Tendências emergentes, factos e dados reveladores da evolução dos media, cultura, economia e sociedade. Impacto social, económico e cultural da tecnologia.


domingo, maio 29, 2005

Failed states

The chief reason why the world should worry about state failure is that it is contagious. Liberia's civil war, for example, infected all three of its neighbours, thus destabilising a broad slice of West Africa. Congo's did the same for Central Africa.

Lisa Chauvet and Paul Collier of Oxford University have tried to measure the cost of a typical poor country becoming a LICUS, ie, as unstable as Nigeria or Indonesia, but nowhere near as bad as Liberia. They added together an estimate of growth forgone because of instability and an estimate of the spillover effect on neighbouring countries, and arrived at the startling figure of $82 billion.

Since this is more than the world's entire annual aid budget, it suggests that even costly interventions, if they help to stabilise a failing state, are likely to be worthwhile. Looking only at war-torn states, Mr Collier and Anke Hoeffler, also of Oxford, found that three types of intervention were highly cost-effective, even before one considers the value of saving lives.
By far the most cost-effective way of stabilising a failed state, however, is to send peacekeepers. Mr Collier and Ms Hoeffler calculated that $4.8 billion of peacekeeping yields nearly $400 billion in benefits. This figure should be treated with caution, since it is extrapolated from one successful example. In 2000, a small contingent of British troops smashed a vicious rebel army in Sierra Leone, secured the capital and rescued a UN peacekeeping mission from disaster.

Not all interventions go so well. But a study by the RAND Corporation, a think-tank, suggests that the UN, despite its well-publicised blunders, is quite good at peacekeeping. Of the eight UN-led missions it examined, seven brought sustained peace (Namibia, El Salvador, Cambodia, Mozambique, Eastern Slavonia, Sierra Leone and East Timor), while one (in Congo) did not. An earlier RAND study had looked at eight American-led missions and found that only four of the nations involved (Germany, Japan, Bosnia and Kosovo), were now at peace, while the other four (Somalia, Haiti, Afghanistan and Iraq) were not, or at any rate, not yet.

The comparison is not entirely fair. The Americans took on tougher targets: Iraq has more suicide-bombers than East Timor. On the other hand, the UN had punier forces and budgets at its disposal. The annual cost of all 11 UN peacekeeping operations today is less than America spends in a month in Iraq.

Economist.com | Rebuilding failed states

China's people problem

CAN China—population 1.3 billion—really be running short of people? In many of the most important parts of its booming economy, the answer, increasingly, is yes. Though China has a vast pool of unskilled labour, firms in the south now complain that they cannot recruit enough cheap factory and manual workers. The market is even tighter for skilled labour. As the economy grows and moves into higher value-added work, the challenge of attracting and retaining staff is rising with the skill level, as demand outstrips supply. The result is escalating costs for firms operating in China. “If you think that China is a cheap place for labour, think again,” says Vincent Gauthier of Hewitt Associates, a human-resources consultancy.

The particular shortages mentioned most often are of creativity, of an aptitude for risk-taking and, above all, of an ability to manage—in everything from human resources and accounting to sales, distribution, branding and project-management.

Economist.com | Human resources

Fortune.com Breakout Companies 2005

We picked the brains of gurus and geeks to come up with our 13th annual list of upstarts who are changing the game. Today's esprit de cool runs from San Diego to Beijing and includes everything from gadgets to biotech.

Fortune.com - Breakout Companies 2005

sábado, maio 28, 2005

Open source apps given to millions in India - silicon.com

The Indian government is trying to encourage the use of computers across the country by distributing free CDs that contain localised versions of popular open source applications.

The government has started distributing CDs containing Tamil-language versions of various open source applications, including the Firefox browser, the OpenOffice.org productivity suite and the Columba email client. It plans to freely distribute 3.5 million copies of the CD to Tamil speakers worldwide
The next stage of the project is to distribute CDs containing applications in Hindi, the national language of India. This stage will be launched on 21 June and is likely to involve more than the 3.5 million CDs earmarked for the current phase, said Raman. Eventually, the government plans to release CDs in all of the 22 official languages of India.

Raman believes open source software brings two main advantages to the Indian population - cost, and the freedom to modify the software. "We are sometimes not comfortable with Western user interfaces - they don't make sense in our culture, particularly for rural people who haven't had much access to technology. If we want to modify the software we have to have access to the code," he said.


sexta-feira, maio 27, 2005

Philip Stephens: We must be careful about nostalgia

It is no surprise that the present generation of European leaders feels the strains particularly acutely. For the second half of the last century the continent's peace and prosperity were built on two bargains: one swapped the nationalism that had brought two world wars for a project of political integration; the other married efficient economics to social cohesion. Both of these must now be remade (not, I stress, abandoned) to fit the new geopolitical and economic landscapes.

Instead of poring over new designs, though, we listen to the cries of pain, anguished echoes of a fatalism that says Europe - indeed the west - can flourish only if it defends the boundaries of yesterday's world. The truth, of course, is the reverse. When we understand that, we may begin again to feel secure.


quinta-feira, maio 26, 2005

Giant Caspian oil pipeline opens

Oil is set to flow from the Caspian Sea direct to the Mediterranean for the first time after a $3.6bn (£2bn) pipeline opened on Wednesday.

Starting in Azerbaijan, the 1,600km (1,000 mile) pipeline will pass through Georgia to the Turkish port of Ceyhan.

The project has taken more than 10 years to finish and will unlock one of the world's biggest energy reserves.
The BBC's Emma Simpson said from Baku that for energy-hungry countries such as the US the pipeline was a strategically important non-Russian, non-Middle Eastern source of oil.

The Caspian area produces a high-quality light crude, but has suffered in the past because of the difficulty of getting its oil to consumers in Europe, the US, China and Japan.

Until now, states in the region sent almost all of their oil via Russian pipelines.

The Caspian project is not without risk, however, as the pipeline runs through the volatile Caucasus and will require constant surveillance to prevent it from attack, our correspondent said.

Work on the pipeline was given fresh impetus in the late 1990s after BP made new oil discoveries in Azerbaijan and crude prices began to recover from historic lows.

Up to a million barrels a day will eventually be heading directly west, gushing underneath miles of rugged terrain.


Skype's CEO: 'Phone calls will be free by 2015'

Speaking at the VON Europe 2005 conference today in Stockholm, Zennström said the fact telephony has morphed from a network to a software application "is a game changer".

One rule of the game it changes is economics. Given that VoIP applications such as Skype have no customer acquisition costs and no real cost for calls, "we cannot charge for phone calls in the future," Zennström said.

This means phone companies will have to change their business models, Zennström said: "If you fast forward 10 years, all [telcos'] revenue will come from internet access and none from voice minutes or line rental."

Telcos will need to change their phone lines to broadband lines but they will not go out of business, according to the Skype boss. "They will always be competitive because they are the ones that have the cables," he said.


