Ada Lovelace Day

About The Authors

Suw Charman-Anderson

Suw Charman-Anderson

Suw Charman-Anderson is a social software consultant and writer who specialises in the use of blogs and wikis behind the firewall. With a background in journalism, publishing and web design, Suw is now one of the UK’s best known bloggers, frequently speaking at conferences and seminars.

Her personal blog is Chocolate and Vodka, and yes, she’s married to Kevin.

Email Suw

Kevin Anderson

Kevin Anderson

Kevin Anderson is a freelance journalist and digital strategist with more than a decade of experience with the BBC and the Guardian. He has been a digital journalist since 1996 with experience in radio, television, print and the web. As a journalist, he uses blogs, social networks, Web 2.0 tools and mobile technology to break news, to engage with audiences and tell the story behind the headlines in multiple media and on multiple platforms.

From 2009-2010, he was the digital research editor at The Guardian where he focused on evaluating and adapting digital innovations to support The Guardian’s world-class journalism. He joined The Guardian in September 2006 as their first blogs editor after 8 years with the BBC working across the web, television and radio. He joined the BBC in 1998 to become their first online journalist outside of the UK, working as the Washington correspondent for BBCNews.com.

And, yes, he’s married to Suw.

E-mail Kevin.

Member of the Media 2.0 Workgroup
Dark Blogs Case Study

Case Study 01 - A European Pharmaceutical Group

Find out how a large pharma company uses dark blogs (behind the firewall) to gather and disseminate competitive intelligence material.


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All content © Kevin Anderson and/or Suw Charman

Interview series:
at the FASTforward blog. Amongst them: John Hagel, David Weinberger, JP Rangaswami, Don Tapscott, and many more!

Corante Blog

Monday, March 31st, 2008

F2C: Democracy, Politics, Internet

Posted by Suw Charman-Anderson

Alec Ross, Donna Edwards, Matt Stoller, moderated by Micah Sifry

Mica Sifry
We are living in amazing times, we have a new people-to-people system emerging, and all the things that have hit the commercial arena are now hitting the political arena. Want to look at how we can change governance, rather than how to change campaigns.

Sunlight Foundation starting new project, PublicMarkup.org, to let people on the web comment on legislation.

Alec Ross
Before we talk about the specifics of Obama’s proposals for transparency in government, we’ve seen candidates before propose things, and what’s more important than that is the attitude and mindset of the campaign. Obama hasn’t been in gov’t for decades and feels a close link to people outside the beltway, and knows that they are the ones that have valuable insight. Obama is fluent in technology but not a coder. What’s compelling for him is not tech, but what it can do. He didn’t start his campaign with an organisation or apparatus, nothing approaching the Clinton campaign, so had to figure out how to organise campaign very quickly. Had to figure out how to organise the reservoir of goodwill that was out there. Did it using tech.

Big chances Obama too last year where he got power by giving up power; used his website not just as a way to raise money from small donors but also as a way or organising the campaign. 100,000 offline events held because of stuff organised online. Principles around tech-based empowerment and openness have helped draw peop[le who are not normally part of the process into the process.

Obama gets it, he cares. Getting to the specifics, that’s where he’s been most bold. He has published detailed proposals which are at the bleeding edge of what’s acceptible in Washington. E.g. he said let’s take all government data and make it available in machin readable universially accessible format, so anyone can go and get it.

If you want to find out what pollutants are in your environment, Obama says if that content lives in Dept of Energy, should put it on the web, so you can put in your zip code and find out about your community. Level fo strust that he thinks gov’t needs to have so that citizens with information can make decisions in their own interest.

Also says, let’s take the communications from Congress and make it available to the public. A telecoms lobbyist, speculation at her relationship with McCain, you can assertain that what did happen that McCain sent letters to the five memebers of the FCC and he got one of her clients to get a media diversity waiver. So it’s not about the bheaviour, but let’s make it public and let the public make up their own minds. Let peopel organise around tissues as they see fit.

Detailed proposals for this. If Barack Obama president, there are a series of specific principles and ideas, lot of chattering about the “good luck implementing this stuff”. But that is a place where citizens themselves can take action.

Micah: Which is the hardest proposal?

Alec: Taking official communications between officials and making them public. The people who’s mail would be reaad would have to make that legislation. There’ll be opposition. Secondly making gov’t data available will be resisted over the cost.

Proposal for a government CTO. You can’t have a company in the US an not have a CTO. Our federal go\vt does not have a CTO so there are very basic things that aren’t happening, you get silos.

E.g. clean tech programmes that involved the Dept of Energy, Dept of Labour, Office for Sci and Tech Policy, there are no co-ordinating entities. Think about technology an FCC spectrum auction failed because gov’t didn’t play a co-ordinating role. People took for granted that there’d be leadership in the federal gov’t, but there’s no one to co-ordinate. So trying to create a level of organisation in the gov’t that doesn’t exist.

