Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Notes from the United Nations Internet Governance Forum Pt. I

I should know better. Every time I fly 20 hours for something, it turns out to be a bit of a bust. I'm in Rio, attending the IGF which, actually lived up to expectations: It is mostly am exercise in diplomatic circle-jerkery. Ever dog gets his day in court, or presenting.

The very best things I heard all day were from some nice lady from South Africa who envisions a world where all six billion of us have a laptop and connectivity, during the opening session. No thoughts as to why, or what the impact would be, exactly, just wishful thinking. I guess there are people in deepest darkest Afrasia who cannot yet download naked Russian teenagers, or put up a MySpace page alerting their 10,482 friends as to the latest modulations in their mood. Poor sods.

I went to the 'Freedom of Expression as a Security Issue' session (check the link it is SO worth it!!). There were a bunch of Europeans and one guy from Google who used to be a speech writer for Clinton. He got bashed, because of course, Google is now the Microsoft of search. he invited anyone who didn't like Google search results to use another search engine. He also mentioned that the way that they avoid any problems with the Chinese government wanting to grab user names of seditious bloggers as was the case with Yahoo! was to take the brave stance of yes, entering the Chinese market, but not actually offer any blogging capabilities. the 'cake and eat it too" approach.

In a stunning revelation, someone named Jan from the council of Europe arrived at the conclusion that "the more freedom of expression, the more security you have"

No-one allowed for time to actually define what security is, but plenty of time was spent asserting that it cannot in any way shape or form encroach on freedom of expression.

So is security botnets and a 100,000,000 infected user computers world=wide, or is it seditious talk by proponents of Falun Gong

Censorship certainly is odious, but the pervasive thinking of "'open, free unhindered access for everybody in the world, all 6 billion of us, and security should never impinge on the fundamental right to have internet." left me befuddled.

I didn't know that Internet access was a fundamental human right. Now I know: Naked Russian teenagers for everybody!

I had lunch with a Kenyan guy and we agreed that maybe the third world would appreciate it if first they might get a bite to eat and a little education and some health care before the self-righteous West comes thrusting CAT5 at them.

Later in the day, I attended "Promoting Network Security and Constructing a Harmonious Internet" which was a series of presentations from the Chinese government (how I love their titling!!).

It was mostly 'We took down almost 200 phishing sites' (only 400 had been reported to them) and some figures showing a shocking leap in website defacements and zombie nets being set up, all of which are, of course, controlled by pernicious offshore concerns, and no-one from China is involved. They are victims.

As is typical with these events, an investigator-techie leapt up to ask some pointed questions about points of contact, and was given an email address to write to with his concerns. I've seen it countless time at MAAWGs and London action Plan meetings - when finally presented with a rep. from the PR of China, folks tend to get a little excited and think that the five people on the dais (not including the translator, usually a flustered-looking youngish woman) represent but a tiny proportion of the 1,321,851,888 people there, and probably aren't in a position of power to do much.

I'm almost certain the email address the gave out probably won't bounce for at least a month or two.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

The Distracting, Interrupt-driven Work-life

Prioritizing is difficult these days. Between email, IM, phonecalls, blogs, rss feeds, my addiction to The Superficial and my recent concessions to Facebook and LinkedIn, it all gets to be a bit much.

Everything is an interrupt of an interrupt, it seems. I've heard tell that the CEO at the company where I work, Return Path's Matt Blumberg is thinking of instituting a 'no laptops at meetings' policy which I could agree with more. I have found myself trying to address people engrossed in whatever was on the screen in front of them, and when I try to get their attention I've gotten the typical, dismissive "yeah yeah, I'm listening" response we all utter when caught short. The screen continued to captivate their attention more than the meeting at hand.

Countless 'Driving with Mobile phone' studies have proven we don't multi-task nearly as well as we would like to think we do, I think we all have the egotistical thought that we are smarter than that other person who gets distracted. I watched the free episode of America's Most Smartest Model I got off've iTunes last night makes it quite clear that even the dumbest among us (even those with spectacular breasts) all think they are smart, and everyone else is dumb. Watch it for the puerile bits, take away a philosophical blog post. What can I say?

One on my greatest frustrations is attending MAAWG meetings and looking over a sea of laptops, people busily typing away, clear indication that there is stuff elsewhere that is seemingly more important than actually concentrating and participating in the events at hand. I have suggested a no-wireless policy but that was met with stony silence and an indication that there would be a revolution in the ranks. This, despite companies spending literally millions in having people to represent them at these meetings, which are more communal wireless, VPNed access-back-to-the-home-office-typathons than actual meetings. I mean, why bother?

