Jim Cashel Interview by Paul DiPerna | Blau Exchange

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November 19, 2006

November 19, 2006

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  • 1. Site Search Jim Cashel Interview moderated by Paul DiPerna Paul DiPerna: Jim.. you have a very interesting, diverse set of life experiences before your co-founding Forum One in 1996. Can you describe events home that might have sparked your interests in Web strategy, development, introduction and online community? themes Jim Cashel: interviews index During graduate school I was working in the Soviet Union about the time the Berlin Wall was coming down. Most people think of subscribe to email updates that event as allowing the free flow of people. What they forget is it also allowed the free flow of information -- I think Moscow had RSS for interviews about 20 international phone lines for the Cashel's Bio entire city at that point. A group started something called the Sovam Teleport, which connected San Paul's bio and projects Francisco and Moscow electronically. We then figured out how to Paul's email extend it to Ukraine. Before you knew it a country (and subsequently group of fifteen countries) that had been completely cut off was now fully wired to the Internet. It was clear that the web and online community would be very influential there -- and elsewhere. comments policy privacy policy Paul DiPerna: How have medical school and your earlier professional experiences shaped your current priorities at Forum One -- regarding the development of online collaboration? Jim Cashel: In medicine, I saw lots of examples where good service was hindered by poor communications: patients and doctors who spoke different languages, problems with medical records, even doctors with poor handwriting that would create problems. Clear and powerful communications can solve a lot of problems. The web gives us the most significant communications capabilities ever, and partly because of what I saw in medicine, I was attracted to work on web issues. Paul DiPerna: You mentioned that in the former Soviet Union you saw the opening of access channels to information, resulting in the free flow of information.. Do you have any concerns about government policies or market forces scaling back the free flow of information in the United States? Not a clear cut issue, as there are reasonable arguments on both sides. Earlier this year Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web, came out vigorously in support of "net neutrality" ... amid fears that some telecommunications companies may charge for access to certain types of Web content, or even bock websites. However on the other side, organizations such as the Cato Institute have argued against net neutrality legislation. (see report) Do you have strong views, one way or the other, about this emerging issue ? Jim Cashel: I heard Lawrence Lessig speak recently on net neutrality and confess to being very persuaded by his arguments. This is a big issue, the significance of which is lost on most policy makers. I also
  • 2. was involved in a conference panel recently discussing censorship in China, which is also a significant issue. Despite these challenges, however, there is so much more access to information now than even five years ago that I'm sure we're heading in an exciting direction. Paul DiPerna: Can you describe how things started for Forum One? Jim Cashel: "... starting a Two of my Kennedy School consulting firm classmates and I were working in at the DC in public policy organizations, intersection of seeing the emerging influence of technology and the Internet in all of our work. We'd meet periodically and have public policy." irrational thoughts about starting a consulting firm that lay at the intersection of technology and public policy. The challenge is it is really hard to go from nothing to something -- you basically need to work for six months or a year with little or no salary. That's what we decided to do, and slowly built up momentum. Paul DiPerna: Has there been a Forum One project that has been particularly rewarding to you?  If so, why? Jim Cashel: We work with a lot of organizations. What pleases me the most is when I see in the press coverage of an important organization or issue, and I know that we were involved in that organization's communications work. This holds for big groups like the World Bank or UN, but also for many smaller issue-specific organizations. Our firm will spend about 25,000 hours this year doing hard work to make the web a smarter place on important issues. Paul DiPerna: Stated on its website, the International AIDS Economic Network (IAEN) "provides data, tools and analysis on the economics of HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment in developing countries, to help developing countries devise cost-effective responses to the global epidemic". How has this project progressed over the last 13 years? With respect to its online usage, what have been.. or remain.. IAEN's biggest challenges? Jim Cashel: IAEN is an interesting example because it is a virtual organization, lying between many international groups working on global AIDS. As a virtual organization it has the advantages of speed and flexibility -- but it is a difficult model to fund. Despite very limited funding recently, the community still moves along. Paul DiPerna: How large is the IAEN online community today? Jim Cashel: It's about 10,000 policy makers in 100+ countries. Paul DiPerna: There has been an encouraging news report about the U.S. Intelligence Community launching wikis for collaboration and communications purposes, a project called Intellipedia. Any reactions to this news? Jim Cashel: My initial reaction was that this seems like a smart idea. Wikis lend themselves well to collaborative development of directories, and presumably the enormous intelligence community should be able to
  • 3. marshal impressive resources towards this. I'm skeptical about a lot of the wiki-based ideas I see, but this one sounds straightforward and probably useful. Paul DiPerna: For people who are just getting interested in online communities and the social side of the Web, do you recommend any readings, websites, or organizations that have deeply influenced you? Jim Cashel: We publish the Online Community Report site which links to some useful resources (especially the Del.icio.us feed on the site). Outside of that, I recommend mostly reading social software blogs and talking with practitioners. There are also some good books (The Wealth of Networks the best recent example) that discusses community dynamics. November 9, 2006 home | interviews index | Join the email list| RSS for interviews | Paul's email Blau Exchange, est. 2006 | Blau Exchange, All Rights Reserved 2006-2008 site design by gralmy