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One good thing about covering space is that it puts what's happening to this Big Blue Marble into proper perspective.
See if you don't agree:
Yesterday, for the first day since Katrina, the city of Atlanta seemed to return to normal.
The traffic jams were back. The parking lots at the Tucker Wal-Mart (pictured) and Target were full. I even overheard customers chatting amiably about good things happening in their lives, and laughing.
But the New Normal is a mirage. Its not real. Its made possible by Governor Perdues short-term cancellation of the states gas tax, and by the Administrations decision to go back to dirty gas and suspend EPA rules.
The gas tax is going back up, next week. And gas prices are headed higher, much higher.
Back in 1985, you would have spent big money to get an Intel 386 chip, with over 100 Megabytes of storage, and a local network that ran as fast as 1 megabits per second.
I know I didn't have one. The closest I saw to one that year was an entrepreneur 10 miles north of me who had a Digital Equipment PDP-8 minicomputer in his office.
Yet that is just what you see in the picture to the right:
George W. Bush's Bridge to the 19th Century has deposited us in 1881, in the era of the Spoils System.
The spoils system was instituted by Democratic President Andrew Jackson. "To the victor goes the spoils" meant that every government job belonged to the party in power. Postmasters, and port managers (big jobs in those days) were all political hacks.
The movement against the spoils system was led by a Republican named James A. Garfield. He was elected President in 1880 alongside a representative of that system, Chester Alan Arthur, former port commissioner for New York. He wasn't a perfect vessel for reform, but he moved in that direction.
The picture illustrates what happened next. Garfield was shot, killed, by Charles J. Guiteau, a "frustrated office seeker," in other words, a party hack who was upset that Garfield wanted to bring competence to government. (Guiteau, in fact had visions of becoming Ambassador to France.)
I think nearly all Americans can now agree that the biggest mistake made after 9-11 was avoiding a call to sacrifice.
(Picture from the BBC.)
My generation has never been "in" to sacrifice. It was our parents' thing. They went hungry during the Depression, they risked their lives during World War II, and then they stayed together, working hard, so that their kids (us) would have "everything."
Which we do. Our lives are very comfortable. Most Americans have cars, and TVs, and air conditioning, and healthy food in our refrigerators whenever we want it. We can take vacations. We can get fat. Then we can pay to have the fat stripped away and get fat again.
Maybe that's the real Vietnam syndrome. Those of my generation who felt the call to sacrifice as young people died in rice paddies, or had their dreams shot away. Frankly it doesn't matter why anymore. No matter what side you took in that war, get over it. We're in a different era.
These days sacrifice must be forced on us. And for many this week it has been.
NOTE: I have been, and will be, criticized for "politicizing" the naton's worst-ever natural disaster. But knowing how something happened, what made it worse, how it can be made better and how it might be prevented is the only way I know to make sense of things which are otherwise beyond comprehension. My prayers to all.
Everyone knows 9/11 was a turning point. (Picture from Tales from the Teapot.)
It changed attitudes irrevocably, in ways we're still trying to deal with four years on.
Hurricane Katrina is another turning point, a different turning point, and a much, much bigger event.
The terrorists destroyed two buildings, and the center of a city. Katrina destroyed multiple cities -- Slidell, Gulfport, Biloxi, New Orleans.
We knew after 9/11 it could happen again. Know this after Katrina. It WILL happen again, and again, and again.
The civilizing process of the 20th century, with its oil-driven economy, is now driving the global environment off a cliff. Most of the world knew this before Katrina. Now even Mississippi knows this.
And this will change us.
One of the most maddening aspects of the Katrina coverage, for me, has been MSNBC's continued emphasis on the Casinos as the engines of the Gulf Coast economy. We drive through that area every vacation, and I have taken to calling Mississippi "Pottersville," the town Bedford Falls became in the nighbmare sequence of "It's a Wonderful Life." And Louisiana has made itself into West Pottersville.
I'm not talking about sin here. I'm talking about depending on something that's artificial, fake, phony, as the basis of an economy. Pretending that you'll get rich off others' sin, that the residue won't touch you, and you can then say "screw you" to the needs of the poor, to education, to your fellow man, to the real world, that always fails in time.
It is time for an attitude adjustment.
That's the day the new bankruptcy law kicks-in, and credit card banks get hit by a double-whammy of their own creation. (Illustration is from Howstuffworks.) Be careful of what you ask for, because you just might get it:
How can this be bad for banks, who after all pushed for the legislation?
This week's issue of my free weekly newsletter, A-Clue.Com, dealt with politics. (Subscribe here.) That's why the jump is so high up. Those who don't like politics, or who don't like me blogging about it, should be forced to see as little of it as possible.
But there are things I have to get off my chest.
Political generations end when a crisis emerges that they can't answer for. Then new values emerge, new myths are told, and a new generation takes power. Gradually the new formulation replaces the old until its alliances become second nature.
Cindy Sheehan has been able to demonstrate just how naked the Emperor is, and thus demonstrate the lie of Empire.
This is how Democrats felt forced to respond, because they'd been stuck into a political wilderness for a generation by Vietnam. They were afraid to equate Iraq with Vietnam, fearing that political wilderness, and its chains, which bound liberalism and the cause of human rights for a generation.
Well, Cindy Sheehan broke through that fear. She lost her son. It transformed her. (It didn't transform her husband , but everyone's journey is different.)
By putting that transformation in our face, and in the face of George W. Bush, Cindy Sheehan is also making a change in us. Damn the past, damn the present, our kids are dying. Scales fall from the eyes.
There is no way at this point for the Emperor to appear clothed again, and his supporters know it.
That's why they're acting as they are toward Sheehan. It's like the crowd in the story, at first. Of course the Emperor's New Clothes are beautiful. You're just a stupid little boy. You just can't see the big picture.
Stupid. Little. Boy.
Stupid Little Boy, says Cindy Sheehan? Look at him, look at the Little Boy. Look at Casey. You call him Stupid, you call me Stupid?
Maybe we were. We were stupid because we believed in you. And look at what it's gotten us. My son is dead! And this is no fairy tale.
People often ask me what's wrong with journalism.
The answer comes down to one word -- arrogance. Even junior members of the trade think they're in a profession, whose job it is to rule on what's true and what's not, all decisions final.
Take William Beutler of The National Journal, for instance. Beutler just got a pretty amazing gig. As editor of the Hotline Blogometer he spends the day scouring the political blogosphere and tallying up the points. (He is still listed as writing The Washington Canard, but he doesn't update it often anymore. The picture is from that Web site. Beutler's a shy fella.)
It's hard work, as some in Washington might say. And mistakes will happen. Journalists complain that bloggers won't spend 5 minutes on the phone to get something right. Well, journalists won't spend 20 seconds on Google to do the same thing. And Google's improving much faster than the phone.
Anyway, Beutler's August 15 missive began by referencing Cindy Sheehan as an "alleged" gold star mother. I went ballistic. Whatever you think of Sheehan's protest, no one can argue that she is, in fact, a Gold Star Mother (all caps), this being " an organization of mothers who have lost a son or daughter in the service of our country."
After considering my e-mail for some time, Beutler made a slight change. He didn't acknowledge the mistake. He just took the alleged out. And gold star is still lower case, still in quotation marks.
Now, before you click below, get out your hankies.
The recent contretemps over Google's Digital Library plan proves that the essential conflict between copyright and connectivity has not been resolved.
I was chilled by this comment from Karl Auerbach, (right, the cartoon featured on his home page) former ICANN governor and certified "good guy" of Internet governance, to Dave Farber's list:
I've become concerned with how search engine companies are making a buck off of web-based works without letting the authors share in the wealth.
I've looked at my web logs and noticed the intense degree to which search engine companies dredge through my writings - which are explicitly marked as copyrighted and published subject to a clearly articulated license.
The search engine companies take my works and from those they create derivative works.
Americans who have never heard of her should remember her name. Hers is one of the great peace-making stories of our time.
By the late 1990s, Northern Ireland had been at war with itself for nearly 30 years. As Northern Ireland secretary, in 1998, she saw that the peace process could never get off the ground without the support of radicals, then held at Maze Prison.
She went to Maze Prison.
Mo Mowlam spent an hour in that prison, talking to prisoners face-to-face, eventually persuading them that the para-militaries should send representatives to peace talks.
The result was the Good Friday Agreement.
It wasn't perfect then. It's still not perfect. But it is holding. The killing has stopped. The IRA has stood down. A cycle of life is replacing the cycle of death.
Back in the 1980s, Wall Street played a game on Microsoft's duo of Gates and Ballmer, demanding "grown-up supervision" for the then 20-something computer software duo.
Fortunately, Bill and Steve did not take the hint (get lost). They kept their stock, kept control, isolated a succession of adults, and finally came out the other side, billionaires and still in control to this day.
Well, I think Google has now outgrown its grownup.
Larry Page and Sergey Brin not only founded Google, but set many of its most important standards. They understand Google's corporate direction in their bones. But, like Gates and Ballmer back in the day, they were forced by Wall Street to get "adult supervision" in the form of Dr. Eric Schmidt.
Schmidt is, at heart, a computer scientist, and a good one. He is known as the "Father of Java," for his work on that language while at Sun. Then he went to Novell, and nearly rode the thing into the ground. (This should have been a hint, boys.)
Om Malik's pointing to Robert Scoble's friends hammering Andrew Orlowski over the IE7 beta got me thinking about blogging social structures. (The image is from the archives of Johnstown, New York's Colonial Little Theater.)
It's becoming gang warfare, done on a psychological level.
Every top blogger has a gang of toadie blogs that will do its bidding. I got a little taste of that with the Ev Williams mistake (not that I didn't deserve the hammering) When a top blogger identifies a target for ridicule, others can jump in like wolves.
It works the other way, too. When an individual becomes a target a mob of bloggers may take them down, unled. This is what happened to Dan Rather. The story about Bush being a chickenhawk was sound. There was a problem on one of the sources. But a mob of bloggers brought him down, and now they celebrate this, daily.
