Thursday, March 30, 2006

African Digerati

You only keep what you give away - sound crazy?

Let's talk about Africa - stereotyped? Certainly, we can agree on this statement. Well, try this google. 277.000.000 results?

Let's step back a minute a look at the broad strokes.

One of the qualities that developing nations must have is the ability to envision the future. Vision might seem a lofty goal compared with the hard (and sometimes, harsh) realities of of the local village or neighborhood but without vision, direction and decision-making becomes difficult. Without a view of the big picture, making even a small decision can appear to be a mountain to be climbed.

Africa is such a big and diverse place. It's a good thing to have a view for the big picture. But how does this view come together? Bottom-up? Top-down? In most African nations, the answer is obvious but technology is changing that.

$100 laptop? No.

Bono and Bill Gates? No.

IMF? Global Fund? World Bank? Jeffrey Sachs? No.

This has to be homegrown - a movement of the masses in Africa and it's starting.

It's easy for readers - and even smart commentators like Sachs - to forget how young most African nations are. Even in Ghana, the first nation to shake off colonial rule during the post-colonial last half century, many people remember the pride of independence and the pain of colonial rule. Looking to the years where people couldn't govern their own countries or move freely in their own nations, is it so hard to believe that many Africans could be profoundly hopeful, despite misrule, corruption and civil violence?

This hope can be fuelled through knowledge sharing and opportunity. We all need to be involved in the discussion but we also need to shut-up and let them get on with it.

Listen to these statements about breaking stereotypes.

Ghassan Essalehi, student, Morocco outlined personal goals from his own perspective. Download ghassan_essalehi_edit_mp3.mp3

Amri Malika, law student, Tunisia wanted to see the following taboos lifted in her country. Download amri_malika_edit_mp3.mp3

Google it and you will find several results about breaking stereotype of African music, dance, women, politics but where is the African Digerati? It's there - loud and clear - just have to look for it!

Below is a very very very short list. Do me a favor and read about Africa from the Africans. I don't agree with all that I read (even so in the Western media) but it's an interesting perspective.

But we all know that being a 'passive consumer' rather than an 'active participant' is not in the best interests of a developing nation's government or business sectors. Technological self-determination in developing countries is key to their future prosperity and is contingent on harnessing the power of this high-tech phenomenon.

But it's not about the technology in itself.

It's about how the technology is used to deliver information. A cure or a placebo? Certainly a cure if social and behavior change is the result.

The Internet user base in Africa is said to exceed 25 million with two-thirds of that access coming in from cybercafes but if the Internet is to play a significant role in the lives of Africans, much of that access has to shift to homes.

But the +400% growth in usage per year is very attractrive to the telecom monopolies and corrupt or restrictive governments.

Give them a read - it will open your minds and I hope that you share the knowledge - remember - you only keep what you give away.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

New humanism?

Let's face it - when it comes to technology, the average citizen is in neanderthal mode. That is why we get such neanderthalian politicians and businessmen.

McLuhan said that, 'digital culture is the cognitive phase of electricity. Just as we took the muscular phase (heat, light and energy) for granted, many are taking this new phase for granted' ... but greed takes it toll often forcing participants to move to the 'making a killing' side of the 'making a difference' scale.'

What I mean is that most people only worry about how their body works when they have a backache, or about their car when they have to bring it to the garage. And with respect to the new social technologies, how do they make a buck with what they know.

There is definitely something wrong with creating a space, inviting all your friends in to network and then selling it (and them) all for a price. I guess that's capitalism at its best.

But there is hope.

The transformation is happening just as surely and unconsciously as it did at the time of the council of Trent when wise people were trying to put an old order into a religion that was being rapidly undermined by a totally new conception of man. Today, we are literally run over by the globalized and connective condition of humankind without the slightest moment of doubt.

Derrick de Kerckhove, the Director of the McLuhan Program calls them 'psychotechnologies' because they have one specific feature that they do not share directly with genetic engineering, that is their relationship to language.

'All technologies that code, sort and transport language also modify it and modify the speaker, listener, and generally the user of language. Language entertains an intimate relationship with our mind and all technologies that affect language also affect the strategies we use to organize time, space and self.'

So psycho-technologies restructure our minds? Yes, it bypasses language to address the basic building materials of the physical being.

New humanism?

Western humans became individuals at great cost of life and limb during the religious wars that followed the Reformation, itself a result of the spread of books by Gutenberg's invention.

However, it is predictable that this model of humanity will suffer a setback under the new digital conditions that affect our current time, our current space and, naturally, our conception of self.

But we have been there and done that several times over.

Today to counterbalance the effects of the new socio-digital developments that threaten the stance of the ABCED-minded man, we are seeing the development of a new culture within our universities and organizations; a new connective identity of the blogging world that is clashing with the identities of the literate man.

Is this the new interactivity, hypertextuality and connectivity miracle that will change everything? Certainly not.

Derrick de Kerckhove summarizes:
  • It takes two wings to fly, so do not ask me to waste my time with the left or the right alone;
  • In a world where matter and history are losing their capacity ofresistancee to plans, simulations and programming, we are now capable of willing reality, not merely stay victims of history or nature;
  • The real political job of the ordinary man today is to develop as comprehensive, fair and inclusive a vision of the world as possible and act on it.
This is why I like to get involved in discussions with new thinkers. Certainly not better thinkers. I think that is up to us to decide, filter, apply, etc. but new thinking, often scoured at from the margins, is the source of all change.

Reaching Out to the world - Part 1

I have the honor of talking to a group of very sophisticated and energized people at a British Council sponsored conference. Reach Out encourages and enables open discussion between young people from Arab countries and the United Kingdom about issues raised by the United Nation's World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS).

The discussions are in Tunisia and is all week.

Matt is blogging the event and it is very interesting. No hype - real issues.

Several groups are discussing which organizations have a stake in development work. Those listed as making differing contributions included:

British Council, United Nations, Junior Achievement International, EuroMed, CSV (Community Service Volunteering, CCRP (Centre for Conflict Resolution and Peace Building), Red Cross Youth Movement, Muslim Council of Britain, IndyMedia, and more.

One of the groups felt that developmental organizations' effectiveness was influenced by their composition, agendas, funding, community reach, amongst other factors.

One participant, Nader Houella, Red Cross, Lebanon, had a few words on his own work. Download the mp3 here.

Drop by the site and listen to the several mp3s that are available.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Side effects of venture capital

Ready or not, the beleaguered and bloodied telecommunications industry must now analyze and assimilate a new species of predator in Jajah, a Luxembourg-based VoIP service provider that threatens everyone including Skype, a member of its own species.

Jajah made its official entry into the telecommunications jungle with the news that Sequoia Capital, a prominent venture capital firm with deep roots in the telecommunications industry, invested $2 million in the company.

Because using Jajah’s VoIP system does not require the user to download any software, à la eBay’s Skype, or to acquire any hardware, à la Vonage, the $2 million could go a long, long way.

To use Jajah’s system, users need only have a telephone number, either fixline or mobile. They type in their phone number and the phone number they want to call on Jajah’s web site. They then press a big green call button and Jajah will then call the two numbers and route the connection over the Internet.

I am dreaming of Jajah kiosks all over Africa - people walk up, input the info and presto - the economic development begins: small villages, churches, health centers. Maybe even a roving mobile unit.

ITU should be watching. Grameen should be watching.

Telecoms should be watching their power base slide, slide away.

Digital early-warning health system

TED Prize winner, Dr. Larry Brilliant: public health guru (he helped eradicate smallpox), visionary technologist (co-founded The Well, a legendary online community), activist, author, and founder of the Seva Foundation wants build a powerful new early-warning system to protect our world from some of its worst nightmares. The system is to be called INSTEDD (International Networked System for Total Early Disease Detection).

In his own words, 'I've been in conversations with WHO, CDC, Johns Hopkins and the other universities from the Pandefense "consortium" about using the prize to build a virtual earth with multiple webcrawlers, infobots, comparative historical databases, hi-res coordinated satellite photography, IM and text messaging - for the earliest possible detection of new outbreaks of bird flu, novel diseases like SARS and ebola, as well as new emerging biological threats, whether bio-terror or bio-error.

