23 April 2006

China does the Web

The New York Times has posted a fine article by Clive Thomson. called

Google's China Problem (and China's Google Problem)

. The whole story, linked above, is worth a read. However, I found the following story within the story to be another amazing account of how the web is changing people's lives. Enjoy, Jon B.


Martin Parr for The New York Times

The World Wide Web, Abridged: Patrons in an internet cafe in Beijing. Chatting about sports, posting entries to blogs — fine. Visiting pro-democracy sites — no way.

Clive Thomson writes:

One afternoon I visited with Jiang Jingyi, a 29-year-old Chinese woman who makes her living selling clothes on eBay. When she opened the door to her apartment in a trendy area of Shanghai, I felt as if I'd accidentally stumbled into a chic SoHo boutique. Three long racks full of puffy winter jackets and sweaters dominated the center of the living room, and neat rows of designer running shoes and boots ringed the walls. As she served me tea in a bedroom with four computers stacked on a desk, Jiang told me, through an interpreter, that she used to work as a full-time graphic designer. But she was a shopaholic, she said, and one day decided to take some of the cheap clothes she'd found at a local factory and put them up for auction online. They sold quickly, and she made a 30 percent profit. Over the next three months, she sold more and more clothes, until one one day she realized that her eBay profits were outstripping her weekly paycheck. She quit her job and began auctioning full time, and now her monthly sales are in excess of 100,000 yuan, or about $12,000.

"My parents can't understand it," she said with a giggle, as she clicked at the computer to show me one of her latest auctions, a winter jacket selling for 300 yuan. (Her description of the jacket translated as "Very trendy! You will look cool!") At the moment, Jiang sells mostly to Chinese in other major cities, since China's rudimentary banking system and the lack of a reliable credit-card network mean there is no easy way to receive payments from outside the country. But when Paypal — eBay's online payment system — finally links the global market with the Chinese market, she says she will become a small international business, marketing cut-rate clothes directly to hipsters in London or Los Angeles.

21 April 2006

Preaching to Avatars

I'm thinking ten years from now people like me will be preaching to avatars in a virtual simulation of a sanctuary. The preacher will get up in the pulpit and the gathered people will see her there. And she will start to preach. And the people will hear her. Even soldiers on distant shores may be present along with billions of connected machines who will take due note. The congregation will sing and pray and the Spirit will move. Over wires. Or wireless. Or however bits will be getting dispersed to electronic devices at that time. And the devices will be some sort of virtual reality simulators. Perhaps not even noticeable to the physical eye. Maybe even implanted in the brain . Or projected from the listeners glasses or contact lens.

If this sounds far fetched consider where are today. Even today musicians are going to a virtual online world called Second Life and performing in coffee houses or outdoor venues. They are playing for people who are not really there although these people can hear and appreciate their music. The audience is composed of avatars, digital representations of people sitting at desktop or laptop computers circa 2006. And progress on these virtual environments continues to be made. Nearly every month there seems to be some new development on this front.

Yep. Ten years from now people like me will be preaching to avatars. And the sermon will be some sort of video podcast of a sermon preached 8 days ago or 8 months ago. And the congregation may be composed of worshipers from Alexandria or Clarksdale. What an amazing time to be alive! Viva la revolution!

17 April 2006

British History Online

British History Online is the digital library containing some of the core printed primary and secondary sources for the medieval and modern history of the British Isles. Created by the Institute of Historical Research and the History of Parliament Trust, we aim to support academic and personal users around the world in their learning, teaching and research."

"With so much material now being published on the world wide web in either un-reviewed form, or in fee-based services, the IHR has shown its commitment to promoting the study of history by publishing these priceless resources for their historical value, cross-searchable, in one place and free of charge." Listed on College and university e-learning showcase [Via: The Scout Report]

/// Here is a place where you history buffs could get lost for hours. This is a virtual library containing a wealth of information including what may be considered an early version of blogging called Roger Whitley's Diary.  Peace, Jon B. ///

Easter Sunday 2006

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03 April 2006


This video shows a kid playing Pachelbel's Canon on his electric guitar.

