There are two parts to the mechanism:
* the value of the ad is set not by impressions or clickthroughs, but by the amount of 2nd-degree influence -- the size of the audience of the blogger's readers who pick up the ad.
* the bloggers picks from a set of ads to display (or even, in Jarvis' suggestion, make the ads).
It's similar to an affiliate model (blogger gets commission from Amazon sales of book reviews), but different in that it takes into account the influence on the readers of the blog too.
This model blows up two core problems with traditional advertising
* there's no demand for messages -- advertisers barrage us with ads we don't want.
* demographics are a blunt instrument for predicting preferences. The people I have most in common with aren't necessarily identical in age or gender or zip code.
The question is how to jumpstart this model, given the notorious conservatism of ad buyers. A consumer products company launching a brand of car or soap is going to wait and see if this wacky idea pans out.
The good news is that there are some types of advertising that are brilliantly suited for this approach with minimal startup cost. This would be fabulous for a gizmo (cellphone/digital camera/music player) product launch -- or the launch of any type of products that garners strong loyalty, is purchased by influence, and is already going to have online advertising.
It would be interesting to try for political ads -- political bloggers already praise their candidates and advocate issues.
With Technorati, the metrics are pretty straightforward - a search and a little math on api results and you could easily do a payment grid. Experimentation is cheap.
Another really good thing about this approach is that it avoids the "pushiness" of flat-out viral marketing. It's socially congenial to praise a product you like. It's rather more obnoxious to send coupons to your friends.
Also, this approach avoids the phony smell of blogger advertorial. Remember the Raging Cow fiasco where Dr Pepper tried to get bloggers to endorse the new drink? An advertisement picked by a blogger is obviously an ad, not a hidden product placement. It's aboveboard, not underhanded.
I wonder if picked ads would harm blogger credibility -- would we respect bloggers less if we saw they were getting paid. My gut feeling says no -- affiliate programs can be used with integrity, and this can too.
It would be great if music and movies used this approach, and the ad could include songs and clips. Independent artists and alternative distributors could use this technique. It would work for the majors, but they're hell-bent on killing alternative distribution instead of using it to make money.
Chris Allen adds to the discussion of the intimacy gradient, design patterns that support different levels of privacy and access.
Chris muses that "the need to provide for an Intimacy Gradient in social software is clear; however, the techniques for showing the transitions between the gradients are not." Chris quotes Fleming Funch about how links can't signify levels of intimacy. "As long as a certain chat room or Wiki page is accessible directly with a deep link, it is going to be very hard to make it feel more intimate than any other place I can reach with similar ease."
I suspect that the design principles for intimacy gradient are going to be different online than in 3d, and efforts to mirror 3d privacy patterns literally will be ineffective, just as interfaces mimicking 3d stores and offices don't work.
In 3d, the markers of privacy relate to
* property markers: my lawn vs. public sidewalk and street
* physical access: door and gate; bedrooms in back or upstairs
* visual and auditory access: conversation areas around a corner, with an insulating wall.
These design patterns designate ownership/membership, and different levels of physical access.
Online, there are different design patterns for signifying intimacy. Physical interference is less of a problem, while social accessibility takes some consideration.
Groupforming is a distinctive property of the online intimacy gradient. Decent software design makes it trivially easy to create a new private space - no contractors or sawdust needed.
We're evolving new conventions for showing group membership and "ownership", even in publicly accessible areas.
* in more intimate spaces, like small-group chatrooms, and livejournal comments, names and pictures are reminders of the small community.
* in shared spaces, it's good to be able to share pictures and music (which oughta be legal).
Online, we need better tools for vistas, entryways, and entrances.
For example, a technorati sidebar of related discussion shows the vista surrounding the private home or small community on blog.
The "recent changes" in a wiki provides this window for cogniscenti -- you can see what folks have been thinking about lately.
The "jibot" on the #joiito IRC channel announces visitors with a few words of background. This creates a social protocol where newcomers are expected to introduce themselves, and there's a bit of banter where the social tone is established.
