My Thoughts Exactly

Taking a flyer

My father is among many people who use the idiom “take a flyer” to mean “take a risk”. (I know that millions of other people use the expression also, but I always hear it in my father’s voice: “Go ahead, take a flyer. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.” etc, etc). Well, I certainly took a flyer when I got laid off from the proverbial day job sixteen years ago and decided to move to Martha’s Vineyard & try to make a living as a freelance technical writer. And I took a flyer when I then took a few years to write a novel in between stints as truck driver, construction laborer, etc. And I took a flyer when I decided to self-publish. But today I’m going to talk about when I took a flyer & crafted a cheesy hand-drawn flyer as a marketing tool for my books, making me look perhaps even more of a crackpot than I actually am, if that’s possible. In some ways it was the most successful of all of these flyers.


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Tales of the Sausage Factory

Off to Big Tent In Denver Next Week.

For anyone who cares, I will be in Denver next week, but not for the Democratic National Convention (although I wouldn’t say no if someone wanted to slip me a pass — hint, hint). I will be attending the Big Tent event for bloggers, progressives, and anyone else who cares to wonder over and see what the changing face of online politics looks like. The event is running in parallel with the Democratic Convention, with significant overlap, although not actually part of it and far enough away geographically to be separate and distinct. I shall leave it to the reader to draw his or her own meaning from this.

Still, the hope is that the Big Tent event will attract significant cross over from the convention. On Tuesday, in conjunction with Common Cause Colorado, there will be a symposium on media issues and all that policy stuff I do over in my day job at Media Access Project. If you’re there, you can catch me speaking on media ownership and its impact on diversity in the afternoon, and/or my colleague at MAP, Parul Desai, talking on network neutrality. In the morning there will be a bunch of other speakers, including FCC Commissioner Jonathon Adelstein, so it should be fun.

Anyway, if you see me out there, feel free to come up and say hi.

Stay tuned . . . .

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Tales of the Sausage Factory

Comcast and BitTorrent, or "Honestly Charlie Brown, The Market Dictates I Let You Kick The Football THIS Time.”

[First, a rather important point to Richard Bennett and anyone who may be confused. This blog is my own. It is not a “Media Access” blog, and it does not represent MAP policy. I very deliberately do not show this stuff to anyone at MAP for prior approval before I write it. This is me personally sounding off. Got it? This is in addition to my day job. (Although my wrath at this mischaracterization is tempered by his describing this blog as “popular.”)]

There must be something in the air that has turned Comcast from a fighter to a lover. Apparently, Comcast and BitTorrent have kissed and made up, Brian Roberts has stood barefoot in the snow beneath Kevin Martin’s window at Canossa, and all is now supposed to be well in the world. Nothing to see here, move along, these aren’t the droids we’re looking for, and once again the magic of the market solves everything.

I would have written earlier, but I was having a flashback to when AOL Time Warner committed to creating an interoperable instant messenger. Then I was flashing on when AT&T Broadband and Earthlink “solved” the original open access problem by negotiating a contract and thus proving that “the market” would guarantee that independent ISPs would be able to resell cable modem service just like they were reselling DSL. Then I woke up vomiting. I always have a bad reaction to whatever folks smoke to conclude “the free market solves everything” especially when (a) this was the result of a regulatory two-by-four applied directly to Comcast’s scalp, repeatedly; and (b) nothing actually happened except for a real and sincere comitment to yack about stuff — at least until the regulators go away. Still, like Lucy and Charlie Brown, there are some folks for whom this just never gets old.

So while I’m glad to see Comcast forced to play the penitent, confess wrongdoing, and appear to give a full surrender, and while I generally like the idea of industry folks and ISPs getting together to actually do positive stuff on internet architecture issues, I think wild celebrations from the anti-regulators and the expectation that we can declare “Mission Accomplished” and go home is a shade premature. Indeed, the only people who believe this announcement actually solves anything are — by and large — those who didn’t believe there was a problem in the first place. I believe the technical term for such folks is “useful idiots.”

My further thoughts below….

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My Thoughts Exactly

2008 Revolutions

Well, the new year is upon us and I’m already 3 days late with my new year’s revolutions. But I have a good excuse: I got laid off from the OpenLaszlo project on November 16, and so I’ve been very busy with the day job and the holidays. No, wait. I don’t have a day job. I must have been busy with something else. Perhaps I was busy thinking. Or raking the leaves. Or thinking while raking the leaves. Let me check my notes and get back to you on that. Rather, I suppose I should resolve not to bore yzall with formulaic blog posts, so let’s drop the whole subject. I hereby resolve to not resolve.