Matt Stoller: Am a blogger. Can we open up government is a question we’re addressing. Yes, we can, and it is happening. Question is what are the contours of what is happening. Doc Searls said, Can you fix congress the way you fix a dog? Congress is us, so if you’re angry at congress, how do we take responsibility to change that? That’s what we’re seeing over the last ten years or so. but we haven’t connected the organs of power to the public.

One blog encountered in 2005 was a blog in New Jersey, about very local issues. Was an argument about local swimming pool, and it being expensive because there were too many life guards, so parents argued with each other. Then the life guards came into the discussion and got offended. And that changed the dialogue, as the life guards had to defend what they do and parents had to understand what was going on. Took something implicit and made it explicit.

Legislation 2.0, to have a dialogue hosted by Senator Durban. Got an exciting discussion about internet policy, but it went nowhere. Didn’t turn into anything, didn’t generate any political mtion. Failed to connect that with political power; difficult to connect with real political power.

How do we create the bridging pieces.

Donna Edwards has had a long career in public advocacy. In early 90s working to lower prescription drug prices. Democrats didn’t want this in the bill, so Donna went to Seattle to editorialise against Senator Foley til he changed his mind. That’s a tough thing to do, but shows sympathy.

Donna Edwards: From a campaign perspective we really need to tool up what we are doing. Sometimes people don’t even know there’s an election on. Need to raise the discussion from the mire that it’s in. But step back from technology. Used to be a systems engineer for Lockheed working on Nasa programme. Things have changed a lot since then, but not all of our communities have been able to be a part of that change.

Where I live I have dial-up internet. Was at home last night, needed to work online, but couldn’t get on. Complete disaster. Reason I have dial-up is because Verizon says that they provide ‘broadband’,which is sort of true, except if you live 200 years away from where it’s routed. So really, they don’t provide service. Children in the community who maybe don’t have access to a computer at home, and who have to do research to keep up with their classes, have to go to the library to keep up with their coursework, etc. Think about many of our most vulnerable communities who lack the ability
to access the jobs and opportunities in the 21 century. This is shameful.

Look around the room, and you all look amazing, but you don’t look like those communities. If we leave out those people, they will just slip further and further behind.

For the campaign, we can use the internet to communicate, and it was amazingly helpful. But at the same time, some folks just need a bit of paper because they can’t get online. It seems extraordinary to be having this conversation now, but it’s reality. We were operating in two worlds, 21st C and 20th C, and that alone poses tremendous challenges.

Not at time in public policy anymore where we can hope that the tech community, the service providers, will do the right thing because it’s the right thing to do. Those of us who can afford it and have capacity will have access, and those who can’t won’t because it’s not efficient for some companies to reach out to vulnerable communities.

When I go into congress, I’m not thinking about a tech policy for us, but how do we have a tech policy that works for our most vulnerable communities.

In the campaign, it was fun to use blogs, and it was fascinating. Did something on the Washington Post blog, and took a long time to answer a question and the WaPo chap chastised her for thinking for a long time about a question. Not sure that she wants to read everyone’s emails, but she does want to see policy stuff come out, meeting results. Legislators need to have contact with the community.

Importance of having open access to the internet. Want to decide for ourselves what is useful or appropriate, and don’t want someone else sorting through it for me. Worries about policies that encourage gatekeepers. We’ve had too many gatekeepers, and vibrancy of the internet means limiting the gatekeepers, and to trust that we are pretty smart people who can figure out a lot of things for ourselves.

Jim Baller
Recently wrote an article evaluating positions of candidates on broadband policy issues. All three have very positive positions on this. Obama has the most extensive and a complete statement of his principles on his website; Clinton in the middle; McCain hasn’t said much but what he has said is revealing.

McCain and John Chambers (Cisco CEO), were asked what Congress could do to improve innovation. Chambers said they need to cut the rhetoric, make broadband a priority in the US, establish a national broadband plan, change FCC definitions and measurement, US is falling behind and will continue to do so. McCain said “I agree with John.”

McCain was also an early and strong supporter of community broadband. Introduced legislation with Sen. Frank Lautenberg to prevent states from erecting barriers to public entry.

(Updated after clarification email from Jim which filled in the bits I’d missed when transcribing. Thanks Jim!)

Matt
Legislation 2.0, they wanted to continue the discussion on Red State, and it was a good decision, was a high quality discussion about broadband strategy. Republican activists were saying that gov’t investment made sense. Tremendous opportunity to have a bipartisan discussion on broadband. Not enough enough faith in the system, but there is something close to a national consensus.

Micah
Regarding transparency, there’s a strange coalition. FCC tried to mandate what bloggers could say about politics, and the bloggers rose up and swatted that down. Was an effort to put together a database of all gov’t contracts, and bloggers got together to find out who was blocking it and got the block lifted.

