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Either my wonderful mother (who still walks among us, to my great joy) failed to check the box indicating I was a citizen on my Social Security application, or some clerk failed to do so when the data was entered because there were separate forms then for citizens and non-citizens.
The clerk who put me through this hell blamed "Homeland Security." But I think he was really responding to the reality of how this number is used.
As I've noted many times before, the Social Security Number is an index term. Everybody has one. Everyone's number is different. By indexing databases based on Social Security Numbers (SSNs), government and businesses alike can make certain there's a one-to-one correspondence between records and people.
Stories like this AP feature don't really address this need, this fact about how data is stored. Without the SSN we'd have to create one. Some companies like Acxiom do just that. Every business and individual in their database has their own unique identifier, created by the company. Which also means that the Acxiom indexing scheme is proprietary. The only way toward a non-proprietary indexing scheme, in other words, is for government to provide one. Which gets us back to the need for an SSN.
Sam Walton was devoted, first and foremost, to his employees. (That's the cover of his autobiography at right.)
He was famous for driving around the country, arriving unannounced at stores, leading employees in cheers. It was almost Japanese.
People forget today, but Wal-Mart salaries in its early days represented big raises for rural people who otherwise faced lives of poverty, absent the small luxuries city folk took for granted. Thanks to Sam Walton, Wal-Mart employees could afford to shop at Wal-Mart. He transformed America from a land of rich city-poor country to one of middle class uniformity, and if you once lived on the poorer side of that divide it made him a great man.
Henry Ford was the same way. His River Rouge plant didn't just turn out a low-cost car (the Model T) . It turned out well-paid workers who could buy those cars. Ford, too, revolutionized America, making this a nation on-the-move.
My point today is that, in both cases, there were side-effects, which demanded renewal and change. And the refusal to change just delayed these crises -- it didn't prevent them.
Hewlett-Packard is apparently ending its relationship with Apple.
When I last wrote about the company I called this relationship a key to new CEO Mark Hurd's future. Apparently this was just a re-sale agreement, and H-P's channels were pushing out only 5% of the iPods being sold. (My mistake.)
So they're dropping it. And they're blaming Carly Fiorina. (Of course.)
But I believe Apple remains the key to any possible H-P comeback. (Here's why.)
It is the central issue of our time. Information isn't what it was. But what it was isn't what you were taught it was.
Information doesn't want to be free. It wants to be translucent. (Zach's Magic Rock, courtesy of Texasarrowheads.com, is translucent.)
I have been learning about translucence in my new hobby of bread-making. You know you're done kneading when you can take a piece of dough, pull it apart with your fingers, and see light shining through it before it breaks apart.
Information is like that. It wants to be given to those who will pay for it, in a coin selected by those who hold it.
The big trend of this decade, in technology, is a move toward openness.
It started with open frequencies like 802.11. It then moved into software, with open source operating systems and applications. Now we have open source business models. The ball keeps rolling along.
Open source has proven superior in all these areas due to simple math. The more people working a problem, the better. No single organization can out-do the multitudes.
But this simple, and rather elegant, fact, is at odds with all political trends.
I believe that one of the cruelest businesses of our time are the so-called "payday loan" folks.
You see these shops in every ghetto. Victims write checks that are due to be made good when they get paid. The interest rates on these things can be as high as 100%.
Banks think that, at this rate, it's good business.
Now the business has come online through a San Diego outfit called Spotya.
When someone gets really frustrated with me, and tries to dismiss me, there's a Magic Word that sums up their feelings, isolates me, and identifies me to the like-minded.
Works like a charm.
It's the "C-bomb."
But the bottom line is simpler. Our identification system is broken.
It's no longer a question of this system or some other system. There is no system.
What that means, in real terms, if your own identity hangs by a thread, a very thin thread that can break anywhere, and leave you an un-person.
Yes, that was yours truly on NPR this morning, talking skeptically about Philadelphia's WiFi plans. Thanks for asking.
Rebecca McKimmon (left, from her blog) took a shot at Cisco's China policy recently, confirming through a spokesman that the company does indeed cooperate with the government.
This is not news. So does nearly every other U.S. tech company.
The U.S. policy is, and has been, full engagement with China. This has already hurt Cisco. Back in the 1990s one of the prices for getting into the market was to share technology. Cisco did so, and a few years later Huawei, a Chinese company, had routers and bridges very similar to Cisco's old stuff, along with most of the Asian market (thanks to lower prices).
