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?

Sunday, February 29, 2004


Neches to Noam: Pitfalls are easy to see, opportunities harder

Phil Neches and Tom Evslin were the only entrepreneurs in the upper echelons of AT&T; management when I was there. I don't think it's a coincidence that today they're my only former-AT&T-senior-management; friends.

Phil Neches (who'll be at WTF!?! A Gathering of SMART People, by the way) emailed me this commentary on Eli Noam's heavily blogged recent FT column and, later, consented when I asked if I could blog it:
"Pessimism without Paradox" reminds me of the turn of the century. Not 2000, but 1900. The typical American worker felt under pressure. Wages were dropping faster than prices. Foreigners were arriving to take jobs from "real Americans". The price of new technology components fell relentlessly, prompting waves of mergers. Cheap goods flooded the market.

Serious people feared the collapse of capitalism, either through implosion by merger or violent revolution.

Of course, we now look back on the period from roughly 1880 to 1920 as a time of extraordinary productive change. In that time, we saw the rise women's rights, public education, the middle class, national brands, and America's emergence as the world leader in just about everything. We saw a slew of seminal inventions: the automobile, the airplane, the telephone, radio, and anesthesia, just to name a few. Energy consumption turned from wood and coal to oil and gas.

Today, the sense of dislocation many of us feel is that we are living in another era of fundamental change. By 2050, the following things are highly likely:
  • Oil and gas production will be declining. Either other energy sources will be increasing in importance, or civilization as we know it will have collapsed. (I vote for the former). [I think we're likely to see dramatic movements in both directions, and *way* before 2050. -- DI]
  • The "First World" economy will encompass ~3 billion people, up from ~1 billion in 2000. This means that the United States will be ~10-15% of interesting economic activity, as opposed to today's ~40-50%. In other words, the US can still lead, but cannot dominate.
  • Employment of application programmers will continue its 50-year decline, just as manufacturing employment will continue its 100 year decline and farm employment will continue its 150 year decline, viewed as a percent of the workforce. (Farm employment peaked between 1840 and 1870; manufacturing employment peaked in the 1950s in the US).

In the middle of the 1880-1920 changeover, it was easier to see what was being lost than what would be gained. In 1900, one could readily predict the loss of jobs through consolidation in the steel industry, but it was much harder to foresee the number of jobs that would be created in the auto industry. The automobile was a curiosity for the idle rich, and there were practically no roads to drive on. But by 1920, Henry Ford was selling automobiles for about the same price that the Wright brothers were selling bicycles in 1900. [Wow! -- DI]

Now we face a similar failure to imagine how big the new industries created by today's infant technologies can become. This is because we can easily imagine how a new technology can fit into our established world, but it's hard to envision how the world could be reordered to take advantage of the technology.

Just one example: Caltech researchers created a directional microwave system that is physically smaller than a postage stamp and which will cost only a buck or two. In a recent New York Times article (02/26/04, page E5), the "so what" of this breakthrough was radar "night vision" for our cars and tight-beam microwave links for real cheap. In other words, the impact of the new technology was envisioned in terms of familiar things like cars, phones, and computers. But the article did not ask what new things we might do because these new microwave devices that might re-order our world.

To return to 1900, what we today call the automobile was then called a "horseless carriage". People understood the new technology by analogy. And, of course, the early horseless carriages resembled horse-drawn ones, with narrow wheels and high ground clearance, because they worked with the roads of that day. Few could imagine a continent covered with paved roads, but it happened within only 20 years.

Eli Noam's litany of discontinuities is easy to see. But what we should be looking for are opportunities to reorder the world to take full advantage of our new technology. These are hard to see and even harder to believe in. Yet, these opportunities, not today's apparent problems, are likely to sculpt the shape of the future.

Freeware does not contribute to GDP

Jorge Ortiz writes:
I am not economist, but . . . since freeware can be downloaded for free, the "product" (for GDP purposes) is counted as zero. [So] if we were to replace all commercial software products with freeware, we would actually decrease the GDP, even if the actual functionality of freeware were equal or better than the commercial products it replaces. Perhaps another kind of tragedy of the commons. (Don't trust me too much on this one -- do check with your economist . . . )
I think Jorge is right, but this is not to say that freeware does not create value, only that our value-measuring tools are dull.

Greg Kochanski brought this up years ago on the SMART List. His argument went something like this:
If I do my laundry and you do your laundry, neither of us contribute to the GDP. But if I do *your* laundry and you pay me, and you do *my* laundry for a similar fee, then we've both contributed to GDP. Yet the exact same clothes got cleaned. That is, the same value was created in both cases, but it was only *measured* in the latter.

