RIP Michel Rocard

Michel Rocard is dead. It will be a long time before any political figure appears, in France
or anywhere else, that has his rigorous intellect, his ethical position, or his clarity of vision.

890635-michel-rocard-psu
Michel Rocard, socialist militant in 1971. Source: Agence France Presse

He saw the need for France to disengage from its colonial holdings well before anyone else.

He was a true believer in the possibility of government by the voice of the people, with social justice – in short, a social democrat in the true sense of the term, not the way it’s been mangled by ideologues of all sort.

He was a true lover of Europe – a Europe of federated nations, working collectively for the common good – not just economically, but politically and socially as well. Not managed by technocrats, but by European citizens who felt themselves to be European citizens.

He saw, back in 2014, that the UK had done a lot of damage to the EU and needed to get out – about which more in my next post.

He was a staunch defender of open source software.

As prime minister, he passed the minimum revenue allocation for all French residents.

He believed that good decision making requires reflection, that you have to take the time to accomplish that.

He believed you need to be practical, and deal with reality as it is, in order to make life better, without losing an idealistic vision of how that might be.

He shall be sorely missed, even by people who don’t even know his name.

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The Morning After: Brexit of Champions

How poor communication and The Big Lie affected the referendum in the UK to leave the European Union

Well, well, here we are, cleaning up the mess after the UK has voted to leave the European Union. It was quite a party, the hooligans were out among the lambs, detritus was thrown and left on the ground, hangovers were rampant, and come the mourning after, everyone had to get a grip on in order to keep down their Weetabix.

Apparently, already four million people (as of this writing) have signed a petition asking if they couldn’t just vote again – pleeeeeze. According to a Washington Post article, Britons spent the next day searching on line to find out what the European Union was. You’d think they’d have wanted to do that before they voted, wouldn’t you?

Lie to me

A good piece of the answer to why they didn’t comes with the now time-worn phrase, “The big lie.”

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Four Years on the STC Board – A Review

Dear readers, I have just completed two terms as a director at large of the Society for Technical Communication (STC). I think those of you who are STC members deserve a review of what those four years have – and have not – accomplished.

When I first ran, I had a long list of issues that I wanted dealt with. I was going to insist that they be taken seriously, my intention was to be a real pain until the board looked at all of them. Much to my amazement, all the issues on my list got raised within the first six months of my board tenure, without my having to insist on anything! This despite the fact that from my first day, we were faced with the need to find a new Executive Director. Life on the STC board has been a series of surprises, obstacles, successes, and disappointments.

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Who Has a License to Drive the Information Superhighways?

Update – 2 March 2015: The promised part 2 of this post is now published!

The former U.S. Vice President Al Gore coined the term, “information superhighways” to describe the Internet. It was a great political slogan, and Gore was certainly one of the most internet-friendly U.S. political figures (and one of the first). But that doesn’t mean the term has legs.

A superhighway, for example, has a speed limit – well, just about everywhere except Germany, that is. Does Internet have one? I suppose it might, purely in terms of capacity – but not for the kinds of reasons that motivate automobile speed limits. In fact, we limit driving speed for safety – but on the Internet, the faster the better, and speed limits are seen as an impediment to efficient operation, not a safety regulation.

To drive on a superhighway, you need a driver’s license. Are we willing to pass an examination to drive on the Internet superhighway? Should we be? Personally, I think not.

In many countries, superhighways have tolls that pay for their maintenance and provide a profit to a concessionaire. We do pay our ISP’s, but in general, we don’t seem to think they provide good maintenance of our routes. And now, they are wanting to control what makes, models, and colors of car can drive on their highways.

In short, the traditional model of superhighways includes some sort of pay-per-distance, the need to be licensed to use it, and other forms of legal and social controls, that in general, Internet users have been reluctant to accept.

Why is it that we think it’s OK to have our cars registered with the government, our drivers’ licenses issued by the government (which can then track us thanks to both), and to have a whole raft of laws affecting how we drive and how fast, that restrict our “freedom” of movement – yet we are not willing to have analogous controls for navigating the world’s info-paths?

My best guess has two components:

  • The Internet is NOT a system of superhighways – it has a meta-existence that only a few roads have ever known (The Silk Road, Route 66…)
  • The Internet functions in the realm of ideas – and we do not take well to “thought control.”

In this post, I’ll deal with the first component.

Continue reading “Who Has a License to Drive the Information Superhighways?”

Where are the Content Industries Going?

Some of you may have heard me talk, already, about The Transformation Society – a new research group that I have co-founded in Barcelona with Dr. Neus Lorenzo, a specialist in new technologies applied to education.

TransForm2

I’ll be blogging more about The Transformation Society in the near future – but you can already see the results of some of our research.

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The Coming Crisis

I’m not an academic. I haven’t done any research. I just observe the world and say what I see, and what I see is this:

  • We think it’s OK to deliver personal attacks, salacious innuendo, smear campaigns, and lies, and refer to it as “political discourse.”
  • We think it’s OK to advertise every product made in every part of the globe at every level of quality as “the best” – thereby rendering the word “best” meaningless.
  • We think it’s OK to announce loud and clear that we are against money laundering, tax evasion, and fiscal fraud, proclaim significant measures to combat them, and do nothing.
  • We think it’s OK to patent living organisms, genetic codes, and other aspects of life on this earth, as if they were industrial products.
  • We think it’s OK to use a term like “intellectual property,” and we think we can buy and sell ideas.

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We Are Family

Over here in Europe, we get a fair number of American TV series, but not all of them. Recently, a friend passed me a complete set of all the existing episodes of Firefly which I’ve been enjoying immensely. I’d not heard of it before, but I understand that it has become something of a cult series in the U.S. and I understand why.

It has something in common with a series that has had vastly greater success, in the U.S. and abroad: NCIS.

I’m not sure why one series failed and the other succeeded, but what ties them both together, and makes them both so appealing, is the sense of dysfunctional but united family.

Continue reading “We Are Family”