My Thoughts Exactly

R.I.P. Jon Swift — a good man gone

The funny, kind, decent and fiercely democratic (note the lower-case “d”) blogger Jon Swift has died, much too young. See Tom Watson’s appreciation here. Swift, whose “real world” name was Al Weisel, was a friend to Wetmachine, having twice or thrice blogged about this site as “a great site you’ve never heard of” or similar. I never met the man in person, but in email correspondence he was kind and helpful to me. As a blogger, he was an inspiration.

In honor of Al/Jon Swift, this week is Blogroll Amnesty Day at Wetmachine. If your blog is not spam, porn, or blatantly offensive and you’re willing to put Wetmachine on your blogroll, I’ll put you on ours. Leave details in the comments or send me a note to [my first name] at [this a-here website].

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My Thoughts Exactly

Looking for my inner Billy Mays

Last week I was down in Manhattan pimping my books at a software developer’s conference. (Man, was that a dead conference. 15 people at a “Keynote”. Evidently there’s a recession going on, people.) A nice man named Noah Sussman approached the table where I was selling stuff & explained that he was a blogger with a site called Nerdabout New York. So of course I asked him to blog about me & my sublime geeky books, whereupon he whipped out his camera, about this size of a quarter, and said, “Why don’t you make your own pitch, and I’ll put it on the site.” Well that was very nice of him, don’t you think? So I looked into his little camera and commenced bullshitting away.

Today he kept his word with a very generous blog posting and including this video (below). I think the vid came out well enough for an impromptu thing, although I don’t know what’s with my weird Tourettes-like shaking in the first bit, and I wonder why I slouch so. And must I mumble so much, and how did I get so fat and bald and when did my teeth become so Austin Powerish? And why am I clutching my wallet as if it contains the Nukular Launch Code??? Oh well. I do think I’m a pretty good pitchman in person–Fred knows I’ve done it long enough–but working for the camera is not my metier, as we say around Place D’Italie. I need to work on that. Billy Mays, the infomercial king who recently departed this mortal coil, was good at what he did. I respect him for that. I wish I had had him pitch my books for me while he was still available for the job. But I guess I’ll just have to work on my own game. Meanwhile, here’s a shout-out and thank you to Nerdabout New York.

Untitled from Noah Sussman on Vimeo.

P.S. I think it goes without saying that, Billy being unavailable, I would happily settle for Ellie from the Rocketboom site in Howard Stearns’ “Inventing the Future” post just before this one.

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My Thoughts Exactly

Atrios dogbark blogging

In March, I went to a gathering of people who read Eschaton, a blog by “Atrios”. This guy Atrios has a pithy blogging style that I like a lot. Basically he puts out short observations about this and that (or thus and such)–much as my late dog Rosa used to just bark at random times. People then leave hundreds of comments on Eschaton in response to the Atrios dog-barks.

Among other things, Atrios likes to bark at his readers. From time to time he barks at readers who want him to give them or their blogs publicity. He barks that it is not his job to give people publicity. When he blogs on this topic he gets riled up like a proper chihuahua.

One time Atrios put up on his blog a photo taken inside his apartment. I saw on his bookshelf books by Douglas Hofstadter. So I sent him a note asking if he would like a copy of my Hofstadterian book, “Cheap Complex Devices”. Atrios did not write back.

At Eschacon, I spoke with him for a little bit. He was drinking red wine & think he was a little tipsy. I gave him a copy of my book, which he graciously accepted, and I saw him carrying it around hours later, so I know that, at the least, he did not immediately throw it in the garbage.

However, he still has not replied to my email or given me free publicity on his blog. Also, hardly anybody ever leaves comments here on Wetmachine. Finally, although Doug Hofstadter and I are now friends, he had not read my homage a Hofstadter yet either. And none of you people leave comments!

Also, this entry is much too long for an Atrios-style blog entry. Maybe that’s why I’m a minor blogger and he’s a superstar. It’s harder than it looks.

