Wired Magazine : VIEW

A note from me:

shut up and read...


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Sorry, You're Off the List

I just got the following message on Orkut: "You can only have up to 1,000 friends. Before you can add more friends, you need to remove friends."

This reminds me a bit of real life. I need to forget someone every time I meet someone I want to remember because I'm having a buffer overflow on my people recognition memory.

Posted on joi.ito.comJoi Ito, vice president of international business
and mobile devices, Technorati; chair, Six Apart Japan

Where's My Freakin' Limo?

[I'm] annoyed over the assertion by the popular press that the game industry is larger than Hollywood. … Why aren't game designers,writers, programmers, and artists floating in money? Where are all the limousines, the fast parties, the tabloids tracking our falls in and out of rehab?

Posted on grumpygamer.comRon Gilbert, creator, Monkey Island

Help! Free Music Has Taken Over My Hard Drive

[Music's] transaction cost can be as low as free … so there's no inherent pressure to listen to it. Repeat this a bunch of times, and
all of a sudden my hard drive is full of music that I've never heard,and the "digital photo effect" starts to kick in. So what do I do? I listen to the same old albums over and over, because I know I like them.

Posted on www.rootburn.com Rajat Paharia, former codirector of software experiences, IDEO


It's an open secret that the US intelligence community has its own classified, highly secure Internet. Called Intelink, it's got portals,chat rooms, message boards, search engines, webmail, and tons of servers. It's pretty damn cool … for four years ago.

While I was serving as an intelligence analyst at the US Central Command in Qatar during operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom in 2003, my team and I analyzed hundreds of messages and reports each day. We created briefings used by generals Tommy Franks and John Abizaid. A vast amount of information was available to us on Intelink,but there was no simple way to find and use the data efficiently. For
instance,our search engine was an outdated version of AltaVista. (We've got Google now, a step in the right direction.) And while there were hundreds of people throughout the world reading the same materials, there was no easy way to learn what they thought. Somebody had answers to my questions, I knew, but how were we ever to connect? The scary truth is that most of the time analysts are flying half

It doesn't have to be that way. Instead of embarking on an expensive and decades-long process of reform - the type loved by bureaucrats on Capitol Hill - the services can fix this themselves. There's no reason
our nation's spy organizations can't leap-frog what the Army is already doing with Web technology and, at the same time, build upon what the public is doing with the blogosphere.

Launched in 2001, Army Knowledge Online is Yahoo! for grunts. All the things that make life on the Net interesting and useful are on AKO. Every soldier has an account, and each unit has its own virtual workspace. Soldiers in my reserve unit are scattered throughout Texas, and we're physically together only once a month. AKO lets us stay linked around the clock.

Another innovative program is the Center for Army Lessons Learned, basically anotherblog staffed by experts. Soldiers can post white papers on subjects ranging from social etiquette at Iraqi funerals to surviving convoy mbushes. A search for "improvised explosive device" yields more than 130 hits. The center's articles are vetted by the staff for accuracy and usefulness, and anyone in the Army can submit.

Unfortunately, the intelligence ommunity has not kept up with the Army. The 15 agencies of the community - ranging from the armed services to the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency - maintain
separate portals, separate data, and separate people. The bad guys exploit the gaps, and your safety is on the line. So if all us knuckle-draggers in the Army can use technology to make ourselves better, why can't all the big brains at Langley and Foggy Bottom do the same?

The first step toward reform: ncourage blogging on Intelink. When I Google "Afghanistan blog" on the public Internet, I find 1.1 million entries and tons of useful information. But on Intelink there are no blogs. Imagine if the experts in every intelligence field were turned
loose - all that's needed is some cheap software. It's not far-fetched to picture a top-secret CIA blog about al Qaeda, with postings from Navy Intelligence and the FBI, among others. Leave the bureaucratic infighting to the agency heads. Give good analysts good tools, and they'll deliver outstanding results.

And why not tap the brainpower of the blogosphere as well? The intelligence community does a terrible job of looking outside itself for information. From journalists to academics and even educated amateurs - there are thousands of people who would be interested and willing to help. Imagine how much traffic an official CIA Iraq blog would attract. If intelligence organizations built a collaborative
environment through blogs, they could quickly identify credible sources, develop a deep backfield of contributing analysts, and engage the world as a whole. How cool would it be to gain "trusted user" status on a CIA blog?

All this is possible with resources that currently exist. It won't require a complete overhaul of intelligence services, or the creation of a cabinet-level "intelligence czar." (Has the drug czar won the war on drugs?) Intelink blogging would immediately improve the information being used in the war on terror. AKO has managed to connect nearly 2 million members on an annual budget of about $30 million - that's chump change compared with the cost of a day's operations in Iraq. You do the math.

