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Clay Shirky Explains Internet Evolution

Roblimo posted more than 13 years ago | from the rabblerousing-at-its-finest dept.

The Internet 101

Really. He does. Quite eloquently. Clay Shirky's answers to our questions could easily be turned into an all-day seminar on where the Internet is today as a communications medium, where it might be 10 years from now, and how it is going to get from here to there. This is information you need if your career or business is affected by the Internet in any way. Lots of good debunking, too, of everything from WAP to the myth of increased media homogenization, all put forth with enough humor to keep even Clay's most depressing thoughts from bringing (too many) tears to your eyes.

1) DCMA Encryption and Mass File Sharing
by chancycat

Can you make a prediction?

I'm interested in your prediction for how the next two years will pan out with regard to all the litigation around mass file sharing (see: Napster) and its relationships to DCMA and possible future twists with parties circumventing "protection means" like encryption.

Recent developments have been interesting to follow, but I'm wondering if the furure is going to be getting scarier and more worrisome, or level out and more reasonable... and your contribution to this queston is most welcome.

Clay:

The next two years are, as usual, harder to predict than the next ten. so I'll start with the easy, long-term prediction and back into the two year outlook.

The Analog Millennium Copyright Act is an attempt to graft analog economics onto digital data by decree. This will fail.

The economics of selling information in an analog world have always relied on a piece of indirection: you pay for the object -- the magazine, book, tape, whatever -- in order to get the information stored in the object. In the digital world, information and storage are decoupled. You can get to information without using objects as intermediaries.

We have seen several industries come under this kind of pressure, where the switch from analog to digital distribution blows up the old business models, and the general trend seems to be a parallel transition from selling products to selling services.

The obvious comparison is with the software industry, which used to rely on selling physical objects -- CDs -- in just the way the recording industry does today. As the internet made redistribution of software easier, the software makers worked themselves up into a froth, launching the usual legal and technological attempts to prevent any change to the object-based sales model -- dongles, UCITA, even ad campaigns asking people to report one another or their employees.

As those rear-guard actions are happening, though, the industry as a whole is moving to a software-as-service model. Even Microsoft, who has arguably benefited more than any other software company from per-unit sales, is talking up its ASP strategy.

You can see this attempt to make digital music behave like objects in digital rights management schemes like SDMI. The recording industry is desperate to bring all the inconvenience of the physical world into cyberspace, and then ask music lovers to pay the same for music on- and offline, because it's costing them so much to make things so inconvenient.

Ten years from now, this nonsense will have failed. Embracing digital data for what it does well will so expand the size of the market, by lowering expensive physical barriers, that the music industry will be making *more* money than it does today.

Two years from now is a different, and muddier, story. The interesting fight today is between the music industry and the recording industry.

The music industry is that part of the business concerned with music, everyone from the artists themselves to the A&R department to ASCAP. The recording industry, on the other hand, is concerned with recording technology and its economic effects, principally per-unit pricing. The avatar of the recording industry is the RIAA; if the RIAA represented the music industry, they'd call it the MIAA.

Like all bureaucratic entities, whatever the RIAA is concerned with on paper, it is mainly concerned with its own survival. Even if new technology allows for an expansion of the music industry, if it does so at the expense of people paying per unit for music, the RIAA will be against it. Anything that looks like a subscription scheme undermines the RIAA's reason for existing, namely representing the people who collect all that revenue derived from linking music (the information) to objects (the physical CD). If that link disappears, the RIAA disappears, and groups like ASCAP and BMI, or some altogether new entity, will step in to take the RIAA's place.

This will not happen in the next two years, however, so what we will have in 2003 will look a lot like the software industry did in 1997, where dongles existed side by side with early experiments in software-as-service, and Egghead's closing of its brick and mortar stores was still in the future.

As we know from both democracy and free markets, systems that channel selfish behavior work better than systems that try to deflect it. I put Napster third on a list of uprisings of massive, uncoordinated civil disobedience in the last 100 years, after the 55 mph speed limit and Prohibition. The most important thing for users to do, as we weather the transformation of one industry after another in the next decade, is to consistently and loudly insist that the economic efficiencies offered by digital data and networks never be sacrificed to preserve outmoded industry practices.

2) Does New Media need journalism training?
by georgeha

Does the New Media need journalism training?

In the bad old days, journalists almost always got some training before they were unleashed on the public. Boring things like finding out a complete story, verifying rumors before publishing, disclosing conflicts of interest, journalist integrity, and a whole host of other things (including spelling and grammar).

Due to the rise of New Media, anyone with a web page can be a journalist, regardless of their qualifications. The Drudge Report is the canonical example. Matt Drudge can post any rumor he hears, without having to verify it.

Now, I'm not sure I want to go back to the old way of journalism, but should New Media editors at least try to follow some basic journalist ethics and principles?

If they should, how should they try to implement them?

Clay:

I have two answers as to whether we need better journalistic standards on the net: "No", and "Yes".

The "No" answer looks like this: the democratization of opinion on the net is easily the most important thing to happen to journalism since TV, and the most positive thing to happen to journalism since radio. If I could wave a magic wand and get all of that plus higher standards, I might do it.

However, magic wands are scarce in my corner of the internet, and the only non-magic ways I can think of to effect such a thing would require the creation of a journalistic standards body, equipped with the ability to make value judgments and the right to determine who is in and out of the club of acceptable standards. To be effective, this would have to be coupled with some sort of punishment for those who break these new rules, even if only by withholding the "Online Journalistic Seal of Approval".

The damage this would do to the present flowering of online journalism and opinion would be incalculable. It is precisely the fact that no third party -- no printer, no post office, not even the FCC -- needs to be involved in a public conversation between reader and writer that makes the internet's effect on media so important.

This huge expansion of the reach of the individual has the side effect (how could it be any other way?) of extending *both* tails of the bell curve -- in addition to the obvious increase in the bulge of mediocre writing, we get more dreck. As a consolation prize, though, we get the kind of thing you could not get in any other medium -- blogger, mcsweeneys.net, oldmanmurray.com, Slashdot itself.

These things are not unconnected. Slashdot and the Drudge Report are twin sons of different mothers. Taco and Drudge showed up at about the same time, and there is no objective standard by which one of them should have the "right" to run a web site but not the other.

And this brings me to the "Yes" answer. Yes, we need higher standards, but if we are to get there without coercion and official designations (read: governmental regulation), it has to come through pressure exerted by the audience themselves.

Your complaint about Drudge rings a bit hollow to me. Drudge is surely still peddling whatever he gets, but he is no longer in the public eye. His moment of fame came when the information he had was both accurate and of vital interest. Now, though, he has been largely sidelined, because his political views are more important to him than his journalistic probity -- the interesting stories he has are not true, and the true stories he has are not interesting.

Furthermore, if he ever *does* get another interesting story, we'll tune right back in. The public is better at sorting the good from the bad than you think.

That Drudge *wasn't* able to parlay l'affaire Lewinsky into a permanent place on the national stage seems to me to be an argument for continuing to let the users sort things out for themselves, rather than assuming they are too stupid and jumping into the drivers seat on their behalf. (But see question 4 for an argument about ways of organizing user input to maximize its force.)

3) Computers and humans.
by influensa

The way that people interact and exchange information over the internet has been one of your favourite topics.

What do you think the "information age" is doing to humans regarding their ability to socialize and interact. With the advent of television in the 1950's, there was criticism that television eroded communities by keeping people in their homes. Right now, the so called "MTV Generation" allegedly has the attention span of a 30 second soundbyte.

Many phenomena have been cited as a result of this. Some believe that because so much time is spent in front of televisions, alone, the population is segregated and isolated, unable to work as a community. Others would argue that television technology has merely expanded the community to a national or international level. Still others would refute that this monoculture is dangerous and allows our cultural identity to stagnate.

In the late 90's and now in the early parts of the "new millenium" we've seen an increasing amount of information being transacted over the internet. Does the web as we know it enhance our ability to communicate, or does it further isolate us?

Does a more distributed, decentralized peer2peer model of information exchange promise a type of interaction more natural to humans, or should we be for strategies to prevent further information glut and saturation?

Clay:

Oh my. Big questions.

Computer-mediated communication is a vast area of inquiry, and not one I cover closely, so rather than trying to talk about the field from a professional point of view I'm going to answer this one based on personal experience. Take it with a grain of salt.

In 1993, during what I can now thankfully call the nadir of my personal and professional life, I discovered the internet, and essentially disappeared into it. For someone who had spent a lot of time thinking about language and community, the net was like a gift, having something this interesting to think about. At a time when I was living an otherwise flattened existence, the daily challenge of trying to understand the net gave me something to live for.

None of my friends at the time was online, so I made a second set of friends, mainly on panix, ECHO, and alt.folklore.urban. During those years, I essentially lived in two worlds, with the networked world seeming realer to me than the real world. I often had a daydream in which the hum of the internet just grazed the top of my skull; it felt as if by standing on tip-toe I should be able to press my brain directly into the network. Going 24 hours without jacking in made me physically ill.

Therefore, when I face questions like "Does the web as we know it enhance our ability to communicate, or does it further isolate us?", I have to ask, why pick? It seems to do both, or at least it did for me.

I have no trouble saying the internet saved my life, but I also have no trouble saying that I was for a time addicted to it. (The addiction passed like a fever. I awoke one morning a few years ago, and *didn't need to check my email*, a craving whose absence rattled me a bit, as getting online with the first crack of consciousness had for years been a more reliable feature of my mornings than either eating or getting dressed.)

I was addicted to communication, to a very peculiar kind of social congress that put a huge premium on verbal acuity while conveying none of the emotional cues you pick up from other people when you are in the same physical space with them. Anyone who has ever gotten to know someone in email and later met them in the real world understands this difference instinctively: you read someone's email differently after you've spent some time with them offline as well.

So the web can paradoxically enhance our ability to communicate *and* further isolate us. The real danger, it seems to me, is in believing that it can only do one or the other.

As for decentralization, David Stutz says that peer-to-peer is succeeding because it maps better to the way people actually live their lives than client-server does. I do think that p2p strategies will open up new kinds of communications that don't readily map to the network we have today, especially as it concerns group (as opposed to global) publishing.

Again, though, peer-to-peer won't save us from needing strategies for dealing with info-saturation; if anything, the ability to commit more of our thoughts to the web will *raise* the pressure to find novel ways of filtering the important from the trivial and the interesting from the dull.

4) Do we hold successful New Media outlets to higher standards?
by typical geek

Do we hold New Media outlets that have made it (millions of page views per month) to higher ethical standards than someone running a homepage on an ISP dial up account?

There seems to be an attitude at some New Media outlets of Hey, it's my site and I'm doing what I want with it!

Now, I can understand this attitude if it's a part time site, with maybe 20 page view of day. But when you grow into a leading New Media outlet with 30 million page views a month, shouldn't this attitude change?

William Randolph Hearst was accused of starting the Spanish American war to increase circulation for his newspaper. This was rightly decried, you can safely stand on a street corner and advocate war, but when you have a bully pulpit of millions of readers, you should be expected to have more accountability and responsibility. Sadly, I'm not always seeing this on New Media outlets.

Should New Media outlets be more aware of journalistic integrity. Now, at Slashdot Rob Malda almost always let's us know about his VA LInux holding when he writes about VA Linux. He also posts stories about VA Linux's financial problems, to his credit. Should it be a policy that any New Media editor mention all conflicts of interest? Do they realize that with the ease of transferring cash, and the ease of faek indentities, New Media editors need to be cleaner than Caeser's wife.

Clay:

Right now, journalistic standards are enforced by cumulative effect individual users choices of which sites to frequent and which to avoid (vis the case of Slashdot and the Drudge report I referred to in the second question.)

It seems to me that in the case of the VA stock, we are not only holding Slashdot to higher standards because it's popular; Slashdot became popular in part because Rob, Jeff, and Co are forthcoming about their points of view. Slashdot's popularity may be both cause and effect of the editors' ethical standards, in other words, because reputation is the best way to keep readers. (Thanks to Lucas Gonze for pointing out the relationship between reputation management and publishing.)

When you ask "should it be a policy that...", though, I assume that this approach strikes you as unsatisfactory. My question about such a policy is this: created by whom? Policed by whom? Can you think of any group you'd trust with the power to make determinations concerning who is and is not cleaner than Caesar's wife? Can you even think of any group you'd trust with the responsibility of defining which sites were "news outlets" and which were merely "journals of opinion"?

The only group that I would trust to police Slashdot is the Slashdot users themselves. At the risk of being labeled a fanboy, I'd like to point to the History section of the moderator guidelines, which walks through the "Who will guard the guardians?" problem of moderation, going from no moderation, through hand-picked few, through "400 Lucky Winners" (which for me conjures up a curious mix of Lady Astor and the Charge of the Light Brigade) through to the present system.

When you create a small group whose role is to be representative of the whole, the smaller group often starts acting on its own behalf rather than for the public good. This is a well understood political problem, and representative democracy plus checks and balances has been the usual solution, because direct involvement of all the affected individuals has been too hard to arrange.

On the net, however, you can actually have a small group represent the larger whole, without making the members of the small group into a special interest, by rotating the membership of the smaller group in and out of the larger pool.

This is how juries work, this is how Slashdot works, this is even how collaborative filtering works, and it is a solution that is generally available on the internet, because the death of distance means we can create ad hoc groups to monitor behavior with little regard to geography.

