Tragedy of the NotCommons

https://www.pexels.com/@akos-szabo-145938

A blog tag to an article I did not read set me to thinking today. Read on if you think that the Net today is fraught with societal risk.

I have been using the WWW, Internet, since a couple of years after its start as ARPANET and MilNet for email and data transmission. Following it through the years I saw the slow exploration then the exuberant exploitation through the 80’s and 90’s even the 0ughts.

One of the things I had a hard time understanding was the effervescent froth about how this was freedom and that governments could never control it. When governments where the entity that installed it and ran it in many places. There are arguments in support of a weakish case for net freedom but for the masses it is not and will never be a truly open commons.

A big part of this is because of the way most people interface with the Net. They use it like they use a car, get in and drive, many times not knowing a thing about internal combustion engines, transmissions, etc. They are not technically savvy people, but then even people like me, an engineer, thirty plus year user of the Net, do not understand the ‘stacks’ on ‘stacks’ that are the interwoven hardware, firmware, protocols and software that makes the Net hum.

In the early days the Net was about Protocols, eMail and Hyperlink were two critical protocols that enabled communication and the creation of documents (Still, though they are called, Blogs, or Sites) that could be read out of sequence and include incredible depths of information that were simply impossible with a book or the like.

This early Net was dynamic and boisterous but largely a land of technical folks, academics, geeks and nerds. It was a natural environment for them in a way only the still evolving desktop computer had been until then.

After a while businesses started to move in and the media started to look at this as a way of distributing their content without the cost and logistic drag of newsprint, TV stations or even radio. Of course what most did not see coming was that the net would make their old advertiser supported business model very difficult to support over the long term while giving new Platforms (AOL and their ilk, now TWITTER, FACEBOOK etc) a leg up as essentially the new middle man between the consumer and ‘the content.’

But even at the start with AOL et al, some philosopher technical types pointed out that these Platforms ,while they gave Joe User an easy path to the internet, put a barrier between the user and the broader Net. Some like me never went down the platform path because we wanted the depth of the Net in the raw as it were but we pay the penalty of having to work harder to get things that Platform users get for free.

Twenty years on Facebook and Twitter have paved over the Net to a very significant degree. They started as just social networks with different focuses. But they have become the principle distributor of news and opinion. They have sucked up adjacent Net onramps in their fight to gain share and suppress competition. Now they lust after your data so they can sell it to the highest bidder, while using it, somewhat unintentionally to wrap the users in ever thicker cocoons of confirmation bias. They have also strangled the legacy media in its bed by stripping away the advertiser revenue.

Why?

I see 3 main reasons, ease of use, addictive content and the network affect. Ease of Use: You might argue that some of them are not that easy today but in the beginning essentially each of them was drop dead simple, so simple a tweener cheerleader could use it in ten seconds or less. Addictive Content: Most of these tools make something you want to do easy and provide reinforcing feedback, if your tweet goes viral to a 1000 people, woohooo! If your facebook post gets a like from a dozen friends, charge UP! This is addiction. Network affect: Simply stated, a network of 10 people has 100 interconnects, 100 people have 10,000 interconnects, the more people on a platform the more valuable it is to the user as well as the owner. Since you have limited time in your life, you cannot copy identical on multiple platforms going along. Then the platforms will make it hard for you to migrate from them with your list of friends, follows, photos, blogs, whatever.

So?

The title of the article I mentioned at the start said something about Protocols vs Platforms and this was one of those epiphany things you hear about. AHA!

Platforms are largely just Net hubs and they hate open protocols because it will reduce them to pipes and strip away their ability to siphon off value from the users, both consumer and creator.

Facebook or Twitter are just Protocols of Protocols with a software wrapper. Their core are proprietary protocols & software, not open protocols so that competition is impossible. The network affect and the users addiction to the particular flavor of Platform makes changing essentially impossible.

But if the Platforms are required to open their protocols and enable users to migrate their core identity the monopoly would be broken without destroying the user side value. One could even see an anti monopoly order that required some kind of Baby Twitter / Baby Facebook disaggregation that requires the ‘Babies’ interlink and compete.

This seems relatively clear cut process . It would provide the users with competition for their core value that is simply not there today. And while it will hurt the stockholders (who are earning monopolist profits today) it does not strip their assets while providing the opportunity to earn significant returns going forward.

The NonCommons of today, the Platforms, are a tragedy for the users in that their value is stripped without much recompense beyond ease of use. If we go back to the roots of the Net, open protocols, and user value, we have a chance to build back better….and make the Net great again.

Ignorance is Bliss?

Maybe
But only if your ignorance is buttressed by a life untroubled by interaction with the greater world, and the outside world is untroubled by interaction with you. 

Ignorance is not about technology or science (or it can be but usually is not,) it’s about the willingness to see things as they are not as you wish them to be, the strength to change your mind when the evidence shows that some alternative is superior, the arrogance to ignore the milling masses if need be and the humility to listen to the quiet voice of reason.

