My favorite Lazyweb ideas

From the Lazyweb Birds of a Feather session at O’Reilly’s Emerging Technology Conference.
GeoLocation that reminds you want you wanted to do when you get somewhere. I’ve always had a terrible time remembering things past context switches. It would be so cool to be able to add a geocode to a to-do reminder, which would pop up when you reached that location. This is probably hackable today, with a GPS-enabled PDA.
Cross-platform calendaring. Even better, decentralized calendaring. So I don’t need meetup to centrally organize my emergent meeting. I can have a blog-conversation, and can schedule a meeting or teleconference with people. Yes, let’s do lunch. My blog will talk to your blog.

A Network to Oppose the SDMCA

On Friday, there was a “Happening” (conference call+live chat) among grassroots groups opposing the SDMCA in different states: Georgia, Florida, Massachusetts, Michigan, South Carolina, Tenessee, and Texas).
We focused primarily on states where there are urgent deadlines on the legislative calendar. We’ll meet again this Friday, to recap the week’s event, provide support and ideas for other state groups.
A number of people on the call were eager to link together a national network of grass roots groups, to continue co-ordinated efforts on digital rights issues that play out at a local level. I think this is a fantastic idea. The more organized we are on the ground, the more our voices can affect local and national technology policy.
If you’d like to know more, about opposing the SDMCA, and/or discussions about bringing a network together, contact me directly, at alevin AT alevin DOT com.

Opposing the SDMCA

Last week, there was a surprise hearing on Tuesday night on HB 2121, the house version of the Super-DMCA.
We got the word at 5pm, confirmed at 6pm, and were in the hearing room at 6:30pm when the hearing started.
The MPAA lobbyists were in town. The committee waived the notice rule and put the bill on the schedule.
The bill finally came up at 1am after a set of utility regulation bills.
The bill was presented as a simple case of preventing piracy and theft of service. It sounded like the sponsor expected a quick hearing with an evident result.
The first people to testify were Vans Stevenson and Todd Flournoy from the MPAA in DC, presenting the bill as a minor revision of existing cable-TV piracy law. Stevenson presented the bill as an uncontroversial measure that had already passed in a number of states.
We spoke against, as did a representative for Verizon, opposing the bill on behalf of a coalition of telecom and ecommerce companies types. They were concerned with the bill’s breadth, since it might place them in the role of policing their customers’ communications.
During our testimony, we helped to raised doubts in committee members mind about the bill’s lack of clarity and excessive civil penalties. The representatives agree with the bill’s goal, preventing theft of internet services, but had not given thought to the negative side effects of the bill’s breadth and side effects.
We noted that as awareness of the bill’s problems had spread, there is now strong opposition in other states. Also gave examples of ways that the bill was having chilling effects on research (a Michigan researcher who’s put his thesis offshore) and on business in other states where it has passed (Labrea in Illinois).
Representatives Consumers Union and Public Citizen put in cards against the bill but didn’t testify.
The chair ended saying that the bill clearly needed a lot of work, and encouraging the groups in attendance to work on modifying the bill.
Since then, we’ve been talking with other committee members, explaining why this is not a good bill as it’s written, although the intent — preventing theft of internet services — is reasonable. And we’re working with other groups in Texas who are opposed to the bill.
If you want more information about opposition to this bill, please contact me directly, alevin AT alevin DOT com.

Journalers happy hour

So, I went to the journalers’ happy hour last night, following David Nunez’ testimony that they don’t bite.
Talked with Jette, of Celluloid Eyes, who did this brilliant impersonation of Prentiss Riddle, Greg Bueno, and several of Greg’s friends from Japanese class.
The group seems quite friendly and social. A good number of the social activities that I do seem to involve some flavor of work (I tend to start and/or organize things). It was fine to show up, hang out, chat, be friendly.
There are sub-cultural differences between journal-writing and blogging, although the lines among the genres are rather blurry. Online journal-writing is clearly a personal genre, whereas blogs can be more or less personal.
Journalers are pseudonymous but social, creating a set of nuances and ambiguities about level of personal disclosure. The social convention for journalers isn’t to have online comments, but to have conversation in a mailing list. The convention is also to use fewer links. The journalist stereotype of blogs is a series of journalistic comments upon hyperlinks.
Journalers (at least my impression from last night) do care about writing. The upcoming Journalcon will be described as online writers’ conference.
This piece, which is a first-person, impressionistic journalistic story, marks me as a blogger, I guess.
I also keep what could probably be described as an online journal, but it’s password protected. (If you know me and you’d like to subscribe, send me email, I’ll get you a password). I started it for a few friends who wanted more of the “gardening,” life-trivia stories, of which I publish a few on this weblog. I’m less brave than, say Mr. Nunez about writing about misadventures for the eyes of potential clients.

Are you social software?

I think SSW is a style of application, rather than a category of applications.
(from a discussion on the definition of social software, over at the mailing list)
You could build a recommendation engine that was social software — such a recommendation engine would enable recommendees and recommenders to meet each other. If added a collaborative filter that showed blogs reviewing books that I was interested in, that would be a recommendation engine as social software.
You might be able to build a CRM system that was social software — if customers and salespeople were able to see the information, and collaborate with each other. By contrast conventional CRM systems are based on assumptions of structured workflow and hiding the sales-person’s intent from the customer. These assumptions are so deeply embedded that they’re hard to see.
from a response to Pete Kaminski.

