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Danny Choo


Japanese Architecture

Danny Choo is a guestblogger on Boing Boing. Danny resides in Tokyo, and blogs about life in Japan and Japanese subculture - he also works part time for the empire.
dannychoo_architecture.jpg
A nice photo collection of Japanese architecture - of both the old and new can be found at Kirainet. And if you are thinking of buying some property in Japan, you can read about the interesting regulations including having your roof sloped at a certain angle so that the neighboring house gets enough hours of sunlight per day.

Costs of Education in Japan

Danny Choo is a guestblogger on Boing Boing. Danny resides in Tokyo, and blogs about life in Japan and Japanese subculture - he also works part time for the empire.
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When I first started to follow Japanese culture back in the UK, I saw these bags in anime (Japanese cartoons), manga (comics) and in magazines. I then came over to Japan and started to wonder why all the kids had one and why there were all the same shape n size.

These bags are known as "Randoseru" which is the Japanese pronunciation of the Dutch word "Ransel" meaning "Backpack" and are used by elementary school children in Japan.

They were first introduced into Japan as a backpack for commissioned officers in the imperial army during the Meiji period and then used in governmental schools as the standard commuting bag.

A randoseru is a compulsory school item that ones grandparents usually buy for their grandchildren and usually cost 2 kidneys and a bladder - the most expensive one in this store cost 628 USD! The most expensive randoseru that I've been able to find online costs 1805 USD from Rakuten. Some modern schools these days don't enforce use of the randoseru but those are still the minority. An ad for randoseru below.


So now we know how much it costs to buy a randoseru for elementary school children, I thought we'd look at how much more it costs to send children to school in Japan - costs converted to USD.

-Kindergarten (3 years - public): 7,943 USD
-Kindergarten (3 years - private): 17,536 USD
-Elementary (6 years - public): 21,798 USD
-Elementary (6 years - private): 89,675 USD
-Junior High (3 years - public): 15,392 USD
-Junior High (3 years - private): 41,360 USD
-High School (3 years - public): 16, 995 USD
-High school (3 years - private): 34,078 USD
-Total for all public (15 years): 62,130 USD
-Total for all private (15 years): 182,651 USD

University is not compulsory but for those wishing to go would spend an average of 54,412 USD for the 4 years.

Schooling free or cost a few limbs in your neck of the woods? More photos and sources of figures in the Randoseru article.

Fresh Juicy Tomatoes

Danny Choo is a guestblogger on Boing Boing. Danny resides in Tokyo, and blogs about life in Japan and Japanese subculture - he also works part time for the empire.

Don't you just lurve the taste of fresh juicy tomatoes with yer burger?
A cross section of a Tomato from a Japanese perspective...
Living Tomato.

Japanese Surgical Mask Culture

Danny Choo is a guestblogger on Boing Boing. Danny resides in Tokyo, and blogs about life in Japan and Japanese subculture - he also works part time for the empire.


When I first came to Japan, I was shocked to see people wearing surgical masks in public. The first time was when I was on a train. I looked around to see if anybody was looking at the masked middle aged woman but spotted nobody. The only conclusion I came to was that she was a doctor - but she didn't look like a doctor and even if she was - why on earth was she wearing a surgical mask on the train?!

I soon learned that folks in Japan wear masks for a few reasons...

* They are sick and don't want their evil germs to infect others.
* They have hay fever and don't want the evil pollen to affect them.
* They are not sick but don't want to catch any evil germs from others.
* They have a tooth missing and want to cover it up.
* Their breath smells like a fart and want to diffuse the smell.
* They have no mouth and don't want people to know that they are from Mars.

The main reason however is the first one - to prevent others from being infected with ones germs. This poor chap in the photo above is being a good citizen and wants to keep his germs to himself - he wears the mask all day until he gets home. And for those who don't like masks - they choose something like the product below to plug up their nostrils.


I've only seen folks wearing masks in Japan - anybody wear surgical masks in your region out n about in public?

Photo taken during my times at Microsoft Japan with more Japanism cultural shenanigans at the Japan Portal.

Lurve Bug

Danny Choo is a guestblogger on Boing Boing. Danny resides in Tokyo, and blogs about life in Japan and Japanese subculture - he also works part time for the empire.

Still thinking about what sort of chocolates to get for your loved for Valentines day? How about something really special, really different - chocolates in the shape of beetles...