Today's politics is cultural.
Even economic and foreign policy issues are, in the end, defined in terms of social issues. This creates identification, and coalitions among people who might not otherwise find common ground -- hedonistic Wall Street investment bankers and small town Kansas preachers, for instance.
I am coming to believe the next political divide will be technological. That is, your politics will be defined by your attitude toward technology.
On one side you will find open source technophiles. On the other you will find proprietary technophobes.
It's a process that will take time to work itself out, just as millions of Southern Democrats initially resisted the pull of Nixon. Because there are are divisions within each grand coalition we have today, on this subject.
This latter split gets most of the publicity, because more writers are in the cyber-libertarian school than anywhere else.
Initially, the proprietary, security-oriented side of this new political divide has the initiative. It has the government and, if a poll were taken, it probably has a majority on most issues.
But open source advocates have something more powerful on their side, history. You might call it the Moore's Law Dialectic.
News that Armstrong Williams is making a comeback, that he is back on the air (that he hardly ever left), leaves a nagging question in my mind.
What do you got to do to get fired around here?
The question is serious. Unless we have a way of getting rid of those who violate some ethical standard, why should anyone believe any of us? Why have any standards if we can't get rid of violators?
For those who don't know, Williams got caught in January taking bribes from the Bush Administration for touting its education policies. Yet the next month, WWRL in New York put him back on the air, in afternoon drive. Now he's got a book coming out, one which calls liberals like myself racists.
If being a racist means hating crooks who happen to be black, I'm a racist. (It doesn't mean that, so Armstrong, take your black skin outta my face.) Armstrong Williams is a crook, corrupt. He should be on an unemployment line alongside Jayson Blair and hundreds of others -- of every color -- who can't be trusted. Yet he's heard loud and clear while honest men (and women) aren't. Including honest black, male conservatives, many with great speaking voices and stories to tell. Just look around the blogosphere for five minutes if you don't believe me.
Williams tells The Hill that he's "changed," that he doesn't harrangue Democrats anymore.
But that wasn't the point of the scandal. It's like a bank robber telling me he doesn't beat his wife anymore. It's irrelevant.
Armstrong Williams put himself out as a journalist, as an independent voice, when in fact he was in the pay of the government. That was the scandal. That remains a scandal.
But there is no way to fire people who violate even such basic ethical precepts anymore. If nothing else, he could go out and blog -- make big bucks like Andrew Sullivan. Who'd know? Who'd care?
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."
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
For the last few months Ive been trying to help the Media Bloggers Association, mainly via e-mail.
Ive been appointed to three committees, none of which Ive been much use to. I started in publicity, moved over to membership, and Im now on ethics.
Publicity they had in hand. Membership passed over a list of prospective members, but I had no basis on which to judge them so I just approved the list. This got me interested in ethics.
Thanks to his political involvement many liberals are treating Orson Scott Card as a pariah.
Im certain he doesnt care. Many great writers have been men and women of uncertain, even unwelcome politics. Like all people theyre products of their environment.
This is especially true in science fiction, a subset of literature devoted to worlds far removed from our own time and space. I didnt like Robert Heinleins politics, and I dont discuss politics with Jerry Pournelle, either. But I enjoy both, immensely.
I also enjoy Card's work. I'm a fan, with eyes wide open to his faults and limits, but a fan nonetheless.
I will be spending time in Texas over the next week, on family business.
Service here will be sporadic, if it exists at all.
I will try to find WiFi hotspots where I can and keep in touch with y'all.
But if you miss me please be assured that, in the words of this guy down here,
"I'll be back."
I think it's important to note that the Mark Cuban of those novels is a fictional character. He has the same name, face, and background as the real Mark Cuban, but his motivations and actions are purely imaginary. The world of my alternate histories diverge from the real world right after the last election, with the imagined meeting of an American ambassador and a Chinese official. From there on out it's my world, not your world, not the real world.
There is, of course, a real Mark Cuban. You can find this Mark Cuban at his personal blog, BlogMaverick. It's telling that, to my knowledge, Cuban is the only blogging billionaire. I hope it's telling in a good way.
What's the real Mark Cuban like?
John F. McMullen today posted, to Dave Farber's list, what he says is a transcript of the commencement address Steve Jobs (a college dropout) gave at Stanford yesterday. (The picture is from Stanford.)
What they fail, utterly, to do is really give you a flavor for the wisdom Jobs imparted, so I have taken the liberty, starting below, of posting the entire transcript, as offered by McMullen.
Sit back and enjoy. Assuming again that the transcript is accurate, this may be the best commencement speech ever.
Thank you. I'm honored to be with you today for your commencement
from one of the finest universities in the world. Truth be told, I
never graduated from college and this is the closest I've ever gotten
to a college graduation.
Today I want to tell you three stories from my life. That's it. No
big deal. Just three stories. The first story is about connecting the
Writing about Microsoft earlier today got me thinking more deeply about the company. (The image is from the Pioneer Theater Co., at the University of Utah.)
A decade ago Microsoft reached a tipping point. Maybe this came with its release of Windows 95. It was obvious in its obsession over destroying Netscape.
Before 1995 Microsoft was about creating capabilities for others. Since then its mission has been embracing and extending, bringing the great ideas of others into its own operating system, destroying rather than creating niches.
It all sounds like a Jon Stewart set-up. "Aw, Bill, it used to be about the world domination." But in truth, at some point, people do come to dominate their worlds.
And then it all starts to go wrong.
When evolution accelerates size becomes a disadvantage.
It's true in nature, and it's true in technology as well.
The Bells (and Comcast) are the big bottlenecks in our technology universe. With Moore's Law sweeping through the telecomm landscape they are competitive liabilities in our economic ecosystem.
There is no malice in saying this. The Bells can't help being pointy-headed bosses. They are bureaucrats. Their loyalty is to the inside of their system, not to the customer. In a stable environment the ability to retain such people is a boon. In an unstable one it's disaster.
More proof comes today from Techdirt. It's a so-called BellSouthWiMax trial. But it isn't WiMax. It isn't new technology. It's an excuse to keep charging $110/month for DSL ($60 for the phone line) when the phone component is (with VOIP) unnecessary.
When something is overpriced there are always excuses.
I had a friend tell me the other day, with a straight face, that housing is still a great buy because the population will keep growing. Maybe so, but prices are a function of the amount of capital available to buy the goods, not the size of the population. Just because there are a lot of people in Soweto doesn't mean you should plunk down 100 million rand for a shanty.
The housing bubble, in other words, is based on unrealistic expectations. People are taking out interest-only loans, adjustable rate loans, and loans of over 100% of the purchase price, because they expect prices to go up faster than interest rates, indefinitely. True the length of a bubble economy is indefinite, but it definitely bursts in time.
Here's another bubble. Google. Sorry, it's not worth $80 billion. It's worth some multiple of its earnings, and with earnings growing quickly it's worth a premium on that. But it's not worth 25 times its sales of $3.2 billion. No company is. Some part of that valuation, maybe a large part of it, is pure speculation.
As a young writer the force was strong in Orson Scott Card.
His Secular Humanist Revival Meeting was a model of the form. He came on in the guise of a Baptist preacher to speak against creation science, and for a secular society in the humanist tradition.
The strongest statement he made in that talk was to note that any religion which gained the power of the state could lose its holiness because its first task once in power would be to oppress other religions. This was even true for my own religion, in the Rocky Mountains, he said.
His reference was to the Mormon Church, of which he is a lifelong member. To escape its secular hold he made his home in North Carolina. Still does.
We do have a values problem in this country. (The illustration is from a Mormon-oriented marketing outfit.)
Too many of us have short-term values.
I could go off on our leaders over this, but leaders need followers, so I'm going after you instead.
We see this on the Internet all the time. I think this new XXX TLD is a perfect example. It doesn't answer the question -- what's sexual and what should we do about it? Just build a ghetto and toss Jenna Jameson in there -- oh and Planned Parenthood too. Then what, Adolf?
It is so easy to outsource our software production, to let Taiwan and China make our chips, to do everything we can to discourage kids from getting into tech. Our kids want to win American Idol. India, meanwhile, has a reality show called "the search for India's smartest kid."
Which country do you think is going to win the future, hmmm?
One pictures John Von Neumann.
Von Neumann made major contributions to quantum mechanics, he practically invented game theory, but what got him on the stamp was his "invention" of "modern computer design."
It's now obsolete.
Von Neumann architecture required that a computer do one thing, then the next, and on through the program. It led to things like the Cray Supercomputer, a huge, very expensive machine that could do this very, very quickly.
The solution to really amazing speed was to break up the work into parts and run those parts in parallel. This was first done in the 1980s, it was applied to networks in the 1990s, and now it's being applied to chips as "dual-core."
One of the most common, and most damaging things civilized man has done to the environment is to pre-empt predation.
Predators are a vital part of any environment. They remove the sick from the herd. They keep the genetic line of prey strong. And they keep prey species from overpopulating.
It's natural that we don't want our oldsters or little kids eaten by wolves (which was a major theme of the old fairy tales). So in most of the civilized world we've removed predators from the scene.
Outside the cities and suburbs, of course, we've replaced the predators with hunters . One big difference, however. While animal predators prey on the old, the sick, and the stupid young, hunters (or sportsmen) want big antlers to hang on their walls.
But let's take off our orange vests and get back into town....(I found this guy at NASA. Heh-eh-eh-eh-eh-eh-eh-eh-eh-eh.)
One of my continuing themes is the World of Always On, with wireless networking as a platform, running applications that use data from your daily life.
But before we get there we all have to become network managers. In today's issue I consider that question.
I'm a network manager. (MG-Soft of Slovenia makes products for network managers. That's their mascot, Mr. Monet, at left.)
It's not that I want to be. I'm a homeowner. My kids have PCs. My wife and I have PCs. Some years ago a friend ran wires among the rooms so everyone could share my DSL line.