Forum portals try to do this with snippets of high-volume conversations or high-rated posts. For experienced community members, portals can help reduce overload and highlight hot topics. But these busy streetscapes can be cluttered, overwhelming, and discouraging for newcomers.
More inviting, I think, is the style on PerlMonks, where the home page consists of selected questions and responses, and deeper sections include discussion, tutorials, reviews, and reference material.
What the jibot and PerlMonks conventions have in common are ways of gradually entering a conversation. Well-designed entranceways are social as much as they are architectural. They provide ways for people to meet others and introduce themselves, and get involved in more extended conversation and deeper collaboration over time.
Rick deplores "astroturfing" -- the political practice of seeding identical "letters to the editor" that purport to be original citizen comments, but are copied from message propoganda instead.
I don't think the issue is simple. Being politically informed is good, but doing primary research and original analysis on every subject you care about isn't humanly possible.
I appreciate groups that employ people to research subjects, stay on top of changing political activity, and provide the opportunity to act. Providing sample letters is a great head start. In areas where I do activism, we provide background information, action alerts, and sample letters. I think it's good to lower the barrier to participation, so long as more people are doing some thinking.
And decentralized fast action isn't necessarily a bad thing. When we were working on the SDMCA in Texas, a state senator's staffer explained that industry lobbyists of course had more influence, because they were able to be at the capitol 24/7. It's a good if someone who's on location can tell others what's going on, so people with day jobs can act almost as fast as the lobbyists on the floor.
On the other hand, twitch-response political action is disturbing. Some people fire off the latest missive without thinking, like a gamer shoots a monster on sight.
Verbatim-copies of letters to the editor, which one expects to be original, seem worse then letters and calls to a Congressperson using a standard template.
Perhaps the difference is that letters to the editor are expected to reflect deliberation, whereas a letter to a congressperson is often about action -- encouraging a vote for an against a subject.
After all, our vote for a representative is a one-word response -- yes or no. A citizen form letter on a specific issue is a more finely grained response than a blunt vote for a candidate.
Women Don't Ask leads with an elegant little study showing that a striking $4000 salary differential between men and women masters graduates was explained by women's reluctance to negotiate.
A couple of weeks ago, a friend of mine called to ask for advice. She'd been offered a job she wanted. She asked me if it was appropriate to ask for a higher salary and to negotiate start date. She wondered if asking might lead them to rescind the offer.
Men are more likely to see negotiation as an enjoyable game, according to surveys reported in the book -- they look forward to negotiating. Women more likely see negotiation as an uncomfortable experience. Women see negotiation in the context of a relationship, and are concerned that pushing too hard will damage the relationship.
Another reason that women are reluctant to negotiate is that women are more likely to believe that the other party has already taken her interest into account. The book recounts stories where women didn't receive promotions -- they assumed that the boss had a good reason not to offer them the better job. When the woman finally asked, she got what she wanted, and the boss wondered why it took her so long to ask.
A survey in the book shows that most men don't think they're responsible to start with the other party's interest in mind, and most women do. So, if a man gives an unnattractive offer, it's not necessarily because he's trying to screw the other party, he just hasn't thought the party's interest through, and doesn't think he needs to.
The bad news is that women are in a bit of a bind -- if they're aggressive like men, they're branded bitches and dragon-ladies. When women are perceived as tough, they're disliked. Assertiveness doesn't keep men from being liked.
So women need to walk a fine line -- we need to be a little self-effacing, a little self-deprecating, even while negotiating with our interests in mind.
The good news is that with training and encouragement, women can learn to negotiate more often, and achieve better results. And, because women are better on average at seeing "win-win" solutions, we're really good at negotiation once we overcome the initial reluctance, and learn to be persistent without being abrasive.
The book has some chapters with familiar and unoriginal arguments about the differences in socialization between men and women. The substance of the book is good research and analysis on gender differences in negotiating behavior.
Of course, gender differences are tendencies, not rules. I know guys who are reluctant to negotiate, and women who are masters of hardball. Gender is a useful lens, not the only one.
Summary: I recommend this book strongly to women, to men who interact with women, and to people of any gender who are reluctant to negotiate.
