The right spirit

There’s a refreshing optimism about what The Guardian is planning: a global homepage focusing on international news. That way they will take advantage of their growing US audience. Carolyn McCall:

The great opportunity for us is that 45 per cent of Guardian Unlimited users have never read the Guardian in print; they are new users of the brand by going digital.

A great opportunity? Some newspaper executives would see that paper-web mix of readers as a horror scenario.

Naive commie wants new cultural revolution

Lawrence Lessig’s ideas, expressed in his books, his many lectures and the Creative Commons project have great impact. Ideas with the power to change how people think and act usually are controversial, exactly because they disturb the status quo. That must be the reason why people constantly hurl the most absurd accusations at the law professor. Recently Lessig has been charged with wanting a new cultural revolution because of a web 2.0 blog post where he distinguished between fake sharing sites such as YouTube (does not allow downloading) and true sharing sites (Flickr, Revver and more). As Lessig points out in a follow-up post, what he wrote had more to do with an analysis about the emerging hybrid economy than with a communist revival:

in my view, the really critical question for the Internet economy is how well companies negotiate the hybrid economy. In my view, those who follow Web 2.0 values are likely to profit most; those who don’lt, won’lt. Thus, when David Bowie tries to jump into the mashup/remix world by offering prizes for the best remix of his content, but demanding the rights to all the creativity produced by the remixers, he’ls violating a Web 2.0 principle, and by doing so, weakening the extraordinary potential his effort could have.

Or, as he concludes, do you think Jimmy Wales is a communist because he wants Wikipedia to be freely available and share- and remixable?

Eagerly awaiting the next chapter of Lessig bashing, here’s a replay of what happened when he urged academics at a conference in Norway to help spread and share knowledge. Naive and dangerous man!

UPDATE: New post from Lessig on Creative Commons values:

The key is to build alternatives that creators on the Internet can use to both create as they wish and keep control of their creativity. That’s the challenge I see over the next four years. And as we review over the next few weeks some of the best of CC from around the world, you’ll begin to see how this challenge might be met.

The web in 2015 – open and free?

The Norwegian magazine Horisont has published an article I have written about how the internet might develop in the years from now until 2015 (pdf format). Needless to say, the task was almost hopeless, but then again no one knows the “right” answer, so it wasn’t so daunting after all… Operationalizing the idea to mean “the social uses of the internet”, I settled on interviewing four people who would approach the subject from different angles: management professor Espen Andersen, librarian and blogger Erik Stattin, Opera CTO Håkon Wium Lie, law professor and author of “The Wealth of Networks” Yochai Benkler. But of course I take full responsibility for the final text. Excerpts at least of the Benkler interview will appear here.

UPDATE: The article is now available in html format.

Powerful editor as web optimist

Washington Post editor Len Downie with a very upbeat assessment of the web’s impact on journalism:

Downie said that when it first became apparent that the Internet would change the news business, executives and editors worried that its influence would erode the quality of journalism, increase competition, and become a distraction for the reporters and editors working on the print edition of the paper. But he said instead that the increased focus on the Web has “improved journalism a lot, way more than we could have expected.”

And he added, bloggers and media aren’t competitors – the relationship is symbiotic.

“Citizen journalism works”

So says Magnus Ljungkvist, who is credited with digging out information that helped bring down the minister of trade in the new Swedish government, Maria Borelius.

What Ljungkvist did was fairly simple but often ignored – the legwork of a good journalist. He documented Borelius’ and her family’s income during the 1990s and contrasted this with her claim that she at that time couldn’t afford to pay a cleaning woman “white”, with the proper payroll taxes.

Reflecting on his own role, Ljungkvist writes that “the political blogs in Sweden are almost without exception a kind of private leading article page where the news is commented upon”. He wrote like that himself, but after a while he wanted to try something else, and he was actually more interested in working on different perspectives to stories than to jump into investigative journalism. But then he got the idea for the Borelius story. He concludes:

…citizen journalism works. I think I can dare to state that today. The blogosphere can be both fast and thorough. In addition to that we have good opportunities in Sweden with the fantastic public information act which makes it possible to gain access to important information from government without having a press card… What we citizen journalists can offer is maybe predominantly to investigate the power of the mainstream media.

