Apr 2, 2010
Uptake happens fast — or not at all

Mike Speiser: 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.

Stephen O'Grady: 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.


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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, not easier.

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 social media.

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 closed doors.

Paraphrasing Evgeny Morozov


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Jan 23, 2010
Tyranny of the majority, or regulatory capture? Just be more agile.

Plato, de Tocqueville, et al.: In a democracy, the greatest concern is that the majority will tyrannize and exploit diverse smaller interests.

Mancur Olson: Narrow and well-organized minorities are more likely to assert their interests over those of the majority.

Neil Freeman: Just redistrict the states after each census.[1]

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 democracy.

But maintain diversity. And don't allow collusion to foster bubbles.

[1] Credit: James Fallows. Related comments: Hacker News


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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.”
Cormac McCarthy. Contrast Jeff Bezos.


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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.”
Daniel Coyle. Curaçao has been to six of the last eight semifinals at the Little League World Series.


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Dec 11, 2009
Search wars

Search is broken like browsers were broken in 2002.”
Asa Dotzler of Firefox doesn't like Google


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Dec 3, 2009
Sniper Business

via Scott Locklin


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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.”
Dave McClure. A more detailed model from Fred Wilson.


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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.”
Richard Posner paraphrasing John Maynard Keynesi. See also Aaron Swartz.


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Sep 24, 2009
Employment demand and supply

Keynes’s 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


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Making the big picture easy to see, in software and in society at large.
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