Last month, Barton Gellman and I opened for Edward Snowden's first-ever public appearance, at the SXSW conference in Austin. The kind folks at SXSW have put the video online (the Snowden video itself was already up). I think we did a good job of framing the big questions raised by the Snowden leaks.
As ever, Bruce Sterling's closing remarks to the SXSW Interactive festival were a barn-burner; in them, Sterling rattles off a list of people who should be in the room, either because they know something that is lost on mainstream geekdom, or because they serve as examples for what not to become -- from GCHQ spies to Italian net-politics ninjas, from the Dread Pirate Roberts to Barrett Brown. Sterling dips into the future ("the future is full of cities full of old people who are scared of the sky") and wonders where Silicon Valley will decamp to once California is destroyed by climate change.
It's 45 minutes of funny, uncomfortable, storming invective, and a bracing way to pass the Ides of March. Here's an unauthorized MP3 rip in case you want to listen on the go (warning, may not work very well!).
I'm at SXSW, having just done the panel introducing Edward Snowden's first live address to the USA. He will be appearing momentarily. The livestream is provisioned for 1M simultaneous sessions -- watch above.
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Adam sez, "This is the first episode of an original Dailymotion production called 'That Was Me' which highlights the achievements of pop culture icons. 'That Was Me' episode 1: A profile of the founder of SXSW -- one of the largest music, film and interactive festivals in the United States. The festival takes place annually in Austin, Texas."
Who Created SXSW? - That Was Me (Thanks, Adam!)
Headed to 2014 SXSW Interactive in Austin this weekend? Cory, Xeni, Mark, and Pesco will all be there participating in a variety of sessions. Here's a handy guide:
* Saturday, March 8, 3:30pm - 4:30pm, SXSW Create Long Center: "Cool Tools Show & Tell" Bring your favorite tool (hand tools, maps, how-to books, vehicles, software, specialized devices, gizmos, websites — and anything useful) and be prepared to talk about it and (if feasible) demonstrate it to other cool tools enthusiasts. Presented by Mark Frauenfelder
* Saturday, March 8, 7pm - 11:30pm, Capitol Tower: "In the Future, Everything Will Work: A Cyberpunk Retrofest presented by EFF/EFF-Austin" with Cory Doctorow, Gareth Branwyn, Bruce Sterling, William Barker (Schwa) and Jon Lebkowsky
* Sunday, March 9, 3:30pm - 4:30pm, Omni Downtown: "Ingenuity: Hackathon Uncovered" with David Pescovitz, Mark Frauenfelder, Eric McClellan (Team Detroit), and Liz Boone (FM).
* Monday, March 10: 9:30am - 10:30am, Austin Convention Center: "Snowden 2.0: A Field Report From the NSA Archives" with Cory Doctorow and Barton Gellman.
* Monday, March 10, 3:30pm - 4:30pm, Hilton Austin Downtown: "Community-Building: Better than Chemo" with Xeni Jardin, Alicia Staley, Deanna Attai, and Jody Schoger.
Hope to see your happy mutant mugs in Austin! Ask us for stickers!
Jon Lebkowsky writes, "EFF and EFF-Austin, working with the amazing Maggie Duval, put together this celebration of the 90s Internet and cyberpunk memes. On stage: Gareth Branwyn, Bruce Sterling, Cory Doctorow, William Barker (Schwa), Chris Nakashima-Brown, Aaron Jue from EFF, and yours truly. Thomas Fang is DJ, and Jasmina Tesanovic will sing her Hacker Hymn. We'll have a cyberpunk scifi genre panel and a talk by Gareth, along with the release of his successful Kickstarter memoir book project, Borg Like Me. We'Cll also have projected visuals, memories of Mondo 2000, Boing Boing, Fringeware, 2600: The Hacker Quarterly, Schwa, etc. Event is open to SXSW badgeholders. Hang out with EFF at their event table, praise their great work, give them your money!"
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The ACLU and SXSW will host a video chat with Edward Snowden on Monday, during the day's civil-liberties-focused program track. I'll be speaking immediately before Snowden, with Barton Gellman, and we will be staying for the Snowden event. Snowden will be interviewed by ACLU technologist Christopher Soghoian, and the event is moderated by the ACLU's Ben Wizner. I hope to see you there -- it's why I'm flying to Austin.
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I'll be returning to SXSW Interactive this March for the first time in more than five years, to interview Pulitzer-winning journalist Barton Gellman, who is one of the journalists who's been entrusted with some of the Snowden NSA leaks. We're doing a presentation called "Snowden 2.0: A Field Report From the NSA Archives," which follows an address by Glenn Greenwald. We're speaking on March 10 -- I hope to see you!
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Whether you think Tesla > Edison or Edison > Tesla, perhaps you’re missing something important. In reality, technology isn’t shaped by one guy who had one great idea and changed the world. Instead, it’s a messy process, full of flat-out failures and not-quite-successes, and populated by many great minds who build off of and are inspired by each other’s work.Read the rest
In Bruce Sterling's barn-burning closing keynote for SXSW 2013, he confronts the realities of disruption -- that disruption leads to destruction. Our wonderful things destroy other wonderful things. The future composts the past. We roast the 20th century over our bonfire, let's not shamefully pretend that we did it by accident. Let's eat our kill.