Some comments from some folks who understood …
“Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.”
― Aldous Huxley, Complete Essays 2, 1926-29
“There is nothing more frightful than ignorance in action.”
― Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Collected Works
 “Man will occasionally stumble over the truth, but usually manages to pick himself up, walk over or around it, and carry on.”
― Benjamin Franklin
“Beware the man of a single book.”
― St. Thomas Aquinas
“Confidence is ignorance. If you’re feeling cocky, it’s because there’s something you don’t know.”
― Eoin Colfer, Artemis Fowl

So now I become a product shill for Logitech

I used to use MS mice and keyboards but have found over the years that they can be a bit iffy regarding quality, they always look nice but after a few weeks they either quit working or seem to require unplugging/replugging (rebooting) every few days or hours and then quit working altogether.  I also found that the early big wireless USB keys were annoying to damaging.  Then I found Logitechs ittle bitty USB keys, at first one per device but now they have a unifying key that works with up to six devices per ea, now every computer I own has one of the keys and one, two or three devices connected.  They just work and the software for managing the devices and the key system is simple intuitive and again just works.

I just bought my second set of wireless mice + Keyboards this evening, an M525 mouse I got for 24.99 and a K360 (compact) keyboard (29.99) to connect to my old ThinkPad T42 that I have just dual monitor connected to my big DELL 24 in monitor sharing it with my DELL psuedoUltrabook from work.  My work setup has a M515 mouse on a unifying key and they don’t bother each other a bit.

By the by, Dells are inexpensive but solid, easily managed machines for the working drudges in the world (like I me when thinking for a buck) but I bought a Leonovo ThinkPad for myself and my writing habit.  While I did not go overboard on hard drive (and maybe should have) I did put in a big dollop of main memory and paid for the upgraded graphics.  Those splurges plus the inherent ruggedness of the ThinkPad have served me well.  I have typed many hundreds of thousands of words on the world class keyboard (the A key plastic is word down so its ridged and the graphic has worn off) but it still boots up faster than any of my Dells, XP is still rock stable and II still love the trackpoint mouse knub in the middle of the keyboard.  It’s lighter than most of my Dells up until the latest little devil and the 14 in conventional aspect screen is better for a writer than the movie slot screens that are so popular today.

So anyway, there you have it, Logitech rocks, Thinkpads rock, Dell has its place in the scheme of things.

Cheers out there

More Blue model Blue Growth

Saw an op-ed in the Indy Star that started out asking what Romney would say to a police group about explaining why we don’t need more police on the beat.

Juxtaposed with an article elsewhere pointing out that violent crime is at a 40 year low after a significant reduction for the last however many years and that even none violent crime is decreasing.  And this during a recession!

An argument can be made that this is because there are more police and more prison cells than ever before.  Or it could be because police patrolling practices with focus on trouble spots and keeping feet on the street are inherently more effective than the blanket patrol car and large precinct office staff model that preceded it.

However given that most police forces are unreconstructed and there are vast opportunities for more effective use of the people on hand, the need for more police is to me; at least unclear and possibly even preposterous.  As WRMead at ViaMeadia might say this is just more Blue model thinking, pressing for more Blue model growth.

Given that historically locking thugs up just opened niche for other predators to move in, it’s more likely that video games are absorbing a lot of youth time that used to be spent getting into trouble.  And its harder to make crime pay these days unless you have to be savvy, connected and have the gear to do it right or you get no payday.  And with the prevalence of violence in the criminal strata, it seems to me that the number of fools willing to take up the life has to be somewhat limited.

The biggest concern that I have is that a permanent criminal culture could develop, one that is all but self-sustaining, like the preceding and overlapping welfare culture.  This culture is so isolated from the larger american society that its members do not see themselves as having an interest in or path into the society at large because its alien and in some senses very cold and unfeeling.  In the criminal culture life may be ugly and short but it may also be very much focused on immediate gratification and the id of the young men who are its principal actors.

 

I Am Chrome Now

Have to admit that I have resisted Chrome though I loaded it up long ago along with Safari, which Apple forces on one when you have an iPad.  But today Explorer blew a gasket, I think because its really out of date and can’t handle the new IP address system.  I’m still on XP on this computer (heck I’d be on 2000 if I had my druthers.)

Anyway, I’m uploading my latest Novel to Smashwords and I’m waiting to see if I pass the great Meatgrinder approval check first try.

The future may be now

Private space flight becoming mainstream

Ability for a person of moderate means to buy tools to build almost anything

Quantum effects erase the speed of light barrier

Ability to design materials down to the atomic level

Personal communication between any two people anywhere on earth with minutes if not seconds

What of the above was not science fiction a decade ago…well maybe the last, but it was definitely sci fi twenty years ago.

We live in an age of wonders…we just don’t always appreciate it.