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October 07, 2005

test entry

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Posted by Hylton Jolliffe

Testing technorati with redirects

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Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: admin

March 18, 2004

Taking a Break

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Posted by Arnold

I'm going to take a break from this blog for a couple of months. Maybe come back in June.

People are still talking about the economics of telecom and spam and the impact of the Internet on various business models, but they are saying the same things that have been said for quite a while. I feel like if I tune out for a couple of months and then tune back in, I won't miss anything.


Comments (5) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: admin

March 15, 2004

Moore's Law and Military Technology

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Posted by Arnold

Five years ago, Ray Kurzweil predicted that we would see military aircraft the size of birds by the year 2009. Based on this article by Phil Carter, it would seem that Moore's Law seems to be moving faster.

AeroVironment's MicroAir Vehicle looks like a flying laptop with a propeller and is about the same size but carries a digital camera and can fly for nearly two hours. A slightly larger model is the Organic Air Vehicle, which uses a strong fan to keep itself aloft and can hover in place. In DARPA's vision of the future battlefield, unmanned aircraft like these will swarm the skies, providing ubiquitous surveillance for commanders.

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Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Moore's Law

March 12, 2004

Biotech and Sports

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Posted by Arnold

I argue that we should not think of biotechnology solely in terms of sports metaphors.

sports are a peculiar facet of human experience. They are inevitably zero-sum in character. For every winner, there is a loser. Each tournament has only one champion. When an athlete breaks a world record, the previous record-holder's title is eclipsed.

...In fact, many social phenomena -- particularly those that are studied by economists -- are not zero-sum games. In those cases, zero-sum thinking turns out to be quite counterproductive in attempting to trace out systemic implications.

Another comment on bioethics and the President's council comes from Carl Zimmer.

When our ancestors stood upright and got big brains, Greene argues, these moral intuitions became more elaborate. They probably helped hominids survive, by preventing violence and deception from destroying small bands of hunter-gatherers who depended on each other to find food and raise children. But evolution is not a reliable guide for figuring out how to lead our lives today. Just because moral intuitions may be the product of natural selection doesn't mean they are right or wrong, any more than feathers or tails are right or wrong.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: future technology and growth

March 10, 2004

I'll take Ohio

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Posted by Arnold

Steve Clemons praises the taxpayer support of high-tech research in New York state.

New York has already invested $620 million of a planned $1 billion to create an imaginative network of research and development incubators - dubbed "the Empire State High-Tech Corridor."

...Contrast the energetic New York program with the disappointment among business and labor advocates in Ohio when voters last November narrowly defeated a $500 million state bond issue to fund pro-growth R&D in the state.

Good for Ohio. The only thing stupider than Federal bureaucrats trying to run an industrial policy is state and local bureaucrats trying to do it. Maryland has wasted a ton of money on incubators, "corridors," and other fads.

If government takes over, what used to be the most dynamic sectors of our economy will wind up looking like our least effective industry.

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: business models

Email Innovation?

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Posted by Arnold

Has anyone tried any of the products from Stata labs? It looks like they have a spam-filter proxy server, which I assume works something like popfile. Also, they have a search engine for email (I know, I know, anybody who could write a grep command could do that, but hey, I'm slow), which I could see really making my life easier.

Thanks to Lawrence Lee for the pointer.

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: spam wars

99-cent rip-off

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Posted by Arnold

Brother Ernie wonders how Apple can convince people that an iPod that can store thousands of songs should be filled at a cost of 99 cents per song.,

Something's got to give. I don't think that it will be digital storage in which advances continue to outpace Moore's Law. I don't think it will be people's expectations. Thus, it is going to have to be the ala carte pricing point. However, I think the only realistic ala carte pricing point is going to be in the micropayments realm, which is unlikely to work. Thus, a subscription-based model will be the only likely, voluntary solution.

That's the conclusion I reached a couple years ago. The other model I predicted back then would correspond to selling an iPod pre-stocked with 5000 popular songs.

Comments (2) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Moore's Law | business models | economics of content

March 09, 2004

If Brad DeLong called me stupid

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Posted by Arnold

I wouldn't brag about it. Certainly not if the topic were international macroeconomics.

