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Exploring the science and magic of Identity and Access Management
Friday, July 19, 2024

Benjamin Franklin – Electricity and Freedom!

Freedom, History
Author: Mark Dixon
Friday, June 10, 2016
1:54 pm

Today, June 10, 2016, is the 264th anniversary of Benjamin Franklin’s electrifying experience of flying a kite in a thunderstorm and capturing a lightning strike in a Leyden Jar.  He is fortunate that he wasn’t killed!


Franklin’s fascination with electricity is the one of the reasons he is a personal hero to me. I share his interest in electricity, but I was able to learn about it in safer environment.

Another, more significant reason Benjamin Franklin is a hero to me was his commitment to the cause of Freedom.  He is the only one of the Founding Fathers who signed all four documents fundamental to the creation of the U.S.: the Declaration of Independence (1776), the Treaty of Alliance with France (1778), the Treaty of Paris (1783), which established peace with Great Britain, and the U.S. Constitution (1787).

A print of one of my favorite paintings by Del Parson hangs in our living room. Entitled “The Old Man Wept,” it depicts Benjamin Franklin shedding a tear as he signs the Constitution of the United States.


Thank you, Mr. Franklin!

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Collective Intelligence and Global Democracy

Author: Mark Dixon
Wednesday, August 17, 2011
4:26 am

I was intrigued with the following two tweets that appeared in my Twitter stream this morning, only three tweets apart in the stream:

From @newsbrooke: RT @johnmitchinson: ‘We could be on the cusp of a whole new global democracy” Another must read from @newsbrooke: bit.ly/mSXx0k

From @gartner_inc: Creativity, Social Exchange, & Collective Intelligence will Make the Future Better than past. gtnr.it/omppJE #GartnerPCC Summit.

The first referenced Heather Brooke, who spoke about the role of social media in the UK riots

There are always going to be new ways to communicate and a democratic society shouldn’t be afraid of that. That was the whole purpose of the First Amendment [to the US Constitution]. Free communication was never the enemy, it was the liberator. …

We could be on the cusp of a whole new global democracy, where individuals have incredible power or we  could become a global totalitarian society where all of us are under surveillance at all times.

The second tweet references a speech to be given by Matt Ridley at the Gartner Portals, Content & Collaboration Summit on September 21, 2011:

Matt Ridley argues that for most people in the world, the future is going to be inexorably better than the past for the following reasons. 1. Despite recessions and wars, human society has been getting wealthier, healthier, happier, cleverer, cleaner, freer, kinder, more peaceful and more equal. 2. Though we repeatedly expect this improvement to cease, yet it keeps defying the pessimists. 3. There is a reason that this happens – through exchange and specialization, a process that allows us to work efficiently for each other in an increasingly interdependent way that creates a sort of collective intelligence.

The two phrases that caught my attention were “global democracy” and “collective intelligence”.  I agree with Ms. Brooke that social networking does enhance the democratic voice of the people, and can be a powerful influence against totalitarianism.  The same phenomenon will contribute to our collective intelligence as we share ideas.   The challenge and opportunity is to sort through all the noise and ultimately find truth.

Back in 1995, following the advice of Stephen R. Covey, I established a personal mission statement.  One line in that statement is “Enhance Human Freedom through Global Electronic Communications.”  I like to think that my small participation in social media will indeed contribute to human freedom through sharing ideas in the ever-expanding network of people interconnected with global electronic communications.

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Signers of the Declaration, I Salute You!

Author: Mark Dixon
Monday, July 4, 2011
8:12 am

Today we celebrate the crowning event of that fateful July 4th, 1776, when a group of men with vision and faith, courage and fortitude, had the temerity to officially accept the principles of a sacred document, the Declaration of Independence, that marked the birth of our great nation:

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

It took great courage to declare independence from a sovereign power. There were many in the Colonies who did not agree. But the brave Founders were fueled with passion, grounded in determination, and sustained with an abiding faith that the cause they supported was in accordance with God’s will.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights,[70] that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. …

And so, probably not fully realizing the grandeur of the moment, these great men pledged their all in support of the equality of man and freedom of the soul.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

Today, dear founding fathers, I salute you, and from the bottom of my heart, I thank you. May the God in Heaven bless your sacred memory.

