I would expect…

… the leader of a successful, social-mission business to be a bit smarter than this:

For seven years, Mr. Mackey had an online alter ego.

Using the pseudonym Rahodeb — a variation of Deborah, his wife’s name — Mr. Mackey typed out more than 1,100 entries on Yahoo Finance’s bulletin board over a seven-year period, championing his company’s stock and occasionally blasting a rival, Wild Oats Markets.

Sigh.  A sad commentary on the state of our culture. 

Logos are what you make them, unless they really suck

Jeff Brooks offers some sound advice on organizational logos:

You can agonize all day and night about getting a logo just right,
but you’ll be barking up the wrong tree. Your logo will never bring a
lot of meaning to the table. The best logo gets out of the way and lets
reality do the work.

Instead, work on making your organization the best one around — the
one that everyone talks about, that people seek out to get involved
with. Do that, and unless you really screwed up, your logo will be
great. Because it stands for something great, not because it made you

And take some comfort: No matter how awful your logo accidentally ends
up being, I’m pretty sure it won’t be as bad as this one, which not
only looks terrible and communicates nothing, but is reputed to trigger epileptic seizures, and was created at a cost of $796,000.

As someone who works for an environmental organization with a logo that one supporter once compared to a falling tree, I agree wholeheartedly with Jeff. 🙂

Very Clever

WWF Canada have commissioned this very clever billboard, which casts a shadow on itself that creates a shadow-animation of rising waves, to dramatize the reality of climate change.

Obligatory YouTube video, which is itself a very smart way to get more mileage out of the stunt.  (Although with only ~21,000 views so far, YouTube is hardly reaching as many eyeballs as the billboard itself probably is.)


The staff at ONE/Northwest also thought of this in about 1997, but we lacked the skill/will to implement:

And one of the internal commands at SGI was the burrito command.
Allison: Oh, I vaguely remember that — yes, yes. You could specify
your burrito.

LinuxWorld: You’d
type in burrito, and depending on either the command line options you
supplied or the contents of your “.burritorc” file, it would generate
the appropriate burrito order and send it out with the fax server.

I do remember that, actually. I never used it. But then again I tend to
like eating at home rather than eating on campus. It’s nice to see the
family occasionally.

Has “Web 2.0” Jumped The Shark?

Jonathan Peizer offers up some skepticism about Time Magazine’s designation of “you” as Person Of The Year:

I am just not ready to give into a rose-colored panacea that seemingly lulls me into a false sense of who is in charge and the life-changing benefits of a “thing”. Just because a new form of interactive, networked and seemingly grass-roots technology is introduced, we must not forget that however easy, cool and innovative it seems, it is still only a process. Who controls the discussion and subsequent actions using any technology [process] is a separate issue. When the world actually becomes a better place for most people, by a measurable factor, and our control of the Information Age is identified as a significant contributor that helped people make better life decisions — for themselves, their communities and the planet — then i’ll be a true believer.

To my mind individual control of the Information Age is justifiable as the “It” thing of the year if it results in the technological equivalent of a polio vaccine – something that makes the world a better place — YouTube, Myspace and the ability to better find, post and distribute stupid pet tricks video clips doesn’t quite cut it — although outing what stupid politicians say on the campaign trail to insure they don’t get elected to do further damage is certainly a step in the right direction.

I find myself agreeing wholeheartedly.  Thanks, Jonathan, for voicing this skepticism so eloquently.  If you’re a “progressive techie” who hasn’t yet read Jerry Mander’s “In The Absence of the Sacred,” you should treat yourself to an early Christmas present.

“Web 2.0” is way oversold.  I think we’ll look back on this as something of a “jump the shark” moment.

Ethan Zuckerman Review’s Cass Sunstein’s “Infotopia”

Ethan Zuckerman (who probably doesn’t remember me following along two years behind him at Williams) has a nice review of Cass Sunstein’s new book “Infotopia.”  I’m adding it to my reading list.

Sunstein is still concerned with the formation of ideological cocoons. In his new book, Infotopia, he’s become a cyber-enthusiast to an extent that would have been hard to imagine a few years ago. Specifically, he’s excited about the ways new online tools make it possible for groups of people to assemble information and accumulate knowledge. He’s become a devotee of Friedrich Hayek, the Austrian economist who saw markets, first and foremost, as a way to aggregate information held by a large group of people. There’s ample evidence that Hayek was right in an examination of the failure of planned economies – smart men sitting in a room do a far worse job of setting the price of copper ore or bread than the collected actions of thousands of consumers, iterated over time.

Deliberation vs. distributed information aggregation.  Fascinating.  Sunstein’s a strong supporter of the latter.  I’ll close by stealing Ethan’s closing paragraphs.

Whether or not I agree with all of Sunstein’s conclusions, his quest
for systems that aggregate knowledge across networks is an exciting way
to look at the contemporary Internet. A large number of the most
interesting projects taking place on the Internet use strategies to
aggregate information from multiple users to create new knowledge –
this is the magic behind Google’s PageRank algorithm, Digg’s headlines
and Amazon’s collaborative filtering recommendations. Analyzing these
systems in terms of their effectiveness in getting people to reveal
hidden knowledge is, in my opinion, an excellent framework for
evaluation. (I’m very interested, for instance, in thinking through how
the folksonomy and taxonomy systems David Weinberger is exploring in
his forthcoming “Everything Is Miscellaneous” use different mechanisms to assemble information from different actors to organize information.)

It’s also useful to confront Sunstein’s fear of information cocoons
again, five years later. Sunstein’s examples of cocooning are
interpersonal ones in this book, governments and firms that manage
themselves in ways to avoid confronting uncomfortable truths, as
opposed to individuals burying themselves in sympathetic media. But
media cocooning is a problem for individuals as well, consumers of
online and offline media. I suspect it’s possible to use some of the
Hayekian thinking about collecting diverse information to create media
aggregators capable of breaking cocoons and exposing people to views
and perspectives they might otherwise have missed.

Eben Moglen: Software and Community in the Early 21st Century

Eben Moglen’s keynote address at Plone Conference 2006, “Software and Community in the Early 21st Century” was hands-down the most inspiring speech I’ve ever heard in my life.

Watch Eben Moglen's Plone Conference Keynote Address

In just over an hour, he traced the connections between the free software movement, the One Laptop Per Child project, and the past three hundred years of modern industrial economic development, and placed our work into the larger context of the ongoing journey towards freedom and equality for all people. There was hardly a dry eye in the standing-room-only house when he was done.

Thanks to my good friend Grace of Versant Media, Eben’s talk is now available for your online viewing pleasure at YouTube.

Now is probably a great time to thank Eben for all he’s done over the past 15 years to advance free software, and to thank Jonah Bossewitch, Paul Everitt and Ian Sullivan — and of course Eben — for bringing us the magnificent gift of this talk. I’m so pleased to be able to share it with the world.

Share it with someone you love who wonders what you do and why it matters. 🙂

(A high-resolution version of Eben’s talk will be available for downloading from Archive.org under a Creative Commons license in the next week.)