Sharecroppers Have it Better

Seth Finkelstein’s latest column for the Guardian examines Jimbo Wales’ efforts to expand his empire outside Wikipedia:

In general, we are poorly served by slogans such as the “wisdom of crowds”, which often stand for nothing beyond finding a few popular selections by various types of polling. It may work well for entertainment sites, and business owners are enthused at how consumers can be led to volunteer to undertake part of the process of determining what to sell to a target market. But the idea that these simple systems can be applied to deep value-laden social problems, of politics, or even relevant search results, is like trying to use a hammer to turn screws on the basis that it works so well to hit nails.

He uses the “digital sharecropper” image to describe Wikipedia contributors. Actually, sharecroppers do make some money from their work, so Wikipedia contributors are more like slaves. But given the voluntary nature of their participation, “slaves” overstates the inferiority of their status relative to Wiki overlords Wales et. al. Perhaps “brainwashed cult members” works best.

See Seth’s blog for more.

And for related news, see this Valleywag story about Wikipedia’s number two and his defense of pedophilia. Not kidding, boys and girls, it’s for real.

Your Daily Neut

If I were a dedicated blogger, I’d have a lot to write about today.

The Markey hearing yesterday featured an extremely bizarre reminiscence by the Chairman on the good old days when he championed the fight against the black rotary dial telephone. Unfortunately, that was 30 years ago and Markey hasn’t found a good fight since then, hence the dearth of sponsors for his silly Internet regulation bill.

Google and Comcast are in bed together, with both ponying up serious money to build a nation-wide WiMax network friendly to Google’s advertising.

And Comcast confirms they’re thinking about some usage-sensitive pricing that will at last penalize bandwidth hogs on their network. This is the plan that the big regulators have asked broadband carriers to consider, so be careful what you wish for.

Sen. Ron Wyden (D, Google) is threatening ISPs with loss of safe harbor if they don’t bend to the will of his sponsor. Don’t make too much of this, as it’s an Ars Technica story by a very biased reporter.

MAP and AT&T are holding a series of policy forums on net neutrality in Silicon Valley, where nobody cares about politics but the ladies. This should be interesting.

One conclusion we can draw from this sudden outburst of net neutrality stories: 2008 is an election year, and we’re at the phase where all the fringe causes are trotted out for their focus group effects to be measured. Net neutrality is being sized up for traction relative to corn-based ethanol, among other things.

Non-merger Fallout

According to the Merc:

Yahoo faced a shareholders’ rebellion Monday as the stock market punished the pioneering Internet company for its weekend rejection of Microsoft’s $47.5 billion bid.

I’m thinking about buying some Yahoo! stock just to vote against Jerry Yang. It looks to me like the dude screwed his shareholders to hang onto his job. What exactly does Yahoo! do that everybody else in the world doesn’t do better?

Wodehouse Takes London

I wonder how many Americans get this reference:

Boris Johnson last night notched up the Tories’ greatest electoral success since John Major’s surprise victory in the 1992 general election when he unseated Ken Livingstone as mayor of London.

Ecstatic Conservatives cheered at London’s City Hall, at the end of a count lasting more than 15 hours, as the man who had been dismissed as the Bertie Wooster of British politics took charge of one of the biggest political offices in Britain.

Hint: the Bertie Wooster of American politics is someone named Bush. Boris has a colorful personal and political history, and won because his incumbent opponent broke London’s transportation system with “bendy-buses” and an excessive congestion tax, and had no support from his party on account of being a Marxist and all (they call him “Red Ken”.) Boris had a snappy campaign slogan: “Voting Tory will cause your wife to have bigger breasts and increase your chances of owning a BMW M3.”

BBC sees him as a Gussie Fink-Nottle rather than a Bertie Wooster, but I take the Guardian’s analysis as more correct. They’re obviously referring to the Market Snodsbury Grammar School awards day speech, but that was actually out of character for the newt-fancier.

Now who says politics is boring?

Markey’s Hearing Looms

Not to be outdone by the Senate or the FCC, good ole chairman Markey of the House Telecom Subcommittee is holding a hearing on his personal favorite piece of Internet regulation this Tuesday:

The House Telecommunications & Internet Subcommittee will hold a hearing May 6 on the Internet Freedom Preservation Act (HR 5353), which could put some more teeth in the Federal Communications Commission’s guidelines on network nondiscrimination, the issue that prompted the network-neutrality and, more recently, network-management debates.

The bill was introduced by Subcommittee chairman Ed Markey (D-Mass.) in February in the wake of various complaints against cable operators and telephone companies for their network-management practices. The result has been more hearings, on the Hill and at the FCC, on an issue that dominated telecommunications debate in the last Congress.

Markey will hear testimony from some of the good guys and from the other people, so it should be a riot.
More on this later.

Using what Comcast gives you

See George Ou’s new blog for the scoop on seeding Torrents from Comcast without running into Reset problems. George shows how to combine the traditional Torrent with a bit of Comcast web space to avoid running afoul of Comcast’s network management, and more importantly, without screwing over your neighbors:

As many of you reading this blog probably already know, Comcast has been disconnecting a certain percentage of TCP streams emanating from BitTorrent and other P2P (peer-to-peer) seeders. This effectively delays and degrades the ability of Comcast customers to seed files using P2P applications. For normal healthy Torrents that are distributed across multiple users and multiple ISPs, losing a few seeders intermittently isn’t too noticeable. But for rare Torrents or Torrents that have to originate from a Comcast broadband customer, this can pose some challenges. The rare Torrent becomes even less reliable than they already are while popular Torrents originating from Comcast’s broadband network take much longer to become healthy.

It’s all worked out and very thorough.