A new blog.

I'm going to move my blog in the next week or so. Blogger.com is apparently abandonware in the eyes of Google. I'm probably going to host a site on my home laptop server here or possibly use Yahoo360 if it's up to snuff...


The Third Party

Most people view the left and right as polar opposites. They see political worldview as the core of someone's beliefs, there is no lower denominator. It occured to me yesterday that the left and right really have a lot in common. The left finds comfort in a big government that ensures equality and justice. The right finds comfort in god and conservative moral standards. Both sides are willing to ignore reams of data; evolution/human nature on the right and economics on the left. The right believes in the science behind economic theory yet try to ban the theory of evolution. The left accepts the science behind evolution but denounces economic progress as a way to make the world better. Human nature is the lowest common denominator. Both sides just want hope and comfort, and that's exactly what their worldviews provide.

People choose not to face reality and maybe the world is better because of it. I'd hate to see what would become of the world if one day everybody just gave up hope. I'd hate to see what would become of the world if one day everybody just gave up hope. I see poor people buying lottery tickets every day at the local liquor store near my office. Maybe they've given up on a god who lets them suffer like they do but they don't lose hope, they just use the lottery to fill that need. Some don't have hope and use alcohol as an anesthetic. Hope is a good thing but could be a better thing if it didn't come at the expense of civil liberties or economic progress.

There is talk of a new moderate political party. I don't see it working unless it's compatible with hope and provides comfort. So how do you provide hope? Well if you take a scientific view of the world you realize that we have a lot of work to do. We're not created in God's image. That leaves a lot of room for improvement. Science has the potential to cure cancer and AIDS, end hunger, create a global society which might lead to peace. If that party used all of these breakthroughs as a marketing tool to explain that science is a pretty good way to figure out truth. Hope would slowly migrate from God to the lottery and then to the hope that we as individuals and as a whole can make the world better with scientific advances. I'm not talking about better Ipods. Social science, political science, economics, medicine, cognitive science - what makes us tick. Many of these areas are ignored because of biased but comfortable conflicting beliefs.

The left calls for a top-down approach to improving the world. The next big thing according to a lot of people is the grassroots or pro-am revolution. Journalism/Media will improve and hold polluters accountable. Monopolies based on distribution inefficiencies are crumbling due to the rise of the Internet as a nearly free way to do business. We'll still need an SEC and EPA but this self organizing grassroots regulation is probably going to do a much better job than a bureacracy. That's an idea Libertarians should be pushing.

In other news:
  • David Byrne of Talking Heads fame has a new radio station. Eclectic, kinda weird but good.
  • Jay Rosen has a great article on the future of the Newspaper business.
  • Michael Malone has a related article Farewell to Newspapers.
  • Mulder has a blog. No mention of Scully.


More Google Guessing

I wrote about Google's purchase of "dark fiber", the unused super high speed connections that form the guts of the Internet. At the time nobody knew Google's motivation, the heart of the Internet is fast enough now. The last mile connections to the home are the limitation. During my last post I had an idea that might explain what Google is up to.

Distributed applications work on a common problem but live on separate computers. Two of the more famous examples are SETI@Home and Folding@Home. They can use your computer to tackle a small piece of a really hard problem like scanning radio signals for signs of life or simulating the movements of human protein. Millions of Internet connected computers when combined act as one big supercomputer. So what does that have to do with Google? Well for starters they embedded Folding@home in some copies of the Google Toolbar which has been installed on millions of computers to block popups and provide easy access to search features. Why? My theory is that they were trying to learn about distributed computing over the Internet and not being friendly to Folding@Home out of the goodness of their heart.

Google has a huge threat to its revenue because it is just software and not a lot of software at that. It happens to have a huge server farm which runs that software but here is the problem: Hardware gets cheaper and software gets Open Source. Google is rich because people trust them and their product is simple to use. Users are fickle. Users will use whatever their trusted tech friend suggests and those tech friends are increasingly fans of Open Source. Google's search algorithm is not open source.

Competition is a big problem for Google. Flickr is better than the Google image search and it may only be a matter of time before something beats their web search. A9 seems to have some ideas about how to do it. So like any rational investor Google is trying to diversify. Why dark fiber?

