Monthly Archives: June 2011

on artificial limiting service

Sonic.net’s new approach to broadband involves stringing its own fiber lines to homes and offering bargain-basement pricing; indeed, the new 1Gbps offering is the same price as the company’s earlier bonded 40Mbps DSL offering (in which two phones lines each provide 20Mbps of bandwidth to a home). The price even includes home phone service.

Sonic.net

Is this really a sustainable model? After all, Comcast offers 1.5Mbps service for a list price of $40; Sonic.net’s new offering is more than 600x faster at only twice the price.

Dane Jasper, Sonic.net’s CEO, tells me that the new fiber-to-the-home deployment is a trial and will reach about 700 homes when complete. “Honestly, only as those wrap up will we have a complete picture of the economic model,” he says. “But I believe that fast service for a low cost is possible.”

If the pilot in Sebastopol, California goes well, Sonic.net hopes to expand the service across the region.

Sonic.net

Jasper doesn’t think like a typical US Internet exec; in an interview last year, he made clear that his company tries to avoid artificial limits as a way to make more money. “The natural model when you have a simple duopoly capturing the majority of the market is segmentation: maximize ARPU [average revenue per user] by artificially limiting service in order to drive additional monthly spending. But fundamentally this is the wrong model for a service provider like us, and we have looked to Europe for inspiration… I believe that removing the artificial limits on speed, and including home phone with the product are both very exciting.”

via 1Gbps fiber for $70—in America? Yup..

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disappearing through the skylight

If you have had any involvement with technology in the last decade there is one term you use quite often: the cloud. It is a metaphor really, but a graspable way of talking about and thinking about an ill-defined idea – network-supportable-interaction. See, the cloud sounds so much nicer. Even if you are a case hardened nerd.

If you stumble into the business section of any major newspaper this week, you are reading the same term in headline after headline. The cloud. Not a dark thing that hangs over you. But a friendly thing that watches out for you. “It just works” apparently, only this time it is called iCloud. “The truth is in the cloud” apparently. Easily said. But so much harder to do. I mean who made the internet so hard to use in the first place? But iDigress.

Apple have decided to make ‘the cloud’ a consumer category this week. Which involves motivating business journalists to explain it to consumers in advance of the new iOS 5  launch. 

This explanation from MG Seigler:

“…With iCloud, Apple is transforming the cloud from an almost tangible place that you visit to find your stuff, to a place that only exists in the background. It’s never seen. You never interact with it, your apps do — and you never realize it. It’s magic…”

When innovation planners, plan, they assume it is a race; where first to market has an unshakable advantage, for upwards of about 40 pct of the pie. Yet Apple who regularly schools the world on ‘what we mean by innovative’, is most often fashionably late to market. Not just gobbling what is left on the table. But making more of it to compete for.

Google, Microsoft and Amazon have been making consumer grade cloud-offerings already. In Google’s case this effort has been under way for years.

This news today from ifixit:

“…With today’s release of the first production Chromebook, the Samsung Series 5 3G, Google has officially entered the retail consumer laptop market with a device they promise will change computing forever.

Running Google’s own ChromeOS, the Series 5 Chromebook is Google’s answer to machines running monolithic operating systems, which they regard as overbearing and process intensive…”

And, Amazon announced cloud drive and cloud player months ago to consumers. With the help of Lady Gaga they have been breaking it in, and breaking their servers.

The Telegraph saw it this way at launch:

“…Amazon weren’t the first to launch such a ‘music locker’ service but they are one of the most high profile companies to do so. In the process they’ve beaten Google and Apple, who are widely expected to launch similar services soon…” 

Once again we see the conceit, that the first mover defines the rules of engagement. Reviewers, are regularly stunned by new introductions from Apple.  ‘The ipod will never fix their computer business… the jesus-phone amounts to some kind of toy…the ipad is just a really big ipod touch… Perhaps that says something Apple’s cunning. Perhaps it is a statement about what innovation really is. Perhaps that speaks to the state of journalism. But we will surely look back at this week in five and ten years time. Certainly in the first two categories, at least. 

When you prefix ‘the cloud’ with the letter i, there will be no shortage of hype getting written about the event. But few pundits appear ready to explain the significance of the event itself; what happened this week, to Apple, to it’s rivals, and to the rest of us.

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believing comes before reasoning.

This from a review of Michael Sherman’s book “The Believing Brain”, which synthesizes 30 years of science on the topic of why we believe what we do in all aspects of our lives. 

The whole review is really quite juicy. 

 

“…The brain is a belief engine. It relies on two processes: patternicity and agenticity. It finds meaningful patterns in both meaningful and meaningless data. It infuses patterns with meaning, and imagines intention and agency in inanimate objects and chance occurrences. We believe before we reason. Once beliefs are formed, we seek out confirmatory arguments and evidence to justify them. We ignore contrary evidence or make up rationalizations to explain it away. We do not like to admit we are wrong. We seldom change our minds.

