Friday, October 31, 2003

Bleah! Nick Denton is becoming a pornographer.

I'm seriously considering removing him from my blogroll.

Time for a quick reminder

Wednesday, October 29, 2003

I may be an embittered wannabe artist who wants to destroy the music industry and drive all professional musicians into amateur penury :-)

... but there's something so sneaky and twisted about Weed, which combines file-sharing with pyramid marketing, that I'm hoping it will succeed.

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

'We are working closely with those countries to let them know we expect them to enforce borders,' Mr Bush told journalists at the White House.

In what sense does "letting someone know" constitute "working closely with" them? I wonder if this illustrates rather well, the problem Bush and co. have with the rest of the world.

BBC NEWS | Middle East | Bush warns Iraq neighbours
Surreal spam of the day is one of those "I'm contributing to the moral decay of society" ones. That's not interesting, but it's allegedly from someone called "Augustine Workman".

What a fantastic name!

Today I've been writing a bit about the abstractions I discover myself making as I organize my wiki.

ThoughtStorms: InformationArchitectureOfThisWiki

Sunday, October 26, 2003

Ward Cunningham interviewed ...

Exploring with Wiki
The dispute, which was leaked to an Internet message board, offers a rare peek into the dark side of the free software movement--a view that contrasts with the movement's usual public image of happy software proles linking arms and singing the 'Internationale' while freely sharing the fruits of their code-writing labor.

In fact, the Free Software Foundation runs a lot of these 'enforcement actions.' There are 30 to 40 going on right now, and there were 50 last year, Kuhn says. There have been hundreds since 1991, when the current version of the GPL was published, he says. Tracking down bad guys has become such a big operation that the Free Software Foundation has created a so-called Compliance Lab to snoop out violators and bust them. "

Yeah, right! So the free-software community defending its own property, in the way that society allows it to, and that it always announced that it would; rather than, say, rolling over and accepting the corporates can just abuse the contract that they receive Linux under; is ... "dark". And presumably sinister and unsporting too. Pah! Linux's Hit Men
Freestyling on a discussion about PeopleAggregator on Tribe today.

Zbigniew is thinking of software mediated social networks as routing map for dynamic information. A bit like the way I've been calling the blogosphere, the "flow internet".

Jason is wondering how to use this for permission marketing. To send certain kinds of marketing messages via the social network.

So I ask, will the routing logic be by type of message or type of person. And who decides? Do I decide for myself, or for the people I link to?

I think Jason is thinking of "message type routing".

But I suspect that this will lead to the usual permission marketing problem. Marketing is "interrupt" by definition. Surely if I have the choice I'll simply choose not to receive adverts ...

But then I start going off in this direction ...

If I filter out begging letters, but I have a friend who sends one. And another friend who is open to receive them. Should the message be passed via me to the second friend? Or is my stated lack of interest also taken to be *filter* for my downstream friends?

How does control over this affect my value on the network? To make a weblog comparison. I may read the weblog of person X because he's both a window on a particular scene, but ruthelessly not interested in one aspect of it. So I know that by reading his blog I really get a filtered view.

If there are fine grained filters on this sort of message routing in software mediated social networks, I may sign up as "knows by reputation" person Y, precisely because I want to take advantage of his filter properties.

Hmmm ... maybe there's even a business model where person Y can *sell* a kind of aquaintanceship that relies on his advanced filter settings.

People Aggregator visions
Is Tribe selling email contacts to spammers? Tribe Discussion

Friday, October 24, 2003

Thursday, October 23, 2003

Tribe now has a PeopleAggregator tribe. And Zbigniew Lukasiak asking for a vision of FOAF. Here's my attempts to organize my thoughts in a post there :

As I understand it, things are like this.

FOAF : is a distributed data-format which represents information about people and their connections.

PeopleAggregator : is an example of a database which can be used to hold a lot of this data.
There will be other places that hold this kind of stuff as well such as individual web-pages. Eventually other services like Tribe / Friendster will probably make their data available in this format too, and will become FOAF databases.

The business logic that *animates* all of this is mainly going to be in the "scutters" that run around the network collating this FOAF information into particular views of the social network. They will analyze the hints given in FOAF records and use those as routing information. But they'll also bring their own inference strategies to it. They may try to screen-scrape Friendster or Technorati or Amazon reviews to get a better picture. They may use FOAF information in ways you never intended : "X knows three men who've reviewed queer-studies text-books. Better bump-up his health insurance premiums" etc.

You have an interesting perspective. I think you see this social network as primarily a piping system for information. (Which I certainly think is a good way to think about Weblogs.) A scutter / news aggregator combination can suck RSS feeds from your social locality.

