Saturday, November 01, 2008

Taking a Break

It's been a month since my last post, and I've decided that I'm going to take a blogging hiatus of indeterminate length. Rather than blogging, I'll be focusing my energies in participating in several print-based micromedia, including zines, amateur press associations, mail art, and related projects. I might post occasionally, but in general, there will be other places you can find me. If you're really curious what those are, let me know, and I'll point you in the right direction.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Recent Arrivals

It's been a good week-plus for zines and such. Here are some of the highlights:

Comicopia #108 (August 2008): The 18th anniversary issue of this international comics APA. ($6 133M) Savage Enterprises Publishing, 10 rue de la Valline, NDIP, Quebec, Canada J7V 9S5.

Musea #165 (August/September/October 2008): Writing on shared culture, the "art Olympics," and YouTube videos. (8S) Tom Hendricks, 4000 Hawthorne #5, Dallas, TX 75219.

Opuntia 66A (September 2008): Geology, pronghorns, and a literature scan. ($3 16S) Dale Speirs, Box 6830, Calgary, Alberta, Canada T2P 2E7.

Rap Sheet #138 (September 2008): The official newsletter of the Small Press Syndicate. ($3 52S) Dale Martin, P.O. Box 442612, Lawrence, KS 66044.

Worry Stone #1: The first issue of Jerianne's new zine about the concerns of adulthood. (28XS) P.O. Box 330156, Murfreesboro, TN 37133.

Zen Baby #19: Christopher Robin's freewheeling zine of correspondence, poetry, news, reviews, and collage art. ($2 56M) P.O. Box 1611, Santa Cruz, CA 95061-1611.

Zine World #26: Perhaps the zine review zine of today. I contribute an article on censorship in California and Russia, as well as assorted zine reviews. ($4 62M) P.O. Box 330156, Murfreesboro, TN 37133.

ZYX #48 (December 2008): Progressive poetry, reviews, and collage art, including poems by A. D. Winans. (10M) Arnold Skemer, 58-09 205th St., Bayside, NY 11364.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Vote for My ChangeThis Manifesto Proposal

I submitted an idea for a ChangeThis manifesto, and it's currently one of the proposals you can vote for. Vote for my proposal, if you think it's a good idea, and help me get selected... I'd love to do this ebook and think it's a useful topic: How to best leverage the many business book summary services out there.

While you're there, check out the other proposals, as well. It's an interesting project -- and an interesting process!

You Don't Get There from Here #8

Carrie McNinch, P.O. Box 49403, Los Angeles, CA 90049; Web; Email
($2 36XS)

Daily, three-panel diary comic strips. Sent as trade for a Bundle of Wonder. Excellent.

ZYX #48

Arnold Skemer, 58-09 205th St., Bayside, NY 11364
(Free 10M)

Innovative poetry, and reviews of same. One of the best poetry zines I get.

Poet's Espresso: September 2008

1426 Telegraph Ave. #4, Stockton, CA 95204; Web; Email
($1, 28S)

Poetry from multiple poets in at least two languages, as well as local events listings.

A View #135

Michael Goetz, 1340 Brandywine Dr., Rockford, IL 61108
($1 16XS)

Simply drawn single-panel gag strips with an emphasis on puns.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Several Items from SSO Press

Yesterday, I received a wonderful envelope from the folks who share P.O. Box 2645 in Olympia, Wash. Among the items included were:

Well, I Don't See Why Not CD-R: "A compilation of unsigned/barely signed Northwest artists" released in July 2008. Musical groups include Twig Palace, Yes Please, the Hail Seizures, Ariel Birks, Blindfolder, and other bands. 17 songs available via Bicycle Records.

Basic Paper Airplane #2 (August 2008): Cut-and-paste perzine by Joshua Amberson, SSO Press, P.O. Box 2645, Olympia, WA 98507. (Trade 20S)

Jesus Christ Super Zine #1: Hand- and typewritten perzine by Ariel Birks, SSO Press, P.O. Box 2645, Olympia, WA 98507 (Trade 40S)

These are begging to be read and listened to, and full reviews will follow in the near future.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Xerography Debt #24

Davida Gypsy Breier, P.O. Box 11064, Baltimore, MD 21212
($2 16M)

The first issue of a new approach to Xerography Debt, this issue largely contains a lettercol-driven discussion of the intersection between zine culture and the Web. Breier and her team are moving the review aspect of XD to a new blog and will devote the pages of the print -- and PDF -- version to other matters. Contributors to the discussion include yours truly, James Dawson, Jeff Somers, Christopher Robin, and others. Somers also contributes items on post office etiquette, how to mail a zine "properly," and the longevity of online zine reviews. Sinasi Gunes's piece "Zines and Contemporary Art in Turkey" is a brief survey of zine culture in that country, and there are a couple of pages of calls for submissions. I might be most intrigued by the calls for submissions. Even if zine culture is being supplanted in some ways by the Web, there's still a place for the papernet, and this is a healthy expression of the Eternal Network. Oddly, this is the first issue of XD I've ever read, and I feel like I've been missing out -- but joined the party at an interesting point in time. To the future!

Friday, August 29, 2008

Sensing the Future

The future tastes like ice-cold artesian well water, like copper, like blood on your tongue, like the tang of a nine-volt battery.

The future smells like ozone, like burning rubber, like plastic water bottles, like snow.

The future sounds like white noise, like train whistles in the distance, like doorbells, like the staticky space that shifts and sits between radio stations.

The future looks like daybreak, like sunset, like early-afternoon sunlight, like cellophane, like lightbulbs.

The future feels like polyester, like velour, like Tupperware, like bubblewrap and packing foam, like cold steel.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Opuntia #65.5

Dale Spiers, Box 6830, Calgary, AB, Canada T2P 2E7
($3 16S)

This edition of Opuntia is a perzine and contains correspondence from and with readers (Spiers responds within brackets in the text of the letters), an item on this year's World Wide Party -- I've not heard of this previously and will suitably recognize the next June 21! -- and offers journal entries covering roughly four months. This is the way I'll learn more about Spiers, for sure.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Wakeup Call

A review I wrote of Kevin Prufer's poetry collection, National Anthem, was published in the July-August 2008 edition of Small Press Review. Here's the review draft I sent editor Len Fulton:

National Anthem
By Kevin Prufer
2008; 82pp; Pa; Four Way Books, P.O. Box 535, Village Station, New
York, NY 10014. $15.95

"There is nothing so lonely as an empire detached from its people," writes Prufer in his poem "What We Did with the Empire." If anything, that line could well serve as the thesis statement for this collection of more than 40 poems by the English professor at the University of Central Missouri and editor of Pleiades: A Journal of New Writing. In two sections, the slim book collects poems that consider the failings and foibles of politics and government, urban life and consumerism -- belated wakeup calls for citizens of a police state that's constantly at war with other nations (and itself). The tenor and tone is largely one of careful but unavoidable and perhaps understandable neutrality and distance -- reminding me slightly of the prose of Ben Marcus and the comic books of Peter Milligan -- and Prufer's imagery is strong but subtle: birds and boats, coins and coffins, snow and soot. This is a poetry of decay and decline, and there's little hope in the book outside of the occasional lines like, "and the office towers bending down to us as if they'd cup us in their hands and warm us, / as if they'd lift us from the streets before we froze." ("We Wanted to Find America") Too little, too late, for now, and for that, I am thankful.

If you'd like me to consider any small-press poetry or prose books for review in SPR, please email me.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Products I Love XXVI

One tool I can't live without is a real lifesaver, and it serves a dual purpose. Keynamics makes a nifty little device that's super simple -- and super useful.

The Aviator Laptop Stand is intended to be used on planes, so you can rest your laptop on a seat tray and not have to hunch forward to work. But I've found it to be the best laptop stand for everyday desk use bar none.

It keeps your laptop off the surface of your desk, which increases airflow around the computer and aids in cooling. It also tilts the laptop forward gently for a more ergonomic approach to the keyboard.

And at $20, it's super inexpensive. Just three pieces of plastic you can snap together. I've used other laptop stands -- metal, padded, all much more expensive -- and this one's the best.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

My First Poetry Reading

I read several of my poems at a Google talent show in New York several months ago. They video taped it. Here's what it was like:

Monday, August 04, 2008

Brooklyn! #61

Fred Argoff, Penthouse L, 1170 Ocean Parkway, Brooklyn, NY 11230
($3 24S)

Another theme issue of this long-running Brooklyn-based zine, this edition focuses on industrial neighborhoods. Areas explored and depicted include Industry City, the Gowanus Canal, the English Kills, and Greenpoint.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Bundles of Wonder

I send packets of zines, minicomics, fliers, and ephemera to people in the zine scene -- the Eternal Network. If you'd like to be included, send no more than 25 copies of your zine, minicomic, flier, CD, or other item to me.

Unlike some of my projects, this isn't about documentation, but distribution. I just send stuff out; I don't keep records of what, much less to whom.

To receive my address in order to send material for inclusion, email me, and I'll smuggle you the essentials. If you'd like to receive a Bundle of Wonder, do the same, and when you get the address, send $5 for priority -- not random -- handling.