Any discussion of addressing ethical lapses in the media will turn on specifics, of course -- there are different ethical issues for entertainmentweekly.com and schwab.com -- but in general, the most net-like solution for raising ethical standards is going to be to bypass the notion of third parties and instead to find ways of putting the users' hands directly on the dial.

5) Micropayments
by Ergo2000

In your article "The Case Against Micropayments" you state the case against micropayments. Has anything in the intervening time changed your mind (i.e. the collapse of content), or do you believe that the fundamentals of micropayments are impossible to achieve? Does your problem with micropayments stem primarily with pay-per-view, or rather the concept of mandatorily user supported sites (i.e. extrapolating micropayments to include subscriptions or content packs)?

Clay:

The "collapse of content" hasn't changed my mind, because my critique of micropayments has nothing to do with technological barriers and everything to do with human barriers.

In a competitive market, things rarely happen because they are good for producers but not consumers, and this is something micropayment proponents have rarely understood. Many of the arguments in favor of micropayments argue that they will succeed because they will be good for information providers, even though it is the consumers who have all the money. This "Good for the producers" argument is especially hard to support in an environment where the competition is one click away.

So yes, I believe that the fundamentals of micropayments, namely being embraced by users, are impossible to achieve. Do this thought experiment: Assume there are two comparable sources of financial news, one that charges a penny a page, and one that charges a subscription. Other things being equal, which system would _you_ use?

Micropayments could only work in a system where the producers have monopoly control. In a competitive environment, user preference for predictable pricing and a desire to be spared the anxiety of the meter ticking will always make micropayments vulnerable to competition by alternate pricing schemes.

As for pay-per-view vs mandatory, one of the problems with wading into the micropayment tar pit is that there is no one definition of micropayments that covers all uses of that word. My working definition is two-fold:

A micropayment is any system that

a) assumes that some alternative to the present financial infrastructure is required, and

b) assumes that people will be content to participate in systems that generate automatic or all but automatic charges.

I specifically *don't* think QPass and Paypal are micropayments, because they

a) use existing credit card infrastructure rather than creating alternative currency or transactions and

b) they interrupt the flow of the transaction in order to get your explicit approval.

I can use QPass to buy an article on the NY Times for $2.50, but I can also buy a used copy of "Hop On Pop" on Amazon for $2.00, and the Amazon interface is *less* intrusive than Qpass. Therefore, if Qpass is a micropayment system then so is one-click ordering, at which point I have no idea what a micropayment really is.

I think the real death of "micropayments" will be the increased flexibility of traditional financial institutions. The W3C "embedded micropayment" effort is completely stalled, QPass has lowered the price threshold for making purchase decisions into the single dollar range, and yet again (as with debit cards vs digicash "smart" cards in the mid-90s) the existing financial infrastructure will prove adequately flexible to handle charges for any size users are interested in transacting in.

Since it is the users' unwillingness to transact in penny and sub-penny amounts, this means that, also like smart cards, there won't be any real-world cases to drive micropayment adoption by consumers.

6) Internet Civilization
by Alien54

I think that it is well agreed that the Internet is changing civilization. The slightly tongue in cheek, but serious question is "Changing it into what?"

The spectrum of possible futures ranges from Utopian to paranoia making 1984 look like a children's tea party. And Idealism aside, there is a large class of people who like being sheeple, having all the tough decisions made for them.

So that is the question - what is the Internet changing civilization into?

Clay:

With the usual hand-waving about how a question this large invites over-broad speculation etc etc, I think the internet is driving the increasing importance of "immaterial culture" that will mostly operate alongside but in some cases displace the material culture we are used to.

Material culture is the present tense version of physical anthropology, where the question "How do we live?" is answered by examining the material facts of our lives: our clothes, food, houses, dwellings, decorations, and so on.

As the internet permeates society, examination of material culture is increasingly inadequate to answer those questions.

By way of example, I am writing this on my wife's computer. The material facts of using this computer -- desk, chair, keyboard, monitor -- are therefore the same for both of us.

The immaterial facts of our use of this computer could not be more different, however. It's safe to say that other than Yahoo, there is no site we both visit. She never opens telnet, I never open WordPerfect. Our experiences on this machine diverge in a way that examination of the physical set up would never reveal.

With the internet, a computer is a door rather than a box, and the worlds it is a door into -- Barney fan sites, auctions of excess steel, political dissidence, chemistry homework -- have to do with the will and interests of the individuals using it, not with the material aspects of the object itself. We are increasingly less bounded by the choices the material culture is offering us, and increasingly expressing our humanity through immaterial choices instead.

I first became aware of the way the human condition could attach itself to non-existant objects when a friend of mine on panix talked the sysadmins into changing her user id in /etc/passwd so she could have a lower number, because uid had become a status symbol, and the lower the number the more pioneering a panixian you were. (Compare karma whoring.)

This change in the direction of immaterial culture is going to catch a lot of people by surprise. I once did an interview with Bazaar about the internet's effect on fashion (an absurd occurrence, given my relaxed sartorial sensibilities), and I began talking about how the public faces we were fashioning for ourselves were increasingly created online. The editor had little use for this line of thought, since, for her readers, fashion == clothes.

But increasingly, fashion != clothes. In the blogger community, people put the effort into designing an interface that fits their public persona that an earlier generation might have put into picking a wardrobe for the same reason. When looking for work, you will probably spend much more time polishing your personal web site than dressing for the interview. When corresponding with someone you're trying to impress, editing and re-editing email takes the place of changing outfits three times.

So culture is increasingly vested in the immaterial choices we make about our lives -- when everyone has access to the network, what you *do* with that access becomes a more powerful act of self-definition than the choices you make about your material culture and your immediate surroundings.

7) Hi, I'm one of those Seattle protesters.
by perdida

After reading your piece on the WTO, I have a question for you.

What do you think of the Indymedia phenomenon?

Or, more broadly, do you feel that the increasing accessibility of digital cameras and other tools, which lower the cost of putting a strong Web-based newsroom together, might challenge the increasingly corporate system of mainstream news?

Interestingly, you don't mention Indymedia in that article, but we're a collective of people who gets equipment out to intereted people, to cover the protests on the inside.

They have connected live, streaming news about protests all over the world, including the recent UN climate talks, the WTO, the World Economic Forum, and the march of the Zapatistas to Mexico City.

Although Indymedia started in Seattle, there are IMC bureaus all over the world now.

I think they've done two important things- popularized the "movement against corporate globalization," and created a forum for debate.

The debate you talk about- between the protesters who want to fix institutions like the WTO and the ones who want to abolish them- is taking place in the discussion rooms of Indymedia. Check it out!

Clay:

I didn't know about Indymedia when I wrote that article, though since then I've spent some time talking with Craig Hymson about it.

Indymedia is a cool thing, and I am obviously in favor of anything that further decreases barriers to disseminating news and opinion.

That having been said, I disagree with the idea that there is an increasing corporatization of news. I refuse to be seduced by this comfortingly alarmist view, because I am old enough to know better.

In 1970, there were three sources of televised news in the US.

Three.

No points for guessing what language they broadcast in.

In the US today, there are 7 broadcast networks, someplace between half a dozen and several dozen cable news networks depending on how you define news (MTV covers presidential elections; religious channels discuss politics), not to mention Spanish cable channels, Arabic cable channels, Japanese cable channels, Korean cable channels.

All this without even mentioning the Web. Do you have any idea how many news outlets there are on the Web? If you want to see evidence that news is not in fact becoming increasingly corporate, take a look around the site you're asking this on. As they used to say on the Palmolive commercials, you're soaking in it.

That part of the left given to conspiracy theories has been banging on for 30 years about the contraction in the media space while out here in the real world, technology has been tearing the roof off the sucker since the launch of CNN. I lived through the 70s, and no matter how earnestly The Nation approaches the task of drawing all those little charts of media ownership, nothing can make me pretend that things are worse now than they were then.

To take but one example, 30 years ago there was no Spanish language news broadcast in New York City. None. I don't know how old you are, but if you are under 30 I doubt you can even imagine such a thing.

That's what it used to be like. The 70s were the absolute worst period of corporatization of news -- the old "news as a public trust" idea had died, but the lowering of barriers that would democratize media beyond all recognition had not yet begun.

There are certainly lots of corporate media outlets, and there is lots of cross-media ownership and more on the way, but the democratization of media outlets and media access is outstripping the corporate growth by leaps and bounds. Anyone fretting about a contracting media universe while Starbucks is getting ready to put 802.11b networks in its stores just looks like they have no grasp of history. The media landscape we have now is so unbelievably much less corporate than it used to be that it defies description.

8) Long-term solution to content reward needed
by Tony Shepps

I agree with you that micropayments are not coming any time soon. But I worry that the net is not accurately communicating its need for quality content -- and its willingness to pay for same.

Amongst any group of users, my bet is that you'll find several who would pay for improvements in the quality and nature of the information they receive. Obviously there is great value in correct and timely information. In some cases, it is nothing short of a life or death matter. In most cases it simply keeps us a little better informed.

I don't understand, therefore, why none of your proposed solutions (aggregation, subscription, subsidy) have evolved yet. Every site that I've seen try subscription has given up (except one: the WSJ). And everyone agrees that subsidy in the form of advertising is not going to fly.

Many high-quality sites that deserve to survive are having a tough time of it, and it's not for lack of readership. The Onion hasn't created any multi-millionaires; it should have. Salon has had layoffs. The Straight Dope should make more money on its website than on its books. User Friendly should not have to resort to dead tree publishing or syndication.

In short, while Fucked Company celebrates the death of the crappy sites and stupid business plans, the quality sites are in danger of dying as well. What's gone wrong? Why haven't any models come about that support what people really want?

Clay:

As a matter of discipline, I try not to use the word "should" in my writing, as it entices me to think like a cop or a priest instead of an analyst, so I can't really either agree or disagree with you about whether the Onion "should" have created any multi-millionaires, or which sites "deserve" to survive.

From my point of view, there are lots of sites using both aggregation and subsidy. UGO and Andover, to name but two, aggregate sites, sites that themselves often aggregate content from different sources, and then subsidize those sites with advertising. The one method of the three that is not in wide use is subscription, for all the economic difficulties presented by digital data I mentioned in the first question.

But by far the biggest single effect of the net on content is *user* subsidy, which is to say amateur subsidy. People who run web logs, people who run mailing lists, even people who submit stories or posts to slashdot or plastic, are creating subsidized content by participating for the love of the thing (the literal sense of amateur) rather than for money.

We have just lived through a period in which, by lowering the barriers to creating a media outlet, it was assumed that we were witnessing the mass professionalization of media.

But mass professionalization is an oxymoron. The mistake I think we've made is to assume that we need to find ways of increasing revenues so we can all go pro. What we are witnessing is the mass amateurization of media, because the net has revolutionized media in the other direction, reducing the cost of being a media outlet to the point where many *many* more people can participate, and with peer-to-peer models offloading even more of the costs to the edges of the network (viz Napster), the lowering of the barriers still has a ways to go.

The unfortunate fact of this lowering of barriers is that an increase in amateur participation puts further pressure on online media outlets hoping to go pro. The collapse of the content sites is just beginning, and there is no short-term fix for that. Advertising revenue will eventually be able to support good sites, but it will take quite some time before both the models and the demand are in place.

You ask "Why haven't any models come about that support what people really want?" My answer is that what people really want is high quality content for free, and for a half-dozen years, the net has been incredibly good at delivering on that desire. Now that the "stock price as business model" plan has failed, most of the sites built in that era will disappear.

In the next 6 months or so, the only professional sites that will be able to survive will either find some sort of patronage (including NPR/PBS-style subsidy from users, as Evan did when he needed servers for blogger) or get bought by a company that is willing to run a media outlet as a loss leader.

Some of the ones that can't stay professional will go back to being labors of love, as just happened to Old Man Murray.

The rest -- most -- will die.

I wish I believed there was some magic bullet. I don't. As John Maynard Keynes said, "The market can remain irrational longer than you can remain solvent."

9) Evolution and Good Usability
by KjetilK

In your open letter to Jakob Nielsen you say that evolution must decide what's good design. I agree that you can't force people into good design, but is the evolution doing us any good so far?

For example, I can read web pages on a normal mobile phone. I like that, it's my own little hack, it's far from good, but it can do the job. Now, if usable web sites had been designed, we would all be able to read web on our mobile phones. Another example: Speech browsers. I'd like a box to plug into my hifi, and I want to relax in my best chair talking to my browser, having it read pages for me, playing music, etc. Both these things have been possible for years, but they require good, usable pages.

It seems to me that the evolution isn't the fastest method of getting good design, mainly because people don't know what they never see, people like to have web on their phones, but they don't know that all that is needed is for web designers to do their job properly, and so there is no evolutionary pressure for designers to do their job properly.

OK, so to the question, how do you want to create this pressure?

Clay:

You are absolutely right, evolution isn't the fastest method of getting good design. I am uninterested in good design, however. I really only care about great design, and about the environment of experimentation that that requires.

The question I have for you is "Is good design good enough?" Because if it's great design you're after, evolution is the way to get there. I don't mean this as a rhetorical question, either. For many people, Nielsen among them, raising the minimum quality of design is the essential task, even if it means curtailing the freedom that makes for the most interesting experiments. So the question you have to ask yourself is: Would I accept higher average quality even if it meant less experimentation?

For me, the answer is No. Freedom is freedom, and the only way to prevent people from making bad stuff is to come up with some a priori definition of "good", and then enforce that. Not only do I not trust myself to be smart enough to know in advance what "good" looks like, I don't trust *anyone* to be that smart. Instead, I trust myself to know what's right for me: the sites I like go in the bookmark list, and the ones I don't, don't. I feel no need to punish people who do work I don't like in any way other than not looking at their work.

