Steve Jobs is posing

People, come on. When Steve Jobs says stuff like this:

The third alternative is to abolish DRMs entirely. Imagine a world where every online store sells DRM-free music encoded in open licensable formats. In such a world, any player can play music purchased from any store, and any store can sell music which is playable on all players. This is clearly the best alternative for consumers, and Apple would embrace it in a heartbeat. If the big four music companies would license Apple their music without the requirement that it be protected with a DRM, we would switch to selling only DRM-free music on our iTunes store. Every iPod ever made will play this DRM-free music.

he’s got his eye on your wallet. Google gets a free pass for putting Chinese dissidents in prison because they say “don’t be evil, wink wink.” Jobs sees how well the Good Guy thing works for them and he wants some of that action for Apple.

Watch what they do, not at what they say. Google is wrecking the Internet by piling on more regulation, and Jobs is running a music store, nothing more and nothing less.

Prof. Fast Eddie Felten, the voting machine hacker, nails it:

This is both a clever PR move and a proactive defense against European antitrust scrutiny. Mandatory licensing is a typical antitrust remedy in situations like this, so Apple wants to take licensing off the table as an option. Most of all, Apple wants to deflect the blame for the current situation onto the record companies. Steve Jobs is a genius at this sort of thing, and it looks like he will succeed again.

Pay attention to the man behind the curtain.

Doc Searls is a real man

Regarding my post on the attacks on Phil Kerpen’s Forbes article on net neutrality, Doc Searls does the right thing:

He’s right.

In an email yesterday, a friend complimented the post Richard corrected. Here’s what I wrote back: Look at it again. I’ve changed it a bit to make the logic work better. But I did it in a hurry. Not sure I didn’t lose something. Well, the problem wasn’t what I lost, but what I didn’t find in the first place, because I didn’t take the time look deep enough.

Blogging isn’t the main thing I do. It’s a side thing. I purposely spend as little time with it as I can, while still doing it. In this respect it isn’t journalism. Yet I’m still “supposed to be a journalist”.

That’s right too.

So there’s a corollary to “live and learn”. The longer you live, the more you re-learn.

That’s a hugely impressive and generous reaction and I admire Doc for being man enough to write it.

On the other side of the table, Mike Maslick and Broadband Karl refuse to cop to rash analysis. That tells me a lot. If there were more people in the world like Doc, we’d come to a happy resolution on hard issues like net neutrality a lot sooner. And you know what? That’s another thing that the Deloitte and Touche Telecom Report says, and the larger point of Doc’s post.

The hugely partisan, emotional debate over net neutrality that’s mostly about name-calling (Telco shill! Google bitch!) and fear-mongering isn’t helping anybody.

Let’s all take a step back, cool off, and look for common ground.

When Neuts Attack, Part n

Advocates of network neutrality are busily spreading a colorful story today. It begins with a piece in Forbes by Phil Kerpen of the Heartland Institute about the effects of threatened network neutrality legislation on investment in the Internet’s infrastructure. Kerpen discusses a study of telecom trends by Deloitte & Touche to the effect that the uncertain regulatory climate is bad for investment, and without new infrastructure the Internet will soon be in trouble.

For this, Kerpen is attacked by Paul Kapustka and Om Malik at GigaOm as a lying shill of the telcos:

Since Kerpen doesn’t actually link to the study, we are left to wonder what his conclusions are based on. It looks like DT doesn’t even believe there’s a problem, since another research paper there3 predicts that “unrelenting progress in processing power, network bandwidth and storage capacity” will let electronic games proliferate. What you’re seeing in Kerpen’s missive is another offering from the “telco chorus,” a group of bloviators who are paid either by conservative advocacy operations (like Kerpen’s Americans for Prosperity), or by groups indirectly supported by telco contributions.

Broadband Reports fires up this smokescreen:

Who’s to blame for this proclaimed bandwidth apocalypse? Network neutrality advocates, who are scaring off capacity investment, according to Phil Kerpen of Americans For Prosperity. Deloitte & Touche’s actual capacity prediction can be found here, but they make no mention of network neutrality law fears as the primary reason for the crunch — instead stating companies aren’t increasing capacity “because consumers will be unwilling to pay increased costs.”

Mike Maslick at Techdirt adds his own twist to Broadband Report’s fantasies:

It’s based on a Deloitte & Touche report, claiming that there hasn’t been enough backbone buildout to handle the growth in traffic — and the writer somehow connects this to network neutrality by saying it’s because of fear over network neutrality rules that the buildout isn’t happening. There’s just one problem, as Broadband Reports points out, the D&T report doesn’t mention network neutrality at all, and there’s no evidence to suggest that network neutrality has anything to do with backbone buildout.