Trust is a big issue. Transparency can breed trust. Learnt that from software. Donna, you said you wanted to get rid of gatekeepers, and trust the people more, and the artificial gatekeepers are losing their jobs, yet you also said you weren’t so sure you wanted to put all this information out there. Question is, where do you draw the line? If you’re not doing it, it will be done to you, as we’re all watching, yet I’m sympathetic, sharing all the information about what you’re doing is giving your opponents an avenue to attack you. You’ve said you’re going to keep blogging, so where do you come down on this.

Donna: There’s a huge difference for an elected official publishing their schedule, and they should be doing that. Recently I was in Indianapolis, meeting with legislators, and a guy came up and introduced himself a lobbyist form the nuclear power industry, and said would like to give her campaign money. But she turned him down, if you want to have a meeting then can do that. He said they wanted to help, but she rejected it. But he didn’t understand why she didn’t want his money.

So if I put on “I met with a lobbyist with the nuclear industry”, you’d see that they didn’t give a campaign contribution.

What I means about email communications, I do not think that completely effective communications are made by email and it’s not a window into policy making. Value of seeing that isn’t there. Schedules, legislation, that’s very important for public engagement. But want the public engagement to have meaning and not be just about voyeurism.

Micah: What can we do about mass deliberation on a bill or policy. We delegate that and the process, most people would agree, is broken. So what would you do that would be different? The Obama campaign has mentioned wikis and blogs and other tools. But what would that look like in practice.

Alec: Campaigns can be more efficient and effective when online. But sometimes, tech tools are ways of keeping dialogue in a pen, and checking the box. But Obama, they are developing the policy and are drawing good ideas from the discussion. All depends on the attitude. Are you using them to really engage, or just checking a box. Not sure how to use them in government. It’s a question of attitude, not what’s the best wiki.

Donna: I’ve been connected with technology for 30 years, and technology is a tool, it’s not a substitute for an engagement. Are we a democracy or a republic? People are very distrustful of government and those they’ve elected, and rightly so. As a result, some of us are thinking of ways we can engage these tools because we just don’t trust the people we elect to be deliberative or helpful. Not sure it’s in our political or democratic best interest to foster that distrust.

Spend a lot of time in the community and talking to people, trying to figure out how to use technology to enable discussions and engagement. How can we engage with people who are otherwise very busy, but tech isn’t a substitute, and I fear we’re going down that track.

Matt: What’s left out of this discussion is power. There’s a reason that white guys are the ones to talk about this, and it has to do with power. Everyone in this room is empowered, I have the luxury to experiment with tools and tech. What gets left out is our obligation as the most empowered citizens in the most empowered country in the world. How are we going to devolve power to those who don’t have it. It’s not just about access, it’s about everything, literacy, nutrition, about an economy where 40% of the population have no credit. This all relates fundamentally to democracy. How do we change that.

Alec: Was a proposal made by Clinton, when she issued her national broadband policy, she created America Connects, and Public Knowledge did a piece examining the group behind it. And Clinton actually removed all references to it, and completely changed her broadband campaign. Not a gotcha, but this is a case where one person who had no power, took the time to put a very thoughtful investigative piece, and within two weeks it affected a candidates policy.

People have become very cynical about “If I engage, will it matter”? Tech has made it easier for people who aren’t in seats of power to exert power and make it matter.

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Monday, March 31st, 2008

F2C: Open mobile and wireless

Posted by Suw Charman-Anderson

Rich Miner

Google Android. Group manager mobile products. Open handset alliance of 34 partners to help build Android, an open handset platform, based on Linux and write programs. Also third party dev environment, along with $10m competition to award prizes to best applications built for that environment.

Mobiles - smartphones - have power of a desktop PC in 2002. Mobiles fall far short of the things we were doing on 2002 in terms of ability to connect and delivery communications and multimedia experiences. Huge gap between what the hardware can do and what the software delivers. Mobile ecosystem is very closed, in terms of platforms which are closed, and even the ‘open’ OSs are closed, like Symbian or Mobile Windows. Called open because it has APIs, but if you’re trying to create applications then it’s not open. Level of control these platforms maintains prevents carriers, individuals and others form innovating.

There’s typically an arcane process between developers and the users of the applications, so huge hurdles that the dev has to get through to get his app to consumers. If you’re a software dev and you realise that your destiny is controlled by onerous testing requirements of the platform owners. Same with content.

If you want to distribute video of a cat playing with yarn, you can do that online. You can be votes best video, and you can rise to the top. In mobile industry, there are walls that prevent people making stuff available.

Google knows that mobile is important. Many mobiles are people’s only computer, they may never own a laptop or desktop. Problem with existing platform is that the process of developing and distributing apps is too onerous. So building own platform, Android, which will open the mobile space and will provide significantly more innovation.

Built it so that there’s a large ecosystem, brought a large group of people together to open source the platform. There are other open platform initiatives, but realised that none of them were unifying everything, or providing everything you’d one for a complete phone. Google’s invested significant resources.

This isn’t about a single GooglePhone, but about an entire range of phones, it’s not to hold up a phone to the iPhone, but it’s a platform that hopefully the manufacturers will build phones on. People also want to build on top of the Android platform. Goal is to break down these closed platforms, and that you enable a more open handset ecosystem.

