“the largest area of outsourcing is not to India, Sri Lanka or China. Our jobs are being outsourced to us”

Typically punchy stuff from Rick Bookstaber:

And one notable area of consumption that by definition differentiates the classes, that of conspicuous consumption, is going by the wayside. Yes, I believe we are seeing the twilight of the era of conspicuous consumption. Not that Gucci and Chanel are going to go out of business, but for most people that sort of status statement is increasingly becoming irrelevant. No matter what you are wearing and driving, a far better picture of you and your status is just a few clicks away. You don't have to drive a Ferrari to let everyone know you are rich and successful. If you are driving a Ferrari, what it will convey is that you – who as everyone who cares to Google you knows is running a hedge fund and is worth tons of money – must like a Ferrari.

Xpost: In which I disagree with Pando Daily r.e Wikipedia's SOPA blackout

Originally published over at Galavant:Paul Carr at PandoDaily asserts that Wikipedia’s SOPA blackout is a terrible idea.

Carr bases his argument, as outlined in his post, on the following:

  1. Whatever your stance on SOPA, closing down a global business to protest an American law is foolish. And to shutter Wikipedia — a crowd-funded international encyclopedia — in protest of a single national issue is even worse.
  2. One of the core principles of Wikipedia is its neutrality. No matter how controversial the topic, Wikipedia’s own neutrality guidelines stress the importance of balance, of not taking a side...The trouble with taking a political stance on one issue is that your silence on every issue

On the second point - that the blackout violates Wikipedia's avowedly neutral stance - I agree.

But to argue that SOPA is an "American law" or a "single national issue" is to thoroughly misrepresent the proposed legislation.

[Caveat: I am not a lawyer, etc]

Consider the following lines from the text of the House version of HR 3261 (PDF / HTML) (emphasis mine):


(a) Definition- For purposes of this section, a foreign Internet site or portion thereof is a `foreign infringing site' if--

(1) the Internet site or portion thereof is a U.S.-directed site and is used by users in the United States;

(2) the owner or operator of such Internet site is committing or facilitating the commission of criminal violations punishable under section 2318, 2319, 2319A, 2319B, or 2320, or chapter 90, of title 18, United States Code; and

(3) the Internet site would, by reason of acts described in paragraph (1), be subject to seizure in the United States in an action brought by the Attorney General if such site were a domestic Internet site.

The point of SOPA is that it is extraterritorial in scope - it is designed to bring to bear the weight of US law on foreign websites as if "such site were a domestic Internet site".

And as reddit engineer Jason Harvey pointed out in an excellent post on SOPA and PIPA:

Under these broad definitions, domestically hosted sites such as 'redd.it' and 'bit.ly' can be defined as foreign internet sites. On the other side of the coin, foreign hosted sites such as wikileaks.org and thepiratebay.org can be defined as 'domestic', since their domain names are registered through authorities located in the U.S.

On that latter point, an elaboration from Michael Geist, a law professor at the University of Ottawa:

SOPA treats all dot-com, dot-net, and dot-org domain as domestic domain names for U.S. law purposes. Moreover, it defines "domestic Internet protocol addresses" - the numeric strings that constitute the actual address of a website or Internet connection - as "an Internet Protocol address for which the corresponding Internet Protocol allocation entity is located within a judicial district of the United States." Yet IP addresses are allocated by regional organizations, not national ones. The allocation entity located in the U.S. is called ARIN, the American Registry for Internet Numbers. Its territory includes the U.S., Canada, and 20 Caribbean nations. This bill treats all IP addresses in this region as domestic for U.S. law purposes. To put this is context, every Canadian Internet provider relies on ARIN for its block of IP addresses. In fact, ARIN even allocates the block of IP addresses used by federal and provincial governments. The U.S. bill would treat them all as domestic for U.S. law purposes.

Crucially, the bill would also affect foreign nationals, if such were:

(A) a registrant of a domain name used by a foreign infringing site; or (B) an owner or operator of a foreign infringing site.

And here's more on that from Dr Geist:

Should a [foreign] website owner wish to challenge the court order, U.S. law asserts itself in another way, since in order for an owner to file a challenge (described as a "counter notification"), the owner must first consent to the jurisdiction of the U.S. courts.

So here I must disagree with Paul Carr.

SOPA and PIPA are not just "American" issues. They are global, for good or ill. Mostly for ill.


How to travel around the world for a year - if you have a US or European passport.

For everyone else, tough:

If you're lucky enough to be an American or European citizen, then visas are not an issue. The only country that wouldn't give me a visa at the border was Vietnam, and I just paid a guy at a Cambodian hostel to take my visa to the Vietnamese embassy and process it. It's worth doing a bit of research on this in advance, but it usually isn't a problem.

Helps to have $15k discretionary income, too...