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Tales of the Sausage Factory

700 MHz Aftermath: What Does The EchoStar Win Mean?

EchoStar getting a near-national footprint ranks as one of the major successes for the 700 MHz auction. Chased out of the AWS auction, deserted by its former partner DIRECTV, no one gave EchoStar much hope of winning anything significant (with the exception of yr hmbl obdn’t blogger).

But what does it mean? Can EchoStar become the broadband “third pipe” hoped for by Martin and others? Or is the conventional wisdom right that this is just about improving EchoStar’s subscription television service? Or is there something else at work here? According to the Wall St. Journal (subscription required), the same analysts that could not understand why Ergen would play, and did not believe he could win, now wonder what the heck he will do. Nor is the journal alone in asking this question.

My short version is: EchoStar cannot become a serious broadband provider with just E Block spectrum — particularly given the current service rules for E Block. But, as we all know, FCC service rules are fluid — particularly when licensees promise to deliver broadband services (the recent changes to the AWS service rules providing a perfect example). But even with favorable rule changes, EchoStar faces serious capacity issues if it tries to compete head-to-head with DSL or cable modem service.

Still, there are ways EchoStar can pull it out, especially if it focuses on rural markets with relatively poor broadband connectivity. While the E Block licenses don’t have enough terrestrial capacity to go head-to-head with FIOS or even the high-end cable or DSL services, it can provide a better option than dial-up or ridiculously expensive broadband currently available in flyover country and even in the exurbs. And then there are the perpetually swirling rumors of an AT&T/Echostar merger. Could the E Block merely be AT&T bait? More importantly perhaps, does even Charlie Ergen know what the heck his plan is? Or did he simply see an opportunity and grab it?

In advance of tomorrow’s lifting of the anti-collusion rules, when winning bidders will finally start talking about their plans, I offer my own speculations.

More below….

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Posted in Spectrum, Tales of the Sausage Factory | Also tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment (Comments closed)

My Thoughts Exactly

Blogroll Jubilee!

Noted “reasonable conservative” blogger Jon Swift last year came up with the idea of a “Blogroll Amnesty Day”, sort of a jubilee during which the policy of “put me on your blogroll and I’ll put you on mine”1 would be in effect.

Now he reports that the idea is catching on, and that many blogs will be observing blogroll amnesty days on February 1, 2 & 3. Friends, I’m here to tell you that Wetmachine will be joining the fun too-also, subject to the proviso explained below the fold.

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Posted in My Thoughts Exactly, Wetmachine site news | Also tagged , | 9 Comments (Comments closed)

Tales of the Sausage Factory

Enlisting The Power Of The Web For A Bit Of Research Help — Taking the MCDowell/Tate Challenge!

I wish my employer, Media Access Project, had sufficient funds to hire me a research assistant. But they don’t. So I’m going to turn to the collective readership for a bit of fast research to help me refute the pack of lies the cable industry is spreading.

As regular readers know, Martin has proposed a slew of much needed cable reform rules. Chief among these is the finding that cable serves 70% of homes in areas served by cable systems of 36 or more activated channels. NCTA, the cable trade association, has denounced the dea that their members serve that many customers as a vicious lie and generally denounced Martin for carrying on a vendetta against his industry (where “vendetta”=”actually enforce existing law and regulate in the public interest“).

Turns out, however, that Martin did not just pull the numbers out of his posterior. They came from the Warren Communications News Television and Cable Factbook, a neutral and respected industry reporter. According to the Warrens data, cable serves over 71.4% of the relevant market — more than enough to trigger the 70/70 threshold and give the FCC authority to reregulate cable to promote diversity.

