Friday, March 05, 2004


Eli Noam weighs in

Professor Noam, who is likely to be at WTF2004 (caution, not nailed down just yet) emailed me (and subsequently gave permission to blog it):
I saw your blog of my FT article. My article was meant to provoke, and obviously it succeeded with a few people.

On your part, maybe you should stop looking into the inkblot where you keep seeing incumbent vs newcomers. There are other ways to look at the world!!!

Any new technology has its enthusiasts who provide energy and faith. Good for them. But then it becomes necessary for others -- often in academia-- to provide a less starry-eyed and less fun-filled perspective. Surely in light of the bubble bursting that should be obvious by now. It therefore escapes me why such a more sober assessment, here and in other contexts, is a view through "incumbent colored glasses" or whatever you used to denigrate an analysis that
(a) explains structural problems lurking for both new and old media firms,
(b) that shows innovation to be a major mechanism for firms to escape the spiral individually -- though not economy-wide, and
(c) shows alternatives to consolidation and concentration, which I fear.

I should add that unlike most people in the various media and telecom debates I have on purpose avoided having any financial stakes. I never did any commercial consulting, nor gave paid expert testimony. I have avoided investing in any of these companies or serving on their boards. I doubt that that very many second-wave Internet and spokespersons can say the same.

I've got a 100 Mbps fiber home connectivity [via Columbia University at $100/mo, I suspect -- David I], but I don't view faith and community spirit a substitute for analysis. You can call me a party-pooper, or you can call me an academic who has preserved his independence and perspective.
Noam typed this fast, and I hope I did it justice in trying to clean it up. If he wants wording changes, they'll appear here.

I admire Noam's independence. I think his avoidance of conflict-of-interest is a GREAT use of a Columbia Professorship! And I am delighted at the robust and fertile conversation that his article provoked.

I'm going to use Phil Neches' observations as my current bottom line. (And I hope to put Neches and Noam together on stage at WTF, assuming that all the stars align!)

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