There are now millions of us network managers. Recently I sat on my porch, opened my laptop, and learned that three of my five immediate neighbors now have WiFi networking in their homes. The signals were faint, but my copy of Windows found them all as soon as I booted-up. And the nearest of the three was totally unsecured. If I had larceny in my heart I could have entered my neighbor's network, used their bandwidth, even prowled around in their PCs looking for porn, passwords or blackmail material. (Fortunately for them, I'm a very nice person.)
The other two neighbors had nets which, like mine, are protected by long identifiers, input once, which validate valid PCs. One even had encryption on their system (very nice). The neighbors on the unprotected net insisted later they had the same system I do, but I suspect they haven't taken time to activate the security features.
The point is that wireless networks make many of us network managers, and Always On applications will make most of us network managers. We're not qualified for the work. We may never be qualified. Those who do become qualified become that way as I did recently, in extremis.
Juan Cole today headlines a think piece on Iraq, "Sometimes You are Just Screwed."
I don't disagree. The insurgency has become a meat grinder, but bugging out would mean total defeat. The Army lacks volunteers, and there's no appetite for a draft. It is (as I feared it would be years ago) a Tar Baby, and it's destroying our economy as well as our military.
If that were all that was going wrong it would be bad enough. Vietnam cost 58,000 American lives and Iraq has already wounded one-third that number -- over 12,000 troops, over 6,000 contractors.
Getting into a second Vietnam is bad enough. But that's just one of three terrible fates facing the U.S. today.
You may remember him. Long-haired weirdo. Crazy hair. Counter-cultural kind of guy.
Some 30 years ago he and another friend named Steve hung around with the losers at something called the Homebrew Computer Club.
They had this neat idea for a new kind of box, using a TV, tape recorder, and typewriter as interfaces for a self-contained computer. One of them (I think it was the other Steve) shopped the idea to Hewlett-Packard.
Which rejected it. Turned them down flat. Questioned whether it had "serious thought behind it."
Well, you do have to listen to your elders, after all. I'm sure that discouraged Steve. Probably discouraged everyone else around him. Their thing never saw the light of day, as I recall.
Whatever happened to that kid, anyway?
Good news (at least in the short term) for file hoarders.
Given that both sides in the Copyright Wars know about language and framing, I'm urging use of this new term for the heavy hobbyist users on peer to peer networks.
I think the word hoarding says more about the motives of the users, and the way toward ending the practice, than anything else. Thanks in part to the industry's rhetoric, and in part to its actions, many lovers of music and other files are afraid they will lose access to the culture they crave. Thus they demand to have physical copies of its artifacts, and grab all they can. It's classic hoarding behavior.
But time is the limit here, not space. You can only listen to one song at a time, watch one movie at a time. It doesn't matter how big your collection is, the only way to get enjoyment out of it is to play the files.
Many hoarders today already "own" more files than they can play in their remaining lifetimes. When you get your arms around this concept, you begin to see how self-defeating hoarding is.
So how can hoarding be stopped?
This week I continued the discussion, asking why so many responded to that piece denying they had any such thing as A Clue, let alone A-Clue.Com.
There was an interesting reaction to my piece last week, denial.
Many of the leaders in the blogging business read it, and all of them denied its inherent truth, namely that they had A Clue.
I'm not a business, insisted Jason Calacanis. Never mind that he has 65 blogs, a uniform look-and-feel, that his writers don't even get their pictures on their blogs and, when they leave, they leave with nothing. No, it's all about passion, he insists. We do this for love, he says. Business? We're not building one of those.
So it went.
I'm not a success, insisted Rafat Ali of Paidcontent. I'm not powerful, insisted Markos Moulitsas of DailyKos. I'm a dilletante, said Glenn Reynolds. I'm only here for the beer, said Dave Winer. I'm no one at all, said Pamela Jones of Groklaw.
"Dad, the Internet's broken again."
update I finally surrendered in this case and renewed my daughter's antiviral, for $55. I would rather have her choose when to make the Linux switch. The anti-viral did, finally, get rid of all the malware, although we lost a second evening to it and she wound up writing her last paper on my own machine.
Actually it had been breaking for some time, I learned. My lovely daughter is a big fan of Fanfiction.Net, a site where kids are allowed to post their own stories based on popular characters. (Think Harry Potter meets the Three Stooges.)
It's a harmless avocation but it comes with a price. Fanfiction is filled, absolutely filled, with spyware and malware. Ad pop-ups were filling her screen, and no matter how many I clicked away (even if the browser was turned off) more appeared. She had been running an anti-spyware program, but it had not been updated. And her anti-viral had just expired.
The solution seemed simple enough. Her anti-spyware program was updated and deployed. But here's a dirty secret of our time. Most adware today is no different from a virus.
All the tricks of the virus creep were deployed to keep crap like eZula infesting my girl's PC. Copies were hidden in memory, in the restore directory, in directories under program files. (None had ever asked permission, nor told her what it would do.)
When I deployed Spybot in normal boot, the spyware was so thick (download this, click here) the program actually stopped -- the pop-ups and demands to download more garbage were a primeval forest. When deployed in "safe mode," there were several "problems" that couldn't be eliminated. Re-boot and start Spybot again? Well, dozens more spy-virii popped up during the re-boot.
But wait, there's more.
My saintly wife will tell you how I do sometimes rant-and-rail, about this-or-that, how I promise to pull up stakes and move to, say, South Africa. But I never do. Because at the end of the day, I believe, we'll muddle through. Americans have seen worse and gotten by, I tell myself. The system is resilient. This too shall pass.
Not necessarily. I have spent the last few weeks reading Salman Rushdie's most recent masterwork, The Ground Beneath Her Feet. The Earth is constantly shaking, people are always dying, nothing is permanent in this book. Everything and everyone around the narrator is subject to sudden disaster and destruction. The survivor's job is to witness, then tell the tale.
In many ways 9-11 was a visit from Rushdie World. Rushdie himself had moved to New York by then, trading in his beloved Tottenham Hotspur for a New York Yankee cap. And the tragedy is a sub-text to the book. It can happen here. It does. It will. Think of it as evolution in action. Too many people are just no darned good. Their greed, their causes, their passions make them all like nitroglycerin. And the Earth itself is no better.
Yet Rushdie is still here. And I'm still here. And you're still here. For how long we can't know. And we all seem fairly prosperous. Those with talent, and those who are willing to change themselves, may witness more, may survive longer, and may (like Rushdie) leave a mark.
...no giant leap for wino-kind.
The Supreme Court decision legalizing cross-state wine shipments is limited.
First it applies only to states where delivery of wines to homes is legal in the first place. Georgia is not one of those states. (Although that law is not always enforced -- once I got some Michelob in a press packet.)
"If a state chooses to allow direct shipments of wine, it must do so on even-handed terms," Justice Anthony Kennedy said. If it doesn't you still got tough luck.
Second the case applies only to direct from-the-vineyard sales of U.S. wine. Imported wines aren't included. Importers can't ship to consumers, only vintners can.
But let's make this sporting, shall we?
There's a reason why journalists should be paid, one that people like Fuad Kircaali ignore at their peril.
If you're a "volunteer" (unpaid) editor at a Sys-Con publication, and a vendor offers you money to spin a story their way, what's the risk in your taking it? Sure, if the boss finds out you might lose your job. But you're not being paid. And this assumes that you're being closely monitored -- the quid pro quo of being a volunteer editor is generally that you're not.
On the other hand, if you're a working journalist and your income (thus your family) is dependent on pleasing the publisher, we have a different calculus. Now a vendor approaches you with an offer and you see a risk in taking it. Not only will you surely lose this job, but you're likely to lose all hope of future employment. (If you're a volunteer editor your employment is not in journalism, remember.)
You can only hold professional journalists to journalistic ethics. Publishers who don't pay editors hand their good name to people beyond their control.
Where does blogging fit into this?
Two decades ago I was part of new social movement called online conferencing.
People from all around the world used a Unix package called PARTIcipate to discuss issues and their lives with one another. I made some good friends then, among them Joi Ito. (That's him to the left.)
But we quickly learned the dark side of this text-based technology. Misunderstandings could happen. They could escalate. Without the visual cues we get in face-to-face conversation, flame wars could erupt. Moderation became essential.
By and large publishers do not share journalism's ethical sense.
Instead they apply business ethics.
While a journalist's ethics, like that of any other claimed profession, may hold them well short of what's illegal, businessmen must go right up to the legal line, even risk crossing it, to stay ahead of the competition. Businessmen who don't think that way are easily crushed by those who do.
In journalism, business ethics often push journalists over lines they should not cross. Robert Novak practices business ethics. The National Enquirer practices business ethics. Those who choose to believe Novak or the Enquirer accept it.
This weekend this blog was told that Kircaali accepted the resignations of three senior LinuxWorld editors -- James Turner, Dee-Ann LeBlanc, and Steve Suehring, rather than personally release and renounce O'Gara.
UPDATE: "We were unpaid editors but we devoted a lot of time and energy to it," according to Suehring's blog. This makes sense given Kircaali's business model, as we will discuss later on.
Apparently, Kircaali even approved O'Gara's assault on Pamela Jones of Groklaw in advance. Here's what he told Free Software Magazine.
"The language of the story is in the typical style of Ms. OGara, generally entertaining and easy to read, and sometimes it could be regarded as offensive, depending on how you look at it. I decided to publish the article. It was published because it was an accurate news story."
More after the break.
Times vs. Sullivan , as anyone who has taken law or journalism knows, holds that public figures have a much higher burden in libel actions than other people. (That's L.B. Sullivan, then police chief of Montgomery, Alabama to the right. From the University of Missouri in Kansas City.)
To win at trial, public figures must show that a story about them showed "a reckless disregard for the truth" or that a lie was deliberate. This makes it very hard for public figures to win libel awards, although to this day some do.
