Tuesday, December 31, 2002

HP =everything is possible

Perhaps HP should reconsider their advertising campaign. Or at least the way in which it is being executed. Some clever person in their advertising department decided that HP should sponsor the CNN Technology section -- a column length advertisement in the right hand side of the page reads " = everything is possible " and then the HP logo. The idea seems to be that one will read the technology article and see the HP ad, associating the marvel of technology that CNN has reported with HP's prowess in computing.

Unfortunately for HP, not all articles in the Technology section are positive.

Take this one for example, about a man who stalked his girlfriend using a GPS device... Is that how HP is helping to improve the world?

Saturday, December 07, 2002

The Very First Blog

I was thinking about the medium of blogging, and what an interesting vehicle it is for individuals to express their ideas when it occured to me that I had run into a very similar concept in my youth... and it made me think that the idea of "blogging" has a pre-Internet print precedent in the concept of the "fanzine." Way back in 1975, an interesting little publication called Alarums & Excursions began circulating amongst folks who enjoyed playing role-playing games (dungeons and dragons and other games of this genre). The idea was simple -- anyone could write for the publication -- the requirement was just that each contributor had to print up their own pages of the publication, as many pages as there were expected subscribers. Each writer would then mail his or her printed pages to Lee and Barry Gold who would assemble the pages of all contributors and send them back out as the next issue of the magazine. Each author's pages would look a lot like a blog page -- a series of disconnected thoughts on different topics reflecting the author's interests. Amazingly I find that the publication is still in print and has come out every month but one since 1975...

Tuesday, December 03, 2002

Woefully behind

I certainly am falling further and further behind. For loyal readers here is a content tease -- updates coming soon on the Lessig conversation and on the Kurzweil inquiry...

Friday, November 22, 2002

Archives and permalinks...

My archives and permalinks should be working again, but please use my new domain tedshelton.blogspot.com

Tuesday, November 19, 2002


I have moved my blog to BlogSpot, Blogger.com's hosting service. The URL is tedshelton.blogspot.com in case you'd like to go directly there, rather than through the bogus register.com redirector service... I'll have to get that fixed as well... But one thing at a time! At least I am back on the air...

Unreliable server companies...

The company that has served up my blog for the past several years, SiteAmerica has finally gone completely AWOL. It will take a while for me to get my site back in order and find all of the old image files, so please bear with me.

Monday, November 18, 2002

Is Comdex Still Relevant?

Charlie Cooper says NO -- Comdex is dead. So did my cab driver here in Las Vegas. My cabbie believes that there are even fewer attendees this year than last -- the post Sept 11 Comdex. And anyway, as he points out, Key3Media is going bankrupt, aren't they?

Well I'll offer a contrarian viewpoint, and since its Vegas I will offer odds. There will be another Comdex next year. And the show will grow again. But it will be a different show than the one Charlie Cooper cut his teeth on as a young tech reporter. Or actually it will be the same one -- a sort of "back to the future..."

You see, Comdex lost its way in the world. The thing it has always done well, still does well, and will do well in the future is bring together the people who make up the distribution channel for computing products. Resellers, VARs, distributors... the feet on the street that sell technology products.

And the people who get it most are the people who live in the center of that channel. Publications like CMP Media's CRN -- Channel Reseller News. At Comdex this year, the most important event on Monday night was CRN's Industry Hall of Fame -- presented by CRN, and Comdex jointly with the Computer History Museum.

And this year the inductees were a little different from past years. In the first five awards shows the hall of fame has honored such industry greats as Steve Jobs and Andy Grove and of course Bill Gates. Who joined these titans this year?

Michael Krasny -- founder of CDW Computer Centers

Izzy Schwab -- CEO of D&H Distributing

There were a few "industry" folks (manufacturers) recognized as well -- Jerry Sanders of AMD, John Chambers of Cisco, Michael Ruettgers of EMC, and Gary Starkweather of Xerox (the only science guy). But the message that all of the inductees had was -- the distribution channel matters. That's what made us successful -- all of the people selling these products.

Izzy, of D&H Distributing, told a great story. He talked about how his father had founded the company as an RCA distributor. And how in 1986, RCA was acquired by Thomson, a European company. Well Thomson didn't understand the value of their distribution channel and so within a year they cancelled all of their distributor agreements nationwide with 30 days notice. As Izzy pointed out, this action destroyed RCA's (Thomson's) market share, a mistake they are trying to recover from to this day.

For D&H though, it was a rebirth -- they applied their sales experience and channel presence to the computer industry and are now a $900 million business. Not just taking orders but creating demand and selling into that demand.

Comdex just needs to remember this lesson. Its about the distribution network. Its about connecting manufacturers with the resellers and VAR's and distributors that actually sell the manufacturers' products. If Comdex can re-focus on this key market that it serves, maybe it will be reborn just like Izzy's company was.

Sunday, November 17, 2002

Lessig blogs back

I am a few days behind (things have been busy) but I wanted to get at least some brief comments back on Lawrense Lessig's latest response in our long running debate about "opaque creativity."

Lessig reasonably criticizes my rhetorical device of suggesting that placing source code in the public eye is equivalent to a writer having to make public the thought process behind his/her work. But in doing so he ignores the underlying argument and the analysis of what "derivative works" means in the case of software.

One of the valuable parts of this discussion for me has been in refining my thinking on this subject. I have had an intuitive feeling that there is something wrong in Lessig's call for source code escrow -- and not the least of which is my concern about giving governments too much power. I have some more work to go in my thinking, but I am close to having a good formulation of the core issue. Here is an attempt at a clear statement of my thesis:
    Software is not a narrative. Software is a machine
Narrative is not quite the right word (it doesn't capture songs for example) but it is getting close. Where Lawrence Lessig and I agree is that copyright law intended for narrative forms of creativity -- books, movies, etc -- is not adequate for software. Where we disagree is what the remedy should be. Lessig would require that the machine be given away for free after some period of time. In my view this appraoch is too extreme. That it gives away the algorithm along with the implementation and that software developers (like mechanical entrepreneurs) should not be required to give away their algorithms.

I will spend some more time on the formulation of this and post a longer note soon.

Snark Hunting

One of WordLab's creators, Jay Jurisich, writes with news of another naming and branding blog that he has created. Called Snark Hunting. This site seems to mostly cover news of interest to the brand brainstorming crowd.

Thursday, November 14, 2002

Brainstorm Brand Names

Here's a blog that is also a resource and a database for people brainstorming slogans or brands -- WordLab -- not only is it useful, but it is a lot of fun. I rate this one a "must visit."

Wednesday, November 06, 2002

The most interesting item on Day 3 of NMIC

A terrific presentation by Nokia's internal group that studies consumer behavior -- these guys have done an amazing amount of research and have developed a really compelling model for thinking about how people use mobile devices. They have a number of "dimensions" that they use to segment different people's behavior around the use of mobile technologies. The devices that they introduce, like the 6800 that I wrote about yesterday, are defined by analyzing the intersections of these dimensions and identifying clusters of consumers that behave in certain ways and have certain needs for mobile devices. I can't possibly do justice to the full model and Nokia has in any case promised to put this presentation on the web -- so I will link to it when it is available. In the meantime, here are some of the dimension characteristics as a teaser:

Open vs. Controlling

Receptive and Belonging vs. Individual and self esteem

"Mind styles" that these two dimensions produce -- enjoying, exploring, managing, exploiting, controlling, defending, bonding...

Style dimension -- appearance -- premium vs. fun vs. active vs. fashion

functional dimension -- writing vs. reading vs. relationship management vs. talking...

capabilities dimension -- amount of memory, screen size, user interface, programmability...

Phone Categories that these dimensions produce -- Imaging, Gaming, Classic...

The future vision of Nokia is that "...I will have my phone with my set of applications and you will have yours and they will really be entirely personalized to each of our needs and will look nothing like each other..."

This creative segmentation which allows for devices which will become completely personlized is a tremendously powerful vision. One interesting aspect to me is what a sharp contrast it is to the way in which Microsoft has guided the evolution of the PC -- narrowing down the possibilities to a single, fairly uniform platform. One Nokia person commented to me that he and his colleagues were discussing the issue of the PC volume having plateaued at 400 million devices and why this was -- perhaps if Microsoft had adopted this experimental and fully open and configurable approach that Nokia has adopted, that the PC world would look quite different, with a much wider array of solutions adapted to different requirements...

Tuesday, November 05, 2002

NMIC Day 2 -- Coolest new gadget...

