Joi Ito's Web

Joi Ito's conversation with the living web.

Recently in the IRC Category

I'll be hanging out in #brainstorm on for IRC backchanneling for this conference.

I'll be giving a talk today at the SDForum in Mountain View. This section is called: Virtual Worlds---The Rules of Engagement.

My talk is 4:00pm - 4:45pm Keynote - The Future of the Metaverse

Not sure exactly what I'm going to talk about, but I'll probably be bopping around IRC, Second Life and World of Warcraft so maybe see you in one of the places or at the conference.

This ended up becoming a longer and more rambling post than I expected, but I'm going to post it anyway since I don't write enough these days...

The other day, I was doing an interview for a management and strategy magazine and one of the questions that came up in the conversation was why the management structures in Internet companies often end up being very old-fashioned. There is clearly some innovation, but not as much as you might expect considering how much the Internet enables us to be innovative in our communications and collaboration. We talked a bit about leadership and I was reminded of some conversations I had about the Howard Dean campaign.

My theory is that Howard Dean was a "place". He was a cool place to hang out at and the cool kids hung out there. Some of the elements of a cool place is that there isn’t so much of an "authority" but there is a sense of safety. The community was vibrant and Howard Dean seemed to be listening more than he was asserting. Years ago I created an IRC channel called #joiito, at the time for a place for people I was communicating with to hang out. It continues to survive with about 100 people always logged into the channel. I don’t hang out there as much these days, but it survives as a cool place, all of the regulars taking their share of leadership responsibility. One interesting thing about the channel is that I have never had to exercise any "authority" and people don’t really look to me as anything more than a custodian or a quiet host. I was just the trigger for the creation of a place.

Recently I have started playing World of Warcraft (WoW). Our guild, created in September last year, has grown to about 160 people and we have just begun running "Molten Core. Molten Core is one of the higher-level areas that require around 30-40 level 60 (the maximum level) players. It requires a lot of coordination, a balanced distribution of classes, training and leadership.

People pay a $15/month fee to play WoW. In the real world, most people get paid to work. The members of our guild and our raids are people who are paying to participate in what is often very tedious and hard work. Although there are clear goals and rewards for putting time into the game, most of the people in our guild play because they enjoy being together.

I’m sure there are other guilds that are managed differently - our guild is very inclusive and I changed the role name of "Guild Master" to "Guild Custodian". The next rank in our guild is "Guild Admin". Like my IRC channel, so far I have not had to exercise power or authority and Guild Admins are focused more on mediating conflicts and providing stability more than dishing out orders or punishment. We have had our share of problems, but considering the diversity of backgrounds and the geographic and political diversity, it’s amazingly cozy and friendly. Hanging out and chatting in guild chat has slightly more purpose than an IRC channel, but is similar in many ways.

In a raid, the dynamics are quite different. There are dozens of people who have all decided to assemble after preparing various items to use during the raid, training, gearing up and otherwise preparing for the raid. Excitement and tensions run high and a little screw-up from one person can get every killed (a wipe), causing huge repair bills and delays that causes more tension. One of the most important things about a raid is the mood of the raid. When everyone is upbeat and having a good time, mistakes and wipes are shrugged off and people continue to push forward. A well-run raid is an amazing thing to participate in. Each of the classes has a class leader and a class chat channel. There are leader channels, healer channels and voices over teamspeak. Everyone uses all of these modes of communication to coordinate the activities and we are able to execute extremely complicated strategies with very minimal control. However, if one person begins to complain or become abusive, the bad mood quickly spreads and what used to be fun and easy becomes impossible and tedious. People start dropping out of the raid and it unravels. The primary role of the raid leader to mitigate this kind of corrosive behavior while making sure each of the groups are communicating with each other.

I am not the raid leader of our guild and I am in awe of Persimmon who is our raid leader. She works in a hospital in real life. She is the stabilizing force during the raids, supporting the class leaders, nudging the conversation and keeping the raid moving as fast as possible without moving too fast. I find that she reminds me of many successful open source project leaders or Jimmy Wales of Wikipedia, except that what she has to do happens much faster and in real-time. Without her fully customized user-interface and scripts she would never be able to manage what she does.

The other leaders in our guild including class leaders and admins include unemployed bartenders, construction workers, students, a priest, a folk music singer, web designers, moms and government employees. Although WoW has been called "the new golf";, it isn't about elitist country clubs and privilege but about an amazing melting pot of personalities and backgrounds tied together with a strong sense of sharing and belonging.

Although the larger raids are scheduled in advance with people preparing and showing up at the scheduled time, many smaller raids are organized at the spur of the moment where a leader is designated on an ad hoc basis. To be successful, a raid requires particular class compositions sometimes requiring our guild members to reach out to people they don’t know to join the raid. We are getting better at raiding and many of these “pickup” members end up joining our guild eventually.