The wireless example you bring up is a perfect illustration. By and large, people *don't* like to have the Web on their phones. "Fewer than one in 50 UK adults are using mobile phones to access internet services despite millions of pounds spent on advertising and subsidising handsets, according to new research." http://globalarchive.ft.com/globalarchive/articles.html?id=001109003316

Web sites are written for a user experience quite different from that offered by wireless devices, and some work has to go into modifying or converting content to make it make sense on the phone. To make this work worthwhile, you need both users and site owners to be motivated.

The only place anything like a wireless Web is taking off is in Japan, where DoCoMo quite sensibly made it possible to write for the phone interface in a sub-set of HTML, rather than in WML. There, there is an absolute explosion of third-party content, because designers are motivated to get onto the devices. Where people are using their phones for the Web, and where designers have low barriers to entry to to access to those people, evolution is working -- there is competition and rising quality. Where people are not using their phones, and where designers can't easily create or offer new services, there is no competition and no change in quality. There is also no way to force designers to design for a format they have no interest in.

And this, I think, is the core of my argument. The explosion of the Web was created by the adoption of HTML by amateurs -- anyone can write a web page (and frequently does). You cannot simultaneously have mass adoption and rigor, as evidenced by the failure of all attempts to make "a programming language so simple anyone can do it", or the collapse of the "HTML should be a purely semantic language" argument in 1995.

In large, unmanaged systems, only efforts that achieve partial results when partially implemented can survive, which mitigates against top-down approaches, so when you say "...there is no evolutionary pressure for designers to do their job properly", I have to ask: Who gets to say what is proper? You? Jakob Nielsen? Some newly minted Pope of Proper Design?

You are right that people don't know what they never see, but this is not their problem -- all web designers were first web users. Why should designers design for wireless if no one is offering them a good wireless experience as users?

If you want to know why designers aren't spending the cycles to convert or redesign for wireless, go ask Nokia and Sprint why they adopted WAP. As DoCoMo has shown us, when you make a good experience for the user, the designers follow.

10) An open garden?
by XNormal

The big players in the interactive television game are all building their own walled gardens. What kind of effort would it take for interactive television to evolve into a more web-like open garden model? Which new media players could fight the traditional broadcasters for a place on the screen in the living room?

Clay:

I once saw the tail end of this fairly terrible WWII movie in which a demolition expert promises to blow up a dam using a tiny amount of explosive, and when the explosion goes off and the dam doesn't fall, his colleagues look at him, crestfallen, and he says "Give it time. It'll blow." There's a cutaway shot to water trickling through the crack caused by the little explosion, which slowly turns into a gush, then a flood, and then the dam suddenly collapses.

Email is that tiny bit of explosive.

I have seen many (*many*) companies have the intuition that the internet is a great thing with only two teensy-weensy problems: they don't own it, and it's too easy for their competitors to use it. They then all have the same brainstorm: "Hey, I know! Lets build something that's just like the internet, except we'll control the whole thing! Then we'll be rich!"

The first time I saw anybody try this was Prodigy in the early 90s, when they were trying to force their users to stop emailing one another and get back to shopping. The most recent attempt was WAP, with stops along the way for AOL, Compuserve, eWorld, MSN, et al, and the thing they have always run aground on was email. People, alas for one-way media outlets, like to communicate with one another. A lot.

Once email arrives, people have very little patience for walled gardens, and less for mapping arbitrary technological distinctions onto live human relationships. "What do you mean I can't send a message to my mother because she has a Sony Interactive TV and I have a Panasonic?!"

Email is the gateway drug of the internet, because once email is in place, people begin to expect full interoperability. In the Olden Tymes (pre-IMG tag, roughly) AOL, Compuserve, and their cousins spent a lot of time patiently explaining to their paying customers why they couldn't use ftp servers or post to usenet, even as 19 years olds procrastinating on their CS homework were freaking everybody out by writing emailftp and emailnntp gateways in their spare time.

If this is the sort of fight you like to tune into, I can recommend no business battle more entertaining than the ongoing marginalization of WAP. The brokenness of the WAP protocol came about because the telcos were damned if they were going to allow anything like interoperability or freedom to weaken their hammerlock on paying customers, so they deluded themselves into believing that what users were crying out for was expensive new ways to get headline news.

In fact, in a news flash that seems to have caught the entire telecommunications industry by surprise, people who buy mobile phones often like to communicate with one another. Had this not been such an absolutely unpredictable occurrence, maybe somebody at the WAP consortium could have predicted that when you add text to the phone, users might like to communicate with one another via text.

Access to email is the #1 feature customers want in a wireless text device (duh), and all those wireless auctions where the telcos spent 22 gajillion Zlotys to own the customer now look like a giant shell game, because the users don't want to get headline news. They want to talk to one another, and they will switch carriers until they are allowed to. Email is the thin end of the interoperability wedge, and this will be true of interactive TV as well.

The biggest risk to this rosy scenario is government tolerance of monopolies. Conventional wisdom in the 70s was that cable access was only going to be possible if the cable companies were given local monopolies, since that yucky old competition would keep people from investing in infrastructure. The normal split between carrier and content owner was thus eroded in this situation, and we have the legacy of that decision to this day.

In countries where there are only one or two providers of interactive television, therefore, there might not be enough competition to force owners of interactive TV services to offer full, interoperable email. This is analagous to the situation in countries where the national monopoly telcos kept per-minute pricing or per-byte charges for internet access, because in a monopoly, the overwhelming customer preference for flat-rate pricing has no way to make itself known. In those places (keep an eye especially on the UK), email might not be enough to force interoperability on interactive TV, at least in the short term.

11) Worthwhile to scratch and start over?
by rho

I read your "DNS System is Coming Apart At the Seams" article with pointed interest. It is a topic I frequently harp on in private conversations -- the lack of a human-focused network and network protocols.

I've puzzled over the implications myself, but I'd be interested to hear your opinion -- Is it worthwhile to simply scratch what we have and begin anew, basing the new decisions made on more current assumptions?

For example, hardware is cheap and reliable (as compared to 20 years ago), bandwidth is cheap and getting cheaper. Should the networking protocols reflect this new reality?

Clay:

(I "author modded" this one up. [g /]

From my point of view, we've *already* scratched what we had and started anew, and that happened when ICQ launched.

ICQ was the first group that I know of to figure out that if DNS wasn't allowing for unpredictable connectivity and unstable IP addresses, then the solution was *not* to wait for fiber-to-the-curb and IPv6, the solution was to bypass DNS, so they simply provided alternate namespaces built on top of IPv4.

whois is a decade and a half old and shows ~25M addresses. Napster is going on two and has twice that. ICQ and other IM services are 4 years old and have something like *6* times that many addresses. Non-DNS addresses are growing far faster than DNS addresses, in part because DNS was never modified to take into account the new reality of PC connectivity and impermanent IP addresses, and partly because setting up a domain name is a huge huge hassle compared to getting a fixed, human readable name with Napster.

So DNS is no longer the only game in town, and never will be again.

If by network protocols you mean redoing IP, however, it'll never happen. For reasons I listed above, I have no professional opinion about whether such a thing "should" happen, but I know it never will happen. It'll be enough to get IPv6 rolled out over the next five years.

-------

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Re:5. And no FUCKING alcohol... (1)

Sketch (2817) | more than 13 years ago | (#366438)

Right except for wet weather. I've never seen a race halted for wet weather.

However, a large number of the drivers on the street seem to freak out and drive like idiots (even more so than normal) whenever it rains. Racers don't have to worry about that.

OpenVerse Visual Chat: http://openverse.org [openverse.org]

Re:802.11b in Starbucks? (1)

cshirky (9913) | more than 13 years ago | (#366439)

Is this true?

Starbucks Corp. said earlier this month that it will build 802.11b networks in 3,000 of its coffeehouses so customers can sip their lattes while they browse the Net using their own wireless notebooks, smart phones, or Pocket PC PDAs.

http://www.informationweek.com/820/network.htm

-clay

Re:Evolution? (1)

cshirky (9913) | more than 13 years ago | (#366440)

*sigh*

Yeah, evolution is not the perferct word, especially as the biological discipline of evolution is so much more rigourous and specific than my use of it here.

So its a metaphor, sure, but when it comes to systems being adapted by experimentation in all directions meeting with variable success or failure, its a pretty good metaphor.

I go back and forth between three metaphors when thinking about the net: evolution, economics (selfish individuals optimizing their preferences when expending limited resources, money but also time, processor speed, etc) and politics (legal systems for creating some structure that can make decisions for the whole).

Different situations call for different ways of thinking (and on the net, any given situaiton usually calls for at least two [g /]), but I could have done a better job of pointing out that I don't mean that the network is literally alive.

-clay

Re:P2P is Client Server (1)

cshirky (9913) | more than 13 years ago | (#366441)

Clay seems to think it's not.

I think it is not because the phrase "peer-to-peer" came *after* the applications it was meant to describe, so it is more a lable than a definition.

I refuse to be one of those peerier-than-thou people who wants to define Napster out of the club after the fact -- call Napster "Client server wiht redirect" or whatever you like, P2P was the label that got put on it (and a lot of other things besides), and while I think decentralization would have been a better name, I'm not dumb enough to swim upstream against the meme-flow.

-clay

Re:Three words (1)

cshirky (9913) | more than 13 years ago | (#366442)

Thanks, but rather than the, uh, bulls and virgins, I'd rather you just make it a point hit me upside the head when I say stuff that makes no sense -- 'swhat all my friends do.

-c

Mod this down (1)

cshirky (9913) | more than 13 years ago | (#366443)

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

You're welcome, you're welcome, you're welcome.

I'd have sent you mail saying same, but no@e.mail suggested that would be futile...

-clay

Re:Better net journalism through P2P organizations (1)

cshirky (9913) | more than 13 years ago | (#366444)

Oh my god, I'm *so* glad someone else remembers that ped nightmare! I wrote a bunch of stuff for Urban Desires about that, including the fact that he came out and said "It was stupid, it should never have happened, it was my fault" on alt.culture.internet, but all Time readers got was a manby-pamby half-retraction of the patented "WE mustent let this blind us to the larger details of..." form.

Didn't know about IPG, but I'll check it out, thanks for the heads up.

-clay

Re: Karma as a usable resource (1)

CodeShark (17400) | more than 13 years ago | (#366445)

What a totally interesting idea!

I dislike the idea of a person being able to moderate their own comments, but if there have been times that if such a system were in place, I'd burn Karma points to lift someone else's particularly insightful comment, (like your ideas perhaps)into a higher score than one point would do, or if I didn't have moderator points that day.

As far as default posts at "2", you make some good points. In the current system, my understandign is that someone posts at "2" they risk getting dinged down, so the risk is to "lose voice" if they drop below the "cap". This is sort of like letting the folks who have had something valuable to say in the past act sort of like trusted guests on a News show.

Hmmm... two thoughts, putting them up for devil's advocacy:

  1. What if instead of an overall karma score/cap, they changed the code so that a person developed karma in the areas they have been moderated up in? Then they could sort of choose the type of post they were trying to make. For example, I'm usually about as funny as a freeze dried potato, so unless I had a bunch of karma for funny posts, I wouldn't be able to post an attempted funny at a default higher score.
  2. The second is right in line with your idea of (2,funny). I wonder how hard it would be to put a more specific filter than "browse at +2", so that if I wanted, I could browse for the (2, funnys), or the (2, insightful), etc. Not sure, but it seems like it could lower the overall bandwidth requirement as less text per page might be sent, but could also cost machine time if a person reloaded and read each page using several different filter sets.
Hmmm. May have to jump back into the / code and see what it would take for my own site to use this idea. What do y'all think?

Semantics in Evolution and Good Usability at Slash (1)

leandrod (17766) | more than 13 years ago | (#366446)

While answering about evolution being or not good for design, you argue that there occurred a 'collapse of the "HTML should be a purely semantic language" argument in 1995'.

Now that begs the question.

You assume the point you try to prove, that merely evolution will make things better. Because you thing so, you can think that this so-called collapse of the argument proves that HTML-as-layout people were right. But I think this only proves good tools weren't available at the time.

Even now these good tools still aren't available, even if the infrastructure (XML, XSL, CSS) has been for two or three years now. What I would deem a good tool would be something like old versions of MS Word: a tool where I can at the same time design a page and the stylesheet for it, as two separate but linked files. If I could find something like that as an Emacs mode for DocBook and the likes of it - or a similarly competent tool - I wouldn't write in anything else.

-- Leandro Guimarães Faria Corcete Dutra
DBA, SysAdmin
Debian GNU/Linux, Tutorial D, relational model

Re:ICQ, Napster, AIM, etc as DNS (1)

leandrod (17766) | more than 13 years ago | (#366447)

He missed an important point: we are stuck with DNS until an open system appears. DNS with all its shortcomings is an open system, while Napster, ICQ and the like are proprietary, centralized systems.

Perhaps FreeNet will help with this. But I don't see anything better than DNS along the road providing an unified namespace - any proprietary namespaces will always be marginal, no matter how big they are compared to DNS.

