April 03, 2004
Foreigners and Japanese customs
15:29 JST » Japanese Culture

A lot of people ask me about Japanese customs. They learn the formal way to hand business cards, they bow deeply when they meet Japanese and they call me "Ito-san." Stop that. It's silly. To some Japanese, the awkward foreigners trying to please their hosts by acting Japanese may look cute, but more likely than not, you'll get a A for effort but you'll be forever the silly foreigner in their minds. It's only the extremely intolerant xenophobe who would really want a foreigner to really act Japanese and you don't want to be hanging out with those anyway. Keep an eye out for indicators of discomfort but bring the flair of your own culture with you.

Rather than trying to act Japanese, I suggest that people visiting Japan be sensitive and aware of the nuances in the interactions. It is more about timing, loudness, space and smiles than it is about how your hold your business card or calling people "Ito-san." When in doubt, shut up and listen. When smiled at, smile back. If you're freaking someone out, back off instead of continuing your interrogation. All of which I believe is not unique to being a foreigner in Japan. The more important Japan specific social behaviors involve cleanliness like taking off your shoes in homes and washing your body before and not taking your towel when entering the bath and not being stinky.

Caveat: If you're meeting someone for the first time, in a very formal setting, and you only have one shot, doing the step-by-step from the "How to Impress Japanese" book is probably a good idea. My comments above apply mostly to normal social situations.

The Last Samurai and the Japanese code of honor
15:25 JST » Japanese Culture - Movies

I just finished watching The Last Samurai. I'm not going to comment on the acting or the historical accuracy, but rather on this notion of a code of honor. Several people told me to watch it because they were impressed with the code of honor in the film. I think there is something comforting about codes of honor and people get goose bumps when they see movies where heros die for honor. Some people identify with the heros as they reflect on the unfairness and loneliness in their own lives. A friend of mine manages the rights to Musashi by Eiji Yoshikawa, which is one of Japan's most famous heros. He used to get calls almost every year from CEOs of companies wanting to make the film because they realized that THEY were Musashi.

The most honorable person I've ever known is my mom. She didn't talk about or whine about honor. She was just honorable. In my experience, the more people talk about honor, the less they know about it and are either using it as a way to try to convince you to trust them or trying to convince themselves or something. Some of the stupidest mistakes I've made in friendship and business have been when I have assumed that people spouting off about codes of honor would actually adhere to them. "Don't you trust me?" "Just trust me." Bah.

So I'm quite skeptical about Japanese honor. Sure, I bet there were a lot of honorable people though the history of the Samurai, but I see honor every day and they don't make movies about it. So stop making movies about Japanese honor or we might start believing it.

I'm not bashing the notion of codes of honor in organizations since I think it's often necessary to try to aspire to and enforce higher level conduct in these organizations, but having a code doesn't mean everyone will adhere to it and such codes probably cause these organizations to be more trusted than they should.

Microsoft's embarrassing metadata
01:02 JST » Cool Web Sites - Humor - Software

Mena starts corporate blogging at Six Apart on Mena's Corner.

April 02, 2004
See you later Cannes
20:26 JST » Joi's Diary

See you later Cannes and thanks for all the mussels.

I met some really cool people this trip and got a glimpse into "the other side". Enjoyed myself very much. Weather was beautiful too.

Now I'm off to Tokyo via Frankfurt. I have a horrible 4 hours layover in Frankfurt. Anyone going to be in Frankfurt this afternoon? Maybe we can play scrabble or something...

I just gave a keynote this morning and I initially felt right, but a bit bad. Milia is one of the oldest and leading interactive content conferences and MipTV is a place where content providers meet with people who want to buy content from them. The halls are full of telephone companies, TV networks, Hollywood content providers and DRM technology companies. So here I am asked to give a keynote. What am I going to say? I talked about the shift in value away from packaged content and towards context oriented things like location, presence and transactions. I talked about how DRM would make the user experience suck so bad that they would lose their customers, and I talked about how I didn't think the mobile content download business would work. Easy for Mr. "nothing to lose" Ito to say. ;-p I did throw out a olive branch by talking about Creative Commons and how we can have "some rights reserved" and try to protect their content selling business models. On the other hand, all of the smart people quickly figured out that the technical execution of protecting content while allowing sharing in certain cases requires them to trust their customers much more than they do now.

I also mentioned that the carriers and the content guys really didn't know their customers. In fact, most people don't know their customers. Most success has come from watching how the customer behaves and creating products for that behavior rather than trying to create products that change the customer's behavior, which most arrogant companies think they can do.

I did provide some helpful advice by talking about mobile device UI issues, talking about CPA and stuff.

So, I was prepared for a lot of hateful glares and wrath, but everyone was surprisingly thoughtful and the discussion after the session was really interesting. So just as publishing survived the copy machine and Hollywood movies survived the video tape, I'm sure the smart content guys will survive mobile devices and sharing whether they like it or not. Talking to all of the smart people (even the ones who's business models were screwed and didn't have any way out that I could see...) made me feel like there was a bit more hope in the content industry than I had originally envisioned.