'Fake News' and 'Relentless Marketing'

A member of the Federal Communications Commission, Jonathan S. Adelstein, today warned about the “increasing commercialization of American media” and called on his agency to toughen its requirements and expand its investigations into the practice of product placement.

“People out there are frustrated by what they see as fake news and relentless marketing,” Mr. Adelstein told the Media Institute, a nonprofit agency specializing in communications policy and the First Amendment. “The use of covert commercial pitches is penetrating deeper and deeper into our media.”

Mr. Adelstein said he would like the FCC to mandate a clearer placement format that assures increased screen time at the end of TV shows to list product placements. He drew an analogy to political ads, which the FCC require carry sponsorship information on-screen for at least four seconds. He also said the FCC should step up its investigations into failures to disclose placements.
Mr. Adelstein was especially critical of video news releases and so-called experts, from chefs to celebrities, who appear on news shows to endorse particular products without disclosing they are being paid by marketers for their efforts.
He also called for a ban on “t-commerce,” or television-commerce, aimed at children. He said the term refers to interactive electronic links that allow children to jump from TV shows to purchasing products.

“Given that children do not always understand a division between advertising and programming -- let alone product placement that seamless weaves the two together -- I believe that now is the time to stop the development of t-commerce directed to children dead in its tracks. Digital TV ... should not provide wealth to advertisers at the expense of children and their parents.”



quarta-feira, maio 25, 2005

2050 - and immortality is within our grasp

In the shorter term, Pearson identifies the next phase of progress as 'ambient intelligence': chips with everything. He explained: 'For example, if you have a pollen count sensor in your car you take some antihistamine before you get out. Chips will come small enough that you can start impregnating them into the skin. We're talking about video tattoos as very, very thin sheets of polymer that you just literally stick on to the skin and they stay there for several days. You could even build in cellphones and connect it to the network, use it as a video phone and download videos or receive emails.'

Philips, the electronics giant, is developing the world's first rollable display which is just a millimetre thick and has a 12.5cm screen which can be wrapped around the arm. It expects to start production within two years.

The next age, he predicts, will be that of 'simplicity' in around 2013-2015. 'This is where the IT has actually become mature enough that people will be able to drive it without having to go on a training course.

'Forget this notion that you have to have one single chip in the computer which does everything. Why not just get a stack of little self-organising chips in a box and they'll hook up and do it themselves. It won't be able to get any viruses because most of the operating system will be stored in hardware which the hackers can't write to. If your machine starts going wrong, you just push a button and it's reset to the factory setting.'

Pearson's third age is 'virtual worlds' in around 2020. 'We will spend a lot of time in virtual space, using high quality, 3D, immersive, computer generated environments to socialise and do business in. When technology gives you a life-size 3D image and the links to your nervous system allow you to shake hands, it's like being in the other person's office. It's impossible to believe that won't be the normal way of communicating.

Guardian Unlimited

segunda-feira, maio 23, 2005

Democracy can be saved - by following Ebay's example... to police the Press...

The current British solution is a characteristic fudge. The BBC regulates itself (at least for the time being). Ofcom regulates commercial broadcasters. The Press Complaints Commission tries to persuade the hooligans of the tabloid world to behave. And nobody outside these charmed circles really believes the system works.

So how might we do better? Last week, Geoff Mulgan, the Prime Minister's former policy supremo, provided an interesting answer: we should learn from Ebay. In an intriguing Demos pamphlet, which he co-authored with Tom Steinberg and Omar Salem, entitled Wide Open: Open Source Methods and their Future Potential (www.demos.co.uk/catalogue/wideopen/) he argues for an Open Commission for Accuracy in the Media (OCAM).

Its brief would be 'to promote accuracy across all mass media that are depended on by British citizens [not just BBC outputs]. One of its major tools would be a web-based open system listing journalists, publications, news channels and other websites which would keep track of formal complaints and rulings made by traditional adjudicators [like the Press Complaints Commission], complaints by members of the public who believe that a newspaper or broadcast report has been inaccurate, structures and tools to allow all parties involved in both types of complaint to submit evidence, to discuss and to escalate to adjudication panels'.

The inspiration behind this is the 'reputation' system pioneered by Ebay and later adopted by Amazon and other e-commerce operators. One of the biggest problems facing Ebay at the outset was that of building trust in an anonymous online environment. How could bidders have confidence that the seller would not just take their money and run? How could sellers be confident that a winning bidder would, in fact, pay for the item?

The Observer


domingo, maio 22, 2005

DVD Rental Wars: Netflix 1, Wal-Mart 0

Just a year ago, many were calling Netflix as good as dead after the gazillion-dollar gorilla Wal-Mart stomped in on their turf. (Just a taste of the David and Goliath thing going on here: Netflix's 2004 revenues, at $506 million, is what Wal-Mart makes in less than a day.) But today, Netflix looks quite alive and kicking. This morning, Wal-Mart announced it would shutter its online DVD rental business and direct customers to Netflix. In return, Netflix will remind its customers that they can buy DVDs on Wal-Mart's web site.

Netflix still has a hill to climb--it expects to lose $5 million to $15 million this year. But news like this gives renewed hope that innovative upstarts with a breakthrough idea and a customer-centric model can win out over mass and price. At the very least, it's inspiration to us all. Let's hear it for the little guy.

Fast Company Now

Netflix Takes Over Wal-Mart DVD Rentals

Blockbuster did not take long to crash the party. Within hours of Netflix announcing a deal to absorb Wal-Mart's online DVD rental customers, rival Blockbuster had muscled in.
The video rental group is offering Wal-Mart or Netflix customers two months of free rental and a free DVD to keep if they switch to Blockbuster. It will also match the Netflix or Wal-Mart rental fee. That could mark a serious escalation of hostilities if Blockbuster puts big marketing dollars behind the offer.
However, it feels more like a knee-jerk response from a company that was caught out by a rivals' deal. In fact Netflix, which pioneered the online DVD service, has enjoyed a rare run of good news. First, the appointment of activist shareholder Carl Icahn to Blockbuster's board could mean the group tries makes its online business profitable sooner, by cutting marketing or raising prices. That would slow its growth, making life easier for Netflix. Second, Amazon has not thrown its weight into the market. Third, the Wal-Mart deal takes an albeit small competitor out of the market and gives Netflix a link to the popular Walmart.com site.
Together, those factors should make life easier for Netflix. But they do not help answer the question of how big the market really is, and whether Blockbuster and Netflix can both become sustainably profitable with their current prices. The 80 per cent surge in Netflix shares from their March lows has already factored in all the good news.
FT.com / Lex - Lex: DVD rentals

Open source methods and their future potential

Other fields have much to learn from open source methods – because they bring principles and working methods which can help to produce better knowledge, goods or services, or make them available on more widely beneficial terms.

From the formulation of public policy to more open forms of academic peer review, setting up mutual support groups for people facing similar health problems to collaborative forms of social innovation, the principles of open source promise to radically alter the we approach complex social problems.

