Sunday, August 27, 2006

Gary Hart: Twenty-first Century Rome

The Huffington Post

For those of us who believe history holds valuable lessons, there is instruction to be had from the experience of other great powers. In the particular case of the American Republic it is important to consider the history of other republics. Not the least of these examples is the demise of the ancient Roman Republic and its transition to the Roman Empire.

Smart Mobs! - - Where Everyone Is a Critic

"It's changed the way I run my business because I can get feedback right away," said chef Ola Fendert, who brings printed Yelp reviews to staff meetings at his restaurant and bar, Oola. "You used to find out too late, when your business is slowing down. Now it's almost instant: Something happened, you see it on Yelp the next day and you can fix it."

Source: Where Everyone Is a Critic - Los Angeles Times

Friday, August 25, 2006

OpenBusiness � Blog Archive � Steal This Film � Self-exemplification

OpenBusiness - Blog Archive - Steal This Film

An interesting and inspiring movie has just been released about The Pirate Bay - the biggest Bittorrent filesharing website in the world. Millions of internet users download music, books and most prominently films via the site. Its not only a technical revolution in the distribution of media, but as the film argues, a cultural and social innovation in the way we access media.

The footage was simply stored on a 250 GB external hard-drive which now costs less than £80. The once-prohibitively expensive HD video cameras were borrowed and editing software, of course, downloaded. All in all the movie surely cost less than £2000 and had been downloaded by over two thousand internet users in its first day of release. While the movie makes some use of copyrighted material to illustrate its points most of it is either news footage from TV or original footage., WaPo: Text Mobs

Mary Jordan has a front-pager in the Washington Post detailing how social movements use text messaging to surmount attempts to contain dissent:

Cellphones and text messaging are changing the way political mobilizations are conducted around the world. From Manila to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, andKathmandu, Nepal, protests once publicized on coffeehouse bulletin boards are now organized entirely through text-messaging networks that can reach vast numbers of people in a matter of minutes.

The technology is also changing the organization and dynamics of protests, allowing leaders to control, virtually minute-by-minute, the movements of demonstrators, like military generals in the field. Using texts that communicate orders instantly, organizers can call for advances or retreats of waves of protesters.

This tool has changed the balance of political power in places where governments have a history of outmuscling dissent. In April, Nepal's King Gyanendra ordered authorities to cut cellphone service after protesters against his absolute rule used text messages to help assemble street protests by tens of thousands of democracy advocates.

The Philippines, widely called the text-messaging center of the world, has led the way. When President Joseph Estrada was forced from office in 2001, he bitterly complained that the popular uprising against him was a "coup de text."The best part of the story documents a real-time Filipino protest designed to overwhelm the police's ability to disperse it:

At 1:30 p.m. on a recent day, Palatino and three students lingered near the doughnut case in the 7-Eleven on a congested corner of Morayta Street. They stood in the air-conditioned cool, cellphones in hand, waiting for a text....

They knew police had been ordered to disperse unauthorized crowds near the presidential palace and would not hesitate to use wooden batons and water cannons to do it. So organizers wanted to make sure that everyone converged at the same time to make the rally harder to break up.

Soon Palatino's phone was alive with a flurry of texts from coordinators and marchers anxious to start.

One asked: "Are the media here?"

About a dozen TV cameramen and newspaper photographers gathered outside. They, too, had been summoned by text.

At 1:45, Palatino's phone pinged again, this time with the message: "ASSEMBLE RIGHT NOW!"
A smile crossed his face. With a few more taps of his thumbs, he forwarded the command down the text brigade ranks. He sent it to those on his phone list, and each who received it did the same. In seconds, about 1,000 students were in the street, stopping traffic and sending cars and bicycle taxis scattering.

Two students quickly hooked up a public address system to the battery of a vehicle. One by one, leaders climbed on top of it to fire up the crowd. Palatino demanded that President Arroyo do more to end the [unsolved] killings and allocate more money for universities.
"Books, not bullets!" he shouted.

The all-at-once strategy worked: The police were caught off guard. Only a few officers were on the scene, and they quickly pulled out their own cellphones to make urgent voice calls. Note to self: add to paper on IT's effect on state-society relations.

posted by Dan on 8.24.06, 8:22pm

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Wired 14.09: Lawrence Lessig on Free Beer

Wired 14.09: Lawrence Lessig on Free Beer:

"Ever since the birth of the free software movement, its defenders have struggled to explain just what 'free software' is. If it is free, how do coders eat? And how do businesses that support the software - IBM, Hewlett-Packard - make any money from it?

