Thursday, September 18, 2008

Politics in the YouTube Era

A San Francisco Public Library free lecture series called "City Speaks" featured Mayor Gavin Newsom interviewing YouTube co-founder Steve Shih Chen on Tuesday evening.

The subject was "Politics in the YouTube Era," complete with a couple of video clips on the big screen behind them, including Senator George Allen's "macaca" moment.

Chen seemed like a fascinating character, describing the "eureka" moment of YouTube's creation as simply being sick of having to load a different player/driver whenever somebody sent video to be watched on a computer.

This seemed to go over Newsom's head and in truth he seemed more interested in the gossip and "gotcha" implications of the technology where anyone with a cell phone camera can catch you in an unguarded moment and post it to the internet.

"Maybe that wouldn't be such a bad idea, to live fully in the open, for politicians," Steve said, before laughing as he realized the implications of what he just said and to whom he had said it. This is a mayor who's way too fond of secrecy and back room deals and bad behavior behind closed doors while advocating that San Francisco's citizens be constantly monitored by public cameras.

They also showed the "1984 Apple" parody with Senator Clinton standing in for Big Brother, and Gavin seemed simply amazed that "some guy in his basement, I think in Illinois, could do this in a couple of hours and then thousands of people see it."

Earlier in the day, Newsom had attended a photo-op in the Tenderloin with another young technology CEO, Sanjit Biswas. He's in charge of Meraki which is building an ad hoc wi-fi network throughout San Francisco at a fraction of the cost of the Google/Earthlink project proposed by Newsom over the last couple of years. For some interesting techie articles on the project, click here for Erick Schonfeld at Techcrunch, click here for Glenn Fleishman at Wi-Fi Networking News, and click here for Marguerite Reardon at CNet.

Thank god for the technie activists who showed up at all the meetings and lobbied newspapers and internet sites to get the word out about what a disaster the Earthlink/Google deal would have been. That didn't stop the Chronicle, the Examiner, SF Weekly, City Attorney Dennis Herrera and Ron Vinson at the Department of Technology from vilifying them in every way possible. My friend Kimo Crossman should be given a medal and San Francisco's many thanks for his sheer stubbornness in the face of all that abuse, and it would be nice to hear a simple apology from Newsom, as in "I was wrong and they were right." A rational distribution of wealth would also be nice, but I don't see either one happening anytime soon.


Kimo C said...

Thank you for the kind words SFMike!

Ced said...

Not sure the activists had such an impact. Earthlink walked out of its Philly deal, would have happened to SF no matter what. Meraki is a good thing, but it hinges on people being willing to give away their DSL lines and power. I have a Meraki repeater in my window. It works rather intermittently. And they'll pull the plug when they run out of VC funding.

momo said...

This is a fascinating story. I am also struck by way each man has decided to make a hair statement.

Civic Center said...

Dear Ced: I didn't know you were a Meraki dude.

I'd argue that the activists were successful in that they managed to postpone the implementation of Earthlink/Newsom's harebrained scheme until the writing was on the wall from other cities, and Earthlink simply pulled out of the Municipal Wifi business altogether because it didn't make any sense technologically or financially. In other words, we would have been stuck with a partly functioning fiasco instead of trying something that works better and cheaper. The activists did good.

Kimo C said...

Sfmike is right about how the WiFi played out in San Francisco. And we and enough time to educate the Supervisors who were technically limited initially (after all - what was wrong with free??) and when they caught on (as well as the San Francisco Bay Guardian) they started having hearings and asking questions too.

Living In Freedom! said...

I am new to the you tube world, so thanks for tuning me in!