The world would not today be playing catch up with new pandemics if we had such a system in place 30 years ago; governments would not be able to hide cases of bird flu or genocide, they would not be able to delay reporting cases of polio and the world would have an entirely different view of emerging new communicable diseases if such a system were operative.

I don't know if you know that SARS was first discovered by a group in Canada following up on reports from a webcrawler about cases of fever, even though the first cases were in China.'

Rachel pointed me here. Check it out. It's very interesting.

Declan Butler, the person behind this effort, developed a visualization of avian flu outbreaks in the first online map of each of the more than 1800 individual outbreaks of avian flu in birds that have been reported over the past two years. It also provides a geographical overview of confirmed human cases of infection with the H5N1 influenza virus. There is also an accompanying paper on but unfortunately, only for 'Premium plus subscribers'.

Too bad. That's doesn't help but still, it's a great start. Maybe Declan will open the paper up - kudos if he does!

What's interesting about this - apart from the novel idea of spotting outbreaks around the physical world by scanning the information shadow they leave in the digital cyberworld - is that to work it depends critically on having free access to as much information and as many scientific and medical reports as possible.

Indeed, this seems a clear case where it could be claimed that not providing open access in relevant areas - and the range of subjects that are relevant is vast - is actually endangering the lives of millions of people.

Something for publishers and their lawyers to think about, perhaps.

Chinese influence on the Internet

'Hypocrisy is the homage that vice pays to virtue,' said Voltaire.

Maybe this held up in the 18th century. But in today's interconnected world, where everybody has an idea of what everyone else is doing and saying, people begin accumulating tallies, and the feeling in China, as in much of the world, is that the US is starting to loose the battle.

Many of the recent actions taken by the Bush administration seem almost like plays read from a script written by a Chinese mole, whose purpose was to give Beijing a pass on some of its most offensive behavior by preemptively discrediting the United States.

Just count the ways: detention of prisoners without due process (Guantánamo Bay), the indictment of journalists, the subpoenas for Google's search engine records, the torture of prisoners, domestic surveillance and on and on.

Events like these have created a huge opening for China, which this country's leadership, as savvy and nimble as it can be cynical, has been quick to exploit.

When the State Department released its most recent annual human rights report last month, the Chinese were ready with an answer in the form of a counter-report on the United States that was more assertive than its replies in the past.

Qin Gang, pointedly said that the US should start to clean its own house. To quote,

The US should put an immediate end to its erroneous act of interfering with other countries' internal affairs and mind more of its own human rights issues. As a matter of fact, the US violations of human rights and its double standards have met increasingly stronger criticism by its domestic public and the international community.

The declining moral influence of the United States is bemoaned by intellectuals in China's burgeoning but fragile new civil society.

The problem with the United States is that there's such a big gap these days between the internal discourse and its international actions. In Iraq, for example, they kill 10,000 Iraqis, and nobody figures it's a big deal.

China is very aware of the role of civil society in supervising the government, and how this can play a big role in the future of the internet. And they have their own 'internet filtering' issues as well as other governments.

Any number of indicators point to an end of the US being the dominant player in how the internet is applied at the social-economical level. Put simply, American influence has peaked and has now enetered an era of long-term and perhaps accelerating decline.

Along with China's amazing quarter century of growth has come both a rise in power relative to the West, as well as increasing self-confidence and is the next big player.

But here's something interesting ...

Billed as the next generation of the Internet, a new technical standard enthusiastically embraced by China will allow greater traceability of Internet users, potentially endangering those expressing views counter to the government's.

The standard, known as IPv6, solves technical problems faced by the Internet around the world, but Internet freedom advocates outside China warn that the internationally developed norm would also allow Beijing authorities - or any government or company for that matter - to have a better idea of what individuals are doing on the Internet.

True, fighting Internet crime requires a more certain way of identifying people online and the IPv6 standard offers the best mechanism for establishing the identity of users online. Although the increased traceability does have a number of benefits for internet users and companies but it's still sharp on both sides of the knife.

By giving a unique identifier to every computer or device on the Internet, content can become more targeted - it's easier for a 3rd parties (marketers as well as governments) to know when you are visiting a site but the danger can come when users wish to conceal their identity.

Under IPv6 we make more information available about ourselves but can we decide for ourselves whether that is a good or a bad thing?

Backgrounder - IPv6 explained:

Adopted in the 1980s, the current IP system, IPv4 has only 4.3 billion possible addresses, and those could all be used up within the next five years. The United States controls 74 per cent of thes IP addresses, while the amount that China has is only equal to just the MIT campus. Many African countries have as few as 2,000 total addresses.

The implementation of the IPv6 standard will expands the number of potential addresses into the trillions. That means that not only computers will ba allocated an identifying number: all items will have one inclusing clothing, products, houses, doors, windows, shoes, etc - catch my drift?

Implementation of the detailed addressing system in China began in 2004 with the experimental introduction of a network called Cernet2 to link 200 universities and more than 100 research institutes. The networks using the new address system can run seamlessly alongside the current system.

Three more networks using the IPv6 standard started trial operations in the past year, and two more networks are expected to come online shortly. Many other networks around the world are also adopting IPv6, but China and some other Asian nations are particularly ahead.

A new book by Tim Wu (Columbia) and Jack Goldsmith (Harvard), 'Who Controls the Internet?' opens the window on China.

The vast majority of the Internet users in China are in their 20s and 30s with good education and incomes. Many Chinese intellectuals and opinion leaders now frequently surf the Web. Most Chinese Internet users use the Web from home (61%), while others log online at work (45.1%), at school (18.3%) or at Internet cafes (15.2%).

What does this mean? Not what one would think by listening to FOX or CNN.

American influence on China through the Internet is a broad topic. Via the Internet, American values can be seen and compared to every aspect of Chinese society. Americans have always tried to influence Chinese culture but now, many Chinese reformers favor American influence arguing learning from others is the best way to improve.

The growing of the internet in China and the Cinese influence over the internet is an unimpeded trend. China has a long history. Chinese cultural traditions have are deeply rooted in society.

The Internet makes Chinese people get information much faster than before and have a better view of the world. Chinese people also use the Internet to promote Chinese culture and traditions.

China is inherently strong and rejecting American influence of the internet is not necessary. What will become of the power struggle between the Utopian roots of the Internet and the hegemony of national governments is a timely discussion still very much in the works ... but my money is on China.

Getting things done in the new world

Since early January, I've been asked several times about project management software and 'how do I maintain projects that don't have textbook examples or something to base timelines on, etc.'.

To my horror, I realized that besides MS Project (ya, that's the one I use) I don't do much external planning - it's much more of an internal sense of planning that works for me.

Quite in the same vane, David Allen, the author behind Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity, spouts a brand of project management-speak that would sorta mimic my thoughts - but at the same time would also set most lefties teeth on edge.

By the way - no need to buy the book - google a bit and you'll get enough info.

To help you reach that crystalline consciousness, GTD (as the book is known to acolytes) employs a bottom-up approach to dealing with all the junk that's bugging you now, the crap on your desk, the nagging voices in your head, your closet clutter and your unrealized ambitions.

Each of these unprocessed items represents an 'open loop,' a commitment that your unconscious will hound you about until you record or reckon with it.

Once collected, this crud must be molded and sorted into categories: 'trash' (the most satisfying), 'reference' (sort of soothing) and 'projects' broken down into actionable items sorted by contexts like home, office or phone.

Review this project list each week. Performed religiously, this routine transforms an adrenaline-fueled daily grind into a game of strategy that reformats dead time into do-time. By emptying your psychic RAM into this structure, the book argues, you free your mind for creative thought and arm yourself for rapid response to the changing exigencies of life. (again - no need to buy the book - all the info is online)

So what? Here's your so what - this is perfect for the geek world; cult metaphors abound in the dozens of blogs, Wikis and software projects devoted to dissecting each phase of his method - check out

Wired writer Robert Andrews calls Getting Things Done, first published in 2001, a 'holy book for the information age,' while blogger Anil Dash praises Allen for delivering an 'aspirational digital lifestyle.' The term 'lifehack' has become so popular that the editors of the New Oxford American Dictionary selected it as a runner-up for the 2005 Word of the Year.

Why has GTD generated such adulation with the technology crowd?