The standard answer has been a slogan: 'Think free,' the movement's founder, Richard Stallman puts it, 'as in free speech, not free beer.' You can charge whatever you want for free software. But what you can't do is lock up the knowledge that makes it run. Others must be allowed to learn from and tinker with it. No one is permitted a monopoly on the teaching that stands behind it.

A bunch of Danes, however, apparently didn't get the memo. In June, a Copenhagen artists' collective called Superflex released version 3.0 of a new beer called - you guessed it - Free Beer.

'Free beer?' you ask. 'Think free,' Superflex members helpfully explained at the launch, 'as in free software.' Under the supervision of Birthe Skands, former chief of development at Carlsberg Beer, the brewery is now scaling up quickly to meet unexpectedly high demand. The first batch of 2,850 70-cl bottles (generous at about 24 ounces, so the natural tendency is to share) sold out practically overnight. Distribution deals are being negotiated with other breweries, especially overseas. And Superflex has now established a Free Beer Foundation to spread the profits to other like-minded projects."

What makes Free Beer free is the same thing that makes free software free: Its recipe is open and licensed freely. Anyone can make improvements. But anyone who distributes an improved version must release the changes as well. Superflex keeps a log of the updates at, and it will release a new version every six months. Skands is inviting the world to help her make better beer, and in exchange the brewery is keeping the knowledge free for everyone.

Copyright mavens will wonder if such a license could really work in the US (where recipes are not copyrightable). But that quibble has slowed neither this particular "open business" nor the movement of which it is a part.

Indeed, we're seeing an explosion of open source businesses. Some are about developing software, like the Firefox browser. Others simply leverage the model of free software to forge a different kind of business, from the wildly popular Web-tagging tool and the blog-tracking search engine Technorati to the extraordinarily successful video site Revver, which embeds an ad bug into freely licensed user-generated videos, then pays the users as the clips spread. All of these businesses build upon the value created by their users, while keeping that value free for others to build upon as well.

When we begin to look at the range of examples – has a prominent collection – we might learn something from the pattern. Some have already seen enough to publish their insights. The short list of these books is led by MIT professor Eric von Hippel's Democratizing Innovation. Open source businesses, von Hippel explains, know that their customers are not idiots. These companies encourage customers to tinker with their products; they then learn from this tinkering how to make the products better.

Yochai Benkler's The Wealth of Networks places this commercial practice in a larger and perhaps more significant social context: Although peer production is profitable for business, writes Benkler, "we are in the midst of a quite basic transformation in how we perceive the world around us and how we act, alone and in concert with others." What he calls nonmarket peer production is a critical part of this transformation. The trick is not making it happen, but making it flourish.

And if my Wired boss, Chris Anderson, is right (and obviously, he must be) that we've entered the land of the long tail – where digital technology supports a massively more diverse range of products and models for production – then, as he puts it, making the consumer a producer is an excellent way to move a business up the long tail. In this model, free knowledge can drive a particular kind of free market – at least a kind that seems to flourish in a digital world.

Stallman is annoyed that Superflex calls its project "open source beer": "You should have called it 'free software beer,'" he said prior to the Free Beer launch. But he no doubt recognizes the potential of this hack. As thousands are surprised by the quality of this fantastic beer yet puzzled by its name, at least some will read the explanation prominently printed on its large and striking label. And a few of those may then think a bit more about what helps innovation flourish. It's not any magic word, like free or open. It is instead a practice that encourages the widest range of innovators. Superflex has inspired this practice with beer. And perhaps with much more as well.

Wired 14.09: Get Wiki With It

Wired 14.09: Get Wiki With It:

Peer review – the unsung hero and convenient villain of science – gets an online makeover.

"....In other quarters, traditional peer review has already been abandoned. Physicists and mathematicians today mainly communicate via a Web site called arXiv. (The X is supposed to be the Greek letter chi; it's pronounced 'archive.' If you were a physicist, you'd find that hilarious.) Since 1991, arXiv has been allowing researchers to post prepublication papers for their colleagues to read. The online journal Biology Direct publishes any article for which the author can find three members of its editorial board to write reviews. (The journal also posts the reviews - author names attached.) And when PLoS ONE launches later this year, the papers on its site will have been evaluated only for technical merit - do the work right and acceptance is guaranteed. 'Data becomes useful only if it's shared,' Surridge says. 'At the moment, our mechanisms for sharing information are the traditional journals, and if they're hard to get into, data is completely lost.'

