Strategies for a discontinuous future.

Consulting & advisory, research notes, in the press, about bubblegen,
next wednesdays.

Thursday, February 26, 2004

I really enjoyed this NYT article about Italy losing dominance in luxury fabrics - it's like a mini-case about the forces that are reshaping the economy - virtualization, labor arbitrage, competence discovery...and the accelerating pace of hypercompetition.

-- umair // 5:41 PM //


Evidence (minor-league) that GM crops are bleeding DNA into the 'normal' population, possibly via seed contamination.

-- umair // 3:32 PM //


How not to analyse emerging technologies, pt 331. (Via Coudal)

-- umair // 3:15 PM //


I checked out movablestyle for the hell of it, and was surprised to discover that people are now trying to protect CSS stylesheets with GPL licenses. What's the point?

More or less, property rights emerge when the value of assets rises beyond the transaction costs necessary to negotiate them. Will stylesheets suddenly rise in value with the emergence of standardized blogging templates for a hugely growing blogging market? Maybe a little - probably not much.

Obviously, the GPL is a little different - it's application doesn't protect value but ensures attribution and non-excludability. The question is why license at all - stylesheets are ripped off more than MP3s.

Speaking of prop rights, here is an absolutely killer agent-based prop rights emergence paper. Dense but fun - recommended.

-- umair // 1:47 PM //


Check out TextPattern - which is an extension of Textism into a full-blown CMS for web publishing. Radical innovation? No - but it's a sure sign that the dominant design for web publishing is still a long time coming.

-- umair // 1:33 PM //


You know, I am not a big Tom Peters fan. I think he is the Dilbert puppetmaster. But his observations on offshoring are surprisingly lucid and get to some of the real issues behind it - process automation, fallen trade barriers, and job creation via innovation (or lack thereof). Check them out.

-- umair // 1:26 PM //



Vernor Vinge's classic essay on the Singularity. Very interesting reread in early 2004. From this collection of old and new CS texts and papers.

-- umair // 1:21 PM //

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

A lil bit more about MS's new strategic focus on security - this time MS replaces the integrated MTA in Exchange with a standalone one. Looks a lot like the classic embrace-extend-coopt play aimed at SMTP. The article talks a bit about how MS hopes it will become a 'security hub', because they've exposed an API for third-party plug-ins - that's nice, but quite obviously the real play is to grab control of messaging at the edge of the network itself.

-- umair // 6:56 PM //


Since I'm discussing blogs quite a bit today, here's a wishlist of next-gen blog tools. Mostly can be broken down into better data and meta tools for aggregation/syndication/reverse syndication. Interesting reading.

The question really is which of these radically shifts the value equation - my guess is reverse syndication, since it begins to alter the signal/noise ratio Bill Burnham discusses for RSS (linked to below).

-- umair // 5:51 PM //


Link of the Day

Bill Burnham's got a killer post about the impending collapse of RSS. Read it - too much good stuff to even try and summarize. It's a beautiful illustration of how, why, and when standards fragment, and how their economics shift and cause them to fail.

-- umair // 5:41 PM //


Socio-technical shifts from a blog for a course called 'networking, knowledge and the digital age'. Interesting stuff - we can easily see how new technologies like blogs shift the dialectic back from older technologies (look at the graphs and you'll see what I mean). It would be extremely interesting to develop a rough economic model of these dialectics - I will give it a shot if I have time.

-- umair // 5:36 PM //



Dafermos 'Blogging the Market'. Worth a re-read as the pace of blogging accelerates - interesting to see what's panning out and what's not.

-- umair // 5:35 PM //


Check out SAPVentures' LinkedIn fakester network - funny stuff. The irony is that I was finally convinced to join myself today by a friend who claims it's been invaluable...

-- umair // 5:33 PM //

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Dot Com 2.0

Ludicorp and Flickr - 'groupware for play' aka music, pics, etc. The b-model is ad and premium feature driven. Will it work? As a massive cash generator, no. As an acquisition target, possibly.

-- umair // 3:42 PM //


Added a couple of links to the blogroll - Burnham's Beat and the Weekly Read. I have enjoyed reading both thoroughly - I think you will too.

-- umair // 3:26 PM //


Micro versus macro

Declan McCullagh reviews Mankiw's outsourcing position, which is basically comparative advantage all over again. Meanwhile, Dell's real source of advantage - it's customer service competence - keeps eroding. What's the point? Good macroeconomics does not equal good strategy. Ultraspecialization at the firm-level is a decision that needs to be backed up by strategic thinking - otherwise, the firm is just a cog in the macroeconomic machine, whose advantage will neccesarily get eroded as cycles churn and new ideas come to market.

-- umair // 3:17 PM //


Interesting piece about standard-setting for UWB - many players have much to gain, so the process is accelerating. Interesting read.