The future potential of these methods is such that they will soon become commonplace in our lives. Just as it is now impossible to think about getting things done without considering the role of the Internet, so will it soon be impossible to think about how to solve a large social problem without considering the role of open methods.

Demos - Catalogue - Wide Open

Sleeper Curve

In his new book Everything Bad is Good for You, US author Steven Johnson argues that popular culture has never been smarter.

Drawing from fields as diverse as neuroscience, economics, and literary theory, Johnson argues that the junk culture we're so eager to dismiss is actually making us more intelligent. Videogames, from Tetris to The Sims to Grand Theft Auto, have been shown to raise IQ scores and develop cognitive abilities that can't be learned from books. Likewise, when examined closely and taken seriously, successful television - the hit shows of every genre: The Simpsons, 24, The Apprentice -reveals surprising narrative sophistication and intellectual demands.

Johnson calls this upward trend the Sleeper Curve, after the classic sequence from Woody Allen's mock sci-fi film, where a team of scientists from 2173 are astounded that 20th-century society failed to grasp the nutritional merits of cream pies and hot fudge. And in Everything Bad is Good for You, he argues that the Sleeper Curve is the single most important new force altering the mental development of young people today, and that it is largely a force for good: enhancing our cognitive faculties, not dumbing them down.

Demos - Events - Everything Bad Is Good For You

quinta-feira, maio 19, 2005

Amazon destruction accelerating

The Amazon rainforest is being destroyed at near record levels, according to new figures released by the Brazilian government.

The environment ministry said 26,000 sq km of forest were chopped down in the 12 months prior to August 2004.

The figure is the second highest on record, 6% higher than the previous 12 months.

Deforestation was worst in the state of Mato Grosso where vast swathes of land have been cleared to grow crops.

The loss of 26,000 sq km means almost a fifth of the entire Amazon has now been chopped down.


terça-feira, maio 17, 2005

Technology 'baffles old and poor' - in the UK...

Third generation mobile technology, 3G, came off the worst in a report into people's understanding and take-up of technologies.
Seventy-six percent either do not know, are misinformed or cannot explain 3G.
Many have become confused and are bombarded with information which turns them off experimenting with technology.
People also feel they cannot take up the opportunities new technologies have to offer, even if they wanted to, because the prices are still too high, Ofcom's Independent Consumer Panel report found.
Broadband: 62% aware of/understand it
Digital TV: 70% aware of/understand it
Digital radio: 47% aware/understand
3G: 15% aware/understand
Source: Ofcom Independent Consumer Panel
Only one in five were interested in keeping up-to-date with technological developments, according to the research.
Partly, this is down to the kind of language that is used to explain technologies, what they can do for people, and how much they cost people. The older age groups feel particularly frustrated when it comes to understanding information they are given about technologies.
Older people are also especially irritated with devices and technologies that are fiddly to use, a problem shared with disabled people.
Family in a digital home
93% households have access to a landline
79% have a mobile
58% have access to the net
57% have digital TV
Source: Ofcom Independent Consumer Panel


segunda-feira, maio 16, 2005

Interactive 'Clickers' Changing Classrooms

Professor Ross Cheit put it to the students in his "Ethics and Public Policy" class at Brown University: Are you morally obliged to report cheating if you know about it? The room began to hum, but no one so much as raised a hand.

Still, within 90 seconds, Cheit had roughly 150 student responses displayed on an overhead screen, plotted as a multicolored bar graph — 64 percent said yes, 35 percent, no.

Several times each class, Cheit's students answer his questions using handheld wireless devices that resemble television remote controls.

The devices, which the students call "clickers," are being used on hundreds of college campuses and are even finding their way into grade schools.

They alter classroom dynamics, engaging students in large, impersonal lecture halls with the power of mass feedback. "Clickers" ease fears of giving a wrong answer in front of peers, or of expressing unpopular opinions.

"I use it to take their pulse," Cheit said. "I've often found in that setting, you find yourself thinking, 'Well, what are they thinking?'"

Interactive 'Clickers' Changing Classrooms - Yahoo! News

Mobile e-mail a killer application ?

The bigger picture is more intriguing. RIM has been stunningly successful, but even it has only around 3m users, mostly itinerant corporate executives. This compares with an estimated 150m employees worldwide who rely on e-mail but do not yet have a mobile service for it—not to mention the 1.5 billion consumers who have mobile phones, love text messaging and might also love e-mail. Of the 680m handsets sold last year, only 20m were so-called “smartphones” that double as calendar, contact book and e-mail device.

“It is still early, early, early in this—dare we say nascent?—trend,” says Pip Coburn, an analyst at UBS. He expects mobile e-mail to be a “killer application” because it taps into people's strongest psycho-emotional needs—the urge to connect with others (and simultaneous fear of social isolation if they cannot), as well as the desire to be mobile—while asking relatively little of them by way of new learning, as they already know how to send e-mail via their PCs. Indeed, e-mail is likely to blow away a lot of the other fancy services that mobile operators are hoping to push over their third-generation wireless networks. Andrew Odlyzko, a telecoms guru, once did a survey in which he asked people to choose, hypothetically, between having either e-mail or the entire content of the world wide web: 95% chose e-mail.

Economist.com | Articles by Subject | Mobile e-mail

The world economy has moved into a higher gear over the past decade with productivity growth almost doubling compared with the previous five years

Rapid growth of output per employee in China and India, combined with improved productivity growth in north America, eastern Europe, the Middle East and Africa drove the world economy forward, according to a report published today by the Conference Board, a global business organisation.

Only in Europe and Latin America has productivity growth slowed. Annual productivity grew by 2 per cent between 1995 and 2003, a rise from a growth rate of 1.1 per cent between 1990 and 1995.

“An intensification of the competitive process is doing good to most regions of the world,” said Bart van Ark, a professor at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands and one of the authors of the report.

FT.com / International economy - Europe falls behind world productivity

El Ayuntamiento de Barcelona empieza la migración a 'software' libre

La ciudad de Barcelona migra sus sistemas informáticos a 'software' de código abierto, y ha comenzado por dos de los centros cívicos que existen en la Ciudad Condal. Se cumple así un anuncio realizado hace casi un año, cuando el consistorio quiso iniciar una prueba piloto en el área de servicios sociales con el fin de que los sistemas informáticos del Ayuntamiento de Barcelona sean en el futuro íntegramente en catalán, y libres.

El Mundo

segunda-feira, maio 09, 2005


The future holds little comfort. The US National Intelligence Council, an offshoot of the Central Intelligence Agency, has just completed its latest exercise in global crystal-ball gazing.* Mapping the geopolitical landscape over the period to 2020, it presents a depressingly convincing picture of the evolution of international terrorism.

