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May 18, 2007

Personal Democracy Forum Report: Thomas L. Friedman

by Josh Bernoff

Speech by Friedman is called "Politics Is Flat II: What Happens When We All Have A Dog's Hearing?"

"Just finished the 3.0 edition of 'The World Is Flat,' will come out in August." Fascinating, Friedman is continually updating the book. You need to sell a lot of books to do that.

New chapter: "If it's not happening, it's because you're not doing it." About the moment when the CEO has the first encounter with thousands of active people, using the Internet to create change. "Social entrepreneurs" is what he calls them. Example: activists up against TXU Corporation's plans to build coal-powered power plants. Environmentalists got in the middle of multi-billion dollar leveraged buyout of TXU -- they get a seat at the negotiating table. "The world's biggest buyout rode on the approval of the only two people -- environmental groups -- that had no money on the table."

He also laments the loss the personal contact, "social downsides" due to the productivity that technology has brought to the world. "What happens when we can hear everything whispered about us?" -- that is when we all have dogs' hearing. "What happens when all your neighbors have blogs of their own -- and everybody is a public figure?"

I have to say, I do worry about this. Funny how privacy and reputation are somehow repeated in so many of these presentations. Everyone needs to develop a thick skin and skepticism. The trend of transparency and of online character assassination are two sides of the same coin. Get used to it.

Finally, a new chapter on how people need to have judgment to interpret what they find on the Internet.

More great quotes:

"The fundamental business rule of the flat world is: Whatever can be done, will be done. The only question is whether it will be done by you, or to you."

"I would argue that the most important competition going forward is going to be between you and your own imagination. Your ability to act on your own imagination. What people imagine really matters." The companies and countries that thrive will be those that enable their people's imagination best.

Friedman is a great, great speaker. He ties individual people, corporate examples, and builds them into trend analysis. Basically, our model for Groundswell. If only we can be anywhere near this good . . .

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political forum

Well one new area to watch is internet law. This is an emerging field of law, and speaking personally as someone who owns a political forum, I can tell you that the subject of libel and slander has come up for me, due to what some people on the web say about somebody else. The law on this is very unclear and it's a big problem for webmasters, bloggers and forum owners.

Especially on a political forum. How do you define what is opinion and what is slander?



I’d be interested in an updated GoogleAnalytics chart (may be two with about six weeks coverage), just to see if the effect did wear off after a while and also, did others link to your new name with the same link-text (allinurl:…). I hope you will publish a follow up.

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