Can you apply wikis to democracy?

Courtesy of Umair at, I found something called Wikiocracy, which appears to be an attempt to apply the “open-source information” principles of Wikipedia to the various laws and statutes that form our society (or in this case, U.S. society), including the Constitution. This is an idea that I find kind of intriguing, especially since we are looking at how Web 2.0 affects politics and society as part of our mesh conference on May 15th and 16th. I wrote a bit about that here.

Given the kinds of errors that have crept into Wikipedia in the past, and the varrious controversies over people editing their own entries or being blocked from editing entries, I’m sure a lot of people would argue that the idea of a Wikipedia of politics or democracy would make no sense whatsoever. And yet, democracy in its purest sense is supposed to be representative of its citizens — and not just its smart or well-informed citizens. If everyone had the chance to write the laws, what would they look like? Would the numbskulls take over, as Nick Carr has suggested?

An initial look at Wikiocracy isn’t likely to fill anyone with confidence in that respect. One of the more recent changes proposed altering the U.S. Constitution to create a 58th Amendment, being the “Establishment of a solely Taters Based Economy.” It included a section which reads “The United States shall establish the Office of Taters through which it will promote its chief and only export, Taters, better known as potatoes,” and a link to an external site which features nothing but a looping video clip of Sam Gamgee’s character from Lord of the Rings saying the word “potatoes” over and over. The voice of the people? Perhaps not. Still, an interesting experiment nevertheless.

Cool — and it doesn’t involve the Web

Normally I would post this kind of thing over at my “fun” blog, because it doesn’t really have a lot to do with Web 2.0 or any of that kind of stuff, but I thought what the heck — it’s the weekend, so let’s loosen up and have some (non Web-related) fun. One of the coolest things I’ve seen in a while is the performance art put on by French theatre troupe Royal de Luxe, and they’ve brought their latest show to London this weekend, entitled “The Sultan’s Elephant.” The BBC has a whole pile of photos and videos, in some cases provided by cellphone camera owners and other “citizen journalists” (see, there’s some Web 2.0 to this after all).

It’s loosely based on the work of Jules Verne, and was performed in France last year. It involves two gigantic wooden puppets, one a girl about 35 feet tall and one an elephant with a fully-articulated trunk that is just as tall and about 50 feet long. They are operated by a team of puppeteers dressed in period costumes, who in some cases are pulling ropes through enormous pulleys and in other cases are sitting on a giant metal superstructure that surrounds the puppet. The photos really have to be seen to be believed.


An interview with Net Squared

Not to blow my own horn too much, but I did an email interview with Marshall Kirkpatrick of the other day and I wanted to point to it. It’s called “The New Online Conversation,” and Marshall and I basically just talked about what the Web offers and how traditional media are (or aren’t) responding to it. Some nice pictures too — although I’m not really sure what the upside-down cat picture has to do with the conversation 🙂 In any case, it’s there if anyone wants to read it. is a project started by aimed at helping non-profit groups make the most of the Web. Marshall has also interviewed Lifehacker’s Gina Trapani and Louis Suarez-Potts of OpenOffice.

Andy Warhol meets the mesh gang

I wrote something a while ago about how the mesh gang — myself, Stuart “Chairman Mao” MacDonald, Rob “Rob” Hyndman, Mark Evans and Mike McDerment — had come up with something a bit different for our conference in beautiful downtown Toronto May 15th and 16th (still a few tickets left, head over there now, etc. etc.) — namely, the 15 Minutes of Fame. Well, now it’s time to reveal the winners of our litle contest.

The idea was to take some time at mesh — 5 minutes per person, in three slots the first day and three slots the second (hence the whole 15 minute thing, get it?) — to profile some of the young startups and people with ideas that make Web 2.0 such an interesting place to be, by giving them the stage to talk about their projects or companies. We asked for submissions, and we got a lot of pretty great ones. It was definitely hard to pick just six, but we did, and they will be at mesh in all their nervous glory, front and center.

Just to give you a taste, they include:

  • Gary “The Kid” King — or King Gary, as he likes to call himself — who wrote us early on to ask why only university students were allowed to buy cheaper tickets, since he is in high school but is already running his own Web 2.0 design firm. Come on down, Gary, we said.
  • Elissa Gjertson of will be telling us about her company’s plans to use social media to help organizations of all kinds figure out what people are saying about them and how best to respond — all of which is totally up the mesh alley.
  • Parv and Daniel of, which has set up an online swap shop that lets people trade things they can do for things that they need done.
  • Colin How of, whose photo, video and music-sharing software is being launched later this month with much fanfare, and who will tell us why his version of sharing media is better than all the other ones out there (right Colin?)