Now dynamic DNS is a biggie. I don't know why it hasn't been popularized (or implemented?) yet.
-- Leandro Guimarães Faria Corcete Dutra
DBA, SysAdmin
Debian GNU/Linux, Tutorial D, relational model

Exactly. (1)

Wntrmute (18056) | more than 13 years ago | (#366448)

You pretty much describe the exact argument a good friend of mine has used when explaining the problem with the 55 mph speed limit. (A friend with a degree in Transporation Engineering, BTW)

Speed differential is what is the true cause of traffic accidents. If we have 5 cars on a stretch of interstate, 3 going 70 mph, one going 80 mph, and the last going 50 mph, the driver going 50 is the one most statistically likely to cause an accident.

I remember my friend writing a paper on this for a class, and he researched the "statistically correct" way to set speed limits. It's based on the fact that a certain percentage of driver will always go much faster than the speed limit, another certain percentage will never drive faster than a certain speed, no matter what the speed limit is, etc. By looking at these numbers, you can minimize the differential between the high and low ends of the scale, and create the statistically safest speed limit.

-Wintermute

Re:802.11b in Starbucks? (1)

onjay (27282) | more than 13 years ago | (#366449)

They have already started the closings in my neighborhood. Read the very interesting long term plans:

http://www.theonion.com/onion3709/starbucks_phas e_ two.html

Re:Driving 65 won't cost anybody money (1)

schon (31600) | more than 13 years ago | (#366450)

Speed limits are different since you can only hurt yourself,

Umm, yeah, as long as you're the only person on the road.

If you get into a collision at a higher speed, it means there is going to be more damage, both to you, and whatever (or whoever) you hit.

Re:Indymedia (1)

look (36902) | more than 13 years ago | (#366451)

Damn, this is one of the most lucid Anonymous Coward posts I've ever seen -- regardless if you agree or disagree.

Bravo!

Re:Indymedia (1)

akb (39826) | more than 13 years ago | (#366452)

I won't try to speak about independent media generally but what motivates me to work on Indymedia is the goal of creating a space within the media for points of view that are excluded from the mainstream. I interpret this as a project to create media democracy (in contrast to media capitalism), as such it must grow beyond the progressive/radical constituency that founded it to address the criticism that you raise. While Indymedia grew out of the protest movement and is most well known for covering protests much effort is going into creating permanent grassroots community media centers.

This is a much larger project than "stick it to the man schtick". Our goal in DC [indymedia.org] has been to empower those that don't have access to the media to be able to produce media themselves by conducting trainings. This way there isn't a "we" that covers "them" as democratic media is something that everyone should participate in.

Is this objective? No, it doesn't try to be.

5. And no FUCKING alcohol... (1)

cyanoacrylate (47864) | more than 13 years ago | (#366453)

Although, you do have methanol in the indycar fuel tanks...

6. No pedestrians / bicycles / wet weather / etc. on the track.

Also of note:

5000 pound roll cage in a NASCAR vs. a 1500 pound - most of the weight in batteries - Impulse... Hmmm... anyone remember the Beetle-vs.-Cadillac kinetic energy comparison from physics? Thats why I won't own one (a beetle, or an Impulse ;-)

Cyano

Re:this guy is good! (1)

xmedar (55856) | more than 13 years ago | (#366454)

If I recall correctly smart card tech is worth ~$4BN year in sales although a lot of that is security systems for buildings etc. My Platinum Visa card has a chip so does my Mondex card although I still have to punch in numbers manually into the office security system at the moment.

On the other hand.... (1)

invenustus (56481) | more than 13 years ago | (#366455)

but with napster, if you download a full album and don't buy the cd, you are costing the artists and the record company some real money.
Situation A: I download an album without paying for it, love it, and decide to see the band the next time they come to my town.
Situation B: Respecting copyrights, I neither download an album nor buy it. When the band comes to my own, I say "ah, they're okay, but so far as I've heard, not really worth seeing."

Which situation nets more real money for the artist?
----
"Here to discuss how the AOL merger will affect consumers is the CEO of AOL."

Re:Indymedia (1)

ProfDumb (67790) | more than 13 years ago | (#366456)

Do you fail to note the incredible 90+% of media is controlled by 6 companies in the US?


I think you fail to note his point that 30 years ago 100% of all television news was controlled by the 3 networks. You haven't really made *your* point that corporate control is *increasing*. Most folks used to get the 3 TV stations plus 1 local paper, plus perhaps a newsmagazine (Time, Newsweek.) Now they get all that, plus various cable news sites, plus they log onto their favorite websites (Slashdot, Salon, etc.) and are on 4 e-mails lists from various interest groups (neighborhood associations, etc.)

Note that the political point of view on slashdot versus slate.msn.com or on Fox News versus MTV is much greater than the diversity found in the old mass media.

Just Curious (1)

IHateEverybody (75727) | more than 13 years ago | (#366457)


the telcos spent 22 gajillion Zlotys to own the customer

Does anyone else wonder how much that is in Quatloos?

Don't understand the UK bit (1)

Random Hamster (76396) | more than 13 years ago | (#366458)

I don't quite understand the bit about the UK, we have essentially 3 platforms for digital TV, all of which have or will have ITV - digital terrestrial, satelite (Murdoch) and cable (more or less a duopoly between NTL and Telewest) now.
Most TV cable companies offer phones, and the per minute charge is now really the stuff of history.

Evolution? (1)

Wind_Walker (83965) | more than 13 years ago | (#366459)

"Internet Evolution"? Come on... The Internet has not evolved at all. It was created, and is continuing to be created everyday. It's not that the Internet has "evolved", it's that creators have been tinkering with the specifications.

Recently, though, it has stagnated. In other words, the creators have left, and the laws of the Internet have taken over, much like what has happened here in our own Universe.

The parallels are astounding; Now that we humans believe we have created a great Internet, we will leave it to its own devices, and see what happens to it. Will HTML be replaced by XML? Who knows? In the end, though, the creators of the Internet will have final say over what standards to use and which protocols receive special treatment.

------
That's just the way it is

Re:A thought on moderation (1)

taiwanjohn (103839) | more than 13 years ago | (#366460)

When I get points, I sniff around to use them, and try to use them judiciously, but mostly they just expire on me before I've spent them.

When I get points, I try to wait until I can catch a story that (a) I find interesting, and (b) was posted recently enough that there are only a few-dozen posts. Then I just look for posts that catch my eye for one reason or another, and try to spend my 5 points judiciously... and in a way that (I hope) will help others to focus in on the highlights more easily.

For my tastes, /. discussions develop far too quickly. I prefer the more relaxed pace of newsgroups, where you can take some time to draft a coherent thread. Around here, if you don't get in on the first hundred posts, you get lost in the noise... moderation notwithstanding...

Whatever...

Back to lurk-mode...

--jrd

Re:The search for content reward goes on (1)

Mordred (104619) | more than 13 years ago | (#366461)

and I've been sad to see oldmanmurray.com run into hard times, but I still think its the answer.
Actually I don't think they've fallen on hard times have they? That's a site I check daily (despite their recent month long period between posts) and haven't noticed any problems they've had. The pop-up banner thing was a momentary thing to raise legal defense funds (which never needed defending) and served as its own hilarious object lesson in and of itself.

Chet and the gang, are comedic genuii if you ask me and I don't think they're going anywhere anytime soon.

Mordred

Re:Information Filtering. (1)

alizard (107678) | more than 13 years ago | (#366462)

Public education from elementary school through high school can NOT solve this problem.

There are too many people ranging from teachers through the spectrum of elected public officials who know that a public capable of finding things out for themselves is a direct threat to their jobs and their way of life.

I mean, the masses might start thinking for themselves if this happened.

I think all we can do with this is to put out what we know about getting to things and screening information and let the people capable of figuring out that they need to learn more about how to do this become a self-selected elite.
- -

Re:Indymedia Info is Ignorant (1)

Scrymarch (124063) | more than 13 years ago | (#366463)

I guess the coverage of the Vietnam War (i.e. press corps on the frontlines) was piss-poor compared to the press release regurgitation that happened during the Gulf War.

The military changed, not the media. They decided that they were not going to give journalists a chance to undermine them like that again.

Incidentally, a minority view among military historians is that the US was well on the way to winning the Vietnam War, but was forced to pull out by US public opinion. If you held that view in the military, would you give journalists assigned to you free reign?

Re:Indymedia (1)

Lord Omlette (124579) | more than 13 years ago | (#366464)

"If they were twenty years older and wore ties, they'd be corporate PR flacks."

If you're not a rebel at 20, you've got no heart. If you're not establishment at 30, you've got no brain.

I forget who exactly said that...
--
Peace,
Lord Omlette
ICQ# 77863057

it doesn't pay (1)

Lord Omlette (124579) | more than 13 years ago | (#366465)

for a prophet to be very specific. Here's a Slashback idea: dig this up in 2 years, then in 10 and see how accurate it was.
--
Peace,
Lord Omlette
ICQ# 77863057

Re:Indymedia (1)

NecrosisLabs (125672) | more than 13 years ago | (#366466)

Well, Indymedia is proving his point, I think. Using the "30 years ago" benchmark, with the three networks, and most large newspapers chain owned, Indymedia would not have had a space to exist. _Yes_ there are concerns about the desire for profits to effect editorial content, but those concerns have always been there. The opening up of media pathways allows people to voice their concerns in ways that would not have been possible.

As we know from democracy... (1)

kalifa (143176) | more than 13 years ago | (#366467)

...systems that channel LAZY behaviours work as well as systems that channel SELFISH behaviours.

Laziness is the mother of intelligence (father unknown). Move to France.

Re:Three words (1)

kalifa (143176) | more than 13 years ago | (#366468)

Send him a dual Athlon motherboard. This should be sufficient.

Re:News dissemination & AOL/TimeWarner (1)

mdavids (143296) | more than 13 years ago | (#366469)

I agree that the concern over concentration over owned media is to some degree misdirected. What ought to be a concern is not that ownership of the major media is concentrated in a dozen, rather than a thousand hands, but that there should be some alternative to owned media at all.

The picture of the world you get from the corporate media now is probably little different to what you would have heard thirty years ago, although it's certainly broadened in some ways, narrowed in others. It's hardly true, however, to say that the range of content hasn't narrowed at all due to concentration of ownership. Robert McChesney's done a lot of good writing on this. A major problem is horizontal integration.

Say a movie studio can make either one of two movies. One of these is obviously suitable material for a soundrack album, novelisation, a range of toys, a spin-off TV series, etc. The other is just a movie. When the parent company of the film studio is the parent company of the record label, book publisher, toy manufacturer, TV network, etc., which one gets made? Obviously the one that "adds value" to as many subsidiaries as possible, regardless of the merit of the other, which may even be likely to do better at the box office.

Take a look at just about anything you see in the media, and you're likely to come across the same phenomenon. Children's content is a particularly egregious example. Twenty years ago, I was watching children's programming that was basically a couple of guys in a studio showing you how to do kitchen-sink science experiments. It was great. Can you imagine a McDonald's Happy Meal where you get a used toilet roll and a handful of pipe-cleaners? So that kind of programming fares not so well these days against stuff that has an associated video game, action figure, lunch box, glossy magazine, etc.

So what are the options for online media now that the banner ad ride seems to be over? As Kurt Gray from OSDN says here [slashdot.org] :

These web sites have grown way beyond the realm of affordable to operate by volunteers and donors. If OSDN and/or VA collapsed someday then the OSDN web sites would not be simply released back into the wild but rather be liquidated as assets to the highest bidder, and you can bet the new owners would gladly run these sites into the ground for every last penny they can quickly earn from them.

What we've had for the last few years is a three-tier Web of volunteer sites, sponsored (i.e. banner-ad) "community" sites, and the corporate media. If, as seems to be the case, advertising revenue is no longer viable to the extent that it once was on the web, it's not unreasonable to predict that we'll be seeing slashdot.cnet.com (or whatever) before it's re-branded as "CNET Geek Culture" and eventually left to die, with no audience left to mourn it's passing. We've all seen ad-revenue sites go this way before.

Slashdot's attitude in the past has been to accept corporate backing provided there's no editorial interference, which is perfectly reasonable. So what happens if slashdot ceases to support itself with the revenue from advertising? Well, it's going to have to add value to the activities of the other subsidiaries of it's owner in some way, by integrating itself into the standard network of cross-promotion. So it either changes it's attitude or goes under, as descibed above.

The bottom line is that, assuming banner ads are on the way out, Slashdot as it is today is not viable within the corporate media. This limitation on the kinds of media we can have is not a consequense of concentration of ownership. This is what will happen if you assume all media must be owned. There are other options, and they ought to be explored if we want to get something other than a diet of "news McNuggets".

Re:No, but... (1)

f5426 (144654) | more than 13 years ago | (#366470)

I beleive it should make about 6 manyillions Quatloos, at yesterday change

Cheers

--fred

Re:802.11b in Starbucks? (1)

Morbid Curiosity (156888) | more than 13 years ago | (#366471)

while Starbucks is getting ready to put 802.11b networks in its stores

Is this true? If this happens, my dream of being able to easily get net access while on the road might come true. NetCafes might not be a myth anymore.

As far as I can tell, yes. It's been mentioned on Slashdot before [slashdot.org] , though the Salon link on that article isn't there anymore. The Microsoft sales guys who talked at me last week about wireless stuff mentioned it, if that's any indication, as did people in a Cisco seminar yesterday (although they don't even know what a "continental breakfast" is, if their catering was anything to go by).

Oh, and New Zealand's been pretty good for net cafes in the last few years, too. Of course, this new place called "Starbucks" just opened up a store in my city recently - we'll see how well they go.