The structure and the organization required to complete missions or quests in WoW adds a great deal of focus and complexity to the community compared to a chat room and the communications and management begins to feel much more like collaboration in a work environment. I think that the ever-evolving user interface and communication tools that we are developing might impact the future of management in the real world. My feeling is that what we are doing in WoW represents in many ways the future of real time collaborative teams and leadership in an increasingly ad hoc, always-on, diversity intense and real-time environment.

UPDATE: I chatted about this at SXSW in Austin yesterday and Daniel wrote about it in CNET.

MAKE and #joiito Macworld meetup at Moscone Center SF!

Come to the MAKE and #joiito IRC channel MacWorld Meetup, Thursday, January 12, 2006 (12:30 PM - 2:30 PM). Moscone Center, San Francisco, Ca. The plan is to meet at the O'Reilly Media Booth #1017 where we'll will be hacking iPods and showing how to get DVDs and videos on your iPod - then we will all migrate from there." Link. If you need a free pass to get in, here's a PDF.

I won't be there, but I expect a full report. Have fun. I'll try to be online if I can.

Snapshot 002-1
Thanks to Philip and Beth, I've purchased a plot of land in Second Life next to the MAKE plot (secondlife://Crescent/13/99) for #joiito members to hang out. (Nice neighborhood.) Feel free to drop by and mess around. You can join the #joiito group by searching for #joiito or "joi" in groups. The land is also listed. The SL URL for the plot is: secondlife://Crescent/29/86

I've set up an IRC channel that we will use to backchannel during the Madrid conference on Terrorism and Open Democracy. It is #madridopendemo on Freenode.

UDPATE: We are now in session...

The scribes at this ICANN meeting are amazing. They are using steno keyboards to type what people are saying in realtime and it is being projected on a big screen. What is amazing is that they are typing in English, even when the speakers are speaking French. I wish I could pipe the text into the IRC channel. I wonder if there is a way to get the scribe text via jabber or something...

UPDATE: Someone noticed that the "jp" macro completes to "Jon Postel" so they can been seen quickly fixing it when the Japanese are speaking. ;-)

I talked to the scribes (is that the correct name for people who do this?) and I confirmed that jp completes to Jon Postel. ;-) A few more interesting facts. The two have their own custom dictionaries and they are different. They have a little PDA as a backup connected to the keyboards.

I was just on a panel with Jimmy "Jimbo" Wales, the founder of Wikipedia. We've been talking the last few days about communities and it turns out the #wikipedia IRC channel is about the same size as #joiito. (approx 100 people online. Wikipedia has many other sub channels though so in aggregate they are much bigger...) Anyway, Jimmy noticed that I didn't have a Wikipedia article and he decided to go to his community and see if he could get an article written while we were on the channel.

-- Jimbo has joined #wikipedia
Jimbo: Just a fun experiment...
Jimbo: Joichi Ito is here at this conference, on the same panel with me.
Jimbo: But we apparently have no article about him.
Jimbo: A challenge: in the next hour, how good of an article can we create?
Member1: '''Joichi Ito''' is a [[person]]. {{bio-stub}}
Jimbo: Yes, he uses wikipedia too. But he's famous and important and we need a bio.
Jimbo: I have to go, because our panel is about to start again...
Jimob: But please, remind people as they wander in here, and let's see what happens.
Member2: who the fuck is Joichi Ito
Member3: Member2: write an article and find out
Member2: Jimbo can write the article if it's so important
Member3: someone woke up on the wrong side of the bed today
Member1: The easy way out would be to grab an article from another page, cross out the name and write 'Joichi Ito' over it in crayon
It's the same on my channel, but leadership/foundership has nothing to do with authority. In fact, trying to exercise authority often has exactly the opposite effect. The article did end up getting written though. ;-)

The New York Times has an article about how evil IRC is.

New York Times
Still, I.R.C. perhaps most closely resembles the cantina scene in "Star Wars'': a louche hangout of digital smugglers, pirates, curiosity seekers and the people who love them (or hunt them). There seem to be I.R.C. channels dedicated to every sexual fetish, and I.R.C. users speculate that terrorists also use the networks to communicate in relative obscurity.
Dvorak's ragging on chat and IM too.

Give me a break. Are people running out of new technologies to bash?

via Ross Mayfield

UPDATE: Dan Gillmor chimes in and points out that maybe they're going to try to regulate IRC. Boy that would suck and not work.

UPDATE 2: Suw writes a letter to the editor.

Jibot is the robot who lives in the #joiito channel. He was originally developed by rvr and became a group effort. With everyone hacking on him, he had gotten a bit flakey. termie with the help of a few others totally refactored him and now jibot is really happy. Thank you termie!

Jibot has a wiki page, a blog and a sourceforge page for the code.

