Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Wow! These days people are buying and selling "taxonomy" creating companies. I wonder how tagging will affect that?
Tribe.net (my main social networking service) have started something called "The Tribe 25". Twenty five people you "should" get to know.

I was curious about this move to the cult of celebrity so started a discussion on Social Software Intellectuals

Today, I got my ideas together, responding to good replies by Scribe, Angel and Ami-Sun:


I don't think Tribe 25 is "lame" exactly.

I think it's "interesting", sociologically. And I think Scribe is totally on the money on this one.

Any sort of market, including a link-economy on YASNS, has a certain kind of centralizing / accumulating tendency (the "pareto" or "power law" effect)

And, to a certain extent, such concentrations of wealth create a kind of potential difference which can drive the behaviour of the system. If the rich are allowed to accumulate wealth, they start to spend it and stimulate other economic activity.

Now, net-net I believe this is an illusion. It's only because we see so much energy concentrated in one place that we think that it's been "created" by the central hub. (The entrepreneur has "created" wealth rather than just brought it into one place.) In fact, it was there all along, but diffuse, and the centralization has just made it more visible.

Nevertheless, centralization changes the landscape dramatically. If wealth is centralized in one place, it's easier for certain *other* agents to tap. Easier to sell luxuary goods to the rich. Maybe there are secondary effects. Does an unequal society with high-spending super-rich actually consume more than a thrifty, more equal distribution? Maybe.

Now my bet, is that Tribe think they'll "create" a certain kind of energy by creating central hubs of fame. A few months ago I got the idea that celebrity gossip mags, and "reality" shows like Big Brother were actually a kind of vicarious social networking. You don't social network yourself, but you become obsessed by watching the spectacle of social networking habits of others (who's in bed with who? Who's at a party with who?)

As the notion of wealth shifts from *having* capital (and owning stuff which flaunts this) to having social connections, and flaunting those, there's a new discourse of power.

This is also in-line with the prediction in the under-rated book "Netocracy" ( http://www.epinions.com/Netocracy_The_New_Power_Elite_and_Life_After_Capitalism_by_Alexander_Bard_and_by_Jan_Soderqvist ) which suggests a social split into an elite of networkers and a "consumtariat" of losers. Here's the money quote :

"The rules will change, but the constant underlying message of the curators to their net citizens will be simple and unambiguous: you can never be good enough at communicating, you can never let yourself rest, you must constantly be ready to jump, constantly be ready to learn new things. Thus a new set of masters will seize power ..." page 191

We all know social links are the key to wealth, power, success etc. in the netocratic age. For a brief moment, YASNS sold us the illusion that getting social links was going to be really *easy* : a quick message and immediete link gratification.

Now we know better. Turns out, most of these links are worth next to nothing. Some are valuable enough that the whole game is worth-while, but there's always the sneaking suspicion that we might find better or be doing more with our networking.

Now, tribe offer us a simulation of succesful networking. Here are some "celebrities" who've got their networking "working" (at least they've captured attention from Tribe) They offer a whole set of aspirational images : that maybe, if we only work our "profiles" better, we too might get that boost from the Tribe publicity machine. Or maybe if we were only a bit "cooler". Or if only we could get connected to the right people.

So, the genuine quest for social links, gets turned into a vicarious watching of other "stars", trying to learn how to emulate their behavior. And maybe soon we're all just playing "Fantasy Tribe", spending our time watching other people's social networking success.

Not saying it's happening yet. Maybe its all just a cheap publicity experiment. (I just noticed that, actually, today the Tribe 25 ads seem to have disappeared from the right-hand gutter.)

But it might be the herald of a new order within YASNS.
So Apple support "podcasting" ie. RSS + enclosures in the new iTunes. Everyone expected, and welcomed, it. But now we find they're defining their own extensions. As are Microsoft, Yahoo etc these days.

Comments from
Danny Ayers, Dare Obasanjo, Dave Winer etc.

I think this is going to be a great acid test of the two "semantic web" or "interop" philosophies that I was talking about a few weeks ago.

The SemWeb people, or at least Danny, are clearly laughing their socks off sceptical. What chaos will ensue, as writers of clients for feeds based on these extensions will have to learn them all.

It is a good empirical test. If the SemWeb people are right, the spiralling cost of incompatibility between different extended brands of RSS will kill podcasting and syndication with enclosures. Or at least will kill the RSS 2.0 branch of it. And either the world will devolve into incompatible walled gardens or suppliers and consumers will have to renegotiate around Atom or other RDF based format.

