Posts Tagged ‘y2k’
by stuartbramhall in Inspiring Moments in Resistance
Book Review (Part II)
The Wikipedia Revolution
By Andrew Lih
(Aurun Press Ltd 2009)
The Birth of Wikipedia
In 2000, Y2K enthusiast Larry Sanger joined BOMIS, bringing a large number of followers from his on-line Y2K digest. The Y2K movement was an informal network of programmers and community activities that formed in the late nineties, out of concern for the two digit dates used in early computers. The fear was that computers built before 1990 would be unable to tell whether the two digit “00″ represented the year 1900 or the year 2000 – and crash. Disaster was averted, thanks to the frantic rewriting (in 1998 and 1999) of millions of lines of code on government and corporate computers
After Sanger joined BOMIS, one of the first projects they undertook was an on-line encyclopedia-style “blog” called Nupedia. Wales, Shell and Sanger drew in friends and on-line acquaintances to help with drafting and editing articles. However the process of editing successive drafted on-line turned out to be extremely slow and cumbersome. By January 2001, Nupedia had only finalized and posted two dozen entries.
BOMIS’ discovery of Cunningham’s Wiki protocol changed all this, enabling first hundreds, then thousands and eventually hundreds of thousands of computer users anywhere to register and post draft articles and to register and edit them. The beauty of Wiki software is that keeps a list of all edits made and the identity of the editor, which makes it possible at any point to restore an earlier version. Wales, Shell and Sanger registered Wikipedia Foundation as a non-profit in January 2001 The only rules were that Wikipedia had to be freely accessible to the public, have a Neutral Point of View (NPOV), and only describe existing research (in other words, original research was forbidden).
The Wikipedia project quickly drew in members of Slashdot and other techie communities to write and edit articles. Sanger was paid to oversee the project and used an electronic mailing list and occasionally the Internet Relay Chat (a precursor to instant messaging) to coordinate the work of core editors, administrators and system operators. Each article was divided up into a user page and a “talk” page, where editors could discuss how the article was progressing. In addition to hundreds of volunteer editors, a number of proven members were made administrators, who had the power to delete and undelete articles that contained copyright violations, libelous speech or inappropriate personal information. Above the administrators were System Operators who were charged with dealing with trolls and vandals who added inappropriate material to articles. The most common type of Wikipedia vandalism seems to occur in high school social studies classes, when students get bored and post lewd entries about their teachers and friends.
Does Occupying the Commons Lead to Anarchy?
In the beginning detractors predicted that allowing thousands of strangers to post and edit articles would lead to total anarchy (I recall dire predictions in the mainstream media that the Occupy movement would result in anarchy). However the volunteers who keep Wikipedia going believe so passionately in the concept of a free and open encyclopedia that they volunteer literally hundreds of hours as administrators and System Operators to make it work. In fact, as in other forms of community organizing, stress and burn out has been a major problem among Wikipedia. The second half of Wikipedia Revolution describes at length various technical difficulties created by the encyclopedia’s explosive growth, and the solutions devised to address them. Many of the technical glitches related to adapting Wikipedia for non-English languages and cultures.
By January 2002, Wikipedia had 20,000 articles. In 2002, Derek Ramsey created a “bot” (short for software robot) capable of simultaneously adding census data from 3,000 counties and 33,832 cities. Ramsey’s contribution increased the number of Wikipedia articles from 50,000 to more than 85,000 in one week. In March 2003, Wikipedia had 100,000 articles, which was on a par with commercial (subscription) on-line encyclopedias like Britannica and Microsoft’s Encarta, and was being cited in mainstream sources.
