What I find most disappointing, irritating, and dismissive about Malcolm Gladwell’s recent New Yorker article Small Change: Why the revolution will not be tweeted is that it sets the activism bar so high. He’s dismissive of any form of activism except “high-risk activism”: “Activism that challenges the status quo—that attacks deeply rooted problems—is not for the faint of heart.” And since “weak ties seldom lead to high-risk activism”, he’s dismissive of such ties as well.
Gladwell dismisses (or at least denigrates) less risky forms of activism and the weak ties that can enable it. Weak ties (and the social media that supports and enables them) can lead to low-risk activism (say a donation to the Haiti relief fund, or voting for one candidate instead of another) or even medium-risk activism (submitting something to wiki-leaks).
Why in the world shouldn’t we celebrate and encourage such lower-risk activism? And it’s not just social media activities that fail the “high risk” test. Most marches and demonstrations in Washington are pretty low risk, so are they unworthy of our efforts? Are silent vigils? Are fund raising events like “walks for <fill in the blank>”?
Gladwell comes off as implying that only high-risk activism makes a difference and that any other form of activism is some sort of cop-out: “It makes it easier for activists to express themselves, and harder for that expression to have any impact.” So if I’m not willing to risk my life in my activism, I shouldn’t even bother? Or I shouldn’t call it activism?
Sorry. I don’t buy it. I think every little bit helps change the world. Small is beautiful…even small change.
[This is a continuation of a discussion of the “shape of the web” that started in Twitter and then moved to Richard Veryard’s blog: What shape is the Internet.]
Glad we agree on the 1st point. On the 2nd point, I'm not sure Tim's vision of hypermedia was all that "innocent".
I think both Tim Berners-Lee, and Ted Nelson before him, understood that "hypermedia" implied not only following links to go from media to media, but also that such media would be (mis)interpreted, copied, rearranged, (mis)used, mashed up, etc.
A bit cryptic, so I searched(!) for any discussion of the two gods by Ted. The only discussion that I could find is in this BBC interview: “I think of it as a form of writing - and writing is essentially what I would call a two-God system, because God the author proposes and God the reader disposes. The author is completely free to do anything on the page that he likes.” (I would have said “to the page”.)
I can’t be sure, but I think Ted (and Tim perhaps to a lesser degree) WERE plugged into the more general concept of intertextuality: “the shaping of texts' meanings by other texts. It can refer to an author’s borrowing and transformation of a prior text or to a reader’s referencing of one text in reading another.” ( ). For a good discussion of intertextuality (if you like semiotics and literary theory), see this article.
What I think both are alluding to with the metaphor of “two gods”, the reader and the writer, is the idea that “hypertextuality increases intertextuality”: hypertext increases the (mis)use of text (really all media) by users (readers) in ways unforeseen (and often unapproved) by producers (authors). So I think both Tim and Ted are completely unsurprised (but not unconcerned) with how the web of hypermedia is (mis)used in ever more sophisticated ways. It is not just any battle, it is a Red Queen arms race among readers and writers!
The web of linked media enables easier exploration and exploitation of that media.
[The very movement of this discussion from twitter to blog to blog is a perfect example of the intertextual battle. As is my use of a link shortening service…]
Tim does not mention RDF at all in either of them. Here is how he defines linked data in his 2009 TED talk:
So I want us now to think about not just two pieces of data being connected, or six like he did, but I want to think about a world where everybody has put data on the web and so virtually everything you can imagine is on the web. and then calling that linked data. The technology is linked data, and it's extremely simple. If you want to put something on the web there are three rules: first thing is that those HTTP names -- those things that start with "http:" -- we're using them not just for documents now, we're using them for things that the documents are about. We're using them for people, we're using them for places, we're using them for your products, we're using them for events. All kinds of conceptual things, they have names now that start with HTTP.
Second rule, if I take one of these HTTP names and I look it up and I do the web thing with it and I fetch the data using the HTTP protocol from the web, I will get back some data in a standard format which is kind of useful data that somebody might like to know about that thing, about that event. Who's at the event? Whatever it is about that person, where they were born, things like that. So the second rule is I get important information back.
Third rule is that when I get back that information it's not just got somebody's height and weight and when they were born, it's got relationships. Data is relationships. Interestingly, data is relationships. This person was born in Berlin, Berlin is Germany. And when it has relationships, whenever it expresses a relationship then the other thing that it's related to is given one of those names that starts HTTP. So, I can go ahead and look that thing up. So I look up a person -- I can look up then the city where they were born I can look up the region it's in, and the town it's in, and the population of it, and so on. So I can browse this stuff.
Now one might argue that Tim was simply avoiding using geek-speak to a general interest audience. But what’s telling is his choice of examples of linked data successes. In particular, he highlights Open Street Maps (OSM) in both talks. AFAICT, the OSM data format is linked, and it is XML, but it’s not RDF.
So if Tim is going to use OSM as a prime example of linked data (actually an example of linked open data), then he’s going to have to open the linked data tent to formats other than RDF. BTW, in the update video this year he also cites examples from both the UK and US open data efforts, many of which I’m sure are not in RDF.
