Archive for January, 2007

Myth Dad, Pyramid Son

Monday, January 29th, 2007

On a recent road trip I listened to four audiobooks. One is overrated, another poorly written and ignorant (conflation of mathematical proof and statistical confidence was most galling to me, but there’s plenty to go around), another well written and wrongheaded. The fourth isn’t exactly any of those things (apart from overrated), but then it didn’t feel much like a book. More like a book adaptation of an infomercial, read aloud.

That would be , a garrulous stream of self-help cliches, financial pep talks, tall tales, and pitches for other books and products. (I may have listened to another book in the series–I gather they’re all pretty similar, and I heard tiresome stories of “Rich Dad” in any case.) Author has the annoying habit of presenting the obvious as deep wisdom (e.g., “everything has a price”, now that was new to me) along with obvious lies (I completely lost respect for the enterprise when Kiyosaki quoted “Rich Dad” as saying that one can consistently obtain 20% to 50% returns at low risk).

It turns out that “Rich Dad” is probably made up. Apparently the most specific answer (and telling) answer Kiyosaki has given regarding the identity of Rich Dad is “Is Harry Potter real? Why don’t you let Rich Dad be a myth, like Harry Potter?”

So that covers myth, what about pyramid? Apparently Kiyosaki got his start with pyramid organization . He seems to have learned well, for Kiyosaki’s franchise of selling products that offer little more than selling Kiyosaki and his products would (do?) make perfect fodder for network sales.

It is possible a liar and network marketer could have valuable and unique insights, but Kiyosaki doesn’t seem to present any. I don’t hold being an excellent salesperson against him, indeed I think selling is undersold, but then he doesn’t advise people to learn or earn by selling, as far as I can tell.

I wasn’t going to write about Kiyosaki, but was inspired to by reading links posted by Jim Lippard on Kiyosaki today (I did not previously know that “Rich Dad” is a fabrication).

My theory is that Kiyosaki is an excellent salesperson and many who read his books and perhaps have never thought about money before or have, and are dense or frustrated, take his cliches as amazing insight. Take this from a commenter on one of the posts Lippard links to:

As mentioned, defining wealth as how long you can live without working was a new way of thinking of things for me. In 10 years of Money Magazine subscriptions, I’ve read a billion different mutual funds articles, but nothing about generating or even measuring passive income.

Think of things in terms of assets vs. liabilities was a new concept to me.

Helloooo!

I don’t have a theory explaining why anyone smarter than me would find anything valuable in Kiyosaki.

I wrote a distantly related post on real restate returns in September, 2005.

Paying to create

Thursday, January 25th, 2007

Lucas Gonze writes the musician industry has never been better, citing a LA Times story:

While the U.S. recording industry continues to slide [...], the other side of the music world businesses catering to those who create the music has nearly doubled over the last decade to become a $7.5-billion industry.

My emphasis. Read Gonze’s explanation of the ellipsis.

This highlights how backwards it is to cripple technology and law, ostensibly to ensure creators can get paid — creators eagerly pay to create.

Another quote from the article:

“We are looking at the first creative generation,” Henry Juszkiewicz, co-owner of Gibson Guitars, said last week as he was surrounded by instruments in his firm’s display room at the convention, which ended Sunday. “The cost of creative tools has gone down. And now you have the ability to share with other people your creation. These two fundamental, solid changes are allowing the younger generation to be actively creative.”

The NAMM musical industry group, which sponsored the convention, contracts with the Gallup Organization for a poll every three years. The most recent found that the number of instrument players ages 18 to 34 grew from 24% in 1997 to 32% in 2006.

It also found that last year about half of American households had at least one person who owned a musical instrument, up from 43% in 1997.

Note what the Gibson Guitars guy did not say — that people are buying more instruments in hopes of making money.

“Querying Wikipedia like a Database”

Tuesday, January 23rd, 2007

I’ve mentioned several times as having the potential to tremendously increase the value of Wikipedia by unlocking (in the sense of making queryable) all of the data in the encyclopedia.

dbpedia.org has taken a different approach to “Querying Wikipedia like a Database” (their excellent tagline) — extract datasets from Wikipedia, presumably with a manual mapping of relevant categories and data populating infoboxes to triples (described in What have Innsbruck and Leipzig in common? Extracting Semantic from Wiki Content).

I suspect Wikipedia implementation of Semantic MediaWiki would only help dbpedia.org, but the latter is already impressive, requiring no changes at Wikipedia. In addition to making some of the data in Wikipedia queryable they’re exposing non-Wikipedia datasets.