The question comes up because I was chatting via e-mail with Steve Ross, a journalism professor at Columbia, who said Markos Moulitsas had over-reacted to a question on his annual journalism survey. The survey asked how people felt about campaigns "buying" journalists, citing a deal between the Dean campaign and "bloggers" in 2003.
Readers here know I covered that story, that the bloggers weren't bought but hired as consultants, that they didn't act bought, and that their righteous recommendations were then ignored, so Moulitsas to this day fills a role now DNC chair Howard Dean should by rights be filling. But what brought me up short was Steve's statement that Moulitsas, alias Daily Kos, should know better, since he is "a public figure."
A public figure, eh? A blogger a public figure?
Well that's interesting. I assume, then, that Glenn Reynolds is a public figure, and any suit he might file for libel is going to have a very difficult time. (Lucky me.) We can't very well have anonymous public figures and thus the "outing" of Atrios as Duncan Black, a Philadelphia economics teacher (left), last year becomes just a public service.
And if that's true, then, is Pamela Jones, a public figure? Would that mitigate any possibility of a successful legal action against Maureen O'Gara? (I don't know if anything has been filed or might be -- I'm just spitballing here.)
Wait, there's more.
One thing I got my first crack at over the weekend was the actual practice of Wi-Fi-in'. (The picture comes from a Free WiFi hotspot list site.)
While I have had WiFi in my home for years now I only recently got a laptop that can truly take advantage of it on the road. I brought it to Nashville with me.
Wi-Fi'-in means opening up the box, booting up, and hoping for an unsecured 802.11 connection you can log into. It's best done in a city, preferably close to a University campus. But don't expect to do this on the campus itself -- most college systems these days are secured, at least by passwords.
It was amazing to me how lost and alone I felt when I couldn't find a free spot around me. My hotel advertised the service, but during the day the radio waves couldn't reach my room. (This is a fact of life with radio -- the bands are all more crowded during the day.) As I noted the campus where I was hanging on Friday had their access password-protected, and I'm not into breaking-and-surfing (yet).
But all was not lost. I was about to learn a powerful lesson.
There are days when I dream of a White House presser where a reporter snaps a Queen of Hearts at the President, just to see if they can trigger something.
If this guy were created by our enemies to destroy us he couldn't be doing a better job.
The bidding war between Verizon and Qwest for MCI is based on a myth of scarcity. That is, both think they can make the deal pay by squeezing customers for the scarce resources represented by the MCI network.
Moores Law of Fiber rendered that inoperative many years ago. There is no shortage of fiber backbone capacity. And there are ample replacements for Plain Old Telephone Service -- not just cable but wireless.
The myth on which this deal is based is, simply, untrue.
Yet the myth persists, and not just in the telecommunications business.
Last week I took a dispassionate look at economic cycles. This week let's take an equally dispassionate look at political cycles.
Political cycles are generational in nature. (The cartoon is from 1800 and AmericanPresident.Org. ) They're set in a time of great crisis. They're re-set when a new crisis occurs that the old assumptions can't deal with.
But they also wear out. Ideologies are like roads. You set off in a direction but, at some point, go beyond your destination. Yet the road keeps leading you on. And the kids finally say, let's go a new way.
Short answer. No.
It can be, of course.
When journalists blog, when we ask hard questions, dig for facts, and take mistakes seriously, well then yes journalism can happen on a blog. (Cartoon from Cox and Forkum.com,)
But a blog can be a diary. If you invite just a few people to post, and those same people are all who can read it, a blog is groupware.
A blog can be a community. Let a lot of people offer posts, organize the comments, add polls and ratings.
And that is not all, oh no, that is not all...
The secret to being a successful entrepreneur is learning how to handle NO.
I learned this lesson from an entrepreneurial friend of mine today, and it's so important I had to blog it.
Entrepreneurs bring ideas to businesses and people. They sell these ideas, as businesses. They take a lot of meetings. And most of the time, maybe over 99% of the time, the answer at the end of the day is No.
"You have to turn it into an opportunity," my friend said. You do that by finding someone else -- a money source, another business -- who will either run with your idea, finance your idea, or buy it outright.
And you keep moving.
The difference between entrepreneurs and other businesspeople is that most businesspeople are in the yes business. In a going concern you mostly hear yes. People do come in the door, people are satisfied, you do create systems that wind up giving value for money. If you're not doing this, you're out of business quickly.
Entrepreneurs, on the other hand, are constantly being told no. It's only when they get the yes that they have the chance to build that business they were describing, and this is usually the end of a long, long process. Yet the businesses an entrepreneur launches are often much better than those run by businesspeople, because they've been tested, vetted, and designed to grow fast.
There was some misunderstanding about a recent item that caused me to re-think a lot of what I'd considered standards in publishing items on a blog. (A reader writes that this picture was originally published in The New York Times, and I apologize for not acknowledging it earlier (but I didn't know)).
The standard used here is to write an item, bring it to its own inside page, and then write another item. I was convinced this was right by Nick Denton (left), who found that Google Ad revenue jumped on inside pages, because high CPM ads were brought to more specific content.
Not everyone works that way.
What brought these thoughts to a head?
But the danger is like that identified every week by Mythbusters. Don't try this at home. We're what you call experts.
The problem is that the press defines any provocative statement as a "good quote," but those made by experts like Ornstein merely place context in the obvious. In reaching for a good quote, you can easily reopen old wounds, start new controversies, and make yourself foolish at the same time.
Exhibit A. James Governor of Red Monk decided to re-open the (rapidly closing) question of the GPL's legality in order to get into a local magazine, and to suck-up to a potential client, Fortinet.
There's nothing about this "point" on Governor's blog, and Red Monk has issued no press release, although the point is highly provocative. In fact, Governor advertises his willingness to mouth off. "Need a quick reaction to a breaking story? A detailed explanation of the signficance of a recent merger? Whatever your needs, feel free to contact us."
Fine, if you're not just going to throw bombs. And here's where I get in trouble...
The following will seem to contradict the item below it.
The secret to success in every field is found in the skills of the journalist.
Whatever you wish to be -- a scientist, an artist, an entrepreneur, a preacher, an economist, a politician -- you will go further if you have a journalist's basic tool set.
Research thoroughly. Ask good questions. Listen carefully. Write clearly. Explain simply.
These are the skills of journalism. You can pick them up in a few college courses. Some are even taught in journalism schools. Most are learned in the School of Hard Knocks.
The rest of what passes for journalism education is bunk. So learn rhetoric, learn public speaking, learn writing, read as widely as you can. That's what newspapers and TV stations are looking for. They know they can teach the rest of the skill set on-the-fly. Most journalists never went to j-school.
How do I know this is true?
Want a career in the exciting, fast-paced world of 21st century journalism?
Don't go to journalism school. You can learn to write anywhere. The way to write better is to practice. If you love writing you can pick up the rest on-the-fly.
Instead, go to business school. Why? Because the only way you're going to have a good career in this business is to have the skills of a publisher. And those are the skills taught in business school.
In my first lecture at Northwestern's Medill School of Journalism, in 1977, we were told firmly that if you wanted to make a good living there was a fine businesss school on campus, the Kellogg School, and we should go there. So I've got their logo at the top of this item. I should have taken the advice.
More on why you should go to business school to learn journalism after the break.
It's already starting to bite.
I often feel it in reaction to items I write here or on ZDNet. Excuses. Reasons not to try. That will never work.
Young people new to a field don't think like that. Back in the 1970s and early 1980s, we didn't think like that. Whether or not our politics become more conservative as we age, our lifestyles do. A 50-year old programmer worries more about what they're making and fears the future, while a 20-year old thinks about what they might make and embraces the future.
It's a cliche, but that doesn't make it less true. Young Americans are shunning technology for business, for real estate, for law, for things that redistribute wealth rather than create it.
Leaving the future to be made by others.
Because technology changes so rapidly, we feel the impact of change here very, very quickly, and this is like a cold wind in November.
Want some good news?
I'm a big James Surowiecki fan. (Not a Truly Handsome Man yet, like I am, but don't you think his barber is starting to get creative?)
When I got into journalism, nearly three decades ago, I harbored a secret dream of writing for The New Yorker. I never got a sniff. But I harbor no grudges because Surowiecki did. And he's run with it.
The headline his editors give the piece is "In Yuan We Trust." His point is that our debts to Japan and China are so massive neither can afford to end their support for us. Thus the air will go out of our financial balloon slowly. We won't know the dollar's a peso until it's reached par. He concludes, "So be afraid. Just dont be very afraid."
That's the part I take issue with.
In a nice commentary about how Wired is now Tired, David P. Reed (left) got me thinking about what today's key economic good might be.
The answer is attention. The world is entering an attention economy.
In many ways this is not news. What's news is how we're bifurcating our attention -- splitting it into parts -- and how media must now compete for slices of it. (Would this item get more hits if I called it The ADD Economy?)
It's a worldwide phenomenom because cellular or mobile service is worldwide. Mobile service competes well in the Attention Economy. Watch people chat on their phones while driving. (It's like elephants tap-dancing -- what's amazing is they do it.)
More after the break.
Today's big lie is a misinterpretation of the latest Pew Internet Survey. We think spam is no big deal.
(The great-tasting pork-shoulder-and-ham concoction from Hormel pictured to the left is still a very big deal in Alaska and Hawaii. They love the stuff.)
Well, nonsense. (I would use stronger language, but I want everyone to get the point.)
Here are some facts from the same study. Barely half of us now trust e-mail, down 11% from a year ago. Over one-fifth of us have cut down our e-mail use because of spam, just in the last year.
As for the rest...users have learned to deal. We have spam filters. I use Mailwasher. We don't get as much as before because more of it is being stopped at the server level.
That doesn't mean we like it. And it's deliberately misleading to say it is. It's like the battered wife syndrome. Why doesn't she leave the jerk? Why don't you just go offline?
It's the same question with the same answer. You find ways.
But if someone would finally arrest the batterer and throw his butt in the slammer for a good long time she'd learn to be grateful.