No one's sure which of these ideas, if any, will prevail. Sure, discarding anonymity will go a long way toward breaking up the old-boys' network, and open comments are great for nailing fakes and plagiarists. (The online community, not peer review, helped bust the South Korean stem cell fraud Woo Suk Hwang.) But Nature is an elite journal that accepts few submissions, a kind of exclusivity that lets universities use publication as a proxy for worth in hiring and promotion decisions. How can they assess papers published online and 'reviewed' by an honors physics teacher? Have papers that went through an open process and got rejected been essentially published already? Plus, the idea of all these articles online, free for the Googling, terrifies the lucrative journal-publishing industry.

But seriously: Who cares? An up-and-coming researcher can get more attention from the right experts by publishing something earthshaking on arXiv than by pushing it through the usual channels. Crazy ideas will get batted around in moderated forums, which is pretty much what the Internet is for. Eventually, printed journal articles will be quaint artifacts. Scientific papers will be living documents with data published on Web pages – commented on, linked to, and mirrored by labs doing the same work 6,000 miles away. Every research effort will have thousands of reviewers working in real time. Today's undergrads have never thought about the world any differently – they've never functioned without IM and Wikipedia and arXiv, and they're going to demand different kinds of review for different kinds of papers. It's in their nature.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Bush's New Iraq Argument: It Could Be Worse

by Peter Baker, WaPo

[W]ith crucial midterm elections just 2 1/2 months away, Bush and his team are trying to turn the public debate away from whether the Iraq invasion has worked out to what would happen if U.S. troops were withdrawn, as some Democrats advocate. The necessity of not failing, Bush advisers believe, is now a more compelling argument than the likelihood of success.

Using such terms as "havoc" at Monday's news conference, Bush made no effort to suggest the situation in Iraq is improving. Instead, he argued: "If you think it's bad now, imagine what Iraq would look like if the United States leaves before this government can defend itself."

Christopher F. Gelpi, a Duke University scholar whose research on public opinion in wartime has been influential in the White House, said Bush has little choice. "He looks foolish and not credible if he says, 'We're making progress in Iraq,'" Gelpi said. "I think he probably would like to make that argument, but because that's not credible given the facts on the ground, this is the fallback. . . . If the only thing you can say is 'Yes, it's bad, but it could be worse,' that really is a last-ditch argument."

As recently as two weeks ago, Bush was still making the case that things in Iraq are better than they seem. The new Iraqi government "has shown remarkable progress on the political front," he said on Aug. 7, calling its mere existence "quite a remarkable achievement."

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Truthout | | Indictment Still Sealed, Fitzgerald Still Busy

Latest Truthout Update on the Rove Indictment Story

An indictment first reported by Truthout said to be connected to Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald's Plame investigation remains sealed, and Fitzgerald continues to work on the leak case.

The indictment, 06 cr 128, was returned by the grand jury hearing evidence in the CIA leak case between May 10 and May 17 - right around the time that Truthout reported, based on sources close to the investigation, that Karl Rove had been indicted on charges of perjury and lying to investigators.

However, that indictment remains under seal more than three months after it was filed - an unusually lengthy period of time, according to experts in the field of federal law. The indictment could be dismissed down the road, meaning the public may never get the opportunity to learn the identity of the defendant or the substance of the criminal case.

These experts said the length of time the indictment has been under seal suggests that the defendant named in the complaint is cooperating with an ongoing investigation and may have accepted a plea agreement.

Former federal prosecutor Laurie Levenson said it's very likely that the indictment was sealed in the first place because the 'defendant is cooperating with an investigation and the government wants to keep that person's identity secret' to protect the integrity of the investigation.

'It would be extraordinary to keep it sealed as the process goes on,' said Levenson, now a law professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles.

A two-month investigation undertaken by Truthout into the circumstances that led to Karl Rove's alleged exoneration in the leak probe has once again put the spotlight back on Sealed vs. Sealed, the heading under which 06 cr 128 was filed in US District Court between May 10 and May 17.

During numerous interviews with Truthout, sources with direct knowledge of the behind-the-scenes legal wrangling in the CIA leak case said the indictment specifically relates to the 2½-year-old leak probe. Other sources who have also been involved in the investigation confirmed this information.

The sources said that it was Karl Rove who led Fitzgerald's office to additional documentary evidence that was not turned over to the Special Prosecutor's staff in the early days of the investigation.

With Rove cooperating, the probe has once again shifted, and the focus now is on another high-level official in the executive branch: Vice President Dick Cheney.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Politicos beware: You live in YouTube's world. |

via Huffington Post

WASHINGTON – S.R. Sidarth never imagined his 15 minutes of fame would come from a sleepy campaign stop in the southwest Virginia town of Breaks. Or that his handiwork with a camcorder would catapult to the list of most-watched videos on the Web's most-trafficked video site. Or that The Washington Post would devote an entire article to exploring exactly what to call the 20-year-old college student's hairstyle - a mohawk or a mullet? (Answer: neither.)

