Monthly Archives: February 2007

Participation and Patterns

In a long post about why LibraryThing has 10 times as many tags per book as Amazon, Tim Spalding says this:
Take one example: LibraryThing users have applied over 3,900 tags to Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs and Steel, including “apples,” “office” and “quite boring.” With just a few tags, it might be thought a desert cookbook, a business book or—worst of all—a boring one. But these are all single-instance tags. With a larger number of tags, clear patterns emerge, with high-level descriptors like “history” (755 times) and “anthropology” (293 times) standing out clearly against the noise. Even lower-frequency tags, like “social evolution” (25 times) and “pulitzer prize” (20 times) can be trusted as relevant.
So if you can get people tagging their stuff, i.e., books they read, you can collect enough opinions to see relevant patterns.

This is participation, which the Internet does better than any other medium. It’s not broadcast centralized content, which too many big ISPs (telcos and cablecos) seem fixated upon. It also wouldn’t happen if LibraryThing had to pay for a premium channel to reach all those people. Participation is a big reason net neutrality matters.


PS: Seen on Joho the Blog.

Who Was Gutenberg, Anyway?

Regarding exogenous technological change, it occured to me that I didn’t really know who Gutenberg was, nor whether he fit the profile.

I’m quoting a bio of him in full, because it doesn’t have a copyright on it and I can’t figure out where it came from originally, other than by the style of writing it is probably 19th century or earlier and probably a translation of a German original, and thus likely long out of copyright:

GUTENBERG, JOHANNES, or Henne, who is regarded as the inventor of the art of employing movable types in printing, was born near the close of the 14th century, at Mainz. He was sprung from a patrician family, which took the name of Gutenberg, or Gensfleisch, from two estates in its Possession. Of Gutenberg’s early life no particulars are known, but it seems probable that he devoted himself at an early age to mechanical arts.

Biography of Gutenberg

For “patrician family” then read “middle-class” now. He was apparently a tinker, who might have been tuning cars in the 1950s or computers in the late 20th century or early 21st. Continue reading

Retailing Net Neutrality

At the FTC Broadband Connectivity Competition Policy workshop, Barbara Tulipane, president and CEO of the Electronic Retailing Association, gave some good arguments for net neutrality:
Ms. Tulipane also stressed the importance of innovation for Internet content providers. As today’s Internet is comprised of interconnected networks that do not distinguish service based on source or content, providers have been forced to innovate in order to meet consumers’ changing shopping habits. However, prioritization based on source or content will result in a closed network, and will stifle the innovation of both large and small e-retailers. Ms. Tulipane continued, “What’s interesting about the ERA membership is that the small players today may very well be a Google, or an eBay, tomorrow. Their model for success is their ability to innovate.”

Google, eBay, EarthLink, Amazon, Discuss Net Neutrality, Washington, D.C. – (Website Hosting Directory) – February 20, 2007

She recommends treating video and TV as value added applications on top of a net neutral broadband service, if I understand the writeup correctly. Continue reading

Exogenous Technological Change

Here’s a good backgrounder video on where the Internet came from and where it may be going: Humanity Lobotomy. See especially the part by Larry Lessig about how printing presses in the early days cost about $10,000 in 2007 dollars, and lots of people had one and published books and pamphlets.

What did the telephone companies have to do with inventing the Internet?
The browser?
The World Wide Web?
What have they had to do with the Internet from the beginning of time?

–Bob Kahn

What did they invent? Continue reading

Service or Fundamental Connectivity?

Bob Frankston, commenting on how telcos want to shift entirely off copper to fiber so they don’t have to share and so they can allocate 99% of the resulting bandwidth to video and voice and 1% to the Internet, hits on an important point:
The real impact has come more from the 24×7 connectivity than the speed. It is this persistent connectivity that has made VoIP both important and not very interesting. Kids playing Xbox-live with friends around the world are not making phone calls – they going beyond the conceptual model of telephony. By treating the Internet as a service rather than fundamental and vital connectivity, we cannot use it as the basis for new services such as medical monitoring and emergency communications. The tragedy is that the resilient Internet is far better for emergency services than E911 could possibly be even if it weren’t locked into legacy rules.