Interesting discussion over at Liz Lawley's blog about conference back channels.

Relates to the Continuous Partial Attention discussion.

If you hang out on #joiito or are interested in learning more and plan to be at ETech, please vote for, sign up for and contribute ideas to the session we are planning. We're going to try to play with RFID's and the Jeannie's cafe idea and we need a head-count so please sign up early if you're interested. Hopefully Hecklebot will be there as well.

I'm giving a speech about the future of the Internet tomorrow afternoon from 2:30pm-3:30pm JST. The speech will be at the Rakuten New Year party. (Rakuten acquired Infoseek Japan and I am now on the Portal Group advisory committee.) I'll try to stream it, but it will be in Japanese. My slides are in English and I've put my outline on my wiki. Please feel free to add comments or links to examples on the wiki. The outline just lists the topics I will cover, but not what I'm going to say. ;-)

I'll be giving live demos of #joiito and IM so if you're around, I might ping you.

I'll be using keynote exported to QT inside of Safari with my examples loaded in tabs.

The latest version of the Keynote QT is here.

GRIPE : Keynote doesn't let you put hyperlinks in presentations. They should either figure out some way to embed Safari inside of a Keynote presentation or allow hyperlinks. Apple Computer presentations use two machines, one for browsing and one for Keynote. Doh. Not very user-friendly.

I will be streaming this if I have enough bandwidth. Copy and paste this URL into QuickTime rtsp:// (Warning. Japanese.)

UPDATE: Sorry folks. Didn't have a Net connection so couldn't connect to IRC or get Hecklebot working.

Mikitani, CEO of Rakuten, Masuda, CEO of CCC/Tsutaya and me. Photo by Ms. Noumura.

Halley, can #joiito come to your Dean New Year Party? Can you like project us on the wall or something?

Good idea Lisa

Delicious is a social bookmarks manager. It is still pre-pre-alpha, but it's already become quite a useful part of my daily routine. You bookmark sites as you surf and you can subscribe to bookmarks of your friends and receive them as RSS feeds. It all started during a rare productive discussion between tangra and _joshua on #joiito. The two of them came up with the idea and _joshua coded it.

_joshua is aka Joshua Schachter and is also the developer of memepool and GeoURL.

If you want to subscribe to my bookmarks, I'm joi_ito on Delicious.

The other day, in #joiito, a pretty hardcore troll dropped into the channel. The funny thing was, everyone was like, "weeee a real live troll, lets play with the troll!" The troll was sufficiently outnumbered by our band of merry IRCers and I think the troll figured out that at then end, the joke was on him/her. It's nice when you have a community that can deal with trolls at a meta level and even have fun with it.

Seth Godin did an article for Fast Company about how I use my blog and IRC and am adapting my work-style to the social software. His perspective is interesting. I hadn't thought of it as a "virtual organization". I'm also glad he got this part right:

Seth Godin
It's important, though, to not think of this as Joi's powerful new network or Joi's group. "Joi Ito is no longer a name, it's a place," he says. He coordinates a collective, one in which he's a member, not the chief.

Thanks Seth!

IRC, or more specifically, the #joiito channel on the Freenode network has become a very important part of my life. I use it during conferences, meetings, when I'm thinking, when I'm trying to find some information... It's become one of my main modes of keeping in touch with people. What I sometimes forget, and what most people don't even realize is that Freenode is actually not "free". It's run by real people who fight denial of service attacks, set up servers and keep this incredible network running. There are many IRC networks, but Freenode is the one we use.

I've tried to promote Freenode by mentioning it in interviews I've done recently, but "chatting on #joiito on Freenode", usually gets abbreviated to "chat". ;-)

So this is an official request and a plug for Freenode. Freenode is a service of Peer-Directed Projects Center, an IRS 501(c)(3) tax-exempt corporation. If you've benefitted from Freenode at a conference, at home or have started hanging out on #joiito, think about donating some money to the organization that keeps this going. Lilo, the director of Freenode is too humble/proud to ask for money on the channel, but I'm going to do it here.

Freenode Donation Page

I am not involved in running Freenode and obviously since it is a non-profit, I have no financial interest in Freenode

I wrote about page slapping in August in the context of IRC. Grant just chumped that Wired Jargon Watch just listed it in the context of email. I wonder who coined the word.

After listening to me talk about the virtues of IRC, Rageboy sent me a link to something he wrote in 1996 about IRC and the future of discourse. As you can imagine, it's very funny.

I think Heath Row has the best notes from Bloggercon.

On another note, I have the IRC logs of #joiito during my session. Would anyone be against me posting them on my blog?

I will be speaking about emergent democracy at the Digital Democracy class at the Harvard Law School Tuesday. Thanks to Ethan and Andrew for setting this up. Looks like a lot of fun.

