Tuesday, December 14, 2004

IP Inferno Seeking Sponsorship

Throughout most of 2004 I have been posting thoughts about the IP industry (VoIP, wireless, mobility, networking, etc) to a blog I call IP Inferno. After having been named as one of Jeff Pulver's Top VoIP Bloggers of 2004 I have been thinking about how I will take IP Inferno to the next level. The answer that I have come up with is to add additional bloggers and begin promotion of the site. To do this requires money, so I have started a search for a sponsor for IP Inferno. If you know someone at an appropriate company, please send them my way! Sponsorships proposals can be sent to me at tshelton@ipinferno.com

Monday, December 13, 2004

How Governments Can Help

I will never be a pure libertarian. Smaller government, sure. Maybe smarter government instead of less government though. Too often corporate powers need to be checked by a strong counter-balance. The latest for me is a run in with Allstate Insurance.

I have been an Allstate customer for over a decade (gosh, its a lot longer than that... but I'd date myself). I have a lot of policies with them -- home, auto, etc. And I have never had a claim. So I am part of their profit portfolio.

One of the policies I have with Allstate covers my vacation home -- a 1200 foot dwelling in the Sierra foothills. Its just a little get away for the family in the summer and a base camp for ski trips in the winter.

Last year there was a brush fire down the road from my house. Within a few months I received a letter from Allstate cancelling my policy. The reason stated was that they were "unable to locate the insured property." Now, this is not off in the boondocks. My street address is a major state highway. There are four houses other than mine on the same driveway off of the highway.

So I just assumed the inspector was incompetent and called my agent to arrange an inspection. I gave them directions to one of my neighbor's houses, who had agreed to be present when the inspector came (he lives there year round). The inspector came, filed his report and I got a call from my agent. Apparently Allstate's policy was to require 100 feet of brush clearance around dwellings. Still no policy.

Now the county requires 30 feet, the same as the mandatory setback from a property line. If my house had been built closer to the property line, I would not have been able to comply with this requirement. Fortunately, however, I had the space and more brush clearance is always a good idea in the foothills. So I agreed to pay to have this work down, Allstate inspected, and my policy was reinstated.

1 Year Later

This year I received a cancellation notice from Allstate again. The reason stated? They claimed again that they could not find the property. Twice seemed a little much for incompetence, especially since they had found the house and inspected in order to inform me of the need for additional clearance and to confirm that the clearance had been done. But I called my agent again and made arrangements for a new inspection.

Imagine my surprise when the inspection report came back stating that I had only 50 feet of clearance and that 200 feet are required. This time I decided to fight.

First I tried to work through my Allstate office. How could this inspector have gotten this so wrong? Don't you have the report from last year showing 100 feet of clearance? And why has the minimum clearance changed? I pointed out to my agent that I was beginning to feel like Allstate just didn't want to insure my building.

Around and around in circles I went with Allstate and finally got the cut and dry answer -- there is nothing we can do for you unless you clear 200 feet around your structure.

So I complained to the California State Insurance Office.

Guess what? Allstate now informs me that it was "all just a big mistake." And my policy has been reinstated. The investigator from Allstate informs me that the drawings the inspector made were misinterpreted and that they agree that there is 100 feet of clearance around the house. And she tells me that the information that I needed 200 feet of clearance "was just wrong."

I would not have gotten this issue resolved had it not been for a government office standing as an ally of the consumer. Too often large powerful entities take advantage of their size to mistreat small entities - smaller businesses or individuals. Government should be a resource to help counterbalance these interactions and put the smaller entity on a more equal footing. For that, I am happy to be sending my tax dollars to Washington and Sacramento.

Brown is a Phone Person

I wish there was an easy way to take a phone message off of the TMobile voice mail system as an electronic file -- if there was, I would post the message I received Friday morning from Jerry Brown:
Hi Ted, this is Jerry Brown. Could you call me? My number is 510...
Its just fun to hear Jerry's voice on my cell phone. Of course trying to use the phone as a medium for the two of us to connect is very... last century :-) As Mayor of Oakland he is busy. And I have a few things I need to do every day as well. So accidentally finding each other on the other end of a telephone line has a low probability of success.

I did call back -- today as I was out of town with my family this weekend. The phone number he left has a woman's voice on the answering machine "Hi, you've reached the Brown for Attorney General..." That was at 10:00 AM so I guess they don't have regular office hours yet. I dutifully left my phone number but I also encouraged Jerry to send email...

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Update on Brown for Attorney...

Well, its been a couple of days and there has been no response from Mayor Jerry Brown. So I decided to try calling the phone number on his fundraising letter... He had ended his letter with "Feel free to contact me directly at (phone number) or (email address) and I had sent my letter to his email address first... But some people are really phone people so I thought I'd just call him for a quick chat.

Imagine my surprise when a company called VentureSpark answered the phone. I guess Jerry has hired these folks to handle his media relations. I spoke to a nice woman at VentureSpark who assured me that the Mayor does read his email but offered to make sure he saw the letter if I would send it again and copy her. I did and received a quick note back:
I will be sure the Mayor sees this. Thanks for your feedback.
I hope the Mayor decides to reply once he reads the letter...

Monday, December 06, 2004

Brown For Attorney General

Ex-California governor Jerry Brown is running for attorney general in 2006. Today I received a letter in the mail, a form letter solicitation from his campaign, asking for a contribution to his election fund. The fundraising letter ended with the sentence "Feel free to contact me directly..." and offered an email address, so I sent the following:


Thank you for the recent letter soliciting a donation for your campaign. I am considering a contribution but have a few thoughts and questions that I hope you will take the time to consider.

Free advice is often worth what you pay for it, and I will be the first to admit that I don't know anything about politics or political campaigning. But as a financially successful registered Democrat in the middle of my wealth producing years, I suspect that I am the kind of person you would like to appeal to as a supporter. So perhaps you will find these thoughts useful in your bid to become California's next Attorney General.

First, and foremost, I am struggling to understand why you want the job. Your letter mentions the erosion of our civil liberties and points out that "our former U.S. attorney general declared whole classes of people outside the protection of the law." So I can infer that you feel that there is an important role to play, and opportunity for you to contribute, in protecting California's citizens from the perils of a federal government that seems to be infringing upon our civil liberties. But you never come out and make this statement clearly. In fact, your letter starts out that "...the job of attorney general is viewed as the most important post in California..." This leaves me wondering if you want this office in order to be important, not because you have a mission to serve the people of our state.

Civil rights is an issue very important to me and well worth the attention of our electorate. A clear statement from you that this is a reason for you to run for office at this time would help quiet cynics that see your run for this office as purely political -- merely another stepping stone in your "reincarnation" as Jonathan Curiel put it in his 4th of July article. I'd also like to understand what a state attorney general CAN do to protect our state's citizens from federal legislation and enforcement. Perhaps you can be more specific about what you intend to do.

Secondly, I'd like to believe that you are in touch with the world of 2004 (or 2006 for that matter). I wonder, for example, why you mention Earl Warren in your letter? Earl Warren passed away thirty years ago in 1974. I was 8 years old at the time, so I can't say I have any personal memories of the man. I appreciate that you are pointing out two great figures in our history who served both as attorney general and as governor of California (albeit in the opposite order to the one you propose for yourself). But how many people do you expect to know this? Or even know who Earl Warren was? Is this a sign that you are out of touch? Perhaps we should all know who Earl Warren is, but unfortunately most voters don't even know the name of the CURRENT chief justice...

On the subject of showing that you are in touch, one thing that you need to do much more effectively is use the Internet to communicate with voters. In fact, I'd like to believe that, as attorney general, you will make the Internet a much more important part of the way California government serves our citizens. It was nice to see that you had created a website, but it looks like more of a slapped-together place-holder than an effective communication tool. As one example of something you ought to fix right away: the latest article that your staff posted, "Mayor: Revisit Retrofit," used the same page template as the previous article, "The woman in Jerry Brown's life." Besides the template being unattractive, the page name "Woman in Jerry's Life," wasn't changed in the new article. The page name is used by PC browsers as the headline appearing at the top of the web browser window, announcing what the content of the page is supposed to be about. Thus the article "Mayor:Revisit Retrofit" article also appears to be about the "Woman in Jerry's Life"...

