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Smart People in the News: Rheingold, Gosling 146

Roland Piquepaille writes "In "How Will "Smart Mobs" Play Out?," BusinessWeek asked questions to Howard Rheingold, who published the "Smart Mobs" book at the end of 2002. Rheingold talks about the emergence of the picturephone, especially outside the U.S. He adds that future business applications for smart mobs might start anywhere in the world, like "finding out about the spot labor market in [an] African village." For his part, James Gosling, the leading guy behind the Java programming language, is interviewed by Red Herring, in Social smarts. He talks about the social implications of the Internet by looking at the Brazilian National Medical System. Gosling also talks about the entertainment industry which deeply hates Internet, and about the open source movement, of which he is a big fan. And of course, that leads him to talk about Microsoft. This summary contains some excerpts of both interviews."
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Smart People in the News: Rheingold, Gosling

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  • by gpinzone ( 531794 ) on Monday September 29, 2003 @11:02AM (#7084828) Homepage Journal
    There's some smart mobsters in some African village trying to blik me out of thousands of dollars. I don't need any fancy technology other then a hotmail account to find them, either.
    • i disagree!!
      i helped this nigerian guy out and i made a bundle! with the money, i bought a great house with a fantastic mortgage. then i married a beautiful russian bride, and i pleasure her with my surgically enlarged, viagra driven member.
      • hmmm I tried to order some of that viagra but the webesite didn't accept my credit card, which is very wierd because it worked perfecly well when I paid to view the webcams installed in some university's girl showers.
    • My family had a resturaunt when I was growing up. How did we deal with mobsters?

      Today's Special

      Beef Stew

  • Wise guy, eh? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by inertia@yahoo.com ( 156602 ) * on Monday September 29, 2003 @11:02AM (#7084839) Homepage Journal
    I had the honor of listening to James Gosling's Keynote at Borcon 2001. He gave a stimulating talk about running Java on a gas pump, which didn't actually work.

    Then he took Q/A from the audience. He fielded the usual comments about how the Java API was so bloated. His reply to that was just not to use the bloated parts. He, for instance, doesn't use JDBC for anything, but he doesn't advocate removing it.

    The previous day, the inventor of Pascal, who now works at Microsoft, did his entire keynote from Notepad because he was forbidden from running Visual Studio at Borcon (too much competition with Borland's IDEs).

    Still, for a smart guy, he is easily provoked [java.net].
    • Inventor of Pascal? (Score:4, Informative)

      by Siener ( 139990 ) on Monday September 29, 2003 @11:29AM (#7085056) Homepage
      Pascal was written by Niklaus Wirth [inf.ethz.ch]. He was a professor at ETH Zurich until 1999, and then retired.

      I can find no reference about him ever doing work for Microsoft. I also doubt that he would - he has always been a very strong apponent of bloatware.

      Is the parent post a troll, or just badly mistaken?

    • Troll. Inane jabs at Java and Borland aside, Nicklaus Wirth invented Pascal and has never worked for Microsoft.

    • I had the honor of listening to James Gosling's Keynote at Borcon 2001...
      He, for instance, doesn't use JDBC for anything...
      The previous day, the inventor of Pascal, who now works at Microsoft, did his entire keynote from Notepad

      I think maybe you're making this stuff up.

      - If Gosling doesn't use JDBC for "anything" (whatever that means) then how does he interact with databases from within Java?
      - If Gosling gave the keynote, then how could anyone else give a keynote the previous day?
      - I doubt the inventor

      • You can't make stuff like this up.

        - No, Gosling doesn't use JDBC. He says it all the time [sun.com]. He doesn't interact with databases, I guess. Not everyone has to.
        - Gosling isn't as important to Borcon goers. Most of them are Delphi coders.
        - I was wrong. The other keynote speaker didn't invent Pascal, he invented Turbo Pascal, then Delphi, then C#, for which he would want to use Visual Studio for, but couldn't.
        • No, Gosling doesn't use JDBC. He says it all the time. He doesn't interact with databases, I guess. Not everyone has to.