UPDATE: We'll have IRC on the screen so drop by #joiito if you want to participate. We'll also try to set up a video feed from Boris's Mac. It's at the Berkman Center (Baker House) from 5pm-7pm.

Here is a wiki page we can use.

I will be facilitating a session today on community at Bloggercon at 1:30pm. I'll be on IRC so drop by if you're free. Some talking notes here.

UPDATE: Thanks for everyone that dropped in. It was a lot of fun. Special thanks to Kevin Marks for the tech and other support. Picture on Bloggercon page.

As I was taking a shower this morning I did a self-analysis of my morning process which seems to be standardizing for the moment.

I become aware around 2am and start getting the feeling that something important might be going on that I'm missing. I crawl out of bed between 3am-4am, turn on my computer, go make coffee, and sit down, still a bit groggy. I startup email and NewNewsWire. I scan my inbox quickly for any urgent business email and take care of that while NetNewsWire is getting my RSS feeds. Then I go to the folder containing email from MT and read my trackbacks and comments on my blog. I respond to anything urgent there. Then flip over to NetNewsWire and scan the Technorati feed of new inbounds to my blog and read most of them. I comment on people's blogs where I can. Then I startup iChat and MSN Messenger to see if anyone needs me urgently. Then I chat and go through as many of the 150 RSS feeds as I can. I have the feeds ordered in different folders based on the order I want to read them. I open anything I might want to blog about into browser windows as I go through the feeds. Then I open IRC and see if anything important is going on in that community. Then I multi-task email, blogging, chat and RSS feeds until it's time to take a shower and go to work. Inevitably I think of something to blog while I'm taking a shower and end up here... a bit late for work, but trying to get the blog entry out. (And this inevitably ends up in a poorly written entry.)

I used to use the post to blog feature on NetNewsWire, but I've switched entirely to Kung-Log and copy paste from browsers because this seems to give me more control and context.

It feels like a big sync every morning. Then throughout the day, emails to my cell phone, quick hits of IRC, iChat, email and RSS keep me syched. If the morning sync fails, I find myself unable to keep up during the day...

I'd be interested to hear the way other people manage their blogging. I've watched over Cory's shoulder once and THAT was amazing...

Mark Pilgrim (aka f8dy on #joiito) blogs that Dive Into Python is going to be published as a book. James Cox (aka imajes on #joiito) will be the editor. This is great news. Dive Into Python is how I learned Python. I've read several other tutorials, but Dive Into Python is the best I've seen. It's also interesting to note that f8dy and imajes met on #joiito. I was when I was reading Dive Into Python that I went to the #python on Freenode for help. This inspired me to start #joiito. Kind of circular karma. ;-)

There is some software called jIRC that appears to allow you to set up a java web applet that is serves as an IRC client. I'm behind a firewall and can't get to IRC. Any chance someone would install jIRC somewhere and point it at #joiito on freenode so I can get to the channel? I n.n.n.need my IRC fix.

imajes has posted new stats for #joiito.

Mike Lea aka mazeone on #joiito took his own life on Friday. He worked at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. He recently started hanging out on #joiito and was a pretty active participant in our community. I think he spent more time on #unixpunx. The #unixpunx site says that Vixnix talked to his sister who said to pass this on:

Mike's sister
I wish I could tell you differently, but it is true. He has been very depressed for such a long time. I went down there and stayed with him last weekend and he was just miserable. He did it this past Friday night. He was ready to go. And he's at peace now. I wish I knew what to say. I know you all will miss him, and I know that his irc friends meant a lot to him and he enjoyed talking with you all. He kept trying to get me to go on and meet all the people he enjoyed so much. I'm so glad you all were there for him. I wish it wasn't true either. Feel free to forward this to his irc friends and know that my heart is with you all in missing his wit and him.
mazeone, may you rest in peace...

David Beckemeyer aka twostop, creator of the first hecklebot and regular on #joiito blogs the story of how his 12 year old arrived in JFK during the blackout and how the Net helped him coordinate the night's events.

Brendyn has created a page that lists the online/offline status from jibot as titles and links to all of the recent blog entries of the regulars on #joiito from their RSS feeds. Very cool!

Technical synopsis from Brendyn

M. S. Granovetter .The strength of weak ties : A network theory revisited. In Sociological Theory (1), 1983. is an important paper for understanding social software. Unfortunately, it's an academic paper and therefore NOT ONLINE. (I'll rant about that later). In the paper, Granovetter describes strong ties and weak ties. Strong ties are your family, friends and other people you have strong bonds to. Weak ties are relationships that transcend local relationship boundaries both socially and geographically. He writes about the importance of weak ties in the flow of information and does a study of job hunting and shows that jobs are more often found through weak ties than through strong ties. This obviously overlaps with the whole 6 degrees thing. I do believe there are some "nodes" but think that it is much more complex than a simple power law with a few number of local maximums.

