someone who just sucked on a dill pickle (wendyg) Mon 23 Apr 01 07:01
Your IRC connections are quite right. Anarchy is, if anything, the ultimate expression of faith in the goodness of man to be public-spirited and exercise their own free will to act in a way that benefits the group as a whole. And in the early days the Net was very much like that. It was, of course, always far more organized than people thought it was. eg, you take a look at the DNS structure, and it was very tightly controlled and absolutely centralized. Ditto Usenet before alt. IRC depends on channel operators, and so on. But the structure whereby anyone who cared to wrote an RFC and distributed it and it got adopted if it got enough support and enough people found it useful...well, that to me is anarchy, but in the traditional sense. Self-organized to me means that a group of people get together and decide on a structure. Anarchy is more like the system I've observed in many 12-step groups, where no one ever assigns any7one to clearn up the coffee mugs and put away the chairs, it just always happens (and not because the same 2-3 people do it every week), even though at the national level they may be self-organized by having a structure of delegates and representatives. I guess most people gravitate naturally to one kind of space or another; I personally seem to have a taste for variety. So I like the WELL with its high desnity of interesting conversation and participants, and I liked CompuServe for the efficiency with which you could get answers to questions (and CIX also for that), but I still trudge off to Usenet every day and have a tremendous affection for the noise and mess of it, if only because it exposes me to views I would never see in real life. Only yesterday someone accused me of having no class, no education, and being British and therefore "believing in" the monarchy... And someone on Usenet (comps.software.year-2000) once wrote in to one of my editors at Scientific American threatening to quit subscribing until they got rid of this "dizzy broad". You see? How else could I have these experiences? Who else would ever call me a dizzy broad? wg
tally (tally) Mon 23 Apr 01 07:19
I haven't seen your new book either, Wendy, but after your last I'm very much looking forward to it. The growth of Internet usage and the ease with which the Net can be examined through Web technology (not to mention the come-one-come-all ease-of-use which is one of the Web's virtues) has led to a higher noise-to-signal ratio, perhaps, but this is like arguing with evolution. How familiar are you with the Free Network Project (http://freenetproject.org/), and do you think that projects like this are a step forward, a step back, or a step to the side? It seems to be that the anonymization that the Freenet Project envisions is growing more and more important to hackers, while other Net users don't have much of a problem with commodifying their privacy if it means a 20% off coupon at Amazon.com
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Mon 23 Apr 01 07:56
Thanks for your question, George! I'm adding another question, too, Wendy, re. Usenet: activist Ronda Hauben argued recently (on the nettime list and at the Telepolis web site, which is at http://www.heise.de/tp/english/default.html, with specific article at http://www.heise.de/tp/english/html/result.xhtml?url=/tp/english/inhalt/te/701 3/1.html&words=Google) that Google should not have been allowed to acquire deja's Usenet archives. There was a petition "to urge Deja to maintain the Usenet archives or to transfer it to a reliable organization, preferably a public or nonprofit organization." Do you think it's valid to say that an organization shouldn't own the rights to its own archive of a community (or many communities, in the case of usenet)?
someone who just sucked on a dill pickle (wendyg) Mon 23 Apr 01 13:25
Thanks, <tally>. I think it won't be in stores for another few weeks yet... I like arguing with evolution. :) I like ad-free text-only spaces, which is how I experience the WELL. I haven't had a lot to do with Freenet, though I've tried it -- it's like the Web itself used to be, lots of dead ends and broken links. Freenet is considered extremely dasngerous in Europe -- the EU kind of has it in for any type of anonymity -- and coverage here tends to focus on how it can be used for the four horsemen. wg
someone who just sucked on a dill pickle (wendyg) Mon 23 Apr 01 13:37
jonl: I don't see why Google shouldn't have been allowed to acquire the archives (but then, I like Google and trust its founders, at leszat so far). Google didn't buy the copyright ion the archives -- presumably that *is* a PD resource -- but they're going to have to spend a fair bit on storage media and interface design and so on to make it worth anything to them. I also think it's relevant that there are other copies of the Usenet archives out there -- the Internet archive project is presumably saving Usenet as well as the Web, and Altavista certainly offers archives, though I don't know how far back -- ah, no, I see those are gone now. Lots of newsgroups maintain their own archives, and my guess is that if the Internet as a whole wanted to create a public archive it could call for volunteers and assemble a pretty good one just out of the material stored on people's hard drives. And maybe that would be a good project for someone to undertake. That the community should have access to the resources it helped create was one reason I was strongly in favor of having the full text of net.wars online (it's still avaialble at http://www.nyupress.nyu.edu/netwars.html, if anyone wants to get the flavor of the thing). And I certainly think it would be reasoable for Google to be required to provide, at cost, a copy of the archives on request. But to be fair, Deja News was a commercial organization, too, and it assembled the archives at its own expense, and they became, logically enough, a business asset to them (however much I resented their trying to present Usenet as their own commercial "community" service). Before DejaNews, *no one* archived Usenet and it was considered to be completely ephemeral; it was a major cultural change for people to realize that the things they posted casually in the alt.drugs newsgroups might be read years later by potential employers. It just shows how soon they forget if people are now clamoring for the archive to be retained, even given the implicit loss of privacy that such logging brought with it. wg
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Mon 23 Apr 01 13:53
You say that "...online community's success is measured by the degree to which it develops a sense of autonomy and ownership." Other than the WELL, what online communities have worked well, by that definition?
