Post Refutation

Squirrely atavisms and preferences, without industry (2005q3)

Wednesday, February 18th, 2015

As just promised, a continuation of cheap refutations of 8+ year old posts. Previously, 2005q2.


Constructive Engagement and Withdrawing not an alternative to invading. Few would use family self-improvement as an excuse to not use the law enforcement apparatus to limit domestic violence. Likewise, we should not be satisfied with extremely indirect strengthening of civil society via information and trade exchange in the face of state violence. If our law enforcement mechanisms are worse than do-nothing, they must be improved, urgently. Learning by doing is the best way to improve — forcible regime change is creative destructive engagement, both for the oppressed jurisdiction, and for the international community’s law enforcement capability.

Supreme Dick. No reason for heads of state to have a low discount rate, and plenty of evidence for a high one: anything to stay in power just a bit longer. Calling on this population to consider their legacies is like calling on the hardest alcoholics to consider their livers 20 years hence: utterly pointless.

Where is server side JavaScript?. One might think node.js vindicates this post, but timing is everything: a facile prediction made years too early has negative value for anyone who heeds it. Furthermore, the post failed to warn of the grave danger posed by impending javascript everywhere, the results of which are only beginning to be felt. Javascript is a terrible language, its ubiquity and also use for cutting edge things is perhaps the greatest triumph of worse is better (well, for programming languages) to date.

Dominant assurance contract implementations? and Reverse bounties improved. See past refutation. Also, the DAC name is horrible, as noted in comments. But the idea itself has at best extremely narrow application. Don’t think that a better name meaningfully helps.

Realtime Wiki PileUp. Status 8 years later: ‘interesting enough to explore, not officially on the agenda‘. A specialized tool (etherpad) and web word processor have addressed real time collaboration needs, pushing wikis into an ever narrowing niche.

$700 billion fraud and Trillion dollar fraud. Previously.

Favorite Peruvian Film. What film cannot be described as “at once a political and apolitical and amoral film” when viewed through the right lens? This post attempts to justify my squirrely aesthetic preferences with anti-information and is amoral if not immoral.

EFF15. EFF asked fans how they became digital freedom activists. A dangerous ask — read carefully, my response (and probably most others) demonstrates the contingency, frothiness, and meaninglessness of political commitments. “Digital freedom” is but another set of squirrely justifications for aesthetic preferences which justification only sullies. Keep atavism to art.

Agriculture. Industry. Sane tool choice is not a matter of exploration and settling down, but of capital investment and mass production. Java.

Predict what will be free. Wales only made 2 of his promised 10 predictions, never continuing the series on his own blog. The first prediction is due in 2020, and will not be met without massive automated article creation across dozens of languages (conceivable with Wikidata). The second prediction is not due until 2040 and is conceivable. 2 undetermined, 8 absent is enough for the low standards of self-refutation here. My prediction about the half-life of proprietary software products has since been refuted by Windows Vista.

Accelerating cars. Super Ultra Vapid.

Enough dead and 1,844 Darwin Award Winners!. SUV with rage wraparound.

Ontology is Underrated. SUV phrasesquatting. Seems to have mercifully only been used once since, as the first of three central lessons of Stone Age Information Architecture!

Free Culture needs Free Software. Since refuted by Mozilla.

Lucene red handed. I don’t remember I avoided “sounding too stupid” about Lucene, but my speculation was false.

Three open source prediction market software options. Previously, and the rest have expired underwater as well.

Delete the border. The website ( now sports “international food and recipes, without borders.” Without any other information about the world, we must assume that anarchy has won. That was fun for a moment.

Annual thematic doubt 2

Tuesday, February 17th, 2015

My second annual thematic doubt post, expressing doubts I have about themes I blogged about during 2014.

commons ⇄ freedom, equality ⇄ good future

Same as last year, my main topic has been “protecting and promoting intellectual freedom, in particular through the mechanisms of free/open/knowledge commons movements, and in reframing information and innovation policy with freedom and equality outcomes as top.”

Rather than repeating the three doubts I expressed last year under the heading “intellectual freedom” (my evaluation of these has not much changed), I will take the subject from a different angle: the “theory of change” I have been espousing. This theory is not new to me. Essentially it is what attracted me to following the free software movement circa 1990 — its potential of extensive, pro-freedom socio-economic reform from the bottom up. That and wanting to run a unix-like on my computer — a want satisfied without respect to freedom as soon as I could use a Sun workstation at work, and for many years now would have been satisfied by OS X. I never cared very much about being able to read, modify, and share all of the software on my computer — the socio-economic implications of those capabilities make them interesting, to me. The claimed ends of the theory are in the ‘for a good future’ slogan I’ve occasionally used at least since 1998. I occasionally included the theory in blog posts (2006) and presentations (2008). Much of my ‘critical cheering’ last year (doubt) and before has largely been about my perhaps unreasonable wish that ‘free/open’ organizations and movements would take the theory I do and act as I think follows. I could easily be wrong on the theory or best actions it implies. Accordingly, I ratcheted down critical cheering in 2014; hopefully most but not all of what remained was relatively fun or novel. Instead I focused more sharply on the theory, e.g., in Sleepwalking past Freedom’s Commons, or how peer production could increase democracy, equality, freedom, and innovation, all of them!