Celebrate Valentines Day the Japanese way: with chocolates shaped like kabuto-mushi beetles! Dating an entomologist? Trying to introduce a little entomophagy into your relationship? Namco's Namja Land in Ikebukuro has your back. 4,500 yen (49 USD) for a set of four: one Hercules beetle, one stag beetle, one male rhinocerous beetle, and one female rhinocerous beetle.
Text and photo from Matt Alt.

Amazon Sells Rape Simulation Game

Danny Choo is a guestblogger on Boing Boing. Danny resides in Tokyo, and blogs about life in Japan and Japanese subculture. He also works part time for the empire.

Looks like Amazon is in toraburu for selling Japanese rape simulation games. Excerpt from Belfast Telegraph article:
The shocking 'rape simulator', Rapelay, is set in Japan and carries a sickening game description on the Amazon website. An MP said last night that he plans to raise the issue in Parliament.

Reviews by gaming websites have expressed horror at the basis for the game.

One website review describes "tears glistening in the young girl's eyes" as she is attacked in graphic detail.

Players begin the game by stalking a mother on a subway station before violently raping her. They then move on to attack her two daughters described as virgin schoolgirls.

Players are also allowed to enter 'freeform mode' where they can rape any woman and get other male game characters to join the attacks.

Read the article in entirety, with screengrabs of gameplay: "Amazon selling rape simulation game" (Belfast Telegraph via Games Park). Some gaming "action" from the game in question below.

Poll: Folks who play these games are...
- Dangerous
- Harmless

Obama sells iPhone in Japan


Danny Choo is a guestblogger on Boing Boing. Danny resides in Tokyo, and blogs about life in Japan and Japanese subculture - he also works part time for the empire.



To folks in the US - how is your new president doing? Well in Japan, hes doing quite well as you can see from this photo taken yesterday. Softbank is the exclusive carrier for the iPhone in Japan and it looks like Obama-san has a part time job helping them sell mobile phones. The tag line in the poster is:- "Yes We Kau!" - "Kau" meaning "to buy" in Japanese.

Obama-san also performs magic on Japanese TV as you can see from the video below.


And for you fact fans out there - there is even a town in Japan called Obama were residents celebrated the new presidents victory.

Video from Japan Probe, photo stolen from dannychoo.com

Au revoir, mes amis de boingboing

Ed Note: one of Boingboing's three current guest bloggers, Steven Johnson is the author of six books, most recently The Invention Of Air: A Story of Science, Faith, Revolution and the Birth Of America. (You can see a video interview introducing the book here.) He's also the co-founder of the hyperlocal community site outside.in.

The two most common--and frustrating--complaints I hear about the web and the blogosphere are 1) that they're filled with mean-spirited snark; and 2) that they've been divided up into predictable, Daily Me filters where you're only told stuff you already know. I've been hearing this for years, and every time I hear it I respond by pointing people to the success of boingboing, which I think most of us would agree is as true to the core values of the web as anything out here. First, our hosts are so generous and open--and largely snark-free--in just about everything they post. The default tone is here is always: "Hey, check out this amazing thing I found." And those things are far more eclectic and diverse than anything you would have encountered in the heyday of big media. Only at boingboing could a guy post about Candy Land, aviation safety, Lost, and the Obama IT plan in one week and feel like he's the boring, predictable one. If this turns out to be what the DailyMe looks like, I think we're all going to be just fine.

So it was an honor and a complete blast to hang out here for the past two weeks. Thankfully, no one was seriously injured by any of my posts. I hope you'll get a chance to check out The Invention of Air, but either way I look forward to continuing the conversation here and elsewhere.

New tools for the street: outside.in Radar for the iPhone

Ed Note: one of Boingboing's three current guest bloggers, Steven Johnson is the author of six books, most recently The Invention Of Air: A Story of Science, Faith, Revolution and the Birth Of America. (You can see a video interview introducing the book here.) He's also the co-founder of the hyperlocal community site outside.in.

I've been so busy posting about Lost and Candy Land, that I haven't had a chance to say anything about what we're working on at outside.in, which in many ways has been the most exciting project of all for me over the past few years.

When John Geraci and I first started tossing around ideas for the site, our common passion and interest had been this notion that geographic space--and particularly urban space--had an invisible layer of data flowing through it that was tantalizingly close to you as you explored a neighborhood, but that was generally inaccessible other than through the chains of face-to-face, word-of-mouth conversation. Not only were there a million stories in the big city, there were a million in every neighborhood, and a thousand on every block: the overpriced condo that sold last week; the new bar that just got denied a liquor license; the mugging that took place a few months ago; the school principal that everyone's thrilled with. (This is what Dan Hill wonderfully describes in The Street As Platform.) All this data was out there in people's heads -- and increasingly in local placeblogger sites -- but there was no easy way to discover it geographically. There was no easy way to say: I'm standing on this corner in this town -- what are the locals talking about right now?

