30 December 2005

Two Tiered Internet

I just read an article by Michael Geist about network neutrality.

Don’t get me started.

Not good news but it’s inevitable that companies with low imagination that have survived for years by screwing their customers will continue to try to use the same strategy when they are faced with competition and shrinking profits due to commoditization of their products. Hey, it has worked for them so far, so it will continue to work, right? Wrong. People increasingly have more and more choices about where they spend their money, and more importantly, where they direct their attention. And we remember when companies rip us off and as soon as the technology allows we will switch.

The telephone companies used to force us to rent our phones from them. Then when we were finally allowed to purchase a phone they forced us to pay for every line into the house. Then they forced us to pay outrageous amounts for long distance. We haven’t forgotten that.

Cable companies have screwed us for years with their television channel bundling, charges for individual TV hookups and poor service and support. We tend to remember this sort of thing.

Cell phone companies have held us hostage for years by charging us for every little conceivable feature so that our communications costs at the consumer level have skyrocketed. They do this by keeping us locked in to plans and charging us outrageous amounts to get out of the plans, and by holding our phone number’s hostage.

The basic business model for all of these companies is… because we have a monopoly we will screw you with our old outdated technology as long as possible as long as you keep paying us way more than it costs us. It's nothing personal, it's just business.

News flash. Your monopoly might not last forever.

We won’t hesitate when the next disruptive technology comes along that causes these dinosaurs to become extinct. Nothing personal, it's just business.

Now middle level internet service providers, who also happen to be into telephony, cable and cellular, are lobbying to get the right to restrict certain types of traffic to prop up their old business models. Some of them are already doing it! This is outrageous, not only from the perspective of being manipulated by corporate greed but, as a friend of mine pointed out, from the privacy aspect as well. How do these companies have the right to listen in on users' internet traffic? Do they have court orders?

Innovations such as Skype are being lablled as 'parasitic' and sometimes data is even being blocked! How about the Telus decision to block their opponent's web site during a recent labour dispute this summer? (Not to mention the 600 additional sites that were inadvertently blocked). Where does that right come from?

Good question. Do ISPs have the right to block IPs and ports? It's bad customer service, to be sure, but since they don't have to evesdrop to do that, is it OK? I don't know. I know am opposed to the practice but I don't know who has rights in this area. If anyone reading this does please enlighten me.

In any case, I am all for innovation and freedom to choose.

Goodbye outrageous long distance charges… hello Skype!

27 December 2005

Pandora in Fast Company

There is a great article in this month's Fast Company magazine about Pandora. The article talks about the history of the company and how the thing works. For one thing, I had no idea Pandora has been around for several years. Anyway, check it out if you are interested in learning more about Pandora. Also, I have to put a plug in for Fast Company. It's a great magazine for entrepreneurs and business people in general. It's how I discovered Seth Godin years ago and although Seth no longer writes for them (at least not regularly) they have plenty of other great writers that are worth reading.

26 December 2005

Python Is Not Java

Here's an article about Python and Java dirtSimple.org: Python Is Not Java from Phillip J. Eby which rang true for me in a few places.

One of the things he mentions in this article is XML and how in a clamour to get on the bandwagon people use XML in places where it's really not helpful.

XML is great for interoperability but if you're just storing data or moving data around inside your application, you don't need XML. XML comes with a price tag in performance. It needs to be parsed.

If your language of choice is capable of doing the data work on it's own (*get python*, *get python*) then use that.

Don't get me wrong, I love XML and coming from a few projects where I had to deal with EDI formatted data, XML is a blessing.

XML is also a darling of computing media and of the big guys, and although it has a nice ring to it, remember, it's not magical, its a file format.

19 December 2005

Google Movie Finder

I seem to be stumbling accross a lot of cool stuff these days. Here's another one. You can now get movie schedules with Google. Just go to the usual Google home page and type "movie: king kong" or whatever movie you want to see instead of King Kong and you'll get the listings. Put your postal code in there and voila! Very fast, very clean, very Google.

12 December 2005

The Startup News

Here's a cool site. It's simple. It's clean. It does one thing really well. It provides links to news about startups. That's it.

