Thursday, December 15, 2011

Tools of the Occupation (Our Voices)

My Grandfather, who went to his grave a card carrying member of the Wobblies, used to tell me that the Republicans were the party of the wealthy, the privileged & the corporations and were out to fuck the working man. In the 40 since his death the GOP have done nothing to prove him wrong. In fact they have redoubled their efforts to return this country back to the 19th century. The difference between then, the glory days of the Labor movement and now is that today every man can be his own publisher.

In the early part of the 20th century, when men and women like my Grandparents were working toward change in this country, the ability to organize and spread the words and news of the deeds of the Labor movement were very limited. Radio was just beginning and most of the print media was owned by those in power who had no interest in helping the labor movement. What publishing that was done was minmograph sheets passed out on a street corner and small print run underground newspapers which were distributed mostly locally. The audience for these was small and local, mostly preaching to the converted. That was then this is now.

In the last 15 years there has been a revolution in communications, the Internet has gone from being a network of universities, research labs and DOD/DOE facilities to a world wide hookup of computers. What was once an expensive and exclusive network has become network that almost anyone can hookup to. At the same time that the Internet was opening up there has been an explosion of free and almost free software and very low cost hardware and networking that allows most everyone to have facilities that were unavailable 15 years ago.

The first and most obvious is the drop in the price of computer equipment. In the early to mid 90's an Intel 486 was a hot processor and cost around $200.00, a gig of ram was over $1000.00. Today an Intel i5 processor, which is almost 10,000 times more powerful than a 486, is about $200.00 and 4 gig of ram can be had for under $50.00.

At the same time that computer equipment has gotten cheaper and more powerful there has bee a rise in free operating systems like Linux and FreeBSD. Once a computer OS was hundreds if not thousands of dollars and it took a team of experts several weeks to install an OS. Today Linux and FreeBSD can be had for free and a computer hobbyist can install one of these in less than an hour.

Another big advance has been in networking. When the Internet was being built the standard connection was a 56 Kbits/sec line. This was between large sites. Smaller sites would be using an on demand 24 Kbits/sec dial up connection. Today the average co-location facility (a co-lo is a place where companies like Google and Apple place their servers) has a minimum of an OC-12 (600 Mbits/sec) The larger facilities will have multiple OC-192 connections to serve the co-lo. The speeds and ubuiquisness of fast connection has made the distance between data centers in Europe and North America irrelevant. What this means is that a person using a web browser in San Francisco will not see any difference, in terms of speed and latency, between a site in Chicago and one in Berlin. On the Internet national borders do not exist.

The big difference is the software. Virtually anyone who wants one can have an email address, a web-site, twitter account, a photo sharing account and an RSS feed for the asking. These resources did not exist 15 years ago. Combine these with search engines like Google and Bing and anyone who to can become a publisher and these publications can easily get the wider circulation they need. The down side to every man a publisher is every man is a publisher. Not everything on the Internet helps us. A large part is useless and there is an increasing amount of dis-information about us and our causes.

With the search engines one can find any and all points of view but this opens up opputunites for sock puppets (people pretending to be someone other than who they really are) and astro-turfing (fake grass root movements). It also allows for false flags and agents provocateurs to hijack our movements. The way out of this dilemma is for us, as a group, to collect and vet links to those web-sites, mailing lists, blogs, Internet radio stations that are truly supporting our cause and to out those sites that have been put up disrupt our movment. To that end I have started a website Redwood Empire as a start to this.

This site is a first step and it is largely disorganized but it a work in progress. One should not consider this to be the end all - be all; others, maybe you, should put up their own web-sites and link to others. Remember, an informed community is a strong community.

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