Joho the BlogJune 2007 - Page 3 of 7 - Joho the Blog

June 22, 2007

[supernova] Nicholas Carr and Chris Meyer

[supernova] Nicholas Carr and Chris Meyer

Nicholas Carr is working on a book on what all these changes mean economically. In the 19th century, factories to produce their own power. Producing it more economically could be an important competitive advantage. Then independent power suppliers supplied it far more economically. In 1910, only 40% of electricity was generated by independent utilities, and most of that went to lighting. Just 20 years later, 80% was coming from utilities. This unleashed network innovation. But the real change came when sockets were everywhere. Now there was huge innovation in the appliances that plug into them, from assembly lines to televisions to computers.

Now we can have rich computing services served over the network, services that could not be matched at the local level. When we have computer sockets the way we have power sockets, all sorts of things will change.

The challenge is to begin to break free from the Web 2.0 world and the narrow innovation we see there.


“Organization: The Fourth Factor of Production” is Chris Meyer ‘s talk’s title. What isn’t going to change, he asks. Technology drives organizational innovation. But traditionally the response has been to create departments to manage change.In 1937, Ronald Coase wrote “The Nature of the Firm.”. What wil lbe the next answer in the information economy? Traversal of the boundaries. Web 2.0 collaborative tools. Chris recommends Neal Stephenson’s vision in The Diamond Age as a social vision for business…

In the Q&A, Nick says that the electrical network only supplied electricity, whereas the future computing network will supply services as a commodity. Chris points out that industrialization happened within one legal system, while this change is happening internationally.

Chris predicts that they’ll be a bifurcation, with some big centralized corporations, and then a swarm outside.

Q: (brad templeton) The real difference isn’t bandwidth but control…
A: (nick) Rich applications over the Net empowers the user, even if they don’t own and control it.
(Chris) You should only bother controlling things that are choice. But in Nick’s world, bandwidth is not scarce.

Q: (Shannon Clark) Your pronouns of yours and ours are inappropriate…

A: (John Hagel) What happens to competitive strategy in this world you’re sketching?
Q: (Nick) It depends on the industry.
A (chris) Strategic advantage? Who needs it. It’s for firms in the old sense. [Tags: ]

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June 21, 2007

[supernova] Bush admin guy, and then some great discussions

John M.R. Kneuer Acting Assistant Secretary Communications and Information gives a talk. He begins by talking about the value of the 700mH spectrum. It’s becoming available as “leapfrog” technologies are becoming available, he says. “What we really have is an opportunity for a game-changing opportunity against the first movers and incumbents.” [I think I garbled that, but so did he.]

“Net neutrality sounds very open, but it rapidly comes down to the government setting rate terms and rules for access.” “I firmly believe that market forces are going to provide an open network much much better than what we would get” through regulation. He refers to our current “great success.”

I ask the first question. I say something like: The great success has us at #19 in broadband access because there is no open market. I wonder what great innovation is going to come from the incumbents. We have proof that it doesn’t work because we’ve been trying it for about a decade [depending on how you count]. He says we’re asking for the government to set rates. I ask if anyone in this audience is asking for that.

Doc points out that wifi has succeeded because the spectrum was left open, not auctioned.

David Isenberg says that wifi wasn’t auctioned, and isn’t owned by a carrier, yet most people in this room agree that wifi is the most innovative sector in the entire spectrum. Kneuer agrees. David says there’s no business model, no carrier, and no market.

Kneuer: Wifi is local access to get to an underlying access. It doesn’t lend itself to building out broad networks.

David I: Same for last mile for fiber, DSL…these aren’t networks either. So they should be treated the same way…

K: They are nodes of a DSL network, etc. If I want to build out a 5mH wifi cloud, you won’t be able to scale it. Wifi’s authoriziation was for local area networks. It does not lend itself to the competing interests that need to be resolved in an efficient way. When you have lots of people trying to enter a commercial space and the gov’t is the bottleneck, the best way to handle it is in a transparent way by letting people bid for it.


KC Claffy from CAIDA kicks butt explaining how much bogus information there is — stats supporting the interests of the incumbents, based on bad research, without review or transparency. Fantastic presentation, but too fast for me to blog.


Now a panel on “Does the Internet need an upgrade?”

The first guy (I can’t tell who is who) says the Internet is us. The applications we’re using and the way we’re using them is radically changing. E.g., video vs. text. What we’re using it for now is different from what we originally designed it. And it will continue to change. The Net does need to expand and grow, but it’s up to each of us to determine how we’re going to effect that upgrade because we are the Internet.

Next guy says that when the End-to-End principle was created, every end point was trusted. Now we violate it all the time. So, we do need to look at the architecture, he says, if only to raise our collective consciousness. How do we get the balance right.