The Semantic Web is so here, now. Doubters repent! ;-) Like I said before:

Once people get hooked on access to a semantic encyclopedia, perhaps they’ll want similar access to the entire web.

Race and international apartheid

Monday, January 22nd, 2007

I usually do not mention race when framing immigration controls as the international equivalent of (former) South African Apartheid — race lies on the South African side of the analogy. But the case of those opposing unfettered ability of all to move, live and work anywhere on earth without respect to nationality is not helped by the fact that race and racism is part and parcel of controls on movement, residency and work, as explained by The Guardian’s Gary Younge in The west persists in using race to decide who can cross its borders:

[W]hen translated into sterling, the mean income of a black Canadian is almost double that of a white South African. Yet a black Canadian is four times more likely to be stopped than a white South African.

Via Mark Brady.

Wikipedia and Linking 2.0

Monday, January 22nd, 2007

has reasons for linking to a Wikipedia article about an organization rather than the organization’s site:

[A] lot of institutional sites are pathetic self-serving fluff served up in anodyne marketing-speak with horrible URIs that are apt to vanish.

Linking to the Wikipedia instead is tempting, and I’ve succumbed a lot recently. In fact, that’s what I did for the Canada Line. After all, the train is still under construction and there’s no real reason to expect today’s links to last; on top of which, the Line’s own site is mostly about selling the project to the residents and businesses who (like me) are getting disrupted by it, and the taxpayers who (like me) are paying for it.

Wikipedia entries, on the other hand, are typically in stable locations, have a decent track record for outliving transient events, are pretty good at presenting the essential facts in a clear, no-nonsense way, and tend to be richly linked to relevant information, including whatever the “official” Web site might currently happen to be.

I wrote something similar about a year ago:

I consider a Wikipedia link more usable than a link to an organization home page. An organization article will link directly to an organization home page, if the latter exists. The reverse is almost never true (though doing so is a great idea). An organization article at Wikipedia is more likely to be objective, succinct, and informational than an organizational home page (not to mention there is no chance of encountering Flash, window resizing, or other annoying distractions — less charitably, attempts to control my browser — at Wikipedia). When I hear about something new these days, I nearly always check for a Wikipedia article before looking for an actual website. Finally, I have more confidence that the content of a Wikipedia article will be relevant to the content of my post many years from now.

Why not preferntially link to Wikipedia? Bray feels bad about not linking directly to original content and says Wikipedia could go off the rails, though later provides a reason to not worry about the latter:

I’d be willing to bet that if Wikipedia goes off the rails and some new online reference resource comes along to compete, there’ll be an automated mapping between Wikipedia links and the new thing; so the actual URIs may retain some value.

Indeed; and the first argument explains why linking to Wikipedia is superior to linking to an institution. But what about “original content”? If the content isn’t simply a home page (of an organization, person, or product significant enough to be in Wikipedia), Wikipedia doesn’t help. For example, I linked to Bray’s post “On Linking”; only providing a link to his Wikipedia article would have been unhelpful. The Wikipedia article link in this case is merely supplementary.

So what to do to help with broken and crappy links to items not described in Wikipedia? Bray suggests “multi-ended links”. I think he’s on the right track, but this is not something a web content creator should need to worry about — robust linking need not involve choosing several typed (e.g., official, reference, search) links. The content creator’s CMS and the user’s browser ought to be able to figure this stuff out; the content creator should just use the best link available, as always.

Last year I wrote:

I predict that in the forseeable future your browser will be able to convert a Wikipedia article link into a home page link if that is your preference, aided by Semantic Mediawiki annotations or similar.

In the case of non-Wikipedia links (and those too), combatting linkrot and providing alternate and related (e.g., reference, reply, archival) links is an obvious feature add for social bookmarking services and can be made available to a CMS or browser via the usual web API/feed/scraping mechanisms.

Beneficial brain drain enhanced by weak intellectual protectionism

Friday, January 19th, 2007

Modern research on “” indicates it is mostly beneficial, which comports with my intuition, repeated here:

Over the long term I’d bet brains are not zero sum — a brain drain really just means increased returns to education. Mobility means more people in the developing world will pursue higher education. Add to that increased flow of knowledge and capital to the developing world from migrants and concern over “brain drain” sounds very much like yet another disingenuous excuse for keeping the current system of inter-jurisdiction apartheid in place.

