Monday, March 29, 2004


After Madrid train bombs, SMS countered official PR

A Spanish citizen wrote this extraordinary letter to Tom Tomorrow about the Madrid train bombing of March 11. In part, it said:
[After the bombing] many people began to ask "who did it?" . . . and "we want the truth before voting" [but] The Government stuck to the ETA [Basque terrorist] hypothesis trying to avoid this probable electoral damage . . . Government-controlled public and private televisions, radios and newspapers broadcasted once and again "it was ETA", but each minute less people was buying it . . . In a matter of hours, Spain was bipolarized, with thousands seeking information in Internet and sending it via SMS to their friends. IMHO, the Government went mad and commited suicide in this moment. They agreed there were "Islamic clues" but said once and again it was ETA although the mass crime was claimed three times by Al-Qaeda and there were several tapes (two or three, still unknown) with Islamic messages claiming "Operation Trains of Death" in Madrid and threatening "Smoke of Death" in Italy and "Winds of Death" in the USA. Millions began to think they were being lied, with the blood of 200 Spaniards still warm. SMS messages with the truth spreaded very quickly (I received about 50 from about 40 different sources). In workers' districts through the country, people began to protest beating pans in the windows and shouting "they make wars, we suffer them", "we are not puppets" and "Spain is not to be lied".
Read the entire letter here.

Sunday, March 28, 2004


WTF!?! Virtual Participation package available

If you have not registered to bring your body to WTF!?! A Gathering of Smart People, April 2-4, 2004, it is now too late. But you can still bring your senses. With a LOT of help from my friends, I've put together a Virtual Participation package that includes:
(a) Access to "live" audio (and maybe video) netcast,
(b) Participation in live chat during WTF sessions
(c) Participation in the WTF wiki workspace

The cost is $50. Sign up here. All of the above is a hang-it-over-the-edge experiment, of course. Feedback, discussion, etc., welcome!

David I


Amending the explicit should be difficult

Dr. Weinberger, fuzziness fanatic, lover of leeway, implicitness-empassioned imp, and newly Berkmanized blogger, has published another (and possibly the last -- say it ain't so, David!) edition of Journal of the Hyperlinked Organization.

I realized that there was a link between this thought:
[Friendster (and its ilk) attempts] to recreate our social network by making us be explicit about it. But our social bonds are necessarily implicit. Making social relationships explicit uproots them, distorts them and can do violence to them . . . [e.g.] . . . Am I a friend yes-no of some person I met once and don't know if I like?
and this one, much further down the page:
You could. . . argue against heterosexual marriage because if we allow it, then inevitably we're going to face demands that gays and lesbians be allowed to marry . . . Then, sure, we'd be saying we're ok with child marriages, people marrying their goldfish, or whatever absurd Z you want to come up with. But that'd be a ridiculous precedent to draw.
Here's the missing backwards link:

The reason that the definition of marriage is such an emotional topic is precisely because it is one of the few EXplicit social bonds that we recognize. And society, in its collective wisdom, does not take this explicitness lightly. Like the U.S. Constitution, the barriers to amending the definition of marriage are high. Properly so, in my humble opinion.

Wednesday, March 24, 2004


Terrence McGarty at Internet Commons Congress

McGarty says that 18 months ago it cost around US$4000 to run fiber-based symmetrical 10/100 Ethernet service to homes. Now the cost has fallen to under US$1000 for 80% of homes. Hey, why not ride the 80-20 rule?

McGarty's Merton Group has about 800 customers in one town in New Hampshire -- Ivan Seidenberg is not quaking in his boots.

The Merton Group's strategy is to probe for soft spots, places where resistance to FTTH, especially from Comcast and that ilk, won't kill them. They're bidding in several other New Hampshire towns.

McGarty asks:
Answer: No, no, no.

McGarty points out that the lowest cost power in the U.S. is generated by public power companies -- before, during and after the Enron crises.