After reading Shannon "Pet Rock Star" Campbell's piece on her quest for a job at a temp agency and the "Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America" page, I decided to look at all of "this stuff" from the perspective of jobs.

I was recently at an advisory board meeting for a trade school. We had just done a survey of employers asking for what they their primary criteria for choosing new employees was and it was overwhelmingly about execution and character and very little about skills. Skills, they said, could be taught later. I believe that "character" in the context of a job is your self-esteem and your passion for what you are doing.

What I would like to assert is that social software can help people with their self-esteem and can also help you find others who can find your assets and interests more valuable and place people in jobs where one can have "character". I wrote about this self-esteem thing earlier and in a trackback on that item, you can find a link to "Exhibit A". Boris writes first hand about the development of his self-esteem through blogs and IRC.

Shannon is a really interesting "case" for me. She is witty, has great character, is a brilliant musician, is a poster-child for the Creative Commons (I first heard of her when Larry Lessig was raving on about her over lunch), and she's worried about her interview at a temp agency in South Carolina. Something's wrong here. I know several other people on my IRC channel who are looking for jobs where they are surrounded geographically by people who don't understand or are unable to "leverage" the assets of that individual.

What I can see emerging is a way to amplify the strength of weak ties. (I knew this before, but it's becoming more crisp to me now.) IRC allows me to see the style and personality of many of the people online. Blogs help me see what their interests are and focus is. LinkedIn provides a professional context for referrals. I think that supporting the process of developing your assets and character and finding a job that best suits you will be one of the single most important benefits of social software. I know I've been ranting about Emergent Democracy and about level 2 and 3 in Maslow's hierarchy of Needs, but I just realized that social software may be most important in addressing level 1, finding the job that brings home the bacon. I know this is stupid of me and everyone is saying "doh" right now, but this, to me, is a big "ah ha".

I recently hired two people who were IRC regulars. I felt very comfortable after "getting to know them" over the last few months on IRC. Of course face to face meetings and interviews were essential, but the time spent with them on IRC really added to my ability to judge their character. I realize now that I am actively recruiting from my network of weak ties on the Net and also using the Net to meet interesting people to connect with others who might be good collaborators for those interesting people. The Net has always been a big part of my arsenal of networking tools, but I think it's reaching a whole new level.

I'm sure everyone's already seen this, but I just woke up (6am here) to call a journalist in New York for an interview. He told me that there had been a blackout and he was walking from Manhattan to Brooklyn in flip-flops. He asked me to look on the web and tell him if there was any more news about whether it was a terrorist attack. I told him that it appears, according to, that the affected area is wider than just New York, but that it was not a terrorist attack. We agreed to try to talk tomorrow.

I was in Tokyo in my underwear on a Vonage IP phone, reading news from the web to a journalist in New York on a cell phone. Rah rah Internet!

UPDATE: Joshua on #joiito is logged in from his office in Times Square. His building has backup power. Amazingly, the Internet seems mostly unaffected. It looks like data centers are starting to go down...

UPDATE 2: Just talked to the reporter, Jeff, who said that he had this conversation numerous times yesterday: "It wasn't a terrorist attack." "Why do you know?" "I was talking to someone in Tokyo." ;-)

On #joiito, JMendelson asked a question and I replied with a URL. Then:

Brendyn: that's a page slap
JMendelson: a what?
Brendyn: you were page slapped :)
I wonder if Brendyn coined this word. It's a funny word.

Since I blog just about anything important that I ever think of, I end up page slapping people a lot on IRC when they ask questions that I've already answered. I wonder if it's rude? I don't think so.

Ever since I started IRC, I've noticed that I'm reading much less email, getting a lot less structured work done, but having a much better sense of what's going on in our "space" and able to tie a bunch of pieces together that weren't tied together before. I think some people mistake this type of contextual multi-tasking as some form of ADD. I think I'm switching from M-time to P-time. Edward Hall in Beyond Culture describes the difference between P-time and M-time.

