February 2008

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JP Rangaswami points me to The Life Cycle of a Blog Post, by Frank Rose, in Wired. It features a large interactive (I guess flash) graphic that places even the icky stuff (such as spam blogs, or splogs) inside the ‘system. I haven’t looked too much at it because I get annoyed by its interactivity. (What’s wrong with one big graphic file I can scroll around?) Still, interesting. When I have time to look at the whole thing with more patience than I have now, I might have more to say about it.

Meanwhile Wired’s Chris Anderson writes,

  Today it’s digital technologies, not electricity, that have become too cheap to meter. It took decades to shake off the assumption that computing was supposed to be rationed for the few, and we’re only now starting to liberate bandwidth and storage from the same poverty of imagination. But a generation raised on the free Web is coming of age, and they will find entirely new ways to embrace waste, transforming the world in the process. Because free is what you want — and free, increasingly, is what you’re going to get.

All good stuff; but missing, or put in different terms, is the because effect — making money because of something rather than with it. I make zero money with blogging. (No advertising. Love that.) But I make more than zero because of blogging. Not enough to make me rich, but enough to make me valuable. And far more than I would make with advertising alone.

And the value I create isn’t just for me. I see what I do here as a positive contribution to the world: open prose that’s like open code: simply useful. Or, in other terms, NEA: something Nobody owns, Everybody can use and Anybody can improve.

At its best, anyway. Some of what I write, I’m sure, is useless. But most of the time I’m at least trying to do something helpful. I think all the best bloggers, like the best programmers, the best builders, the best Wikipedia contributors, all try to do that. Whether they sell it or not.

Telco 2.0 visits the same subject with The Two-Sided Business Model.

Trendwatching has been into the Free Thing as well. Their detailed and interesting post on the matter is Free Love.

We’d hardly yearn for Net Neutrality laws if Comcast and other carriers truly understood that the Net is more than an interactive TV channel with troublesome users.

Unfortunately there are technical as well as busines and political reasons why they fail to grok the Net. A big one is DOCSIS, which is the standard framework inside which cable companies funnel Net traffic. DOCSIS all but requires that they think of the Net as just another TV channel. Because that’s how DOCSIS frames the Net. It’s something delivered over analog channels inside a coaxial cable. Carriers can “bond” channels to widen the bandwidth, but they’re still dealing with radio waves going down a coaxial pipe on one or more channels and back up on others. Asymmetry is built in, simply because the return upstream path is, by design, on lower frequency channels with less carrying capacity. It’s also useless to debate with a cable comapny the need (or lack of it) for QoS (Quality of Service), because QoS has been part of DOCSIS since 1999.

Fiber deployments have different capabilities and restrictions, although most of those are modeled on cable TV, for good business reasons. Verizon’s fiber (FiOS) system, for example, is not designed primarily for Internet users, but for couch potatoes. Those tubers are abundant and low-hanging (or ground-dwelling) fruit.

One can’t blame carriers for going after easy pickings; but one can blame them for wearing blinders toward the massive opportunities that appear when they deliver wide-open bandwidth on which nearly anything can run… and to discover their first-mover advantages there.

But, thanks to these ancient frames, the Net is seen by the carriers (and the FCC) as tertiary to their primary and secondary services: telephony and television, or vice versa. That’s why it’s still just gravy on your phone or cable bill.

Bonus link.

I just discovered that is also useful for astronomy. You go under View and click on Switch to Sky. Suddenly your screen is a planetarium. It’s not quite the equal yet of KStars, Starry Night or Carinasoft’s Voyager (the three programs I know best), but it’s not bad for a start, and with call-outs that integrate well with the Web.

Meanwhile, back on Earth, I’m wondering if there’s an easy one-click way to copy lat/lon from an x/y location on the Earth. Or to copy the geotag.

Another question… Is there an easy way to make Google Earth display the names of mountains and rivers? Seems the only way is by angling down with the tilt slider (the horizontal one above the compass tool), to an elevation barely above that of the mountain — and then using your mouse, keyboard, or that joysticky whatever-that-is in the middle of the compass, to fly like a plane toward the mountain’s crest, hoping that at some point the name of the mountain will appear in blue above it. Any of you geo-hackers know a better way? Hope there is one.

And one more… Is there a way to use normal, non-3D fonts?

Oh, and these questions don’t just apply to Google Earth.

My main purpose is to geotag pictures I put up here. No way to label them all, since there are around 18,000 of them. But I’d like to label a few, at least. Easily.

From Portfolio.com:

  Comcast spokeswoman Jennifer Khoury said that the company paid some people to arrive early and hold places in the queue for local Comcast employees who wanted to attend the hearing.

  Some of those placeholders, however, did more than wait in line: They filled many of the seats at the meeting, according to eyewitnesses. As a result, scores of Comcast critics and other members of the public were denied entry because the room filled up well before the beginning of the hearing.