Regardless of where you are politically, I think that it is safe to say that when it comes to the relationship of savings and the trade deficit, Brad DeLong has still got his head screwed on right. I'm with him 100 percent in this dispute.

It's on other issues, when he gets outside his area of expertise and goes into loony conspiracy theory, that he trespasses against Nugent and Mosler's comparative advantage.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: economic essays

Red Sox Technologies

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Posted by Arnold

My essay on technologies that perennially disappoint.

  • Micropayments
  • E-books
  • Speech Recognition
  • Video Conferencing
  • Social Networking Software
  • Virtual Classrooms

...The engineers, tinkerers, and inventors who are still working on Red Sox technologies all labor under the illusion that all that is needed is a better solution. However, I think that you will find that if you examine Red Sox technologies closely enough, you will see that in each case they address the wrong problem.

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: business models | economic essays | future technology and growth

March 07, 2004

True Lies

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Posted by Arnold

After reading Weinberger's Law:

whatever people most emphasize about themselves is the biggest lie they tell. If your boss tells you that he's all about teamwork, then he's all about himself. If Nixon says that he is not a crook, then he is.

I went back to what I wrote on Orkut for my profile:

I'm somewhere between an academic geek and a normal person.

Presumably, that statement is the biggest lie that I tell. It's not clear what to make of that.

Also, for what it's worth, I've never believed that George Bush is "compassionate." There was no compassion in the glint in his eye during the debates when he supported the death penalty and asserted that marriage is between a man and a woman. And I agree with David that John Kerry's claim to be just a regular guy probably is another instance of Weinberger's cynical law.

Comments (8) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: politics | social software

March 04, 2004

News of My Death, Reprise

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Posted by Arnold

I wrote about the coming death of newspapers quite a while back. One of my points was that the decline in young readership spells doom. Vin Crosbie has more data to buttress that view.

Minnesota Opinion Research Inc. (MORI), presented data showing that young adults are increasingly less interested in newspapers. Scarborough Research found that 44.6 percent of young adults read a newspaper each weekday in 1996 but only 38.5 percent did in 2001.

MORI found that 39 percent of 18-to-34-year-olds read a newspaper daily in 1997 but only 26 percent did in 2001.

Lots more data like that in the full article.

I'm also not at all surprised by this:

The newspaper industry has spent billions on the Internet to create online editions that are read by fewer people, less frequently and less fully than print editions. These online editions haven't helped newspapers attract younger readers, and most of them are a financial drain on the newspapers that support them.

Crosbie's recommendations have some merit. This one...

opening the walls of those newspaper companies' vertical integration and inter-syndicating their and other companies' content right down to the story level.

...even sounds like what I was saying in The Club Vs. The Silo.

But I don't think you can teach the dinosaurs to survive. The decline will be long and slow, and in fact the slowness of the decline will be what makes it impossible to bring about change in the industry. A sudden crisis might bring a creative response. Slow death won't.

Comments (4) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: economics of content

The Inquisition

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Posted by Arnold

In this essay, I draw parallels between the way Congress treats economists and the way the inquisition treated Galileo.

Imagine that you were invited to a party held at a bar. You show up, and you give $5 to the host. The host welcomes you, slaps you on the back, and asks "What'll you have?" After you give him your order, he heads off in the direction of the bartender. You think that he's going to use your money to pay for your order. But in fact, he is using it to pay for a drink ordered by someone else, who already has been here for an hour. When he orders your drink, the host is going to tell the bartender to "put it on our tab."

And just how big a tab have we run up with Social Security and Medicare? What is the damage? Well, it turns out that the present value of the unfunded deficit in entitlements has been estimated by Jagadeesh Gokhale and Kent Smetters to be $45 trillion. Even if President Kerry or Edwards turned the rich people in the country upside down, emptying their pockets of all their financial assets, homes, cars, and everything else, that still could not cover the tab that Congress has run up on our behalf.

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: economic essays

Gilder, the FCC, and the court

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Posted by Arnold

The worst thing you could do to telephone regulation is to turn it into a state and local regulatory circus, which is what the FCC proposed to do last year, due to Kevin Martin's treachery. I have no idea what legal basis a court found for voiding that regulation, but George Gilder is now optimistic.