So we started outside.in as an attempt to answer that question. The Radar service we launched last year was our first interface that really tried to give you that micro-local perspective. But one of the things that's become clear to us is that question--what's happening around me right now--is even more compelling and fascinating when you're asking it via a mobile device standing on a street corner. And so I'm just incredibly excited about the application we've just released for the iPhone, Outside.in Radar. You load it up, let it geo-locate you, and then you'll see all the blog posts, news stories, Tweets, and discussion threads that involve places within 1,000 feet of where you're standing. If one of those places sounds interesting, you can go check out a dedicated place that shows you all the stories we've tracked that are associated with that place. You can also zoom out to see all the stories in the neighborhood you're currently occupying, or the wider city.

There are a hundred iPhone apps that let you find a nearby Italian restaurant. And that's great -- finding a nearby restaurant is a useful function. But I think a lot of us want something more out of the geo-web; we want the grain and the serendipity of human conversations and gossip to help us explore physical space. I think this app is a big first step in that direction. A couple of caveats, though. For now, it's U.S. only. And while it will sometimes find content outside of the top 100 or so urban areas in the U.S., there's much more data in the mid-sized to big cities. We're also actively working to speed up the load times--this first version is a little slow to fill up with data. (There will be a free upgrade that's faster shortly.) But if you walk around a few neighborhoods with it for a couple days, I think you'll find there's something genuinely new about the experience--it's like exploring a community with a neighborhood maven one tap away on your phone. And I know you'll immediately start thinking of other ways of using the data we've assembled over the past two years; the possibilities for new geo-interfaces are really extraordinary right now, and I'd love to hear any thoughts for v2 and beyond.

Outside.in Radar for the iPhone

DIY: How to write a book

Ed Note: one of Boingboing's three current guest bloggers, Steven Johnson is the author of six books, most recently The Invention Of Air: A Story of Science, Faith, Revolution and the Birth Of America. (You can see a video interview introducing the book here.) He's also the co-founder of the hyperlocal community site outside.in.

In part because my books have had a habit of weaving multiple disciplines together, and in part because I've written quite a bit about technology, I'm often asked about the tools I use to research and write my books. Given that Boingboing has its own wonderful multi-disciplinary sensibility, and of course a major obsession with DIY movements, I thought it might be fun to say a few words about the writing system I've developed over the past few books.

My word processors have varied over the years: I swore off MS Word after Mind Wide Open, and used Nisus Writer for Everything Bad and Ghost Map; had a quick dalliance with Pages, and then actually returned to the latest version of Word for Invention. But the one constant for the past four books has been an ingenious piece of software called Devonthink, which is basically a free-form database that accepts many different document types (PDFs, text snippets, web pages, images, etc). It has a very elegant semantic algorithm that can detect relationships between short excerpts of text, so you can use the software as a kind of connection machine, a supplement to your own memory. I wrote about this several years ago for the Times Book Review, and I still get emails from people every couple of weeks asking about the software. (The Devonthink guys should put me in an infomercial.)

Since I wrote that essay, I've developed a new approach to using Devonthink that was enormously helpful in writing Ghost Map and Invention. The first stage, which is crucial, is a completely disorganized capture of every little snippet of text that seems vaguely interesting. I grab paragraphs from web pages, from digital books, and transcribe pages from printed text -- and each little snippet I just drop into Devonthink with no organization other than a citation of where it came from. This goes on for months and months; I read in a completely unplanned and exploratory way (increasingly online, thanks to Google Books and other sources) and just drag anything that seems at all interesting into Devonthink.

When it comes time to actually write the book, I usually have a pretty clear sense of how the chapters are going to be divided up. With Ghost Map, for instance, there's a cool little trick I figured out before I started writing where each chapter maps to a single day in the epidemic, but also connects to one of the themes of the book: the shit and scavengers, miasma, the map. (No one seemed to notice this in any of the reviews, but it's one of the things that I'm most proud of with that book.) And so in the last stage before I actually start writing, I create a little folder in Devonthink for each of the chapters. And then I sit down and read through every single little snippet that I've uncovered over the past year or so of research. And as I'm reading them on the screen, I just drag them into the chapter folder where I think they will be most useful. Some snippets get dragged to multiple folders; most don't make it into any folder. But I read through them all, and in reading through them all, I have a completely new contextual experience of them, because I'm at the end of the research cycle, not at the beginning. They feel like pieces of a puzzle that's coming together, instead of hints or hunches.