A Question of Censorship
In 2003, Wikipedia had 480 active editors, 100 core editors and 48 administrators. By 2006, it became virtually impossible for manual editors to keep up with the encyclopedia’s explosive growth. The solution was a bot developed by a 13 year old Canadian hacker/programmer who called himself Tawker (aka Andrew Phillips). Tawker’s bot works like a spam filter by screening articles for objectionable sexually explicit or toilet terms that recur frequently. Encyclopedia Dramatica has a somewhat less flattering biography of Tawker that accuses him of deliberate censorship of political content (http://encyclopediadramatica.ch/Wikipedia_IRC_Bouncers)
As of 2009 when Lih published Wikipedia Revolution, Wikipedia had 10 million articles in 200 languages and an administrative structure in which several hundred administrators and System Operators make editorial decisions about controversial articles and edits. While the original goal was to have all administrative decisions made by consensus, this is no longer possible, owing to the sheer volume of traffic on the site. Critics accuse Wikipedia of a “pro-corporate” drift (i.e. censorship) in the process.
In addition to 2.5 million articles in English, the German Wikipedia has 800,000 articles. French, Polish and Japanese editions have 500,000 words each.
by stuartbramhall in Going Non-Corporate, Sustainability, The Global Economic Crisis
Much of the work that went into the Voluntary Simplicity and Y2K movements (see prior blogs) has been incorporated into Transition Towns and other sustainability-related movements. There are now literally millions of groups worldwide focused on some aspect of bioregional sustainability. The most visible evidence of their success are the blossoming of home veggie gardens, urban community gardens and orchards and farmers’ markets; the 1,040 cities and towns (nearly 1/3 of the US population) which have signed onto the Kyoto accord; and the 125 communities voting to place citizens’ above corporate rights (see http://www.tikkun.org/article.php/jan2011kanner).
One of the most important factors in this success is the ability of the sustainability movement to address apathy and alienation head-on, by reengaging people in neighborhood and community life. For many people, local civic engagement leads on to re-engagement in the political process. I would never argue that progressives should focus on local community building to the exclusion of critically needed government reforms. Corporate lobbies still have the ability to overturn local and state laws in the courts by claiming that they violate alleged constitutional rights. Thus organizing to end so-called constitutional protections for corporations (which clearly run contrary to the intent of the founding fathers) – either through federal legislation or constitutional amendment (www.movetoamed.org) must be an extremely high priority. At the same time, I see the neighborhood and community sustainability networks playing a pivotal role in building strong grassroots lobbies to tackle banking reform, restoring of civil liberties or ending the wars in the Middle East.
The Basics of Sustainability Organizing
Sustainability-related work can be broken down into concrete, achievable steps, which also lends to its appeal. In preparing for the End of the World as We Know it, Y2K activists predicted local communities would need to prepare for breakdowns in the following services:
- Global commerce (food imports being the most crucial)
- Water and energy utilities
- Waste removal systems
- Telecommunications, Internet and mass media
- Financial institutions
- Transportation systems
- Governance and government services
- Health Care
- Institutions and agencies responsible for education, justice, manufacturing and security
In most places, organizers have found it easiest to begin with food, water and energy security – in part because they are most critical to human survival. However the bioregional economic network established as a first step in addressing food, water and energy security can also be used to prepare for breakdowns in other systems. For 99.9% of human existence people have relied on a bioregional economic model in which they have sourced the vast majority of their food and other essentials for life within a 100 mile radius. The process of re-creating this network is very helpful in learning to shift our thinking away from relying on national and multinational corporations to meet our needs.
Although the sustainability movement receives little attention in the mainstream media, it has it has been quietly building for nearly two decades – often with the support of state and local government (it receives the most state support in California). In Europe it receives national and EU support. The following is just a small snapshot of local accomplishments around energy, food and water security.
FOOD AND WATER SECURITY
- Increased local expertise in permaculture and biointensive agriculture techniques, as industrial fertilizers and insecticides (manufactured from fossil fuels) become unavailable and/or prohibitively expensive.
- De-paving – digging up private and public driveways and parking lots and replacing them with backyard veggie gardens and community orchards and gardens. In addition to improving food security, this restores watersheds by reducing run-off, a major threat to water security in the industrial world.
- Lawn liberation – replacing lawns and ornamental trees and shrubs with fruit and nut trees and veggie gardens.
- Support of local farmers through farmers markets and Community Supported Agriculture Schemes (in which residents “subscribe” to weekly deliveries of fresh veggies and fruit).
