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Saturday, October 25, 2003
Robert Paterson

I want to talk about blogging non-technically. It represents a breakthrough in tools that will radically change the world that we live in. I'll talk about politics, health, education, and business.

I want to talk first about how in history there are points when all comes together and shift happens.

Royal navy in the 19th century. Risks of being successful. End of Napoleonic war. British are happy. In 1860, HMS Inflexible looks a modern ship, but nothing like HMS Victory. But it lacks two things. one, if you're not running the ship, you're nobody. The history of the navy was about bullfights, not expertise.

HMS was running on a culture that had been successful.

FFWD to 1890s and you have a problem. The invention of the torpedo meant a cheap ship could not sink a battleship. Fisher is a visionary, head of the navy. He sees (1) that this technology must be implemented and used well. Hierarchy must no longer determine things. Culture must be changed first. (2) War is no longer face-to-face. You'll be no less than 8 miles away. Small guns become pointless.

Then a ship came out with the new culture. It was so disruptive it could sink the whole German navy by itself. Fisher had made his own navy obsolete.

The whole thing has become a race.

Blogging might be the new torpedo, which forces a change in the way people deal with one another.

100 years ago this year the Ford automobile company was born. The production line was imported from the meat packing industry. (Cross-pollination) Ford fully implemented the metaphor that we live in a mechanical universe and that we have machine relationships with people. It was so terrible working on the line that the turnover rate was 300%. Farm boys would rather die than do this. They were bribed and encultured progressively.

This is how things run now in business. We don't have natural relationships with one another. Government, health care, education.. In education: do you know that 70% of the intake at UPEI is women. Boys can't take it. We construe it as attention deficit - we drug them just as we drugged suburban housewives. We're at a point where

I spent two days with my clients in government. It's clear that no one among them is in a natural relationship.

There's a group now - 30 to 50 million people - who can't take it anymore. They can barely make a living as they won't enter that industrial-age world. Silverorange boys wouldn't last two weeks working as an employee in these systems.

Where does it get together? The examplar of the new model is eBay. Ebay doesn't sell anything. It reestablishes reputation, which is what business in the past million years ran on. I worked in Saudi Arabia for a while. They would take a year to form an opinion on me before they would do business with me.

eBay is not directive, it is connective; it does not presume what you want. Amazon's value is in creating and supporting a reviewer community who works hard. These people get status and identity, not money. This is what we want.

The machine model treats us so badly, all we've got left is money and stuff.

At the bank I worked for we gave Christmas bonuses. We gave $9M and $7M bonuses to two execs. The guy who got seven resigned in disgust. Has anyone worked on a production line? (a few hands raise) It's hell. (nods)

Another exemplar. Southwest Airlines was started in Texas serving real people paying out of their own money. The other airlines built their business on serving businesspeople. The others were cattle. In bad times, execs took the hit. Unions were happy. Trust was built.

In organizations like this the staff is having a good time.

We're through the efficiency-based methodology. We need to unlock the humans.

This is not consultant psychobabble. It's a new Renaissance. In the renaissance people living in a dogma-dominated era started looking at classics with fresh eyes.

We have ancient knowledge in us that says how to take care of a child, how to share a meal, etc. I

Paul Hawking came to speak at the University [of PEI]. He's funding a guy who makes pumps. Turbulence always goes one way, hurricanes and galaxies the same. Why don't I try to replicate the pattern that nature sets? His pump is 10 times more efficient than previous technology.

Why don't we reengineer our social institutions based on natural patterns?

Blogging creates real human relationships. When you've read Dave for a couple years, you know he's not the easiest guy to deal with, but you sense that he couldn't fabricate his persona.

I've been doing this for a year or so. What'll happen when those new links deepen in ten years' time?

At first I blogged stiffly. The more I got informal, wrote about sleeping with my dogs, etc., the better the site got.

Blogging is unbelievably cheap.

We had an election here on the Island. A few of us launched an election blog. We got away from soundbites, from inanity. I've talked to politicians; they're aware of the real issues but know they must produce the right soundbites.

Within a month we were getting 3,000 hits a day. One brave candidate, Jean Tingley, who instead of ranting, ran his own weblog. "God I'm exhausted. Today I saw this and this person". Mostly written around 3AM. She didn't get elected, by the way. But this is fantastically powerful.