McKimmon's point now is that
China Cisco is cooperating with the worst excesses of the China government, which is seeking to have both the world's best Internet technology and full control over what people do with it.
That is a good point, but I don't think you
don't go after Cisco to make it.
Marc Canter has posted a long response to my piece about his GoingOn Network. Filled with corrections both large, and small, as well as additional insights.
I should not be a fan of Dr. John Rutledge (left).
His economic prescriptions are unrelentingly right-wing. He's a social Darwinist, a raging bull.
But he's not an idiot. He understands money. He knows trouble when he sees it. And, on his blog this week, he sees it.
The process of China's inevitable Yuan revaluation has begun.
In a series of blog entries Rutledge ticks off what's happening.
They're both brilliant. They're both A-list bloggers. They're both rich. I've known both for about two decades.
But I think Marc has a vital Clue Joi has missed, about one of the most important trends of our time, the rise of the open source business process.
Here's why I think that.
Joi has put a lot of money into SixApart, which runs Movable Type, which powers this blog. It's good stuff. But it's being left behind because it is, at heart, proprietary. It doesn't interconnect with other software. It isn't modular, scalable, and it can only be improved by the SixApart team.
In other words, it doesn't take advantage of the open source business process, and thus there are whole new worlds it hasn't been able to scale into. It's not a Community Network Service (like Drupal), and it's not a social networking system (like MySpace).
Marc, on the other hand, has just released GoingOn. It's a new engine for digital communities, like MySpace. He launched with Tony Perkins, who will use the system as the new heart of his AlwaysOn network (no relation to my wireless network application idea of the same title).
But Marc also understands that his stuff can't be the be-all and end-all. Let him explain it:
The Bells promised to serve us broadband if we let them run over Wireless ISPs. Done. No broadband.
So they promised us broadband if we would give them absolute control over their lines, ending any requirement for wholesaling. Done. No broadband.
Then they promised us broadband if we'd stop cities from buildig out wireless networks that might compete with them. Nearly done. Still no broadband.
Now, Qwest is pushing a plan in Congress to tax your broadband access and hand it the money, promising broadband in rural areas.
It's amazing anyone would believe such hollow promises, given the history. Color Democrat Byron Dorgan and Republican Gordon Smith (both represent areas covered by Qwest) as believers. The National Journal reports the two Senators are working together on just a Qwest-subsidy bill.
Here's a quote from the National Journal article:
Aides to Smith said the bill would make money in the Universal Service Fund available so telecommunications providers could build out broadband facilities. "It would be built into the same structure, and might end up as a stand-alone fund, within the current system next to the high-cost fund," an aide said.
Here's why this is not only theft, but stupid.
NOTE: This is part of a continuing online novel. Here is the Table of Contents.
The America Diaspora is a sequel to The Chinese Century.
My attempts to convince Chief Williams we werent dealing with a CIA plot were fruitless.
That headline could have been written about me. (But let's see if I can't make it up to you right now.)
It's the oldest dodge in the blogging world. You call another reporter lazy in order to cover up the fact you haven't looked at a story.
Just how lazy is that? Click below and find out.
Amid the hullaballoo over CardSystems International, here's a little story that you missed.
Not just any bank. A special kind of bank. An industrial bank, in Utah.
No offices, no direct deposit. Mainly, they exist to handle credit cards and other consumer loans. I'm sure the terms are very favorable, because big corporations are hotter for these than Donald Trump is for endorsement dea.s GE, Merrill Lynch, American Express and Target all have them. Berkshire Hathaway is setting one up to make loans for its R.C. Willey Home Furnishings stores. (Betcha didn't even know Buffett sold furniture.)
VRWC is shorthand for "Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy."
It's something conservatives laugh at. But it's real.
UPDATE: Various people, some affiliated with this site, have been issuing comments here over the last few days. Most have been taken down. I stand by this story, the opinions expressed in it, and my opinion concerning sympathizers with these bozos.
It's the lynch mob mentality fostered by preachers, by politicians, by demagogues, a mentality used to attack Miami vote-counters, Vince Foster, Joe Wilson -- the list goes on and on.
It was also used to attack Andy Stephenson.
Stephenson was a blogger. He worked with sites like Democratic Underground and BlackBox Voting. He died this week of pancreatic cancer.
But not before teaching us all just what evil lurks in the hearts of men.