someone who just sucked on a dill pickle (wendyg) Mon 23 Apr 01 16:03
CIX certainly. Sometimes Fleet Street verges on it (though less so now because it's shrunk a bit owing to stupid tech issues beyond our control). Lots of spaces. The thing is the sense of ownership is usually false, since the users are rarely actually in control. wg
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Mon 23 Apr 01 16:50
I think that raises an interesting question...what's relevant for users to control? The bar analogy comes up a lot in these discussions...and might work here. In a bar, the bartender or owner or bouncer might be seen has having the real control, but for the bar to succeed they have to stay out of the way, let the customers do pretty much what they want within fairly loose bounds. Isn't it the same for community managers? Do otherwise, and the users/customers/community members will vote with their feet.
someone who just sucked on a dill pickle (wendyg) Tue 24 Apr 01 10:15
Yep. The classic mistake a lot of people make when they build an online space is to overbuild it -- put in too many sections/rooms/whatever and have this (it feels like) huge empty space in which the users rattle around. Difficult to feel you've achieved critical mass, and the users haven't had any input into what the place is like. wg
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Tue 24 Apr 01 10:28
We had a debate about that while building community for WholeFoods.com. Someone said that we were overbuilding the beta, but my argument was that we needed to try several things to see where people would go. So we started large and scaled down during the beta phase. Though it's true that we could have started very small, and added spaces based on the kinds of responses we were getting. We learned that, at an ecommerce site, people really want to talk about their shopping experience. I'd like to move on to your second chapter, and as my next question, echo its title: "Who Owns the Internet"?
someone who just sucked on a dill pickle (wendyg) Tue 24 Apr 01 11:28
Oh, my God, that was just the first chapter? Everyone and no one! wg
tally (tally) Tue 24 Apr 01 11:39
And most of us don't even have the book yet!
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Tue 24 Apr 01 11:41
Hey, we've only been at this a few days... *8-) And that was actually chapter two! "Who Owns the Net," chapter three, discusses, for instance, the myth that the Internet was entirely a U.S. creation. Could you talk about the international aspect of the early 'net?
Bob 'rab' Bickford (rab) Tue 24 Apr 01 11:56
Actually, Wendy, your assertion that "nobody archived Usenet" before Deja is not quite true. In the 1980s, someone at the University of Toronto Department of Zoology (Henry Spencer, I think?) was archiving the complete contents of all newsgroups for several years. I can't recall if I ever heard what became of those tapes (yes, tapes) or how long he was able to keep it up before being overwhelmed, but lots of people knew about the fact that he was doing it.
Rafe Colburn (rafeco) Tue 24 Apr 01 12:03
Well, sticking them all on tapes that are stuck in a basement somewhere is hardly comparable to storing it in a searchable database that's publicly available on the Internet. It's not like somebody's boss, or wife, or something could easily retrieve all of their posts from the tape at a moment's notice.
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Tue 24 Apr 01 12:06
But it would be cool if someone could find that data and make it available again... the deja archive only goes back to 1995.
someone who just sucked on a dill pickle (wendyg) Tue 24 Apr 01 12:28
I've got fragments back to 1993, but they're just one or two newsgroups and not complete. What's really sad to me is that CompuServe had extensive archived tapes of all their forums and may still have -- but no one can access them, and my guess is that they'll eventually just be destroyed. Hmm...how many topics would each WELL user have to archive to have a complete archive of the WELL? Chapter 3 was really a reaction to the idiot Congressman who got up and said that the US created and paid for the Internet so we shouldn't give it away (by letting domain name dispute arbitration move to Geneva). Essentially, the groups that created the core technologies that underlie the Net were always international. The idea that the network should be regarded as unreliable came from the French research network Cyclades. And of course packet-switching, the term, came brom Britain's Donald Davies, who died last year (I think it was). Plus, typically those outside the US have to pay far more to connect to the Net and bore the lion's share of costs for international cabling. And now we're rapidly approaching the point where the US will no longer host the majority of Web sites and English won't be the language of more than half the Web either. wg
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Tue 24 Apr 01 14:27
But there are also the physical infrastructure issues that you mention... with international cabling? How goes the project of wiring the world?