The future will see a fibersphere of all optical networks reaching around the globe and linked to customers by a variety of mostly wireless devices. In this radically simpler and more powerful network architecture, the only locality will be the distance reachable at the velocity of light, not at the speed of politics.

Read the whole thing. Personally, I doubt that the local Bells are going to be the ones who bring broadband to the last mile. I favor deregulation because it is cleaner, not because I expect them to step up broadband investments.

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: telecom, FCC

March 01, 2004

Declan on Privacy

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Posted by Arnold

Declan McCullagh draws a distinction between private snooping and government snooping.

If you don't like Safeway's discount card, shop at Whole Foods, which doesn't offer one. If's recommendations about books based on your previous orders are annoying, try or walk down to your local bookstore instead. You have a choice.

That choice vanishes when the government demands data.

Comments (2) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: transparent society

Clay on VOIP

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Posted by Arnold

A couple of excerpts from his latest.

If Plan A is "Replace the phone system slowly and from within," Plan B is far more radical: "Replace the phone system. Period."
...Where Plan A is a fight between incumbent and upstart phone companies, Plan B says that we no more need a phone company than we need a text company.
...telephony is treated as a vice instead of an essential service -- the taxes and surcharges on a phone bill are more in line with the markup on alcohol and tobacco than with gas or air travel.

I think that voice will "tip" away from telephone companies when there is enough wireless Internet access available. If I can get wireless Internet access nearly everywhere, then I can ditch my cell phone and landline phone in favor of an Internet device that happens to be able to handle voice.

Comments (2) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: telecom, FCC

February 27, 2004

The Phone Deregulation Argument

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Posted by Arnold

First, James Glassman wrote,

The law says that the Bells have "[t]he duty to provide, to any requesting telecommunications carrier for the provision of a telecommunications service, nondiscriminatory access to network elements on an unbundled basis at any technical feasible point on rates, terms and conditions that are just reasonable and nondiscriminatory" [Sect. 251 (c) (3)].

UNE-P rates, set by state commissions, are certainly just and reasonable.

In response, Adam Thierer wrote,

Glassman, Fein, and Norquist have asked the free-market movement to follow them down a path that essentially rejects free markets and instead embraces big government solutions. In light of the miserable failures of the post-Telecom Act regulatory regime, they need to rethink their support for infrastructure sharing and give free markets and real deregulation a chance.

In rejoinder, former Senator Malcom Wallop writes,

Thanks in large part to AT&T refusing to open its own network to MCI and Sprint in 1984, Ma Bell was broken up by the Reagan Administration (hardly an Administration known for its devotion to government regulation) into AT&T long distance and the regional Bells. AT&T was required to lease its network to competitors, resulting in vigorous facilities-based competition in long distance today. And with that competition comes choices for the Bells.

If the Internet had existed in 1984, then the decision to force AT&T to lease its long-distance lines at regulated rates would have been wrong (Incidentally, I think that Wallop is wrong to imply that this was a Reagan Administration move--see this timeline.) The Internet would have been sufficient to enable competition in long-distance communication.

The idea that we need competition in something called telephone service is anachronistic. We need competition in what Bob Frankston calls connectivity. With connectivity, we do not need special regulatory regimes for voice bits as opposed to other bits.

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: telecom, FCC

The List of Great Books, Again

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Posted by Arnold

I wrote a longer essay on the topic.

If students today wish to protest to demand more "relevance" in their education, then I believe that they have a case. How can they face the twenty-first century if their academic leaders are oblivious to the nineteenth and twentieth?

That may offend even more people than my post on Mel Gibson.

Update: The Speculist has comments on this issue, including an attempt to channel Isaac Asimov. Also, in case you missed the trackback, Freedom-to-Tinker invited readers to submit lists of science books. Interesting that they turn out for the most part to be a bit too theoretical for my taste.

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: economic essays

Security Oxymoron

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Posted by Arnold

Is there a magic bullet that will provide the ultimate cure for network security? This man thinks so.