Which reminds me...
There is a tyranny to having a narrow beat. (The image, by the way, is from the Oak Ridge National Lab.)
Yes, you can develop sources. Yes, you can develop expertise. But with a narrow beat you're limiting yourself, and you're becoming increasingly dependent on your employer, since beat knowledge is often non-transferrable. You're also more likely to "go native" with a beat, internalizing sources' views as your own without analyzing them.
Blogging and RSS are, at their heart, designed to let us do away with this Tyranny of the Beat. Your subject can be read based on its subject matter, or you can develop your own personal fan club.
I have always resisted having a narrow beat in my work. You'll see stories here ranging from Internet Commerce to Always On to law, science, even politics, along with what Hylton thought was my beat when he took me on -- semiconductors.
I think this keeps me fresh. It keeps me interested. That keeps the quality high.
But that's not the way publishers look at things, even blogging publishers. There are now several companies that run a stable of blogs, besides Corante, and each one places writers in narrowly-defined beats. Weblogsinc may be the most aggressive in de-personalizing their blogs. They now have 75. Most can change out the staff in a nano-second and keep going. Good for them, bad for writers.
And weren't blogs created so we'd have something that was good for writers?
A look at the Technorati Top 100 offers a good illustration on the rise of these corporate blogs.
The great struggle of our time, between "major media journalism" and "blogging" involves who sets the agenda.
Exhibit A. I've been writing about the economic threat of India and China for years now. I've called the War on Terror a mere distraction from the real game. I know other bloggers have done the same.
But suddenly, wonder of wonders, Thomas Friedman of The New York Times goes to Bangalore, discovers we're right and now it's on everyone's radar.
I've written before here of the methods by which the major media is trying to co-opt the blogosphere and eliminate the threat. They're taking on some people, attacking others, and in this case, just taking others' ideas and claiming them for their own.
I bought a new laptop yesterday.
And to my surprise I violated my Iron Law.
Dana's Iron Law of Laptops holds that an ounce on the desk is a pound in my hands.
My favorite laptop of all time was a 2-pound Sinclair ZX-81. It had a tiny screen (nearly non-existent) but it had a pliant membrane keyboard that let me write and send stories from a beach. I haven't seen anything so light, rugged and useful since.
Instead, laptops have been desktop analogs. When desktop power increased, so did that of laptops, and they became no lighter in the process. Even today most laptops on the market weigh 7-8 pounds.
So why did I get one?
When CNN was new they decided to cover a Midnight Mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral. What I remember was how the anchors chose to talk over everything, so you felt their ego trips rather than the ceremony.
I got the same feeling, in triplicate, watching coverage of Pope John Paul II's death today. Grief is shared through human interaction, but all we got on TV today was a simulation.
Catholicism is the most ritualistic of America's major religions, but viewers saw little of the power in this ritual. Instead we listened to talking heads on all channels, complete with anchors' ego trips, experts speculating, and cameras thrust in peoples' faces when they had nothing to say.
If you looked at major media Web sites you got more of the same. It was about them, not about him, and certainly not about us.
What about the blogosphere?
The following appeared today in my free weekly e-mail newsletter, A-Clue.Com, now into its 9th year of publication.
You can get it free any time.
Science is the political issue of our time.
It will surprise many to hear it's controversial. But to those with an historical perspective it's no surprise at all.
The real Hardball isn't the game show on MSNBC, where politicians lie and yap at one another.
It's something far more serious, played every day, by huge corporations that masquerade as guardians of the public interest, but are in fact as corrupt as the rest of us. (That's LA Times founder Harrison Gray Otis on the right. More about Harry Otis here, near the bottom of the page. I direct David Shaw's attention to the quote from Theodore Roosevelt.)
The prerogatives of these corporations and their hirelings, who call themselves journalists (then deny this status to you and me) is under threat on this medium as never before. They're scared, and they're playing Hardball.
Their right, earned by corporate might, to define what is and what isn't news, what is and what isn't fair comment, is under threat, right here, right now.
And they don't like it one bit.
The game is being played mainly on three search engines. On MSN note how these corporations are given, not dominance, but exclusivity. The same is true on Yahoo. Note the list of "resources" at the top-right of the Yahoo page. Note too the prominence given one outfit's stories, the newspaper co-op called AP.
In both cases what you see on your screen is the result of business negotiation. News value is determined by people, meeting in rooms, and (perhaps) money changes hands (we're not told).
Is this fair? It may well be. It's certainly business as usual. And -- here is the key point -- the process is completely opaque.
On the other hand, we have Google News. What you see here looks similar but it is, in fact, quite different. While the stories of the giants do get prominent play, so do other organizations, and other types of news coverage.
At 11:15 AM for instance I checked Google's "coverage" of Laura Bush's trip to Afghanistan, sorted by relevance. Position four was held by a right-wing group, the Conservative Voice. Position seven was held by a left-wing site, Counter Currents, posting a blog item from Counterpunch.
The results on all stories change moment-to-moment, and only a small part of what we call the blogosphere is represented, but the fact is that Google News is offering a far wider set of sources than its rivals. These include "official" outlets like Voice of America and Pravda. They include newspaper sites requiring registration. They also include many sites from outside the U.S.
In some cases, they even include blogs. Yes, even this one.
But that's not the full extent of Google's challenge to the news industry.
In all the arguments over copyright and patents the interests of the middle class creator are constantly invoked, then discarded.
The fact is that, while most western countries are middle class, the structure of their creative classes is pre-Marxist. That is there are a few writers, artists, musicians and actors who get rich from it, and a lot who get virtually nothing.
Unless you have business acumen, or constant success in your field, you're very likely to end up poor. And without a big hit, you're nearly certain to end up relatively poor from your work in the content industries.
At the same time, those who manage the industry, whether or not they have any talent, nearly all wind up rich.
Thus there's a difference between what we find in society as a whole and the content society.
Companies large and small are hiring bloggers, full or part time, are launching their own staff-written blogs, or are seeking to have bloggers publish on company-owned sites.
The weapons they wield are money (I'm up for that), the machinery of publicity, and credibility.
Much of that credibility, however, is being defined by search engines, especially Google, which refuses to spider blog entries on equal terms with media-fed blogs.
If you want to find this entry, for instance, you must look in the main search engine. Specialized blog search engines get a fraction of a regular search engine's traffic, and are based on RSS, meaning they're self-organized rather than spidered.
The result is that the independent blogger today has the same problems finding an audience as an independent Web site would have had in, say, 1998.
I am a supporter of the U.N. I want it to have real power and influence.
This makes me a minority among my countrymen. So be it.
But I found myself troubled in reading this definition of terrorism today from U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan:
"any action constitutes terrorism if it is intended to cause death or serious bodily harm to civilians or non-combatants with the purpose of intimidating a population or compelling a government or an international organisation to do or abstain from doing any act".
In effect this prohibits any violent action against any tyrannical government, and puts the U.N. on record supporting that tyranny.
The great financial Curse is to have money coming out of the ground.
I didn't believe this when I started in journalism. I started in Houston, whose economy was based entirely on the concept of money coming out of the ground - Black Gold, Texas Tea.
For most of history, money has mainly come out of the ground. Assets were what you could drill for, what you could mine, or what you could grow. The exceptions to this rule were those of trade. If you sat astride a trade route, if you had a deep water port, if the railroads decided that your location would work for a station, then your land had value.
Moore's Law has changed all that. The Internet has changed that for all time.
Who is to blame for the vapid nonsense of celebrity journalism?
To some extent, you are.
Partly as a result our most popular blogs are the cattiest, the most like the worst of the Main Stream Media attitude I criticized.
Is this an attack on Jeff Jarvis? (That's him on CNN.) No, it's not. He's responding to the market, to the audience, to you.
I have some pretty harsh words for the Main Stream Media (MSM) below.
There is a solution for this malaise, and it's ironic that a national audience caught it first on a comedy show.
The solution is "boots on the ground," as Tom Fenton (right) told The Daily Show's Jon Stewart this week.
Bloggers provide that. Not all blogs do. Saying "blogs" or "bloggers" as though they were a unitary whole is as misleading as saying "Internets" or "Web sites."
But we've seen bloggers capture many stories, and even beats, by doing reporting that the MSM wasn't willing or able to do. I'm thinking here of Raed in Iraq and, more recently, Riverbend. (She is now much better than he is, by the way.) I'm thinking of Boingboing and Juan Cole and 100 others, people who've broken stories, created new niches, and done real journalism.
There are many, many bad blogs. There are many popular blogs that are very bad. I'm not saying the one should replace the other.
What we need are business models that will enable willing journalists (like myself) to make decent livings (not great, decent) doing what we love to do -- reporting, writing, editing, researching, listening, being careful.
MSM journalism no longer provides that. With the help of people like Hylton Joliffe, maybe blogging will, in time. I'm proud to be part of the effort.
Want some more ranting? You'll have to click for it.
A new version of Google News is out.
It is still listed as beta code, and it has some neat improvements. But it's still skewing the news business in dangerous directions.
First the good news. Google News now has cookie-based customization (if you have multiple browsers you need to customize it separately for each). This means you can create your own headline term, like WiFi, and have its stories appear on your Google News page. You can also get rid of existing Google News headings (except for the two top stories).
You can change these settings on the fly, getting your World headlines from, say, the French Canadian version of the site, or changing the name of a custom heading (the Always On heading becomes a search for WiFi stories).
But you are still subject to Google's rules about what is and what is not a news story.
And on Google News a news story is something that appears in the Main Stream Media (MSM), nowhere else.
Folks who should know better, like Steve Gilliard, are gleefully piling on a story from New York about an IBM executive who was fired because his Reserve commitment rendered him worthless to the company after September 11.
The story, by columnis Denis Hamill (left) is a righteous bust. IBM is going to lose the suit. IBM deserves to lose the suit. And the only reason I get to write about this at all is because IBM is a tech company.
