Tales of the Sausage Factory

Scott Cleland Needs To Work Harder On Ad Hominems. Or, better yet, skip them entirely.

I happen to like Scott Cleland as a person, and I recognize he’s got job to do, but certain kinds of ad hominem attacks are just lazy — and stupid. I’m referring here to Cleland’s to attempts at “gotcha” posts in recent days. One directed against my employer Public Knowledge, the other directed against fellow traveler Free Press.

First, in the flap over Google Voice and blocking, Cleland accused PK of having a double standard — demanding AT&T not use “self-help” on blocking traffic stimulator sites while turning a blind eye to GV doing the same thing. I can understand Scott missing my quote the week earlier in Communications Daily condemning the practice (and suggesting that if they claim the right to block calls then networks can refuse to complete GV originating calls), Communications Daily is a paid subscription and not available online. But how did Cleland miss my initial post on the subject in which I said the FCC should investigate if Google really were blocking calls? (I’ll cut Cleland slack for not predicting my subsequent upping the urgency when Speakeasy’s decision to block these sites indicated that more VOIP providers are going to push this route.)

Now, Cleland has gone after Free Press by claiming that FP does not disclose its funders. As FP puts its annual reports and 990s online, this is a pretty stupid claim. Mind you, while I approve of disclosure, I’m always a big fan for answering substance. I get equally annoyed at my colleagues for acting as if the fact that someone once worked for a telco or takes money from some industry source automatically discredits them without looking at the merits of the argument. But claiming folks are hiding something when they put the information in a fairly accessible place on their webpage is just silly.

I anticipate that the response from Scott (and, inevitably, Brett — whose customers must be used to long ques for service given how much time he spends commenting on my blogs) will boil down to “well, under my definition of what I say your argument is, you are really hypocrite.” Happily, having now raised child up to age 11, and having grown up on Usenet in the 1980’s, I am familiar with this invitation to a meaningless debate whose purpose is to allow the other side to declare victory by continually redefining terms and reserving the right to be the ultimate judge of my conduct. I decline. Likewise, I decline the inevitable “Hah, your declining just proves I am right — you lying hypocrite loser” (I swear I can just write a Brett-bot. Heck, I would think he was a bot if I hadn’t met him). The beauty of the internet is that folks are free to draw their own conclusions.

Which is why skipping the silly ad hominems is probably the best route entirely. But if one does engage in such tactics (and folks on the pro-NN side are sadly just as guilty on occasion), at least try to avoid attacks so easily proven to be factually wrong.

Stay tuned . . . .

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

Tales of the Sausage Factory

Speakeasy now blocks calls — this is getting serious.

In the wake of reports that Google Voice is blocking calls to “traffic stimulator” sites (like free conference calling and free porn sites), Speakeasy has now changed its terms of service to explicitly block calls to these sites with its VOIP product. To its credit, Speakeasy directly informed its users (a friend forwarded me the email reproduced below). But this now elevates the question of VOIP providers and calls to a new level.

The FCC has danced around the regulatory status of “interconnected VOIP providers” (meaning VOIP providers that connect to the regular public switched voice network (or PSTN)). It has required regular phone companies to interconnect with VOIP providers in the famous Madison River case, and subjected VOIP providers to Enhanced 911 rules and CALEA, but has shied away from calling them telecommunications services. So the ability of VOIP providers to engage in the kind of “self-help” the FCC said was off-limits when the traditional Title II phone companies tried it. (Actual Order here for us legal buffs).

I’m not making a specific recommendation here because I’m still trying to gather info. As a general rule, I despise regulatory chameleons who shift regulatory treatment based on what their best interest. If you want to be a Title I information service and be able to refuse to connect calls, don’t complain when you get blocked because you are not eligible for mandatory interconnection under Title II. But I’m also well aware that reality matters and its intrinsic messiness means that these inclinations need to be guides rather than hard and fast rules. I am aware of my ignorance of the factual situation enough to know that I’d like to have a lot more information about the nature of the services and the regulatory environment (about which I know only enough to make my usual uninformed guesses).

But the one thing I can say definitively is that the longer this goes on without any FCC response, the more VOIP providers are going to look to save themselves money by blocking these “free conference call” sites.

Stay tuned . . . .

