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Strategies for a discontinuous future.












Friday, December 24, 2004
 


Politics of the Day - Xmas Edition

Merry Xmas from GWB and his economic bunglers:

"...Charities forced to suspend programs

...In one of the first signs of the effects of the tightening U.S. budget, in the past two months the Bush administration has reduced its contributions to global food aid programs aimed at helping millions of people climb out of poverty.

With the federal budget deficit expanding and President George W. Bush promising to reduce spending, the administration has told representatives of several charities that it is unable to honor some promises.

The cuts to charities, estimated by some charities at up to $100 million, come at a time when the number of hungry in the world is rising for the first time in years and all food programs are being stretched.

"We have between five and seven million people who have been affected by these cuts," Lisa Kuennen, a food aid expert at Catholic Relief Services, said."

Meanwhile, idiots like Lileks are sanctimoniously arguing about the true 'meaning of Xmas'.

Just a thought - maybe it has something to do with helping the poor not starve. (Links via MeFi).

-- umair // 1:28 PM //


 


BT vs WiMax

So a buddy of mine just moved into a new place, wanted to get a phone line (which means basically means BT in the UK)...BT said they can't install until the END OF FEB. Yes, BT sucks.

Can you imagine a bigger target for innovators to destroy? I mean, this kind of inefficiency is staggeringly unbelievable - I have gotten lines hooked up fast all over the poorest parts of the 3rd world. Welcome to Wimax market drivers.

-- umair // 1:08 PM //


Wednesday, December 22, 2004
 


Marketing 2.0

Sponsored archive reprints - PeopleSoft sponsors the NYT to open access to a compelling series of articles about manufacturing. Veeeeery interesting - this is real innovation. (Via MeFi...again).

-- umair // 2:09 PM //


 


Born in the USA

You see, what the Middle East fears is that liberation = occupation. Does it? You decide - here's what we're doing in Fallujah:

"...The ongoing policy of house-to-house inspections, combined with ultra-tight security regulations aimed at not allowing suspected guerrillas to reenter the city, is supposed to insure that everyone inside the Fallujahn perimeter will not only be disarmed but obedient to occupation demands and desires. The name tags and the high-tech identity cards are meant to guard against both forgeries and unlawful movement within the city. The military-style work gangs are to insure that everyone is under close supervision at all times. The restricted entry points are clearly meant to keep all weapons out. Assumedly kept out as well will be most or all reporters (they tend to inflame public opinion), most medical personnel (they tend to "exaggerate" civilian casualties), and most Sunni clerics (they oppose the occupation and support the insurgency)."

I imagine if someone showed up at my house on the East Coast and wanted to liberate me by:

- forcing me to wear a name tag at all times
- restricting my movements
- forcing me to work in a gang

I might reasonably be less than compliant, and a little suspicious of the liberators' motives.

-- umair // 1:55 PM //


 


Art of the Day

1) Hi-res Cassini pic of Saturn and Dione. Beautiful.

2) Prisoner ID pics from the early 20th century. Sounds uninteresting, but absolutely thought-provoking. (Via MeFi).

-- umair // 1:42 PM //


 


Publishing 2.0 is Dot Com 2.0

More about Google's Harvard/Oxford/etc library digitization plans:

"...The project eventually will allow any Internet user anywhere in the world to search inside millions of volumes, seeing the pages exactly as they appeared in the originals, complete with illustrations, charts and photos.

"When you see the old typefaces (from books) copyrighted in the 1800s, juxtaposed with Google and the search box, it's an almost indescribable feeling to see these two worlds colliding," she said. "This is one of the great milestones in the shift of our culture from paper-based to electronic," said Andrew Herkovic, a Stanford librarian working with Google on the project. "There is in effect a social recognition that we need to transfer the information from paper-based as in the past into the delivery medium of the future."

Gives a nice sense of what the cards are going to look like for the publishing industry in 3-5 years time.

-- umair // 1:37 PM //


 


Got this comment:

"...After all the court battles and hype, the music companies finally got their act together and now what are they doing? Selling you Britney Spears on iTunes. Yep, you pay �7.99 (or you nick it) not �13.99. But apart from that, what's changed?"