Nokia has rolled out an amazing number of new products today -- all extremely cool. How about a video survelliance camera that is also a GSM/GPRS phone and can transmit images directly to your phone using MMS? How about a "music stand" which has speakers built into a phone recharging station... Here is a link to Nokia's site to look at their new gadgets. But my award for the coolest new gadget goes to the Nokia 6800 -- a phone with a full keyboard like you have never seen before! Here are pictures that I took with my Nokia 7650 camera phone... 6800 closedFirst you can see the phone in its "one hand" mode -- looks like a normal phone, right? But then it OPENS... 6800 openingwith a section lifting up from the keyboard area. This section continues to open up until it flips all the way over the top, allowing you to turn the device into a horizontal position and use a full QWERTY keyboard with two hands... 6800 open The screen automatically flips orientation when the keyboard is opened.

Very cool phone. Also has a color screen... MMS capable of course. Java... And this is just one of a whole group of new phones that they introduced.

Monday, November 04, 2002

Coolest demo of the day

Reporting to you from the Nokia Mobile Internet Conference here in Munich -- the coolest demo of the day was live television playing on a Nokia 7650 over a roaming GPRS data connection! I am not kidding. The crazy engineers at Nokia hooked up a server in Helsinki with a TV tuner card and put TV1 from Finland onto the mobile network! From a 7650 here in Munich we tuned in to watch daytime Finnish television. Video and sound quality was amazing. This is what high speed data connectivity is capable of already today, without 3G -- although I would hate to get that GPRS bill at current rates!

Also, suggestion to Nokia for future demos -- daytime Finnish television is not a killer application... how about a sports channel? I guess TV1 probably wouldn't complain about being pirated though...

UK blocks international calling as well...

Jeremy McGee (an ex-Borlander) writes that:
    To be fair to T-Mobile this isn't a situation that's exclusive to the US. Over here in the UK we, too, have to have the call bar lifted on international roaming and international calls.
But Jeremy goes on to explain why:
    This is partly because the international rates are (usually) stupidly expensive. For some reason this is especially the case for US mobile carriers. So with debt at the level that it is with mobile telcos I'm not surprised they want to do an extra credit check.
OK, so they want to find out if I can pay for all of those long distance calls. Fair enough. But they should be smart enough to ask about this at activation time, not after I actually arrive in Munich. On the question of US myopia about the rest of the world though, Jeremy had this factoid (have to check)
    87% of US citizens don't have passports.
So I stand by my complaint that we need to start thinking globally in the US. How can we be the "world's policeman" and not know anything about the world??

Sunday, November 03, 2002

T-Mobile -- when will the US think globally?

I have been a T-Mobile customer since Friday and I am already frustrated with them. And I haven't even made a call yet. But the problem I am having with T-Mobile is also a problem with every other carrier in the US. There are smart people at T-Mobile, but when it comes to thinking Globally, despite being a division of a German company, they get mired in the same bad logic that slows down the rest of the US mobile market.

Here is what happened: On Friday I set up a new T-Mobile account so that I could test the new Microsoft "Pocket PC Phone Edition" and compare it to Nokia's and Sony-Ericsson's Symbian based phones (more on that later). On Saturday I boarded a plane for Munich, where I am now -- for the Nokia Mobile Internet Conference. So I arrive in Munich on Sunday night (local time) and turn on my new phone. But I am unable to get a service provider connection. After I arrive at my hotel, I call T-Mobile's customer support in the US.

It turns out that, even though T-Mobile is a German company and even though the phone they sold me was a dual-band GSM phone, I can't use my US T-Mobile account in Europe. In fact I can't even call Europe from the US.

You see, if you are a US citizen and you want to call internationally, they assume that you must be a criminal. This is the only explanation that I can come up with. I had the same problem a few years ago when I was a Sprint PCS customer, and again when I set up my Cingular account (which I use for work). By default when you get a phone in the US you can only use that account in the US and you can only call people in the US. In order to get this changed, you have to petition an International department which, after an investigation, will decide whether or not an account can be approved for international use.

I guess the theory is that the US is such a large country and market that we can grow up and live out our entire lives without ever needing or wanting to call someone outside the US and without ever needing to use our mobile phones from outside the US.

Unfortunately isolationism leads again and again to a rude awakening when some external event provides a reminder that we are part of a global economy and a worldwide society. Not activating mobile phones for international use is just a symptom of the larger problem. Eventually we are going to have to start training our children to look at the world outside our borders -- and to think about themselves as part of a global civilization.

Friday, November 01, 2002

The Hype Backlash -- Web Services' Turn...

The articles are beginning to appear, like this one at Business 2.0. Entitled "Still Waiting for the Web Services Miracle" the article is a fair complaint that the hype got out of control. And the author even writes that
    If you forget the grandiose promises, there are some things Web services are good for right now...
But this is just the beginning of the backlash for Web Services. I expect a lot more articles in the next few months complaining that web services is not all that it has been promised to be...

Time to move on... (Re: Microsoft)

Well, it isn't actually possible to download the court's opinion from their website -- I am guessing due to the large number of download requests... It was heartening however to see (using this nifty tool at Netcraft) that the court is running Linux... But in any case the news is out and the court is allowing the Justice department's settlement with Microsoft to stand. So I guess its time to move on to the next issue...

Thursday, October 31, 2002

.NET vs J2EE -- The PetStore Debate

Wouldn't it be wonderful to have an independent party create a comparison of J2EE and .NET in order to demonstrate the benefits and issues with each of these two frameworks? The Middleware Company had said that they had created just such a comparison using the PetStore demonstration application. But now Rickard Öberg provides a devastating critique of this effort and others have stepped forward to claim that Microsoft paid TMC for the report...

Microsoft News Flash!

Just received a PDF from the United States District Court announcing that Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly will issue "Opinions in the Microsoft cases" at approximately 4:30 p.m. on Friday, November 1, 2002. Should be downloadable tomorrow from the court's website.

The real debate

I am beginning to feel a little guilty about the time that Lawrence Lessig is spending with me in conversation about his concept of "opaque creativity." But I continue to believe that this is an important issue, and that Lessig is a person in a position to have a significant influence over the way in which the marketplace thinks about this idea. So I was gratified by the continued seriousness with which Lessig has addressed my concerns in his latest reply.

Lessig returns to the fundamental issue, why should software (or really any kind of opaque creativity) be treated differently from other types of creativity? Why shouldn't all types of creativity receive the same copyright protection under the law? The argument has two parts:

95 Years
Lessig writes that at 95 years, copyrights for software do not provide a balance for the public good -- in 95 years software will have no value, in fact the software product will probably not be able to run on any available hardware. If I can summarize the argument, 95 years might as well be forever. This is the same argument which I agree with that Lessig has been making about copyright generally. Copyright should be for a "limited term." This is true whether the copyright is for a book or a film or a software program. I think there is an interesting argument in saying that different types of creative output should have different lengths of time of protection, because of the inherent "shelf life" of the material. But this is a very different argument than that of saying that software should be escrowed and source code should be released. One is an economic argument about the value that the public enjoys in exchange for copyright protection. The other is an argument about what the public should be allowed to do with the property once it is in the public domain.

Opacity vs. Transparency
This then is Lessig's primary argument. Works of opaque creativity are fundamentally different from works of transparent creativity. With a book, I have all of the "code" before me, transparently. I can reproduce all or part of a manuscript and I can embed any part in a new work. With software, or other works of "opaque" creativity, it is very difficult for me to do anything other than reproduce the product in its entirety. And if the manufacturer has included security elements which require a licensing key to activate the software, reproduction of the product may not provide me with the use of the product. This is a reasonable objection, but the solution need not be Lessig's proposed source code escrow scheme. Consider the three most common uses of copyrighted material that has passed into the public domain -- duplication, derivation, and partial use.

In the case of duplication, software can clearly be duplicated in its entirety whether or not the duplicator has access to the source code. An issue remains in that mere duplication of a software program may not be sufficient to allow for use of the software. Thus some system should be in place to provide the public with access to a version of the software that does not require a security key to unlock functionality, or some ability to generate such keys once the software has passed into the public domain. This is not unlike the problem that Lessig mentions regarding the film industry -- how does one make sure that some copy of a film is available to be duplicated at the point when that film passes into the public domain. I would suggest that this problem should be solved for all categories of copyrighted material, not just such works of "opaque creativity."

In the case of derivation, the concern is more complex. I submit that the process of creating a derivative work from what Lessig calls "opaque creativity" is no different from that in creating a derivative work from a book or other example of "transparent creativity." Furthermore, these derivative works are being created all the time, and software companies have been unable to protect themselves from this type of derivation (see the supreme court case Lotus v. Borland).