If you receive a packet (randomly or otherwise), I hope you enjoy it.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

The White Buffalo Gazette #Ferry Across the Ocean of Existence

Mike Hill, 387 Jayson Ave., Pittsburgh, PA 15228
($3 28S)

Thanks to John Porcellino, I learn about the most recent incarnation of the obscuro comix zine. Editor Mike Hill has collected work by Chad Woody, Steve Willis, Matt Feazell, Maximum Traffic, Clark Dissmeyer, Jim Siergey, Jeff Zenick, and Ed Bolman. This is a need to get for small-press comics readers. Send Mike your money!

A View #134

Michael Goetz, 1340 Brandywine Dr., Rockford, IL 61108
($1 16XS)

This is Michael's more adult comic. This edition includes single panels on breast feeding, condoms, stand-up comedy, Disney, ice cream, sex, religion, drinking, politics, and other topics. Simply drawn, and funny.

Moving Money

I know Where's George is sooo 1998, but 10 years later, it's captured my imagination like nobody's business.

The idea is simple: Each dollar bill has a unique identifier on it, and were you to enter them into a database, and track instances of a dollar bill's possession, you could monitor its travel throughout the world.

For the last few weeks, I've been religiously stamping my dollars -- $1 bills only; it's George for a reason, Media Dieticians -- with a stamp purchased from Holmes Stamp & Sign and releasing them back into the wild.

All my dollars have been virgins -- no previous entries, these -- but my sense of money and how money moves has been heightened.

Where does your money go? It's not that difficult to tell.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Awesome Career Development Fire Sale

This is an unbelievable offer and opportunity that I just have to share.

After 16 years in Chapel Hill, Jeff Davidson of the Breathing Space Institute is moving to Raleigh, and until the end of the month, he's offering an incredible package deal -- all in the name of cleaning out stuff he doesn't want to maildeal with. Check it out:

$78 worth of Books

  • The Complete Guide to Public Speaking (Wiley, 324 pages) $16.95
  • Marketing Yourself and Your Career (Adams Media, 238 pages) $12.95
  • Complete Idiot's Guide to Getting Things Done (Alpha/Penguin, 324 pages) $18.95
  • Complete Idiot's Guide to Managing Stress (Alpha/Pearson, 372 pages, $18.95)
  • The 60-Second Procrastinator (Adams Media, 142 pages) $9.95

$198 worth of CDs and Audio Books

  • The 60-Second Procrastinator (Oasis Audio, 140 minutes) $19.95
  • Surviving Information Overload (NIBM, 72 minutes) $14.95
  • Relaxing at High Speed (ACHE, 32 minutes) $9.95
  • Blow Your Own Horn (Simon & Schuster, 60 minutes) $10.95
  • Time, Stress, Simplicity (Skillpath PersonalQuest, 300 minutes) $59.95
  • Getting Articles Published (PR Leads, 57 minutes) $19.95
  • Selling Your Book's 'Sub Rights' (PR Leads, 59 minutes) $19.95
  • Foreign Rights Sales (PR Leads, 60 minutes) $19.95
  • Creating a Brilliant Book Outline (BSI, 53 minutes, $15.95)
  • Giving Better Presentations (Dreamcoach, 55 minutes, $16.95)

Plus CD and Article Bonuses

To order, go to this special Web site and enter the description "career advancement" and the amount... $99.

These items are from major publishers -- at list price -- so it's quite a package deal. I don't often post stuff like this, but holy cow.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

From the Reading Pile XXXV

Some reviews submitted recently to Zine World:

Blurt! #5: Lew's all over the place in this well-designed, verbose perzine. Past and present. Memory and diary. New York, Illinois, Pennsylvania, and Texas. He shares stories about his childhood, school-age friendships, discovering punk rock, the dangers of tribute bands, student journalism, relationships on the wax and wane, making zines, couch surfing, being in a band, and other aspects of the punk-rock life. There's not a lot that's new here, but Lew's got a friendly perspective, and his use of adverbs without the "ly" at the end can be fun. The "Livin' on an Island" section makes me want to check out City Island in New York. A great zine for waiting rooms and bus stations. Lew Houston, 135 Wapwallopen Road, Nescopeck, PA 18535, email [$2 108XS 1:21]

Dwelling Portably (May 2008): Regardless of your living situation -- rural or urban -- reading this zine will inspire you to go back to the land -- and will give you the tools and ideas you need to do so inexpensively. Material in this issue covers Chinese-style wheelbarrows, peak forces on backpacks, grain storage, infected food and clean water, vehicle repair, and temporary housing. Wonderfully homespun, Dwelling Portably mixes personal experience and reader contributions. A must read. P.O. Box 190-D, Philomath, OR 97370 [ $1 16S :19]

Farming Uncle #109 (Spring 2008): Editor Louis Toro started an experimental "farmette" and homestead in Greenfield Park, NY, 41 years ago. His zine is a hodgepodge of agricultural clip art, personal and pen pal ads, get-rich-quick working from home schemes, all-caps moralizing, rural living how tos, nonviolent politics, and Native American activism. It's a cluttered cabinet, but it's fascinating -- and makes for an interesting parallel read to Dwelling Portably. My new favorite zine. Louis Toro, Box 427, Bronx, NY 10458 [$3 24S :23]

Local Comics #55: It's been awhile since I've seen one of Michael's comics, and it's great to see he's still stirring the pot. Over the years, his artwork, though simple, has gotten a little tighter. But his sense of humor -- boner jokes, visual gags, puns -- hasn't changed much at all. His use of partial puns, in which he puns off of a syllable or a part of a word versus the entire term, has increased somewhat. That just goes to show that you can find amusement anywhere -- and that puns might be finite. Basic, clever, funny. Michael Goetz, 1340 Brandywine Dr., Rockford, IL 61108 [Two stamps/trade 16XS :02]

Musea #160 (January-February 2008): If this issue is any indication, Tom Hendricks publishes a Christmas-themed short story at the end of the year. Even though the holiday story might be better read at holiday time -- it's July as I write this -- I did enjoy the piece. It's a story about injury, memory, music, and love -- and while it's somewhat predictable, it's gentle and caring. The issue even includes photographs and sheet music to add to the experience. Happy belated holidays, Tom! Tom Hendricks, 4000 Hawthorne #5, Dallas, TX 75219, email, Web [Free 13S :06]

Opuntia #64A-64B (October-November 2007): Given that these issues of Dale Speirs's zines have a whole number, they contain what's termed "sercon," or serious and constructive criticism. Other issues might be reviewzines, APAs, or perzines. These two editions, then, contain an actively footnoted two-part essay on the origin of life, in which Speirs addresses the various theories behind the origin of life and provides a good starter survey of the literature. Speirs also addresses his other interests, including science fiction, postal history, geoscience, and other topics. The Seen in the Literature items are useful synopses of scholarly articles. Worth checking out. Dale Speirs, Box 6830, Calgary, AB Canada T2P 2E7 [$3 16S :23]

The Out Orb Tribute to Carl Sagan: Combining his interests in the work of Carl Sagan, the TV Show Space: 1999, and Esperanto, long-time comics maker Tolbert created this mini sharing a story about Sagan going to Moonbase Alpha to oversee the construction of SETI antennas. I don't always "get" Yul's comics, but I sure am consistently impressed. His controlled use of hash-mark shading is interesting, and his stylized characters, while somewhat stiff, do resonate. Worth it for the drawings of spacecraft, the moonbase, and antennas alone. The Princess Di joke at the end is a pleasant touch. Yul Tolbert, P.O. Box 02222, Detroit, MI 48202, email, Web [Free 16XS :03]

Popular Reality Special Report Vol. 786 #2: Fans of old-school mail art and zinemakers such as Bob Black and Al Ackerman will get a kick out of this intriguing read. Along with cover model Mykel Board, readers are offered pieces on the military and mind control, a faux brochure on human-gorilla in-vitro fertilization, suicide, child abuse, and Cher. Equal parts parody and polittical commentary, it's not always easy to identify what's a joke and what's art. Highlights include the Christopher Robin poem, Suzy Crowbar's textual poaching, and the detourned Yuran Ass comic on the last page. Confusing and fascinating -- a wonderful combination. Poe-Pular Reality, P.O. Box 66426, Albany, NY 12206 [$3 24S :15]

Publick Occurrances #10: This excellently handmade comic -- a limited edition of 500 with what appear to be woodcut covers -- collects drawings done of students from the class of 1925 at the Manual Training High School in Peoria, Ill. Artist Danny Martin's ink work may itself be inspired by woodcuts and lends a sinister air to his recreations of the student portraits. About 50 students and faculty members are featured in this edition. Danny Martin, 746 E. 5th St. #23, Tucson, AZ 85719 [$2 or trade 20XS :01]

