VisitMIX from Home

Just a couple of days left until MIX07 starts. I cleverly evaded responsibility for conference preparations early this year, but have recently been roped in to help with an interesting new project. This year we will be letting you follow along from home, with news updates, interviews, demos, and sessions posted throughout the 72 hours. You’ll be able to follow along at http://www.visitmix.com/. There will be a big crew of people working feverishly throughout the event, and we might even make a few mistakes, so subscribe to the feed!

 

Open Sourcing Flex

Last week I bumped into Ted Leung at a party near Moscone in San Francisco.  Since he wasn’t attending the conference, and he normally works from home here in the Northwest, I assumed he was doing something interesting.  He wouldn’t give me many details, and I figured he would blog about it soon.  Turns out he was (among other things) lobbying Adobe to open-source Flex.

From what I can tell, Adobe looks to be trying to make some news out of thin air right now.  As Ted observes, it’s a promise to open up some really non-essential parts of the platform.  This can’t be too exciting to Google or Mozilla, so I assume it’s just an attempt to generate a bit of incremental goodwill.

~

Update: John Dowdell at Adobe accuses me of hiding my Microsoft affiliation, suggesting “sockpuppetry and skullduggery”.  Considering that this post was categorized as “Life at Microsoft” and the “about” link prominently displayed at top-right is clear about where I work, one would expect that to be clear.  After 7 years of blogging and never having been accused of hiding my affiliation, a google on my name or the name of the blog reveals my employment as well.  But just in case anyone reading this post is still confused, I WORK AT MICROSOFT!  (How that makes Adobe’s announcement more or less significant, I don’t know)

Update 2: John offered to buy me a beer, so I guess I’ll chill out about it 🙂  I even blogged about using Flex to build a sample Apollo app last week, so it’s not like I’m a total shill!

New Favorite Hacker Quote

Alec Baldwin, talking to an answering machine: “You have humiliated me for the last time with this phone”.

There certainly is humiliation and a phone involved, but I think that statement was just the start.  Alec Baldwin, didn’t you promise to leave the country?  There is no reason for an answering machine to put up with such abuse, there are plenty of guys out there.

Web 2.0 Conf Day 3

Session: Understanding User Behavior at Scale, Andy Edmonds

Andy was search quality analyst at MSFT, now at FreeIQ in Atlanta. Discussing some MSR research on predictive models for user’s search relevance judgment. Going into detail about how MSFT improved search relevance (and what we did right and wrong) since 2004 up till now. Interesting charts of temporal variance. Talks about different models and their uses. Now talking about how you can do this for your own sites, using Google Analytics, Clicktracks, or Omniture. Demonstrating eye tracking. (“Eye Gaze Simulator: Flash Emulation of the Visual Field”) Demonstrating use of heatmaps with AJAX – very interesting technique, does AJAX logging based on DOM. Andy’s professional blog.

Keynote: Joost Demo, 4 Winners from Ignite

“Happiness Engineering” – wow, science science science will make us all happy, join the cult! “4 hour work week” Check e-mail twice per day, max. Start ignoring your customers, and they go away, and you have less work. Hire the cheapest possible labor you can. “Open Source Hardware” says, K’Nex Guns, was more appropriate on Sunday. Cool session, kids sharing CAD models for rubber-band guns. Jeez, tripwire claymore mine. “Potenco” – we go to exotic places and do good deeds, and give presentations about good deeds. They have hand-pulled dynamo, contribute to $100 laptop. We enable people with no money or power (but lots of time) to connect to the international banking networks.

Keynote Panel: Enterprises and Web 2.0

Farber is playing the skeptical CIO.

Farber (to Ross of Socialtext): “Tell me in 60 seconds why I should care about Web 2.0, or I’ll kick you out” Ross: You have to care, or YOU will be kicked out. We can let your employees publish to intranet with no approval process. Because we know you hate to control information.