It's a good point. What's changed is not straightforward. But a change has happened - it's that the market size for media publishers who depend on scale economies has shifted downwards dramatically, and the market size for creative media publishers has expanded dramatically.

Right now, this isn't evident, unless you use, for example, SoulSeek. But think about iTunes - the big labels stand to make much less from iTunes than they did before, because Apple's got all the buyer power - they're going to get squeezed. That makes life much better for the little guys, who don't have to worry about Apple, but can now distribute their content much more effectively than in the past.

Speaking relatively, one segment's expected revenues shrink, and the other segment's expected revenues expand.

-- umair // 1:33 PM //


 


Publishing 2.0 - Responses

"...Print is hard to kill. The printed book is especially hard to kill. Why is that? Because it embodies its technology. It needs no device to make it work. What musical reproduction technology is comparable? The music box? The player piano? Books are relatively inexpensive, quite portable, very durable, and easy to use. Good luck trying to replace it."

I get a lot of flak like this, so I'd like to clear it up.

I am not arguing that books will die. I agree, books (and other embodied technologies) are here to stay. What's going to die is the current industry structure, value chain, and economics.

To use one example from the trends outlined before: it's now becoming economical for micropublishers to print books just-in-time - that leaves room for a couple of outsourced printers (a la Flextronics). Carried to it's logical conclusion, it eviscerates the way we publish books.

We rarely argue at the technology level here at bubblegen, because we think it's the implicit economics of technologies that count.

I think the far more interesting argument is that human capital counts for a lot in the publishing industry - that editors select books for the market efficiently. The point is that this equation has changed.

Before, the market couldn't select it's own books - it couldn't coordinate. Those few mechanisms which did coordinate consumers (ie, the NYT bestseller list) soon turned into strategic tools (ie, publishers game the bestseller lists regularly.

But now, the market can coordinate. That is, mechanisms like Amazon's reviews and author rank have reduced search costs for consumers in finding the best books (even within a given segment). Here's another nice example - bookswelike.

So the argument now has to be that editors can choose books for the market more efficiently than the market can choose books for itself. The second half of this equation is necessarily bounded by the efficiency of information mechanissm - if Amazon reviews are bs, then the equation doesn't work.

I think it's a tough sell to argue the above equation in favor of editors (or record label execs, movie producers, network execs, etc). If we simply look at the blogosphere, Technorati's done almost as good a job in predicting book deals/tv/print exposure/etc as people have.

But that's only because Technorati is people - it's the market's aggregate preferences made visible. Which is a fairly incredible thing - it's rarely happened in history before.

So, I think now that we can choose what we want, we won't need editors so much - their choices will, in general, be worse than the aggregated market choice. I think we will see them moving to a new, much more interesting role - one where the market chooses it's own winners, and editors/human capital are like John Peel - they're not so much talent-spotters as experimenters.

Which is what they should have been in the first place maybe.

-- umair // 1:17 PM //


 


Marketing 2.0 - Virals

Really bad NYT article extolling silly virals - recommended to understand exactly why this market will fail: gimmicks are short-term fixes, and industry needs a long-term solution.

-- umair // 1:07 PM //


 


Google vs Google

So we know now about Google's shifting of the web app paradigm - using js and xml to embed dynamic client-server communication into the page itself. One problem, as I've discovered today, is that some security systems (like the one here at LBS) don't deal especially well with the extensive http calls (redirects etc) that are required to pull this off. I am having serious problems accessing Gmail at the moment - it's turned into a big hassle, and I've had to go somewhere else just to check email. Argh.

-- umair // 1:02 PM //


Tuesday, December 21, 2004
 


Politics of the Day - Flameage Edition

Note to Hugh Hewitt, who seems to have missed the Enlightenment: the reason we reject religious arguments is that they're based on faith, not driven by evidence or logic. In short, empiricism and rationalism are why we reject religious arguments against, for example, stem-cell research, theocratic governments, and being rapture ready.