Sen. George Allen (R) of Virginia also surely never imagined that the young man assigned to track his campaign appearances would cause him days of grief, simply by recording a comment that critics have called "racist" or, at best, "insensitive."

But in the brave new world of YouTube politics, almost anything is possible. And just 18 months after its launch, the website is already playing an integral role in more

CNN report on Youtube

Saturday, August 12, 2006

MIT's Energy 'Manhattan Project'

Wired News: MIT's Energy 'Manhattan Project'

"The urgent challenge of our time (is) clean, affordable energy to power the world," said MIT President Susan Hockfield.

"MIT is stepping into a vacuum, because there is no policy, vision or leadership at the top of our nation," he said. "It's uniquely matched. MIT has tremendous strengths across the board -- from science and engineering to management to architecture to the humanities. From that point of view, it's hugely significant."

YouTube - Me: Girl takes pic of herself every day for three years

YouTube - Me: Girl takes pic of herself every day for three years: ""

Monday, August 07, 2006

Wired 14.05: Lessig on stifling competition

Wired 14.05: Lessig on stifling competition:
"In 2005, the state of California conducted an experiment. Hoping to make paying taxes easier, it launched a pilot program for people who were likely to file 'simple returns.' The state already had the payroll information some taxpayers needed to file their returns, so it filled out 50,000 of those forms for them. Way in advance of the filing deadline, the state mailed the taxpayers their completed ReadyReturns. Like a Visa statement, the ReadyReturn itemized the taxes due, making the process easier for the taxpayer and more accurate for the government. People could either file the ReadyReturn or use the information to fill out forms on their own. Of taxpayers who hadn't yet filed, 30 percent used the return; more than 95 percent of that group said they would do so again. Praise for the program was generally over-the-top.

Soon after ReadyReturn was launched, lobbyists from the tax-preparation industry began to pressure California lawmakers to abandon the innovation. Their opposition was not surprising: If figuring out your taxes were easy, why would anyone bother to hire H&R Block? If the government sends you a completed form, why buy TurboTax?

But what is surprising is that their 'arguments' are having an effect. In February, the California Republican caucus released a report highlighting its 'concerns' about the program - for example, that an effort to make taxes more efficient 'violates the proper role of government.' Soon thereafter, a Republican state senator introduced a bill to stop the ReadyReturn program."

read the rest...

Lawrence Lessig

Wired 14.08: The Laptop Crusade

Wired 14.08: The Laptop Crusade

...As of early summer, One Laptop per Child was negotiating with many potential buyers – Argentina, Brazil, China, Egypt, India, Mexico, Nigeria, Thailand, and countries in Central America – some of them close collaborators in the design. But none of them have committed to the minimum purchase of 1 million laptops, at a cost of about $140 each (Negroponte expects the price to drop to $50 by 2010). Which means the program is a long way from Negroponte’s self-imposed minimum of 5 million laptops, expected to ship at the beginning of next year. “What happens if we get only 1 million?” Negroponte says. “We delay launch until we have enough.”

But Béhar has become a believer – and he’s not the only one. Intel is showing off a $450 education laptop, and Bill Gates has proposed plugging cell phones into televisions as a way to bring computers to the developing world. Competition is a welcome change from the eye rolls of a year or two ago.

“It’s like there’s this virus of cheap laptops,” Béhar says, laughing.
“That’s what happens when you plant an idea.”

Wired 14.08: Shawn Hogan, Hero

Wired 14.08: Shawn Hogan, Hero:

"Last November, Shawn Hogan received an unsettling call: A lawyer representing Universal Pictures and the Motion Picture Association of America informed the 30-year-old software developer that they were suing him for downloading Meet the Fockers over BitTorrent. Hogan was baffled. Not only does he deny the accusation, he says he already owned the film on DVD. The attorney said they would settle for $2,500. Hogan declined.

Now he's embroiled in a surprisingly rare situation - a drawn-out legal fight with the MPAA. The organization and its music cousin, the Recording Industry Association of America, have filed thousands of similar lawsuits between them, but largely because of the legal costs few have been contested and none have gone to trial. This has left several controversies unresolved, including the lawfulness of how the associations get access to ISP records and whether it's possible to definitively tie a person to an IP address in the age of Wi-Fi.