If the alternative theory is correct ie. that semantics are best thought of as being determined by the document-context, (and assuming podcasting is worth having at all), then the aggregator players are just going to bite the bullet and pay the cost of learning each of the major suppliers' extensions. And this, in practice, won't turn out to be too difficult. All the information as to how to interpret Apple's new tags is easily available, it's all framed within the context of consuming a podcast feed, so if you know what podcasting is and is for, then you know what you'll need to do.

(Aside : If Apple's iTunes:owner means exactly the same thing as DC:publisher, then the consuming program can simply use the same subroutine to handle both of them. It's just another branch of a case statement somewhere ( ;-) ) And if it doesn't mean exactly the same thing, then re-using an existing element type is harmful rather than helpful.)

Incompatible HTMLs and browsers made life hell for web-creators, but they didn't kill the web. It was too useful for that. If these extensions are worth having, customers will want them, and aggregator writers will pay the price of finding out about them. That's the golden rule of markets, until there's cut-throat competition between suppliers, the consumer pays for delivery. (Of course, on the web, the producers paid the cost of compatibility with the browsers, but that was because there were a lot more sites than browsers.)

Danny, rightfully, sneers at the <itunes:explicit> tag. But I understand Apple's frustration. When I tried to learn RDF a couple of years ago, the first problem I ran into was how to represent boolean values using it. No-one ever gave me a simple and satisfactory answer.

Finally, I'm not so clear what Apple should have done if they'd wanted to add their itunes:explicit tag to say, RSS 1.0 or Atom. Wouldn't they have still had to define a an iTunesCore ontology for it, which aggregator writers would have had to learn about in order to do something useful with?

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Oh, and while we're on the subject of Iraq, I notice the World Tribunal is going on :

WTI : World Tribunal on Iraq
Guns in Brazil.
I notice Bush is starting to get unnerved by the faltering support for Iraq. And his government are now giving out mixed signals, whether because internal communication has completely broken down, or because they're trying to raise a smokescreen of confusing claims, isn't obvious.

BBC NEWS | World | Middle East | US dwindling options in Iraq

So Rumsfeld says that it's likely it can take up to 12 years.

Back in September 2003 I wondered if a better analogy than Vietnam might be Northern Ireland with 30 years of low intensity fighting, and a continuously surpressed economy.

Now Iraq's situation is clearly a bit hotter than NI. And, so far, the various groups in Iraq's bazaar of violence haven't brought it back to the mainland US. But I think there are still similarities.

Also striking, the US death toll in Iraq is past 1700. It's not beyond imagination that it will get to pass the official number of deaths due to September 11th (2819). We're over half way, and this is only the beginning of year 3. In 12 years, the US can lose an awful lot more people than this.

When we pass that number, will the people of the US start to feel more fury against the incompetence and deliberate malice of Bush and the Neocons than they felt against Al-quaeda? And if not, why not?
Venezuela to set up a pan America de sul satelite TV network.

Venezuela sets up 'CNN rival'

Will be interesting. But in Spanish.
David Weinberger went to Linnean society
Irony of the day.

Did you know that philosophy.com belongs to a cosmetics company?
Jeremy Faludi : "Picture a wind-farm that is not made of a few dozen rotating propeller-blades, but made of a few million bending grass-blades."

WorldChanging: Another World Is Here: Artificial Cricket Hairs as Microphones
NPTech Community | Aggregating ideas, knowledge and social forces for good

Monday, June 27, 2005

Alex Barnett : My favourite highlight of the DebugCast:

"Well, it's not blown up, so that's an improvement."


:-)

Alex Barnett blog : Myscreencast.com and DebugCast
What's actually going on in Mexico?

ZNet |Mexico | Mexico's Zapatista Rebels To Weigh Future
Reuters AlertNet - Mexico admits Zapatista drug report untrue
BBC NEWS | World | Americas | Brazil may break Aids drug patent
Let me get this right. Britain is introducing ID cards because :

a) the US is mandating "biometric passports" for visitors

b) it's cheaper to do ID cards and biometric passports in a job lot.

BBC NEWS | Politics | Blair 'confident' over ID cards

Hello! It's an IT system. Does anyone still believe it's esier to build a whole bunch of functionality all at once rather than incrementally in very small step?

Am I right in thinking that UK policy is now totally driven by US government requirements?