Readers of The Chinese Century know it begins with China allowing the Yuan to float against the Dollar, and then pushing the Yuan up in the market.
The first step toward that reality was taken today. (The image is from the China Daily article.)
Instead of having a fixed rate against the dollar, China will let the Dollar rate float against a "basket of currencies." So if the Dollar falls against, say, the Yen (and it did in response to this news) or the Pound (ditto) or the Euro (mega dittoes) further moves might be made.
The Optimist Club, otherwise known as Wall Street bulls, suggested this will make our exports more competitive. That would be great if we had exports. In fact, it makes imports more expensive. It imports inflation.
It also reduces China's own production costs, because oil (for now) is priced in Dollars. With fewer Yuan needed to buy Dollars, the price of oil to China goes down.
Adam Penenberg channels
IDC IDG head Pat Kenealy (left, by Jay Sandred) on another of those occasional "you're going to have to pay for Web content someday" pieces we see every so often.
Well, he's right. But he's also wrong.
He's right because there's already some Web content people do pay for. Dow Jones loses reach and influence, but does make money selling online subscriptions. Lexis-Nexis and Dialog haven't gone free with the dawn of the Web. Last time I checked iTunes was selling songs online, at a profit.
He's wrong because he insists that "micro-payment technology" will stimulate the growth of pay-for-play content. We've been hearing that one for 10 years now, and it's as wrong now as it was in 1995.
There's already a micro-payment program in place. A very successful one.
(The term Balkanize, or Balkanization, is often used in English to refer to this splitting up, which often (as in the 1990s) is accompanied by enormous violence. This picture of the Balkans as they are today is from Theodora.com.)
Think about it. How often do you use a Web site outside your own country? If you're an American, the answer is not very often. This is true for most people.
A lot more follows.
Let us now praise a famous brand, Visa.
One of the differences between card processing and many other businesses is that you're totally dependent on a few big players for survival.
Of the three big guns -- Visa, Master Card and American Express -- the first is most important. The bank association's changing requirements are generally a road map for other processors, defining necessary changes under enforced deadlines.
When Visa pulls its business from a processor, even for a little while, it's terribly destructive. When they do it permanently, and publicly, it's time to get out the resumes. When they do it alongside American Express, it's a corporate death penalty.
UPDATE: My saintly wife (that's the original St. Jennifer there to the left) notes the AmEx decision is effective at the end of August. Visa's decision becomes effective at the end of October, so you might call them the "good cop" in all this.
What I found most fascinating, however, was what was below the headline.
Monty Python used to have a running gag called the Gumbys. They would put on moustaches, shorts, place diapers on their heads, and talk sheer lunacy for effect. CORRECTION: There's an update to this piece below the fold which could make this reference even-more apt.
This guy is so Clueless that, in an age when any wingnut can practically become a millionaire by snapping his fingers, he can apparently get his stuff published only in the New York Sun, a right-wing daily with few readers, no business model, and a crappy Web site that won't let you inside its home page without giving them tons of personal information. So no link.
Instead, you'll have to read the whole thing:
Your obedient servant is featured in today's issue of G. Armour Van Horn's Quote of the Day. For those scoring at home:
The Great Race has always been between tyranny and freedom, with order as tyranny's worthy handmaiden, and crime as freedom's ugly stepsister.
That's what Rupert Murdoch has paid for him, buying his Intermix Media and its prime asset, MySpace.
Fox has never had an Internet strategy. This was partly because Murdoch wouldn't pay top dollar for Internet assets. But it was also because he has kept his Internet operations on a short leash.
By spending big to get MySpace, which has taken over the business of social networking around music in the last year, Murdoch is changing his tune.
But it doesn't matter unless DeWolfe, who launched MySpace just two years ago with Tom Anderson, has a second strategic act in him.
Since Mark Hurd left NCR to run the mess Carly Fiorina made of Hewlett-Packard in March, he has been fighting to turn the old boat around. The company turned in solid numbers in May, he hired away Dell's CIO, Randy Mott, and now he has the credibility with his board needed to prune the deadwood.
H-P has a lot of deadwood.
In buying Compaq, her signature move, Fiorina took on a lot of old, tired, even worthless brands, like DEC and Tandem. Compaq's latter-day strategy had been to buy these outfits for their book of business, and Fiorinia's deal was the apotheosis of this old-line industrial strategy. She insisted at the time there would only be a few survivors of the PC wars, and buying Compaq was the only way to make sure H-P would be one of them.