Two thing seem likely to me.

One is that this functionality will migrate to a desktop client, to be integrated with the universal mailbox / aggregator / search tool / blog tool.

The other is that the user will want *control* over the routing. To take one of (I think) Bill Seitz's examples, you may want to program your combined tool to aggregate all RSS info. in your two-step neighbourhood, minus all stories about sports.

In other words, routing will be modified not just by the contents of FOAF records, but also by the *content* of the data.

What I *don't* see happening (though I've been wrong before) is that much more fine grained routing control will go into the FOAF file itself. Users will want the control their end, rather than to give it up to me or PA.

(Actually on second thoughts, maybe I do want my FOAF file to say "I value everything Eric Raymond says about Unix, but nothing that he says about Europe.")

For similar reasons, I don't see that there's a long term role for server-side scutters. Which try to give "definitive" network views.

Although maybe Google is a counter-example. Perhaps it's more complicated ... giant scutter / search engines to produce "objective" views of the network in some cases, and local perspectival scutter / aggregators for individuals. Tribe Discussion

Wednesday, October 22, 2003

UK drought
From an IT perspective, it is interesting to compare and contrast the growth in complimentary currencies in the world with the growth in open source. Open Source has been called a gift economy in which no point-to-point value exchange takes place. The entire community benefits, however, from the rising tide of quality technology that results from an uncountable number of donations (gifts) made by community members.

Computerworld | Complimentary currencies in the future of the software business
Alex Moskalyuk on The Future of Search

Quite often, though, we search for facts and answers. Starting from the simple "What time is it now?" to "What was the pre-IPO valuation for" we search for information—for facts that we know or suspect might exist. A search engine that satisfies this type of search would have to go beyond keywords because keywords produce too much noise and don’t allow the software algorithm to define a relevant solution space. ...

If closed-access databases that charge customers for access were able to somehow integrate their content into the modern search engines, finding exact results would be a lot easier ...

Monday, October 20, 2003

Was reading a dictionary of mythology today, and I was struck by the way humanity has of creating pantheons : small, tight communities of quarrelsome and warring deities, titans, demigods etc.

Of course, real history is often not much different : small communities of quarrelsome and warring kings and princes and emprerors.

Or to zoom into the internet. Small communities of quarrelsome and warring hackers and bloggers.

ThoughtStorms: PantheonisticThinking
Good discussions on the Alternative Money and Economics Tribe. About gold backed currencies, what money is, and participatory economics.

Today I really need to spend some time reading Transaction Net: How Currency Systems Work
Eufrasio invites me to contribute to the SemioNet blog.

I'll be posting semiotic / semantic web related things there. (Though hopefully I'll be finding out exactly what the semionet stuff is really all about too :-)

Sunday, October 19, 2003

Saturday, October 18, 2003

Graham Lally wrote a letter about software patents in the EU

Why did I add a link to von Mises : The Theory of Money and Credit to the Optimaes link library? Because open discussion is good. And Austrian Economics guys are welcome to join in.

Nathan Newman : Why the Jobless Recovery?
WARNING ... the domain name is suffering a temporary outage as I transfer it. Keep checking this weblog for me and my contact details.

In the meantime will work as an alternative to

Friday, October 17, 2003

Blogger = DJ?

Mandatory BeatBlog plug
I paid for my blog hosting and all I got was this lousy T-shirt! :-)

Sorry! It's not true. I didn't pay. And I think it's a great move by Blogger. But it is funny. (And probably a very tired joke.)

Adrian Howard invites me to be his friend on PeopleAggregator

If this works ... I'll be trying to persuade some of the people I met on to use FOAF too. Not that I don't like Tribe. I think it has a lot of potential, and I am meeting good people there. But having only one kind of relationship is confusing.

Unfortunately, PeopleAggregator doesn't seem to be working. I've accepted friendship but nothing seems to have changed.

OTOH Typed Threaded Discussion is still broken after about 2 months. Bad Philip!

Fantastic! attempts to map the corporate world. This is the kind of thing I've been saying political activists should be getting involved with for a long time.


The price of freedom from software patents is enternal vigilance. Just a couple of weeks after the EU let through software patents with some ameliorating qualifications, the patent offices and ministers who support them are trying to overturn those qualifications.

Software Patents and the EU Council of Ministers
Back at Apple's iTunes store today, trying to find if I can search their catalogue via the web. Doesn't look like it.