Probably all McKinsey's fault.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Marc Cantor has a good overview of what's been going on recently re: Web 2.0, Microformats, lower-case semantic web etc.

Marc's Voice: Open Source Infrastructure: A World of Possibilities
Joel Spolsky says the book of selections from internet writers is number one on Amazon. Quite impressive for a bunch of other people's writing which he's basically branded with his identity.

Joel on Software - Thursday, June 23, 2005

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Blair's Third Way for Europe sounds pretty sensible and inspiring.

Pity the guy is a lying piece of shit.
Interview with the guy who started World Changing.

I wonder if you can only get career paths like this in California?
According to Dave Winer Microsoft are thinking about RSS as a general list mechanism.

Dave's right. This is huge. I've always said RSS is the web equivalent to the Unix pipe.

Spend any time thinking about good old fashioned computer science. The stuff I never understood in college, and that they probably don't teach much these days. And what's it about? Batch processing of files. Reading characters from streams. Lexing and parsing programming languages. List processing.

This is the fundamental level of computing. Higher level abstractions that are built on top of it are often brittle : over-specialized.

When you need to return to flexibility, when you need to change, you fall back down to the fundamentals : lists, sequences, get the next symbol, transition to the next state, do something.
China's biggest wind-farm
This is pretty cool. Get a pollution forecast for your part of London.

YourAir, air quality forecasts for your street

I'm finding myself reading World Changing and AltEng quite a bit recently. To get a sense of what's going on re : alt. energy, and intersections of internet culture, technology and the environment.

The big news seems to be Solar is hot! Particularly lots of variants on arrays of parabolic mirrors. Also intriguing to me is Solar cooking. They're talking about it on Tribe too. This makes me happy somehow.

Also, a quick outline of Brazil's alcohol policy. Unfortunately, our alcohol based car was stolen, and the new one is petrol. But apparently you can now get "flex" conversions which allow you to use either. We'll be doing this shortly.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Hey! Python is meant to be the fun language. What's all this?
Joel Spolsky's selection of the best software writing is out. And it looks like it includes two pieces I suggested.

Can't be sure I was causally involved though. ;-)

Here's the full list of my suggestions.



I see why a lot of these don't fit Spolsky's "story-telling" format, or are too long, off-topic or off-style. To the reader of this blog, though, I recommend them all.

(Actually this is quite fun. I think I'll draw up a new "best of" list at the end of this year. Why should only Joel play this game?)



Countries I've visited

(Advert by the people who provide this : Venice travel guide)
James Dyson : I was told that styling had usurped engineering in the latter half of the 20th century. And that it went deeper than just a change of fashion.

My values of technology and manufacturing were old-fashioned, they said. And if our economy was to succeed, I had to realise something: "The future prosperity of developed nations, rested in the hands of stylists."

"Engineering belonged in the past."

Yet here I am. Someone whose recipe for success, has been to make things that people want to buy.

Not because they look better – although of course I hope they do – but because they work better.

I have spent 35 years making things in a country that often has little regard for its manufacturers. It has left me more convinced than ever that engineering is this country's future.

And that styling for its own sake is a lazy 20th century conceit. One that has passed its sell-by date.


Richard Dimbleby Lecture 2004

Monday, June 20, 2005

Stallman on Software Patents in the Grauniad[1].

[1] ; Guardian rightly lampooned here for anglicising "program" to "programme" :-)

Update : It is kind of shocking that Trade Ministers don't understand the difference between copyrights and patents though, isn't it?
BBC on FreeCycle

Sunday, June 19, 2005

The blogosphere is right, to be deeply unimpressed by Microsoft, Google et al, helping the Chinese government censor Chinese Blogs.

But I'm trying to remember the last time I read a story in the tech. media that went "we X.corp had a chance to do business in China, with certain restrictions, and we turned them down because it was against our principles." After which X.corp got lauded in the press. And gained huge amounts of free publicity.

The point is, actions like this are not noticed by the system. If we don't celebrate the companies that do the right thing, then how will they learn what the right thing is?

MS Office XML Formats Not OK with GNU

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Marshall Brain : if you combined a plug-in hybrid system with a flex-fuel system that burns 80 percent alcohol and 20 percent gasoline, you could end up stretching each gallon of gasoline.

AltEng: As Toyota goes: Will U.S. follow a geo-green path?