-- umair // 3:08 PM //


Hypercompetition hits the web-conferencing space - Intranets.com jumps in, as has Skype (with voice-conferencing).

-- umair // 3:04 PM //


Replication Wars

321 Studios DVD-copying ware is still banned. Ignore it - I'd be very surprised if the decision ultimately stands, because we all know what happens when things people want get banned...

But it does raise an interesting peripheral question - since the simulation economy is the successor to the replication economy, will we see simulation wars in a few years' time? The more I think about it, the more I think so.

-- umair // 2:55 PM //


New releases from Danger (unified mobile device aka Hiptop2.0 with color display),
Avaya (SIP-based phones + software), and Dell (low-end servers). Read if you're into that kind of thing.

-- umair // 2:53 PM //


E-commerce is shifting to open-source. Mostly driven by TCO, but some hints of strategic inflexibility by MS playing a role as well. What a surprise.

-- umair // 2:49 PM //


Macrovision's releases FlexNet Publisher - it's flexible DRM solution. Why am I bothering to even link to this? So you note it and remember it next year - when someone releases a DRM system based on a solid understanding of microeconomics, which actually works. Instead of something as retardedly 20th century and focused solely on excludability in consumption as FlexNet.

-- umair // 2:47 PM //


Sending email with a name like Cockburn can cause some problems. Funny.

-- umair // 2:43 PM //


VMWare vs MS redux - VMWare ups the ante by offering down-market Linux and Netware support. Does this matter? Not really. Microsoft will have to abandon this market because of margin pressure and little strategic relevance anyways.

-- umair // 2:41 PM //


More about BPL. Blah, blah, blah...

-- umair // 2:38 PM //


Sun's backing a new authentication scheme - actually, it's stronger than that:

"..."It's evident that the defensive approach that Microsoft offers is not effective," Schwartz said, pointing to viruses such as MyDoom and Sobig. "It's time for the industry to go on the offensive in the same way the mobile operators and financial institutions did at the inception of their network rollout, by strongly authenticating network citizens."


"...A user would sign onto a site using his or her mobile phone number. The site's computers would then link with the mobile phone carrier's network to send the user's cell phone a message asking for the user's password. The user would type the password in on phone and then be authenticated on the computer".

Will this work? Nope. Why? The economics are all wrong. First, if you think this kind of authentication offers only marginal benefits over existing schemes. Second, it exposes the network to all kinds of massive new vulnerabilities.

More than anything, it's just a minor-league play by Sun to control the edge of the network, locking in users by leveraging their installed JavaCard base. Nice try - but you'll have to come up with a strategy that actually creates value for the market to want it (unless you're MS).

But this guy did say one insightful thing:

"..."The expense of anonymity has been borne by those who have been authenticated, and it's time we reverse that."

See, this shows us he really doesn't get the economics behind his own scheme. Anonymity is a positive as well as a negative externality - it's a benefit as well as a cost. Seeing it only in one dimension guarantees the failure of this strategy.

In other authentication news, MS and RSA are getting together, presumably to integrate RSA into Windows. Verisign is also jumping in - with a system based around a hardware token supporting the OATH standard, which it's pushing with some heavyweight backing.

-- umair // 2:37 PM //


Nice (basic) review of derivatives and risk - skip if you know, read if you don't.

-- umair // 2:26 PM //


Reason on jurymandering strategies by lawyers reaching absurdity. I try to keep bubblegeneration free of boring lawyers, but this is a nice illustration of gaming a (broken) system.

-- umair // 2:23 PM //


The Times reviews a few new telephony patents. A bit obvious, but worth a glance.

-- umair // 2:20 PM //


Guided evolution with DNA composed of artificial base pairs. Extremely interesting stuff - combinatorial techniques like this are going revolutionise the cost of bringing innovations to market.

-- umair // 2:14 PM //


Simulation Economy

There.com was met with massive derision from certain folks, who couldn't see fairly obvious applications of it's sim technology, like Earth - a persistent real-time physical modeller for the military. Welcome to the age of plasticity.

-- umair // 2:12 PM //


Take the Beeb's math quiz.

-- umair // 2:10 PM //


Dot Com 2.0

Taskspro. Many, many more of these plays are going to happen - there is simply too much room for arbitrage in this space.

-- umair // 2:09 PM //


Greylisting is an interesting new time-based spam fighting algorithm.

-- umair // 2:07 PM //


Text-porn and the Turing test - massive opportunity in this space (even minus the porn).

-- umair // 2:06 PM //


The Economist discusses offshoring as comparative advantage.

-- umair // 2:05 PM //


Here's an interesting standards war story: London cabs trying to make it in the States.

-- umair // 2:04 PM //



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