Van Jacobson from Cisco says the network has done pretty well. He says we’ve made only three architectural changes, yet it’s scaled incredibly. That’s because we’ve kept the network simple and moved the innovation to the edge. We solve the problems on the edges. We can do secure email by using encrypted messages. SSL, on the other hand, signs the envelope, not the message, which doesn’t guarantee very much,

David Isenberg agrees with 95% of what Van has said, but challenges his analogy. David says that all four panelists respect the end-to-end principle. The Internet grows, enables innovation, runs on any system, because of end-to-end. David wants to know why Van thinks security violates end-to-end.

Van says that SSL puts someone in the middle securing the envelopes, which violates end-to-end.

Van describes an attack where the man in the middle was fraudulent.

Isenberg: What’s the cost of fixing these genuine security issues? Everyone in this room knows there are security issues, but we still use the Internet. There are 40,000 traffic fatalities per year, but we treat it as a network externality. We still get into our little packets and get on our end-to-end highways…

Van: Vint Cerf said the middle can be arbitrarily untrustworthy, but we’ll fix it up on the ends. If the ends reject packets that aren’t answers to questions they asked, then the senders will learn to put enough in to let the recipients trust the packets. But that’s not our security model. Our security model is “Let’s make the center more secure.” That won’t work.

Isenberg: The incumbents would certainly say that the Net needs an upgrade because their business models are disrupted by the Internet. We need to beware their calls.

Q: Van, what about PKI?
A: It’s a disaster. It makes high-value targets.

Q: How do you keep the Net moving as people stream, etc.?
A: (Van) I started a company called PacketDesign a while ago that looked at the sort of data KC wants to see. We looked at the router downstream of the NBC Olympics coverage. It had 5,000 copies of the same data because the computer doesn’t know what’s in the packets. If we had a different model that saw the content propagating…As far as avoiding stutter goes, if you take every phone in the world and call up everyone in the world, it’d take 3TB, while a single fiber can carry 30TB. There’s room. There’s no incremental cost in adding more bandwidth. The incumbents act as if bandwidth is expensive as it was in the previous century.

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[supernova] Denise Caruso on anti-social software and Clay Shirky’s lovefest

Denise Caruso, author of the new book Intervention, has been thinking about risk. She looks at innovations that have had nasty unanticipated consequences. The way to avoid it? “Have a conversation.” Talk with people before hand. E.g., the company that was going to incinerate chemical weapons in Oregon talked with environmentalists and their ilk and came up with better means of disposal. People don’t always do this because they fear it.

And, Internet tolols and culture exacerbate it. Targeted search taks away serendipity. Blogger bubbles, etc.

There are “potential dealbreakers” for the Net, she says, including copyuright bs. social media. So, we need to re-socialize the Net. We should automate serendipity.


Clay Shirky begins by talking about a disagreement in Japan about whether a temple is old even though it’s been rebuilt as part of continuing process. The dispute is over “solidity of edifice, not solidity of process.”

Then he talks about a big development contract he got many years ago with AT&T in which he was challenged to provide support. “We get our support from a community,” Clay said, but to them it was like he’d said “We get our Thursdays from a banana.” So, he showed them it working in practice. They couldn’t see it work in practice because they already knew it couldn’t work in theory. He points to comp.lang.perl. “It’s doing fine,” but how is AT&T doing? Not so well. The solidity of the thing is evanescent.

Perl is like the temple, says Clay. It continues because the people doing it love Perl enough to stop what they’re doing and help one another. “No contracts are written, no money changes hands.” “We don’t often talk about love” at these conferences. But tools for coordinating and talking — simple things like mailing lists — turn love into a renewable building material. This leads to unexpected, unanticipated consequences. the better predictor of longevity is not the business model but do the people care about one another.

There’s lots of commercial opportunity. We’re not going to all live together in a commune. But the ability to get people together outside of management and profit motive creates a huge opportunity. And traditional work will be intertwined with this way of working.

Within 24 hours of Linus posting his first message, he had a global network of people eager to collaborate. The monitoring of Nigerian election through people using SMS and Flickr, the responses to terrorist actions, the anti-immigration-law protests coordinated through MySpace…we will see much more of that.

Add collaboration tools to love and you can write an operating system.

We can now do big things with love.

[This was a classic and beautiful statement of why the Net works and why it matters…and the fact that those two things are the same is what’s most hope-giving about the Net. Clay is such a phenomenal combination of insight, brilliance as a writer, and, well, love.]

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[The next day] Nick Douglas – who is hilarious to have on a backchannel chat – video interviewed me right after Clay’s talk, so the conversation turned to love and community.

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My bumpersticker

Here’s my bumpersticker for structurally separating the Internet carriers, so that those who provide access to the bits do not also sell us content and services:

Delaminate the bastards!