McGarty describes himself as a conservative Republican . . . I have often said -- and I'm saying it again -- neither the Democrats nor the Republicans support the Communications Revolution. We must embrace our allies wherever we find them. McGarty is one of the good guys.


WTF -- Major Updates Posted

There are only two more days to register for WTF!?! Sign up at

Check out for big updates over the last
couple of days.

(a) The Agenda is updated and fairly stable. If you're a speaker, especially if you've submitted a Short Talk request, please look at
(b) A WTF Personal Web Page starter form is available for registered participants.
(c) If you can't travel, but still want to participate, you can become a Virtual Participant. I'm thinking I should charge $50 (please let me know if you think this is a good idea*) for access to the audio stream, the WTF Workspace (including your WTF Personal Web Page)m and the chat, which will be projected live onto the screen in the WTF auditorium.

There are other additions too, like airport transport info and alternative lodging suggestions. See

See you on Friday, April 2!
David I

* I struggle with this. I'm doing it because three different individuals, one in Europe, one in Australia and one in California, requested it. If I get 12 takers, I've recouped my costs. On the other hand, there's almost no incremental cost per additional participant . . .


Internet Commons Congress Audio Webcast

The Internet Commons Congress is being webcast -- it is on today and tomorrow.


John Perry Barlow at Internet Commons Congress

"We've won more than we've lost . . . because the little activists have been so successful." John Perry Barlow, at the Internet Commons Congress, Shady Grove MD, March 23-24, 2004.

Friday, March 19, 2004


Vanity Fair on "Steal This Election"

I have been gratified that the voting machine situation is moving from "issue" towards "scandal" without's help. But I'm rushing right out to buy the April issue of Vanity Fair -- not available on line! Doug Simpson's Unintended Consequences blog says:
"In 'Hack the Vote,' Vanity Fair probes the partisan politics, murky accountability and lurking felons inside the e-voting systems industry and the government procurement decisions regarding it. As author Michael Shnayerson prefaces it, 'this is a story of good intentions gone awry, of Congress bamboozled into thinking the machines were ready when they weren't, of county and state election officials softened over lavish dinners into endorsing one kind of machine over another, with some later induced to take jobs at voting machine companies. And like most American stories its about money -- big money, $3.9 billion, showered on the states to buy the machines, and buy them fast.' Vanity Fair, April 2004, p.158.

The article provides an overview of the rogue's gallery of the players in government and in the private sector (including the convicted felons) who have been close to several surprising political upsets in states using the new D.R.E.s -- direct recording electronic voting systems. It provides some sympathetic background on the role of Bev Harris, to whom the Diebold email archive was leaked, and her new book 'Black Box Voting: Ballot Tampering in the 21st Century.' (Talon 2003)."
Thanks Elliot!

Thursday, March 18, 2004


More on Effect of China's Growth on Everything Else

In his NEW BLOG Jorge Ortiz astutely observes:
. . . I would not worry so much about the U.S. consumers having to pay more for their food to compete with emerging Chinese consumers.

What worries me are countless other poor countries who rely on food imports from the U.S. and Europe to feed their people and will find it imposible to do so at prices that could suddenly go to the roof while their internal agricultural production is broken -courtesy of developed world farm subsidies-.

The World Trade Organization says that the U.S., Europe, and other industralized nations spend 300 billion annually on internal farm subsidies, this encourages surplus production in those countries, where farm subsidies represent 31% of farm income. The surplus production from developed countries is then dumped to the rest of the world at prices that are inferior to production costs, thus discouraging poor countries and other nations from producing their own food, with low world prices gradually destroying their internal agricultural infrastructures, forcing those poor countries to rely even more on exports from develop nations.

When we add the ingredients of markets distorted/broken by subsidies and a sudden demand from China, we have a time bomb ticking, and it is the poor who will starve, not the chinese, the europeans or the americans.

The hand that feeds you may end up killing you.... “Et tu, Brute?”