          In your original comment you implied that he doesn't use it because it's bloated, when in fact he simply doesn't happen to use it. An important difference, and one that makes your original post disingenuous.

          • ...you implied that he doesn't use it because it's bloated...

            My original comment simply pointed out that Gosling's advice for people is to just ignore the API you don't use. If my repeating what he said implied anything, he implied it not me.

            Gosling was trying to illistrate that the API is the way it is because a large percentage of people use a particular part that a smaller percentage think is bloat. I don't believe Gosling thought that JDBC was bloat. He knows a lot of people rely on it, but he wan
    • He's got to be somewhat sharp because he called Mac OS X Linux with QA & Taste. Which is a fair statement.

      Show me an intelligent professor that doesn't rise to being baited like that. Don't think it has to do with being smart, it has to do with proving your smart to people who don't take 'he's smart' at face value
    • I had the honor of listening to James Gosling's Keynote at Borcon 2001.

      I don't think that is such an honor. This is what RMS has to say about Gosling.

      In the summer of that year, about two years ago now, a friend of mine told me that because of his work in early development of Gosling Emacs, he had permission from Gosling in a message he had been sent to distribute his version of that. Gosling originally had set up his Emacs and distributed it free and gotten many people to help develop it, under the e

  • If mobs are smarter, then why is Ahnold the frontrunner in California?
  • by Kevin_ap ( 597233 ) <hitman@gmx[ ].uk ['.co' in gap]> on Monday September 29, 2003 @11:09AM (#7084909)
    When you go to a doctor and you get a prescription, you get a database entry printed out on a piece of paper. You can walk into any clinic and they can get your records immediately
    Now imagine an insurance company somehow get access to this database. Fail an eye test and 2 weeks late your car insurance increases....
    But this is a good thing as long as the database is secure and can only be accessed for medical reasons.
    • So we can't have a system that would help people because the insurance system is fucked up. That is really 1st world, ain't it?
    • >
      Fail an eye test and 2 weeks late your car insurance increases...

      And the trouble with this would be...?
    • Fail an eye test and 2 weeks late your car insurance increases....

      it's a reasonable start. But too cautious. You're not thinking big enough.

      It would be far far better if on failing an eye test, your driving license was instantly put on hold and the authorities informed, and only reinstated once a correction (spectacles, contact lenses, laser surgery) was in place. So many places do while-you-wait lens grinding now, this needn't cause major inconvenience, but would hopefully reduce the number of people
    • But this is a good thing as long as the database is secure and can only be accessed for medical reasons.

      This is from the company whose CEO said "you have no privacy, get over it". It would be silly to entrust such critical functions to such stoopid people. Technology enables us to get more privacy, not less, you just have to be more creative. Ironically, one example of this public key encryption. As someone said, there is always a simple and wrong solution for every complicated problem.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    ...than Ron Jeremy. I hope to never hear of the concept again. Spot labor market in African village? Is there anyone but stupid reporters that even cares about this?
    • I couldn't agree more. I only saw one example that made some group in some foreign country appear smart.... a national database for healthcare. Of course, that would only work, and only be similar to secure in a country where healthcare is nationalized. Our cut throat medical and insurance companies would make a mockery of that.

      I'm a little tired of hearing how "smart" video phones are. I want a phone to talk to people. I think I'm more than intelligent enough to use such an item, but generally the q
  • by heironymouscoward ( 683461 ) <heironymouscowardNO@SPAMyahoo.com> on Monday September 29, 2003 @11:14AM (#7084945) Journal
    If it looks like a duck and sounds like a duck it probably is a duck. "Smartmobs" looks and sounds like technogabble, and probably is. There is no sign at all that even a sophisticated urban public has any inclination to form "mobs", smart or stupid, except as part of a passing fashion.