Friday, June 17, 2005

John Robb seems to be back from hiatus.
Bush seeking a third term? No Term Limits for the U.S. President?
Yeah, looks like Jose Dirceu is being sacrificed ...

BBC NEWS | Americas | Brazil minister quits government

A pro-Lula friend was explaining to me that paying members of the opposition parties to vote for you in parliament has turned out to be standard practice. All the previous governments did it too. (Since Brazil got rid of its military dictatorship in 1984) It is very hard to push much legislation when there are a fair number of parties elected by proportional representation, and governments are frightened of parliament being paralyzed.

What I can't find out is whether this has always happened and everyone always knew about it, or whether everyone is really as shocked as they claim.

Roberto Jefferson is undoubtedly a nasty piece of work. He was a big supporter of a previous corrupt president in the early 90s, and is in it up to his neck in the current postal service graft scandal. He also has a "face of wood" as they say here : is totally shameless. He's as good as saying he's blowing the whistle out of revenge because he's going down for corruption. And seems to be enjoying every minute of his infamy. He also seems to be quite capable of making the whole thing up simply to spread confusion.

The secretary I mentioned in the earlier post now seems to have retracted her claims. It's all very confusing. But the big question is what happens next. Even my pro-Lula friend thinks there might be some truth in Jefferson's accusation. Politics is a dirty, pragmatic game.

At the end of the day, this ought to reflect more badly on the representatives receiving the bribes and allowing their votes to be swayed by them. However Jefferson is refusing to name any specific names. Which ironically focuses more attention on the government, spreads more FUD, and yet detracts from the plausibility of his accusation.

All very confusing ...

Thursday, June 16, 2005

'[Bookshops and libraries] should not be carved out as safe havens for terrorists and spies, who have, in fact, used public libraries to do research and communicate with their co-conspirators,'

BBC NEWS | Americas | Bush snubbed on 'terror book' law
Great article (read before it disappears)

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Interesting discussion : Dissensus - Will youth be fooled again?
BBC NEWS | Americas | Brazil launches corruption probe

This story of corruption in the Brazilian government really blew up here with Roberto Jefferson's testimony yesterday. I can't give a lot of details until I find someone who really understands what's going on. But the basic points seem to be these :

Roberto Jefferson is president of the Brazilian "Labour Party" (confusingly named because it's one of the more right-wing parties.)

He's recently been outed as heavily involved in a scandal of graft in the post-office. (People high up in the postal service have been accepting kick-backs to favour certain contractors)

In response he seems to have gone for mutually assured destruction, claiming explicitly that if he's going down he's going to take a lot of other people with him.

His claim, published in the "Folha de Sao Paulo" (one of the bigger broadsheets) is that the PT (Workers Party) who currently form the government, lead by the president, Lula, has been paying bribes to MPs from other parties to vote with them.

Brazil has a proportional representation system, so governments are always coalitions of smaller parties and there's a lot of horse-trading and offering of ministerial posts, but this is pretty weird. According to the BBC, Jefferson was, himself offered bribes, but turned them down. Gisel, listening to his testimony on the news thought he said he'd accepted them. He's claimed that many other senior politicians including leaders of other large parties, have also taken bribes.

Today, some of those people got a chance to cross-examine him in a live televised committee meeting. And there was plenty of dramatic shouting between him and these other leaders.

Jefferson is a consumate performer. He's a senior lawyer, and knows how to play a crowd, with a lot of irony and theatricality. Undoubtedly he's a grade 1 psychopath.

He also isn't offering much in the way of evidence. Though plenty of leaders of opposition parties are willing to believe him, claiming that his sincerity and the government's shifty responses are obvious enough.

Now the story has a few more complex twists.

Jefferson says Lula wasn't responsible and is innocent. He's blaming other senior officials in the PT, not Lula or the government itself. I don't think he's claiming government money was used.

What he says is, he went to Lula and told him this is what was going on. And Lula was a) shocked, and b) cried. After which the bribes seem to have stopped. The implication seems to be that Lula quietly put a stop to it after he found out.

Lula, and the rest of the PT deny everything.

Then there's the case of the secretary in Belo Horizonte. This woman was working for a private company which she claims was used by the PT to channel the money to the bribed MPs. A magazine tracked her down and interviewed her this weekend where she claims she saw suitcases of money taken in and out of her bosses office.