Apple - iTunes - Browse and Search

Thursday, October 16, 2003

I'm not using my aggregator as much as I was a couple of months ago. Why? Because the blogs I'm reading frequently have changed : at the moment Arnold Kling, Phil Greenspun, Bill Seitz, Nathan Newman, Graham Lally and Crooked Timber. Next week I suspect the mix will be different.

My aggregator already has 20 feeds, mainly of people who I want to read, but who are temporarily off my radar. Somehow I need the special power of being able to dynamically vary the importance of different feeds.

Web Content-Management Apps Fail To Deliver
The problem with integrating wiki and weblogs isn't technical. We value both because they give different ways of thinking about information. I put stuff into my weblog but not my wiki when I think it's ephemeral and can safely be forgotten. (In my mindset, and on Blogger, things that are merely in archives aren't easily revisitable.)

But then I discover that I was wrong. That they weren't so ephemeral. They are important and as relevant as some of the trivia that goes into the wiki.

So how do I judge?

What I fear is that when I make the
ephemeral judgement, I'm really saying that I don't know how to classify this fragment, and to fit it into the general pattern. The only way I can think of addressing it, is that it's now. On the other hand, the most insignificant word or two that I can see how to classify and connect, goes immedietely into the wiki.

This is why even wikilogs / blikis have an awkward distinction between those pages who's names are WikiWords, and those who's names are munged dates. You can have two different mindsets (WikiMind, BlogMind) when you enter the data.

It also suggests the ideal Wikilog / Bliki technical functionality. The capacity to add posts NOW under a DateName, then rename those posts later (with all other links automatically updated of course ;-)

ThoughtStorms: WeblogsAndWiki: "
Cringely has PBS series : Electric Money on money and e-money.
Congratulations to my ex-employers, Runtime Collective. Today they've officially launched Vanilla, the open source version of their Josephine content management system.

Starting a new occasional series, I’ll be keeping a look out for particularly egregious examples of breathless and/or mendacious “Globalisation” pieces from neo-liberal commentators. This isn’t to say that the antiglobo side doesn’t also talk a load of bollocks; it often does. But there’s already a cottage industry going keeping tabs on them, and immanent criticism of the neoliberal agenda is more up my alley.

Crooked Timber: Globollocks Watch
Haven't quite figured out whether Andrius Kulikauskas is genius or doomed dreamer. But this struck me :

There is a need for design, now rather than later, that treats the people with the worst access as the most valuable people, the ones that we should work hardest to include.

It's quite an idea to assume the worst connected are the most valuable. In what ways might this be true? Because they're the majority? Because they have the smallest microvalue? Because they're in the slowest networks?

Caring about Thinking: Social Networking Kit

Also ThoughtStorms:WorstConnected

Wednesday, October 15, 2003

In other words, Bush does appear to be committed to the claim “Event I’ is imminent”, where I’ is defined as “the event of event I becoming imminent” and I is defined as “Iraq being a threat”. Which means to me that this particular line of argument turns on the question of whether “imminent” is a transitive predicate

Crooked Timber: Is "imminent" transitive?
Reading this inspired me to do a test. I'd take the last compilation I'd burned of music download from the web, and check how many of the tracks were actually available from each of the new services.

Unfortunatly I can't. None of the services seems to offer searchable catalogues of the artists they stock. This seems extraordinary. Surely the biggest selling point the service could have is that you could check whether your 10 - 15 favourite bands were available?

(Rhapsody has it's catalogue online ... but only in browsable pages of 40. Why? And no links to artist's details to check this is the artist you're looking for if you're unsure of the name. No listener recommendations. Oh, and they don't do Momus, Current 93, The Cardiacs, Bally Sagoo)

Conclusion. Amazon will win the online music retail space.

Any government considering joining the Free Trade Area of the Americas should be hearing deafening alarm bells right now. The patent protections in the draft FTAA agreement are even tougher than those in NAFTA; if it is adopted, as the Bush Administration hopes, the United States could try to block affordable drug exports anywhere in the Americas. Put simply, the Administration is rigging bilateral and regional trade deals to undermine any attempt by poor countries to exercise their rights in the multilateral sphere.

Naomi Klein : Bush's AIDS Test
But as Web services redefine documents, Mozilla, an open and extensible document-handling engine, looks more strategic than ever.

InfoWorld: Why Mozilla matters: October 10, 2003: By Jon Udell: Application Development
This idea could probably work elsewhere : The Distributed Library Project
Have to point out, Nathan Newman is one of the best left-wing bloggers around. Go and look at all the good stuff.

But he's given a close run for his money by another left blog : Confined Space :

ask yourselves: is there not good and evil in the world? And do we not objectively know which is which?