Edward Hall
Monochronic time (M-time) and polychronic time (P-time) represent two variant solutions to the use of both time and space as organizing frames for activities. Space is included because the two systems (time and space) are funtionally interrelated. M-time emphasises schedules, segmentation and promptness. P-time systems are characterized by several things happening at once. [...] Americans overseas are psychologically stressed in many ways when confronted by P-time systems such as those in Latin America and the Middle East. [...] In a different context, the same patterns apply within governmental bureaucracies of Mediterranean countries: A cabinet officer, for instance, may have a large reception area outside his private office. There are almost always small groups waiting in this area, and these groups are visited by government officials, who move around the room conferring with each. Much of their business is transacted in public instead of having a series of private meetings in an inner office. [...] By scheduling, we compartmentalize; this makes it possible to concentrate on one thing at a time, but it also denies us context.
This is the experience I'm having. Blogs and supporting services like technorati and trackbacks make the publishing of blogs more and more like a conversation where one has to respond to blog posts in hours. For me, responding to blog posts directed at me is more important than email. What IRC and Chat have done is accelerated this even more but has added the ability to see the state of my various friends. Sleeping, waking up, in a meeting, on the phone. When I'm excited about something, I can quickly round up folks in IRC or find people who are available to process in real-time, what used to be scheduled and slower. I can talk to people while an idea is still fresh in my mind and jump from brainstorm to brainstorm. Also, this real-time element allows much richer emotional context. Hanging out on IRC exchanging simple state information like waking up and going to bed creates some sort of "we've hung out together" link between the participants. If you're having emotional issues, it's comforting to have the real time exchange of chat vs. the write and wait anxiety of email or blogging. IRC does have its emotionally tense moments, but I think the supportive elements outweight the grief.

Partially as an experiment, I've changed my mode of behavior. I rarely prioritize email. I sit on IRC and chat with my Vonage IP phone next to my computer. I wake up at 2 am. (Partially due to jet lag) I keep one eye on IRC while I go through RSS feeds. I check out new people who drop into IRC. I chat individually with interesting people and phone them as the discussion or the relationship develops. If I think someone would add value to a discussion, I track them down and drag them over to IRC or sometimes I am summoned to IRC (by Jeannie) when they need me there. I find that this P-time method allows me to have a much richer high context thought process involving more people. The problem is, it's hard to then get anything structured done. ;-)

I don't think, however, that this is totally without value as some people may think. I think the trick will be to balance structured time for execution with P-time to create context. IRC has been around a long time, but I am feeling more and more that the combination of IRC and other social software enhances greatly its value and is worth revisiting as a core component of our communication process.

On July 4, I mentioned here that I thought it would be cool if we made a hecklebot and I started a wiki page about it. Many people from #joiito contributed. Then on July 12, David Beckemeyer aka twostop actually built one. I received it yesterday and got it running. The same day, the hecklebot project was mentioned in the New York Times.

New York Times
In the Lecture Hall, a Geek Chorus
July 24, 2003
Meanwhile, Mr. Ito is already creating a new riff on the concept. He said he was working with a group on designing a "hecklebot," a light-emitting diode screen that displays heckling messages that are typed during online chats at conferences. "I want to make something that I can put in a suitcase and take to conferences," he said. He describes it as a subversive device that will get people thinking about the significance of the back channel. From the chat room, he said, "you could send something like, 'Stop pontificating.'
What's so great about all this is that it's like the good old days of TCP/IP and HTML when most projects are small enough that one person can hack together really useful tools and everything moves quickly without proposals, flowcharts and approvals. The idea to working demo time cycle is SO short right now. With weblogs, wikis and IRC, feedback, support and testing is extremely efficient.

Ross blogged about the article first and Liz has some thoughtful comments about the article and the idea of the back channel.

Dan also blogs about the article.

Ever since Reverend A. K. M. Adam aka AKMA started hanging out on IRC, I've started to think that #joiito is a lot like M*A*S*H, the American TV show about the people in a medical camp during the Korean War. As a Japanese who never went to Western churches, my first exposure to a chaplain was on M*A*S*H. AKMA plays a great chaplain on #joiito. ;-) Like the TV show, there is funny chatter like the doctors chatting during surgery. There are visits by guests who pop by to say hi. There are even battles waging on blogs and the wounded show up at #joiito to hang out and recharge.

Anyway, I'll stop pushing the metaphor now.

Today they were webcasting the AO2003 conference. They had a chat that they put on the screen every once and awhile. Many of the regulars from the #joiito IRC channel dropped in to the chat to do our usual heckling. During the journalists panel that Tony was moderating, the hecklers got quite active. It was "the usual". Some people were a bit rough on Tony, but he was a good sport about it. He did say, "we should charge you guys" to the hecklers, but I was thinking that they should pay US. During a discussion about telecommuniting and the Internet enabling distributed workflow, I mentioned on the chat that I was in my underwear in Tokyo. Then someone, I think Ross, put JoiTV on the big screen. Then Tony started teasing me. Heckleback! So I thought I was hecklejacking the conferencing and then I got hecklebacked. We need start a lobby for hecklers rights. ;-P

Anyway, it was good fun. Thanks Tony.

David Beckemeyer built a hecklebot! It's called UcHeckle.

I just got back from Supernova in Washington DC. It was great. It was great hanging out with old friends, making new ones and meeting online friends for the first time. It really reminds me of the "good old days" of The Source. At the party, people had to tell each other their IRC nicknames to recognize each other.



"oh! I'm mamamusings"

"oh! hi!"