Merlin Mann at 43 Folders has become a hub for the GTD community, provides some insight.

True - we of the hybrid types are often disorganized or have a twisted skein of attention deficit disorders that crave actionable items and roll their eyes at 'mission statements' and lofty management patois, and have too many projects and lots and lots of stuff.

Sounds familiar to me in any case ...

Let's face it - technologists are the canaries in the New Economy's coalmine. Internet people and knowledge workers often operate as free agents in the digital economy: self-employed or contract workers with little job security and a constant need to reinvent themselves for new employers.

Working at home or remotely, they are overwhelmed by a barrage of emails and media inputs, lack the structure and community provided by conventional offices, and must erect or erase hard boundaries between their personal and professional lives. Such a vacuum of external supports and structures means that such workers must find new systems for setting goals, defining next steps, and managing the project of life.

In 1950, sociologist David Reisman noted a major cultural shift in his book, The Lonely Crowd. He argues that over the years, Westerners' social character has gone through three stages: the tradition-driven mode of the pre-modern era, the 'inner-directed' style associated with industrialists and pioneers, and the mass-society 'other-directedness' of the peer-driven consumer and office worker.

What is now being developed is a system that supports the emergence of yet a new character - what one might term the 'self-directed' global creative.

Increasingly missed by social safety nets, unbound from traditional familial and cultural ties, atomized by free-market philosophies and awash in a sea of niche-defined consumer and lifestyle choices, the 'self-directed' (and yes, Kobi, you are one of these) are wracked with anxiety.

New 'internal governance' systems supplants what Reisman described as the gyroscope of the inner-directed, that is to say, an internalized set of values inculcated by society - with an inner index of individualized choices, projects and goals.

This portfolio can then travel with you across jobs, cities, families, subcultures and life stages, absorbing anxiety along the way.

here's the deal - read this slowly:

If one imagines self-help culture not only as a means of social control but also as a symptom of social unrest that has not found a political context, then, given the exponential growth of self-help reading, there is no shortage of unrest or dissatisfaction. Understood in these terms, self-help culture could potentially offer an enormous opportunity for cultivating social change.

Read that again if you didn't quite get it - it's important ... I'll wait ....

The hook?

The capitalist demand is that one 'be all one can be': human capital, as with any other natural resource, is to be developed and exploited. Yet, at the same time the democratic demand is that one will get to 'be all one can be': a human being reaching his or her greatest potential can only be in association with others.

While this might read like a hybrid of soulless corporate disciplines like Total Quality Management and the deracinated Zen of stress-management retreats, it is surprisingly effective and often, and oddly, liberating.

These are internal tools not just for creating new ways to work, but for carving out time for internal expansion, leisure and reflection - how can I resist?

Why should you? In the end - it's all about you, baby.

Pinko marketing - social marketing?

To quote the Pink Marketing Manifesto:

Just as Marx said, all production has been concentrated in the hands of a vast association of the whole nation.

So, too, will be the methods of marketing or 'the commercial functions' involved in transferring goods/services/etc. from producer to consumer. Because there is no 'consumer' anymore. It is peer to peer. Producer to producer.

There are no passive parties in this new world.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Listen - violating internet law in hanoi

An Internet-user calling himself “Freedom for the country” (Tucdochodatnuoc) joined the discussion group "Democracy and Freedom, the only way for Vietnam” (Dan Chu Tu Do con duong Duy Nhat Cho Viet Nam) on 12 March.

He went online at a Hanoi cybercafé, most likely at 65 Nguyen Chi Thanh Street.

He discussed politics for around half an hour with two other people who were in the discussion.

During the discussion he said he was a member of a pro-democracy working group. The entire conversation was recorded by the forum administrator, using the pseudonym Vuong Bat Nha.

While they were talking on the online forum, police entered the cybercafé and arrested him.

Listen to the arrest in Vietnamese.

Is solar powered internet enough?

Inveneo, a non-profit, has completed testing of an IT infrastructure powered by alternative energy sources. The network of systems is now available for purchase but I hope that the Gates foundation and Richard Branson have seen this in the news.

The Communication System has as its base a Hub Station, which provides connections for satellite, cellular, or wired Internet. Individual users connect via a Communications Station, which accesses the Hub Station via a Wi-Fi connection.

The power for all of these devices comes from solar, wind, hydro or plain old bicycle power.

The testing was done in Uganda, and the solution is intended for other developing countries or for areas that would necessarily have a difficult time finding electrical power.

This are serious solutions.

More than 2.5 billion people live in rural and remote areas of developing countries where access to communications is severely limited due to availability or affordability. For these rural communities, access to ICTs can transform their lives in simple, yet profound ways.

NGOs, local governments and entrepreneurs that provide these communities with vital services also need ICT tools such as low-power computing, telephony and internet access.

ICT plays a key role in expanding the availability of their services to empower people in these communities to improve their own lives. For these rural communities access to access to information can mean:

  • The difference between life and death (telehealth services)
  • The ability for villagers to earn more for their crops (economic development)
  • A better future for rural children (education)
  • Faster and better help in crises (humanitarian and emergency assistance)
  • Generating income by providing communications services (entrepreneurial applications)
  • The ability to communicate with neighbors and the world (community and network building)

The comments about cheap labor and Nigerian email scams are just way out of whack but they do start a discussion:

Seriously, what is the point of bringing email and internet shopping to people who can't even get a dependable food source? What do you think they are going to do with all of these machines? Become graphic design professionals? Build websites for General Motors?

This is an interesting point when you know about Ad-hosting sites that get a cut of Google's revenue also use software and cheap labor to ratchet up advertisers' payments. But that's what the Web 2.0 is about - broadly, the internet always guaranteed the flourishing of economic pluralism.

Economic integration is good in itself, of course, but with the absent a thriving civil society in some of these developing nations, there is no guarantee of the kinds of transformation that these nations sorely need.

THAT'S the more important determinant to the increasing digital divide.

Digital Dangers: ICTs and Trafficking in Women

Just to follow the theme of evil technology that I was discussing a few days ago - it seems unlikely that whoever coined the term 'information superhighway' anticipated that the traffic on the internet would be in people, as well as information.

How, and how much, the internet and other ICTs are implicated in trafficking is the subject of this issue paper by The Association for Progressive Communications Women's Networking Support Programme (APC WNSP) produced in cooperation with The Association for Women's Rights in Development (AWID).

The paper discusses trafficking and ICTs as defined by activists in the two arenas.

It also explores three pivotal and at times controversialquestions:
  • Does the role of ICTs matter or is it a fashionable distraction from serious countertrafficking work?
  • Can we talk of trafficking in images or does trafficking only apply to people?
  • Is consideration of privacy in relation to ICTs contrary to counter-trafficking work or an essential part of a broader movement to create safety and freedom for individuals and communities?
Finally, the paper asks what action can and is being taken, by governments, feminists, civil society organisations, and other actors.

Check it out - English, Spanish and French in PDF (10-12 pages)

Friday, March 24, 2006

Despite AOL's attempt to divide its critics, the Coalition announced that it has grown tenfold from 50 organizations to more than 500 as it fights AOL's controversial plan to create a two-tiered Internet that leaves the little guy behind. Has Esther gone mad?

Last month, AOL's proposed 'email tax' came under fire from a coalition of political groups on the left and right, businesses and non-profits, charities, and Internet advocacy organizations.

More than 400 publications around the world published articles about AOL's plan to allow large mass-emailers to pay to bypass AOL's spam filters and get guaranteed delivery directly into the inboxes of AOL customers—leaving the little guy behind with increasingly unreliable second-tier Internet service.

In just several days, the Coalition grew to include everything from babysitting co-ops to pony clubs, from farmers markets to biker dailies, from Hawaiian skateboard makers to church groups—demonstrating that small, large, ordinary and extraordinary groups depend on free email delivery.

All coalition members are located at

Clearly worried by the coalition's growing momentum, AOL tried to repackage its already existing "Enhanced Whitelist" as if it were a new program for nonprofits.

It also tried to divide the coalition with an offer to give special email privileges to some 'qualified' nonprofits while leaving other non-profits, charities, small businesses, and even neighbors with community mailing lists behind.

