Saturday, April 25, 2009

Maureen Dowd. Twit? You Decide.

Maureen Dowd follows the litany of professional chattering class members thumbing their noses at Twitter.

In an oh-so-clever twist, she interviews Biz Stone and Evan Williams, creators of Twitter, in a format that allows for only 140 characters in the questions or answers. (She even used the same title as one of my blog posts on the same subject, which probably means I wasn't being clever enough.) It's one of her more insipid articles, second only in recent memory to the article asking whether Michelle Obama should stop showing off her biceps.

Why did you think the answer to e-mail was a new kind of e-mail?

Fritinancy gives an excellent sendup of Ms. Dowd's article, rewriting it was if Dowd was interviewing Alexander Graham Bell.

Why did you think the answer to telegrams was a noisy new telegram?

Read Maureen Dowd, then read Fritinancy. Too good.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Social Media: That's How We Roll...

I'm about to break the fourth wall, here. Something I specifically avoid most of the time on this blog, but this example is just too good not to document. Forgive me just this once, but I'm going to mention my day job.

I get home from work today, and I hit my RSS feeds in Google Reader. Most of these are typical subscriptions, but a few are Google-driven blog searches. The one that searches blog posts for mention of "The Henry Ford" (where I am the network engineer), strikes this post on Re*Move. The first line?
Joe and I have decamped this week quite a lot to the cafe in the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan, because the wifi's so much faster than the Dearborn Inn, where we've been staying.

Hehe. You're welcome fellas.

They go on to say:
Proving the power of Twitter to get people together, we tweeted we were here and yesterday were soon joined by Carrie Nolan, a PR manager from the museum, who came to say hi and tell us how things are going.

Check out their video interview with Carrie for details on the impromptu Tweet hookup. (Plus, of course, more over-the-top love for our WiFi.)

I just *love* having all of our hard work (on the network, on the public WiFi, and on all of our social media efforts) rewarded. Heaping piles of kudos on Carrie!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Make it Google Friendly

Martin Belam, Information Architect for the Guardian, UK, on the principles guiding the Guardian's online presence:
That URLs should be PERMANENT, that all content should be uniquely ADDRESSABLE, that multiple routes to content make everything DISCOVERABLE, and that everything should be as OPEN as possible.

Looks like he's promoting Jeff Jarvis' model of searchability, Search Engine Optimization, and making the site as easy to search, link, and share as possible.

This philosophy should guide all Internet Development, everywhere. Particularly for information rich sites like news organizations. These principles maximize your chances of landed on the coveted first page of search engine results.

Read the whole piece here.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Time for Tea...

I've been watching must of the post-game analysis on the nationwide Tea Parties this week, and I'm a little embarrassed for the Media. Someone has to be embarrassed for them, because they themselves are pretty shameless.

Red Eye had a nice send-up of CNN and MSNBC's adolescent humor:

CNN's Susan Roesgen went after protesters with the talking points memo in hand. I expect this crap from MSNBC, but CNN?

On the flipside over at Fox News, the network is quick to jump on the coattails of the movement, and all but take credit for it. Neil Cavuto hit the Sacramento Tea Party, and Sean Hannity decided to take his show to the Tea Party in Atlanta. Newt Gingrich joined him from the one in New York. The Republican party, starved for leadership and a message is trying to glom onto this movement. But RNC Chairman Michael Steele was allegedly rebuffed by the Chicago Tea Party organizers.

This attention from conservative media led some of the liberal (nay, mainstream) media to question the grass-roots nature of these protests. Nancy Pelosi went on to call it astroturfing. Of course, the further left you are, the less likely you are to comprehend spontaneous organization, and the more likely you are to see the need for a technocratic guiding hand behind every action people take. Hey, that's why you need a planned economy, right?

Many people of various conservative flavors have brought their own baggage with them, but the gist of the Tea Parties was a direct protest to out-of-control government spending and a planned economy. You'll notice in many of the pictures, that people are complaining of things like generational theft, hyperinflation, bailouts, the stimulus package, and public control over private companies. To think that these protesters are simply angry over their current tax burden is to mistake them greatly. They know that Obama has cut middle-class taxes. But they also know it's unsustainable, and their children and grandchildren will have to pay the bill for a government-directed economy mis-allocating resources trying re-inflate a bubble of false properity.