Take for example the works of Mario Puzo, since I recently read that Random House is seeking an author to write a sequel to The Godfather. What would this new author have to go on to create this derivative work? The author could read the previous novels, learn about the characters and their motivations, get a feel for the dialog, understand the plot... but the author wouldn't have Puzo. Thus the author would have to "reverse-engineer" the thinking process needed to construct a believable set of characters, plot, dialog, etc.

The authors of Lindows did the same thing -- they looked at how other operating systems displayed icons, user menus, startup and shutdown scripts... and they created a new user environment for the Linux operating system. Would having access to the Windows or Macintosh source code have made their job easier? Yes, just as having access to Puzo as a collaborator on a new novel would make it easier for the new author to create a sequel.

There is a "means of production" for every creative work. In the case of The Godfather it was the mind of Mario Puzo. In the case of many modern "romance" novels, it is an automated book generating computer program. In the case of Toy Story it is a set of algorithms for rendering 3D graphics. In the case of a software program it is the source code. Software should be treated the same as any other creative work -- the resulting work should be made public when the copyright term expires. But the government should not create a system which compels artists, writers, movie producers, and software programmers to make public their means of production.

Partial Use
It is this last category of use that is certainly the most difficult to answer. For a book this might mean reproducing a single chapter. For a film it might mean showing a scene. For a software program it might mean using one function. In the case of the book or the film, I might have trouble getting a hold of the source material, and there may be some technical skill required in copying a film scene, for example. But once I have the source material it is possible to make this partial use of a creative work. With software, this is not a straightforward proposition. I take this then to be the real center of Lessig's case that software escrow is necessary to protect the public good.

The interesting problem with software is that this is exactly where the rules of copyright and the rules of patents/trade secrets intersect. No one will be interested in duplicating trivial functions, such as the way a window is displayed. The interesting functions to reuse from one software application to another will be those that do real work. For example, if I wanted to produce a photo editing application, I would be very interested in taking filters from Adobe's Photoshop and including them in my application. But this represents the core know-how of the Photoshop team, the proprietary algorithms that are the magic that makes Adobe a leader in digital photo manipulation. Furthermore, these algorithms may be the basis of not just one program, but many different programs and indeed, for some companies, an entire business.

To my mind, this is where software patents come into play. If Adobe wants to protect this core knowledge, they have two choices. One is to file a patent, describing the key algorithm. While this would give them protection from competitors for some period of time, it would also put the algorithm into the public domain once that time has expired. At that point, I can write my own software that implements Adobe's algorithm. Alternatively, Adobe can keep their algorithm secret -- BUT then they have no avenue for complaint if I am able to figure out how they achieve a given effect and duplicate this filter in my competing software.

So to summarize this argument -- there are two kinds of features that one could extract from a software program. The first is so trivial that there is no economic value in creating a system which provides for its use. The second is so crucial to a software company's business -- in a sense it IS their business -- that it should remain in the realm of patents and trade secrets and not be subjected to disclosure simply to receive copyright protection for a given specific product.

A few nits...
To respond to Lessig's two final points in his reply:

(1) I don't agree that "we've converged" -- only that I understand a little more clearly what is proposed. I agree that the state should provide protection commensurate with the economic value that is derived by the public after the limited time of such protection. I believe that I addressed this issue above under the heading "95 years" and I believe that we are both in agreement that copyright terms for all works should be shorter. I continue to believe that software should not be treated differently from other creative works.

(2) I am happy to agree to disagree on the (not mystical) difference between atoms and bits as I don't believe it is fundamental to the issue of real importance. The cost of digital duplication rapidly approaches zero, and I would argue is zero from an economic perspective. How much did it "cost" to copy this document to your computer? However the cost of physical duplication of any object will never approach zero. This creates a key economic difference.

Non Nits
I entirely agree that the US Congress has enacted copyright laws which are not in the best interests of our Republic but are instead designed to serve the financial objectives of a small number of powerful companies.

I entirely agree that the protections that our government provides to creators of intellectual property should be commensurate with the benefits that the public ultimately enjoys once those works enter the public domain.

I firmly reject the notion that software developers should be singled out amongst all creators of intellectual property and forced to divulge the means of production and the algorithms which enable them to practice their craft.

I also reject the application of this principal to all creative works -- I do not want to live in a society which compels me to register the contents of my brain with the federal government, in a "secure" escrow agreement which enables future members of the public to create, for example, articles like this one -- the rough equivalent for a writer to the demand on software programmers that their means of production and algorithms be placed in escrow.

I hope that together we will come to a clearer agreement on "opaque creativity" and why it is or is not different from other types of creativity. And more importantly, what should be advocated for the protection of each category of creativity.

Wednesday, October 30, 2002

Thinking in exponentials

Ed Felten did the hard math and came up with a figure of a 7% annual growth rate as the answer to the math problem posed by Ray Kurzweil, namely:

The rate of change ... is accelerating exponentially. We are "doubling the paradigm shift rate" on a constant basis. This century will be the equivalent to 20,000 years of progress at today's rate...>

OK - have to think about this some more. Maybe Kurzweil can weigh in and offer some explanation of his numbers?? You out there Ray?

Open Letter to Jeremy Wagstaff


After what I thought was a promising start, our conversation on SMS vs. MMS has gone nowhere. To my mind, there is an interesting difference between being a columnist for the WSJ and being a blogger, participant in the world wide conversation. As columnist you can be abstract and anonymous -- the idea of a person, but with the mighty reputation of the WSJ to stand behind you and give your words meaning and importance. As a blogger you are only as good as you give -- what you post, how you respond to readers, how you participate in the conversation of the marketplace.

To me, this is the fundamental difference between old media and new media -- the relationship between author and reader. In the old "mass" media, journalists have to be anonymous. If you are Walter Cronkite, you simply can't be expected to respond to the millions of viewers who tune into your program. And you rely upon CBS to provide you with the gravitas that will cause those millions to trust your reporting of the news.

But as a blogger, as with your loose wire blog your relationship as author to your readers changes. Readers expect to interact with authors out here in this new place called the web. We expect that authors are real people, not representatives of huge media conglomerates. We expect a conversation to take place.

I am not suggesting that every author has to respond to every reader. But when, as you did in responding to my September comments on your article on MMS, you write:

Interesting letter on this from Ted Shelton, with some fair points. I'll respond when I have a moment. Keep 'em coming. JW

there is a reasonable expectation on the part of the reader that a conversation will occur.

Ultimately, although I am passionate about the issues surrounding mobile devices, I don't care if you decide to respond to that particular thread. My point in writing this email is to observe that there is a fundamental difference between the way you think about yourself, and your relationship to your readers when you enter the web. Re-posting columns from the WSJ to a blog does not take advantage of this new rich medium that is developing and you are short-changing yourself by not participating in this new kind of conversation with the marketplace.


Ted Shelton

Tuesday, October 29, 2002

Blogger Code of Ethics?

Thanks to Doc Searls for pointing me at the latest take (and a thoughtful one) on the invitation by Microsoft of bloggers to the Mobius 2002 conference. This entry in the debate is from Sheila Lennon. So much has been written on the topic that I really think there is little more to say... on the topic itself. But it is interesting that there is so much debate about whether or not bloggers should follow a "journalistic code of ethics" -- in other words, what I think is interesting is the meta-issue...

The medium of the web has become an important source of information. I was reading J.D. Lasica's article on where "Net Luminaries Turn for News" and realizing how fundamental the Net has become as a news source. Jaron Lanier answers,

Apart from my time driving in my car, the Internet is my only source of news...

I wonder how many people can say the same? I still like the feel of paper and magazines -- and I spend a lot of time on airplanes -- so I haven't become as extreme as Jaron. But the Net is one of my primary sources. And I have to admit that blogs have become an increasingly important way for me to filter that news. If bloggers are going to serve as the front line for filtering news, we have to have some sense of where their allegiences are. In the Microsoft case, people complained that by accepting Microsoft's gifts, and the all-expense-paid trip to Mobius 2002, that the bloggers would be biased. Or at least would have the appearance of being biased. I submit that this is an OLD MEDIA issue.

Reader and Author
I am not, by the way, saying that the bloggers were not influenced by Microsoft. In fact, reading accounts from the events that occured, I can only conclude that many were influenced. However, I say this is an old media issue because of the difference in the relationship between reader and author in the old media vs. the new media.

In the old media world the the relationship between reader and author is anonymous and abstract. I am aware that there is an individual named Walt Mossberg at the Wall Street Journal, but I will never interact with Walt. I won't meet him, I won't speak with him, I won't exchange email, and he won't respond to anything in my blog, even if my blog is about something in his. Now this says something about mass markets, but it also says something about the assumption that mass media makes about its relationship to its readers. In this abstract and anonymous world of mass media, the only thing that I have to go on in trusting that Walt Mossberg is not a shill for Microsoft is the reputation of the publication and the journalistic code of ethics that I expect them to follow.