Farber (to Google enterprise guy): “We use Microsoft Office here, why should we care about you?” Goog guy: “Sorry for you that you use MSFT (pauses, waiting for audience to respond, huzzah, huzzah)” Farber: “Umm, don’t you use Excel at Google?” Google guy: fine, we do. We are #2 revenue source for Google (next to ads). (strange – IOW he is saying that Sharepoint revenues are bigger than Goog’s #2 revenue source).

Farber to Satish (Zimbra): same ? Satish: lower cost to manage, better collaboration. Ross: kids today do homework on MySpace and it’s called cheating; then they enter the workforce and it’s called collaboration. Goog guy: You need a new office suite. Same applications from 1992, but with word “collaboration” applied. Goog has such a suite. Farber: You pimp this stuff, but you’re a public company and you have to follow regulations. Do you guys even use it, and are you in compliance with regulations? Goog guy: YES, lots of employees use it. Goog employees who actually need to do real work with docs and spreadsheet use Microsoft. Farber: you keep trying to sell me your apps, yet say you don’t compete. What is your value prop. Goog guy: I actually use Office myself. No reason to ditch office. They are totally complimentary (huh, he just talked about how they’ve ripped and replaced office in some places at Goog – this is sounding eerily like Sun Micro back in the day pushing Java terminals at big enterprises).

Satish and Ross are talking about compat and coexistence being key. Online/offline also key. Satish: we launched offline version of our apps, encourages Google to do that one day too. Google guy: everyone here knows that people do mashups on Google maps, but now it is revolutionizing enterprises, who couldn’t do that before (huh, Goog has zero mapping share in enterprise, and enterprises have been doing it on VE/MapPoint since well before goog maps was made).

Keynote: Topix

Stats about local news and ads site. Local citizen journalism. Bloggers didn’t do local news, though they generate lots of content (apparently riff on primary sources). Gossip and controversy in local area is sticky and massively helpful for page views (no kidding?). Interesting presentation.

Keynote: Battelle and Weiner

Battelle is pointing out that Jerry Yang told him “we follow the tracks”, and build their own copies of content that are popular. He suddenly realizes that “Google might be doing the same thing with onebox!” Weiner stressing strategy for social content. Battelle: why the earnings ho-hum? Why is Google running circles around you? Weiner: We didn’t set your unrealistic expectations. You only were unrealistic in expectations because Panama is doing so hot. Battelle: compare and contrast Y! with Google. Weiner: We respect rights of publishers. We are more than just a search company. We partner with ABC, Fox, AOL, Microsoft. We’re #1 in a bunch of categories. Battelle: isn’t this just people negotiating to get leverage with Goog? Weiner: no.

Yahoo Answers: 90 million unique users, 250 million answers. Battelle: Doubleclick? Weiner: everyone wants to follow us into display ads. Battelle: would you like to criticize Microsoft and their declining search share now? Weiner: No. Enemy of my enemy is my friend. Battelle: are you going to merge with them? Weiner: not that I know of?

 

Web 2.0 Conf Day 2

(Raw notes, updated throughout the day, reverse-chronological)

Session: Dojo Offline Toolkit

Brad Neuberg, discussing Dojo Offline Toolkit. Interesting premise. They have built a 300k runtime to handle offline support, “super cookies” and “browser-agnostic cache”. I’m having trouble understanding the relationship between this and Dojo. It adds a namespace dojo.off, and changes dojo.storage. But is it intended to be bundled with Dojo? Saying things like “Here’s what Dojo recommends”, so I assume he’s speaking on behalf of Dojo. (Clarified – will be in Dojo distribution at end of this week).

Making a good point. Why do you want a merge UI? Merge/resolve UIs suck, and just confuse people.

Pretty sweet, “replay log” architecture. Implemented as local proxy, only caches GETs, doesn’t queue post. You need to enable etag support, HTTP 1.1 if you want the pages to run offline.

