Thursday, 27 March 2003
"Umm Qasr is a town similar to Southampton", UK Defence Minister Geoff Hoon told the House of Commons yesterday. "He's either never been to Southampton, or he's never been to Umm Qasr", said one British soldier, informed of this while on patrol in Umm Qasr. Another added: "There's no beer, no prostitutes, and people are shooting at us. It's more like Portsmouth."
via William Gibson
Wednesday, 26 March 2003
If any of you could spare the time to review my argument (which discusses the Tragedy of the Commons and the concept of leeway in law, as well as dog turds) and offer comments on how it could be improved, I'd be very grateful.
If you live in the SV area and want to email councillors or attend the Council meeting, let me know too.
See if you can guess which park is at the end of my garden...
Tuesday, 25 March 2003
The last Gulf War made CNN's reputation; this one is doing it for weblogs.
Friday, 21 March 2003
|The BBC World Service has ongoing coverage that is clear with the headlines on the hour and has lots of interesting backstory inbetween. They try to stay impartial, despite being based in Bush House (which does have 'Nation shall speak Peace unto Nation' engraved on the facade). BBC Radio Five Live is quite good too. Shame the streams keep dropping out.
This page is close to being an aggregator of journalists blogs, except they change the URL every day
Last week's Spectator has some good opinion pieces on the war and background. Roger Scruton made a point in his essay about the Anglosphere vs EU/UN split that meshes well with the 'emergent democracy' ideas (he earlier talked about avoiding the tyranny of the majority) :
England gave us other good things besides the richest language and most powerful literature in modern Europe. In particular it gave us the common law. Our law is not a collection of decrees dictated by the sovereign but a developing set of answers to concrete human conflicts, discovered by impartial judges in the courts. It embodies the old idea of natural justice, according to which law stands in judgment over the sovereign and does not merely transmit his decrees. The common law is the true origin of our freedoms, of our safety in the face of state power, and of our ability to lead our own lives, however eccentric, without asking anyone’s permission. The EU has been built upon a conception of legal order that takes the decree (or ‘directive’) rather than the particular case and its ratio decidendi, as its paradigm. This, in my view, is the real reason why the English rebel against it — even those who have no knowledge of the history and the inherited conception of justice that make this rebellion inevitable, obligatory and right. [...]
Our Bill of Rights was taken up and re-affirmed in the first Ten Amendments to the American Constitution. This fundamentally backward-looking document did not destroy the common-law jurisdiction, but upheld it, both endorsing its principles and ensuring that the courts remain the final source of law — which is why the American Constitution can now be understood only through 400 or so volumes of case law. In this and many other respects the US Constitution is heir to the Anglo-Saxon experience of law, as the voice of the people against the sovereign, and the defender of individual freedom against the state. This experience separates both us and the Americans from the history of Continental Europe since the Reformation.
The Telegraph's Opinion Page has a good mix of views, from Peter Simple:
Now Tony Blair has his way and his war. It is, he says, a war against chaos, for which the whole world must unite. So the "war against terror" makes way for the "war against chaos", another war against an abstract noun and as nonsensical as the "war against racism" or the "war against poverty".
Chaos is within us. Will the war against Iraq be the beginning of a process in which the whole world will descend into chaos, no piece of politician's rhetoric but terrible reality, a state from which it may never emerge?
to Armando Ianucci's lament for the 'Stop the War' protests:
the anti-war movement collapsed into the usual non-media-friendly succession of images we often associate with lost causes; threadbare lines of wackily dressed people holding candles, celebrities with masking tape over their mouths, "resting" actresses saying it's all appalling.
Not good. Stop the War was just not savvy, not cynical enough, to steal Blair's 1997 clothes, and make each and every one of its spokesmen look respectable, look the part, on message and on focus, appealing to Middle England.
to Adel Darwish on Saddam's favourite movie:
Saddam's favourite film, he told us that afternoon, was The Godfather - and he seemed, as president, to become the personification of Al Pacino's murderous gangster Michael Corleone.