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Happy Memorial Day – God Bless the USA!

Author: Mark Dixon
Monday, May 30, 2011
12:48 pm

A neighbor friend of mine, Keith Ferrin, a retired US Air Force fighter pilot and flight instructor, surprised me last week by dropping by our home to give me this wonderful wood carving.  He made this 8-inch diameter beauty by hand, using a scroll saw.   This shall always be a treasured reminder of the ultimate sacrifice of those who died in defense of liberty, and of those who lived and serve in defense of liberty today.

Thank you Keith!  Thanks to all of you who died and live in defense of freedom.

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Stars and Stripes Honor Flight – Honoring WWII Veterans

Author: Mark Dixon
Saturday, May 14, 2011
4:29 am

Please join me in saluting the veterans of World War II. My dad and dad-in-law are but two member of this extraordinary group of brave individuals. They both celebrate their 87th birthdays this year. I take my hat off to them and all those who served with them in defense of our freedom.

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Tim Berners-Lee: Open Standards and Net Neutrality

Author: Mark Dixon
Monday, November 22, 2010
6:51 pm

Scientific American MagazineIn his provocative Scientific American article entitled, “Long Live the Web: A Call for Continued Open Standards and Neutrality,” Tim Berners-Lee concludes, “The Web is critical not merely to the digital revolution but to our continued prosperity—and even our liberty. Like democracy itself, it needs defending.”

I don’t agree with all Tim says in the article, but enjoyed reading the article and considering what he had to say.

Some of my favorite excerpts:

The Web as we know it, however, is being threatened in different ways. Some of its most successful inhabitants have begun to chip away at its principles. Large social-networking sites are walling off information posted by their users from the rest of the Web. Wireless Internet providers are being tempted to slow traffic to sites with which they have not made deals. Governments—totalitarian and democratic alike—are monitoring people’s online habits, endangering important human rights.

It was the subject of “threat” that caught my eye first. I know that government regulation is a threat, but how does Facebook threaten the Web?

Social-networking sites present a different kind of problem. Facebook, LinkedIn, Friendster and others typically provide value by capturing information as you enter it: your birthday, your e-mail address, your likes, and links indicating who is friends with whom and who is in which photograph. The sites assemble these bits of data into brilliant databases and reuse the information to provide value-added service—but only within their sites. Once you enter your data into one of these services, you cannot easily use them on another site. Each site is a silo, walled off from the others. Yes, your site’s pages are on the Web, but your data are not. You can access a Web page about a list of people you have created in one site, but you cannot send that list, or items from it, to another site.

So what?  Why is that a problem?

Because the Web is yours. It is a public resource on which you, your business, your community and your government depend. The Web is also vital to democracy, a communications channel that makes possible a continuous worldwide conversation. The Web is now more critical to free speech than any other medium. It brings principles established in the U.S. Constitution, the British Magna Carta and other important documents into the network age: freedom from being snooped on, filtered, censored and disconnected.

I like the focus on personal freedom.  I do believe that governments have difficulty oppressing their citizens if the right to communicate openly is assured – a philosophy the Web supports – if remains an open, easily accessible medium of information interchange.

Speaking of open-ness and closed-ness:

Open standards also foster serendipitous creation: someone may use them in ways no one imagined. We discover that on the Web every day.

In contrast, not using open standards creates closed worlds. Apple’s iTunes system, for example, identifies songs and videos using URIs that are open. But instead of “http:” the addresses begin with “itunes:,” which is proprietary. You can access an “itunes:” link only using Apple’s proprietary iTunes program. You can’t make a link to any information in the iTunes world—a song or information about a band. You can’t send that link to someone else to see. You are no longer on the Web. The iTunes world is centralized and walled off. You are trapped in a single store, rather than being on the open marketplace. For all the store’s wonderful features, its evolution is limited to what one company thinks up.

So what about net neutrality?