Re:Evolution? (1)

joshsisk (161347) | more than 13 years ago | (#366472)

In the end, though, the creators of the Internet will have final say over what standards to use and which protocols receive special treatment.

If you mean the initial creators, I disagree. The internet seems to incorporate new technologies as they become useful/popular to the majority of users, regardless of what the standards boards want.

Josh Sisk

Generally good thoughts on Shirky with reservation (1)

nysus (162232) | more than 13 years ago | (#366473)

Shirky is an excellent writer with a great ability to toss out many insightful bones for readers to chew on. I have been reading him for the last couple of months since an article he wrote appeared on Slashdot appeared a couple of months ago.

My only reservation about Shirky is his dogmatic belief in the power of consumer agency and the "free" market. Nothing, especially humans and their communication technologies, can easily be cast in black and white terms. Sure consumerism is a prime force in today's economy but it is just one of many. He leans on this force a bit too much in his analysis. I'd go on, but this is only Slashdot, after all. Just beware of this half-fallacy.

Re:Information Filtering. (1)

cornflux (168139) | more than 13 years ago | (#366474)

Maybe I'm missing your point, but... in my experience, schools do devote major parts to "filter[ing] information."

I wrote numerous papers, at my Uni, that required research and filtering. And, in high school, too (though to a lesser degree).

And, if it makes you feel any better, my wife is currently a student-teacher (she'll be teaching full-time starting in about 6 months) who'll just love to give (your) children research projects.

Re:Driving 65 won't cost anybody money (1)

beejhuff (186291) | more than 13 years ago | (#366475)

Are you insane? The primary motivation of the whole 55 is the impact on PUBLIC SAFETY, not fuel efficiency. The whole point is that if you choose to drive faster than the speed limit you are endangering the lives of others, who have no choice in the situation. Totally different situations here. In fact, the situation is even further off, because everyone (from recording companies to the artists themselves) have already given to users the right to share. They just didn't notice how easy it had become until Napster was 30 million strong. Too bad. Sharing is sharing. While it may be illegal for a company like Napster to profit off of the sharing of files by users, it is certainly no more illegal for me to email an mp3 to a friend than it was 10 years ago for me to make a tape of a new album. Artists will simply have to figure out how to survive in the new media. The idea that all artists will starve is farsical at best. I think many will fail. Good Riddence. The ones who survive will be that much better.

Re:I Can't Drive 55 (1)

sulli (195030) | more than 13 years ago | (#366476)

Nice troll. But you don't go out and drive a specific period of time - you drive somewhere, which is a fixed number of miles away. So accidents per mile is a totally relevant measure. That people now drive more has more to do with changing lifestyles and not much to do with regulations everyone ignored anyway.

That's amazing! (1)

JMan1 (200342) | more than 13 years ago | (#366477)

Here is a guy who (in my opinion) gets it. Especially in his answer to #1, Mr. (Dr.?) Shirky understands the situation and can communicate it better than most others I have seen.

Thanks (1)

milo_Gwalthny (203233) | more than 13 years ago | (#366478)

Hey Clay,

Thanks for this. Reading it reminded me of the days when we were in this for love, not money. Now that those days are back, it's good to remember that creativity, experimentation and community are the reasons we love the internet.

Re:Driving 65 won't cost anybody money (1)

ScuzzMonkey (208981) | more than 13 years ago | (#366479)

LOL. Oh, come on, I bet you would have just wasted those 350 days vegging on the couch and reading /.

Re:News dissemination & AOL/TimeWarner (1)

PiXeLpApst (211508) | more than 13 years ago | (#366480)

I have to agree with this post as well as with some of the replys to it. While this is another huge monopoly in the making - enough reason to watch them closely - it is important to keep in mind that the end users still have choices. I still can watch movies not from time warmer, and i also don't have to join the Army Of Lamers to get net access. If there's a tendency toward this situation, we all have to speak up. But until then - don't waste your breath too much.

Now I wonder when we'll see the Microsoft/Disney merger...

Re:Teaching kids to fish (1)

Alatar (227876) | more than 13 years ago | (#366481)

I've seen thoughts like this, many times, and it never fails to amuse me. Making the assumption that everyone is like yourself, and only needs to be shown the golden path to knowledge before joyously drinking of the waters thereof, is common. Here's a fact for you: one-quarter of the U.S. population works stocking store shelves, ringing up purchases, and serving food to you critical thinkers. How does scenarios and simulation, projection and extrapolation help these people? It doesn't, not one bit. They're going to keep opening cardboard cases with razor blades and putting the cans on the shelf all in a row so that you won't complain to the store manager that the Wolfgang Puck's Seven Bean with Italian Sausage is mixed in with the Chicken Parmesan with Pasta. These people don't ravenously consume books on logic when they attain 10 years of age. I don't mean to be harsh, but it just seems that you've never met anybody like this, and if you have, likely dismissed them as inferior stock whose only contribution to the human race would be involuntary sterilization.

Re:this guy is good! (1)

Alatar (227876) | more than 13 years ago | (#366482)

It's really easy to get a "5" by intentionally posting something you know people will moderate up...you know, pandering. I might even make a comment about Demosthenes here if I were pretentious and wanted to be moderated up.

Re:News dissemination & AOL/TimeWarner (1)

Alatar (227876) | more than 13 years ago | (#366483)

I haven't seen anything about the wire services. When everyone speaks of the huge number of news sites, they don't all write their own news. This would require far too much effort. They just subscribe to the AP or Reuters news wire, and print what comes in. You can read thirteen major newspapers and thirteen major news sites, and they'll all have the same article about the violence in Indonesia, or the President's budget proposal.

Re:The Masses and the Media (1)

behindthewall (231520) | more than 13 years ago | (#366485)

One can speak of two separate items being sought:

1) Information

2) Confirmation

To the latter: People want to believe what they want to believe. They may purchase some "information" because it confirms their worldview and not because it is objective or challenges that worldview. Not all acquisitions, papers bought, clicks made are being based on the search for an objective truth.

And if you think controlling what people publish is hard, try controlling what they want (i.e. what they think).

Why Clay's thinking is good (1)

karmagoddess (240355) | more than 13 years ago | (#366486)

The best thing about this conversation with Clay is that he's a real *thinker.* When I read his bio, I found out that his education is in *art.* That's cool. He comes at it from a humanistic perspective. I, too, discovered the Internet in 1993, because it was a free way to communicate with a daughter at Cornell. The entire basis of the Internet is freedom -- from cost, from censorship, from all social constraints.

Re:Information Filtering. (1)

lairdb (244939) | more than 13 years ago | (#366487)

Marc Steigler [skyhunter.com] 's novel "David's Sling [amazon.com] " (itself ref. Information Age warfare) prominently featured something called the "Zetetic Institute" (IIRC). From "The Zetetic Commentaries", as quoted in the novel:

In the Information Age, the first step to sanity is filtering. Filter the information; extract the knowledge.

Filter first for substance.
Filter second for significance.
These filters protect against advertising.

Filter third for reliability.
This filter protects against politicians.

Filter fourth for completeness.
This filter protects from the media.

Most of Stiegler's work is Information Age and mass-communication related; some of his work has been the subject of Slashdot discussion [slashdot.org] in the past.
--
lairdb

My Lai? Now? No way! (1)

Interrobang (245315) | more than 13 years ago | (#366488)

Ok, ok, ok. How many times does it need to be said that it doesn't matter whether or not there's news in 140 different languages or whatever going on out there, if all the news is directed by the same person (or corporation) -- or the same 6 or 10 people or corporations, how different is it going to be from itself? You can translate "Wall Street stocks crash" into 140 different languages and it'll still say the same thing, every time. You can even "translate" it in different ways (such as writing it "Wall Street stocks crash" for the straight news; "Investors burnt in stock header" for the more _Variety_ type crowd, etc. etc.) and it STILL says the same thing. Nothing times nothing is still nothing, folks.

The most compelling argument that he's at least partly wrong is a careful comparison of news broadcasts about, say, the My Lai scandal, and the WTO protests. In the first instance, even major news organs were exposing what was going on. Now all the major news organs are just covering it up by talking about anarchists and whatnot (if there were 1/2 dozen honest anarchists in that whole crowd, I'd be very surprised). Now, they wouldn't even report on something like My Lai, because most news outlets are owned by, or indirectly connected to arms manufacturers.

Don't confuse multiplying outlets with multiplying outlooks.

No, but... (1)

Interrobang (245315) | more than 13 years ago | (#366489)

$1 US buys you 4.055 Zlotys. What's 22 gajillion divided by 4.055? How many zeroes in a gajillion again?

Sorry, I couldn't find exchange information on the Quatloo. I don't have that kind of access to the Federation datanets.

Interrobang, civilian

Re: YES fucking cell-phones (1)

Vegan Pagan (251984) | more than 13 years ago | (#366490)

NASCAR drivers have two-way radios that they use to talk to their pit crews and a spotter who sits high above the track to give them tips, especially near the end of the race.

Yet despite this, fatalaties are still low.

802.11b gorilla? (1)

Bitmanhome (254112) | more than 13 years ago | (#366491)

My peripheral vision played tricks on me for a minute there .. coulda been funny, if there was a joke to go with it.

-B

[OT] Karma/moderation improvements (1)

paranormalized (278300) | more than 13 years ago | (#366492)

Have you or any others considered making karma a 'usable' resource? As in, one could 'burn' karma to mod up your own posts when you felt you had something important to say, or found someone else who was surprisingly insightful, but had been overlooked by the moderators. It would be a sliding scale, with +1 costing 2 karma, +2 costing 5 karma, +3 costing maybe 9 karma, and +4 costing a whopping 15-20 karma.

One of my current beefs with the current karma system is the large number off posts posted by default at 2. I'd rather read 1 post that earned its high score than one that got there because of the poster's 'past history', since our current system increases the barrier to entry for newcomers to /. I mean, I read at 3+, nested, highest first, and am willing to bet many others do so too...

However, I miss a lot of good posts that got a positive moderation because of this... I really miss my daily dose of (2, funny), which I could get w/ a threshold of 2 and a grep/CTRL-F on 'funny'...

-----
IANASRP- I am not a self-referential phrase
-----

Re:News dissemination & AOL/TimeWarner (1)

pogen (303331) | more than 13 years ago | (#366493)

All this means is that instead of having a few conglomerates with one voice each, we now have a few conglomerates with many voices each. The primary result is not one of competition, it is one of cooperation and cross-promotion between co-owned enterprises. This is accomplished by specializing each news outlet to focus on a specific topic -- e.g., finance, politics, entertainment, etc. -- or a specific demographic -- e.g., women, the elderly, Spanish-speaking Americans, etc. -- so that co-owned outlets complement one another and give the conglomerate voice as much viewership as possible. Whereas each conglomeration could get, say, 10% of Americans to watch their respective news program in the 1970s, today they may be able to get 20% to watch *some* news programming that they control. (Numbers admittedly pulled out of my ass.)

The internet is not much different. Yes, it is easier to access alternative, independent news sources, but most people still access the news through one of the big corporate providers -- AOL/TW, MSN, etc. Cross-promotion is just as easily accomplished online as on television, if not more so, hyperlinks being what they are. Search engines often favor co-owned sites. And of course, you have inter-media cross-promotion. Every night, I see at least one "teaser" story on the evening news that directs me to a website for the "full story".

Even if Clay's points about TV/cable were on target, which I don't feel they are, it is incredibly shallow to look at just one slice of the media. How many people got their news from TV in the 1970s compared to today? What about radio and newspaper? How have they changed? What might the proliferation of TV news outlets mean in the context of these changes?

This was definitely the low point in an otherwise fascinating interview.

Re:Indymedia Info is Ignorant (1)

tdye (308813) | more than 13 years ago | (#366494)

Coverage of war (wait, coverage of war that depicts the USA as a ruthless entity exercising 'military rule') must equal good journalism, then. Right?

And the lack of this specific brand of 'coverage' is evidence that the media has lost its soul.

Next time, dig yourself out of the morass of 'protest' propaganda you've been swimming in, and apply some sort of objective logic filter to your brain before you click Reply to This.

Re:Information Filtering. (1)

bacchusrx (317059) | more than 13 years ago | (#366495)

Here's a thought!

Universities, High Schools and even Elementary Schools should dedicate major parts of their cirriculum to higher order thinking skills...

(Don't just absorb and regurgitate, synthesize, damn you!)

BRx ;)

Interview: Media Critic Normon Solomon on Shirky (1)

Craig-Hymson (398216) | more than 13 years ago | (#366496)

Ok, I hope this one is properly formatted. This is my first time submitting to Slashdot.

I am one of the folks who helped get indymedia.org started in Seattle and continue to be involved here in New York.

As Clay Shirky mentioned in his Slashdot interview, he and I have chatted about Indymedia.org several times. I have enjoyed our chats.

I must say though, I was a bit shocked to read his denial of the INCREASING corporitization of the news. I thought that was a given.

However, I am grateful to his response and those of you on Slashdot, since it has lead to a healthy and important debate on the subject. I hope the following adds to it:

Via e-mail, I interviewed syndicated columnest and media critic, Normon Solomon regarding Clay's Slashdot thoughts on Indymedia and Corporate Media. The results follow:

CH: Shirky calls the belief in an increasing corporitization of news,"alarmist". He doesn't believe it because he is, "old enough to know better", remembering the 1970s when things were worse.

NS:When the first edition of Ben Bagdikian's book "The Media Monopoly" appeared in 1983, some people called it "alarmist." At the time, Bagdikian showed, 50 corporations controlled (through ownership) most of the news and information flow in the United States. Each of the subsequent editions of "The Media Monopoly" documented a drop in that number, down to six by the year 2000.