Neither of these addresses the core of the problem: AOL's increased financial incentive to downgrade ordinary email delivery.

If anything, the net result of AOL's Friday announcement was that they conceded the central point of the Coalition.

'By offering to move a few of the little guys from the losers circle to the winners circle, AOL conceded the broader point of our coalition—that AOL's would create a two-tiered Internet that leaves many behind with inferior service,' said Adam Green, a spokesperson for Civic Action.

This weekend, the San Jose Mercury News exposed this reality in an editorial entitled, 'Paid e-mail will lead to separate, unequal systems; free systems will become neglected.'

It identified AOL's threat to the 'free and open' Internet this way: the temptation would be to neglect the free e-mail system, whose reliability would decline. Eventually, everyone would migrate to the fee-based system. There would be no way around the AOL tollbooth.

Perversely, AOL's pay-to-send system would actually reward AOL financially for degrading free email for regular customers as they attempt to push people into paid-mail. AOL should be working to ensure its spam filters don't block legitimate mail, not charging protection money to bypass those filters and offering band-aids to allow some select nonprofits to bypass them as well.

AOL's pay-to-send scheme threatens the free and open Internet as we know it. The Internet needs to be a level playing field. The flow of online information, innovation and ideas is not a luxury to be sold off to the highest bidder.

Evil technology

In 1998, the technorealists started to warn the world that technology can be used for evil.

Turn the page to December 26, 2005 - there was a very interesting post in the Military Forums about individuals buying cell phones in bulk and shipping them to the Middle East. The person who posted the information goes by the screen name "The Bogert."

Here's what he had to say:

'Howdy all, don't get to post all that often but I have recently had something come up in my life. To fill you in, I've worked for Best Buy 4 years now and will be leaving to boot camp in a just over a week. Lately there have been individuals attempting to buy bulk amounts of virgin mobile phones which are no contracts and shipping them over to the Middle East, the FBI is looking into this for it is against "title 50 of us code 2401" export of US goods to foreign soil. This individuals have tried to buy up to 2000 phones in deferent areas, so they come into my store to try and buy these phones two day's in a row. On the first day we limit how many they can buy and write down all there info on who they are, and fax it in just how we're supposed to do. The 2nd day we deny them the phones all together. Two coworkers of mine start calling me racist for not letting them buy the phones and think I shouldn't care if there sending them over seas or not, they just think I should stay out of it. I told him that there are troops getting killed because of phones used in IED's WILL BE my problem in a few month's and if I lose a leg or worse and find a piece of virgin mobile phone stuck in me I'll be a little pissed off.'

On January 13th, 2006, similar stories started hitting the media:

Newsmax: 'On December 18, six individuals of Middle Eastern origin, including one from Iraq and another from Pakistan, attempted to buy approximately 60 disposable phones at a Wal-Mart in Midland, Texas.'

ABC 13: 'In one New Year's Eve transaction at a Target store in Hemet, Calif., 150 disposable tracfones were purchased. Suspicious store employees notified police, who called in the FBI, law enforcement sources said... Other reports have come in from other cities, including Dallas, and from authorities in other states. Authorities in Pennsylvania, New York and other parts of Texas confirmed that they were alerted to the cases, and sources say other jurisdictions were also notified.'

These purchases may be happening all over the United States.


1. The FBI is said to be quietly investigating reports that some of the automobiles used in car bombings in Iraq originated in the U.S.

2. There have been recent reports that criminals in the U.S. are converting drug money, etc. into prepaid cards that are shipped overseas to be sold for cash, thereby circumventing efforts by the U.S. to track suspicious financial transfers to overseas destinations.

Now the navy is also looking at how technology can be used to listen in on 'loose lips' - especially after the Greece phone tapping incident a few months ago. Even though the best snooping technology that the FBI currently uses, the controversial software called Carnivore, has been useless against suspects clever enough to encrypt their files, my sources say that there is only one group sophisticated enough to modify the Vodafone and Ericsson codes - American intelligence agents - read\NSA.

Where's this going .... OK - here it is:

Technology IS evil but we have to understand both sides of the story in order to manage the benefits of technology. Those who don't play by the rules have the advantage. Let's face it. But they also set the standards whereby we can create alternative value.

Here are a few issues I want to looks at:

  • To what extent are such doctrines as "Shock and Awe" and of the general U.S. strategy based on misconceptions about what IT can and cannot do in a unpredictable and uncontrollable arena such as war.
  • To what extent the existence of "so-called" smart weapons leads to the doctrinal, tactical, or strategic misuse of such weapons. Americans have a particular love of technology. That some people can unequivocally say such weapons "really work" when they have hit three of the wrong countries is an important issue to explore.
  • The possibility and possible impact of future weapons or military information systems such as effective identification systems.
  • The absolute limits of computer technology to model complex systems.

This isn't just about the virtual Jihad - the Interfada - it's about beating the evil out of technology or at least understand how.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Noses and tongues in cyberspace

Humans need physical contact with each other. Infants sink into depression and die without it. In day to day relationships, never underestimate the power of a handshake, a pat on the back, a hug, or a kiss.

One could say that it's not very likely that online world will ever develop the kinesthetic capabilities, unless technology figures out how to accurately record someone's caress and transmit that digital record into the other's nervous system.

Not very likely, one could say but then, one would be wrong.

You can argue until the cows come home about how you can psychologically and emotionally embrace someone through words alone, but the bottom line is that you can't currently hold your loved one in cyberspace.

How does this effect the use of social media? Is it a barrier? A show-stopper?

In the physical, tactile, spatial world, doing things with people creates bonds. It creates a history to the relationship. In multimedia environments, we can 'meet' people at some specified site and move with them from one visual setting to another. It feels a bit like going places with them. Understanding their thoughts IS a real experience.

How many of you think you 'know' the people that you are reading? Studies have shown that students of online courses have a knowledge of their professors that is very similar to a physical relationship.

But for some cultures, while doing things with others certainly is possible on the Internet, it doesn't have as powerful a physical, tactile, or spatial feeling?

It's cold. And that has an affect on credibility and authority.

Enter video blogging ... also known by their shorter, clunkier name, vlogs. In the last year, more and more people have begun filming their lives, their art and their local communities and posting their reports on the Web.

These short clips feature subjects ranging from the personal to the political: a dad filming himself making pesto and talking to his kids, who now live in Germany after he and his wife separated; a protest over the G-8 summit; the performance of a band at San Francisco Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi's victory party.

Vlogging is making big changes - want proof? One word - Witness.

But wait - there is still another issue.

The scent of perfume, hair, clothes, skin. Smell brings us very close to the other. It stirs up powerful emotional reactions. The sense of taste brings us closer still. It's the sensation of lovers. One might say that smell and taste are rather 'primitive' interpersonal sensations, but both are the cornerstones of deep intimacy - maybe because they ARE so primitive, so fundamental.

In addition to touch, smell and taste are the primary ways an infant connects to its mother. It is one's very first, essential relationship that serves as the prototype for all later relationships in one's life.

On this level of relating, social media once again falls flat on its noseless, tongueless face. But that may be changing. Ever heard of Smell-O-Vision?

Fast forward to the 21st century, and a new and improved Smell-O-Vision. While the technology is still in the experimental stage - far from mainstream - it reflects an understanding of the untapped business potential available through an integration of the sense of smell.

This doesn't mean that social media should be dismissed as whimsical mental meanderings with no value or purpose. Quite the contrary. Psychology clearly has established the necessity of 'information' for maintaining emotional health and promoting personal growth.

Cyberspace is not simply an 'information super-highway'; it can offer the human psyche much more than facts. Virtual space can flex the boundaries of conscious and unconscious realities.

It is starting to tell us something about the meaning of 'real'.

Check this podcast out

Matt O'Neill from Activ-Media has gone out of his way to do something that he believes in - getting the word out with audio or podcasting.

He pulled me in by Skype and had David Paul, Managing Director of B2B communication specialists, Imarco Frontline and Euan Semple from The Obvious? in his studio recently to discuss the role social computing could play during mergers and acquisitions.

Give it a hear and let us know what you think. It's our first time so be critical.

