I’ve just stuck up a third poll in the space of a week, so I figured it was time to review the results of the previous two and outline the third. (As if anyone really cares, but it makes me feel better.)
The first was about ICANN and what I should do in my new role there as general manager of public participation. The results were:
- Making processes clearer (33%)
- Run an awareness campaign (19%)
- Consultation before making changes (13%)
- Improve ICANN’s website (11%)
- Getting ICANN staff to blog etc (10%)
- Online collaboration tools (8%)
- Multi-lingual efforts (6%)
It may be handy after nearly three months in the job to review how I’ve done with respect to these.
Make processes clearer: Well, there is now the new “process” tab on the ICANN main site, which is a great leap forward, although still far from perfect. I can’t claim much credit for this. Paul Twomey was asking about this when I joined. My input was to point at the Timeline software I had used for the Sao Paulo participation site. And then I was involved in half-a-dozen meetings about making it happen with Twomey, Patrick Sharry and Marc Salvatierra. Patrick deserves all the credit for piecing together how the processes actually work; Marc all the credit for actually creating the web pages to show what is there; and Paul the credit for getting the raw data by telling people as CEO that he wanted it. My role was really one of constantly asking “so where are we with the processes page?”
Awareness campaign: I produced a factsheet on the DNS attacks which had precisely the impact I hoped it would – it demonstrated the level of demand there was for clear and simple explanations of what goes on behind the scenes. That led to another about the RegisterFly problem. And now I have people asking me to produce loads more: IDNs, DNSSEC, IPv6, Domain names, ICANN itself, and so on. So not a singular awareness campaign as such, but getting there. An important one will be about domain names – the only time that most people out there will be interested in ICANN’s process is when it comes to domains. So it seems to me that is the logical point for increasing awareness of ICANN. And then, with luck, I will have produced a factsheet explaining ICANN’s role simply. So, yes, some movement. Maybe not enough.
Consultation before making changes: Well, I tell anyone that will listen about what I plan to do. And I tell everyone I talk to that they are welcome to email me with suggestions. And I keep posting stuff like this so if anyone is interested they can see what I’m doing. I am also planning to do an interactive survey on public participation as soon as I have a second to give people a chance to put in some input. But I’m not going to do formal consultation because a) It takes forever and the results are frequently nonsense-by-committee, and b) Nothing that I do has a direct policy impact so it’s probably best just to get it done and tweak it afterwards.
Improve ICANN’s website: Well, yes, the old ICANN website. Now vastly improved, again thanks to Marc Salvatierra’s enormous efforts in the past few months. The restructured ICANN website was put live at the Lisbon meeting and so far I’ve heard nothing but praise. I thought there was a risk that people would moan that it wasn’t that different. And outwardly it isn’t. The navigation is 100 times better, but no huge redesign or interactive additions. It’s the same old static HTML site. Fortunately, the ICANN crowd are a tech-savvy lot and seem to grasp how hard it is to reorganise a sprawling, disorganised website added to almost randomly for eight years. So the way I see it, the changes have bought ICANN a few months breathing space. I have lots of plans for turning the ICANN site into something the organisation will be proud of -and from there, hopefully something that leads the way. But the realities are that at the moment we need to build a foundation. There are ongoing meetings about this and I would say in two months we should have something to show off.
Getting ICANN staff to blog: Actually the blog has been the most successful area I think. Some staff remain sceptical – or, more likely, a little uncertain and wary. But the RegisterFly situation showed how useful a blog can be. There are now a good chunk of staff contributing posts. Pablo has done a few posts in Spanish which I am delighted about. Veni is comfortable with it and has stuck up pics as well. Patrick regularly adds useful posts. Mike Zupke produced a whole RegisterFly FAQ out of thin air that would have taken me several days to compile. The new ALAC chair stuck up a post, expanding the blog beyond just staff. And I have supplied three Board members so far with logins so hopefully they will start adding posts soon. So I think that’s been a great success.
Online collaboration tools: Mostly the public participation site at the moment. I like the site but it needs alot of work. The chatroom is rubbish and I need to replace it. It also looks a bit clunky. But it’s coming along. People starting getting comfortable with it by the end of the Lisbon meeting. I’m hoping that with some improvements and another big push in Puerto Rico in June that it will pick up. Apart from that, I still need to look at new software for the main ICANN site. Nick Ashton-Hart has identified several, as has Marc Salvatierra. I am also actively looking at the ICANN forums that are dreadfully out-of-date and need reforming. But that will be a tough task because as bad as they are, people are still used to them. This whole area – despite coming down low in the poll – is absolutely vital if ICANN is to function properly and if I am to fulfill my job of public participation.
Multi-lingual efforts: Of course this comes bottom when I think it should actually be top. Why bottom? Because this post is in English and so only English speakers will be reading it. And this is the great irony of the multi-lingual effort: ICANN has never taken multi-lingualism as seriously as it should have for the simple reason that nearly all the staff are English speakers, ICANN was a North American institution, and all meetings were carried out in English. Where exactly was the pent-up demand going to appear from? Anyway, this is all changing. I am determined to sort this out, as is Nick Ashton-Hart, and with an increasing number of ICANN staffers – particularly the regional liaisons – speaking different languages, the awareness of the importance of this is crucially there. We have translated a load of text into French and Spanish. There were meetings in French, Spanish and Arabic in Lisbon. But more importantly I am currently drawing up a translation policy for ICANN and Nick, I and Marc are working on a translation masterplan that, if it works, will blow everyone’s minds.
