Latest read: The Wealth of Networks

I have been looking at The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom as a learning tool for social networks impacting society and found this a very deep read….like a college econ/sociology textbook.  Caught myself thinking I was actually back in school. This goes much deeper than Groundswell: Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies.

Harvard law professor Yochai Benkler has written a very comprehensive book to describe conflicts between analog and digital data creators in society and how internet based technologies are changing society and commerce.

It’s a good read but hard to grasp due to a focus on economics. Don’t be fooled the by title if your looking at computer networks….he has written it into the binding that ties his arguments together.  It is truly worth the read.

Benkler shares how technology has merged the professional and the consumer into a ‘prosumer’ due to low cost and high performing computers and robust networks have made distribution of information cheap enough that community is now empowered to drive change.

Take a look at how the internet has evolved.  The Akami to YouTube migration showed how multimedia has found a free, reliable distribution center.  When you also migrate 1st generation complex, large scale websites to new blogs and content management systems under the open source business model Benkler states that data is now a “non-rival” product that has democratized the digital workflow of data from brick and mortar to community, peer-developed content solutions.

Benkler suggests modern computing drives new, strong and deep collaboration that can have a large impact on the global economy and society.  Benkler also suggests that as more consumers embrace technology collaboration, change to our culture is possible due to engines of free exchange (wikipedia, creative commons, open source and the blogosphere) could be more efficient (when shared) than current models that are restricted by copyright and patents because the ability to duplicate (or reproduce digital content) makes little or no impact on business.

Tags: The Wealth of Networks, Social Technologies, economy, society, Yochai Benkler, education, change, reading, trends

Latest read: Remix

Regrettably the Vancouver Olympics interrupted my reading pattern and its been a slow recovery.  I blogged about this book as soon as I learned it was in production back in August.  Yikes!

Remix: Making Art and Commerce Thrive in the Hybrid EconomyI have been following Larry Lessig‘s work on copyright and our digital culture for some time, reading his positions online, previous books and keynote addresses at TED, Wired and last week to Italy’s Parliament among others.  His work on Creative Commons is a direct action from the creative limitations of copyright.

His latest book Remix: Making Art and Commerce Thrive in the Hybrid Economy is a very easy read for anyone who has also known his work.  He tells an important story about how new technology is clashing with old money.

Lessig illustrates how copyright’s old money (the big media empires) are clashing with today’s society and technology.  Old money is winning financial amounts here and there, but ultimately they are cutting their own throat as they can no longer control content.  Their motto: since we cannot have it our way anymore (due to the easy distribution of digital content) we are going to sue as many people as we can and take outrageous amounts of money along the way.

Lessig simply points out the two different camps: Read-only versus Read-Write.  Look at popular consumer phones and computers.  Today anyone can create a short video and post it to YouTube.  And by today’s “standard” in social networking — your somewhat expected to post multimedia content on Facebook and YouTube for example.

But post a 29 second video of a baby dancing to Prince’s Lets Go Crazy and Universal Music (they own Prince and his music) files a lawsuit claiming copyright violations.  Its old money trying to control society and Lessig points out it clearly no longer works.

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Latest read: Our Choice

Al Gore’s latest book Our Choice: A Plan to Solve the Climate Crisis should be considered by anyone interested in learning how the world can conserve resources with next generation technologies to reduce the globe’s carbon footprint.

 Our Choice: A Plan to Solve the Climate CrisisIts easy to think this book is a political sequel to An Inconvenient Truth. That would be a mistake. The book has set off all the political rhetoric one would expect.

I found Chapter 11: Population rather interesting and worth the read alone.  Clearly we live in a world that is experiencing a sustained population boom in China and India.

This brings ultra-large scale social responsibility as well.  The impact of population on energy and food is obviously critical but the underlying issue on this still taboo subject must be moved to the forefront.

How will China and India care, feed and shelter their children?  More importantly how can green fuels be utilized in favor of coal and other cheap, outdated solutions?  There are options.

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Authors at Google: Chris Anderson

Chris Anderson visits Google to present his book “Free” This event took place on July 9, 2009, as part of the Authors@Google series. My book review of Free.

From the Google Author Series:

He makes the compelling case that in many instances businesses can profit more from giving things away than they can by charging for them. Far more than a promotional gimmick, Free is a business strategy that may well be essential to a company’s survival.

The costs associated with the growing online economy are trending toward zero at an incredible rate. Never in the course of human history have the primary inputs to an industrial economy fallen in price so fast and for so long. Just think that in 1961, a single transistor cost $10; now Intel’s latest chip has two billion transistors and sells for $300 (or 0.000015 cents per transistor–effectively too cheap to price). The traditional economics of scarcity just don’t apply to bandwidth, processing power, and hard-drive storage.

Yet this is just one engine behind the new Free, a reality that goes beyond a marketing gimmick or a cross-subsidy. Anderson also points to the growth of the reputation economy; explains different models for unleashing the power of Free; and shows how to compete when your competitors are giving away what you’re trying to sell.

I found Chris’ idea really is not so radical given today’s economy.  It will benefit those companies smart enough to recognize the innovative opportunity to grow their customer base.

Tags: Chris Anderson, Free: The future of a Radical Price, marketing, Google Author, copyright, internet, economy, innovation, ideas, business, radical, reading, trends

Latest read: The Future of the Internet

Jonathan Zittrain, Professor of Law at Harvard Law School, and faculty co-director of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University wrote The Future of the Internet–And How to Stop It. This book is very interesting for all the wrong reasons. Zittrain documents that existing, closed, controlled systems are damaging the internet an if continued, he writes will negatively impact our future access and interaction.  I enjoyed reading the book and dedicated blog established by Zittrain to keep his conversations moving forward.