I have been watching this movement since it's start in February, before it was even called a Tea Party (that name came from Rick Santelli's now infamous CNBC rant). Back then it was just a gathering of folks opposed to the stimulus bill. Michelle Malkin has a wonderfully documented timeline of the phenomenon.

What I really want you to note is how out-of-touch the media is (on both sides). Nobody at CNN, Fox News, or MSNBC, can even properly characterize what the protests mean to the protesters and organizers. The Right grabs the coattails in search of an identity, while the Left just makes dick jokes.

These protests started with web-savvy citizens. Bloggers, and Twitterers. Google Maps mashups, and Facebook groups. Concerned citizens who now have the organizational tools and social networks available to them that didn't exist even 5 years ago. Media people who are dismissive of the Tea Parties have asked repeatedly "where were these people 8 years ago". For certain, many people were roused by the difference in magnitude of proposed government spending under Obama as compared to Bush (Frying pan. Fire). But the real answer isn't that they were silent because they liked the borrow-and-spend conservatism of George W. Bush. The answer is simply: They weren't on Facebook yet.

The organization of the Tea Parties was spread out, disorganized, messy, chaotic, and beautiful. It's a real display of spontaneous organization and distributed democracy.

Consider this for a moment: a quarter of a million Americans, without so much as a 503(c) organization like backing them (let alone, celebrities, mainstream traditional media, or a political party) pulled off simultaneous protests in 700 different cities with no confrontations with authorities, no arrests, and no destroyed property.

Do you really want to dismiss the magnitude of this event? Over a year ago, I wrote
The changes the Internet has wrought in our economy and our personal lives is about to come crashing over Washington D.C.

When someone talks about the sweeping changes that the Internet is going to bring to politics, they are usually talking about recent or near-term trends like Online voting, scandal scoops from the Blogosphere, or tapping into internet-based campaign contributions. These symptoms are certainly novel, but they are just that... symptoms. The real sea change is occurring in the populace now. We expect to have a voice, not just in the "strongly agree/somewhat disagree" opinion polls, but in shaping and driving opinion and dialogue[...]

Mark my words, it may not seem like it right now, but this is a milestone event in the transformation of American politics. Citizens are starting to realize that they have the power to direct the public discourse, and that traditional media is ignoring them, if not mocking them. This doesn't bode well for future of traditional media, or for the politicians who only know how to play the game with 20th century rules.

The Other McCain points out that David Axelrod's response to the Tea Parties hits the usual talking points: "Where were these protesters 8 years ago?". "But the President has cut taxes for 95% of Americans!". RSM's response is as concise as it could be:

What you, David Axelrod, don't understand is that those of us who support a growth-oriented economic policy aren't in favor of tax cuts on a "more-money-for-me" basis. It's not about who gets what, it's about increasing prosperity by expanding liberty.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Another Year Older... Another Year Wiser...

Sorry I haven't posted in a few days. This is traditionally a very busy time at my job, and I've got a few side projects that have been sucking up some time as well. When you live in Michigan in this economy, you never *ever* complain about having too much work...

Also, today is my 34th birthday, and I've been squeezing in some celebration time with friends and loved ones, making sure that these 34 years have been actual *living*, not just *surviving*.

I have not, as some have joked, "gone underground" due to the Department of Homeland Security report out this week that may consider my "Internet Chatter" in favor of free markets indicative of my right-wing extremism. :-) (Incidentally, DHS, I am pro-choice, pro gay marriage, pro open borders, and non-interventionist in foreign policy.)

I have many posts brewing for your reading pleasure, including:

* Reflections on Alexis de Tocqueville and Erich Fromm (!?!)

* A love-filled missive on why I think that the preservation of Individual Liberty is the highest duty of our government

* Why I just love a good Tea Party

* Thoughts on the future of the music industry, long-tail niche markets, and patronage

* More on newspapers, reputation systems, and the editorial role we all play for each other

But while I get cracking on those upcoming posts, I'll share Shelly Roche and Michelle Lee Muccio with you (okay, Rockwell, Schiff, and The Judge are in there too, but who am I kidding?):

Sunday, April 5, 2009

You Always Hurt The Ones You Love

I often write of the unintended consequences of government intervention in markets. Most of these unintended consequences stem from regulations (or selective de-regulation) that results in a government putting its thumb on the scales of the market, and distorting real prices. The general mechanism is as follows:

1) Price is determined in the market for a given good.