    Yes, you can get a couple hundred artists to mob a shoestore. Once, maybe twice. But try getting most people to think beyond the five minute/five day horizon of their lives? Good luck!

    It's not a matter of technology. People just don't, for the most part, have the excess energy for things like instant parties.

    Besides, what's the "African village" business? I wish people who wrote such comments would actually go to an African village and take a look. As a model of economical, ecological, and sociological stability and harmony, it's hard to do better. What... the... heck do you want to go adding "smart mobs" to this for?
    • The Grameen Bank, the original microcredit lending bank, is using cellphone technology to help remote villages get the information they need. Of course, they don't need a mob --- just one cellphone per village, owned and operated by a "phone lady" who rents it out to anyone who needs it. That way villages get the info they need without having to wire everything in sight. Here's a Wall St Journal article [he.net] about one "phone lady". And a World Bank article [worldbank.org] about the GrameenPhone network.
    • From what I read, I thought that his idea about using technology to create these mobs in Africa was quite far-fetched, but I did think that if you extend his ideas, you can see them existing in everyday life here in 'the West'.

      If you think about how use the internet, you can create a 'flash mob' particularly if a website offers a particularly good deal. For example, if I find cheap flights to Europe on a site like Ryanair I will email my friends to book the flights and come with me. This may not be a 're
    • I don't think you should confuse "contrived mobs" with "smart mobs". I take your point about "technogabble" but there's more too it than that.

      I like to give this example of a smart mob. An antiwar demonstration in DC, the war was close to starting so tension was pretty high, the cops were not in a good mood. A detachment of motorcycle cops were riding *through* a dense crowd of marchers, it was very dangerous and impossible for people to get out of the way.

      Anyway some guy gets in a cops way and the cop
  • by ahfoo ( 223186 ) on Monday September 29, 2003 @11:19AM (#7084986) Journal
    I think it's worth considering the amount of hype surrounding anything to do with children and sexuality.
    Way back when at the time 56K modems were just coming on, I installed a modem based video conferencing system for a small rural school. Everybody was so excited about the potential and the quality of the signal wasn't a big issue because it was so exciting and isn't technology great. All in all, it was not too different from what you're hearing right now in the latest frothy bubble of video conferencing hype.
    But, despite all the good intentions and hopeful exuberance and pats on the back for a job well done and gosh isn't technology great type of wide-eyed speculation at the time, the system was pulled for entirely non-technical reasons.
    In the process of testing the system, we hooked into the, then cutting edge, CU-See-Me network to test it out and right away it was chicks flashing tits, guys holding their dicks and all this fun stuff that might be real groovy for adult users looking for a cheap thrill, but a major problem in an elementary school setting.
    Ever since then, I've seen the same old hype just continue over and over. I laughed out loud when I read an article a few months ago with the CEO of AT&T suggesting video conferencing was just about to take off and save his company along with on-line music sales. I have to speculate that there is a bit of willful ignorance going on here.
    Most of the older people I know tend to be quite camera shy and then a lot of the younger people are depending on the older people to pay for their toys. I think the combo, along with the fact that almost everyone has a web cam and nobody uses them is quite suggestive of some fundamental problems with the marketing of camera enabled wireless devices.
    That's not to say they're not cool and everybody should grow up and stop worrying about kids getting some cheap thrills. I agree one thousand percent. But, if everybody agreed with me, the world would be a very nice place and nobody would watch prime time TV. But obviously that's not the world we live in.
    • by pubjames ( 468013 ) on Monday September 29, 2003 @11:45AM (#7085206)
      I'm not sure if I completely understand the point that you're trying to make.

      Just because you've been into the "CU-See-Me" network and seen people showing their willies does not mean that video conferencing or picture phones or whatever will never take off, or that the CEO of AT&T is being ignorant.

      It sounds to me like you should have done a bit more thinking and testing before you did your school installation. The failure of your one project does not write off a whole new up and coming area of technology.

