11 Dec

O’Reilly Radar – The end of social

Taking this a couple of steps further, the article points out that, to many people, Facebook’s "frictionless" sharing doesn’t enhance sharing; it makes sharing meaningless. Let’s go back to music: It is meaningful if I tell you that I really like the avant-garde music by Olivier Messiaen. It’s also meaningful to confess that I sometimes relax by listening to Pink Floyd. But if this kind of communication is replaced by a constant pipeline of what’s queued up in Spotify, it all becomes meaningless. There’s no "sharing" at all. Frictionless sharing isn’t better sharing; it’s the absence of sharing. There’s something about the friction, the need to work, the one-on-one contact, that makes the sharing real, not just some cyber phenomenon. If you want to tell me what you listen to, I care. But if it’s just a feed in some social application that’s constantly updated without your volition, why do I care? It’s just another form of spam, particularly if I’m also receiving thousands of updates every day from hundreds of other friends.

So, what we’re seeing isn’t the expansion of our social network; it’s the shrinking of what and who we care about. My Facebook feed is full of what friends are listening to, what friends are reading, etc. And frankly, I don’t give a damn. I would care if they told me personally; I’d even care if they used a medium as semi-personal as Twitter. The effort required to tweet tells me that someone thought it was important. And I do care about that. I will care much less if Spotify and Rdio integrate with Twitter. I already don’t care about the blizzard of automated tweets from FourSquare.

Automated sharing is giving Facebook a treasure-trove of data, regardless of whether anyone cares. And Facebook will certainly find ways to monetize that data. But the bigger question is whether, by making sharing the default, we are looking at the end of social networks altogether. If a song is shared on Facebook and nobody listens to it, does it make a sound?

via O’Reilly Radar – The end of social. Interesting point, and hard to argue against. The more we share the less value each piece of information has to the people (but not the systems) that we share to.

02 Aug

This American Life – When Patents Attack!

Why would a company rent an office in a tiny town in East Texas, put a nameplate on the door, and leave it completely empty for a year? The answer involves a controversial billionaire physicist in Seattle, a 40 pound cookbook, and a war waging right now, all across the software and tech industries.

via This American Life – When Patents Attack!. Not upset enough about patents, spend an hour and you’ll get even more upset.

01 Aug

The Economist – Intellectual property: Patents against prosperity

At a time when our future affluence depends so heavily on innovation, we have drifted toward a patent regime that not only fails to fulfil its justifying function, to incentivise innovation, but actively impedes innovation. We rarely directly confront the effects of this immense waste of resources and brainpower and the attendant retardation of the pace of discovery, but it affect us all the same. It makes us all poorer and helps keep us stuck in the great stagnation.

via The Economist – Intellectual property: Patents against prosperity. Yet another in a long line of articles decrying the patent system.

28 Jun

Grist – The American suburbs are a giant Ponzi scheme

What we have found is that the underlying financing mechanisms of the suburban era — our post-World War II pattern of development — operates like a classic Ponzi scheme, with ever-increasing rates of growth necessary to sustain long-term liabilities.

via Grist – The American suburbs are a giant Ponzi scheme. I can’t say I agree with this, but it fits my perception of America’s infrastructure.

28 Apr

Overthinking It – Overthinking Star Wars: The Economics of Death Star Planet Destruction

What’s the economic calculus behind the Empire’s tactic of A) building a Death Star, B) intimidating planets into submission with the threat of destruction, and C) actually carrying through with said destruction if the planet doesn’t comply?

via Overthinking It – Overthinking Star Wars: The Economics of Death Star Planet Destruction. Not only is this article fun, but it’s interesting.

09 Apr

NYTimes.com – “Serious”

James Fallows has a very good take on this; my version would be this: I don’t think a budget plan is “serious” unless it has numbers that remotely add up, says something specific about how it will cut spending and/or raise revenue, and puts forward proposals that have at least some chance of actually going into effect.

So, we have a plan that proposes to cut spending to Calving Coolidge levels, without explaining how it will do that; that includes $2.9 trillion in tax cuts, but asserts that it will make that up by broadening the base — yet says literally nothing about what that means; and has as its centerpiece a Medicare plan that will collapse as soon as seniors start getting their grossly inadequate vouchers.

There’s nothing serious about this plan. And the way our pundit class swooned over this fantasy document suggests that all those people lecturing the American people about our unwillingness to face up to reality and make hard choices should spend some time looking in the mirror.

via NYTimes.com – “Serious”. Serious is making stuff up apparently.

07 Apr

NYTimes.com – Ludicrous and Cruel

In short, this plan isn’t remotely serious; on the contrary, it’s ludicrous.

And it’s also cruel.

In the past, Mr. Ryan has talked a good game about taking care of those in need. But as the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities points out, of the $4 trillion in spending cuts he proposes over the next decade, two-thirds involve cutting programs that mainly serve low-income Americans. And by repealing last year’s health reform, without any replacement, the plan would also deprive an estimated 34 million nonelderly Americans of health insurance.

So the pundits who praised this proposal when it was released were punked. The G.O.P. budget plan isn’t a good-faith effort to put America’s fiscal house in order; it’s voodoo economics, with an extra dose of fantasy, and a large helping of mean-spiritedness.

via NYTimes.com – Ludicrous and Cruel. I love that term voodoo economics, but in this case it seems to fit so well when you try to understand some of the ridiculous assumptions made.

06 Apr

ThinkProgress – Bristol Palin’s Nonprofit Paid Her Seven Times What It Spent On Actual Teen Pregnancy Prevention

In 2009, Sarah Palin’s daughter Bristol joined a teen pregnancy prevention nonprofit called the Candie’s Foundation. Today, the Associated Press reported that the Candie’s Foundation released its 2009 tax information, revealing that Bristol was paid a salary of $262,500.

But a closer examination of the tax form by ThinkProgress shows that the group disbursed only $35,000 in grants to actual teen pregnancy health and counseling clinics: $25,000 to the Mt. Sinai Adolescent Health Center and $10,000 to the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy.

via ThinkProgress – Bristol Palin’s Nonprofit Paid Her Seven Times What It Spent On Actual Teen Pregnancy Prevention. Apparently it’s totally justifiable to spend most of your money on advertising and salary (a salary which only 1.50% of all Americans make that or better) for a non-profit and basically nothing on your non-profits actual mission.

06 Mar

NYTimes.com – White House Issues Report on Women in America

Women have higher graduation rates than men at all academic levels and by 2019 they are projected to account for 60 percent of all American undergraduates. In 2009, they accounted for more than half of all people employed in management and professional occupations.

But at all levels of education, women still earn only 75 percent of what men earn.

Those are among the nuggets contained in a new statistical compendium, Women in America, released on Tuesday by the White House. Obama administration officials say it is the first comprehensive look at the status of women in America since the Kennedy administration released a similar report in 1963.

via NYTimes.com – White House Issues Report on Women in America. And you wonder if feminism is still needed or if women are treated equally?

27 Feb

NYTimes.com – Texas, Budget Cuts and Children

The really striking thing about all this isn’t the cruelty — at this point you expect that — but the shortsightedness. What’s supposed to happen when today’s neglected children become tomorrow’s work force?

Anyway, the next time some self-proclaimed deficit hawk tells you how much he worries about the debt we’re leaving our children, remember what’s happening in Texas, a state whose slogan right now might as well be “Lose the future.”

via NYTimes.com – Texas, Budget Cuts and Children. Who cares about ensuring the health and education of children, not Texas.