Show Me the Money! #26 (Fall, Winter, Spring 2007-2008): Even though I'd like to see more citations and footnotes for a lot of the facts, I was quite impressed by this well-researched zine. Hunnicutt strives to show the realities of our economic and political system and leans pretty far to the left while doing so. Highlights of this edition include his contention that America isn't a democracy but a kleptocratic plutocracy (the Anti-Renter movement of the 19th century bears further research), the comparison of 1929 and 2008, a look at friendly societies and other mutual aid groupss (this might be the best article in the issue), and the two poems near the back. The zine could use more variation in its content (kinds of articles) and design but offers tons of food for thought -- if not tools for activism. Tony Hunnicutt, P.O. Box 48161, Minneapolis, MN 55448 [Free 44S :31]

Tenacious: Art and Writings from Women in Prison #13 (Fall 2007): This zine collects writing and artwork by women in prison, so there are some common threads running throughout the stories. Pieces touch on gender relations between prisoners and guards, health concerns with HIV and Hepatitis C, separation from loved ones, illogical elements of the legal and prison systems, the will to improve one's life or situation in and out of prison, and children. Rachel Vickers's "Ode to Sole Mates" might be the most creative item, told from the perspective of a pair of tennis shoes. A mixed bag, but promising for people interested in women's and prison issues. V. Law, Black Star Publishing, P.O. Box 20388, New York, NY 10009, email [$2 32S :12]

Urban Spook #1: Originally issued in 2006, this is a self-published comic book that's accompanied by a CD featuring six tracks of music and narration, also by Monk. Titled "The Cash-for-Pussy Primer," the piece -- best read while listening to the CD -- details the experiences of a gourmet cheese seller who goes to Span to see an old female friend. The two solicit a prostitute, which leads to some introspection. The artwork is somewhat rough and hurried, but the overall combination more than makes up for the limitations of any of the individual parts. An excellent DIY multimedia project. If you're aware of others like this, please write the reviewer c/o Zine World. Augusto Monk, 305A Brockley Road, London, England SE4 2QZ, email, Web [$10 12S+CD :17]

Worn Fashion Journal #4: Not quite Harper's Bazaar with its portrayal of impractical spectacular runway fashion and not quite Readymade with its DIY thriftiness, Worn is a relatively new semiannual magazine that blends the inventiveness of punk rock and the aesthetics of high fashion. The zine itself is well designed and published on a heavier stock of paper to better present its full-color contents. Highlights include an appreciation of The Image Makers: Sixty Years of Hollywood Glamour, and introduction to log cabin quilt making, Sonya Topolnisky's article on simultaneous color,a piece on the aesthetics of psychobilly, a reminiscence by an auction house intern, and an outline of the chemistry behind dry cleaning. This isn't a world I'm familiar with, but I appreciate the entry point. Well done. Serah-Marie McMahon, 4903 De Grand Pre, Montreal, QC H2T 2H9 Canada, email, Web [$7.50 48M :17]

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Secrets of the Subway Society

I've prepared a tri-fold pamphlet exposing some of the secrets of the Subway Masons, an elite group of underground hitchhikers who have penetrated almost every level of politics and society. If you'd like a copy of this pamphlet, let me know. I'll tell you the address to which you can send a first-class stamp or a SASE; upon receipt of either, I'll mail you the pamphlet.

People interested in helping distribute the pamphlet should contact me, as well. I'll email you a Word document you can print, photocopy, and distribute yourself.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Get Your Dance On

This video makes me happy -- and love human beings. We are pretty amazing creatures. Silly, but wonderful.

Where the Hell is Matt? (2008) @ Yahoo! Video

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Global Labels

I've been curious lately about the origins of the products and items I use every day. For example, the clothing I wear. I don't know whether I'll keep track every day, but this morning, I did a quick global inventory of the clothes I'm wearing. And the results were intriguing:

  • Boxers -- made in Cambodia using fabric from China (Fruit of the Loom)
  • T-shirt -- made in Haiti (Hanes)
  • Khakis -- made in Jordan (Gap)
  • Shirt -- made in China (Uniqlo)
  • Jacket -- made in the United States (Hart, Schaffner & Marx)
  • Shoes -- made in China (Vans)

Where are the clothes you wear from? It's an interesting question.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Loping Toward a Psychogeography

I've never been to Manchester, but were I there this weekend, I'd check out the Manchester Mental Mapping Workshop run by Davide Fasic of the Nottingham Psychogeographical Unit. It's part of the Territories Reimagined: International Perspectives festival, and it takes place from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Saturday, June 21, at Urbis, Cathedral Gardens, Manchester M4 3BG.

Come and draw your mental map of Manchester. Maybe you won't remember where things are, but know how to get there. You've got a mental picture of the place, your personal map of the city. Nothing compared to the O&S: no grids, no proportions, no miles to the inch. Mental maps are a fluid collection of areas, paths and landmarks; gaps and blurs abound. Buildings and streets are shrouded in emotions, the city changes according to the observer and the sum of all observations is its aura.

Shades of Will Self's recent book, the event also reminded me of a project I learned about at NYU ITP's spring show: World Mappings.

What do the places you love and remember look like inside your head? When I dream of the town in which I was born, sometimes there are entire neighborhoods that don't actually exist.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Andy Warhol's Time Capsules

The staff of the Andy Warhol Museum is currently in the process of opening and cataloguing each of Warhol's more than 600 time capsules. I wasn't aware that Warhol kept time capsules, but it appears that it was a standard practice of his.

"Now I just drop everything into the same-size brown cardboard boxes that have a color patch on the side for the month of the year. I really hate nostalgia, though, so deep down I hope they all get lost and I never have to look at them again." -- The Philosophy of Andy Warhol

This is a short list of some of the items they've found recently:

  • 121 torn pieces of US 1, 5, 10, 20, 50, and 100 dollar bill edges
  • Fan letter and nude photograph of Lance Loud, age 16ish
  • Gift box sent to Warhol from a fan containing a doll and several handmade doll outfits
  • Note of well wishes from Allen Ginsberg on a list of chanting mantras from the New School
  • Necklace of Gumby figures crafted by Billy Boy
  • A collection of stationery, menus, napkins, and brochures stolen from hotels around the world
  • Photographic negatives of Campbell's soup cans and Coke bottles used as source material for artworks
  • A selection from several hundred get well cards sent to Warhol following the 1968 shooting
  • A postcard from Valerie Solanas criticizing Warhol for misspelling her name
  • Two doggie sweaters for Andy's dachshunds, Amos and Archie
  • A bag containing approximately 20 spools of wig tape
  • One of Warhol's silver and black wigs
  • Invoices from Stephen Sprouse's clothing store totaling $70,000.00
  • A selection of kinky newspapers and magazines

And here's a sample capsule.

Grassroots Use of Technology

This looks like an interesting conference:

When: Saturday, June 28th - All Day (8:30am to 6pm)
Where: University of Massachusetts Lowell - Wannalancit Building, 600 Suffolk Street, Lowell, MA

Highlights of the day:

* Keynote Speaker, Nick Jehlen of Action Mil draw lessons from his recent work on the Winter Soldier campaign organized by Iraq Veterans Against the War.
* Non-profit Internet Starter Kit: Take Your Website to the Next Level with These Free Online Tools
* Online Mentoring: Innovative Uses of Technology in Creating and Managing Mentor-Mentee Relationships
* You Can't Get What You Want Until You Know What You Need: Choosing the Right Software
* Making the Most Out of the Organizers' Database
* The Untapped Power of Social Networks for Grassroots Action
* Getting the Clicks: e-Campaigning in Communities with Few Computers
* Managing Your Website with Today's Tools
* Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Roadmap
* HAVA Great Idea? (HAVA stands for Help America Vote Act)
* Facebook to Phone Trees: Multi-Generational Outreach Strategies
* Organizing the Organic Internet
* Helping Your Computer System Grow Up
* Keeping it Simple: technology tools that won't make you want to rip your hair out.
* Collaborative eLearning
* The Point: A Web-Tool for Collective Action
* Managing & Recruiting Tech volunteers
* Strategies for shaping the media/tech future: Policy, funding & organizing
* Open Media Boston: Building a News Portal with Drupal

Lowell is a beautiful, historic city that still remembers its working-class roots The intersection of rivers and canals make it a wonderful place to be on an early summer day. So join us for some engaging connections and some rock-solid knowledge sharing.

If any Media Dieticians go, consider submitting a report! (Or blogging it yourself.)

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Two Music Stores in Wisconsin

Reeds in My Saxophone Case

While in California recently, I bought a new box of alto saxophone reeds because I wanted new reeds to play my sax. So this afternoon, I cleaned out my saxophone case. I kept all of the reeds still in boxes but threw away used and loose reeds in order to make sure I wasn't reusing old reeds. It's been awhile since I've played my sax. Here are the reeds that were in my case:

If you play a reed instrument, what kind of reeds do you use?

Friday, May 30, 2008

Products I Love XXV

At work, I just got a FreeAgent Go external hard drive from Seagate. It's the sexiest hard drive I've ever seen. Cost effective at $85 for 160GB -- it goes up to 250GB for $130 -- the drive is a sumptious chocolate brown and about as big as a wallet.

Memory is cheap. And it'll get cheaper.

