Apr 2, 2010
Uptake happens fast — or not at all
Most of today’s massive consumer web properties experienced exponential
growth fairly shortly after launch. A few thousand users over a few months is
probably sufficient to find out it you have hit a nerve.
Whatever the reasoning, more and more developers, projects and firms were
transitioning away from centralized to decentralized. And happier for it. The
trendline was clear, which is why we weren’t exactly going out on a limb
predicting the ascension of Git, Mercurial and their brethren.
Feb 20, 2010
Thinking critically about the ideal of a techno-utopia
Technology can compromise resolve. East Germans who watched West
German television were paradoxically more satisfied with life in their
country. The fact that Dresden—where the 1989 protests started—lies too
far and too low to have received Western broadcasts may partly explain the
rebellious spirit of the city's inhabitants. While we fret about the
Internet's contribution to degrading the civic engagement of American kids,
all teenagers in China or Iran are presumed to be committed citizens who use
the Web to acquaint themselves with human rights violations committed by
their governments. For the vast majority of Internet users, increased access
to information is not always liberating. With their endless supply of
entertainment, Twitter and Facebook might make political mobilization harder,
Technology empowers all sides equally. We cling to the view that all
non-state power in authoritarian countries is good, while state power is evil
and always leads to suppression. Not all opponents of the Russian or Chinese
or even Egyptian state fit the neoliberal pattern. Nationalism, extremism and
religious fanaticism abound. Facebook and Twitter empower all groups—not
just the pro-Western groups that we like.
Technology drives decentralization;
demonstration requires centralization. Thanks to the decentralization
afforded by the Internet, Iran's Green Movement couldn't collect itself on
the eve of the 31st anniversary of the Islamic revolution. It simply drowned
in its own tweets.
Technology increases noise and misinformation. We assume the Internet
makes it easy for citizens to see who else is opposing a regime and then act
collectively based on that shared knowledge. In the age of the Spinternet,
cheap online propaganda can easily be bought with the help of pro-government
bloggers. Add to that the growing surveillance capacity of modern
authoritarian states—greatly boosted by information collected through
Technology shines a harsh light. Diplomacy is, perhaps, one element of
the U.S. government that should not be subject to the demands of "open
government"; whenever it works, it is usually because it is done behind
—Paraphrasing Evgeny Morozov
Jan 23, 2010
Tyranny of the majority, or regulatory capture? Just be more agile.
Tocqueville, et al.: In a democracy, the greatest concern is that the
majority will tyrannize and exploit diverse smaller interests.
Narrow and well-organized
minorities are more likely to assert their interests over those of the
Neil Freeman: Just redistrict
the states after each census.
me: Can this idea be generalized? Minorities can be oppressed or
powerful; strive to so intertwine motivations that minorities are eliminated.
Track minority power and standard deviation of group size as a quality metric for
But maintain diversity. And
don't allow collusion
to foster bubbles.
 Credit: James
Fallows. Related comments: Hacker News
Dec 20, 2009
Books can be of any length — if they're mysteries
“People apparently only read mystery stories
of any length. With mysteries, the longer the better and people will read any
damn thing. But the indulgent, 800-page books like The Brothers
Karamazov or Moby-Dick of a hundred years ago are just not going
to be read anymore.”
McCarthy. Contrast Jeff Bezos.
Dec 16, 2009
“Better get busy”
“Frank Curiel Field in Curaçao looks like every small-town baseball
field you've ever seen. But it's filled with primal cues, a window through
which kids can see the ascending realms of heaven stacked above them in neat
levels. First comes making the league all-star team (one of those
guys). Then playing for Williamsport (those guys). Then just above that
is getting signed by a scout, playing in the major leagues (being one of
those guys). For a six-year old at this field, these aren't gauzy
dreams; they are tangible steps on a primal ladder of selection reflected in
the crackle of the radio, the clutter of the trophies, the glint of the
scout's sunglasses. It is sort of like standing in the Sistine Chapel. The
proof of paradise is right here: all you have to do is open your eyes.”
Coyle. Curaçao has been to six of the last eight semifinals
at the Little League World Series.
Dec 11, 2009
“Search is broken like browsers were broken in 2002.”
Asa Dotzler of Firefox doesn't like
Oct 4, 2009
Why it's ok to sell startups early
“Startups operate in a financial system that
is inefficient, illiquid, and challenging to manage. More transactions of any
kind or size help improve overall startup ecosystem health. Liquidity and
transparency serve to grow the market and reward founders more richly.”
McClure. A more detailed model from Fred
Sep 25, 2009
The Keynesian connection between unemployment and bubbles
“Keep interest rates low so that people spend
rather than hoarding—but only so long as there is involuntary unemployment.
When an economy no longer has involuntary unemployment, further efforts to
stimulate demand will merely cause inflation and asset bubbles.”
Posner paraphrasing John Maynard Keynesi.
See also Aaron Swartz.
Sep 24, 2009
Employment demand and supply
great insight was that jobs are not like other goods. The people who get
bought are also the people doing the buying. Reduced demand for jobs causes
people to cut back on expenses, spiralling into further job reductions where
other goods reduce prices to equilibrium.”
— Aaron Swartz paraphrased