December 2008

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A pause, in the midst of the day’s third and longest flight delay, to note that David Weinberger has a wise and helpful piece about the Rick Warren matter at NPR. Dig it.

Video 1.0 is TV, low-def camcorders, VCRs, analog and HDTV as it now stands: in the form of “HD” that’s much prettier than SD but is still packed with artifacts because it flows through pipes (both wired and wireless) that limit how good it can look, and that flow only in one way: from producer to consumer. It’s everything we’ve seen up until now.

Video 2.0 is vividly described by Simon Aspinall of Cisco, who rocked Telco 2.0 last month with a vision of what TV over telecom can become. It’s also unpacked nicely in Video will be nearly 90% of Consumer IP traffic ty 2012, in the Telco 2.0 blog. Note the “to”. This is still TV. In Video 2.0, TV still predominates, even if there are a zillion “channels” and much of it is widening the sphincters of the cell phone system.

Video 3.0 is two way. Or many-way. It’s with, not just to. And its “def” is truly high, and not compromised by current channel-defined bandwidth constraints. This is what will disrupt both telecom and cablecom in a huge way, unless they get on the side of all producers — including the people they now call consumers. The opportunities here are enormous. I think telcos are especially advantaged in this sense: telephony is naturally two-way, and has been ever since the 1880s. Now is the time to think about how we return to that in a big way. Telcos may be getting hammered flat right now, but there’s a groundswell underneath there. Just watch.

Let it Snow

We were flying along in the bus when wham: it started snowing. Heavily. Now we’re creeping along through Westchester, and the road is clearly getting a little dangerous. There’s an inch or so on the ground now, and it’ll probably get a lot deeper before it starts raining later and turns it and turns it all into slush. Or “wintry mix,” as they now call it.

Love the weather map above, though. Looks like a flag.

Arg. I’ve got the picture, but WordPress won’t let me put it in this post. Dunno why.

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So I’m here in the Bolt Bus from Boston to New York. There’s wi-fi on board, and power outlets in the backs of most seats. But the wi-fi is slow, so I’m on a Sprint EvDO card. Getting about 1Mb down and .6Mb up. Not bad.

Anyway, I’ve recently uploaded a pile of photo sets to Flickr, where my inventory of photos is now approaching 26,000. Here is a list of just a few sets, mostly shot from airplanes and other moving vehicles:

Wow. It’s snowing now. Hard. We’re still in Connecticut, approaching the Westchester border. The map is quite colorful:

Hm. Not taking. Guess I need a separate post for it.

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A friend close to What’s Happening in several industries, plus the Obama Transition Team, tells me all the action is around Energy. It isn’t just that everybody’s Going Green. It’s just recognizing that everything infrastructural we talk about these days, from rebuilding bridges to waste management to the auto industry bailout, involves recognizing that what we’ve been doing since we replaced horses with cars has about run its course, and that it’s actually a Good Thing that the economy is grinding to a near-halt, forcing not only a reassessment of many formerly given assumptions, but that new ideas are springing up where large failures are being buldozed aside.

It is with this in mind that we should welcome posts such as Transition Team Weighing Blockbuster Housing and Stimulus Proposal, at SolveClimate. See what you think.

Wahyd of Manifest has an original idea for saving the Out of Town News landmark at the heart of Harvard Square.

I’ve been amazed since the Net first came along at how poorly it’s understood, even by people whose job is understanding it. Which includes me.

The more I’ve looked into the problem of Understanding The Net, the more I’ve realized that it’s a kind of infrastructure — yet not very structural. How can protocols be structural? Easy: when you rely on them, which is what infrastructure does for you. It’s common stuff that everybody relies on.

Anyway, I just put up Why Internet & Infrastructure Need to be Fields of Study, in Linux Journal. See whatcha think.

Call it a micki

I’m sitting here with Tom Stites talking about wiki maintenance, and what a pain it is. And it occurs to me that what I want in a wiki is MORE, the ultimate outliner — a program I dearly loved from when it was ThinkTank all the way up until I finally gave up on Mac OS9/Classic, which was the last thing it ran on. Nearly all my writing was done in MORE, because it allowed me to organize and re-organized hierarchies of topics, quickly and easily. It also helped me think, which is what one should be doing when one is writing stuff.

