Celeb activism watch: Thom Yorke joins The Big Ask


Radiohead front-man has joined The Big Ask campaign to push for a 3% yearly curb on carbon emissions. In this interview he details his reasons and thoughts on environmentalism and The Big Ask campaign, centered on challenging UK politicians and, primarily, the status quo.

iPod RED Similar to the (PRODUCT) Red™ campaign in that’s being undertaken by celeb Bono and polit-child Bobby Shriver (y’know, the campaign with the shiny red iPod and a Blogger-powered blog?), but different in that The Big Ask seems to shun blatant consumerism for its effect, preferring instead to lobby government directly to change the law to get its way.

Funny how such campaigns reveal what forces really speak to a national collective.

On the one hand, it’s money and objects (as Bono says “Product Red — is a way of making it easy for people in the shopping malls and main streets … to get AIDS drugs to Africans who can’t afford them” and “This is using the force of consumerism”; on the other side of the pond, Thom Yorke uses a rational argument for getting involved and advocates direct democratic participation.

I’ll withhold any commentary on which seems more culturally valid — because both are enviable causes in different contexts. One initiative reflects the realities of “raw commerce” and “new philanthropy”. The other seems to be implicitly working to counter the power of “raw commerce”, using established protocol and the legal system.

Indeed, a fascinating state of the union.

Oh, and don’t forget to vote November 7 (register here!), party MFA-style and then follow up at a local RootsCamp. Gotta keep it local and do our part too.

Lies that imperil us all

Olbermann to Bush: a resounding “Fuck you“.

Here here.

Meanwhile, from Kevin Tillman, who’s brother Pat was killed in Iraq:

Somehow those afraid to fight an illegal invasion decades ago are allowed to send soldiers to die for an illegal invasion they started.

Somehow faking character, virtue and strength is tolerated.

Somehow profiting from tragedy and horror is tolerated.

Somehow the death of tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of people is tolerated.

Somehow subversion of the Bill of Rights and The Constitution is tolerated.

Somehow suspension of Habeas Corpus is supposed to keep this country safe.

Somehow torture is tolerated.

Somehow lying is tolerated.

Somehow reason is being discarded for faith, dogma, and nonsense.

Somehow American leadership managed to create a more dangerous world.

Somehow a narrative is more important than reality.

Somehow America has become a country that projects everything that it is not and condemns everything that it is.

Somehow the most reasonable, trusted and respected country in the world has become one of the most irrational, belligerent, feared, and distrusted countries in the world.

Somehow being politically informed, diligent, and skeptical has been replaced by apathy through active ignorance.

Somehow the same incompetent, narcissistic, virtueless, vacuous, malicious criminals are still in charge of this country.

Somehow this is tolerated.

Somehow nobody is accountable for this.

Starfish and censorship

The Spider and the StarfishI’ve started reading Ori Brafman’s excellent The Spider and the Starfish and came across an article in the New York Times relating the use of services like Googlebait YouTube to post uncensored video from conflicts around the world, primarily from Afghanistan and Iraq.

There are a few key quotes that I think are telling, and sets up rather well the contrast that Ori illuminates in his book. On the side of the decentralized starfish:

Russell K. Terry, a Vietnam veteran who founded the Iraq War Veterans Organization, said he had mixed feelings about the videos.

“It’s unfortunate there’s no way to stop it,” Mr. Terry said, even though “this is what these guys are over there fighting for: freedom of speech.”

Emphasis mine.
On the opposing side, illustrating what Brafman describes as the second principle of decentralization: “it’s easy to mistake starfish for spiders”:

Geoffrey D. W. Wawro, director of the Center for the Study of Military History at the University of North Texas and a former instructor at the United States Naval War College, said the erosion of the command structure of terrorist and insurgent groups had led them to increase their reliance on the Internet and videos to gain recruits.

Emphasis, again, mine.

