February 28th, 2007
Wikipedia founder and visionary Jimmy Wales has become one of the most prominent names on the web. As if helping create and grow what is now the single largest source of information in history — along with one of the world’s most influential brands — wasn’t a big enough challenge, there’s something even grander in store.
His for-profit endeavor, Wikia, basically takes the core of Wikipedia and expands upon it. If you imagine Wikipedia as an encylopedia, then think of Wikia as an entire library. It’s all of the collaborative media (books included) that people might create, together. If it can be done with an encyclopedia — that, Jimmy believes, is just the beginning.
Wikia Search, a ‘pillar’ of Wikia, is a very big idea. It’s all about making search participatory, transparent, and free (free in the sense of free speech, not free in the sense of free beer). Human-powered search.
We’re incredibly proud and excited to have Jimmy join us on April 5th. During the ‘cast, you’ll have the chance to ask Jimmy a question directly via phone and/or IM in the chat room. Here are the details:
WHAT: Interactive Podcast with Jimmy Wales
WHEN: Thursday, April 5, 2007, 1:30-2:30pm EST
HOW: Register here. But hurry! As always, it’s free but spaces are limited.
Forbes named Jimmy Wales as one of the Top 25 Web Celebrities for 2007, and he was the first person listed in the “Scientists & Thinkers: the lives and ideas of the world’s most influential people” in Time magazineâ€™s May 8, 2006 issue.
Given that, he’s an incredibly comfortable and ‘real’ person to speak with. Please join us, if you can.
February 24th, 2007
The Waxxi ‘cast with Cory Doctorow is up for your listening pleasure. There were more questions coming in via IM/email this time than via phone, which is an interesting dynamic. Cory really delivers an incredible amount of knowledge, thought and sharing in answering one question, never mind dozens. Have a listen.
For those who prefer text, here is another (great) question from the chat, by Diggal:
(1) Why do you think Boing Boing is so popular, and (2) do think online blogs will take over print, TV and other traditional media?
So, Boing Boing I think owes its success to a few factors. One is, we have good taste. I think we pick out neat stuff. Thatâ€™s cool. I think, though, that there are lots of people who have good taste, and one of the things that we do that goes beyond having good taste, is we are very, very, very explicit in our headlines and our summaries. You can tell from reading a Boing Boing headline exactly what the Boing Boing story is about. You can tell from reading the first sentence, everything thatâ€™s in the story. You can tell from reading the whole post, everything you need to know about the link.
And thatâ€™s, I think, an enormous advantage over other blogs, which often post things like, â€œFunniest thing Iâ€™ve ever seen. Canâ€™t describe it, just go look.â€ When youâ€™re looking at 10,000 undifferentiated headlines in your RSS reader, itâ€™s really hard to pay attention to those things. They donâ€™t alphabetize well, they donâ€™t make any sense, as compared to these very, very explicit headlines.
There are other reasons of course. Clay Shirky famously described the power law distribution of blogs. His thesis is that the rich get richer when it comes to inbound links and to attention and traffic. Which is to say, the more links you have pointing at your blog, the more chances there are that any given person will find your blog; the greater the chances that any given person will find your blog, the greater the chances that someone will make a link to your blog; the greater the chances that someone will make a link to your blog, the greater the chances that someone will find your blog. So, in other words, weâ€™ve been around a long time, and that makes us popular, too.
Will blogs take over traditional media? I think the future composts the past. You know, opera wasnâ€™tâ€™ taken over by radio. It might have been overtaken by radio, but it wasnâ€™t taken over by radio. By the same token, I donâ€™t think traditional media will disappear, but I think that the role that it plays will be greatly shifted.
There are certain kinds of stories that you might want to tell, and certain kinds of messages you might want to convey that are just better suited to being discussed and conveyed in a distributed fashion by individual bloggers and small groups of bloggers who have this distributed conversation linked together by services like Technorati, Google Blog Search, trackbacks, and comments that just arenâ€™t as well suited to being distributed and promulgated by big, monolithic broadcast media.