In fact, it is worse than that. When we do each other's laundry on a fee-for-service basis, we both need to engage the services of banks and accountants, and (of course) the IRS gets involved. I think the term for this is "value subtracted."

Thursday, February 26, 2004


More on Noam: Ain't no Oversupply of Connectivity at My House!

Eli Noam's recent FT column applies a "high fixed costs, low marginal costs, incentives to oversupply" formula equally to infrastructure and application. But wait a minute! Nobody got incented to oversupply my house with connectivity.

High fixed costs -- check! Low marginal costs -- check! So where's my oversupply?

There's no oversupply because the market for applications is driven differently from the market for connections.

The apps market, despite Noam's litany of troubles, is robust, competitive and dynamically stable. Microsoft has successfully cartelized a big piece of it, but its monopoly is far from secure. Other players hold chunky positions in app space (Google, Oracle, Yahoo, Symbian, etc.). There's a wide diversity of smart platforms -- from cell phones to servers -- for all kinds of apps, new and old. As technology advances, its newest benefits flow unimpeded to end-users. Sure there's oversupply. I've got four computers sitting there wasting megaflops, a 160 gig disk that's 1% used, six browsers, nine email clients, dozens of programs I've never touched and a stack of writable CDs in the closet. I love it.

The connectivity market marches to a slower, more lugubrious cadence. What's wrong? The technology isn't lagging. There are optical interfaces on US$49.00 DVD players. Gigabit Ethernet comes standard on today's laptops.

Then why does mass-market-priced connectivity run at a mere 0.3% of a gigabit in the U.S.? In advanced nations, e.g., Korea, why does mass-market connectivity run at 2% of a gigabit? In three or four years, 10-gigabit hardware will be "popularly priced." But will carriers deliver this progress affordably to their customers? No way.

Why not? It's not market demand. The adoption curve for today's lame "high" speed connectivity is one of the steepest in history. Customers want it.

So if it isn't affordable technology, and it isn't customer demand, what is it? Let's return to Eli Noam's, "high fixed costs, low marginal costs" formulation and ask what makes Internet connectivity different.

I think it's the low marginal costs. They're not just low; they're extremely low, and infinitely lowerable for all practical purposes. Carriers can modulate faster, modulate better, add another channel, or add another wavelength. Because of this, if a carrier sells one fiber, or even one "dry" (or sharable) copper pair, they might never sell another. Connectivity providers have to restrict connection speeds if they're to make a profit. But they can't stop there. They must also keep competition at bay, because if there's real competition some competitor surely will offer better technology.

This infinite lowerability works with a second property -- graceful degradation. Like the village green of old, where all the townspeople turned their milk cows to graze, it is always possible to add another user. And like the village green, it is difficult to tell when adding one more user causes the total utility of the connection to decrease. I attended a conference recently where hundreds of packet-grabbing geeks crowded onto a single T-1, which occasionally became so congested that it was useless to everybody. The good news was that unlike a village green (where the grass, once overgrazed, might take years to recover) the T-1 service degraded so gracefully and came back so seamlessly that it was hard to know which state was operative at any given moment.

Graceful degradation theoretically lets me "share" my cable connection with my neighbors. To the cableco, I'm "stealing" customers. A cableco that added more capacity would make it even easier for me to "share". It wouldn't want to do that, because its goal is to maximize profits.

What kinds of network owner would be driven by a different kind of goal: to maximize overall utility to users of its network?

It's no accident that fiber to the home (FTTH) is so slow to catch on. Fiber is the most infinitely and cheaply expandable of all connectivity media. It is not surprising that municipalities operate 32% of the FTTH in the United States. Munis are interested in overall utility, not in profit. Munis want their city to be a better place to live.

In summary, the telco (and the cableco) are victims, not beneficiaries, of the Communications Revolution. Nor are they giving end-user customers what we want. This, then is the market failure!

Fortunately there are alternatives. There are munis. There are (still) CLECs. (Maybe some day some CLEC will get that, "It's operational efficiency, stupid.") There are other utilities. There's condominium network ownership. There are networks owned by single customers. And there are "volunteerist" networks without tragic instabilities.

I'm with you, Professor Noam; national economies are at stake, global volatility is upon us. But let's not paint with too broad a brush, and let's not declare "incentive to oversupply" until I have price competition (or a public spirited provider) for 10 gigabit-per-second connectivity at my house.