But the issue goes deeper than any one employer.
African leaders are pushing a "Tech Tax" that would go into a UN-sponsored fund and build the technology infrastructure of developing countries.
NOTE: Please visit the page where I got this illustration, by Los Cybrids. The words here express my overall view of the matter better than this blog item can.
On the surface, a "tech tax" sounds like a very good thing. It has a laudable goal. I'm very much in favor of telecommunications development everywhere. It brings markets together. It raises people up, brings them education, gets them into the mainstream. It's great.
But in practice, this proposal sucks. It sucks big time. Here's why.
Where's the money going?
What should a rational U.S. technology policy include? Very simple:
Fortunately, someone gets it.
Dean Kamen (right) gets it.
Yeah, the Segway guy. Here's how he puts it on the home page of the educational organization he founded, US First:
"Create a world where science and technology are celebrated... where young people dream of becoming science and technology heroes..."
I can't say it any better.
Best of all, his words are backed by action. What follows is my personal testimony to this:
A delegation from the TechNet lobby, including John Doerr (Rice '73) and Cisco chief John Chambers, were on Capitol Hill today warning legislators that the U.S. is in danger of losing its technology lead.
By some measures, it has already happened.
TechNet wants more spending on math and science education, especially in middle schools, and more tech-oriented retraining for displaced workers.
Amen to that. Both my kids felt math was fun in 4th grade, but neither is pursuing it anymore. My son's school refused to challenge him in 7th grade, resorting to a curriculum he'd already learned, and he lost interest. My daughter was bedeviled by reading difficulties and her strength in math was ignored.
Then Doerr went off and spoiled it all by saying something stupid.
The folks at ZDNet (of all places) are starting to hear mutterings against the concept of corporate personhood.
Companies are individuals under U.S. law. But they can't be killed or jailed as real people can. Their interests are immortal. (The illustration is from a group trying to change this.)
Corporations were made persons by the footnotes to an obscure 19th century Supreme Court decision involving the Southern Pacific Railroad. All those involved are long since dead but the railroal company's interests survive as part of the Union Pacific Corp.
The BBC has a feature today claiming China's censorship of the Internet is highly effective.
In some ways China has been effective. All ISPs and access points are licensed and monitored. The Great Firewall of China rejects controversial queries. A blogger who criticized the authorities using their own name would be quickly arrested.
But there's a lot more to the story than that:
Bloggers not protected by Constitution, says Apple. That's the headline in EarthTimes over a story stating a judge ordered several online sites to hand over the names of their anonymous sources.
Even well-meaning blogs like BoingBoing get it wrong. In Apple case, court says bloggers' sources not protected is their headline. (I think they're copying a San Jose Mercury-News headline here.)
The first headline is a lie and the second is misleading. (But the picture, from the University of Houston in Clear Lake, is really cool, don't you think?)
Fact is, no journalists have that protection. Didn't these people read the result of the Judith Miller case?
No journalist has the right to protect anonymous sources. But all journalists have a responsibility to protect them.
Those who protect such sources, who are willing to go to jail for them after they promise to protect sources, and who do in fact go to jail under court order, without revealing their sources...those people are journalists. The others are not.
And I don't care how much money you make, or what your so-called employer says you are. If you're not willing to go to jail to protect a promise you have made to a source, you're not a journalist.
Ive seen it and seen it. A big company works its butt off to prove a market, and some little guy comes along claiming patent rights.
Here we go again. This time the victim is Apple Computer. A guy named Peter Chung, backed by a lawyer named Joseph Zito, claims Apples DRM infringes on their patent for limited sharing of files . They want 12% of everything Apple has made from iTunes.
Even the tone of their press release is, in my opinion, abusive.
Everyone knows that iTunes allows a user to play purchased music tracks to up to 5 computers, without repaying the money, under the condition that the computers are registered. The computer registration involves a process of identity verification in which a user is required to key in into the computer the correct Apple ID and password he used to purchase the song.
This is certainly a patentable technology. If iTunes does not patent it, there must be a very good reason for them not to do so- someone else has patented this.
The whole case points to what should be a major reform in the patent laws.
What would such reform consist of?
I used to like Intel chairman Craig Barrett.
Now, as he prepares for his May exit from the job he's had for seven years, I love Craig Barrett. (Image from ComputerWorld's Heroes page.)
I wish I had been able to say this:
"I believe in the Hippocratic Oath for government: first do no harm. That means sorting out spectrum allocation, fostering R&D and creating an environment to let business function," he said.
"[WiMax] is the solution to the 'last mile' broadband issue. It will get us out of the half-assed broadband situation we're in today. 1 Mbps to 2 Mbps is not broadband; 50 Mbps is."
Tell it, brother Barrett. Amen. More on what this means after the jump.
My favorite TV show turned 25 this week.
It was Yes Minister, a BBC comedy about the intricacies of bureaucracy.
I was surprised to learn this week that the Conservatives of Margaret Thatcher loved the show, because in fact its theme was that the permanent bureaucrats, led by Nigel Hawthorne, knew best. Every week he worked to undermine the policies of hapless minister James Hacker (Paul Eddington).
The beauty of the show, and one reason it would never be tried in the U.S., is that the status quo didn't hold. Eddington got the better of Hawthorne's Sir Humphrey Appleby as the show wore on, and at the end of the run Eddington's character actually became Prime Minister, head of the government.
Giants fall all the time. In an earlier item today I mentioned one such fallen giant, the playwright Arthur Miller.
Computing also has giants, and we're all diminished when one of them falls. As Jef Raskin has fallen.
Jef, who died of cancer recently at 61, will be remembered as the "father of the Macintosh." He gave the project its name, and he pushed it within Apple.
But he was much, much more.
I was at the YMCA yesterday, pushing the old bones through another workout, and a crowd gathered around a TV where Bill Gates was giving a speech.
He was reading the speech the way he does, one shoulder slumped down like a hipster from the 50s. The expensively-crafted words did his work for him. He didn't need to work to sing. It's good to be king.
And his message was simple. High schools suck. The words were repeated gleefully as far away as Beijing. "When I compare our high school with what I see abroad I am terrified for our work force of tomorrow."
Both my kids are in high school, Bill, and I'm terrified too. But platitudes won't get it done. Neither will all your money.
Karl Marx was one of the great moral philosophers of the 19th century. But his vision was perverted, in the 20th century, and made the center of a system that imprisoned billions of people, one that required decades of war to eradicate.
Ayn Rand, who was born 100 years ago, was one of the great moral philosophers of the 20th century. Her novels, The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged , have become as important as Marx' Das Kapital was to Communists, in defining the ideology of modern Conservativism.
It's just as imprisoning.
For decades employed journalists have considered themselves a class apart. Charged by their employers with deciding what was relevant, they took fame and turned it to infamy, often violating confidences, and said they were just doing their jobs.
They ignored the concentration of power in their own business -- a journalist is someone who works for someone (who buys ink by the barrel, spectrum by the megahertz, bandwidth by the terabyte) -- and expected a legal shield to protect them and no one else.
Well, uh-uh. No more. And Thank God.
Unlike my novel, The Chinese Century, the following is true.
China now outconsumes America on most goods (gasoline being an exception).
This fact carries with it some important economic implications. Let's discuss them:
Perhaps the most vital asset to any technology company today is its reputation.
It's not money. It's not assets. It's certainly not patents.
It's what people think of you, your reputation.
Paul Robichaux recently wrote that he thinks Google is pulling a fast one, with a Toolbar feature called AutoLink that turns unlinked items on a page into linked ones, automatically.
When Microsoft tried extending its Smart Tags feature, which sounded awfully similar, into Internet Explorer, Robichaux wrote in Exchange Security, "the furor was incredible. Walt Mossberg, Dave Winer, Dan Gillmor, and a host of other influencers immediately started screaming that Microsoft was taking control over web content and generally acting like an 800-lb gorilla. The EFF even opined that the MS smart tag implementation might be illegal."
He's right. But does it matter?
Microsoft has used its power for a decade to extend its monopoly across desktop applications and into the Internet itself. As a result it has a very poor reputation.
Google, on the other hand, has offered optional services, in software, on top of its search service. It has a stellar reputation.
There is much commentary emerging from a court ruling stating that reporters (like the one at right) must testify to a grand jury or go to jail.
Editor & Publisher wants a federal shield law. I have been a journalist for 25 years, and had the kant of a "journalist's privilege" drilled into me from the start. A shield law would be a good thing, but only if it protected all reporters, not just those few with jobs at major corporations.
But do you know what the reporter's privilege really is?
You have the right to go to jail. You also have the right to be killed in the line of duty, as dozens were in Iraq, some by U.S. soldiers. You have the right to be tortured in many countries around the world, and to rot in jail hoping someone can get you out.
These are your rights. No, these are your responsibilities as a journalist. You have the right to fight for the right to do your job. This is why journalists, the ones willing to accept these rights and responsibilities, are among the most important people on Earth. We know why the caged bird sings, because often it's us.
So if I quote you anonymously, and I promise you anonymity in exchange for your statements, I will protect that. I will risk jail for you, I will risk torture for you, I will risk death for you. If I decide your statements are that vital, and your anonymity that valuable, that's what I will do for you as a journalist. That's my job.
Well, those are places. The .nu is the Pacific Island nation of Niue. And .tv is the Pacific Island nation of Tuvulu.
And they're in trouble. Big trouble.
Which sci-fi author did the best job of predicting what the 21st century would look like from the comfort of the 20th?
It wasn't Arthur C. Clarke. I still don't have my zero gravity toilet. It wasn't Isaac Asimov. Honda's Asimo is no Robbie. Allen Steele? No beamjacks in my world. Ray Bradbury? Larry Niven? Steven Barnes? Jerry Pournelle?
Wrong, wrong, and (sorry Jerry) wrong again. (But there are many centuries to go before your visions come up, so keep writing.)
It's William Gibson (right).