someone who just sucked on a dill pickle (wendyg) Tue 24 Apr 01 16:26
I'm afraid I'm not more up-to-date than the book is -- I wrote that chapter in about November 1999. (There were publishing delays.) I can tell you broadband in the Uk is rolling out very, very slowly. I will try to post a PDF of a later chapter tomorrow, because this would be a lot more fun if a few more people had seen some of the material. wg
someone who just sucked on a dill pickle (wendyg) Wed 25 Apr 01 05:47
(The other problem is that it's often difficult for me to remember what I wrote last week...) One recurring problem is the attempt to apply geographical boundaries to the Net -- there's a kind of sch8izoid thing about this from the earliest days, when the pioneers were talking about how geography didn't apply while at the same time creating a DNS structure that divided everything up into country codes. The manifestations of this that were covered in anarpow (as I refer to it privately) were mostly American. More recently, we've had the cases of Yahoo!'s being ordered by a French court not to allow its vendors to sell Nazi memorabilia to French citizens and the Real Audio/consortium MusicNet, which is being set up to kill Napster but will only be available to North Americans. The Napster fight is really just the first skirmish; there is going to be an almighty war over the traditional geographic divisions of copyright law, particularly relating to movies. The size of the stream of region 1 DVDs heading eastwards has to be seen to be believed. Take a look any day at www.ebay.co.uk's DVD listings and you'll see that fully half of them are region 1 -- it's so easy to buy a hacked player (see http://www.techtronics.com). wg
tally (tally) Wed 25 Apr 01 07:32
Wasn't the idea of the "electronic frontier" always just a little utopian, though? Nationalism isn't limited to geographical boundaries, but also includes law, culture, religion, etc. And it also turns out that, while the Net "routes around" censorship, countries like China have come up with very effective technological means of keeping potentially dangerous, embarrassing or just unpleasant information out of the hands of its Net- connected computers. (Not to mention the commercial pressures you've noted regarding Yahoo and Napster -- lawyers across the world ...(
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Wed 25 Apr 01 10:05
The 'electronic frontier' concept was not exactly utopian... it was descriptive of the "lawless" state of the early Internet, but the frontier metaphor acknowledged an inevitable future (which is now present) in which the Internet is "settled," and as more settlers come in there's increasing need to define laws and boundaries. What Wendy's talking about is, I think, different but related. Traditional geographical and political boundaries were set with physical constraints as a factor, but the Internet allows us to have meaningful relationships across those boundaries. Physical distance isn't noticeable, nor oceans, mountain ranges, rivers, etc. - traditional physical boundaries. You can move digital product anywhere without going through customs. If a song has to be instantiated in a physical medium, like a vinyl lp, in order to be transported, then its distribution is within the control of guys who have the means of production, the record companies, and political entities can control at the borders whether the record enters their realm (at least legally; black markets are always possible). With the Internet, anything that can be packetized can be transported anywhere, and it's much harder to control the flow. Even countries like Singapore, which filters all incoming web content through a proxy server, doesn't have complete control (e.g. Singapore doesn't filter email, at least didn't used to last time I looked). Sure, diverse customs and laws have some bearing, but this opportunity for exposure to anyone anywhere also erodes cultural boundaries (which was already happening; the origin of postmodern flattening of cultural hierarchies was in mass media, the Internet is just an evolution from mass media to interactive media... or, as Lance Rose suggests, an interactive environment in which many media can be present). Wendy, do you agree with my assessment? Anything to add?
someone who just sucked on a dill pickle (wendyg) Wed 25 Apr 01 11:28
Well, the piece I'm trying to write atm is why I believe MusicNet will fail. The moment at the press conference when I wrote on my pad THIS WILL FAIL was the precise moment when the Real Audio guy mentioned in passing that it would only be available in North America (leaving aside the question of how they're going to tell British CompuServe users from American ones). I raised my hand and asked them why. And the reason they gave was that the cooperating companies didn't necessarily own the rights outside of NAm. I say Napster users will switch to Gnutella, Aimster, OpenNap, or whatever, rather than put up with that. Of course, it may just be wishful thinking. Maybe people will be happy with a service they pay for, that limits its content, and that carries the artists belonging to the world's top five labels and nothing else, but I don't think so. One of the great appeals of Napster is being able to find that 1960s TV theme tune, or that weird bootleg tape of that song the band never recorded...so I think they don't get it. (Nor do I get why it's easier to write a posting than the damn article.) And of course copyright is one area of law whgere there is substantial international agreement. But damn it, why should I, an American, not be able to use an **Internet** service because of an accident of residential geography? wg
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Wed 25 Apr 01 12:08
Most businesses would be loathe to take the chances that Napster is taking. I'm impressed with their fortitude: despite the result of the lawsuit, I see that Napster users are still swapping copyright content like it's going out of style. Reminds me of the Boston Tea Party.
someone who just sucked on a dill pickle (wendyg) Wed 25 Apr 01 13:57
I've always assumed that's one reason Napster has never attempted to charge its users -- less to lose that way. It's definitely harder to find, say, Madonna tracks on Napster now. I don't really see that as a loss -- there's e3nough places to find Madonna. wg
Members: Enter the conference to participate