The key factors that spawned al-Qaeda and its associates, the NIC concludes, show no sign of abating during the next 15 years. Instead, the report says, the spread of radical Islamist ideology inside and outside the Middle East, frustration with authoritarian regimes, demographic "bulges" of disenchanted and disenfranchised young Muslims, the uneven distribution of the fruits of globalisation, failed states and the rapid diffusion of technology and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction threaten a "perfect storm". Terrorism will become more decentralised, but more dangerous. Extremist groups may acquire unconventional weapons, biological agents if not nuclear devices. These groups may well connect more directly with regional and separatist struggles - think of Chechnya and Kashmir, Mindanao and southern Thailand, as well as Palestine and Iraq.
Here the NIC report, which explores the new insecurities that come with the rise of identity politics and religious extremism as well as the shifting distribution of power between states, is a powerful antidote - a must-read not just for the US policymakers for whom it was written but for America's friends and allies.

It should be said that the picture it paints is not unremittingly gloomy. Rather it is one of a world that is at once more prosperous as well as insecure, more connected and fragmented, more democratic in parts and more authoritarian in others. Globalisation, which is seen as a powerful agent of geopolitical change as well as of economic development, promises the best of times as well as possibly the worst.

The good news includes the prospect that the world economy will be 80 per cent bigger in 2020 than at the beginning of the century. Average incomes will rise by 50 per cent, with most of the growth coming from poorer regions.

For all that it forecasts rising challenges to US primacy, the NIC also expects America to remain by far and away the world's preponderant power, retaining significant leads in economic output, technological and educational attainment and military prowess. The prospect of a great power conflict akin to the global conflagrations that scarred the first half of the 20th century thus seems relatively remote.

The binding thread of the report, though, is the conclusion that the international order that sustained the peace during the second half of that century risks becoming increasingly irrelevant in coming decades. The emergence of China and India, and possibly Brazil and Indonesia, as great powers will challenge the very concept of "the west" as a coherent entity. Other familiar axes of international relations - north/south, developed and developing - will seem far less relevant in a world in which China is the second biggest economic power and the output of Brazil matches that of Germany.

No-one yet knows how the new powers will be incorporated in the international system - or for that matter whether what we have come to see as a collaborative system will give way to something more akin to the competition between powers that defined the geopolitics, and conflicts, of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Politicians yearn for predictability, for the straight lines that allow them to convey a simple message to voters. The future now is one of blind corners and unsignposted crossroads
Philip Stephens; Financial Times

NIC - 2020 Project

The Press Is in Decline

Now is such a moment. The enemy is invisible, indeed inexplicable, but could be fatal to all we hold dear. In short: Some evil force is causing people to stop reading newspapers! Newspaper circulation figures, which had been drifting decorously downward for years, have started to plummet. At the current rate of decline, the last newspaper subscriber will hang up on a renewal phone call that interrupts dinner on Oct. 17, 2016. And then it will be over.

This alarming possibility threatens all of us, because reading newspapers is, in the end, what makes us Americans. We are prudent, practical, common-sense people. And what could be more common-sense -- more downright American -- than chopping down vast swaths of trees, loading them onto trucks, driving the trucks to paper mills where the trees are ground into paste and reconstituted as huge rolls of newsprint, which are put back onto trucks and carted across the country to printing plants where they are turned into newspapers as we know them (with sections folded into one another -- or not -- according to a secret formula designed for maximum mess and frustration and known only to a few artisans) and then piling these finished newspapers into a third set of trucks that fan out before dawn across every metropolitan area dropping piles here and there, so that a network of newspaper deliverers can transfer them to smaller trucks or cars and go house to house hiding newspapers in the bushes or throwing them at the cat, and patriotic citizens can ultimately glance at the front page, take Sports to the john, tear out the crossword puzzle and throw the rest away?

Newspapers are essential to every American, and none more so than the fools and ingrates who have stopped buying them. It is up to us, as members of the last generation that experienced life before computer screens, to make sure that future generations of Americans will know what to do when it says "Continued on Page B37." In a recent survey of Americans younger than age 30, only 26 percent said "Look in Section B," and a pitiful 13 percent chose the correct answer, which is "Look FOR Section B. It's around here somewhere." As a service to humanity and because I like my job, here is a seven-point plan to save the newspaper industry.

The Press Is in Decline, Michael Kinsley


Lawyers. Accountants. Radiologists. Software engineers. That's what our parents encouraged us to become when we grew up. But Mom and Dad were wrong. The future belongs to a very different kind of person with a very different kind of mind. The era of "left brain" dominance, and the Information Age that it engendered, are giving way to a new world in which "right brain" qualities-inventiveness, empathy, meaning-predominate. That's the argument at the center of this provocative and original book, which uses the two sides of our brains as a metaphor for understanding the contours of our times.

Dan Pink | Orange is the New Pink

Why the World Is Flat

The playing field is being leveled, says globalization guru Thomas Friedman - from Shanghai to Silicon Valley, from al Qaeda to Wal-Mart.
One reason for Friedman's influence is that, in the mid-'90s, he staked out the territory at the intersection of technology, financial markets, and world trade, which the foreign policy establishment, still focused on cruise missiles and throw weights, had largely ignored. "This thing called globalization," he says, "can explain more things in more ways than anything else."

Friedman's 1999 book, The Lexus and the Olive Tree: Understanding Globalization, provided much of the intellectual framework for the debate. "The first big book on globalization that anybody actually read," as Friedman describes it, helped make him a fixture on the Davos-Allen Conference-Renaissance Weekend circuit. But it also made him a lightning rod. He's been accused of "rhetorical hyperventilation" and dismissed as an "apologist" for global capital. The columnist Molly Ivins even dubbed top-tier society's lack of concern for the downsides of globalization "the Tom Friedman Problem."

After 9/11, Friedman says, he paid less attention to globalization. He spent the next three years traveling to the Arab and Muslim world trying to get at the roots of the attack on the US. His columns on the subject earned him his third Pulitzer Prize. But Friedman realized that while he was writing about terrorism, he missed an even bigger story: Globalization had gone into overdrive. So in a three-month burst last year, he wrote The World Is Flat to explain his updated thinking on the subject.
The 10 Great Levelers

1. Fall of the Berlin Wall
The events of November 9, 1989, tilted the worldwide balance of power toward democracies and free markets.

2. Netscape IPO
The August 9, 1995, offering sparked massive investment in fiber-optic cables.

3. Work flow software
The rise of apps from PayPal to VPNs enabled faster, closer coordination among far-flung employees.

4. Open-sourcing
Self-organizing communities, à la Linux, launched a collaborative revolution.

5. Outsourcing
Migrating business functions to India saved money and a third world economy.

6. Offshoring
Contract manufacturing elevated China to economic prominence.

7. Supply-chaining
Robust networks of suppliers, retailers, and customers increased business efficiency. See Wal-Mart.

8. Insourcing
Logistics giants took control of customer supply chains, helping mom-and-pop shops go global. See UPS and FedEx.

