Clay Shirky is a genius at the top of my list of people I would love to meet, others close are Cory Doctorow and Yochai Benkler.
The video embedded in this page (link to video on blip.tv) is from a speech he gave at the Web 2.0 conference 2008.
He released a lightly edited transcription of the speech on the blog of his new book, under Creative Commons By-Attribution ShareAlike licence. Since my blog is under the same license, I’m going to legally copy and paste some parts of it here but I suggest you to read it entirely and to watch the video.
The critical technology, for the early phase of the industrial revolution, was gin (…) the transformation from rural to urban life was so sudden, and so wrenching, that the only thing society could do to manage was to drink itself into a stupor for a generation.
If I had to pick the critical technology for the 20th century, the bit of social lubricant without which the wheels would’ve come off the whole enterprise, I’d say it was the sitcom. (…)
And it’s only now, as we’re waking up from that collective bender, that we’re starting to see the cognitive surplus as an asset rather than as a crisis. We’re seeing things being designed to take advantage of that surplus, to deploy it in ways more engaging than just having a TV in everybody’s basement.
So how big is that surplus? So if you take Wikipedia as a kind of unit, all of Wikipedia, the whole project–every page, every edit, every talk page, every line of code, in every language that Wikipedia exists in–that represents something like the cumulation of 100 million hours of human thought. I worked this out with Martin Wattenberg at IBM; it’s a back-of-the-envelope calculation, but it’s the right order of magnitude, about 100 million hours of thought.
And television watching? Two hundred billion hours, in the U.S. alone, every year. Put another way, now that we have a unit, that’s 2,000 Wikipedia projects a year spent watching television. Or put still another way, in the U.S., we spend 100 million hours every weekend, just watching the ads. This is a pretty big surplus. People asking, “Where do they find the time?” when they’re looking at things like Wikipedia don’t understand how tiny that entire project is, as a carve-out of this asset that’s finally being dragged into what Tim calls an architecture of participation.
(…) a project started by a professor in Brazil, in Fortaleza, named Vasco Furtado. It’s a Wiki Map for crime in Brazil. If there’s an assault, if there’s a burglary, if there’s a mugging, a robbery, a rape, a murder, you can go and put a push-pin on a Google Map, and you can characterize the assault, and you start to see a map of where these crimes are occurring.(…)
Maybe this will succeed or maybe it will fail. The normal case of social software is still failure; most of these experiments don’t pan out. But the ones that do are quite incredible, and I hope that this one succeeds, obviously. But even if it doesn’t, it’s illustrated the point already, which is that someone working alone, with really cheap tools, has a reasonable hope of carving out enough of the cognitive surplus, enough of the desire to participate, enough of the collective goodwill of the citizens, to create a resource you couldn’t have imagined existing even five years ago.
So that’s the answer to the question, “Where do they find the time?” Or, rather, that’s the numerical answer. But beneath that question was another thought, this one not a question but an observation. In this same conversation with the TV producer I was talking about World of Warcraft guilds, and as I was talking, I could sort of see what she was thinking: “Losers. Grown men sitting in their basement pretending to be elves.”
(…)At least they’re doing something.
Did you ever see that episode of Gilligan’s Island where they almost get off the island and then Gilligan messes up and then they don’t? I saw that one. I saw that one a lot when I was growing up. And every half-hour that I watched that was a half an hour I wasn’t posting at my blog or editing Wikipedia or contributing to a mailing list. Now I had an ironclad excuse for not doing those things, which is none of those things existed then. I was forced into the channel of media the way it was because it was the only option. Now it’s not, and that’s the big surprise. However lousy it is to sit in your basement and pretend to be an elf, I can tell you from personal experience it’s worse to sit in your basement and try to figure if Ginger or Mary Ann is cuter.
Let’s say that everything stays 99 percent the same, that people watch 99 percent as much television as they used to, but 1 percent of that is carved out for producing and for sharing. The Internet-connected population watches roughly a trillion hours of TV a year. That’s about five times the size of the annual U.S. consumption. One per cent of that is 100 Wikipedia projects per year worth of participation.
I think that’s going to be a big deal. Don’t you?
Read the rest on Clay’s blog so you get to know the story about the mouse. I think it is worth your time.
Thanks to Jesse, I started exploring Git, a version control system alternative to CVS and SVN. Git is based on a very different metaphor. While in CVS/SVN there is one repository which is maintained in a single location, in Git there are as many repositories as users and all of them are maintained in a decentralized fashion, on all the machines of all the users. From centralization to decentralization, it is an interesting twist and change in perspective.
