Inventing the Future

Publishing: A “New Yorker” for the 21st Century

I’ve bumped into a series of issues related to publishing recently. I don’t know that they ever will or should combine to form a coherent idea, but it feels like I should record them as though in a design notebook…

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Tales of the Sausage Factory

Why Verizon Should Give Away FIOS Connections and Get People Addicted to Speed.

I just got a postcard from Verizon telling me FIOS will soon be available in my neighborhood. While I’m probably one of the last residential CLEC subscribers in the United States, I’m a firm believer in the idea that fiber is better and have been waiting for FIOS to become available so I can look at switching.

Then I saw the prices. Yuck. Verizon prices its FIOS as “competitive” with cable and other providers in my region — for a premium service. But it takes more than competitive to get me to go through the hassle of switching, especially when I am reasonably comfortable with my service right now. Switching doesn’t just mean spending several days going through hook up Hell and having Verizon install some super duper power pack on my premises. It also means changing a whole bunch of things tied to my (or my wife’s) current email address. That’s no small deal.

Meanwhile, as everyone knows, the cable operators did better at gaining new broadband customers in Q2, although uptake for broadband was generally anemic. Not surprisingly, Verizon defends its performance on its policy blog. Besides the usual (when you do poorly) inveighing against looking at a single quarter. Verizon points to a number of indicators that its FIOS system is the top dog system in the U.S., with possible top speeds of up to 50 MBPS and usually providing its advertised speed (I love that as a selling point!). Still, analysts argue that Verizon is pricing itself out of the market, and should go back to DSL.

I have a different take. I think VZ needs to get people addicted to speed.

More below . . . .

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Inventing the Future

Going to California With…

I like to think I’m particularly adaptable on those occasions when I happen to recognize that I need to be, but I perpetually feel inadequate in recognizing when the rules of the universe have changed. That’s a pretty significant skill to be lacking when you’re trying to invent the future.

So it is with even more than the usual range of emotions that I have come to “sell” our home in Wisconsin and will finally be moving to California. I am told that this is an extraordinary accomplishment, but I’ve “adapted” so much, the celebration has a Pyrrhic cast.

The US housing market has all but ceased to exist as a functioning market with any sort of liquidity. In my neighborhood, there should statistically be about one home sale each week. Ours was the seventh in the previous eight months, and I think all of those were the previous calendar year. The issue seems to be that every sale is contingent on having the buyers sell their home, which isn’t happening, so the whole country is waiting for one big circle jerk. Many housing industry folks are claiming that prices have not fallen much, but that’s disingenuous – the average selling price nationally and in most areas hasn’t fallen much only because the average home size continues to rise. The average price per square foot of any particular existing fixed-size house is dropping like a stone in a still pond. (Areas that do not see average housing sizes grow have indeed been seeing a big drop in average selling price.) And with bankers knowing this and knowing that several hundred of their ilk are being carted off by the FBI – no I’m not making this up – they’re not making a lot of bridge loans that would allow folks to buy one house before they sell the next.

So here’s what we did:

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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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Inventing the Future

Follow-up on “The Sign”

The first night night after attaching the letter to the political sign against meanness, the sign remained. Someone had pulled it out half way to steal this second sign, but thought better of it.

The second night the same. This time the sign wires were bent, but the sign remained.

Then we went away for two days. The sign was gone. Just the twisted wires remained.

Our friend in the cause brought us another replacement without asking. Actually, she brought two. She had been watching. We’re the first house in the neighborhood and prominent. And this isn’t any neighborhood. It is a mostly green-built conservancy full of kids and parks and porches behind small setbacks. Lots of salesmen and teachers raising kids. It is also the home of the Republican candidate for State Attorney General. A former U.S. District Attorney appointed by President Bush, he funded much of his compain by mortgaging his house.

We left the twisted wires and put in the new sign. Without the letter. Wife Robin had suggested all along that we just keep replacing the sign, and she had suggested — ok, she barred me — from retaliating with email to the neighborhood and letters to the editor. I wondered if the folks who had been told by their pastors to vote against gays would appreciate this example of turning the other cheek.

Anyway, the sign remained. No one stole the third sign. Yet bucking Democratic victories state-wide, our neighbor won his bid for Attorney General, and the people of the state of LaFollette voted to ammend the constitution so as to prohibit the state from ever granting couples rights to a group that Tuesday’s voters disapproved of.

We lost. But in my way I took a stand and I feel good about that. Our next Attorney General didn’t speak out in the neighborhood nor with the press for either private property or private love. But a few folks in the neighborhood have come out and told us about how they feel good about our little play. I feel that the wonderful thing about democracy is not that we each get to cast a vote. Mathematically, that just doesn’t matter. It is that in voting we have to decide. We can just do what we’re told to, but even that is a choice. I feel like we contributed to the inner decision process of a tiny-few people on both sides. That’s not a bad thing.

Posted in "A Republic, if you can keep it", Inventing the Future | Also tagged | 1 Comment (Comments closed)

Inventing the Future

It Doesn't Have To Be Physical

My wife recently made this video about our fight to stop a high-voltage power line proposed in our neighborhood. It was a lot of work.

She put copies onto DVDs with nice printed labels for distribution. I would have thought that seeing the physical product would give us a sense of completion and having accomplished something. It was nice, but it didn’t quite close the effort.

Then we uploaded the bits to Google Video and waited for review before it was accessible. And waited. And waited. And then one day we just checked to see if it was up. Bingo! We watched it over and over again. I was struck by how much greater the sense of accomplishment in seeing the video up on Google, available for world-wide viewing.

This is the new distribution. This is the Age of Imagination.

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