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October 31, 2002

Bucks On Line

Here’s a chart I generated from data from Nielsen//NetRatings as reported by the Center for Media Research. It shows the growth of Internet usage (US) from Sept. 01 to Sept. 02 according to household income.

For the left-brained among us, here’s the text version from the Center’s coverage:

US households making annual salaries of between $100,000 and $150,000 represent the fastest growing income group online, rising by 20% between September 2001 and September 2002. Following close behind, reports Nielsen, is the income group of those making between $150,000 and $999,999, increasing by 14% over the same period of time.

It is important to note, however, that Nielsen finds the income group with the largest unique audience online is actually that with annual household salaries between $50,000 and $74,999, with roughly 37.3 million people as of September 2002.

NOTE: John Walkenbach over at the J-Walk blog has vastly improved my visual display of this quantitative data. And he’s provided notes explaining exactly why mine sucks. Nice job.

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Reed on Metaphors Is like a _____ on _____.

David Reed has written an insightful insightful short piece on the limitations (and inevitability) of scientific metaphors. For example:

Most radio engineers work in a particularly inapt metaphor – but they don’t know it. That metaphor still includes the essence of the idea called the luminiferous aether (except they call it the “spectrum”). The metaphor includes the idea that a “bit” is a unit of energy (rather than what Shannon defined it to be – which is something that represents correlated probabilities among parts of a system). This confuses the thing (bit) with one possible instance of the thing (a coded pattern of energy or matter).

Communications regulators work in an even more inapt metaphor…

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October 30, 2002

Scientific Filters

Bryan Field-Elliot of NetMeme responds to some bloggery about Stephen Wolfram by pointing us to an article by Michael Shermer (editor of Skeptic) in Scientific American that wonders why Wolfram is getting far more attention than an equally implausible-sounding theory from James Carter.

…[Li]ke it or not, in science, as in most human intellectual endeavors, who is doing the saying matters as much as what is being said, at least in terms of getting an initial hearing.

Science is, in this sense, conservative and sometimes elitist. It has to be in order to survive in a surfeit of would-be revolutionaries. For every Stephen Wolfram there are 100 James Carters. There needs to be some screening process whereby truly revolutionary ideas are weeded out from ersatz ones.

Enter the skeptics. We are interested in the James Carters of the world…

Yet the article has already pointed to the screening method: Feynman called Wolfram “astonishing” and Wolfram was the youngest person ever to win a MacArthur “genius” award, whereas Carter “has beeen an abalone diver, gold miner, filmmaker, cave digger, repairman, inventor and owner-operator of a trailer park.” That doesn’t mean, of course, that his theory of “circlons” is wrong. But the screening process is probably working pretty well: Carter published and no one paid much attention. If you’re going to pay full attention to every publication, you don’t have much of a filtering system.

What Shermer is talking about is probably better called a “second look,” and they’re important, too. (And, inevitably, this discussion should send us scuttling back to Kuhn who shows that “conservativism” in science isn’t a political choice but a requirement for there to be science at all: science can only proceed within a paradigm.)

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Hellish Question

My son Nathan, 11, yesterday asked:

Why can you sell your soul to the Devil but not to G-d?

He worked out an answer, but I enjoyed the question more. As did he.

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Google is KM

Adina Levin makes the case that a sufficiently usable search engine that has indexed a sufficiently large text base — i.e., Google — in effect is a KM system.

Yup. In short: If you know where things are, you don’t ever have to clean up.

(One caveat: This works when you know exactly what you’re looking for, but browsing a taxonomy is helpful when you don’t.)

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Contest: When Tivo Rules

A Mini-Bogus Contest: Now that Tivo has taken over our home — last night it deposed our atomic clock, frog-marching it out the door — how might this jealous god recast old programs in its image? For example:

Leave It to Tivo

Tivo Knows Best

I Love Tivo

Get Tivo!

Tivo in Charge

Tivo’s Heroes

Your Tivo of Tivos, starring Sid Caeser

And while we’re on the subject, what’s up with “I Love Lucy” as a title? Doesn’t that imply that Desi Arnaz thought he was the star? How pathetic is that!

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October 29, 2002

Law v. Leeway

Michael Fleming responds to the article in my newsletter about leeway with this quotation:

“Law reflects but in no sense determines the moral worth of a society. The values of a reasonably just society will reflect themselves in a reasonably just law. The better the society, the less law there will be. In Heaven there will be no law, and the lion will lie down with the lamb. The values of an unjust society will reflect themselves in an unjust law. The worse the society, the more law there will be. In Hell there will be nothing but law, and due process will be meticulously observed.”

Grant Gilmore, THE AGES OF AMERICAN LAW 110-111 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1977).

Lovely. Thanks.

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On the Radio

I’ll be talking on the radio today about why I want to have hot monkey sex with Google. This is the first of what I hope will be a continuing series of tech commentary for WBUR’s “Here and Now,” carried by 44 stations. My piece will be on at 12:20pm. Come listen to me make a fool of myself. Again.

(Here’s a link. You’ll need the Real Player to hear the piece.)

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On the Road

Yes, I’m on the road, but in about as anti-Kerouackian way as possible — fly in at night, stay at a Sheraton, watch TV, give a talk, leave the next morning. I don’t think this qualifies me as a Dharma Bum.

I just gave a keynote at a conference on integration (think KM, portals, XML) put on by the Delphi Group. The conference is in Reston, VA, and has drawn people from around the country and even overseas, yet another anecdotal indicator that the conference business may be springing back. (Since I make much of my living as a speaker, this is of more than academic interest to me.)

Delphi surprise-inducted me this morning into their League of Honorees (I didn’t quite catch the name of the group). I was in a post-speaking Zone of Confusion and missed the details, but I think we get capes and fight crime. (No, but seriously, I appreciate the honor.)

Anyway, it will be a Day of Light Blogging for me because I’m traveling. Do carry on.

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October 28, 2002

I am the Egg Man

Let there be no doubt: In Kate Bulkley’s excellent article in The Guardian about blogging and wifi, I am Mr. Laptop.

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