She was wrong. What works in steel does not work in tech. A book of business is worthless, because computers are short-term capital goods. It's not what you did for me, or even what you did for me lately, but what you're going to do for me tomorrow that counts.
But enough about the past.
As regular readers here know, there is no Moore's Law of Training.
Training, learning, adaptation -- call it what you will -- must happen at its own pace. This is why the productivity boom arising from the 1990s IT spending boom didn't become apparent until this decade.
But there is a way to accelerate Moore's Law of Training (which doesn't exist) -- publicity. If a good idea, an obvious use of existing technology, is heavily publicized, it can spread very, very quickly, and provide real benefits.
ICE is just such an idea.
Conservatives have long complained the press is biased against them. Lately liberals have taken up the same cry.
Now technologists have the right to call out the media as well. When an organization that claims to be totally dedicated to the search for objective truth, like the Associated Press, starts slipping bias into its tech coverage, watch out.
I first saw the story, and headline, in the Rocky Mountain News. Opera has placed BitTorrent support directly into its browser, hoping that will help it pick up market share against Firefox and Explorer.
But the headline? Piracy tool turns legit. And the text was no better. " The Opera Web browser will soon support a file-transfer tool commonly associated with online movie piracy."
Excuse me, AP, but bull-cookies. BitTorrent is not Kazaa. It's a technology. There's no business there. Blaming BitTorrent for piracy is like blaming FTP or SMTP or even HTTP for piracy, because you can move copyrighted files. You can move copyrighted content across all Internet protocols. They are value-neutral. And the head of Opera even told you why he did this -- because it enabled the rapid distribution of Opera itself and Opera wanted such a capability widely-available.
Techdirt went ape-biscuits over this, as they should have, but never considered why the AP acted as it did.
That's the title of the most "popular" spam in my inbox right now, and maybe in your inbox as well.
It represents a new form of brazenness by U.S. spammers against the Net, because when you input the phone number in the message into Google you find the same message, as comment spam, attached to a host of different topics.
When you publicize a phone number like that, and get away with it, it's pretty obvious that the authorities are simply not interested in pursuing you. The CAN-SPAM act has gone from sick joke to tissue paper, a dead letter, and the entire Internet is now under attack from American spammers.
So am I.
Hear me out.
J.K. Rowling conceived her entire series on a train. It would be seven books, matching the years spent at an English boarding school such as Eton.
Book Six was released tonight. Rowling herself appeared at Edinburgh Castle at midnight, behind a puff of smoke, to read some of it to some of her fans.
The series was conceived, however, on a train, as a growing-up story. The first book would be an 11-year old's tale told from the point of view of the 11-year old. The final book would be an entrance into adulthood, a mature book.
No one could hit that kind of timetable. It's amazing to me that the 6th book went on sale just 7 years after the first one arrived.
My daughter is a big Harry Potter fan. Harry taught her to read, despite mild dyslexia. First my wife read it to her, along with the second and third books. Then she read them herself, several times. She has grown up on Harry but she will still be grown before Harry will. So will the actors who have been portraying the title character and his friends. It's very likely the actors will have to be replaced before the seventh movie can be produced.
But there's even more to it than that.
Remember that, as Arthur C. Clarke said, "any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."
It's this that's the key to understanding what's really going on in the Harry Potter series.
I'm not trying to start a rumor here. I have no insight into whether Dave Sifry (left, from Marc Cantor's blog) has considered any offers for his Technorati site, nor how he would react if one came in.
But since Barry Diller bought Bloglines (via AskJeeves) Technorati's performance has been falling behind that of its rival.
Robert Scoble (who works for a possible acquirer, Microsoft) offers the numbers, three times as many links to Sifry's own blog from Bloglines as from his own engine.
There is a vital lesson here about the technology space:
If I had my druthers, every issue of A-Clue.Com would be chock-full of stories concerning e-commerce, Moore's Law, and mobile technology.
But as a human being, I sometimes feel compelled to state what I feel, and whatever happens as a result, happens.
For the first time in my career I've been afraid this week, afraid to write what I feel.
For people who like gaming, their games (or online environments) are their main interface to the Web. This has been true for some time, and unremarked upon.
