The background for the piece, I just realized upon re-reading it, is Larry Lessig's 2002 Free Culture speech, where he challenged technologists makers of the future to fight those who were opposing it with increasing success.
A year later Larry was calling this fight a civil war between Northern and Southern California: between Silicon Valley and Hollwood.
What I fear we are now learning, from Intel and Apple and Microsoft, is that the real division is between those who favor freedom and those who favor control. And that there are no big companies on the freedom side not even in Silicon Valley.
Are there? Show me one who is willing to stand behind what Larry Lessig has been saying, for years, about the fight for free markets and free culture.
The technology community that matters is comprised of ronin. Free agents. Independent operators. These are the people standing together on one side of this fight.
And now, I fear, the fight will be with the companies we hoped would fight for us. In some cases our own employers.
So, naturally, I look for help. Today began with a visit to Terry Heaton, a broadcasting veteran who consults the commercial television business. Terry is the best thinker about What's Actually Happening in and around that business. This morning, fortuitously, he treats us to some important wisdom in 2006: The Unbundled Awakening. Here are the core paragraphs:
I'll be having an on-stage conversation with Jonathan Schwartz of Sun Microsystems at Syndicate tomorrow morning. So I'm looking for some help with questions. Especially as they relate to the theme of the show, which is syndication.
Blogging chief executives are a rare breed, and Jonathan is among the best of them. He's also a very bright guy with original takes on a lot of subjects.
For a sample, here's an excellent podcast of an interview of Jonathan several months back, by Quentin Hardy of Forbes. And here's Jonathan's blog post about it. And here's a nice piece by Jim Grisanzio about one point Jonathan makes in it.
The Syndicate conference starts at 8am here in San Francisco. I'm giving the opening remarks. In the spirit of syndication itself, I decided I'd rather blog what I'm going to say, rather than prepare slides about it.
After the opening wisecracks which will probably include something about what it really means to be the conference "chair" (Please move your ass off my lap. Thank you.) I'll tell the story of how Dave Winer got me started blogging more than six years ago, and how without his help I might just be another tech writer making money on the side telling clueless companies how to market stuff.
I'll talk about Dave's original vision of the writeable Web, and how there never has been a more empowering concept than his original "Edit This Page".
Except, of course, syndication. Dave drove that too. He was the guy who turned RSS from "Rich Site Summary" to "Really Simple Syndication".
Blogging and syndication are on one side of a split in the Web, as it grows outward and upward like a tree, that is revealed by the difference between "site summary" and "simple syndication".
On one side is the Static Web of sites that we architect and build and construct, at locations with addresses. On the other is the Live Web of pages that we write or author and publish and syndicate, and which can be browsed or subscribed to.
Tim Berners-Lee conceived the Web in the first place as a set of documents, linked to each other. But for a half-decade or more after the browser became popular, we thought of the Web primarily in real estate terms, as a set of sites. Because that's what the tools supported, and that's how we thought about what we did on the Web.
That's also what search engines supported as well. Everything in a URL east of the domain name is a haystack. It has no directory and barely any structure, besides a series of slashes between words. Each slash is a file folder. The static Web is essentially a vast mess of files inside file folders inside file folders. The miracles we call Google and Yahoo are how we find needles in the Web's haystack.
The live Web, however, has a kind of organization. As a living thing, written by human beings in the dimension of time, it goes domain/year/day/date/post. That's how it's organized, even if each URL doesn't exactly conform to that layout.
It also has categories, called tags. This is a new thing we'll be talking about over the next couple days. What matters is that, like blogging and RSS, it's driven by individuals and independent developers. Not by the big guys.
Here's the biggest fact about the live Web: individuals are in charge. The group we used to call consumers are now producers. The demand side is supplying itself. Dealing with that fact, and taking advantage of it, is the biggest challenge and opportunity for everybody who wants to succeed in the live Web.
Think about photography for a minute. Used to be we consumed film and processing and showed prints to a few friends and family members before they went in drawers or albums on shelves in our homes. Now we produce our own photography, publish it on Flickr or BuzzNet, tag it and share it with thousands or millions of people, in a form where it is interesting and useful and completely drives the whole photography business, far more, in the long run, than any brand, even Kodak, ever did.
So there is a new balance of power in the world, that we're seeing first in the live Web. Now individuals are in charge of their own lives, their own livings, and the things they do in the world, many of which involve production of goods like we've never seen before.
That's the new context.
If you're a developer, and interested in finding out more (or contributing to) about what's happening with Identity right now or if you're headed to town for the Syndicate conference and want to spend a productive morning before the Syndicate tutorials start, consider joining us for... (here's the email that's already gone out)...
The Internet Identity Workshop presents an Informational Morning for Developers
Monday, December 12, 2005 9-12 noon, with lunch from 12-1
Canton Dim Sum 655 Folsom, San Francisco (close to Moscone)
Cost $20 for lunch (PLEASE RSVP HERE)
Canton Restaurant has been kind enough to give us the space if we all have lunch there, but we need an accurate count by Sunday at noon.
If you are a developer working on a application that has folks login - this is a morning for you.
Doc will open with an overview of the identity landscape, including larger topics like the Identity Metasystem. He and others will address the question:
Why do identity systems matter when building new systems and tools?