Wednesday, February 25, 2004


Eli Noam -- Pessimism without Paradox

Eli Noam is a wise observer of the Communications Revolution, but he seems to see the world through incumbent-colored glasses -- glasses with dark lenses that are uncorrected for myopia. Through them, the information economy is "a volatile, cyclical, unstable mess." Nevertheless, his most recent Financial Times column usefully elucidates and extends the central theme of The Paradox of the Best Network -- that marketplace nirvana does not necessarily follow from rapid technology advances, that disruptive technology is not a tea party -- it really disrupts things! Noam's litany begins: Noam sees market failure, which "exists when market prices cannot reach a self-sustaining equilibrium." He doesn't see a paradox, because he fails to acknowledge the beauty of a world where barriers to communication -- not to mention music, news, video entertainment and product information -- fall away.

Noam sees that:
The basic structural reason for this problem [sic] is that information products . . . are expensive to produce but cheap to reproduce and distribute, and therefore exhibit strong economies of scale with incentives to an over-supply . . . prices for content, network distribution and equipment are collapsing across a broad front. It seems to have become difficult to charge anything for information products and services.
He vividly describes how these disruptive technology will disrupt things:
[IT companies will] cut costs, outsource, hedge, diversify and use new processes such as micropayments. They will try to innovate to differentiate their products. . . . the main strategy will be to consolidate and cartelise in order to maintain pricing power. As a result, prices and profits rise (as well as media concentration), which will lead again to expansion, entry, and by the same economic logic, to a new price collapse, with a general downward trend in prices . . . [and] price deflation oscillating through the information sector will drag down the rest of the economy . . .
Noam's plausible but disturbing conclusion is that "as countries rely more on information-based activities, their economies become more volatile." [Note that an empirical test of this statement is whether the economies of Korea, Finland, Switzerland and Japan are more volatile than the U.S. economy.]

Noam continues,
. . . governments will inevitably be drawn into the business of stabilization. But this is easier said than done. Classic approaches such as Keynesian demand stimulation, or monetary policy or industrial strategy do not address the core problem of the information sector. That problem is not inadequate demand or investment, but over-supply, competition and structural price deflation.
I really like Noam's suggestion that:
Perhaps the most effective thing that government can do . . . is to help diversify the economy to a more balanced portfolio. This means encouraging manufacturing industries that are not closely correlated with the health of the information sector, often low-tech industries.
Good thinking.

Noam's incumbent slant shows most clearly when he says that
[v]olunteerist activities such as open-source software, shared information or public hotspots will not solve the problem, because they, too, are subject to the instability known as the "tragedy of the commons" . . .
He fails to admit the possibility that such activities might actually seed a new stability. Ethernet was licensed openly, but was not trampled by free riders. The Internet itself, as commonly owned a property as can be, shows rock-solid stability despite 20 years of triple-digit growth and relentless trampling by herds of bad actors.

Sure, the Internet will destroy the telephone business -- but let's cheer, not wring our hands, as we email, blog, and call halfway around the world for free. And that's not the only plausible positive outcome -- there are more moderate ones. For example, the open-source software movement is maturing into an institution that could live co-dependently alongside commercial software much as the Red Cross coexists with commercial hospitals, big pharma and the HMO business.

UPDATE: Russ Nelson sent me email to say:
The opposite of open-source software is proprietary software, not commercial software. Red Hat only sells open source software. If you sell open-source software, it's commercial open-source, right?

There is a nice historical parallel in the oil business. It too had high fixed costs and low marginal costs. It struggled with oversupply in its first decades. It destroyed the whaling industry. Once pipeline and refinery were built, energy was practically free. As a direct result, over the next decades sailing and horseback riding morphed from essential businesses to hobbies, much as news gathering and movie making appear to be doing today. New business models take time. [Today you don't hear anybody accusing the oil industry of fostering economic volatility, do you? Well, do you?]

Noam's current article has provoked great dialog in Blogistan. Jeff Jarvis pointed it out to me, and Om Malik has some thoughtful comments and pointers to many others. Eli Noam is one of the great policy minds of the communications revolution. I'm becoming a Noam fan. But I have another set of glasses that I wish he'd wear occasionally -- they have rose-colored lenses, and they can help you see over the immediate horizon.

Tuesday, February 24, 2004


More on Atom vs RSS

Jorge Ortiz writes:
My RSS Reader does not (yet) support atom.xml
Luckily, I found the following handy site that converts Atom to RSS.
Instead of using your regular link to the atom.xml feed, I use the following URL:
It works great!

Your faithful reader does not give up easily :^)
David Beckemeyer had trouble with Jorge Ortiz's solution, but he writes:
This converter worked for me:


More on Oil Production

Bob Morris, in his blog "Politics in the Zeros" writes:
If the oil is much harder to get, won't it then be much more expensive? I'm a little leery of someone, who faced with a shortage, simply redefines the terms so there's magically more of it.
Energy Analyst called and pointed out that maybe one reason for Bob Morris' reaction is that my editing shortened his second bullet point. It is a valid comment, so here's his whole second bullet as originally written: Maybe if I had left it whole then Bob Morris would have understood that the "redefinition" was due (at least in part) to new technology and macroeconomics, and not entirely to cognitive convenience.