There are other new interfaces that many people depend upon. The iTunes player can be an interface, when linked to Apple's Music Store. Any music player, or multimedia player, is a separate Web interface, which may or may not connect to a Web page at any time. People who swap files use those programs as interfaces.
The point is in many niches the Web browser has already been replaced as the main interface to the Internet. Microsoft's five-year campaign to dislodge Netscape was worthless, which may be why they're letting Firefox run off with so much market share.
And now, even readers are getting their own, separate interface, the RSS reader.
I use FeedDemon. Steve Stroh uses NetNewsWire on his Mac and calls it fabulous. This field has yet to shake out.
I have noticed some big differences occur in my work when I'm using FeedDemon instead of the browser as my interface to the Web:
Steve Stroh has more after the break:
There's a long, admiring story in today's Washington Post extolling Finland as a possible model for European development.
Finland has invested heavily in scientific research, especially since it backed a big winner during the early 1990s in Nokia. Nokia stock held by the government is one source of funds, but overall the country puts a whopping 3.6% of its income into research, well ahead of the U.S., and nearly twice as much as the European average.
The result is that, while Finland does have substantial unemployment, and the problems of an aging population threatening its ample social safety net, the 5.5 million people there are nearly as happy as those in the Monty Python song. (All together, Finnophiles!)
One respondent at the Dave Farber list expressed the view that the U.S. actually does better than the figures indicate, and that government is mostly out of the picture.
NOTE: This is part of a continuing online novel. Here is the Table of Contents.
The America Diaspora is a sequel to The Chinese Century.
All I had done was let her sleep in.
E-mail service here may experience some delays as I undergo a personal trial by spam.
In this case it's a Joe Jobber, most likely a spam gang, that has grabbed both my e-mail address and my server's IP address to illegally sell prescription drugs without prescription.
For the last few days I've been firing off myriad alerts to firstname.lastname@example.org, the government's address dedicated to fighting fraudulent spam, with no response.
A domain registrar called Yesnic is apparently cooperating with this spam gang. They're the registrar of record on every Joe Job in this bunch. Most of the registrations, on investigation by me, seem to be made-up, but two carry the actual name, and a legal address, fo someone in Columbia, SC. This criminal should be easy to find if someone is interested.
Meanwhile, we learned today that the most popular anti-spam technique, like the so-called CAN SPAM Act that enables spam in the U.S., is in fact becoming a spammer favorite.
CBS has decided to do a Web log.
It sounds stupid, but isnt necessarily. The Public Eye will be written by Vaughan Ververs, formerly editor of The Hotline, which has been drawing crowds of paying customers for The National Journal since 1992.
In its earliest incarnation the Hotline made Mike McCurry a star. McCurry was then the spokesman for candidate Bruce Babbitt, and his missives there gave Babbitt a boomlet. Later he was a Clinton press secretary. The point is there's a history of online financial success here.
The point is that Ververs, rightly or wrongly, is being given credit for some long-term success, and told to duplicate it on a larger stage, just as local anchors are often given the network gig and expected to produce big numbers.
Bernard Ebbers drew a 25-year jail term for his role in the Worldcom scandal. It's like the line from the NBC show Law & Order, in which an aging bad guy (Ebbers is 63) gets that sentence. "I can't do 25," he says. "Do as many as you can," is the reply.
When four bombs went off in London during the G-8 summit my first thought (like yours) was Al Qaeda.
I didn't blog it. I'm glad of that now.
It turns out, according to British police, that the four suicidie bombers here were British citizens, natives. Three from Leeds, one from Luton. True, their parents were Pakistani immigrants, but the people who carried this out were local. The British police, who have done wonderful work on the case so far, are now trying to find out who put them up to this.
Again, let's not pre-judge. This might be an Al Qaeda "sleeper cell." But they could have been working under a British-based Islamic radical. Their targets may not have been Englishmen, but Muslims, since all four bombs went off in areas where many Muslims live.
I don't know. Neither do you. Let the system work.
But the face of this attack is looking less like Osama Bin Laden....
A reporter can make a good living just covering Microsoft.
This is not a good thing.
One fact that attracted me to technology journalism in the first place was its social mobility. I often write about companies I call "Clueless" and find they have disappeared practically before I can get the piece into digital print. Those that are "Clued-in" can also fall quickly, corporate management in this space being much like tightrope walking.
Intense competition makes for rapid evolution. Call this Dana's First Law of Competition. Markets in India and China are intensely competitive. You can't let your guard down for an instant. This is a very good thing.