Session: Large Datacenters with Shipping Container Model, James Hamilton

Amazing talk. He’s going into excruciating detail about the economics that drive Goog, Yhoo, and Live. This is really deep internal information that most people don’t know about our companies. Enterprises are fundamentally different from big datacenter at scale. Enterprises consolidate to reduce admin costs. Big datacenters one or two orders of magnitude cheaper in admin costs – admin costs become negligible, so economics drive to have more systems of smaller size.

Sun shipping 242 systems in 20′ x 8′ x 8′. Rackable systems – 1152 systems in 40′; 2 million dollars. They are both serviceable.

James making the case for using that extra space for computing hardware. Don’t worry about servicing each system – same as hard drive sectors. As long as you can depower dead systems, you are better off. Lots of good Q&A. James puts another very interesting stake in the ground – not only should the details of these systems be public, they should be available for others to use just like you buy an OS today. That goes for rack/container design, but also for storage service and ops management.

Microformats: John Allsop

Telling people to try Operator on Firefox. Now he’s doing an RDF vs. Microformats (googlefight) smackdown. He is off in the weeds, talking about “wisdom of the crowds”, as if there is a relation – it is very obtuse and unsubstantiated. He seems to be arguing that Microformats put small guy more on level playing field with Google, since you don’t need Google PhDs to extract semantics. This ignores Schmidt’s comments about “we don’t have better algorithms, we just have more data”. The data center and 80% market share are the moat – not the PhDs.

Now showing XFN. Rips on IE6, admits that IE7 works with the rel selectors. Showing hCard (a bit more practical). This session is really remedial. Talking about descendent selectors now.

Keynotes: Eric Schmidt

(heavy paraphrasing) Schmidt, announcing that Google is launching presentations app to go with rest of their Office suite. He repeats, “Like I told Scoble, we don’t compete with MSFT”. Battelle calls B.S. on him, “Come on!” Eric well-rehearsed, “this is about a more natural fit with the web”. Battelle: Why would you pay 3.1 billion for a company that MSFT thought was worth 2 billion max? Eric: Mumble, mumble. Battelle: are you going to kill the SEO business you bought with Doubleclick? Eric: dunno yet. Battelle: you distribute an app that deletes doublelick cookies. Battelle: Doubleclick has tons of information about my business. So does Google. You know my business better than I do; am I a sissy to be terrified? Eric: You could always go use one of the zero remaining companies we haven’t bought. Comfort, comfort, mumble, mumble. Battelle: ironic, MSFT and AT&T claiming antitrust against Google. Now Eric seems to be doing an about-face, saying that YouTube is going to be the one video platform to rule them all. Battelle: Are you going to compete with S3, EC2? Eric is getting annoying – says basically, “yes we will compete, but we’ll say that we aren’t and pretend it is something different”. Doing same thing with “net neutrality” (we don’t compete with telcos, honest). Eric: mobile is the new plastic. We will suck the profits from telcos investment in 3G, 4G. Eric: we’re good people, we helped Darfur. Battelle: You guys are so cool because you pay lip service to data portability Eric: Yes, we do pay lip service; thank God nobody ever examined that promise deeply (we would just say it’s too hard technologically)

Keynotes: Hitwise and Sifry

Participatory web, pretty stereotyped in terms of demographics segmenting. Men lek. Has some theories about what it takes to cross chasm. Predicts Yelp and Stumbleupon poised to blow up. www.ilovedata.com. www.hitwise.com.

Sifry: most people don’t realize they are reading blogs. Blog growth is slowing, but top link targets are twice as likely to be blogs now. NYT still dominates; for some reason Dave says NYT is not a blog. Mentions Doc Searls – high linkage, low traffic versus porn – high traffic, low linkage. Says Iran has a repressive regime? 88 of top 100 bloggers are new each year.

Session: Accessibility 2.0: Matt May

Really important session. Web 2.0 changed a lot of things, accessibility standards were developed in a different time.

Starts with (paraphrased) “Accessibility is right not privilege” (I forgot to bring my “When?” T-shirt). It is also the law (WCAG/508). If someone cannot browse, find, login, register, or transact – it’s not accessible. User testing is the only way to know for sure. No silver bullet.