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

MicroAid's Rich list is a great piece of propaganda. Until I made myself redundant I was

the 120,406,635th richest person in the world!

This put [me] in the top 1.97% of the world's 6.1 billion population

MicroAid - the micro-aid network for poor families
O'Reilly Network: I Want My Wifi Wiki Hifi [Jul. 15, 2003]
Bill Seitz points me to this Wiki For Collaboration Ware re: ThoughtStorms:ProgrammingWithAndInWiki
it’s always worth remembering that all economic policy debates of interest can be usefully analogised either to blackjack or to three-card monte.

Daniel Davies
Springwise presents Art*o*mat | Selling art from cigarette vending machines
ThoughtStorms: BetweenArtAndScience
ThoughtStorms: ArtAndScience

Monday, October 13, 2003

I'm stupid and lazy (in the bad sense) about Unicode. Hopefully, Joel will put me right
I, Cringely has a new design, which unfuckingbelievably is broken on my IE5. The menu of links to archives etc. now has animated rollover of images, but fails to actually take me to any other pages.

Avian Mind Design seem willing to admit responsibility for this absurdity. (The fact that this basically translates to "bird brain design" has gotta be intentional irony, right?) And look, they have a Flash only site!

I guess someone will tell them soon and they'll fix it.

Has Rumsfeld been demoted?

Or is he just sneaking away before things go really pear shaped?

BBC NEWS | World | Americas | Second UN witness shot in Brazil
I don't get this.

The Independant says US troops have "punished" civilian farmers for not informing on terrorists.

This is an activity the US occupying forces learned from the Israeli army. Well, it's one thing for frustrated Israeli troops to experiment with this technique. But why the hell would any tactician observe the Israeli experience and conclude that it works?

JRobb recently discussed whether a major conventional power has ever won a Low Intensity Conflict. The only acknowledged example seems to be Britain in Malaysia which used a "hearts and minds" policy. And promised independence as a reward to co-operative civilians.

I suspect the Americans think they had a hearts and minds policy. ("We were nice enough, right? Look at all the things we did for them!") Think it failed. And have now impatiently decided to get tough.

I want to believe this ... the "cockup" theory.

Because I don't want to believe the alternative, the "conspiracy", theory. That the Americans don't want to win peace in Iraq yet. They want more chaos. Maybe to excuse war against Syria or Iran or to force changes in Saudi Arabia.

Saturday, October 11, 2003

I think Arnold Kling is off the mark here : TCS: Tech Central Station - An Open Letter to Paul Krugman

Ad hominem attacks, including criticism of an opponent's motives, are, I agree, irrelevant when you want to make an argument like this : I say A -> B (eg. tax cuts imply economic prosperity). If you disagree, the reason why I said it, has no bearing on whether it's true or not.

However, if you want to argue a different point, that I am untrustworthy, then evidence of my malice, stupidity or duplicity is completely relevant.

When Krugman attacks supply-side economics he doesn't do it on the grounds that supply siders are motivated by right-wing politics, he does it on his interpretation of the data. With a perfectly valid "Consequences" argument.

To put this formally, let's say C = "pure motives"

Kling suggests Krugman is arguing

C -> (A->B),



NOT (A->B)

Which clearly has no logical validity.

But I'd say he's arguing

A, (Raegan's tax cuts)

NOT B (No sign of supply side effect in the data)


NOT (A -> B),

NOT C (though this is an independent issue argued for with separate data.)

Krugman does add some logically unnecessary evidence :

NOT A (Clinton's tax increase),

B (economic growth in the 90s)

from which we can conclude nothing about A -> B

But really, all Krugman is guilty of, is adding a second, separate claim, about power and politics, which attempts to explain why supply-side theory is so heavily promoted. And he has evidence for this too.

Kling is right that the second point has no logical bearing on the first. But that's not why it's there. It has a different relevance to the political point being made in the article. It's a warning ... "these guys are not motivated by improving the economy according to supply-side theory, they're motivated by wanting to shrink government, so evidence against supply-side economic theory isn't going to stop them."

Now Krugman may be wrong in his interpretation of the data, and supply-side may not have been falsified. In fact, supply-side economic theory may well be true. But with the assumption that he's right about this, the rest of the logic of the article is fine.

ps : There is a positive side to Kling's attack. It introduced me (and probably many others) to a great Krugman essay I'd have otherwise missed.

Friday, October 10, 2003

This is NOT Danegeld!