This will allow people to put applications out there and people will be able to choose what they want, and rate how good they are. Want more innovation.

If you look at what Linux delivers, but to say you’re going to take Linux and build a mobile consumer device isn’t the right way to do it. Linux isn’t really even a consumer computing OS yet. Need to put a bunch of dedicated software layers on top of Linux to do that. Linux is a lower level, but want high-speed 2D/3D graphics, tools for Java apps, all the layers of software you need on top of Linux. This software’s either written by Google or written by experts in the community.

Our goal is not to inhibit innovation, so using Apache 2.0 software licence, so that brands can build software and not have to open source it. Don’t want to put them off.

Android is still under dev, but handsets will ship second half of this year, and then the software will be open sourced. So it’s not being developed as an open source project, but is going to be made available when handsets are.

Carriers look at Google as competitive, working with them to get them to understand that they can make them lots of money as a partner, and are not competitors. Carriers can take the OEM and brand it, do whatever they like with it, can build a tightly branded handset. Can even build locked phones on it, and that’s ok.

But since announcing Android, the message of openness is resonating in the industry. There are media battles to be seen as more open. And once consumers understand what being open means, they won’t accept it when that’s taken away. They will value openness over closedness. Google happy that message of openness is so well received.

Michael Calebrese
Debate of consumer’s rights to run whatever they want on wireless. Open access to the airwaves needed. 700 mhz spectrum auction just finished. More spectrum means more competition? No, oligarchy. No new entrants. DSL duopoly got exclusive rights to >90% of the spectrum, and got the best bits too.

Licences can be conditioned by gov’t. Propose conditions that might guarantee new entrants, so that new ISPs etc. could get good quality bandwidth. FCC adopted more limited open access condition. Verizon fought conditions, and then announced open development, thus qualifying to take valuable chunk of network.

Larger point is that general public won’t have an alternative to the carriers unless we have more open spectrum. Need to go back to early days of Hoover, in early 1920s, before he imposed licensing for CBS and RDA, before the radio act, most small radio stations were sponsored by local groups and they tried to share the airwaves. But interference caused regulation.

Exclusive licensing and auctions has resulted in capacity being wasted. Auctions assume we have scarcity. But what’s scares is government licences, not spectrum. 95& of spectrum is not being used at any given time.

If we want open wireless, we need open spectrum. smart radio tech, cognitive radios, could utilise underused spectrum. 49 channels are reserved for TV, even though 7 are used in any local market. Even after the digital TV transition, there will still be a lot unused.

But access to TV whitespace is a starting point. Concept of whitespace needs to be broader. Much more wasted capacity wasted in bands that are licensed to governmental bodies, such as forestry or military. Military are much more open to sharing, because they know that they can use whitespace to sniff out spare spectrum anywhere in the world.

Soon, edge devices will be able to share any unused capacity. Need to think beyond passive sensing tech, particularly when looking at gov’t bands. Last world radio congress, asked for study about how beacons to broadcast data about spectrum environment to make it easier for devices to grab unused spectrum quickly and efficiently.

As TV whitespace becomes available, cost of spectrum becomes no longer a barrier to entry. Will also provide rocket fuel for community wireless networks, such as mesh wireless.

Although we initiated this debate, what will be critical will be degree of open spectrum.

Richard Whitt
Google This is a really important proceeding at the FCC right now, unique opportunity, supporting the tech and public, to create momentum for public use of unlicensed spectrum. Lots of spectrum. Taking on entrenched incumbent, broadcasters,m who don’t want to see anyone come into “their space” and utilise these spectrum band. Lots of misinformation, but they are a powerful and pervasive presence.

Another camp entered, the wireless carriers, CTIA, including T-Mobile and Sprint. Third front is the wireless microphone chaps, who think there will be interference problems.

Testing phase for devices from people like Microsoft and Philips, but test devices not functioning properly. Most recent tests shut down, so whilst that’s really supposed to prove the concept, but the opponents are ;seizing on that as proof that it can’t work. Battle of scientific fact, but also it’s a PR battle, and a political battle. Like to think that the good guys can wine, but if you can get involved, send and email, send letter, write to your representatives, got to the FCC. This has to be a grassroots effort, not just a top down. If you think this is the right cause we need to pull together. Need to make whitespace something everyone can use.

Brett Glass
Runs a wireless ISP in Wyoming. Founded Lariat, wireless broadband ISP, and did it because he had to. Wanted to live in the countryside, and university was the only thing in Wyoming that had decent connection to the internet.

Got together with businesses, pooled money, got a T1 line. World’s first wireless broadband provider. Started as a non-profit, and were besieged by members to take it private because they wanted to have investment. Wanted someone else to take care of their ISP needs. Now a rapidly growing ISP. Serving areas unlicensed by other service provided. Mount a radio on the roof. Cable won’t go to these places, neither will ISPs. But they will.