We live today in Gibson's Neuromancer. Cyberspace is everywhere, but so too are viruses. IBM notes they're appearing everywhere -- in our phones, in our cars -- and the people behind them are increasingly of very evil intent.
How did we get here? It wasn't inevitable.
One way I can tell that America's conservatives have become ideologues, akin to Communists, Fascists, and other idiots, is how they have turned everything into politics.
I'm not talking about the ongoing debate over teaching science or religion on the schools. It's easy to see how so-called "intelligent design" is religion because you can't do anything with the insight "God did it" -- it leads to no experiment, and ends questioning. Evolution, on the other hand, constantly brings new questions with it. Theories are used to stimulate questions, not end them.
I'm talking instead about how, when you get some of these advocates in a corner, they will flat-out admit that the whole thing is politics, just another way to fight the liberal impulse on behalf of their ideology.
The canary in this coal mine is named George Gilder, (above, from Forbes), and in Wired this month he sings this tune like Sinatra.
Watch him build (then knock down) his evolution straw man:
I've seen a lot of stories lately about people blogging themselves out of jobs.
It makes me laugh.
Katie Hafner has a story today on one of those subjects that makes me want to scream. (Image from Hackvan.Com.)
It's about "pseudo-ADD" and continuing efforts by employers to make knowledge workers pay closer attention to what they're doing.
If they really want to help they should stop interrupting us with meetings, with memoes, and (sometimes) with bosses poking their heads in our doors to see how we're getting on.
Two can play the distraction game. But wait, there's more.
NOTE: Howard Dean will become chairman of the Democratic Party this weekend. Consider this an open letter to the new boss, from the bottom of the grassroots.
The year 2004 did not represent a generational election because people live longer than they used to. Thus, the Nixon Coalition was able to get the knees to jerk by turning 2004 into 1968. Democrats went along by nominating a man of the 60s.
Had this been a true generational election Vietnam would have been irrelevant, just as the New Deal was irrelevant to those marching in 1968, and the Spanish-American War was history to the hungry of 1932.
Will 2008 be the generational election? Maybe, but maybe not. In that year a person born in 1955, at the height of the baby boom, will be only 53. Thats still old enough to matter.
But a new generation is coming along, and thats where Democrats should concentrate their attention.
The last generation had a name, Baby Boom. The new generation has a name, too.
The new generation is the Internet Generation.
I agree with President Bush on something.
Lawyers represent a major threat to our economy.
But I'm not worried about defense lawyers, or plaintiff's lawyers. I'm worried about the newer scourge of so-called "intellectual property" lawyers.
You won't find the phrase "intellectual property" in the Constitution. (It's often credited mainly to James Madison, left.) There, patents and copyrights are covered by a subsection of Article I, Section 8, whcih gives to the Congress power "To promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries."
For limited times. To promote progress.
Because economic power has shifted, in our time, from our hands to our heads, and because technology is now able to move the product of our minds around the world at the speed of thought, American lawyers have done just what their British counterparts did two centuries ago. They've tried to make our economic leadership permanent through the language of law.
There should be no surprise. This may be the most closeted generation of young people ever. How in the world do you expect them to value something none of them have ever been given?
Today's high schoolers have been told "no" in the loudest possible terms since they were babies. Say no to drugs. Say no to sex. Get your rock from the Disney Channel. Get your rebellion from Nickelodeon.
If they have newspapers in high school these are routinely censored. Even college papers are censored, and closed if they trouble authorities in any way. Kids are even punished for publishing diaries on the Web, even anonymously.
Kids live in a world of V-Chips and drug tests, of mass media with Cyber-Nanny software. It's a comfortable world, for most of them. They're driven from school to ball-field, from day care to proms, but constantly warned that one step over the line will kill them, literally kill them.
No wonder they don't care about freedom.
And I'm not saying this from a sense of moral superiority. I've got two teenagers of my own. They're as closeted as their peers. Although I love them dearly.
Has Microsoft, and its ecosystem, built planned obsolescence into PCs so as to force upgrades?
I know this is tinfoil hat territory, but hear me out. (The tinfoil hat on the left is being modeled by Elizabeth Kramer of Pleasantville, NY, daughter of the blogger Kathlyn Kramer.)
In theory the MTBF (Mean Time Before Failure) of all PC hardware extends not years but decades. There is no theoretical reason for an old machine to stop working, and refuse repair.
Yet that's just what is happening here.
It started a year ago. My 6 year old Windows 98 machine started acting up, refusing to boot, and Scandisk just wouldn't complete. A big part of the problem, I concluded, was the Norton security system I had installed.
But PCs were cheap so I changed it out. I got me a new Windows XP set-up for about half the price I'd paid for the original box back in 1998, and felt like I'd gotten off cheap.
I wrote this for the GreaterDemocracyblog, but I'm also posting it here, because I can.
The software you have on your PC determines what you can do with it. The software a campaign or political movement uses reflects what it can do.
The biggest mistake Howard Dean made in his 2004 campaign wasnt his attacks on Gephardt, and it wasnt the scream. It was his softwares failure to scale the intimacy, to give the 1 millionth, or 10 millionth, campaign participant the same features, and the same sense of belonging, given the 10th and 100th.
Throughout the campaign, and even to this day, Dean and his Democracy for America have relied on Movable Type as their interface with supporters. MT is a good product, but its interactivity is limited. You enter an item on the blog, and comments flow from it in a straight line.
I've been re-reading the last in Harry Turtledove's Worldwar series, called Homeward Bound, and I'm once again struck by the similarities between the U.S. military in Iraq and the Lizards of the story.
The Lizards (not to give the story away) invade Earth i 1942, at the height of World War II. They have the weapons of 2000, Earth has what it had. The overall theme of the piece (which has now run into its seventh 500-page book) is human ingenuity vs. reliance on technology.
I don't know what they're thinking with this latest battle robot. (The picture, which I'm confident betrays no military secrets, is from the BBC.) But I'm pretty certain we're going to have some captured, disabled electronically and then grabbed under covering fire. The wireless link between the operator and the bot is the weak link.
And what happens then?
Attention CitiCorp shareholders. Your company is burning money, wasting it to no purpose other than stupidity and selfishness.
Click below to read all about it.
I have been singing the good news about Moore's Law for many years now. It spurs productivity, it spreads knowledge, it increases the rate of change across the board, etc. etc.
But there is a dark side to all this that most who write on technology don't talk about. (The image is from Youngstown State University in Ohio.)
That's what I call Moore's Inverse Law of Labor.
Simply put, Moore's Law makes large productivity gains absolutely necessary. To compete in a Moore's Law world, you have to continually replace people with technology, and move folks' time into more productive tasks, or they fall behind.
This is true for individuals, for business, for government, for nations. It has very profound implications for all of us.
Let's think about some of them:
I recently wrote in high praise of Motorola for the MS1000, calling them The Kings of Always On.
The following does not detract from that call. Motorola has come closer to building an Always On platform (as I envision one) than anyone else.
But there are still a few things they could easily add:
Some journalists are bloggers, but not all bloggers are journalists.
A blogger is a journalist if they act like a journalist. When anyone researches a story and broadcasts the results on a blog they are a journalist.
When a blogger doesn't identify their role, you should treat them as a journalist until they indicate otherwise. Don't tell them something you don't expect to see published. Give them all the information you would any other journalist.
Journalism, in other words, is a process. It's not defined by a paycheck. It's defined by what you do. UPDATE: A new Gallup poll shows that only 5% rate journalists "very high" in honesty. Would bloggers do worse?
All this is prelude to reporting a contretemps Slate reported about The Wall Street Journal. Apparently when Dean campaign chairman Joe Trippi and aide Zephyr Teachout first approached bloggers MyDD and DailyKos in 2003 it "was explicitly to buy their airtime" in the words of Ms. Teachout (right and above, the one without the hat).
The bloggers weren't told this. Markos Moulitas (Kos) and Jerome Armstrong (MyDD) thought they were being treated as consultants, and consulted. Neither wrote anything on their blogs to disqualify the work as journalism.
Click below to see the rest of the story.
I'm delighted to welcome a new sponsor to Mooreslore -- Earthlink Wireless.
I have a long relationship with Earthlink. I covered their CEO, Garry Betty, as far back as the late 1980s, when he was with Hayes Microcomputer. I have used Earthlink DSL service for years. I followed the rise of Mindspring in Atlanta, and their former CEO, Charles Brewer, is now building Glenwood Park, an an award-winning development near my home.
Earthlink moved to Atlanta after the original company, which was based in California, merged with Mindspring and named its CEO, Atlantan Betty, as its leader. (I wanted them to rename the whole thing MindLink, but I'm over it.)
Check them out.
The Bee Watcher-Watcher watched the Bee Watcher.
He didnt watch well. So another Hawtch-Hawtcher
had to come in as a Watch-Watcher-Watcher!
And today all the Hawtchers who live in Hawtch-Hawtch
are watching on Watch-Watcher-Watchering-Watch,
Watch-Watching the Watcher whos watching that bee.
Youre not a Hawtch-Watcher. Youre lucky, you see!!!
Dr. Seuss's "Did I Ever Tell You How Lucky You Are?" is as subversive now as it ever was, and always finds a new context.
Today the context lies in the proliferation of cameras, which seem to be watching us, all the time, and whether our "privacy" means we should turn them off.
With every Hawtch-Hawtcher out watching each other, does privacy really exist?
The answer may surprise you.
The triumph of liberty in the 20th century was basically a technological triumph. It was Moore's Law that did it. Moore's Law, and all its antecedents, changed the rules of the economic game, of the power game, and the balance between rulers and the ruled.
Moore's Law, the idea that things get better-and-better faster-and-faster, means that trained minds are the key to economic growth. Willing hands, the key to economic growth in the industrial age, matter far less than they did. Chains may keep trained hands working. They don't do so well with trained minds.
