Lunch With Bill Loughborough

I met Bill Loughborough today. He drove into Portland and bought me lunch to encourage me (and all of us) to “keep on keeping on” because he thinks that the community wireless networking movement is vital and needs to be kept alive. He had a lot of interesting things to say about the semantic web and how it applies to accessibility and disabled people. He talked a bunch about the history of computing and the trends he sees, and has seen. A few things that stuck with me:

  • When I get frustrated with people over Personal Telco it's because there are two distinctly different visions from the members of Personal Telco. One is for a (possibly) zero-cost pervasive wireless network. One is for a free/open/public, community owned, pervasive wireless network. It's the “free/open/public and community owned” that motivates me.

    When I get into fights with people (over whether Open Source is important or the value of the adhocracy) it's because they see the decisions I make as being detrimental to the quick accomplishment of the first goal, they don't understand that what they propose detracts from what I see as the point of the whole deal. If all I wanted was a wireless network I'd just buy a GPRS phone or wait for T-Mobile/Boingo/Cometa. I don't want a monetized network, I want a community owned network. I want to build systems and practices which encourage everyone to participate in the free/open/public networks.
  • Cory Doctorow is right, the future wireless network is here, now. It's the Linksys Community network. If we keep at it, evangelising, educating and encouraging participation from all quarters, the pervasive network will arrive. We just have to make sure that people don't give up, the technology will link them all together eventually.
  • Bill said that the world is getting kinder and more compassionate. When I pointed out and said that “the world certainly seems to have been making all the wrong decisions over the last ten years”, he just laughed. He said all is in order, it's just that “we” are growing/changing/learning faster then the then rest of the world, but the rest of the world is still changing for the better. I hope I can believe that, my distopian paranoia gets me down sometimes. :-)
  • He talked about a company he worked for that was trying to make (the first?) chording keyboard. He mentioned that once you have a device which you “chord” data into, that you can also use it to read by having it raise the keys in the same patters. Reading with your fingers, this seems like a great way to escape from having to have a screen to get data out. He also said that learning to chord was hard work, but that once you knew how to do that, reading was basically a gimme.

    I imagine a small one handed chording device with data and CPU built in that sits on my belt. Inside it is a RDF repository of all my personal data with a query interface. Quietly and unobtrusively I can put my hand down and ask it a question (What is Gene's address?) and have the answer read back to me silently without interrupting a conversation or having avert my eyes from the road.

“We can't create a culture of freedom and innovation, but we can build a network which fosters its growth.” — The Wireless Commons


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