Empiricism is not a 'sneer' at faith - the great achievement of the Enlightenment was that empiricism was a more efficient way to understand the world around us. A simple experiment can demonstrate the existence of light's wave/particle duality, and reject the hypothesis that light is 'miasma' (or whatever). What can religious arguments demonstrate? What is the support for their claim to moral superiority?

I would really like an answer to this question from Hewitt, although as someone who's lived under a theocratic government, I already know the answer a bit too well: there is no answer.

How do we know this? Because the same arguments have gone on for well > two millenia. Example. It's an ancient debate, which won't end soon - but it should be happening in Saudi, not in the US. Perhaps Hewitt would feel better living in a society where the appropriate length of beard is considered a compelling topic of debate.

Related humor of the day:

Quantum Christodynamics. Funny stuff.

-- umair // 2:47 PM //


 


Innovation Engine

Indian apps to American grad programs drop 28% this year; Chinese apps drop 45%. European apps are up - talent is being displaced by transaction costs, like retardedly lengthy visa apps.

Absolutely shocking stuff - confirmation of systemic problems in innnovative capacity to come.

-- umair // 2:36 PM //


 


Macropocalypse

Don't miss Nouriel Roubini's new blog - he's a serious name in the macro field.

-- umair // 1:37 PM //


 


Scoble asks billg to open-source product development for an MS competitor to the iPod. Veeery interesting, if only because it shows open-source management and innovation techniques are gaining serious support.

-- umair // 1:33 PM //


 


Publishing 2.0

"Two of the book industry's giants, frustrated by two years of little to no growth, appear to be taking their frustrations out on each other.

...Last week, Peter W. Olson, the chief executive of Random House Inc., the nation's largest publisher, disclosed the company's tentative plans to sell books directly to consumers through its own Web site. On Friday, Stephen Riggio, the chief executive of Barnes & Noble Inc., the country's largest bookseller, said that he was "deeply concerned" by Random House's plans to enter into his business, raising the possibility of a growing rift between the publishing companies."

Link. It's interesting that the industry is beginning to cannibalize itself, and radical innovaters still aren't entering the market...a huge market space just waiting to be revolutionized, as discussed last week.

-- umair // 1:19 PM //


 


Link of the Week

SkypeCasting - PodCasting, but leveraging skype to kill transaction costs and do other very cool stuff. Highly recommended.

-- umair // 1:12 PM //


Monday, December 20, 2004
 


Public vs Private

This NYT piece talks about something we discussed a few weeks back as a serious Next Big Things driver - the blurring of the line between public and private. Recommended - more insight into how value equations in media markets are shifting tectonically.

-- umair // 7:25 PM //


 


Internet 2.0

Welcome to Big Brother. But don't worry, it'll help us win the war on terra.

"..."I know that these actions would be controversial in this age where we still think the Internet is a free and open society with no control or accountability," Mr. Tenet said, "But, ultimately, the Wild West must give way to governance and control."

Link.

-- umair // 5:00 PM //


 


The Day the MPAA Tried to Kill the Net

By shutting down as many BitTorrent trackers/linkers as they could, in case you don't already know. Complete with arrests in various countries. SuprNova closure FAQ.

This is going to be a day to remember, because it's the day the film industry chose strategy decay over user learning and innovation.

Now, the simple fact is that this is a huge error. Look what's happened in the music industry - we're seeing filesharing being driven further underground. But all that means is that it's further under the RIAA's nose - it hasn't gone away. What's actually happening is a Darwinian process - the emergence of niche-specific networks in response to this kind of selection pressure, which are far more efficient at distributing content than general ones (viz SoulSeek).

You could also think about the selection pressure this away - BitTorrent itself was selected by the RIAA's closure of less efficient networks.

This is exactly how the tech trajectory of p2p will evolve - network and protocol hyperinnovation in response to extreme selection pressure - and it will be more costly for the film industry, because there's a lot more competition from the rest of the world for viewer share than there is for listener share. So, beyond absolutely enraging the IntarWeb, I think the film industry just dug it's own grave.

-- umair // 11:37 AM //


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