- Neighborhood and municipal systems of rainwater collection and purification and gray water collection
- Adoption of active run-off management plans, in which lost groundwater is measured and minimized in development planning – and replaced, for example via the Blue Alternative (in which groundwater is replaced by digging small catchment pools in open spaces).
- Reduced fossil fuel dependence in transportation:
o Beginning work to create local consumer-farmer/consumer-retailer networks, including state and locally owned banks, credit unions and cooperatives. Given that local businesses struggle to compete (their costs and prices tend to be higher) with national and multinational corporations, this can be facilitated via the creation of local barter systems (example from Greece at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-12223068) and/or local currencies, such as Ithaca hours, that can only be spent locally.
o Community and municipal initiatives to increase public and active transport (cycling and walking) through urban planning that incorporates growth management and sprawl reduction, creation of urban villages where residents live closer to essential services, and restricted permiting of malls and big box retailers (Portland and Vancouver, British Columbia are excellent examples).
o Community and neighborhood street reclaiming initiatives to make streets safer for people to use cars less and walk and cycle more.
o Increased uptake of car sharing schemes, employing efficient electric or hybrid vehicles or those run on regionally produced biomass fuels.
- Reduced home/business fossil fuel dependence:
o State, local and power company subsidies for home insulation schemes and solar water heaters.
o Subsidies and reduced permit fees for Green Building (buildings purpose-built to be energy/water/waste self-sufficient).
o State and local regulations and subsidies (as per German model) to increase distributed energy systems based on alternate energy sources (solar, wind, tidal, etc).
o Active promotion of Open Source computer and information technology.
by stuartbramhall in Challenging the Corporate Media, Mind Control and Disinformation, Sustainability
I think Heinberg and Hopkins are right (see previous blog): sustainability activists should focus on resource scarcity, rather than climate change. It’s just too damned hard to persuade large numbers of people to undertake major lifestyle changes around something they can’t directly experience. Except for extreme weather events, it’s virtually impossible for lay people to observe the effects of global warming. The whole notion of CO2, which is invisible, causing a greenhouse effect that paradoxically produces more rain and colder winters, requires an enormous leap of faith (and confidence in the integrity of scientific experts). Especially given 50-100 year time line required before we see the benefit of our energy saving sacrifices.
In fact, it doesn’t surprise me a bit, given the profound distrust of science, technology and educated liberals embedded in working class culture, that a new conspiracy theory has arisen (with a lot of help from Big Coal according to Climate Wars author Gwynne Dyer) about Climategate being a hoax that George Soros, the New World Order and a bunch of liberal yuppies are using to impose new limits on individual freedoms.
Engaging the Working Class
Resource scarcity, on the other hand, is a daily reality – especially for low income workers and the unemployed – as the cost of gasoline, home heating, and food goes through the roof. Moreover fossil fuel depletion will continue to hit the working class harder than the rest of society, given the staggering income inequality found in all industrialized countries.
People already have experience preparing for resource scarcity, with the disaster kits they keep in their garage or basement. There’s already a whole (mainly blue collar) survivalist industry dedicated to the concept. Community and neighborhood focused survival has already had a dry run, through the Voluntary Simplicity Movement started by Vicki Robins’ book, Your Money or Your Life. The Voluntary Simplicity movement subsequently morphed into the Y2K movement, which arose around the concern that our computer-based infrastructure would collapse in the year 2000 because computers would read “00″ as “1900.”
Obviously millions of lines of code got rewritten in time, and civilization didn’t collapse in 2000. However the history of the Y2K movement is well-preserved, owing to the large number of Y2K websites that remain on the Internet. As a brief member of the Phinney Ridge Y2K group in Seattle, I distinctly recall the ah-ha moment when we all recognized the extent to which technology (thanks to cheap fossil fuels) had replaced mutual relationships with neighbors and the national environment.