All Categories are Local

Dave Sifry comments about the draft specification of Easy News Topics 1.0 (ENT), proposed by Paolo Valdermarin and Matt Mower.
Dave is concerned that a category standard would fall prey to the problems of ambiguity and scamming that killed HTML META tags.
As I noted in comments on his post, Dave is absolutely right at the scale of the web or the blogosphere.
However, I think that categories will be much more valuable at the community level. For example, Austin has a meta-blog, aggregating posts related to Austin. People in other cities are starting to do the same. If we could map sub-categories, we would be able to create a cross-regional directory. There are local editors who keep the system from being spammed, and make decisions about how to map categories.
So, I think that the system can work in the context of defined groups and defined applications.
The only thing that ENT is missing is a way to alias categories — Austin’s “music events” maps to Ann Arbor’s “concerts.” Presumably this could be implemented at the application level.

Emergent Democracy: Theory and Practice

There was some hullabaloo last month, when Andrew Orlowsky made fun of the emergent democracy proponents as a bunch of techies who wouldn’t recognize politics if a ballot box fell on our heads.
In the real world, here’s how techniques of emergent democracy are being used in real live politics, helping activists combat the state-level DMCA. (An Orwellian bill which says that anything you do with your internet connection that is not expressly permitted by your ISP is forbidden.)
* I met the crew at EFF-Austin by going to a meet-up.
* Was alerted to the state-level DMCA by email from EFF-National
* Use Ed Felten’s blog the EFF website, and the Public Knowledge website to follow the bill’s progress in other states, share resources and network.
* Co-ordinate locally with a mailing list, and post local resources to a wiki.
* Work locally with the ACLU to inform legislators about the bills.
In practice, the emergent properties are more human and less AI.
* The net helps people with common interests find each other and get together
* Blogs, mailing lists, and wikis help people share and refine ideas
In practice, electronic channels interface with physical channels in traditional ways.
* Citizens visit, call and write legislators
* Supporters donate money to candidates
Over time, we may develop more sophisticated methods for aggregating conversation, enabling a broader and richer process of deliberation. Over time, the tools may be used for referenda and greater use of direct democracy.
The vision of the will of the citizenry, emerging from a million electronic messages, is science fiction today.
For now, emergent democracy enhances citizen participation in representative democracy.

The Wisdom of the Wiki

“While dot-coms and blogs have hogged the spotlight, an intriguing bit of software called Wiki actually deserves the gold medal for best trust-building tool,” writes Peter Morville.

In a Wiki, anyone can edit (or delete) any page or create a new page. This is the ultimate in decentralized content management.
I first encountered the wacky-world-of-wiki several years ago when EricScheid launched the IAwiki. I checked it out and wrote it off as too messy, too bottom-up, and too vulnerable to virtual vandalism.
However, the IAwiki has evolved into an amazing resource for the community and a living experiment in emergence and socially constructed navigation. Eric’s trust led to creation of a public good.
My second Wiki encounter came during the formative stages of AIfIA. While some of us met briefly at the lovely refuge by the sea known as Asilomar, most of the collaboration leading to creation of this new organization happened via email and the AsilomarWiki.
In fact, we used the AsilomarWiki as a private fund-raising tool, creating an IndividualCommitments page, where each of us could pledge to donate money to cover the legal and accounting costs associated with incorporation of a nonprofit organization.
It felt scary to manage money in such a fluid medium, and yet this mutual openness and vulnerability led to a strong sense of shared trust. We raised several thousand dollars in less than 24 hours, and a few months later, AIfIA was born.
So, now that I’ve transformed from cranky skeptic to true believer, I’d love to see more people discover the wisdom of the wiki. That’s why I was excited when Ed Vielmetti and some other smart people formed a startup called Socialtext to help organizations take advantage of wikis, weblogs, and other social software solutions.
I’m glad to see so much innovation in the realms of web credibility research, social network analysis, and social software design. There’s lots to learn and lots to share. I hope to be traveling on trust for many years to come.

What did you like about the seder? What did you learn?

Judith’s astonishing hand-dipped chocolate-covered strawberries. Judith keeps trying to attribute credit to the high quality of the choclate. As if the strawberries decided, on their own, to leap into a bowl of chocolate, which, on its own, decided to melt.
Hearing the four questions asked by Hannah, who is 2.5 years old, abominably mischievous, and clever.
Betsy’s question about personal expererience of Dayenu: which good things in life would we appreciate, even if they were not accompanied by other good things.
Dan observes that Haggadah has to tell you which team to root for. He notes that most of the Egyptian soldiers drowned in the Red Sea were probably conscripts.
Reading about the seder’s origins in the form of the Greco-Roman symposium, including multiple courses accompanied by wine, vegetable hors d’oevres, reclining posture, prepared questions, and counting things as a conversational gambit (Four Sons, Four Cups of Wine).
Judith quotes R. Nachman, via A Night of Questions. When you are about to leave Egypt — Any Egypt — do not stop to think: “but how will I make a living out there?” One who stops to “make provisions for the way” will never get out of egypt.
Learning the terms for male body parts in sign language, at varying levels of formality and politeness. (You had to be there).
Betsy’s skill at abbreviating with spirit.
Judith’s long and eventually successful quest for wine glasses; Dan’s long and eventually successful quest for the Passover food processor.
Cooking and schmoozing with Judith and Dan (the reason to have a good-sized kitchen with multiple countertops).
Will post if I remember more.
What about you?