Valid, semantic HTML is the best start. Next, use unobtrusive JavaScript (content, behavior, and style should be three totally separate pieces). Make sure your CMS and tools don’t get in the way.

1.3m legally blind, 421,000 deaf in both ears. More than 10x increase for people who are just impaired. Cognitive. Makes the point that this is simply what HCI is about anyway. Accessibility is related to SEO (“Google is a blind user with millions of friends”).

Evaluates YouTube and Twitter. YouTube is OK, Twitter is better – but CAPTCHA (visual only) is fatal flaw. Recommends www.webaim.org, www.webstandards.org, www.juicystudio.com.

Web 2.0 Conf Day 1

(Raw notes, updated throughout the day, will be adding content reverse-chronological)

“High Order Bit” (Demos)

Apollo demos. Showing the same ebay demo we’ve seen before. It’s very nice. Demos a salesforce.com client (amazing), and Buzzword. Their media player demo isn’t as nice. They would have had far more people at the session this morning if these demos had come first. Everything is SWF, though (session in A.M. stayed away from SWF). They are trying hard to compete with WPF; the demos are pretty nice. They completely copied our demos from last year. Looks a bit more crude than the demos at MIX06 last year, but it’s cross-platform (he’s running on mac).

Now we’re voting on cool companies. Tim already stacked the deck in favor of Spock yesterday. Cool feature; but a feature is not a company.

John Battelle Panel: “Built to Last or Built to Sell”

Standard discussion about tradeoffs in taking VC money, selling to please the founders, selling to take care of the people, or taking the gamble on maybe being the one in the VC portfolio that really blows up.

Mena just said she wouldn’t want to be acquired by some unnamed company 🙂 Mena explains that she won’t sell for lower than YouTube, since her Mom expects her to make more. Mena says it’s a mistake for startups to get too interested in partnering with big companies.

Keynote (Jeff Bezos & Tim O’Reilly)

Opening. They’re showing the “The Machine is Using Us” video clip from the Kansas State professor bigscreen. Nice touch.

Brady: 3.1 billion people from 59 countries here.

Tim: “after the bubble burst, we at O’Reilly sat down and thought ‘how can we re-ignite this party?'” 🙂 Mentions cars.

Several thousand people in here, and Wifi seems to be working great.

Jeff Bezos: You can tell he’s originally from MSFT by his presentation/speaking style. S3 is processing up to 920million requests a day. He’s throwing around lots of geek buzzwords, “platform, loosely-coupled, blah, blah, pointer, queue, consumer, producer, worker process, capability, spawn, clone, instantiate, throughput”. Wow, I could have explained the EC2/S3 value prop 10x better than he just did. The “real world” example he gave is “I’m building a spaceship, and needed to serve video of it”. There are tons of partners who could have told a better story.

Tim interviewing Jeff on stage. Tim: “Why make a generic platform? Everyone else exposes their service (like commerce, catalog, book selling)” Jeff: we start at the foundation, and we’re good at it.

Tim: “Google has paypal running around like an anthill poked by a stick. Are you trying to poke paypal too? (regarding amazon payments)” Jeff: laughs.

Tim: “Are you making any money? Google and MSFT are making datacenters. And if everyone jumps on your service, could you handle it?” Jeff: we’d love that. We want to be demand-constrained instead of capacity-constrained.

(Tim is excellent interviewer, very astute)

Tim: “What disruptions are you scared of (or eager for)?” long back/forth about – are you a retail company trying to escape to higher-margin business? Jeff: we like hard jobs, we have 10million sq. feet of fulfillment centers, we are good at low margin stuff (paraphrasing).

(Jeff is sharp, too. Reminds me of Tim O’Reilly/BillG at MIX06 last year)

Jeff: moving physical goods isn’t going to go away, unless Ray Kurzweil is right 🙂 He’s talking about how Amazon fulfillment works, as a service – pay per drink in cubic foot. Storage/Picking services.