It's not very healthy to live in denial. To take one example: Increasingly, "news" is being defined as business news -- as anyone who spends much time monitoring CNN can attest.

Print outlets are part of the corporatization of news focus as well; anyone who doubts that should take a look at page 21 of the Columbia Journalism Review's November/December 2000 edition, which shows the explosion of business coverage in U.S. daily newspapers. To put it mildly, there is no such escalation of coverage of labor news; actually, most of the coverage of labor disputes is presented in a business context.

One of the problems with the business focus of news reporting is that it usually presents a window on the world as seen by investors, owners and managers. We're accustomed to this; we tend to internalize it as normal, balanced and fair.

The fact that PRI has a daily national "Marketplace" program (funded by GE and other large firms), but there's no national radio "Laborplace" program, is symbolic of the media situation.

I recommend Robert McChesney's book "Rich Media, Poor Democracy" to anyone who doubts the reality of increasing corporatization of news.

As for being "old enough to know better," it's difficult to think of a sillier expression. I'm 49, but that hardly makes me inherently less insightful than someone who's 69 or more insightful than someone who's 29. Otherwise, Strom Thurmond has a legitimate claim to extraordinary wisdom.

CH:As an example of things having gotten better not worse, Shirky notes that in the 1970s, "There used to be 3 sources for TV. Now there are 50-150 TV channels, and *tens of thousands* of print outlets via the Web."

If this is true, isn't this an example of media expansion, of more choices for the public and more democracy in media? Does more mean better?

NS:A few companies dominate, via ownership, the major broadcast and cable channels. A few huge firms dominate the major cable distribution systems as well. There are 50 brands of cigarettes at the supermarket; eventually we might notice that they're manufactured by less than half a dozen corporations. Also, we might think about their qualities and effects on consumers.

As for the Web: AOL Time Warner.
Corporate domination (not total, but overwhelming) of multimedia is

Interview: Media Critic Normon Solomon on Shirky (1)

Craig-Hymson (398216) | more than 13 years ago | (#366497)

I am one of the folks who helped get indymedia.org started in Seattle and continue to be involved here in New York.

As Clay Shirky mentioned in his Slashdot interview, he and I have chatted about Indymedia.org several times. I have enjoyed our chats.

I must say though, I was a bit shocked to read his denial of the INCREASING corporitization of the news. I thought that was a given.

However, I am grateful to his response and those of you on Slashdot, since it has lead to a healthy and important debate on the subject. I hope the following adds to it:

Via e-mail, I interviewed syndicated columnest and media critic, Normon Solomon regarding Clay's Slashdot thoughts on Indymedia and Corporate Media. The results follow:

CH: Shirky calls the belief in an increasing corporitization of news,"alarmist". He doesn't believe it because he is, "old enough to know better", remembering the 1970s when things were worse.

NS:When the first edition of Ben Bagdikian's book "The Media Monopoly" appeared in 1983, some people called it "alarmist." At the time, Bagdikian showed, 50 corporations controlled (through ownership) most of the news and information flow in the United States. Each of the subsequent editions of "The Media Monopoly" documented a drop in that number, down to six by the year 2000.

It's not very healthy to live in denial. To take one example: Increasingly, "news" is being defined as business news -- as anyone who spends much time monitoring CNN can attest.

Print outlets are part of the corporatization of news focus as well; anyone who doubts that should take a look at page 21 of the Columbia Journalism Review's November/December 2000 edition, which shows the explosion of business coverage in U.S. daily newspapers. To put it mildly, there is no such escalation of coverage of labor news; actually, most of the coverage of labor disputes is presented in a business context.

One of the problems with the business focus of news reporting is that it usually presents a window on the world as seen by investors, owners and managers. We're accustomed to this; we tend to internalize it as normal, balanced and fair.

The fact that PRI has a daily national "Marketplace" program (funded by GE and other large firms), but there's no national radio "Laborplace" program, is symbolic of the media situation.

I recommend Robert McChesney's book "Rich Media, Poor Democracy" to anyone who doubts the reality of increasing corporatization of news.

As for being "old enough to know better," it's difficult to think of a sillier expression. I'm 49, but that hardly makes me inherently less insightful than someone who's 69 or more insightful than someone who's 29. Otherwise, Strom Thurmond has a legitimate claim to extraordinary wisdom.

CH:As an example of things having gotten better not worse, Shirky notes that in the 1970s, "There used to be 3 sources for TV. Now there are 50-150 TV channels, and *tens of thousands* of print outlets via the Web."

If this is true, isn't this an example of media expansion, of more choices for the public and more democracy in media? Does more mean better?

NS:A few companies dominate, via ownership, the major broadcast and cable channels. A few huge firms dominate the major cable distribution systems as well. There are 50 brands of cigarettes at the supermarket; eventually we might notice that they're manufactured by less than half a dozen corporations. Also, we might think about their qualities and effects on consumers.

As for the Web: AOL Time Warner.
Corporate domination (not total, but overwhelming) of multimedia is

You won't like this comment. (1)

Vintermann (400722) | more than 13 years ago | (#366498)

...but I'd like to remind people that prohibition came as a result of a what-you-call-it when every citizen is allowed to cast a ballot on it.
General election?

I know it's hard to believe for modern people, but at that time most people though liquor was a big social problem that should be prohibited. (and it was a big problem, and still is. Bigger than tobacco, in certain ways.) Today also a lot of people take the attitude of Homer Simpson that "if it's hard to get, then it ain't worth having". People at that time were much more optimistic, and perhaps naive, about what wrongs they could right. Prohibition didn't work, but you can justifiably say that it was because a minority of the people sabotaged it. We shouldn't always hail such acts as victories for democracy.
I said you wouldn't like this comment ;-). But I won't argue that prohibition was necessarily defensible - it could be argued that it steamrolled the rights of the drinking miniority.

Compare this to Napster. Compared to the total number of people in the US, how many use Napster? Of the rest, how many are opposed to services like it? While there may be some regular citizens who oppose such services, the legal/legislative action doesn't come from some grassroot movement, which prohibition did.

The search for content reward goes on (2)

Tony Shepps (333) | more than 13 years ago | (#366499)

You ask "Why haven't any models come about that support what people really want?" My answer is that what people really want is high quality content for free, and for a half-dozen years, the net has been incredibly good at delivering on that desire. Now that the "stock price as business model" plan has failed, most of the sites built in that era will disappear.

This was my question, and I guess I'm exasperated because I didn't get the answer I wanted, but I'm amazed by this answer. I guess we will really see, and based on how faulty my own crystal ball has been, I'm not going to question anyone else's.

It's true that everyone wants their sites to be free, but maybe that's an oversimplification. Everybody wants free beer too, but nobody GETS it, because they're only one half of the equation. Somebody has to produce that beer.

Even /. depends on ad revenue -- doesn't it? -- despite having been consolidated under a single media company. It couldn't have grown to what it is without at least the first parts of its transformation from labor of love/hobbyist site.

Not that I don't understand. I have my own hobbyist/labor of love that I don't make any money for and never will (it's the community in my sig). But for those of us trying vainly to make even a simple living from our net meanderings, I guess the bottom line is that things are going to get a hell of a lot weirder before they get any better.

Shucks. I hope you're happy. Now I have to explain to my wife why I'm going to chuck this whole Linux web development thing and go back to H/P sysadminning. At least IT shops with H/P systems seem to want to throw money at them every once in a while. Ah, well, it was fun while it lasted.

Re:this guy is good! (2)

Roblimo (357) | more than 13 years ago | (#366500)

Clay is a regular Slashdot reader and posts from time to time. :)

- Robin

Re:Indymedia (2)

jafac (1449) | more than 13 years ago | (#366501)

okay, ignore the labor stuff.

what about environmental regulations?

I personally am not proud that my country has done more to fuck up the global environment than all the other nations on earth combined. At least the US is starting to get a clue, and make regulations that are actually making some progress, (particularly in the CFC's/ozone-hole issue, we've measured progress in the amount of degradation of the ozone layer). I know that the US has a LONG way to go, and some of the things that we must do, science hasn't shown clearly enough to convince the people who stand to lose money, and lots of money is yet to be lost, which will translate directly to the US underclass suffering as businesses cut wages and lay off to compensate (if it ever goes that far). But in the interest of competing with third-world nations with no incentive to make stronger environmental regulations, we can't strengthen ours, and maintain our leadership. And even if we did, the attitude of the third-world is; "the US has polluted and profited, and now is the richest nation in the world, why can't we now reap the benefits of raping the environment for 50 years?" We're not in a moral position to dictate, the only people who ARE in a position to dictate, the IMF and WTO, don't care about the environment, because they (the individual policy makers) perceive it to be somebody else's problem, and a barrier to profitability and growth. (they'll always be able to afford to buy SPF 600 sunscreen, clean drinking water, land not flooded by rising seas, and mark my words, clean bottled air to breathe, and expensive medical treatments to counter the effects of not taking those precautions).

The end result of this situation will be, as these "developing countries" develop, it will be like the environmental impact of 100 20th-century-United-States', for the past 100 years. There are issues other than global warming at stake here;
Loss of biodiversity, mass-extinction, loss of rainforests, loss of arable farmland, loss of clean water supplies, further loss of ozone, erosion, mineral resources, food production, medical care, places to dump waste, - some of these things are in serious decline today, what will they be like when countries in Africa and South America, The Balkans, Southeast Asia, "develop" and industrialize?

True, environmental regulations are a barrier to growth. But so is an ice-age, or global widespread famine, or rising sea-levels.

Re:Driving 65 won't cost anybody money (2)

jafac (1449) | more than 13 years ago | (#366502)

same arguments were used against the statistics that said LOWERING speed limits decreased fatalities.

Probably had an effect in both instances.

SUV's probably have a big negative impact:

1) Their increased mass means they accellerate much more slowly, causing more rear-end collisions with cars behind them when they turn out onto a busy street.

2) Increased mass means that they brake much more slowly, causing them to hit more stationary objects or other slower moving vehicles.

3) Increased mass and height means that in order to go around turns, they must slow down more than other cars, meaning again, that they get rear-ended more often by cars behind them.

4) Increased size blocks a wider field of view of surrounding motorists, preventing them from seeing hazards and other vehicles, causing more accidents.

5) All of the above, plus the "nyaa nyaa, I can afford to put gas in this monstrosity" factor causes other motorists extreme impatience and anger, and is probably the #1 cause of "road rage".

---
As far as higher speed limits goes, if I lose say, 10 minutes of time every workday because the speed limit is 55 instead of 65, then: 10 minutes * 5 weekdays * 50 weeks * 40 years = roughly 70 days. You've fucking STOLEN 70 DAYS from my life, I want them back FUCKER!

This can be amplified for every stretch of suburban feeder road I drive that's WRONGLY classified as residential (no driveways? It's not FUCKING RESIDENTIAL asshole zoners in the pockets of real-estate developers!), so it's 35 mph instead of 55 mph, as it should be (can't have our residents backed up in the subdivision entrances because they can't turn out into 55mph traffic because they're driving monstrous SUV's). That's another 70 days off of my life.

Then amplify that further for each stop light I have to wait at that SHOULD NOT BE THERE, but IS because some real estate developer paid the city zoning board for it to be in front of that strip mall full of Starbucks, Borders and Gaps, so that people can get in and out on a road that SHOULD be 55mph, but is 35mph, AND blocked with stop lights every 50 ft. Gee, I wish I could have a business on a MAIN THOROUGHFARE that has a device that would stop traffic every 60 seconds so they can sit and stare at my shop signs. Another 70 days off of my life (don't forget the synergy with the slowly accellerating SUV's, minivans, and underpowered subcompacts, and delivery trucks, AT EACH FUCKING STOPLIGHT - another 70 days).

Same goes for driving behind SUV's, Minivans, and underpowerd subcompats and LEV's, if their obstruction of traffic flow results in me missing two 5 minute traffic lights every day, apply the same formula, another 70 days of my life gone.

You've murdered me 350 days prior to when my life was supposed to end. Almost a year! I have to spend that time in TRAFFIC HELL, instead of the real thing, which is probably more pleasant. All in the name of "economic progress", which is really just town cronies sucking up to real-estate developers who don't have to live in that hell-hole.


Re:Driving 65 won't cost anybody money (2)

jafac (1449) | more than 13 years ago | (#366503)

prolly

ICQ, Napster, AIM, etc as DNS (2)

crisco (4669) | more than 13 years ago | (#366504)

Not that his other comments were insightful, but I was particularly intrigued by the thought that the Peer to Peer and IM stuff is an alternative to DNS, he's right and thats one of the most intriguing things I've considered all day.

I need more time to think about the implications...

I think this might be one of those things that takes a long time for the 'marketplace' to sort out, at least in the sense that something will evolve as a useful alternative. Hmm.

Re:Driving 65 won't cost anybody money (2)

jeffry_smith (5065) | more than 13 years ago | (#366505)

Were you alive in '73? I was, and 55 was about saving fuel (it was called the fuel crisis). Saving lives was secondary.

Re:The search for content reward goes on (2)

cshirky (9913) | more than 13 years ago | (#366506)

Its not an answer I like giving -- one of my best friends was the editor-in-chief of word.com for years, RIP -- and I've been sad to see oldmanmurray.com run into hard times, but I still think its the answer.

No one gets free beer because there is a minimum cost in producing and distributing each beer. In a commodiuty market, price approaches cost, but the marginal cost of beer prevents the unit price from ever falling to zero.