WTF: New keynote announced, partial agenda posted, etc.


I just posted a revised WTF index page to announcing a new keynote speaker, Geology Professor and oil man Kenneth Deffeyes, and a tentative (but mostly filled-in) agenda. I've added all the new WTF registrants to date (there are 88 of us!) and made a few other tweaks.

Music: Several excellent surprise guests queuing up.

Notice: Bring your Wi-Fi enabled laptop! There will be Wi-Fi Internet, and more importantly, public group chat, real-time notes posted live on stage, and more software tools for rich connections among participants.

Coming soon: A WTF wiki page for every participant.

Possibility: Audio webcast of WTF. A volunteer has stepped forward! We're actively researching what it'll take to pull this off. Stay tuned for further developments.

Another Notice: There are still 100 seats left in the auditorium. These are available on a day-rate basis, which means that you'll need to find off-site lodging. (A few double occupancy, dorm-style rooms are still available on site.) Tell all your friends, "Last chance." Registration for WTF closes March 26.

David I


Globalization: Effect of China's Growth on Everything Else

The sudden economic awakening of China threatens to put maybe 50 million new cars on the road in the next few years, but China's prosperity pop will have consequences for global food supply and climate change too. REMcConnel sent this scary little speculation:
. . . After a remarkable expansion of grain output from 90 million tons in 1950 to 392 million tons in 1998, China's grain harvest has fallen in four of the last five years — dropping to 322 million tons in 2003. For perspective, this drop of 70 million tons exceeds the entire grain harvest of Canada.
As people in China earn more, they are moving up the food chain, eating more grain-fed livestock products such as pork, poultry, eggs and — to a lesser degree — beef and milk . . . The fall in China's grain harvest is due largely to shrinkage of the grain-harvested area from 90 million hectares in 1998 to 76 million hectares in 2003.
China soon will be forced to turn to the world market for massive imports of 30, 40 or 50 million tons per year. This comes at a time when world grain stocks are at their lowest level in 30 years.
This presents an unprecedented geopolitical situation: 1.3 billion Chinese consumers who have a $120 billion trade surplus with the United States — enough to buy the entire U.S. grain harvest twice over — will compete with Americans for U.S. food . . . managing the flow of grain to optimize the benefits for people in both countries . . . could become one of the major U.S. foreign policy challenges of this new century.
Human ingenuity cound rescue us from this Malthusian outcome, but default, dear Brutus, is not in the stars.

Wednesday, March 17, 2004


Isenberg /= Rheingold

At least four different people greeted me, "Hey, Howard," at SXSW over the last few days. I don't mind being confused with Howard Rheingold one little bit. I'm happy to be mistaken for smart people (see The Other David Isenberg) but in this case, the illusion abruptly disappears the moment I open my mouth.
Out of respect for Howard, left to right, it's Isenberg, and Rheingold.

Monday, March 15, 2004


What happened here?

Here's the number of visitors to for the last year or so:

What happened on September 1, 2003?
a. The New York Times quoted me.
b. Doc Searls and David Weinberger got into a blog war about what i.s.e.n. stood for
c. Lessig's new book devoted three chapters to "The Rise of the Stupid Network"
d. came on line

[Note: I am sitting in a session called "Ridiculously easy group forming" at SXSW Interactive]


test post using Bloggar

Pretty cool interface to most blogging systems -- w.bloggar


Muniwireless: Simplifi's simply too high Wi-Fi cry

Esme Vos at has this "Poem of the day" (inspired by E.E. Cummings):

"simplifi oh simplifi
your charges are way too high
you think we re dumb
but we re simply too numb
with so much wi-fi for free
the sucker ain t gonna be me"


Dinner Mob from SxSW

Great dinner last night with:
Back row: Chip Rosenthal, Eliza Evans, Jorge Ortiz, Jon Udell, Wendy Seltzer, Neil Iscoe, David Weinberger.
Front Row: David I, Betsy Devine, Jonas Luster, Pete Kaminski, Adina Levin.


