Passover, culture-hacking, and the DMCA

“Whoever elaborates in telling the story of the exodus from Egypt is to be well-praised.”
The tradition of the seder is to retell the story, interpreting it in a some way that comes alive for the participants.
* political
* psychological
* dramatic
* exegetical
* musical
With cheap printing, photocopying, and now internet connections, there’s a new tradition of compiling custom Haggadahs.
Humans interpret and remake culture. That’s what we do to make life interesting and meaningful.
Except (under the current US legal scheme), where a few people have copyrights on the myths of our culture, can extend those copyrights forever, and can prosecute people who want to share and modify their culture.
Imagine if the Rabbis took a copyright on the Haggadah, and the copyright was extended forever.
Passover’s a festival of liberation.
Next year, free culture.
Have a happy and creative holiday.

Weblogs for Business Marketing

In Crain’s B2B Marketing Magazine, Rich Karpinski writes about the use of weblogs in business marketing.
The article cites Macromedia, iView Multimedia, Cape Clear Software, and Collaxa as companies using blogs to communicate with customers.
The article talks about the challenge of using a personal medium in a way that keeps the company’s marketing message, and the value of using blogs to communicate with a human voice.
via Doc Searls.

The value of buddy list mapping

As linked by Slashdot, BuddyZoo provides statistics about your AIM buddy list.
With it, you can:
* Find out which buddies you have in common with your friends.
* Measure how popular you are.
* Detect cliques you’re part of.
* See the degrees of separation between different screennames.
This kind of map, I think, would be more useful in a flexible, open environment than in a rigid, closed environment.
In a rigid, closed environment, like American high schools, people already know what cliques they’re part of (jocks, nerds), and don’t have a lot of choices about changing them.
In flexible environment, you could visualize groups that you were a small number of degrees of separation from, and join the group, by participating in an activity, joining a conversation, or getting an introduction.
In an open environment, you might learn things about the social network that you didn’t already know.

Routing around the DMCA

A University of Michigan researcher on computer security has moved the results of his PhD research to a server in the Netherlands, and bans US readers from accessing the research. This is in response to a nasty new state law that makes it a felony to possess software capable of concealing the existence or source of any electronic communication.
Here in Texas, we’ve been fighting this bill on the ground.
These bills pass because:
* the MPAA proposes them
* the legislators don’t understand the implications of the bills’ broad language.
* people who understand the problem don’t speak up.
If one of these bills has reared its ugly head in your state, follow the EFF link for resources, and speak up.

Human Routers and the Value of Networks

Jon Udell writes about the value of overlapping scopes in networks of people, and the particular value of individuals who are able to bridge scopes.

If I am seeking or sharing information, why do I need to be able to address a group of 3 (my team), or 300 (my company), or 300,000 (my company’s customers), or 300 million (the Usenet)? At each level I encounter a group that is larger and more diffuse. Moving up the ladder I trade off tight affinity with the concerns of my department, or my company, for access to larger hive-minds. But there doesn’t really have to be a tradeoff, because these realms aren’t mutually exclusive. You can, and often should, operate at many levels. [Practical Internet Groupware]

This suggests another layer in Ross Mayfield’s network valuation.
The value of a network isn’t just in its size, and the number of potential groups.
The value of a network is also in the connections among the different groups.
I wonder if there are optimal values?
* Too tightly coupled, and there is groupthink, with little diversity and innovation.
* Too loosely coupled, and it is more difficult or impossible for the group to behave in an emergent fashion –to reach agreement, to co-ordinate action, to swarm around a big idea,
The cool thing is, with networked media like weblogs and wikis, it should be possible to experiment and measure.

I don’t get Blogshares

Blogshares is a fantasy market where you bet on shares of bloggers, and the value of your shares is multipled by the number of links to the blog.
I totally don’t get this game.
It takes political-network blogging, and makes the rich get even richer by betting on top players. It’s the power-law squared.
There’s no way to win unless you’re Glenn Reynolds or Andrew Sullivan.
If you’re a blogger, and want to win the Blogshares game, and you’re not Andrew, then you bet against your own blog, and drive the value of your own shares down.
By contrast, if you’re “just blogging”, then you can win if you have more readers than you would reach by email. You can win if you meet people through comments that you wouldn’t have otherwise met. You can win by building relationships in the social and creative networks, even if you’re not Susannah Breslin talking about pornography.
In sports, if you’re not an Olympic athlete, you can play on a local team, or you can run for personal records and fitness.
Why play games that you can’t win, any way you look at it?

Measuring social capital

Ross Mayfield has an intriguing article about using network metrics about the number of connections in a network to value social capital.
I think there is an insight here, but I’m still puzzling over the concept.
The concept of valuation raises a few key questions:
* value to whom?
* is there any meaningful medium of exchange between levels?
A peer-to-peer file-sharing network is very valuable to end-users, but (as currently implemented), reduces value for broadcast distributors. (I think there are plenty of things that broadcast distributors could do to take advantage of p2p instead of suing customers, but that’s a whole ‘nother story)
I’m represented by two senators, shared with 18 million residents of Texas. I have a small number of close friends. Those types of relationships aren’t fungible.
In a money economy, you can say that two pairs of shoes have the same value as a single electric lawnmower.
Is there an analogous way to value different types of social relationships?

Avoiding initial-state biases

Somebody once said that putting in an ERP system is like setting your business plan in concrete.
Mitch Ratcliffe explains how technology systems should be chosen and designed in order to avoid initial-state biases.
Mitch’s insights suggest a number of design lessons for social software:
Participation and modality biases… define how and when users should contribute to the group