2) The price for this good is too high for some people to pay.

3) The government wishes these people to have that good as well, and creates a subsidy for these people to acquire the good.

4) The price of the good rises, because it is guaranteed a market based on the subsidy, establishing a new, higher, baseline price for the good.

4a) The more desirable the good, the more likely it is that the increase in price will match the increase in subsidy. Thus pricing more people out of the market for it, and creating more need for government subsidy.

5) Go to step 1.

---They Can Have Any Color They Want, So Long As It's Green---

Michael G. Franc tipped me off to March 30th's Dept. of Transportation press release:
U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood announced today that the Department of Transportation has posted the new fuel economy standards for cars and light trucks for the 2011 model year…

On January 26, 2009, President Barack Obama directed the Department of Transportation to review relevant legal, technological, and scientific considerations associated with establishing more stringent fuel economy standards, and to finalize the 2011 model year standard by the end of March.

He goes on to quote the Detroit News:
Stricter fuel economy standards….for the 2011 model year will cost struggling auto companies nearly $1.5 billion and boost the cost of passenger vehicles an average of $64 for cars and $126 for light trucks.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said the additional vehicle cost will be recouped by buyers of pickups, SUVs and minivans, through fuel savings, in an average of 7.7 years. Passenger car buyers will recover that cost in an average of 4.4 years.

In a recent post I ask if consumers really will recoup these costs? I don't think so. It is more likely that the price of gasoline will rise to make up the ground we "gained". Remember that oil production is largely controlled to match an acceptable level of profit for oil companies. To many of us, however, the amount of gas we consume is largely a fixed cost (see step 4a), and can't be easily adjusted without purchasing yet another car.

Go to step 1.

How many times do we have to watch this cycle repeated, from college tuition prices, to health care costs, to energy prices? Even when our hearts are in the right place, we're hurting the very people we are trying to help the most when we close our eyes and try to wish away the laws of supply and demand.

From the Senator Who Wishes The Internet Was Never Built

A few weeks back, I posted a link to Sen. Rockefeller flubbing his way through a speech on cybersecurity where he says "It almost makes you ask the question, 'Would it have been better if we had never invented the Internet?'"

Sen. Rockefeller(D-W. Virginia) and Sen. Snowe(R-Maine) introduced a bill on April 1 called "The Cybersecurity Act of 2009". Rockefeller is concerned that "critical infrastructure" could be harmed in Internet attacks. I agree with Jim Harper over at the Cato Institute, that this is a reason to keep key infrastructure off the Internet--something most financial institutions, water and sewer services, and electrical grid operators already do. But in the Washington Post, Rockefeller says:
"People say this is a military or intelligence concern, but it's a lot more than that, it suddenly gets into the realm of traffic lights and rail networks and water and electricity."
Instead of arguing that key physical infrastructure should pursue the cautious and prudent course by not relying on the Internet, Rockefeller thinks that federalizing internet security will do the trick. Or, as Jim Harper phrases it:
But in the debate over raising the bridge or lowering the river, Rockefeller is choosing the policy that most enthuses and involves him: Get critical infrastructure onto the Internet and get the government into the cyber security business.

That’s a recipe for disaster. The right answer is to warn the operators of key infrastructure to keep critical functions off the Internet and let markets and tort law hold them responsible should they fail to maintain themselves operational.
Roy Mark over at eweek lays out the full details of the 51-page bill:
According to the bill's language, the president would have broad authority to designate various private networks as a "critical infrastructure system or network" and, with no other review, "may declare a cyber-security emergency and order the limitation or shutdown of Internet traffic to and from" the designated the private-sector system or network.
He goes on to say:
The bill would also impose mandates for designated private networks and systems, including standardized security software, testing, licensing and certification of cyber-security professionals.
It seems that the government isn't content with just running banks and auto companies, now it wants to standardize how private companies implement Internet security, as well as reserve the right to cut off portions of the Internet without so much as a word from Congress or the courts.

I'm certain that Sen. Rockefeller didn't mean to say it this way, but here's the direct transcription of his words on March 24th:
[Two former Directors of National Intelligence] have labeled cybersecurity perpetrated through the internet as the #1 national hazard of attack on the homeland.
I couldn't have said it better myself, Senator.