The Startup News

10 December 2005

Children are People Too

I have a lot of trouble with adults who treat children with any less respect or positive regard than they would treat another adult, like they are lesser beings, like they don't deserve the same respect as other people.

Is there a word for discriminating against children?

We have a responsibilty to provide clothing, food and shelter and keep them safe from harm, to help and teach them and to be there for them when they need our help. We can teach them about responsibility, discipline, respect and consideration for others and we can teach them how to take care of themselves financially, emotionally and physically.

Yes, we temporarily know more than our kids. We are temporarily bigger and stronger than they are. But we don't have the right to control and/or manipulate them.

I hear parents telling kids that they are rude and disrespectful if they don't conform to the right set of manners at the dinner table. Seems to me that trying to force kids to do what you want them to do, the way you want them to do it, is a tad rude.

I see parents warning kids about consequences of their actions - like "if you spend all of your allowance on candy you wont have any to buy that toy" - and then bailing them out effectively robbing them of a real world learning opportunity.

I see parents getting angry with their kids because the child questions the adult's authority and then acting as if getting angry with them is OK because it was the child's fault. What's wrong with questioning authority?

This type of behaviour is draconian. It may be a leftover from how some of these parents were treated when they were children. Thankfully we weren't all treated this way. Why would you treat your own child with any less respect than you would a co-worker or a friend? I don't know.

I came accross this quote a couple of weeks ago. I like it. I couldn't find a web site with a clean posting (without some site problems and with the credit to the author) of this so here it is:

When we adults think of children there is a simple truth which we ignore: childhood is not preparation for life; childhood is life. A child isn't getting ready to live; a child is living.

Children are constantly confronted with the nagging question: "What are you going to be?" Courageous would be the youngster who, looking the adult squarely in the face, would say, "I'm not going to be anything; I already am." We adults would be shocked by such an insolent remark, for we have forgotten, if indeed we ever knew, that a child is an active, participating and contributing member of society from the time of birth.

Childhood isn't a time when a pre-human is molded into a human who will then live life; the child is a human who is living life. No child will miss the zest and joy of living unless these are denied by adults who have convinced themselves that childhood is a period of preparation.

How much heartache we would save ourselves if we would recognize children as partners with adults in the process of living, rather than always viewing them as apprentices. How much we could teach each other; we have the experience and they have the freshness. How full both our lives could be.

The children may not lead us, but at least we ought to discuss the trip with them, for, after all, life is their journey, too.

From Notes on an Unhurried Journey by John A. Taylor. © 1991

07 December 2005



Check it out. It's remarkable.

05 December 2005

Lucky Javascript

The latest wave of web applications flying under the AJAX banner is a striking reminder to me of the power of a punchy label (or brand).

This technology has been sitting around for years. When Javascript first came oul many sites embraced it.

But it added too much complexity, so, is was considered smart to use Javascript sparingly if at all.

Now it has a new name, AJAX.

Paul Graham says that "Ajax" means "Javascript now works".

So, it seems Javascript is going to get another chance. That's pretty lucky. Technologies don't often get a second chance these days.

04 December 2005

a beautiful thing

Seth Godin had a blog entry pointing to a very interesting new service with the strange name Amazon Mechanical Turk.

You have to check this out for yourself but basically what they are offering is work doing small tasks called Human Intelligence Tasks or HITs. These are tasks that are very difficult to get a program to do but easy for humans to do.

I love the idea. I will be signing up to try out the HITs as well as learning how I might use these web services in my programs.

Am I the only one that thinks it's a little bit creepy though? Is this one more step toward the Matirx where humans are servants of machines?

What do you think?

Google Analytics

Google is launching another cool new service called Google Analytics.


They have shut down new registrations claiming that they had extrodinarily high demand so they have stopped taking new users temporarily.

I don't know if I believe that. I don't want to say they are lying but c'mon, this is Google. It's hard to believe that they are having load problems with this since everything else runs so astoundingly well.

Anyway, it doesn't matter. All this temporarily closed door does is builds up demand and buzz... just like their gmail launch, where you had to be recommended by someone and each recommender could only recommend 10 people.

Genius. Ya gotta love it.