The Breakdown in Civic Engagement
It was hard not to be dismayed at the wholesale disintegration of social ties that occurred around the time I entered adulthood – with people systematically disengaging from extended family and friends, as well as neighbors and community and civic groups (unions, granges, churches, and neighborhood and community centers and groups) that were central to American life prior to the 1970s. At the time we blamed the problem on our long work hours and the failure of wages to keep up with inflation.
It would be several years before I learned the role the National Association of Manufacturers and their brainchild – the massive American public relations industry – in this enormous social transformation. That transforming Americans’ identity from social involved, interdependent citizens to lonely, isolated, insecure, TV-addicted consumers had been a deliberate aim of US PR strategy – to increase sales of consumer goods (and profits).
It was only after coming to New Zealand in 2002 that I learned about the late Australian-born psychologist Alex Carey. Carey describes quite eloquently the deliberate crafting of a pro-corporate, consumption-driven American psyche – beginning as early as the 1930s with the Mohawk Valley Formula (see Taking the Risk Out of Democracy: Corporate Propaganda vs. Freedom and Liberty - http://www.hartford-hwp.com/archives/25/006.html).
To be continued, with a discussion of our first major organizing success of the 21st century (the sustainability movement).
by stuartbramhall in Sustainability, The Global Economic Crisis
I find it fascinating to watch the blossoming of the sustainability movement in New Zealand, as hundreds of thousands of Kiwis make conscious lifestyle choices to reduce their energy and carbon footprint. New Zealand was a relative latecomer to globalization and a lifestyle based on the cheap Asian imports that have come to dominate our retail shelves. Many women of my own generation talk of growing their own fruit, veggies and chooks (chickens) in their backyard when their children were young, as well as canning surplus fruit and veggies for winter, sewing their children’s clothes, knitting their jumpers (sweaters) and saving and recycling string, rags, scrap metal and any other household waste that could be used for some other purpose. It is intriguing to watch many of them fall back on these deeply engrained habits, as they make a conscious choice to adopt a less energy intensive lifestyle.
Most of New Zealand’s sustainability groups are formal or informal members of Transition Towns New Zealand, a member of the global Transition Towns movement that started in Ireland and the UK. In perusing the TT New Zealand website, it is interesting to see how many local groups have taken up concepts that originated with the Y2K movement of the late nineties – which was advising people on preparing for the possible “End of Civilization as We Know It.” The following are key examples:
Initiatives to improve local food (and water) security:
- De-paving – digging up private and public driveways and parking lots and replacing them with backyard veggie gardens and community orchards and gardens
- Lawn liberation – replacing lawns and ornamental trees and shrubs with fruit and nut trees and food crops.
- Development of “bioregional” transportation security (that doesn’t rely on imported oil) for delivery of food and other essentials (99.9 percent of human existence has relied on a bioregional economic model – which entails sourcing the majority of food and other goods within a 100 mile radius)
- Development of strong community networks to provide neighborhood patrols in the absence of police services.
- Neighborhood systems of rainwater collection and purification
- Strong local credit unions and locally owned businesses and cooperatives
- A local currency or trading system
- Building a solid tradition of neighbors sharing with one another and helping each other one other out.
- Increasing local expertise in permaculture and biointensive agriculture techniques, should industrial fertilizers and insecticides (which are manufactured from fossil fuels) become unavailable or prohibitively expensive.
Initiatives to improve energy security:
- Neighborhood and community solar and wind power energy systems
- A shift in urban planning to put essential services closer to residential areas (the urban village concept), facilitating increased use of public transportation and an increase in active transport (walking, cycling, skateboarding, etc.).
- Neighborhood, as opposed to household, disaster planning. Ensuring that everyone in your neighborhood has access to dry firewood, candles and oil lamps and ensuring that schools, churches and other neighborhood gathering sites are similarly prepared.
Like the Y2K movement that proceeded it, the Transition Town movement emphasizes the over-riding importance of building strong social networks to cushion the impact of a sudden economic shock or infrastructure breakdown. This approach is supported by extensive medical and psychological studies showing that people with strong social networks recover more quickly from any major illness, personal crisis or catastrophe.