      • Well I said willfully ignorant, as in deceptive to large shareholders who are mostly older individuals who don't really pay much attention to newfangled gadgetry.
        But I have three web cameras sitting around that don't get used and my point was that this stuff has been hyped before. The only difference this time is that the emphasis is on freedom. Well, if you're an adult that kinda flies right by ya because you already have freedom and cameras and it's just an extension of that in a slightly more co
  • More and more people taking more and more photographs that nobody really wants or needs to see.

    Just like digital cameras but with significantly less quality and a much less cumbersome method of sharing the photos far and wide.

    Personally, I'm going back to carrier pigeon.

    • Re:Picture phones (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Timesprout ( 579035 )
      a much less cumbersome method of sharing the photos far and wide

      Thats the whole point of the damn things. Its easy and convenient so you so it thus providing an additional revenue stream to the telcoms in situations where normally your phone would be sitting idle in your pocket.
  • According to the article he is. At least his answer to the business applications of smart mobs question, "nobody really has a clue" was probably accurately quoted. I think his answer could also be applied to the editors of that article.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Society hasn't been the same since college kids started stuffing large numbers of themselves into phone booths and Volkswagens. Smart Mobs promise to have an even greater societal impact.
  • price pressure (Score:3, Interesting)

    by smd4985 ( 203677 ) on Monday September 29, 2003 @11:30AM (#7085064) Homepage
    gosling makes a point that i think is understated by many in the open source community - open source software is great because it is open and you can validate its contents, but the real reason MS hates it is because it is free. they are afraid to lose their cash cow (they practically mint money by selling Windows and Office software).
  • Sex (Score:5, Interesting)

    by pubjames ( 468013 ) on Monday September 29, 2003 @11:33AM (#7085090)

    In order to work out the full potential of new technologies, it is important to consider the sex uses first. I'm not joking - the sexual uses of new technologies will always outnumber, and incorporate, all other uses.

    There is (apparently) an interesting new sexual practice in the UK called "dogging". This involves using the web to locate people anonymously, and then meeting up in public places (in a park for instance) to have anonymous sex. Other people go along to watch. This is I guess a type of smart mob (although "not very smart mob" might be more a appropriate name when you take sexual diseases into account).

    I don't need to mention that the emergence of the picturephone will bring about whole new areas of creative uses of technology...
  • by urbazewski ( 554143 ) on Monday September 29, 2003 @11:34AM (#7085098) Homepage Journal
    In the interview Gosling says: "It has really changed the way grassroots political organizing works."

    I agree that the internet has made it much easier to organize people, for example, the international coordination of protests against the war on Iraq was phenomenal, but has it really enhanced the effectiveness and power of grassroots groups? I think the jury is still out on this one.

    I'd love to see technology used to create more genuine opportunities for participation, but as Frederick Douglas said:

    Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did, and it never will.
    Legions of bloggers writing about copyright law or the PATRIOT Act won't make a difference unless we find a way to apply real political pressure through action.
    • The parent post has a point: Sure, political organizations seem stronger because they can more easily disseminate information, but really, if 100,000 people read about your rally in kansas city, but only 200 people can physically show up, have you really gained much from the other 999,800 surfers?

      What interested me about Gosling's interview, was the claim that the technology exists today for everyone to vote online. I think this is disingenious, personally, to say that the only things standing in the way

      • You would need three separate systems: one that creates a voting e-ticket, and tracks that you have been granted the ticket (if you lose it before you use it then it's a spoiled ballot).

        The second service provides an anonymizing proxy to the third service, hiding your originating IP address.

        The third system accepts the voting ticket via the anonymizing proxy (verifying it was signed by the first service a la Kerberos) and allows you to vote with it. Encryption must happen end-to-end between the voter and
        • Those ideas make sense to me, but I think there are still missing pieces:

          1. The classic PKI problem - How do you _guarantee_ that the e-vote cast was actually submitted by the person to whom it belongs? Can you prevent the sale/trade of e-votes from occuring? Can you prevent a hacker from subsuming the identities of thousands of people and voting for them? In theory, if the anonymizing proxy does its job, those votes should not be traceable.