But this is a minor point, merely emphasizing the sloppiness of the site. More important is that the site is an empty monument rather than a living, breathing contribution to the dialog you could be having with California's voters. The front page is consumed with a set of links to old articles, none of which are particularly complimentary to you. The letter below is merely a duplicate of the same form letter that you mailed to me. The photos emphasize an image of you over 30 years out of date. The site does not offer a call to action, does not explain why you want this job, does not explore how the events of the last several years as mayor of Oakland may have contributed to your vision for California or for the role of attorney general, and most importantly -- does not create a dialog with me as a voter and potential financial supporter.

I enjoyed hearing you speak, on October 19th, at the Silicon Forum regarding the work you have done as Mayor of Oakland. I was impressed with the difference in the man from the myth -- the well-grounded, serious citizen interested in improving the community I and my family live in... as opposed to the image far too commonly associated with you based on your history as governor. I was, however, disappointed in the answer to my question -- you might recall that I asked as you were leaving whether there was a part of your administration focused on long term planning -- that is, what does Oakland look like in 10 years? Or in 20 years? Your short response was something along the lines of "it is hard enough to think about the Oakland of tomorrow..."

I want to elect, and support, politicians that are in step with the world of today and are ready to build the world of tomorrow -- and make it a better place for my three children. Prove to me that you are such a person and you will have my support.


Edward (Ted) Shelton

p.s. let's start with a simple one -- do you read and reply to your own email or have it printed out by an assistant?

Saturday, December 04, 2004

2000 Year Old Man

In 1982 Carl Reiner and Mel Brooks classic comedy skit The 2000 Year Old Man was made into an animated made-for-TV movie. I remember watching it and laughing as Reiner, posing as an interviewer, chatted with Brooks, the 2000 year old man. Reiner asks Brooks about the people he has known over the years:
Joan of Arc? "Know her? I went with her!" Robin Hood? "Lovely Man. Ran around the forest. Took from everybody and kept it. But he had a good press agent." Jesus? "A quiet lad, used to come into the store with these twelve other guys. Never bought anything. Asked me for some water once."
Now Dr. Aubrey de Grey of the University of Cambridge suggests that we might all live that long... though he doesn't promise we'll be as funny as Brooks.

de Grey stats that he believes that "...the first person to live to 1,000 might be 60 already," suggesting that the rapid advances currently being made in his field could have a real impact on those alive today. de Grey claims to have "...a very detailed plan to repair all the types of molecular and cellular deamage that happen to us over time," and that "since these therapies repair accumulated damage, they are applicable to people in middle age or older who have a fair amount of damage."

Boy won't that throw a wrinkle into plans to reform social security. "Yep, I retired at 62 and have been drawing social security benefits for the past 900 years!" And our overpopulation problems are liable to get a lot worse as well...

But all kidding aside, I wonder if the biggest problem with this whole scheme is that only the very rich are likely to be able to afford to live for thousands of years. Imagine my great-great-great-great grandchildren still having to hear about Warren Buffet's investing ideas. Live, from Warren himself.

This could create the greatest "haves" and "have-nots" problem that the human race has ever seen. Already the rich tend to live longer than the poor, but thousands of years longer? If de Grey is right, and this is a real possibility, I predict that the very wealthy will actually evolve to become a quite different species from the rest of humanity. One's entire perspective on the world is likely to shift radically when one has hundreds of years of experience and when one can look forward to a future of hundreds of years of life. Now there is a generation gap.

Friday, December 03, 2004

Blogging Resources

I was just visiting with a friend, Ed Dua of QuadCarver, and talking about how to use blogs in a business. I started doing a little tutorial on blogging and then started showering him with different tools that I use for my blogs and to keep up on others blogs... When I got back home I realized that I had given him too much information too fast :-) So I wrote an email listing all of the things I had told him about. Then I realized that others might benefit as well from such a list... so here it is:

That Buzznet photo thing:


Basic blogging tool:


The "better" blogging tool:


The FEED set up tool:


The PING site to let everyone know when your blog is updated


The Feed reader:


Places to go to search blogs:




How to PROMOTE your blog:


Thursday, December 02, 2004

Berkeley Blogger Dinner

Thanks!! Especially to Mary Hodder for organizing tonight's blogger dinner. But Mary, we should do this more often, so I am counting on you to organize... But the excuse was good, Doc Searls being in town. It was great to catch up with Doc who in addition to being an icon of blogging is a truly great human being and a friend. Doc was in town to visit and speak at the Berkeley class that Mary blogs, Language of Politics taught by the incredible George Lakoff who I remember reading when I was in College...

It was also good to see Marc Brown of Buzznet fame who also captured some great photos of the evening.

Met a few people for the first time including Jeff Clavier who is one of the few people on the planet (so far) to have a LinkedIn Case Study written about him because he knows so many people... and Renee Blodgett who has recently moved to the west coast from Boston and with whom I had a long conversation about mixing personal stuff and business in the same blog... by the way this is the post that Renee is most proud of on her blog.... And finally (but not least) JD Lasica who seems to know everyone and who is working on a very cool project called ourmedia which I will let you explore on your own.

Sorry to all of you who attended the dinner (20 or 30) who I didn't collect cards from and thus failed to get mentioned...

UPDATE: The link for finding out about ourmedia, until the official site launch is HERE

Monday, November 29, 2004

Target : Entertainment : Marijuana

Note to Target -- don't provide product listings without any additional meta-data! For starters, how about what kind of a product is it anyway? Movie? Music? Book? Or controlled substance? Thanks to Steve Rubel for this pointer to Inside Google's link to Target selling Marijuana...

The Amazon version of Target's online store already has 8 customer reviews...
Yo, this be the most dopest chit I've ever had. I got this book from my peeps just the other dizzle. After I learned how to roll one phat doob, I got so wasted I was flyin like handi-man. Then I got the munchies and ate the book. Now I need another. (five stars)
But at least the Amazon entry had a little more information on the product... Perhaps this really is a book published in 1993 for young adults?

Indeed: Marijuana by Sandra Lee Smith

Given that Amazon reports that the Shipping Weight for this product is 12 ounces, the Target price of $25.25 was a little hard to believe... and the Amazon "used" price of $8.95 was downright worrisome. Used pot?

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Ohio Controversy

Thanks to Ed Felten for pointing out this article in the Boston Phoenix by David Bernstein. Entitled Questioning Ohio: No controversy this time? Think again. Mr. Bernstein has some scary statistics about the voting in Ohio --
Of Ohio’s 88 counties, 20 suffered a significant reduction — shutting at least 20 percent (or at least 30) of their precincts. Most of those counties have Republicans serving as Board of Elections director, including the four biggest: Cuyahoga, Montgomery, Summit, and Lucas.

Those 20 counties went heavily to Gore in 2000, 53 to 42 percent. The other 68 counties, which underwent little-to-no precinct consolidation, went exactly the opposite way in 2000: 53 to 42 percent to Bush.

In the 68 counties that kept their precinct count at or near 2000 levels, Kerry benefited more than Bush from the high turnout, getting 24 percent more votes than Gore did in 2000, while Bush increased his vote total by only 17 percent.

But in the 20 squeezed counties, the opposite happened. Bush increased his vote total by 22 percent, and Kerry won just 19 percent more than Gore in 2000.
The entire article is worth reading.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

NY Times Op-Ed "The Bush Revolution"

I should be nicer to the New York Times. Nicholas D. Kristof, writing for the Op-Ed page had a very worthwhile article today entitled The Bush Revolution. It covers much of the same ideas that I tried to address in my post yesterday but he so much more concisely puts the matter:
The central question of President Bush's second term is this: Will he shaft his Christian-right supporters, since he doesn't need them any more, and try to secure his legacy with moderate policies that might unite the country? Or, with no re-election to worry about, will he pursue revolutionary changes on the right? To me, it looks increasingly like the latter.
The piece is also worth reading for his predictions on various international issues during the second Bush term and ends with the frightening "litmus test" for deciding to leave the country -- "A litmus test of foreign policy prospects will be whether John Bolton, a genial raptor among the doves at State, is promoted to be its deputy secretary. For liberals who have been wavering on whether to move to New Zealand, that would be a sign to head for the airport."