A neutral communications medium is the basis of a fair, competitive market economy, of democracy, and of science. Debate has risen again in the past year about whether government legislation is needed to protect net neutrality. It is. Although the Internet and Web generally thrive on lack of regulation, some basic values have to be legally preserved.

This is an area where I may differ a bit with Tim.  It seems to me that we could have an Internet with different classes of service with different price tags, just like we have an automobile industry with different levels of luxury in the cars we buy.  It certainly is a timely topic and Tim’s comments are definitely worth reading.

One area where my thought’s converge closely with Tim’s are in governments’ violation of due process of law …

Totalitarian governments aren’t the only ones violating the network rights of their citizens. …

In these cases, no due process of law protects people before they are disconnected or their sites are blocked. Given the many ways the Web is crucial to our lives and our work, disconnection is a form of deprivation of liberty. Looking back to the Magna Carta, we should perhaps now affirm: “No person or organization shall be deprived of the ability to connect to others without due process of law and the presumption of innocence.”

All in all, a great article by a giant in our industry.  Thanks, Tim, for taking the time to write it.

About the Author:

Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web. Today he is director of the international World Wide Web Consortium, based in the U.S. at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He is also a professor of engineering at M.I.T. and a professor of electronics and computer science at the University of Southampton in England.

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Will the Government Micromanage Online Privacy?

Author: Mark Dixon
Saturday, November 20, 2010
3:20 am

I currently publish two blogs: “Discovering Identity” (this one) and “I Love Freedom.”  Usually, the information I publish on these blogs doesn’t overlap, but this subject certainly does, and is posted on both sites.

Thanks to an acquaintance, Jane Grafton, I recently read two opposing views on the subject of federal government regulations of privacy:

An LA Times article, Privacy and the Web, concluded:

Although Washington shouldn’t try to micromanage the Net, it should make clear that websites have a duty to help users manage their personal information effectively, giving them the chance to understand the tradeoffs they’re making and to choose wisely.

Phil Lieberman of Lieberman Software responded in his post, “Internet Privacy Is No Place for Government Regulations”:

Attempts by the federal government to constrain the collection of data, and the ability to tailor offers based on this data, is a case of the government meddling in areas where it has no place.  Interference with the free market serves only to punish those companies that know how to efficiently mine their data and so is the worst form of government interference with the free market.

I’m all for privacy and opt-in/opt-out options. However I feel it does little good to cripple those companies who are good at business for the purpose of expanding the nanny-state. Any decision to overreach with privacy controls will also provide a bounty for greedy and litigious attorneys looking for fresh kills on the Internet.

What do you think? 

Although the LA Times article mildly asks the federal government not to “micromanage the Net,” history has that government has the propensity to always micromanage everything it touches.  How’s that for a cynical view?

If I believe the most effective way to deal with this issue would be for private industry to self-regulate. In much the same that PCI DSS has become an effective industry-driven regulation of the credit card industry, perhaps we need an “Online Privacy Standard” developed and enforced by the online industry itself. 

Otherwise, if such industry self-regulation doesn’t happen, given the current mood in Congress, I think federal government regulation of online privacy is a foregone conclusion (more cynicism).

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Flying the Friendly Skies of Uzbekistan Airways

Author: Mark Dixon
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
9:17 pm

Note: originally published on ILoveFreedom.com.


Have you ever visited Uzbekistan?  Me neither.

I may never go if I need to rely on the Uzbeki (is that a word?) national airline, whose billboard ad wishes us “Good Luck” as an airliner disappears into a dense cloud with apparent snowy weather ahead.


Thanks to The International Business Edge for pointing out this fun example of a somewhat misguided effort at language translation.

By coincidence, I stumbled today across a second encouraging article about this fine country.  The Kansas City FBI office reported today that “an Uzbekistan national pleaded guilty in federal court today to his role in a criminal enterprise involving illegal aliens working in 14 states, including employees at hotels in the Kansas City, Missouri area and in Branson, Missouri.”

Maybe this fellow and his cohorts were so scared by the prospect of the flying Uzbekistan Airlines that they came to the United States and took up smuggling illegal aliens instead.

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