Wednesday, November 5, 2008


“Relieved” is the best word I can find right now. Now we have to hold the Democrats to the fire against overreach. Which strikes me as easier than the last eight years have been, notwithstanding some of the more classically and repressively “liberal” impulses in the new Congressional makeup. This truly is a centrist country (and let’s forget about the “center-left” and “center-right” posturing when the left/right dichotomy is so demonstrably obsolete) and this election rekindled my optimism on that point and on the fact that “yes we can” also keep some of the congressional excess at bay while getting to work at rebuilding infrastructure, credibility in foreign policy and not least opening the economic “force multiplier” that is a true internet commons. Oh and restructuring the economy away from a foundation based on the assumption of "cheap" fossil fuels...

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Dave Winer: fair and balanced?

It wouldn't be much of an exaggeration to say that Dave Winer invented RSS ("Rich Site" or "Real Simple" Syndication), the backbone of today's web in general and weblogs like this one in particular. His own weblog - Scripting News - is a good read and shows up in my feed readers.

Dave, like Doc Searls, is a mentor to me about how to use this new medium to effectively contribute opinion. Like me they're both technologists with a wider interest in the world at large and not just the technology facet. They both often opine on matters of a political nature. You can see their influence on my blog, which I hope of course represents my own unique perspective which is influenced by but not equivalent to Dave's and Doc's.

So not surprisingly, lately Dave's been blogging about Sarah Palin. The first one I read had (what was to me) a novel take on the implication of the Palin selection. The basic theses (in typical blogging fashion, these are quotes Dave pulled from other sites), which is that Palin is congruent with working class values (note: not issues) in key states OH and PA; that she represents the next iteration of Reagan's "Morning in America" and "small-town values"; and finally that the Palin selection is intended to be the vanguard of an full-press attempt to swift-boat Obama as a true agent of change, rather than Washingtonian-by-way-of-Daley's-Chicago business-as-usual.

Not all of these opinions (or opinionators) represent Dave's (and my) own pro-Obama point of view, unless he's also a glass-half-empty sort like I am and is really worried about the course this election might take.

Dave's very next Palin post in contrast was almost entirely his own words. It's about the media reaction to Palin and (in Dave's words) the media suddenly growing "a backbone" and challenging the received McCain narrative of the Palin selection. Interesting, and (if Winer is correct) a bit scary since one of his ideas about why this might be the case is that they weren't included in the vetting process through leaks and the resulting complex of psychosocial and psychopolitical feedback loops in the sense of the 21st century electronic media milieu where the media oligarchs play a critical gatekeeper role.

I'll close with a Palin bonus link (thanks to Doc Searls for this stylistic tool!).

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Can't say I disagree...

...with this John Judis analysis of what sure looks to be a difficult road ahead for Obama's presidential hopes. I expect tonight's acceptance speech will indicate which way the trending goes from here to November.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008


I've been convinced for a long time now that we need to transcend left/right polarity on many seriously pressing issues, including "the economy" and particularly sustainable and equitable development and (yes) growth. Here's a good example of why I think Obama is the superior candidate, not just compared to McCain, but also to the other vanquished primary candidates Democrat and Republican alike (and don't even get me started on the oligarch-friendly Bush administration).

Pull quotes:

"The market is the best mechanism ever invented for efficiently allocating resources to maximize production,” Obama told [
David Leonhardt, NYT]. “And I also think that there is a connection between the freedom of the marketplace and freedom more generally.” But, he continued, “there are certain things the market doesn’t automatically do."

"I think I can tell a pretty simple story. Ronald Reagan ushered in an era that reasserted the marketplace and freedom. He made people aware of the cost involved of government regulation or at least a command-and-control-style regulation regime. Bill Clinton to some extent continued that pattern, although he may have smoothed out the edges of it. And George Bush took Ronald Reagan’s insight and ran it over a cliff. And so I think the simple way of telling the story is that when Bill Clinton said the era of big government is over, he wasn’t arguing for an era of no government. So what we need to bring about is the end of the era of unresponsive and inefficient government and short-term thinking in government, so that the government is laying the groundwork, the framework, the foundation for the market to operate effectively and for every single individual to be able to be connected with that market and to succeed in that market. And it’s now a global marketplace."

Saturday, August 2, 2008

It would be laughable...

...if I wasn't so afraid that tactics like this might just do exactly what the Republican brain trust intends.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Duh. Ugh.

Still more examples of things are obvious (duh) and things that are just abhorrent (ugh).