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Christian Theocracy

For me, the most worrying aspect of the recent Presidential election is the idea that Karl Rove's four million evangelical Christians (Pat Buchanan on the subject) missing from the 2000 election came out to vote in 2004, helped Bush win the election, and now will have a greater voice in our country's politics and policies. Before Dan points out that the four million may be a myth let me quickly point out that it is more important that the Bush Presidency believes that evangelical Christians made the difference in this election than whether or not they actually did make the difference.

I was raised to believe in an America that is tolerant of differences in religious, social, and cultural belief and practice. I was raised to believe that "tolerance" means "embrace diversity" not "put up with differences." And as a result I have friends that are from every religion (or none) and from many cultural backgrounds and who have made many different choices in their social behaviors.

MSNBC reports that the "electorate (is) deeply divided...", citing exit polls that show that "moral values" became a critical issue for voters in reelecting President Bush -- "...white evangelicals — a crucial voting bloc for the president — represented about a fifth of all voters. Their top issue was moral values." The Arizona Daily Star reports that:
"Moral values" is a catchphrase for conservative, religious voters who oppose abortion, stem-cell research and gay marriage, said Steven Waldman, editor and CEO of BeliefNet, a multifaith Web site for religious and spiritual issues.
The problem I have with this definition of the issue is that it inaccurately places the locus of the voter's interest on the values instead of on a desire to IMPOSE those values on the rest of the nation's citizens. Many people, on both sides of the election, hold the same beliefs on these three issues. John Kerry expressed his personal belief that marriage is between a man and a woman and his personal belief that abortion is immoral. But he did so while saying that it was not the job of government to impose the personal religious beliefs of a President on the citizens of the nation. So when we talk about Bush winning on "moral values" we should be clear -- he won based on an electorate determined to impose their moral values onto others.

I heard Pat Buchanan on the radio a few weeks ago (on NPR - archive here) making the seemingly reasonable suggestion that local electorates should be able to make decisions on behalf of themselves when it comes to public resources -- for example, if a local school district wants to have prayer in their schools, why shouldn't there be a democratic process to decide? Why not let the citizens of that district simply vote on the matter?

One of the other things that I was raised to believe about our democracy is that there is an important balance that must be struck in protecting minorities. The problem with allowing a majority vote to provide the only guidepost for our civic decisions is the risk of a "tyranny of democracy" in which a majority imposes its views on a minority.

While still a vast majority, the percentage of Americans calling themselves Christian has declined from 86% in 1990 to 76% in 2001 (American Religious Identification Survey at The Graduate Center, City University of New York) Almost 1/4 of our population is Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, agnositic, atheist (or one of a handful of others). This trend is expected to continue. Another interesting statistic from this study,
"In 1990, ninety percent of the adult population identified with one or another religion group. In 2001, such identification has dropped to eighty-one percent."
"No religion" is a staggering 13.1% of the total US adult population - staggering because it is the second largest category. Evangelical Christians might look at these statistics and see 27 million people that used to be Christians that could be brought back into the fold. And voting for public money to be spent on Christian schools might help with that agenda...

But should a democracy impose the will of the majority on that 13% of its citizens who chose to be "areligious" (no religion but not agnostic or atheist) much less on the 11% that are Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim, Wiccan... ?? How can a great nation like ours decide on belief-based issue like gay marriage, abortion, stem-cell research, prayer in school based on one groups beliefs?

The right has often cited that the phrase "separation of church and state" cannot be found in the constitution. Instead it is contained in a letter by Thomas Jefferson. But perhaps it is time in this great nation to suggest a 28th Constitutional Amendment, certainly more important to the nation's well being than the 27th in which we formally introduce these words and protect the minorities of our country now and in the future from the imposition of the majority's views. After all, in the future Christians may become the minority.

Monday, November 15, 2004

Third Term

While we are likely to hear many arguments from the right about why we should elect George W. Bush to a third term as President of the United States, I thought I would jump in early with an argument from the democratic side of the aisle on why we should modify the Constitution to allow him to run a third time. Don't think it is reasonable to talk about changing the US Constitution to allow a person to run for President? Tell Governer Arnold...

The partisan Fox News ran a survey this past summer that declares "Most Oppose Allowing President Third Term." The survey spoke of opposition to Clinton being allowed to run against Bush and was largely the kind of negative hit piece on liberal political candidates that we have come to love Fox News for... But there it is, the idea of a 3rd term for a President being floated publically.

And the Republican arguments for electing Bush to a third term will come, at least from the extreme right. We will hear that we should "stick with our wartime president" and that we need to keep up the fight on terrorism, and that his reforms of the tax code and social security are not yet complete...

But here is an argument for the left to consider. The problem with second terms is that the President is now a lame duck. He no longer need consider public opinion as he will not face the voters in 2008. So when will he feel the need to compromise? Or even sound like he is reaching out to all of the voters?

If we allow Bush to run for a third term in office, on the other hand, he will have a motivation to appear in front of voters, talk to reporters, provide some transparency on advisory panels for proposed energy or environmental bills... in short have some measure of accountability to the American people.

Of course, if re-elected, the same argument might be made again -- allow Bush to run for a fourth term in office... Given the possibility of President Bush for life perhaps we should be supporting a constitutional change to allow Schwarzenegger to run for President in '08 instead...

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

If this Election was Stolen

If this election was stolen, the mechanisms were primarily two simple activities - (1) suppression of democratic votes through inefficient polling operations with insufficient voting machines causing hours long waits at the polls and (2) the misalignment of touch screens so that votes for John Kerry would actually register as votes for George Bush. More on this second item in a moment. It is striking that the exit polls called for a Kerry win by over 3%, as even Fox News reports:
By midnight, Bush was declared the winner in Florida, though throughout the day the state had been predicted a winner for Kerry. Similar predictions in Ohio were also found to be wrong as the state was put in Bush's column.
Miami-Dade county, for example, reported 45.7% of the vote for George Bush. Does this match exit polls in the county? Or even the distribution of expected voters?

Regarding the allegation of incorrect alignment of voting machine functionality, again Fox News reports:
Twenty-one touch-screen voting machines in Broward County were replaced because of technical problems, said Gisela Salas, the county's deputy supervisor of elections. At least one of the machines had shown votes cast for the wrong candidates.
This article replaces an earlier one (now unavailable) on Fox which explained the problem -- it was impossible to select John Kerry on the touch screen -- every attempt made selected George Bush instead. This was only discovered when some (24 individual and separate reports) voters checked their own results at the end of the session with the voting machine and noticed that George had been selected instead of John. One voter made 14 attempts to change the vote to John Kerry before calling over a poll worker to report the malfunction. Ultimately the poll worker had to use the eraser end of a pencil to carefully select the small area of the touch screen that was active for registering a vote for John Kerry. In Broward county the vote was reported as 34.5% for Bush.

Bush would need 190,000 more votes in Florida to have won the election there - that is, 190,000 votes taken from the Bush column and added to the Kerry column. This is just 3% of the total votes cast. In just Broward and Miami-Dade counties, 561,731 votes were totalled for George Bush -- so the swing would amount to just one-third of votes that George reportedly received in those two counties.

Obviously I am NOT alleging that this election was stolen. Just pointing out how it could have been done. It is unfortunate that we have allowed a voting system to be put in place in this country where such possibilities exist.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Who turned off the Ads?

Is it just me? Or is it a concerted attack on the advertising infrastructure that feeds Internet Capitalism? I have been catching up on news and strangely every page I pull up, the ad servers (typically third party companies) are down... So I get the page but no ad content! For Wired its the server view.atdmt.com that is not responding and for techdirt its ads.adsonar.com. NetworkingPipeline's ads from the server pbid.pro-market.net seem to be failing as well as from the venerable ad.doubleclick.net...

Surely I am not the only one to have noticed?