Myself, I'd still like a better understanding of Energy Analyst's reasoning about the interaction of technology and macroeconomics.

Monday, February 23, 2004


Phase Changes in Oil & Telecom

An energy analyst who doesn't want his name used writes:
We're [a large] independent research firm in the energy business. We get paid to pay attention to supply/demand, geo-political and technical issues. We are paid to get things right and not candy coat them for any particular interest.
  • Yes, 'the oil' as conventionally defined is running out.
  • However, the history of the oil business has been to change the definition of 'conventionally defined' . . .
  • We are in the process of changing the definition once again. The new definition will include tar sands, LNG, Deep/ultra-deep water, etc.
  • Once changed, there looks like plentiful supply until past 2020.
[The energy situation is] similar to the transition we are seeing in telecommunications . . . one could 'Hubbert' the peak in copper-pair lines per capita, but no one would really care. The phase transition is on. Some of it consumers can participate in directly like VOIP, dropping a land line for a cell, etc. but some of this is invisible such as the switch out of the back-bones of the Telcos to IP.

Fuel switching is a big issue . . . the question is not if, but when. Can we make the switch successfully and profitably? Jump too soon and we may be over invested in capacity before demand exists (the question currently facing LNG, and by extension hydrogen), jump too late and all the good opportunities may be gone.
The comments of "Energy Analyst" provoked me.

We did, in fact, "Hubbert" the peak of conventional land-line telephony. In 2000, at the International Switching Symposium, Lucent CTO Bob Martin told me that in 1999 more conventional circuit switch ports were sold than ever. Maybe 2000 was as good plus or minus. After that, downhill. Do we care? I certainly do. But I think energy will be a much more radical transition than the Communications Revolution.

Caution. The two situations are not parallel.

First, the shift in telecom is driven by the pull of new technologies. In contrast, the shift in oil will be driven by the push of a resource running out. In other words, we're not using the Internet more because the supply of circuit switching is becoming scarcer while demand for circuits grows! And conversely, we are not about to reduce our use of oil because some wonderful new energy source (promising gigagallons where there used to be kilogallons) has broken upon the scene. In one case push could become shove. In another, pull could become twang. Expectation (and market demand) in these two cases are likely to have radically different trajectories.

Second, oil and telecom have different supply-demand histories. The history of telecom is a history of scarcity and high prices. We are only now getting to where we have more than enough bandwidth (only in local area networks so far). In contrast, until recent years oil has been in a state of chronic oversupply; only now is it becoming scarce.

Third, there has not yet been a war over telecom, to my best knowledge.

This is not to say that oil folks can't learn from network folks, and vice versa. Will the transition from abundant conventional oil to scarcity be smooth and uneventful? Ahem. That's one scenario. Will the transition from scarce telecom to abundant bandwidth share any characteristics with telecom other than state change? That's another question.

For RSS/XML Users: Announcing A New Feed

I am changing my feed. Blogger now supports Atom, and's been using it.
Unfortunately, I neglected to tell all my loyal, faithful readers about it. (Thanks Jorge.)

So here's the news:



I've been posting inadvertantly (literally inadvertantly) to atom.xml since February 1. But now I am advertising. So check out the atom feed. Like RSS, Atom feeds are machine readable by all the major feedreaders. Unlike RSS, Atom files seem to be human-readable in a standard browser! Cool.

There's lots of good stuff in February's Atom feed, including all the
LATEST NEWS about WTF -- A Gathering of Smart People.

I am so naive. WTF? What does WTF mean?

Friday, February 20, 2004


David Weinberger on "The Echo Chamber Meme" (the echo chamber meme, the echo chamber meme . . . )

I went to a talk on blogging today, and "echo chamber" was one of the most-used phrases. Everybody seemed to know what "echo chamber" meant -- boy, talk about an echo chamber! David W writes "out of the cluster":
. . . I went to a baseball game . . . [and m]y bleacher mates were surprisingly unwilling to talk with me about whether the Sox were deserving of our collective support . . . we humans -- echo chamber participants or echo chamber castigators -- rarely engage in deep, meaningful and truly open conversation with people who fundamentally disagree with us. I have never debated a neo-Nazi, and if I did, I wouldn't do so with an open mind: No way is that son of a bitch going to convince me that he's right. No apologies.
Before you say "echo chamber" again, you might want to peek at a few more of Dr. W's wise words.