However in the new media I can have a very different kind of relationship with authors. I can expect to meet them in real life. I can expect them to respond to my email. I can even expect that they will respond to something I have written in my blog. Even if none of these things happen, my expectation about the relationship is different -- there is a conversation and we are both part of it and I have as much right to be heard as they do. Because my information is not filtered by a small number of mass media outlets, I also have the right to decide whether or not I will hear them. This means that I can make a decision about whether or not I believe that a given blogger is a shill for Microsoft based on my personal relationship with that individual blogger -- not an evaluation of the reputation of that blogger's parent organization and its journalistic code of ethics.

Some may answer that this model is not scalable -- that it is simply not possible for bloggers to know everyone that reads their blogs. Or even for every reader to know every person whose blog they read. I agree with this but at the same time I believe that trust networks naturally evolve, and that these networks will allow certain bloggers to reach much broader audiences -- but still because of a personal relationship. Doc Searls is a good example of this. I have had the pleasure of getting to know Doc, and I believe I have a good understanding of his strong personal sense of justice and honor. There are people reading my blog who know me, but may never know Doc. The fact that I vouch for Doc will, over time, cause those people to accept my trust in Doc as their own.

Trust each other, not institutions...
People are already building web based systems to support the development of these trust networks, and some of these will prove to be useful formulations in the digital world of the basic mechanism that has worked for human beings since we began our long path toward "civilization." Ultimately trust in each other as people is so much more powerful than our trust in institutions and rules that the call for bloggers to follow some journalistic code of ethics will appear humorous to future generations of netizens.

Ray Kurzweil

Dan Gillmor, writing in his weblog "eJournal" about attending PopTech has a number of interesting observations about the speakers. I was particularly interested in his comments about Ray Kurzweil as his most recent book, The Age of Spiritual Machines has given me a lot to think about. I take Dan to be skeptical about Kurzweil's vision of the future, but you can draw your own conclusions by reading his comments. I was particular interested in this reminder from Kurzweil's book:

(Kurzweil's) ...into implications of things, besides his inventions. The rate of change, he notes, is accelerating exponentially. We are "doubling the paradigm shift rate" on a constant basis. This century will be the equivalent to 20,000 years of progress at today's rate, and people don't appreciate the implications of this.

Testing the Hypothesis
It seems to me that a reasonable test for this hypothesis would be, what happened during the last century? If the rate of change has been accelerating smoothly, were there 20,000 years of progress, at the 1900 rate? Kurzweil answers this question by drawing graphs of the number of inventions, changes in certain key technologies, etc.

However I, like Gillmor, am not satisfied with the graphs -- I want to answer this at a more basic gut level. How fast did things seem to be changing in 1900? At that rate did 20,000 years of "progress" occur over the past 100? Since I am only 36 years old, it occurs to me that I cannot have a very good gut instinct about the rate of change in 1900. So I re-ask the question in a way I can comprehend -- How much has changed in the past 10 years vs. the previous 10 years?

The past 20 years
The past two decades can be, from my experience of the world, defined by two distinct seminal events. In the past decade, the emergence of the world wide web. In the previous decade, the personal computer. Each of these technologies changed MY world, and I would argue the whole world, an enormous amount. My gut feeling is that the Internet has changed the world a lot more. And even within each of these two trends, I can see that the early stages started out slowly, and then accelerated.

Thus my gut evaluation of Kurzweil's hypothesis is that it is roughly accurate. At the rate of change of the year 2000, over the course of the first century of this new millenium, 20,000 years of progress will take place. No wonder we increasingly feel out of touch as we age.

The next 20 years...
So how much progress will there be in the next 20 years at the rate I am comfortable with in 2000? At some point I stop being able to adjust my "comfort" with the rate of change. Then the world pulls away from me... How do you stay comfortable with the world's rate of change for a longer period of time?

Monday, October 28, 2002

News Is Free

Here it is, the next stage in the reinvention of how you consume information, and what better name than News Is Free. Blogging is becoming a way of life for some -- to my mind though it represents just the tip of a major socio-cultural-media-iceberg which is going to create an entirely new category of occupation and will transform how we consume news and information.

Individuals will develop net-reputations as experts in specific fields. Products like "New Is Free" will then aggregate the work of these individuals in a form which consumers can customize. The result will force traditional information outlets to transform how they think about the news, and how the filter and present information. This is the next revolution of the Internet -- using the power of all these connected people to make sense of all this connected information.

Friday, October 25, 2002

Multiplying threads in the Lessig blogversation

Lawrence Lessig replied earlier this week with his latest entry in our long running blogversation on his concept of "opaque creativity." In his response, Lessig identifies a couple of separate threads of discussion and so I will, in my reply, try to organize my thoughts under each of these separate topics:

1. Economic Objective
Lessig starts his response on this issue "...let's get rid of a point on which there is absolutely no disagreement." Agreed, point dispatched. And no I won't go "pinko" on you :-) Read Lessig's post if you don't know what I am talking about.

2. The Regime
Regime is Lessig's word, not mine. I am more than happy to give up the word "property," although the convention is to call such things "intellectual property and I am not sure what value there is in simply changing the name which we give to IP. I do agree with Lessig's point that it is useful to differentiate between types of property. So for the purpose of this discussion, let's use the phrase "copyright property" vs. "opaque creativity property" or just OC property for which Lessig is proposing to have a different set of rights.

In this new response, Lessig has for the first time created a new category of intellectual property law, which shall apply only to opaque creativity. If I understand the proposal correctly, this new law shall provide for a "secret" deposit of the means of creation (source code in the case of software) and will provide for this material to remain secret for 10 years. Thus a creator of an article of opaque creativity would have protection for his/her work for 10 years -- significantly less even then in the original copyright law, much less the laws which Lessig has currently argued against that extend copyright to 70+ years. This then is the definition, in Lessig's argument, for what rights a creator would receive for OC property.

Lessig then misunderstood my next point. My proposition was that in Lessig's formulation of the problem, articles of opaque creativity did not seem to have ANY legal standing without the creator complying with Lessig's escrow program. Lessig writes:

Ted replies that "without the legal status of property," however, this is no real option, because the code protected by trade secret law could still be "endlessly copied ... with no need for access to the" source code. And hence, even if the source code were protected, there would be no protection for the real value of the program.

My concern about the lack of legal status is NOT in the case in which a creator participates in Lessig's scheme and therefore has the "source code" protected, but rather in a case in which the creator decided not to participate in the escrow program. I agree that if a creator participated in the escrow they would have their creation considered under the law as OC property which would receive the 10 years protection that Lessig proposes or whatever Congress and the courts deem appropriate. But the problem comes in when a creator does not escrow the source. In this scenario, as I understand Lessig's proposal, the article would not be considered copyright property, and would not be considered OC property. To solve this dilemma, Lessig introduces another new category of intellectual property law, which I have assigned its own topic. But I am also adding the tangential topic of the definition of property...

3. Property
I am not an expert in intellectual property law. Lessig asks to hammer out an agreement on the word property -- and I agree that this is very much at the crux of our disagreement. Lessig states that rights to different types of property differ radically across "properties." I agree entirely to this. However, there is one right which is uniform in my layman's use of the word property (although the length of time that this right is valid may differ based on which type of property). That right is ownership. When I call something a property, I expect that one or more people will have the right to own the property and the rest of the people will not. My complaint with Lessig's "regime" is that he would appear to take away my right of ownership over my creative activity if I do not consent to submit the work product of my creativity to a federal escrow program.

In the case of software, by the way, I am not certain that I agree with Lessig's statement that there are a "bundle of rights" beyond that right of ownership -- as the 1996 Supreme Court case between Lotus and Borland demonstrated. In that case, Lotus tried to sue Borland for infringing the "look and feel" of the Lotus spreadsheet. While the decision of the court did not become a binding precedent, it was a clear demonstration of how difficult it is for a software company to protect any other right than that of directly copying the software.

4. Not copyright protection, not OC property protection but...
Lessig goes on to state that he would consider giving "...the coder the protection of trade secret law, and it may well make sense to supplement that protection with a protection against mechanical reproduction of the digital object... As I have argued above, the only practical protection that the owner of opaque creativity has under current copyright law is the protection against reproduction of the digital object. I am not certain what Lessig may mean when he modifies reproduction with the word "mechanical" -- I guess this is a legal term, but hopefully we are talking about any means of reproduction, digital or physical.