The same media were very reluctant to give Ljungkvist credit for his work, whereas the response from bloggers were very encouraging and supportive. The blogosphere at its best.

Returning to Soviet times


At a media seminar in Sweden in 2004, Anna Politkovskaya spoke in her quiet, intense way about her experiences covering Chechnya. Her conclusion was that the press had more freedom during the Soviet era than in Putin’s Russia. That was hard to believe. I don’t think many of the Westerners present wanted to believe it, either.

John Lloyd, who by the way attended the same seminar, writes about Politkovskaya’s relation to the Russian public. He comes close to sharing her diagnosis from two and a half years ago:

Politkovskaya was one sign – the largest – that Russian media had not returned to pre-Glasnost Soviet days. She could still publish and travel, unimaginable for a critic in Soviet times. But the mass media – above all television – has ceased to reflect oppositionist voices, and makes little attempt at objectivity. The state – or corporations tied to the state – controls all. The limits of comment are wider than under Communism, but have narrowed significantly, to the point where there are no really powerful, influential voices providing a balance to the Russian-nationalists, pro-Kremlin commentators and programme producers.

The photo is taken by Teppo in Helsinki on October 8, when people gathered in commemoration of Politkovskaya. Reproduced here courtesy of the Creative Commons license. Found by using the CC search tool.

Transfer windows for Googlezon

In the world of football the system of transfer windows ensures that selling and acquiring players can only take place in certain time periods of the year. I wonder if the same system should be applied to other businesses, specifically the lucrative niche of “promising-internet-start-up- certain-to-be-acquired-by-Google&co-any-minute”. A transfer window would at least give a start-up a few months to develop an idea before it is grabbed by Google & co. Om Malik noted a while ago that Google actively goes after start-ups in a very early phase to secure the talent before anyone else does. But at least they didn’t get YouTube cheap, or did they? Too soon to tell.

Demand network neutrality

I’m glad I have just decided to change broadband provider, away from NextGenTel. Why – because now it appears that the company is blatantly violating the principle of network neutrality by limiting the bandwidth from the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation (NRK). Eirik Solheim is right in recommending NextGenTel users to switch to a competitor. Canal Digital users should do the same – another operator to limit bandwidth on certain activity. ITAvisen reports that the Norwegian Consumer Council takes the development as a serious threat to network neutrality in Norway.

UPDATE: NextGenTel seem to have received the message – they now backtrack on limiting bandwidth for NRK.

Other bloggers covering the story: Alf Kåre Lefdal, Espen Andersen, Cory Doctorow at BoingBoing(!). The story also made it to Slashdot.

The TV channel you always dreamed about

Terry Teachout does for jazz what Jon Hoem’s already doing for film: Uses available video clips on YouTube and Google Video to create fine-arts TV/video channels. Pretty safe bet: There’ll be more. Here’s Teachout in his WSJ column:

As any economist can tell you, supply creates its own demand. Disseminating high-culture TV and radio programming for free via the Web is among the simplest and most cost-effective ways to expand the audience for the fine arts. Every time a Web surfer in South Dakota or South Africa views a YouTube video by Louis Armstrong or Arturo Toscanini, he’s making a discovery that could change his life — not to mention his concert-going and record-buying habits. I can’t think of a better bargain.

The small things that matter

People who publish something – anything, please listen to what The Atlantic’s copy chief Marge duMond says in the latest newsletter from the magazine:

The copy editors also make sure that all articles conform to The Atlantic’ls house style, and that the logic of every sentence – and of each article as a whole – flows smoothly. Seemingly small elements play a big part. “We take care of visible details – making sure that things look right, that we have consistent capitalization and correct spelling,” duMond says. “By getting these little things right, we help the reader trust us to get the big things right.”

Exactly. It doesn’t help to get the big things right if the reader doesn’t trust you – because you didn’t put in all the work that’s needed to get the little things right.