We are bringing together a spectrum of folks who have been working on developing identity systems and tools. Identity Developers will share their work, basics and best practices to date to get started exploring integrating identity into these applications. These should include (but not be limited to) YADIS, LID, OpenID, i-names/XRI and Sxip and InfoCard, among others.
Developers of applications who have included identity into their services and tools will share briefly how they've done it. Application developers will hear from and meet with identity developers to ask questions.
This is about user-centered identity, which those of us in the conversation variously call "independent identity", "Identity 2.0", the "Identity MetaSystem" and so on. This isn't about big companies sharing data about customers held captive in CRMs. It's about building applications and services around independent users and companies in a networked marketplace.
Hope to see ya there.
When we were driving back from Thanksgiving up North, I gave my wife the rundown on What's Up With Identity. She's not a techie, and she doesn't care much about the topic. But she does care about her anonymity. So, when she hears about more, or better, "identity services", she guards her purse. "I don't want more identity," she says. "I want less."
Specifically, she likes her anonymity, and prefers to keep that as a default as she makes her way through the world both online and off.
I think we're all like that. Sure, we can't help being unique. And it's clear that "identity services," whatever they end up being, will respect what makes each of us a sovereign, independent and unique individual. But they also need to protect our wish to remain Joe or Jane Blow, until the need to idenify ourselves becomes necessary.
All this comes to mind as I read Ross Mayfield's Freedom of Anonymous Speech, which was provoked by potential unintended consequences of changes to Wikipedia (following the Siegenthaler Affair), new anti-libel legislation and the consolidation of telecom (which I wrote about in Saving the Net). Ross fears a loss of anonymity, increased government interference with the Net (and our lives), and worse.
A few days ago I wrote Building an Open Source Home over at Linux Journal. Lots of great responses there. Meanwhile, a new question has come up: If we want to future-proof the house as much as possible, we'll want fiber, right? The question is, what kind? My electrician the guy who's doing the installation says there are many kinds to choose from. Me, I have no idea. I'm hoping one or more of you folks do.
Identity became a STAGS a Subject That Actually Goes Somewhere not much more than one year ago, at the Fall 2004 Digital Identity World in Denver.
That was the first time Identity moved out of the corporate monolith-to-monolith realm and into the personal peer-to-peer realm we also call the Net. Up to that point, most of the talk at DIDW, for years, had been about "federation".
That topic had positive meanings, sure; but to individuals it all looked like what I unkindly characterized as "large companies having safe sex with each other using customer data". If you can't parse that, don't bother. The perspective is what matters. And that's what changed at that show. For the first time, Identity began to get personal. The grass roots began to grow together and cohere into something truly new and interesting.
A bunch of people Drummond Reed, Jamie Lewis, Kaliya Hamlin, Fen Labalme, Craig Burton, Owen Davis, Kim Cameron, Johannes Ernst, Andre Durand, Eric Norlin, Phil Windley, Bill Washburn, Marc Canter and others began to connect at that show and in the weeks that followed. Kim Cameron started Identityblog and began to write his laws. Phil Windley and I gave a progress report on the 14 December Gillmor Gang.
can doom a project before it even starts. We all know this but do we pay attention to this? it may be that some do and some don’t as usual but I bet more don’t worry about it then do worry about it. With the project I am working on right now I have the words plastered all over the place to remind me to try and avoid it. Some of the creep that has entered the process has been good and others that have entered are not suited for the project at this time. The ones that are not suited for the project usually get weeded out in one of the design meeting but that still means that it got into the system in the first place. The fact that it got into the design in the first place is not a problem if it is removed before it gets to far along, however there is an under lying problem that some may not see and that is the time someone put into the thought of the item in question.
I'm not a developer, but I can I dentify with the issue. There's always a temptation to do more, to say more, about more subjects at once.
I've always thought that if you can say (or do, or create something that does) one thing well, that single purpose will have a powerful editing effect. Scope-broadening either does or doesn't go with that one thing. More often than not, More Stuff doesn't go.
Right now I'm amazed at how many new products and services that I don't understand are flooding into in the Web space.
Take Microsoft's new "Windows Live" and "Office Live", for example.
A number of people have pointed me to Walt Mossberg's DRM piece in the Wall Street Journal yesterday. Since I get the Journal, I read it in print as well.
Folks pointing me to it thought I would like it, I guess, because they liked it. But I didn't. Here's Walt's gist:
...the real issue isn't DRM itself -- it's the manner in which DRM is used by copyright holders. Companies have a right to protect their property, and DRM is one means to do so. But treating all consumers as potential criminals by using DRM to overly limit their activities is just plain wrong.
Let's be clear: The theft of intellectual property on the Internet is a real problem. Millions of copies of songs, TV shows and movies are being distributed over the Internet by people who have no legal right to do so, robbing media companies and artists of rightful compensation for their work.
Even if you think the record labels and movie studios are stupid and greedy, as many do, that doesn't entitle you to steal their products. If your local supermarket were run by people you didn't like, and charged more than you thought was fair, you wouldn't be entitled to shoplift Cheerios from its shelves.
On the other hand, I believe that consumers should have broad leeway to use legally purchased music and video for personal, noncommercial purposes in any way they want -- as long as they don't engage in mass distribution. They should be able to copy it to as many personal digital devices as they own, convert it to any format those devices require, and play it in whatever locations, at whatever times, they choose.
I didn't like this piece because it's pro-DRM. For example,