My argument in comparing Lessig's proposal to "trade secret" vs. "patent" protection was this:

a) If I choose to protect my invention via a patent, I agree to have my methodology published but I receive a limited time monopoly for my product.

b) If I choose to protect my invention via a trade secret, I receive no monopoly -- meaning that anyone can attempt to reverse engineer my product and manufacture a competing product -- but I also do not have to publish my methodology.

There are two differences between this kind of law and that of "opaque creativity" as we have been discussing it:

1. In the case of a material product, one made of atoms and not bits, it is impossible for a competitor to make an exact duplicate of my product, for free. However, in this strange new world of bits, competitors can duplicate my product exactly and at no cost. Thus "trade secret" protection is really no protection at all.

2. In the case of a patent, I am being asked to divulge a "methodology" -- albeit one sufficient for an expert of my field to duplicate my creative output. Nonetheless, in the case of a patent the duplication is still necessary. In the case of Lessig's escrow, no duplication is necessary. The source code IS the product, it is not just the methodology for creating the product.

Perhaps I need to understand more fully what "extensive rights" copyright provides to a software developer. But it seems to me that the "trade secret" protection which Lessig offers has little or no value to the software publisher. The only value is in protection from duplication of the object code. The heart of my disagreement is to ask why object code shouldn't be protected from duplication for the same length of time as any other copyrighted material.

5. State as Software Publisher
I am sure I am just not good enough at explaining myself -- otherwise why would we continue to disagree on this point? I will try a much more thorough explanation of my point as I have to think that it has to do with a difference in Lessig's definition of source code and my own. Often we use metaphors to describe things and I think that it is easy to be lulled into the implications of the metaphor and miss understanding the thing itself. So, for example, some might say that source code is a "recipe" for a program -- implying that a cook still needs to gather ingredients, have equipment, have skill in cooking, etc. in order to make the meal that the recipe describes. In fact, the source code for a program IS the program.

Think of source code and object code instead as a phrase and its abbreviation:

1) Source code -- date of birth

2) Object code -- DOB

With a consistent set of rules (call it a compiler) I can always start with the source code "date of birth" and arrive at the exact object code "dob." In fact, computer programs wouldn't work if they couldn't be consistently compiled into the same object code (purists, please postpone a discussion of different competing compilers that output more or less efficient object code). The process of going from source code to object code can be made invisible to the end user -- in fact this is (in a certain sense) what happens with Java. In this case I have three steps

1) Source code -- date of birth

2) Java Byte code -- birthdate

3) Object code -- DOB

A developer uses a development tool like JBuilder to take their unique source code and generate Java Byte Code. An end user then performs the final "compilation" to make that Java Byte code run on a particular machine. I point out the example of Java in order to emphasize the fundamental point here -- the process of going from source code to object code can be made to be so trivial that a program's source code really is functionally equivalent to its object code. Thus the act of the State publishing a program's source code really will be equivalent to the State's publishing the object code.

This then is a very different situation than that of the published patent. In Lessig's scenario, the State becomes the authoritative distributor of the actual PRODUCT not just an instruction book on how to make a product. Perhaps this doesn't matter if the product doesn't have that one important right of property that I mentioned -- that of being owned. The one difference is that even when I make an object code copy of Lotus 123, it will still say Lotus, properly attributing authorship. If I have the source code, I can search and replace the word "Lotus" with the word "Ted Co" and quickly publish Ted Co 123. Now the creator has not only lost the right to own his creation, he has also lost the authorship of his creation. Surely no one is suggesting that I should be able to publish Gone With the Wind as having been authored by Ted Shelton. This raises yet another point -- that this is exactly what is made possible through the publishing of source code -- it allows a secondary creator to create an opaque work wholly from the source code of a prior opaque work.

In conclusion, Lessig asks if we agree on 1 and 2, and asks what he is missing on 3. His numbering of the issues is different than mine, nonetheless --

Issue 1 -- That the objective is to find the best incentives to "create and spread knowldge" -- Yes we are in agreement

Issue 2 -- This is where our numbering diverges as I think there is more than one issue here -- Lessig's proposed "regime" to protect OC property that participates in an escrow scheme, and extend some object code reproduction protection to OC property that does not participate in the escrow -- here we definitely do not agree. I think that the proposed "rights" for OC property are insufficient to attract a creator to Lessig's escrow scheme, and I do not sufficiently understand what protections he intends to provide to OC property if it is not escrowed. Furthermore, as I have stated in previous sections of this discussion, I think that there is an enormously problematic leap of faith in being able to say that one work is clearly worthy of copyright protection, and that another work must succumb to the rules of "opaque creativity." An example might be Toy Story -- Why shouldn't Pixar be forced to escrow all of the computer models that generated each frame of animation in order to receive protection for their work?

Issue 3 -- That there is a difference between the state's distribution of source code vs. the publishing of a methodology (e.g. patent) -- Here we also continue to disagree. Source code and object code are just two different ways of storing a software prduct. One is less opaque than the other. A methodology is just a set of ideas about how one should go about building a product -- it is clearly not the product itself. Even when the patent is a chemical formula -- it is not the raw materials of the chemicals, the process for converting those chemicals into a useable form, etc. -- it is not the product. Bits are different from atoms.

I fear that this conversation is now generating some side tangents that in themselves need to be resolved in order to have some agreement on the primary issue. And I don't have the sense that my core disagreement with Lessig's concerns about "opaque creativity" are resulting in a dialog about that key point -- instead the conversation seems to be moving toward specific proposals for how OC property rights will be handled, instead of discussing why OC property should be different from copyright property in the first place. I'd propose further discussion on "why" before more discussion on "how."

Thursday, October 24, 2002

US Congress is scared of Linux?

If the US Congress is saying that it is scared of Linux, I say "follow the money." I just received email from the SIIA stating that:

"...yesterday 23 House Republicans and 43 Democrats signed a letter to Cybersecurity Director Richard Clarke regarding Government funding of R&D related to cybersecurity. The letter, which urges use of commercial "intellectual property licenses", has generated numerous calls to SIIA. The controversy stems from the arguments used to encourage members of Congress to sign onto the letter. In particular, organizers of the effort appear to want to preclude Linux and other open source platforms and applications from receiving federal R&D funds."

Here is an article on the topic in the Seattle P-I -- Congressman under fire for attack on free software. Guess Adam Smith D-Wash has some friends on the Redmond campus, as the article in part states:

"But when Smith, whose biggest political contributor is Microsoft, began circulating the letter to his fellow Democrats asking for their signatures, he added his own correspondence saying the free software philosophy is "problematic and threaten(s) to undermine innovation and security.""

I'll be writing a letter to my representativs in Congress letting them know that open source is actually good for innovation and security, hope you will as well.

Tuesday, October 22, 2002

Lessig blogs a response on Opaque Creativity

Lawrence Lessig sends his latest reply in our long running blogversation on the subect of opaque creativity. I have constructed a page with all previous posts to make it easier to follow the conversation (it is in chronological order) which you can view here. It may be my turn to be tardy in a response as I am in New York right now, speaking at the SIIA's Web Services conference.

Monday, October 21, 2002

Hang Time

From the sublime to the silly -- a colleague of mine from pre-Internet days sends his regards and a link to his current work at Fox -- a short called Hang Time. I'm glad to see Fox still has their edge! Not quite the greatness of the DC-10 landing on a freeway... still the greatest Internet distributed short -- here is the link to 405 if you don't know what I am talking about...

Sunday, October 20, 2002

Rivers and Tides

Saw a tremendously beautiful film tonight, Rivers and Tides -- I highly recommend.

Scottish artist Andy Goldsworthy builds elaborate installation pieces out of Mother Nature's flotsam and jetsam in its own natural habitat (open fields, seashores, riverbanks). Goldsworthy spends hours altering the landscape or working his elemental materials into man-made paths and patterns of harmonious grace. A finished work can last for as long as a few days or as short as a minute before a light breeze or an eddying tide picks it apart like carrion... German documentarian Thomas Riedelshiemer's affectionate, awestruck look at the man and his mission to tap into a frequency of symmetrical order in terra firma's chaos is as hypnotically dazzling as his subject's abstract expressionist products… A gorgeous, wide-screen, 35mm time capsule.
- David Fear, San Francisco Bay Guardian

Ice cone

Saturday, October 19, 2002

The Parable of the Languages

Perhaps everyone other than me has already seen the masterful geek wit that Shelley Powers, aka burningbird has wrought -- since it was posted on slashdot some time ago.