Five 9s at the FCC

The Extended Pheotype points out that
Some 89 million people watched the Superbowl, and 200,000 complaints [about the Janet Jackson show] were received [by the FCC]. Hmm. (sounds of calculator buttons in the background) . . . 99.9978% of Superbowl viewers didn’t feel motivated to complain . . .
Hallelujah! The FCC finally got better than five 9s on *one* network-related measure.

Thursday, February 19, 2004


WTF: Which Themes Flower

WTF is coming together nicely. Here's the latest:

On-site lodging: Twenty-five of the Edith Macy's 47 rooms are bought and paid-for. If you're hoping to have an on-site room, act fast. There are only 47 rooms in the place.

No hurry to register if you're local, or if you're finding nearby lodging on your own. But please remember that all WTF rates go up by $150 on March 12.

Please publicize WTF! There are 196 seats in the Peter F. Drucker Auditorium. It would be great to fill them all with Communications Revolutionaries! So if you know others who might Want To Follow the meeting, tell them they're Welcome To Frequent WTF. And if you have a mailing list or a blog, and the spirit moves you to Want To Focus on WTF, please do so! I'm hoping that Web Transactions Follow. Bottoms up!

I've just updated, the official Web site of WTF. I've added the most current list of registered participants. I've added the most recent polysemous entries to the WTF's Theme and Force contest. And I've sketched out a bare bones agenda.

Volunteers needed: There have been several calls from around the world requesting an audio webcast of WTF. I won't have the brainwidth during the conference. If you'd like to take this task on, I'll make sure that the World Tacitly Follows your Willingness To Fructify challenging tasks.

Wishing Transcendent Fulfillment,
David I

Wednesday, February 18, 2004


The Wireless Future is Almost Here

Jonn Lebkowsky writes:
Time is running out to register for the Wireless Future conference, which will be held March 12-16 at the Austin Convention Center in Austin, Texas. Explore the future of licensed and unlicensed wireless technology with such luminaries as Howard Rheingold (author of Smart Mobs), Kevin Werbach (organizer of Supernova and author of New America Foundation's Radio Revolution), Cory Doctorow of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the legendary Dave Hughes, David Weinberger (author of Small Pieces Loosely Joined, Dewayne Hendricks of Dandin Group, Joichi Ito of Neoteny, Ltd., Dan Gillmor of the San Jose Mercury, John Quarterman and many more!
I'll be there. So will Yuri "magic-bike" Gitman, and Steve Stroh, two of my personal heros.

The price, now $225 cheap, includes admission to SxSW Interactive. But it goes up on March 1, so register now.

Tuesday, February 17, 2004


Sorry officer, I converged . . .

Martin Geddes gets it right again:
Saw the word “convergence” pop up again on the ITU web site. I love that word. So soothing . . . next time you see a car wreck on the freeway with blood and oil oozing under the twisted metal, don’t panic. Have no worries. Let your fear subside. The car has simply converged with the concrete barrier. Converged with fate. Converged into history.
One offender -- who should know better -- Bob Metcalfe. Every time he says it, it grates on me. I wish he'd stop using that word.

The "echo chamber" on our front porch

David Weinberger got my personal "Best Meme of Show" award at last week's ETCon. In a discussion of whether Deniac bloggers were listening to their own echo chamber, David W said something like, "Echo chamber? The newsboy throws the biggest echo chamber onto your front porch every morning."

(And all this time I thought Lacy Peterson actually was more important than stuff like global oil shortages . . . )

News from the Oil Patch

Princeton Geologist Kenneth Deffeyes, author of Hubbert's Peak, The Impending World Oil Shortage, which I reviewed in 2002, has an update on world oil production dated January 16, 2004. To review, Hubbert's Peak says, in essence, that world oil production will peak sometime in this decade, "never to rise again." Deffeyes, looking to tune up his prediction, writes:
At the end of December, Oil & Gas Journal published their oil production figures for calendar year 2003. From 2000 to 2003, world crude oil production has been essentially flat, which is to be expected as we roll over the top of the bell-shaped Hubbert curve. . . . There was some speculation that the year 2000 might stand as the single largest year of oil production. (Production in 2001 and 2002 was not as large as the year 2000.) However, 2003 squeaked ahead of 2000 by one-half of one percent. The important news is that growth has essentially stopped.
Professor Deffeyes points out that all of the 2003 production increases come from Russian production, where deferred Soviet-era maintenance is finally being remedied. He continues:
Although it is a bit silly, we can now pick a day to celebrate passing the top of the mathematically smooth Hubbert curve: November 24, 2005 . . . To his credit, Alan Greenspan has been warning about a natural gas supply shortage in North America. None of the presidential candidates want to warn us about blood, sweat, and tears. Each is trying to promise us a better future than the next. It is probably going to require some sort of major crisis before the world oil supply gets on the national agenda.