  Khoury said that the company didn’t intend to block anyone from attending the hearing. “Comcast informed our local employees about the hearing and invited them to attend,” she said. “Some employees did attend, along with many members of the general public.”

It was clear to many who attended that the carriers packed the room at yesterday’s FCC Hearing. How lame are employees who can’t show up early enough to get a seat? How lame is a company that pays people to warm seats for lame employees? About as lame as a company that can’t defend its methods of selectively subtracting value from its Internet service. Tag:

Honk

People have been asking if my voice is back. Thanks, it is, mostly. But sleeping is hard for some reason. Too much good stuff going on, and to think about. And some of me is still on Pacific Time, while here it’s GMT.

Trying once more…

Buzz on buzz

Buzz Bruggeman, to Kevin O’Keefe:

  It’s very difficult for me to imagine today that a successful lawyer would not have an active blog. It’s sort of like imagining that they wouldn’t have business cards, or imagining that they wouldn’t have their number in a phone book — it’s a way to discover them, a way to understand a lot about them, a way to reach out to them. And [it] provides an easy way to comment on what they write, to make the conversation even richer. Blogs are a lot about conversations. If there’s no conversation, it’s difficult for a potential client to get their head around who you are, what you’re doing and how you think.

That’s a shot of the Lava Falls section of the Grand Canyon. It’s one of my favorite scenes: of lava from the Uinkaret Lava Field slopping down into the canyon over the north rim. Atop Lava Falls itself is Vulcan’s Throne, a volcanic vent about 73,000 years old.

This may seem old, but the lava is among the newest features of the Grand Canyon. The Kaibab Limestone over which the lava flowed was laid down in early Permian time, around 290 million years ago. All the rocks below are older, on down to the Vishnu group at the bottom of the canyon, around 1.7 billion years ancient.

That set is one of many that came out of my most recent trip out west by plane. I’m in London now, and still getting them up.

Oh well

Larry Lessig: After lots of thinking and advice, I have decided it does not make sense for the Change Congress movement for me to a run for Congress in CA12. He is still out, of course, to Change Congress.

So here’s the concept: the end-to-end nature of the Internet is not about “access for consumers”. It’s about creating a in which all of us are at zero functional distance from each other — or close enough. That’s why I can listen in on the hearing right now from London, and IM and IRC with people all over the world. Right now, in real-enough time.

The Internet is the universal communications utility that connects us all. As a utility it will, in the long run, come to resemble roads and water systems — in the sense that all of us can connect to it, and to each other over it. The questions that matter most are the ones with answers that get us to this end state.

Right now they’re talking about competition. Two years ago at F2C, former FCC Chairman Michael Powell said that, as a former antitrust lawyer, he favored the “rule of threes” — that is, you tend to get productive compeitition when there are at least three competitors in a marketplace.

We have that at our home near Cambridge. We have Verizon FiOS, RCN and Comcast, all on the poles. The first two bring fiber to the home, and the third has a hybrid fiber coax (HFC) system, that brings coax to the home. Near as I can tell, the only one of those three bothering to compete for the Internet customer is Verizon, although its offering is hardly optimized. No “20 up, 20 down”, as I just heard somebody brag about in the ‘cast. (Was that Tom Tauke from Verizon? Think so.) We get 20 down, 5 up. Right now, if I want non-crippled service (one where I can run a server, for example, with my own IP addresses), I have to pay “business” rates, which are, in the phone company tradition, and without respect to whatever the actual costs are, a multiple of what I pay as a household — a consumer.

All three are going after TV customers primarily — trying to horn into each other’s cable TV business — and treating Internet as gravy on TV and phone service. That makes sense for providers of all three services, on a national basis, but not at the local level, where there is enormous room for innovation and real competition.

Message to Verizon and the rest: the Internet is not about “consumer choice”. We produce as well as consume. We need to be able to run our own servers. We need to be able to exercize supply as well as demand. We need symmetricality, not just neutrality.

It is essential not to frame the Net in FCC terms, or even in communications policy and law terms, which date back to the 1934 act, and beyond that to railroads. Or at least not those alone. The Net is a place, not just a shipping system for “content”, to which “the consumer” should have “access”.

Lot of back and forth about whether or not Comcast blocked BitTorrent. FWIW, I think that::: a) Comcast is still mostly right about the best efforts it makes, but is still weaseling a little bit; b) Comcast’s opponents are looking to paint its kettle black; and c) Talking about it soaks up too much time that would be better spent debating other subjects.

Tag: .

I really really really wish I was back in Cambridge right now, where for sure I’d be in the Ames Courtroom, taking part in the hearing where all five FCC commisioners are participating.

I could do the same, to some degree, from here in my stuffy London hotel room, if the FCC’s #@$%& Real audio stream wasn’t hosed. “The server has reached its capacity and can serve no more streams”, it says. Try later.

[Later...] Amazingly, at the Nth try, it now works. More in the next post.

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