Sunday, March 18, 2007

What would you do if....

What would you do if with an internet that was free from spam, hackers, malware, legislatures bent on corruption, etc?

Doc's VRM would be as easy as a usenet posting, with an email address for replies.

What else would be different?


Yeah... a silly post, I know.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Re: Metacrap

Cory Doctorow wrote Metacrap: Putting the torch to seven straw-men of the meta-utopia, back in 2001. I propose to help replace some of the straw men with something slightly stronger.

  • People Lie - tie it to their reputation to make it possible to punish them
  • People are lazy - make it as easy as possible for them
  • People are stupid - don't expect perfection
  • Mission impossible: know thyself - put metadata creation in the hands of others
  • Schemas aren't neutral - use a folksonomy, and multiple tags, we don't need heirarchy
  • Metrics influence results - use them to encourage good behavior in the grand scheme
  • There's more than one way to describe something - there's no need to stick with a single heirarchy

I'll put more air into this if someone wants to converse about it.


it's 1AM... I should be sleeping, but the servers died.... 8(

this is the uncooked stream of thoughts written at 1AM in the morning... please excuse the length and random direction of thought...


Doc Searls is looking for a "commons" which he feels is missing. He wrote it up in a piece entitled Mashing Up a Commons, in Linux Journal. The key point for me is this quote:

But many blogs together do not comprise a commons. Blogs are private and commons are public. Many blogs are like many silos. Together they are not a farm. Nor are they public parks or plazas.

Given the current state of technology, especially the read-only nature of the web, I'd say he's right.

We can do things to change that, however. Some require radical "boil the ocean" level coding (such as adding provisions to allow adding external annotation of a web page), others are more practical.

We can't go back to the golden age before spam... so just blanket read-write pages are out for good, at least in public. The next best thing is to try to make something workable out of the massive capacity we have for one-way publishing of pages.

The web works by making external links to documents. Google and others then attempt to distill value from these links by various clever methods. The system at present is however, one dimensional. Any given page is iteratively given a value (PageRank in the Google universe), to help determine which pages are worthy.

The single dimensional ranking has proven to be surpisingly useful in many cases, but has no value in helping to solve the problem of the missing commons. A more powerful set of expressions are necessary to help enable discourse, and conversation than the simple popularity contest of rank.

.... pause to check on servers....

A true public commons is a space to hold a conversation. The textual nature of blogging, and the need to write everything out, is severly limiting for many reasons.

There are many aspects of a face to face conversation that are lacking in online documents. One does not hear the intonation or emotional cues of the author. We've evolved smileys and other devices to partially get around things, but it's still an issue. (I never write emails about things that involve potential conflict, always opting for the telephone instead)

You can't simply mark up a web page with blogging tools. There's no way to highlight a section, and add a note, as you can with paper.

There's no way to just simply say "I agree" with something, without firing up the blog, and doing a bit of writing.

There's no way to hint to the search engines that something is interesting, insightful, funny, wrong, dangerous, or spam.

it goes on and on....

We need a way to make all these little assertions, and to tie our reputation to them. I'm open for any and all ideas to make that happen.

.... more server checking.... backup almost done ...

One of the reasons blogs really took off is because they have an embedded reputation mechanism. Only the owner(s) of a blog can write to it. This has the net effect of giving each and every post an assertion of the owners identity and reputation. It worked well enough to get network effects going, which then lead the toolmakers to help reduce the friction, and things worked nicely for a while.

Blog posts are text with embedded reputation. There are people and search engines that collect and categorize them into useable collections.

Imagine being able to add your own set of data to any given web page, file, photo, movie, or decernable chunk of data.

What's really needed here is a working system for meta-data. Since the potential value is much higher, the need for some form of reputation embedded is absolute.


I'm tired... I hope some of that makes sense...

Sunday, March 11, 2007

"No anonymous assholes. Yeah!"

Playing around with Twitter... came across this from Robert Scoble:
@jowyang: I like Twitter more than blogging. No anonymous assholes. Yeah! But only 140 chars. Booo!

The problem with Blogging isn't anonymous blogs... it's only when it gets ground up in an aggregator that things become an issue. When you deal with one blog at a time, and prune your own sources, you quickly and efficiently recognize spam, and keep it out. This is a very large negative feedback signal to the spammers, with a gain of almost minus infinity.

Search engines and other aggregators have no such filtering. Aside from the very long term PageRank feedback from Google on their periodic updates, there is no way to send negative feedback though an aggregator.

If we can restore the feedback path, we can help kill spam dead, in all forms.

All ideas on how exactly to do that are welcome...

Thursday, March 08, 2007


Here's my first try at a folk trust listing... defintely not my last

owner: mikewarot
owner: ka9dgx
reads: daily
reads: read=daily, spam=0%,owner=docsearls #local variable?