The problem with these vicious and personal attacks (beside their evident rudeness) is that they’re completely off-base. The D & T Telecoms Predictions 2007 report has a whole section on network neutrality, ending with this remark:

Those who oppose creating [net neutrality] mandates argue that their business models are being undermined by Internet companies offering bandwidth-hungry services such as video and audio-streaming, heavily networked online games, video-based chat and peer-to-peer downloads. Many ISPs and telecommunications companies would like to start charging content companies, and others, a fee to provide access to their services. There are two primary reasons for this. The first is that ISPs and telecommunications carriers are seeing revenues stagnate. As penetration growth slows, competition drives down prices and rapidly rising Internet use among existing customers erodes margins. The second is that some of the largest Internet companies are enjoying bumper revenue growth and increasing profitability, and carriers would like to use their position in the value chain to participate in this growth.

Internet usage and traffic are both growing rapidly. There is an increasingly urgent need for new revenues that could fund expansion of the infrastructure on which the Internet runs. For example, on several key intercontinental routes, such as that between Asia and Europe, backbone capacity has grown slower than usage (see Figure 1), and may increasingly struggle to keep pace with demand. Similarly, ISPs and carriers may have to invest in higher capacity infrastructure to continue to be able to provide genuine broadband speeds to consumers and business users.

Balancing the two sides of [the network neutrality] debate is likely to remain challenging. Both sides have merit; both have their flaws. Clearly, something has to change in the economics of Internet access such that network operators and ISPs can continue to invest in new infrastructure and maintain service quality, and consumers can continue to enjoy the Internet as they know it today. (page 7, section titled The Network Neutrality Debate Needs Resolution.)

So whether you agree with Kerpen or not, it’s clear that his article is true to the Deloitte and Touche report’s summary of the issues, and the attacks by Kaputska, Malik, Broadband Reports, and Maslick are as wildly off base as they are vicious and personal.

UPDATE: Doc Searls jumps on the bandwagon right behind Broadband Report’s pseudonymous Karl:

As Karl notes at Broadband Reports, Deloitte & Touche’s actual capacity prediction can be found here, but they make no mention of network neutrality law fears as the primary reason for the crunch — instead stating companies aren’t increasing capacity “because consumers will be unwilling to pay increased costs.”

Like Karl, Doc didn’t bother reading the D & T report, he read a summary in a news article and drew wildly wrong conclusions from it. The bottom line here is simple: before calling somebody a liar, check your facts. Karl, Doc Searls, Mike Maslick, Paul Kapustka, and Om Malik couldn’t be bothered with that in this case, and they’re all supposed to be journalists.

UPDATE 2: See this post on the fallout from my criticism of Karl, et. al. Doc Searls posted an impressive retraction.

The Symmetry non-issue rears its head again

The Washington Post has been mislead into making some silly remarks about Internet symmetry:

The information superhighway isn’t truly equal in both directions. Cable and phone companies typically sell asymmetrical Internet services to households, reserving the bulk of the lanes for downloading movies and other files and leaving the shoulders at most for people to share, or upload, files with others.

The imbalance makes less sense as the Internet becomes truly interactive. Users are increasingly becoming contributors and not just consumers, sharing photos, video and in Glatfelter’s case, podcasts. In a nod to the trend of user-generated content, Time magazine recently named “You” _ everyone who has contributed _ as its Person of the Year.


DSL has limited bandwidth, so one has to choose how much to dedicate to upload and how much go download. Given that the normal distribution of download to upload is around 100:1, it’s already more symmetrical than it needs to be in the typical home user case. Cable access – DOCSIS – is always going to be extremely asymmetrical because of the contention problem on a shared cable, not because of any imaginary confinement to bands below channel 2. What is that dude smoking?

The uber-neuts have been complaining about this for years, which is why I wrote a blog post on Symmetry, Control, and Progress in 2003. The bottom line is that the typical human doesn’t have the skills or the inclination to manage a web server in his home, so the upload thing for voluminous content will always be done by specialist sites like You Tube. If the upload is slow, that’s fine because you don’t have to babysit it.

So symmetry is a non-problem, always has been and always will be.

H/T Tech Lib

Ten years of political blogging

Ten years ago today, I started a web site for the Coalition of Parent Support’s Silicon Valley Chapter, called Silicon Valley News. I update the site several times a week, putting the latest entry on top and bumping the other down. It was a proto-blog, although nobody knew it at the time, the oldest in existence. You can see what it looked like in 1996 through the Wayback Machine, if it’s working.

COPS is still in existence, fighting for justice for fathers in Family Court. Things are no better than they were in 1996, but they aren’t any worse so perhaps that’s victory of a small sort.