That a military person would suggest that terrorist and insurgent groups actually ever had a centralized, or coercive, chain of command smacks at being ludicrous, given recent experience. You’ll note, for example, that even with terrorist “leader” snubbed out, the terrorist threat is as potent as ever. Taking him out wasn’t taking out the head of the spider, as Wawro would probably argue; rather, according to Brafman, we succeeded only in chopping off a leg of the starfish:

Cut off a spider’s leg, and you’ll have a seven-legged cripple. Cut off its head, and you’ll kill the spider. But cut off the starfish’s arm, and not only will it regenerate, but the severed arm will actually grow an entirely new body. Starfish can achieve this remarkable feat because, unlike spiders, they lack central control—their organs are replicated across each arm. Starfish are decentralized.

Just like in nature, there are also starfish on the battlefield. Starfish forces don’t have a leader, clear structure, or defined hierarchy. These seemingly chaotic qualities make Starfish unexpectedly resilient.

So, for one thing, censorship, on the part of YouTube and/or Google is a losing battle (no pun intended) and one that makes matter worse, since it keeps the US citizenry ill-informed and naive to what’s really going on overseas. It strikes me that not all “graphic violence”, is created equally, as Julie Supan, senior director of marketing for YouTube, seems to think:

In an e-mail message, Ms. Supan said that among the videos removed were those that “display graphic depictions of violence in addition to any war footage (U.S. or other) displayed with intent to shock or disgust, or graphic war footage with implied death (of U.S. troops or otherwise).”

Perhaps the argument is that graphic violence masquerading as entertainment should be censored — well, in private media collections, okay, sure; but, when the same kind of information is also more informative than what our media is allowed to show, does it take on a purpose that should invoke the protections of journalism?

Hard to say, but the lesson Ori offers to the military is one that YouTube and others should also heed: Our military is discovering what happens when a spider takes on a starfish.

In the trenches against the RIAA

EFF the RIAA (clean)Denise Howell pointed to a Slashdot interview with two lawyers from Vandenberg & Feliu, LLP in New York who are in the precarious position of both defending against claims wrought by the RIAA and blogging about it. It seems that their play by play is now in danger of being outlawed. Seriously. WTF. They’re hitting us on all sides.

The Future of White Boy clubs

White Boys (+1)

As a white boy who attended yesterday and today’s Future of Web Apps summit, I feel compelled to speak up about a disturbing element of an otherwise well-produced event.

In fact, when I got this fortune the other night, it made me realize how important it was to speak out:

You have remarkable power which you are not using.

Clearly the issue that I’m presenting is a familiar one — one of the perennials that comes around with the regularity of seasons. In the relatively short time that I’ve lived out in San Francisco and become immersed in the Valley culture, I can recall this topic presenting itself at least once a quarter. At least.

And the reason is simple: the issue of diversity in culture is intractable and unsolvable. It needs constant work and attention; it’s a matter of mindfulness and inclusivity, because regardless of how diverse you become (or think you are), you can always do better. No, really.

We can and must choose to make diversity a top priority, one that’s up there with attracting quality talent and quality attendees; it will not simply happen on its own and truly, it’s everyone’s responsibility.

But it’s not that simple, as much as I wish it were.

I talked to Ryan Carson and Lisa about this — about why there was so little diversity (especially gender diversity) at FoWA. Apparently they did try to recruit some women speakers, but the two that came to mind didn’t respond in time; so the Carson crew got tied up organizing everything else and the matter fell by the wayside. Once they had their final speaker line up, it was too late.

Perhaps if the issue had been raised far enough in advance, something could have been done (take for example the upcoming 45:2 AJAX Experience conference — all but 3 are white — apparently their trademark “No Fluff, Just Stuff” refers to minorities). This is what Elisa Camahort of BlogHer, says:

The solution is for event organizers to care about diversity in their own planning stage, not after they’ve already spent the time securing and then announcing dozens and dozens of speakers.


And so then I talked to Matt yesterday and he pointed out that, well, maybe, the speakers represent the make-up of the community.

Which of course is a logical argument to make. And a complete cop out (sorry Matt).