February 18th, 2007
During our interactive podcast with Cory Doctorow, the first question asked of him was one we think he felt very comfortable answering. As for the conversation, we’ll be posting transcripts here, and of course the audio will be up on Waxxi shortly.
Question, (via email) from Karen in Chicago:
Will DRM die, and if it does, what will be the conduit?
Cory’s profoundly simple answer, was this:
I think, ultimately the force that will drive DRM out of the marketplace — is the marketplace. There is no market for DRM. There is no customer who woke up this morning wishing that three was a way that she could do less with her music.
Here’s his answer, in its entirety:
“Well, I think DRM is definitely reeling. I was just preparing some stuff for the class I teach tomorrow, and I was going through Siva Vaidhyanathan’s wonderful book, The Anarchist in the Library, and he reminded me of something Iâ€™d totally forgotten about.
There was a guy in Germany who bought this CD in 2003 or 2004, and it wouldnâ€™t play on his computer because it had DRM on it. He wrote EMI a letter saying â€˜I bought this CD and it wonâ€™t work!â€™ EMI sent him back this incredibly awful note saying, ‘Look, thief! You better get used to it, because within months every single CD sold in the entire world will have DRM on it, and thereâ€™s no going back now.’
Now, the interesting thing about this is that EMI has just announced that theyâ€™re planning to a make a huge portion of catalogue available without any DRM at all, just as mp3s. Not just taking DRM off their CDs but actually just selling mp3s on the Internet. So thatâ€™s pretty amazing.
And, I think ultimately the force that will drive DRM out of the marketplace â€“ is the marketplace. There is no market for DRM. There is no customer who woke up this morning wishing that there a way that she could do less with her music. So, to the extent that these companies have shareholders, and these shareholders have got their eyes on the ball, they arenâ€™t very happy about the fact that these companies arenâ€™t making music available in the form that consumers want to buy it in.
Companies that are making music available in better forms are selling more, and ultimately all of these companies have to compete with the free market â€“ the infringing market. iTunes has shown that people will buy stuff even if you can get it for free.
So, you can compete with free, but it seems pretty implausible to think that you can compete with free by making something that sucks. Itâ€™s really hard to compete with anything if you start with a product that sucks.”
The audio really brings Cory’s words to life, along with his passion and intense intellectualism. Next up: Boing Boing, Steve Jobs, Google Book Search, and more.
February 14th, 2007
We’d like to thank everyone that attended Monday’s interactive podcast with Cory Doctorow, including of course, Mr. Doctorow himself. Some joined by IM, some by phone, and many – both. As expected, it was a fascinating, reeling conversation. Someone once said of Cory, quite accurately, that he was the ultimate interviewee. Fire off a question and what you get back is clear, concise, and brilliant mindshare; an explosion of thought, passion and analysis.
We discussed topics from Disney to DRM, the world of science fiction to the world of the copyfight, Google Book Search, Wikipedia, his upbringing, and (much) more. We’ll post some of the conversation here, and of course the podcast will be available on Waxxi, shortly.
Interestingly, during the recording we experience a slight technical glitch. Suffice to say, it felt more like twelve or so podcasts worth of technical difficulties all rolled into 10 minutes’ time. But what happened in the end is actually the fun part of the story. A participant named Rich (calling from the UK) swiftly took over the conversation, asked Cory questions, and took some from the crowd – like he had done it 1,000 times before. The crowd went wild! They loved it. And, after listening to this great banter for a bit, I came back in when the timing was just right, and continued on. Now that’s participatory.
We’ve always said at Waxxi, the Floor is Yours. We believe the interviewer should take a back seat, and the people should drive the conversation.