Want to hear more? Come and mesh with us.


Our friend Tara “Miss Rogue” Hunt, who will be doing a special interactive keynote/thingamajig at mesh about online marketing, has a very flattering post about mesh and the gang. Thanks, Tara — now we’re all blushing.

Sue him — yeah, that’ll work

Some things you wouldn’t think you would have to explain to people — and yet, every day new examples appear: tags on an inflatable water toy that say “Not to be used as a rescue device,” or a label on a chainsaw that says “Do not stop chain with hand.” Today’s contribution comes from Maine, where if there was a warning sticker on the wall at Warren Kremer Paino Advertising it would read: “Don’t sue a blogger just because he doesn’t like your work.”

That’s exactly what happened late last week, when the firm sued a Maine blogger named Lance Dutson for what it claimed was “copyright infringement, defamation, trade libel and injurious falsehood.” Dutson, who also does some web design and advertising work, complained about the ad campaign that WKPA did for the state of Maine, referring to the agency at one point as “some big company in New York with no ties to the state, pissing away tax money.” More about the lawsuit can be found here.

First of all, let’s forget about the idea that this is about copyright infringement (for posting some of the agency’s work) or about defamation or any of that bollocks, although my pal Scott Karp is quite right to point out that this lawsuit is a warning shot across the bow of all bloggers. If you want to be treated as journalists in some sense, that includes dealing with the risk of libel and defamation lawsuits. Still, this lawsuit is clearly about WKPA (which of course makes me think of WKRP, being of a certain age) getting its nose bent about some criticism.

As Steve Rubel points out, suing a critical blogger is a particularly thick-headed thing to do. How could this possibly work out worse for the firm? It must have gotten legal advice from the RIAA’s lawyers, who came up with the brilliant idea of suing music fans across America, including high-school honour students, retired veterans and people without computers. Compared to that, WKPA’s strategy actually looks smart — but that’s about the only angle from which it appears anything less than moronic.

Now, instead of searches for the company’s name on Google producing a list of links with Lance’s website high up — which the firm said it was afraid of — it will produce a far larger list of critical links, all of which are about what an ass the firm is. Nice work there, WKRP.


The agency has withdrawn the lawsuit.

Rogers Cadenhead cuts a deal with Dave

(Warning: This post contains commentary about Dave Winer. By reading further, you have agreed — both implicitly and explicitly — to read about the often mind-numbing machinations involving the “Father of RSS” and those who have chosen to use their programming powers for evil instead of good. You hereby waive any right to complain later about the fact that it has given you a headache — ed.)

I wasn’t going to write anything about the latest development in the Dave Winer and Rogers Cadenhead saga, because I’ve probably wasted enough electrons already on that topic a few times in the past, but I couldn’t resist after reading a post Rogers did on the legal settlement that he and Dave managed to hash out after Dave sued him.

Part of the reason I couldn’t resist is that I find the whole thing fascinating in a strange way (Kent Newsome also seems unable to resist) because Dave is such a legend in the programming community, and yet still seems to spend a lot of time lashing out at people over slights (either perceived or real), culminating in the lawsuit against Rogers — a guy who has spent more time than he would probably like to admit defending Dave. This comment by Rogers is brilliant:

“I originally hoped one of us would buy the other out and launch the application, but we found a much stronger basis for agreement in a mutual desire to stop working together as quickly as possible.”

And later on, after noting that the publicity from the blogosphere undoubtedly helped his case, Rogers says:

“I’m not going to close the book on this debacle with any Panglossian happy talk about how it all worked out for the best. This was a completely unnecessary sphincter-fusing legal dispute that could have been settled amicably months ago without benefit of counsel.”

Well said, Rogers. Happy to hear that it’s over.

Two Canadian tech launches

I wrote an item for my globeandmail blog that I thought I’d reproduce here, because some people who might be interested in it might not see it there:

It’s been a busy couple of days for small Canadian tech companies: a photo and video-sharing service called, which is based in Victoria and has been around for a while now, and Ottawa-based telecom startup Pixpo has released a new version of its media-sharing software — which has a couple of key differences compared with other similar services — while Iotum has announced a partnership with, a company that sells a voice-over-Internet appliance for consumers.

Pixpo, which was founded by Colin How, allows users to share their photos, music and video without having to upload it to an external website or server, as most services such as and do. Pixpo’s software allows users to connect directly to the content on your PC, and provides a nice-looking interface so they can browse through thumbnails of your photos or watch video clips with the built-in media player. Mr. How said in an email that the service uses a modified “peer-to-peer” network with a series of servers that can cache or store popular content.