And so what about the risk of balkanization of code? And the fact that there are 10.000 (different) versions of the Linux kernel? Well, according to Linus, the answer is trust. Linus explains the metaphores behind git and the trust issues in an extremely interesting Google Talk.
From the talk of Linux (via Victor):
The way merging is done is the way real security is done, by a network of trust. if you have ever done any security work and it didnâ€™t involve the concept of network of trust it was not a security work; it was a masturbation.
â€¦we donâ€™t know hundred people. We have five, seven, ten close personal friendsâ€¦
This way of managing a software ecology is wonderfully adhocratic. There are now thousands different versions of the Linux kernel. Currently most of the people rely on Linus’ version but it is possible, in a perfect adhocratic way, that different people will rely on versions of different people. Go decentralized, go trust-based. Cool.
UPDATE Aug 19,2007. In order to make justice to the comments of Martina, I embed a mashup of the fiat ad. This is for the v-day: on September 8, 2007, Italians will say to Italian politicians “Enough is enough”. It will be an interesting day.
I think I’ll embed also a video from the recent history of Italy just as a reminder: April 30, 1993, Friday, 18.00. A mob gathered in largo Febo in front of the hotel Raphael waiting for Craxi. When he exits, people start throwing at him coins and other objects. Craxi was one of the biggest politicians in Italy and one of the biggest thieves in Italy.
Great video over at dotsub (there are subtitles in many languages but you can also provide an additional one) which explains what is social networking.
The License is Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial
Very interesting video from Casaleggio Associati about the future. Casaleggio is a consultancy company that develops network strategies from Italy, but maybe you could spot this from the accent.
Just one quote: “Virtual life is the biggest market on the planet. Prometeus finances all the space missions to find new worlds for its customers: the terrestrial avatar.
Experience is the new reality.” Check the video.
Question for myself: creating such a video is now possible for everyone but still takes a lot of time, so why a company would do it precisely? To show potential customers that they get it? To get some buzz and links? Just for fun? I guess the first one is prominent but maybe there is a mix of these. I do hope Casaleggio becomes the consultants of Italian Government for strategies for future, this would shake a bit the atmosphere here in Italy and would show that politicians have a vision that goes beyond 6 months, which currently does not seem the case.
UPDATE: substitued video from youtube with video from DotSub. In DotSub we can add subtitles directly via the Website, terribly cool and useful!
I found extremely peculiar that Microsoft is actually become a GNU/Linux distributor (it gets SUSE Linux licences from Novell and distributes them to Dell) and can be wounded by the GPL itself.
In a similar way, in order to explain what is broken with current copyright, the movie “A Fair(y) Use Tale”, directed by Professor Eric Faden comes out of Stanford University’s Fair Use Project Documentary Film Program, meshes up parts of Disney movies, the very folks we can thank for nearly endless copyright terms.
The video starts with a clever hack on the warning played before DVD movies.
WARNING: Federal Law allows citizens to reproduce, distribute, or exhibit portions of copyrighted motion pictures, video tapes, or video discs under certain circumstances withotu the authorization of the copyright holder.
This infringement of copyright is called “Fair Use” and is allowed for purposes of criticism, news reporting, teaching and parody.
I found it difficult to follow since it is a collection of words or short sentences taken from different Disney movies. I wonder how long it will take before someone will add subtitles to the video and post the new version on YouTube. I think very few days.
And I also wonder if any Italian will soon dub it in Italian taking voices from the Italian versions of Disney movies.
Actually I was not able to find the licence of the movie itself. Do you have any idea? Some Creative Commons?
Eben Moglen, the lawyer of the Free Software Foundation, explains what is very wrong about the Microsoft-Novell agreement.
If you think this is important matter, please donate to the Free Software Foundation now.
Below you can find the video and a transcript of it from Wikisource which is released under the GNU Free Documentation License and hence gives me the freedom to redistribute it here under the same licence.
The “be very afraid tour” video
I beg your pardon, certainly, I thought the question was so obvious that it needed no repetition: â€œCould I explain the threat posed to GPLâ€™d softwareâ€™s freedom by the Microsoft/Novell agreement?â€.
And Iâ€™m gonna speak in slightly more general terms than that, beginning with: Imagine a party which wants to eliminate free softwareâ€™s freedom, or at least hobble its developers in serious ways, so as to inhibit their ability to compete. Imagine that such a party has patents of uncertain validity, but in large numbers, which it could conceivably use to scare developers and users. Imagine that such a party then begins to make periodic threats in the form: â€œGee, we have a lot of patents. Never mind how many, never mind what they are, never mind how good they are, we have a lot of patents, and someday something terrible will happen. Donâ€™t use that software.â€
Imagine that thatâ€™s a strategy that the party adverse to freedom engages in because itâ€™s better than suing. Suing is expensive, suing is irreversible, and suing might actually cause you to have to explain which patents they are and why theyâ€™re any good. So threatening is better than suing, okay? Imagine a party who engages in recurrent threats every summertime, for years on end, on a sort of annual â€œBe very afraidâ€ tour, okay?