Tim: “talk about involvement in 37signals”. Jeff: “I like their founders and their philosophy”

Tim: “talk about ebook reader” Jeff: “I’m willing to use as much of our time together as you like talking about things I won’t talk about”

Tim: “What’s up with persecuting alexaholic?” Jeff: “Copyright. They are still redirecting the domain. They are stealing the graphs without permission”.

Tim: “Well, you should figure out how to work out your issues” (Jeff should have answered the e-book question more politely)

Session: “The Story Behind Facebook’s APIs: From REST to FQL” Dave Morin

Good session. Ari and Dave explaining the new FQL design, as well as how they implemented. Now doing demo of mosoto.

Session: “Placelessness and the Advance of Micropublishing” Alex Faaborg and “Web 2.0 Security

Missed most of Alex’s talk, since I was watching the security session. Alex talked about the Firefox plans for micropublishing support, a lot of the stuff he’s talked about on his blog before. The Web 2.0 security talk was great. AJAX and dynamic client code massively raises the bar for security. He showed a bunch of exploits that were well-presented and easy to understand.

Having issues with space; many of the rooms were far too full.

Session: “Apollo and Flex

Good session, despite the network connectivity problems.

Mike Chambers, Adobe. He’s using a mac! But the network is not working. His top bullet point in “functionality” slide is “Offline/Occasionally” connected. That doesn’t mean flakily/sadistically connected. This has got to be incredibly stressful for presenters; all his demos are having trouble. If this wireless keeps sucking, I’m going to just go to parties at night and skip the conference during the day.

Showing designer use to build simple RSS aggregator; loading Y! AJAX widgets and using in designer. Pretty cool. (revision on mac count. 2 macs in front 4 right rows; maybe 1/10 in this room are macs)

Lots of handwaving about, “this is not for web apps, it is for desktop apps”. Spends a lot of time justifying decision to use WebKit instead of Gecko or Opera. Seems like a (very) bad decision, but at least they treat rendering engine as a first-class part of runtime. 5-9MB runtime (including rendering engine).

Is not talking about SWF at all. Pitching this as x-platform networking, file APIs, etc. stack. This could put them in direct competition with Mozilla, for app scenarios like AllPeers. Did they chose to go with the Mozilla compete spin to avoid getting people worried about SWF (which could be branded as “proprietary”)?

Talking about app deployment scenarios. Then did obligatory Hello World; one version SWF, the other HTML. It all works on my machine, using the disc included in the attendee bag.

Session: “The New Hybrid Designer“.

Panel format; Richard McManus, Kelly Goto, etc. I counted about 90 laptops open in the section I’m at. Not a single Macintosh, not one. Guess I need to look harder. About 1 of 5 have Vista. (Funny, to show difference between “old” designers and “new” designers, they show a slide with the PC vs. Mac guys from the Apple ads J)

Installing Apollo/Flex. Interesting tidbit about Toshiba M7 with Vista: if you are in power saver mode, the DVD drive doesn’t work. Switching to balanced turns it back on, and switching to power saver again turns it back off. Still haven’t seen a Mac; not even with the people doing the A/V.

25 minutes in, they need to bring in more chairs, as people wake up and stagger in. Perhaps the mac users were sleeping in (nope). Show of hands, developers outnumber one another 2:1.

Chris Messina raising important point; Apollo and Silverlight work against the “View Source” button (applause…).

Wifi unreliable.

 

First Impressions

Registration and procurement of attendee loot bag took 1 minute, total. No kidding.

8:00 A.M. ran into James Hamilton. His session will be really important – “Commodity Data Center Design” (with Shipping Containers)

Laptop power is on 3rd floor in the “power room”. Everyone has laptops open in sessions nevertheless. I have three batteries in my bag, suckers!

Circumcise the Shechemites!

The U.N. is actually recommending that adult males in Africa be circumcised, and New York City is considering the same.