Monday, May 05, 2008

On Europa

Last night, I went to a punk-rock show at Europa, a venue in Greenpoint that walks the line between European dance club and music club. The catalyst was a Rocks Off show featuring the Bouncing Souls. I hadn't gone to a punk show for awhile, and I hadn't gone to Europa, so this was the trigger I needed to step out.

Only thing was, I bought the ticket months ago. And when the show rolled around, it wasn't that convenient -- I was leaving the next day for a trip -- and while I bought only one ticket thinking C. wouldn't be into it, I would've preferred going with friends. So I lingered until I realized that one of the opening acts, Tim Barry, was the Tim Barry who fronted Avail.

So I hauled my sorry arse out of my productivity-ridden, rainy-day apartment and into the streets to catch the set by Barry, as well as the tail end of the set by Gaslight Anthem. I bought the new Gaslight Anthem 7-inch, as well as Barry's LP, and I was pleased to see a booth for Microcosm Publishing, from which I bought several zines.

Truth be told, I left soon after the Bouncing Souls started, but I'm sure they played a solid show. Barry makes me miss Joe Kendrick, so hello, man. Not sure I need Jersey core, but that Tim Barry's all right.

On the Physics of the Impossible

Friday night, C. and I took in a talk by the theoretical physicist Michio Kaku. It was held at the Community Church of New York under the auspices of the Open Center, and it was basically a book signing you paid to go to. Tickets cost $20. The book cost extra.

Kaku, cofounder of string field theory, has a new book out that looks at the scientific underpinnings of concepts like invisibility, teleportation, ray guns, telepathy and mind reading, starships, robots, and time travel.

The talk was heavy on the jokes and use of video -- Kaku hosted a BBC TV show scheduled to hit the states next year -- and light on the science, but there were still some interesting bits. Not only did Kaku hold up some solid examples stemming from actual scientific research, but he walked through various levels of impossibility and types of civilizations that might or might not be more or less likely to embrace potential possibiities.

Part of me wants to think that Kaku has moved from representing a pop scientist to being a new age geek, which possesses a different degree of credulity. But another part of me wants to see the talks behind the talk to better understand the science behind the speculation.

This is popsci, not scifi, and that's an important difference.

On People Movers

I flew into SFO today. Tom and I rode the people mover to the rental car center after I claimed my suitcase.

Watch this while listening to the song by Servotron. It'll be a kick!

(If the video's not ready now, it will be soon.)

Sunday, May 04, 2008

On Beatiful Losers

Last week, thanks to the generosity of Shane Gill and Pitch Control PR, C. and I took in a screening of Beautiful Losers, a wonderful doc about the art scene surrounding the Alleged Gallery in New York.

No, that's not it. Beautiful Losers is a film about a group of artists, some of whom had some connection with Alleged, a gallery I never had the pleasure of visiting, but which was quite important, even inspiring a book. No, that's not quite right, the movie is about a group of artists who participated in a traveling exhibition show (with accompanying catalog) that captured the ideas and ideals of a small part of a generation.

No, that's wrong, too. Beautiful Losers is a film about art. Period. Yes, it's about skateboarding (Ed Templeton) and stencils (Shepard Fairey), love (Mike McGee) and loss (Margaret Kilgallen), New York (Stephen Powers) and LA (where much of the art found its largest audience). It's about record covers and suburbia, friendship and community, self-exploration and -discovery.

Some parts work better than others. Overall, the movie is an excellent documentation of a specific time in art, blending past and present well. At times, the film feels long, and some parts -- such as those including Harmony Korine -- feel somewhat out of place. But if you're into the kind of art featured in Giant Robot and Juxtapoz magazines -- and even if you're not -- it's a must see.

The movie makes me want to carry a Sharpie at all times. That's not a bad thing.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

List of Three Men

  • Mass Giorgini
  • Kevin Army
  • Bill Stephenson

Wait for Trains

Shay used to wait for trains. Or rather, trains would wait for Shay.

It took him a year to realize it, but Shay never arrived at the Irving Park Road train station and stood waiting for a train to arrive.

No. He would either arrive at a station just as a train was arriving, or -- if he had perhaps arrived at the Ravenswood station just before a train arrived, which was rare -- the train would approach him, aligning itself so its doors lined up exactly with the frame of his body, doors sliding apart as though to apologize for the delay and to caress him until he have in to its ministrations. "It's OK. I'm still your train. Step inside. Come on. What are you waiting for?"

Needless to say, Shay didn't notice this. To him, he merely arrived just as trains arrived, making his way through the turnstiles and through the arriving commuters just before the doors closed. The proceedings had no sense of fortune, no sense of mystery.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Party Line Service

Last night, I went to Nokia's flagship store in Manhattan for the Webby Awards' People's Voice voting party. I've enjoyed being -- and been honored to be -- a member of the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences for many years, but to be totally honest, my attraction last night was this: Everyone who went to the party was given a free N95.

And it's amazing. I've never paid money for a mobile phone, always accepting the free starter phones they give you with your plan. That means I've been stuck with a no-frills LG and a metered data plan that hampers use of the mobile Web, much less SMS. Word is that the N95 I was gifted is prepaid through June 15 -- whether it's unlimited until then or if it's a set payment I can burn through before then, I don't know. At that time, I'll consider changing service providers in order to continue using this mobile.

So far, I've installed the Gmail and Google Maps apps (love the GPS even though it's accurate to 1,700 meters or something), and I've started looking for solid news and weather sites and apps to use frequently. I can access my work email and calendar via the phone, which is way handy, and I'm even impressed by one of the demo games; the graphics of the car racing game are quite impressive.

I've yet to fully explore the camera and video camera capabilities, but Robert Scoble and Steve Garfield seem to have embraced the N95, using services such as Qik to stream video live from the phone. I'll have to check that out, next.

But I'm really writing this post to turn to you, Media Dieticians. If you use the N95, what tips and tricks do I need to know about? How do you use it? What apps and services do you think I should check out?

I really like this new phone. Thank you, thank you, DMD and the IADAS!

To learn more about the history of party lines, which have little if anything to do with this blog post, read the Wikipedia entry, as well as this telephone history from Privateline. Not to be confused with for-pay party lines.

Monday, April 28, 2008

On Self-Reliance and the Wisdom of Crowds

Tonight was the first session of a three-part course on the transcendental writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson that I signed up for at the New York Open Center. Each session is a facilitated discussion of a specific essay by Emerson, and tonight centered on the old saw "Self-Reliance."

Led by Barbara Solowey, who also lectures at the School of Practical Philosophy and teaches English at the Beacon School, tonight's session was basically a paragraph-by-paragraph guided reading of the essay, in which we sussed out key points and themes, and discussed how we might apply them to our lives.

One of the things that struck me was Emerson's concerns about society -- and group thinking. "Society is a joint-stock company, in which the members agree, for the better securing of his bread to each shareholder, to surrender the liberty and culture of the eater," he wrote. "The virtue in most request is conformity. Self-reliance is its aversion. It loves not realities and creators, but names and customs."

Later in the essay, Emerson criticized the use of group affiliations as shorthand for understanding (or presuming to understand) what somebody thought, stood for, or believed in. "If I know your sect I anticipate your argument," he says. "Most men have bound their eyes with one or another handkerchief, and attached themselves to some one of those communities of opinion."

What does that mean in these days of smart mobs and wise crowds?

Collective intelligence might be greater than the sum of its parts, but the real wisdom of crowds still relies on self-reliant actors participating in those crowds, I'd offer. And even though the less wise might just need to open their receptivity to cosmic consciousness -- or the noosphere -- how open are we to universal truths? "We lie in the lap of immense intelligence, which makes us receivers of its truth and organs of its activity," Emerson wrote.

Would he be a fan of smart mobs? I think not. Even in systems designed to work around actors who aren't self-reliant -- take our voting system, which is in part based on the concept that polls cast by educated voters will mitigate polls cast by uneducated voters (and I mean educated on issues and what's being voted on, not education in the most general sense) -- such group thinking can be flawed. William Poundstone's Gaming the Vote might be a good entry point to further exploration of this.

That said, these are also days in which prediction markets are all the rage.

Does the success of smart mobs, wise crowds, and prediction markets depend on self-reliant actors?

Reviewing the Neo-Beat Novel

A review I wrote of Ray Reece's novel, Abigail in Gangland, was published in the March-April 2008 edition of Small Press Review. It's my first publication in one of my favorite long-running small press magazines, and it's an honor to share a page with Richard Kostelanetz, whom I respect mightily. Here's the review draft I sent editor Len Fulton:

Abigail in Gangland
By Ray Reece
2008; 374pp; Pa; La Ventana Budapest in collaboration with Synergy
Books, P.O. Box 80107, Austin, TX 78758. $12.95.

Published in Hungary in 2005 as Szórakozz a nénikéddel!, this is the first English printing of the third novel by Ray Reece, currently a columnist for The Budapest Sun. Packaged as "neo-beat" street lit, the novel features a down-at-his-heels artist who moves from New York City to a gang-ridden neighborhood in an urban area similar to the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex in order to care for his elderly and violently racist aunt -- and have a shot at her inheritance. Facing challenges such as warring youth gangs, adult diapers, and his misadventures in the personal ads, the protagonist rediscovers the value of family, his art, and true love. The ending leaves some plot threads loose, but while I didn't find the street lit and neo-beat positioning persuasive -- the book's like neither Eldorado Red nor On the Road -- the book's an engaging read that's extremely well written and surprisingly satisfying.