Hogan, who coded his way to millions as the CEO of Digital Point Solutions, is determined to change this. Though he expects to incur more than $100,000 in legal fees, he thinks it's a small price to pay to challenge the MPAA's tactics. "They're completely abusing the system," Hogan says. "I would spend well into the millions on this."


Wikispecies FAQ

What is Wikispecies?

Wikispecies is an open, wiki-based, species directory that provides a solution to the problem that there is no central registration of species data. Wikispecies will provide a central, more extensive database for taxonomy. Wikispecies is aimed at the needs of scientific users rather than general users.

read more....

Sifry's Alerts: State of the Blogosphere, August 2006

via SmartMobs

Sifry's Alerts: State of the Blogosphere, August 2006

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Discover Interview: E.O. Wilson (June, 2006)

Discover Interview: E.O. Wilson:

(need to log in at to view article)

Let's talk about your idea for an encyclopedia of life.

Wilson: Thanks to the Internet and to advances in digital photography, we have the ability to put online superb images of even the smallest organisms. So we can speed up the mapping of world biodiversity by an order of magnitude easily. What we need is an electronic encyclopedia of life, with one page for each species. On each page is given everything known about that species. This should be the driving force for future biodiversity studies; it's as simple as that.

But it's not happening?

Wilson: The responses I've gotten are so positive, including from molecular biologists, that logic tells me this is about to take off. They want to know what's out there. Once there's an encyclopedia of life that they can browse, they will enjoy an almost infinite treasury of important projects to work on. Suppose there's a snail in Indonesia that produces a powerful fungicide. Well, that might be known by just one elderly guy at Idaho State University who's a specialist on the snails of Indonesia. But when that species is in the encyclopedia, you can type in 'powerful fungicides,' 'snails,' 'tropical Asia' and . . .

And there it is.

Wilson: You got it. That's my dream. "

Wired 14.04: Generation Xbox

Wired 14.04: Generation Xbox

In Got Game: How the Gamer Generation Is Shaping Business Forever, John Beck and Mitchell Wade define the dominant characteristics of the nimble-thumbed set.

6 traits that define us in the post-Atari age

1. Arrogance: Killing the bad guys and saving the universe leads to a superiority complex. This carries over into the real world, too. Gamers as young as 20 often claim to be experts at whatever they do.

2. Sociability: Sitting alone at the console isn't considered alone time - especially when it's spent playing massively multiplayer online games. The more a gamer plays, the more likely they are to identify themselves as sociable.

3. Coordination: Virtual heroes must react quickly to visual cues to advance to the next level. A study by the University of Rochester found that visual processing dramatically increases with as little as 10 hours of gameplay.

4. Flexibility: There's always more than one way to win a game. To beat a particularly difficult sequence, gamers try different methods with tireless persistence. They tackle life's problems with the same flexibility. This allows for analytical, strategic, and open-minded thinking.

5. Competitiveness: Life is a game, and everyone plays to win. Even though gamers often succeed at teamwork, they retain a strong, underlying sense of personal ambition.

6. Insubordination: Logging thousands of hours in authority-free worlds teaches gamers to live by their own rules. Gen G accepts criticism exclusively from peers. Outsiders don't speak their language anyway.

And from the lead article of the section (Wired 04/2006) titled Dream Machines, comes this Benkler-like quote:

By moving away from the idea that media is something developed by the few (movie and TV studios, book publishers, game companies) and consumed in a one-size-fits-all form, we open up a world of possibilities. Instead of leaving player creativity at the door, we are inviting it back to help build, design, and populate our digital worlds.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Smart Mobs: Wikiversity, one Wikipedia per child, and WikiWyg

"A few minutes ago here at the Wikimania conference, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales announced that the One Laptop Per Child Project is including Wikipedia as one of the first elements in their content repository. (ac: though they've been talking about this for at least a year.)

He also announced a new project called Wikiversity. It will serve as an online center for the creation and use of free learning materials and activities. It will create and host a range of free content materials, multilingual learning materials, for all ages in all languages. It'll host scholarly projects and communities to support these materials, and foster research based in part on existing resources in Wikiversity and other wikimedia projects. Launching in three languages, in a six-month beta, within a month.

Wikimedia Foundation will also now have an advisory board to help improve partnerships, public relations, financing, etc. Additionally, Wikia and SocialText is launching Wikiwyg. It will make it easier for more people to get involved in wiki editing. The technological barrier to entry keeps out really smart people who are uncomfortable with the Wikipedia interface. 'Wikiwyg, in some shape or form, will be the future of the Internet,' because it will allow non-techies to become Wikipedians easily."