It's not what human nature wants, of course. As people we want to relax, to enjoy our lives, to set the competition aside sometimes so we can, say, raise our families, get more education, or retire with dignity.
Both Microsoft and the government had opportunities to prevent this, to re-ignite competition. They chose not to take these opportunities.
Bill Gates had one vision for Microsoft, but the company has gone beyond it. He was wise to pass the baton to his majordomo, Steve Ballmer. Ballmer is all sales, all the time, a whirling picture of aggression. (He's also, admittedly, what we call on this blog a Truly Handsome Man (grass don't grow on a busy street) but looks ain't everything.)
Ballmer's vision isn't really about technology. It's about exploiting advantages and making money.
So at Microsoft's recent Worldwide Partner Conference in Minneapolis (Minneapolis?) we got headlines like these:
This is just one corner of the news Microsoft made last week.
Joi's point is that the Internet split has already begun, and it is based on language. Chinese and Japanese people don't care for English. People want URLs in their own language. And these URLs are unreachable by those whose keyboards only write what the Japanese call "Romaji," Roman letters.
"Why should these people be forced to learn some sort of roman transliteration in order to access the company page where they know the official Chinese characters for the names" he writes. (This is a very short excerpt. I urge you to read the whole post -- it is very wise.)
The peculiarities of language provide an excellent source of control for tyranny. Most Chinese don't leave the Chinese Internet, leaving them at the mercy of the authorities. Many Japanese choose not to leave their own language, leaving them ignorant of how others feel.
Language can also provide cover for terrorists. We can't translate all the Arabic-language e-mail or Web sites out there. We can't even find the URLs, unless we know how to look for them. So many of our problems in the War on Terror are exacerbated by a shortage of translators, or mis-translations. This problem continues to get worse.
There's more, of course.
The papers are full today with stories about "citizen journalists." (That's Will Ferrell as Anchorman Ron Burgundy to the left.)
All these stories convey a common misconception. They assume this is a trend, and they assume that mainstream media will be able to dominate this new field.
Both assumptions are wrong.
In many ways this is a fad. It's a fad because, as camera phones proliferate, the volume of such pictures available is just going to become overwhelming. Making sense of what's out there, and getting rights to the good stuff, are going to be keys to success.
Also there is nothing really new here. Cable shows have been taking calls from individuals at news sites for decades. Talk radio is all about the callers. What's new here are the means the the medium, not the phenomenon.
But there's a more important point being missed in all the self-congratulation:
The search for online business models is a continuing fascination of mine at A-Clue.Com.
You may have great merchandise, you may have great service, you may have a nifty shopping cart. But if you can't bring the values of your shop floor to your Web site, you won't succeed online. Over time you may not succeed offline either.
An editorial mission replicates the value of your store online. What is your Unique Selling Proposition (USP)? For Amazon it's a database, a huge variety of merchandise. Works for Amazon, works for Wal-Mart, but it won't work for you.
In fact, Wal-Mart's failures online can be attributed to this editorial mission failure. They were unable to replicate the values of a real Wal-Mart in their online efforts. While the store looks a jumble, regular shoppers know you can actually get what you want there fairly quickly. What they should have enabled was a form of "shopping lists" that people could print-and-use at home, adapting to their own needs, then input regularly on the site, along with a delivery service.
The difference between editorial values and commercial values is that the one defines what you are, and the other puts your name in mind. If branding is to be worthwhile you must deliver the values the brand promises. That is exactly how editors think, too. What you call your reputation they call credibility.
When the tornado warning sounded near my home last night I found I couldn't get a view of what might come through the trees.
I have elm trees, oak trees, dogwood trees, sweet gum and a huge sugar magnolia, one of the few trees that has survived the age of the dinosaurs.
It's a 50 x 100 lot.
I believe there is a truth in any situation, which can be found through investigation.
This should not be controversial. But Ive learned that it is.
The blogosphere's quick reaction to the London strikes was driven in large part by the mass market in camera phones and video phones.
Within minutes of the bombs going off pictures and short videos began appearing online. In many the smoke from the blasts was clearly visible. Cameras worked even where phone functionality was absent, and images could be sent as soon as connections returned.
A second notable fact was the willingness, especially at the BBC, to get this footage up quickly. One amateur picture, of a double-decker bus with its top end ripped off, was the site's feature picture for most of the day. (That's the picture, above, from the BBC Web site.)
