Monthly Archives: October 2004

Excellent economics journal

Joseph Stiglitz, Brad DeLong and Aaron Edlin are among the people behind The Economists’ Voice, a new online journal, freely available as far as I can tell, in electronic format. I have only had time to glance at an article about the collapse of Enron, but given the quality of Brad’s blog, I trust this journal is a keeper.

Clayton does it again

Clayton Christensen has advised Microsoft to learn to love Linux, since it is a disruptive technology for the company – and that in order to break into the market, they should purchase RIM.

I agree in principle, but Microsoft has so much cash that they don’t really need to set up a company to kill their old business. But as I have said before, they are at the place where IBM was in 1988, making a lot of money and looking invinsible, but being annoying to many people with little money and little use for mainframes. And along came Bill Gates, with Windows 2.11 and cut-and-paste between Excel and Word.

Actually, I thought this would happen at the desktop, with Netscape (in 1995), or perhaps Google (next year) creating the net-centric application suite. But it seems we need to move to handhelds before this takes off, a market dominated by telephone operators and OEM producers, with tiny processors, shoddy cameras and customers willing to invest in inferior, low-margin technology to get portability.

So, we’ll see whether Bill Gates can do a Lou Gerstner operation – but odds are against it.

MT-Blacklist works

A brief look at my MT log shows that 76 attempts at blogspamming were stopped the last 24 hours. Of these, 4 (all with the same URL) made it through the filter and necessitated modification of the list.
So MT-Blacklist works. Time to step up and pay for it….
Two usage comments: There are some small errors with the software – it tends to abort if there are many comments or the server is slow, and the downloading and installation of the common list does not work for me, so I have developed my own. But I am not on the latest release, so that may have been fixed. Secondly, what works best are regexp strings with key words in them, most of the denials are for pretty obvious medication, pornography or card game terms.
One interesting exception: A spam comment with a link to Sun in it. An attempt to deliberately insert the URL into spam filters?

Dumb – and loud – objects

Bruce Sterling’s WIRED article on Dumbing down smart objects reminds me of a science fiction short story I read some years ago. I think it was called “A Captive Audience”, and it was possibly written by Ann Warren Griffith in 1953.

The story was that advertising had become embedded in tiny little sound generators, too small to locate and destroy, in all products. Breakfast was accompanied by the cereal boxes singing “Eat me!”, the sofa would bellow “I am soft and comfortable, why don’t you sit down?” and so on.

The key point was that you could not escape: Earplugs had been outlawed as an impediment to commerce and free speech. For some reason, given the current debate about DRM and the recording industry, this doesn’t seem so far out anymore….

Hunting for academics

My short essay on how to hunt down and capture professors was published last week in European Business Forum. This is a tongue-in-cheek article, but the topic itself is actually rather serious. One of the large differences between the United States and Europe is the tight links and mutual respect between business and academia in the USA – a relationship that lies behind much of the competitive advantage the USA enjoys in innovation-driven technology businesses. Yes, I know many US academics think business people are difficult to communicate with, and vice versa. But compared to the iron walls in Europe, US business and academe are bosom buddies.

Maybe I should write a similar essay on “how to bag a business person,” directed towards the professors….

Forget the name, just collaborate

Socialtext CEO Ross Mayfield has an excellent point in his reflections on Disney’s use of collaborative software – essentially, don’t start it as a separate piece of software, just do it. In this case by sneaking in Newsgator in people’s email programs and not telling them that they really are using RSS feeds.

I can feel an acronym coming: Keep It So Simple Users Participate Thinking Only They Have Emailed Many – or KISSUPTOTHEMâ„¢.
You saw it here first. Email me for licensing, IP issues, and finder’s fees. Have buzzword, will travel….

Wikis in new contexts

(Via Joi Ito) Interesting posting on how the Wikipedia, as it matures both in content and access technology, needs to address issues of systemic bias. I am currently fiddling with using a wiki in a corporate research context, and have quickly found that the technology may be more limited than I thought – for instance, it may be problematic in situations where the content you want to produce is linear in nature and not easily can be split into bits that can be easily named (and CamelCased…..).
However, while the easy internal linking of a wiki may be less useful in a corporate project setting than the many-versioned editing capability. We’ll see how things go as the project progresses.
As for Wikipedia, the fact that its content reflects its creators is not really, to me, a big concern. Rather than impose different behavior on the creators, why not just get more contributors from populations outside the white, male, online, and educated classes? After all, an organization should reflect the complexity of its environment.