          2. I think that we have to design with the idea that, given

  • Last month, a bunch of trendy featherbrains in Austin, TX met in front of a downtown Starbucks, walked around with umbrellas for a few minutes, then left. Details here [statesman.com].

    Is this a smart mob?

  • ...I know this non-techy girl who is really mad at her cell provider because they don't have the infrastructure that would allow her to send video clips from her cell phone to other people's cellphones, (she can't send pictures across providers, either). Why is she so interested? Well, let's just say these moving images will be a little...dirty...

    So anyway that's just one example of a desire by a single person for some sort of 'smart mob' (dumb name, imho). Maybe it's a trend, who knows.
  • A little off topic but on the subject of smart mobs: magician David Blaine's current 'endurance stunt' taking place in London was supposed to be the site [bbc.co.uk] of a "mass 'flash mob' event involving possibly hundreds" but in the end only two guys showed up.
    • A little off topic but on the subject of smart mobs...

      Whoops! Not really on the subject of smart mobs after all. I got smart mobs confused with flash mobs. Classic case of not RTFA. Apologies.
  • What a fan!! (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Gosling also talks [..], and about the open source movement, of which he is a big fan.

    Sure, he even caused the GPL into existence.
    What a fan!!!
    read the emacs bit for a bit of interesting history.

  • I hate self-promoting post-wannabe wannabes.
  • Mob Recording (Score:4, Interesting)

    by unfortunateson ( 527551 ) on Monday September 29, 2003 @12:20PM (#7085562) Journal
    I've had this crazy idea bouncing in my head for a while about using a mob of cellphone-holding folx to record concerts, etc.

    Sure, the fidelity from any one phone sucks, but some filtering (combined with knowledge of the seat placement) would be able to eliminate much of the ambient noise, and produce multipoint surround sound. Probably the same could be done with videophones to create 3D video, if enough source were integrated.

    I don't even have the math to try this, but if we can dream it, we can do it, right?
    • The problem with that would be that whatever information all the phones throw out would be lost. You could get rid of noise and glitches, but you wouldn't be able to recover extremes in the sound or anything like that. Same problem with video, you'd probably be able to build pretty high-resolution images, but you'd still have color problems.
    • If every phone was listening to the same sound, then it might be possible. But that's far from the case. Next time you go to a concert, try closing your eyes and moving around. The sound changes! The heads and bodies in front of you shape the sound; reflections off walls and other surfaces cause subtle phase cancellations that vary in frequency depending exactly where you are; and of course your relative distance from the various sound sources also changes, so some will arrive earlier or later. All of
  • by sprior ( 249994 ) on Monday September 29, 2003 @12:33PM (#7085718) Homepage
    Smart mobs could easily change our perception of public and political figures! How hard is it to imagine that once camera phones get as common in the US as they are in other places of the world, that some politician just got caught in a compromising situation in a coffee house by some other patron with a camera phone who submitted it instantly to the Enquirer and got paid for it before his latte got cold?

    This could have a few outcomes - public figures couldn't get reclusive enough to avoid this problem. One possibility is that with more people being caught in the act that the public will care less about such things (just because they can't handle the load of making a big deal about all of them). Another is that the people who are squeaky clean would float to the top more easily.
  • from the look-at-the-big-brain-on-brad dept.

    It's BRETT [imdb.com], you deaf sons of bitches!

    "Look at the big brain on Brett." [imdb.com]

  • by sakyamuni ( 528502 ) on Monday September 29, 2003 @12:50PM (#7085921)
    This is from the interview with Rheingold:
    Q: Why do you call them smart "mobs"?

    A: There's a dark side. The attacks of 9/11 wouldn't have been possible without cell phones or the Internet.

    WTF? Try as I might, I can't follow his reasoning on this one. It might have been considerably harder to communicate with your operatives without modern tech, but certainly not impossible.