Americans pay more for less broadband service than citizens of any other industrial country, and our take-up rate for fast Internet service is approaching Third World levels.
The reason? Lack of competition. Phone and cable networks, created under government control, have been made the private monopolies of corporate interests whose lobbyists dominate all capitals against the public interest.
Does new FCC chairman Kevin Martin see any of this? No. Just the opposite, in fact.
The Supreme Court affirmed the FCC's decision to refrain from regulating cable companies' provision of broadband services. This was an important victory for broadband providers and consumers. Cable companies will continue to have incentives to invest in broadband networks without fear of having to provide their rivals access at unfair discounts. The decision also paves the way for the FCC to place telephone companies on equal footing with cable providers. We can now move forward and remove the legacy regulation that reduces telephone companies' incentives to provide broadband.
This is Orwell's FCC. Monopoly is called competition. Martin claims there is intense competition from Wireless ISPs and satellite providers, when in fact those companies are being driven out of the market. The vast majority of consumers and businesses today have just two choices for broadband -- their local phone monopoly and local cable monopoly, who together enjoy a duopoly and monopoly profits that lets them write-down their 30-year property in a world best served by three-year write-offs.
There's more spin after the break.
NOTE: That's the royal crown magnolia from mytho-fleurs.com. Like it? It's yours.
A long evening spent reading Lasica's book brought the title to me: King of Irony.
Remember, this is a book. Thus it is subject both to a book's business model and its rights regime.
Want a copy? $25.95 plus tax and (if you buy it online) shipping get it for you. Or wait for it to appear at your local library. Or borrow one from a friend, free. Or wait some months for it to appear in a discount bin, or a remainder lot, or a garage sale. The price you pay is a function is a function of the time you're willing to wait for it.
What can you do with this book? I typed an excerpt today by hand. The length of the excerpt, again, is a function of time, and the cost of my time to produce it, unless I want to string it out a page or two. In that case, technology might be deployed -- a scanner -- plus a few minutes with the scanner's OCR software, some cutting-and-pasting, and voila!
Want to steal some more? Production costs are going to get you. A Xerography process may give you a bound book for just a few dollars, if your order is small. An offset process costs less per book, but the order in that case must be bigger. I guarantee the printer will want to know you're a Wiley fella (or lady) before they take the order.
And we haven't even cracked the cover yet. Easy to see where Lasica's crown comes from.
In all the hoohoorah about Disney re-selling Sprint service to kids, did anyone mention its ESPN unit did the same thing just a few months ago? Or that the key terms here are Sprint and re-sale, not kids and Disney?
The blasts that hit central London today struck a city with vast experience in dealing with terror, its aftermath, and the issues underneath it.
It also represented the first time that the blogosphere actually gave better coverage to a major event than any news organization.
London suffered a decades-long IRA bombing campaign which killed hundreds. It was able to bring many bombers to justice, and discredit their cause in the eyes of their Irish-American sponsors, before finally reaching a political settlement which, while tenuous and setback-filled, is still an ongoing process.
Each time an event like this happens, moreover, we learn more about what citizens can do to cover it, and how media can adapt to citizen journalism.
The picture above, for instance, was taken by commuter Keith Tagg and quickly posted to photo-blogging sites like Picturephone. It's not a great picture, it's certainly not professional, but it does catch the immediacy of an eyewitness. That's probably why the BBC quickly adapted it in its own photo coverage, adding a second photo of commuters moving along the tracks from Alexander Chadwick.
The BBC Online site in general scored high marks for innovation and audience participation, teaching the important lesson that most people don't want to be journalists, but to be heard, and that those who listen will win their loyalty.
David Stephenson, looking to increase his exposure as a security expert, quickly linked to several important documents, including the London Strategic Emergency Plan, which guides the city's response to such events. (Does your city have one? Great follow-up story.) And John Robb offered the real low-down on all this at Global Guerillas.
Prime Minister Tony Blair also needs to be singled out here. He understands that, in a time of crisis like this, the head of government becomes, in essence, a mayor, and needs to act like one. He left the G8 Summit but didn't cancel it, quickly convening a meeting of his emergency committee, dubbed Cobra. (The Brits are much better at naming things than Americans.)
A blog called Geepster quickly linked the blast sites to Google Maps, using their API to deliver an excellent map and RSS news feed within a few hours of the event. Flickr created a quick pool of London blast photos.