Elliot Noss sez,
I thought you'd be interested in something we are helping with at SXSW this weekend. a group of folks are taking advantage of unlicensed radio spectrum to provide high-speed backhaul to local WiFi access points all over SXSW. In Austin, there are 14 of these open channels using whitespace that are available. we are leveraging this. on Tuesday, the FCC will close comments on its plan to auction off many of these "whitespaces. the 'We Heart Wifi' initiative is collecting signatures on the following petition. Even if folks aren't at SXSW, they can sign on:
To all FCC Commissioners:
Please follow through on your proposal to open up a large slice of high-quality spectrum for open networks. Doing so would help create the competition necessary to extend more high-speed broadband—including 'super WiFi' and other future innovations—to more people."
Happy Mutant (and EFF-Austin co-founder) Jon Lebkowsky has a great piece in the new Austin Chronicle about Aaron Swartz, privacy, copyright, and the future of computers:
It's an odd predicament, seeing your customer as the enemy. Attempts by the music industry to protect its control of distribution have risked alienation of a customer base that has a multiplicity of channels for free and low-cost alternatives via cyberspace, including a bazillion "Internet radio" channels; online services like Pandora, Last.FM, and Spotify; savvy artists distributing their own tunes online; and, of course, various file-sharing sites like the Pirate Bay. Even with the "pirate" sources out of the way, record labels would be hurting, because they no longer control distribution. The same is true for all media. Distribution channels are more ad hoc, product is abundant, it's cheap or free, and competition for whatever dollars are still flowing is fierce.
Like I mentioned in the Blooming Flower post, I'm headed home with a suitcase full of dirty laundry and toys for my five year old. Another awesome score from this trip is the Hello Kitty Reversible 8" Plush: Hamburger, a plush Hello Kitty toy that inverts and forms a Hello Kitty hamburger. It's a thing, then it's another thing! (And there's a turkey version, too).
If you're headed to SXSW, you should really get all your friends in a taxi and ride out to Toy Joy and then eat some of the spectacular barbecue at Ruby's BBQ, kitty-corner from the shop. It's pretty much the perfect outing, and at least as cool (if not cooler) than anything you'll actually see presented on the conference floor.
Austin loses an icon of High Weirdness: Albert Leslie Cochran, homeless, thong-wearing, would-be mayor
Photo: Leslie Cochran at rest at an Austin intersection in 1998 (Vernon Bryant, The Austin American-Statesman via NYT)
New York Times reporter and native Texas son John Schwartz writes about the death of Albert Leslie Cochran, 60: "A bearded, cross-dressing, often homeless Austinite who was also an occasional candidate for mayor."
Wearing a cheerleader’s uniform, a tutu or a simple thong, accessorized with a feather boa or tiara, Mr. Cochran was an eye-catching figure in a city where eccentricity is nothing special. A popular bumper sticker, “Keep Austin Weird,” is the rallying cry of a place that resists the civic homogenization that can turn every town into pretty much every other town. “When people see the bumper sticker, they think of Leslie,” said Debbie Russell, a local activist and friend.
On CNN, Doug Gross has a good account of Kevin Smith's SXSW presentation on how he became a podcaster and weaned himself off the "heroin" of movie studio money, going direct to his fans instead for advertising, merch sales and sold-out houses when he toured. This being CNN, they've got a lot of [expletive] marks where Smith is saying "fuck" in his charmingly innocent way.
Smith said he decided to take advantage of his access to celebrities and gift of gab to launch a new project. And he deployed a technique he said has always served him well: do what you love and what you're good at, then figure out how to make money doing it.
And that led to "SModcast," a weekly podcast that he and friend/co-producer Scott Mosier launched in 2007 and do to this day.
It was free. But as its online audience grew, the opportunities to make money arose.
"People would tweet left and right: 'You put out so many free podcasts; how can I pay it back?' " said Smith, who has more than 2 million followers on Twitter. "I was like, 'Go buy a T-shirt' and they were like, 'Cool.' " ,p> Then came paid advertising. (The first sponsor notoriously being adult product Fleshlight). Then a paid version of the podcast, "SModcost," which contains bonus features but no ads.
Over the weekend, I noticed that David Gallagher of The New York Times observed in Austin, "Homeless people have been enlisted to roam the streets wearing T-shirts that say 'I am a 4G hotspot.”
A number of other folks I follow on Twitter who are attending the annual SXSW event there mentioned it, too, with concern. Here's the project's website, detailing their system to PayPal each "homeless hotspot" person directly. "We suggest $2 per 15 minutes."
The project was created by a team at global ad agency BBH.
Jon Mitchell at RWW has more. The problem, as he sees it:
The Homeless Hotspots website frames this as an attempt "to modernize the Street Newspaper model employed to support homeless populations." There's a wee little difference, though. Those newspapers are written by homeless people, and they cover issues that affect the homeless population. By contrast, Homeless Hotspots are helpless pieces of privilege-extending human infrastructure. It's like it never occurred to the people behind this campaign that people might read street newspapers. They probably just buy them to be nice and throw them in the garbage.
Tim Carmody at Wired News has more about the project's roots, and why he and others find it troubling:
This is my worry: the homeless turned not just into walking, talking hotspots, but walking, talking billboards for a program that doesn’t care anything at all about them or their future, so long as it can score a point or two about digital disruption of old media paradigms. So long as it can prove that the real problem with homelessness is that it doesn’t provide a service.