Wikis are flat. All topics are at the same level. This is fine for an encyclopedia, but lousy for, say, projects. Joint efforts such as are not flat. They have topics and subtopics. These change and move around, and this is where an outliner like MORE is so handy. With a few keystrokes you can move topics up and down levels, back and forth between higher-level headings… You can hoist any single topic up and work on that as if it were a top level. You can clone a topic or a piece of text and edit it in two places at once. I could go on, but trust me: it freaking rocked. There was no faster way to think or type. Hell, I’m typing this in one of its decendents: an OPML editor, also written by Dave Winer.

Anyway, just wanted to say, here in the midst of an unrelated local conversation, that wiki that works like MORE remains on the top of my software wish list for the world. Trust me: it would make the world a much more sensible place. And make both individual and group work a helluva lot easier.

Lessig: Take the money out of politics (and here’s a specific proposal for doing that), and then come back to me to talk about the good, public regarding reasons why Congress is stepping in to “save the auto industry.”

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Stephen Lewis has made a decades-long study of both the charms and absurdities of national and ethnic legacies. His most recent essay on the matter, Apple’s iTunes, NPR, Barriers to Giving, and the “Appliancing” of National Boundaries, unpacks the growing distance between the ideals of the Internet and the realities of dysfunctional nationalisms, and the failures of the former to transcend the latter.
He begins by describing his frustrations at trying to obtain podcasts of This American Life while overseas:

As it does with its iPhone, Apple “appliances” its services to geopolitical strictures inherited from the pre-Internet age and to a jingoistic concept of national identity quite contrary to the expansive spirit of This American Life and to the “worldwide” as in Worldwide Web. Podcasts of This American Life are available for purchase and download via iTunes only from IP addresses within the boundaries of the United States. Also, even within the US, Apple does not accept for payment credit cards issued by overseas banks. Last, even when listeners from within the US attempts a purchase a credit card issued by a US bank, Apple will not sell them podcasts if their iTunes Stores accounts were originally registered from abroad.

By jigsawing its services to fit national boundaries, Apple fragments the efficacy and global scope of the internet and denies NPR broader listenership, international impact, and potential revenues. By outsourcing exclusive sales of podcasts of the This American Life to Apple’s iTunes Store, NPR denies the benefits and insights of listenership and the pleasure of contributing to the support of Public Radio to Americans living and working abroad, not to mention citizens of all other countries.

Meanwhile, you can hear This American Life for free over the Net on hundreds of streams from the U.S. based public radio stations to which NPR wholesales the program for the stations to sell to listeners (who contribute on a voluntary basis), making the restrictions even more strange. Steve continues:

The Internet — in its role as prime infrastructure for the formation of community and conveyance of the information, entertainment, knowledge and transactions — is intangible and without physical location.  However, the infrastructure that supports it is quite physical, an ad hoc non-purpose-built amalgam of fiber, copper, and wireless  strung together, enabled, and animated by protocols.  By resting on a “borrowed” infrastructure, the Internet has inherited the “gatekeepers” that own and control, charge for, and regulate these legacy elements – telecom operators and service providers, cable TV companies, governmental authorities, etc.).  Such organizations still carve up the world according geopolitical entities and borders defined between the late-eighteenth century and the mid-twentieth and gerrymander services and access accordingly.  Apparently, so does Apple.  Apple’s method of “appliancing” country-by-country reinforces anachronistic borders and undermines the potential of the internet to transcend past divisions.

Steve also spends a lot of time in Turkey, a country where his own blog (the one I’m quoting here) gets blocked along with every other blog bearing the .wordpress domain name. Lately YouTube and Blogger have also been blocked. (For more on who blocks what, visit the Open Internet Initiative.)

These sites and services are easy for governments to block because they’re clustered and silo’d. Yet on the Internet these clusters and silos, once big enough, take on the character of countries. In this New York Times piece, Tim Wu says. “To love Google, you have to be a little bit of a monarchist, you have to have faith in the way people traditionally felt about the king”. Talk about retro.

Steve continues,

This has turned Google, a private company with no accountability to any constituency, into a negotiating partner of national governments whose laws or policies do not  reflect or respect the ethical stance claimed in Google’s own slogan.  Thus, Google now functions on a diplomatic level with the ability and clout to forge country-by-country compromises affecting internet activity and the free flow of information and opinion, Turkey’s YouTube and Blogger ban not least among them.

Well, Google does have accountability to its customers, most of which are advertisers. Which makes the whole thing even more complicated.

Meanwhile the promise of the Net continues to be undermined not only by wacky forms of counterproductive protectionism, but by our own faith in “clouds” that can often act more like solids than gasses.

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