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Neutrality in different contexts

Sunday, May 17, 2009 by Dave Winer.

A picture named justice.gif1. In our world we call it net neutrality. It means that all packets are treated equally on the Internet. Permalink to this paragraph

2. Among journos, it's the distinction betw editorial and publishing functions, what's often referred to as a Chinese WallPermalink to this paragraph

In the tech press, back when there was such a thing, they'd sometimes send an ad sales person to visit along with the editor in chief. The editor excuses himself to go to the bathroom, the sales guy says "If you buy an ad he'll review the product." Even if they don't come out and say it, it's often understood. It also becomes obvious to the readers that this is going on, so they stop believing the reviews. It's likely it happens in areas businesses, like movie reviews. Permalink to this paragraph

3. In government, it's the separation of church and state. This is one of the ways freedom of religion is guaranteed. If there was a state religion, one which was part of the government, people of different faiths, or ones who don't practice any religion, would have less rights. When someone says the US is a "Christian nation" they're saying they don't believe in this separation.  Permalink to this paragraph

4. At Microsoft they claimed to keep the systems and apps divisions separate. This became a farce when they claimed that the web browser was part of the system software, when it was clearly an app. This is how they justified their plan to suck the web into Windows. Permalink to this paragraph

A picture named dropdead.gif5. You don't want your Internet Service Provider to also provide your cable TV because they might screw around with BitTorrent to keep you from getting your entertainment on the net, protecting their revenue from cable TV. So they make a promise to keep the two functions separate, and there's a scandal every time they fail to. Permalink to this paragraph

6. With Google it means that the search engineers don't talk to the advertising people about fine-tuning their algorithms so the biggest customers get the best results. It's because we believe that Google doesn't screw around that we trust their search. Permalink to this paragraph

7. I feel very strongly that this kind of neutrality should be the rule on Twitter, and I also know that it's not the rule. They make no attempt to separate operational and editorial functions. In a way this is very honest of them, but it's also long-term going to be bad for business, as people they don't favor look for other outlets for their creative work. Permalink to this paragraph

8. Halliburton got some sweet deals from the Bush Administration because the VP was their CEO until he became VP. Did the VP ever explicitly tell DoD employees to favor Halliburton? He didn't have to, the theory goes, everyone knew where he came from.  Permalink to this paragraph

This idea that you should keep certain functions separate from others permeates all human activities. It's so important we should have a theory for it, and a name that applies everywhere, so when a new thing comes along, no one need debate whether such separation is necessary or good. Unless somehow humans reinvented human nature, it's always both necessary and good. Permalink to this paragraph

This is something I hope to discuss with Jay in this evening's Rebooting The News podcast. Permalink to this paragraph

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A picture named dave.jpgDave Winer, 54, pioneered the development of weblogs, syndication (RSS), podcasting, outlining, and web content management software; former contributing editor at Wired Magazine, research fellow at Harvard Law School, entrepreneur, and investor in web media companies. A native New Yorker, he received a Master's in Computer Science from the University of Wisconsin, a Bachelor's in Mathematics from Tulane University and currently lives in Berkeley, California.

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