With the Japanese and US rejections, the Kyoto Accord on carbon dioxide reduction is now dead. I'm claiming to be The New Kyoto. We won't burn as much oil each year because it simply won't come out of the ground.
This is Big News, but you won't read it in the 'papers.

The other David Isenberg does good work!

This morning a package arrived in my mailbox addressed to "David Isenberg, Senior Analyst, British American Security Information Council," at my home address. Others wiser than I have observed that the Internet collapses name-space. I've known this other David "defense-analyst" Isenberg was out there for a couple of years. That's why I started using my middle initial.

Anyhow, this other guy does good work. I Googled him and found a report entitled, Unravelling the Known Unknowns: Why no Weapons of Mass Destruction have been found in Iraq The summary states:
"The conclusion is inescapable: there is nothing to be found. This means that President Bush and Prime Minister Blair made a WMD mountain out of what, at best, was a molehill. As a recent detailed report from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace concludes, 'Administration officials systematically misrepresented the threat from Iraq's WMD and ballistic missile programs.'

Why did the US and UK governments exaggerate the threat? Or were they themselves misled by available pre-war intelligence on Iraq's WMD capability? *snip* The main conclusion is that the failure to find banned weapons in Iraq suggests very strongly that the UN weapons inspectors succeeded in their mandate, and that the Iraqi government complied with its obligations."
I don't mind sharing a name with this guy at all!

The package has been forwarded to its correct destination.

Friday, February 13, 2004


WTF -- Who's Transacted First

The following people have actually registered and paid
for WTF2004. (Note: 27 on-site rooms still available.)

Patrick Leary, patrick dot leary at alvarion dot com
Gordon Jacobson, gaj at portman dot com
Steve Steinberg, steve at steinberg dot org
Martin Geddes, isen at martingeddes dot com
Dave Hughes, dave at oldcolo dot com
Russ Nelson, stupidnet dot com at russnelson dot com
Francis McInerney, francis at northriver dot com
Lane Smith, lasmith at usaid dot gov
Michael Olson, mao at sleepycat dot com
Raj Singh, rsingh at investcorp dot com
Tom Mandel, tom at tommandel dot com
Michael Katz, makatz at collaborationgroup dot com
Saul Aguiar, saul_aguiar at ieee dot org
Malcolm Matson, cityman at city dot co dot uk
Terri Adkisson, terri at mindjazz dot com
Stan Hanks, stanx at networkmercenaries dot com
Jean Pierre De Vries, pierredv at microsoft dot com
Steven Cherry, s dot cherry at ieee dot org
Brian Condon, brian dot condon at complexitygroup dot com
Alan Freedman, alan at computerlanguage dot com
Robert Williamson, windwardresearch at attglobal dot net
Gordon Cook, cook at cookreport dot com
Roger Williams, rogerw at nordlink dot com
Pito Salas, junk at salas dot com
Lindsey Annison, l dot annison at webpr dot co dot uk
Kenneth Tyler, ken at seedwiki dot com
Pontus Ekman, pontus at ekman dot se

Wednesday, February 11, 2004


Speaking with our EFF Hats on . . .

Howard Rheingold, David I, James Roberts at O'Reilly ETCon.

Monday, February 09, 2004


Trippi says he only made $165,000 on Dean Campaign

$165k is a lot of money, Trippi says. The firm he's a partner of reportedly made over 7 million. But Trippi says that all the noise about this issue is about stopping the flow of $25 contributions. "This is not about getting me, it is about how to get all these budding activists to say, 'Hey, I can't make a difference.'"

Rheingold blogs Trippi

I am sitting at O'Reilly's Digital Democracy Teach-in. Joe Trippi just talked, Howard Rheingold was blogging the speech in real time. I just took a look -- what Howard wrote is what I heard. Awesome, my hat is off.

David Weinberger did a pretty good job too!

Failure of Intelligence: Not Just for Networks Anymore

"When you are dealing with secretive regimes that want to deceive,
you're never going to be able to be positive."

Condoleeza Rice, Quoted by Reuters, January 29, 2004

Saturday, February 07, 2004


Werblog on "Dean Hires Bellhead"

Kevin Werbach writes
Dean doesn't get it.