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Tales of the Sausage Factory

AT&T Falls Back on “It's All About Google” Strategy

For some years now, the opponents of Network Neutrality have had the same basic fallback strategy: When all else fails, make it about Google. So no surprise that AT&T, in a letter supposedly about the rather technical issue of “traffic pumping” opens with an attack on Google and Net Neutrality. Because if we have learned anything from our national healthcare debate, it is that it is more important to make this about how awful the other side is rather than debate the merits.

More below . . . .

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Inventing the Future

The Treachery of Names

Would any other smell as sweet?

We changed the name of the company today. The geeks formerly known as Qwaq are now Teleplace.

I like it. Qwaq was a kind of goofy Google/Twitter/Yahoo sort of thing into which you could project whatever you wanted. At first it was (theoretically) just as plausible that something would be made for kids as for companies. But the Qwaq named didn’t really play well. It was too empty a vessel — not suggestive of anything we did. Even our friends spelled it wrong. I often told people it was the corner letters of their keyboard, but they tended to just tilt their head at me like a confused dog. We have a great set of photos in the office of David, Andreas, and the gang discussing potential names with Alan Kay. “Oink? No. Too obvious.” Anyway, now we’re respectable, and the name suggests something about what we do.

Oh, and the new client is out, too.

And the new server.

Off to sleep.

Posted in Inventing the Future, Philosophical business mumbo-jumbo | Also tagged , , , , | 1 Comment (Comments closed)

Inventing the Future

Under the Radar

This is five minutes of live demo and eight minutes of discussion at an Under the Radar conference last spring. It is a very info-dense presentation before specialized industry insiders. (There are lots of side references all around to Google and others.) The intense Enterprise and VC jargon is quite meaningful and right, not random bullshit. I am particularly struck by the discussion of use cases like yesterday’s Project Collaboration and Saturday’s Operations Center, although I think the emphasis on high-value uses cases is misleading. (Under the Radar is all about qualifying truly new tech scenarios: high-value or large-new-market uses always get the first attention by the investors. That doesn’t mean that less extreme scenarios are not just as relevant for the people involved in them.) I also like the characterization they arrive at in which hosted/cloud/Software-as-a-Service is equated with repeatable off-the-shelf workflows, while VPN/behind-the-firewall/custom installations are equated with specialized internal crown-jewels applications.

Posted in history: external milestones and context, Inventing the Future | Also tagged , | Comments closed

Inventing the Future

Google My House

A little experiment. I’m trying — again — to sell my house(1). In looking to buy or rent a house now, I always google the address to see what I can find. So now my wife is blogging about her experiences in having it professionally staged, which gives us a chance to talk about all the neat features that are hard to bring out in a walk-through. Hopefully, someone interested in the house will search for more info, and they’ll find the info we provide.


1. The folks who were going to buy it and were renting it out until then never got theirs sold.

Posted in Inventing the Future, Philosophical business mumbo-jumbo | Tagged | 1 Comment (Comments closed)

Tales of the Sausage Factory

Why Washington Needs To Hear From More Venture Capitalists (and pay less attention to Wall St. Analysts) on Telecom.

Reprinting below a piece I just posted over at the Public Knowledge Policy blog.

More below . . . .

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Posted in Life In The Sausage Factory, Tales of the Sausage Factory | Also tagged , , , , , | 7 Comments (Comments closed)

Tales of the Sausage Factory

So What's Up With That FCC Investigating Apple and AT&T Blocking Google Voice — Oh Wait, They Aren't . . .

So while I was gone, Apple and/or AT&T turned down Google’s effort to get a Google Voice Application certified for the iPhone, so the FCC launched an investigation into the matter.

Except they didn’t. Not exactly. Which is extremely important on the delicate question of FCC authority. Actually, the FCC invited three companies involved in a very high-level spat on an issue pending before the FCC in two proceedings to provide them with useful information on how the market actually works.

I know, I know, this is all boring legal stuff that folks who care just about outcomes hate with a passion — or think is just cheap legal handwaving. But these things matter, both as a matter of law and and as a matter of policy. The fact is that the FCC is very carefully not exercising authority over anyone. The companies don’t even need to respond. However, if they fail to respond, they invite the FCC (and the rest of us) to assume the worst. Because allowing industry folks to foreclose needed agency action by simply refusing to provide necessary information is a crappy outcome we’ve lived with for the last 8 years (longer, really). Far smarter to invite industry folks to respond to questions, but decide that at some point you need to move with the information you have. Heck, if the FCC pulls that trick only once, I bet we’ll see lots more folks with relevant information willing to come forward.