9. In-forming
Power searching allowed everyone to use the Internet as a "personal supply chain of knowledge." See Google.

10. Wireless
Like "steroids," wireless technologies pumped up collaboration, making it mobile and personal.

Wired 13.05: Why the World Is Flat

domingo, maio 08, 2005

EU culture ministers back European rival to Google's digital library

The first ever full-length feature film has been made available for viewing on a mobile phone

the first convention for time travelers

What's more, it is possible to travel back in time, to any place, any era. Where would people go? Would they zoom to a 2005 Saturday night for chips and burgers in a college courtyard, eager to schmooze with computer science majors possessing way too many brain cells?

Why not, say some students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who have organized what they call the first convention for time travelers.

Actually, they contend that theirs is the only time traveler convention the world needs, because people from the future can travel to it anytime they want.

"I would hope they would come with the idea of showing us that time travel is possible," said Amal Dorai, 22, the graduate student who thought up the convention, which is to be this Saturday on the MIT campus. "Maybe they could leave something with us. It is possible they might look slightly different, the shape of the head, the body proportions."

The event is potluck and alcohol-free--present-day humans are bringing things like brownies. But Dorai's Web site asks that future-folk bring something to prove they are really ahead of our time: "Things like a cure for AIDS or cancer, a solution for global poverty or a cold fusion reactor would be particularly convincing as well as greatly appreciated."

He would also welcome people from only a few days in the future, far enough to, say, give him a few stock market tips.
"If you subscribe to alternative-world theory, then time travel makes sense at some level," said Professor Demaine, who would like future-guests to bring answers to mathematical mysteries. "The universe is inherently uncertain, and at various times it's essentially flipping coins to make a decision. At any point, there's the heads version of the world and the tails version of the world. We think that we actually live in one of them, and you could imagine that there's actually many versions of the universe, including one where suddenly you appear from 10 years in the future."
But Dorai's time travel idea seems to have legs.

"If you can just give up a Saturday night, there's a very small chance at it being the biggest event in human history," he said.

And if it is a flop, futuristically speaking?

Well, Dorai reasoned, "Certainly, if no one from the future shows up, that won't prove that it's impossible."
[print version] Time travelers to meet in not too distant future | CNET News.com

End of corporate computing

Nicholas Carr, the former Harvard Business Review editor who agitated the information technology industry with his article "IT Doesn't Matter," has published a sequel that predicts another, even more disruptive change.
This time around, Carr argues most companies will stop messing with information technology altogether, instead tapping into the resources of gigantic centralized computing utilities.

"Information technology is undergoing an inexorable shift from being an asset that companies own--in the form of computers, software and myriad related components--to being a service that they purchase from utility providers," Carr argues. "IT's shift from an in-house capital asset to a centralized utility service will overturn strategic and operating assumptions, alter industrial economics, upset markets and pose daunting challenges to every user and vendor."

Provocateur predicts 'end of corporate computing' | CNET News.com

Yahoo developing an audio search engine

The Sunnyvale, Calif.-based company plans to introduce the music search engine within the next couple of months, according to a source familiar with the service. The specialty engine will let people search on an artist's name, for example, and retrieve all the available songs from other music services, as well as album reviews and band information from Yahoo Music.
Yahoo developing an audio search engine | CNET News.com

The Long Tail, again...

This has a number of intriguing implications. For one thing, opening up those previously uneconomic niche markets should increase overall demand: as people are better able to explore niches, they are more likely to find things they like, and may well consume more of them. This will then shift some demand, at least, away from hits. Indeed, the long tail reveals the hit-driven nature of the entertainment industry to be, in part, a vestige of scarcity. With limited space on store shelves, media providers are traditionally very discriminating about what they release, and use intensive marketing to generate a handful of hits. The shift towards electronic sales and distribution, however—music can already be purchased and downloaded instantly, and movies will be next—means that content providers can afford to be less discriminating. “The long tail says rather than trying to guess what the market wants, put it all out there and you'll find demand you hadn't anticipated,” says Mr Anderson.

But how can people find content they want when it is buried far down the tail? Already, a number of mechanisms have emerged, based around user recommendations. Perhaps the best known is “collaborative filtering”, in which purchase histories are analysed to work out what else is likely to interest the buyer of a particular product (“Customers who bought this item also bought...”, as Amazon puts it). This approach allows users to navigate from hits that they know they like to more obscure titles further down the tail. “You need not just variety, but information about variety,” says Mr Anderson. “A long tail without good filters is just noise.” Many people find even the amount of choice on supermarket shelves overwhelming—in large part because there is so little information on which to base a rational choice. But a mere 27 flavours of jam is nothing compared with millions of music tracks or thousands of movies, so providing filters to help people find what they want is vital.

From mass market to niche nation

Perhaps the most profound implication of the long tail, however, is its impact on popular culture. As choice expands and people can more easily find niche content that particularly interests them, hits will be less important: so what will people talk about when gathered around the water cooler? In fact, says Mr Anderson, the idea of a shared popular culture is a relatively recent phenomenon: before radio and television, he notes, countries did not operate in “cultural lockstep”. And the notion of shared culture is already in decline, thanks to the rise of cable television and other forms of market fragmentation. The long tail will merely accelerate the effect. There will still be blockbuster movies, albums and books, but there will be fewer of them. The companies that will prosper, says Mr Anderson, will be “those that switch out of lowest-common-denominator mode and figure out how to address niches.”

Many successful online businesses, such as Amazon, Rhapsody or the iTunes Music Store, already exploit the effects of the long tail. So too do other internet companies, such as Google (which makes money not just by selling adverts to big firms, but also by placing obscure adverts alongside obscure web pages) and eBay (which aggregates low levels of demand for obscure products to make a huge business). Hence the venture capitalists' enthusiasm for long-tailish business plans—and, now that the term is deemed to be cool, its use and misuse in other spheres. The misuse, says Mr Anderson, is painful. But it is arguably a sign of success: the “long tail” has passed into common parlance.

The Economist



Gartner Announces Cool Vendors in Emerging Trends and Technologies for 2005

In the Gartner report "Cool Vendors in Emerging Trends and Technologies, 2005," Gartner analysts identify three vendors that have developed sensor and location technologies, while others have built systems for debugging software and products for the life sciences market.

Gartner analysts said XenSource, a new software company formed to promote the Xen hypervisor, is possibly Microsoft's greatest challenge. The hypervisor is a thin layer of software that runs at the hardware level of a system. This thin layer of open source software allows for operating systems to run on top of it, thus fully emulating the system platform and thereby allowing multiple operating environments to run in parallel on a single system.

"XenSource's technology threatens to loosen Microsoft's grip on the PC market, and open up the PC for non-MS software that runs in conjunction with Windows," said Martin Reynolds, group vice president and Gartner Fellow. "It's like an operating system for operating systems, and it can run multiple environments simultaneously."