And the added bonus here is that Devonthink has a wonderful feature where you can take the entire contents of a folder and condense it down into a single text document. So that's how I launch myself into the actual writing of the book. I grab the first chapter folder and export it as a single text document, open it up in my word processor, and start writing. Instead of confronting a terrifying blank page, I'm looking at a document filled with quotes: from letters, from primary sources, from scholarly papers, sometimes even my own notes. It's a great technique for warding off the siren song of procrastination. Before I hit on this approach, I used to lose weeks stalling before each new chapter, because it was just a big empty sea of nothingness. Now each chapter starts life as a kind of archipelago of inspiring quotes, which makes it seem far less daunting. All I have to do is build bridges between the islands.

Best Blog Posts of 2008?

Ed Note: Boingboing's current guest blogger Steven Johnson is the author of six books, most recently The Invention Of Air: A Story of Science, Faith, Revolution and the Birth Of America, for which he is currently on book tour. He's also the co-founder of the hyperlocal community site outside.in.

I have the distinct honor of editing this year's edition of Best Of Technology Writing, which has in past years featured many BoingBoing regulars. We're putting together the final submissions, and while we have a great supply of magazine writing to choose from, the blogosphere pile seems a little thin to me. So I thought it might be a nice end-of-year exercise for all of us to think back on the blog posts from 2008 that most intrigued and inspired us. Slightly longer posts will be more likely to make it into the collection, but who knows -- perhaps there's a particularly momentous tweet that deserves a place in the 2009 book. Obviously, posts that originated here at BoingBoing will have a special place in my heart. So feel free to share amongst yourselves in the threads below: what was the most memorable blog post you read last year? Surely, some of you remember last year...?

How Lost bends the rules

Ed Note: Boingboing's current guest blogger Steven Johnson is the author of six books, most recently The Invention Of Air: A Story of Science, Faith, Revolution and the Birth Of America, for which he is currently on book tour. He's also the co-founder of the hyperlocal community site outside.in.

A show as complicated as "Lost" deserves an equally complicated spoiler alert: if you have never seen an episode of "Lost" past, say, Season Two, and plan on immersing yourself in the show sometime soon, you might want to bookmark this post and revisit sometime in the future, once you've gotten up to speed. Otherwise I will keep this relatively vague, so that hardcore fans (for whom there will be no surprises) and Lost-dabblers can both read with no worries.

I posted yesterday about the often insurmountable complexity of seasons 1-4 of "Lost," but the first episode of season five held out the distinct possibility that that complexity might well be conquered by the end of the series. Not just because all the questions would be dutifully answered in some kind of contrived, ad-hoc fashion, but because the events in last night's episode suggest--in a way that earlier episodes have only delicately hinted-- that all the madness of the last four years, all the implausible speeches, connections, surprises, and attacks, have at their root one small change in the core bylaws of Reality As We Know It.

This is a formal innovation worth noting, though of course it's unclear from just a single episode whether the innovation has long-term significance or whether it turns out to be just another distraction. But I'm rooting for the former: "Lost" has the unique opportunity of proving you can build a narrative of mesmerizing implausibility that ultimately turns out to be entirely plausible simply by changing one elemental rule of the universe--and then not telling your audience about the rule change until the third act. Mainstream entertainment toys with the conventions of reality constantly (see Back to the Future, or pretty much every Jim Carrey movie) but invariably it lets the audience in on the rule changes early in the story. "Lost," not surprisingly, is playing hard-to-get with its revelations: not just in the backstory and mythology of its characters, but the basic laws of the genre.

That a mass audience is willing to embrace this kind of storytelling innovation is truly remarkable, and has a kind of sign-of-the-times quality to it. (The ultra-complex serial narrative show is to our own moment what the concept album was to the late sixties culture.) In a small way, "Lost" was actually an inspiration for The Invention of Air: I had a moment early in trying to figure out what the book would be like when I imagined that I would write a founding fathers history book that would be structured like a season of "Lost." (There's a middle chapter, for instance, that jumps back 300 million years, to the Carboniferous Era, before zooming back to the late 18th-century.) It's probably good that I didn't fully try to emulate "Lost" in the end, but just the fact that one could look to a prime time network mega-hit for inspiration in writing a book of science history is a sign that something has changed -- most of what I was watching as a kid in the seventies would not have been quite as inspirational.