Here's how Howard Dean justified his decision to replace campaign manager Joe Trippi with Washington insider Roy Neel: "What we need is decision making that's centralized." One would think that, after Dean's extraordinary rise from obscurity to front-runner status on the back of a radically distributed, networked movement, he would appreciate the value of decentralization.
Right on, Kevin. On the other hand, he was running for *president*.

Friday, February 06, 2004


VOIP meets Open Source (talk about weapons of mass (creative) destruction)

I just got this from Benjamin Kowarsch (benjamin at sunrise-tel dot com):
I have started [a new] company here in Tokyo, integrating open source based VoIP-PBXes for SMEs. Every time we deploy another system, I think of your "stupid network" philosophy since I used to do this kind of thing with "intelligent network" technology at about a hundred times the effort and a thousand times the cost ;-)
Benjamin explains he's using Asterisk software, which runs on operating systems whose names end in "x" -- including Mac OS-X. He continues,
All you need is an old PC (ie a 500 MHz Celeron with about 192MB of RAM), install Linux or BSD, download, install and configure Asterisk, then get one or more VoIP phones, either softphones such as X-Lite (free download at or real VoIP phones such as the Grandstream Budgetones for ca. $65 a piece ( and you have got a SOHO VoIP network. The quality is quite often significantly better than what you get from many international carriers who charge you an arm and a leg.

[Making this work in] a business environment is a bit of work and most SMEs don't have the expertise nor the resources to do it themselves, so that is where we come in . . .
In my mind, Mike Powell's, "I realized it was all over when I downloaded Skype," keeps playing, over and over. VOIP meets Open Source -- surely the ILECs and Microsoft will find a way to make this illegal, immoral and unpatriotic.

Rooms at WTF2004 are going fast!

Of the 12 people who have registered so far, seven have requested single rooms. There are only 46 rooms at the Edith Macy, so at this rate, we will sell out of rooms long before we fill the Peter F. Drucker Auditorium. There are other hotels and motels in the area, so we'll cope. But who wants to commute? Don't say I didn't warn you -- register now if you want to be sure of an on-site room.
David I


Registration for WTF2004 is open!

The Official Website WTF2004 -- -- is Open for Business.

So far, people who have actually registered, and who are household names in my house, include:
There are a lot of other great people who I know are planning on coming, and I look forward to more pleasant surprises. I am delighted with how it is coming together!

Sunday, February 01, 2004



Lessig asks what's a good term for a binary thinker. Tony C comments, "Bitwit," as in nitwit.

Valdis Krebs updates his political book map

Last year, Valdis showed graphically that people who bought books with a left-leaning view tended not to buy books with a rightward tilt. Now he's updated the picture. The shape is the same, only the individual books have changed. Valdis writes:
So, if you are working a 2004 political campaign what do you do with this information? Obviously you will not be successful in removing a reader from deep in one cluster and transplanting them into the other cluster. All you can do is focus on the edge nodes and the bridges. See someone reading Sleeping with the Devil? That is someone you can talk to about your candidate.

Friday, January 30, 2004


Dean Campaign Hires Bellhead

Howard Dean, the erstwhile "Internet candidate," urgently needs to explain to his core Nethead constituency why Joe "Nethead" Trippi is out and Roy "Bellhead" Neel is in. Neel was president of the US Telecom Association (USTA) in the late 1990s when it was the voice of the Big Baby Bells calling for an end to FCC enforcement of the 1996 Telecom Act's competitive provisions. In a USTA op-ed in 2000 (no longer on the USTA Website, but cached here) Neel said,
America’s local phone companies are poised to compete head-on for consumers if only the FCC reduced or eliminated outdated regulations.
The outdated regulations he spoke of in 2000 were the pro-competitive provisions of the 1996 Act. He believes that the FCC is, "requiring [the telcos] to give away their networks, facilities and equipment." What he meant was that he wants TELRIC eliminated. (TELRIC is an FCC pricing formula for unbundled network elements that is already so slanted that CLECs find it almost impossible to compete.) He says,
These burdensome regulations shackle the local phone companies’ ability to deploy broadband services like digital subscriber lines (DSL).
Those poor big baby incumbent telcos.

That's not all. In 1999, in a confusion symptomatic of failure to separate content from conduit, Roy "vertically-integrated-networks" Neel declared before the U.S. Congress that USTA was "in strategic alliance" with Jack Valenti's MPAA.

If Roy Neel declares support for Dean's Internet Principles, he alienates his oldest friends. It'd be like Dick Cheney marching against the war.

David Corn points out that Dean campaign slogans about, "taking our country back from Special Interests," ring dark and hollow under Neel. "You have the power." Really?.

I've always believed that the Communications Revolution was not represented in either Democratic or Republican parties, and I've found occasional allies in both. My nettiest friends in the Dean Campaign almost convinced me that Dean "got it." Now I am not sure at all.

