most permissive Attribution license:

Pursuant to federal law, government-produced materials appearing on this site are not copyright protected. The United States Government may receive and hold copyrights transferred to it by assignment, bequest, or otherwise.

Except where otherwise noted, third-party content on this site is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License. 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.

(emphasis added)

Congratulations to the 44th President of the US for choosing CC!

We've posted a summary of the Creative Commons Board Meeting held 13-14 of December, 2008 on the CC Wiki. Highlights included the CC Network, progress with the Free Software Foundation with respect to CC and the GFDL, CC0, integration with additional tools such as Picasa, the "Defining Noncommercial" study, partnership with the Eurasian Foundation, the fall fund-raising campaign, website updates, updates from Science Commons and ccLearn and the launch of four new jurisdictions - Romania, Hong Kong, Guatemala and Singapore.

As video footage and video remix become one of the primary forms of conveying and discussing political issues, we find that video is less permissive than text with respect to copyright. In other words, with text we are accustomed to and legally permitted to quote, annotate and share each other's words in political dialog. However, we find that in the case of video often presidential debates, war footage and many other things that we would like to use in political videos, are protected by copyright. Video has traditionally been treated more as "content".

In the case of video journalism, this "content" falls between the cracks. There is a great article by Rebecca MacKinnon, former Bureau Chief of CNN Japan, about how the focus of CNN changed from journalism to money-making "content" as it shifted from the leadership of Ted Turner to Time Warner.

I believe in amateur journalism and even amateur video journalism. I think projects like The Hub that we are doing at WITNESS are very important. On the other hand, there will always be a role for professional journalism, especially when it comes to wars, corruption and politics because of the cost of deploying and defending, both physically and legally, the journalists sent in to get the stories.

There is a famous moment in video journalism when the Gennifer Flowers scandal was breaking. The heads of the big news networks at the time decided not to run the story. They controlled how and when news broke. However, CNN had started distributing their full news feeds to local news stations allowing local news to edit their own news. Some local networks decided to run the story that they found in the unedited news feeds from CNN and the next day all of the networks opened with the story. See Steven Johnson's Emergence for a good account of this episode.

I think that news networks making their footage available to the public is the next step in this decentralization and the participation of the public in the global dialog. I'm very thankful to Al Jazeera for taking the first step in what I hope will be a more common practice of news agencies making their material available for reuse and remix.

Al Jazeera Launches Creative Commons Repository

Al Jazeera is releasing 12 broadcast quality videos today shot in Gaza under Creative Commons' least restrictive Attribution license. Each professionally recorded video has a detailed information page and is hosted on allowing for easy downloads of the original files and integration into Miro. The value of this footage is best described by an International Herald Tribune/New York Times article describing the release:

In a conflict where the Western news media have been largely prevented from reporting from Gaza because of restrictions imposed by the Israeli military, Al Jazeera has had a distinct advantage. It was already there.

More importantly, the permissive CC-BY license means that the footage can be used by anyone including, rival broadcasters, documentary makers, and bloggers, so long as Al Jazeera is credited.

There's more information over at Al Jazeera's CC repository, and in our press release. You can also add the Al Jazeera repository to your Miro feeds by clicking here.

Larry was on the Cobert show. Great job Larry.

Sam did the first remix of my Colbert appearance.

Jim Vanaria did another.

This is the first video remix I've seen.

Here's a remix from the Eclectic Method Mix.

And the audio to the show is available to be remixed on ccMixter here.

Colbert says (or more accurately, "says") you can't remix this. I say please do.

Very cool update on the CC licensed CD from Nine Inch Nails on the CC Blog.

Creative Commons Blog

NIN's CC-Licensed Best-Selling MP3 Album

Fred Benenson, January 5th, 2009

NIN Best Selling MP3 Album

NIN's Creative Commons licensed Ghosts I-IV has been making lots of headlines these days.