Reading the burningbird blog I am re-inspired by what is possible in his medium. But especially this "Parable of the Languages" which is at once beautiful and geeky, a contradiction which you'll just have to grok for yourselves...

It begins...

If programming languages could speak, really speak, not just crunch bytes and stream bits, they would have much to say that is both wise and profound.

After all, the original programmers were philosophers, and programming languages were philosopher tools...

Can anyone recommend a reliable Email Service?

I have been a customer of SiteAmerica (part of Register.com) for 5 or 6 years now and the service has been unreliable at best over the last few years. My afterink email is out again and I am ready to switch providers. I need someone who will host my domain and provide POP mail or IMAP mail access -- can anyone out there in blogland recommend a service provider that I can count on?? Please email me at tshelton@borland.com if you have a suggestion... thanks!!

Wednesday, October 16, 2002

Lessig's Debrief on Eldred v. Ashcroft

Lawrence Lessig has surfaced again, with this report on events at the Supreme Court. I am taking this quote a little out of context but it is an example of the reassuring things that Lessig has to say...

The Court clearly got it. Though the other side had written literally 300 pages trying to show all the good CTEA did (and pronounce it like it is a disease -- sateeeya), the Court hadn't bought any of it. Congress was not acting to promote progress, it was acting to reward "court favorites." The only question the Court was struggling with is whether it has the power to do anything about it.

Blogdex - very interesting resource

Sort of a "best of" blogging, take a look at MIT Media lab's blogdex which lists and rates top blogs.

Microsoft Switch Flop

If you haven't yet heard about the absolutely ridiculous Microsoft "switcher" advertisement in which Microsoft claims to have had a Macintosh user happily switch to Windows XP, read the best account from John Gruber here. I guess Apple's Switch campaign is really getting under Bill's skin...

Sunday, October 13, 2002

Giants Win!

Great ending to the Giants-Cardinals NL championship game tonight -- and a great one for my first time to Pac Bell park. For some reason I just hadn't managed to get to the "new" ballpark -- although I was frequently reminded tonight of reasons to watch the games on TV instead of inside the park...

At Yankees games it was all about celebrities -- here in Silicon Valley? I think it was Vinod Khosla that we saw at the game... Although my friend swears he saw Danny Devito as well.

In any case, it would be great to see Barry Bonds in his first World Series... They can't walk him every time, can they??

Joel On Software

Joel Spolsky is an interesting software programmer in New York who has a blog and reports on a variety of interesting software development issues. He was recently pointed out to me by Pat Kerpan, one of Borland's product BU VPs.

In a June letter entitled Strategy Letter V Joel outlines how technology companies seek to commoditize products that complement their own in the marketplace -- Microsoft commoditizing hardware, for example. I found it to be a good analysis, with one objection -- Sun thought that they were commoditizing the desktop, or client experience -- not the server. Worth reading though, as this is one small nit to an argument which I otherwise feel is right on target.

Monday, October 07, 2002

Two days to go...

If you've been wondering why Lawrence Lessig has been silent of late -- Eldred vs. Ashcroft goes to the Supreme Court on Wednesday. Here is the lead from CNN's article on the case (posted just hours ago on their web site):

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Mickey Mouse's days at Disney could be numbered and paying royalties for warbling George Gershwin tunes could become a thing of the past if the U.S. Supreme Court sides with an Internet publisher in a landmark copyright case this week....

So that I am not accused of violating "fair use" doctrine, read the rest of the article on CNN's web site

Tuesday, October 01, 2002

Freedom to Tinker

For those interested in more on Edward Felten, he sends the link to his own blog, Freedom To Tinker subtitled "...is your freedom to understand, discuss, repair, and modify the technological devices you own." I will definitely be adding Felten's site to my Amphetadesk using his XML link.

On the 27th Felten posted a very interesing note on the Berman-Coble hearings -- hearings to discuss the possibility of giving companies a legal right to attack your home computers under the pretense of disrupting "illegal" P2P networks.

Worthwhile reading throughout.

Monday, September 30, 2002

Where it matters most, globalization thrives

A thoughtful piece by Thomas L. Friedman, writing for the New York Times and reprinted here in the International Herald Tribune, Friedman argues that in places like India and China globalization has been a success. He also writes that September 11th has taught us that:

...terrorists originated from the least globalized, least open, least integrated corners of the world: namely, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Afghanistan and northwest Pakistan. Countries that don't trade in goods and services also tend not to trade in ideas, pluralism or tolerance."

The debate will go in, but Friedman's point is that it is often people from the rich West who wonder whether globalization is doing harm or good, while the developing world has experienced improved standards of living and social mobility as a result of these policies. Young people in Bangalore, for example are not protesting against Silicon Valley firms spending money on Indian software engineers.

Sunday, September 29, 2002

Web Surfers can Follow U.S. Buildup

So writes the International Herald Tribune last week, pointing out that commercial satellite photography is available of Iraq and U.S. facilities in the Gulf at Globalsecurity.org a "military watchdog group." The byline is from Eric Umansky of the New York Times. According to the article, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld isn't so happy with the existence of this public access to military information, saying "I wish we didn't have to live with it." According to the article, a 1992 US law allows the government to declare any part of the earth off-limits to American commercial satellites to "meet significant national security or significant foreign policy concerns." Here is a link to the original article on the New York Times website, although you'd have to be a member and pay to read... The article doesn't appear in the IHT archives -- I guess because it was re-printed from NYT.

Friday, September 27, 2002

Tinkerers' Champion

Lest you thought that Lawrence Lessig was the only professor battling copyright law's reduction of our civil liberties, this fascinating article from the Economist describes Edward Felten's argument for the "freedom to tinker."

It is not just libertarians who are concerned about the restrictions caused by America's latest copyright law. Edward Felten, a professor at Princeton University, argues that the “freedom to tinker”—the right to understand, repair and modify one's own equipment— is crucial to innovation, and as valuable to society as the freedom of speech.

This article also includes some info about a a bill recently introduced in Congress by Senator Fritz Hollings of South Carolina -- a bill which could "...criminalise open-source software..." I guess other folks have known about this bill for awhile, I found this March, 2002 article on the topic in Wired News -- truly scary stuff that we need to stand up and fight against!


Thanks to Craig Stuntz for pointing out this really interesting new tool, Amphetadesk.

This tool creates a local webserver on your desktop. The scripts allow you to subscribe to any web site that supports an XML version, bringing all of the headlines and summaries of your subscribed sites onto your desktop. Right now it just lists all headlines for each web site, grouped by site. But since the data is local, it shouldn't be long before there is a hack that lets you sort by search word or date or author...

This kind of tool makes keeping track of multiple blogs much easier and, in my opinion, starts to show one possible direction for the future of blogging -- blogs could be a bridge technology to a world in which we rely on individual trusted author/editors rather than corporate news conglomerates to parse through all of the world's news sources to put together a constant perspective on particular topics of interest.

For example, a blogger could decide to be an expert on Iraq and would search the world's news outlets for the most interesting tidbits on that country. I could then subscribe to that individual's blog using Amphetadesk and would then have a view into all of the world's news on that topic, but screened by someone I had chosen to trust to give me just the important or interesting items.

Next question -- what is the economic model?

Tuesday, September 24, 2002

Dale hands out free beer...

Dale and David I

Borcon Germany kicked off to a great start with Borland CEO Dale Fuller and Borland icon David I giving a terrific keynote speech. Turnout was quite strong with a total of about 600 attendees expected over the four day event in Frankfurt.

Prior to the keynote, Dale was showing attendees this 10 year old photo of David, at a long ago Borcon.Old David I

By the way, these photos are from a Nokia 7650 phone with a built in camera. The resolution is only 640 x 480, but have you ever seen better photos from a phone? :-)

Dale BierDale wrapped up the keynote by asking for questions from the audience and rewarding the asker with a pint of beer. Here he is passing someone a beer.

One final photo -- David I on stage answering questions. David I

Monday, September 23, 2002

Lessig Blogversation

It has occured to me that it is very difficult to follow a blogversation as the reader is presented with the conversation in reverse chronological order, and must bounce back and forth between multiple blogs to read each entry into the conversation. To solve this problem, I have created a separate page which includes all of the entries, in chronological order, for my blogversation with Lawrence Lessig on the topic of his ideas on "opaque creativity." As there are new additions to this conversation, I will post them here on the main page, and also on the separate chronological page.

Sunday, September 22, 2002

Dasher - alternative text input

A very interesting alternate text input experiment can be found here from the Cavendish Laboratory in Cambridge. I think that this is a good example of the kind of out-of-the-box thinking that we can expect in the next generation of handheld devices. Many have said that handheld devices will not become computing platforms until we have voice recognition due to the challenges with the input mechanism. Experiments like Dasher, while early, show that there is still a lot of room for innovation in the way we think about "typing" into devices.