Also, watching people from the big companies interact... I think there is a big company and "I love Hollywood stars/star-struck" aspect to why carriers and other folks want to work with the big studios. Having worked in Hollywood selling content to Japanese trading companies and having worked at NHK buying TV shows from Hollywood I know that Hollywood studios are skilled at making you feel good about working with them. There are many people who have lost a lot of money in Hollywood. Unlike Las Vegas, sometimes they often even don't let you win a single hand before they take all your money. Again, mileage may vary and there are A LOT of great people in Hollywood, but beware. People and companies in Hollywood are not famous because they're nice and give you their money.

April 01, 2004
Conference back channels
23:56 JST » IRC - Joi's Diary

Interesting discussion over at Liz Lawley's blog about conference back channels.

Relates to the Continuous Partial Attention discussion.

Math Joke
19:21 JST » Humor

I just got this via email and don't know the copyright or the origin of this. If someone knows whether I should give credit to someone, please let me know. But it's too funny not to blog.

March 31, 2004
In Cannes
22:58 JST » Joi's Diary

I just arrived in Canne. I'm giving a talk tomorrow and will be on a panel the day after for Milia...

March 30, 2004
Ze Frank on Friendster
15:59 JST » Humor - Social Software

Ze Frank, who was on my panel yesterday has a hilarious movie. MUST See. Makes fun of Friendster, Orkut and Wallop.

And Ze is a VERY funny guy. Check out his web page.

March 29, 2004
Do all Frenchmen kiss their PDAs?
23:54 JST » Joi's Diary - Wireless and Mobile

You silly French. I love this picture of Loic. ;-)

I'm looking forward to going to Cannes tomorrow.

The New Google
22:54 JST » Search
Seth Godin
The New Google

Google changed their UI today. The scary thing is how wrong it feels. Obviously, the small changes aren't wrong, but the fact that you notice them is a testament to how spectacular the marketing of the "original" Google was.

The funny thing is... When I was chairman of Infoseek Japan, we would do user surveys every time we changed the UI, and almost EVERY time we did it just about 50% of the people hated the new UI. It was always big let-down after spending so much time re-doing the UI. I think people get used to their tools and hate it when you muck with the design, even if it makes it better... at least unless it really sucked before the change.

Continuous Partial Attention
21:42 JST » Health and Medicine - Software - Wireless and Mobile

Wet talked last night with Linda Stone about her idea of continuous partial attention. She says it is different from multi-tasking.

Linda Stone
From Inc.com

It's not the same as multitasking; that's about trying to accomplish several things at once. With continuous partial attention, we're scanning incoming alerts for the one best thing to seize upon: "How can I tune in in a way that helps me sync up with the most interesting, or important, opportunity?

This is really relevant to some of the thoughts I've been having about the UI of mobile devices and how they fade in and out of your attention rather than being on or off like computer screens. Yes, you do this a bit with computers, but not nearly as seamlessly as mobile phones are integrated in the real world by advanced users.

Also, the IRC back channel at conferences or the multi-modal distance learning projects where you have a video of the speaker, the power point presentation, the chat, the wiki and the back channel going at the same time. It CAN be very overwhelming, but I think it's because we are conditioned to think that we need to understand all of the information that is being transmitted.

I think an interesting metaphor might be the difference between loss-less and lossy compression technology. There is so much information being transmitted and it doesn't matter if you everything exactly (or if you are getting exactly the same bits as someone else). You can glean from the fire-hose in the mode that makes the most sense for you. The trick is to get a picture of what is going on from a perspective that makes sense for you in a format that compresses well for you. I think that if we stop trying to "catch it all" which we are conditioned to do, and think more in terms of lossy compression and surfing parallel streams and multi-modes, maybe it is easier.

Also, we discussed last night now human brains are adapting to these changes and how probably younger generations will continue to grow up differently and interfaces and modes will adapt again to this new generation. This has a lot to do with the discussion on ADD.

Good entry in Smartmobs with more links.

Valenti, Right and Wrong, Is a Man to Respect
15:33 JST » Intellectual Property - Joi's Diary
Dan Gillmor
Valenti, Right and Wrong, Is a Man to Respect

How I wish Jack Valenti had been on our side in the copyright war.

Valenti will soon retire from his decades-long post as president of the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), the industry's enormously effective lobbying arm. I'm going to miss him.

I recently met Jack at a conference last year but I first met Jack when I was working in Hollywood and was a translator at a meeting between him and the chairman of NHK, the Japanese public broadcasting company. I also worked with Jack's son, John, on Indian Runner. Jack always struck me as smart and charming and I have the same impression of him that Dan does. Jack gave Creative Commons a video message endorsement when Creative Commons launched. I agree with Dan that although I disagree violently with many of the things Jack stands for, I will miss him and wish all of our opponents were so gracious.

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