In that film, the shooting of the Godfather throws New York's underworld into anarchy, confusion and bloodshed. George W Bush and Tony Blair might do well to heed the parallel. The disappearance of Saddam from the scene could throw the region into just such confusion, and they may be in no doubt that Saddam will make every effort to maximise that effect.
Even the Grauniad has a couple of good articles- one on TV's hunger for 'shock and awe', combined with its determination to keep showing news even when nothing is new, and another on the way Cruise missiles changed war.
The Economist explains why people believe complex conspiracy theories
So why does London have richer opinion pages than New York ?
Boris Johnson suggests one reason.
Thursday, 20 March 2003
According to the study, nearly twice as many online consumers are willing to pay $17.99 for a CD that has unrestricted copy abilities versus a CD at only $9.99 that cannot be copied.
That is a somewhat convoluted sentence, but it is pretty clear that DRM would cost the companies more than their profit margin to use (and it wouldn't stop copying in any case).
Friday, 14 March 2003
I propose that we add an optional attribute to the <a> (link) tag in HTML. Its name is 'vote'. Its value can be "+" "0" or "-", representing agreement, abstention or indifference, and disagreement respectively.
An untagged link is deemed to have value "+".
Additional human-readable commentary can be added using the existing 'title' attribute, which most browsers show as a rollover.
<a href="http://ragingcow.blogspot.com" vote="+" title="neat spoof">Raging Cow</a>yields
<a href="http://ragingcow.com" vote="-" title="nasty corn syrup drink">Raging Cow</a>yields
Points that keep coming up:
Why only + and -? How about something more nuanced?
The point of this is to provide a strong yes/no response. Finer-grained measures of agreement don't make much sense on an individual basis; aggregating many votes is more interesting. For example, consider how eBay's user rating system has been reduced to a like/dislike switch by users. The 'Ayes, Noes, abstentions' model has served well in politics.
There are much richer ways to express this idea and similar ones using RDF and semantic web ideas
Indeed there are, but typing them by hand and remembering them is beyond most mere mortals, and automated tools don't do this either. This is meant to be very simple, memorable and easy to type in the current generation of blogging tools, that largely need manual entry of URLs.
I'd like some visual representation on the page of these different types
You can do that by defining 'voteyes' 'voteno' and 'abstain' classes in css and applying them to the post as well.
Won't all this negativity lead to trolling and flame wars?
Trolling is a problem already - Google's PageRank rewards being linked to, so notoreity is valued as highly as popularity. This leads to a 'no publicity is bad publicity' approach.
For relentless positivists, the '0' and '-' values could be taken as signals meaning "don't index this link". For Vote tallying, however, positive and negative responses are both valuable and clear.
The possibility of a personally filtered search, which reflects your own values expressed by your own links is gretaly enhanced by the ability to define neagative links as well.
Exhaustive taxonomy of link types Far too much complexity.
An earlier call for this kind of thing
John Lebovsky's variation on a theme
Steven Johnson channels Vonnegut on Karasses & Granfalloons
Thursday, 13 March 2003
Tim Oren and I took on Marc Canter on his 'video is special, and needs special treatment by routers' argument. I must write up this stuff soon, as it needs explaining.
Chris and Gretchen produced some bottles of Raging Cow. I can confirm that it tastes like off milk with high fructose corn syrup added, but as someone passing said, if you're drinking corn syrup, make sure it is high fructose. Raj found some silly hats.
Alex Cohen introduced me to Simon Perry, who was very taken with the mediAgora ideas.
Denise told me about the FareChase case, which could set a precedent making Google illegal - effectively, American Airlines has a court ruling that gives them control over which browsers can display their webpages, and whether further information can be derived from them. She also got me chatting to Chris Locke, using her very borg-like bluetooth phone earpiece.
I talked to various Blogger and Google people about ideas. Simple ones first:
Add a permalink link to each post in the lower pane of the Blogger editor. that way when I write a post, or find an old one there, I don't need to open the blog and find it again to mail the link to someone, or refer to it in another post.