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Jerry Brown at Silicon Forum

Jerry Brown at Silicon Forum
Jerry Brown at Silicon Forum,
originally uploaded by Ted Shelton.
It was quite interesting to hear Jerry Brown sounding quite conservative as he spoke about the work he has done to turn around Oakland, CA today at the Silicon Forum's monthly luncheon. Afterwards I asked him what the Mayor's office is doing to plan for the future given that California expects the population of the state to double by 2050. Nothing, he said. No one is thinking about the future, we are too busy solving today's problems... Seems like that is where today's problems come from.

Sunday, October 17, 2004

Visual Thesaurus

I don't know how I ever lived without the Visual Thesaurus. Go use it (there is a demo mode) and you'll be instantly hooked as well. Type in a word and there is a visual constellation of related terms surrounding your word. Click on any of those other words and it becomes the center of the conceptual map, with new terms growing around it. Is this the first application of Ray Kurzweil's visual "mind mapping" tools? Or was it independently developed? Check out The Brain for an open ended version of the visual thesaurus, into which you can pour your own conceptual relationships...

Saturday, October 16, 2004

Am I terribly rude?

A reader of my blog wrote in response to my previous post regarding George Bush and his religiousity:
That comment is really below you. I have been reading you since your early days of blogging, but that was terribly rude.
As I do not intent rudeness, let me respond. First, I repeated the report in the New Republic because I was genuinely amazed at the allegation. By the way, I came across the article in The Week a terrific summary of news from the right, left, middle, and international press.

What was amazing to me is that the Bush campaign has made an enormous effort to get evangelical Christians to the voting booth in support of his presidency. Aside from Bush's own religious convictions or his commitment to a particular congregation, it would seem like a relatively easy thing to attend church every Sunday when regular church goers are a key part of your constituency. I found it remarkable that he hasn't bothered to do this.

Perhaps my ironic rhetorical question "...does Bush really believe in God after all?" was the portion of my post that this reader found rude. I could have perhaps found a better way to pose this question, but I think the question is valid and important -- and frankly applicable to both candidates. How much is the religious positioning of the candidates a genuine reflection of their own views and how much of it is just packaging for the voters? Religion has clearly been a crucial litmus test for a candidates. Will this always be the case? In past elections, service in the military might have been a test, or drug use (the lack of drug use)... will each of these fall over time? Are we becoming cynical about these pillars of our society? Especially when these pillars become merely planks in a candidate's packaging.

Friday, October 15, 2004

Bush Doesn't Go To Church

It seems unbelievable. The President who constantly speaks of his religious convictions doesn't belong to a congregation and rarely goes to church. In her article Empty Pew (subscription) Amy Sullivan of The New Republic writes:
Bush's supporters say "it's bad form" to point this out, arguing that you don't have to go to church to be religious... They also say that it's logistically difficult for a President to attend church. But that didn't stop Jimmy Carter or Bill Clinton, who were regular Sunday worshippers during their presidencies."
I guess the big question is, does Bush really believe in God after all? Or is this just part of the packaging that has been used to sell him to the Christian right?

How to Throw the Election

Ed Felten, of the incredibly interesting and useful blog called Freedom to Tinker provides details on how Diebold has completely screwed up the electronic voting machines that will be used both here in California and in a number of states across the country.

Want to vote more than once? Here are instructions posted on Wednesday

Want to shut down the voting booth? Here are instructions posted yesterday

In both cases, a $50 smart card programming kit will give you the power to disrupt our national elections. Don't think it will happen?

Indymedia Update

In an Indymedia press release, the alternative media outlet reports that "on Wednesday, October 13th, Indymedia's seized hardware was mysteriously returned in the same way it disappeared -- without any information provided as to who took it or why, and on whose orders."

While Indymedia itself is on the political fringe, serious mainstream jornalism organizations are questioning the seizure of Indymedia's servers. The online website journalism.co.uk reports that
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is lobbying MPs to find out why the FBI ordered the UK government to confiscate web servers belonging to independent news network Indymedia. The seizure, which happened last week, brought down 21 of the group's regional sites including the UK, Brasil and Poland.
The article goes on to repeat a number of interesting allegations that Indymedia has made about why the FBI might be trying to disrupt their operations. One issue was the previously reported photos of Swiss undercover police said to be posted on one of Indymedia's web sites. Given that the FBI has confirmed that they were acting on behalf of Switzerland, this seems to be the most likely explanation. Other issues raised were more machiavellian. From the article:
The IFJ has stated that the seizure may also be related to information published by Indymedia San Francisco that claimed to reveal problems with electronic voting systems scheduled to be used in next month's Presidential election. The manufacturers, Diebold Election Systems, applied to the Californian courts to have the documents removed but Indymedia successfully opposed the application.

Indymedia's news is produced by volunteer political activists and campaigners around the world and the network's strong anti-corporate agenda has been highly critical of the invasion of Iraq.

In August 2004, IndyMedia claimed that the FBI and US Secret Service had been trying to disrupt the relationship with its hosting provider Calyx Internet Access.

The FBI had issued a subpoena for log information and contact details that would identify anyone who had posted a list of delegates attending the Republican National Convention.
Hopefully the professional journalism associations will continue to apply pressure to the UK and US governments for an explanation of how the FBI could have used the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT), (an agreement that allows countries to co-ordinate investigations into international terrorism, money laundering and kidnapping) to seize this media company's publishing and distribution apparatus.

Monday, October 11, 2004

US Government Shuts Down Independent Media?

BBC News is reporting today that a US court order has forced a UK based ISP to turn over servers owned by an "alternative media network known as Indymedia: in this article: US seizes independent media sites.

PC Pro writes
Last week, the FBI obtained a court order involving Rackspace, demanding that the company hand over two Indymedia web servers. Rackspace, which provides hosting services for more that 20 Indymedia sites at its London facility was forced to comply and hand over the requested servers, effectively removing those sites from the Internet.
The full article is available here: Feds seize Indymedia servers in London

I don't know who the heck Indymedia is, but the EFF is already involved, offering legal assistance to Indymedia. Could it be true that our government is shutting down legitimate discourse? According to the PC Pro article "In August the US government attempted to subpoena server logs from the organisation's ISP in the US and the Netherlands before the Republican convention." Perhaps the government thinks that readers of these publications are terrorists?

The Register offers one possible explanation in their article on the matter, Feds seize Indymedia servers.
While Indymedia is not exactly sure what prompted the action, the group does have one strong idea. A French Indymedia site last month posted photos of what it believed to be undercover Swiss police officers photographing protesters at a French event. Indymedia received a request from the FBI to pull those photos down, as they "revealed personal information" about the undercover police, said Indymedia press officer Hep Sano.
According to more information in this story, "Indymedia (AKA Independent Media Center) was set up in 1999 to provide grassroots coverage of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) protests in Seattle." While these opinions may not be popular amongst the majority of US citizens, doesn't our constitution protect these people's right to free speech? Are we witnessing the beginning of a new era of censorship? Is this being done in the name of the "War on Terrorism?" So far, the American authorities have failed to comment. Hopefully tomorrow will bring clarification of the crime that Indymedia is accused of committing.

"The price of freedom is eternal vigilance" -- Thomas Jefferson

Thursday, October 07, 2004

SpikePost - Polese's New Business

Kim's presentation:

Kim Polese says that strange things are happening in IT. Brazilthrows out Microsoft. So do regions of Spain, Germany, Belgium. China does its own Linux distro. Kim says "this is a revolution." And its happening "from the bottom up."

She contrasts this with the way that things used to work -- power was concentrated at the top, "the industrial egosystem." And this has worked in IT -- "monolithic vendors mad monolithic systems."

But then the Net came along and everything changed. A whole new software habitat now exists. A home on the range for developers. "Soon the ecosystem as opposed to the egosystem was filled with a whole new breed of software."

Open source adoption is exploding. This is a movement. This is a revolution. 70% web server share of Apache. 33% CAGR for Linux. 30% of all new apps using mySQL. And it is deployed at bug companies - Cisco, Goldman Sachs, ...

Web 2.0 arrived when demand began to supply itself. First it happened to programmers. Now it is spreading out to the rest of the world.

"The IT guy is the unsung hero of the economy."

The Net and Open Source were both built on principles that will change the world forever.

When anybody can improve software, it gets better.

The software industry IS maturing and commodifying -- but this is a GOOD thing.

But there is a whole new world of software business opportunities,, because innovation is moving to a whole new level.