"There's no point in requiring security if there's no secure product," Clarke said. "If the US government made it a priority as important as the moon project to somehow figure out how to write software without vulnerabilities, we could do it, then require vital parts of the economy to use it."

The speaker is Richard Clarke, former chief of cyber-security under President Bush.

The experts I give credence to tend to believe that network security is a process, not a product. But somehow it does not surprise me that a government security expert would believe otherwise. I suspect that the very term government cyber-security expert is an oxymoron.

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: transparent society

Mel Gibson's Next Blockbuster

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Posted by Arnold

Surely, if this is successful as a movie...

the scene where a Roman soldier plunges his spear into Christ's side is, I am sorry, almost like something out of Monty Python. The soldier and those around him shower in the water and blood that cascades out of Yeshua's body. is going to be an even bigger hit as a video game.

Comments (10) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: business models

February 25, 2004

Why is VOIP a Business?

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Posted by Arnold

Here's a dumb question. Why is voice over IP a business? I mean, email over IP is not a business. Web over IP is not a business. Video over IP is not a business. Why is voice over IP a business?

Clearly, some people think it's a business.

The company expects to have 1 million businesses and homes signed up by the end of 2005, said Cathy Martine, AT&T senior vice president of voice Internet services and consumer product management.

But if I have an Internet connection already, then why do I need to pay extra to send voice bits over it?

I mean, if you've developed a hack that routes voice bits to a telephone, then bully for you. But why don't you just sell me some equipment that takes advantage of that hack, rather than make me pay you $35 a month to use it?

Maybe AT&T's angle is a "quality of service" guarantee, using their proprietary network. Otherwise, I can't see getting the monthly fee to stick.

Comments (5) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: business models | telecom, FCC

An Echo Chamber Test

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Posted by Arnold

Are you living in an echo chamber? I'll test you in a minute. First, a quote from Jane Galt.

If you ask me, the difference between conservatives and liberals right now is that the conservative base has a pretty good idea of where the rest of the American public does and does not agree with them, while the liberal base, to judge from their websites, believes that the American public is somewhere slightly to the left of Al Gore. This may explain why they spend so much time trying to convince each other that Republicans are a uniquely crafty brand of liars; with their worldview, it's the only way to explain their fellow voters increasing tendency to vote for the other side.

OK, so here's your quiz.

1. How many people do you know who are opposed to gay marriage?

2. How many people do you know who own a gun?

3. How many people do you know for whom internal combustion engines figure prominently in their recreational activities (think auto racing, jet skis, etc.)?

4. How many people do you know who regularly attend church?

If your answer to two or more of these questions is "zero," then you might want to face up to the fact that you live in an echo chamber. That's not a criticism--I live in the same one.

But I don't run around saying that I have a political platform that represents "the people."

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: politics

February 24, 2004

Microsoft Vs. Spam

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Posted by Arnold

They're into some mail server authentication thing.

Caller ID also relies on administrators adding lists of published e-mail servers to the DNS record for their Internet domains. Whereas SPF uses its own syntax for listing the domain addresses, Microsoft's Caller ID uses XML (Extensible Markup Language) to describe the valid e-mail servers, Levine said.

I don't really follow all the jargon, but it appears to me that this is an attempt to stop spam at the server level. The good news is that it spares individual users the pain of implementation (although non-spammers who routinely send their email through relays may be screwed). The bad news is that it adds a hack (or multiple hacks, if each of several similar proposals is adopted) to what used to be a simple, neat email protocol.

I still think that if Bill would just ship Outlook and Outlook Express with a default to only read text email, the spam problem would go way down.

Comments (2) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: spam wars

February 22, 2004

Top Ten Books

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Posted by Arnold

Academic snobs do not think that anything written after 1800 is worth reading. At least, that is my impression of this list of books that university Presidents think should be read by undergraduates.

In retaliation, here is a list of recent books that I believe should be read by every undergraduate.