Gartner Announces Cool Vendors in Emerging Trends and Technologies for 2005

Fernando Ilharco

w w w . i l h a r c o . c o m

McLuhan's List of The Most Potent Extensions of Man *




Lever (Archimedes)

Phonetic Alphabet



Electric Telegraph (precursor to telephone)

Electric Light


* In a letter from Marshall McLuhan to Cathy Willis, Assistant Editor of the book of lists, The People's Almanac (1976), responding to a request. McLuhan concluded with a note saying that it is hard for him to human limit extensions to 10 (Andrew Chrystall in MCLUHAN-L: Marshall McLuhan Discussion List [MCLUHAN-L@LISTSERV.UTORONTO.CA] March 9, 2005).

Universidade Católica Portuguesa

quinta-feira, maio 05, 2005

Google eyes better news searches

A patent filed in the US will allow stories to be ranked according to their quality, rather than just by relevance.

The patent would create a system to compare the track record and credibility of different news sources, New Scientist magazine has reported.

The database would weigh up a series of variables, including story length, number of staff employed and amount of traffic to its website.

BBC NEWS | Technology | Google eyes better news searches

UK general election 2005: Election blogs and forums

The campaign for the 5 May General Election has witnessed an explosion of blogs as Brits go online to vent their political spleen - from candidates to journalists and political snipers taking pot shots at party political spin.

Stephen Coleman of the Oxford Internet Institute said: "I think this is probably the most interesting phenomenon of this election."

"This is a low level form of entry into politics," he said. "The key thing about blogs is that they are grass roots and somewhat subterranean.

"The party websites are extremely technocratic and centralised. The blogs are more what people were hoping would come out of the internet."

The main topics are those that have dominated what has universally been dubbed a dull campaign - immigration, education, the economy, crime, taxation, the Iraq invasion and, above all, whether any politicians can be trusted.

All the parties come in for criticism, from Tony Blair's Labour Party and the opposition Conservatives to the anti-war Liberal Democrats.

Election '05: Blogs slice through spin
UK general election 2005: Election blogs and forums

An emerging technology which is set to revolutionise digital security.

Applications using secure quantum cryptographic techniques are about three years away, according to Toshiba's Dr Andrew Shields, who leads the development group.

Toshiba's breakthrough showed that each frame in a video file could be encrypted using separate keys, which means that cracking one frame of a video - already difficult - would be useless unless all the other frames were cracked, too.

"The key innovation has been to make the system work continuously," Dr Shields explained to the BBC News website.

"This is important if you want to stream data like video. We can send keys, and, just by looking at them, can tell if someone has read them en route," he said.

The laws of quantum physics guarantee that the properties of the photon change if anyone intercepts it and tries to read the information from it.

"Imagine if you received a letter, you opened that letter and read it - there is no way of telling if someone has read that letter en route.

"When you encode the information on single particles, the letter self destructs whenever someone else reads it.

"I sometimes say it is like the messages in Mission Impossible. If anyone tries to read the messages, they self destruct," said Dr Shields.

The self-managing system can operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

It could be extended to securely encrypt other data files which require high bandwidth, such as sensitive legal documents, tax records or medical histories, added Dr Shields.

It could also be used to provide links between separate corporate sites allowing for extremely secure file transfers over fibre optic networks.

Company computer networks, where the technology will first be used, are increasingly vulnerable to the theft of keys from desktop machines.

Often this is through hacking attempts, Trojan programs deposited on computers, or malevolent employees.

Toshiba's Quantum Key Server technology would make key theft futile because it allows frequent key refreshing.

Quantum encryption will eventually give companies a "once and for all" security system, said Dr Shields.

BBC NEWS | Science/Nature | Quantum leap in secure web video

quarta-feira, maio 04, 2005

The Pew Internet & American Life Project Director Lee Rainie


Q.Broadband and video have been discussed a great deal so far this year. The same goes for privacy concerns. What notable trends have gone largely undiscussed?

A.Most of these things have been discussed to some degree, but I'd highlight a couple of things: the rise of hyper-local media and search, the growth of collaborative publishing and wikis, the advent of RSS, the rise of podcasting, the emergence of tagging and collaborative search.

I also have a feeling that the rise of public dismay at the tone and coarseness of the media environment captured by a recent survey by my colleagues at the Pew Research Center for The People & The Press represents something quite important.

And, although Internet users still send/receive e-mail more than any other single Internet activity, there is something afoot with instant messaging. For some adults and even more teens, IM is becoming a preferred online communications tool.
Q.What are the greatest challenges in conducting research into online behavior and lifestyle?

A.It can be challenging at times to get a good measure of the true impact of the Internet on people's behavior and lifestyle. Here's an example: We recently tried to see if there were good data relating to "multi-tasking." The obvious research question is: Has the advent of computers and the Internet led to an increase in multi-tasking by people? We hunted and hunted and unfortunately there doesn't seem to be good pre-Internet data that would help us get a fix on the role of the Internet in this dimension of life.

Another challenge is trying to figure out when we should start looking at a subject. For instance, we were a couple of months late in trying to track Napster in 2000 and we were a year (or more) early in trying to get a fix on VOIP when we surveyed on it last year.

Q.What sort of reports do you envision for the months and years ahead?

A.We will continue our ongoing monitoring of online life to see how broadband adoption continues to evolve, how wireless applications affect user behavior, how blogs develop, what happens after the Supreme Court decides the Grokster case, and what new ills like spyware, malware, and adware do to people's trust in the online environment.

For us, one of the big ongoing stories is how people are changing their media consumption, changing the devices they use to access media, and how they are creating and sharing media with others.

We'll also be looking at some demographic groups more carefully. Research on teenagers is becoming an ever-more-important aspect of the Project's work. In addition, we recently became part of a larger "fact tank" called the Pew Research Center. One of the other initiatives here is the Pew Hispanic Center and we will be working with them to do research focused on Spanish-speaking Internet users.

Questions for Lee Rainie

terça-feira, maio 03, 2005

The Psychology of Los Angeles Freeways and the Effect of Recent Shootings

If nothing else, these good driving manners express the centrality of the freeway system in the consciousness of Southern California. I've begun to think of those lanes as a giant public square spreading all across the city, a square where most people try to contribute their mite of civility in hopes of keeping the overall experience as tolerable as possible. But there's another way to look at it. The civility on display may reflect nothing more than the profound hostility lying just below the surface.

As a friend from Fullerton puts it, you drive politely, without challenging other drivers even implicitly, because "they're packing." No one honks because no one wants a fight. People use their turn signals to say, as innocently as possible: "Changing lanes now! Not cutting in! No disrespect intended!"

There is something insidious about the promise of these freeways. The release I feel when I slip into fifth gear and hit 75 is fleeting. There is no lighting out for the territories in these lanes, only the discovery that you've entered a different version of civil society, as constraining and limiting as any you find on the surface streets. Sometimes the traffic locks up solid. Sometimes - which is every bit as maddening - it moves in clots and pulses. That is enough to drive some people crazy.

