Oct 31, 2000

The Healthiest Addiction
Personal Commentary
10/31/2000; 3:34:41 PM

I've been reading Expanded Universe by Robert Heinlein, notable mostly for the commentary he includes between the stories that talk about when and why they were written.  I was reading a passage that has lept out at me before, but this time I wanted to take the time to share it. He's talking about a time early in his career. I'm chopping a lot out to conform with fair use, please read the book (on page 92) to see the full quote.

I had always planned to quit the writing business as soon as that mortgage was paid off.  I had never had any literary ambitions, no training for it, no interest in it -- backed into it by accident and stuck with it to pay off debt, I being always firmly resolved to quit the silly business once I had my chart squared away.

At a meeting of the Manana Literary Society... at a gathering of this noble group I was expounding my determination to retire from writing once my bills were paid...

William A. P. Whie ("Anthony Boucher") gave me a sour look. "Do you know any retired writers?... You know retired school teachers, retired naval officers, retired policemen, retired farmers. Why don't you know at least one retired writer?"

"What are you driving at?"

"Robert, there are no retired writers. There are writers who have stopped selling... but they have not stopped writing."

I pooh-poohed Bill's remarks -- possibly what he said applied to writers in general... but I wasn't really a writer; I was just a chap who needed money and happened to discover that pulp writing offered an easy way to grap some without stealing and without honest work...[long skip here]

Bill "Tony Boucher" White had been dead right. Once you get the monkey on your back there is not cure short of the grave. I can leave the typewriter alone for weeks, even months, by going to sea. I can hold off for any necessary period of time if I am strenuously engaged in some other full-time, worthwhile occupation... But if I simply loaf for more then two or three days, that monkey starts niggling at me.

America and American-influenced modern cultures have been conditioned to consume; we all know that. The web gives great powers of expression to those people, weblogs being one of the easiest ways to write. We all know that.

But there is something that is just an undercurrent in current 'blogging... like see this BlackholeBrain entry:

Another long relaxing weekend and no looking at a computer! I'm starting to like that more and more... but still I love doing this [blogging] enough to feel like I've been *without* too long. >:] Most of you know that feeling I think... but I know I can quit anytime I want to! More later...

He makes a reference, presumably meant to be humorous, to 'blogging as addiction. Like most jokes, this has a kernel of truth in it. Let's stop tip-toeing around this issue, and say it loud, without humor: Weblogs are addictive!

Even the best of ideas need help to succeed.  P2P was boosted by the power of music, and on that power, Napster gained 33 million users. What's helping the web, and weblogs? The power of addiction. Weblogs may not be exploding like Napster, but it probably won't ever die... once you start writing for a weblog, you won't stop writing.

The key for weblogs was to make that first fix easy to get; Dave Winer was exactly right that way. For many people, writing and sharing it with the world (even if the world doesn't beat a path to your site) is addictive on the first hit. The cool thing about self-expression, though, is that it's almost totally healthy. Ask a psychologist what happens when someone stops expressing themselves. Let's get more people hooked to the healthiest addiction... it'll be good for them, and good for the web.

There are some people I've thought of introducing to weblogs... I think I'm going to try giving them their first free hit and see what happens. 

Oct 31, 2000

Government Property
10/31/2000; 2:41:56 PM 'Sen. Slade Gorton of Washington devoted the Oct. 14 Republican radio address to a question that has been strangely absent from the current presidential campaign – how best to keep innovation alive in the technology sector. Most of the senator's address was devoted to defending his home-state innovator, Microsoft (MSFT) . But in the course of his defense of the software giant, Gorton articulated a principle that is far more fundamental – and absolutely correct.

'"Republicans don't want software developers to have to check in with the federal government every time they get a new idea," said the senator. "We understand that the best role for government is to allow our workers to continue to create new and better products that enrich our lives – free from the federal government's heavy hand of regulation."'

Oct 31, 2000

Are you paranoid enough?
Surveillance and Privacy from Government
10/31/2000; 1:20:32 PM

'This brings me to the whole point of this: you are not being paranoid enough.  The FBI managed to get a search warrant based on logs from a firewall, that showed my IP only connecting, not even logging in, hours after news of the cracking had appeared on news sites.  If they can get a search warrant this easily, your data is not safe, sitting on your hard drive.  For the past two months I've been living in this dorm, I locked my doors, securified my boxes, and backed up my essential things.  I never even imagined the federal government would just let themselves in and take it.'

Oct 31, 2000

Bertelsmann, Napster to Develop Music Service
Music & MP3
10/31/2000; 12:48:57 PM

'Entertainment giant Bertelsmann AG (BTGGga.D) and controversial song-swap company Napster (news - web sites) Inc. said on Tuesday they formed an alliance to develop a new secure file-sharing music service.'

Also see an e-mail posted onto the Napster Weblog from the Bertelsmann Chairman:

'We have entered into a strategic alliance with the Internet-based music exchange Napster. Under the terms of the deal, Bertelsmann will support Napster financially in the establishment of a legal business model. In return, we will receive an option for the acquisition of a stake in Napster.'

This means little to nothing. What will have real meaning is what said "legal model" is.  Is it the subscription service that everyone talks about? Or is the music industry simply covering its bases, and entering into a legal partnership with Napster (almost "a favor you can't refuse"), with every intention of destroying them?  I don't think Napster's 33 million users are loyal to Napster, I think they're loyal to the music they get. If the "legal model" is significantly more difficult for the users to use, Napster will simply vaporize, and then who cares how the lawsuit turns out? Certainly not Bertelsmann!

I don't know enough yet to judge this either way. But I'm keeping my eye on it.  This could be great or horrible, but probably not much in-between.

Oct 30, 2000

Intel Moving to Block IA-64 Cloning via Patents
Patents10/30/2000; 1:03:03 PM ...'Rather than submit garden-variety claims to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), Intel is trying to patent the functions carried out by specific instructions.'This is great for my essay; I've been writing about how software patents should be banned for trying to patent speech... now here's a company trying the root concepts of a language. (Technically, they aren't trying to patent the "words" of the language, but they are trying to patent the concepts the words convey, or in CPUs, the actions the words cause to happen.) Perhaps Paramount (the owners of Star Trek) should patent some Klingon... there's some unique concepts in that language (like exactly what "honor" is).Update: Apparently, this is common and has been for decades. It still shares one of the same basic problems as software patents... how many ways are there to quickly load data off of the main bus, for instance? Not really that many.Also see this slashdot comment.

<- Future Posts Past Posts ->


Site Links


All Posts