Against Data Portability

January 25, 2008

Saw this advocacy of DataPortability over at Valleywag. It is an idea only a programmer could love. Real humans don’t want data portability. As I told Joseph Smarr of Plaxo, when I go to BurningMan, I don’t necessarily want to interact with the same people I meet at tech conferences. Every context has its appropriate ambient data and connections. A flat world limits freedom.

Facebook initially got it right. They created a place where people could feel free to express themselves in a particular context. The feeling of security and privacy led to a flourish of content uploaded to the site. By opening up, now, if you are on Facebook, you have the risk that your mom or your employer is going to see the photos your friends posted of your antics at the party last night.

A transparent society is a totalitarian society and thats not fun for anyone.


I am advocating wireless socialism at a new group blog:

June 29, 2005

Check it out

Big government something only a rich country can afford

June 19, 2005

Great interview from Nick Shulz of William Lewis author of “The Power of Productivity, Wealth, Power, and the Threat to Global Stability.”about how poor countries become rich. Its all about productivity and productivity is all about protecting the rights of consumers against producers. Structuring a political system so that producer lobbyists don’t win control appears to be the key to success, but that turns about to be very difficult. If you are at interested in any of any of these things, I strongly recommend you read the whole thing.

Software Outsourcing Skepticism

June 13, 2005

Friends know that for a while I have been skeptical about the whole software outsourcing to India story. The real value in software is the connection with the customer/user and that can’t be outsourced. Now Half Sigma does a really good job of generalizing the point:

But what is left for the United States to do if both manufacturing and information jobs are moved overseas? The answer is marketing. Marketing is the craft of linking producers of goods and services with customers. And the customers exist in the United States because we are the world’s richest nation.

Only Americans know what other Americans want to buy. Only Americans know how to create the perception of value where none actually exists. Two days ago I wrote about an $88 t-shirt. The Chinese can manufacture a t-shirt for $1, but they will never be able to figure out how to get Americans to pay 88 times what it costs to manufacture.

Can open source compete with integrated hardware?

May 25, 2005

As hardware gets cheaper, more and more of the value comes from software and integration. That is the Apple strategy (keeping the Mac closed) and it is not Microsoft’s strategy with the X/Box. There is no room for open source in these models. The only way for open source to compete is to stay open from top to bottom and build an ecosystem around developers. This is a variant of the Clayton Christiansen thesis. As software and hardware get sufficiently cheap, value comes from integration.

Advice for Living One Thousand Years

May 18, 2005

The Sunday Times of London describes improvements in science that may eliminate aging as a cause of death. Until they arrive, here are its points of advice. Note: I think it is highly likely that there are different best options for different people so take this with a grain of salt.

1 Don’t even think about smoking and, preferably, don”t hang glide.

2 Eliminate sugar to lower blood insulin levels. Use stevia as a sweetener. It is a South American plant that is both very sweet and good for you.

3 Don’t eat any animal fats. Government guidelies tend to say cut these down, but they probably only say this because they think it’s the best
people can manage. No saturated fat at all is probably best.

4 Eat lots of vegetables that grow above ground. Those below ground are heavy in carbohydrates that turn into sugar and raise insulin levels.

5 Don’t overdo the fruit. Contrary to popular wisdom it’s not unconditionally good as it contains sugar. Non-drinking Arabs and Indians who
sit around sipping orange juice all day end up with diabetes.

6 Eat nuts. For incompletely understood reasons, people who eat nuts live longer. Not salted peanuts, however (see 7).

7 Don’t salt things. Salt raises blood pressure and will kill you through a stroke or heart attack. For this reason, don’t touch processed food.

8 Don’t have heart bypass surgery or have a stent installed to hold a blocked artery open. Latest figures suggest neither works. People who live
longer after them probably do so because the shock made them eat better and exercise more.

9 Have a massive medical assessment, preferably at Kronos in Phoenix, Arizona, to establish what you are doing wrong and, if possible, what genetic
weaknesses you have. Continue these assessments throughout your life and adjust supplements accordingly. Read all the latest medical journals to keep

10 Exercise vigorously and daily but dont run. Running is bad for your skeleton.

11 Take a childs aspirin once a day to thin your blood and a much larger dose before you get on a plane. Ideally, don’t get on a plane.

12 Eat very little. Rats on restricted diets live longer but it is not known if this would damage humans particularly their brains. So if you forget
what 2+2 equals, eat more.

13 Ignore all of the above. They may be wrong and, if a piano falls on you, pointless.

Stanley Fish gets it wrong

May 16, 2005

Stanley Fish attempts to argue that there is no principled way to differentiate between Ward Churchil’s claims that the victims of 9/11 were “little Eichmans” and Larry Summers comments that the preponderane of males in Harvard’s physics department might be partially the result of genetic predispositions. He claims that both sorts of speech are equally permissible from a First Ammendment perspective and that it is inconsistent of the right to condemn Churchill and demand his resignation while at the same time making Larry Summers a free speech martyr.

Fish is largely missing the point. Summers is making a factual claim that may or may not be justified using scientific evidence. See this fabulous debate to betwee Steve Pinker and Elizabeth Spelke to see how such a discussion can proceed. In contrast, Churchill is making a value judgement about America and terrorism that is not per se provable or disprovable. Discussion and evaluation of factual claims are the substance of science and acadamia and it is indeed scandalous that Harvard’s faculty appears unable to engage in it. In contrast, Churchill is infusing facts with value judgements that at odds with those of the people and institutions that employ him. The left has indeed been entirely ok with the politicization of academia. The right has largely stood for the idea that academia should be the province of intellect.

Churchill’s abuse was to shift from intellectual discourse to political discourse and to represent his political discourse as intellectually valid. Summers was making a factual hypothesis ammenable to proof or disproof. The fact that Fish can’t see the difference is indeed part of the problem with academia today, a problem that Ward Churchill so vividly makes apparent.