We urgently have to purge these incompetent, corrupt, dangerous ideologues from the body politic with extreme prejudice. McCain - though better than these clowns - just ain't enough of a purge for this non-party-affiliated independent. We can worry about the consequences of any Obama shortcomings in competence, ethics and ideology later. Even if they are worse than I suspect (i.e. as bad as the McCain campaign or the Wall Street Journal implies they are), they probably cut in a completely different direction and even that would be progress.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

iPhone and Apple, a jaundiced view

A jaundiced view from Dave Winer that I don’t necessarily disagree with. Even as I laud iPhone as the game-changer it is (I don’t own one and won’t as long as ATT is my only supported carrier choice).

And even as I let everyone I can know that my move to Mac from Windows is one of the best moves I’ve made in personal technology in a long, long time. But for me the ideal PC would have:

- The Mac’s sense of seamless design aesthetics and “it just works” for non-geek users

- The Windows MSFT Office stack (sorry, not the OpenOffice one, and not the Mac version of Office either)

- The Linux robustness, hardware openness and openness to development innovation

All of this only means is that the open versus closed system war is far from being decided.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Clay Shirky on social software, group dynamics and online communities

from 2003! Here's a great pull quote (but please read the whole thing, Shirky is a true scholar of this stuff):

"Writing social software is hard. And, as I said, the act of writing social software is more like the work of an economist or a political scientist. And the act of hosting social software, the relationship of someone who hosts it is more like a relationship of landlords to tenants than owners to boxes in a warehouse.

The people using your software, even if you own it and pay for it, have rights and will behave as if they have rights. And if you abrogate those rights, you'll hear about it very quickly.

That's part of the problem that the John Hegel theory of community -- community leads to content, which leads to commerce -- never worked. Because lo and behold, no matter who came onto the Clairol chat boards, they sometimes wanted to talk about things that weren't Clairol products. "But we paid for this! This is the Clairol site!" Doesn't matter. The users are there for one another. They may be there on hardware and software paid for by you, but the users are there for one another."

Of course I have to thank Doc Searls for this link. Doc continues to find and say (same thing, no?) things about communities and advertising business models that resonate well with me and (more to the point) illuminate the hazards of blindly marching down that path without a plan for success. Here’s a great example:

"Facebook also has no conversation density for me because keeping up with it takes too much work. This might be my fault, for somehow allowing myself to have 396 "friends", when the number of my actual friends is far lower than that - and most of them aren't on Facebook. Add "2 friend suggestions, 187 friend requests, 2 event invitations, 1 u-netted nations invitation, 1 blog ownership request, 180 other requests" and "23 new notifications" more "pokes" than I'll bother to count, and Facebook compounds what it already is: a gridlock of obligations architected, blatantly, to drag my eyeballs across advertising, most of which is irrelevant beyond the verge of absurdity. (On my entry page is an ad for dresses by American Apparel. It replaces one for singles. I'm male and married. You'd think Facebook could at least get *that* much right.)"

However, rebutting Doc, my Facebook profile page has an ad that says "53 yr male. Overweight?". I just turned 53 this past Monday.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Back to the future: let's bring back the Truck Farms

The way the US economy is currently structured (ahem), the high (and increasing) cost of energy is going to make for a rocky ride. But in dislocation there's opportunity too. One of my favorite restructuring opportunities is underscored in this article.

I hope the increasing untenability (due to the cheap energy foundation) of the suburban lifestyle as well as industrial agriculture will combine to lead family farmers to start growing food (instead of industrial commodities) on what were once the nicely tended lawns of suburbia. Or at least those pie slices of suburbia located far away from mass transit lanes). I'm thinking a modified McMansion would make a suitable structure for staging the produced food and sheltering the supplies and equipment. Redirect the central air into a cold storage "great room". Thanks to the multiple levels of government involved, there are already good roads for bringing the food to market.

Also important: using digital mapping and routing to reduce the energy (and cost) needed to move the food from the myriad of producers to the urban consuming public. Yes, there's still a role for truck transport to play, but we will need to transition long hauls (decreasingly fresh foodstuffs) to rail in our emerging energy future.