Turn, turn, turn

In the early 1990s, corporations "re-engineered" by reducing jobs; as a rule, their stocks went up in response. AT&T management watched this, perhaps for too long, and eventually made a highly publicized 40,000 job cut in 1996. It was too late. Times had changed. The backlash set in. AT&T became a poster boy for corporate insensitivity, the stock slid and curtains closed on Chairman Bob Allen's regime.

Compare today's news on Spain with reactions to earlier bombings.

I grieve for the innocent victims of Spain's train bombings. And for recent civilian victims of bombs in Iraq, Israel & Palestine, Russia, Pakistan, Iran . . . not to mention the United States . . . have we reached a tipping point?

Thursday, March 11, 2004


Confirmed! Eli Noam to keynote WTF on April 3

Eli Noam will present a blood-boiling keynote speech at WTF: A Gathering of Smart People at 8:30 AM Saturday, April 3. Noam is author of the controversial Financial Times column, "Market failure in the media sector," in which he states:
. . . we need to recognise that the entire information sector - from music to newspapers to telecoms to internet to semiconductors and anything in-between - has become subject to a gigantic market failure in slow motion.
WTF's early bird rates ($350 and up) end Friday, March 12 (tomorrow). You can register here.

Wednesday, March 10, 2004


Microsoft "jurisdiction shopping" threatens the global Internet

Michael Robertson, the founder of Lindows (a Linux-based desktop operating system), writes from direct, personal, painful experience with Microsoft:
Microsoft is trying to shut Lindows down using any tactic. Two years ago they asked a US court to shut down our website, and they were denied. They tried again and were denied. Then they snuck off and asked courts in Finland to block the Lindows website. (They did not reference the US actions.) Lindows did not know this, so we were not able to oppose them. The judge blocked sales of Lindows to Finnish citizens, but refused to block the web site. Microsoft did not let us know about this ruling. They then asked the Swedish courts there to block our web site and sales. Again the Judge refused to block web site, but did block sales. Once again, Lindows was not given any notice.

Then Microsoft went to the Netherlands. They found a jurisdiction to rule that simply viewing the website is forbidden and demanded that we block it. Microsoft knows there is no way to effectively block only residents of the Netherlands, short of shutting down our website to all visitors worldwide. They are asking the court to fine us $124,000 per day for every day that Dutch citizens can view our website.

We are witnessing how an established company can simply sue another company that threatens it in country after country until they achieve the outcome they desire. After 5 tries, Microsoft located a court which would give them what they want. Now is forced to not-comply and risk massive financial penalties or shutdown our entire website.

I want to be clear about our position. We are not disputing the jurisdiction of the Netherlands. I believe it's important to honor the rule of law. After the ruling against us, we put up a notice on every page of our web site. We halted both digital and physical sales from Lindows to the affected countries. We removed links on our website to our resellers in those countries. We sent out notices to our resellers. But the bigger question is this: just because our servers are connected to the Internet, does that mean that anyone else connected to the same wires can dictate what we do with our servers in the US?

Would it be OK for a foreign judge to rule that if someone calls my U.S. office from another country that I cannot utter the word 'Lindows' when I answer the phone? Worse yet, if I answered the phone would I incur a fine of $124,000 per day? Our phones may be connected to some of the same wires that a web visitor would travel when connecting to the web site. Every Net citizen should be worried.
[I've edited the above a lot. Robertson's original exact words are here.]

If Microsoft succeeds, we're heading for a 'net as balkanized as today's Instant Messaging Mess. That would be intolerable.


On the wrong side of the law -- Weinberger's Law

David Weinberger's alter-bloggo is Loose Democracy. In a recent posting (brilliantly titled "My close personal friendster, John Kerry") David recounts:
Many years ago I formulated a law that says that 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 . . .
I've been unmasked. Here I thought that the SMART List and the SMART Letter would keep the world from discovering my biggest secret. Yup, stupidity at the edge R us.

