Inventing the Future

Hanging Out in the Lobby

A lot of us like to run Forums all day, like an IM client. In the new version, you can log in to your organization without actually entering any of its forums(1). We think of it as hanging out in the lobby of that organization. You can watch people going in and out, text chat with them, and join them in whatever forum they are working in(2).

The idea is that if virtual world technology is a meta-medium that subsumes, for example, instant messaging, then it ought to do IM as well as dedicated IM clients while retaining the benefits of the virtual world technology. In the case of Forums, that means secure communication.


  1. In Forums, each user is a member of one or more organizations.
  2. People tend to have one forum per project at work.

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Econoklastic

700 MHz: Beating the AWS-1 $/MHz/Pop

A, B, and C Blocks have exceeded their reserve prices as of round 17 in Auction 73, and E Block has reached 83.73% of its reserve price, while D Block has languished at 26.99% of reserve price since the first round. Unless a great deal of the activity in A and B Blocks is intended to preserve eligibility for later round intervention in C Block, the probable C Block winner has likely made its winning bid in round 17.

The rate at which A and B Blocks have exceeded their reserve prices by the end of round 21 today — 190.51% and 462.50%, respectively — seems unlikely to abate, which may push revenue from Auction 73 to $16-17 billion, perhaps as much as $20 billion, despite the fact that D Block will almost certainly have to be reauctioned if the current pattern holds.

How much better A, B, and C Blocks are doing at this point than even at the end of Auction 66 (AWS-1) is shown in this table, which compares the dollar per MHz per population price each license in those three blocks obtained with the provisionally winning bid as of the end of round 21 to the final dollar per MHz per population price comparable licenses received by the final round of Auction 66. Since the bandwidth is different in each auction, $/MHz/Pop standardises the data for comparison.

Clearly the majority of 700 MHz spectrum on offer in Auction 73 is much more highly valued than the spectrum on offer in Auction 66: the average $/MHz/Pop price of an A Block license at the end of round 21 in Auction 73 is 193.53% of the final $/MHz/Pop price of comparable spectrum in Auction 66; the average $/MHz/Pop price of a C Block license at the end of round 21 in Auction 73 is 623.06% of the final $/MHz/Pop price of comparable spectrum in Auction 66. For C Block, the 50-state package (REAGs 1-8) is reaching 102.65% of the final price of comparable spectrum in REAGs 1-8 in Auction 66, while REAGs 9-11 are averaging 134.10% of what they finally obtained in AWS-1.

From the point of view of the U.S. Treasury Auction 73 is already a hell of a success. What remains to be seen is how well new entrants and smaller competitors did, whether the incumbents ran the table again, and whether we got a national third broadband pipe. But we won’t know that until the FCC releases bidder identities and bids at the end of the auction.

Posted in Econoklastic, General | Also tagged , , , , | 2 Comments (Comments closed)

Inventing the Future

“The Medium is the Message”

One of the arguments against sharing music was society will be diminished because no one will create music without a sufficient intellectual property incentive.

We now have a flourishing culture of sharing for video, in which people of diverse skill levels are creating huge amounts of content. No shortage there.

So I want to ask, “Is there a flourishing of digital music content today?” Surely it is easier to both create and enjoy music than it is for video. (Music requires lower bandwidth and less power, play-anywhere music devices are good and plentiful, and music creation software are quite fantastic.)

It feels like there is lot of free music available in video form. I wonder if the legal fight against music sharing — rather than sharing itself — has stifled the medium of sound-only recording, even as the more demanding but less legally bullied video medium has exploded. The music itself has just been switched to a new medium, and may ultimately be better for it.

Meanwhile, it seems that half the top 10 best selling printed novels in Japan were written on and for cell phone distribution. I’ve heard that the explosion in the genre coincides with the spread of flat-rate pricing on text messaging.

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Tales of the Sausage Factory

Time Warner May Pilot Metered Pricing With Easy Consumer Monitoring Tools. Good for now, but bad for ecommerce in the long run.