You can hear the results below:

Podcasts are going somewhere ... not sure where but I can say that they are definitely here to stay. Even the new Sun Grid, the world's first compute utility available at the low price of $1/CPU-hr in the U.S, is offering a test drive of a Text-to-Speech application developed by Cepstral. Users can render their text or selected blogs to mp3 ready for podcast.

Podcasts are becoming mainstream. Think of the education and social development reach. Podcasts are portable. Interoperational. Even altäglich.

Kevin Fagan of the San Francisco Chronicle served as a media witness at an execution, then recorded a podcast of his observations before he even began to write his story. 'It was different than his written description, but compelling in its own way,' comments Chronicle Editor Phil Bronstein. 'Mixing and matching media has a certain impact of its own.'

Even the New York Times, which announced last summer the integration of its Web and print newsrooms and added the introduction of podcasts.

What's the world coming to --- well, wait and see.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Media in the middle

We’re in the middle of a transformation in our culture where we’re sharing media. People are getting used to it, they see that bad things aren’t happening. You don’t have to have perfect control, you can trust the marketplace and trust the community.

For all of its importance, trust itself is an inherently insecure thing. It implies a deep faith and certainty but is often based, at best, on inconclusive evidence. It is a contradiction that is critical to understand as media becomes a product of greater collaboration in online communities.

Speaking of trust ... what about the The Great Chinese Censorship Hoax

The Chinese media is laughing and jeering bi-lingually at how the Western media took the bait when two prominent Chinese bloggers staged a censorship hoax, making it look like they had been shut down.

Reuters covered the 'shutdown' and noted that 'Wang and Yuan could not be immediately reached for comment' - I wonder if they had answered their e-mails or the phone they would have continued the charade? It certainly means that the claim that no one called to check might be a bit shallow as a BBC reporter noted.

A sad day for the opiniosphere and the media organisations?

No - reality and we better shake it off - kind of reminds me of hype around cold fusion and the damage it did to all scientists, whether involved or not. Here's just a couple of point - indications that something is happening.

  • French daily newspaper the Alsace, describes an interesting experiment of an interaction between the newspaper and readers, and between blog and print.
  • In February, 41 private digital media companies announced $413.2 million in venture capital financing. Count your fingers - ONE month.
  • Slowly, very very slowly, even big media wants to play. CBS is going to sell some of it’s TV shows directly to viewers via the web.
This is ONLY the beginning.

Truth in security

"So many of the online attacks originate from outside the United States, so we need cooperation from our international partners and encourage them to share their server logs with us," said Ron Layton of the US Secret Service, "they will be much safer that way."

Well, isn't that nice. Seems the boy is going a-phishing?

Re-powering the public interest

As the media environment evolves and viewing habits are changing, public service advertising campaigns face critical challenges to stay relevant and effective.

To help understand the changes, the Kaiser Family Foundation hosted a forum featuring Joseph Jaffe, author of Life After the 30-Second Spot: Energize Your Brand with a Bold Mix of Alternatives to Traditional Advertising, to explore how new media such as mobile marketing, viral campaigns, adver-gaming, and others can be incorporated into public education advertising.

Vicky Rideout, who directs Kaiser’s Program for the Study of Entertainment Media and Health, moderated the panel discussion that included Mr. Jaffe; Barbara Shimaitis, Sr. VP, Interactive Services, Advertising Council; and Kristi Rowe, Director of Content Development, Partnership for a Drug-Free America.

Kaiser will also prepare case studies on public education campaigns that use new media to help illustrate ways to incorporate new strategies into ongoing or new efforts.

Where is the information society?

The digital divide is becoming less like a crack and more like a canyon.

More computers are produced than ever before, but they're even more concentrated in rich, developed countries than 10 years ago, according to new research by the University of Washington.

That's pretty surprising, because the world expected open markets to bring technology all around the world in an even way. WSIS was based on it. NGO spend several 10s of millions per year to make sure it happens. Well? What happened?

From 1995 to 2005, the supply of computers, Internet hosts and secure servers became more narrowly distributed among a core group of countries.

Mobile phones and Internet access, by contrast, proliferated to become more evenly distributed around the world.

But even for Internet access, people in developing countries pay more and get less.

While an hour of Internet access at a cybercafe costs people in New York about 6 percent of their average daily income, it costs people in Lagos, Nigeria, about 75 percent.

Those in developing nations are less likely to find news and other content generated from within their countries. In economic and cultural terms, they are missing out in a big way - going online means paying to tap into Western culture, tap into needed information, tapping into developing their future.

Researchers looked at 24 cities - each with more than 10 million people - and the cost of Internet access at three to six cybercafes, then compared those costs with average income figures.

In the rich cities, an Internet user who spends $1 actually gets more out of their experience and finds more Web sites in their language. These findings lend another voice to the debate over how to bring technology to the developing world.

While poorer countries tend to get computers much like hand-me-down clothing, cheaper mobile technology has spread relatively quickly. Most people around the world will experience new information technologies through their mobile-phone browsers - computers are still priced out of reach for most people.

One really has to question whether the right strategy is to build a $100 computer that links people in a network, as Massachusetts Institute of Technology is doing with its One Laptop per Child project, or a mobile phone that computes, as Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates has suggested.

The infrastructure and policies of the developing world seem better suited for mobile phones - I can't believe I'm saying this, but think I come down on the Microsoft camp - that is, with one caveat: the mobile devices should be based on the open-source software Linux.

The UW project also showed how the production of books and music is going online in developing countries, and how the Internet has stimulated growth of civic and charity groups there.

And in some countries, such as Argentina, Brazil, Turkey and Ukraine, researchers found an especially large percentage of online news sites per capita.

Finally, some good news but really folks, ten years after the Internet was privatized, where is the information society? Really, where is it?

**Note: The report is the result of a team of 30 students who analyzed 10 years of data from the World Bank and other sources to compile the World Information Access 2006 Report.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Prime net real estate

As online ads spew out more data, their value rises.

According to Avenue A/Razorfish, a banner on a leading portal, such as Yahoo or MSN, now costs about $500,000 for a day, about the same as a 30-second spot on a hit TV series such as CBS's CSI. What?!?

Some 20 million to 25 million unique visitors stop by while the ad is up. These spots are so hot that the portals, like TV networks, sell them long in advance. And as a condition for prime real estate, portals demand that advertisers buy inventory on their less popular pages.

Joanne Bradford, MSN's chief media revenue officer, believes the flight to quality is already under way. The niche sites are going to have a harder time competing; the demand outside the elite sites will start cooling off in 18 to 24 months.

At the same time, leading niche sites, blogs, and social networking pages should take advantage of their relatively low prices and targeted audiences to attract advertisers. To join the elite, however, they will have to provide advertisers with reliable numbers.

For this, many are already piling into associations that can vouch for a level of quality and provide uniform metrics. Burst Media one of the early adopters for blog ads, offers advertisers access to nearly 2,000 Web publishers in 407 different categories. It's reaping benefits now!

Small sites provide the audience segmentation that advertisers want but let's face it, what advertisers really want is premium targeting at the price of cut-rate sites.

That's the premise behind behavioral advertising, whose long-cherished goal is measuring how people react to ads.

Companies such as DoubleClick were created to fulfill that promise, but it was impossible with 1990s-era technology, not to mention the 19990s mentality with respect to the web.

But not anymore.

Behavioral agencies such as TACODA and Revenue Science track the online sessions of Web surfers. By tagging them with a cookie when they visit one of the agency's thousands of affiliate sites, the system can follow a single surfer, say, from Yahoo to a popular health site to an obscure NGO site that has a narrow audience.

While the agency's computers don't know the surfer's identity, they can deduce from the stop at the general health site that they're dealing with a specific profile by following the navigation decisions. But that site is noisy, and lots of other ads jostle for the viewer's attention. So the behavioral system hits the viewer with a specific health ad when he's on the much narrower NGO site.

But hey, not just any health ad but an ad that reflects the past pages that were visited. It's a form of advertising arbitrage, making money on the spread between premium relevant placements and cheap sites.

This approach accounts for 8.3% of Internet spending volume today, according to eMarketer Inc. For behavioral targeting to continue growing, the agencies must provide advertisers with more numbers.

That's where the eye-and-brain scan comes in. In tests late last year, TACODA's researchers recruited 30 human guinea pigs at malls in New Jersey and Southern California. They hooked them to an eye-scanning camera and recorded every darting movement as the subjects were shown 50 identical Web pages.