Iotum, meanwhile — run by blogger Alec Saunders — has announced a deal to bundle its Relevance Engine software with VOIP devices sold by PhoneGnome. Iotum’s product uses smart filtering to determine which phone calls should be put through to a user based on the time of the call and who it is coming from, and can also determine where to send the call based on previous behaviour patterns or rules set by the user. PhoneGnome — which was started by one of the founders of Earthlink — sells a box that users can simply plug a regular phone into that provides VOIP calling, but allows them to keep their regular phone number.

Catching up with the “three things” meme

Rob Hyndman recently tagged me with the “three things” meme — which is not to be confused with the “four things” meme that got Mark Cuban so worked up a little while ago (clearly the new medication is not working, Mark — I would go back to the old stuff).

The three things are supposed to be things that you would like to see occur in your lifetime, and Rob mentioned stuff like organized religion supporting contraception, while Sutha (who tagged Rob) mentioned real democracy and education for all. But being a contrary bugger by nature, my instinct is to avoid the easy stuff like ending hunger or allowing women to be ordained in the Catholic Church — both of which I would really like to see, by the way.

So here are my three wished-for things:

1) A real director’s cut version of Blade Runner (see the info under “director’s cut” at Wikipedia for more on this saga)

2) The return of the comic “Calvin and Hobbes”

3) The end of the designated-hitter rule in baseball

And now I am tagging Stuart, and Mark and Kent.

Web 2.0 marketing — bottoms up!

One of the concepts we’re trying to tackle as part of mesh (May 15th and 16th in beautiful downtown Toronto, get your tickets before it’s too late, etc. etc.) is the idea that Web 2.0 and blogs and all that they represent are fundamentally rewriting the rules for the marketing business — regardless of whether you are marketing a company, a product, a person, an idea or a political party.

As marketing whiz Seth Godin has written in his book Flipping the Funnel, which you can download from his website if you’re interested, one of the most effective ways to market something is to make contact with people on some kind of personal level and create a relationship, a dialogue — a conversation. As he puts it, “turn strangers into friends, turn friends into customers. And then, do the most important job: Turn your customers into salespeople.”

That (or at least the first part of it anyway) is something we — Mark, Mike, Rob, Stuart and myself — have done with mesh, more or less without even thinking about it. And the power of Web 2.0 has been a big part of the success we have had so far, in marketing a brand-new conference almost completely through word-of-mouth and the blogosphere. Less than a month after we launched the conference, we were halfway toward our ticket goal (we’ve still got a few left, so tell all your friends — heck, tell your enemies too).

Rob has his take on it here, Stuart has written about it as well and so have Mike and Mark. Stowe Boyd, who is coming to mesh, has also posted something, and so has Mitch Twist.

Flip the funnel and turn it into a megaphone, Seth says. Empower your customers or your users or your community and they will tell you what you need to hear, Tara says. Jump on board the Web 2.0 cluetrain.

Canadian musicians get naked for reform

If you haven’t been following the Canadian music industry (shame on you) then you might not know that a group of recording artists recently split off from the Canadian Record Industry Association or CRIA — which is pretty much controlled by the four major record labels for their own purposes — and formed their own group called the Canadian Music Creators Coalition. This is something that law professor and blogger Michael Geist has spent a lot of time on, if you want to catch up.

Today, the group had a press conference at the venerable Horseshoe Tavern, and Barenaked Ladies frontman and blogger Steven Page wrote a great op-ed piece that was in the National Post, Canada’s other national newspaper. For fans of Canadian music, the group of artists supporting the new coalition includes Avril Lavigne, Sarah McLachlan, Chantal Kreviazuk, Sum 41, Billy Talent, Broken Social Scene and Sloan.

Here’s an excerpt of Steven’s excellent op-ed:

“We believe that suing our fans is destructive and hypocritical. We do not want to sue music fans, and we do not want to distort the law to coerce fans into conforming to a rigid digital market artificially constructed by the major labels.”

and another:

We believe that the use of digital locks… are risky and counterproductive. We do not support using digital locks to increase the labels’ control over the distribution, use and enjoyment of music, nor do we support laws that prohibit circumvention of such technological measures, including Canadian accession to the World Intellectual Property Organization’s Internet Treaties. These treaties are designed to give control to major labels and take choices away from artists and consumers.

Music to our ears, Steven. More coverage at IPDemocracy and BoingBoing, as well as the aforementioned Dr. Geist.