Process innovation is becoming the new innovation in the software industry.

SpikeSource is leading this innovation

Muragan Pal and Ray Lane founded and incubated the company at KPCB

Kim joined 2 months ago as CEO

This is a "new breed of open source IT services company"

Peter Norvig talking at Web 2.0

Peter Norvig talking at Web 2.0
Peter Norvig talking at Web 2.0,
originally uploaded by Ted Shelton.
Peter Norvig is going deep into the science of search. It is intersting following the research person from IBM who talked about how they have research labs all over the world. Peter started his talk saying "Google doesn't have beautiful real estate all over the world, Google Labs is more about a state of mind..."

He is demonstrating semantic clustering -- very impressive to be able to see how documents are clustered by relationships between terms.

He demonstrates using the terms "george bush" and "john kerry" and everyone laughs when there are document clusters around George Bush that include "stupid" and "idiot" but these terms do not occur around John Kerry... Peter comments "this isn't what I think, this is what the web says..."

Web 2.0 Observations

Having written critically about the Blogon conference earlier this year, I am happy to report that Web 2.0 has been a GREAT conference, especially in contrast... Terrific speakers, really interesting topics, and (like Blogon) great attendees to interact with. And there is an enormous amount of buzz about the Internet -- a "resurgence" said one speaker.

What has Web 2.0 done right? Unfortunately for the future of conferences, they have returned to the model of the past -- key speakers or panels, narrowly focused on specific topics, and speaking TO the attendees not WITH the attendees. Now, the fact is that this model works and we haven't figured out the new model of the conference.

But it is worth mentioning that the two things that Web 2.0 tried to do toward a conferences 2.0 have failed:

(1) The idea of workshops is good (the first day of the conference) but the execution was poor. One problem was simply that the conference has been TOO successful -- a lot of people have shown up to participate. It is tough to run a participatory workshop in a standing-room-only meeting room. But the other failure was that no attempt was made to utilize a back channel for managing and directing the interaction. See my earlier post on this or Martin Tobias' post made after supernova.

(2) A Wiki for a conference COULD be a great tool, and the folks at Socialtext did a great job of creating a shell for a compelling online place for Web 2.0 attendees to interact with each other online. HOWEVER - organizers please take note! If your speakers do not engage on the Wiki and post info about their talks, and interact with attendees, and post their presentations, then you will not achieve a critical mass of value in the Wiki to attract attendees to participate. Thus the Web 2.0 Wiki is an eerily empty and silent place, rather than a vibrant interactive community.

Nonetheless, kudos to the organizers for creating a conference that hit a lot of the right topics, with great speakers, and an energized industry that is ready to leave here and make the Web 2.0 happen!

Mitch Kapor at Web 2.0

Mitch Kapor at Web 2.0
Mitch Kapor at Web 2.0,
originally uploaded by Ted Shelton.
Mitch Kapor tells us that:

Democracy is broken

Technology is (partly) to blame -- in the form of broadcast media

Technology will be the way to fix democracy

Primary issue: citizens opting out of the process. Secondary issue: transparancy (or the lack thereof)

Line that got applause - "If Thomas Paine was writing 'Common Sense' today, he would be doing so on a Linux laptop"

The politicians took the wrong message from the Dean campaign -- they heard that the Net was a way to raise money. They missed the way in which the Net became a way to engage citizens in the political process.

Bloggers are holding politicians accountable, the Net can create greater transparency and involvement, and - though there are challenges - we can fix democracy.

Cory Doctorow at Web 2.0

Cory Doctorow at Web 2.0
Cory Doctorow at Web 2.0,
originally uploaded by Ted Shelton.
Cory Doctorow speaking eloquently on the topic of digital rights management, how Intel amongst others are, in Cory's words, "selling out the tech industry" and how EFF is fighting for fair use and a healthy industry. Send money, call your senator, march on Washington.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Music is a Platform

Hank Barry starts out his panel with an impassioned plea to contact your legislative representatives to fight the INDUCE act, which he says is moving forward in private negotiations under the leadership of Senator Hatch.

Panelists inlude Mike Caren of Atlantic Records, Eddy Cue of Apple, Danger Mouse - the "hottest hip-hop producer in the world", Michael Weiss of Morpheus

Mike -- my job is to find new music and new talent, and then developoing that talent. The Internet is now part of everything I do. I have to look in ever nook and crany which used to be scouts and local shows but is now also reading blogs and looking online for favorite play lists and individual reviews. On the developing talent side, we are recording almost 100% directly to digital which reduces costs and facilitates distributed collaboration.

Hank - can you give me an example of a band that has broken out on the Internet?

Mike - not a perfect example. The Internet has been useful as an indicator of say that a video will be a hit video. But I can't say that there was one artist that has truly been an Internet artist.

Eddy - I think this is going to happen in the next year, where there will be an artist that really emerges from the Internet. We have more and more artists that have direct deals with iTunes.

Danger Mouse - Talks about how he created the "Grey Album" background from his web site --
Danger Mouse raised the bar on hip hop experimentalism by dropping the infamous Grey Album, which used the full vocal content of Jay-Z's Black Album, recorded over new beats and production created using the Beatles White Album as it';s sole source material. The resulting record is a unique hybrid of work, a re-interpretation being touted as the one of greatest remix albums of all time. With one million downloads in a week and ensuing battle between major record companies, the media, Internet and copyright advocates, the release of the Grey Album has been nothing less than a watershed moment for music.

Michael - Neonet is the next generation of peer to peer search technology which is going to drive people crazy in the intellectual property business.

Interesting, though wandering conversation about intellectual property rights, the use of the Internet to promote vs. steal music... But nothing really new here.

Lessons Learned, Future Predicted

Who doesn't want to know the future? But I sort of expect that Marc Andressen and Dan Rosensweig are more likely to have useful comments on the first half of this panel's topic.

Marc predicts that Microsoft will come back and attack Firefox and Opera and the other browsers that are emerging with a revitalized IE strategy and one that "screws with people's business models, leveraging the monopoly that they control..."

Dan believes that Yahoo's direction is to become more and more open. He does believe that there are things that can be done with a client application and pointed out that Yahoo already has a number of rich clients, including a browser.


Marc observes that we live in a world where software is more and more open - this is not the world of web 1.0 where the experience is a walled garden, but he believes that data is the new walled garden -- data lock in. You can't get your reputation out of eBay, for example -- "the plantation owner - sharecropper relationship"

Dan agrees that data is absolutely essential. But Dan thinks the walled garden of data leaves companies vulnerable -- if you lock up data, you just create a world in which companies and people are all trying to extract that data. So if you build your business on the premise of controlling that data, your business will unravel. So the important thing is to create a compelling user experience around data. That user experience will provide a lasting business model.


Marc -- Google is being lead willingly and unwillingly by press, wall street, users, into a direct confrontation with Microsoft. And I've seen this before. (Dan - how did it turn out? (Marc - you're going to find out!). They are being lead because everyone is spoiling for a fight. The result of that is that you have Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer on stage taking it personally and saying we will have to kill Google. It will be very interesting to see and it is still very unclear how it will line up. Google on your browser is one way, but there are other ways that they can screw with Microsoft's business model. (John Battelle (moderating) - but John Doer said that Google isn't going to do a browser -- Marc - the day that Google listens to John Doer is the day that they don't do a dutch auction...)

Dan -- Yahoo focuses on the user. What is the long term value for users. Long term value for users creates long term value for investors and employees. Its important not to get caught up in the issue of the moment and to stay focused on that long term value. "At the end of the day we are all going to end up surrendering to what the user wants to do."

Mary Meeker at Web 2.0

Mary Meeker at Web 2.0
Mary Meeker at Web 2.0,
originally uploaded by Ted Shelton.
Talking about China -- points out that in 1850, China was 33% of the world's GDP. Today they are only back up to 4% but they are the fastest growing.

59 million Chinese Internet users

24 million Chinese broadband subscribers

15 million online gamers

The economic picture is enormously different in China --

GDP per capita -- $619 China $37,000 for US

Huge labor surplus still in China:

Opex per employee $6.5K in China vs $73K in the US and $333K for Microsoft

"In the middle of most towns in Europe is a church. In China it is a Kentucky Fried Chicken or a McDonalds or both -- pointing to the enormous commercialization of China."