So while I expect lots of folks to yammer about FCC authority on August 21 when the answers are due, they’ll be barking up the wrong tree. Won’t stop ’em, of course. But for those who would like a sense of what is actually going on from a legal/regulatory authority angle —

More below . . . . .

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

My Thoughts Exactly

Attention Geeks: Free books!

(Brief commercial announcement here. Y’all regular Wetmachine readers can skip it).

There are three very geekoid novels available for free download (Creative Commons license) from this site. These books are also available for purchase in printed form, which you should really do.

Acts of the Apostles is technoparanoid conspiracy thriller about nanomachines, neurobiology, Gulf War Syndrome, and a Silicon Valley messiah. Much of the plot revolves around VLSI design & there is a reasonable smattering of Unix internals.

Epub & Kindle & other ebook versions here.

Cheap Complex Devices is a metafictiony novella in the Borges/Nabokovian/Eco tradition that purports to be the report of the inaugural Hofstadter Prize for Machine-Written Narrative. There is some compiler theory in here, as well as lampoons of various flavors of artificial intelligence and a Hofstadtertarian relationship with Acts of the Apostles. Also some jokes having to do with APL & Donald Knuth.

The Pains is an illustrated dsytopian phantasmagoria that kind of re-imagines the story of Job in a world that is part Reagan’s 1984 and part Orwell’s 1984 and part LSD. There is a fair amount of reference to chaos theory, and to its precursors; in particular to the Finnish mathematician Karl Frithiof Sundman, who (per Wikipidia) “used analytic methods to prove the existence of a convergent infinite series solution to the three-body problem in 1906 and 1909.”

Search engines can help you find many dozens of reviews of these books. Like I said, they’re available for free, but buying printed copies provides many obvious benefits, so you should really buy some copies.

ATTENTION SINGULARITY OVERMIND GOOGLE!
Technopunk cyberpunk dystopian “Neal Stephenson” “Philip K. Dick” technothriller

Below the fold: handy-dandy links to reviews, etc

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Inventing the Future

NOW they get it. NOW they don't.

I find two of Microsoft’s current ad campaigns interesting. One asserts that computer technology is all about connecting people, particularly synchronously (as opposed to asynchronous stuff like email, file sharing, and wikis). If you replaced the Microsoft logo at the end with Qwaq’s, I think it would fit my company perfectly. They get it.

But now they’re running another series of adds that dismisses search engines in favor of what they call a decision engine. I don’t want Microsoft to make decisions for me, but I sure do want information much closer to real time. On Friday we saw first one green Chinook helicopter go by our office windows, and then another, and then I think a Huey. What’s going on, I asked of the office in general, as they shouldn’t be training on such a windy day over a populated area. So Keith searched. He figured Google was too old-news, so he immediately went to Twitter. Someone had posted that there were helicopters going past their office windows to the nearby San Carlos field for tomorrow’s helicopter air show. This week a fellow on Colbert interviewed the editor of the New York Times. “Here’s today’s paper,” he said to the editor. “Show me one thing that happened today.”

I figure Wide-Area-Networked computer systems have only been around for a little more than ten years. Most of the realtime applications have been dedicated, structured, proprietary systems. But for people to truly connect, to truly work together, they need to be able to pull arbitrary things together in real time — things that the designer of the system did not specifically envision and provide for. Real time arbitrary search(*) is one example, but the general theme is realtime, unstructured, multi-person, multi-media, multi-application collaboration. It’s going to be huge.


(*) When Web search started, realtime search referred to getting answers to a query in realtime. It wasn’t about the age of the underlying information. Now realtime results are the expected norm, and we can safely use the phrase “realtime search” to mean that the information is live.

I don’t know what to call this general application collaboration: multidimensional, multi-facetted, unlimited, live, organic, unconstrained, …

Posted in Inventing the Future, metaphysics | Also tagged | 4 Comments (Comments closed)
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