Map communities and "openness"

For those of you who don't know, Google's MapMaker is a recently released OpenStreetMap-style "Wiki Map" for Google Maps that lets one edit "maps in the countries of Cyprus, Iceland, Pakistan, Vietnam and the Caribbean nations of: Antigua & Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Grenada, Jamaica, Netherlands Antilles, St. Kitts & Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent & the Grenadines, Trinidad & Tobago"

I discovered MapMaker in a
James Fee RSS post last night. Fee's post included worthwhile and insightful links from the open source map content community, some more "maturely presented" than others (the latter link may not be suitable for corporate network browsing), but all reinforcing the point that the "open community" isn't particularly disposed to give away value to entities like Google or Microsoft or TomTom/TeleAtlas or Nokia/NAVTEQ without some form of "open goodness" given back in return. Of course, I'm not sure if this means "free" (as in beer) map content or not, but it certainly means a whole lot less encumbered with contractual verbotens than these entities are accustomed to insisting on.

It’s all fine and dandy to say that these OpenStreetMap folks have no business model in sight, but the fact remains that the “open” meme and the associated communities that rally behind that flag are very influential and have succeeded in the past in turning a significant volume of services, software and content into commodities (notably “digital” ones that are difficult-to-impossible to lock down behind a tollgate). The global economic/societal upside of this trend is that it allows new forms of businesses and applications to flourish on top of these more accessible and open (and yes, lower cost) commodity building blocks (many, many enterprises are taking advantage of the Linux stack for example), but the downside is that local business/corporate dislocations can and do occur. Some die. Some adapt (for example the IBM of today little resembles the IBM of 15 years ago).

I think it was the economist
Joseph Schumpeter who deemed this process "creative destruction", which I'd further note most often tends to be associated with the dynamics of capitalism...

Thursday, May 15, 2008

VP Hillary

I've been an Obama supporter for some time now. No he's not a "messiah", he does pander like the rest of them, and I'm super-leery of any taint that comes from his association with the Illinois political sewer. An Obama administration's certainly not going to be "Camelot" (absolutely impossible in the post-Bush mess we find ourselves in in any case). Doc Searls recently captured why I'm for Obama as well as anything I've read recently.

But I'm not posting this to talk about why I'm for Barack. That's water under the bridge since he's the likely nominee now. It seems that I now have to ponder the idea of an Obama/Clinton ticket. Because this scenario seems
very plausible to me.

I have to say that my initial gut reaction is positive, despite all the misgivings I have about Clintonian motivations, governance style and integrity. Throughout the campaign I've been impressed by Hillary's resilience and grasp of policy (when it emerges out from
her pandering). And from the perspective of bringing home the victory over McCain (which I think will be a tough challenge since the tried-and-true Republican elitist smear will stick to Obama) the Barack/Hillary unity ticket sounds more effective to me than any other veep idea I've heard. Such as Jim Webb to guarantee Virginia in the (D) column come November. Or the smarmy John Edwards to capture the elusive blue-collar white male. Or Bill Richardson to get the Hispanic vote (well maybe that last one isn't too dumb considering McCain's relatively moderate stand on immigration and Obama's seeming weakness among those voters).

But a VP Hillary can certainly go a long way to salve the wounds caused by Limbaugh's "Project Chaos". And despite some alignment on my part with this critique of a recent Tom Friedman post about the need for a tough posture with Iran, I agree with Friedman's implication that a carrot-and-stick posture with Iran and other irritants is what's needed. I trust Obama to provide the carrot, but with the stick, not so much. This is another reason to like the idea of Vice President Hillary Clinton in my opinion...

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Roosting chickens, part 1

I didn't like some of Rev. Wrights (admittedly decontextualized) comments either. But he's not the only religious figure spewing polarizing nonsense. Perhaps the media's starting to pick up on this.


So I'm using TwitterFeed to publish anything I blog here to my Twitter followers (not that I have many, but that's not the point).

Actually I added TwitterFeed as an experiment with my new Yahoo OpenID (since TwitterFeed supports OpenID), but it does have the following benefits:
  • I have an alternative to GTalk and SMS to post tweets.
  • My Paulytron blog content is tweeted.

But it would seem to have one not insignificant drawback:
  • My Paulytron blog content is tweeted.
I thought Twitter tweets are supposed to be "micro-blog" content. And indeed some Paulytron posts will qualify.

But anyone who knows me knows how long-winded I can be. And some blog entries are appropriately "macro" anyway. Maybe there's a way to control which blogs get posted as Twitter tweets...

Friday, May 2, 2008

Paulytron's back in the saddle

I let my Blog-City blog expire. I'm not embarrassed, most blogs wither on the vine due to neglect. But what does get me a little sheepish is that Blog-City went away and about half my posts were lost forever. The other half I scraped out of the internet WaybackMachine.