Make damn sure the new Blogger supports a usable RPC posting API so that people can write non-browser based editors well. NetNewsWirePro is great, but it gets lots of errors back from the Blogger server, and it can't post Titles. It works much better with MT,
I also talked a lot about the 'voting links' proposal, and have been inundated by emails about it today. I'll blog a straw man proposal in the next entry. What I learned from Google people was that Google looks in the text of pages for signifiers to use as evidence, then analyses their actual utility in discriminating good links from bad, so think of it as automated utilitarian hermeneutics.
Wednesday, 12 March 2003
This made me think about the Raging Cow controversy, where milk drink marketers exploited bloggers' tendency to rabidly discuss anything weblog related, and link to their website, driving the drink Google's rankings.
Combining these ideas, how about some extensions to the 'a href' tag to say "I'm linking to this, but I disagree with it" and maybe "I'm linking to this but don't count the link as a vote". Google and other link spiders could note these distinctions, and distinguish between popularity, notoriety and ubiquity.
There is also a lot more scope for deriving a personalised search this way - excluding what Cory calls 'left-handed whuffie' and returning search results from places you are likely to agree or disagree with, as well as showing more nuanced rankings.
This is a higher-level way to not feed the trolls.
I feel like there's a huge divide between people who think that DRM has no chance because consumers will always be able to get digital media for free, and the people who think DRM has no chance but consumers will still pay.
Within that first category, there's another subdivision: people who think that means we need DRM that's far more difficult to crack (TCPA, Palladium, etc.), and people who think we need a more radical solution (Professor Fisher's plan, for instance).
I don't know which side is right. But, I think a lot has to do with how good DRM can be and, perhaps more importantly, how good do we need it to be. If all DRM is crackable or can be gotten around via the analog hole, how many people do we need to still purchase things legally to remunerate creators?
(You can also take the position of Kevin Marks, who says that DRM no matter how good is doomed to fail, because it "destroys value." I'm not so sure of that, inasmuch as, if reasonable restrictions could be built into DRM, then perhaps consumers would accept it. I also don't know if such reasonable DRM could exist.)
That's my Morton's Fork of DRM.
It is always going to be crackable by emulation, via the Church-Turing thesis, or by analog means, so a determined person will break it.
The only reason for applying it is to make files less convenient to customers, so it automatically makes them less valuable to them.
The BALANCE act should go a long way to making DRM 'reasonable', but as that point approaches, it is even more reasonable to avoid the entanglement altogether.
Tuesday, 11 March 2003
A mediated persona just sort of accumulates, of its own accord, the way balls of dust build up under a bed. It isn't as though there's any entity ("the media") controlling this process; it just happens. If there was something, no matter what, that you didn't do, and you kept meeting strangers who were convinced you did do that, because they had received, from the dust-ball of your mediated persona, the idea that you did, it might eventually start to bug you too. [...]
While I'm on the topic of mediated personae, something that came up during that CBC taping, last night (for me, anyway) was the idea that blogging (or even posting to fora) represents the democratization of the mediated persona. Literally anyone can have one, now, or several. I am an exception to this, because I have mine via the printed word, the oldest mass medium on the planet, and this website is maintained by a publishing company that belongs to an even larger corporation owned in turn by shapeshifting reptiles from Beta Reticuli, but the rest of you, today, are free to mass-mediate your own personae. Which was formerly, hugely, not the case. Choose a handle, post: you're mediating a persona.
Monday, 10 March 2003
The key reason is the deep one that people are smarter than economists think they are, and find solutions that resolve such tragedies.
In the case of TCP, it is actually a very good solution to utilising available bandwidth to maximum efficiency. If you ignore the back-off requirement, you're going to get more dropped packets, and thus need more retransmissions. At an endpoint there is no way to distinguish a packet drop due to congestion from a packet drop due to a bottleneck link, so being able to push other traffic out of the way may not be possible. Also, you need co-operation from both ends to do this, which puts constraints on widespread adoption.