On the net, though, the marginal price of serving up one more page is zero, so price can approach cost, and the residue of the up-front costs can (in theory) be borne by subsidy, whether advertising subsidy or the labor of love.

So we get free /. but not free beer because of the (often brutal) economics of digital data.

-clay

Re:The Masses and the Media (2)

HeghmoH (13204) | more than 13 years ago | (#366507)

This is only anecdotal evidence, but I only know one person who buys tabloids. My grandmother. She buys them for entertainment, and knows full well that the stuff is bullshit, and that the true stuff is not important. I wonder what the proportion of tabloid buyers like her is compared to the number who actually believe that somebody saw Elvis in a Texas gas station bathroom, or think that Bruce Willis's new haircut is more important than an earthquake in India. I'm guessing most are like my grandmother. TV news is much less watched than TV sitcoms and other TV entertainment, but you don't hear that as evidence that people are massively stupid and that the intelligence of the public is not sufficient to differentiate the two. Think of the tabloids as less like CNN turned bad and more like The Daily Show.

Re:WAP problems? (2)

EvlG (24576) | more than 13 years ago | (#366508)

THe problem with WAP is the way it requires a compleetely new infrastructure to work with all the reworked protocols. Call them optimized for small devices, or attempts at locking consumers in. Either way, its a problem, and it is the reason why WAP is dead. Why should I bother learning WML and all the other Wireless technologies, when I can juse use a subset of HTML and clever design and achieve the same thing with AvantGo, or other similar Web-lite products?

Re:Driving 65 won't cost anybody money (2)

jpowers (32595) | more than 13 years ago | (#366509)

Actually, the record companies were prepared to partner with Napster, but were unable to agree on a price for their new service. Napster suggested they divvy up $5 per month per user between them, the record companies wanted more like $5/month/user/record company, which is $35 from you, I think. Now I buy records at a rate that would justify $35 a month, IF the music quality on Napster was that of a CD, but I don't buy most of my records from these big companies, I buy them from little labels like Kranky. They'd get nothing. Most people like the big labels' music but don't buy three CDs a month, so $35 isn't worth it to them. They should start at $5 and see how it evolves, but they won't.

-jpowers

Re:Indymedia (2)

akb (39826) | more than 13 years ago | (#366510)

The "incredible" 90%+ figure is in fact incredible. I've seen this particular piece of misdirection ove and over, where "media" is redefined as "mass media", and then "mass media" is redefined as "national TV".

I'll have to dig out my copy of The Media Monopoly [commoncouragepress.com] by Ben Bagdikian but I recall "the media" being defined rather broadly to include books, magazines, newspapers, a/v recordings as well as broadcast.

Note, by the way, that my argument is not that there is *not* corporate news. Note that my argument is not even that the Bix 6 are a result of contraction. My argument is simply that expansion of media is outstripping the contraction.

Interesting, thanks for clarifying that. Certainly it can be agreed that since the 70's technology has expanded the amount and range of media experiences available to the individual consumer. Your phrasing of this reminds me of a speech by Mark Cooper of the Consumer Federation of America [consumerfed.org] at a conference [indymedia.org] (sorry doesn't have his speech), in which he talked about how at the same time that we are seeing technology expanding media potential (and thus the potential of civil society) we are seeing a retreat (or contraction) caused by coporatization of this media. This seems to be very similar to what you just stated, since you acknowledge that coporatization is a countervailing force. Dr. Cooper however saw a potential for the concentration of media in fewer and fewer hands to ultimately reverse the gains the technology has made.

McChesney in particular is pessimistic about the Web's potential to correct the media's current defects. He believes that we're in a brief window of openess that will close once the major media oligopies get their act together and team up with the communications infrastructure providers to turn the Web into a hypercommercialized interactive TV system. From this interview I gather that you don't think consumers will accept that. Consumer spending power works well in competitive markets not so well otherwise. Given the concerns about media concentration I've raised do you think consumer power will ultimately be sufficient? What are your views on the potential for antitrust action in the media industry?

Do you think that this is an accurate characterization of their arguements and your position? I would be very interested in hearing you respond at more length and detail to their arguements, as I found your interview to be quite insightful.

Oh, I posted [indymedia.org] part of the interview to www.indymedia.org [indymedia.org] there was some discussion, not too insightful but I thought you might be interested.

Re:Driving 65 won't cost anybody money (2)

babbage (61057) | more than 13 years ago | (#366511)

the danger is not speed, by itself, it's speed differences

An anecdote that plays into this theme:

Just to the east of Mobile, Alabama,
Interstate 10 [aaroads.com] goes over a 10 mile long causeway bridge [yahoo.com] that spans the northern section of Mobile Bay. A few years ago (roughly 1996, I think, though I can't find a date at the moment), that bridge was the site of what was at the time one of the the biggest pileups in American history, involving around 100-110 cars. Amazingly, only one person died in the accident -- a schoolteacher who's car caught on fire -- but the property damage, to both the cars and to both directions of the bridge itself, was considerable.

The primary cause of the accident was poor visibility due to heavy fog, and huge differences in speed as some drivers continued at normal driving speeds (70 mph or so) while others, nervously, slowed down to 40, 30, or 20 mph. As a result, the "speeding" drivers kept plowing into the slower ones, and a disaster ensued. That disaster wouldn't have happened if everyone either maintained a normal speed, or everyone slowed down; it was the mixture of responses that caused problems.

Interestingly, the initial reason for the 55 MPH federal speed limit had nothing to do with auto safety: it was enacted during the oil crises of the 70s in an effort to conserve fuel. In that regard it was very successful; the fact that it saved lives was just a welcome side effect. Cars are better designed now, and can better protect their passengers in high speed impacts, thus leading to the lower fatality rates today even though average highway speeds are much higher than they were 20 years ago. The fuel efficiency angle hasn't changed though -- we'd still be getting better gas milage on the average if traffic was moving more slowly.



Re:News dissemination & AOL/TimeWarner (2)

shub (88921) | more than 13 years ago | (#366512)

Sorry, I used to work at AOL. You obviously have no earthly clue what actually goes on there behind the scenes.

They get away with 99.9999999% of whatever crap they want, and could get away with more if they didn't flub the implementation so often (can you say "Black Tuesday"? I knew you could).

No, the AOL/Time-Warner merger *IS* something to be worried about, right along with them swallowing Netscape and dozens of other companies you've never even heard about. Sadly, many of these companies effectively get killed and those products never see the light of day ever again -- anybody recall WAIS?
--
Brad Knowles

Re:Indymedia (2)

Butt (93557) | more than 13 years ago | (#366513)

Ahh Slashdot, where ignoring someone's answer and forcefully restating your own opinion becomes "insightful".

Read what he says, there is a greater diversity of media now than ever before - and he provides concrete examples. What does your "90+% of media controlled by 6 companies" mean? (there is no data on the linked page). Is it 90+% of people's attention, or advertising dollars? You really don't provide any evidence to counter Shirky's point.

Even the International Federation of Journalists' studies [ifj.org] note that "in almost every country around the world we are seeing an overall growth in the number of people practicing journalism. However, the overwhelming proportion of that growth is not occurring in traditional ways nor in traditional media outlets." The net is part of that, obviously, but there are also a whole host of independent radio and tv outlets which never existed prevoiusly.

There is simply no evidence for claiming an increased concentration of media, unless you restrict your analysis to something called "the mainstream media" - a concept which only journalists still think is important. Journalists are still laughably (and patronisingly) wringing their hands over "balance" and "bias" in their "mainstream media", when a whole generation of very cynical youth are already hip to the idea that journalists do not - and can not - represent their interests [ccsonline.org.uk] . To a young person today, the fact that content is sponsored by Disney is no more or less likely to make it "true" or useful to them than if it's written by an "independent" journalist who will be pushing their own propaganda / view of the world (much as you are doing in this post). Today's media consumer doesn't swallow anything whole, so you can climb down off that high horse.

The days of (overwhelmingly white, male and middle-class) journalists deciding what is "fit to print" are over, and the media landscape is more diverse and better off for it. Indymedia is a great example of that process. And there are a whole lot of other excellent media sources which make my media life better now than ever before.

The bottom line for me is that a story such as Bush's involvement in an abortion [american-politics.com] would never have reached me or any of my friends in the 1980s. So I don't see any reason to claim that the sky is falling.

Danny

Re:The Masses and the Media (2)

rgmoore (133276) | more than 13 years ago | (#366514)

Actually, the National Enquirer is a better example of people's ability to sort out the good from the bad than you realize. Your mistake is in conflating standards of integrity and newsworthiness. The Enquirer may focus primarily on topics that you consider trashy and unworthy of a serious paper, but they do a better job of applying conventional standards of journalistic ethics than many other media outlets. They insist on confirming information before publication and all that other good stuff that's supposed to protect the integrity of the information that they're publishing. IOW their topics may be trash, but their information isn't. People notice that and buy the tabloid with the high quality information about trashy subjects rather than the ones that will print any old rumor they find.

Re:Driving 65 won't cost anybody money (2)

joshsisk (161347) | more than 13 years ago | (#366515)

if you download a full album and don't buy the cd, you are costing the artists and the record company some real money.

Only if you were going to buy the cd anyway. If you had not planned on buying the cd, you aren't costing them anything. However, I don't support downloading and not rewarding the artists... Too bad the record companies don't seem too keen on partnering with Napster. I for one, would a pay a subscription for a legal Napster.

Josh Sisk

this guy is good! (2)

sulli (195030) | more than 13 years ago | (#366516)

also like smart cards, there won't be any real-world cases to drive micropayment adoption by consumers.

Smart cards - How useless for consumers! Yet the pundits have continued to squawk about how "smart" they are, as if this means they have any value. It's like the people who kept predicting that we would have digital cash (Mondex et al.), not realizing that this subtracts value for the buyer relative to the ubiquitous, low-cost, and easy-to-use credit card.

We should get Clay to log on from time to time just to deflate the dumb ideas that come up on Slashdot.

ITV (2)

sulli (195030) | more than 13 years ago | (#366517)

What kind of effort would it take for interactive television to evolve into a more web-like open garden model?

Who cares? ITV will fail again and again until investors stop wasting their money on it.

(Clay's right about email, though. But the very lackluster experience of WebTV suggests that - surprise! shocker! sending email on television is a pain and not worth the trouble. So people will keep buying cheap PCs and not waste their time with whatever crapola the cablecos come up with.)

Re:Information Filtering. (2)

TOTKChief (210168) | more than 13 years ago | (#366518)

Here's a solution to the bad journalism on the web: Universities, High schools and even elemenntary schools should devote major parts of thier curicculum to teaching students to filter information.

They do: it's called critical thinking skills. Unfortunately, they don't teach enough of it. QED: average age of /. trolls...


--

The Masses and the Media (2)

Mossfoot (310128) | more than 13 years ago | (#366519)

That comment about the Drudge Report, "Furthermore, if he ever *does* get another interesting story, we'll tune right back in. The public is better at sorting the good from the bad than you think." Rings quite hollow to me.

If the public is so good at sorting out the good from the bad, then why are tabloids the best selling newspapers in the world? The Enquirerer used to be #1 in north America for God's sake!

People are sheep who are looking for instant gratification. I think he's giving the public too much credit.

Three words (2)

BillyGoatThree (324006) | more than 13 years ago | (#366520)

Ho. Ly. Crap.

This was THE best interview Slashdot has every done. This guy is my new god. Where do I send the virgins and white bulls for sacrifice?
--

Re:Indymedia (3)

cshirky (9913) | more than 13 years ago | (#366521)

The "incredible" 90%+ figure is in fact incredible. I've seen this particular piece of misdirection ove and over, where "media" is redefined as "mass media", and then "mass media" is redefined as "national TV".

And then, once run through this particular two-step, its "Oh my god, media contraction!" Well sure.

If you leave out all the non-corporate sources of media, then the media looks awfully corporate, just like if you leave out all the days when it rains, we're having a drought.

Note, by the way, that my argument is not that there is *not* corporate news. Note that my argument is not even that the Bix 6 are a result of contraction. My argument is simply that expansion of media is outstripping the contraction.

In the average American town, There used to be 3 sources of TV. Now there are 50-150 TV channels, and *tens of thousands* of print outlets via the Web. Where's the contraction?

-clay

Re:this guy is good! (3)

cshirky (9913) | more than 13 years ago | (#366522)

I am a very regular /. reader, but in truth, the thing I like best about the posts is that they are a well-tuned zeitgeist meter, so I usually use them as a check for my own thinking.

When you read Highest First, the 5's are often incredibly astute.

-clay

802.11b in Starbucks? (3)

weston (16146) | more than 13 years ago | (#366523)

while Starbucks is getting ready to put 802.11b networks in its stores

Is this true? If this happens, my dream of being able to easily get net access while on the road might come true. NetCafes might not be a myth anymore.

Anyone know of other places getting ready to do this sort of thing? Or at least provide places to do an ethernet jack-in?

And I'm talking about nice rates, like maybe $5 hour max.

After visiting Australia this summer, I was amazed at how easy it was to find places that offered the internet at affordable rates to any traveling passerby. Two weeks ago I was in Las Vegas and had to figure out how to around security restrictions in the UNLV library if I wanted to find anyplace to do that.

--

"Evolution" (3)

1010011010 (53039) | more than 13 years ago | (#366524)

Internet Evolution, like regular evolution, seems to involve a lot of fucking.