The result: The ads placed on pages unrelated to the advertisements' message actually attracted 17% more looks. To see if the messages sink in, TACODA is planning more brain scans.

It has always been the goal of advertisers to work inside our minds - mainly to get their message in. Increasingly, the key is to measure the responses and gauge what happens next.

But how many of the readers actually focus on the ad?

Studies show that they take in only an average of one of every 12 Internet ads. What's more, in display advertising, even the more concrete metric of clicks is questionable.

But we all know that click measurement has been abused, there's no relationship between clicks and brand awareness. Or is there?

Monday, March 20, 2006

Press Freedom and the Internet

UNESCO will be hosting its annual World Press Freedom Day conference in Sri Lanka on 1-3 May 2006, which will focus on the link between freedom of the media and social/economic development. Held in Colombo, the conference will explore the independent media's role in the empowerment of disadvantaged peoples and groups, its contribution to sustainable economic development through improved communication between different stakeholders, and the impact of transparency, accountability and good governance on poverty eradication efforts,

But for most of the world, what actually goes on inside this event will not be seen or heard.

In most Western countries, difficulties accessing information stemmed from an overload of requests or problems with the online connection. However, for people in many countries, there is a cloud that blocks their access to news and information. Despite the high number of Internet users in the developing nations, in regions such as the Middle East and India, the ISPs are government-owned.

The relatively low number of connections gives governments an opportunity for control that doesn’t exist in North America or Europe. If your only provider is the government, there’s a final and absolute arbiter over what you can look at.

Ways a country could obstruct information requests online included wholesale and selective blocking of web addresses, a review of every customer’s Internet requests and legal threats to companies who provide news to countries who view the information as dangerous or unfavourable to its citizens.

While many take refuge and comfort in the internet with their many dissident scribes, nothing happens in the citadels of power.

For most developed countries, freedom of the press implies that all people should have the right to express themselves in writing or in any other way of expression of personal opinion or creativity. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights indicates: 'Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas through any media regardless of frontiers'

But the talking heads remain the same, taboo subjects remain taboo, and the vast majority remain powerless… and seething.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Knowledge/technology trap rears it's ugly head

What have we learned from a decade of knowledge management experiences,

Knowledge management projects focused mainly on technology will fail or words to that effect. No surprise there. From the early days of KM, the talk was about the human and organizational elements of knowledge work and the need to balance technology, process, and culture. Everyone heard stories of failed technology-driven projects 'knowledge bases' ignored by intended users, unreliable and abandoned expertise locators.

This is the statement of Lawrence Prusak, the 'KM-guru' of the IBM Institute for Knowledge Management - now that's some street cred.

Here the proven fact - the key organizational change towards becoming an increasingly knowledge-generating and sharing environment is not technology.

Technology is introduced only after organizational change of knowledge culture has taken place, not as a means of achieving it. Several organizations illustrate the special condition concerning intranet, tools or corporate blogs and demonstrate that somehow they are 'transparent' technologies and somehow they can in fact be a help in turning the ship. A help in changing organizational culture.

Why? What I have seen is that the organization strategy precedes the IT strategy. Definitely not the other way around. Don't believe me? Google it.

Globalization and it's impact on the organization is the most obvious and clearest culprit. The complexity and volume of information today is unprecedented; the number of content creators and distribution channels is much greater than ever before.

The speeding up of all elements of global organizations and the decline of centralized 'ivory tower' have created an almost frenetic atmosphere, which feel compelled to introduce new information and tools (collaboration tools, e-spaces, intranets, extranets, chat, blogs) to wider group of employees ever more quickly.

This combination of global reach and speed compels organizations to ask themselves, 'What do we know, who knows it, what do we not know that we should know?'

Increasingly, organizational strategy pundits and senior management agree that an organization can best be seen as a coordinated collection of capabilities, somewhat bound by its own history, and limited in its effectiveness by its current cognitive and social skills. The main building block of these capabilities is knowledge, especially the knowledge that is mostly tacit and specific to the organization.

McKinsey & Company was trying to go beyond the paperless office trap of electronic document management systems to develop a more human network-response system.

Didn't work. McKinsey a lot alot of consultants knew where the money was. They knew where the weak points in the organization were.


Where has all the spent money got them? Where are all the so called 'knowledge organizations'? A better strategy is to focus significantly on internal customers, overt processes and shared, transparent goals.

The human capital approach has a strong and well-known theoretical base and this current trend of technology-based knowledge management smells!

And it smells like re-engineering.

While the re-engineering movement began with viable and valuable intentions, it was quickly hijacked by a host of opportunists. It became a byword for a crude introduction of new technology that has created no permanent value to organizations and in fact did a lot of harm.

As a result, the practical legacy of re-engineering is almost nil. In fact, some of the good ideas that re-engineering advanced have been unfairly discredited by their association with what re-engineering became.

The same is happening to knowledge management. Two paths, two directions.

Quiz on social media for Harvard grad student

Dan Gillmor is asking users of "social media" to take this Harvard Kennedy School of Government's five-minute research quiz:

Blogs, Wikis, Flickr, RSS -- the list keeps growing of technology and innovations that help people share their voices and knowledge. In particular, new kinds of collaborative news sites are leveraging these tools. Wikinews, OhmyNews and Digg, among many others, have sparked both enthusiasm and controversy.

I'm a graduate student in the Kennedy School at Harvard, and am looking for users of collaborative news sites. This research project seeks to get a better understanding of why people use -- and how they value -- these collaborative news sites. You can help by participating in this short, anonymous 5-minute online survey.

Pls share 5 minutes and take the quiz here more sophisticated than ever

With crimeware on the rise, cyber attacks are more sophisticated and targeted than ever, reveals Symantec’s Ninth Internet Security Threat Report.

Malicious threats, such as bot-networks or modular malicious codes, are increasingly used by attackers (80 per cent as opposed to 74 per cent in the previous semi-annual report) to steal data for commercial gain without attracting attention to them.

Richard Archdeacon, director of Symantec's innovation group, comments: “Gone are the days when script-kiddies used to develop attacks which would cause maximum damage and attract as much attention as possible. The people behind today’s cybercrime are using silent and more targeted methods to steal data and other sensitive information undetected.”

Symantec points out the emergence of an online mafia and a black market in the trade of vulnerability information purchased for criminal pursuits.

While bot-infected computers are being used for denial of service-based extortion attempts, phishing attacks still remain a threat to computers too; 7.92 million daily phishing attempts were identified during the last half of 2005.

Other findings show that China experienced the largest increase of bot-infected computers, most probably originating from the country’s rapid growth in broadband internet connections.

While a record number of over 1,896 new vulnerabilities - mostly moderate or highly severe - were discovered during the sixth month period, the amount of time between the announcement of a vulnerability and the release of associated exploit code is longer.

Archdeacon says: “All of the results from this report show that updating and patching security systems is still the most effective way of staying protected from these threats. Despite the increasingly sophisticated methods being employed ... the methods used still predominantly rely on email and internet downloads to spread. As these criminal gangs grow and their methods become ever more advanced, computer users need to make sure they are taking every step to remain protected.”

The irony is that practically the whole of the online world already knows how to communicate and share information – and does so every day via the web. Pick almost any subject – however arcane – and most likely a user group, forum, or electronic bulletin board about it exists in cyberspace. Often these e-spaces are only up for a few days ... sometimes only hours.

Moreover, these user groups, forums and electronic bulletin boards are often created spontaneously – either by someone seeking information or someone wanting to share information.

If the rest of the online world can succeed this with minimal direction and supervision, perhaps the intelligence communities should start to do so also.

Godcasting - nice example of social media is reporting that China is set to host its first major international forum on Buddhism since 1949 to complement President Hu Jintao's campaign to build a "harmonious society" and burnish China's tarnished image on religious freedom.

Observers said the forum in Hangzhou was a low-risk move that could help counter damage to Hu's and China's image caused by government crackdowns on journalists, Internet writers, civil rights campaigners and academics in the past year.

This highlights that, increasingly, houses of worship and individuals are using the Internet to reach their compatriots and those outside their communities, in a trend called "Godcasting."

