SMART Letter #53
March 19, 2001

!@#$%^&*()!@#$%^&*()!@#$%^&*()!@#$%^&*()!@#$%^&*()!@#$%^&*() ------------------------------------------------------------            SMART Letter #53 -- March 19, 2001 Copyright 2001 by David S. Isenberg -- "impossible to circumvent" -- -- 1-888-isen-com ------------------------------------------------------------ !@#$%^&*()!@#$%^&*()!@#$%^&*()!@#$%^&*()!@#$%^&*()!@#$%^&*() CONTENTS > Preserving Incumbent Advantage > Quote of Note: Face Recognition at the Superbowl > The First Internet Earthquake > Father Unlike Son: Forebear Forswears Forbearance > Quote of Note: ITU Discovers Metcalfe's Law > Consultants to Patrimonial Bureaucracy: A Clarification > Quote of Note: Courtney Love Takes Big Music to Court > Quote of Note: Don Michael, in memoriam > Conference on my Calendar > Copyright Notice, Administrivia ------- PRESESERVING INCUMBENT ADVANTAGE by David S. Isenberg Bob Pepper, a senior FCC staff member, points out that voice telephony used to be integral to the physical telephone network, but now the Internet has made voice telephony yet- another-application. Pepper's analysis suggests a way to think about how Big Music is reshuffling the protocol stack. Like voice telephony, music used to be tightly tied to physical media -- first to the instruments of sound creation, the musical instruments themselves, then to vinyl records and analog magnetic tape. The computer and then the 'net decoupled music from its physical medium. Here the astute reader would comment, "Like, duh." Indeed, John Perry Barlow pointed this out in about 1994. Here's the anti-duh: the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) re-couples the information to the physical layer. But the coupling is de jure, not de facto. In other words, yesterday it was *physically* impossible to separate the words from the paper and the sound from the squiggled vinyl; today it is becoming *legally* impossible. Similar re-tyings are beginning to crop up. For example, police and spies used to "tap" telephones with no-tech alligator clips. But when voice and voltage go separate ways, alligator clips don't work. So the police asked the U.S. Congress for CALEA (the U.S. communications assistance for law enforcement act). CALEA replaces alligator clips with technology specified by law. So Big Music and Big Brother, unable to maintain their incumbent advantage in the face of technological progress, are making it illegal for others to take them out of the loop. ------- QUOTE OF NOTE: Thomas Colatosti "[The facial recognition technology used on 72,000 football fans at Super Bowl 2001] was a significant technological feat that's been widely acknowledged in the law enforcement community as a success. Yet, amazingly, instead of being hailed as a boon to public safety . . . it was criticized as a threat to privacy." Thomas Colatosti, CEO of Viisage Technology, the company that created the face recognition technology, speaking on a panel at Computers, Freedom, and Privacy 2001, quoted on [Amazing that some people don't want to live under state surveillance. -- David I] ------- THE FIRST INTERNET EARTHQUAKE by David S. Isenberg The Seattle earthquake of February 28, 2001 was the first Internet earthquake. The Internet stayed up when the cellular network overloaded and emergency 911 service went down. And the story "broke" in several Internet sources before the major news organizations had it. When Bellheads are on the defensive, they talk about the reliability of the phone network. If they're really cornered, they use emergency 911 service as if it were the hidden gun strapped to their ankle. ("OK, you've got me, but (bending down) let me pull up my socks before you take me in.") Well, we're wise to that trick. The day-after-earthquake story below, from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, excerpted below, drives the point home. "One 66-year-old Burien woman died of a heart attack that she suffered during the earthquake. Her husband called 911, but was unable to get through. He went to a local fire station and retrieved paramedics who were unable to revive her, authorities said. [snip] "After the ground stopped shaking, so many people tried to use their cell phones that the region experienced Ash Wednesday's equivalent of the Mother's Day effect -- communication systems temporarily crashed. That left some people feeling even more cut off from the rest of the world. [snip] "In Snohomish County, the phone went down, but customers at, a cybercafe, never lost their Internet connections. 'The chat screens just lit up,' said Don Davidsen, 'with 'Wow! Did you feel that?''" From the Seattle Post Intelligencer, March 1, 2001 Users of made each other aware of the quake (and were bragging to themselves about scooping the big news organizations) hours before the majors had the story, see] ------- FATHER UNLIKE SON: FCC FOREMAN'S FOREBEAR'S FUNCTIONARY FORSWEARS FORBEARANCE "A competitive market requires a regulator that is free from political pressure and is able to take vigorous enforcement action against competitive abuses. [Broadband services] are new services, and evolution can go either two ways. The domination of the monopoly carrier can dominate broadband [sic], or it can be an opportunity for new types of carrier services." Unnamed State Department Official at U.S. Embassy in Tokyo, from "U.S. calls on Japan to increase telecom deregulation" by Reed Stevenson, Reuters, cited in Total Telecom Asia, March 2, 2001 oryID=828 [Father Colin Powell's State Department draws a hard line against monopoly telecom incumbents -- when they're in Japan. Son Mike's FCC, here in the U.S. of A, is less inclined to use words like "vigorous", "enforcement" and "action" in the same sentence. Mike would rather forbear (refrain from, cease, desist, avoid, shun, hold back, be tolerant in the face of provocation). The unifying force behind this apparent inconsistency