Baiting the blogosphere

Declan McCullagh is Cnet’s chief political correspondent and an ardent champion of civil liberties, EFF-style*. He runs the Politech e-mail list, a place where such stories as the Little Red Book hoax are given wide currency and writes a column on civil liberties for Cnet, which most recently consists of a hysterical misconstruction of the telephone harassment provision added to the Violence Against Women Act. I’m no fan of VAWA, which is mainly a barrel of pork to fund “feminist” advocacy groups and has very little to do with reducing violence, but McCullough’s interpretation of the harassment law is completely ridiculous:

It’s no joke. Last Thursday, President Bush signed into law a prohibition on posting annoying Web messages or sending annoying e-mail messages without disclosing your true identity.

In other words, it’s OK to flame someone on a mailing list or in a blog as long as you do it under your real name. Thank Congress for small favors, I guess.

This ridiculous prohibition, which would likely imperil much of Usenet, is buried in the so-called Violence Against Women and Department of Justice Reauthorization Act. Criminal penalties include stiff fines and two years in prison.

Well actually, it is a joke, as Cal Lanier explains:

Jeff Jarvis and others are upset about a story declaring that President Bush made it a crime to write annoying comments on the internet. But perhaps the ranters didn’t read the source material.

Section 113 of the Violence Against Women Act adds a parameter to the telephone harassment law’s definition of “telecommunications device”: include any device or software that can be used to originate telecommunications or other types of communications.

The definition already excludes “an interactive computer service”, defined as any information service, system, or access software provider, which should eliminate Internet postings from consideration, unless I’m missing something.

Here’s the important part of the new definition: includes any device or software that can be used to originate telecommunications .

If that doesn’t ring a bell, you probably aren’t familiar with the battle to define VOIP (voice over internet protocol). The previous law assumed that all phone calls would be made via a “telecommunications service” using a “telecommunications device”. The FCC has consistently found that VOIP is an unregulated “information service”, thus exempting it from all sorts of fees and services. A VOIP call may be functionally indistinguishable from a landline or cell phone call. Legally, though, it’s not a telecommunications service and doesn’t require the use of a telecommunications device. Adding the new text to the definition removes a potential loophole and ensures that VOIP calls will be treated just as any other telephone call.

and Orin Kerr concurs:

This is just the perfect blogosphere story, isn’t it? It combines threats to bloggers with government incompetence and Big Brother, all wrapped up and tied togther with a little bow. Unsurprisingly, a lot of bloggers are taking the bait.

Skeptical readers will be shocked, shocked to know that the truth is quite different. First, a little background. The new law amends 47 U.S.C. 223, the telecommunications harassment statute that goes back to the Communications Act of 1934. For a long time, Section 223 has had a provision prohibiting anonymous harassing speech using a telephone. 47 U.S.C. 223(a)(1)(C) states that

[whoever] makes a telephone call or utilizes a telecommunications device, whether or not conversation or communication ensues, without disclosing his identity and with intent to annoy, abuse, threaten, or harass any person at the called number or who receives the communications . . . shall be [punished].

Seems pretty broad, doesn’t it? Well, there’s a hook. It turns out that the statute can only be used when prohibiting the speech would not violate the First Amendment. If speech is protected by the First Amendment, the statute is unconstitutional as applied and the indictment must be dismissed.

This isn’t the first time McCullough has gone over the deep end on a story like this, and not the first time that bloggers have fallen for it, esp. those who suffer from Bush Derangement Syndrome.

Silly bloggers.

*The EFF is an ersatz civil liberties organization that’s more concerned with virtual rights than real ones. They’re more worried about the fact that the Patriot Act enables the Justice Department to look at your library records, which they don’t actually do, than with the fact that Title IV-D of the Social Security Act enables child support agencies to data-mine bank accounts and utility records, which they do, and to imprison debtors without right to counsel, even innocent ones, as they also do. I have very little respect for rights groups who think it’s more important to collect child support than to defeat Al Qaeda; crazy, I know.

Web 2.0: old Kool-Aid in new bottles

How silly is the thinking behind the Web 2.0 movement? Try We Are the Web by Wellbert Kevin Kelly:

There is only one time in the history of each planet when its inhabitants first wire up its innumerable parts to make one large Machine. Later that Machine may run faster, but there is only one time when it is born.

You and I are alive at this moment.

We should marvel, but people alive at such times usually don’t. Every few centuries, the steady march of change meets a discontinuity, and history hinges on that moment. We look back on those pivotal eras and wonder what it would have been like to be alive then. Confucius, Zoroaster, Buddha, and the latter Jewish patriarchs lived in the same historical era, an inflection point known as the axial age of religion. Few world religions were born after this time. Similarly, the great personalities converging upon the American Revolution and the geniuses who commingled during the invention of modern science in the 17th century mark additional axial phases in the short history of our civilization.