Listen - religion is getting it. is learning to adapt much faster that corporates are.

These podcasts connect church members, missionaries in foreign lands and travelers away from their congregations. They also offer people not affiliated with a congregation a peek inside.

In short, every evangelist, church or religious leader, even Pope Benedict XVI, could have the equivalent of his or her own radio show. Some of the pontiff's homilies have been recorded for podcasts.

A bit of Jesus for the road .... but not all the podcasts come from churches.

Brian Hardin, a Christian music producer in Spring Hill, Tenn., spends his free time putting online a Bible study program with listeners from Indiana to Islamabad, Pakistan.

Truthfully, I am always looking for new ways to use media and technology to facilitate information dissemination - God's kingdom is on it's way and it's a good example.

The cost and the ease to create and maintain a podcast make it an appealing delivery medium, particularly for people on the road - salesforces, field officers or anyone that needs up to date information.

Podcasting joins a media universe in which television, radio and magazines reach more people than internet users.

Nathan Moore, a former member of Belle Aire Baptist Church in Murfreesboro, Tenn says, "I saw many of the churches with larger budgets and a technical staff jump into podcasting as soon as it became popular."

However, I also observed numerous churches that did not have the resources nor the know-how to start a podcast. Consequently, I decided to start PodPoint to help bridge that gap, ultimately helping get the word of God out to more people."

The service is designed to allow ministries to easily own, manage and update their podcasts. has a select few churches using and testing the system before its official launch for any church or ministry in a few weeks.

Excellent idea.

Growing and strengthening Christianity through the latest technology is the mission of Atlanta-based Streaming Faith, the largest provider of Internet broadcast services to faith-based organizations worldwide.

More than 2 million people each month access its streaming video and audio broadcasts of programs and worship services from many of the nation's largest and most influential churches and ministries.

Streaming Faith allows ministries to deliver their message through its more than 1,500 live events each month on the Internet. The company is working on launching subscription podcasts for religious organizations, company officials say.

Now - let's take this idea and apply it to education or social development tracks. Religion is a small but growing trend but self development that will enable all to enjoy the Web 2.0 wave.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Social media can't go it alone ..

I think Shel Holz is off the mark - he's right when he says that business should not abandon traditional communication channels and totally dive into social computing to deliver its messages and address its issues.

'The audience, we are told, has no interest in being talked to; we must, at all costs, accommodate a growing desire among the audience to be engaged in conversation.

I do believe in the conversation and the shift to a social computing environment and all the consequences for business and communications. However, nothing changes everything and I've maintained for years that the new tools should be added to the old, not replace them.

Validation came while I was reading my hard copy of the March 20 BusinessWeek. (That's right, I still get a dead-tree copy in the mail every week. It's easier to read that way, particularly in the bathroom.)

The article that struck me: "Why the Web is hitting a Wall" (paid subscription may be required). The article by Roger Crockett reports on a Parks Associates survey that reveals 39 million American households do not have Internet access-meaning only 64% of households do. (And only a small percentage of these read blogs or listen to podcasts!)

The study broke down the reasons why so many Americans are avoiding the Net. It's a knee-jerk reaction to assume they're all just getting what they need at work. In fact, that rationale accounts for only 31% of nonusers, according to the study. Sixty percent of people over 65 aren't connected.

There are 6 million homes with PCs but no Internet connection, and most of them wouldn't subscribe to Net access at any price. Another million say they're not interested in "anything" on the Net.

Analysts anticipate the total online US population will only reach 67% by 2009. The bottom line is simple: Abandon traditional methods of communication for social media and you also abandon 36% of the total consumer market.'

This is all a bit US centric and he doesn't really understand what social media means to the rest of the world - a world where there is a necessity to use these tools - a world where there are cultural, traditional and other environmental restriction to open communication. He doesn't understand that where there is only a top-down information flow, bottom-up is required to get the full message out.

This same notion can be applied to the social media within the context of the corporate world or grassroots organizations. This is why mainstream media is running scared.

They get it. Look over the fence Shel. There's a whole other world out there.

Ready for a privatized Internet?

If the net neutrality debate exists only on the fringes of your consciousness, it's time to sit up and take notice.

The U.S. Congress has and where is the outrage - the screaming - or is that the sound of the internet simply fading away. Several nations, including the United Kingdom and Japan, have made net neutrality the law of the land. As the U.S. Congress gears up to rewrite the nation’s telecommunication laws, many are pushing for a similar provision. Bad times may be on the door steps!

Here's the deal - US Lawmakers are currently weighing whether to allow the major telcos and cable giants to have their way in creating a two-tiered broadband Internet - to quote Dubya, one for the haves-mores, the other for the have-nots. Of course, broadband providers have promised that they will never block or degrade the speed of a Web site. Prioritizing content will simply mean certain sites will travel faster than standard service speeds .... ya, right!

Here's how it would work.

Say Yahoo! pays a fee to Verizon for preferred treatment on that network, but Google does not. Verizon broadband subscribers, who already pay for bandwidth, would then get Yahoo! pages (and ads) delivered much more quickly than Google's. Verizon could potentially even cut off access to Google altogether.


AT&T CEO and chairman Ed Whitacre told Business Week Online, 'Why should they be allowed to use my pipes? The Internet can't be free in that sense, because we and the cable companies have made an investment, and for a Google or Yahoo! or Vonage or anybody to expect to use these pipes [for] free is nuts!'

Bastard! But he may have a point ... or at least a point that can bribe the US Congress.

Net neutrality advocates include virtually all the Web heavyweights:, Yahoo!, eBay, and Google. Even Bill Gates just came out in favor. Without this support, it could have a chilling effect on that entry-level Web publisher who may not have the financial wherewithal to pay those fees. The next generation garage start-up, like Google, wouldn't have a chance.

Opponents, unsurprisingly, are primarily in the telco industry: the Bells, Qwest, and major cable providers such as Comcast.

If the anti-neutrality behemoths get their way, they'll change the rules of the game for online content, marketing, advertising, and media buying.

Hmmm ... look at all the flack Yahoo! and AOL are getting for their planned certified e-mail offerings. It's been dubbed an 'e-mail tax' by consumer groups, non-profits, Internet activists and consumer groups, who are making it clear the issue here isn't stopping spam. Rather, it's about a level playing field for everyone.

In a tiered system, what happens to the long tail and consumer-generated media?

I'm hoping and betting that the blogware providers such as TypePad, Blogger and Six Apart, are never going to buy into this. Long-tail gateways like Yahoo! and Google should speak up and make some noise.

Suddenly, the Internet looks a lot like it did in 1998: a galexy far, far away.

The difference today is not only are the major Internet players up in arms against a non-neutral net, this time users will be, too. If there's a mantra in this industry, it has to be "It's all about the user." I see several potential user scenarios unfolding if a two-tiered system comes into play.

None are pretty.

First, it will open up opportunities for a host of new players (from Google, which has been buying up all that dark fiber to smaller start-ups) to come out with neutral net offerings. Given a choice between the Internet and a tiny wedge of corporate content, subscribers to the new fast lane will defect in droves.

After they blame every slow-loading Web site on their ISPs, municipalities and local 'Free the Net' organisations like Electronic Frontier Foundation will be spurred to accelerate public Wi-Fi, creating pockets of broadband for all users.

Worse, maybe a two-tiered Internet system just quietly falls into place. And the Web becomes very boring indeed.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Social computing has organizational consequences

Blogs, RSS, podcasting, open source, wikis, mash-ups. What -- if anything -- should companies make of these new technologies? Can they provide any real value?

This is what the latest report by Forrester is trying to answer - but we know what the answer is - a resounding 'yes'.

It says that 'Forrester is calling the movement created by these collaborative technologies Social Computing' -- a new social structure in which technology puts power in the hands of communities, not institutions.

Mike Gotta wrote about this back in early 2004 and his writings were a good indication of what is to come.

Organizations are now being introduced to a variety of digital tools for enabling people who are separated by time and space to communicate and collaborate on shared interests and tasks. The widespread use of some of these tools, such as instant messaging and group chat, coupled with the increasingly widespread availability of wireless access to the Internet (WiFi), have created new opportunities for using these collaboration tools by people sharing physical spaces in real time.