This is astonishing, not only because it is wacky science, but because it is the quintessential 3,000 years-old example of wacky science.

Basically, the U.N. did the work to show that men who were circumcised as children are only half as likely to get AIDS (in Africa). Circumcision and low incidence of AIDS are correlated. But as all good students know, correlation does not equal causation. It only makes sense that there is an external third factor which accounts for a significant part of the correlation.

Any mother willing to slice her baby’s anatomy for the sake of righteousness is probably going to raise him with some hang-ups about sex. On the other hand, circumcision probably gives no significant protection to a man who was raised with no sexual hang-ups, who is so attached to his virile escapades that he is willing to undergo a painful and disfiguring operation in order to continue chasing his desires unhindered by AIDS. The U.N. has no evidence or experimental data to support the conclusion that circumcising sexually promiscuous adult males will help.  It is incomprehensible that they would be exhorting a whole continent to experiment on such flimsy premises.

But the most bewildering part is that nobody seems to notice that this story was told once before, 3,000 years ago. There are some differences, but the similarities are eerie. In the story, the Shechemites are overcome with desire and are convinced that circumcision will give them membership to the tribe; both allowing them to escape punishment for succumbing to the temptation, and giving free rein to continue in that desire. They fail to realize that circumcision is a side-effect of membership in the tribe rather than cause. When all of their adult males have mutilated themselves and are lying in pain, they are slaughtered – presumably to make way for people who are a bit smarter about the distinction between correlation and causation.

Name ActiveX Control

I noticed some strange behavior when visiting some of the few SharePoint-based blogs out on the wild Internets.

First, on home.infusionblogs.com, I was prompted with “This website wants to run the following add-on”.

It’s apparently signed by Microsoft, but the name is ‘Name ActiveX Control’. Was this a case where someone forgot to name the ActiveX control, I wondered?

To get more information, I clicked “run”. I am not foolhardy, I just know that clicking “run” doesn’t really mean “run” – it means, “give me some more info”. Here is the dialog I got:

Sure enough, the name of the ActiveX control is “Name ActiveX Control”, signed by Microsoft. When you click on the name, it sends you to office.microsoft.com, suggesting that it’s something important. This time, I clicked “don’t run”, though, since if it has to ask, the answer is “no”.

Update: clicking the red ‘x’ in the dialog box allows you to cancel out without approving or disapproving.  That’s handy, and prevents breaking the Intranet.

Now, when browsing some other public SharePoint blogs, I get a warning:

This is good, it’s what I expected. Clicking the dialog (or going to ToolsManage Add-Ons) tells me that the control being requested is name.dll, or NameCtrl. The ProgID is Name.NameCtrl.1, and documentation seems sparse. Basically, this appears to be the control that allows a web page to get presence information about you (the little green bubble that shows next to a person’s name in Outlook or SharePoint). I am glad I didn’t enable that on the public Internet, since there is no way I want nastyevil.com to get my presence information!

However, there seems to be a catch. When I browse to any internal blog sites now, I get the same warning. And presence information no longer shows on internal sites! If I go into IE and enable the control, it will expose me across the web.

This is a bug caused by the way ActiveX opt-in is designed.

~

Update: I investigated some more, and have confirmed my theory. I went into the registry editor (regedt32) and cleared the IE7 “ActiveX Opt-In” information. I just deleted both keys in the registry:

(The full path is in the status bar of the screen clip) and

To make sure IE reloaded the settings, I had to close IE, and also go to task manager and kill ieuser.exe. Now when I fire up IE7 and browse to a page that looks for presence information, I get the nice green bubbles.

This teaches me two lessons:

  • Sites which exist on the public Internet should not use this control, because it puts users in the uncomfortable position of choosing between A) being less secure on the Internet, and B) breaking functionality that currently works on their Intranet
  • If I browse to a site that tries to use the control, I should just ignore the gold bar. Getting more info then breaks the Intranet, if I decline to turn the control on

Imus, Locke and Bigots

Tim is acknowledging that he ruffled some feathers with his approach to blogger’s code of conduct.  But the trolls still are busy trying to drown the conversation and change the subject.  I was having trouble understanding why some of these people were so angry at Tim, until I found the blog of the dude who made the “noose in Kathy’s neck size” comment.

