Thursday, December 24, 2009

I throw thy name against the bruising stones

Worried about a housing bubble, top Goldman executives decided in December 2006 to change the firm’s overall stance on the mortgage market, from positive to negative, though it did not disclose that publicly.  @#$@#$#@

oops. that should have been: )(*&&()({}+  h/t to Kat Herding.

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Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Bricklin on tools

Dan Bricklin, walking his dog, ponders the difference between an "agent" that decides what you should see, and a tool:
It isn't the end result (e.g., only reading what I want to at the time I want to) that's the problem but how the tool interfaces with me. The missing difference, I realized, is "transparency."
Nontransparent countries have ministries that say "everything's fine -- trust us." ... If you don't know the details and can't find them out, it's hard to develop trust. ...
To me, a transparent user interface is one in which the user is presented with all the information he or she wants in a form that makes sense in light of their mental model of what's going on. The operations of the program should be consistent within the constraints of that model. One that isn't transparent just provides data with little context or model of where it came from or how it was derived or how to make adjustments. Bricklin on Technology, p. 244-45.

The deviser of VisiCalc knows something about tools. This difference he describes is playing out in the fates of Bing and Search, Microsoft and Google, Iphone and Android, etc.

Especially Microsoft, which never built a tool without an internal GPS homing device (where "home" is Redmond). A secret agent. One that knows what you want because you can only consume, never simply use. All this thinking is on fire now that a corporate form is developing that has a more liberal idea of tools. Not that Google isn't in a position to enjoy worrisome control. But Dan is looking at ultimately what borders on an ethical distinction -- involving a sense of the other, a recognition of otherness. If the other is merely there to consume, a host of assumptions about control come into play. Interesting, Dan offers an alternative to "markets are conversations." Markets, he suggests, are metaphors.

Anyway, Dan's book is full of searching fruits of many a dog walk on everything from tech to healthcare to economic theory. If the builders of tools would take it in, they would build better tools, and connect to user base that responds to its ethos.

(Disclaimer: Dan's book includes a short piece of mine along with contributions by AKMA, David Weinberger and a multitude of others to help convey the context of a decade ago with regard to peer-to-peer.)

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Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Living Stories will have to overcome dead resistance

Living stories should introduce temporal duration into what has been a staccato news form. Sample.

Coursey: Living Stories improves the newspapers ability to deliver news-by-topic, which has proven difficult for newspapers to master.

Indeed. Let's ask why this has proven "difficult." Why have newspapers refused to clump related news in ways that give temporal duration and multiple perspectives?

One reason might be that this would actually require them to be more truthful - the stories would more evidently hold up or fall apart as news broke and developed.

Another might be that if news is thought of as something more than a pellet of a slice of time, it would cease enjoying pure commodity status. News orgs thrive on the idea that a story dies fast, so that they can sell another story. Banks of data that store and enrich themselves over periods would cease to have that rapidfire obsolescence.

It's hard to pretend you have a new product each day when, in fact, you are offering additional layers to an existing entity. An entity that would pretend to remember public understanding of events.

If nothing else, this is another way that Google, by virtue of its power to ferret, is transforming the way news orgs have to conceive of their own bidzness.

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Sunday, December 06, 2009

It is risen, and it eats your brain on stale crackers

Abraham Joshua Heschel often used the word "embarrassment." "The cure of the soul," he wrote, for example, "begins with a sense of embarrassment, embarrassment at our pettiness, prejudices, envy, and conceit; embarrassment at the profanation of life. A world that is full of grandeur has been converted into a carnival." Speaking of Faith.
Heschel, beautiful soul, contemplate Comcast. Here's a tube-and-truck shop that just found 13.75 billion simoleons to buy NBC. Where the fuck does a publicly-held company stash that sort of cash? Don't poverty-stricken shareholders get some of the vig?

Comcast Corp. is said to be serviced by the smartest money men that money can buy. (I recall being reamed (by phone, long distance, from Corporate) by one of their top accountants for failing to follow expense account procedures. I'd been there less than a week, the money in question was no more than $40.)

Perhaps that is why, despite the need to come up with some hard cash, Comcast has also found it in its heart to succour its long-suffering faithful:
Comcast Corp. Increases Dividend 40%; Intends to Complete Current $3.6 Billion Stock Repurchase Plan Within 36 Months
Thursday, 3 Dec 2009 06:18am EST
Comcast Corp. announced that the Company's planned annual dividend has increased 40% to $0.378 per share. In accordance with the increase, the Board of Directors has increased the quarterly dividend payable on January 27, 2010, to shareholders of record as of the close of business on January 6, 2010, from $0.0675 a share on the Company's common stock to $0.0945 a share. Additionally, Comcast announced its intent to complete its $3.6 billion share repurchase authorization over the next 36 months.
I remember the epiphanic, or apophenic, moment when, at 7:30 a.m., employees were summoned to a general meeting at a large auditorium distant from our workplace. Why, Truepenny? To be privileged to be among the first worldwide to behold the new Comcast Corporate Logo. It arrived amid sound, fury, smoke and mirrors + video of the long struggle to find that glyph, that Mark, that amulet which would and could only say, speak, represent, embody, BE, Comcast:

as the Eleatic Stranger would completely understand. Balm in Gilead. Hosannah. He is born/risen/compounded quarterly at 7.5% tax free.

So all "kidding" aside, I have to ask - if Tube ownership is so lucrative that Comcast can afford to own one of the major Big USian Content providers, then what's the problem with my argument that those who own the tubes, Big Pipe et al, ought to be sharing the wealth with the po' folk that every day strive to provide meaningful content on the web, at no cost, with piddly ad contracts, outdated marketing schemes, and human salt?

Why should the tube be worth, basically, infinitely more than what it is there to carry?

Friends who remain at the gnuspaper I used to work at tell me that, after having scraped every possible bit of dollarage from them, Management (still owned by the New York Times) has notified them that they not only won't receive bonuses for doing more work with fewer people than ever before, but they'll also be forfeiting the 5 vacation days they received last year in lieu of a salary increase, because it was tough to find enough living bodies when people actually took their daze off.

Abraham, Abraham, I say to you: Until the Contentasters rise up and demand a sou or two from the Tubers, there will be no joy in Mudville; the model cannot hold. The forces that want Murdoch and Comcast to control Content believe we know no better than to want to be held in contempt, controlled by corporate Virii that will do our thinking for us, and be well compensated for their pains. After all, they've got the business model now haven't they? How embarrassing.

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Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Tweet Update

Murd and Huff at the FTC hearing become the Ping and Pong, Mutt and Jeff, Clik and Clak of my Tweet

Anything that makes search less direct only fucks itself. To wit.

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