The boss in question fired her last year, and is currently pursuing a legal case against her, on the grounds she tried to blackmail him last year, about his role in money laundering. I'm not quite sure if I've got this story exactly right, because I'm not sure how / why you would take someone to court for blackmailing you without revealing whatever it was that they were threating to expose. So I guess there's something I'm missing. Nevertheless, it's all pretty fishy.

More, and clearer details as I work them out.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Maetl turns Zipf, Chomsky and Deleuze and Guattari loose on the semantic web debate.
More Web 2.0 consolidation : The Robot Co-op: All Consuming has become a part of the Robot Co-op family!
Steve Crossan is brainstorming on television : Shouting at it, searching it
I was going to make a point about microformats in feeds, and then I discovered Ken MacLeod had already made it.
BBC NEWS | Americas | Bush aide 'edited climate papers'

Surprised, anyone?
Scribe : I think what we need now is a radically different idea of economics based on a radically different idea of "property". We need to combine the new paradigm with the old in order to get somewhere useful.

But at the same time, it's not enough to simply come up with something *different*. If possible, a new economy should act as a "superset" of the old, a backwards compatible version 2.0 economy that fills in the holes in the old one that cause all the grief we've inherited today. A lot of what we have works, and we'd be foolish to re-invent the money wheel. Maybe shifting the idea of "property" to take into account all the things of a less tangible nature would simply be enough?

De-Scribed

Very good, subtle thinking. Don't be afraid to be radical but don't throw away what we've got that works. Can it all be done by tweaking the idea of property?

I don't know. I think a lot could be done by thinking hard about what kinds of property there should be. Particularly the ideas of "intellectual" property, land, and companies.

Rethinks of intellectual property and companies are already going on, largely because of new technology and "internet culture".

IP is challenged by Free Software, amateur writing, music downloading, remix culture and many similar events.

The idea of companies (qua packages belonging to shareholders with certain rights) is being challenged by some of these above groups too, who are finding co-ordination and division of labour are attainable through spontaneous formations of amateur networks.

There's also a more explicitly political new wave of criticism in the wake of No Logo, corporate scandals in the US and The Corporation.

Land isn't discussed much in public in Europe or the states, but its a big issue elsewhere. Here in Brazil, the MST are the largest mass political movement.

Any other sorts of property to think about? I've been re-reading How Buildings Learn", and I'm struck by the chapter on real estate which shows how the property market, when subject to rapid booms and busts, is often destructive to good buildings. So maybe even here there is room for criticism. An ethic of "preservation" challanges the notion that liquidity is the highest virtue for built property (pace Hernando)

The built environment is part of the aesthetic infrastructure of our lives sometimes needs protection from the weather of the market.

But what about the preservation intuition in Scribe's piece. That if we only reorganize the property modules that's sufficient? Not sure ... let's think.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Scribe : Social Networks are Dead

Further discussion here
Hmmm ...

Is there scope for using RSS enclosures to download software upgrades? Something like a push version of the Debian APT-GET?
Working Pathways has a different take on podcasts.

Podcasting is Closer to Voicemail than Radio

Sunday, June 05, 2005

In short, they seem to want their cake and eat it too. The free software should be given with no strings attached such as the ability of the company to profile or track online activities.

This guy means something different by "free" software. But we can draw an optimistic conclusion. People realise they should have information products for free. And that's the way they are behaving.

Darwin - Online Feature - Internet Economics 101

The author doesn't mention the role of the real "Free Software" movement in helping forment this expectation. But clearly it's gaining mindshare. Ultimately it's this mass demand from educated users which will bring down IP.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

NationMaster is an Interesting stats site. See for example the military spending per capita of various nations in the world.

Map & Graph: Countries by Military: Expenditures: dollar figure (per capita)

(NB : particularly positions of Iran, North Korea vs. US, UK, France etc.)
Palast on Ecuador too.
Palast on FRENCH FRIED FRIEDMAN
The Nouvelle Globalizer
Of course, there's only one question. Which individual in 2014 was this constructed for?
Just to re-iterate and amplify what I said in the last post. Having reached the end of it, this conversation with Philip Ball, Brian Goodwin and Ian Stewart about self-organization, symmetry-breaking, emergence, simulations of social organization, the science of complex systems etc. all in orbit around Christopher Alexander's architectural notions, is kind of "Phil heaven".

What an amazing group and theme!
Katarxis 3:? New Science, New Urbanism -- New Architecture?

