Monthly Archives: September 2008

Innosuing, not innovating

image Endnote, owned by Thomson Reuters Reuters, is suing the main creator of Zotero, Dan Cohen (Or, rather, they are suing GMU, his university.) The reason is that Zotero includes a tool that can convert Endnote styles to Zotero (much like Openoffice has functionality for converting from MS-Word or other formats).

Now, there is a brilliant market move. Endnote is primarily used by academics. I have used it since around 1991, and for a couple of years I was a beta tester (and had the T-shirt to prove it.) Aside from the T-shirt, I got zilch for my efforts (and I did find a bug or two.) Neither did the thousands of academics who have created bibliography styles for various journals and uploaded them to Endnote’s web site.

I can’t think of a better way than a law suit to make people move to Zotero. This definitely does it for me – unless Thomson Reuters pulls this stupid suit. Come to think of it, we have a number of users at the Norwegian School of Management, I am sure I can persuade quite a few of them to switch sides…..

Suing an academic for creating software for other academics which draws on work of other academics when your primary market is academics? Have they hired hired lawyers from the music industry?

Zotero is a better tool, too. Shared lists, bibliographies, support for clipping from searches, including Google Scholar. Instant saves from browsing.

Time to move, methinks. Let me see, how hard would it be to migrate my 2100+ article database….

Update two hours later: Boingboing is on the case.

Update 10 hours later: Check out the Boingboing commentsStreisand effect in the making. John Mark Ockerbloom has a thoughtful piece on the suit.

Why can’t the Treasury act like Buffett?

Posner argues that the government should behave like Warren Buffett, who made a $5b investment in Goldman Sachs in return for a guaranteed 10% dividend. (One surmises that the government may have to settle for less ambitious returns, though). Becker disagrees, arguing that government ownership introduces risk of political considerations overriding economical ones.

I side with Posner, if for nothing else that economic considerations – that is, economic from the view of each failing bank – has disappeared a long time ago. Government seats on boards is a small price to pay for a bailout. And as the markets rebounds, the government stake can be sold again.

Here in Norway, this actually happened – the government took over failing banks in 1987, at one point owning almost all of them, then selling them out again. Worked reasonably well, except for the bank shareholders, of course. But that is the point of shares – you can claim ownership to all the assets and all of the residual return. If the assets disappear, so does your claim.

Update:  Check out Tom Evslin’s nice little demonstration of how we got into this mess in the first place.

A power plan for the US

Bob Cringely proposes an upgrade to the US grid as well as a moratorium on incandescent light. Not sure about the underlying statistics, but I have always wondered about the puny 110V and ancient (often spaghetti) cabling found even in affluent neighborhoods over there. Not to mention the efficiency loss from the thin copper. 18% less power use? On the surface, this seems like a good idea to me.

Small firm, large firm, we are all equal now

Hal Varian has a good post on the democratization of data over at the Google blog – in short, that small firms now can access information and analysis (including consultants) much like large firms can.

My interpretation: Information access is now close to free. What you now need is understanding. That takes people, and if you can access the smart ones in person as well as their explicated output, you will do well.

Little brother pretty fast

Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother (available for free download here if you don’t want to buy it) is a "young adult" book on the topic of surveillance and personal freedom and privacy. The story is about Marcus, nicked M1k3y, who after a terrorist attack hits San Francisco gets detained by the DHS, denied his rights, and decides to take revenge. This involves quite a bit of hacking, security, cryptography and subterfuge.

The purpose of this book is both to tell a story and to teach the (young) reader something about personal freedoms, critical thinking and how to preserve your privacy in an increasingly connected and digitized world. This shows – there are some quite detailed discussions of this, somewhat simplified versions of Cory Doctorow’s speeches and writings on these subjects.

I sort of liked the book – it is important from the perspective of raising a generation of youngsters that know enough about the technology to maintain some sort of privacy, and encourage creative thinking – loosely defined as demanding logic and actions in proportion to consequences from the authorities. Cory’s book has gotten to the NYT bestseller list, and deservedly so. This is something to be happy about, for Cory spreads the word of his book electronically (as well as the book) and this nicely vindicates that strategy and points towards the future for aspiring authors. And, as someone struggling to get young people to read about and be interested in technology – not just what it does and how it looks but how it works – I see the value in the book.

But I do wish the literary qualities, such as the plot and the character development, were a bit more ambitions. On the other hand, Neal Stephenson does that, and Little Brother is an excellent introduction to Cryptonomicon, which set the reader up for the Baroque Trilogy and the idea that, well, history matters.

So, highly recommended. Wonder when we will see the first Norwegian translation? (I have translated for Cory before, but am a bit under the weather here. Anyone for a "dugnad"?). It is not like anyone needs to ask permission…

(On a side note, the paper copy I got from Amazon had half of page 197/8 torn out. Rather than sending it back to be replaced (which I know Amazon would do without argument), I printed out those pages from Cory’s web site and put them inside the book. Saves work and time. Same thing as when I switched from a static web page to a wiki for my course syllabi – now the customers, i.e., my students, fix broken links without bothering me…..)