The International Migration of Knowledge Workers: When Is Brain Drain Beneficial? highlights another way brain drain benefits all. Abstract (emphasis added):

We consider the welfare effects of the emigration of workers who produce a public good (knowledge). We distinguish between the knowledge diversion and knowledge creation effects of such emigration, and show that the remaining residents of a country can gain from emigration, even when tastes for knowledge goods exhibit a kind of ‘home bias’. In contrast to existing models of beneficial brain drain (BBD), our results do not require agglomeration economies, education-related externalities, remittances, return migration, or an emigration “lottery”. Instead, they are driven purely by the public nature of knowledge goods, combined with differences in market size that induce greater knowledge creation by emigrants abroad than at home. BBD is even more likely in the presence of weak sending-country intellectual property rights (IPRs), or when source country IPR policy is endogenized.

Very cool.

Via Katherine Mangu-Ward.

Don’t let (potential) rioters set policy

Friday, January 19th, 2007

Via a comment from author Philippe Legrain, a positive Financial Times review (copy) of his book Immigratns: Your Country Needs Them. I want to comment on two short excerpts:

Workers raise their own – and the world’s – income levels by moving from a low-productivity job in a poor country to more productive employment in a rich one.

Which should be enough to win over any modern human (non-neanderthal) to open borders. The ethical argument for open borders is even better.

Policymakers must take account of the many voters who disagree with Legrain, even if this is based on ignorance and prejudice. It is surely better to admit 500,000 immigrants annually and have social peace than 1m and riots.

The reviewer would deny 500,000 people opportunity every year in order to maintain “social peace”. I say let the skinheads and fellow travellers riot — and bring them to justice for any crimes committed. Neanderthalic potential rioters must not be allowed to stall the elimination of apartheid.

Wiki search advertising

Tuesday, January 16th, 2007

has launched. It’s a reasonable idea, searching Wikipedia and sites Wikipedia links to (recalling search engines that have used to seed crawls). It’s much faster than Wikipedia’s built in search, but doesn’t satisfy me, as its Wikipedia results are out of date and imcomplete (indicators of the former include turning up deleted articles and finding nothing for ‘wikiseek’).

I find it interesting that Wikiseek’s footer says:

The majority of the revenue generated by Wikiseek advertising is donated to the Wikimedia Foundation.

That’s nice — apparently Searchme, Inc., intends to use Wikisearch to demonstrate its vertical search prowess — and it inspires a potential non-intrusive revenue model for Wikipedia that precisely copies Mozilla’s: sell inclusion in the search box/search page.

This wouldn’t be worth the hundreds of millions annually that tasteful text ads on articles could be (and the ability to fully fund* the Wikimedia Foundation’s mission), but it would surely obviate the need for begging to cover the costs of running Wikipedia.

* If politicians can use that vacuous phrase to indicate they “support education” I can use it in support of funding free knowledge projects.

Jamendo ad revenue share with artists

Tuesday, January 16th, 2007

is one of the most interesting music sites on the net (in terms business, community, and technology — there’s no competition yet for the vastness and bizarreness to be found on archive.org, yet). They’re trying every Web 2.0 trick and have somehow managed to avoid becoming overwhelmed with crap. I’ve listened to dozens of the 2,100 albums on Jamendo. While only a small fraction of these have strongly agreed with my taste, just about everything (weighted toward electronica and French rock) sounds professional.

Now Jamendo has introduced an advertising revenue sharing program with participating artists.

jamendo revenue share

Several video sites are attempting variations on this theme (among them , Lulu.tv, and ), but as far as I know Jamendo’s is the first attempt in the audio space. One might think an audio site would have a harder time making web advertising work than a video site (videos are usually watched within a web page and can have clickable ad areas or bumpers even if not), but I gather that listening via (usually Flash-based) audio players embedded in web pages is increasingly common (and Jamendo upgraded theirs recently), as will be media players that “play” a web page in a browser interface.

One data point: although Jamendo heavily promotes download of high quality copies, primarily via BitTorrent, their statistics indicate that low quality http “streaming” has accounted for more bandwidth. There are many obvious caveats here, but I think all points above indicate that advertising-supported web audio should not be ruled out, even if it is granted that web video has more potential.

Digg Jamendo’s revenue share page.

A border wall is not one-sided

Monday, January 15th, 2007

Roderick Long:

A wall that can be used to keep people out can also be used to keep people in.

Do we really want to trust the U.S. government – meaning not only the present regime but all future U.S. regimes – with a tool of that nature?

Similar arguments have been made many times regarding handing over power to the security state, but this is the first I’ve heard it specifically applied to building jurisdiction border walls.

Meanwhile the proposed U.S.-Mexico border fence could cost $49 billion, 25 times forecasts last year (zero surprise). Perhaps waiving environmental rules for the fence will save a pittance while continuing the security state’s best tradition of degradation.