If you sell software and someone creates a free, open source version of it you will go out of business. If you sell hardware people can copy the design and manufacture it in a country with liberal intellectual property laws and undercut your prices because they didn't need and R&D budget. Google's purchase of Internet infrastructure might prevent the threat of open source software and the threat of cheap knock-off hardware. Basically I'm suggesting they're going to get into the router business. No government wants the infrastructure of the global economy(E-commerce, VOIP, email) running on cheap hardware and they probably also don't want that same infrastructure running on software whos potential flaws are available to "many eyeballs". Obscurity isn't a sound basis for security but Google could argue that diversity is one form of security. The SQL slammer worm flooded the Internet with traffic and shut down all sorts of services including ATMs. It had no effect on Linux or Mac machines, only Windows machines running certain database software.

Google could write an operating system dedicated to routing which wouldn't be vulnerable to flaws found in Linux or BSD based routers. They could install it on proprietary Google Routers which they'll use to turn their dark fiber into lit fiber. They might sell it to governments that wish to prevent terrorist attacks on the infrasturcture which would cause major economic damage. Maybe that's not so far fetched considering Bin Laden wants to attack ports to disturb commerce. If their next generation distributed search algorithm can take advantage of some proprietary technology that's built into their routers then they will have no competition.


The end of Google is Nigh!

Nobody would argue that the Internet and its side effects (blogging, low transaction costs, transparency, accountability) are gimmicky fads destined to mimic pets.com and other dotcom disasters. I've been thinking about what these new realities mean for business and specifically one facet of business: Size.

If you look the music industry it's pretty clear that much of their power is the result of ownership of distribution channels which they've monopolized. The Internet has removed those distribution inefficiencies and lowered the barriers to entry. The eyeballs of a million web empowered musicians are staring, bemused at the guards to a castle with no walls*.

Large corporations are simply too big to keep pace with innovation so they become venture capital firms, acquiring small innovative startups like Flickr. Their only hope in the land of one man, open source innovation machines (BitTorrent) is that users of their new free services click on ads. Hard problems like poverty in Africa can't be solved by America because we can't just throw money at the problem. These impovershed nations are poor because of their corrupt leaders. Those so called leaders take our foreign aid and buy nice cars and boats. Real innovation is also a hard problem. Throwing a billion dollars at it doesn't work like it used to.

Google will soon die in my opinion because Meta-tagging is no longer just a buzzword. A formula dictates what you see in a Google search result page. Google has recently taken heat for including a neo-nazi "news" site in their GoogleNews search results. Pure technology has limitations. Free technology that turns our brains into the search algorithm is incompatible with the search business. Google figured out the longtail theory early and profited. Early mover advantage is however a relative flash in the pan unless you see a decade as a really long time. I'd even argue that early mover advantage is a sign of applied awareness not innovation. Google is using an old business model even though they're in the tech industry. Learning how to survive as a business when faced with an army of caffeine addicted, crustless sandwich fed, mom's basement jockeys who code for the love of it and don't charge a dime for their efforts, that's the trick.

At the emerging technology conference people were talking about the imporatnce of the "edge". The edge refers to anybody not between the producer and consumer, middlemen. Money could buy monopoly status in the past, Microsoft is a prime example. Monopolies were able to exist between "the edges" because insufficient technology and closed, defacto standards allowed them to. Times have changed. The people in the future with money will likely have actually earned it, that can't be a bad thing. If I'm not full of crap then bonds may be a damn good investment.

Next time: Desktop applications vs. Web apps.
The "server" is the distribution monopoly propping up sites like Google.


Freedom Blogger

Cracked 300,000 visitors a couple days ago, mainly because of my Tsunami Torrent experiment, it's nice to see things settling down a little bit, there's a lot of pressure when that many people are reading.

A French blogger found one of my posts amusing and translated it to his native tongue. I'm posting the frenchi-fied version followed by an odd Babelfish translation back to English.

On tombe parfois sur des commentaires amusants sur les blogs remarquant avec consternation que Bill est tombé sur la tête. Un exemple :

Il y a une vieille histoire qui dit que le gamin qui casse des fenêtres de voitures la nuit pendant que ses voisins dorment est une bonne chose pour l'économie. Les fabricants de vitres de voitures font des affaires, des emplois sont créés, le PNB augmente, donc tout le monde y gagne, non ? Ca n'est bien sûr pas le cas, mais on dirait que c'est la logique que Gates utilise. Et pour cause, ça fait bientôt 20 ans qu'il casse des fenêtres Windows.

Here's the 3rd generation version in English

One falls sometimes on comments amusing on the blogs noticing with consternation that Bill fell on the head. An example :

There is an old history which says that the kid who breaks windows of cars the night while its neighbors sleep is a good thing for the economy. Do the manufacturers of panes of cars make deals, employment are created, the GNP increases, therefore everyone gains there, not ? Ca is not of course step the case, but it would be said that it is logic that Gates uses. And due, that made soon 20 years that it breaks des fenêtres Windows.