- - - - -

Re:The Masses and the Media (3)

Error27 (100234) | more than 13 years ago | (#366525)

Tabloids are doing so well because the coporate owned media covers up a lot of the important news.

Did CNN report when a baby was found recently who had survived the sinking of the Titanic? No. Because they are owned by AOL.

AOL doesn't want you to know this kind of stuff. They just want you to be a conformist sheep and to use their 300 hours of free online service. Stupid copoorate punks.

News dissemination & AOL/TimeWarner (3)

Mordred (104619) | more than 13 years ago | (#366526)

"That having been said, I disagree with the idea that there is an increasing corporatization of news. I refuse to be seduced by this comfortingly alarmist view, because I am old enough to know better. "
Thank you, thank you, thank you.

I've been shouting this from the rooftops for a long time, but nobody seems to listen. Everybody just wants to believe that the world is ending and that we'll all be controlled by the vast conglomerates who tell else exactly what to think and how to vote. Obviously I wasn't saying it as succinctly as Clay does, but I couldn't agree with him more.

This is the exact reason why the "horrific" Time-Warner/AOL merger doesn't bother me much at all. I'll leave the discussions of whether it's really a monopoly or not alone, but I don't see how this merger can negatively impact people. AOL users will now have exposure to more media outlets and news sources. Sure there may be a noticeable TW bent to things, but people will hold them accountable if they get out of line. Everybody's watching and waiting for them to screw up and show horrific bias against other companies but if they do they'll be called on it.

Anyone who thinks this conglomerate will start trying to limit where a user can get to is out of their minds. If they ever started to do this, people would jump ship just as fast as they came on board. As Clay mentioned elsewhere in the article people don't like limitations and "grass hedges" set up.

As for positive benefits I can only think this will force more (news)media companies to jump into the internet with even more gusto to create some kind of competition to the TW/AOL juggernaut. Nobody wants to be left behind, and they will be if they don't start putting MORE content out there. And at the end of the day, if the consumer has access to MORE content that's a good thing.

Mordred

Information Filtering. (3)

tcd004 (134130) | more than 13 years ago | (#366527)

And this brings me to the "Yes" answer. Yes, we need higher standards, but if we are to get there without coercion and official designations (read: governmental regulation), it has to come through pressure exerted by the audience themselves.

Here's a solution to the bad journalism on the web: Universities, High schools and even elemenntary schools should devote major parts of thier curicculum to teaching students to filter information.

Since the web is now full of so much Raw unfiltered data, that's a key skill for any person who wants to glean information.

tcd004
See inside the Pentium 4! [lostbrain.com]
Click here for stock photos [lostbrain.com]

Better net journalism through P2P organizations? (3)

satch89450 (186046) | more than 13 years ago | (#366528)

I make no claim to having THE answer, but I put forward for your consideration this idea. First, some background:

On July 3, 1995, Time Magazine published its infamous cover story on Cyberporn. Written by Phillip Elmer-Dewitt, the story was based on a "study" done by CMU then-undergraduate Martin Rimm. (see this page [cybernothing.org] for some details.)

A number of dead-tree journalists who haunted alt.internet.media-coverage got up in arms about the article. Rather than lamenting the follies of their brothers in reporting, they decided to do something about it. Thus was born the Internet Press Guild [netpress.org] , a peer organization of journalists who work to provide assistance to any member of the working press who find themselves with an assignment to write about "The Internet." Membership in the IPG is open to any working press, regardless of publishing method. We have Slashdot/NewsForge/Andover people as members, for example. (Hi, Rob!)

The goal of the "organizaiton" is not to "judge", but rather to assist reporters and editors find sources that are useful and accurate, and to point them to information that can prevent them getting egg on their face.

(Disclosure: I'm one of the founding members, so salt to taste.)

I'm not pushing the IPG as a solution to improving Net journalism -- our focus has been on helping reporters and editors reporting ABOUT the Net in the dead-tree and glowing-phosper media. The point is that we are an Internet-based organization -- no conventions, no formal face-to-face meetings, and very low dues -- that is designed to provide peer help.

I suggest that a meeting-place for working Net journalists could provide the same benefit for the New Media that the IPG is currently providing to the Old Media.

Re:Driving 65 won't cost anybody money (3)

ScuzzMonkey (208981) | more than 13 years ago | (#366529)

Hmmm... I wonder how much of the decrease in fatalities is due more to structural and safety improvements in autos over the same period as the speed limit increases than due to the increases themselves. I guess probably the best way to check would be in total number of accidents, adjusted for traffic volumes. But my gut feeling would be that the proliferation of airbags, side-impact protection, and SUVs has more to do with that stats than speeds. NASCAR drivers get in a hell of a lot of accidents--they're also much better protected than your average motorist.

A quick Google search turns up a lot of opinions on both sides--I found at least one good study that indicated an increase in fatalities on rural interstates where speed limits were increased. I think it depends on the factors you are willing to look at--differential speed makes a difference in auto/auto events, but absolute speed is probably more of a factor in auto/embankment crashes, or those involving inclement conditions.

Re:Indymedia (3)

ScuzzMonkey (208981) | more than 13 years ago | (#366530)

On the topic of the media and Seattle protests, the mainstream media did not cover globalization issues at all prior to the protests.

Nor did they after, or during. They covered the protests, the protestors, the city, the cops--never, substantially, the issues.

What's unfortunate is that the so called independent media doesn't really either. They churn out a lot of propaganda, but very few balanced, well-written stories about the issues. If they were twenty years older and wore ties, they'd be corporate PR flacks. Very few of them are any more disinterested and objective about the topics they cover than the "corporatized" media they disdain. It's great to have the alternate viewpoint, to be sure, but I'd rather see a more neutral, balanced presentation than a simple "stick it to the man" schtick.

P2P is Client Server (3)

blair1q (305137) | more than 13 years ago | (#366531)

Clay seems to think it's not.

Peer-to-peer as used for data sharing is still client-server, with an extra layer of directory serverness to permit discovery of the data server. Distributing the directory and data make the protocol and pattern richer, it doesn't change them into something they're not.

True P2P is something like AIM, which still involves a C-S directory layer, or its grand old ancestor, talk(1), which does not, but relies on the well-known-service paradigm to handshake the connection to life. You see here how hard it is to get the C-S out of any computational commo.

But that's all technical, and should make a difference only to someone interested in the internals. Perceptionally, his point holds. Computerized Client-Server P2P looks and feels like real P2P, and it changes the way people interact with the net and with each other on the net, to make it more like the way we interact with and in the real world.

--Blair
"Hay you kids! Get offa my lawn!"

Teaching kids to fish (3)

BillyGoatThree (324006) | more than 13 years ago | (#366532)

There's no need to teach "information filtering"--it automatically falls out when you teach "critical thinking". Teach kids to examine assumptions, check the facts, do back of the envelope calculations and find common fallacies. Then teach the kids about scenarios and simulation, projection and extrapolation. This will filter out about 99% of the Internet.

I've often fantasized about becoming a teacher just so I could start such a class. You can't teach it at a high school level--too late. You can't teach it in elementary school (except as a foundation to prepare the soil--nice mixed metaphor there)--too early. Probably the ideal age is junior high (for non-US this is around 10-13). This is when kids start playing with ideas (think of when you started playing with, and in particular programming, a computer...it's also the age I found and ravenously consumed a book on logic)

The only problem is that as soon as the townspeople find out you are breeding dissidents out come the pitchforks and torches.
--

A thought on moderation (4)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#366533)

Fantastic Interview, Clay. I wanted to point specifically to the comments on "moderation" because I think this is what raised /. above the dreck and sludges of the world:
The only group that I would trust to police Slashdot is the Slashdot users themselves.
Now then, here's an interesting tidbit for you: I was one of the original "400", we got ten points to start and they regenerated at what seemed like a snail's pace compared to the number of comments being posted. I learned very quickly not to waste time on the trolls, flamebaits, first posters, etc., instead on bringing the best insights, information, etc. to the top. Granted, it was a subjective opinion -- one I personally tried to use anonymously, fairly and well. (Anonymity was one of the rules, btw.) When the "judge the moderator" system was put in place, my thought was "great idea." Let a big group of judges evaluate the decisions of a small group of judges" -- as Clay says, policing the police.

Flash forward from the days of 400 to the current system to 3/10/2001 last Saturday. I got 5 moderation points again, and will be using them carefully, looking for high quality posts. Hopefully the judges will still think I am a good judge so that I can do so again in the future.

My point? When it works -- when the woman/man behind the screen puts some ethics into their decisions and leaves their biases out -- a person can still read only the best or the best and the worst and everything in between, simply by a few clicks of the mouse. Try doing that with a newspaper or on any non-Slash or similar site, and then you realize what kind of genius it was for Rob & co. not only to come up with an idea, but to put it into code that worked, modified it to make it better, and are still thinking about how to keep this site great and even improve it.

Re:Driving 65 won't cost anybody money (4)

jafac (1449) | more than 13 years ago | (#366534)

I think that the reason NASCAR's record on safety and fatalities is so good because of the following;

1. Safety equipment far in excess of your average production car. Cars are also far better maintained.

2. Drivers who know what the fuck they are doing behind the wheel of the car (this is the opposite of the situation you find on the street)

3. Despite #2, these drivers basically just go fast and turn left. How tough is that?

4. No FUCKING cell phones.

Re:The Masses and the Media (4)

cshirky (9913) | more than 13 years ago | (#366535)

If the public is so good at sorting out the good from the bad, then why are tabloids the best selling newspapers in the world?

Because they're entertaining. Duh. This is like asking why, when there are all those serious documentaries on the Serious Documentary Channel, do they keep watching Friends?

Remember that even when Matt Drudge was riding high, a majority of the public thought Clinton should not be impeached, behavior much less sheep-like than they are often accused of.

Its fun to think other people are making stupid decisions when they are making decisions you disagree with, but in my line of work -- being an analyst, not a cop -- I have consistently found that people's self-interest, especially as filtered through a group, is too serious a force to write off.

-clay

I Can't Drive 55 (4)

sulli (195030) | more than 13 years ago | (#366536)

I put Napster third on a list of uprisings of massive, uncoordinated civil disobedience in the last 100 years, after the 55 mph speed limit and Prohibition.

That's one of the better comparisons I've heard for Napster. If not Napster, something else.

When 55 was the law, and sanctimonious safety-types were squawking about how it was saving so many lives (it wasn't), no lawmaker dared require speed governors on cars because everyone knew that the rules were widely ignored.

I remember a few years ago when they finally repealed the last bits of 55 - one of the good things the new Republican congress did. Caltrans had road crews out pasting sixes on all the speed limit signs around the bay area - and they were getting honks and cheers from passing motorists!

Maybe it's Orrin Hatch, but in any case someone needs to start talking about this when the RIAA bitches and moans about widespread infringement...

Re:Driving 65 won't cost anybody money (4)

leviramsey (248057) | more than 13 years ago | (#366537)

And in most states, fatalities have decreased since 65 was put in (at least in Massachusetts, and a few others). This despite Boston drivers.

I ascribe it to this fact: the danger is not speed, by itself, it's speed differences. You would think that NASCAR drivers, seeing as they're driving in packs at 200+ mph, would be being killed a lot (and they do get killed from time to time... ignoring the past 9 months though, NASCAR had gone several years without a fatality). The reason for that is that the NASCAR drivers are all going at approximately the same speed.

There's a certain segment of the population that will always drive a limited access highway at 75 or 80, even. There's another segment that drives those same roads at the speed limit. And there's a segment that drives 5-10 above, and a small segment that drives 5-10 below. On a 55 mph speed limit, that means that some people are doing eighty, and sharing the road with people who are doing 45, a range of 35 mph.

With 65, the 75-80 folk are still there, some of the +5-+10'ers are doing 70-75, others are doing 65-70 (they didn't change their habits significantly), those who religiously drive the speedlimit are doing 65, and almost nobody does less than 55. So the range is now 25 mph, which tends to result in lower fatality rates.

Also, in some states, the cops weren't enforcing 55 anyway, but strictly keep 65. The Adirondack Northway is a prime example. When the speed limit was 55, traffic flow was around 70-80 (the few times I was on it). With 65 in place, the flow has actually slowed a little, to around 75 tops, because the 65 is more heavily enforced.

Indymedia (5)

akb (39826) | more than 13 years ago | (#366538)

I disagree with the idea that there is an increasing corporatization of news

Really? Do you fail to note the incredible 90+% of media is controlled by 6 companies [cttp] in the US? The news outlets that are being bought by the likes of Disney and GE? That the editor of the LA Times talks about taking a bazooka [latimes.com] to the wall between marketing and editorial? Advertisers [fair.org] making demands to content providers?

Documenting the corporitization of the media and the risks to society that entails is beyond the scope of this comment :) However, that Mr. Shirky can so easily dismis these concerns without even acknowledging these issues gives me pause. If you'd like to learn about the corporitization of the media I suggest you check out Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting [fair.org] , Manufacturing Consent (documentary [zmag.org] ) by Noam Chomsky [zmag.org] , and Rich Media, Poor Democracy [uillinois.edu] by Robert McChesney.

On the topic of the media and Seattle protests, the mainstream media did not cover globalization issues at all prior to the protests. Virtually, all coverage of globalization was confined to the business pages for whom the terms of globalization were already written. There were no discussions of human rights and labor issues of globalization. Activists organizing for Seattle recognized this and saw the need to create their own media. Hence, Indymedia was born and now there are 40 spread throughout the world.

Indymedia [indymedia.org] - become the media

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