1.* The Age of Spiritual Machines, by Ray Kurzweil
2. The Diamond Age, by Neal Stephenson
3. The Transparent Society, by David Brin
4. Special Providence, by Walter Russell Mead
5. The Gathering Storm, by Winston Churchill
6. Reflections on the Great Depression, by Randall Parker
7. The Best and the Brightest, by David Halberstam
8. The Future and its Enemies, by Virginia Postrel
9. Bonfire of the Vanities, by Tom Wolfe
10. John Maynard Keynes: the Economist as Savior, by Robert Skidelsky (this is the second volume; both the first and the second are fascinating biographical literature)

I first saw the university Presidents' list referred to by Tyler Cowen.

*Update: Randall Parker (not the author of the book in my list) mentions The Blank Slate, by Stephen Pinker. How could I have overlooked that? It should be number one on my list, because it is such an excellent antidote to the nonsense that many college professors preach.

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Moore's Law

February 20, 2004

Echo Chamber, Con't

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Posted by Arnold

David Weinberger spits into the "Internet is an echo chamber" wind (or echo chamber).

The Internet as a whole presents the broadest range of opinion, belief, feeling and creativity in the history of civilization. If you are not on the Net, you are limited to a diminishing selection of outlets expressing a diminishing range of views...

No, if you want to see a real echo chamber, open up your daily newspaper or turn on your TV. There you'll find a narrow, self-reinforcing set of views.

As I've said before, I agree with him. My diagnosis here is that people are confusing correlation with causation. That is, they are confusing the fact that the Dean campaign was an echo chamber (Dr. Weinberger may disagree with me on that one) and it also used the Internet with a causal relationship between the two.

I think that the Dean campaign was an echo chamber because of propensity of people with those political beliefs to tune out the fact that much of the country disagrees with them. They think, "everyone I know agrees with me. So, if we can get together and overcome the corporate/media/right-wing conspiracy, we will win."

I also think that the Dean campaign made a start at using the Internet in politics, although I think everyone is at the early stage of the learning curve on that. But the Internet does not create an echo chamber. Walter Russell Mead raised the issue of the "neo-elite" being out of touch with the American masses without any reference to the Internet.

I think that the challenge for Internet politics in the long run is that there may be a mismatch between the Internet's decentralized spontaneous order and the mass-market industrial-era party politics that exists today. My reading of Doc Searls' essay, which I linked to here, is that it starts to tease out some of that mismatch. A conversation about that mismatch is what I think is called for at this point.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: politics

February 18, 2004

An Intellectual Property Issue

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Posted by Arnold

From Steve Verdon:

Suppose I make a chair and then sell it too you. If we treated that chair just like we treat intellectual property law I'd have a great deal of control over what you do with that chair. You cannot duplicate any part for your own personal gain without my express permission, and gaining my permission might require a monetary transfer from you to me.

Actually, I'm not sure that I could copy the chair and then sell the copy without causing a problem. But I assume that making a copy for my own use would be ok. But, then, there are also "fair use" provisions in copyright law.

Comments (6) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: intellectual property

February 17, 2004


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Posted by Arnold

Doc Searls linked to this old essay, which was new to me. It's a good statement of what I might call geekonomics. The context is a critique of Ralph Nader, written almost four years ago.

Consumers — those poor victims Ralph is still fighting for — are starting to discover what they really are, which is customers. If they don't like what they find in the market, well, it has never been easier for them to go make those things themselves, or to draw the attention of smart producers to the presence of demand. In this new age, the threshold of enterprise is so low it verges on zero. The thresholds of creation and innovation aren't much higher, which is why product and service choices spread wide everywhere supply hears demand. And what choice does supply have but to listen? If they don't, somebody with better ears will get the business.

...Consumers and workers are rhetorical relics. The Net is uniting both, and they're throwing off their chains. Industrial communism and capitalism are both terminal. They can't survive in a networked marketplace, where We the People means exactly what it says.

There is a classic line attributed to John Gilmore that "The Internet interprets censorship as damage and routes around it." Economists might say that markets try to route around the damage caused by monopolists or government regulators. I view Searls as saying that with the Internet and markets, consumers do not need their paternalistic advocate so much.

To me, Searlsian Geekonomics sounds more like Hayekian libertarianism than Deanian re-regulationism. I don't think that the Dean campaign deserved such a strong Geekbone. To me, the logic of Geekonomics is to lead one to be skeptical of the Democratic Wing of the Democratic Party.