Fibre isn’t economical, it’s got to be wireless. Why aren’t indie wireless ISPs more well known? Reasons not growing so fast - upstream issues. prices are increasing for any small carrier to do business with the backbone operators. Backbone operators turning into local monopolies, which won’t co-operate. Triple price of the bandwidth, which triples price to customers.

If gov’t wanted to do something, it would be to require the backbones to open up in smaller locations.

Also problems with wireless spectrum auctions. Insufficient granularity - have to buy half a state not a county. Timing issues. Big upfront payments. Prevent new entrants, prevent small carriers getting in there.

Net neutrality stuff could also make them not competitive anymore.

And P2P concerns. Why is it that Comcast are suddenly throttling back P2P. Can get a file either from the client server, goes to ISP, then to local loop to user. ISP backbone connections are pretty expensive, but have to pay it to get content to the customer.

P2P clients start using bandwidth from ISPs, which is more expensive than it would be if the content was sat on a colo somewhere.

Does restricting P2P limit free speech? But any content or service you can get through P2P you don’t have to get through P2P, could provide it another way that doesn’t hit small ISPs.

In Japan, increased bandwidth available to the home. P2P grew to be more than 70% of traffic. Adding capacity doesn’t solve the problem, because it will just fill up. Need to manage network and make it more efficient.

Glen Strachan
Has worked in Romania and Uganda, connecting schools with funding from US Aid. Macedonia, wanted to provide internet to all schools in the country. Went to Macedonia, found that broadband were minimal, only available in major city. 120k account counted as ‘broadband’. 2mb for €10,000.

Not enough to provide connectivity to schools, but also need to think about regulatory environment. Monopoly part-owned by government. Opened up market using schools as anchor. US gov’t paid to go to run open competition for an ISP, could only use a wireless ISP. No money could be spent on a monopoly so had to be wireless.

Market opened in Jan. Four vendors bid, winning vendor and signed a contract. paide them $2.5m for connectivity, just bought services, not equipment. They built out their own network, and had to put up same amount of money. Incentive money only for rural areas. Network had to be built between April til September when Schools opened. Was up by August. Covered all schools.

Goal was to create a competitive atmosphere that would reduce the prices so schools could afford it. Internet penetration was 4%, now is 34% three years later.

Macedonian gov’t has purchase 180k computers for schools. Price for connectivity is €10 for 9gb, €25 for unlimited.

Now doing same thing for Montenegro. Smaller country. Finished up in Montenegro. Working on Senegal, who want to use the Macedonia Connects model, but Senegal has no regulatory reform so will play a vital part. Also lots of corruption in Montenegro so reform was required there.

US Aid has allowed the creation of a model that can be replicated in developing countries.

[Again, brain too slow to deal with the questions. Sorry. Heath Row is taking fab notes too, rivalling me for speed and verbatim transcription. He's also got the open fibre session notes that I missed. I should find him and say hello just to compare notes on taking notes.]

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Monday, March 31st, 2008

F2C: Susan Crawford

Posted by Suw Charman-Anderson

Susan Crawford: I have an image of a ticking clock because all good talks have a sense of urgency. And life is short, so we should tackle big questions today.

What makes a life significant?
- and inner ideal, intellectual, conscious, novel
- joined with active will

These ideals have to be joined to will and action.

Back to the ticking clock. My father’s life is drawing to a close, not this month, but soon. So the ideal for him is to listen to music, as he is a composer. For him, the ideal is pure human expression in music. It’s the most powerful thing to him - as his mind gives up and his body decays, the music stays.

Going to tie together music as an ideal, the great subjects of this conference. I do believe in an open internet and want to make this talk as human as possible.

We will spend a lot of time talking about network operators, because in the US these companies suffer inadequate competition for high-speed access. We’re paying a lot for low speeds, but they are not monopolies. This is an oligopoly, with a few sellers providing for the industry. They act for the industry as a whole, so there will never be ruinous competition, but prices will never serve the users, it’s not a competition model, it’s something in between.

There is incomplete substitutability, as products offered aren’t the same. These differences amplified by huge amounts of ads. Market power different only in degree from a monopolist, but similar in kind.

Can’t go to antitrust, as their actions will always adhere to the letter of the law, and it would undermine the economy, and litigation would be ruinous.

What’s the model? Stuck on the idea of competition, the idea that enough actors competing will give just he right results. Does restraint come from other companies? Doesn’t seem so.

In an oligopolistic world, the restraint comes from retailers or consumers/users of the good, and that countervailing power is what answers the power of the oligopoly.

But the users aren’t there. we need to find a way to organise the users in a way that would make restrains real. Doesn’t have to be present in regulation, doesn’t have to be law, if there were adequate countervailing power from users.

We can be as smart as we want to be, but without votes, without the ability to affect how a congressman feels about an issue, we’re nowhere. The problem with net neutrality is that it’s not actively connected to people who vote. Source of the countervailing power has to be user stories, human communication, made possible through the internet, that makes those lives more significant. The stories that give your life purpose need to be told.