James Currier at Web 2.0

James Currier at Web 2.0
James Currier at Web 2.0,
originally uploaded by Ted Shelton.
James Currier of Tickle, Inc -- recently sold to Monster.com (not to be confused with Monster cable of Monster Park here in San Francisco). James makes the case that there has been an enormous consumer psychological shift SINCE the Internet bubble (since 2000-2002). He argues that Web 2.0 will be about people defining the Internet in a way that is core to the way they live their lives -- the way they buy, meet each other, learn, etc.

The psychology of web 1.0 was "make me safe, put me in a walled garden"

The psychology of web 2.0 is "let me roam and explore"

Web 1.0 was about getting someone's email address

web 2.0 is about creating a "quality conversation with persistent presence"

Web 1.0 was about does it work, can I get the transaction done?

web 2.0 is about help me get this done, give me more information...

Dave Sifry at Web 2.0

Dave Sifry at Web 2.0
Dave Sifry at Web 2.0,
originally uploaded by Ted Shelton.
Dave Sifry says that there are over 4 million blogs, less than half are now in English, politics is the number one factor driving blog posting growth.

Example of blog power -- the kryptonite lock problem (pickable with a bic pen) broke on blogs 5 days before the mainstream press picked up the story.

Blogs are starting to get the same kind of attention that mainstream media gets.

Corporate blogs are proliferating. But the numbers are still really small -- only about 5,000 corporate and executive blogs and over 50% are from small companies.

Only 31% of all blogs have RSS feeds but the most influential blogs (approaching 90%) have RSS feeds. By influential Dave means, people who are linked to by other bloggers.

What happens next?

Make things easy for RSS readers (attention.xml)

Make things easy for web developers (synthetic feeds, hot topics...)

Mobile Panel at Web 2.0

The panelists inclide Trip Hawkins of Digital Chocolate, Russell Beattie, Jory Bell of OQO, and Juha Christensen (Psion, Symbian, Microsoft...) currently at Macromedia.

Russell -- "consumers are going to start realizing that they are carrying around little computers in their pocket..."

Trip -- "The voice business still dominates (the carrier's) thinking. But clearly the mobile phone is turning into a social computer. ...ways of connecting with your virtual village. But the carriers are like the gas station that has a convenience story and what they haven't grasped is that data is going to be the tail that wagged the dog... clearly the screen size is going to prevent this device from being used as a desktop computer would be used... but there are all of these ways that people can be helped in their mobile lifestyles."

Juha -- "one of the ways in which the phone is different from the PC is that the UI remains fairly static after you buy it as opposed to the PC which is vastly customizable. But this is changing, despite the battles between the manufacturers and the carriers for the control -- ultimately the users will be the ones that decide how their phones work."

Russell -- as a UI the reason SMS has been so successful on the phone is because it is so simple -- but this is not so different from the PC in fact the example would be Google -- SMS and Google are the same in the sense that you basically have one field and you fill that one box out and something valuable happens - in either environment (mobile or PC) simple is a key to broad succcess"

Jory -- "today we can put the entire Windows environment into a format that fits into your pocket, so why don't we put the entire think on phones, instead of worrying about all of these problems with bad UIs..."

Juha -- "by (200?) there will be 1.8 billion phone subscribers, this is not a market where one solution will fit all needs - I would argue that there is a divergence going on in the market, with a lot of innovation going on -- bigger devices, smaller screens, watches -- and many different user experiences."

Trip -- "computers in this (pointing to phone) form factor will outnumber PCs 10 to 1, just like the PC came into the enterprise... there will be billions of people carrying these devices..."

Russell -- (mobile phones will kill the ipod)

Bubble 2.0?

Now on at Web 2.0 is a panel discussion by a group of venture capitalists with the question -- is it a new bubble? Panelists include Safa Rashtchy of Piper Jaffray, Lanny Baker of CitiGroup, William Janeway of Warburg Pincus, and Danny Rimer of Index Ventures.

According to the group, the big difference between what will happen during this growth phase of the Internet and the last one is revenue. While last time there was a blind faith that building an audience would result somehow, someday, in revenue -- this time people know that it is possible (and Google proved it) to build a very profitable business around that audience. So companies have to prove that they know how to make money.

So what are these investors looking for as an investment in Web 2.0? Bill Janeway - "the integration of what has traditionally been back office, batch processing and analytics with real time network generated data..." Danny Rimer - "...the use of the Internet to introduce disruptive technologies... companies that are upsetting traditional economics..." Lanny Baker - "...it is still about building the largest audience..."

Bill - "Web 1.0 was about experimentation. The Bubble allowed us to overbuild the network, we funded enormous productive waste - and waste, trial and error, is a virtue. This set of proofs allowed us to create Web 2.0. This time around, the cost of capital is substantial which transforms the opportunity for experimentation. There will be a lot of people creating cool concepts but they will likely be acquired by big companies that have a proven audience and revenue... With extraordinary execution a few new companies may emerge... but otherwise, 'successful' companies are more likely to be acquired than to go public."

Brewster Kahle at Web 2.0

Brewster Kahle at Web 2.0
Brewster Kahle at Web 2.0,
originally uploaded by Ted Shelton.
Brewster Kahle wants you to know that it is possible today to take all (published) human knowledge available to all of humanity, everywhere in the world. He is talking about his project to put the world onto the Internet. You might remember Brewster as one of the early Thinking Machines employees. Brewster's organization The Internet Archive has text documents, movies, audio recordings... all available for free.

Joe Kraus at Web 2.0

Joe Kraus at Web 2.0
Joe Kraus at Web 2.0,
originally uploaded by Ted Shelton.
Joe Kraus, founder of Excite, is here at Web 2.0 launching his new company -- he is demonstrating the product now, something he calls an "application wiki" -- Lotus Notes, eat your heart out, the wiki is definitely coming to a corporation near you soon.

UPDATE: The name of Joe's new company is JotSpot

Canter Pumps Laszlo

Anyone who has followed Marc Canter over the past few years, either on his blog or otherwise, knows that he has been very critical of the company that he founded, MacroMedia. But it is strange to see him wandering Web 2.0 following the announcement that Laszlo will open source their rich web development environment and trying to convince everyone he speaks with to use Laszlo. The most interesting thing about the announcement is the preemptive strike against MacroMedia's own development environment for Flash. I expect it to be a successful tactic in that battle, by the way.

FoxNews Changes Their Article

FoxNews has modified their article on the debate to correct their duplication of Vice-President Cheney's Gaffe last night of mentioning "Factcheck.com" instead of "Factcheck.org" -- in the revised article, FoxNews states:
Cheney said that the allegations are false and directed voters to read the truth about Halliburton at FactCheck.com; although he probably meant FactCheck.org a project of the University of Pennsylvania that independently evaluates politicians' claims. Ironically, FactCheck.com forwards visitors to the Web site of left-leaning billionaire and Bush administration critic George Soros."
But in the original article published shortly after the debate, FoxNews had repeated the VP's error and written:
Cheney said the Halliburton allegations are false and directed voters to factcheck.com, a project of the University of Pennsylvania, to read the truth.
I have used a product called Furl to store a copy of the original FoxNews article here and the live copy of the FoxNews article can be found here.

While media can take advantage of the fluidity of the Internet to change their articles without notice or apology, we the media consumers can also be vigilent in observing and recording this funny business.

After reading Fox's summary of the debate and counting the number of times that the piece promotes Cheney's points in the debate, and doesn't mention Edward's points I didn't need to see them change this article to know that they were a mouthpiece for the Bush-Cheney campaign. But seeing the way they chose to make this change, speaks volumes of the editorial integrity of the FoxNews team.