To my considerable surprise — given how much Warrens depends on their reputation for accuracy to convince customers to pay many thousands of dollars for this research — the cable industry prevailed on the managing editor of The TV and Cable Factbook to declare their own research unreliable. In fairness, they claim the research is unreliable only when used to prove that the cable industry has passed the 70/70 threshold, so I assume all the advertisers and businesses that rely on this data will not be troubled. They also claim tat the data are unreliable due to systemic underreporting by cable which, as my friend and fellow Wetmachine blogger Greg Rose observed, means that the number of households served must be even more than the 71% Warrens initially found.

Such is the power of cable, however, that the industry reporters following this have uncritically lapped up the NCTA party line while failing the elementary school math noted above (ironically, proving the point about how media consolidation is all about serving corporate interests). Martin’s fellow Republicans on the Commission, McDowell and Tate, apparently determined to make sure that everyone knows that they would never pursue a ”vendetta“ against an industry merely because it has demonstrated market power, sent this letter to Warrens asking for more information (and apparently missing the elementary school math that if you underreport cable subscribers that means they serve more than the number reported). The letter takes a rather nasty shot at Martin, as well as inviting explanation for why the other reporters come in so much lower and looking for validation of the numbers.

Of course, as Rose pointed out in his post, the other numbers come in lower because they are estimates where the cable operators provided even less info than they did to Warrens. But it occurred to me that there is a rather simple way to make the point that even incumbent cable operators passed the 70% threshold sometime ago.

Back for the 2005 cable report, NCTA submitted numbers ranging from 62% to 68.9%. Since then, with the exception of the most recent cable quarter, the cable operators enjoyed consistent growth in their basic subscriber numbers. I would like to find out the quarterly basic subscriber statistics for the largest cable operators (Comcast, Time Warner, Cablevision, Cox, and Charter). If the largest operators enjoyed significant growth after NCTA condeded 68.9% as a valid measurement, then we can have reasonable assurance that findings above 70% are accurate. Problem is, I’m a little strapped for time here.

So I’m turning to the distributed power of the web for help meet the McDowell/Tate Challenge of ensuring that the data meet the highest standards of ”trustworthiness, truthfulness, and viability” (which, I have to say, has not exactly been the case with Commission cable reports before Martin took over. Either make a donation to MAP to get me a research assistant, or send me an email with useful cable statistics.

Stay tuned . . . .

Posted in Cable, Tales of the Sausage Factory | Also tagged , , , , , , , | 6 Comments (Comments closed)

Tales of the Sausage Factory

Public Knowledge And the IP3 Awards

Once again, Public Knowledge is calling for nominations for its IP3 Awards. These awards honor people who have made valuable contributions in the fields of intellectual property, information policy, and internet protocol. Nominations must get in by September 14. Send nominations to IP3nominees@publicknowledge.org.

To quote from the PK announcement:

These are individuals who over the past year (or over the course of their careers) have advanced the public interest regarding one of the three kinds of “IP.” While these increasingly overlapping policy arenas pose important challenges for us, they also create important opportunities for creative individuals in each of the three underlying fields to advance the public interest.

Normally, this is where I would insert a rather broad hint that the labor of yr hmbl obdnt blogger and others in the realm of open spectrum would make me an excellent candidate for nomination. Fortunately, you are spared this outrageous and self-serving spectacle by the fact that I am actually judging the nominations this year. Accordingly, nary a word of encouragement that might suggest bias on my part shall pass my lips or make it to this public page.

Instead, I’ll just urge everyone to send nominations in by September 14. Remember, send your nominations to IP3nominees@publicknowledge.org.

Stay tuned . . . .

Posted in General, Tales of the Sausage Factory | Also tagged , , , | 3 Comments (Comments closed)

Tales of the Sausage Factory

Assessing the 700 MHz Order Part II: “C” Does Not stand For “Crap;” Why the Wireless Carterfone Condition Is A Big Win.

Few things in the last few days have generated more discussion and overall pessimism in the Order than the C Block “wireless Carterfone” or “network attachment” conditions. “A tease,” says Art Brodsky. “Crippled by loopholes,” opines Susan Crawford.

