William Gibson on terrorism and Twitter

I've been teaching journalism students at City University this year. I'm grateful to one of my students, Tom Barfield, for pointing me to this interview with author William Gibson. I've read just two Gibson books - Neuromancer, which I read years ago and enjoyed very much, and Pattern Recognition, which I read this year and didn't particularly enjoy. Anyway, Gibson is a man with lots of interesting ideas and two in particular from this interview struck me. The first is a familiar one that is always worth repeating:

"Terrorism is a hopeful thing if you’re a freedom fighter. Terrorists and freedom fighters are two sides of the same coin. The freedom fighter lives in hope that he will overthrow the vast injustice of whoever. The people who live in the vast injustice can, if they choose, live in fear that the terrorist will come and do something bad to them. I don’t know. People are such suckers for the most part. The terrorists are smarter, in a way. The terrorists are at least playing a game that makes sense and has various win positions. If they can make you frightened, they’ve won. If they can make you deform your society in ways that will decrease everyone’s pleasure in life, they’ve won."

The second idea was one I hadn't really considered, about the essential difference between Twitter and Facebook:

"I was never interested in Facebook or MySpace because the environment seemed too top-down mediated. They feel like malls to me. But Twitter actually feels like the street. You can bump into anybody on Twitter."

I did wonder about U2's new accordian fixation...

This can't be for real, can it? Have you been unwittingly downloading tracks from The Overdub Tampering Committee?

"We are a group of musicians who have downloaded newly leaked albums by popular artists, quickly recorded many subtle overdubs, and then re-leaked it to the internet. We have done this for about three years now."

I'd love it if this was genuine but surely if it was they would have put at least one example of their work on the blog?

London is the second-largest network on Facebook

I'm surprised to find that, according to Gridskipper, London is Facebook's second largest network. It's been beaten by, oddly, Toronto. (I don't know why I think that's odd, it just would have taken me a long time to guess.) So the top five is:

  1. Toronto (640,000 members)
  2. London (590,000)
  3. Vancouver (280,000)
  4. Norway (270,000)
  5. New York (250,000)

Bah! New York is puny. They must have, err, lives or something.

And it's kind of sad that Norway needed to get together as an entire country. Or perhaps it's touching. Perhaps Norwegians feel a wonderful kinship.

Does the Doctor hate blogging?

Not much changes on Doctor Who: alien planets mostly resemble quarries, aliens look like humans with a couple of cheap make-up additions, such as false teeth, and the sonic screwdriver, that portable deus ex machina, remains the lazy writer's best friend. Still, I was surprised to notice that the Doctor has discovered blogging. In last Saturday's episode, an exasperated Doctor snapped at his companions:

"You two! We're at the end of the universe, right at the edge of knowledge itself and you're busy... blogging!"

That's the first time I've heard the word blogging used to describe speaking rather than writing. It's also clearly derogatory, comparing blogging to gossip and all things unserious.

This new(ish) Doctor has some funny tastes - he spends an awful lot of time in Cardiff, for example, apparently because the place is built on a rift in time (which may explain why, the last time I went to Wales, the people appeared to be trapped in the early 1980s). However, I'm surprised by this antipathy towards the internet.

Perhaps it's one of the downsides of being a time traveller. Updating Twitter must be a nightmare for someone who exists outside linear time.

Tonight I helped someone buy some chickens

After ranting about the RED project the other week, it's great to be able to point to a project that's doing something really positive for the Third World without giving kickbacks to shareholders or boosting rock star egos in the process. Kiva is a social networking site that brings people together to fund entrepreneurs in the Third World. Each member can contribute as little as $25 and once the total loan amount is raised Kiva pools the contributions and sends the total to the entrepreneur.

Journal entries at Kiva keep lenders up to date with the entrepreneur's progress and the loan is paid back over 6-18 months. At that point lenders can withdraw their money or re-loan it to someone else.

In a little over a year, Kiva's 35,000 members have lent $2.6m and, to date, the repayment rate is 100 per cent. Kiva is also the first website to have PayPal fees waived.

I think this is a great idea. Tonight, along with three others, I helped Ejidia Nyambura Muragu, from Muranga in Kenya, buy some chickens and got together with 12 others to help Monica Theobald, of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, raise working capital for her grocery store. Monica's lenders come from across the United States and from Australia, Belgium, Denmark and, of course, London.

Right, I'm off to get some pink sunglasses and await my turn to edit The Independent.