First, there's the critical acclaim and two Grammy nominations, which testify to the work's strength as a musical piece. But what has got us really excited is how well the album has done with music fans. Aside from generating over $1.6 million in revenue for NIN in its first week, and hitting #1 on Billboard's Electronic charts, has the album ranked as the 4th-most-listened to album of the year, with over 5,222,525 scrobbles.

Even more exciting, however, is that Ghosts I-IV is ranked the best selling MP3 album of 2008 on Amazon's MP3 store.

Take a moment and think about that.

NIN fans could have gone to any file sharing network to download the entire CC-BY-NC-SA album legally. Many did, and thousands will continue to do so. So why would fans bother buying files that were identical to the ones on the file sharing networks? One explanation is the convenience and ease of use of NIN and Amazon's MP3 stores. But another is that fans understood that purchasing MP3s would directly support the music and career of a musician they liked.

The next time someone tries to convince you that releasing music under CC will cannibalize digital sales, remember that Ghosts I-IV broke that rule, and point them here.

As of December 30, 2008, I am a legal resident of Dubai, UAE.

When Della Van Heyst invited me to a conference in Bahrain in 2007, I decided to go because I had never really been to the Middle East and realized that I needed to understand the region better if I one of my goals was to be a global citizen. The meeting was interesting and only reinforced my view that I was completely ignorant about the Middle East and Muslim culture. After Bahrain, Jay took me to Dubai where he was about to relocate to and introduced me to some people including his friend Balall.

My work at Creative Commons includes supporting the spread of Creative Commons globally. We have had success in Asia, Latin America, North America, Australia/New Zealand and Europe. While we have met some great people and are moving forward in the Middle East and Africa, these two regions continued to be difficult for us. Last year, we appointed Donatella Della Ratta as the Creative Commons person in the Middle East and Donatella along with my small (but increasing) number of Muslim friends have tried to coach me and navigate my understanding of the region.

However, I soon decided that trying to learn about the Muslim world remotely wasn't going to work. At the risk of making vast racial stereotypes, I felt that I understood most of the major cultures in the world, but the Muslim culture was one that I simply couldn't "grok" well.

As with most of my important decisions in life, I decided to jump in feet first based on my intuition and spend much more time in the region by moving my home base to Dubai. After considering various ideas, I decided that Dubai was a fairly safe, liberal and convenient location from where I could operate. While it is wildly different in many ways than anywhere else I've been, basic infrastructure such as medical facilities, airline travel and banking seemed to work and there appeared to be a critical mass of friends who could help me assimilate. Also, as part of my mission to fill in my gaping blind spots, Dubai seemed to make Africa a bit closer as well.

As someone who doesn't spend "the majority" of my time in any place except in airplanes, "moving to Dubai" basically means setting up a residence and shipping most of my "stuff" here. My main business is investing in early stage consumer Internet companies all over the world and my main non-profit work is Creative Commons, which are both global. I intend to spend my "spare" time here (except maybe in the hot summers) working on my academic work and learning Arabic. Keio University is trying to develop relationships here and in the region and I'll do my best to support these efforts as well.

While there are some very interesting people in Dubai and I'm slowly meeting many of them, I think that a great deal of my work in the region will be in other Arab countries and Africa. Dubai will be sort of my hub and I will explore from here.

Mizuka's mother and our extended family in Chiba will hold down the fort in Japan and Mizuka will probably spit her time between Japan and Dubai. I will continue to spend a fairly large chunk of my time in Japan, US and Europe.

Finally, I want to thank Jay, Renu, Ballal and Nazia all of their help in my ongoing transition to Dubai. I also want to thank Ambassador Hatano and Maria for providing me with a lot of context and support in connecting with the academic community here.

There are still many things in the air and I haven't really "turned off" any commitments that I have elsewhere so I don't expect my behavior our profile to change too drastically to the casual observer, but I can already feel some interesting changes as I start calling Dubai my home.

Note: I realize that I use Muslim an Middle East interchangeably and that there are many other faiths in the region. However, I spent my life growing up most non-Muslim faiths so the Muslim part makes up the biggest chunk of my ignorance.

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