'It isn't the 1% who destroyed the middle class. It was you. The IT nerds.'

Revenge of the nerds, a conspiracy theory by "Zombax"::

You automated our factories - which took our jobs. You automated our travel agents - which took our jobs. You automated buying books - and closed our bookstores. You gave us automated checkout machines at shopping centers - which took our jobs. You automated our skilled radiologists work - which took our jobs. You automated our accounting - which took our jobs. You gave us open source - and took away your own ability to make a living writing code - by allowing people in India and China to do that much cheaper for us. You automated our lives away. You see a person with a job and you think "how can I take that job from them and replace it with a computer"

You didn't replace them with anything. You just though that you have a fucking great idea about how to make things more efficient. More *disruptive*

It isn't the 1% who destroyed the middle class. It was you. The IT nerds. You constantly look at ways to "disrupt" our society so you can get some more silicon valley stock options.

Unemployment will rise - because you don't give us new jobs - you just take away our old ones.

Pat yourself on the back Gnat as you destroy another industry. You're the fucking problem.



'[perhaps] obligations are more important than debts [and] amnesties are the key to economic and social order'

Meditations on debt, amnesty, barter and the nature of society by John Médaille at Front Porch Republic:

And herein lies the real power of money: it coordinates the actions of millions of strangers. Our lives are critically dependent on the actions of others; thousands of people contribute daily to our well-being, and all but a tiny fraction of them are strangers to us. How shall we acknowledge our debt to them, and they to us, except by the medium of money? Money then, is not so much a medium of exchange as a record of the obligations we have to each other, a series of debits and credits. A dollar in our pocket is at once the symbol of the labor we have performed for others, and an acknowledgment of the debt they have to us. Our dollar is a visible credit, a claim on that portion of all the goods and services that are being offered for sale. It is a token of exchange only by being the symbol of the debt.

Why I find it hard to take Robert Scoble seriously

I would like to know 30 minutes before you that some stock I own is about to tank.

via techcrunch.com

As is often true, I found the comment thread to a breathless post on TechCrunch - This Is Why The Internet (And Twitter) Wins - more interesting and reasoned than the post itself.

The essential premise of the TechCrunch post, by MG Siegler, was that Twitter = win and the Mainstream Media = fail. In this instance, the fact that @BreakingNews was able to swiftly, if not entirely accurately, disseminate the news of Tiger Wood's car crash was enough to hail Twitter as full of win.

A quick point here: Twitter is a platform. It is only valuable as a mechanism for distribution. To ellide the efficiency of @BreakingNews - a fantastic service, and one which lives on multiple platforms - with the inherent superiority of Twitter over traditional news organisations is a nonsense. It is equivalent to saying SMS is better than CNN.

But on to Robert Scoble, who in the comments to Siegler's post said two things I found quite interesting.

First, as quoted above and in response to a commenter's irritation with tech bloggers' obsession with the real-time web, Scoble asserted:

"I would like to know 30 minutes before you that some stock I own is about to tank."

To which another commenter, Nick, swiftly replied:

"I’m curious if that could be construed as insider trading."

(Note to Nick - probably only if the information was material and non-public, as opposed to just inaccessible to you)

But it was another commenter, Phil, who took the words right out of my fingers:

"You’d sell stock based on a random Tweet from a stranger? Wow."

Later, Scoble scoffed at another commenter, Twirrim, who complained about rumours and misinformation being spread on Twitter about the Tiger Woods crash.

Per Scoble:

"I haven’t read ANY of that stuff on Twitter. Sounds like you’re following idiots! Maybe THAT is the problem!"

Let me get this straight - Twitter = the way of the future, as long as you're tuned in to well-informed types who have access to information others may not; the kind of people who don't glibly repeat rumours and who fact-check and verify?

Gosh that sounds a lot like the kind of people who work at and for reputable media organisations, and that 'access' sounds exactly like the sales pitch for services ranging from the Economist to Gerson Lehman Group.

There is a compelling argument that in a world of rapid and overwhelming information dissemination, what we need is not more and faster soundbites but thoughtful and informed editing.

As Twirrim put it, in his reply to Scoble's out of hand dismissal of the quality of the former's network, the crowd is not always wise:

It’s herd mentality. Most of the people in my follow list are smart peeps, about all they did was RT the Breaking news alert, which was woefully inaccurate in itself (he wasn’t seriously injured, only suffered face lacerations.) It’s when you search the twitter stream that the rubbish comes up, and more disturbingly gets massively retweeted.Start a story or rumour going on Twitter and people start playing the escalating game with it. It’s not good enough to RT the original, they have to add something more and more dramatic to it. At best all that twitter was really useful for in this story was knowing that something had happened to Tiger Woods, and probably involved a car some how.