Looked at another way, there are attempts to ignore this constraint. In the extreme they are called Distributed Denial of Service attacks, where packet floods knock out servers. Pretty quickly the commoners identify such activity and find a way to block it.
Another attempt is real-time streaming protocols, that just send out UDP packets at a source-dependent rate and assume some will be lost. They are inherently inefficient, as they don't accommodate bandwidth variation the way TCP does. Over time, these protocols have gradually changed to add retransmission and packet thinning so they converge on TCP. In practice, far more media is sent over TCP than is sent using real-time protocols.
Populations can tolerate a small proportion of free-riders like the streamers, but they end up being self-limiting, as the received quality is not usable with too much packet loss.
The Google Dance is well underway; preliminary results from updated servers indicate that my Raging Cow blog is now number 2 (so keep adding links to it), that I now have 9 out of the top 10 links for a search on Kevin Marks (hint - I'm not a skateboarder), and I am now number 8 for a search on Kevin (other members of the Kevin conspiracy noted by David Weinberger show up too).
Thursday, 6 March 2003
I was in London two weeks ago, and joined a small group for a technology demonstration in a vacant room at the swanky One Aldwych Hotel in Covent Garden. [...]
Kay McCarthy, the hotel's telecommunications manager, explained that the system, once it is fully operational, would allow guests to buy a "scratch card"
with coding enabling them to log on for hourly increments. Wi-Fi zones are indiscriminate - anyone in the immediate vicinity of the hotel will be able to log onto the One Aldwych home screen and its promotional links. But only those who buy the access card will be able to continue onto the Internet itself.
Scratch cards? How tacky. I trust that the Savoy and Claridges will have a bit more class than that.
Meanwhile, in Blogaria...
James Lileks at the Mall:
I promise a lot of things here, but eventually I deliver. There will be T-shirts, some day. There will be video-blogs, soon. I�m going to add a weekly streaming video here, but since I don�t have broadband at home the notion of uploading huge files via my syrup-through-a-pipette connection was daunting. Then I remembered that the Apple Store has a wireless network. So. That night I roughed up a prototype of a weekly movie, and Sunday I went back to the store.
It�s simple: you open the laptop, and your machine hears the music of the spheres. Right there in my menubar was the name of the network. I connected, called up my iDisk - a virtual hard drive that exists GOD knows where on some computer somewhere in the world; could be next door or half a continent away. Doesn�t really matter. I transferred the movie to the iDisk over the wireless network, and then as long as I was there I let the laptop gulp up all the software updates it requested.
Apple! They think of everything!
Doc Searls on the road
I'm back at the same Starbucks, getting my hour's worth of wi-fi for ten minutes actual use. I can blog and get email, for some reason; but I can't browse, because I get redirected every time to an F-Mobile sign-up page.
Earth to Starbucks: Get another provider and give away the wi-fi for free, like milk and sugar. You're gonna be doing it eventually anyway.
Wi-fi is just another utility provided by businesses and municipalities as a civic grace, like toilets and light. Customers and citizens are already on the case. Follow the market. Take the loss and lead with it.
Glenn Reynolds on campus
The university where I teach, the University of Tennessee, has a high-speed wireless network that covers the entire campus. Now some of the bars and restaurants and coffeeshops nearby are catching on � one even has a big sign advertising �Fast Free Wireless Internet� as a way of luring customers. Right now it�s a big lure � sort of the way air-conditioning was fifty years ago. But soon it will be ubiquitous.
As I wrote over a year ago, businesses already seem to be rearranging things to suit personal technology by creating more comfortable places to sit, chat on cellphones, check e-mail, and so on.
Wireless Internet access is cheap and easy to provide (I have it at home, and so do countless other Americans), and as people get more and more used to it, spaces that don�t have it seem less and less appealing. I think that Doc is right, and that customers will come to expect it over the next few years. In some places, they already do. Kind of like toilets.