Three thousand years from now, when keen minds review the past, I believe that our ancient time, here at the cusp of the third millennium, will be seen as another such era. In the years roughly coincidental with the Netscape IPO, humans began animating inert objects with tiny slivers of intelligence, connecting them into a global field, and linking their own minds into a single thing. This will be recognized as the largest, most complex, and most surprising event on the planet. Weaving nerves out of glass and radio waves, our species began wiring up all regions, all processes, all facts and notions into a grand network. From this embryonic neural net was born a collaborative interface for our civilization, a sensing, cognitive device with power that exceeded any previous invention. The Machine provided a new way of thinking (perfect search, total recall) and a new mind for an old species. It was the Beginning.

In retrospect, the Netscape IPO was a puny rocket to herald such a moment. The product and the company quickly withered into irrelevance, and the excessive exuberance of its IPO was downright tame compared with the dotcoms that followed. First moments are often like that. After the hysteria has died down, after the millions of dollars have been gained and lost, after the strands of mind, once achingly isolated, have started to come together – the only thing we can say is: Our Machine is born. It’s on.

Presumably, he speaks from experience about the wiring of all those other planets, having visited them while toking hash.

Nicholas Carr didn’t drink the Kool-Aid (or smoke the hash). See The Amorality of Web 2.0:

The promoters of Web 2.0 venerate the amateur and distrust the professional. We see it in their unalloyed praise of Wikipedia, and we see it in their worship of open-source software and myriad other examples of democratic creativity. Perhaps nowhere, though, is their love of amateurism so apparent as in their promotion of blogging as an alternative to what they call “the mainstream media.” Here’s O’Reilly: “While mainstream media may see individual blogs as competitors, what is really unnerving is that the competition is with the blogosphere as a whole. This is not just a competition between sites, but a competition between business models. The world of Web 2.0 is also the world of what Dan Gillmor calls ‘we, the media,’ a world in which ‘the former audience,’ not a few people in a back room, decides what’s important.”

I’m all for blogs and blogging. (I’m writing this, ain’t I?) But I’m not blind to the limitations and the flaws of the blogosphere – its superficiality, its emphasis on opinion over reporting, its echolalia, its tendency to reinforce rather than challenge ideological extremism and segregation. Now, all the same criticisms can (and should) be hurled at segments of the mainstream media. And yet, at its best, the mainstream media is able to do things that are different from – and, yes, more important than – what bloggers can do. Those despised “people in a back room” can fund in-depth reporting and research. They can underwrite projects that can take months or years to reach fruition – or that may fail altogether. They can hire and pay talented people who would not be able to survive as sole proprietors on the Internet. They can employ editors and proofreaders and other unsung protectors of quality work. They can place, with equal weight, opposing ideologies on the same page. Forced to choose between reading blogs and subscribing to, say, the New York Times, the Financial Times, the Atlantic, and the Economist, I will choose the latter. I will take the professionals over the amateurs.

But I don’t want to be forced to make that choice.

Carr has already got the 2-fers hoppin’ mad, of course.

h/t Jeff Jarvis, who’s very upset with Mr. Carr:

So Carr is really saying two things: He is saying that the professionals are better than the amateurs because they are paid. I don’t buy that. And he distrusts the amateurs, which is saying that he distrusts the public those professionals supposedly serve. Which is to say that he distrusts us. Well, distrust begets distrust. So the feeling is mutual.

It’s quite simple, really: It’s all about supply and demand. When distribution was scare and made content scarce, it promoted the creation of a professional media class. Now that neither is scarce, the economics are changed. The market is free. Lots of content is free. There is more content. I believe that there is thus more good content. So media must rethink their business models, their value, their relationships to the marketplace. And I believe that is good. Carr believes disruption is amoral. I believe stagnation is unnatural.

There is at least one good thing about Web 2.0: it’s taking part of Jeff’s mind off Howard Stern, at least for a while.

I have a somewhat cynical view of all this: the people I see beating the drum for Web 2.0 are exploiting it economically; Tim O’Reilly chiefly. This guy always manages to turn a handsome profit bashing capitalism, and more power to him for that:

More immediately, Web 2.0 is the era when people have come to realize that it’s not the software that enables the web that matters so much as the services that are delivered over the web. Web 1.0 was the era when people could think that Netscape (a software company) was the contender for the computer industry crown; Web 2.0 is the era when people are recognizing that leadership in the computer industry has passed from traditional software companies to a new kind of internet service company. The net has replaced the PC as the platform that matters, just as the PC replaced the mainframe and minicomputer.

But that doesn’t mean we have to buy the largely fanciful vision he uses to con his customers out of their lunch money.

More to come after we’ve read O’Reilly’s essay on his current meme, What is Web 2.0?