I’m not the one to tell them, the way to do this is to simply the message, make it as simple as possible, as musical as possible, so that is’ about the openness of the internet. Each one of them has these ideals that can be empowered, and we have to tell that story that aggregates the response to oligopoly.

Galbraith who thought about countervailing power used to go singing on NYE, and used to lead Auld Lang Syne, and need to do more of that. If I die tomorrow, I want to have talked to you about the effort to bring those stories forward via One Web Day. Out of character for me.

Purpose is to globalise a constituency of the internet. Whatever local issue are, to focus on those, could be connectivity, censorship, etc. 22 Sept. Third one this year. Opportunity to tell stories and teach about how it makes our lives better. Offline and online events. Lots of blog posts, twitters, videos. To make visible the constituency that will provide the countervailing force to the oligopoly.

But the leader isn’t me, it has to be you. Be a part of the celebration this year.

Each talk can have only one message. Mine is that whatever you do, do something to bring people together. Our work and our lives are so closely intertwined, and there’s a great source of countervailing power in all internet users that hasn’t been called on to tell its stories, and I’m here to ask you to do that.

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Monday, March 31st, 2008

Is Google hijacking newspaper website traffic with new search?

Posted by Kevin Anderson

From the Twittersphere, Robert Andrews pointed me in the direction of this post by Martin Belam, Google hijacks traffic from newspaper site search. Martin as always makes some good arguments on why this might be a threat to newspapers.

Whilst Google has dressed this up as being for the benefit of users, it does have some significant implications for the newspapers involved, and has the potential to dent their revenue. … By allowing people to do site searches whilst still on google.co.uk, Google is potentially reducing the number of page, and therefore advert, impressions that these newspapers may be getting. In fact, not only that, but Google is effectively hijacking the advertising that can be displayed by newspapers against search queries on their own site.

I agree that this might negatively impact newspapers’ revenue both in terms of display adverts and also when the newspapers themselves (including the folks that pay my wage, the Guardian) insert text adverts alongside their search results.

Where I might disagree is Martin’s argument that it negatively impacts user experience. He says that Google’s position is that they can provide search better than the news sites. Well, the sad truth is that whether it’s information architecture or search, most news organisations have been very slow to improve these parts of their services. Some news and media organisations have forced their users to use Google because their own search is unusable. They still are making the unmissable, unfindable.

I also see a number of newspapers forcing their users to follow a print paradigm that their drive-by readers may not be familar with. I guess it’s useful for newspapers to allow people to filter their knowledge based on authors, section and branding. It’s useful for those people who are familiar with those things, but increasingly, I believe that many people coming to a site from some random link on the internet aren’t familiar with those things and wouldn’t find that type of filtering useful and may find site architecture based on those considerations baffling. It’s sad that in 2008, we’re still building news sites for us and not our audiences. News editors can’t see the forest from the dead trees and build sites based on their print reading behaviours and their intimate knowledge of their desk structure instead of information needs of their audiences. When you look at online audiences for national or international titles, the great majority are not going to have any familiarity with your print product. Using print product paradigms as a basis for site architecture is a mistake.

Hey maybe I’m an edge case. Or maybe not. (Go to about 2:35 in the discussion of The State of the News Media 2008 by On the Media.) I only read physical newspapers when I fly. I rarely buy newspapers, and my news consumption is a lot more promiscuous. I don’t believe that any news source provides me with the complete picture so I fill in the blanks on my own.

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Monday, March 31st, 2008

links for 2008-03-31

Posted by Kevin Anderson

  • Kevin: It’s time for news organisations to move more boldly. “By moving far faster than conventional media are moving now, accelerating into a space-race urgency to revolutionize their content and business.”

Monday, March 31st, 2008

F2C: Brad Templeton

Posted by Suw Charman-Anderson

Brad Templeton, from EFF.

Involved with EFF and Bit Torrent Corporation, but not speaking officially on behalf of that.

Most people here strongly in favour of open networks. P2P is what the internet is, end to end is where it’s at.

Real invention of the internet was not packet switching or email. Not a technological invention. It was the pricing model, which is that i pay for my line to the middle, and you pay for yours, and we don’t worry about the bits in between.

There were other networks, but the internet was the one that worked. It enabled a bunch of applications because it stopped requiring that every application be financially justified. The early networks were in the hands of corporations’ bean counters, which would stifle innovation.

If there had been packet bills for pictures of fish tanks, as per early internet uses, and there’d be no way to justify that. We’d have had a network of timid users; people have a psychological cost to paying money as well as a financial. Even if the amounts are small. But great stuff came from en environment where pricing model not damaging.

Monster in the closet. Everybody oversells their internet capacity, offering unlimited internet or a pipe that’s bigger than they can supply. The expect you not to use your allowance.

Got into a debate of ‘whose pipe is it’? Dissonance between what the customers think they are buying and what vendors think they are selling. DSL, upstream component often unused. That got exploited by P2P, finding a network resource that was unused was a valuable thing in some cases. But getting battles over that.