I just bought a supposedly amazing book on writing from Amazon. If my posts get better improve I'll post the title.


Venture Capital Funding for Geeks

Here are my notes from the Venture Capital Funding for Geeks presentation at the Emerging Technology Conference in San Diego. It's'nt (why aren't double contractions allowed?) well formatted but it has lots of really interesting ideas. I thought I knew quite a bit about this topic before the conference but that wasn't the case. There was a venture capitalist in the audience who, during the Q&A, basically confirmed that the speaker hit the nail on the head.

VC Funding for geeks
Idea isn't as important as the group of people that you choose to work with.
Incorporate before going to the VC
hint at VC competition
VCs don't start new companies. Get customers first.
Angels , bank loans, govt grants.
Consulting to pay the bills.
Flickr grant funded.

Solution looking for a problem?

The best way to get vc funding is not to need it.
Don't stop calling them.

Popular Power. GlenGaryGlenRoss
Chicken/Egg VC TermSheet. Take good enough.
Don't change the idea based on the input.
Funding is a FullTime Job

10:1 pitch to term sheet.

3 term sheets per 1 financing

From pitch to term sheet two months, ten or more meetings

Term Sheet to money

Total time 6-12 months.

VCS are blogging- read them!

VC is a business too book: "No Exit: When Venture Capital isn't right" good blog too.

Funders != founders
investors != inventors

August and december - dead months
VC is a concensus business. September is a good month.

Powerpoint presentation, 10-15 slides no more!
Executive Summary, 2-3 pages
introduction to a vc.
Don't submit a biz plan only works with Angels.

On Pitches:
ventureblog.com - presenting your company

The technologist's trap
Do one slide about the product, the rest should be about the business. The business is as important as the idea.

Get slides online:
The Ten Day MBA.
Biz plans for dummies.

Prior Art! Mail the idea to a lawyer.
Provisional Patent. 1 year Statute.

From the VC in the audience: Know your VCs. Personalities in the firm, etc.
Buy the book, MBA in 10 days.



The Museum of Bad Art has an online store, go figure. This should be in a Drugfree America ad campaign.


Blogging Live from ETech 2005 - Thursday

I'm posting my thoughts live from the Emerging Technology Conference, updating through the day...

I'm watching Lessig talk about remixing. It's nice to finally see him live. "When the tools change, does the freedom change as well?" I think he's making the point that technology makes it easier to restrict the free flow of culture. Great 1984 reference, he's comparing the eyes from the book to technology today. More in a minute...

It's like the death of non-open source code that follows the endo of a company. He's worried that our kids won't be able to benefit form culture in the way people did before the corporations gained power.

He's calling for a techno-jihad, a civil war.

Doctrow is asking about the Creative Commons license. Lessig is explaining that there needs to be balance, both extremes are wrong.

Got a photo, it'll be up soon.

He's pushing for balance, he's not yet totally in agreement with RMS.

He wants a political movement, - shot at Jack Valenti.

WIPO - Using a wiki to gather ideas. CC-Wiki License introduced.

Doctrow - How?
Lessig - Democracy. See, motivate. Makes point about F911 but Moore gave the OK to share it online. Balance.

Verizon - Infrastructure, Philli!! question. Muni wireless, Port blocking. Powell busted them. Network Neutrality. "Layer2" is not powerful. Texas corporate crackdown. Powell Doctrine.

Derivatives License - CC Tested, Wayback machine - Copyright vs. Patent - Grey area, where does a copy end and a remix begin?

Software patents. EU he's arguing that the EU is faux democracy, the Russian side of European politics is too powerful.

Concept as Blogs
Links as Wikis

This is the guy doing the 3d scene camera. Laser Scanning, 1Million data points a second. Weird to see this working for real now. Wow! We've got to use this for trackbuilding in Motorsport.

Power at the edges

Emerging Massive Media BBC

Anderson - Longtail
Savagely truncated
Tyranny of Choice - Due to lack of information. Maybe that's what google answers are looking to address. 411 specialists, turnaroud. Same with google advertizing.
Custom Streams, not mass markets.
Filters to get the crap out of the tail.
-Six research projects - how does the tail affect the head?
Inverse, time is the distribution bottleneck.
Minitails, hit amplification, the tail is made up of mini-tails. Contradiction?
-Price elasticity - Botique products cost more. Fixed cost.
-Difference between comodification, pyramid and the long tail
-Secondary markets - Used goods, Gray Goods, Overstock Goods
-Watching Lessig watch Anderson, I wonder if this is the first time he's heard about this.
-Waste transistors then, waste storage, bandwidth now.