We got more hits than the CBC. We aggregated all the conversation in one place.

Comment: I personally think it was a huge success. We were the first to cover a provincial election on a website. The premier was asked why he didn't write his own weblog. (He said he's too busy.)

Comment: The CBC did a really good 7-min TV piece on this experiment.

Comment: The most frustating thing for me was, being involved in the election process, I couldn't talk about it. Now I can. I wonder if the blog didn't reflect a complete misunderstanding of how island politics works. (now. -SP)
Response: I think it's going to be disruptive and change the political process.

Q: What did Jean think about her blogging?
A: She gave everything she had. She feels terrible, but not about blogging. She's exhausted and no longer blogs.

Healthcare. I'm 53. In 10 years time half Islanders will be old. We're in a trajectory towards complete meltdown in healthcare. PEI has the fattest children, the most diabetes, the most smoking. We beat Mississipi - it's that bad. Conventional methods won't solve that.

What do we do? There's interesting research out about self-help groups. They help with diabetes. Doctors are good at diagnosis. They tell you to change your lifestyle and wish you good luck; after that you're on your own. Self-help groups help with technical issues. My wife has breast cancer. She's so far ahead of her doctor, you wouldn't believe it. She's not on the Net - her friends group filters info. Her doctor can't cope. There's no healing relationship between him and her. There's no relationship at all in the healthcare delivery system.

Parenting. Best researchers on what's really happening with young children and link them with parents. Doug Williams is on the web only through my parenting blog. Save for a few pdfs, there's a complete disconnect between research world and people. We want to link people to researchers, not research.


The "Buzz" paper is the bible of Island artists. The whole Island reads it. But it's one-way. How can we make the Buzz more dynamic and involve the community? (when eBay started off, they were three guys. They didn't have to hire trainers - people trained one another without pay. It gave them identity, status, meaning.

It's about intimacy and trust. If you do that, the community will defend you. I think there's a huge money there. It's possible to be human and rich.

Where does blogging fit in corporate life? It's the torpedo boat of corporate life. The firewall guys don't want this at all. It's about having an opinion that is public. It is terrifying to normal organizations. It will change relationships inside organizations and across borders. It may force corporate life from going from "apart" and "close"

Last thing about education. Who teaches whom? If you took auto mechanics 25 years ago, you could still repair cars. But for hybrids, who's going to teach you? Are you going to take a course? The field keeps moving. Keeping current is impossible. Technique is changing so fast, it no longer makes sense to teach technique. We'll have to go back to teach the system, the technique you'll have to get and update by yourself. It's accelerating.

Industrial, curriculum design-based, education is outdated.

Universities are like Wile E. coyote, still running off the cliff, in mid-air.

When I was at Oxford, it was very much self-directed.

How can you call yourself a professor and teach from textbooks? University students are treated like 12-year olds; it gets them worthless jobs and student debts.

Learning will happen in the workplace. Support will be online.

Schools will have to become brokers. Give up developing the content, help people find it.

The church once owned and controlled everything. In 200 years that was killed, largely by pamphleteers.

The current setup is brittle. Concentrated power is vulnerable. Look at the airlines not coping with the discounts. Competing with Wal-mart is impossible. eBay is the largest automobile retailer today. Gigamedia, so concentrated, is so vulnerable.

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What do you think? []  links to this post    5:39:40 PM  
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What do you think? []  links to this post    3:53:43 PM  
John Muir

Trent Radio - we play stuff from the Web. No worry. It's not going to hurt the music.

[Dave Winer] They didn't say that at that other conference I was in just before.

Our budget is $50,000. We're a nonprofit. The job of a nonprofit is to make zero. Not negative, not positive - which is harder!

Radio is not like in-person performance. You're not at physical risk. People can tune out and you won't see them. The act of being a citizen puts you at physical risk.

The competition is programmed, cable radio. What have we got? 150 local people.

Equipment is inexpensive. Most people under 40 understand visual representations of audio. It's easy to piece shows together. Our archive room has about 26,000 recordings. We get more CDs every day. Why is our real estate devoted to Warner Bros.? We've ripped the CDs and put them on a server.