Boing Boing has an interesting note on this -- that the owners of factcheck.com are a for-profit advertising service based in the Cayman Islands and that they redirected their URL to George Soros "...to relieve stress on the service and to express a political point of view," as they were being deluged with hits within minutes after the end of the debate. Also interesting is the note that factcheck.org posted which says in part "...we did post an article pointing out that Cheney hasn't profited personally while in office from Halliburton's Iraq contracts, as falsely implied by a Kerry TV ad. But Edwards was talking about Cheney's responsibility for earlier Halliburton troubles. And in fact, Edwards was mostly right.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

FoxNews links to factcheck.com

Duplicating VP Cheney's error, Fox News links to factcheck.com in their article on the debate. Will Fox change their page to reflect the Veep's intended website link? Here is my Furl'd version of the page in question with the link to factcheck.com -- if you notice Fox changing their site, let me know! Wouldn't that be a clear indication of partisinship? Or would they simply claim that they were making a correction?

FactCheck.com -- George Soros?

I like millions of Americans, am following VP Cheney's suggestion and typing factcheck.com into my browser... so why is the headline Why We Must Not Re-Elect President Bush: A personal message from George Soros. Here is an interesting web hijack. Has the press picked up on this yet?

UPDATE: Martin Tobias explains that VP Cheney should have directed people to factcheck.org...

Canter On The Future of the Web

Marc Canter has just been rapping on the future of the web -- I almost think he belongs at a conference called web 3.0 rather than web 2.0 as he is describing a world of the far future.

Marc wants an infrastructure for social networking, content sharing, and global search that is ubiquitous, open source, free, peer-to-peer...

This is a brave new world that he describes (""...and such people in it!").

I am struggling with how one builds a business model in this world. Marc's answer is that the entrepreneur creates a compelling user experience and that people will pay for that. On the other hand, my experience of the world has been that people are willing to use "good enough" if it is free or cheap(er). Isn't that part of why the PC won over the Mac?

Standing at Web 2.0

Standing at Web 2.0
Standing at Web 2.0,
originally uploaded by Ted Shelton.
Yes, I am at Web 2.0 in San Francisco. Shortly after taking this photo of Marc Canter and Steve Gillmor standing at the back of the first workshop, they dragged in some more chairs. At least the Nikko is NOT one of the hotels that has locked out employees. Marc points out that it is a GOOD thing that people have come out for the conference and that it is standing room only at 9:00 in the morning...

Monday, October 04, 2004

Web 2.0 Conference

I will be spending the next three days at the Web 2.0 conference in San Francisco. If you are going to be there, look me up!

Thursday, September 30, 2004

CAL's Reaction to the Debate

I went over to the UC Berkeley campus to watch the debate. It was actually hard at times to hear the President's replies to questions because the audience was laughing so hard. I don't believe the President intended to be a comedian. But from the perspective of this audience, albeit a liberal leaning one, George Bush did not come across as presidential, nor did he succeed in sounding even as if he had serious answers to many of the questions asked. On the other hand, viewers left this location believing that John Kerry had succeeded in appearing serious, presidential, and smart about how he would lead the country.

Perhaps this is just a case of viewers having their own views reaffirmed. But there could have been a lot of other reactions to Bush -- boos, silence, disgust. But laughter? That was a surprise.

flickr on blogpulse

flickr on blogpulse
flickr on blogpulse,
originally uploaded by Ted Shelton.
Still a relatively small percentage of "all blogs" but it is interesting to see how BlogPulse shows the growth in buzz for Flickr against other interesting web 2.0 phenomena like typepad...

More Paparazzi on Flickr

Esther (make that Esthr) Dyson, snapping photos of Rich Karlgaard and Guy Kawasaki in Hong Kong at the Forbes CEO conference.

Steve Jurvetson hanging out with Skype founders

Kayaking the Baltic Sea
Kayaking the Baltic Sea,
originally uploaded by jurvetson.
Only in an industry like the Internet would the "stars" play the role of paparazzi, taking (and publishing) photos of other "stars" -- here on Flickr. Steve Jurvetson (Yes THAT Jurvetson) posting photos of his current trip to Europe, and in this case a photo of Tim and Niklas (of Skype fame) on a kayak trip in the Baltic sea... DFJ is an investor...

The Late Great NYT

It is surely a sign of how bad things have gotten for the New York Times that they have become the butt of jokes... just heard the second one in a week today when Bob Bozeman spoke this morning at the Keiretsu Forum meeting about his experiences as an early investor in Google. Bob was talking about an early article that appeared about Google in the NYT and said,
"I don't know if any of you have read the New York Times, but it seems to be a known newspaper..."
which got a big laugh. Sad that this paper, once holding the highest journalistic standards in the world, has declined to such a degree that it is the subject of such jokes.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004


originally uploaded by Ted Shelton.
I am using a new tool called Flickr for storing, organizing, and sharing my photos. Here is a photo of a vineyard in the Eastern Colorado desert...

Thursday, September 09, 2004

War on Terror

Ever since the President stated on one day that we could NOT win the "war on terror" and the next day flip-flopped with a statement that we would win, I have been thinking about what it really means to "win the war on terror."

In order to define how a war can be won, the enemy being fought must be defined. Is this war on terror a war against the tactic of terrorism, regardless of who uses it? Or is it a war on the idealogy of muslim extremism? Or is it a war on a specific group like Al Queda?

Outright, we can reject the proposition that this is a war on a single enemy such as Al Queda. Al Queda has splintered into many subgroups and muslim extremisim is not limited to the Al Queda organization.

But the notion that we are at war against muslim extremism falls down on two counts. Perhaps most important is the fact that world governments have identified non muslim groups around the world as terrorist groups under the "war on terror." So both the United States and our allies in this war have identified a broader enemy. Secondly, though, it would be difficult to make a case that we can "win" a war against a set of ideas, such as those espoused by muslim extremists. If, for example, we had said during World War II that our goal was to "win the war on fascism" we would have to admit that we either had lost, or that we are still at war today. There are still dozens of fascist regimes in the world and these governments have killed millions just in Africa over the last few decades. One might say that fascism has been contained, but not defeated. Given that muslim extremism is not a political movement so much as it is a religious movement, and thus trans-national, it would be difficult if not impossible to "contain" this set of ideas the way that fascism can be contained within narrow national borders.

But given the first point, that the US and others have defined non muslim extremist groups as enemies in this war on terror, we must conclude that the war is not solely against a set of ideas. Which leaves one to conclude that we are waging a war against the tactic of terrorism.


There is a basic discontinuity between the categories of activity that the words "war" and "terror" encompass. War is an activity, the object of which is an enemy. Terror is a tactic which can be used by anyone. It simply doesn't make sense to talk about a war on a tactic. For example, could one speak of a "war on hand-to-hand combat?" Or a "war on spying?" It just doesn't make sense.

Perhaps the closest examples that our civilization has in which we reject a particular tactical approach to combat are weapons of mass destruction -- chemical, biological, and nuclear -- and genocide. Through a series of treaties, the countries of the world have sought to criminalize, in some global sense of crime, the use of these kinds of weapons or the elimination of a civilian population. One could say that we are now criminalizing terror as well. But it would be difficult to define any of these tactics as an "enemy" at least one that a "war" could be fought against.

Furthermore terror is fundamentally different from genocide and WoMD in at least one major way -- terror can be utilized as a tactic by a single person or a small group. Genocide and the creation of WoMD requires a large entity, typically a state. Certainly there are examples of small groups employing chemical weapons, such as in the Tokyo subways. But the mass production and utilization (thus the mass in WoMD) requires a large infrastructure. The crossover problem here might be in the concept of a briefcase nuke -- but today the origination of materials for such a device would still have to come from some national entity -- whether sold or stolen.

By contrast, one can gather a few dozen devotees and some easily acquired munitions and take 1000 school children and their parents as hostages, as was recently done in Russia. The easy accessibility of terror as a weapon makes it a tactic that cannot be managed through the existing notion of treaties and global national cooperation.


President Bush had it right, the first time. A "war" against "terror" cannot be won. We can identify particular groups that have specific plans against the US and we can defeat those plans and groups. But we will never eliminate terror as a tactic.

1) There will always be people in the world who disagree and even hate western civilization and the US specifically. However, our national policies and the ways in which we interact with the rest of the world can serve to fuel or calm this hate. We should focus more energy and money on these issues.

2) Terror will continue to be a tactic used against the US and other civilized societies. We need to develop defenses against the introduction of terrorist elements and we need to have more refined ways of reacting to terrorists. This must be done while respecting and protecting our core beliefs in civil liberty and freedom of speech.

