Open social networks: bring back Iran

Three years ago, we lost Iran from Internet community. I simplify somewhat, but forgivably. Many Iranian ISPs cut off access to blogs and social networking sites, on government order. At the time, Iran was one of the most active nations on Orkut; and Orkut was the network of choice, faster than the then-fading Friendster, but not yet fully eclipsed by MySpace. It provided a historically unprecedented chance for young people from Iran, USA, Europe and the world to hang out together in an online community. But when Orkut was blocked at the ISP level in Iran, pretty much nobody in the English-speaking blog-tech-pundit scene seemed to even notice. This continues to bug me. Web technologists apparantly care collectively more about freeing Robert Scoble’s addressbook from Facebook, than about the real potential for unmediated, uncensored, global online community.

Most folk in the US will never visit Iran, and vice-versa. And the press and government in both states are engaged in scary levels of sabre-rattling and demonisation. For me, one of the big motivations for working (through FOAF, SPARQL, XMPP and other technologies) on social networking interop, is so young people in the future can grow up naturally having friends in distant nations, regardless of whether their government thinks that’s a priority. If hundreds of blog posts can be written about the good Mr Scoble’s addressbook portability situation, why are thousands of posts not being written about the need for social networking tools to connect people regardless of nationality and national firewalls?

Some things are too important to leave to governments…

Update: a few hours after writing this, things get hairy in Hormuz.  Oof…

A special day for technologists

As Mrs. Nakamura stood watching her neighbour, everything flashed whiter than any white she had ever seen. She did not notice what happened to the man next door; the reflex of a mother set her in motion toward her children. She had taken a single step (the house was 1,350 yards, or three quarters of a mile, from the centre of the explosion) when something picked her up and she seemed to fly into the next room over the raised sleeping platform, pursued by parts of her house.

Timbers fell around her as she landed, and a shower of tiles pommelled her; everything became dark, for she was buried. The debris did not cover her deeply. She rose up and freed herself. She heard a child cry, “Mother, help me!” and saw her youngest – Myeko, the five-year-old – buried up to her breast and unable to move. As Mrs. Nakamura started frantically to claw her way towards the baby, she could see or hear nothing of her other children.

John Hersey, Hiroshima (Part 1, A Noiseless Flash), first published in the New Yorker, August 1946.

This August 6, the 60th anniversary of the atomic bombing, is a moment of shared lamentation in which more than 300 thousand souls of A-bomb victims and those who remain behind transcend the boundary between life and death to remember that day. It is also a time of inheritance, of awakening, and of commitment, in which we inherit the commitment of the hibakusha to the abolition of nuclear weapons and realization of genuine world peace, awaken to our individual responsibilities, and recommit ourselves to take action. This new commitment, building on the desires of all war victims and the millions around the world who are sharing this moment, is creating a harmony that is enveloping our planet.

The keynote of this harmony is the hibakusha warning, “No one else should ever suffer as we did,” along with the cornerstone of all religions and bodies of law, “Thou shalt not kill.” [...]

On this, the sixtieth anniversary of the atomic bombing, we seek to comfort the souls of all its victims by declaring that we humbly reaffirm our responsibility never to “repeat the evil.” “Please rest peacefully; for we will not repeat the evil.”

Peace Declaration, Tadatoshi Akiba, Mayor, The City of Hiroshima, 6 August 2005.

“Beyond blocking — U.S. and open source censorship slims the Net”, – Newsforge (May 2004)

Beyond blocking — U.S. and open source censorship slims the Net“, fairly interesting piece, but mostly entertaining because of the Google Ads for filtering technology that show up (at least now) while reading it. “Easily block Internet content with this new-generation content filter”, “Netmop projects families from pron. Parents too! Works with any ISP”, “Filter updates every 2 hours Only the Good Stuff – Chaperon”, …