Howies Instorematic: the last 5%

Howies Instorematic, originally uploaded by blackbeltjones.

We’re making progress on the machine but we’re definitely in that place where the last 5% of doing everything – sticking everything together and making sure it all works is taking longer than we’d like. Some triumphs of tinkering this weekend however…

“Overhead, without any fuss, the stars were going out.”

A sketch I did of the great man a few years ago.
Rama, Heuristically programmed Algorithmic Computer: 9000 model, Stargates, 1:4:3, Tycho Magnetic Anomaly-1, Space elevators, Clarke’s 3rd Law (how many times has a technologist or designer invoked that in a talk or meeting?), and of course, The Nine Billion Names of God.
Like many, Clarke’s work rewired my brain from a young age, and he’s got my thanks for that.
Whatever’s next for him, I hope it’s “something wonderful”.
RIP, Arthur.

Eno vs Shirky at the ICA

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Eno vs Shirky, originally uploaded by blackbeltjones.

Shirky vs eno: raw notes, usual disclaimers apply – not a transcript by any means.


Monday 17th march, 7pm

Eno: Emergence of social communities through networks
1988 : joined the well
Felt like a fulfilment of mcluhan idea of the global village
Persistent on a mixture of honour and shame – which is what keeps small communities together.
93-95 internet had started to grow and it was obvious it wasn?t a 60s social experiment.
Large scale online games: not idealistic global villages -they need different sorts of tools and rules to run successfully. Not anarchistic or simplistic – but nothing like business as usual.
What is the difference between a trad business like ford cars and wikipedia?

Clay: The biggest difference is that large actions generally entail large transaction costs. Scale of decisions pushes you to add some kind of structure. Till recently this was always certainly hierarchically. Internet and social tools reduce coord costs so radically that groups can form and disband easily, but still produce action. Contribution of individuals can be lightweight and distributed.
Most people do almost nothing, and a very few people do an awful lot. Power law. The value of those minimal contributions, can be aggregated to a great effect.
The search for how to structure very large networks that are building value (e.g. Wikipedia, linux) that we are living through is the experimental wing of political philosophy.

Eno: We are poorly informed by our current news media structures (cf. Nick Davies book) PR culture means opinion is careful moulded by power and distributed by a hungry and resource-starved mainstream rolling news media.
Other sources of opinion are needed – the networks.
There?s a phrase of yours I like: ?replacing planning with co-ordination?

Clay: When ever you get a mobile phone you replace plans with co-ordination. What this does for p2p comms is now coming to groups. Great example: HSBC protests on facebook (clay mentioned this on STW)

Eno: a lot of the book is about how a quantitative change becomes a qualitative change. Enabled new situations to catalyse.

Clay: what?s changed is not the tools. Society doesn?t change because of tools, but when attitudes and behaviours change. The tools plus increased social density and comfort – means early adopter techniques have become mainstream social behaviour. The public can now take the sort of actions that they were locked out of just a few years before.

Eno: we?re in England and so we?re pretty cynical compared to people from the west coast. Coming from the most surveilled society in the western world. Can?t believe that governments are going tolerate these changes in power balance that online communities create.
If the co-ordination is mostly through the internet- it?s inconceivable to me that governments are not spending billions on figuring out how to control this. Doesn?t this co-ordination online make us vulnerable?

Clay: Well – I?m not from the west coast I?m from NYC, so my levels of cynicism is somewhere between Mountain View and Brixton.
Yours is a nightmarish scenario, but the thing holding it at bay is that the internet is the first thing that merits the name ?media? because it is genuinely general purpose and flexible. The choice that governments have therefore is connect or disconnect. Too much of what the government is doing is on the same network. The danger is that certain wealthy and controlling regimes will perfect some kind of point control to remove undesirable information from the public sphere before there is casual awareness (cf. The chinese firewall)
(Starts ref: the Leipzig / Minsk ice-cream protest story from ?here comes everybody? – information cascades)

Goes to questions…

Retconning Alternative-3

Chances are if we’ve been to the pub together over the last 15 years, I will have mentioned Alternative-3, amongst the canon of great media proto-ARGs that include Orson Welles’ War Of The Worlds, Ghostwatch, etc.


I re-watched it on the plane over to the USA, and my addled-brain couldn’t help but retcon the whole thing into the LOST universe.


It was made of course, when the DHARMA initiative is intended to have made their orientation movies, which helps.


But the plot within it is worthy of Abrams, Lindelhof, et al.


And I was suprised that I found some parts genuinely sinister/scary still.


The biggest suprise?



The meat-death of the universe: SxSW08

SxSW is over for another year, and I’m still recovering from seemingly having eaten the Cloverfield monster, BBQ’d and served with yellow sauce.


I was down to give one talk about ‘supercolliders’ – people who are maestros of social networks, and tried to keep it from being a Dopplr sales pitch as much as possible, but talked about some of the philosophical underpinnings of why we’d chosen some of the directions we had in the design.

Omar Elsayed picked up on this and summed it up more succinctly than I think I did:

“[maybe we’re talking about] two types of social apps: The first class being services where the distribution of information is informed by pre-defined relationships – you receive photos I uploaded because we had previously declared each other as friends. And the second class of services are ones where the flow of information is what defines relationships – we are friends because we regularly send each other photos we?ve uploaded. The general consensus of the panelists was that the first, more ?traditional?, model is proving increasingly ill-suited to support the activities of these extra-social, collision-prone users.”

I really like his formulation there – and also the background tile of his blog. Go look!

There was also doing of science.

Can you put toothpaste back in the tube? on Vimeo

Then I got drafted onto a panel about international cultures of mobile device usage. It was something I had to come at on the hoof, but the conversation flowed pretty freely. However I’m sure that both myself and the audience we wishing I was Jan Chipchase or Younghee

As per usual I managed to miss nearly everything that people said was interesting, including the Steven Johnson / Henry Jenkins and Jane McGonigal keynotes (although I suspect the latter would have been choir-preachin’) – anyway – Dan Hon has awesome notes of eveything I wanted to see.

But – one thing that I think was an interesting trend were the ‘fringe’ mini-conferences that sprang up.

getsatisfaction mini conf

For instance a semi-private one that saw moo, etsy and threadless getting together to share plans and pain; and another open one put on by getsatisfaction for users of their software. Dopplr is starting to really use getsatisfaction more fully for support and product development so this was extremely useful (and great fun)

Nice to see that when the caravanserai hits town, some people are ready to make great, novel uses of it.

Panel of Miis

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On my way to Austin for SxSW. I got drafted by Souris, and very excited to be on a panel with her, Jen Bekman, and Ben Cerveny.

Souris and Jen as networking-ninjas will be relating their experience of engaging in social networks for fun and profit, while Ben and myself will be talking about social tools and how ‘supercolliders’ hack and transform them.

Looking forward to it.

Best of all, Silvio crafted these magnificent Mii’s for all of us!

If you recognise me from it, say hi!