In the middle of interesting article about criminal misbehavior by a participant in an online game, Clay Shirky has an intriguing insight about online interaction.
MUDs and MOOs -- text-based virtual worlds -- were common early genres of online interaction. Prophets and business people extrapolated that future online interaction would be much like these virtual worlds, but with sound and color and 3D. It wasn't that long ago. Remember the early online malls with pictures of buildings and streets?
My label for this was the Whole Worlds hypothesis — interactions would be through the lens of characters playing roles in immersive environments. Two additional assumptions made by the Whole Worlds camp were that the MUD/MUSH/MOO style of interaction would give way to more visually immersive environments, and that the interactions would move outside the realm of games and hang-out spaces, and become normal modes of business interaction.
These hypotheses seem to be right and wrong respectively — the MMO is the logical inheritor of the MUD, but MMOs have stayed game- and hang-out oriented.
Business interaction, by contrast, has remained largely text and voice-based, and has moved in the opposite direction from the Whole Worlds model, towards fragmentation and multi-tasking. Not only are we not immersed in purpose-built online spaces at work, we aren’t even immersed in the real world anymore, as the rise of continuous partial attention (tip of the hat to Linda Stone) means that our presence in reality is lessened by interrupts from phones, IM, the Treo, and so on.
So the failure of the Whole Worlds model outside games is pretty obvious, leaving game worlds as the principal site of that theory.
My question is, why is that? Is it because we in business lack creativity and imagination, and prefer to live in a duller world? Then again, game designers don't use games to design games (to the best of my incomplete knowledge) -- they use text-editors, IDEs, storyboards.
Web usability folk had explanations at the time about the failings of the early cartoon interfaces, such as Jakob Nielsen's rant. Nielsen argues, alternatively:
* that our preference is biological. "If we had been frogs with eyes sitting on the side of the head, the story might have been different, but humans have their eyes."
* that the problem is the limits of web graphics and navigation tools: ""Users need to pay attention to the navigation of the 3D view in addition to the navigation of the underlying model: the extra controls for flying, zooming, etc. get in the way of the user's primary task".... Poor screen resolution makes it impossible to render remote objects in sufficient detail to be recognizable; any text that is in the background is unreadable
* that 3d is confusing because the space being modeled has more than three dimensions. "Most abstract information spaces work poorly in 3D because they are non-physical. If anything, they have at least a hundred dimensions, so visualizing an information space in 3D means throwing away 97 dimensions instead of 98: hardly a big enough improvement to justify the added interface complexity."
But those explanations are just-so stories, providing backfill for something that we already knew -- text-heavy interfaces like Amazon and Google were more popular than "Virtual Main Street."
Is this another manifestation of Tim Bray's motto, "knowledge its a text-based application?"
I don't know. What do y'all think?
Going on fifteen years ago, when tools to collaborate electronically were just emerging: gestating in the the research lab, Lotus Notes was just coming to market, and Tim Berners Lee was inventing the web, Shrage described some of the very familiar uses of social software:
* holding a meeting with a digital whiteboard to capture and shape ideas in a meeting, complete with backchannel
* collaborative writing, as we do now with SubEthaEdit and Wiki
* the citation and deep collaboration culture of scientific research
* the metaphor of "shared space" to describe digital tools supporting collaboration
The book also articulates an important distinction between communication and collaboration. Shrage critiques the ideas of Marshall McLuhan and advocates of business communication for focusing on one-way transmission of thoughts and feelings. Somehow, if the speaker can only "communicate" clearly and powerfully enough, the message will get through, and the recipient will follow.
Instead, Shrage describes collaboration as a shared and deeply interactive process of discovering and creating meaning together. Individualistic modern western culture wants to see discovery and achievement as the product of a lone hero, but innovation in science, art and business is a collaborative process.
Perhaps this is what Sunir means by blogging is sadness: the impression that bloggers are each in their own little world, making speeches at each other. (Although this perspective misses the distributed conversation of the blog communities.
Shrage captures the joy of collaboration -- elaborating an idea, creating something new, getting something done -- when the contributions of the participants are intertwingled.