Cory & Aaron at the Stanford Spectrum Moot emancipating packets:
Finally, my old dialup modem conked out at home, so I bought an Airport Extreme Base station instead of a new one. I still only get 50 kbps, but I can use it in the garden now...
Wednesday, 5 March 2003
Tuesday, 4 March 2003
I'm not good at parties; I find small talk difficult, and I'm not sure how to transition into deeper subjects. Marc Canter can (and did) work the room, introducing people to the 'great and good', making an impression, using his internal whuffie display to decide who to talk to. I'm not so good at that.
I was standing by the door, talking with Larry Lessig, John Gage and Dave Farber about examples of people prospering by giving media away free online, and as John and Dave wrote down keywords like 'Baen' and 'Doctorow' on scraps of paper, I realised how used I am to having hyperlinks to hand when discussing these things - It reminded me of the opening of Down & Out, where Julius meets Dan, who is eschewing hyperlinks because he's out of the habit (I emailed John the links later, as well as sending Dave Winer the Postrel piece on why software is different in Silicon Valley & Boston).
What I did find, though, was that I could talk to people I had previously met online, such as Cory, Dan, Joi, Ross, Aaron, Dave, Robert & Doc far more easily, skipping the small talk, and picking up on the things we've been mentioning to each other online. Mutual context is good.
Sunday, 2 March 2003
I've got a different point today though. I'll point again to the great example of the net creating value - eBay. Suddenly, all that junk lying around can be sold because a market has been enabled. It did need some identity to work smoothly - eBay users' persistent IDs for the feedback mechanism of buyers and sellers rating each other. This fits in neatly with The Blank Slate again - Pinker cites variations on the Ultimatum experiment that show that some degree of traceability encourages fairness - this is similar to the work showing that in an interated Prisoners Dilemma the future casts a shadow that encourages co-operation rather than cheating.
So how do I apply this to mediAgora? There is some need for identity there, as if a perpetual right to a good quality copy is being bought, the seller needs to be able to identify the customer again. Simialrly, if the customer wants to become a Promoter their identity is necessary to ensure they get paid. I think this works as a quid pro quo for the benefits received. There is certainly scope for buyer and seller rating too.
Saturday, 1 March 2003
Two things strike me.
One is that no-one seems to be making the 'DRM Destroys Value' argument. It is demonstrable fact that customers will pay far less for locked up media than open media, so moving to locked media hurts your bottom line directly, far more than the 'leakage' of copying.
When combined with the fact that DRM is readily circumvented by the determined, but an annoyance to the purchaser, you have avery odd reward curve at work - the paying customers are getting less value than the non-paying circumventers. DRM is all stick and no carrot.
Instead, mediAgora proposes an incentive scheme for those who encourage sales of what customers really want - rights in perpetuity to unencrypted, high quality files.
The second point fits more into the 'Emergent Democracy' slot. The current ways of recording these thing via individual note-taking on weblogs are handy, but I feel that more could be done. I spent a lot of time in the early 90s working on ways of capturing multimedia versions of conference presentations, and these days an audio or even video recording is trivial to make.
The problem is that, like Audioblogging, it is not really much use - to have to listen through many hours of presentations in real time, rather than read summaries by others is less good to me. I had the same frustration with the emerging democracy phone conferences, as I wasn't there in real time, and had snippets of transcripts to go on.
What is missing is a just-in-time production tool that lets many people annotate and segment the ongoing recording, as they are listening, or afterwards. Commenting in a public space, like a shared weblog, with sound and slides neatly annotated and highlighted by many hands.
OneNote is groping towards this, but is is focused instead on generating private Office documents, instead of a public discourse. This is of a piece with the 'Office DRM' announced earlier this week. Microsoft has taken exactly the wrong message from having its damning internal memos revealed in court. Instead of behaving in a manner that can stand up up too public scrutiny, and encouraging public debate, it has invested in a plan to help hide corporate discussions though technology.
The best way to lose a battle of ideas is for no-one to be able to hear yours.