is the business interests of incumbent U.S. network service providers. -- David I] ------- QUOTE OF NOTE -- ITU Discovers Metcalfe's Law "A network is only as valuable as the people it connects. When additional end users gain access, it increases the communications possibilities not only for that end-user, but for every other individual and business connected to the network." ITU Telecommunication Development Bureau (BDT) Report: Trends in Telecommunication Reform 2000-2001: Interconnection Regulation, (March 7, 2001). ------- CONSULTANTS TO PATRIMONIAL BUREAUCRACY by David S. Isenberg I got an unsettling response to "Accenture? Bullshient!" in SMART Letter #52 (see from a respected friend who works with several consulting companies that, he says, "are not deserving of this kind of wrath, [where the people] are earnest, very smart, and deliver real value in very concrete and testable form." Indeed, in my experience, too, most consultants are bright and well motivated, and working with them is usually fun and productive. In SMART Letter #52, I was trying to address the role that consultants play in the distorted system of office behavior that seems to be endemic in very large U.S. corporations. Social anthropologist Robert Jackall named this pattern _Patrimonial_Bureaucracy_ (see SMART Letter #22 Jackall describes corporations as "bureaucratic" because on the surface there are rules and processes, and as "patrimonial" because behind the procedural curtain, power and prestige are determined by bonds of personal loyalty and reward that often contravene stated procedure. Thus, belonging to the right country club can be a stronger determinant of corporate success than having a good idea or running a productive department. In such a system, employees who have achieved several promotions understand the de-coupling of merit from reward. They are motivated to protect, and even obfuscate this decorrelation in defense of their turf. They turn procedure to serve patrimony. One result is that good work must filter up one step at a time so each level's boss can own it. But the filter can be severe -- good work must fit each boss's personal agenda. As a result, good work and bright people often remain unrecognized. In a patrimonial bureaucracy, senior managers feel isolated by the sycophants (yes-(wo)men) around them. So they hire consultants, who, because they are outsiders, are freer to take up a constructive agenda, quicker to find smarter ideas, and more likely to engage in constructive criticism. Furthermore, because they are outsiders, consultants tend not to threaten the hard-won status of the covert aristocracy. So consultants fill a useful role in a patrimonial bureaucracy. However there are at least two things wrong with this picture. First, consultants are tempted to aggrandize this advantage if they are to be successful by their own metrics -- given powerful entree they expand. Second, consultants tend to bypass internal ideas, talent, and processes where these interfere with their expansion -- they're less likely to say, "You're already doing that, so you don't need to hire us for the same thing." The result of such consulting, especially at the hands of a large, successful consulting firm, is a weak, co-dependant company. Like lawyers, who perform many useful functions but take a bad rap, consultants are an easily identified component of the pathology of big company culture, but are just one component of a complex syndrome. I should have set a more explicit context in SMART Letter #52 -- when long-time readers of the SMART Letter don't get where I'm coming from, it's my fault. ------- QUOTE OF NOTE: Courtney Love "I could end up being the music industry's worst nightmare: a smart gal with a fat bank account who is unafraid to go down in flames fighting for a principle," Courtney Love Seeks to Rock Record Labels' Contract Policy, by Chuck Philips in, Wed Feb 28, 2001 ------- QUOTE OF NOTE: Don Michael, in memoriam: "[We have a] deeply engrained belief and expectation that more information will reduce uncertainty because it is the basis for control of things, markets, the future, people, and even self . . . [But] it is no accident, I think, that in Western mythology, humans were forced *out* of the Garden of Eden by the first information revolution -- when Adam and Ee ate of the tree of knowledge. The bites continue, and reentry remains barred." From "Too Much of a Good Thing? Dilemmas of an Information Society" by Donald N. Michael, in _Technological Forecasting and Social Change_, 25, 347-354, 1984. ------- CONFERENCE ON MY CALENDAR April 3-6, 2000, Sunset Beach NC. Corning CLEC Forum. I'll be speaking on April 5. George Gilder, newly freed from the role of stock-picker to resume his career as technology visionary, will speak on April 4. I think you need to represent a CLEC to attend. For more info contact Bob Whitman ------- COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Redistribution of this document, or any part of it, is permitted for non-commercial purposes, provided that the two lines below are reproduced with it: Copyright 2001 by David S. Isenberg -- -- 1-888-isen-com ------- [to subscribe to the SMART Letter, please send a brief, PERSONAL statement to (put "SMART" in the Subject field) saying who you are, what you do, maybe who you work for, maybe how you see your work connecting to mine, and why you are interested in joining the SMART List.] [to unsubscribe to the SMART List, send a brief unsubscribe message to] [for past SMART Letters, see] [Policy on reader contributions: Write to me. I won't quote you without your explicitly stated permission. If you're writing to me for inclusion in the SMART Letter, *please* say so. I'll probably edit your writing for brevity and clarity. If you ask for anonymity, you'll get it. ] ** David S. Isenberg, inc. 888-isen-com 908-654-0772 ** -- The brains behind the Stupid Network -- **