Looks a good conference proceedings on Alexandrian themes. Site contains galleries of photos of Christopher Alexander's work and a very good discussion.
Richard Koman has a short story about technology for searching Podcasts. But he also notes : Makes you wonder if this podcast thing is more notable as an alternative distribution model for broadcasters than for grass-roots creativity.

ION RSS: Podscope enables fulltext searching of podcasts

Here's my take. Podcasting is not disruptive the way blogging is.

Remember, the defining features of "disruptive" are that

a) it's worse,

and

b) the incumbant leaders can't get into it because the structure of the market doesn't allow them to. (Customers don't want it.)

That's the nature of blogs with respect to mainstream media. Worse (no fact checking, editorial control.) And no business model. The kind of customers big media sells to (big advertisers) don't want to advertise on blogs and don't want to advertise the way people advertise on blogs (AdSense, no implicit editorial influence).

The people who do want to advertise on blogs were never big enough to be big media's customers in the first place.

So blogs quickly disupted from below.

Here's what's different about Podcast : granularity.

Blog posts have a different size, a different audience size and a different quality to big media. All of these make them alien to the media's customers.

Podcasts on the other hand are relatively leisurely. Between 20 - 40 minutes, the same size as a typical radio program. Their audience is (admitedly) small but downloads of the same technology : MP3 audio music files, is perceptably large. And most importantly podcasts are still fairly monolithic entities. It's hard to navigate within them, hard to hyperlink out of them, hard to hyperlink into them to reach only a specific paragraph.

Jon Udell is trying to solve this, but hyperlinking is not going to be part of the standard vocabulary of podcasters for some time. Maybe never, given that podcasts aren't a "lean forward" interactive medium like the web. They're something you more or less passively consume while driving or walking. Adverts will survive in podcasts.

In other words, they are extremely sustaining to the business model of advertiser driven radio. From the perspective of radio companies, MP3 over RSS is just another broadcast network that doesn't have many listeners, but is very cheap to set up and run (compared to buying a license for broadcast spectrum).

Not making shows available as podcasts is going to be nothing but laziness on the part of the radio networks.

Podcasts may disrupt conferences and online learning. But they won't disrupt commercial radio.

Friday, June 03, 2005

It isn't until you try reading the SWI-Prolog 5.4.1 Reference Manual that you realise how totally, weirdly bad documentation can get.
The Dark Side of Design

Did anyone still need to reminded of this stuff?
He he! I took the stupid "font" specification out of the style-sheet for this blog.

On my browser (Firefox) and on IE it's soooo much more readable. If you find it's got worse, send me a before / after screen-shot to complain.

Some more judicious "de-styling" is likely to come.
I wonder how many of the BBC's Backstage prototypes are using RDF.

Unfair question of course. Because if the BBC aren't using it, then however much demand there is for RDF it can't be done. OTOH, if they are, then potential consumers will have to use it.

At first glance at the feeds available there seems to be a mix. Some are RSS 2.0, some are RSS 0.9, some look like custom XML chunks. So maybe RDF will enter the mix (possibly via RSS 1.0)

I guess this is another way of hingeing the semantic web debate.

The anti-SemWeb intuition is that content trumps format. In other words : content is made available, and if there's someone who wants to take it and combine it with something else, they will pay the price of scraping, or take responsibility for the semantic inference from the original meanings to their meanings. They will pay for "interpretation"

Furthermore, if there's no content, and no desire, then the ease of combining, has little importance. The decision to combine is made by the consumer based on the value of the data. This is pretty much the message of interop can procede without pairwise co-operation.

The semweb intuition is that the interpretation must come first. That the meaning that will be shared between producer and consumer should be decided by the producer, at the time of production. And this will make the cost of re-use and combination so cheap that all kinds of new applications will be able to spring up.


Let's take that economic metaphor a bit further.

Any economic transaction has a transaction cost.

Now, that cost includes all kinds of things : discovery of the right partner, possibly including competitive signalling of fitness, co-ordination with that partner etc.

Now, in the case of a "semantic" web (lower or upper case), one of the costs is the acceptance of responsibility for interpretation. Who will decide that my "John Smith" is the same as your "John Q. Smith"?

Can that responsibility be modelled as a cost?

Well, there's clearly a cost if it's wrong. And who will suffer (pay the cost) if the semantic interpretation is wrong? The consumer.

This seems to put a strong bargaining position in the hands of the producer. It's a case of caveat emptor. The consumer of the information will need to pay the cost of giving semantic interpretation to it if the producer chooses not to. If the product is compelling, the user will pay. And non SemWeb formats will proliferate.