Kris Alexander (kris.alexander@gmail.com) is a captain and military intelligence officer in the US Army Reserve. The opinions he expresses in this essay do not necessarily reflect those of his employers.

VIEW|hot seat

The Baby Bells have declared war against municipal broadband. While BellSouth and SBC did battle in Louisiana and Illinois, Verizon helped push a bill through Pennsylvania's legislature to stop Philadelphia from becoming the world's biggest Wi-Fi hot spot (see View, Lessig,page 79). A compromise saved Philly's plans, but the law gives telcos veto power over other public broadband initiatives in the Keystone
State. We asked senior VP of broadband solutions Marilyn O'Connell why Verizon won't set bandwidth free.

WIRED: The Baby Bells have been trying to snuff out municipal broadband wherever it appears. What's this war all about?
O'CONNELL: I don't see it as a war. They're all very different situations. In Pennsylvania, we were able to reach a good compromise with the state that ensures they can build the Wi-Fi network in Philadelphia.

That "compromise" gives Verizon veto power over other municipal Wi-Fi efforts. What right do you have to stomp on a small town's efforts to provide wireless Internet access?I don't think we'd have a problem with that. But when we have obligations that prevent us from recouping on a commitment we've made to a municipality or to a state, we're going to speak up.

Commitments?Well, to ensure the rollout of broadband, we have to make an investment commitment in various states and we have to make a service-level commitment. These investments are quite substantial.

From the citizen's perspective, it sure seems like you're trying to prevent wireless access from becoming a basic public utility. Shouldn't bandwidth be free?A lot of things would have to come together before you have the kind of coverage that would allow people to say, "I don't need any other bandwidth, I can just go and plug into the city's network." I don't see that governments are going to supply
that kind of service in such a broad, ubiquitous way. The reality is, to have the kind of broadband-rich networks you need, private companies have to come forward.

- Lucas Graves


They say you can't understand people until you've walked a mile in their shoes. I just walked across Belgrade in a brand-new pair of Nikes. Now I understand something: The citizens of this city are the vanguard of a new phase of capitalism. They're busily subverting
conventional multi-national commerce and creating a dark parallel process - call it black globalization.

My new shoes look authentic, but hey're a scam of ominous sophistication. The insole logo is silk-screened on; my socks erased the Nike swoosh in a single afternoon. The stitching is coarse and
sloppy - the pull tab at the heel ripped loose the first time I tried to use it. The sporty soles are slippy, not grippy. The tag proclaims MADE IN KOREA, although the product is almost certainly a fake churned out by a Chinese factory. Adding insult to Nike's injury, the phony barcode denotes a pair of Reeboks.

These shoes cost me only $10 in dinars, but they weren't a bargain. They're like a phishing scam, an international email message that looks official and goes through all the proper, high tech, image-making motions - with the intent to rob. Will anyone ever catch the perpetrators? Hell no. These shoes probably scampered across a dozen national borders on their way to Belgrade, and the hucksters
involved must number in the thousands, each one pitching in his bit, in P2P fashion.

During the 1990s, Serbia and Montenegro (the latest official title for this part of the former Yugoslavia) suffered under United Nations
sanctions that deprived the populace of imported goods. Today the locals suffer from brand fever. Here, the golden arches of McDonald's are viewed as voodoo protection against cruise missiles. People can't afford Western luxuries, so they have a warm, affirmative feeling for smugglers. Global branding makes it easy to create fake products with broad appeal on someone else's promotional dime. So stores are filled
with upscale-looking, marginally functional fakes in food, clothes, cosmetics, even car parts.

The Chinese-run shops in Serbia and Montenegro, known as kineskae, carry products in every possible variant of honesty and dishonesty. Running shoes most Westerners have never heard of - Die Xian, Gui Ren, Renke - sit alongside knockoffs with Nike-like names such as Wink, not
to mention blatant acts of deceit like my bogus shoes. Of course, you can also buy real Nikes for the crippling international price. The shiny, glass-fronted stores that sell them grimly alert shoppers to their anti-shoplifting technology; mom-and-pop kineskae make no such fuss.

Kineskae represent the former Yugoslavia's choice to step outside the global economy and embrace the criminal underground. Phony brand-name items - which account for 6 percent of international trade - have become an integral part of the pernicious flow that includes narcotics, small arms, oil, and the sex trade. They have the
relationship to genuine products that corrupt government has to legitimate representation, rigged balloting to fair election, captive press to free expression. Bogus products are part and parcel of the worldwide marketplace - more so than dated symbols of globalization like Coca-Cola.