Great review by Roger Martin of the US Army Field Manual 5-0: The Operations Process and its embrace of design thinking. His review was published yesterday on the Design Observer website. Martin gives a GREAT backgrounder on how the field manual came to be revised to emphasize design thinking (lots of great links to earlier Army thinking and debate on the topic). I just left a comment on the article that will hopefully show up on the page soon. Here's what I said (partially in response to a comment by "Jason"):
For me, this is one of the most important passages in FM 5-0:
The introduction of design into Army doctrine seeks to secure the lessons of eight years of war and provide a cognitive tool to commanders who will encounter complex, ill-structured problems in future operational environments.... As learned in recent conflicts, challenges facing the commander in operations often can be understood only in the context of other factors influencing the population. These other factors often include but are not limited to economic development, governance, information, tribal influence, religion, history and culture. Full spectrum operations conducted among the population are effective only when commanders understand the issues in the context of the complex issues facing the population. Understanding context and then deciding how, if, and when to act is both a product of design and integral to the art of command. (paras. 3-16 & 3-17, emphasis added.)
For me, the key word "if" (as in "deciding if to act") speaks directly to Jason's legitimate concern that design thinking might merely be used to inflict pain, suffering, and death (one of the explicit objectives of warfighting) more efficiently. Design thinking will only be a success in influencing Army doctrine if it sometimes leads to decisions NOT to engage in armed combat; to try a different, less lethal approach to achieving an objective.
I think if you read FM 5-0 more closely Jason, you'll see that this is one of the primary reasons for introducing design thinking into battlefield operations doctrine: to better understand when force of arms is NOT the right approach.
That said, I am somewhat disappointed that one needs to read FM 5-0 so closely to see this message. The concept of "human centeredness", which I feel is essential to design thinking is not highlighted in the field manual. I hope that in discussions of FM 5-0 and eventually in revisions to it, that the concept of "human centered experiences" and meaningfulness take center stage.
I just took a look at twitter’s revised terms of service. I posted the my feedback using the feedback link, but I’d thought I’d also post it in my blog for all to see (and respond to):
We both own my content
Given your legal language below, twitter effectively jointly "owns" my content. In other words, anything I can do with my content, twitter can too. You might want to change your "tip" to reflect this.
Currently the tip says: "This license is you authorizing us to make your Tweets available to the rest of the world and to let others do the same. But what’s yours is yours – you own your content." When told they own something, most non-lawyers assume that have EXCLUSIVE rights of ownership. That is NOT the case with twitter content. Twitter effectively has ALL the ownership rights to my content that I have. Twitter can use or sell (license) my content any way I can.
I think your "tip" should make that clearer. How about: "This license is you authorizing us to have all the same rights to the content that you have. Your content is twitter's content -- we both effectively own it."
LEGAL LANGUAGE: You retain your rights to any Content you submit, post or display on or through the Services. By submitting, posting or displaying Content on or through the Services, you grant us a worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free license (with the right to sublicense) to use, copy, reproduce, process, adapt, modify, publish, transmit, display and distribute such Content in any and all media or distribution methods (now known or later developed).
I finally decided to systematically back up my home computer – the one I have for family/personal use. I’ve been using one sort of PC or another since the Compaq Portable in the mid-1980s. In all that time, I’ve only done sporadic backups of various directories when paranoia kicked in. Despite this utter lack of care, I’ve pretty much never lost an important file due to a failure or accident. I have had two hard drives fail on me, but in both cases a data recovery service was able to recover all the files.
I’m currently in the middle of a 15-day free trial of Carbonite and I’m loving it: simple to install, completely unobtrusive, continuously operating. There’s only one problem, but it’s a show-stopper for me: Carbonite will not backup external drives! In my case that means it won’t back up the USB drive that I use to store all my photographs and videos and music.
I was (and I still am) incredulous. I didn’t recall a single review mentioning this crippling feature. I was so incredulous that I searched the web to confirm it. My first confirmation was from this 2007 blog post comment (Carbonite: FAIL, Mozy: ON NOTICE) by the (then?) CEO of Carbonite:
James: Hi, I’m the CEO of Carbonite and I noticed your comments about Carbonite on your blog. Backing up external hard drives is a feature that is available in our PLUS product which will be available shortly. Carbonite didn’t fail to back up your hard drive – we state clearly on the web site that the BASIC version does not back up external hard drives. Doing so would alter the economics of our business model and would require that we charge everyone a much higher price, or abandon our UNLIMITED backup policy which most of our customers really like.
When I read this I thought to myself, “Great! Let’s check out Carbonite Plus to see how much it costs. It’s been almost two years since this post, so I’m sure it’s available now.” So I go to the Carbonite site and search for “carbonite plus”. Unfortunately, this is what I found:
1074 : [General] External, Network, and USB Drives
Article Viewed 3
The current version of Carbonite backs up only the files that reside on permanent hard drives on your PC.
Check back soon for a Carbonite service plan that will allow you to back up your external drives.
So I guess I’ll check back around mid-2011. In the meantime, I’m off to check out Mozy…
I'm trying our Zemanta, an add on to Windows Live Writer. Zemanta is supposedly a semantic web application that automagically enriches your blog posts with suggested links, tags, related articles, pictures, etc.
For example, if I type the phrase mars lander, Zemanta will automatically do wonderful things. Well it's supposed to do amazing things, but I don't see anything happening. Would the concept of Gartner make a difference. Or the happenings in Iran. Nada. The movie, The Watchmen seems pretty cool.
It’s working now as you can see. The problem was that I was running an old version of Windows Live Writer. Now let’s see if it can handle more obscure terms like meiosis, or stigmergy, or tsallis entropy. Wow, it did all of them except for stigmergy, even though stigmergy is in Wikipedia.
Hmmn… It looks as if pictures is not working. I’d love to see a picture of Dolphins, or some Transformers, or maybe even Spider-Man.