There’s something important here that needs to be impressed upon us white boys by a white boy — one who happens to find himself uncomfortably in the white boy club (just coz you’re born into it doesn’t mean that you’re not responsible for being part of the change that needs to happen). It goes back to that fortune I got and to the point I made at 20×2 at SXSW last year: as it stands, we, as white men (of course I include myself in that), have a tremendous amount of privilege and power — power that many of us don’t know we have, power that many of us choose to ignore, power that some of us disclaim or shrug off. The utter reality is that whether you want it or not, you have the power and the potential to be part of the ongoing solution.

Now let me suggest an elevation of the topic, because there’s really something practical and motivating about this power that we have. First of all, it’s not something shameful and it’s not something that we ought feel bad about; admitting and owning our historically exclusionary behavior will not emasculate us. On the contrary, to my thinking, taking responsibility and doing something shows a degree of chivalry that can reveal where true insecurity lies.

But it’s not about chivalry. Because the act of diversifying should be done because of merit, not in spite of it. In fact, there are three concrete benefits to be gained from proactive inclusivity:

  • For one thing, FoWA would have been more representative, more interesting and more engaging (and better attended) had their been wider diversity. If Drupal is any indication, monocultures produce monotonous culture (think Art with a big A). And the very last thing that I, personally, want to see in the real future of web apps is a lack of diversity.The greater the diversity in the folks who are participating, creating and discussing the future of web apps will bring result in more diverse ideas, approaches, beliefs and experiences to be built into the tools of tomorrow, leading to an environment a whole lot more exciting than the alternative.
  • Instead of having to duck for cover whenever you’re exposed as a hapless ignorant fool, there’s a whole lot less guilt and worry in doing the right thing (imagine that!). You can actually feel proud of yourself for making diversity a priority (which will improve your event anyway — and likely increase the demographics of those interested in attending).So wow, doing the right thing feels good and is economically beneficial?! No way!
  • Lastly, by giving away and spreading out our power, it actually improves our position in culture while increases the visibility of our peers. I’ve long believed that in a networked world, by giving everything away, you gain more. It’s kind of the principle upon which P2P networks work.So this power that we white men have? It’s only power if we actually give it away and spread out our privilege as much as possible. In whatever form it might take, this potential power means nothing unless we actually use it — so by working to fix the problem, we’re actually proving what kind of man we are.

So let me be bold: the future of the white boy club is in inclusivity one-upmanship. Not just because it benefits everybody, but because it benefits us. We simply can’t stay hidden in our isolated little geek enclaves and plead ignorance or expect things to get better by themselves; there’s too much at stake, too much to gain and too many interesting voices out in that great bazaar that we’re missing out on that we must do more to encourage, support and welcome them where in the past we have failed.

It won’t be easy, but dammit, nothing worthwhile ever is.

And, as a first step, I’ve set up the page to collect ideas, thoughts, examples and techniques to improve BarCamp — because, frankly, we must be most critical of those things closest to us that we have proven power to change.

Jobs, jobs and more jobs!

Fuck all y'all -- icons by laksmanDamn, there’s a lot of job boards out there. A new one every other day. It’s practically distributed already, except that they’re all speaking greek to one another, and engines like Edgeio, well, can’t make uniform sense of them because they all have their own way of marking things up. Like, it’s all the same kind of data, but if I were a computer, damned if I know that!

I mean, look at this… why haven’t they standardized on … or something?

Jason has a point as usual, but, man, to really go decentralized, you have to flip the whole model on its head. In which case he half misses the point too (sorry, even though I luv ya man).

is nice; a good step. In fact, everyone should be publishing their own hResume + hAtom, if anything, for shits and giggles (though we really need a tool for this).

Though, stepping back, what we really should be doing in this age of authentic empowerment is allowing people to write the job descriptions for themselves and declaring themselves competent for the purpose. I mean, if someone can accurately describe what they’re good at and what they’re not, that’s a person I want to hire!

Let me put it this way — which is the way that I want to see this balance shifting, since all the job aggregator and job listing sellers seem to have forgotten this part of the equation: we are living in a time of abundance, a time that will last a finite amount of time, to be sure. In this finite time period, I believe that it is possible more than ever for people to pursue work that they love to do, that really makes them happier than anything else, that really fills them up and doesn’t leave them somehow feeling diminished by the end of the day. A herd-mentality job board doesn’t help me feel like a unique snowflake; it doesn’t make me feel like I have something special to offer the world, nor does it make me feel like I’m in command of my destiny but rather waiting around for the hammer to drop and some business-two-point-oh-dude-you’re-so-not-even to anoint me their , picked from amongst a sea of similar generics.