Defence of the idea of the AtrocityCasino

In my own little field, for example, ACM and IEEE do their best to deny access to computer science research results to anyone who is not working at a university, a member of their orgs, or willing to pay $$$. I.e., if you're a kid in Africa wanting to learn something about computer science you're not going to do it by looking at these folks' journals on the Web.)

Economic growth comes from scientific and technical innovation. Scientific and technical innovation depends to a large extent on innovators having access to each others' published results. It is thus a shame that the only way that an author can get money or tenure is by turning over his or her work to an organization whose primary goal is artificially restricting access to that work.

Philip Greenspun

Well said! And most of my academic friends are scared by exactly this. The only way to get ahead is to get published, and means putting your research into the black-hole of academic publishers. Today I'm particularly pissed off to find this interesting looking paper is locked away behind something called Ingenta Select.

Greenspun also links to the Public Library of Science. Something which needs our support.
Surreal spam of the day :

Dear phil

We specialize in 100% Double Opt-in Permission based EMAIL MARKETING where you can market your products and services.

No, you clearly DON'T operate on a double opt-in permission basis!
Putting together some thoughts, on Steve Crosson's talk of Virtual Countries

And from reading on Tribe that social software networks are now getting large investments. (Though you have to join Tribe and the "Social Software Intellectuals" tribe to read it.)

What are the business models for social software networks? One thing that strikes me. Is it likely we'll see social software services becoming buyers' co-operatives or mutual societies? For example, could premium Tribe membership also buy Tribe members health insurance? Or might insurers and bulk-buyer clubs and building societies start using social networking software for their members? I'm sure the demographics of Tribe and Friendster etc. include lots of young and freelance professionals who need to buy these kind of things (unless we get decent socialist governments back) but who don't currently think of it. And who the insurance industry fails to reach.

On ThoughtStorms: VirtualWelfareState I'm taking this further. What about social network service as virtual state? With membership fees as a form of redistributive taxation?
BBC NEWS | World | Americas | US to tighten Cuba sanctions

What would have happened if the US had left Cuba alone rather than imposing sanctions 40 years ago? Castro says (in the Oliver Stone documentary) that he would never have had to become so heavily dependent on the Soviet Union for help. There might have been give or take. Maybe Cuba would have ended up like other Central American republics : Leftist governments, CIA backed guerrillas, by now it could be like Guatemala or Nicaragua. (Maybe it's better off as it is.)

Or maybe, after the soviet collapse it might have ended like Eastern European countries, keen to try something new. Why didn't it? The Romanians managed to get Caucescu. Why didn't the Cubans rise up and shoot Castro in 89?

Because he's popular. Despite the repression. Despite the lack of freedom. Despite the fact that many Cubans dream of going to US and getting rich. A lot of them think they're better off under him than they were before. Or than they might be if they end up like Guatemala and Nicaragua.

Could Cuba have ended up like Vietnam? Or another island with a high investment in education and an authoritarian ruler : Singapore?
Steve updates his weblog! Good.

Swing Your Hips

BBC NEWS | World | Asia-Pacific | China space launch confirmed
BBC NEWS | Business | Top bosses 'enjoy 288% pay rise'

Via Graham
I joined to understand what all this social networking lark was about. I don't know yet, but I was invited to be "friends" with people who I met there. But what does this mean?

Who is my friend?

Update :

You can't see this if you're not a tribe member ... so I'm copying the conversation to ThoughtStorms:WhoIsMyFriend
Talked to my teacher about her missing friend again. Aparently the police say that another gay man has just been similarly murdered in Lago Norte. So it looks like a gay (or homophobe posing as gay) serial killer.

If you're in Brasilia and planning to pick up men for casual sex, cuidado!

Did it come true?

Thursday, October 09, 2003

Video games as political rhetoric. -- sep12
Despite my puritanism, I like the colour cycling background on this page : SONIC BOOM - EXPERIMENTAL AUDIO RESEARCH and Sketchzilla is truly inspired.

Many-to-Many: The End of Open
My Portuguese teacher is very worried about a friend of hers who disappeared on Tuesday afternoon.

His car has been recovered in a satelite town, a few tens of km away. The car contained all the clothes he was wearing except shirt and socks.

The probability is that he picked up someone for sex, who then turned on him. The shirt was used to tie him up, and the socks to gag him. In a similar case a few months ago, the body of the kidnapped guy was found covered in cigarette burns and kicked until most of the bones and internal organs were broken. Now my teacher and other friends are holding onto a thin hope. They think there's maybe a 10% chance that he may still be alive, but horribly beaten, and too injured to have been able to get help. More likely he's been killed.