So that’s the ICANN poll, what about the poll for my Sex.com tagline?
Sex.com book poll
- The brutal battle for the Internet’s hottest property (23%)
- The feud for the internet’s most desired domain (18%)
- One domain, Two Men, Twelve Years and the $65 million battle for the Dubious Jewel in the Internet’s Crown (18%)
- The $65 million battle for the most valuable word of the Internet age (18%)
- Two men, one prize, 12 years and counting… (14%)
- The first great battle of the digital age (9%)
- The incredible story of the digital era’s most bitter feud (0%)
A fairly even split. Which is perhaps just as well as the vote was academic after only a few hours because the publisher insisted on making a decision a day earlier. The result was a compromise: “One domain, Two Men, Twelve Years and the Brutal Battle for the Jewel in the Internet’s Crown.” I think it’s still too long, but then I’m comfortable with it, the publisher is comfortable with it, and so it is chosen. Thanks to all those that voted.
The final poll: which book should I finish first?
I have a habit of having several books on the go at the same time. But this morning I noticed that – probably due to my jumpy lifestyle at the moment – that I had no less than five books half-read. This is clearly too many. Three is fine; two is preferable but five is too much. So I figured a poll to decide which to concentrate on first might be a good idea.
The choices are:
- The National Short Story Prize 2006: An appealingly thin book picked up for one pound in a charity shop. I grabbed it for reading on short journeys when I’ve already been through the newspaper. I also bought it purposefully because it *wasn’t* factual. I realised recently that the only books I read these days are factual or informative. No novels or sci-fi books or anything like that. So this book is an effort to keep my creative side alive.
- The Regulation of Cyberspace: A very interesting book by LSE lecturer Andrew Murray. This is a pre-publication copy and I said I would review it. I like it so far. Its basic tenet is that Net debate is far too North American focussed at the moment and so this seeks to bring a European perspective to things. Just that explanation in itself is enough for it to be very important at this moment in time for the Internet.
- Collapse: This is a fascinating one. I remember I was having one of my “why isn’t there a book written about this subject” rants during lunch in Los Angeles about three months ago. This time I was talking about the US empire and the inevitably of its collapse – but the question was: when would it collapse, what would cause and who would step in to fill its boots? (My pet theory for years has been that South America will rise up against the United States in about 20-30 years, although now I am going for the more realistic scenario that the US economy collapses in on itself thanks to short-sighted xenophobic policies). Anyone, either Jacob Malthouse or Jason Keenan (both ICANN staffers) told me “well, you’re in luck, a whole book covering the collapse of economies over time has just been released”. And sure enough in Los Angeles airport literally the next day there was Collapse by Jared Diamond. It’s a great piece of work – everything a book should be. It reviews history, find threads, makes the story human, provides acres of fine details and then tentatively applies those lessons to what is going on now. The only downside is that it can be dense in places so it’s not easy to read when you are tired or jet-lagged.
- Liberators: The reason this one has gone unfinished for so long is the sheer size of it. Hardback and massive, it simply can’t be taken on trips. In fact, it’s even hard to read without a table. But it is fascinating – it tells the tale of the South America liberators. Most famously of course Simon Bolivar but also a wide range of eccentrics, heroes, nutcases and psychopaths. It is hard to believe that it is true but basically in just 20 years (1810-1830) about a fifth of the globe’s entire surface area changed hands. It is an extraordinary adventure and as you read it you realise the repercussions this extraordinary period has had through modern history. For whenever you get too pragmatic about things, this book tells you that you can actually change the world with enough passion and determination (and the right combination of socio-economic factors, technology, charisma and sheer raw luck).
- Tell me no lies:: A subject very dear to my heart: investigative journalism and the ability of a determined truthseeker to make the world a better place. This book is a compilation of some of the best bits of investigative journalism in the past 50 years: the My Lai massacre, the Lockerbie cover-up, the Thalidomide scandal, the Iraq war. Basically real, raw journalism at its best. Just seeing the book on the floor gives me a buzz. But I have been avoiding continuing to read it recently. Why? Because for one, investigative journalism is currently non-existent in the modern media world. One of the people featured in it, Phillip Knightley, who I count as a friend, promised me that next time we meet up he would tell me how investigative journalism had been destroyed and by who. Basically, this vital work proves too expensive and too troublesome for media owners who want bang-for-bucks and celebrity nonsense. This saddens me immensely and I can only hope that I see in my lifetime a return to these values. It may be that it comes in the form of documentaries, like Super Size Me or Michael Moore’s inaccurate ego-fests. I would still argue that the precision of words and facts on paper are what make the real difference. The other reason I’m not reading it at the moment is that I can’t do investigative journalism – or much journalism at all – with my new job at ICANN. So I don’t want to provoke the itch.
Anyway, that’s it – a bloody long post. Right, work to do…