I "discovered" this solo performance here and the post below is about the video.

"guitar" is a display of unalloyed physical virtuosity that preempts criticism. After a black screen, the opening bars of Pachelbel's Canon begin, and title cards identify the piece, adding, "Arranged by JerryC," and "Played by funtwo." Funtwo, presumably, then shows up: he's a young-looking guy in a T-shirt and a baseball cap that obscures his face. He's sitting by a computer and holding an electric guitar. He looks like any introverted kid with frontman fantasies.

Still, the anonymous image is arresting. Bright light shines through a window behind him, surrounding him with a glow; the effect is dreamlike. Funtwo then plays JerryC's rock embellishment over the classical piece with amazing dexterity, managing to enliven the music and create a lasting work of pop art. As the comments say: "dude teach me how to play," "it is undeniably one of the best solos ive ever see," "u could go up against jimi hendrix." What's most impressive about the performance is the combination of funtwo's shyness and his aggressive, guitar-god fingerwork.

Some posters try to suggest that the performance is fake; but someone called fablesoftherest seems to silence most of the skeptics: "I'll end the guesswork-the kid is for real," adding, "Funtwo's is the definitive version. This kid is destined to be one of the great guitarists of all time."

01 April 2006

We Are the Web

By Kevin Kelly

The scope of the Web today is hard to fathom. The total number of Web pages, including those that are dynamically created upon request and document files available through links, exceeds 600 billion. That's 100 pages per person alive.

How could we create so much, so fast, so well? In fewer than 4,000 days, we have encoded half a trillion versions of our collective story and put them in front of 1 billion people, or one-sixth of the world's population. That remarkable achievement was not in anyone's 10-year plan.

The accretion of tiny marvels can numb us to the arrival of the stupendous. Today, at any Net terminal, you can get: an amazing variety of music and video, an evolving encyclopedia, weather forecasts, help wanted ads, satellite images of anyplace on Earth, up-to-the-minute news from around the globe, tax forms, TV guides, road maps with driving directions, real-time stock quotes, telephone numbers, real estate listings with virtual walk-throughs, pictures of just about anything, sports scores, places to buy almost anything, records of political contributions, library catalogs, appliance manuals, live traffic reports, archives to major newspapers - all wrapped up in an interactive index that really works.

This view is spookily godlike. You can switch your gaze of a spot in the world from map to satellite to 3-D just by clicking. Recall the past? It's there. Or listen to the daily complaints and travails of almost anyone who blogs (and doesn't everyone?). I doubt angels have a better view of humanity.

Why aren't we more amazed by this fullness? Kings of old would have gone to war to win such abilities. Only small children would have dreamed such a magic window could be real. I have reviewed the expectations of waking adults and wise experts, and I can affirm that this comprehensive wealth of material, available on demand and free of charge, was not in anyone's scenario. Ten years ago, anyone silly enough to trumpet the above list as a vision of the near future would have been confronted by the evidence: There wasn't enough money in all the investment firms in the entire world to fund such a cornucopia. The success of the Web at this scale was impossible.

With the steady advance of new ways to share, the Web has embedded itself into every class, occupation, and region. Indeed, people's anxiety about the Internet being out of the mainstream seems quaint now. In part because of the ease of creation and dissemination, online culture is the culture. Likewise, the worry about the Internet being 100 percent male was entirely misplaced. Everyone missed the party celebrating the 2002 flip-point when women online first outnumbered men. Today, 52 percent of netizens are female. And, of course, the Internet is not and has never been a teenage realm. In 2005, the average user is a bone-creaking 41 years old.


I have been reading Kevin Kelly's musings in Wired magazine for several years. He is a great spokesman for the Internet.

I recall the first tme I saw the web. I was in the home of a friend. He started the Netscape browser and up came the home page. And the blue links. Everywhere! Click this one for CNN. Click this one for Newsweek. And I thought, wow, this is like having a subscription to every major magazine and newspaper in the country for $22 a month, the cost of an Internet connection. Amazing. And so it has continued to be.

I wonder about your first experience on the Internet. What was it like for you?

Jon B.