Given the state of the art at the time, Shrage's perception of tools was skewed toward the sharing of personal artifacts (shared access to documents), and elaborate research prototypes (wall systems with voice and video). Today, we have the ubiquitous net, and a wide range of tools, build for shared use, to knit together in a situated manner.
Last week, ACLU-Texas and Jon Lebkowsky sued the Texas Secretary of State's office, demanding that the SOS comply with the Open Meetings Act, and hold meetings to review voting systems for certification in public.
On Friday, the Secretary of State's office backed down, postponing the upcoming meeting til further notice. We hope this means that they are evaluating how best to hold these meetings in public.
We especially hope that the public scrutiny will encourage the Secretary to insist on a reliable, secure, and transparent voting process.
Thanks for responding. Emails from a member’s constituents are influential, particularly when received in significant numbers. Most members give them the same status as regular mail ( and those who don’t risk becoming former members rather quickly). E mails from outside the member’s district are generally not influential.
I suggest that you focus on Texas members. Lamar Smith from Austin is chair of the IP subcommittee on House Judiciary--a very important position. Sheila Jackson-Lee from Houston sits on that committee. In the House Commerce Committee where HR 107 is pending, I could use the support of Gene Green from Houston. Joe Barton is already a cosponsor, but I could use help in presuading Ralph Hall to support the bill. getting any member of the House to cosponsor , whether he or she serves on a relevant committee is helpful.
I wouldn’t worry about starting a PAC. Just communicating with members of Congress from texas would be great.
» posted by Rick Boucher on Aug 10 04 at 7:34 PM
Ross Mayfield draws a useful distinction, responding to Fredrik Wack's taxonomy of enterprise weblogs
Instead of the next six types Fredrik offers, I'd suggest the simple categorization of if the blog has a single or multiple authors. Inside the enterprise group blogs are more common and oriented towards collaboration. The topic or objective of a blog can change over time, as most things do, and most individual blogs defy categorization.
Building on these points: knowledge and collaboration aren't different kinds of blogs -- they are different stages in the lifecycle of the same post.
For example, at Socialtext, we use a team weblog to collaborate on the release process, logging process steps, and keeping the team up to date. Once the release is done, the posts serve as an archive. Because Socialtext uses a wiki repository, blog posts can be linked to by name, and updated later.
A post starts as live collaboration, and turns into a knowledge base over time.
Also, today's technology is blurring the distinction between individual and group blogs in a corporate and community settings. Aggregators, portals, and metablogs pull together individual blogs into combined views of the conversation in the community.
There's a dialect of business diplomacy where it is considered rude to identify a problem.
Instead of "we have a problem, the dam has been breached", we say "there is an issue with the dam", or "I have a concern with the dam".
Now, it is true that simply pointing out problems is annoying and often counterproductive in a business environment. Problem statements are best accompanied by suggestions for improvement. Particularly in a startup environment, you fix it, or help fix it, or help prioritize fixing it, or log it and go do something else useful.
Sometimes, there are situations where you're trying to figure out whether a problem exists "There's an issue with the flibbertygibbet setting -- is this correct." "I have a concern about the EastCo account. Haven't heard from them in a while, are they happy?"
But when the water is pouring from the dam, you have a problem, and nobody's doing anybody favors by using euphemisms.
Men graduating from Carnegie Mellon with a Masters' degree earned $4000 more in their first job out of the program than women did, according to a 2002 study.
It turned out that only 7% of the women had negotiated their starting salary, but 57% of the men had asked for more money. Those who negotiated raised their salaries by an average of $4000.
The striking difference in salary was explained by the willingness to negotiate.
Currently Women Don't Ask, about women's reluctance to negotiate.
There's a lively, thoughtful, substantive discussion going on over on the Lessig Blog, where Congressman Rick Boucher is engaged in conversation with the "free culture" crowd, while Lessig is on vacation. The congressman is reading comments throughout the day, and writing thoughtful, informed, reasonable responses, with insights about the political process. Participants are asking good questions and bringing up relevant angles to the discussion of copyright policy and the INDUCE act.