The review is one of what I hope will be many that I contribute to SPR, and the book is worth checking out. If you'd like me to consider any small-press poetry or prose books for review in SPR, please email me.

What If Ads Were Content? Redux

This past weekend, I participated in the second Podcamp NYC, a lively unconference focusing on podcasts and other new, social media. As a followup to last year, I gave a talk reconsidering the idea of social advertising and content-driven advertising -- what Rick Bruner calls Advertising 2.0.

Saturday was exactly 377 days after my last talk on that topic, and a lot has happened in terms of widget advertising, social media, and other experiments involving social ads. Here's the presentation:

Let me know what you think!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

South by Podcast II

The recording of the panel discussion I moderated at SXSW Interactive this year, Online Advertising for Newbies, is now available online. Special thanks to everyone involved: Darren Rowse, Rett Clevenger, Wendy Piersall, and Jim Benton. It was a lively conversation!


Multimedia message
Originally uploaded by h3athrow
This evening -- early, at 5:30 -- I went to my first 212 event, a free talk by Arianna Huffington moderated by Kate Kaye, senior editor of ClickZ.

Because I went more for the content than the community, I didn't network much at all, pretty much making a bee line for a good seat in order to hear what Huffington had to say. In many ways, the talk was one of a single tension -- Kaye wanted (and the audience wanted) Huffington to talk about the impact of online marketing and advertising on the political campaign process, while Huffington seemed to want to stick to politics and campaigning in general. That might be appropriate on the eve of the Pennsylvania primary, but exit polls (read: the conversation during the elevator ride down afterward) indicate that people wanted more on-topic discussion.

Regardless, Huffington had some interesting stuff to say. She criticized Clinton's use of terrorism and fear as a campaign tool, questioned the practice of hiring campaign managers who've lost previous campaigns, claimed that this year's election cycle marks the "first real Internet campaign," suggested that primary campaigns should be run more mindfully that someone from the party will be running -- indicating that primary campaigns shouldn't give the main election's opposition party tools to use against the party's representative -- and proposed that the print vs. Web debate is yesterday's news.

That led to what might be the soundbite of the evening: "The question of print vs. online seems to me to be an obsolete debate. It's like the old barroom argument: Ginger or Mary Ann? It's 2008; let's have a three way."

In fact, that's my primary criticism of the evening's gambit. Online campaigning -- online marketing -- isn't that interesting when considered outside the context of the overall campaign or marketing strategy. This campaign isn't about online advertising. It's about reaching voters in the right way at the right time in the right place. Multiple media can accomplish that goal.

The Democratic candidates seem to understand that, with Obama focusing on the youth vote and using inclusive language online -- just as the Republicans and far right have taken to the air waves with talk radio. Maybe the next election cycle will be the first integrated campaign.

I've not read a lot of Huffington's writing, but on the basis of tonight, I might have to check out her forthcoming book, Right Is Wrong. Like she said, society (and culture and media) doesn't have to accept the framework of the right.

Just like we don't have to look at things in terms of online vs. offline.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

The Grand Kinoki Foot Pad Experiment of 2008

Originally uploaded by h3athrow
Not long ago, I bought some Kinoki foot pads on a whim because of an infomercial I saw on television.

They're supposed to be a detox tool, and despite some speculation that they're a scam -- including a segment on 20/20 -- we decided to buy some. We considered the $20 fun money.

Long story short, they didn't seem to do anything. Over the course of a couple of weeks, I wore one pad on the bottom of a foot while I slept. In the morning, the pad was dark, supposedly because impurities had been removed from my system. They're supposed to lighten over time -- as you become more pure -- but I could detect no change in their coloration. And I felt no physical change at all over the course of the two weeks.

There are better ways to detox your body. Kinoki pads are just a fun novelty.

You can see the whole photo set, as well.

Administrivia: Shedding My Skin

Since I started blogging in 2001, I've used the same default Blogger template. I've decided that it's high time I freshen things up a bit, simplify the layout, and chill out on how many links, widgets, and other add ons I include in the design. So welcome to the cleaner new look of Media Diet! (Changing the template also tidies up how comments and archives are displayed and accessed, but that wasn't the real reason I changed up. Really!)

I'm also changing where I publish Media Diet, stepping away from the fine, fine services of Jon Ferguson and Henry Holtzman. I've redirected the domain name to the new Blogspot location. Joker willing, there will be little to no discontinuity. If there is, I'll figure it out.

Let me know what you think: likes, dislikes. And I'll try to work some of the additional links and resources back in as time goes on. But I'll try not to go crazy like I think I did before.

Update: The URL redirect seems to work OK, although you won't see in the URL field now, it seems. Let me know if any old links break somehow, and we'll see what we can do. I also decided to turn on moderation for comments. I don't get a ton, but I'm tired of people pimping their diet sites in the comment field.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Momentarily Delayed

The following poem of mine was recently published in the spring 2008 edition of Beatlick News. The fourth line is indented some, but I don't know how to do that in HTML yet.

Who's afraid of Virginia Woolf?
Not I, said the girl with the mad-banged hair
as she stooped to retrieve
one half of the book
from the floor of the subway car.
The spine had cracked, the cover torn
and pages sat on the gum-marked tile
like a first-night deb
refusing to speak
a word of Ed Albee's lines

Monday, April 07, 2008

Haiku in Transit

Rainy Friday morn
The airport could be madder
Grey dilution, peace

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Media for Action

Clay Shirky recently wrote a book called Here Comes Everybody. It's good.

I just finished a book called Here Comes Everybody. The thesis of the book is that group action just got a lot easier. We're living through the biggest expansion in expressive capability in history. The first was the printing press and moveable type. The second was the telephone and telegraph. The third was recordable media. And fourth, the rise of broadcast. There's a curious symmetry in those expansions. The ones that created large groups didn't create two-way communication. And the one that created two-way communication didn't create large groups. This one does both.

The first new communication pattern put into place by the Internet is many to many. What have we done with that? LOLCats and Facebook profiles. But then there's freedom. I'm going to tell three stories I've seen unfold that I think show that the tools don't set the conditions for use. The tools can be used for silly frothy things as well as serious things.

In 2006, HSBC, the bank, recruited a bunch of college students and said we're not going to charge you if you have an overdraft. Then they changed their mind and said we're going to charge you a few hundred dollars. We'll give you 30 days to change your bank accounts. They knew they had the advantage over those college students. Switching costs are high. And they had the advantage of coordination because if the students had all been on campus, there could have been some insurrection. But they were all hiking or on summer break. But they didn't count on Facebook. A guy started a group on Facebook. People posted really detailed notes on how to change bank accounts. HSBC lost the informational advantage. Then the online protests began. Then the real protests began – but that protest never happened because HSBC finally caved. HSBC didn't back down because its customers were unhappy, they backed down because their customers were unhappy and coordinated.

This is an example of people assembling around a very lightweight system we didn't have access to before. We now have the ability to bring organizational solvency up against organizations. The other thing to note is that there wasn't anything terribly complicated in the technology itself. That's not because the tool launched but because there were enough people online. If only 10% of the people had been online, you wouldn't have gotten one tenth of the leverage.

This stuff doesn't get socially interesting until it gets technologically boring. The most important social tool in the next year – the source of the most freakouts – is going to be email. If your mom is goin gto be involved in any of these coordinating effects, it's going to be via email. She's not going to use Twitter.

Second story: Flash mobs. Remember flash mobs? The flagpole sitting of 2003? They were pushed by Bill from New York. Turned out that Bill from New York was Bill Wasik from Harper's Magazine. His whole idea of flash mobs was a critique of the brain-dead behavior of hipsters out to shock the bourgeois. Then the idea spread to Belarus. And in the photos of the people eating ice cream in October Square, there are black-clad police officers dragging off the people. The problem wasn't the ice cream. The problem was the group. You can't have a group in October Square.

When I saw the difference between what Bill was doing as a critique of hipster culture and what these kids were doing in Belarus, I realized something. In high-freedom environments, any new coordinating capability can be used for silly things. In environments in which there's any degree of political control or suppression, use of any new coordinating capability can be essentially political.

Twitter makes it possible to not always have two-way communication. You can outsource some of that to the group. In high-freedom environments, that can seem trivial. But in less-free environments, it can be more critical.

The third story I wish was in the book. There was a group in Palermo that, in 2004, ran around stickering. The stickers said that anyone who pays money to the mob for protection was undermining society. They got a lot of media coverage, but then they decided it wasn’t enough. So they built a Web site to organize the shop keepers. That means something very important to the mafia. They also put up a search engine. If you want to only go to businesses that don't pay money to the mafia, you can find them on that Web site. They provided a coordinating layer to a problem that everyone understood but couldn't act on.