But these shootings change the underlying psychology of driving here. Taking the on-ramp onto the freeway means accepting a certain degree of unintended randomness, putting up with the fact that accidents happen. These shootings involve something very different: a randomness of intent. It feels as if no amount of care or vigilance or respect for other drivers will protect you.

Secretly, everyone wants to believe that the shootings are motivated by a violation, however slight, of automotive honor. That would leave the rest of us on our best behavior, which is pretty much where we already are.

What we really fear is that they are genuinely unmotivated. If that is true, then suddenly we all live in a very different neighborhood.

The New York Times > Opinion > Editorial Observer: The Psychology of Los Angeles Freeways and the Effect of Recent Shootings

segunda-feira, maio 02, 2005

A Look at the Marketing Industry's Coming Disaster

Over-the-air network TV is gone, along with program schedules, affiliate stations and hotel demand in Cannes in the third week of June. George, Jane, Judy and Elroy get their entertainment, and their news, any way they wish: TV, phone, camera, laptop, game console, MP3 player. They get to choose from what the Hollywood big boys have funded and distributed, or what the greater vlogosphere has percolated to their attention.

ABC, NBC and CBS are still major brands, but they surely aren’t generating radio waves. Three initials never uttered, however, are CPM. They’ve long since been supplanted not just by ROI, but VOD, video on demand; P2P, the peer-to-peer Napsterization of content; DRM, the allocation of royalties for digital distribution of content; VOIP, Internet telephony; and RSS, the software that aggregates Web content for easy access by the user.

Branded Entertainment has long since been exposed as a false idol, because consumers got quickly fed up with their shows being contaminated by product placements. Satellite radio is a $4 billion 8-track tape player, stored on a high shelf in the garage, pushed aside by podcasting, which is free. The Upfront Market is an exhibit at the Smithsonian. The Super Bowl survived as the No. 1 pay-per-view event. Survivor didn’t.

The space-age family of the future can still watch CSI, any episode they want, whenever they want, but not on any advertiser’s dime -- unless they choose for their viewing costs to be subsidized. Yet advertisers know everything about them and understand virtually every move they make.

Marketers aren't adversaries
And the Jetsons don’t fight it. In 2020, consumers understand that marketers aren’t adversaries; they’re intimates, sharing info for everybody’s mutual benefit.

Yesiree, by George, it’s a brave and exciting new world that the near future holds, a democratized, consumer-empowered, bottom-up, pull-not-push, lean forward and lean back universe that will improve the quantity and quality of entertainment options, create hitherto unimaginable marketing opportunities and efficiencies and, not incidentally, generate wealth that will make the current $250 billion domestic ad market seem like pin money.

Alas, the future -- near or not -- doesn’t happen till later.
“If they do,” he says, “then the entire marketing system that perpetuates this economy will be weakened. And this is not a problem for just the broadcast television networks. This is a major problem for everyone who markets a product to the consumers in this country. Because there has been and there is not currently on the horizon anywhere near as effective a way to market products to the mass consumer marketplace. And if in fact that current system deteriorates to the point that advertisers and marketers abandon it, I don’t see anything that’s going to replace it and the entire marketing infrastructure and the economy is going to be diminished. And that’s a lot bigger problem than just a network television program.”

In other words, what’s good for CBS is good for America.

The other possibility is the opposite: that what’s bad for CBS, and for ABC and NBC and Fox and Conde Nast and the Gannett Co. is very good for America, because what emerges from the ruins will be superior in every way to what it replaced. Better for marketers, better for the economy and especially better for Mr. Jetson, who won’t have a robot maid but very likely will have a million-channel universe.


The Support Economy

There's a centuries-old pattern here: A business model has hit its stride, and its success produces rigidity and resistance to change. But society continues to evolve. People move on, taking a potential marketplace of unfulfilled needs with them. In the mainstream economy, businesses can no longer extract high margins for their products and services. This leaves everyone to fight over a shrinking pie in a downward spiral of cost reduction and commoditization. These are precisely the conditions that have driven so many CIOs into the sewers.But there is good news too. Capitalism is a book of many chapters. In the past, these downward spirals set the stage for new competitors to emerge with business models that reconnect with people, releasing the economic value concealed in their unmet needs. The last time this occurred was a century ago. Then, a growing mass of people was hungry for goods, but products were in short supply and expensive, still produced in custom workshops and small factories. Henry Ford was among the first pioneers to perceive the yearnings of these new mass consumers, and he invented a whole new approach—mass production—to meet their needs. Ford's economic revolution, like others before it, arose from a perfect storm of three converging forces: new markets of unmet needs, technologies capable of meeting those needs and a new enterprise logic that linked people and technologies in a new pattern. Today, we find ourselves in the gathering winds of just such a storm. We have new markets of individuals whose very alienation and mistrust is the opportunity for vast innovation and immense wealth creation. We have the kinds of technologies that can meet these new needs—a digital medium that can handle the complexity of individualized support. This will become the ultimate purpose of the many exciting new technical developments: wireless mobile networks, on-demand computing, peer-to-peer and media convergence just to name a few. Don't assume that the race between telco, satellite and cable companies to wire the home is simply an opportunity to funnel more gadgets and entertainment into each living room. This will be the interactive medium through which individualized support bundles—including home health care, education, travel, financial services, product acquisition and much more—will be piped to each family and each person at a price they can afford.

Finally, we are just beginning to see the emergence of that third force, a new enterprise logic of "distributed capitalism" that knits technologies and people together in a wholly new pattern. It shifts the game from the adversarial transaction economics of mass production to a new advocacy-based relationship economics capable of reigniting long-term prosperity and growth.

The Personalized Economy - ECONOMIC TRENDS - CIO Magazine Apr 1,2005:

Crackberry... ;-)

Researchers at the University of London Institute of Psychiatry have found that the constant distractions of email and texting are more harmful to performance than cannabis.

Those distracted by incoming email, phone calls and text messages saw a 10-point fall in their IQ, more than twice that found in studies of the impact of smoking cannabis, according to the researchers.

Some 1,100 volunteers were used in the study, sponsored by HP. Half of those questioned said that they reply to emails instantly or as soon as possible, and one in five admitted to breaking off meals or social engagements to deal with email.

This constant shifting of concentration makes the brain more tired and less focused, and causes the temporary IQ fall-off.

Emails more damaging than cannabis

domingo, maio 01, 2005

This is not an Hollywood Movie

The film “Sin City” opened at No. 1 in the box office and has grossed more than $50 million in less than two weeks.

It’s directed by Robert Rodriguez, and stars Bruce Willis, who has received critical acclaim for his role as the downtrodden police detective John Hartigan.

