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inkwell.vue.109 : Wendy Grossman: From Anarchy to Power: The Net Comes of Age
permalink #26 of 123: 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
  
inkwell.vue.109 : Wendy Grossman: From Anarchy to Power: The Net Comes of Age
permalink #27 of 123: 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
  
inkwell.vue.109 : Wendy Grossman: From Anarchy to Power: The Net Comes of Age
permalink #28 of 123: 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)?
  
inkwell.vue.109 : Wendy Grossman: From Anarchy to Power: The Net Comes of Age
permalink #29 of 123: 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
  
inkwell.vue.109 : Wendy Grossman: From Anarchy to Power: The Net Comes of Age
permalink #30 of 123: 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
  
inkwell.vue.109 : Wendy Grossman: From Anarchy to Power: The Net Comes of Age
permalink #31 of 123: 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? 
  
inkwell.vue.109 : Wendy Grossman: From Anarchy to Power: The Net Comes of Age
permalink #32 of 123: 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
  
inkwell.vue.109 : Wendy Grossman: From Anarchy to Power: The Net Comes of Age
permalink #33 of 123: 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.
  
inkwell.vue.109 : Wendy Grossman: From Anarchy to Power: The Net Comes of Age
permalink #34 of 123: 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
  
inkwell.vue.109 : Wendy Grossman: From Anarchy to Power: The Net Comes of Age
permalink #35 of 123: 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"?
  
inkwell.vue.109 : Wendy Grossman: From Anarchy to Power: The Net Comes of Age
permalink #36 of 123: 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
  
inkwell.vue.109 : Wendy Grossman: From Anarchy to Power: The Net Comes of Age
permalink #37 of 123: tally (tally) Tue 24 Apr 01 11:39
    

And most of us don't even have the book yet!
  
inkwell.vue.109 : Wendy Grossman: From Anarchy to Power: The Net Comes of Age
permalink #38 of 123: 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?
  
inkwell.vue.109 : Wendy Grossman: From Anarchy to Power: The Net Comes of Age
permalink #39 of 123: 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.
  
inkwell.vue.109 : Wendy Grossman: From Anarchy to Power: The Net Comes of Age
permalink #40 of 123: 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.
  
inkwell.vue.109 : Wendy Grossman: From Anarchy to Power: The Net Comes of Age
permalink #41 of 123: 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.
  
inkwell.vue.109 : Wendy Grossman: From Anarchy to Power: The Net Comes of Age
permalink #42 of 123: 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
  
inkwell.vue.109 : Wendy Grossman: From Anarchy to Power: The Net Comes of Age
permalink #43 of 123: 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?
  
inkwell.vue.109 : Wendy Grossman: From Anarchy to Power: The Net Comes of Age
permalink #44 of 123: 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
  
inkwell.vue.109 : Wendy Grossman: From Anarchy to Power: The Net Comes of Age
permalink #45 of 123: 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
  
inkwell.vue.109 : Wendy Grossman: From Anarchy to Power: The Net Comes of Age
permalink #46 of 123: 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 ...(
  
inkwell.vue.109 : Wendy Grossman: From Anarchy to Power: The Net Comes of Age
permalink #47 of 123: 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?
  
inkwell.vue.109 : Wendy Grossman: From Anarchy to Power: The Net Comes of Age
permalink #48 of 123: 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
  
inkwell.vue.109 : Wendy Grossman: From Anarchy to Power: The Net Comes of Age
permalink #49 of 123: 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.
  
inkwell.vue.109 : Wendy Grossman: From Anarchy to Power: The Net Comes of Age
permalink #50 of 123: 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
  

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