The theory could be attacked from a number of angles — I’d love to see that done and learn of new vulnerabilities. For example, commons might not significantly affect freedom and equality, these may not be the right values, and one might consider a ‘good future’ to be one with maximum hierarchy, spectacle, even war (I repeatedly argue that future tech and culture will be marvels in most plausible futures, and that is a reason to reject ones that do not have freedom and equality as top values, but also something that makes it hard to see how a future — or present — could be different or better with more knowledge economy/policy-driven freedom and equality). But this isn’t a cheap refutation post (see below) and I don’t have very practical doubts about those values and what they imply constitutes a good future.

But I do have practical doubts about the first leg of the theory. Summary of that leg before getting to doubts: Commons-based knowledge production simultaneously destroys rents dependent on freedom infringing regimes, diminishing the constituency for those regimes, grows the constituency and policy imagination for freedom respecting regimes, and not least, directly increases freedom and equality.


  • Effects could be too small to matter, or properly attributed to generational or other competition among firms, not commons-based production. Consider Wikipedia, a success of commons-based production if there is one. Such success may not be possible in other sectors, especially ones that command top policy attention (drugs and movies) — policy imagination has not been increased. The traditional encyclopedia industry was already mostly destroyed by Microsoft Encarta when Wikipedia came along. The encyclopedia industry was not a significant constituency for freedom infringing regimes, so its destruction matters not for future policy. Encyclopedias were readily accessible at libraries, vastly more useful info of the sort found in encyclopedias is accessible online now, excluding Wikipedia, and ‘freedoms’ to modify and distribute are just not relevant nearly all humans.
  • I claim that the best knowledge policy reform is that which favors commons and that the reforms traditionally proposed by copyright and patent reformers are relatively futile because such proposals if implemented would not significantly change the knowledge economy to produce freedom and equality nor grow the constituencies for such changes — rather they are just about who, how, and for how much the outputs of production under freedom infringing regimes may be used — so-called balance, not the tilt I demand. But perhaps the usual set of reform proposals is the best that can be hoped for, especially given decades of discourse and organization-building around those proposals, and almost none about commons-favoring reform. Further, perhaps the usual set of reform proposals is best without qualification — commons-based production is a culturally marginal (in software; wholly irrelevant in most other sectors) arrangement that ought be totally ignored by policy.
  • Various (sometimes semi-) free/open movements within various sectors (e.g., software, education, research publication) are having some policy successes, without (as far as I know) usually considering themselves to be as or more central to shaping knowledge policy as usual things fitting under ‘copyright reform’ and ‘patent reform’ but this could be just what needs to happen. The important thing is that commons-based knowledge production entities act to further their interests with minimal distance from current policy discourse, not that they have any distracting and possibly discrediting theory about doing so relative to overall knowledge policy.

Only the first of these gives me serious pause, though my discounting the last two might be a matter of (dis)taste — my feeling is that most of the people involved thoroughly identify with the trivia of copyright, patent, and similar law, even if they think those laws need serious reform, and act as if commons-based production is something to be protected from reform in the bad direction, but not at all central. Sadly if my feeling is accurate, the second and third doubts probably ought give me more pause than they do.

Despite these doubts, the potential huge win-win (freedom and equality, without conflict) of reorienting the knowledge economy and policy around commons-based production makes robust discourse (at the least) on this possibility urgent, even if tilt probability is low. One of the things that makes me favor this approach is that reform can be very incremental — indeed, it is by far the most feasible reform of any proposed — we just need a lot more of it. Push-roll towards tilt!

The most damning observation is perhaps that I’m only talking, and mostly on this very blog. I should change my ways, but again, this is not a cheap refutation post.

Software Freedom/Futurism/Science Fantasy

I recently wrote that “it’s much easier to take software freedom as a serious issue of top importance if one has a ‘futurist’ bent. This will also figure in a forthcoming post from me casting doubt on everything in this post and the rest from 2014.”

How important are computers to human arrangements, and how large is the range of plausible computer-involved arrangements, and how much can those realized be changed? Should anyone besides programmers and enthusiasts care about software specifically, any more or less than they care about the conditions under which any tool is created and distributed? (Contrast with other tools would be good here, but I’ll leave for another time.)

The vast majority of people seem to treat software as any other tool — they want it to work as well as possible, and to be as cheap as possible, the only difference being that their intuitions about quality and cost of software may be worse than their intuitions for the quality and cost of, for example, bridges. Arguably nearly everyone has been and perhaps still is correct.

