TagThe Good Guys

Too Big To Know: The Science that exists at the network level

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David Weinberger has written a new book, out just now: Too Big To Know. In The Atlantic, he published an abstract. Here are two brief samples just to give you an idea:

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The problem — or at least the change — is that we humans cannot understand systems even as complex as that of a simple cell. It’s not that were awaiting some elegant theory that will snap all the details into place. The theory is well established already: Cellular systems consist of a set of detailed interactions that can be thought of as signals and responses. But those interactions surpass in quantity and complexity the human brains ability to comprehend them.

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We have a new form of knowing. This new knowledge requires not just giant computers but a network to connect them, to feed them, and to make their work accessible. It exists at the network level, not in the heads of individual human beings.

I tend to be very careful, bordering on wary, when it comes to US books that have even the slightest touch point with management and business. Too many one trick ponies out there that are just the ticket to the speaker circuit.

However, what David Weinberger delivered here doesn’t seem to be one of those. (In fact, he’d probably pretty appalled that I even put him in the same league with those others, and rightfully so.) I have tremendous respect for him and his thoughts, and both the Cluetrain Manifesto and Small Pieces Loosely Joined were pretty much seminal works that I’ve been working with, and revisiting, ever since they came out.

Too Big To Know seems to fall in that same category. While I’m waiting for the delivery – it won’t be out till Jan 19 in Germany – I can only recommend anyone who might have to do with Big Data or science over the next few years to consider ordering a copy.

Bruce Sterling at Reboot11 (some belated quotes)

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Earlier this summer I went to Reboot11 (and loved it). Sadly, I never really got around to write down all the stuff we talked about there. But here’s a few quotes from the particularly great Bruce Sterling talk.

The quotes are actually not from the talk itself but from David Weinberger’s live blogging summary:

Sterling on geeks and favela chic in the context of different “quadrants of the future”:

The other side of Reboot in power is low-end: Favela chic. You’ve lost everything but you’re wired to the gill and still big on Facebook. Everything you believe as geeks is Favela thinking. This venue is itself a stuffed animal. The unsustainable is the only frontier you are. You’re old in old-new structure, a steam punk appropriation.

What can I say? He’s spot on. I’m writing this from our coworking space Studio70, a lofty, industrial-style Berlin backyard office, where we all sit on table differently arranged every day, working from our laptops, shoving data and information back and forth. We’re sharing desks and meeting room, improvising with every new gadget and feature we build in here, in the room next door a makerbot is being assembled. In other words: it’s a steam punk appropriation.

And on sustainable lifestyle in a geek context:

You’re going to be dead much longer than you’re alive. So you need to do stuff that you can do better than your dead great grandfather. How can you do this, he asks. A geek-friendly approach to consumption. For people of your generation, objects are print-outs. They’re frozen social relationships. Think of objects in terms of hours of time and volumes of space. It’s a good design approach. Because if you’re picking these things up — washing it, storing it, curating it — these possessions are really embodied social relationships: made by peole, designed by people, sold by people, etc. Relationships that happen to have material form. You might argue that you ought to buy cheap things or organic. That’s not the way forward. Economizing is not social. If you economize, you’re starving someone else. You need to reassess the objects in your space and time.

Also, here’s the whole talk, and so worth watching:

Joi Ito at LeWeb: Sharing Love

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Joi Ito presented at LeWeb today. (Disclaimer: I’m a Joi Ito fanboy. Expect this to be biased.) He gave his presentation in his role as CEO of Creative Commons, the theme was “Sharing Love”.

Joi Ito at LeWeb Photo: Joi Ito at LeWeb by Peter Bihr (released under Creative Commons by 2.0)

Creative Commons, says Joi, is something like a protocol. He compared it to the TCP/IP of cultural production. It’s what makes systems and content producers and content users and whatnot interoperate. It provides the legal framework to lower transaction costs for content sharing and remixing and usage so that you wouldn’t have to spend tons of money on legal advice just to use a picture. Creative Commons make it easy, and legally safe, to share content and to allow use of your content under certain conditions.

Traditionally, you had either regulated or unregulated uses for, say, a book. Regulated: Read. Unregulated: Share, give away, sleep on it. In a digital work, it’s tough, as practically everything is unregulated. Every use means you have to copy it – in many cases you have to make several copies to use it just once.

The rest of the presentation covered the basics of Creative Commons: Why is it important, and how Creative Commons goes about providing a human-readable, a machine-readable and a lawyer-readable license (called “deed” here). He also mentioned the current CC Case Studies project, which shares examples of successful commercial uses of Creative Commons licenses.

Interview with Stowe Boyd: Why email is broken

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At Web 2.0 Expo, Stowe Boyd took the time to sit down with dotdean and me for an interview. (Some thoughts on his session “Better Media Plumbing for the Social Web“.)


Email is dead – Stowe Boyd from dotdean on Vimeo.

Disclosure: The interview was shot as a shared project between blogpiloten.de and Berlinblase, both in which I’m directly involved.

Likemind Berlin Wrap-Up

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Earlier today I had the pleasure of hosting Likemind Berlin along with Thomas Praus of my office neighbors Panorama3000. Great coffee and even better conversations – if you get a chance to go to your next local Likemind, make sure not to miss out. From my experience with the last Likeminds, the crowd is mostly a mix of web and music folks, and those working on the intersections of both. In other words: a real fun crowd, and always a great international mix.

This was the third installment of Likemind Berlin. As Henrik Berggren of SoundCloud told me, in Stockholm Likemind has been around for more than two years, and it has been quite a global phenomenon. So if you’re in a new place, check for Likemind every third Friday of the month.

Thanks a lot to Soundcloud for setting up everything!

Sidenote: Patrick Rathke, also of Panorama3000, was wearing a brand new I Work For The Internets shirt (which I’ve been printing through Spreadshirt in cooperation with M.T.), and boy did we get feedback on those. (Four people ordered them: Maybe we should have those thingies produced professionally?*) Good fun indeed!

Alex Ljung, also of Soundcloud, also kindly gave me a quick rundown of what Soundcloud does – after all, they went out of beta last week, I’ll post the video here in a little while, and their service seems to be a great tool for music professionals. (Apologies for the sound quality and the typo in Alex’s family name: It’s Ljung, of course, not Jung.)


What’s Soundcloud? from thewavingcat on Vimeo.

  • Just for clarification, my wording here was very awkward indeed. The shirts we’ve had printed through Spreadshirt were great so far. What I meant was: Maybe we should print them in bulk. Sorry if that caused confusion.

Vaynerchuk on Social Media ROI

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Gary Vaynerchuk strikes with another awesome rant: “You Down With ROI?… Yeah You Know Me“. Are social media in trouble because of the U.S. financial crisis? Nope, it’s magazines, radio and TV who are in trouble, say Vaynerchuk. And guess who agrees: Yours truly.

Because social media have a number of clear advantages over traditional media when it comes to advertising. Says Vaynerchuk: “ROI. I am talking about Return on the Investment of your advertising dollar. Traditional media advertising is incredibly expensive and doesn’t provide nearly the rate of return you can derive from intelligent web-based marketing campaigns in 2008 and beyond.”

Not only are social media much cheaper both to produce and to advertise on, they also have more value – in their respective niches.