This is the real deal. Congressperson takes a leadership role on an issue, and uses a blog as a way to meet with constituents who are active advocates in the issue area. The blog community of activists is catalyzed by a thought leader.
No "messages", no flames. Cluetrain live.
Over the weekend, I've been reading the draft of a once and future book on emergent democracy. The thesis is that many-to-many network communication is transforming human political and social organization. Theorists of emergent democracy draw on metaphors of self-organizing in networks, termites, flocks of birds.
The argument has truth and explanatory power. All changes in communication affect the nature and organization of human society. Networked communication facilitates network behavior patterns that can be described with network math.
There is also something profoundly unsatisfying about network determinism, where current forms of government are inevitably replaced by ad hoc swarms of citizens. There are two items that are missing in the ant metaphor -- the nature of the nodes, and the nature of the ecosystem. In a human population, the nodes of the network are intelligent; the pheremones are ideas. The human self-organization takes place within a cultural ecosystem, with resources and constraints like money and laws, unlike termite colonies or flocks of birds, whose forms are shaped by food and weather.
Intelligence in the political network can be described along two related dimensions:
* coordinating action -- in networked environment, the ability to draw groups in alignment, rather than in continual brownian bickering
* coordinating ideas -- framing discourse to enable shared understanding
This frame makes the affect of the network easier to see: the network makes it easier to co-ordinate groups to take action, and makes it easier to spread ideas among groups.
By taking the environmental metaphor too literally, theorists of emergent democracy refrain from drawing models of the networked polity. After all, if the change is emergent and self-organizing, prediction misses the point. But the human environment is a built environment. Therefore, a theory of the evolution of a networked polity should take into account the constraints of the environment, and the adaptive paths from here to there.
Today, the elements of politics are election campaigns (mass marketing, fund-raising), and inter-election policy making, influenced by activist campaigns and donor money. Emergent democracy enables peer to peer get-out-the-vote activity and decentralized fundraising at election time; and enables groups of citizens to self-organize around issues in the creation and administration of policy.
Blogs, discussion groups, and "peer media" countact the centralizing tendency of mass media, and help provide greater visibility in local politics and particular issues. One chronic mistake made by the prophets of blogging as a political force is to see the conversation, opinion, and journalism in blogs as directly connected to political change.
Conversation, debate and deliberation is important in a democracy, but citizen conversation alone doesn't make policy. There are two missing steps. First, citizens need to relearn to organize. The conversation needs to translate into action - effective advocacy for specific policy, or campaigning for specific candidates. Second, government officials need to learn how to listen. Today, politicians check polls to see what voters think. Tools like Technorati will give politicians a richer view of the opinion of particularly active citizens.
Yes, say advocates of emergence, but legislation and administration are passe in a networked age. Social decisions will just "emerge" as the sum of a million conversations. There is clearly room for greater decentralization and experimentation. However, as Stewart Brand observed in "As Buildings Learn", buildings (and the civic infrastructure) consist of layers, with different lifespans.
One failure mode in underdeveloped states is the lack of a reliable legal system. Businesses need a stable foundation for contracts and dispute resolution, in order to conduct the shifting and fast-changing process of entrepreneurship and innovation. Roads, bridges, water and sewage systems are amortized over many decades. (Privatized decentralization is not a complete solution -- if water and sewer systems are allocated to those with the ability to pay, epidemics will kill poor people and threaten the rich.) There will continue to be some stable organizational structure to create slow-changing rules, and and to choose, pay for and maintain longlasting assets.
There are other areas currently supported by government -- education, health care -- where there is some social agreement to spend common resources, but many opinions about how to do this, with competition between centralized and decentralized approaches.
The current geographical basis of governance -- local, state/province, national, international -- is shaped by geographic concentration of interests, and communication costs. As communication costs decrease, and it's easier for citizens with common interests to band together across geography, jurisdictions will probably change.
It is useful to think about which aspects of social policy should continue to be set, funded, and managed by slow deliberative government process, which functions should remain but shift jurisdiction, and which functions should be handled by other social structures.