When you see how the movie was made, you’ll be even more amazed at the job Willis does. As Correspondent Dan Rather reports, “Sin City” is a new kind of film, different from any that’s been made before. Writer Frank Miller created “Sin City” in a graphic novel series more than a decade ago. Using stark black-and-white images, and only the occasional splash of color, Miller wove a unique world of evil and corruption, where even the heroes are not free of sin.
True to his formula, Rodriguez made “Sin City” on a tight budget: just over $40 million. In less than two weeks, it’s already made more than it cost to shoot. By contrast, last week’s release, “Sahara,” cost an estimated $130 million to create and grossed $18 million its first weekend.

Rodriguez and Miller are already talking about a “Sin City” sequel and they aren't planning to change a thing.

"This is just the new model of how to make a movie," says Rodriguez. "You’re in my garage. This is where I made my whole movie.”

"So for real, this is not a Hollywood film?" asks Rather.

"Not at all," says Rodriguez. "This couldn’t be made in Hollywood, and they all know that. I had a studio chief from a big studio come up to me and say, 'I’ve seen the materials. I’ve seen the trailer. The earthquake is coming. We can feel change is on the horizon.'”


Sin City

Breaking down the Great Firewall

holes became more evident during the recent anti-Japan protests as a complex system of text messages, blogs, online instant messages, e-mail and bulletin board systems spread word about the marches.
For weeks leading up to the protests, messages coursed through the internet in e-mail, blogs and instant messages, and in short message service (SMS) texts over mobile phone networks.

On websites, people circumvented government filters by changing the spelling of the Chinese word for protest or using coded words.

Instead of a protest, they would call it a "spring outing", said Andrea Leung, who writes the blog T-Salon, which covers China and politics.

Chinese internet users also used social book-marking systems similar to del.icio.us and Furl in the United States, Ms Leung said.

Social bookmarks allow people to save and categorise a list of their favourite sites online.

Others internet users can see people's collections and subscribe to them. It helped other users quickly find information on the protests.

Protest organisers also used instant messaging networks and the internet phone and chat system called Skype, which the Chinese authorities cannot block, to pass along messages, she added.

SMS has proven its effectiveness in organising protests:

* Text message-obsessed Filipinos used SMS to help bring down President Joseph Estrada in 2001. Organisers say text messages accelerated the scandal-ridden Estrada's exit by two months to two years.

* In the wake of the 2004 Madrid bombings, protests were quickly organised using SMS calling for greater transparency in the investigation. It became known as "the night of short text messages".

* TXTmob, a free SMS broadcast service, was used to organise protesters in the US during the Republican and Democratic conventions and the Bush inauguration as well as helping drive the Orange Revolution in the Ukraine.

* In March, opposition leaders in Lebanon used telephones, e-mail and text messaging to organise massive anti-Syrian protests after the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

It is not even the first time that SMS has been used to organise protests in China.

In December, 12,000 workers went on strike at the factory of a supplier of Wal-Mart.

The workers were not part of a union but used SMS and a blog to organise the strike.

There are more mobile phones in China than people in the US - some 350 million.

So when the authorities wanted to cool passions surrounding the anti-Japan protests, officials in Shanghai sent out a text message saying: "We ask people to express your patriotic passion through the right channel, following the laws and maintaining order."

BBC NEWS | Asia-Pacific | Breaking down the Great Firewall

Les bloggeurs want a Non in EU referendum

Conspiracy Theory One: the US administration wants Europe to adopt the constitutional treaty because it would kill off nation states and allow Washington to deal with a more pliable Brussels.

Conspiracy Theory Two: the Bush administration is secretly financing the No campaign in France because it wants to kill offEurope's ambitions to forge a common foreign policy and rival the US on the world stage.

These two seemingly contradictory theories have been circulating on French websites, peddled respectively by opponents and supporters of Europe's constitution.
Although the majority of France's political, business, and media leaders support the treaty, the No camp has remained firmly ahead in the polls. Part of its popularity is precisely because it is anti-establishment.

But its support also owes much to the informational reach and mobilising power of the internet. While the Yes campaign has overwhelmed its opponents in the mainstream media, the No campaign is omnipresent on the web, the worldwide domain of dissidence.
Although France woke up relatively late to the political implications of the internet, it has been catching up fast. There are an estimated 24m internet users in France, out of a population of 60m. The pro-constitution websites, run by the government and the mainstream parties, are formal and informational, while those run by theNo camp are chatty and polemical.

Pierre Giacometti, general director of the Ipsos polling organisation, says the constitution is a natural subject for web debate. “The internet has progressed a lot in France and the referendum is a subject that can be discussed to the end of eternity,” he says. “The No supporters have many things to say. And it is simpler to criticise. The Yes is not sexy. The No is more exciting.”

FT.com / World - Les bloggeurs want a Non in EU referendum


In a retail world increasingly dominated by national bookstore chains, it's hard to sell books by new authors without a track record, according to Gompertz. ''I often say to these people, 'You should try self-publishing first, get yourself known on Web sites and start building an audience and sales; when you have it, come back, because then we can make the case that we can get you out in a big way.' ''

Some established authors have turned to self-publishing because they're unable to interest their publishers in a new genre. Piers Anthony, who is known for fantasy and science fiction titles, has published more than 15 books with Xlibris, either to release serious historical fiction or to make out-of-print books available. Joyce Maynard, William F. Buckley Jr. and Marlin Fitzwater, the former White House press secretary, are among the authors who have turned to self-publishing to bring their books back into print.

One New York literary agent, Harvey Klinger, recently advised a best-selling author to publish her latest novel with iUniverse after it was rejected by several New York houses. According to Klinger, publishers complained that Kathryn Harvey's ''Private Entrance'' -- which he describes as ''sexy suspense'' -- fit into neither the ''chick lit'' category nor the older woman's audience (sometimes called ''hen lit'').

''The self-publishing route has become a viable alternative for a lot of these authors who can't conveniently categorize what they're doing,'' Klinger says. With the trend toward publishers consolidating, the number of houses where authors can seek out bids is also diminishing, he notes. ''I think the growth of iUniverse and small-press publishing is a direct result.''

Some industry observers suggest that established authors and novices who aspire to commercial success will remain a small fraction of the self-publishing industry. At six of its Philadelphia-area stores, Borders has been offering a take-home self-publishing kit for $19.99 as an experiment. For between $299 and $598, customers can have a manuscript converted into a book by Xlibris, be listed on Amazon.com and get shelf space in Borders.

Michael Spinozzi, executive vice president of the Borders Group, notes that the future of self-publishing may be in altogether less commercial forms. ''People are looking to come away with 20 copies of something very personal and very important to them: a cookbook with all the recipes they've collected through their lives; capturing a sporting season or a major occasion,'' he says.

Indeed, someday you may be able to walk into your grocery store and convert your Christmas photos into an instant coffee-table book written in your own deathless prose, Xlibris's Feldcamp predicts. Almost anybody will be able to say, ''I published my book last week.''

The New York Times > Books > Sunday Book Review > The Book Business: How to Be Your Own Publisher