Tuesday, March 09, 2004


Jarvis says, "Write short."

So here's the rewrite of below:

Chambers: There's a one-to-one correlation between GDP and productivity. (fastco)

Kochanski: If I do your wash and you do mine, and we pay each other, this adds to GDP. But if we each do our own wash, there's no effect on GDP, even though the same clothes get cleaned. That is, the same productivity can have two different effects on GDP.

So who's right? Chambers or Kochanski?

Thanks, buzzmachine.


Chambers on GDP

A few days ago, Russ Nelson pointed out that GDP was a better measure of trading than it was of national prosperity.

John Chambers, in the April issue of Fast Company (p. 32, didn't find it on line), begs to differ. Chambers says:
"There's a one-to-one correlation between GDP growth and productivity growth . . . and a 0.98-to-one correlation between the percentage of capital investment going into your economy and productivity growth."
Well! Maybe nobody told Chambers about, "you do my laundry and I'll do yours," because this kind of activity clearly grows GDP, while productivity stays the same as if we each do our own laundry.

This isn't hypothetical for the info economy. If I used to take my film down to the drugstore to be developed but now use a digital camera and do it myself, the superior productivity of digital photography does not translate into increased trading (i.e., GDP).

Is there something I'm missing? Or is Chambers, as reported in Fast Company, all wet?


WTF: Roxane Googin to deliver opening keynote

Whoever Treasures Fun:

The dynamic Roxane Googin will make an extremely rare public
appearance at WTF, where she will deliver the Friday night
(4/2) keynote at 8:00 PM.

Roxane was the first person I know who "called" the telecom
bubble. She was the brains behind what David Weinberger
and I call "The Paradox of the Best Network," .

Usually Rox only works rooms with long varnished tables
surrounded by grey-haired, Italian-suited men. I don't
know why she's agreed to come to WTF, but I'm not going
to argue. If you don't get at least one new thought
during her talk, check into the nearest emergency room
stat for an EEG.

David I


Why won't the U.S. Government release the Producer Price Index numbers?

Porter Stansberrry, in a recent email newsletter, points out:
The [U.S.] government still hasn't published the PPI for January and now says it won't show us the numbers for February either. I'm not making this up... See the Bureau of Statistics [announcement] for yourself.

The government claims the delay is a result of changing the classifications of materials inside the index. If so, why not show us the old numbers until the new index is ready?

This kind of a delay is unprecedented... and it comes at a time when that statistic ­ producer prices ­would reveal much higher rates of inflation that we've seen in the last 12 years.



From Paul Krugman's column in the NYT today:

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!)


Bad EULA (gee!) for Skype

Clay Shirky wrote to ask my take on a Scott Mace piece that warned of the potential for Skype funny stuff in the form of potential spyware.

We know that Skype was founded by the folks that brought us Kazaa, and that Kazaa's famous for the ghosts it puts into our machine. In fact, before I installed my own copy of Skype, I updated my spyware program and swept my system. Then I installed Skype and swept the system again. It did come up clean. Trust but verify.

Scott Mace does not disagree, but he points to, and analyzes the potential threat of numerous loopholes in Skype's EULA (End User License Agreement) that would permit Skype or unspecified third parties to add spyware in the future.

Not only am I paranoid, but I can produce evidence that they're out to get me. Nevertheless, I can't get excited about Scott Mace's EULA-gizing. Taking a EULA apart is like shooting fish in a barrel. As long as screaming about definitely-unfair EULA provisions is confined to the supergeek fringe (no matter how warranted the fears might some day prove to be) the lawyers will make software companies put as many loopholes in EULAs as they can think up at $350/hr.

If Skype (or their partners, or my government) starts installing stuff that people object to, we can always uninstall Skype. The barriers to writing new VoIP software are low, and unless Skype establishes itself (by sheer dint of number of users) as a standard, there'll be other programs, much as killing Napster only switched people to other music trading software, a fact that Clay points out in a recent "Networks, Economics & Culture" essay.

