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.