P2P is clearly the best tech for publishing a file cheaply, so not surprising that copyright violators use it, although that’s not inherent in the technology.

Something new will always be a bandwidth hog, there’s always going to be things that use more bandwidth than others. Worried that the backlash against P2P is that you end up beating down the winner, the most effective tool. If you got rid of P2P, something else would come along.

Law to protect network neutrality is hard to write effectively. All telecom regulation principles have caused more harm than good. They started with good intention in many cases, but before long they did something bad.

One thing they do bad is that as soon as you have a regulation in place, no matter how wonderful it is, simply having paperwork generates a barrier. E.g. export restrictions on encryption methods. Having to do the paperwork make companies take the encryption out of their products. So worried about that.

Like putting out a fire with corn-based ethanol - costs more in energy to make than you get out of it. But because of clever regulation people are going down this route and it’s all a lie.

Universal service, long ago, maybe helped. Today rural wireless can be delivered for less than urban landlines.

Once put a telephone box in the middle of Burning Man. Easy to do now, can bring telephony now to rural areas.

E911 is a case in point, if you want help in an emergency then you have to pay $1 per month per user. This regulation strangles innovation in telephony.

CALEA, regulation that allows the gov’t to wiretap. Companies don’t know if they have to comply. Has cost $500m, but no idea if it’s caught anyone at all. Companies who put this capability into equipment then sell it on to other countries, so giving them built-in surveillance.

2006; 13 digital wiretaps, 1714 of all types, convictions about 1.8x. Very expensive, hardly caught anyone.

Spectrum Allocation, started as a good idea, now is very stupid. Most spectrum not used effectively. Fights over whitespace. Firms bit $50 billion for monopolies. What did we learn from 802.11?

Replace FCC with three words: Don’t be selfish.

One regulation that’s so far been successful is the one EFF are suing AT&T with. Wiretaps - phone companies allowed NSA to put in taps on all traffic without warrants, so one good law told them not to do it, but they ignored it when the White House asked. President tried to get the law nullified, but the Senate said no.

Where is the answer?
- be careful what policies you have
- review all policies after a few years
- default is that they expire
- more bandwidth and competition
- it’s the monopoly, stupid

In many cases, we’ve created these monopolies. 100 years ago perhaps they made sense as a monopoly, but now they don’t. Some say that cable companies are not monopolies, you can move company just by moving your house.

If we can get in the dark fibre, get in the competition. Fibre is going to deliver what we need. Need to let people build from the bottom up. People say the internet can’t scale for video, but that’s wrong. There’s enough bandwidth out there. But P2P really does scale up, especially now there are things being done, part of the Comcast agreement with Bit Torrent, will cause more local peer detection, and it’s the creation of local caches of data from a ground-up tech which is very exciting.

[Note: I have a hideous cold, which is making concentrating very difficult. I know I've missed bits out - apologies.]

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Monday, March 31st, 2008

Freedom to Connect: David Isenberg

Posted by Suw Charman-Anderson

So I’m here in Washington DC at David Isenberg’s Freedom to Connect conference. It’s a very different crowd to the one I usually run in, so it should be really interesting.

David Isenberg
Over the next two days we’re going to expand the discussion. Our planet is in danger of becoming hostile to life; not just about rising tides and flooding, but the carbon in the atmosphere could extinguish life on earth. So I believe that we can use the internet to conserve more atmospheric carbon than its infrastructure generates. And we can use the internet for global participation that transcends tribalism to end war.

This is a remarkable group from all around the world. We are innovators and activists, academics, investors, lawyers regulators, builders of networks, and somewhere in here there’s also a man of the cloth. Among us is or will soon be a son who brought his father, and a mother who brought her daughter. This is how it should be, because saving the internet should be a family affair.

Some of us are here because they don’t believe that the internet needs saving, or if it does, it needs saving from people like me. I welcome those who would be the minority view in the room, because too often we only talk to our friends. I’m under no illusions that minds will be changed, but hopefully a mutual understanding can be reached.

The story we’ll tell in the next two days is one of companies under the disruptive power of the internet, it’s a story we all wrote in one way or another, in blog or C or in cheque books or in wrinkles on our hands and faces. It’s a story we won’t find in the mainstream media because that would be the story of the media’s own impending destruction.

It’s the story of one telephone company that i worked for and loved and hated and tried to save, called AT&T. That AT&T doesn’t exist anymore. AT&T shaped me and made me who I am today, I’m half Bell-head and half net-head. AT&T had other Davids too, people who invented photovoltaics, the transistor, C, UNIX, DSL and the cable modem. It’s also a story of managers who didn’t understand technology so they sent consultants to Bell Labs rather than go themselves and display their own ignorance.

The corporate culture was so deeply rooted that their culture was unquestionable. Managers had to rise through 18 levels of management in 20 years. It’s the story of an executive who drove AT&T’’s computer business to failure and kept getting promoted. It’s the story of failed businesses and partnerships and a cell-phone division that would have failed if the mothership hadn’t been so big.

