Archive for October, 2005

WSX06 a loser

Monday, October 31st, 2005

Chris F. Masse .COM takes me to task in an extended comment on my post about the WSX advisory board. In an extended conversation I like to qualify all statements, then qualify my qualifications, driving my partner crazy. I leave most of that out when writing. Equivocation follows. Masse commented:

As for Cass Sunstein, he is a law professor, not an economist —just a detail missing in your upbeat piece. And in his blog entries that you so eagerly point to, he didn’t seem to show any real mastering of the topic. (Cass Sunstein being a friend of your friend Lawrence Lessig, I guess that’s what explains you lack of critical reasoning here —you spare it for your blog entries on Bush #43 and the U.S. military.)

I can only cite economists? You’re correct that Sunstein’s posts this summer at best demonstate that he’s coming from a completely different world. If I recall they prompted lots of virtual head scratching in comments. I expect to have many critical comments about his forthcoming book. For the record I loathe protectionist whiner , another past Lessig guest blogger.

What makes you think that the play-money WSX is going to surpass the long-established TradeSports/InTrade U.S. political prediction markets!????

(You said “could”, OK. Your mother didn’t raise any risk-taking fool.)

Actually my equivocation went much further than “could” — “If the Washington Stock Exchange advisory board is any indication, WSX could displace IEM and Tradesports as the source for quotable market odds for the 2006 US elections. The AB may mean nothing…”

I didn’t spell it out, but I think at best WSX could become the preferred market for the media to quote. As a play-money market it is only a very indirect theat to TradeSports. Still, my post was too uncritical. Thanks for calling me on it.

By the way, Masse now has an RSS feed which I highly recommend subscribing to if you’re interested in the latest news and opinion on prediction markets, along with the occasional rant in the form of a deeply bulleted list. Unfortunately only the last have permalinks.

Mobs and Markets and WSX06

Sunday, October 30th, 2005

If the Washington Stock Exchange advisory board is any indication, WSX could displace IEM and as the source for quotable market odds for the 2006 US elections. The AB may mean nothing, but assembling the names it has demonstrates some foresight on the part of WSX, as does reducing its risk through use of proven open source prediction market software.

is the latest edition to the WSX AB. The WSX blog post announcing the addition notes that Sunstein is working on a book entitled Mobs and Markets: How Many Minds Produce Knowledge.

Though Sunstein’s interest in prediction markets, wikis, the blogosphere and such was obvious in his July guest postings on the Lessig blog, only one page currently indexed by Google is aware of the title of his book: the Cass Sunstein page at Wikipedia. How apropos. It currently (since October 6) says this:

His forthcoming book, Mobs and Markets (Oxford University Press 2006, now in final stages) explores methods for aggregating information; it contains discussions of prediction markets, open source software, and wikis (with substantial attention to Wikipedia).

Ubuntu Linux 5.10

Monday, October 24th, 2005

I upgraded my laptop to 5.10 from 5.04 over the weekend. It was as simple as changing ‘hoary’ to ‘breezy’ (I dislike codenames–version numbers are so much more immediately comprehensible, but whatever) in /etc/apt/sources.list, running two commands, and waiting for a couple of hours while new packages were downloaded and installed. There should be a GUI for distribution upgrade. One may exist–I didn’t look.

Everything still works, with no post-upgrade manual fixing needed. seems a little better behaved, and I’m now running the current version (2.4.1) so have little excuse for not filing bugs.

The most noticable change is Evince as the default PDF viewer. Evince feels much faster than xpdf or AcroRead. I’m guessing that Evince is used to render PDF thumbnails on the desktop, a nice touch.

I’m happy to see Ubuntu become a juggernaut, which helps address one of Asa Dotzler’s well thought out essays on why Linux is still not ready for mass desktop adoption:

[T]there needs to be a lot more cross-distro compatibility or a lot fewer distros. This will make it much easier for software vendors to target the Linux platform and will make it much easier for Regular People to “shop around” for software.

I would modify that slightly: there needs to be one desktop distribution that people can install and vendors support without thinking (there will always be thousands of niche distributions).

Now if rent-a-dedicated-server businesses would start offering Ubuntu Server I’d be rather happy.

Imagine a one-year usufruct

Tuesday, October 18th, 2005

It warms my heart to see a column titled Imagine a world without copyright in the International Herald-Tribune, but I’m afraid Joost Smiers and Marieke van Schijndel imagine too much from such a world:

What is interesting about this approach is that this proposal strikes a fatal blow to a few cultural monopolists who, aided by copyright, use their stars, blockbusters and bestsellers to monopolize the market and siphon off attention from every other artistic work produced by artists. That is problematic in our society in which we have a great need for that pluriformity of artistic expression.

I have great sympathy with this hope, indeed it is one of the things that first interested me in copyright. There is some very imperfect evidence from China that without copyright mass culture will still be star-driven and repulsive.

The authors also do not describe a world completely without copyright, offering creators a one-year exclusive right to exploit new works commercially (a one-year usufruct as they say) where the work demands sizeable initial investments. An unfortunate proposal: to protectionists, a ridicuously constrained mononpoly, but one that undermines the authors’ vision. Better to use the paragraph to mention ideas for financing of artistic works that do not require monopoly privilege. Or to mention peer production, open source, or free software, which they do not.

Premium Society

Monday, October 17th, 2005

The Adelphi Charter on Creativity, Innovation and Intellectual Property, released a few days ago, looks like a fairly reasonable set of guidelines for thinking about innovation policy. Their one pager (PDF).

I found the history of the Royal Society for the Arts (sponsor of Adelphi) far more interesting than the charter itself. An excerpt:

The original name of the Society was Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce. However, an alternative name quickly emerged – the “Premium Society”. Until the mid 19th century, the Society offered cash premiums to inventors and artists as a means of encouraging new and progressive works. This means of supporting innovation often meant hostility towards patents. The reasons for the conflict are complex.

Read the rest.