William James the philsopher would say that we have brains to figure out what to do next. The same thing is happening to media. We now have media for action. You can get access to media that doesn't just say something but also helps you do something. In Belarus, the LiveJournal page helped lead to action, the protests in October Square. They didn't just bring ice cream. They brought their cameras. Because they wanted it to also lead to more media. They wanted those pictures online.

This is starting to be manifested in ways that aren't just about the early adopters and the techies. It's starting to spill over to other areas of society. And I'm optimistic about that. But here's the big asterisk. The danger here, it seems to me, is a regulatory one. Imagine you live in a society that wanted three things: freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and a category of speech acts that they didn't want with no prior restraint. You can say anything you want except the stuff you can't say, and we won't do any policing in advance. We all live in a world like that, or we have until recently. Like a trellis, the law grows up around the structure of the society we're in.

Media used to be something only made by professionals. That didn't just create an engineering bottleneck, but it created a class of professionals with a vested interest in defending that model. It's an iterative game of prisoner's dilemma. The people who own the newspapers or television stations have been in collusion with the politicians. They might have something explosive about a leader, but they might not publish it because that they want to publish their newspaper again tomorrow.

I teach at the Interactive Telecommunications Program at NYU. The average age of my students has remained relatively stable, but my average age has grown at the alarming rate of one per year. I've had to start teaching about the '80s and '90s as ancient history. I can see them register it but not feel it. Prior to the mid-'90s, if you had something to say in public, you couldn't. You had to get someone's permission.

So what does the regulator look for? A new class of professionals to exercise self-censorship. We're playing an iterative game with you. Watch what goes out over your pipes. We may exert the same force we used to exert on the other professionals. The removal of the Wikileaks domain. GoDaddy's removal of the RapeMyCop domain. Domain names are in that stack.

We have to find a group that self-censors. That brings back the threat of that kind of regulation. It used to be that freedom of speech and freedom of the press were different. It used to be that freedom of speech and the freedom to assemble were different. We now have a medium that allows all three freedoms to occur together.

The biggest threat right now is to prevent the TSE style of we're going to sue you until you're like the bus commuters you used to be model. We all have to watch out for that to preseve those freedoms.

The Usefulness of Data Bits in Addressing Climate Change

Robin Chase founded ZipCar and blogs.

I'm talking on the same topic but with a different bent. It's more specific and less specific simultaneously. When I think about this, I tend to think about history. This is Anne Frank's hiding place. Would I have had the courage to do what they did? This is another picture more recently. This is Elizabeth Eckford, who's desegregating the Little Rock, Arkansas, high school. She's 17. She's one of five people. Look at those angry white faces. Would I have been a heroic person?

The question is, what kind of person am I? And what kind of person are you? We have the chance to determine who we are. It's because of climate change. There are those among you who are believers. There are those of you who are not. I'm not a climatologist. I'm just channeling the two best climatologists in the U.S.

What's a catastrophic effect? It's a 50% drop in species. It's a 25% drop in wheat despite doubling population. John Holdren is director of the Woods Hole Institute. In September he had a presentation to the UN. If US CO2 emissions peak in 2015, we have a 50% chance of averting catastrophic climate change. If we continue the status quo for 10 years, we have 0% chance. What are we working with?

We're working with the next 2-3 years. We're all like little ostriches. We hear about 2015, 2020, and we put our heads in the sand. Cap and trade will do nothing in 2-3 years. We have to work with behavior, marketing that affects behavior, and a carbon tax, which really affects behavior.

This 2-3 year timeframe is upon us. We need to do all of these things to get the effects, but we need to keep track of the fact that we need to get emissions down in the next 2-3 years.

The power use of technology is the 2% piece that was talked about. We can address this by machine and chip design, reducing the number of devices, cloud computing, and deistributed data centers selling heat byproducts. I'm a strong believer in low-cost, ubiquitous data bits as a tool for behavor change. We can have efficient use of resources, customization, group intelligence, and quick access to expert intelligence.

My realm is transportation. We think about cars. 20% of our CO2 emissions is our personal cars. Filling them with motor fuel is another 9%. A lot of people talk about lightbulbs. That drives me out of my mind. The largest part of what you control at home is your electricity bill. Residential electricity produces 17% of CO2 in the US.

I run a company called ZipCar. 25-50 people are car-satisfied with one vehicle. 10-20 cars are off the road for each ZipCar. The quality of life improves for all. The parking paradigm changes. Because we pay for your car by the hour, the lump and sunk charges change dramatically. People choose to use their car correctly relative to their other transportation options. We have 80,000 people driving 5,000 cars. From an environmental perspective, people drive about 90% less than if they owned their own car.

And it's 100% technology enabled. The 80,000 people have each bought a fraction of a car. As a person, I have 5,000 cars at my beck and call across the geographies. We've been able to make this expensive asset more efficiently used.

My more recent company is GoLoco. We're trying to do with ride sharing what we did with car sharing. It's your car, your friends, your trips, your money creating your own transportation network. It’s the long tail of transportation. We combine social networking and alerts from your friends traveling places, as well as the money management online without anyone having to worry about it. GoLoco can solve the transformation ills of people who aren't anywhere near transit statins.

I also like the shared bike network in Velib, France. And this is another favorite: the Interstate Wireless Mesh System. We're testing congestion pricing, which is a trial for road pricing, in which you'd pay by the mile as well as by your type of car. How will we build out this infrastructure? I'm trying to get our government to open excess capacity to abutters.

I'm a two-trick donkey, and I'm sharing these tricks with you because I think we can get this stuff done. We can improve the efficiency of expensive resources that were previously privately held. And people create the infrastructure using Web 2.0, infrastructure, and financing 2.0. We don't have to have someone spending billions and billions of dollars. Each of us can take just a small bite.

As congestion pricing is to pricing, so too can we do with our use of electricity. Don't turn on your dishwasher in August at noon when everyone's running their air conditioners. Do it at midnight. We can all be superheroes.

The Carbon-Negative Internet: Kathy Brown

David Isenberg: We who run the Internet have a responsibility. We're responsible for about 2% of the carbon emissions put into the atmosphere. The airline industry is responsible for about 2%. We can not only use the Internet to reduce the total emissions by at least 2%, we can do a lot better than that. That's why this panel is called the Carbon-Negative Internet.

This is too important an issue to have factionalism. It's not about Bell heads versus Net heads any more when we're talking about the survival of life on the planet.


Kathy Brown works as Verizon's SVP for public policy development and corporate responsibility.

I don't even know what a Bell head is. I came to Verizon about five years ago. Before that, I spent my time at the Department of Commerce and the FCC working on the information superhighway. We did a lot of thinking about how we use the Internet to solve real problems, like hooking kids around the country up to the Net.

Before I came to Washington, I lived and worked in New York. My work there was all about energy. What we were struggling with then was how to conserve energy. As we go now into the new century, the issue now is our carbon footprint. My daughter sent me a photo of the Antarctic ice mass breaking in two to remind me what kind of car to buy.

How can we think about bringing down our energy usage so we're more efficient? It's amazing to me that ICT isn't part of the energy policy I'm hearing. We're not going to reach the kinds of efficiencies I think we can reach without high-speed broadband networks in our homes.

Back in the '90s, we talked about the productivity gains we could make with the Internet. We were able to produce amazing productivity with respect to almost anything. This technology, the Internet, and what was attached to it at the edges has caused us to rethink how we do things. The growth of broadband is a significant and fundamental change. I want to think about a way to frame this discussion so energy efficiency isn't something we wring our hands about. How can we bring it front and center?

2% of global carbon emissions have to do with our industry. We're all in a huge coalition right now. I want to concentrate on the other 98%. The notion that we can affect that 98% by a better use of broadband technologies and the Internet isn't something I hear a lot about. As we discuss efficiency in our homes, it's not up front in the discussion. We talk a lot about the various things we can do – fluorescent light bulbs, turning your thermostat down – but there's more we can do.

We sponsored a study looking at the major issues confronting our country and customers over the next 10 years. The American Consumer Institute found that the use of broadband networks can decrease our dependence on oil up to 11% over the next 10 years. That's worth thinking about.

Let's take the logical things first, the things we talk about all the time, like telecommuting and teleconferencing. We've talked about this forever, but we've basically walked away from it. Cisco's high-resolution telepresence product is amazing. I use it. It's a big screen. It's over high-speed lines. We use it to not get on an airplane. You overcome the human problem with videoconferencing. We're putting into the market right now a 20 up and 20 down product so you can have a virtual presence right in your office.

We see 1,751 pounds of emissions not dispersed because of telecommuting. Every time I don't go to India, the amount of jet fuel I'm saving allows me to use my telepresence technology twice a week for one year.

What about the e-conservation idea? Downloading music and books saves time and energy. Let's take CDs. It's plastic. It's a disc. There's a plastic jewel box. There's a wrapper. You have to go to the store to get and then you go home. What about books? The Kindle let's you just download it. No paper is consumed. Driving 20 miles to the store uses one gallon of gas. Shipping 100 products uses one tenth of a gallon because you aggregate them.