As reported by Broadband Reports and now confirmed elsewhere, a Time Warner internal memo indicates Time Warner will pilot a program where it has an explicit bandwidth cap, and users that exceed the cap will pay additional explicit fees — rather like what happens now with your standard cell phone package where you buy a bundle of minutes and then pay for any overages. The pilot will include a website to allow customers to track their usage, moderate their behavior, or buy additional capacity if they wish.

I agree with Dave Isenberg that this is the best way for Time Warner to handle its network capacity constraints and address the supposed 5% of users gobbling 50% of the bandwidth. We can expect some heavy users to move to other networks without caps, but also expect that users that use much less capacity and frustrated by congestion caused by heavy use by others to prefer plans like Time Warner’s because it should produce a less congested pipe overall.

I would be remiss if I failed to note that I was just musing about this the other day, giving me a chance to do another Stephen Colbert I CALLED IT!!! dance.

O.K., shameless gloating over. Analysis below . . . .

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Posted in Series of Tubes, Tales of the Sausage Factory | Also tagged , , , , , , | 7 Comments (Comments closed)

Tales of the Sausage Factory

Whiny Techies or Dishonest Salesmen?

I cannot help but add a coda onto my latest article. Steven Pearlstein, econ columnist for the Washington Post, has written this piece on the recent complaints wrt to Comcast. To quote Mr. Pearlstein:

The latest rallying cry is “network neutrality.” This campaign started out with the legitimate goal of making sure that consumers could continue to access whichever services or content they want, rather than having to take those offered by the cable and phone company duopolists. But lately the campaign seems to have morphed into a broader demand that all consumers should be able to pay the same monthly fee for using the Internet, no matter how much bandwidth they use or how much their movie downloads and video chats are slowing service to everyone else in the neighborhood.

Perhaps this is the kind of economic illiteracy we should expect from people who get their information from “The Daily Show” and the Daily Kos. But isn’t it time for the rest of us to move on and acknowledge that the days of the online free lunch are over?

As you may imagine from my recent post, my complaint is not with charging more for more bandwidth, but for dishonestly promising me an “always on all you can eat” connection, then cutting me off when I use it all the time for all I can eat. I sent Mr. Pearlstein the following reply, reproduced below….

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Posted in Series of Tubes, Tales of the Sausage Factory | Also tagged , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments (Comments closed)

Inventing the Future

Evocative Performance vs. Information Transmission

An interesting thing happens when a medium has enough bandwidth to be a “rich medium.” It crosses a threshold from merely being an informational medium to being an evocative medium.

Consider radio, which was initially used to carry Morse code over the wireless tracts between ships at sea and shore. The entire communications payload of a message could be perfectly preserved in notating the discrete dots and dashes. Like digital media, the informational content was completely preserved regardless of whether it was carried by radio, telegraph, or paper. But when radio started carrying voice, there was communication payload that was not completely preserved in the context of other media. The human voice conveys more subtlety than mere words.

Thus far, the Internet has been mostly informational. We do use it to transmit individual sound and video presentational work, but the Internet platforms in these situations are merely the road on which these travel rather than the medium itself. (My kids say they are listening to a song or watching a video, rather than that they are using the Internet or that they are on-line. The medium is the music and video.)

So, what happens when an Internet platform supports voice and video, both live and prerecorded, and allows individual works to be combined and recombined and annotated and added to and for the whole process to be observed? Do “sites” become evocative? Do presentations on them become a performance art? Do we loose veracity or perspicuity as the focus shifts to how things are said rather than what is said? Here’s a radio performance musing on some of this and more.

I think maybe this is the point where the medium becomes the message. If a technology doesn’t matter because everything is preserved in other forms, then the technology isn’t really a distinct medium in McLuhan’s sense.

Posted in Inventing the Future, meta-medium | Also tagged , , | 1 Comment (Comments closed)
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