But one doesn’t need to be much of a futurist to see software getting much more important — organizations good at using software ‘eating’ the lunches of those less good at using software, software embedded in everything or designing everything (and anything else being obsolete), regulating and mediating every sort of arrangement — with lots of plausible variation as to how this happens.

Now the doubt: does future-motivated interest in software freedom share more with interest in science fiction (i.e., moralistic fantasy) or with interest in future studies and the many parts of various social sciences that aim to improve systems going forward in addition to understanding current and past ones? If the latter, why is software freedom ignored by all of these fields? Possibly most people who do think software is becoming very important are not convinced that software freedom is an important dimension to consider. If so (I would love to see some kind of a review on the matter) it would be most reasonable to follow the academic consensus (even if it is one of omission; that consensus being of software freedom not interesting or important enough to investigate) and if one cares about the ethical dimensions of software, focus instead on the ones the consensus says are important.

Two additional posts last year in which I claim software freedom is of outsized and underappreciated importance (of course I don’t usually restrict myself to only software, but consider software a large and growing part of knowledge embodying cumulative innovation, and of the knowledge economy leading to more such accumulation) and some of many from years past (2006, 2006, 2007, 2007). The first from 2006 highlights the most obvious problem with the future. I had forgotten about that post when mentioning displacement of movies by some other form as the height of culture in 2013 — one has to squint to see such displacement even beginning yet. The second isn’t about the future but is closely related: alternative history.

Uncritical Cheering

I feared that many of my posts last year were uncritical cheering (see critical cheering above and last year). Looking back at posts where I’m promoting something, I have usually included or at least hinted at some amount of criticism (e.g., 1 2). I don’t feel too bad. But know that most of the things I promote on my blog are very likely to fail or otherwise be inconsequential — if they were sufficiently mainstream and established they’d be sufficiently covered elsewhere, and I likely wouldn’t bother blogging about them.

One followup: I cheered the publication of the first formally peer-reviewed and edited Wikipedia article in Open Medicine — a journal which has since ceased publishing.

Freeway 980

I continue to blog about removing freeway 980, which cuts through the oldest parts of Oakland. Doubt: I don’t know whether full removal would be better (at least when considering feasibility) than capping the portion of 980 which is below grade. I intended to read about freeway capping, come to some informed opinion, and blog about it. I have not, but supposedly Oakland mayor Libby Schaaf has mentioned removing 980. Hopefully that will spur much more qualified people to publish analyses of various options for my reading pleasure. ConnectOakland is a website dedicated to one removal/fill scenario.


I’m satisfied enough with the doubt in my two posts about Mozilla’s leadership debacle, but I’ll note apparent tension between fostering ideological diversity and shunning people who would deny some people basic freedoms. I don’t think this one was fairly clear cut, but there are doubtless far more difficult cases in the world.

Instead of doubt, I’d like to clarify my intention with two other posts: thought experiment/provocation, serious demand.


I fell further behind, producing no new dedicated collections of refutations of my 8+ year old posts. My very next post will be one, but as with previous such posts, the refutations will be cheap — flippant rather than drilling down on doubts I may have gained over the years. Again these observations (late, cheap) are what led me last year to initiate a thematic doubt post covering the immediately previous year. How was this one?

The jobs case for a police state

Saturday, September 13th, 2014

Partly to make up for not blogging on the issue in awhile (category), I recommend the Vox story/interview on the case for open borders. If a prediction can be sterile, sanguine, and desperate at one time, this is it:

My longer-run prediction is the world will have open borders once it doesn’t make much difference anymore. Once development has happened almost everywhere, and there are virtually no desperate backwaters left, that’s when countries will finally relent and say, “Fine. You can come here if you want,” and then they’ll open the borders, and then there will be very little migration. To me, a big point of open borders is just to fast forward to the world of the future where everyone can enjoy a First-World standard of living rather than making people wait 100 years.

I agree with the desperate part (waiting condemns billions to poverty and tyranny). But a big point of the international apartheid system to to ensure that there will always be desperate backwaters. Even if virtually everyone reaches a level of wealth at which migration declines, there will be disasters. Another big point of restrictions on movement, work, and living, particularly at borders but increasingly everywhere, is to impose on everyone (especially but not only migrants) police state controls/thug checkpoints.

My prediction (in US-centric terms, but applicable elsewhere) is that in 100 years ICE will be evaluated to have had far greater negative impact than the NSA, if they aren’t running things wholly that is. I predict this metastasizing apartheid enforcement apparatus will make justice impossible, even in the face of a massive shift in elite opinion (note mini-refutation) — like the drug war, not like marriage equality.