But there's so much more that we can do. Like Thomas Friedman says, you can't make a product greener without making it smarter. What does smart green growth really mean? There are a lot of small things that we can do. In Fort Wayne, Indiana, has installed FIOS as part of their smart green homes. The idea is for the whole community to bring down its usage.

What's Verizon doing beyond thinking these things? We're rated highest on our environmental practices. From lifecycle management and paperless billing to video conferencing with EDS and a huge experiment with fuel cell technology. It's an approach a telecommunications company is taking to figure out how to use this technology to deal with the issues we're all facing. The deployment of ubiquitous broadband must be part of the energy solution.

The State of the Internet

John Horrigan serves as associate director of research for the Pew Internet & American Life Project. What follows is a rough transcript of his remarks. Corrections welcome.

When David asked us to talk here, the topic was the State of the Internet, which seems heavy with gravitas. Because I research the users of the Internet, I think I'll focus on the users. We do a lot of random phone dialing interviews, and I thought I'd share some of the insights we've learned about Internet usage patterns.

There's a large variety of Internet users. Our data shows that the distribution is very interesting. For lots of American adults, the Internet is just peripheral to their lives. Given that not everyone is an ardent user of ICT, even with broadband deployment and getting infrastructure right, we're still not going to hit adoption nirvana. I want to talk about those frictions.

Let me share some of the things we've learned about the people online over the last few years. We've focused on the many-to-many Internet. More than 20 million Americans were active in online communities even with dial up. They were willing to clear the substantial slowness of dial up.

2004 was the first time we picked up on more people having broadband at home than dial-up users. As broadband began to gain a foothold, we saw not just many-to-many communication but many-to-many participation. E-healthcare is a great example of that. People share a lot of information online to participate in their healthcare with their doctors.

We see 54% of Americans with broadband at home. The always-on information appliance is now in line with the always-present information appliance. 42% of people with wireless devices use their handheld device to do something other than make a phone call. We're seeing people really get engaged. It's not unlike the dial-up hurdle in 2000. People are often dealing with slow connection speeds.

In 2006 we did a typology of different Internet users, looking at their assets and attitudes. Some are just peripheral users. Some people have a hard time trouble shooting their devices. They might have trouble getting broadband to function correctly in their home. These people tell us they just don't find the Internet that useful to their lives. They don't see a lot of content that's relevant to them. Usability and content are two important barriers.

In terms of Carlota Perez's book about technological transformation, we're currently in the installation phase. As we start to see institutions adapt to the information revolution, we need to keep in mind the users. Their rate of adaptation might be different than that of institutions. Think about the user experience and the frictions that people encounter while using technology.

There's a derath of information available about broadband technology and its quality. I'm going to turn the podium over to Drew so he can tell us just where this technology is.

Drew Clark is founder and executive director of Broadband Census and an active blogger to boot. Usual disclaimers apply.

We invite people to share information about their broadband. We've partnered with the Pew Internet project to bolster the research they're doing on broadband adoption. The site invites people to enter in their ZIP code. The government won't release information about who provides broadband service in a given area. In my ZIP code, the FCC says there are 15 providers in McLean, Virginia. Our census covers three. You can rate the service, and you can take our speed test.

There are other provider who are doing some piece of this. There are plenty of speed tests. That's really positive. There's not enough information abou the availability and quality of broadband. As soon as we can compare our broadband to our neighbor's broadband, we can make better decisions. Think of it like the real estate market. You can learn a lot about a neighborhood, but in broadband, there's not a lot of power on the consumer side.

We use the NDT network diagnostic tester used by Internet2 to do the speed test. More broadly, though, what we're trying to do is build a pool of data that's useful to a lot of constitutencies. Our speed test tends to underestimate, so there's always something to refine. We always welcome feedback, input, and your engagement.

The last thing I would want to say is to encourage you to get involved. There are three things I encourage you to do. Take the speed test yourself. Grab a button for your blog. And we're working to get these committees together.

Our Rights Online: Danny O'Brien

Danny O'Brien currently serves as the EFF's international outreach coordinator. He also founded the excellent newsletter NTK, which is understandably on a hiatus of sorts. Here's much of what he said. If you have any amendments or corrections, let me know.

I'm running on incredible constraints this morning. David told me to be funny and to talk about international human rights. If you've seen the Amnesty Internation Big Book of Jokes, you know that's not easy. Another thing David likes is salacious personal histories. Here's mine: How I First Got on the Internet.

I was a humanities student in the UK in 1989. The Internet hadn't really reached the UK at that point. It belonged to the technological priesthood. We have one of them in our computer room. I was just a humanities student typing up my essays, but there was some disgruntlement that this priest held the keys to the Internet. He used these PCs just as they were terminals. Someone wrote a keylogger that recorded his brief incantations to see what he did. And a few people got to see the Internet. There wasn't a whole lot there. Tim Berners-Lee was just starting to write the Web. It was basically a telnet proxy.

It was like seeing the stars in the sky for the very first time. You saw how simple it was. You saw how much power you coud wield because of those simple terminals. If you could just pull at that wire that connected that small set of terminals, reconnect, and connect again, you could build a bigger and faster network. We wanted it very badly.

My job at the EFF is that I'm the international outreach coordinator. Bonjour! There's a lack of understanding of how the Internet spread to and transformed other countries. Many of the values we pick out here enabled that. The construction of the Internet was able to ignite and contain the explosion of interest and demand.

How the Internet reached the UK was basically a model for how the Open Rights Group started. It was a group of people coming together. They put up money. There you have it. You have a network. Within 10 years, Demon, which was the corporation, was a multimillion dollar organization. The Internet beat the proprietary, commercial setups.

There's also a moral value to these attributes. We were both lucky to come up with this idea and to catch this window of opportunity. Once it had spread past a certain critical mass, people being able to add their own nodes to the network made it a done deal.

I feel the same way about human rights. We're extremely lucky. The UN Bill of Rights has signatories all over the world because it has the same attributes as the Internet. Once you have this idea in your head, you compare everything else to it. There's very little disagreement about what human rights are. There's a lot of debate about when we get to break them.

The Brazilian constitution has their equivalent to the First Amendment. It says expression of thought is free but anonymity is forbidden. So it's moot for us to debate that because it goes against what's in their constitution. There are limitations to the argument. There are variations. The growth of the Internet has been mapped out in different places differently. Its not easy, when we do these comparisons, to work out which will work out and which won't.

The arrangement of the economics of the network means that a lot of our own ISPs won't roll out their own DSL offerings but just rebrand BT's DSL offering. The problem that arose was that when the BBC offered their YouTube-like service, BT was charging them per gigabyte, which was eroding their profits. We have a strange situation.

We tend to step in when there's a state intervention that's not in the interest of the network or the citizens themselves. The EFF spends a lot of time in organizations like the EU, venues in which people come together to do proactive regulation. Our biggest problem right now is that in the attempt to pre-emptively harmonize, the spirit of innovation declines and disappears.

Were we lucky to get the Internet, or were we lucky that the Internet wasn't stopped? The more we allow innovation internationally, the more we'll see the network grow and thrive. Closed networks simply aren't as good as open networks. I just went to Beijing. It's very interesting to be behind the great firewall of China. The Internet just doesn't work very well.

Our Rights Online: Suw Charman

Suw Charman is cofounder of the Open Rights Group, as well as a social software expert and blogger. This is a rough report on her remarks at Freedom to Connect. If you have any amendments or corrections, let me know.

The Open Rights Group in the UK is a bit like the EFF only with fewer lawyers. We are a community of people who have opinions on issues like privacy, identity, and copyright – areas in which civil liberties and consumer rights are affected by digital technologies. In less than three years, the Open Rights Group has convinced the treasury that an extension of copyright on musical recordings, which is currently 50 years, would be a bad idea. We provided our community with a voice by putting the consultation document online and soliciting comments. The document that came out was very good.

We're one of the first groups to observe e-voting. We wrote a report on the findings, which was quite alarming. Not just how the e-voting worked but how people interacted with the technology. For example, in Scotland, they almost didn't realize that the results printed out on two pages.

ORG started nearly three years ago, in 2005. It started at a conference called Open Tech. There was one panel called Where Is the British EFF? Talking about whether we, in fact, needed something like the EFF in the UK. Toward the end of the question and answer session, someone stood up and said, well, I'll pledge 5 pounds a month, who else will? Almost everyone else rose their hand.

There was a real will for this to happen. There wasn't just one person standing up and saying someone shoul ddo something, there was a group of people who came together to do something. The key thing that got us together was the reaction of the blogs and the greater community. We had people nagging us about giving us money before we even had a bank account. We didn't even have a name, but we'd started a campaign on data retention. Even though we were a fledgling organization, the demands to get our act together got us going.

In the old days, when you wanted to start a movement, you had to get a photocopier. Now, you organize people online. That community has really been key to ORG. They comment on our consultation documents online. That helps us in two ways. Firstly, it helps us get a sense of how the community thinks. We've got an advisory council, but we also have a large group of people who deal with these issues all the time. The MPs respond really well to this. They know we're not an organization putting forth one particular view because we're an industry. They know we represent their constituents.