3) Organizations which promote terror are genuine enemies and should be fought. But there are different kinds of battles against different kinds of threats. States which harbor and promote terrorists can be battled through economic isolation, physical isolation (blockade) and ultimately through regime change as a last resort.

Transnational organizations such as Al Queda must be battled by evolving the tools we have available to fight organized crime. Many of the organizational and operational techniques, and even the activities (drug and gun running) overlap. The end goals of an Al Queda vs. Columbian drug runners are different but their methods are alike.

4) Finally, effective implementation of these methods to contain and reduce terrorism will only work through effective global cooperation.

I don't feel that I have done more to advance the world's thinking on these issues -- just advanced my own thinking. This process, however, does give me a framework for examining the decisions that we have made over the past few years -- for going to war in Iraq, and even Afghanistan, for the laws we are passing, and the statements that politicians are making. Time to think more on all of these things.

Monday, August 02, 2004

Essayist vs. Diarist

The New York Times recently referred to bloggers as "web diarists". When I saw this article I immediately reacted negatively -- I don't think of what I do on my blog as being a "diary" -- nor are most of the blogs that I read "diaries." The next day I happened to hear a piece on NPR about the art of essay writing. Essay writing seems to me to be much more like what I expect from blogs. Perhaps the medium has matured to the point where it is valuable to distinguish one type of blog from another -- diaries are certainly one important category, but not the whole story. Diarists, essayists, news aggregators, collaboration venues... each uses blogs as a technology but shouldn't they be distinguished from each other in how we refer to them? Diary blog, essay blog, news blog, collaboration blog?

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Mobile Apps at the Edge

The world is changing. My generation, which has accepted the mobile phone into our definition of reality defines it in the terms that we understand -- a telephone that happens to be in our pocket. The next generation, which has grown up with the mobile phone as an existing part of their reality, will make it into something entirely different. elastic space lists some of the fascinating social applications that always-on, location-aware mobile devices are making possible. Thanks to Marc Cantor for passing this on...

Monday, July 26, 2004

More BlogOn Wrap-Ups

A few other people had... issues with the way BlogOn was staged. Sean Bonner was a bit nicer about it in his blog:
I think a lot of the panels were aimed at people who maybe weren't as dialed in on all the subjects being discussed. To someone with limited knowledge on the world of blogs it was probably very interesting...
He has a slightly different proposal on how to solve the conference problem, one that I would be willing to try :-)
So I'm proposing this - let's actually do it and see what happens. We'll pick a hotel in some city with a big lobby with wifi access and a date, and that's it. No panels, no time limits, no structure, no sponsors trying to push their products. Just the people and the lobby. We'll publish the list of attendees as soon as they sign up and that will be the conference. A long weekend, or a few days during a week. I don't know if it will work, but if anyone thinks it's an interesting idea post here, or trackback and if enough people actually think it's worthwhile I'll see what I can do about setting it up.
Marc Cantor echoes Sean's call for a "lobbycon" but calls it the "Open Source Conference" writing "WE (the people) need to just find someplace to hang out - BOTH in meatspace and virtual space and show eher the REAL power is." And Mike Rowehl has some good observations as well, pointing out that none of the presenters bothered to use the wiki provided by BlogOn organizers. Mike has a list of on topic questions that he wished had been addressed at the conference.

Hopefully the conference organizers will get involved in this blog dialog and tell us what they plan on doing differently next time.

Friday, July 23, 2004

Lets Reinvent Conferences

Frankly I felt that BlogOn was a waste of time and money. While I was sitting in the afternoon session (Track B luckily, as from all reports Track A was just a series of advertisements from sponsors) and blogging, reading RSS feeds, and watching the IRC channel stream by I recalled a post from Supernova by Martin Tobias -- Supernova Thoughts in which he writes
Unfortunately, many of the sessions had an erie unproductive quality to them. The Gillmor Gang noted this as well. These days most conferences provide a wifi network and much of the audience is on their laptops during the sessions. But SuperNova, true to it's name, was OVER THE TOP in this regard. Nearly EVERYBODY was frantically typing away in e-mail, IM, or their blogs during all the sessions. Leaving the poor people on stage to wonder if anyone was listening! The CEO of Skype called in on a POTS line. It was erie to be in the audience looking up on stage at powerpoint slides being driven by an assistant with the dis-embodied voice coming over the PA. And of course he couldn't hear questions and the mikes didn't work well, so the Q&A was a disaster.
I think that there are two challenges to the modern conference. Let me call these problems (1) Revenue Vs. Content and (2) Polyphonic Channels.

Revenue Vs. Content
Every conference organizer struggles with a balance between (a) providing content that attracts interesting paying attendees and (b) the value that this interesting paying attendee audience offers to potential sponsors. There are four ways that conference managers leverage the interesting paying audience in order to extract money from sponsors -- advertising (such as a logo on the conference bag); demonstration areas where sponsors have tables or booths to promote their company or product; special presentations in which companies have the opportunity to draw an audience to a demonstration of their product and talk by their representative; and (most insidiously) content participation, either in the form of keynote presentations or panel participation.

A particularly bad trend has been to present conferences, such as BlogOn, in which all of the sessions are panels. While this is a boon to conference organizers (more speaking slots to curry favor with sponsors) it is a disaster for attendees. Most panels are run as general investigations of a topic -- the moderator asks softball questions of each panelist, the conversation leaps from issue to issue, the result is a conversation that is a mile wide and an inch thick. This might work at a conference where the audience knows little about the topic. But at a conference like BlogOn the audience often knows MORE about the topics under discussion than the panelists.

Solution -- focused presentations by individuals that are in-depth and offer the opportunity for Q&A with a specific individual. Where a panel is scheduled, the topic should be specific (ideally divisive), panelists should represent opposing views (or at least a range of views), and the moderator's job should be to keep the conversation on topic, not dominate the conversation with his or her own questions.

Polyphonic Channels
At the modern conference we have wi-fi access allowing side bar conversations via IRC, wiki, blogs, IM, and email. Half the people in each session are typing away furiously on their laptops, more engaged in the blogosphere than in the meatspace. The challenge for conference organizers is how to bring these separate threads of conversation together, instead of allowing them to splinter. Can IRC, blogs, and wiki add value to the ongoing sessions in real time?

The suggestion was made at one point in the BlogOn general session to display the IRC channel on the main screen behind the panelists. Let everyone see the conversation amongst the attendees that was happening simultaneously with the panel discussion. For a variety of reasons this didn't happen, but the idea pointed in the right direction. For example, why should audience members go up to a microphone to introduce themselves and ask a question (which most often devolved into a statement... you know what I mean if you have been at one of these...) Why not have questions asked on the IRC channel and allow the moderator to sort out which of these really consitituted an on topic question?

Solution: This will require experimentation, but conferences such as BlogOn is the perfect place. Use technology to make these conferences a conversation amongst all attendees, not just a presentation by a minority.

Business of Blogging

Steve Boyd, Jason Calcanis, and Henry Copeland are talking about the business of blogging -- still this major problem in the format. By having a "moderator" who knows less about the business than most of the audience we end up with a discussion that is a mile wide and an inch thick.

More BlogOn Transcripts

Here is one on Business Transparancy and on The Transformation of Corporate Communications. The panel on blogging local media has not been posted yet as a transcript but was one of the more interesting. What I took from it was that local print media is dead -- wiped out by venues like Craig's List (Craig was on the panel to talk about this). But blogging offers a new mechanism for the content of local media to reach the local audience.

First Interesting Presentation at BlogOn

Shel Israel, a self-described recovering publicist, is running a panel on how social media is transforming corporate communications. A number of interesting items -- the business of "public relations" is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year. The press release was invented 98 years ago. Shel points out that 72,000 journalists have lost their jobs since 2000 and that as a result, the press release, once intended for the press, is now a primary news source in itself. The Internet allows companies to bypass news coverage, and provide information directly to its customers.

Shel is providing some case studies that show how effective press releases have been for his clients in driving business. I wonder of Shel has heard of Cluetrain -- he is making the case that the Internet allows markets to become conversations.