I am glad that people like Scott Mace are ripping EULAs open and looking inside. It seems that across the board, EULAs are unfair, obnoxiously constraining and unreasonable. But if we got exercised about every unfair clause in every EULA, we'd never use commercial software again. Further, because Skype helps kill telephony, it is the lesser ev . . . I'd say "evil" but evil has such a bad name these days.

Thursday, March 04, 2004


What WTF Means -- The votes are in!

WTF!?! A Gathering of Smart People (April 2-4, 2004) announces . . .(ta dah!) . . .
What WTF Means

10.Wisdom Truth Freedom
9. Wise to the Fallacy
8. Wireless Trumps Fiber
7. World Telecommunications Future
6. WTF's the Future
5. When's the Future?
4. Where's the Financing?
3. Watching Telcos Fail
2. World Telecommunications Forum

The Overall Grand Winner is . . .
1. Where's the Fiber?

The winning submitters
(including submitters of substantially similar phrases)

Frank Paynter
Timo Vainionpaa
Charlie Sands
Biker Bob Guilbeau
Leon Sun
Saul "Dr. Strangecode" Aguiar
Brian Bell
Steve Norby
Juliusz Ostrowski
John Wilson
Vivek Gani
Martin Geddes
Stan Hanks

And the Grand Winners are Jeff Hoel & Steve Stroh
who both submitted, "Where's the Fiber?"

(Did I miss your entry? I did not do this as systematically as I should have.
Please let me know and I'll publish a retraction, recalculation, self-flagellation
or whatever's warranted. -- David I)

Tuesday, March 02, 2004


Collapse of Denial

Clay Shirky writes:
[Embracing VoIP] means admitting to everyone -- shareholders, regulators, customers -- that both monopoly control and artificially high voice revenues are going away . . . As a result, [incumbent LECs] will likely try to convince regulatory agencies, both the FCC and the states', to burden competitive VoIP firms like Vonage with additional costs and rules, while delaying their own offerings.
Plan A is "Replace the phone system slowly and from within,"
Plan B is far more radical: "Replace the phone system. Period."
. . . the phone companies are overestimating the threat of Vonage (which also wants to charge users to talk to one another) and underestimating the threat of Skype (which doesn't.) [If incumbent LECs] succeed in killing off their Plan A competitors, they will strengthen the far more radical challenge from Plan B.
Exactly. I think Chairman Mike understands this too.

Monday, March 01, 2004


Now I'm worried . . .

When the world says, "Stupid networks? Yawn. How could it be any other way?" what will I do? Now, seven years after The Rise of the Stupid Network, David Passmore and the rest of the stodgy (make that "respectable") crowd over at Business Communications Review (BCR) are beginning to say the same kinds of things that wild-eyed Isenberg was saying in 1997. Here comes the end of my career as network revolutionary :-(

David Passmore used to have a charming shtick where he'd debate himself. The topic was something like, "Managed Networks vs. Big Bandwidth." He would battle himself to a draw, citing more efficient use of facilities on the one hand and lower management overhead on the other. But he'd forget innovation, which is, after all, the key success of The Stupid Network. The first time I heard Passmore's shtick, over lunch at one of the early Telecosms, I upbraided him for this from the floor in the Q & A. Maybe it worked. Now he's got it (see his Feb 2004 BCR column, "Are Smart Networks Dumb?")