I suppose the motivation is robbery or homophobia (if he picked up another guy).
But BBC Arab affairs analyst Magdi Abdelhadi says the American-led administration appears to have once again underestimated regional and cultural sensitivities in Iraq.
Although the vast majority of Iraqis are Muslims, he says, this does not necessarily mean they would welcome troops from neighbouring Muslim countries any more than those from far afield.

Our correspondent points out that Arab nationalism in Iraq emerged partly in response to what many there saw as the oppressive rule of the Ottoman Turks during the 19th century.

BBC NEWS | World | Europe | Iraqis split on Turkish troops plan:
A United Nations human rights envoy has completed a visit to Brazil concluding that elements within the country's police force continue to kill civilians with impunity.

BBC NEWS | World | Americas | Brazil urged to end police impunity
Great online archive of Brazilian funk. (NB : "funk" in the Brazilian sense is a kind of old-school electro / Miami bass / bounce hip-hop. Generally considered the worst possible music by my respectable middle-class friends.)

Funky Do Morro

Check out the brass riff on one track by funk-neurotico. Sounds almost like Tijuana Nortec ... cool.

Remember : ThoughtStorms:BrazilianPopulistMusics

Wednesday, October 08, 2003

Idea for a video game : program robots to explore ancient tombs, overcome traps and adversaries etc. Combination of Robocode and Tombraider?

Probably done before ...

iRobot Corporation; Pyramid Rover
Rodney Brooks is blogging for Technology Review: MIT's Magazine of Innovation.

His "Elephants don't play chess" was a seminal influence on us all back in the 90s. I wonder how his other projects are going.
Hmmm. Can't get to the BBC today. Is it suffering a DDOS attack?

Tuesday, October 07, 2003

The company hope the PSX, which people will be able to operate with the familiar game pad, will help boost its flagging sales by becoming as essential as a TV, video recorder or DVD player is now.

Hmmm. I didn't know any of these devices was essential. When am I going to die of DVD defficiency I wonder?

BBC NEWS | Technology | Sony shows off hybrid PlayStation
Brazil joins axis of evil :-) How soon before the Americans start bombing?

BBC NEWS | World | Americas | Brazil to produce enriched uranium

It's not funny really. I have a horrible suspicion that the world is gearing up to go back to nuclear power when the petrol runs out. There must be the technology to make smaller, cheaper and safer nuclear power-plants. But it's still a bloody risky game. They should be investing in proper alternatives.

The second reason this isn't funny is that although I'm joking about the Americans bombing ... there is something. Basically the logic of the paranoid Project for the New American Century is that America musn't allow anyone else to become militarily a threat. Somehow, other countries must be prevented from gaining military power. To ensure US security.

I seem to remember George Bernard Shaw parodied this attitude in his play about the suffragettes. At one point some old buffer of a general says "You must admit [somethingorother] is essential to our security" to which the response is "[Somethingorother] is essential to the security of the principality of Monacco but they aren't going to get it!".

Most people in most of the world are never going to have the security that powerful nations think they deserve. But they manage, of necessity, to live without. Now we have an age of imagined terror. Statistically we're safer than ever (proof : we live longer, look at the demographics) Yet we still clamour for extra reassurance.

The US wants to feel safer by denying other countries powerful weapons. The other countries want to feel safer by having them. The West wants to secure it's economy and economic dominance by prioritising it's interests in the WTO. The rest of the world want something else.

But we can't all have this kind of security through strength. The result is just an arms race that makes everyone less safe. The logic of powerful countries jostling for the status of "top nation" and "best armed nation" is what led to the first world war. Right now, too many people remember the second world war and talk about the danger of appeasing crazy dictators. Not enough people remember the first.

Actually that link is a good read. It's very easy to dismiss conspiracy theories about the people in power. After all, c'mon, politicians can't really get away with lying, faking document, and manufacturing wars simply for politcal reasons. That doesn't happen, right?

Well Bismarck did it. Less than 200 years ago. And he used these tricks to set up a network of diplomatic alliances (individualistic contracts) between countries to preserve the stability of his German empire. When those aliances were triggered, the resulting "great war" was so catastrophic that people have rejected diplomacy in favour of international law and institutions like the UN ever since.

Until now ...

Formula predicts Who Will Win the 2004 U.S. Presidential Election?

Monday, October 06, 2003

I left a message on Bill Seitz's wiki expressing optimism in PythonCard. He links to this article : PythonCard and Boa Constructor not ready yet highlighting some problems.

Hmm! Doesn't necessarily put me off. Most of what I want to do doesn't need the things he needs ... but it's a pause for thought.