Excite former exec, Jotspot - this is a good idea, software longtail. Excel for example. VC's are "freaked out" about it. Leverage existing longtail infrastructure!


Blogging from ETech 2005 - My first billionaire sighting

I'm in a ballroom at the Emerging Technology Conference in San Diego. Crazy thing, I just walked around a corner and was standing face to face with Jeff Bezos (Amazon CEO) in a hallway. He looked me right in the eye (he's worth about $2.4 billion per eye). He was talking about how RSS had surprised a lot of people. I was going to make a joke about how his one click shopping "patent" has nearly bankrupted me but thought wiser. It's Nerdtopia. I didn't bring a camera but I will tomorrow, I seriously feel like a kid at Disneyland right now.

Update: A speaker from MIT went online and found the genetic sequence of Smallpox and pasted it into a form field on a website by a company that makes DNA to order. Everybody in the audience was sorta freaked out but he said there are measures in place to prevent what that from happeneing. He also explained how DNA is sloppy and redundant, took a jab a creationists. I wish I had a camera, students at MIT created a glob of bacteria that spelled "Hello World" which got an applause out of the audience as that's typically the first thing you learn to do in computer programming.

Nokia had an interesting presentation but the speakers were a little nervous. They did a nice little crowd pleasing demo, an automated contact send feature that works by proximity. Someone astutely pointed out that there could be privacy concerns in a subway.

There was a really good energetic atmosphere there (free Starbucks probably didn't hurt), lots of foreign accents and journalists. Everybody had their laptops and there was a weird sound I've never heard before, 100s of laptop keyboards clicking in unison. It sounded a little like a flock of pigeons taking flight.



So I was trying to put into words this idea of open source 2.0. Big things made possible by the maturation of a lot of little things and found a great post referenced by blogdex.
Ajax isn’t a technology. It’s really several technologies, each flourishing in its own right, coming together in powerful new ways. Ajax incorporates:
If you skipped over the techno speak it just means that you don't have to wait for things to finish before continuing to navigate the site. The result is things like the new Google Maps project. This link shows a map of my cross street. The neat thing here is that you can drag the map around like you can a window on your desktop. I used to refer to this as Open Source Middleware but it's bigger than that. It's the end result of digital technology and standards. Standards are finally coming together enough to see it happen.


Aha Moment, Tax idea

Longtail V. Lessig - I figured out what I couldn't before. This quote sums it up.
"What's changed is the presumption that the primary rights-holder is the best at extracting the commercial potential of creative material. Instead, anyone can do it: the advertising company that remixes an old movie to sell a car; the Linux t-shirt done Warhol-style, or just plain old DJ magic. "
What an idea. It's a good argument against the extension of copyright terms or at least against the automatic extension. I wonder if Lessig used the Longtail in his Supreme Court battle vs. Ashcroft. Here's an idea, works are copyrighted automatically just as they are now but after 10 years or so you have to renew that copyright. It should be made a simple process.

Cash Registers and Space Ships - Progressive Consumption Taxes
The following argument is based on the fact that cash registers now have more processing power than the Apollo space program which managed to land on the moon. http://www.jimthompson.net/palmpda/Silly/power.htm Flat taxes are successful but problematic because of a wealth divide that ensues. If a cheap point of sales device was created that could do slightly harder math so that more expensive items are taxed at a higher rate then a flat(ish) tax could be adopted in America. The only problem is that everybody would need to upgrade their point of sale devices. The government could temporarily subsidize the manufacturers of those devices to make their use a reality. Maybe 3 classes of items could be created. Cigarettes and booze could be taxed at a higher rate as they are now but you could also create a bare necessities category for things like food, water, toothbrushes, cleaning supplies and other household necessities which would carry little or no tax. You'd also keep the luxury tax for things like caviar and Bugattis but everything else would be subject to the default tax.

Next time
UofSA - Countries as Colleges - Countries will recruit top prospects.
Glen Reynolds on Satellite TV in the middle east.


God I Love Open Source

Last night I sent an email to an Italian software engineer. I asked him to attempt to write a virus scanner plugin for Thunderbird, the premier open source email client. He agreed.

So if my idea pans out you would be able to download Thunderbird and ClamWin Antivirus, (both are free) and all incoming emails would be disinfected automatically. Clamwin and Thunderbird are not currently compatible, Clamwin will quarantine your entire inbox if one message is infected.