I know, it sounds absurd, I know.
Imagine now that what happens is that the annual â€œBe very afraidâ€ tour starts creating terrible pushback, because people call up, who are the CEOs of major banks and financial institutions, and they say: â€œThose people youâ€™re threatening are us. Weâ€™re the largest, richest, most powerful people in capitalism, and we determine the value of your stock. We think you should be quiet now.â€
Okay? That happens if you do this thing, of saying â€œBe very afraidâ€ to people who have lots and lots of money and lots and lots of power and who control the value of your stock â€“ they will push back. The business model of threatening to sue people works if the people are 12-year-olds. It does not work real well if they are the pillars of finance capitalism. So, as a party engaged in annual â€œBe very afraidâ€ tours, youâ€™re gonna start to get pushback by enterprise customers who say â€œThatâ€™s us youâ€™re threatening.â€.
Now what if you could reduce their sense of being the people who are made afraid? What if you could find a way to give them quiet and peace â€“ and make a little money on the side â€“ so that the only people who are left quaking when you did your annual â€œBe very afraidâ€ tour, were the developers themselves? Now you would have given yourself a major ecological boost, in swinging your patents around and threatening to hurt people.
Deals for patent safety create the possibility of that risk to my clients, the development community. If enterprise thinks that it can go and buy the software my clients make from some party who gives them peace from the adversary in return for purchasing a license from them, then enterprises may think they have made a separate peace, and if they open the business section one morning and it says â€œAdversary makes trouble for free softwareâ€, they can think â€œNot my problem, I bought the such-and-such distribution, and Iâ€™m okay.â€
This process of attempting to segregate the enterprise customers â€“ whose insistence on their rights will stop the threatening â€“ from the developers who are at the end the real object of the threat, is what is wrong with the deals.
So what you ought to do is to say to parties â€œPlease donâ€™t make separate peace at the communityâ€™s expense. Please donâ€™t try to make your customers safe, if thatâ€™s gonna result in the destruction of the upstream rainforest where your goods come from. Weâ€™re an ecological system. If you undermine community defenses youâ€™re undermining the whole ecology, and doing that for the benefit of your customers at the expense of your suppliers is not a good way to stay in business.â€ So thatâ€™s the fundamental discussion about the problem created by such deals.
Now you have the second question, which is: â€œWhat to do about it?â€, but Joe didnâ€™t ask that question.
Maybe you have seen the clever Apple campaign “get a Mac”. There are two characters playing “the PC” and “the Mac” and of course the Mac is cooler. Below you can find 6 ads in 1 video, but there are more videos.
But of course the question “Hey where is Linux?” didn’t take time to appear. And Novell (owner of Linux distribution Suse) created 3 PC, Mac … meet Linux ads, in which Linux is played by a woman, a clever move. By the way, say NO to NOvell, choose UbuntuLinux instead. Below you can find 2 of the 3 funny videos.
This video ad suggests that Linux can wear different interfaces and people share new apparels with Linux all the time, while PC and Mac are tied to their single interface for ages. Priceless the moment in which the PC says “I’ll probably wear this for another six or seven years” (referring to Vista interface).
In this video ad, PC and Mac are caught running Linux, but they don’t like to admit it, especially Mac.
Now we all know that the correct name is not Linux (just the kernel) but GNU/Linux (the entire operating system). I mulled over making one more spoof video in which Richard Stallman enters the video after the woman/Linux says “I’m Linux” for stating “The correct name is GNU/Linux!” (credit for the idea) but my video editing abilities are zero. What about yours?
You can see the video on the chinese section of new italia.it portal (Update March 2018: the page is no more there) (also uploaded on Youtube or embedded in this post). I know my (Macaronic) English is far away from perfect but I would expect a better message from our Vice President especially when he wants to convince people to come to Italy, and considering he has people working for him writing the text and he had the chance to film it as many times as he wanted. Actually after watching it, I feel too feeble for making any comment, so I’ll just write down what he said because I think I need to see the words to let them go.
visiT the Web site buT
the best country in the world in terms of
that is Italy,
you know or perhaps you’re dreaming about,
visit our country
we will welcome you warmly,
and with a beTTTer organization.
UPDATE march 25, 2007:
Backstage of Rutelli video “Pliz, visit Itali”