Or in the case of bloggers:
"Halley. As in Halley's Comment"


Now there are three tiers of relationships. Normal relationships, people you know through their blogs and people who you know from IRC. I felt a little bad about the people who are not "in" this network because I'm sure a lot of our chatter and giggles were meaningless to them, but IRC is pretty open and inclusive so I decided not to worry about it.

Many of us were on IRC during the conference. I didn't get the hecklebot done, but there was a great deal of heckling going on on IRC. There is definitely a kind of attention drain in the room when everyone is on IRC. There is even more attention drain when the panelists are on IRC. ;-)

I thought about this a bit and my conclusion is that in most cases, it is better to let people be on IRC (or some other chat room) during a conference. Several reasons. If people are bored, they will do something else anyway, like sleep, do email, pick their nose, whatever. At least IRC keeps everyone semi-focused on the time/place of the conference. As Kevin Marks says, the problem with conferences is that only one person (usually) can speak at one time. On IRC everyone can talk at the same time. This is inclusive and useful. People can post useful links, give feedback to the speaker without interrupting them and everyone can contribute. One of the most important reasons for going to a conference is networking and meeting new people. The best way that I've found for meeting new people is saying something smart. It's easy if you're a speaker, but usually you have to ask some intelligent questions so people want to talk to you. IRC is great because it give everyone an opportunity to say something smart during the conference. It also lets people get to know each other during the conference without having to escape into the lobby and miss the conference entirely.

Kevin Werbach, the organizer was a good sport about all of this. He hung out on the IRC channel himself and let Liz put the IRC channel on the screen during the wrap up. It will be interesting to see how these social software tools get integrated into conferences by conference organizers themselves. There is something "naughty" about unauthorized back channels that make them fun, but better integration and more reliable connectivity would probably make them more useful. It's also easier to include everyone if it's run by the organizers. I can't remember who said this, but "in the future, the room will be the back channel for the IRC chat."

I guess my next goal should be to get a hecklebot into Davos.

Many conferences have wifi for the audience these days. People blog the conferences or chat during the conferences. There is definitely a back channel and a lot of people who track conferences online. At a recent conference in Helsinki, Kevin Marks, who was in California, wrote a limerick heckling Tom Coates on IRC. The difficulty is feeding some of the good stuff back to the speakers. This is where HeckleBot comes in. HeckleBot is an IRC bot that sits in the IRC channel for a conference. You give it commands like "?heckle Stop pointificating!" on IRC. The bot talks to a linux box connected to an LED display facing the speakers. The LED displays the message to the speakers. This way, the speakers can get immediate feedback from the audience as well people watching a video stream or reading people blogging the event.

I promise to try to get the HeckleBot set up at as many conferences I attend if people will help me build it. There are some links to the various pieces on the wiki page about HeckleBot. Please sign up or contribute on the Wiki.

JesseE suggested that we should have rules on #joiito. He's started a list of ideas on the wiki. I'll give everyone a day or so to add to the list and call a real-time summit on the channel to discuss the rules.

rvr just modified jibot, the resident bot on the #joiito irc channel to allow you to post to #joiito bot blog from IRC. (It's using the Blogger API). #joiito bot blog is running on Bloxus, a blog package developed by rvr.

rvr - alchemist 1st class

According to the Swedes on #joiito, a Japanese space probe just crashed in Sweden. I can't find anything about on English or Japanese language sites. Anyone know anything about this?

Erista has blogged about it in Swedish with a link to the to the original article. Manne first discovered the link.

I apologize for the light blogging the last several weeks. All of my spare time has been consumed by IRC. acrobat on #joiito compared it to a well placed water cooler. I drop in in the morning with my coffee, between meetings, from cab rides and after dinner before I go to bed. Some people who work in front of computers for a living "park" themselves in the channel. There are about 40 people on the channel now, only a half dozen or so are actually focused on the conversation. We've got a pretty interesting distribution of people. Most major time zones are represented and there are quite a variety of personality types and professions. It's also interesting to note that there is probably an equal distribution of people who are using IRC for the first time, rediscovering IRC and are IRC regulars. The conversation is much more random than my blog, ranging from total silliness to heated debates about RSS. I do think most of us agree that IRC today (or at least my #joiito channel) is much different from the IRC we used to use. I think the blogs help people identify each other and the wiki creates a bit more context and memory for the channel. IRC has definitely reduced my blog output, but in exchange, it has helped me make a much stronger emotional link to many of the people I blog/email with. I think it is the sense of spending time with people that creates this new sense of connection. It's almost like Sims Online. You see people drop off to take care of kids, cook, shower, go to work, come home, etc. Some of the more persistent personalities update people on what's happened during the "day" when you check back in after a being away. It's like being flat-mates with 50 people from around the world. "Hey, if you see so-and-so, tell them I'm looking for them and if so-and-so drops by while I'm out, be nice to them and introduce them to everyone..."