I'm sure there are plenty of strong opinions about last night's episode: I hereby declare the comments thread below open to all spoilers. If you haven't seen the show yet, you are duly warned.

Keeping up with Lost

Ed Note: Boingboing's current guest blogger Steven Johnson is the author of six books, most recently The Invention Of Air: A Story of Science, Faith, Revolution and the Birth Of America, for which he is currently on book tour. He's also the co-founder of the hyperlocal community site outside.in.

All the hullabaloo about the news from Washington yesterday has been a distraction from the real event of the week: the fact that S05E01 of "Lost" is airing tonight, which means we are all about to be treated to another few months of utterly baffling prime time television. Though I've been known to argue in public for the growing complexity of today's popular culture, I've long since given up on trying to figure out what is actually happening on "Lost," and prefer to just sit back and let the byzantine plot twists and spatial-temporal jumps wash over me. But like many fans of the show, I suspect, I've always been fascinated by the question of exactly how much of "Lost"'s web the producers and writers of the show have planned out, and how much they're making up as they go along.

So it was delightful to read in the Times this weekend this profile of "Lost"'s script co-ordinator, Gregg Nations, who has apparently been maintaining a master document of all the various events and connections over the show's four year run. This line caught my eye:

Had he a background in computer science, Mr. Nations now says, he might have approached the “Lost” project differently. “The best thing would have been to create a database where everything’s linked, and if we’re talking about Jack and what was established in his first flashback episode, you could click on something that takes you there,” he said. But as an accountant, he was more inclined just to make notes in a ledger. “I’ve just created these Word documents, and I just write everything down.”
I think this captures exactly what makes these ultra-complex shows ("The Wire" being the other canonical, non-sci-fi example) so different from what has come before them on television: if you're trying to synthesize the entire history of the show, the proper form for conveying all that information is not a linear narrative. It's a relational database.

The case for PowerPoint in the White House

Ed Note: Boingboing's current guest blogger Steven Johnson is the author of six books, most recently The Invention Of Air: A Story of Science, Faith, Revolution and the Birth Of America, for which he is currently on book tour. He's also the co-founder of the hyperlocal community site outside.in.

There's been a great deal of chatter about the technological sophistication of the Obama campaign and the transition efforts: the YouTube video addresses, the Citizen's Briefing Book that I posted about last week, even Obama's own Blackberry addiction. But as exciting as it is to see these new tools adopted by our President-elect, I'm actually rooting for Obama to integrate a twenty-year-old software application into his communication efforts.

I think Obama needs to use PowerPoint.

Okay, okay, hold your fire for just one second, please. I hate conventional PowerPoint just as much as the next guy. I might even hate it as much as Edward Tufte. I do not want to see Obama's soaring rhetoric tomorrow undermined by "next slide please" requests and stale bullet point sentence fragments. There's already a hilarious parody of what the "Yes we can" speech would have looked like as a PowerPoint deck:


And of course there's the timeless rendition of the Gettysburg Address, including the sublime slide 4:

Review of Key Objectives and Critical Success Factors

• What makes nation unique
- Conceived in Liberty
- Men are equal

• Shared vision
- New birth of freedom
- Gov't of/for/by the people

No one wants to see that happen. But I think there's a serious case to be made for Obama using Powerpoint (or even better, Keynote) as a supplement to his less formal addresses to the nation. Not for the bullet points, but for the Tufte-esque information design. Wasn't this the one of the lessons of An Inconvenient Truth--that great visual design could make a speech about a complex issue more powerful and more intelligible at the same time?

So many of the epic problems that Obama is going to be wrestling with over the next four years involve systems of great complexity and scale: the bailouts and stimulus programs, our national energy use, the immense expenditures involved in fighting two wars, the global scope of climate change. Tufte would be the first person to argue that complex systems like these are not easily explained using sentences and statistics, particularly when we're talking about such vast numbers. I can imagine a White House address on the stimulus package, or his long-term plan for energy independence, where instead of sitting at a desk reading from a teleprompter, he's actually walking us through the problem and his proposed solution with a backdrop of visually arresting and memorable slides. That would actually make for more stimulating television, and at the same time do a better job of communicating the issues. We've heard a lot from Obama about how the nation needs a CTO. But maybe we need a Chief Information Designer as well.