But it's not just about facilitating conversation between us and government. It's about connecting activists. And finally, we don't want to be a wagging finger organization pointing out what's wrong in government. Oh, you're being naughty. We also want to be positive. It's been really instructive to me how people will come together to discuss and tackle these issues. We can make the best of what's happening.

Our Rights Online: Bruce Schneier

Bruce Schneier is an internationally renowned security technologist and blogger. This is a partial transcript of his remarks. If you have any amendments or correction, let me know.

I have approximately five points to make. Before, I want to talk about something that was said during the introduction, that the Internet was founded on trust. People are good and not bad. Practically everything about our species is founded on the fact that people are good and not bad. All of society requires that all of us are good most of the time. There has been a dishonest minority. There has been a minority of bad actors. It's not on the Internet that we're surprised that they existed. It's that we didn't realize they existed before. The Internet is just people communicating.

What the Internet does is different. When I read Clay Shirky's writings, I do it from the security guy perspective. How does culture and community foster security? Because they do. The ability of this group to form as a community is a form of societal security. It allows good ideas to propagate. It allows change to happen. It serves as a back stop to bad, repressive politics. The Internet fostering communication and community fights against oppressive politics.

We are building the Internet. It's still very new. We don't know how it will shake out. We're still understanding the social ramifications of this new way of communicating. This is a very disruptive technology. You see that in the political battles.

Connection fosters community, and that is a security device. It protects us. It's something valuable. That's the first poiint.

The second point is that there's social value in privacy, in anonymity. This is not a nice to have. Privacy is fundamental to human dignity. Privacy is not about having something to hide. It's not ill intent. It's not criminal activity. Privacy is necessary for democracy – the secret ballot. Anonymity is required. All speech cannot be named in a democracy. As a regime becomes more oppressive, anonymity becomes more important.

Too much we're caught up in the battle of security vs. privacy. That's a false dichotomy. That's my two and a half point. When someone says security and privacy say door lock, tall fence. Most of the ID card checks are complete nonsense. The real dichotomy is liberty vs. control. That’s the dichotomy.

That leads to my third point. What's key here is the power imbalance, the power balance between the disparate bodies. If there is an oppressive government, these technologies can help them be more oppressive. If there is a free people, they can use them to be more free. This is where I think a lot of people who say everything will be public and it'll be OK are missing a very important point. Power imbalance matters. When a police man stops you on the street and asks to see your ID, your being able to see their ID doesn't do a lot. They have a lot more power. The power imbalance is magnified through forced openness.

What privacy does is it increases the power of the citizens with respect to the police. We live in a world where all interrogation rooms have cameras and are recorded. That increases the power of the citizens. This is true of lots of technologies. That's why you see the media companies using the technologie sthat will eventually make their businesses obsolete. They can use the tech to increase their power.

Point four: All technologies can be used for good and evil. Yes, the bad guys can use the Internet to communicate, to plan, to organize. That's been true about the telephone. That's been true about the automobile. Bad guys go to restaurants and eat lunch. There are more good guys than bad guys. Having restaurants is a good idea even though they feed criminals because they feed even more non-criminals. It is not the technology.

Sometimes the imbalance is there, and we try to ban a technology. The good uses of landmines don't seem to outweigh the bad uses of landmines, so we ban them. The quintessential argument here is guns. We're not going to do the argument, but do the beneficial uses of guns outweigh the negative uses? When you ban a technology, yeah, you take it away from the bad guys sort of, but you definitely take it away from the good guys. Let's say you put a speed governor in ordinary automobiles so people can't drive faster than 55 and use them as getaway cars. The bad guys may or may not be able to circumvent that technology, but we definitely can't drive faster than 55.

Sometimes that's worth it. Take landmines. You might argue about it. Take handguns. That's fundamentally what you're debating. You're trying to decide the right social policy.

The fifth point, and my last one, is that technologies make change. Those changes are resisted by those who have a vested interest in maintaining the old ways of doing things. Every time there's a disruptive technology, it changes the nature of business.

What's sort of new is that these are happening relatively quickly when before they used to happen every couple of decades. There are some very powerful interests that don't like that. Their business model is built on the old way of doing things. There are lots of places where the Internet makes it different.

When you have a long-run bet, you might want to bet on the natural flow of the technology. Trying to make the Internet behave as a system of scarce resources is kind of like making water not wet. There's a lot of interests in making water not wet – the entire copy protection industry. They're trying to make the natural ease of copying and make it not true. That could be a long and difficult run. That's where we are now.

That's the battle we're in. Whether it's the freedom to connect, upload, download, make copies, save copies, view copies, in the natural world of information these are properties like water is wet. That's not going to work long term. You can't remove what the bad guys do by removing the technology. Cheap copies of a movie will appear on the streets of Taiwan regardless of what happens. But our abilities will be limited very easily.

Whose rights win out in the end? Us, or Sony? They have rights, too. The rights that win in the end are the rights that foster community, democracy, and liberty. They're the rights that flow naturally from people using technology to do what they do. You can tell a law makes sense when there are millions of law breakers. But when your grandmother is a lawbreaker because she makes a copy of a movie for her grandson without really thinking about it, you've got a problem.

We've got to make it intuitive. Take drunk driving laws. What do you mean, I can't drive my own car? Smoking laws are a more recent example. The rights that win are the rights that foster community. We're going to live in a world with free information exchange. We're living in the decades where we have the turbulence. Big business doesn't abandon their business models easily, and they shouldn't.

Administrivia: Removing Snapshots

This morning I removed the script for Snap Preview because I noticed that it'd begun to insert links to phrases that I didn't link off of. I didn't mind the page previews, but I don't want other people to be determining links off Media Diet.

Monday, March 31, 2008

The Wireless Third Pipe, Net Neutrality, and Everything

Brett Glass runs a wireless ISP in Laramie, Wyoming. He's presenting a "lightning round" to flesh out the open wireless session. You can access his presentation online.

Suw Charman offers a better report on this session in Corante's Strange Attractor.

Open Wireless: Rich Miner

Rich Miner serves as group manager of open platforms (Android) for Google.

I'm group manager of mobile products. We announced an open handset alliance, roughly 34 partners working with Google to build Android, a Linux-based mobile platform. We also announced a software platform that allows third-party developers to build applications. It was a huge shout by Google about openness in the mobile landscape.

I'll talk a little about the handset space. Most of us carry mobile phones. Today, they have roughly the equivalent of the power that a desktop computer had in 2002. If we look at our mobile phones today, they fall far short of what we could do in 2002 online. There's a huge gap between the capabilities of the hardware and what the industry is offering in terms of software. There's a stifling of innovation because the ecosystem is a closed one.

The platforms we use to operate mobile handsets are closed. Symbian is cleared as an open platform because it has an API. But if you're trying to develop applications, openness by publishing APIs isn't as open as you'd like it to be. It doesn't allow you to choose what applications ship with that handset. It doesn't allow you to find a bug and fix it.

There are other kinds of control and lack of openness. If you're a developer, you can't just go to a consumer and let the consumer download your app to their handset. There are huge hurdles you have to get through. Your destiny is controlled by an operating carrier who's going to make an arbitrary decision.

It's the same with content. On the Web, it's all based on best in quality or the moment, right place right time. In the mobile industry, there are barriers, huge walls. If you look at the number of PCs shipped every year, 200 million PCs, there are about a billion mobile phones shipped every year. If Google wants to make the world's information easily accessible, mobile phones are strategically very important.

The process to develop our mobile apps, the process of distributing those apps, the model's a bit broken. For the last three years, we've made a pretty big investment on the mobile platform Android. We hope it results in significantly more innovation. That's why we built the SDK.

There are a lot of initiatives looking at open source in the mobile industry, but not one of them was looking at allowing you to build a complete phone. We're building a platform that we're open sourcing and giving away. We hope the manufacturers and carriers build a lot of phones on it.

We want to break down the closed mobile platforms and open up the world to a more open handset experience. We're working with carriers to understand the benefits of openness and want openness. The world we envision is more openness on the handset side and then breaking down the walls of innovation.

I've mentioned that it’s open. I've mentioned it's Linux. To just say you're going to take Linux and build a mobile phone probably isn't the right way to do it. It's not the best consumer desktop experience. You need to put a bunch of dedicated software layers on top of Linux to make it a consumer product. When you stack up the architecture diagram, you'll see Linux at the bottom and then a bunch of software that Google or somebody else – like Packet Video – has written. It's a rich stack.

Another thing we thought about was the choice of licensing. We don't want to discourage innovation or limit Sony. We're using the Apache 2.0 software license, which is a very good license when you want to encourage people to make derivative products but don't want to open source everything. Once we ship the first handset, we'll open source the platform. At that point anybody will be able to license the software stack and add their own value.

The pitch to the carriers – and carriers look at Google as competitive – is that we can help make them lots of money but also that they can take this platform and build as tightly branded handset as they'd like. They don't have to build open phones.

This message of openness is starting to resonate throughout the industry. Google feels comforted by that fact. It'll be uncomfortable for carriers if they deliver very closed phones. In general, smart phones should be smart. They should be open. That's our goal.

Suw Charman offers a better report on this session in Corante's Strange Attractor.