Serbia and Montenegro isn't a failed state like Iraq or Sudan, but a faked state. This purported country, which has had serious problems settling on an anthem and a flag, is best understood as a giant covert operation, like Iran-Contra or Enron. Nobody is less likely than a Serbian to collaborate with the ever-more-anxious overlords of
intellectual property: the World Trade Organization, the World Intellectual Property Organization, the World Customs Organization, and Nike's own clique, the US Council for International Business. For all their treaties and trade agreements, these paper tigers might as well be waving bread sticks as billy clubs.

These organizations are right to worry. Black globalism extends well beyond easy, offhand intellectual property thefts like videotaping first-run films and burning them onto DVD. It commandeers the manufacturing, distribution, and business infrastructure in a parasitic rejection of the global order that is the engine of our
collective future. The folks who made my shoes have everything it takes to make excellent footwear. Yet they choose to make counterfeits. It's a brave, new, destructive world of manufacturing and marketing: Just fake it.

Email Bruce Sterling at bruces@well.com.



You'll be pleased to know that communism was defeated in Pennsylvania last year. Governor Ed Rendell signed into law a bill prohibiting the Reds in local government from offering free Wi-Fi throughout their municipalities. The action came after Philadelphia, where more than 50 percent of neighborhoods don't have access to broadband, embarked on a
$10 million wireless Internet project. City leaders had stepped in where the free market had failed. Of course, it's a slippery slope from free Internet access to Karl Marx. So Rendell, the telecom industry's latest toady, even while exempting the City of Brotherly Love, acted to spare Pennsylvania from this grave threat to its
economic freedom.

Let's hope this is just the first step. For if you look closely, you'll see the communist menace has infiltrated governments
everywhere. Ever notice those free photons as you walk the city at night? Ever think about the poor streetlamp companies, run out of business because municipalities deigned to do completely what private industry would do only incompletely? Or think about the scandal of public roads: How many tollbooth workers have lost their jobs because we no longer (since about the 18th century) fund all roads through
private enterprise? Municipal buses compete with private taxis. City police departments hamper the growth at Pinkerton's (now Securitas). It's a national scandal. So let the principle that guided Rendell guide governments everywhere: If private industry can provide a service, however poorly or incompletely, then ban the government from competing. What's true for Wi-Fi should be true for water.

No, I haven't lost my mind. But this sort of insanity is raging across the US today. Pushed by lobbyists, at least 14 states have passed legislation similar to Pennsylvania's. I've always wondered what almost $1 billion spent on lobbying state lawmakers gets you. Now I'm beginning to see.

The telcos' argument isn't much more subtle than that of the simpleton who began this column: Businesses shouldn't have to compete against their governments. What the market can do, the government shouldn't. Or so the fall of the Soviet Union should have taught us.

Although this principle is true enough in most cases, it is obviously not true in all. The government should certainly not do what private enterprise can do better (e.g., make computers). And the government should not prohibit private enterprise from competing against it
(e.g., FedEx). But the government also should not act as the cat's paw for one of the most powerful industries in the nation by making competition against that industry illegal, whether from government or not. This is true, at least, when it is unclear just what kind of "good" such competition might produce.

Broadband is the perfect example. The private market has failed the US so far. At the beginning, we led the world in broadband deployment. But by 2004, we ranked an embarrassing 13th. There are many places, like Philadelphia, where service is lacking. And there are many places, like San Francisco, where competition is lacking. The result of the duopoly that currently defines "competition" is that prices and service suck. We're the world's leader in Internet technology - except that we're not.

The solution is not to fire private enterprise; it is instead to encourage more competition. Communities across the country are experimenting with ways to supplement private service. And these experiments are producing unexpected economic returns. Some are discovering that free wireless access increases the value of public
spaces just as, well, streetlamps do. And just as streetlamps don't make other types of lighting obsolete, free wireless access in public spaces won't kill demand for access in private spaces. In economoid-speak, these public services may well provide positive externalities. Yet we will never recognize these externalities unless
municipalities are free to experiment. That's why the bipartisan Silicon Valley advocacy group TechNet explicitly endorses allowing local governments to compete with broadband providers.

City and state politicians should have the backbone to stand up to self-serving lobbyists. Citizens everywhere should punish telecom toadies who don't. Backwater broadband has been our fate long enough. Let the markets, both private and public, compete to provide the
service that telecom and cable has not.

Email Lawrence Lessig at lawrence_lessig@wiredmag.com.

Copyright (C) 1993-99 The Conde Nast Publications Inc. All rights reserved.

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