The connected book (and how to make soda water)

Ed Note: Boingboing's current guest blogger Steven Johnson is the author of six books, most recently The Invention Of Air: A Story of Science, Faith, Revolution and the Birth Of America, for which he is currently on book tour. He's also the co-founder of the hyperlocal community site outside.in.

priestley-flap.jpg One of the major themes of The Invention of Air, and one that will have special appeal to BoingBoing readers, is how committed Joseph Priestley and the American Founders (particularly Franklin and Jefferson) were to the open flow of ideas. Priestley used every available information network of the day to share his discoveries and insights: he published nearly five hundred books and pamphlets over the course of his life, and wrote endless correspondence to his colleagues, documenting in exhaustive detail the techniques behind his experiments.

When you read through those original documents and letters, there's a distinctly open source vibe to the approach that they all took. Franklin argued for sharing his scientific discoveries--sometimes before he was even convinced of their accuracy--because releasing early and often would "attract the attentions of the ingenious" who would then go on to improve his original discoveries. Priestley famously invented soda water during experiments at a neighboring brewery, and then happily gave away his formula to anyone who would listen. (Anticipating Cory's wonderful OpenCola project by a couple of centuries.)

I've been talking about this quite a bit on the various stops on the book tour, and it's naturally caused some people to ask about my own research method. And it turns out there's a pleasing symmetry between the story the book tells and the information networks of our own time, because this is the first book that I have written where Google Books played an absolutely indispensable role. An amazing number of Priestley's original writings (along with other texts from that period) are available from Google as downloadable PDFs, with scans of the original page design and typography, along with full-text searching. Many of these are texts that would be very hard to find even in a major research library, and of course, even if you could find them, you wouldn't be able to search them. (You'd barely be able to turn the pages, given how old the books are.) There are also some fantastic archives of correspondence available online, most notably the Franklinpapers.org site, which has a searchable database of every surviving letter Franklin wrote or received.

One thrilling thing about these Google Book resources is that you can now link directly to an individual page of a book that has potentially been out of print for centuries. We need to think a bit more about how to standardize these links, given multiple editions and multiple library sites that might have digital copies. But what you can see happening, slowly but surely, is the Memex and Xanadu and the Information Superhighway -- all those inspiring dreams of information utopia -- finally crossing crossing over into the vast universe of books. Slowly, over time, a page typeset in 1771 might start to get a whole new life, thanks to the growing authority we grant it through that elemental gesture of making a link.

So to bring things full circle, I offer up a link to the page where Priestley describes his discovery and technique for manufacturing soda water. I think he'd be delighted to know his words were still in circulation more than two centuries later.

About US Airways Flight 1549

Ed Note: Boingboing's current guest blogger Steven Johnson is the author of six books, most recently The Invention Of Air: A Story of Science, Faith, Revolution and the Birth Of America, for which he is currently on book tour. He's also the co-founder of the hyperlocal community site outside.in.

Just for the record, yesterday's post will be the last thing I say in public about aviation safety. Thankfully, early reports on the crash of US Airways Flight 1549 this afternoon into the Hudson River suggest that -- amazingly -- no fatalities occurred, thanks to what sound like a set of truly extraordinary snap decisions by the pilots, and a perfect water landing. But clearly I am done tempting fate on this issue.

Give the people what they want!

Ed Note: Boingboing's current guest blogger Steven Johnson is the author of six books, most recently The Invention Of Air: A Story of Science, Faith, Revolution and the Birth Of America, for which he is currently on book tour. He's also the co-founder of the hyperlocal community site outside.in.

Ever since the heady days of the pre-scream Howard Dean campaign, a lot of us who are interested in decentralized systems and emergent behavior have wondered when politicians would start to use new collaborative technology to do something other than organize rallies and raise money. Sure, it was exciting to see Web 2.0 concepts transform political campaigns, but wouldn't it be even more exciting to see them transform the way we govern?

So it's cool to see on the always-interesting Change.gov site the newly released Citizen's Briefing Book, which is effectively a Slashdot/Plastic/Digg take on public policy. (The underlying technology is Salesforce.com's Ideas product.) Here's the description on the site:

Share your ideas on any issue facing the new administration, then rate or comment on other ideas. The best rated ideas will rise to the top -- and be gathered into a Citizen's Briefing Book to be delivered to President Obama after he is sworn in.
Right now, the top three most popular proposals are: 1) Ending Marijuana Prohibition, 2) Bullet Trains and Light Rail, and 3) An End To Government Sponsored School Abstinence Programs. In other words, what the people want are stoned kids having sex on bullet trains. Sounds about right to me!