In America the result, as Dr. Richard Florida (left) wrote, was the rise of a new "Creative Class" that could dominate societies and drive economic growth. These were people, accused of wealth and guilty of education, whose values were intellectual and meritocratic, and (perhaps most important) were capable of economic satiation. Creative people have, on the whole, risen through Maslow's "hierarchy of needs," and are in search of self-actualization, not food or even luxury.
For the last year I've been harping here on the subject of Always On.
The idea is that you have a wireless network based on a scalable, robust operating system that can power real, extensible applications for home automation, security, medical monitoring, home inventory, and more.
As I wrote I often came back to Motorola and its CEO, Ed Zander. They would be the perfect outfit to do this, I wrote.
Little did I know (until now) but they did. A year ago.
It's called the MS1000.
The product was introduced at last year's CES, and re-introduced at various vertical market shows during the year. It's based on Linux, responds to OSGi standards, and creates an 802.11g network on which applications can then be built.
At this year's CES show, Motorola is pushing a home security solution based on the device, with 10 new peripherals like cameras and motion sensors that can be easily set-up with the network in place, along with a service offering called ShellGenie.
Previously the company bought Premise, which has been involved in IP-based home control since 1999, and pushed a version of the same thing called the Media Station for moving entertainment around the home.
What should Motorola do now? Well, the platform is pretty dependent on having a home PC. The MS1000 could use space for slots so needed programs could be added as program modules. They need to look at medical and home inventory markets, not just entertainment and security.
But they've made an excellent start. And from here on out everyone else is playing catch-up.
Oh, and one more thing...
But let's be fair, and offer his entire post to Dave Farber, in full:
Charles Leadbetter, a freelance analyst who works with Demos of the UK and others (sort of like me but with better management), offered some great insights into the need for regulation recently that have been making the rounds of the blogosphere. (That's one of his books over there.)
How to Profit from Ignorance posits that regulation is needed to regulate ignorance. As life gets more complicated, we become more dependent on experts. Regulation becomes the experts' stamp of approval.
But there's another way of putting the same point -- transparency.
Here is a great example of something Americans would never dream of doing, and another reason why America is failing its people.
Subham Prakhar is a great story. (The picture is from a BBC story.)
He's 12, he's poor, he's very bright. And his potential might have remained buried had he not entered something called the "India Child Genius" competition.
I have a confession to make.
The one thing I would really love to have for Christmas, the one thing I'm least likely to get, is a bottle of the old family wine.
It turns out that a distant branch of my family tree runs a winery in Baden, in Germany, barely a draft notice's toss away from the Swiss border. Weingut Blankenhorn (I think it translates to good wine by the Blankenhorns) is run by Rosemarie Blankenhorn (known as Roy), who is about my age. In addition to the usual German varieties they also make a Chardonnay and a Merlot and a Cab.
But unless I can scrape up airfare and meet Ms. Blankenhorn in person (another life ambition), my chances of trying her wines are slim and none. This is because the winery is fairly small, so that only a big importer would be able to do a deal with her, and also because state laws in the U.S. keep big out-of-state importers from serving Georgia, even by mail or Web.
The Digerati are about to undergo a serious news blackout.
Dave Farber (the picture is from Joi Ito's blog) will be putting up his Interesting People list for 10 days starting Friday as he travels to an undisclosed location with poor Internet access.
This is news because Farber's list has morphed, in the last few years, from a way for Farber to tell friends what he thinks into a real community, where talented people pass stories back-and-forth and comment on them.
It's truly remarkable because, in a technological sense, this should be obsolete, no news at all. Farber's is essentially a shared, moderated mailing list. When someone sends something interesting he forwards it along, and the digerati who are part of the list depend on his unerring sense of what's important (and what isn't) to keep the signal-noise ratio extremely high.
What happens when Farber goes dark isn't just that we lose a news source. We lose contact with all the other people on the list, because we don't have any other place in common.
So if this blog, or your other favorite news source, reads like it's one-eye blind next week you'll know why.
The two brief items below are examples of a new feature here at Corante, called Blink.
Blinks are quick hits, references to stories happening within our beats. Just a link, maybe a few words, based on something we found of interest but have yet to think about thoroughly.
I get no credit for any of this. Your encomiums should go to Hylton Jolliffe (right), our fearless leader, who has also been implementing other changes to make our blogs more "competitive" for reader interest (and advertiser dollars) as we go into 2005. It's true his forehead is too small and narrow for him to be a truly "handsome man" as I am, but we at Mooreslore are hopeful the course of time may change that.
I have been privileged to have written with Hylton for nearly two years now. He is honest, innovative, fair-minded, a good man in every way. I've chided him in the past that he should be rich as well.
Maybe (blink, blink) we can get to work on that now....
I first came up with the line above about four years ago, soon after I got my first software firewall, from ZoneAlarm.
Nothing has happened since to change my mind, except to make the call more urgent.
USA Today's test of a half-dozen "honeypot" computers, left unprotected with broadband connections, should be required reeading. It's gone from threat to certainty that your computer will be turned into a spambot zombie if you don't have a firewall.
The situation is so dire I had to change my mind on something.
Stephen Wolfram is one of the most amazing people of our time.
He is known to the lay person, if at all, for a program called Mathematica, which has done as much for the acceleration of change as Moore's Law itself.
By boiling down what you can do with mathematics into a computer program, Mathematica freed science from waiting on mathematics to analyze data. The program helps you devise formulae that work, so the results you get are proven. When people would say "it's not rocket science" they were often referring to the combination of math and science required to launch a rocket. Now, thanks to Wolfram, even rocket science isn't rocket science anymore.
Not only that, but Mathematica made Wolfram's Wolfram Research a going concern, a real business. It freed him from the demands of academe. He truly became the elephant that could tap dance. (He's no Gates, but he's pretty good at it.)
Still, as they always say, what have you done for me lately?
Something quite amazing, actually.
I write in English. I don't do code.
I tried doing code, but I could never get it to run. I'm not that methodical, not that linear. I apologize.
But my son, now 13 (right), has reached an age where it would be good if he tried it. It would occupy his mind, it would be a great skill to have, and he might not be bugging me for video games if he can design his own, you know?
Question is, where are the good tools for beginning programmers?
Back "in the day," a decade ago, there was a boom in things like turtle graphics and languages like BASIC. But c is the language today, and I would love to find a great beginner's text, one that would lure him into it slowly, and bring him to some level of proficiency, from which other texts could take him the rest of the way.
Suggestions? Consider this an open thread.
Regular readers know I sometimes spout off here about things I know nothing about. Today's topic is sports.
Most major media companies today are trying to incorporate blogging into what they do.
They are finding it exceedingly difficult.
That's because good blogging comes from passion. It's spontaneous. The best media efforts I've seen so far have lived in one of three categories:
I am coming to believe the American press is biased...toward stupidity. (Illustration by the marvelous Danny Filippone. Every doctor's office should have a poster of this one, don't you think?)
Here's a perfect example of bad reporting, a bylined report on a medical Web site about one-third of Americans having high blood pressure.
Read the story all the way through. Is there any definition of high blood pressure, or the correct way to measure it? No.
Fact is the American press has become so dumbed-down by low salaries and publishers' agendas that most paid reporters can't even read a press release, let alone ask a decent question based on one, or report accurately on what they read.
Every day, it seems, I see more and more people trying to use the blogging metaphor to make money. (The image, naturally, comes from business-blog.com.)
The question remains whether blogging will become subsumed into other media (lots of high-tech publishers, like Business 2.0, now have things they call blogs), whether new journalism businesses can be built on blogging, and whether blogging will be an individual or community endeavor.
Following are some Clues to this future:
I have been rather unkind to Robert Cringely over the years. It was nothing personal. I just had some disagreements.
The story is on the U.S. sentencing guidelines, and a study showing they wouldn't work which was performed, then buried in 1982. Had the results of this scientific study been accepted, rather than rejected for political reasons, he writes, hundreds of thousands of people might be out of prison, contributing to society, and crime might indeed be lower.
But read the piece yourself and make your own decision. As writing, I want to point to this snap ending:
The most politically subversive movie of the year is not Fahrenheit 911*.
It's I, Robot. (Image of the poster from AMEInfo in the UAE.)
My 13-year old son dragged me to see this Will Smith vehicle today. It tells the story of an evil, soulless corporation (check) whose creatures seek to destroy freedom in the name of security (double check).
But wait, it gets better. (Of course, if you click you'll learn the whole plot, so consider this your spoiler alert.)
The Times has an article on how pathetic Silicon Valley feels.
I can't decide which is more pathetic, the mood or the article. (The image, however, is from the Cullen sculpture garden at Houston's Museum of Fine Arts.)
First, the mood. It is like Houston was in 1984, although conditions are very different. In the oil bust, whole neighborhoods were abandoned, the keys just left in mailboxes. Anyone with a job was just waiting to lose it, and in any case their salary was falling behind their bills. Billboards that weren't empty were filled with ads for preachers. The filth, the fear, and the despair were palpable. Everyone I know who lived through that time, in that place, was scarred by it.
Silicon Valley isn't that bad. Traffic is lighter, and hangers-on have moved on.
But in some ways, the situation is much worse.
Back when I was at CMP Media, in the mid-1990s, we had a corporate slogan. We were about "the builders, the sellers, and the users" of technology. (Illustration from Time Magazine.)
All CMP publications fit into one of those boxes. Computer Reseller News was for the sellers. EE Times was for the builders. Windows was for the users.
This caused a problem for those of us at Interactive Age, the new Internet book. We didn't fit neatly into any box. The ad sellers said we were a builder book, but personally I was writing for the users, and many of our stories were about the sellers.
Needless to say, the magazine was dead within months. We missed the whole Internet boom because the bosses couldn't figure out what box to put us in.
First, it's true. My dear wife is a programmer and morale is down at her place. There's real fear out there. There's fear of India, but more than that, fear of being replaced by someone younger and cheaper.
"Do you know they don't even call themselves programmres?" she asked me one night. "Now they're developers."