In sum, ideas of emergent democracy provide valuable tools for thinking about the networked polity. But a strong model of emergent democracy includes a picture of how people organize and deliberate, and how government functions in a networked world. Because the nodes of the network are intelligent, and the environment is built by people, it is not at all pointless to discuss a model of governance in a networked polity, and the answers are far from deterministic.
This essay can be found in live wiki form, here
Washington DC closes streets, puts up security checkpoints.
In the words of a taxi-driver interviewd by the Washington Post: "During the Cold War with the Soviet Union, you didn't see this kind of thing," the 49-year-old Nigerian immigrant said. "Fear shouldn't grip the nation like this. It's demoralizing that a few people could cause a wall of change that affects the city's character and image of this country."
Socialtext loves to hire developers with open source experience and reputation. We know people are good developers. We know they have initiative and have gotten things done. We know they have creative ideas, because thos ideas are public. People who've been active in open source have a public community reputation.
And I'm beginning to think that it is a great way to do the R part of R&D. One of the big problems with classic corporate R&D is that innovations don't see the light of day. The typical corporate reaction is to put researchers on a short leash, and tell them their blue-sky research needs to turn into a commercial product in a finite amount of time.
An alternative approach is to do open source experimentation. If the experiment is interesting and valuable, it will attract other developers. So you're building an ecosystem from the start rather than stifling it. If it works and seems valuable, you can package and develop and commercialize it -- or leave it to an independent noncommercial life.
It increases one risk, because new ideas aren't secret. It decreases the risk of developing products in the lab that don't ever work or get done or find users.
John Koenig has a nice article in the IT Manager's Journal listing seven open source business models: Optimization, Dual License, Consulting, Subscription, Patronage, Hosted, and Embedded.
From the perspective of software developers, however, there are only two. Patronage works for individual developers who are so brilliant, innovative and famous that a corporation or foundation will hire them to do whatever it is they do next. A few people merit this approach.
All of the other business models are based on a single principle -- provide software and services that someone else wants. The stereotypical open source model is to "scratch your own itch" - build software that you want. That is a powerful motivation that gets a lot of software built.
But if you want to make money, you need to do something that somebody else wants, and that is valuable enough that they're willing to pay you to do it. That something could be optimization, custom consulting, service and support, or a packaged product that uses your code (Koenig's list). There's also a patronage model that's at the level of a project, not an individual -- IBM's sponsorship of Apache fits this model. In this case, the sponsor is paying for ongoing development and maintenance.
The solipsistic/bohemian model of open source -- artists make software only for other artists, and talk only to other artists -- falls short if those artists are looking to make a living. Unless you're one of a handful of superstars, you need to provide a product or service that's of immediate value to someone else.
During the INDUCE Act hearing, Bainwol of the RIAA countered claims that file-sharing doesn't decrease music sales.
But, he said holding up a colorful line graph, our sales from hits have declined. Which means sales of mid-list non-hits must be going up.
In other industries, when companies see sales of one type of product declining and sales of another type of product increasing, they switch strategies to focus on the new product category. The recording industry is missing business opportunities that are staring it in the face.
The recording industry instead wants to use the US legal system to maintain their old product mix.
I wish it was available now. I would pay.
As is, I don't watch enough television to subscribe to cable. Just not in the habit. I watch series' occasionally on video.
As is, Bittorrent will do. I'd rather pay for reliable, high-quality, scheduled delivery, and compensate Jon Stewart.
I hope the industry takes this opportunity instead of suing it out of existence.
Ed Felten rightly points out that today's Democratic politicians aren't better than the Republicans on issues of innovation and cultural freedom. I wonder what will happen when and if this generation of activists, who've learned the political process advocating for digital rights, starts running for office?
in the service of some notional “objectivity”, American media will only repeat “facts”—that is, quotes provided by both sides... journalism’s goal should be to be fair and accurate (the oppposite of false and misleading), not “objective” and “balanced”. A journalist should tell the whole truth and not try to mislead the reader. But as long they do so, they should be free to give whatever context and draw whatever conclusions they feel are appropriate. Once you’ve given side A and side B a fair shake, there’s no harm—indeed, there’s a great service—in telling which side you’ve chosen and why.