Oktoberfest and Borcon

What a great idea! Hold our German Borland user's conference (Borcon) at the same time as Germany's Oktoberfest celebration! Both events started on Saturday the 21st, with Monday night being the actual opening keynote speech for Borcon. The weekend pre-conference was filled with training classes and certification testing (hopefully some beer drinking...) Germany is one of the largest markets for Borland products and Delphi especially is still very strong here. Where Delphi might be in 10-15% of corporations in the US, it is used in 30% of all German corporations. Now only one problem, I am in Frankfurt for Borcon and the big Oktoberfest celebration is in Munich...

Lord of Light Roger Zelazny

I have been re-reading, for probably the first time in 15-20 years, Roger Zelazny's classic Lord of Light. I enjoy Zelazny in general and also recently re-read his 10 Amber novels (conventiently re-printed into a single volume). But it is as if by a different author altogether -- Lord of Light is a masterful novel where the Amber books are just a fun read. Beautiful language, compelling plot line -- the book describes a world where a colonizing ship's crew has used technology to become the gods of the Hindu pantheon and rule over the passengers that they had brought to colonize the planet. Well worth reading just for Zelazny's use of language.

By the way, if you are an Amber fan, I recommend the new Dawn of Amber novel by John Gregory Betancourt. Written with the permission of the Zelazny estate, this is a prequel which trace the origins of Amber itself. Sadly only the first of this new trilogy is available and it is a bit of a cliff-hanger.

Saturday, September 21, 2002

Platform adoption -- the role of the software developer

There is a comment that I made to Eric Knorr in my interview with him that seems to have been misunderstood by some readers. It is also a key to understanding why Microsoft has been so successful while other platform vendors have not. I said:

"In the non-Microsoft world, there is very little appreciation for how important the developer is to the ultimate success of the platform."

Geoff Stevenson wrote in, pointing out that Linux has been entirely developer driven and that "...these are people who actually care in a personal way about what they're doing..." He also chided me for extoling the virtues of Microsoft... which I had not done.

The point I was trying to make was actually entirely consonant with this reader's view. It is because software developers are often passionate about their creations that they can contribute so much to the success of a platform. The rapid growth of Linux, and the quality of that platform is a testament to that fact.

My point was that amongst platform vendors, Microsoft has been one of the few companies that have really focused on the role of the software developer in making their platform a success. This focus causes them to create good developer tools, good partner programs for developers, and a variety of educational forums for teaching developers the Microsoft way. By contrast, look at Palm which has no development tools and a miniscule partner program. They simply haven't focused on developers and are now paying the price as Win CE begins to have all of the exciting content for customers of handheld devices -- its the developer that makes the product something that a consumer wants to buy.

Microsoft itself has struggled in the game station market for exactly this reason. The "hit" software is on the Sony and Nintendo devices. So Microsoft has even had to buy game development companies in order to get the hit products that will help them sell the Xbox.

Thursday, September 19, 2002

Borland's bird's-eye view

Part one of an interview I did with ZDNet's Eric Knorr. If you want to comment you can join in the discussion section at the bottom of that page or send me your comments directly at tshelton@borland.com

Will Java come back on the desktop?

The debate on SWING seems to be finally heating up, with Alan Williamson's recent article Swing Is Swinging Java Out of the Desktop describing what he sees to be the fundamental flaws in Java's desktop strategy. In addition to the article itself, make sure you take a look at the lively discussion in the "Reader Feedback" section at the end of the article.

A debate on the merits of SWING is long overdue if Java is going to find itself a place on the desktop in competition with Microsoft. For far too long the Java community has tried to fit every software client problem into a web browser. There are some applications where a rich client application really is the right answer. A major part of Microsoft's push with .NET will be in creating a new focus on the user experience and what can be done in a rich client environment. The Java community needs an answer that is based on the standards process to answer the need for a rich client environment with Java.


Not that I intend on becoming a part of Apple's switcher ad campaign but I have to say that I am truly impressed with my new Mac OS X powerbook. It is a joy to use, and it is very reliable:

Last login: Sun Aug 25 19:55:48 on console
Welcome to Darwin!
[Ted-Sheltons-Computer:~] tshelton% uptime
6:44AM up 24 days, 11:27, 2 users, load averages: 0.23, 0.21, 0.26

Of course it helps that it is really NeXTStep, first released commercially in 1988 and built on top of BSD Unix. So you have a product that has been under development for thirty something years. It had better be solid! But then the question has to be posed -- why can't Microsoft build as good a product with all of their $billions?

Sunday, September 15, 2002

Opaque creativity continued...

The conversation with Lawrence Lessig continues with his comments on my previous note, and my reply:

He states that we are in agreement about one important point, "that the ultimate question here is which system provides the best incentives to create and spread knowledge."

To this, however, I would add another question, which I believe is of equal importance. In addition to the objective of promoting the progress of science, I believe that intellectual property law also serves an important economic objective. By taking the insubstantial (an idea, story, software program) and giving it the status of the substantial (property) we create the possibility of commerce in ideas, without which our growing knowledge-based economy would be impossible. Even in the case of the publishers of 1774, an important element of the debate for granting copy - rights is to enable an author and his publisher to benefit economically for some period of time, thus creating the very possibility of a publisher. It is as important to promote the commerce of ideas as it is to promote the communal ownership of ideas as both contribute to the promotion of progress.

I don't believe that this idea is at odds with Lessig's formulation of providing "the best incentives to create and spread knowledge," though certainly there have been many arguments about whether or not capitalism is the "best incentive." On this I think I would paraphrase Churchill and claim that capitalism is the worst form of incentive, except for all the rest. And so I believe it is important to regard the State's role in promoting economic activity which contributes to the wider well being of all citizens (job creation, etc), beyond the narrower goal of creating and spreading knowledge. Thus there is an economic good in treating a software program as property, beyond the possibility that some day that software program will pass into common ownership and become a basis for further creativity.

Lessig asks for clarification on two points raised in my prior note --
He claims that he is offering the same choice to the software developer that the inventor has when considering whether to patent a process or design or to keep such processes or designs a "trade secret." If this is the case, then I do not understand his proposal. I believe that Lessig's suggestion with respect to a category of creativity which he calls "opaque" is that this category shall not receive the designation of property, and the protection from theft, that "transparent" creativity automatically receives. My understanding is that in order to receive this protection, the opaque quality of this creativity would have to be disclosed and held in a government operated escrow for the duration of the period that it would receive protection. In the case of source code, this would entail a number of steps which would prove to have some significant price tag attached -- the software creator would have to provide the source code for the software program, along with all tools, libraries, languages, and deployment environments necessary for the government to ascertain that the source code provided was truly sufficient to create the protected opaque work. Furthermore, if the software creator did not fulfill this requirement, he/she could expect no legal protection from the theft (copying) of the opaque work.

There is a key difference between digital and physical products. With a digital work, the opaque version can be endlessly copied, virtually for free and with no need for access to the underlying method of creation (source code). With a physical work, the product must be manufactured one at a time, with each copy requiring access to the underlying method of creation (patented process or design or the trade secret). This is why I claim that Lessig is offering a very different scenario to the software developer. Without the legal status of property, the software developer has no economic incentive to release a product knowing that any and all may freely copy and distribute the work. Thus I conclude that the software developer will be compelled to participate in Lessig's escrow plan and that it will not be a choice between protection and no protection as in traditional inventions where the product is physical.

Being Digital
This difference between "bits" and "atoms" as Nicholas Negroponte so eloquently described them in his 1996 book Being Digital also is at the heart of my answer to Lessig's second question, why there is a "...difference between giving the world all the information needed to build a cotton gin and giving the world all the information needed to write 123..." In the case of the cotton gin, I indeed may have all of the information needed to build one -- the method of creation, but I would not have a cotton gin. My argument is that there is in fact a significant difference from an economic perspective between the disclosure of an invention and the disclosure of software source code.

With the patent of the cotton gin, I merely have the information needed to build a cotton gin. I still must obtain raw materials, craft those materials into components, and bind the components to each other to form the product. Finally, I must market, distribute, and support this product. In the case of a software program (such as Lotus 123), under Lessig's scenario, the State would distribute not just the method of creation, but also the raw materials, the components and the binding of those components into the product. In the case of the cotton gin, my competitor may produce an inferior product, or a more costly product than I, and my competitor will have to expend significant resources just to learn how to operate the method of creation that I had outlined in my patent application. But in the case of software, my competitor will be provided with exactly the same product, at no expense. In fact, there will be no need for a competitor since the State itself will become the competitor, providing an authoritative source for obtaining my product.