All good rhetoricians need a stalking horse. Passmore uses Cisco. He writes:
[T]he concept of Cisco’s IIN goes totally counter to “the Internet way” of building networks. For years, the Internet and IP networks in general have been based on the “end-to-end principle:” Keep networks as simple as possible, with most intelligence and functionality at the edges. This principle says that the job of an IP network should be just to route packets to the correct destination.
And then, Passmore shows that he *really does* get it:
The rationale for placing smarts only at the edge is simple: It fosters new services and application deployment. By attaching an additional server to the network edge, anyone can make a new network application or service available, usually without extensive network operator coordination. The infrastructure can easily accommodate unforeseen new applications.
Of course, Passmore (with a little help from my former AT&T colleague Andrew Odlyzko) thought up all these stupid network ideas himself. I was lucky to be mentioned in this month's BCR editor's memo. (I still can't believe that when my work appeared in BCR in June 2002, they actually forgot to list it in the Table of Contents!) When the wisdom of stupid networks becomes "common sense," I'll be lucky to have a footnote in history.


The Three Big Lies of the modern corporation

The Three Big Lies of the modern corporation are:
1. The customer come first.
2. We make our decisions on behalf of our shareholders.
3. Employees are our most important asset.

Art Kleiner's newest book, Who Really Matters: The Core Group Theory of Power, Privilege & Success explores a theory that's more parsimoniously tied to observable facts -- that the goals of organizations are determined by a small "core group" of people who matter. A friend of mine calls them "the STP" -- the Same Ten People. To Kleiner, if an organization *is* working right, then credit is due to its core group. If an organization is dysfunctional, you'll find a dysfunctional core group. If an organization is ripping off its employees and shareholders, there's probably a greedy core group setting the agenda.

Tellingly, the first chapter of Kleiner's book is called, "The Customer Comes Eighth." I told this to one corporate culture guru, and he laughed and laughed, as if it were the punchline to an unspoken joke.

If you're a student of Corporate Culture, if you're puzzled by the hidden rules of how to get things done and who gets ahead, if you're wondering why "value subtracted" is often the end result, or even if you're curious about what makes Dilbert funny, you will want to give _who Really Matters_ a read. Also, there's an on-line discussion about _Who Really Matters_ going on for the next two weels at The Well.

I thought the book was well worth the time, but I came away with two gripes. First, it doesn't present an objective set of criteria for how the core group chooses its members. According to Kleiner, core group members are who the organization's stakeholders believe they are. Second, it doesn't give a reader a detailed roadmap of how to join (or even influence) the core group of their organization. Now, these are difficult questions, considering that each core group is a complex of complex individuals. Maybe there's a second Kleiner book, on How to be Someone Who Matters waiting to be written.

Art Kleiner will be part of the action at WTF!?! A Gathering of Smart People, April 2-4, 2004.


Russ has a shiny new VOIP phone

Russ Nelson writes to his friends:
I've got a shiny new VOIP phone. It's a Grandstream BudgeTone 101, purchased from Pulver Innovations for $76 incl shipping. They sell them pre-configured with a Free World Dialup number (if you ask), and mine is [six digits deleted; better ask Russ. Email him at nelson at crynwr dot com].
The end of unified dialing plans (e.g. the North American Numbering Plan (NANP)) is at hand.


Even more on "Freeware does not contribute to GDP"

Stephen R Laniel comments on Jorge Ortiz:
[S]oftware . . . leads to all sorts of other economic gains. . . . prices are dropping radically on software . . . tools like Apple’s GarageBand help create music who never would have done it before. It’s not just that software is price-elastic: it’s that reducing price actually leads us to think about uses that we never would have thought of before.


More on "Freeware does not contribute to GDP"

Russ Nelson responds to Jorge Ortiz. He writes:
Problem! Economists aren't using the GDP to represent the wealth of a society! Only non-economists think the GDP represents the wealth of a society. [Non-economists are] misled by news reporters who report changes in the GDP as if that number means anything to a working stiff. It doesn't.

[Economists use GDP to] measure trade, not value. Its only use is in comparing the size of one country's trading against the size of another country's trading.

I'd really, really like to see non-economists completely forget about the GDP.
Two comments:
1. GDP doesn't even measure trade very well -- and it is easy to see how freeware could be a significant factor in (or at least displace a lot of) international trade.
2. So is there one reasonably simple, unified measure of a country's wealth?

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?