The vocabulary of economists has no word to describe an increasingly common phenomenon. An oligopoly, as you know, is a market sector in which there are few sellers. An oligopsony is a market sector in which there are few buyers. But there are an increasing number of market sectors in which the same companies are both oligopolies and oligopsonies. This situation I propose to call an oligonomy.

In an oligonomy, companies act as an oligopoly to one group, as an oligopsony to another. For example, a handful of companies (McCormack, Durkee) buy most of the culinary herbs grown around the world. To the farmers, they constitute an oligopsony, and the farmers are at a disadvantage to them. To the markets that resell their wares, they are an oligopoly, with an advantage over those retailers. That is a simple oligonomy, basically where a few firms act like the gatekeepers between producers and retailers.

Oligopoly Watch
It's a small, globalized world, right. So can't risk those pesky foreigners doing things differently from us.

Though the European Union's patenting system might [be] more effective, Gartner has highlighted problems that could arise from its being out of sync with the system in United States. For example, if a patented e-commerce technology is enforceable in the United States but not the European Union, users of the technology in the United States could be breaking the law by accessing an EU Web site that employed the technology, according to Gartner.

EU directive could spark patent war | CNET
IBM try to keep records of employee deaths out of court-case on the grounds that these will "confuse" the jury.

Peace and love eh?

Eric Raymond has a libertarian strategy which I, as an "evil", big government supporting, statist, socialist, am happy to see tried. I urge all US libertarians to go for it. Let's get some empirical evidence.

One point, I noticed someone in the comments talking about the advantage of some New England states because it's possible to commute to Boston. Isn't that cheating? What if you happen to be employed in a company which was spun out of a government funded research institution?

A libertarian state

Sunday, October 05, 2003

BBC NEWS | World | South Asia | Afghan women face 'daily danger'

Recently saw the film Osama at the Brasilia film festival. Still don't know how to talk about this film, which in it's quiet way is one of the most devastating film's I've ever seen. And yet I couldn't feel angry or appalled or upset or even sad. My mind was just wiped clean by it.

Fabulous Ruins of Detroit
Another way of saying this is that http is the right protocol glue for the enterprise, however large. In fact, the larger the enterprise, the simpler your glue needs to be to scale up. We know http scales up to the world wide web. We don't know that about anything else.

Saturday, October 04, 2003

Dave Pollard : Now that's power!

Cringely is saying some plausible and hard things about privacy : In the middle of this, we find the trinity of banks, government, and credit bureaus who betray us on our behalf.

Iraq's oil production capacity over-optimistically hyped by pro-war politicians.

Report Offered Bleak Outlook About Iraq Oil
Blogalization has a good round up of discussion of the internet in Africa.

The African Internet: Microsoft Country? | Blogalization
Arnold Unplugged - It's hasta la vista to $9 billion if the Governator is selected
The Onion | 48-Hour Internet Outage Plunges Nation Into Productivity :-)
Doors of Perception is a good site about architecture and design.

John Thakara : "For me, the best description of the destination is by Ivan Illich. Illich said, 35 years ago, that we need to: 'Give back to people the capacity to resolve their problems within the network of their own relationships.'

Also ThoughtStorms:PostSpectacularCity

(via. Anne Galloway)

Friday, October 03, 2003

Global warming solved TechCentral Style ...

* trees emit particles which reflect heat and help form clouds. They have a cooling effect on the surrounding area

* CO2 causes trees to grow faster than normal

Therefore, TechCentral implies, as long as we keep pumping out CO2 emissions, we'll grow the trees faster, and they'll save us from global warming caused by pumping out CO2 emissions.

Well ... it may work out like that. But I'd like to see some numbers and whether they add up before I jump to their optimistic conclusion. Does the cooling effect balance the warming effect? Are we going to be growing enough trees to balance the emissions? Or will we be cutting them down too fast?

TCS: Tech Central Station - Tree Haze and Cool Days?
New ThoughtStorms logo.

The old logo was just a place holder, but I was never very bothered about replacing it. Now I'm running 8 different wikis, it's quite nice to differentiate them :0)

Hence I'll probably be knocking out logos for all of them. Don't expect design miracles though.

Is France's 35 hour week responsible for it's 10% unemployment? I can hear all the economists shouting so now.

Wonder what will happen if the EU does fine France? Will there be an anti-EU movement there. And what effect might that have on the EU?

BBC NEWS | France set for deficit showdown
Daniel Davies's explanation of Cancun is so interesting I'm going to link to it again now that it's on D-squared digest :

What does ["Singapore issues"] mean?