What these boards ignore is the humiliation and please-pick-me! sameness that relegates my humanity to bumble alongside inside someone else’s aggregator. Ugh, think about that: to end up in someone else’s aggregator! What am, just a bunch of bits and data? Jason, I get the visual analogy, but to suggest that you’re choosing between a shotgun and a rifle when you go job “hunting” is a bit, um… Cheney-esque (Oops, did you really mean to shoot me… or not?)?

Your semantics betray your purpose (and everyone else’s) because I know you mean well and I’m really not trying to pick on anyone except those who think job boards are a good idea.

Here, okay, let’s redefine the problem before I get myself in serious shee-it: the goal of any job “service” should be to bring together people together who love to do certain things for a living with the folks who have a need (and capital) for those who happen to do that certain thing very well. To aim at less is to subjugate the potential of the new network (aka The Tubes) and to ignore the potential of this new medium to elevate the status and capability of the individual.

On the one hand, we are talking about work; exchange of value (usually represented in dollars and cents) for someone else’s time, attention and/or effort. On the other, we are talking about that which someone is devoting their waking life to — that is, the stuff that they share with their friends, their family, their relatives. Too often I’ve seen friends, family, my brother, settle… for less than what they’re capable of taking on. And it’s disheartening, it’s saddening, it’s less than what I would hope for anyone.

We’ve come so far — too far &mdash, for anyone with the volition to not be able to pursue a career doing that which they most want to do. These job boards are holding back the potential, reinforcing hierarchy and pushing people to be squeeze themselves into job descriptions that don’t really fit. It’s supply-side economics right? And we have the terms and vocabulary to describe work that needs to be done… but strangely, the reverse is also true, we just haven’t developed the nomenclature to express the demand side of the job performer market: I demand this kind of job with this kind of work, this size pay and these vacation dates.

Ironically I learned a lesson a long time ago from Jason, one that I think is didactic and worth repeating. As a company and small business, we hire our clients — that is, we pick folks to work with not based on pay but based on how well we think we can work with them. We hire them based on their openness, their desire to work collaboratively and whether they’re willing to look at the world with eyes wide open. It’s a challenge to maintain this standard, but it ultimately benefits both us and our clients. I would recommend this for anyone looking for work or thinking about what’s next — don’t just sell yourself to the most nichefied job board — hire your next boss. Make it your first priority to spell out clearly what you want to do and for whom you’re willing to do it. Job boards, sadly, will not reflect this preference, so it’s up to you to defend your right to pursue the work which will most satisfy you. In fact, you owe it to yourself.

LinuxWorld 2006: No kids allowed

LinuxWorld 2006: For adults only

Scott pointed out a gaping hypocrisy at LinuxWorld today: since when is LinuxWorld only for “business professionals”? And more offensively, only for those 18 or older?

What is this, the Linux draft?

Scott writes:

Jonas Luster mentioned this sign to me when I ran into him at the Socialtext booth and he made a great point about the fact that many lead linux and open source developers are under the age of 18. Also, what about Linux geeks with children? So if Linus Torvalds stopped by with his kids to show them the world that their father helped create, I guess they would be turned away. As far as I’m concerned this all goes against the nature of Linux and open source itself. As for “business professionals only”, well that’s just a load of crap. Someone needs to cut off of Tux’s tie and put him back in a t-shirt and sandals.

Such BS.

Someone please save the penguin!

Coworking NYC; reclaiming the sidewalks

Proposal hilights

Protest posterNoel has the details on a pretty ridiculous rule change on sidewalk usage and parade definition in NYC. In response, there’s been a protest called Aug 23.

At the same time, Noel’s kickin’ up dust about getting a CoworkingNYC space started up in the Big Apple. He’s proposed a meeting coming up soon, so drop him a note (noel at nonecknoel dot com) and let him know that you’re interested.