Why Settle for Just 1%? by Bob Frankston,

As long as we have all major carriers and their oversight body (the FCC) thinking in terms of voice, video, and Internet as discrete and separate services, instead of thinking of the Internet as fundamental connectivity for everything, we’ll continue to miss out on opportunities for services well beyond triple.


Senior Harvesting

In addition to Rural Redlining, it seems telcos may be divesting themselves of less profitable customers another way:
While it may not be readily apparent to professionals and upper income consumers, rates have increased many times over for low volume users, particularly seniors, despite the apparent reduction in prices experienced by heavy-volume telephony consumers. The vast majority of American telephony customers are low-to-middle volume users and it is they who have borne the brunt of price and rate increases since the AT&T/SBC and MCI/Verizon mergers.

AT&T and MCI (Verizon) Are Harvesting Customers. TeleTruth, 6 Feb 2007

Such price hikes could make such customers profitable, or get rid of them when they don’t want to pay the increased rates.


Hands Off the Internet

You’ve got to hand it to Hands Off the Internet for being proactive in seeking out net neutrality blogs and commenting on them, as they did with my Non-Neutral Grammies post.

They say:

ISPs aren’t dumb–they realize that they make their money from people like you and me subscribing to their services. If they were to block something, it wouldn’t take long for the story to get out, and consumers the world over would be furious about the censorship. The ISP’s business would be hurt as people looked to their competitors for an uncensored access to the internet.
Hm, for years now the Dixie Chicks have been saying and it’s been written up in books such as Rednecks and Bluenecks: The Politics of Country Music, that ClearChannel and Cumulus banned the Chicks’ music from their radio stations, yet even after the Chicks won five Grammies, last I head neither ClearChannel nor Cumulus have relented. People might look to their competitors, if there were any. In many markets, one or the other of those two big radio chains is the only choice. Continue reading

Net Neutrality As Politics

Here’s a really simple net neutrality definition:
Net neutrality is a principle that bars Internet providers, primarily phone and cable companies, from charging higher rates to Web-based firms in return for giving their content priority treatment on the pathways to consumers. Without such restrictions, proponents say, a user might find it time-consuming, or even impossible, to call up a favorite site that carriers have relegated to slower lanes for economic or even philosophical reasons.

Neutrality On the Net Gets High ’08 Profile: Tech Issue Gains Traction in Election, By Charles Babington, Washington Post Staff Writer, Tuesday, February 20, 2007; Page D01

The same article notes that this issue is “obscure to many Americans.” It shouldn’t be: it affects everyone, Republican, Democrat, gun owner, or urbanite. Continue reading

Google + Cable TV

Imminent death of the Internet predicted:
Cable operators are set to return to capital investments of a modest 10 to 12 percent of revenues, but they can be forced to spend much more due to outside pressures from increased Internet consumption and from rival telecoms operators that upgrade their broadband Internet packages to fiber optic super speeds.

“Then, the world becomes cloudy,” Manby said.

Google and cable firms warn of risks from Web TV, By Lucas van Grinsven, European Telecoms Correspondent, Reuters, Wed Feb 7, 2007 6:56PM EST

Manby is “Charles Manby, Goldman Sachs’ global co-head for the telecoms, media and technology industries.” The article remarks that Google thinks the Internet at large doesn’t scale for putting mainstream TV on it, and google offers to provide search capabilities for cable TV instead. Continue reading

What is Net Neutrality

While it can involve many things, such as peering without settlements and flat fee access charges, there is a simple interconnectivity definition that even telephone companies have agreed to, in the FCC approval of the Bellsouth merger. What if that definition were made to apply to all Internet access, including IPTV? Would that prohibit ISPs from offering selective faster access? No:
Consumers (and Internet companies, for that matter) have paid, should pay and will pay for faster speeds if they need them. Some will want Ferraris, and some will choose Fords. The point is that the consumer decides for themselves how fast and where they want to go. Without Net Neutrality, the phone and companies will set the speed limit and decide which roads their customers can take, while collecting exorbitant tolls. While they’re at it, they’ll inspect each vehicle to see who should be sent to the back of the line.

Net Neutrality Foes Run Out of Gas,, 6 Feb 2007

The telephone companies say they won’t inspect and toll, but if not, why are they opposed to net neutrality?