Overall the blogosphere coverage of this act was an Internet year (at least) ahead of what we saw during the winter's tsunami, let alone the Madrid 3-11 blasts of 2003. The fact this happened in London had something to do with it. So did advances in blogging technology.
The question, of course, is what can we learn from this?
Given the direction of antitrust law recently I was surprised to see the recent suits by AMD and (more recently) Broadcom. They left me scratching my head.
But there is an answer to my quandary.
Antitrust has become a process. It's not a goal, but a weapon in the business war.
The idea that Qualcomm has a monopoly in the mobile phone industry is laughable. It may abuse what position it has, charging chip makers like Broadcom the equivalent of an "intellectual property tax" in areas which use CDMA (and its variants). But GSM is the major world standard. It would be like calling the Apple Macintosh a monopoly.
The Broadcom antitrust suit comes right after it filed a patent suit against Qualcomm, accusing it of violating Broadcom patents regarding delivery of content to mobile phones.
The first shot didn't open up the Qualcomm ship, maybe the second will. All lawyers on deck!
NOTE: This is part of a continuing online novel. Here is the Table of Contents.
The America Diaspora is a sequel to The Chinese Century.
I was Joe Jobbed again this weekend.
The Joe Job was named for its original victim, a man named Joe Doll of Joes.Com. It means your e-mail address is forged as the "from" address for a spam e-mailing, and you get the bounces.
Sourceforge has an excellent discussion of all this, and reasons why many solutions from individuals don't work, here. The illustration is taken from that discussion. It shows how a "challenge-response" system used by an individual actually increases the cost of spam to everyone.
Today I want to describe the first part of killing this hassle for innocent users, which falls especially hard on those, like me, who have long-lived e-mail addresses and a history of writing against spam.
Don't like fiction? I understand.
But you still need your summer reading. The season is upon us.
So might I offer you the latest from my new friend J.D. Lasica, Darknet
I've been covering the Copyright Wars for nearly a decade, and wish I had looked up from the day-to-day to try something like this book. Its subtitle is Hollywood's War Against the Digital Generation, and it covers a ton of ground.
If you're not familiar with the digital underground, or what digital editing is capable of, then Lasica's book will be a revelation to you. Even for old hands like me it's good sometimes to get it all down so you can ponder it as a whole.
Harry Turtledove is now advertised as the King of Alternate History. No argument.
Despite my criticism, Orson Scott Card reigns as the King of Morality-based Sci-Fi. (He can have either title, or both.)
But one man rises above all, and that man is Larry Niven, the King of Collaboration.
Niven, who made his own name with Ringworld, has since made a career out of collaborating with other people, and in every case the whole was greater than the sum of the parts. His strength is technical detail, but especially when he's working with someone else he manages, somehow, to humanize every character, and take the rough edges off his collaborator.
You can do worse than spend this summer with Larry Niven and Co. Following is a short course. Note that it's not exhaustive. The man types fast.
That's a career for some people. For your Niven collaboration course, it's just an appetizer. Click below for more.
The U.S. government has announced it will continue to control the DNS root structure, indefinitely.
Is this how the Internet War starts?
Until today the U.S. position was that it wanted to transition control of the root over to ICANN, a private entity, and several extensions were given.
Earlier this year, ICANN hesitated in extending Verisign's control of the .Net registry, following the SiteFinder scandal, where Verisign redirected "page not found" errors to a site it controlled (and sold ads against). Control was finally given, through 2011, but Verisign's ethical attitudes have not changed. As we noted earlier this week, it is Verisign that is behind the Crazy Frog Scandal.
Some felt that ICANN caved under U.S. government pressure. What you have here is assurance that such pressure will continue to be effective, and on behalf of a very corrupt company. If that is not seen as a provocation by the ITU I will be very surprised.
So how can that result in Internet War?
The problem, as former ICANN board member Karl Auerbach noted to Dave Farber's list today, "the only reason that the NTIA root zone is 'authoritative' is because a lot of people adhere to it voluntarily." Security expert Richard Forno (top) noted, to the same list, that "the timing is weird, coming as it does only a short time before the forthcoming meeting of the UN-sponsored World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS)."
I would assert that the timing is not weird at all. The U.S. government has told the U.N. that it can shove any thoughts of international control over the DNS where the sun don't shine. It has, in effect, thrown down a gauntlet and dared the international community to challenge it.
More after the break.