Anyway, back to Doc's essay. Read the whole thing.

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: economic essays

The Academic Echo Chamber

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Posted by Arnold

The Dean Deflation has led to some discussion of the Internet as an echo chamber. I think that an echo chamber was involved, but it was not necessarily the Internet. In this essay, I discuss the academic echo chamber.

If your temperament favors freedom without responsibility, then there are certain occupations that are a good fit. Academic life is one of them, as I pointed out in Real World 101. A professor has very little of what most of us would consider responsibility. Teaching, which is the most responsible activity that a professor must perform, is considered a minor part of the academic's life. Almost all professors seek to lower these modest responsibilities even further by seeking reduced teaching loads.

I have nothing against Freedom Without Responsibility as a lifestyle choice. It's great work if you can get it.

What I object to is translating it into a political ideology. It scales badly. Very badly.

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: politics

Economists think about Spam

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Posted by Arnold

Alex Tabarrok probably thinks that this idea is original.

The problem of spam is really a negative externality generated by the people who actually buy the products spammers offer. Thus, I suggest sending out fake spam and prominently posting the names of all those who respond

The idea of punishing people who respond to spam, and therefore help keep spammers in business, was proposed by Allan Wastler as the idiot tax.

But the first known proposal of this sort was made right here, by yours truly.

What I propose is that any American who makes a purchase based on unsolicited email be fined $10,000 and jailed for 30 days.

Great minds (and economists) think alike.

Comments (4) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: spam wars

February 16, 2004

Storage and Mobile Computing

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Posted by Arnold

Kevin Werbach writes,

Mobile devices are about to become much more powerful, and storage is the reason. There have been three waves of evolution in portable storage, each of which has produced new product categories. The first development was affordable flash memory, allowing handhelds to carry hundreds of addresses and user-installed applications. That was enough to launch the PalmPilot, which created the market for personal digital assistants. The second wave was removable storage, using the Secure Digital, CompactFlash, or MemoryStick standards. Without the ability to pop data into and out of a device, we wouldn't have digital cameras. And the same basic technology, sealed into devices, powered the first generation of handheld MP3 music players. The third wave of portable storage was tiny hard drives, beginning with the 1.8 inch-wide Hitachi drives in Apple's iPod.

Very interesting observation. All through the eighties and most of the nineties, the storage improvements favored the personal computer. Moore's Law was a series of Christmas presents to Bill Gates.

But then when storage got really compressed, the focus shifted to mobile devices. And Microsoft has missed that. They missed the Internet, too, but they caught up with that pretty fast. I don't think they have a strategic vision for the mobile device revolution. I'm sure they think that they do, though.

Anyway, while I like the idea of mobile computing, and I certainly agree that new storage devices should make CD's obsolete, I am not as sold as Werbach is on the smaller form factors. I still like a real keyboard and a real screen. And then there's the issue of battery life, which doesn't seem to have a Moore's Law improvement factor.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Moore's Law

February 13, 2004

Protect Your Children

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Posted by Arnold

Thomas Hazlett offers a suggestion for avoiding smut.

During this high political season, you're likely to hear lots more about what lawmakers will do to protect your children. If you can, filter it out.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: future technology and growth | telecom, FCC

Against Spectrum Commons

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Posted by Arnold

Stuart Minor Benjamin makes the case.

If spectrum were allocated in parcels of 100 megahertz, or even 200, there would be enough room for five or more competing abundant networks. In light of the benefits of competition, allowing for multiple networks seems to be
the wiser course.

I think that if all it takes is 100 or 200 megahertz to get a decent wireless Internet going, then it will happen faster if a private vendor is able to get hold of that much spectrum. I am not sure, however, that I can picture the scenario with five competing vendors. Consumers are going to want inter-operability. That means that at a minimum different vendors will have to co-operate.

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: telecom, FCC

Apple vs. The Evil Empire

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Posted by Arnold

Conservative writer David Frum says,

I love Apple computers, but they don’t seem to love me in return. I’ve just had my fourth major computer crash in 18 months – this one on a second iBook that replaced the lemon that suffered the first three crashes. Sorry for the offline absence. I’ve now secured a loaner and will be filing from it over the next few days.

