Way too much has been written on the motives and modus operandi of WikiLeaks, based solely on their image in the media. Arguably a better way to approach their actions and motives is through the two key theoretical essays of Julian Assange – State and Terrorist Conspiracies, and Conspiracy as Governance. I am attaching them below – my commentary to follow.
This is an interesting Sysomos Research study on the use of Twitter, based on a sample of 1.2 billion tweets between July and August 2010. The study concentrated on the reaction to tweets – retweets and mentions – and the characteristics of those reactions. By far the most interesting results concern the percentage of tweets eliciting a response and the practical timeframe for a response.
29% of Tweets Generate a Reaction
“We found that 29% of all tweets produced a reaction – a reply or a retweet. Of this group of tweets, 19.3% were retweets and the rest replies. This means that of the 1.2 billion tweets we examined, 6%, (or 72 million) were retweets.”
Most Retweets Happen in the First Hour
“We discovered that 92.4% of all retweets happen within the first hour of the original tweet being published, while an additional 1.63% of retweets happen in the second hour, and 0.94% take place in the third hour.
This means that if a tweet is not retweeted in the first hour, it is very likely that it will not be retweeted.
The graph below shows the fraction of tweets from the second hour onwards – the x-axis shows the time in hours since the original tweet, while the vertical axis shows the fraction of retweets within a particular hour. The 92.4% of all retweets, which happen within the first hour, are not displayed in the chart. 1.63% of retweets happen in the second hour, and 0.94% take place in the third hour.”
An excellent graph from a Pew Internet Research study (courtesy of Flowtown), illustrating the rising importance of mobile apps. My guess is that the percentage of paid apps downloads will only increase until this becomes the main revenue stream of cloud platforms.
Plenty has been happening while I was immersed in the joys of fatherhood. WikiLeaks, and the whole theater of deception surrounding it, has been the most thought-provoking flow of events by far. Plenty to write about, but for now this quote from Raffi Khatchadourian’s excellent piece on Assange:
“He had come to understand the defining human struggle not as left versus right, or faith versus reason, but as individual versus institution. As a student of Kafka, Koestler, and Solzhenitsyn, he believed that truth, creativity, love, and compassion are corrupted by institutional hierarchies, and by “patronage networks”—one of his favorite expressions—that contort the human spirit. He sketched out a manifesto of sorts, titled “Conspiracy as Governance,” which sought to apply graph theory to politics. Assange wrote that illegitimate governance was by definition conspiratorial—the product of functionaries in “collaborative secrecy, working to the detriment of a population.” He argued that, when a regime’s lines of internal communication are disrupted, the information flow among conspirators must dwindle, and that, as the flow approaches zero, the conspiracy dissolves. Leaks were an instrument of information warfare. These ideas soon evolved into WikiLeaks.”
All things considered, this Julian Bleecker’s Why Things Matter is probably the closest we have to a Manifesto for the internet of things. Bruce Sterling’s Shaping Things is also in that category, but it’s a longer text and it lacks the theoretical punch. Besides, any theoretical piece on networked objects has to first deal with the modern separation of the world into the nature/culture dichotomy, and Bleecker does just that with his use of Bruno Latour’s We Have Never Been Modern.
Five billionth device about to plug into Internet – Network World on the explosion of permanently connected mobile devices. According to the author, today there are around 1 billion computers (PC’s, laptops) with regular net connectivity. The remainder of that 5 billion from the title is comprised of mobile devices and all sorts of peripherals such as cameras, TV’s, picture frames, etc. The key development is that the number of networked objects is growing at such an astonishing rate, that fixed-place connectivity (the venerable personal computer in other words) is soon to lose its raison d’etre. Accordingly, the most important developments seem to be in the area of machine-to-machine connectivity.
The next billion geeks: How the mobile internet will transform the BRICI countries – The Economist on the Brazil, Russia, India, China and Indonesia mobile revolution. According to the article, there are 610 million regular internet users and 1.8 billion mobile-phone users in the BRICI market as a whole. Interestingly, and perhaps predictably, due to very poor to non-existent copper/fibre infrastructure in places like India and Indonesia mobiles have leapfrogged the PC as the main internet access interface in these countries. Only 81 million Indians have regular net access through fixed lines, but there are 507 million mobile phone users paying as little as $o.oo6 per minute, and more and more of these mobile users are also starting to surf the net through their phones. These numbers are incredible because they illustrate how a deregulated market based around a new technology can rapidly develop and leapfrog an established technology. This is also interesting in the context of Australia’s national broadband network plans which will eventually deliver a tragically outdated technical solution to a problem which can be solved rapidly as India’s example demonstrates.
How Google is Looking to Cut Apple’s Margin and How the Sell Side of Wall Street Will Enable This Without Sheeple Investor’s Having a Clue – Boombust Blog analyzing the cloud strategies of Google, Apple and Microsoft. Some very interesting analytics of earnings numbers and market share, but above all a clear spelling of the probable long-term strategy of Google with the Android phones/tablets. Google seems to have taken Apple entirely by surprise with its strategy to not only give away Android for free but to make it entirely open-source which in turn makes the platform an instant favorite with every real tech geek out there. This of course means that Google doesn’t have Apple’s fat margins from sales, but on the other hand it allows Google to not only expand rapidly (they have already achieved larger market share then Apple – an astonishing achievement), but to also undercut the future margins of the iPhone. Significantly, Apple has to compete on the software front with Google and its legion of geek volunteers, while simultaneously competing with all the hardware companies out there – HTC, Samsung, Motorolla to name just a few. On both of these fronts Apple is terribly outplayed in terms of innovation cycles – i.e. how fast can it research, release, update new products. Because of its cultist philosophy and total-control business model Apple has been maneuvered by Google into reacting in either of two ways:  cut prices, which will result in lesser margins and less resources for future development, or  break down the cult and open its metaphorical walled garden, which will go against the very core of what Apple and Steve Jobs stand for. Either way leads to doom, and Google has achieved that by completely embracing the open source movement. How is that for ‘Don’t be Evil!’?
As I discussed here, and here, Google seems to seriously plan for and work towards a prime position in cloud computing (web 3.0?). A couple of interesting links relate to that. First comes the now infamous interview Eric Schmidt, Google’s CEO, gave at the WSJ. In that interview he made a number of comments indicating where Google are looking at the moment, but for some reason all it was remembered for is his quip that because of privacy issues with social networks in the future kids may end up having to change their names when they reach adulthood. Ok, this is odd, and it came out of nowhere, but surely there are more interesting bits in what he had to say. Much more interesting for example is his hint that Google are seriously working on developing semantic algorithms:
This statement has to be read in the context of Google’s move to the cloud. In that paradigm the semantic depth of your search query will be provided by your entire cloud footprint. This is quite literally an Artificial Intelligence in full operational mode. As William Gibson writes in a recent article in the New York Times,
“We never imagined that artificial intelligence would be like this. We imagined discrete entities. Genies.”
We imagined HAL, and Wintermute, but instead of managing an ultimately controllable anthropomorphic machine we have to deal with a distributed mind that is built of…us. An ambient socio-digital system.