It’s the story of competitors created by a President’s pen stroke, that were destroyed a few years later by the courts. It’s the story that competition would replace regulation, and that competition destroyed.

It’s the story of people struggling to be free. When every record label rejects DRM, or a third of all iPhones are unlocked this is a victory. Neo-econs say these are responses to market forces, but they are not, they are victories, our victories. The struggle to keep the net free is like the struggle to work a 40 hour week, or to end wars. If we want a free internet we need to take it and build it.

The story we’ll tell is the future of the internet. We are writing it, but we do not know how it will end.

[Holds up a bit of fibre cable.]

Three fibres can carry the entire US conventional telephony and have room left over. If every one of the 6.5 billion people had a telephone, and at the same moment they were all making a call, and all that traffic could be routed through this cable, a hundred fibres would still be dark. If this cable was coming down your street, if your house could have ten of these fibres coming into your house…

The problem we’ve been discussing, that Comcast, and net neutrality folks have been having has been completely miscast. We’ve been talking about how we manage scarcity, but we should be talking about how we create abundance.

But all this takes energy. Computing takes the same power as the entire airline industry, so we need to reduce the energy we use. We can do better, we can use the Internet to reduce travel, and manage energy, and we’ll talk about that on Tuesday.

how will the internet story end? Will a few of the smartest telephone companies, like BT or Verizon, who have the wisdom, foresight, courage and money to sponsor Freedom to Connect evolve to be the connectors of tomorrow? Or will the telcos create the internet in the image of Clear Channel, locking it down, ghettoising it? Or will they make it so invasive that no one creative of innovative goes there anymore. Or maybe new forms of organisation, Benkler-style, arise to build and operate a new infrastructure we must have.

Or will other countries show the way? Assuming that the US is capable of seeing what they put in front of us?

In any case, welcome to Freedom to Connect.

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Tuesday, March 25th, 2008

The world according to newspapers

Posted by Kevin Anderson



Note from the creator of these maps: Colours indicate the same thing. However, a country can appear in red if it’s in the top 10% but still shrink, as the top 3 countries concentrate most of all media attention. Note from me: Clicking on those buttons launches hi-res images in their own windows.

As an American who now lives in London, but has worked for British media for just shy of 10 years, I have more than a passing interest in how the world sees the US and how my fellow Americans see (or fail to take much notice of) the rest of the world. After moving to London three years ago, things that I thought were particularly American characteristics I now see as part of human nature. I thought it was a particularly American problem, and particularly a problem of American media, to look inward. But all countries and the media that serve them do this to a certain extent.

We all see the world through our own cultural lenses. We all understand the world through our own place in it, centered in the culture we most identify with. That cultural centre might be a place, a country or a group of people. For instance, I see the world through the cultural lens of the global geek collective I feel a part of.

This visualisation was posted on Paul Bradshaw’s Online Journalism Blog and was cross-posted from L’Observatoire des Médias by Nicolas Kayser-Bril. I found one of Nicolas’ comments on the Online Journalism Blog really interesting:

The model I’ve used shows that a country is less covered as it’s further away from London. Each 100km lead to a country’s getting 1.9 less articles per year in the Daily Mail, 2.3 in the Guardian (provided you take S Africa, ANZ out of the sample, they skew the data).

The publication most global in its coverage was The Economist. Their readers are often global citizens, moving from country to country with multi-national companies or for various branches of the United Nations. They need a quick overview of our increasingly globalised world.

I lived in Washington DC for more than seven years, and I’ve lived in London just shy of three years now. Capitals sit in a position above their countries and, relative to the power of the country, also above the rest of the world. It’s a privileged and often myopic view. It’s global in the sense that all roads lead to Rome. The media centered there cast their gaze around the world from this vantage point, and their gaze never falls far from their perch. However, it’s not just Africa that gets ignored but also less fashionable parts of their own countries.

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Monday, March 24th, 2008

links for 2008-03-24

Posted by Kevin Anderson

Sunday, March 23rd, 2008

Kits and Mortar

Posted by Suw Charman-Anderson

It’s been a few years since I last started a new blog and the old itch has returned in the form Kits and Mortar, our new eco- and cat-friendly self-build blog. I’ve wanted to build a house for as long as I can remember and it’s a dream that Kevin shares too. Now that we’re married, it’s time to think about what that would really entail and, if I’m going to research something, I might as well blog it! Kev’s going to join me, and we’re going to write about every aspect of self-building, from thinking about materials to figuring out what sort of design we want to coming up with ideas for making the house cat-friendly.

This is a bit of a departure in some ways. It’s been a long time since I’ve done any “commercial” blogging, but this one will have ads and will be a bit of an experiment to see what can happen if you have passion and ads in one place. We’ve already had an amazingly positive response from lots of the people we’ve mentioned it to, which is a very positive sign.

Either way, though, I’m going to enjoy having a new writing project to focus on!