I'm deliberately not linking to the article, because the rest of it has nothing to do with Apple.

My point is that while I've had freeze-ups plenty of times, I have not had a "major" computer crash (something that set me back more than a few minutes) on any Windows platform after Win95.

If you use a computer for word processing, email, web, and other routine stuff (as opposed to using it to test bleeding-edge software or applications), you really should not have to suffer through a "major" computer crash. Should you?

Comments (8) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: software market and open source

February 12, 2004

VOIP Problematic

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Posted by Arnold

The FCC takes a first stand on telephony over the Internet. They gave a very limited go-ahead, to "pure" VOIP (which does not connect to traditional phones).

Commissioner Michael Copps opposed the decision, and Jonathan Adelstein said he partially dissented.

In a significant limitation, the decision does not address whether traditional phone regulations might apply to VoIP services that interconnect with the traditional telephone system.

So the Democrats are flat-out against letting people talk using just their computers without without incurring taxes, fees, and state and local regulation. And nobody seems comfortable with any hack that allows you to talk on a phone using a computer network without bringing on the suits.

I know I'm spitting into the wind to say this, but the supposed reason to regulate telephony in the first place is because it is allegedly a monopoly. Then, when it becomes competitive, the rationale for regulating the competitors is to make things "fair."

Logic would say that if regulate X because it's a monopoly, and then Y comes along and competes, the right answer isn't to regulate Y. It's to deregulate X. But logic isn't going to win here, is it?

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: telecom, FCC

February 11, 2004

The Club vs. DRM

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Posted by Arnold

A long interview with Jim Griffin.

iTunes itself I would not call a successful model. It's a model for selling iPod. Very few songs are being sold, and there's just one price of 99 cents. Its lack of interoperability is almost a statement against DRM itself. I would call iTunes the sort of leaky bucket we've always been used to; remember that iTunes ships with its own circumvention.

It costs $20,000 to fill an iPod from iTunes Music Store. Quite simply, no one looks at a 40 GB iPod and thinks, "it will cost me $20,000 to fill it". It's a polite fiction. It's a looking the other way. We pretend there's monetization, but there isn't.

Look where the money goes. It's a good model for credit card companies but a bad one for artists.
iTunes and Napster 2 will go to flat fee systems. Steve Jobs has already said every dime you pay goes to the RIAA. He just wants to sell iPods. Let's say the average person spent $4 a month, which I'd say is very high. And if you charged $10 month, you'd make your money.

People feel it in their belly, this zero marginal cost. If you look at the pricing of goods you can't control, price equalizes at marginal cost. Can you think of a single model for uncontrolled goods where we haven't had a pool of money then split it up?

Griffin made a cameo appearance in my book--he advised one of the entrepreneurs that I interviewed as a case study. Griffin is a fascinating character. The whole interview is worth reading.

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February 10, 2004

Basic Decision Theory

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Posted by Arnold

I look at Bush vs. Russert and conclude,

Decision-making under uncertainty means living with probabilities, not absolutes. Tim Russert needs to take a class in AP Statistics.

As an aside, I would note that people on the Right tend to be disappointed with Bush's performance and people on the Left tend to be disappointed with Russert's performance. I suspect that is because people on each side think that they are in a stronger position than they really are, and they are disappointed to find that that their side does not look impregnable.

I really hope that whoever wins the election in November, he does not get as demonized by the losing side as Bush has been by the Democrats. That is, I hope that if the Democrat wins, the Republicans don't engage in rage-aholic behavior, and conversely.

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Who is Dan?

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Posted by Arnold

Brother Weinberger writes,

Dan: The real threat to traditional journalism isn't blogging. It's eBay, the largest classified ads publisher.

I'm guessing Dan Gillmor, because he is a digerati with first-name status.

Anyway, he is absolutely right. Classified advertising accounts for 50 percent of the profits of newspapers, and eBay is taking that franchise away. Without classifieds, newspapers are not a business. They are charity cases.

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