“Not so fast!” Says yr hmbl obdnt blogger. In point of fact, there is a a hell of a lot here to like in the C Block conditions. Not just for trying to get actual devices attached, but in terms of FCC precedent and broader spectrum policy. This is an “Eyes on the Prize” moment, similar to the preliminary decisions that culminated in Brown v. Board of Education. We did not win the grand prize, but we got a lot good precedent for future spectrum reform.

Further, as I explain below, I do not think the conditions the FCC imposed here are meaningless. To the contrary, I think the rules are about as aggressive as possible to draft (as I worked hard with Commissioner Adelstein and his staff to think of anything I could possibly add to them). But at the end of the day, what matters is the political will. If the next FCC (which will be the FCC that enforces this) wants to give these license conditions meaning, it has the tools to do so. If a future FCC wants to make this meaningless, then there is nothing we can do no matter how well we draft things.

And I will add that if anyone has some better ideas on what to put in as rules, they should certainly file Petitions for Reconsideration

My analysis of why the C Block conditions do matter below . . . .

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Posted in Spectrum, Tales of the Sausage Factory | Also tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments (Comments closed)

Tales of the Sausage Factory

Senator Durbin Consults With the People

Tonight, and for the next several days, Senator Richard Durbin (D-Il), the #2 man in the Senate, is conducting an experiment in direct democracy and taking a bit of a risk. He will spend the next week in real time blogging over potential legislation. No carefully crafted “town meeting” or managed event, and no showing up as a walrus a la Second Life. Just a chance for people to actually hash out issues with someone who will vote on these things in the Senate.

Here is a reprint of the announcement. I will add that I will be participating as a featured blogger as part of the debate on wireless policy and munibroadband on Thursday night.

Stay tuned . . . .

Starting this Tuesday evening, July 24 and each evening this week at 7pm EST on OpenLeft.com, Senator Durbin and his staff will blog nightly on a broad swath of broadband policy issues. Based on this discussion, the Senator wants to attempt to write legislation this session. Each evening kicks off with discussion from individuals who have worked a long time on the topic of the evening, but the intent is to spur broader comment from as many as is possible. This is no meaningless exercise: it is a genuine attempt to try to open up the legislative process. All input matters in a very real way.

I’ve attached below links to the letter announcing the initiative as well as the schedule for the week. Please feel free to share it with those you think might be interested in taking part. It is my hope that those who care deeply about these issues will blog about it, point folks to our discussion, and comment themselves. We’ll also be scouring the web for other places that related discussion happens this week, so if you blog about it, please let me know so we can follow where discussion goes on your site too.

I hope you’ll join us and help to get the word out. Please feel free to contact me with any questions.

Press release: http://durbin.senate.gov/record.cfm?id=279504
Open Letter: http://www.openleft.com/showDiary.do?diaryId=318

Posted in General, Life In The Sausage Factory, Tales of the Sausage Factory | Also tagged , , , | Comments closed

My Thoughts Exactly

Such a Deal!

Hey Friends! How’d you like to support a struggling genius AND get a great deal on an excellent book (or two)? Today and tomorrow I’m offering my astounding novels at astounding discounts. If you dig Wetmachine, now would be a good time to show it, for once again the wolves are at the door. And if you just dig a good price on a good book, that works too.

The books in question are my Acts of the Apostles, a well regarded nanotech thriller, ostensibly about Gulf War Syndrome, which I wrote between 1995 and 1999 and published in 1999. Normally this goes for $15, but how does $5 sound, including shipping in North America? I’m offering the same deal on my Cheap Complex Devices and pre-orders of The Pains.

And of course, donations in support of the site (or any individual blogger: Me, Harold, Gary or Howard) are also always welcome.

Below the fold, more about these wonderful books, along with simple instructions for cashing in on these great, nay, scandalously great, deals.

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