Effectively, that it would become illegal under the WTO not only to place tariffs on trade in goods and services, but also to place any restrictions on investment by overseas corporations, or to have any laws in place which had the effect of disadvantaging foreign companies compared to domestic ones.

Aren’t these natural things for the WTO to be discussing?

Absolutely not. The WTO is the World Trade Organisation, which was set up in order to facilitate trade in goods and services, something which more or less everyone agrees to be a general good. Free mobility of capital and investment is a much more controversial topic, mainly because the legal procedures needed to establish it would be much more invasive of national sovereignty, and because the benefits from liberalising capital flows are much less certain and significant than those from liberalising trade (for example, it’s not really consistent with the existence of nationalised industries, and it provides an easy channel for multinational companies to launch harrassing cases against any domestic legislation they don’t like; to take a hypothetical example, the local Coke bottling plant could launch an action against a free school milk program for unfairly prejudicing their investment1.).

D-squared Digest -- A fat young man without a good word for anyone
"Deceitful regime"

If I was Jack Straw I wouldn't go round putting this phrase into everybody's heads.

BBC NEWS | Politics | Iraq report 'proves case for war'

Thursday, October 02, 2003

Hmm. I thought the argument for the war wasn't "Saddam would like to have WMDs and has made some attempts to aquire them". I thought the argument was "Saddam has an advanced programme which is an imminent threat to us."

BBC NEWS | World | Middle East | No smoking gun, but ammunition?
Oldish link. But thought provoking ... O'Reilly Network: Structure and Service: Illuminations from a Trip to the Forest [Feb. 13, 2003]

Wednesday, October 01, 2003

Typical ... after I've hyped it up, Alex Schroeder is considering removing RSS inclusion from OddMuse.

My plea : I'm interested in trying to persuade people that wiki is a good front-end (or dashboard) for a complex information system. (It's good because a community of users can configure / organize it in a way that suits them. And annotate it with the documentation needed for new users to understand and navigate it.)

It's normally when I demonstrate RSS includes in pages that they 'get it'.

Meatball Wiki: RssInclusion
Is spam going to kill the web altogether? VentureBlog: It's The End Of The Web As We Know It And I Feel Fine

And if so, who's fault is it?

Conspiracy theorists ... on you marks, get set ...
What is remarkable is the instability so many people are living with. Add the real unemployment rate (including discouraged workers) to this rate of "churn jobs" and you have 15-20% of the population without a job or unsure if they'll have one tomorrow.

That's a scary number.

Nathan Newman

I guess many people will say something like this ... "sure it's tough. But economies need to be dynamic. That's the price you have to pay." Just for a moment I'd like people think "... price you have to pay for what?"

For cheap consumer goods and faster, less healthy food?

Is that it?

It can't be for more leisure time. Most people don't have it.

It can't be for dragging everyone's living standards up ... because the number of people in poverty is increasing. Nathan Newman again

It can't be for people's happiness and sense of general wellbeing, because surveys show those are going down. And insecurity and the increasing stress it causes is a big part of that.

Is it to stop jobs "flying" to the third world? Well, they only fly because governments choose to make it easy for them to fly.

It might be for technological progress. We sure have more cute tech toys now than ever before. And as a fully paid up technophile I think that's an important part of human culture and destiny. But then if you say to me ... "Phil, so you're happy to see billions of people in poverty around the world in order for Moore's law to bring you a faster computer next year." I'll admit, my conscience is uncomfortable. Maybe I'd be happy to get by on an old 286 in a world without starving kids.

So what is it that we're buying with this extra insecurity? Where's the cost-benefit analysis that shows it's worth it? I think we need one, because if we don't, some damned Marxist is going to come along and whisper ... "well, you know, really all this insecurity is there just to buy the wealthy capitalists more opportunities to get richer" and I'll have a hard time answering her.

Mark Dilley has started They Call us Troublemakers weblog for Trade Union stuff.

Interesting link to Appledore Work-in blog from Devon.
The trivial BEACH:CodeGenerationExperiment seems to work.

Naomi Klein has a fascinating story of an Argentinian town's resistance to a mining company.
I didn't know the founder of Globo had died. (Probably because I was in UK when that happened.) But the Guardian has a useful obituary and primer on the guy and the role of Globo. Here it's pretty much as standard as the BBC in the UK.
So? What?

The Americans look across the pond, get David Kelly envy. And think "Hey! We need one of those too"?

Or is it that a "who leaked what?" witch-hunt seems to be politically survivable and maybe even preferable to people getting all worked up about the real questions on Iraq?