This is the only way we’ll really get Net neutrality. As it stands, the business model – the existence – of the companies providing Internet access demands that they give preference to their own content and services over those of their competitors. They therefore have a business imperative to turn the open Internet into something much more like cable TV. (See Susan Crawford and David Isenberg.)

As for my slogan? Yes, it’s the Worst. Bumpersticker. Ever. [Tags: ]


Tim Karr reports on progress in keeping some of the 700mH swath of spectrum open for innovation by you, me, and that really smart kid next door.

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June 20, 2007

Macs on a plane

As my Thinkpad X40 starts to fall apart — it’s 18 months old, which is about how long my laptops last, and already has bits held on by duct tape — I’m thinking about getting either a MacBook or a 15″ MacBook Pro. The Pro has the power I crave, but it’s sooo much bigger than the X40. Since I use my laptop purely for travel, if you own a Pro, do you find you can use it on a plane (in coach)? Or do you end up doing the inverted paw flip so that you end up typing by drumming on your stomach?

In short, isn’t the Pro just too damn big for airplane travel?

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[supernova] Nonprofit projects

Doc and I did a panel, led by Jerry Michalski, on the state of markets as conversations. Most of the discussion was around Doc’s Vendor Relationship Management model. Interesting dicsussion with the audience.

(The Supernova “conversation hub” is here. And Isabel Walcott’s thorough bloggage of the session with Doc and me — with Isabel’s commentary — is here. BTW, this is part of the Wharton day, and this track is sponsored by Cisco. )

Now I’m in a session about people doing cool things in the nonprofit domain.

Maria Daniels of WGBH’s American Experience series talks about the Citizen Storytellers Project enables citizens to do video via cell phones. It’s an unfunded add-on to the series.

Howard Greenstein introduces a video of Farouk Olu Aregbe who created One Million Strong for Barack on FaceBook, from outside the Obama campaign. Then we get Farouk on the phone. What has he learned about creating social networks around candidates? One thing is that the regulatory environment is tough. And there are scaling issues. Q: Is your software available for other candidates? A: It’s Facebook and third party software.howard then introduces a video inteview with Rolando H. Brown of the non-profit Hip-Hop Association promoting hiphop as a way to support community values and social awareness. The foundation runs a film festival and educational conferences.

Susan [missed the last name] of TechSoup talks about the Nonprofit Commons Project . The Commons was donated by Anshe Chung, the first SL millionaire. It’s an island for nonprofits. Hundreds of member organizations get free space.One of the 1,300 Wikipedia administrators talks a bit about how its governed. [Again, sorry, couldn’t hear his name.] He’s working on categorization policy. He says that the policy to break categories up into smaller ones was based on the fact that a page can only display 200 linked articles. But, he says, that’s an unnatural limitation. So, he started experimenting with making tables of contents for large topics. Within a week, it was on over a thousand categories. Within a month, it was “accepted as gospel” that large categories ought to have a table of contents. It impressed him that good ideas were accepted so quickly. “Innovation takes small steps. Each has to be an improvement. That’s natural selection. That’s what wikis do.” [Tags: ]

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Want to call voltage hunters

You know the people who wander through airline terminals, looking at the bases of walls, hunting for a previous power outlet into which they can sink their electric teeth?

Perhaps we should call them ampires. [Tags:]

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Susan Crawford blurts it out

Susan Crawford has posted the op-ed that ought to be read and adopted by every candidate for president who cares about the Internet. She slaps down the FCC for asking the wrong questions and puts forward the right change that we’ve generally been too timid (exception: David Isenberg) to put forward: Require the carriers to open themselves up to genuine competition, and confine carriers of bits to carrying bits:

The duopoly is something like Shamu and Godzilla on hire for televised wrestling – giant beasts gently swatting at one another for the cameras.

The solution? Require

that all providers sell unfettered transport services at wholesale rates into a competitive market for retail transport. Even better, Congress should take the reins and demand that the duopolies divest themselves of their transport services so that they aren’t tempted to try to monetize internet access in favor of their own movies and phone services.

This piece is a great expression of the real problem and a call to arms for the real solution.

It is also further evidence that Susan ought to be our next FCC Commissioner. [Tags: ]

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June 19, 2007

Internet mullet

I was just on a panel at the Endeca user conference where the co-founder, Pete Bell, asked: “Resolved, tag clouds are the mullet of the Internet.” I enjoyed it, and it started a good conversation.

My view: Sure, they’re sometimes used just because they’re “in.” But they can also serve a real purpose. Jim from Buzzillions pointed out that a tag cloud, when users understand it(as most don’t, apparently) implicitly says “This is your data.” And, of course, there are places where tag clouds are just plain useful.

Still, it was an amusing way of posing the question.

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June 18, 2007

EconTalk interview

Russell Roberts, professor of economics at George Mason, has posted a podcast interview with me about Everything is Miscellaneous. (Fortunately, he doesn’t ask me anything that requires my knowing anything about economics.)

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