What changes this situation? Competition.

As the number of producers increases they will be competing for consumers. Part of that competition will be the value of their content. But as the balance of power shifts, convenience for the consumer will become important. Well marked-up, and particularly, semantically marked-up, data which is easier for the consumer to process will start to differentiate the producers.

And then the consumer can push the cost of "interpreting" back up the supply chain.

Now, obviously, this only goes if there's some benefit to the producer of getting consumed.

Let's have another look. We'd expect the semantic web to take off where there is competition among producers and an incentive for them to want to be consumed.

Clearly RSS is one of the most evolved "markets" for information. And here we see two kinds of RDF getting established : RSS 1.0 and Atom. The only other application of RDF I can think of which has generated much public excitement is FOAF. Once again, it's in competition (with Friendster, Tribe etc.). And once again there's some incentive to be consumed : you get more famous and meet more people.

Where am I going with this? Not entirely sure, but here's the obvious, although slightly surprising, conclusion :

Ads in RSS will drive the adoption of the Semantic Web

Think about it. Ads in feeds are just the beginning. Soon, there'll be all kinds of advertorial spewed out in syndication format. At which point the advertisers will have a huge incentive to make sure these chunks of text are routed to the right places. They'll need to be marked-up more smartly, they'll need to maximize the ease with which they can be cross-reference to other information so as to survive longer in the noosphere.



Am I a Grumpy Old Programmer?

Sometimes ...
BBC NEWS | Bolivia moves to resolve crisis
BBC's explanation of "Why is Bolivia in turmoil?".
Hilarious internet juxtaposition of the day :

Find anarcho socialism at TheBizPlace! - TheBizPlace is your best source for business products, services, and resources. Find quality sites for anarcho socialism now at TheBizPlace!"

Anarcho-socialism - Information : Get your Free Screensavers now!


Thursday, June 02, 2005

Finally got an SdiDesk debug-cast out the door (without crashing my machine). You can see it on the screencasts page
Deeply cool!

Spell with flickr


NooRanch





ORN_01Ch

I'm using an aggregator again.

For a couple of years, since dumping AmphetaDesk I just manually surfed. But since I finally updated my blogroll script (and added lots of pending new blogs to it) I realized there were a lot of things I wanted to monitor more regularly.

Hence I'm trying Bloglines.

I gave up on AmphetaDesk because my taste kept shifting, and adding and removing feeds was too cumbersome. Let's see how it goes this time.
BBC NEWS | Bolivian city gripped by protests
Don't like the look of this.

Seems like a new kind of wiki-spam that masquerades as content. How easy is it for a bot like WikiMinion to detect that this is spam?

(OTOH maybe the link destination is a reasonable giveaway?)

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Following up on that critique of we-media (below) this is a timely reminder that it's not like big media are any better today.
TechnologyReview.com - Pesticides and Parkinson's More evidence of correlation.
Good interview with Weed, the file-sharing, pyramid marketing people.
I read Nathan Newman about once every three months. After which, I can't take any more reality and have to crawl back to the matrix to recover.

The fact is, if you aren't reading Nathan, you know nothing about how US capitalism behaves in the wild.
Dave Winer links to if Watergate were happening today...

There's something disturbingly wrong with this picture. The truth is that undoubtedly Watergate is happening today. Stuff equally bad, if not worse, is going on, and the ecosystem of podcasts, MP3s and bloggers isn't strong enough to bring Bush down over it.

Why? When we all have so much more power to express ourselves and to disseminate information.

Momus understands :


Axiom 3 for transparency:

In the age of information the only way to hide facts
Is with interpretations,


there is no way to stop the free exchange
Of idle speculations

In the days before communication
privacy meant staying at home

Sitting in the dark with the curtains shut
unsure whether to answer the phone

But these are different times, now the bottom line
Is that everyone should prepare to be known

Most of your friends will still like you fine


(My emphasis.)

Damning news about the US government, (and pretty much anyone else) is leaking continuously. But so is a continuous barrage of "interpretation" : spin from professionals, sly insinuations and cheerleading from rabid ditto-heads. Every side has valid points to make, and every side amplifies those points to drown out the negative.

Is this system more likely to find the truth, eventually than the old media? I don't think we're given a priori guarantees of that. Though we all hope ... maybe it just takes a longer time.
philosophical conversations: Nietzsche for the money men
BBC NEWS | Parliament's website under fire