The raw efficiency of the process is what struck me. I emailed this guy in Italy on a whim, proposed an idea, offered him a few dollars and got a response within a few hours. No lawyers in sight, no negotiations with the developers of ClamWin or Thunderbird, no haggling over intellectual property rights; just code that I can put on the computers we donate to schools and foster families to make their lives a little less frustrating. And of course if this plan bears fruit, you or anybody else in the world can make use of it. It's a beautiful thing. Benkler's and Lessig's ideas are starting to gel in my mind. If I were a philanthropist I'd find little open source projects that need a little inertia and get things moving. It's longtail economics applied to charity. Here's a weird idea: Philanthropy, venture capital for an open source world.

I think it's a sign that open source is maturing. The archipelago of little projects that comprise the open source movement are beginning to connect in weird and useful ways. Web 2.0 is used to describe the applications built on the Internet standards that have emerged over the last decade or so. The brain runs much slower than a computer chip but R2D2 remains science fiction because we're enabled by the connections between lots of relatively simple neurons. People wonder why this post dot bomb Internet revival took so long. If open source is following the same path then it would appear that a 2nd open source boom is about to emerge from the maturing simple pieces of the open source landscape that are starting to connect. This is the definition of emergence, for me it's the closest thing I've found to a scientific religion.

Here's a tweaked quote from wikipedia:
"According to an emergent perspective, intelligence(high quality, interoperable global software framework) emerges from the connections between neurons(smaller applications), and from this perspective it is not necessary to propose a "soul"(mega-corporation/government) to account for the fact that brains(the Internet+MIPS) can be intelligent(intelligent?)."

Next Time: Space ships and cash registers


This is your brain on drugs...

Click the photo for the guy's Flickr site. Wonders never cease.


States Writes

So somehow I made in on to States Writes: the Progressives' Peer Directory from the American Street. I'm listed along with 50 other bloggers from California including the Daily Cos and Dan Gillmor's site. That's all well and good (and flattering) but I don't consider myself any more left than right. The inner turmoil is unbearable, I can't stand Limbaugh but I think high taxes harm the lower class. Luckily I get to focus on technology for the next couple of weeks.

I have so much going on right now, most of it good but my brain is pulling a French labor union, it wants a 35 hour work week. I was in an nameless, faceless office building today (not my employer's thank god) the size of a football field. I'm just tall enough to see over the cubicles and I was half expecting to bump into Dilbert or Lumbergh, didn't spot any red swinglines. A guy was sitting in his cube, moderately pudgy, leaning back far enough that he could operate his mouse but not his keyboard. He looked like the guy in Alien who was still alive but condemned to an agonizing death by a parasitic creature. Maybe he had the pinkslip virus.


Utopian Infection

Well it couldn't last forever. Two of my favorite idea people have seemingly contradictory ideas. The good news? I get to harass both of them at the Emerging Technology Conference in two weeks. In fact, I'm going to email Lessig and see if he'll agree to sneak into Chris Anderson's presentation. I have a spare sombrero that might come in handy.

Here's the crux of the contradiction:
In Free Culture, Lessig writes (page 225):

Of all the creative work produced by humans anywhere, a tiny fraction has continuing commercial value. For that tiny fraction, the copyright is a crucially important legal device. For that tiny fraction, the copyright creates incentives to produce and distribute the creative work. For that tiny fraction, the copyright acts as an “engine of free expression.”

But even for that tiny fraction, the actual time during which the creative work has a commercial life is extremely short. As I’ve indicated, most books go out of print within one year. The same is true of music and film. Commercial culture is sharklike. It must keep moving. And when a creative work falls out of favor with the commercial distributors, the commercial life ends.

Contrast that with The Long Tail:

You can find everything out there on the Long Tail. There's the back catalog, older albums still fondly remembered by longtime fans or rediscovered by new ones. There are live tracks, B-sides, remixes, even (gasp) covers. There are niches by the thousands, genre within genre within genre: Imagine an entire Tower Records devoted to '80s hair bands or ambient dub. There are foreign bands, once priced out of reach in the Import aisle, and obscure bands on even more obscure labels, many of which don't have the distribution clout to get into Tower at all.

Part of the solution, Anderson argues, is a renouncement of copyright in favor of things like the Creative Commons license. I still haven't figured out the rest of his argument and even he admits "We don't yet know how the money will eventually flow through this collaborative network." I find these ideas more interesting than just about anything I've ever come across but they're horribly complicated. Maybe that's why I like computers.