July 7, 2008

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Last laff

Nobody parodies TV news better than The Onion. They’re just wicked.

Anyway, just caught Bush Tours America To Survey Damage Caused By His Disastrous Presidency on a podcast here on the plane (still boarding), and laughed so hard I just had to pass it along. It’s almost up there with this one, which still wins for truthiness.

Okay, they’re making me turn this off. See ya on the East Side.

My plane to Boston may or may not be delayed, depending on weather. Meanwhile, I forgot my laptop charger in Santa Barbara. So much for getting much done here and in the plane.

Some airports have places where you can buy laptop chargers, but not this corner of LAX. “International has a place”, says a United person behind a counter. But I’m not going to go there and come back through Security again. Too much time, too big a hassle.

Anyway, just a grr in the midst.

Noah Brier has an interesting post titled Metcalfe’s Plateau, which he describes as –

a place where the value of the network no longer increases with each additional node. In fact, thanks to spam (as deemed by me), the value of the network had started to decline, I was looking for other places to spend my time online.

In it he cites a variety of sourses, including quotage from Bob Metcalfe, Paul Saffo and Clay Shirky’s A Group is its Own Worst Enemy. Here’s that excerpt:

You have to find a way to spare the group from scale. Scale alone kills conversations, because conversations require dense two-way conversations. In conversational contexts, Metcalfe’s law is a drag. The fact that the amount of two-way connections you have to support goes up with the square of the users means that the density of conversation falls off very fast as the system scales even a little bit. You have to have some way to let users hang onto the less is more pattern, in order to keep associated with one another.

Good stuff. I responded with a comment that is currently in moderation, while Noah (we hope) figures out it’s not spam. (And he’s right: having to do that is a big value-subtract.) Meanwhile, I thought I’d go ahead and post my comment here. It goes –

Metcalfe is right about networks, while Clay and Paul are right about groups.
I submit that groups are also different than “social networks,” a term that used to be synonymous with groups but now means two things: personally collected associations, also called “social graphs,” and online habitats such as Linkedin and Facebook. Both of the latter prove Clay’s point.
For what it’s worth, Linkedin has no conversation density for me because I do no conversation there. It’s just a CV viewer, and it’s good enough at that. Facebook also has no conversation density for me because keeping up with it takes too much work. This might be my fault, for somehow allowing myself to have 396 “friends,” when the number of my actual friends is far lower than that — and most of them aren’t on Facebook. Add “2 friend suggestions, 187 friend requests, 2 event invitations, 1 u-netted nations invitation, 1 blog ownership request, 180 other requests” and “23 new notifications” … plus more “pokes” than I’ll bother to count, and Facebook compounds what it already is: a gridlock of obligations in an environment architected, blatantly, to drag my eyeballs across advertising, most of which is irrelevant beyond the verge of absurdity. (On my entry page is an ad for dresses by American Apparel. It replaces one for singles. I’m male and married. You’d think Facebook could at least get *that* much right.)
The only way we can immunize ourselves from overly “scaled” services — or improve them in ways that are useful for us and not just their clueproof “business models” — is by equipping ourselves as individuals with tools by which each of us controls our ends of relationships. That means we assert rules of engagement, terms of service, preferences, additional service requests and the rest of it. This is what we are working on with ProjectVRM.
While it’s hard to imagine a world where a free market is not “your choice of silo” or “your choice of walled garden”, imagining one is necessary if we wish to fulfill the original promise of the Net and the Web.

And with that I’m outa here. Should be landing at Logan around midnight, and in Cambridge for most of the rest of the month.

Since I lack a car here, I haven’t gotten out much, and not at all to any place that gave me a vantage on the fire. Until today, that is, when we went to Goleta and I had a chance to pause on Hollister Street by the airport where the Forest Service runs P3 Orion air tankers up to the fire sites to dump bright fire retardant on the landscape. (It’s not bad, by the way. Essentially, it’s fertilizer.) Here’s the photo set. (Also added more maps to this photo set.)

Tag: sbgapfire.