I read a good piece in the New York Times just now about a counter-revolution to all-on all-the-time (I am torn if I really want an iPhone, which really is so squishy one could have carnal relations with the thing, so I can 'have' (or 'have thrust upon me'?) all my IMs, text messages, and emails available, 24/7). The link is via the blog title above (see, another interrupt!), the money quote is below:

After reading Mr. Ferriss’s recent best seller, “The 4-Hour Workweek” (Crown), Jason Hoffman, a founder of Joyent, which designs Web-based software for small businesses, urged his employees to cut out the instant-messaging and swear off multitasking. From now on, he told them, severely restrict e-mail use and conduct business the old-fashioned way, by telephone.

In what is probably an incoherent, disparate post to begin with, I offer these last bits of spastic thinkery:
  • I was speaking with a kid a while back, he was 'attending' class at Concordia University, my former employer. He had already become cynical as to the quality of where we are heading, his comments were disparaging as well to people who do nothing but email, blogs and IMs in class, when they bother to show up, because classes are also webcast. He had attended classes with as few as 3 people in them, with an enrollment of 50+. Of course, people can IM the professor and ask questions, but it just ain't the same as an actual discussion, now is it? I worry about how well an gaming/IM/text-driven generation will be able to consume things like Shakespeare, or Beethoven, or even this 'longish' blog post.
  • Last year, when I was in Toulouse, France at a friend's place over Christmas, there was lousy connectivity. So it was just me and the computer, a tabula rasa. Not to surprisingly, that's when creative thoughts started coming, and I began to write more extensive think pieces than I had in, well, blush, years.
  • A possibly counter-argument: I recall a former colleague, Anne Bennet at Concordia who would make it clear that your phonecall, a 'real-time interrupt' had better be damned important.She was the very geeky postmaster of the place at the time, and she concentrated on email. But it did mean I got my ducks in a row before calling her. I wonder what doing away with trivial interrupts will do for phone-call content ...
  • My direct boss, Tom Bartel, has a marked and unmissable marked uptick in the amount of work he gets done when he works from home judging by the number of historical emails he gets around to answering. Beyond what I've noted herein, his work life is also driven by 'walk by' meetings, scheduled meetings, and a massive inundation of email from little old me (obviously as well as emails, calls and IMs from everyone else he must deal with); our primary source of communication upon which we rely.
So yes, Matt, if you are wondering (and reading), I am 100% behind the idea of starting with 'no laptops in meetings'. I think I might just shut down IM too, which I understand is one of the banes of the VP & General Manager George Bilbrey's existence, and a technology he uses sparingly, and grudgingly.

I think it might be an interesting experiment to encourage people to work from home one day/week to concentrate on long-term big picture stuff. Although, as a remote worker, there are serious challenges to that mode of travails, too, so work at home should be doled out judiciously, IMO, lest one runs up against the out-of-sight, out-of-mind syndrome I am actively trying to counteract.

Seditious talk from someone working at an email company, I know, but hey, give me a few minutes, or hours to THINK! And maybe it'll lessen the underlying tension that invariably comes from all this ... wait, what? Or sorry, gotta go, my girlfriend is Skyping me. And there's a party about 100 yards down the beach across the street that is begging my attention. Forget this computer stuff!

Surreality In Rio

I just had some of the best Sushi in my life at a little joint around the corner from me at Sushiro Barra will speaking French with a seemingly insane Carioca woman doctor. While listening to U2. I might have dinner with her tomorrow night.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

I seem to have done it

hang gliding

Wish me good luck!

No, 'break a leg' won't do! The phrase in Portuguese is "Não merda suas calças meados de voo" http://translate.google.com/translate_t for those of youse who don't speak Portuguese.

Jumping off a Mountain

I just placed a call to some guy named Dehilton, located somewhere here in Rio DJ, Brazil.

I asked him to pick me up so I can go hang gliding. Apparently the wind will be good enough in two hours to undertake such a feet. And so, I am going to sit here and wait, feeling not entirely unlike someone about to do something really scary tha might result in their imminent death.

To reassure myself everything will be alright, I reviewed the tale of the Brazilian world-champion hang-glider who was killed a few years ago during a competition. Er, wait ...

So I will capture this on for posterity on digi-cam, and will, of course, schedule time to ... void myself well prior to takeoff. Uh-oh.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

It’s Bwibney, Bwibch!

Wow, that's hawt! The new lips make up for it all.