Resolutions aside, I do have a Wetmachine goal for 2008, and that’s to increase readership by at least a factor of ten over 2007. While leaf-raking, I came up with some startling ideas about how to do that–starting with a free toaster for every single one of you who clicks on a “Read More” link, and including:

* an upgrade of the Bonehead Computer Museum to Croquet 3-D space
* podcasts of my novels as radio plays featuring William Shatner, Kay Parker, and Tom Hulce
* “Bloggers of Wetmachine” swimsuit calendar
* switching to lolcat dialect for all entries about software or writing
* Videoblogging Harold Feld vs Kevin J. Martin in steel cage ultimate boxing match

Stay tuned, as somebody around here said. This is going to be the best year yet, for you, and you, and you! Amen.

P.S. Details on that toaster coming soon.

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My Thoughts Exactly

When the writer strikes!

I’ve been keeping a desultory eye on the gathering strike by the Writer’s Guild of America, which is the screenwriters’ union — where “screen” means movie screen and television screen.

One of the points at issue is whether computer screens and iPhone screens also count as “screens”, that is, the writers want compensation for works of theirs that are distributed on the net, and, as I understand things, the other party doesn’t want to give it to them.

As a person who has made his living as a writer, kinda-sorta, since April, 1980, I find the notion of a writer’s union intriguing and somewhat baffling. It’s hard to imagine a technical writer’s union negotiating terms with Sun, Microsoft, or IBM. But why is that, exactly? Screenwriting is a much more solitary endeavor than technical writing, so on the face of it, one would expect screenwriters to be even less likely to unionize than technical writers. But then again, the stakes are higher in Hollywood, where the difference between an OK screenplay and a good screenplay is measured in millions of dollars at the so-called bottom line. So writers have more clout, is what I’m trying to say.

Recently my friend the Hollywood actor/producer/script-doctor has been making some noises about pimping the movie rights to my novel Acts of the Apostles. (It would make a great movie, by the way!) I have no understanding of the craft of screenwriting; nor do I have any free time not taken up by the day job & so-called life. So I’m not a very strong candidate to try my hand at writing a screenplay of my book. On the other hand, I’m not in the Guild, and, given that it is a guild— meaning that it’s hard to even gain admission to it— I’m unlikely to be in it anytime soon. So maybe I should go for it.

Act one, Scene one: Exterior. A dark and stormy night. . .

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My Thoughts Exactly

Congratulations Senator-Elect Webb! Congratulations Senator-Elect Tester

Congratulations to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid! Great day in the Morning! Hallelujah!

Congrats of course to winners everywhere (most especially to those in the mainstream, majoritarian party, the Democratic Party). A Democratic-led House of Representatives! Speaker Nancy Pelosi! A Democratic majority in the Senate! Hoo-boy. Some hope, at last, that we may pull back from the brink.

In Virginia the Republican candidate for the Senate is the racist thug brownshirt liar George Felix Allen, and in Montana the Republican candidate for Senate is the corrupt firefighter-hating Abramoff flunky Conrad Burns. They’re backed by the full force of the Repubiican Bush/Cheney/Rove crime family, er, national party who rightly fear marginalization if not impeachment, trial and conviction if two more Democratic senators are seated, so don’t expect them to go down without a fight — a nasty, dirty, dishonest fight. But Tester and Webb and Reid are no patsies, and a fair count will prevail.

It will be easier to concentrate on my day job today. Somehow the dread is much, much less oppressive this morning.

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Tales of the Sausage Factory

Stevens Bill Analysis Part I — The Good Parts (Unlicensed Spectrum and Program Access)

Senator Stevens (R-AK), Chair of the Senate Commerce Committee, has introduced a massive telecom bill. The ten sections of the Communications, Consumer Choice, and Broadband Deployment Act of 2006 (helpfully broken down into separately named acts) covers a variety of material from subsidies for troops calling home to Return of the Broadcast Flag. As a consequence, I’ve broken up my analysis into a bunch of different postings.

Below, I talk about the two good things in the Stevens Bill, “The Wireless Innovation (WIN) Act of 2006,” (Title VI of the stevens Bill) and the “Sports Freedom Act of 2006” (Title IV Subtitle A).

In Part II, I will hit the really awful stuff on municipal broadband, network neutrality and broadcast flag.

This skips a bunch on local franchising, PEG, universal service, interoperability of emergency equipment, telephone rates for military personnel deployed abroad. I may come back to these if I can, but other folks, such as Saveaccess.org are doing a good job covering these issues and I also need to do my day job.

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