Our gratitude again goes out to Cory, as well as a few others:
* the dedicated, hard working, fun loving Waxxi team, which includes our partners-in-design, Inflatble3
February 9th, 2007
Cory Doctorow is a believer in giving it away. And of self determination. When it comes to his work as an author, he revels in its evolution — or how it is affected by people who touch it, create something from it, then share it. In other words, he sets it free:
JosÃ© Rafael Zullo has translated my first novel, Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, into Brazilian Portuguese, using the Creative Commons license to make a free and freely reusable version of the text in his language. This is so cool.
Here are some other recent (very cool) examples:
* Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, sent chapter by chapter via email. (I’m reading it this way, and began the first three on my Treo).
* Transcripts of recent radio interviews
* Audio catch of a book launch at a San Francisco bookstore
* Cory’s own podcasts (which I have listened to, and really enjoyed) of Eastern Standard Tribe, his second novel “of political intrigue among high-tech, sleep-deprived management consultants.” Now tell me you’re not intrigued.
This, in addition to the fact that you may download any of his books for free, anytime.
Iâ€™m the perfect example of what Cory hopes to accomplish by doing this. Seth Godin calls it sneezing, or spreading ideas to others. And, yes, I’ve been sneezing Cory’s work like mad recently. As a result at least six (somewhat unlikely) people within the last few days have bought his books. While six isn’t a big number, relatively speaking, imagine if everyone Cory touched via a speech, a blog post, a book signing, video or podcast had the same affect on six people they knew.
Side note: In just over two weeks, Overclocked has sold in its first print run. (More copies will be available on February 21st).
Reminder: Don’t forget to register for Waxxi’s interactive podcast with Cory on Monday, February 12th (we’ll need to send you a toll free dial in number and user code in order for you to talk to us via phone).
February 3rd, 2007
It was historic, in that it was the first public talk he’s given on search. Why? Well, a little project that’s been occupying the bulk of his attention – Wikia Search – has become quite public after an interview with the New York Times, and its resulting article.
The thrust of Mr. Wales’ presentation surrounded his vision of Wika Search:
To build a free, democratic, transparent search engine.
Search is a fundamental part of the infrastructure of the Internet, therefore of society as a whole.
He believes that search should be three things: transparent, participatory, and free.
Referring to the theory of open source, which at the time of its suggestion, was deemed impossible. “It won’t work!”, insisted leading technology companies like (surprise) Microsoft, Sun, IBM, SAP, and Oracle. Enter: redhat, php, Ubuntu, and more. Guess what? It does work. It works because:
It’s a virtuous (not a vicious) cycle.
More involvement –> fundamental improvement –> open code –> everyone can improve it. And so on.
Next comes open (free) content. “What?! That will never, ever work!”, said such establishments as the New York Times, Financial Times, etc. Enter, for one, Wikipedia. You know, one of the world’s most influential brands? ‘Nuff said.
Back to search, and Wikia. Wika was described, as a whole, as:
Every other kind of book, work, or community that people might build.
Think: library (Wikia) vs. encyclopedia (Wikipedia). Wikia Search relies on three fundamental principles:
1. Transparency: all algorithms are published, testable and researchable. [Open]
2. Participatory: bringing the best elements of Wikipedia and trust networks to the problems of search. This brings the power of human participation to the search process, and relies on the social structure: accountability. It, Mr. Wales believes, empowers people to contributre to something that is of very high quality. The community monitors itself, Wikipedia style. In other words, you have a stake in search. [Human-powered]
3. Free: to change the competitive landscape of search; to encourage global innovation; to disallow disambiguation. An example given was that of a serach for Paris Hilton. Search engines of the now – no matter how often you travel and, let’s say, search for and book a room at the Hilton Hotel in Paris, France – still offer up a slew of sites that link to the infamous “celebrity.” Search of the future (human powered, that is) will at the very least be able to as, ‘did you mean the hotel, or the celebrity?’ [Big idea]
Will Wikia Search be a viable threat to Google? You be the judge. (Or, the participant.)
[Originally blogged over here; thought it was repeating, here.]