I am grateful that Dean has opened up the dialog on the war, health care and the economy. I am dismayed, but not surprised, by the Dean media lynching recently blogged by John Perry Barlow. But now, unless the Dean campaign does something immediate and heroic to shore up its Nethead core, it is time to "Move On."

Tuesday, January 20, 2004


Adam Thierer's latest blast -- incompetent or dishonest?

You should read Adam Thierer's essay entitled Collectivism In, Property Rights Out. Argument aside, it is noteworthy for its language.

Larry Lessig quotes Howard Rheingold saying, “[Thierer's essay] is either intellectual incompetence or intellectual dishonesty." David Weinberger votes for "intellectual incompetence." He calls it "One of the sloppiest pieces of thinking I've ever seen from an organization named after a Roman." Lessig, on the other hand, avers that Thierer is quite intellectually competent.

I agree with Lessig. Look at Thierer's language. Or should I say, "language"? You can discredit something just by putting quotes around it. I could make a case, or I could, "Make a case." Such a phrase without quotes says what it means straightforwardly. In quotes, the same phrase imputes something unsaid, something sinister, or maybe something merely incompetent. Is Thierer a Libertarian or a "Libertarian"? I'm just reporting. You decide.

Thierer uses the quotes ploy at least ten times on phrases like, "democratic rule," "commons," "nondiscrimination," and "openness". It keeps him from having to explain why, "democratic rule", for example, is a bad thing. Or why it is a bad thing when used by FCC Commissioner Michael Copps, Stanford Professor Larry Lessig, underdog Presidential Candidate Howard Dean or the New America Foundation.

Which brings us to the second of Thierer's rhetorical devices. He spins three or four individual views into an on-the-fly axis. He asserts that there's a unified view, then chooses statements from the most convenient individual as if it represent the whole. For example, Thierer suggests that, "They want to water down IP rights and greatly expand fair use rights and the public domain." Lessig points out that Copps didn't say anything like that, nor did the Dean Campaign stake out any such position, so he concludes, "I guess this one is for me."

Thierer's third device is excessive hyperbole. If he were presenting a rational argument, he would not need so many emotionally loaded terms like, "concocted," "master plan," "heavy dose," "crusaders, " preaching," "lambaste," and so on. He could have used, "assembled" instead of "concocted," and "plan" instead of "master plan." The essay needs what John Perry Barlow once self-effacingly called a hyperbolectomy.

I think Thierer knows what he's doing. His underdeveloped sense of shame shows briefly in his penultimate paragraph, where he leaves himself a big out. He says, "The commons crowd would be quick to respond that this mischaracterizes their argument . . . they see markets and property rights as a means to an end that must be tempered with a [] dose of collective decisionmaking."

But instead of analyzing how it might mischaracterizes the argument, he pulls out yet another rhetorical device when he goes on to say, ". . . they make it clear that they are not advocating the overthrow of the capitalist order and the empowerment of the proletariat, or any other neo-Marxist nonsense." By the same token, I am glad to report that Thierer's essay does not advocate torturing innocent babies.

I'm not addressing the content of Thierer's essay. That was eloquently done by Lessig and Weinberger. I'm just pointing out that Thierer's language is emotional language. It is not crafted to appeal to logic. It addresses more primitive forms of "reasoning".

The Latest on "What WTF Means"

The newest Bogus Contest entries for What WTF Means has 20 entries so far (some multiple).

The newest:

WTF's the Future (GNU's Neighbor Unit)
Where's the Financing?
Whacky Telecom Forum
Worthless Telecom Forum
Whacky Telecom Folks
Wierd Telecom Fun

These join:

> >> + Where Telecom Fails
> >> + Watching Telcos Fail
> >> + World Telecommunications Forum
> >> + World Telecommunications Future
> >> + Wildlife Telecommunications Forum
> >> + World Telecom Farce
> >> + Welcome the Fun
> >> + When's the Future?
> >> + Wise to the Fallacy
> >> + Welease The Facilties
> >> + What's the Fuss
> >> + Welcome to Filibuster
> >> + What Terrific Fun
> >> + Wireless Terminal Fiends
> >> + We're Tired of the FCC
> >> + Where's the Fiber?
> >> + Why Trench Fiber?
> >> + Why Think Fiber?
> >> + Will Travel (of my own) Freewill
> >> + When to Fold
> >> + What to Forget
> >> + Wisdom, Truth, Freedom
> >> + We're The Fringe
> >> + Who to Furlough
> >> + Welcome to Freedom

Did I miss your entry? If so, apologies. Please resend.
David I --

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