Software can be thought of as having two different kinds of intellectual property that are combined to produce the final work. One category is like the invention which may be kept secret or patented -- I shall call this category "algorithms." As an aside, I do not intend to start a debate here on the merits or problems with software patents. The second category is like the book, and I shall call this the "implementation." The proper corollary to Lessig's example of an inventor having the choice between disclosing an idea in order to obtain a patent vs. keeping the idea a "trade secret" is the algorithm. Thus, all of the algorithms needed to create a spreadsheet would be the equivalent of the information needed to build a cotton gin. But the implementation, the source code, IS the cotton gin itself. Requiring the software developer to give away the source code is the equivalent of the government giving away a complete working cotton gin to everyone who wants one once Whitney's patent expires.

Saturday, September 14, 2002

Lawrence Lessig responds to my thoughts on his concerns with "opaque creativity."

I agree that the Supreme Court's thinking is at the heart of this issue, as you quoted, that the "ultimate goal of the patent system is to bring new designs and technologies into the public domain through disclosure." But this system is one which is designed not to compel the inventor to make a disclosure, but rather to provide an incentive for such disclosure.

I like your description of the patent, the "here's how to copy my invention" document. A fundamental problem for patent applicants, though, is that the patent document can also offer a blueprint for "here's how to engineer around my invention." Furthermore, the expenses involved in patent application, argument to achieve patent issuance, and litigation to protect an issued patent ultimately takes patent protection out of reach for most citizens.

But citizens have another option, that of keeping an invention a "trade secret." Thus the system works that I have a choice between receiving some special protection or no special protection. If I want the state to grant me a "limited time" monopoly, I may apply for a patent, risking the possibility that a competitor may engineer around my solution, but receiving some ability under the law to prevent infringement in my specific methodology or design. In exchange I ultimately agree that after some "limited time" the specific methodolgy or design receives no further protection and becomes the property of all citizens. This does not necessarily prohibit me from continuing to build a business around the invention as I may still effectively compete on efficiency or distribution or quality or brand recognition. Or, of course, on further innovation. Alternatively, if I do not want this limited time monopoly (or I cannot afford it), I am still free to do business but without any special protection for my specific methodology or design.

In your proposal (if I understand it correctly), you would provide the software developer with copyright protection for the object code (or the opaque version) of his product only if he also agreed to place the source code (or the transparent version) of his product into escrow with the State. This escrow might be secret, preventing any competitor from viewing the precise implementation of the invention, but would ultimately be released by the State at the termination of the "limited time" monopoly.

Thus software (and other copyrighted "opaque" inventions?) would only be treated as property, and accorded any protection from theft, if the transparent version of the invention was held by the State and released at some time in the future. Thus the inventor of opaque IP would be compelled to divulge the "secret sauce" of his invention and would never be accorded the same choice between some value offered by the state (a "limited time" monopoly in the case of patents) vs. the ability to do business without such a monopoly (a "trade secret" with the possibility that the secret sauce would be reverse engineered). Furthermore, as software is infinitely duplicable for nominal cost, the inventor would have all value in his invention stripped from him by the State at the end of the "limited time" of protection, as the State would become the distributor of his invention. The corollary with a physical product would be for the State to give everyone a free cotton gin when Eli Whitney's patent ran out.

It seems to me that for your proposal to work, the opaque version of the invention should still receive copyright protection, while the inventor would receive some additional incentive for disclosure of the transparent version. One suggestion as an example -- perhaps government funds could only be spent on software that had been submitted to the secret limited time escrow scheme. Thus, I could chose to keep my software secret, but would then not be able to sell to the government.

If opaque creativity does not receive the same protection as transparent creativity it seems to me that we will be creating an enormous problem in determining just what is an opaque creation, and what is a transparent one. The other example in my earlier note is an interesting one -- should the romance novels generated by an automatic novel writing software receive copyright protection if I do not submit my software to the escrow plan? What about special effects in movies -- should Pixar be required to escrow their animation software for Toy Story to recieve copyright protection? How about the musician that programs a sound into a synthesizer -- should the musician be compelled to escrow the specifics of this wave form in order to receive protection for the song?

I do not disagree with the idea of an extension to existing copyright and patent law which would create an incentive for inventors to disclose their means of production, and I see your argument that this is a logical extension of the State's objectives in promoting the "Progress of Science." However, I believe that such an extension should be done in a form which offers an incentive for participation and does not become a compulsion for the inventor.

Friday, September 13, 2002

Thanks to Doc Searls for suggesting that I add permalinks to my blog -- now if I could just get this new feature to behave correctly!
I have been thinking a lot about Lawrence Lessig's arguments on the Future of Ideas. I am finding myself in agreement with him regarding copyright and the length of time something should be protected before becoming part of the public domain, but in disagreement with him on the subject of "opaque creativity."

My primary issue is one of enforcement, although I have philosophical concerns as well. On the subject of copyright, the role of society and government is on the side of the IP creator, working to protect the individual's rights for a period of time. After that period, society withdraws support for the individual, and allows free use of the IP.

The challenge with Lessig's arguments about transparency is that it would put society and government in a role of opposing the IP creator as, after the period of protection, the IP creator would have to be compelled to disclose the method of production or presentation. What would our society look like if we had to create enforcement structures which were compelling every IP creator to disclose their process or technology of creation? And what are the limits of this disclosure?

Lessig is also wrong that IP creation in the past was always transparent and that today we have a new problem of obscuring production or presentation. Coca-cola, for example, has never disclosed their recipe for Coke -- Would Lessig compel them to disclose this recipe? Is this the kind of transparency he is looking for?

Nothing, however, prevents Pepsi from "reverse-engineering" Coke and providing a competing product using their own formula. And this could be true for the IP issue that Lessig is concerned about as well. We might not compel the developer to release source code for the software program -- but we would also not prevent an independent party from creating a duplicate through their own independent efforts.

Take an example of the romance "novelist," who uses a computer program to automatically generate these pulp fiction novels. Should we have a society that compels the novelist to disclose the source code for the generating program at the time that the copyright expires for the novel?

I believe that such a requirement would result in a system that would have to exert control over its citizens to a degree which would undermine the principle of individual freedom which have demonstrated over the past 200+ years to create the foundations for a just and prosperous society.

Wednesday, September 11, 2002


Enjoyed as always your Loose Wire column, but this time (9-11-02) you definitely have a loose wire... The only thing that will hold back MMS is a mistake in the way that operators price the service -- a mistake that even if made, will be rapidly fixed.

Why do you love SMS, you write? Because SMS is a way to casually socialize, it is a way to be brief, and there is an intimacy in its use.

I don't disagree with these comments but I think it doesn't capture the richness of this developing mobile culture. Kids in Finland sending SMS messages to their friends before going to sleep just to say "good night." A message from the bar from one girlfriend to another saying "here he comes" when that tall stranger starts over. In short, the ability to remotely share an experience between two people.

For all the reasons you said that you like SMS, and for the rest of the way that this mobile culture is developing, I'd say that a picture is worth 1000 words.

In Japan the numbers are already proving this. KDDI is seeing wholesale conversion of their entire user population to picture phones. For the first time ever, new subscriber growth for KDDI topped market leader DoCoMO -- due to the picture technology that they launched first and more effectively delivered in a useable package than other providers.

Lets address your SMS arguments again:

Low commitment conversation -- MMS has the same asynchronous properties with the advantage of more interesting content

Brief messaging -- Take a snapshot and push send. This is actually briefer than typing out a message.

Intimacy -- same privacy in sending and receiving.

Maybe I don't understand your complaint -- I agree that MMS doesn't replace SMS, that these are two different mediums with two different uses. But perhaps this message has succeeded in getting you to rethink your pronouncement that MMS is a daft idea.


Ted Shelton

Chief Strategy Officer
Borland Software Corporation

Monday, August 26, 2002

I jut installed Jaguar the new Mac OS release -- first time I had to reboot the mac since the day I purchased it!

Tuesday, August 20, 2002

I love my new macintosh. It has been on since I purchased it with no problems. And I know how long that is since I can type uptime...

Welcome to Darwin!
[localhost:~] tshelton% uptime
6:54PM up 19 days, 20 hrs, 2 users, load averages: 0.54, 0.32, 0.12

Can your windows machine stay up that long without crashing?

Monday, August 19, 2002

An extremely important speech by Lawrence Lessig on the future of ideas and specifically the nature of copyright and patent law.

Wednesday, June 12, 2002

Time to resucitate this site. Watch this spot for increased activity...