The 10 month old nephews are very easy to amuse - funny faces and air-tosses and pokes with stuffed animals and dances to made-up songs bring gales of laughter. The niece, who is 5 going on 6, performs elaborate song and dance routines, plays monster-and-rescue adventures with elaborate checklists before blasting off to save the day, and looks elegant in pink sparkly things.
Ingy gave me a tour of the new Seattle public library, which is just waiting for the movie where the villains chase the heroes across the ledges and levels.
It was a restful weekend away - nice to sleep somewhere you don't have responsibility. Which I guess parents don't get ever.
Under Bush's plan to "accept the recommendations" of the 911 Commision, the new intelligence chief would lack the authority over budgets, hiring and firing that the commission had envisioned.
Looking for Spinoza by Antonio Damasio recounts experimental neuroscience that is revealing the physical sources of emotions in the brain. Damasio brings evidence supporting a theory of human consciousness having its source in the human body. The book proposes a mechanism where emotions are an emergent phenomenon of many chemical gradients within the body, and conciousness is an emergent phenomenon based on the brain's ability to map the physical state of the body.
My favorite experimental results in the book are in Chapter 4, where neurological patients with damage to brain regions used for certain classes of emotions are perfectly able to analyze social and ethical situations in the lab, and come up with the "right answers". Yet these patients lack empathy and normal affect. Without emotional capacity, they are consistently unable to make good decisions and consistently break ethical norms and cause social damage in real life. Emotions are an important component of human intelligence, playing a critical role in "good judgment."
These anecdotes shed light on the "trolling" problem -- there are some individuals with a pathological lack of emotional capacity; no amount of reasoning or compassion will restore the capacity they lack. It is also possible that the physical distance in online communication fails to trigger in some individuals the empathy that restrains them from social pathology in 3d.
It is fascinating to watch modern neuroscience approach proof of mind/body integration, and yet it is less surprising than Damasio makes out, given the Cartesian mind/body dualism that Damasio takes as his straw man. Damasio makes no mention of supporting ideas from other domains: contemporary cybernetic system theory, in which higher levels of abstraction have emergent properties different from the properties of substrates in silicon and elementary logic; and eastern traditions in which the mind makes use of its integration with the body to develop an astonishing level of influence over emotions and basal bodily functions.
The Spinoza contrast to Descartes is less dramatic as a philosophical ground for embodied mind, and more intriguing as a counterfactual to the intellectual development of modernism, given that Cartesian dualism emerged as enlightenment conventional wisdom, and that Spinoza's writing is a partially occluded source of modernism. Perhaps more of the missing threads in this argument are connected in Damasio's earlier book: Descartes' Error: Emotion, Reason, and the Human Brain.
I need to reread this book, and read some of Damasio's earlier work, to figure out if I still agree with these conclusion upon further reflection.
Napoleon Dynamite is a "revenge of the nerds" movie that tries to have it both ways.
The main character is an oddball loner in a small-town, Idaho highschool. He wears weird clothes, draws fantasy/sci-fi sketches, plays tether volleyball by himself, stuffs leftover lunch tater tots in his cargo pants, and is tortured by the school jocks and mocked by the popular girls. When the camera visits his house, where his unemployed 30-year old older brother spends hours in pre-internet chatrooms and his uncle yearns to relive his days of almost-highschool-football stardom, you know there's no way out.
The film spends most of its meandering plot inviting the audience to at Napoleon, his loser family, his awkward, fresh-from Mexico friend Pedro, and the unprosperous, uncool ambience of small-town Idaho.
Then, toward the end, the movie evolves into a "follow your dreams" fairy tale. The ideosyncratic loners find each other, and become school heroes.
The audience gets to make fun of the nerds and small-town losers through most of the movie, and then bask in the myth of individualist triumph at the end.
In the genre of misfit triumph, I preferred Muriel's Wedding -- which was simultaneously sweeter and darker. The film shows the awkwardness of the misfit main character and her disfunctional family all the way through, and the triumph is partial, since the main character has internalized the values of her oppressors.