# you get the idea... I hope, that there may be many ways to do this, and right now I'm just fishing for any and all ideas


# etc, etc, etc... I'm not sure if a # followed by space should be a comment marker, improvise at will
tags: web2.0, commons, vrm, open, free, public, idea, meme

Evolving a Commons

Yet another Doc Searls related post for the day....

Doc feels that we don't have a "commons" in which to gather. The issue of ownership seems to be the big sticking point. I think that there are many commons already out there, but their value has been destroyed by spam in various forms. Off the top of my head here's a list
  • Email
  • Usenet news
  • IRC
  • WWW
  • Gopher
  • Freenet
  • BitTorrent
There are literally thousands of ways that the ends of the internet can be used, to broadcast content. Each and every one of them immediately comes under pressure from spam, the minute it opens, due to the anonymity and the lack of a reputation infrastructure.

Instead of trying to bottle up CRM, flipping it over, and calling it VRM... why not solve the general problem, and build a workable, public, open, Folk standards based reputation system?

If we could do so, then we can ressurect the value of these existing, working systems.

Let's discuss and build our own reputation folksonomy. We'll start simple... make a blog post named folktrust001, with the metatdata you think people might find valuable, in plain english. Use one assertion per line, please.

Everyone interested in helping to get it going will then read it (via google blogs, technorati, or other means)... and start to figure out how to get it all in a standard format that computers can read.

How does that sound? A simple first step.


Beyond Google

People are fascinated by the success of Google, and their PageRank algorithm (and associated behind the scenes tweaking to keep it working)... and want to duplicate their success.

The barriers to entry for that particular field (search ranking based on implied data) are sufficiently high that you just aren't going to be able to get there. It's doubtful that even Microsoft has enough resources and resolve to do it.

The next big thing is to enable a new type of metadata system for internet. It needs more horsepower, new algorithms, and has the potential to actually kill spam dead.

Doc Searls asked the question that got me started on this thread... and I posted the first rev of this brainstorm there in response. But I'm going to take it a step or two further here, because my answer there can be generalized to a far larger and wider set of problems.

Google distills out value from the internet in terms of an artificially derived reputation system, sometimes called PageRank.(TM?) I propose a more direct and explicit system of reputation and trust, which could be of far greater value.

First of all, we'd need a way of making assertions and commentary on existing content. (This is a long term grevience of mine, as HTML doesn't actually allow MarkUp in the strictest sense). This could be done with RSS, agregated locally, or any of dozens of other ways... as long as it's available to the systems ranking results BEFORE the end user sees them. (Could be local, google based, or anything in between)

The assertions would need to be machine readable, and digitally signed. Some of the english language equivalents might be:
  • I think this article is 100% right, and I'm Mike Warot
  • I trust Doc Searls 95% on this subject, and I'm Mike Warot
  • This article is 100% funny and 0% informative, and I'm Mike Warot
  • This author is 100% spam and I'm a member of the spam fighters trust (PGP Key)

Once those assertions (and signatures) are gathered up (once again, the mechanism can vary all over the map), the real work begins, building a mesh of them. This would be messy, and I'm sure there are a ton of ways to optimize it and distribute it across hardware.

The value is then you can combine this web of reputation and assertions with the World Wide Web of content to get a knowledge representation that has far greater value that the content alone.

Imagine a FireFox add-in that allowed you to rank pages, their authors, and the sites they appeared on, as you finished reading them. The results of this could be stored locally, or shared, depending on your preferences. You could then have your own private set of things you never want to see again (ala AdBlock Plus), or have things from more trusted sources appear with a different font to indicate the source's level of trust.

The next step up is to allow you to re-sort Google's output (or someone elses) based on your set of ratings and preferences.

This same set of infrastructure could work on Email to help kill spam dead.

The first group to get it done and working right can count on at least matching the value of Google, if not doubling it. Wouldn't it be nice if it were just a set of open standards?


Teach Computer Science to Congress!

Congress: A body that likes to Legislate first, and hold hearings if it doesn't work out.

We can now place the blame for the upcoming DST 2007 mess squarely on Fred Upton and Edward Markey. I came across this clue

The blame for this fiasco lies squarely with Fred Upton, a Michigan Republican, and Edward Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat, for sponsoring the amendment to the Energy Policy Act of 2005. The amount of energy saved is miniscule at this time of year (unlike in summer with its longer days) and the disruption they have caused to computer systems and transportation schedules (especially airlines) is phenomenal.
This points to the very strong need for source control in Congress. We should apply the lessons of 60 years of computer science to the legislature. Read throughs should be manditory, for example. A bug tracking system to help minimize unintended consequences would also be quite helpful.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Happy Bear Day!

It's February 30th.... Bear Day.

Bear is a running gag in the family... he was complaining about not having a special day of his own... so we picked February 30th (as to avoid it... but the gag took a left turn)

So... to celebrate Bear Day... we made a video...