Our thinking is what Morgan Levy has called “intelligently illogical.” If our ancestors assumed that the wind rustling the bushes was a lion and they ran away, that wasn’t a big problem. If there really was a lion and they didn’t run away, they were in trouble. Natural selection favors strategies that make many false causal assumptions in order to not miss the true ones that are essential to survival. Superstition and magical thinking are natural processes of a learning brain. People believe weird things because of our evolved need to believe nonweird things…”

 

three lessons from the book are:

•  Beliefs come first, reasons follow.

•  False beliefs arise from the same thought processes that our brains evolved to enable them to learn about the world.

•  Our faulty thinking mechanisms can’t be eliminated but our errors can be corrected by science.

via Science-Based Medicine » The Believing Brain.

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ubiquitous, relied on, and headed off a cliff.

This article from Business Week describes a culture of ignorance at the USPS. And a culture of complacency from its customers; the american population. And their funders; US taxpayer. It is a fascinating game of chicken to watch in its own right. A made-for-reality-tv future, where a lose-lose outcome looks certain.

But it also is a striking precursor of what each and every US government service is will face in the future. Perhaps the USPS is the redheaded step-child of the GAO. But the patterns are strikingly familiar in Healthcare, Emergency Services, Libraries… to name a few.  Without a long term plan to do anything but wrest costs or gain exemptions to them, one must wonder if and when Innovation will get to Washington. 

 

“…Its a lonely calling. “Washington is full of Carnegie and Brookings Institutes with people who can tell you every option we have in Egypt or Pakistan,” laments Herr, who has a PhD in anthropology from Columbia University.

“Try and find someone who does that on the postal service. There arent many.”Yet Herr finds the USPS fascinating: ubiquitous, relied on, and headed off a cliff. Its trucks are everywhere; few give it a second thought. “Its one of those things that the public just takes for granted,” he says. “The mailman shows up, drops off the mail, and thats it.

“He is struck by how many USPS executives started out as letter carriers or clerks. He finds them so consumed with delivering mail that they have been slow to grasp how swiftly the services financial condition is deteriorating. “We said, Whats your 10-year plan? ” Herr recalls. “They didnt have one.”

via The postal service is running out of options – Business – US business – Bloomberg Businessweek – msnbc.com.

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the quest for dignity… and carlson’s law.

The days when Arab dictators could take over the state-run TV and radio and shut off all information to their people are over. The Syrians can’t shut off their cellphone networks now any more than they can shut off their electricity grids.

Sir, think about this: Syria has banned all foreign networks, like CNN and the BBC, but if you go to YouTube and type in “Dara’a” you will see the most vivid up-to-date video of the Syrian regime’s crackdown — all shot with cellphones or flip-cams by Syrians and then uploaded to YouTube or to newly created Web sites like Sham News Network. Nothing stays hidden anymore.

The second trend we see in the Arab Spring is a manifestation of “Carlson’s Law,” posited by Curtis Carlson, the C.E.O. of SRI International, in Silicon Valley, which states that: “In a world where so many people now have access to education and cheap tools of innovation, innovation that happens from the bottom up tends to be chaotic but smart. Innovation that happens from the top down tends to be orderly but dumb.” As a result, says Carlson, the sweet spot for innovation today is “moving down,” closer to the people, not up, because all the people together are smarter than anyone alone and all the people now have the tools to invent and collaborate.

The regime of Hosni Mubarak of Egypt was just too dumb and slow to manage the unrest. The Tahrir revolutionaries were smart but chaotic, and without leadership.

via Advice for China – NYTimes.com.

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cognitive flint.

This review of Bibliographic raises an interesting question: Why are designers loath to look to design history for insight and inspiration? And is this conceit taught formally to each of us, or do we come by it from common sense? Common that is to the culture of the ‘design community’?

It looks like a wonderful read. It would be interesting to see more retr0-inquiries across the many sub-disciplines of design, in the canon. Perhaps there some already exist? Any contenders worth mentioning?

 

“Design is an incredibly self-referential for of expression, and that’s quite alright, as I deeply believe creativity is combinatorial — everything borrows from what came before, everything is a remix, all creative work is essentially derivative work. So knowledge of what came before greatly enriches and empowers our creativity. And, over the past century alone, countless books have been published to make sense of the landscape, language and legacy of graphic design, each exploring a specific facet of this complex ecosystem of visual communication. But how does it all fit together? That’s exactly what Jason Godfrey set out to investigate in 2009 in Bibliographic: 100 Classic Graphic Design Books — yes, it’s a graphic design book about graphic design books, and it doesn’t get any more meta than this, and that’s a wonderful thing.Godfrey culls the 100 most influential design books of the past 100 years, contextualizing each with succinct background text on what makes it exceptional and important. The collection spans an incredible range of style, genre, subject matter, geography, and cultural concern, from the stories of the pioneering type foundries to vintage Polish film posters to classic graphic design manuals by László Moholy-Nagy and Josef Müller-Brockmann to contemporary design visionaries like Stefan Sagmeister and Paula Scher…”

via Bibliographic: The 100 Best Design Books of the Past 100 Years | Brain Pickings.

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