It looks like someone tracked down the identities of a few of the perpetrators, and the perps are in full CYA mode.  It reminds me a whole lot of Imus’s “I have some black people renting on my ranch” comment.  I really don’t have a bone to pick with these people (everyone makes mistakes), but I’ll share some of the links here to make a broader point.

First, though, I want to address this comment from Rogers Cadenhead (who isn’t a perp, just defending what he believes in):

“In retrospect, though, it seems pretty clear to me that when Kathy posted her now-famous blog entry, anger and fear led you both to combine two things — her anonymous, criminal tormenter(s) and the non-anonymous, non-criminal, mostly harmless stuff that went on at Mean Kids.”

It’s true that the two need to be separated.  I spearated them from the beginning, but I don’t give meankids a free pass.  This line of reasoning seems a lot like Imus saying “emotion caused you to combine two things — mean old bigots in Alabama, and harmless old me doing comedy”Imus tried that line of reasoning, and it didn’t work.  The fact that the two things can be so easily conflated is not permission to cross the line, it is a resposibility to be extra cautious.

More instructive (or disturbing) is Shelley Powers response on the same thread.  It is apparent that Shelley is feeling threatened or attacked over this, which was a surprise to me:

“Why no mention that the person who posted the noose photo was a woman, and she did so based on a joking request made by Kathy herself. Why nothing on that Bert?

You continue, Bert, and this is going to backfire against you. From what I can see, the people who have a legitimate reason to take anything to the courts, are the ones you are continually harassing, and the ones who were erroneously associated with death threats, and whose lives and potentially careers have been impacted. …

It’s unfortunate both sites were taken down, because looked at in the whole, the first was harmless, and I’ll bet the second one was, too. That one post on Maryam, yes that was ugly. And the person who wrote it deserves to be slammed for it. But it wasn’t a threat and it wasn’t illegal.”

Great, so Shelley is telling us the following:

  1. Some of the comments weren’t threats and they weren’t illegal, so that makes it OK.  I guess that clears Imus too.  There is nothing illegal about calling women working to better their lives, “nappy headed hos”.
  2. A woman participated in the fray, so clearly there can’t be any misogyny involved.  I will read Shelley’s future posts about “women in technology” very differently, now that I know this.
  3. If anyone tries to link the nasty, permissive environment (nooses and all) with the actual death threats that emerged, they better look out.  I’m not sure what the punishment will be, but don’t dare speak up and say that Locke and crew might have been responsible for creating this environment.

This is the same Shelley Powers who yesterday lectured Scoble publicly for “demeaning” his wife, when his wife has a public blog and said no such thing (and has no problem speaking for herself).  This is the same Shelley who blogs publicly about how “diverse” she is because she watched a “Chinese Couple” walk around her apartment complex in Missouri (or something like that).  No Chinese woman I know would walk five steps behind any man (and would be insulted/amused at the idea), but “those people” apparently aren’t relevant to the story.  In America, we like to get our “diversity” in bite-sized chunks of ethnic restaurants and clothing, all carefully categorized and narrated by white people.

But this is a post about Imus and Locke.  The point is, it’s not illegal to say something stupid and accidentally reveal your bigotry.  It’s perfectly legal for me to look at what Imus said, and say “OMG, what an irrelevant imbecile bigot”.  It’s like the Thurmond descendant, who upon hearing that Al Sharpton was descended from her grandfather and a slave, said (of Thurmond), “it’s wonderful he was able to be successful despite what his ancestors were”.  Sitting on her North Carolina plantation, she probably still has no clue how utterly ignorant, repulsive, and fringe a comment like that is.