The use of these tools to augment face-to-face meetings has created benefits for some participants and distractions-and detractions-for others. The long-term advantages and disadvantages of these emerging uses of collaborative tools are still boiling in the pot, so to say.

Let's face it - social Computing is already transforming the Internet, the economy, and society.

This convergence of social and technology factors -- which allows consumers to communicate, create content, and share ideas -- has many forms, including blogs, RSS, social networking sites, and podcasts.

Charlene Li has a good sum up when it summarizes that three tenets will define Social Computing and alter the interactive landscape that lies between consumers and institutions:

  • innovation will shift from top-down to bottom-up
  • value will shift from ownership to experience
  • power will shift from institutions to communities
The value is this - there is a syncronicity and level of engagement between onground and online participants that I have never seen before. The communication reach is so much greater, the value added so much higher and if you think about all the people around the organization that have the opportunity to take value back to their worklives ... the geographical and temporal reach to other people I would argue is also so much greater.

When everyone is talking/writing/logging/whatevering, I think the biggest question is, 'What is happening to the authority of knowledge?

The fact that an article appears in the Britannica confers some authority on it. That an article appears in Wikipedia does not. What does? Who do I believe - the person with the higher title or the person with the better skills or expertise.

What does this mean for knowledge and power? Influence?

Monday, March 13, 2006

Ranting about Organizational Intelligence 1.0

Have you ever been in a stupid group made up of intelligent people? I mean, each person in the group is pretty smart and creative, but when they get together they seem to get in each other's way? They can't seem to make decisions, they fight, they can't get things done.

Or maybe they make decisions that are unimaginative - or even destructive. Or they just go round and round as the world passes them by.

Or maybe the teams you know have a strong leader. If the leader is good, maybe the team acts intelligently - makes good decisions, gets things done. But maybe the leader is bad... or maybe people are rebelling against a good or so-so leader... or maybe a good leader burns out and the team flounders.

Or maybe some group you know has a unifying ideology or belief that holds them all together - until someone tries to do something creative or different...

Have you experienced these things? Have you ever seen them among activists in social change movements?

I have.

And I've also experienced a few rare teams where everyone's a peer, where leadership is shared, where a special kind of energy among them allows them to explore and solve problems together, successfully.

Working with and leading web teams, I've watched people with very different ideas, backgrounds, aptitudes and knowledge using that diversity creatively. They come up with brilliant solutions and proposals - better than any of them could have come up with alone. The group seems more intelligent than its individual members.

Seeing these extremes, and observing what a large role these dynamics play in efforts to make a better team, I've chosen to study them, to see what what social technology does to add or destroy value.

I call these dynamics "collective intelligence" -- which manifests as "group intelligence" in groups and "societal intelligence" in whole societies.

Intelligence refers to our ability to sort out our experience in ways that help us respond appropriately to circumstances - especially when we're faced with new situations or new solutions.

Organizational intelligence, then, refers to the ability of a whole organization to learn and cope creatively with its environment.

Although I first got interested in this subject by observing dysfunctional communications teams, I soon realized that these groups simply manifested the dynamics of our dysfunctional organizations.

Our society as a whole doesn't know how to solve its problems intelligently, doesn't know how to use its diversity creatively, and is moving inexorably towards its own self-destruction (OK - that's a bit much but you know what I am trying to say..).

Was it any wonder that many departments displayed the same characteristics within an organization?

It seemed to me almost axiomatic that, if we don't improve the ways we communicate or share knowledge - our collective problem-solving, responsive capabilities - none of our other organizational and environmental problems would get solved.

And, if we could achieve some breakthrough in the way we use technology or other tools to communicate or share knowledge - well, all the other problems would, in a sense, solve themselves in the natural course of socially-intelligent living.

You don't have to solve all a person's problems for them if you increase their ability to solve their own problems. The same goes, I suspect, for organizations.

Traditions (like instincts) usually evolve from experience, so they're appropriate and workable as long as the environment doesn't change. But a society may find that old tradition hampers their creative responsiveness when they're faced with novel circumstances.

This is where we come in. This is our environment. We are interfacers, mediators, negotiators and facilitators. Believe me, we are!

Internet, web, communications convergence - whatever you want to call it - is a new field and there are definitely challenges. How do we deal with change? What is our individual role within this changing environment. How can we help, lead, support and nurture change.

We (that is, we within the communication technology world - we who have a stake in this field) need to clarify what we need to do - and how to do it - to enable efficient communications - online AND offline.

But there's a significance to all this that goes beyond communicating and saving our jobs.

It seems to me that we will help shift our organizations. The evolutionary leap may be equivalent to the evolution of individual intelligence. We may reach a state in which our organizations become intelligent entities - neither a monolith unified by conformity nor a machine made of fragmented individuals, but a thinking organism made of discrete participants, each contributing their unique and essential creativity into the dynamic wisdom and power of the whole.

Or maybe not. Maybe it will just be a good organization to work in. Either way, it seems to me worth working for.
Check out this flash\video, Epic 2015.

Is it? Will it? Well, I'm waiting for it to happen. But is Web 2.0 evolutionary or revolutionary?

As you know, often the A-listers are envisioning a world as we have never seen.

That's bullshit.

Ironically, the pundits put the users first at the same time they preach the potential of technology and companies to change our world. They need to decide if they are technology-centric, company-centric or user-centric. It's a confusing call and one that most companies or 'experts' have not quite managed.

Let's face it - nothing is important or impactful unless users use it. The hype has everyone talking Web 2.0 but adoption of technology in a socially sensible way is what makes a positive impact. I don't buy the 'any news is good news' banter. Human beings evolve much more slowly than technology.

Humans generally adopt only the technologies that let us do what we want better, faster or cheaper. There is limited user-centric value in technologies that let us do something we never wanted to do in the first place.

Social networking? The power of customer-to-customer communication to bypass old-world media gatekeepers to choose products? That's crap - we need old and traditional media - it's what we rely on at the moment. Maybe not for long? Well, we'll see but it's a few years off.

A thousand years ago people had villages, guild halls, and bands of merry men to exercise the very human need for a social network that supplies trusted information about a complicated world. That need continues as the means change.

That potential has nothing to do with what users really want and do. Users still have a tight circle of friends with whom they interact frequently and place a lot of trust. J

Just like my dad did. Just like my kids will.

Guidelines for Low Literacy Readers

Writing and Re-writing Materials for Low-Literacy Audiences

Literacy is the ability to read and write. Illiteracy is the inability to read and write. The inability to perform tasks like reading street signs, instructions, or the written part of a driver's license test is called functional illiteracy. And even if someone can read, sometimes he or she may not read easily, so when we are writing for this audience we must take extra care to make sure we are as clear as possible.

These guidelines will help you write or rewrite materials for adults who don't read well. These guidelines can also be useful when you are writing for elderly people. The points followed by an asterisk are qualities any reader would appreciate, regardless of his or her reading level.


  1. Write simply, using familiar, commonly used words.
  2. Write personally, using "you" rather than "they" or "one."
  3. Use words of one or two syllables whenever possible.
  4. Use active verbs.
  5. Don't allow words to break (hyphenate) at the end of a line.
  6. Use words that are common to the reader's vocabulary (regional, cultural, etc).


  1. Use simple sentence structure when possible.
  2. Avoid introductory and imbedded phrases and clauses. However, prepositional phrases and clauses that use a very common connecting word (like "because" or "if") can usually be easily understood.
  3. Vary sentence length, but avoid sentences over 15 words long.


  1. Vary paragraph length, but avoid paragraphs over 5 sentences long.
  2. Use short headings to introduce paragraphs.


  1. Write in the active rather than the passive voice.
  2. Use graphics that are logically linked to the text.
  3. Use upper- and lower-case letters rather than all capitals.
  4. Use white or off-white paper and dark (blue, black) ink.
  5. Balance the use of text with white space.
  6. Use an unjustified right margin.
  7. Use numerals whenever possible. Numerals are readily recognized however they are used, and numbering the steps in instructions can help guide the reader through the information.


  1. Avoid excessive information.
  2. Use concrete rather than abstract words, or give concrete examples of abstract ideas.
  3. Apply the content being presented to the reader's personal and cultural experiences.