Tales of the Sausage Factory

Fragmentation Games: Playstation Gets “Boxeed,” TV Anywhere Gets More Content.

In the latest twist in the broadband fragmentation games driven the overlap of MVPDs and broadband access providers, users of PlayStation 3 can no longer access Hulu. As some may recall, Hulu tried a similar trick with Boxee.tv, resulting in a good old fashioned tech arms race wherein Boxee camouflaged itself as browser and Hulu responded by encrypting html.

Now Hulu has shut off the spigot to Playstation 3. Why? As I noted when Hulu pulled this on Boxee in the spring, the people who make money off the existing video subscription model (both the cable operators like Comcast and the content holders like NBC Universal) really dislike the thought of streaming media actually competing with them. As long as video stayed on the laptop and occasionally stopped to buffer, it didn’t really threaten the established business models. But make it possible to watch streaming media on your regular TV, with a quality practically equal to what you get on cable, and it becomes a very disruptive technology.

Playstation 3 and other game consoles are obvious candidates to disrupt the existing business model. They already plug into your television set, you are very familiar with the controls, and the manufacturers are always expanding the capabilities of the units to make them more “media centers” and less “game centers.” Like Boxee, they represent a real threat by making it possible for me to stream online content effortlessly on my TV and watch in exactly the same way I watch anything else.

Meanwhile, Time Warner and Comcast have found lots of other content networks eager to join the “Entitlement Program.” This initiative appears to be gathering critical mass very rapidly, which is not too surprising. While some of the bigger folks like Disney may hold out to see how they can maximize their return, the midsized players anxious about possible changes to the business model are likely to want to get in while the getting is good.

To conclude, what we have here is not anything obvious or dramatic. It is a few more ripples in the pond, indicating where the big fish swim. Any one of the “fragmentation games” incidents I’ve discussed, for example the ESPN360.com business which has been slowly ratcheting up to include more ISPs, is not necessarily significant on its own. Taken together, however, I see a pattern emerging that tells me where the fun and games will happen over the next few years. Heck, at this point, I’m not even sure what policy prescription I would offer. I just know that I’m seeing a bunch of ripples that might be nothing. Or it might be bunch of salmon and a great place to cast a line. Or it might be a school of piranha and I need to be very careful before wading in.

Stay tuned . . . .

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Tales of the Sausage Factory

Is Obama v. Clinton Really Style v. Substance? Or Is the Internet Changing Another Facet of Campaigning?

Unsurprisingly, Clinton has sought to portray Obama as mostly oratory style rather than substance. Whereas Obama may give uplifting speeches, she tells crowds, she is the one with the command of the facts and the true knowledge of policy. Clinton backs this up by giving well researched specifics and detailed policy recommendations in her stump speeches and in her debate appearances.

Also unsurprisingly, the herd beasts of punditryland in their never ending quest for simplistic themes that nicely boil down to “X v. Y” arguments have gobbled this up with a spoon. We hear constantly either about how Obama will need to show he has the same command of the facts, or how voters are more in the mood for change than for experience, and on and on and on.

I will humbly suggest, however, that what Obama has done is to match his message to the medium. He has put the details on his website for folks interested in specific issues. But when speaking in the context of a mass medium (huge rally, television appearance), he makes his broader campaign appeal.

Other candidates have done this in the past. But I believe we have now hit a sufficient critical mass on the wider availability and greater use of the Internet as a tool to become an effective campaign strategy. This relates back to my earlier observations on the interplay between the internet and the traditional mass media. I would love to see some actual empirical research on the subject. But my speculations based on what I know now below. . .

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Inventing the Future

Scaling to the Enterprise (Part 4 of 4)

4. HOW RELIABLE IS THE COMMUNITY?

(See part 1.)

None of the previous matters if the software isn’t useful, or if we are not allowed to use the software. The former is what we’re working on, but the latter is a very complex issue. Croquet is certainly not at critical mass. It could certainly go away. However, we feel it is immune at least from licensing plays such as those that have plagued the use of proprietary systems in higher ed, or those that have fractured the Java community. As the number of users in such systems grows, attempts for controlling proprietary lock-in have been very expensive. Croquet fights this in several ways: with an open source license in which all work on Croquet itself is available to anyone; with a P2P architecture that eliminates any advantage to “controlling the servers”; and with a dynamic language that eliminates any advantage to “controlling the release.” We feel that this last will be further strengthened by upcoming work in architecture and security, to be carried out here at UW. For the general health of the community, I look forward to upcoming announcements.

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Inventing the Future

components status

I had hoped to have a usable version of the components framework by now. Instead, I have a reasonably self-consistent set of scaffolding that illustrates a lot of the concepts. It isn’t at a critical mass of functionality, and it has a lot of bugs and mis-steps. I was sure that copy semantics, multiple views, and event handling were going to be hard, as would getting enough corners tacked down so that I could start to cut the cloth. But they turned out to be much harder than I imagined. Nonetheless, I’ve now got a stake in the ground as the starting point. Maybe now there’s enough ‘it’ there that I can next report, “made ‘it’ do such-and-such”, or “added X to ‘it’.”

Below the fold is a diary/log of how I got to this point. (I originally called this a “bootstrapping” architecture, because components allow people to build their Croquet models from within Croquet itself.)

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