I get no pleasure from watching Imus lose his job.  And I can totally understand people being defensive when they are being threatened with legal action over ignorant comments.  But when you do something stupid, spending the next two weeks challenging people’s right to form opinions about you is probably not a good strategy.

~

And what is it with the knee-jerk Hitler associations?  Not only the gratuitous “vaterland” reference, but also Sicherheitsdienst.

It’s embarassingly ignorant and unimaginative.  They trundle out “Nazi” every time they feel lectured; almost as if they’ve been preconditioned ala Peter Sellers in “Clockwork Orange”.  Have none of them read their history books?  This mob isn’t a mob of pitchforks or brownshirts.  There is no threatening here.  It is only lecturing.

The appropriate comparison is to the the Red Guards of the Cultural Revolution.  As Wikipedia relates, “They held public meetings to criticize and solicit self-criticism from suspected ‘counter-revolutionaries.’ … the 16 Points and other pronouncements of the central Maoist leaders forbade “physical struggle (武斗)” in favor of “verbal struggle” (文斗)”

This is all just “wen dou” between civilized people, inviting the bigoted dinosaurs to publicly engage in self-criticism.

Happy Slappers Unite!

Tim O’Reilly is drawing some irrational criticism for proposing a voluntary code of conduct for comment boards.  Hundreds of boards already have codes of conduct, and the mob never complained about that, so apparently the issue is just that people hate Tim.  Or they hate that an a-lister is promoting civility and recommending others do the same.

But I am glad that an a-lister is not afraid to stand up for civility.  Dave Winer was one of the first to take such a step, when trolls were fouling up his blog comments.  He turned off comments, saying “it’s my blog, and I make the rules”.  Everyone screamed “censorship!”.  I supported him then, and still do.  Chris Locke, on the other hand, wants to have it both ways.  He wants to incite nasty behavior, and claim “I didn’t write it, I don’t make the rules, and I will never censor anyone”.  It is so dishonest that it’s pathetic.

Government authorities in this age of YouTube have been looking at ways to deal with losers who hide behind “free speech”.  France recently banned “happy slapping“, which is the practice of getting your buddy to assault someone, and then taping and publishing the attack.  The losers hid behind “free speech”, saying “I didn’t perpetrate the act, and it was news, so it is my journalistic right to publish it.”  The French law bans anyone other than professional journalists from publishing video footage of violence online.  The hypocrite civil libertarians are screaming bloody murder, but I support the French.

In my opinion, these scum are not very distant from the a-listers who republished the Anshe Chung video after it was pulled from YouTube.  They acted as if they were upholding some great journalistic integrity by running the virtual rape footage, but they were simply looking for ratings.  Showing the full video had absolutely no journalistic value — the snapshots which the real journalists at CNET ran were more than enough, and it’s possible to convey the news without running the images at all.

This is my gripe with John Perry Barlow and EFF.  If they had their way, people would have a right to profit from murder, rape, and child molestation; as long as the events portrayed *actually* happened and the person doing the filming was not involved.  We already see people leveraging video of beheading, military killing, etc. to get ad revenues on their web sites.  It is quite easy to see where this is going.  We are rapidly moving to a time where snuff films will be legal and easily available, in increasingly gory detail. 

A serial killer, terrorist, or rapist who wants to broadcast his acts to the world no longer has to worry about old media’s conservatism.  He simply has to find one bozo like Chris Locke who craves page views and is willing to hide behind “I don’t censor!”.  This isn’t 1969 anymore.  Google has broken the back of old media, and with it the civility the “old boys” could enforce.  And the equation is completely changed with ubiquitous ability to publish and index on YouTube.

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Again, I don’t support additional regulations on bloggers.  But anyone who thinks Tim O’Reilly is the enemy for calling for civility, needs to think twice.  If a-listers would stand up for civility, and condemn things like Chris Locke’s “virtual happy slapping forum”, maybe we could avoid regulations for a while longer.  But as long as Perry Barlow and the rest of the mob bury their heads in the sand and act like it’s evil to speak out in favor of civility, things are going to get a lot worse.