    • I think that the interviewer is asking (or Rheingold in interpreting the question to mean) why he calls them "mobs" because mobs have a negative connotation. He's responding by saying that the 9/11 terrorists were a mob in the negative sense of the word and a smart mob in that that the coordination of the attack wouldn't have been possible without the datacomm infrastructure provided by cell phones and the Net.

      But, frankly, I think he's just back-defining a term that sounds provacative.
      • Totally true.

        Sounds like he just came up with the term "smart mobs" and then tried to figure out what it meant.

        You know, the people in NYC who were doing the mobs stopped doing them. I wonder if it has anything to do with the pretentious bullshit they were immediately associated with. Obviously, these mobs in NY were a joke, a dumb but fun stunt. Suddenly, some jerk like Rheingold decides he understands the "text" and it's a semiotics class circa 1995 all over again. So he gets interviewed because th

    • by Anonymous Coward
      The hijackers on that flight were foiled by the very same system that communicated to the passengers the need to resist. Cuts both ways.
  • After all -- wasn't he the same guy who wrote that book 'Virtual Reality' back in the early 90s?

    Wow -- didn't all those clowns call that one wrong.

  • http://www.stuff.co.nz/stuff/0,2106,2673781a11,00 . html [stuff.co.nz]

    what do I think?

    Of course it's silly, of course it's fun

    but it whiffs to me of fad

    if you go back 5, 10, 15, and more years pop culture is absolutely littered with "the next big thing"

    really smart people, god bless their souls, are often prone to getting too excited and reading too much meaning into what is essentially meaningless and temporary inanity

    hey, by all means, keep thinking big thoughts folks, but watch out for self-reinforcing over-int
  • Conversely, when I look at the price tag for any Microsoft product, it just makes me cringe. Look at the Microsoft Word license which is about $500 or $600 per machine. Most people made that work by basically breaking the law and installing it at home on all of their machine.
    This is total crap right? The you get the whole office suite for $600 or much less in an OEM bundle, also you can get Word by itself for much less I think.
    • I have to wonder how you're able to buy Word just by itself.

      BTW, Amazon lists Office XP Pro for $380.
      • I got Word '97 in the Microsoft Works bundle a couple of years ago for $79. But as you have shown yourself XP Pro is $380, still to high but less than the $600 figure quoted. I do think DRM and activation could be the straw that breaks the MSFT back if not done correctly. When a company reaches a certain size they almost always do more damage to themselves than the competition does.

    • From the context, he meant $600 for 6 systems, at $100 a system. And even the $100/system was probably just a toss-off number.

      One legal way around that would be Remote Desktop - install on one system, run from any system. With shared root directories, you can edit stuff on the system you're doing the access from.
      • TomRC good point about the Remote Desktop, however the context was: Conversely, when I look at the price tag for any Microsoft product, it just makes me cringe. Look at the Microsoft Word license which is about $500 or $600 per machine.
        Maybe this is the retail price for office, but when the alternative is free I don't see the need to over state one's case.
  • Gosling is a "big fan" of open source? Maybe now he is, but don't forget the fun we all had with him concerning UnixEmacs (aka Gosmacs). He wrote a free Emacs clone, actively distributed source and solicited improvements, then sold it to a commercial company which immediately started throwing lawyers around. True, Gosling never promised to keep the source freely available, but it was a tacit assumption by the contributors which he deliberately chose not to correct. Here's one very terse account [free-soft.org] of the s
  • This is hilarious:

    He adds that future business applications for smart mobs might start anywhere in the world, like "finding out about the spot labor market in [an] African village."

    These Africans, who are trying to find a day's worth of work here, there, and anywhere they can, who desperately need that day's worth of bread, can afford a Palm or PocketPC or cell phone?

    What kind of idiot says stuff like this?

    This is what's wrong with tech today: stupid apps for stupid reasons. We're just fortunate t

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