A useful thing about the IRC channel is that it is a 24 hour support system for a variety of issues. Just this week, Dave Sifry "held court" about Technorati, Mark Pilgrim explained python unit testing to me, Doc talked about the 17" PowerBook he was testing out, I got rojisan to book the venue for the DC party, I got Kevin Burton promise to finish the OSX version of NewsMonster and sniffles wrote a bot to remind me not to drink too much. ;-)

A controversial, but interesting thing in IRC are the bots. They are programmed to do a variety of tasks. There are bots that log, take notes, post stuff to wikis, answer questions or annoy people. The bots are probably how IRC will be integrated better into blogs and wikis. There are a few bots on #joiito. Jibot has become a collaborative effort with regulars pitching in via CVS on Sourceforge to add features to the bot.

As I continue to be immersed in IRC, the question that I am struggling with is how better to integrate IM, IRC, wikis and blogs. There are so many ways to do this yet no one seems to have done it well. There is also the issue of the metadata and meta-services like reputation tracking, search, identify management, etc. I'm sure different communities will find different combinations of tools useful.

Even though I call my blog "a conversation" I now realize after using IM and chat a lot that it still looks more like publishing or giving a speech although the comment threads are like conversations. IM chats can be like transactions. IRC is conversation or even "hanging out" with friends. The wiki is where we collaborate. The core strengths of each of these tools is very important and I think we all do a little bit of each of these activities. The alchemy of these tools is really interesting and I urge people to get over the hump and try these tools in combination and join us in thinking about what this all means. ;-)

This morning, I received an email from a person whose opinion I respect informing me that my IRC channel #joiito was being used by people to promote pornography. I rushed over to IRC and interviewed the regulars. Yes, there were some lewd URL's posted. Yes, people were talking about sex. So what, they said.

Then one of the regulars quoted David Weinberger

David Weinberger
I don't see the Web as socratic. I see it as connective, and socratic dialogue is only one form of connecting, and a pretty paltry one at that. Yelling, joking, teasing, provoking, criticizing, grieving, and flirting are all forms of connecting. So is simultaneous masturbation (no, I don't mean blogging). What makes the Web utopian (in some sense) is that it's connective, not that it's polite, rational or even intelligent.
When I post to my blog, I think of all of the people who might read the post and try to write in a balanced way about things that I think are generally interesting. In IRC, I have a sense of the people in the room and chat as if I were among friends. I joke around, chat drunk and say rude things. I can imagine that someone joining some of the discussions without warning might find them offensive or strange as anyone joining any kind of intimate chat. We do talk about "important" issues, but it is peppered with lots of more personal comments and nuances. Since IRC is real time, it is also a lot easier to say riskier things since you get immediate feedback and are able to clarify your position before it escalates.

One of the most interesting topics for discussion and one the most culturally contextual topics that I know of is the topic of sex. I don't talk about it much, but some of my best friends love talking about sex and I don't have any problem with that. I have some problems with pornography, but pornography also drove the proliferation of VCR's and the Internet and we owe SOMETHING to the pornographers...

I'm now grappling with the issue of creating an open and chatty atmosphere on IRC and not restricting people's behavior very much, but still keeping it a comfortable place for people who don't enjoy talking about sex and are uncomfortable with pornography. I don't think pornography has any place on my channel and I officially ask people not to "promote" pornography. Having said that, in defense of "the regulars", it appears that a pornographic link was posted in the context of joking around and wasn't really "promoted." Also, as a rule, you probably shouldn't open a link you find in IRC that ends in .jpg without being prepared...

IRC's been around for a long time and it has its own colorful history and culture. My channel on IRC includes readers of my blog as well as IRC regulars who have drifted in. It's quite an interesting mix, but the tone is quite different from my blog and my wiki. I'm very interested in how it will evolve and would love people's thoughts on this. I still have not banned anyone from my channel and do not yet have any rules. Any pointers to good channel rules would also be appreciated.

While I was asleep, a debate raged on the IRC channel about whether IRC logs should be automatically turned into blog entries. kensanata pointed out that VotingIsEvil so I proposed a sort of deliberative democracy approach. Lets all have a discussion on wiki page and post our positions on the issue. The point would be to change your mind freely and try to sway the opinions of others and recruit them. Like neuronal recruitment. I don't feel strongly about this issue and it appeared quite controversial. I thought it would be a good experiment in emergent democracy on wikis. That and the emergent democracy of picking a party date. ;-)

Boris writes about it here.

After the experience of being saved by Paul on irc, I've decided to get back into IRC. I'm going to start hanging out on Freenode in #joiito whenever I'm online so if you do IRC and want to chat, go to freenode and join #joiito.