The Future of the Internet

BTW: The cover is not an actual photo rather a Photoshop’d image. However the image clearly represents his message.  The book is about Generativity impacting the internet.  Ultimately his argument is to place generativity at the core of all open technologies that tap into the internet.

Zittrain begins Part I in the book with a tbit of historical reflection: The Battle of the Boxes, Battle of the Networks and CyberSecurity.  He followed on the impact of legal lessons learned from Wikipedia.  There are plenty of examples how open, generativity systems make the internet better.  Here are a couple of examples Zittrain addressed that do not:

Law enforcement agencies have used network devices to manually turn on OnStar (the in-vehicle security, communications, and diagnostics system from GM) to record and monitor conversations of unknowing passengers.  OnStar is installed in over 50 models of GM cars alone.

The FBI requested from a judge the ability to turn on the microphone of a unsuspecting cell phone owner allowing law enforcement to tap, track and record conversations.

Think about that for a moment. Ever take a picture with your digital camera or cell phone?  Millions of people do this everyday and upload content to photo-sharing websites like Flickr.  Can you imagine taking a series of photographs — only to later realize the camera (via remote commands) copied all your photos without your knowledge.  Zittrain addresses how your personal content can be affected by a judge in Texas while you live … say in Ohio.  Don’t believe it? Read Chapter 5: Tethered Appliances, Software as Service and Perfect Enforcement” to see how a judge in Marshall Texas did just that — regarding a copyright case involving TiVo.

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Whats new is now old

Microsoft’s Photosynth was a hit at TED last year and looked to be really promising regardless of running only on XP SP2 and Vista (shame on you Microsoft) but the same team along with the University of Washington has moved forward with new photo, video and VR technologies:

This should be a very interesting mashup of multiple media formats.  Great work and a wonderful tool for education.

Tags: Photosynth, photo, virtual reality, panaoramic, globalization, trends

Latest read: The Paradox of Choice

I watched a TED video of Barry Schwartz and was interested to learn more about his book The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less and learn the downside (and unhappiness) of abundance.  Have you noticed as of late that almost everything is available…in too many overwhelming choices?

As Schwartz points out consider the types of choice in your local grocery store: 285 cookie options, 85 types of crackers, 95 types of chips, 75 iced teas, 29 chicken soups, 175 salad dressings and 275 boxes of cereal. Welcome to The Paradox of Choice. Try shopping for a new pair of jeans as he described in his TED presentation and the introduction to this book.

In my childhood things seemed simple. There were just three television channels…plus a PBS station. When the new school started I would receive two or three pairs of stiff denim jeans. Every kid in my school would wear the same dark blue demin and would not feel comfortable until the third week of school. By then our clothes were finally broken in via the wash cycle.

Don’t consider this book the opposite of Chris Anderson‘s The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business is Selling Less of More. It would be more accurate to describe the book as what happens to individuals overwhelmed by choice.

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Latest read: Gang Leader for a Day

You’ve read Freakonomics…right? One of the most popular chapters Why Do Drug Dealers Still Live With Their Moms? is about Sudhir Venkatesh, a grad student at the University of Chicago who studied a crack cocaine gang The Black Kings in Chicago’s Robert Taylor Homes (Building #4040) during the height of the crack epidemic in the 1990s.  I wanted to learn more about Sudhir. His book Gang Leader for a Day: A Rogue Sociologist Takes to the Streets is now available.

gang leader for a day

I recall my own orientation at the University of Chicago was exactly like Sudhir’s story — being warned by police where NOT to walk around campus and when. The tragic killing of a grad student last Friday, (January 25th) is such an example of the danger facing faculty, students and staff members.

My daily commute from Glenview via Metra to Citigroup Center, then to the Midway Plaisance (map via Google) via the University’s charter bus service passed the Washington Park Lagoon everyday. Sudhir mentions his exploration of the Lagoon and lessons learned from speaking with older black men about Chicago and its history. Sudhir allows readers to see another side of America.

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Latest read: Freakonomics

Well I’m not sure what took so long to read Steven Levitt‘s Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything. It was enjoyable, fun and interesting to read the hidden side of everything.
So I finally pushed it to the front of my pile of books after crossing an article on the NYTimes and found the book is now part of their blogs. When was the last time the NYTimes took over a book’s blog? Yea, its that good!

I was very impressed with Chapter 3 “Why do drug dealers still live with their Mothers?” since I was working in Chicago for Apple and know the area where his research occurred: the Robert Taylor Homes.

I remember getting advice from fellow engineers at the downtown loop office to literally drive through red lights, stop signs and anything else if I ever found myself anywhere around Cabrini-Green or the Robert Taylor Homes.

Sure enough I recall driving at night in the loop lost and finding myself looking at a sign similar to the one in this photo…drove without stopping until I was north east of the area. Nice welcome to the city…

So I was living in Chicago and still remember the violent deaths reported at that time during the gang wars. Wow Levit does not display the details of the violent incidents that occurred during this crack war.

And the research actually proves gangs organized by a business model very close to McDonalds. What is most amazing was his ability to access the financial records of the gangs. While gang foot soldiers were making $3.00/hour the research showed that if you survived long enough to be on the “board of directors” of a gang you could earn $400,000/year.

But with a 25% chance of being killed working as a foot solider, its no wonder drug dealers still live with their mothers. And that is just one chapter of his amazing book. If you have passed on this book you should really pick it up and give it a read. Its easy and will amaze you.

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