Q. Can we stream that?
A. Not enough bandwidth.

Q. Graphics designers don't like that album art is thrown away.
A. Right. We knew what we're doing it wrong. Holding the artifact is an important experience. We experience preemptive stealing of physical CDs - people figure someone else will steal them.

Q. What about backups?
A. We have a hot spare. We'll have an offsite backup soon.

We encode in variable bitrate Ogg Vorbis format - slightly more than a megabyte a minute on average. It's a wonderful open format. Comparisons always ended up with Ogg on top

We're amateur archivists. When cool dudes who know computers ask us what we need, we don't know how to answer in technical terms. We can describe tasks from a user's point of view.

1.2 terabytes cost us US$7,000. The space savings make room for a live band and a discussion table.

We write documentation for ourselves and others.

Q. Do you plan to rip your vinyl records?
A. Yes. It does take longer.

Q. Have the other stations asked for access to your servers?
A. Not yet. But most of the info on how the station runs (meeting minutes, etc.) is transparent.

Q. Reencoding the same recordings in different places is a waste of time.
A. We might get into "You bring your server, I'll bring mine and we'll share" agreements.

We're below the radar. By playing without paying, am I ripping you off because you're famous, or am I helping you because you aren't?

This post also appears on the open channel Zap your PRAM conference

What do you think? []  links to this post    3:22:24 PM  
Lisa Sloniowski and Mita Sen-Roy

Working at an academic library at U Windsor, launched an initiative of inventorying sources of news relating to the war in Iraq. The site became rather well-known; right now they're the first Google hit for the query "alternative news Iraq".

When the war broke out many students started searching for information on the first Iraq war - but they had a hard time finding the dissenting voices.

Right away the directory draws a distinction between mainstream sources and non-mainstream sources - which already makes a point, because it is an unusual mode of classification.

Special coverage divided according to country - notice how headlines are differently crafted in different parts of the world e.g., compare CBC and Fox/Faux titles.

Q: CNN's coverage is in between the extremes. How credible is it?
A: If you rely on a single source of news you'll probably get in trouble.

Comment [Rob Paterson]: There's a continuum from Hitler to Steve [audience member]. Thanks to weblogs, you can choose your gatekeepers. In my aggregator I skim the mainstream sources and thoroughly read individuals.

Comment [Steve]: People don't have time to digest. Cramming things in 5-minute bites is unrealistic.

Comment: it's astounding how often the same story is repeated.

[Because of the political bias of our classification] We wondered if the library administration would let us run the site. We turned out to be congratulated on the day after the site went live. That's the last we heard.

Question from Mita to the audience: how much do you expect libraries to be neutral?

The library does not collect non-mainstream sources. We carry the NYT. We don't carry alternative sources. There's a bias in what we carry that outright prevents us from being neutral.

Comment [Steve]: neutrality/objectivity is an illusion. We need to acknowledge that and be clear on what our conclusions are based on.

Q: Who's your user community?
A: We design for the local community, but recently most users are from outside.

A discussion follows:

Wikipedia, Indymedia, etc. don't have a subscription model, but they ask for donations. Ought we to pay for them?

Re: keeping records. Memory Hole, Internet Archive (Wayback Machine), Google cache, permalinked blog archives mentioned. They generally remove content when authors demand it. This is a problem.

[Rob] Real knowledge is inside people. Maybe we should give up on the illusion that all knowledge lies in documents. "Dewey's dead?" "Dewey's dead."

[Seb Fiedler] preservation (formats, artifacts) is a problem.

[Mita] We store archives. But we don't store computers. Long now.

[?] I collect ephemera. I printed out Netscape's first on hi-quality acid-free paper. Library are throwing stuff away. I collect some of it.

[?] Storing stuff in closed formats (e.g. M$ Outlook for email) can be self-defeating. (though open formats are not a panacea - they sometimes fall into disuse too - SP)

[?] Chomsky often says "The things I'm talking about are not secrets. I just give context." (see Ming on that)

[?] The danger in not preserving is that we might throw Rosetta stones away.

Wrapping up...

Lisa: I'm heartened to see that librarians aren't the only ones concerned with archiving.

[SebF]: We all become creators. Amateur photographic output far larger than professional. The librarian question is coming home.


This post also appears on the open channel Zap your PRAM conference

What do you think? []  links to this post    3:02:12 PM  

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