Posts from July 24, 2004

The nicest thing anybody ever said about me…

The nicest thing anybody ever said about me…

: Greg Piper: “Jeff Jarvis, no right-wing nut by any means…”

Change for the sake of ChangeThis

Change for the sake of ChangeThis

: Something about ChangeThis has been bugging me. I was mulling over precisely what it was when Clay Shirky beat me to it and posted what bugs him about it. So I’ll link to his nits and add my piks.

ChangeThis says in its manifesto (PDF) that it will publish the manifestos (PDFs) of others about changing things. So what problem could I have with that? Well….

: First, I don’t buy change as a virtue in and of itself. That’s something I would have expected to hear in Moscow (in the old days): Revolution for revolution’s sake. But, of course, change can be for good or bad. 9/11 changed the world and not one bit for the better. I don’t trust political candidates who only push change as a slogan without substance. I don’t trust movements that do that, either. For them, change is the means and the end.

Wouldn’t it have been better if they’d called the effort DiscussThis? But that’s not what they really want.

: The effort is essentially undemocratic. It’s snotty. “People are making emotional, knee-jerk decisions, then standing by them, sometimes fighting to the death to defend their position.” Oh, yeah, what people? Name two. I distrust people who make such vague and damning generalizations about people, don’t you?

: Whose fault is this? How did mankind get into this state? Who’s the boogeyman? Media, damnit, it’s all media’s fault, big, bad media. The bold — read: tabloidy — headline on the site says: “THE PROBLEM LIES IN THE MEDIA“. Oh, yeah? Oh, yeah:

In the old days, we had the time and inclination to consider the implications of a decision. Everyone wasn’t in quite so much of a hurry. At the same time, most conversations (and most arguments) were local ones, conducted between people who knew each other.

In what old days? Mesopotamian old days? These are the sort of naive and vague blanket statements I’d expect to read in a fifth grader’s paper. It continues:

Today, it’s very different. Television demands a sound bite. A one hundred word letter to the editor is a long one.

Radio has become a jingoistic wasteland, a series of thoughtless mantras, repeated over and over and designed to fit into a typical commute.

Even magazines have lost their ability to present complex arguments that take more than a minute or two to digest. BusinessWeek would rather put another picture of Jack Welch or Bill Gates on the cover than actually teach its readers something new.

Well, we are busy. You think media is doing this out of some secret, evil agenda: “Heh heh heh,” cackle Murdoch and Redstone and Eisner and Welch in their secret lair, “we are meeting the prime directive of our master to shorten the attention spans of the world!” Says ChangeThis:

The winners are the media companies (that exist to sell ads and attract the maximum audience size) and the demagogues and fundamentalist leaders that gain in power when large numbers support them

Software v. law

Software v. law

: Following my riff the other day on how society will change as former programmers take over the roles now filled by former lawyers (see also Rick Klau’s better take), Clay Shirky pointed me to James Grimmelmann’s riff on the essential morality of law v. software (which follows on Lawrence Lessig’s thesis that code is law). I think this is looking at things through the wrong side of the prism: What’s more interesting to me than laws or software is the people in front of and behind them: What do each say about their creators; how do each affect society? Still, Grimmelmann’s essay is a provocative read and I like this thread of conversation — a culture of lawyers v. a culture of programmers — and hope it keeps going.

: UPDATE: Tomas Kohl respectfully disagrees about a programmers’ utopia:

Programmers are chaotic. They constantly challenge the causal nature of programming languages and combat the impossible. They know that problems can be fixed only temporarily as they tend to resurface later and in greater numbers. When they make a mistake, they rarely admit it, and concentrate on shifting blame on Microsoft instead – remember that the word flamewar is synonymous with programming newsgroups (must have been invented there, actually). They do live in details, love details, and rarely see the big picture. They abhor transparency (of their code) as it makes them vulnerable (no one can fix it but them), and their cubicles, though theoretically open, are bastions, fortresses, bunkers; don’t ever ask them about anything, use ICQ and pray that you’ll be answered.