Regarding the title of this post: seriously, what could be politically better than creating jobs for citizens that protect jobs for citizens! It is surprising we don’t already have an ICE dictatorship. We don’t because the cost of regulation is too high. But it is coming down. Monitoring of all movement and required third party (ICE) approval of all economic arrangements are both getting cheaper every day.

Annual thematic doubt

Friday, January 10th, 2014

As promised, my first annual thematic doubt post, expressing doubts I have about themes I blogged about during 2013.

Intellectual Freedom

If this blog were to have a main purpose other than serving as a despository for my tangents, it’d be protecting and promoting intellectual freedom, in particular through the mechanisms of free/open/knowledge commons movements, and in reframing information and innovation policy with freedom and equality outcomes as top. Some representative posts: Economics and the Commons Conference [knowledge stream] report, Flow ∨ incentive 2013 anthology winner, z3R01P. I’m also fond of pointing out where these issues surface in unusual places and surfacing them where they are latent.

I’m fairly convinced on this theme: regimes infringing on intellectual freedom are individual and collective mind-rot, and “merely” accentuate the tendencies toward inequality and control of whatever systems they are embedded in. Mitigating, militating against, outcompeting, and abolishing such regimes are trivially for the good, low risk, and non-revolutionary. But sure, I have doubts:

  • Though I see their accentuation of inequality and control as increasingly important, and high leverage for determining future outcomes, copyright and patent could instead be froth. The cause of intellectual freedom might be better helped by fighting for traditional free speech issues, for tolerance, against mass incarceration, against the drug war, against war, against corruption, for whatever one’s favored economic system is…
  • The voluntarily constructed commons that I emphasize (e.g., free software, open access) could be a trap: everything seems to grow fast as population (and faster, internet population) grows, but this could cloud these commons being systematically outcompeted. Rather than being undersold, product competition from the commons will never outgrow their dwarfish forms, will never shift nor take the commanding heights (e.g., premium video, pharma) and hence are a burden to both policy and beating-of-the-bounds competition. Plus, copyright and the like are mind-rot: generations of commons activists minds have been rotted and co-opted by learning to work within protectionist regimes rather than fighting and ignoring them.
  • An intellectual freedom infringing regime which produced faster technical innovation than an intellectual freedom respecting regime could render the latter irrelevant, like industrial societies rendered agricultural societies irrelevant, and agricultural societies rendered hunter-gatherer societies irrelevant, whatever the effects of those transitions on freedom and other values were. I don’t believe the current regime is anywhere close to being such a thing, nor are the usual “IP maximalism” reforms taking it in that direction. But it is possible that innovation policy is all that matters. Neither freedom and equality nor the rents of incumbents matter, except as obstacles and diversions from discovering and implementing innovation policy optimized to produce the most technical innovation.

I’m not, but can easily imagine being won over by these doubts. Each merits engagement, which could result in much stronger arguments for intellectual freedom, especially knowledge commons.

Critical Cheering

Unplanned, unnoticed by me until late in the year, my most pervasive subtheme was criticism-embedded-in-praise of free/open/commons entities and actions. Representative posts, title replaced with main target: Creative Commons, crowdfunding, Defensive Patent License, Document Freedom Day, DRM-in-HTML5 outrage, EFF, federated social web, Internet Archive, Open Knowledge Foundation, SOPA/ACTA online protests, surveillance outrage, and the Wikimedia movement.

This is an old theme: examples from 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2011, and 2012. 2009 and 2010 are absent, but the reason for my light blogging here bears some relation to the theme: those are the years I was, in theory, most intensely trying to “walk my talk” at Creative Commons (and mostly failed, side-tracked by trying to get the organization to follow much more basic best practices, and by vast amounts of silliness).

Doubts about the cheering part are implied in the previous section. I’ll focus on the criticism here, but cheering is the larger component, and real: of entities criticized in the above links, in 2013 I donated money to at least EFF, FSF, and Internet Archive, and uncritically promoted all of them at various points. The criticism part amounts to:

  • Gains could be had from better coordination among entities and across domains, ranging from collaboration toward a short term goal (e.g., free format adoption) to diffuse mutual reinforcement that comes from shared knowledge, appreciation, and adoption of free/open/commons tools and materials across domains (e.g., open education people use open source software as inherent part of their practice of openness, and vice versa).
  • The commons are politically potent, in at least two ways: minimally, as existence proof for creativity and innovation in an intellectual freedom respecting regime (carved out); and vastly underappreciated, as destroyer of rents dependent on the intellectual freedom infringing regime, and of resources available for defending those rents and the regime. Commons are not merely to be protected from further bad policy, but are actors in creating a good policy environment, and should be promoted at every turn.

To be clear, my criticism is not usually a call for more “radical” or “extreme” steps or messages, rather more fulsome and coordinated ones. Admittedly, sometimes it may be hard to tell the difference — and this leads to my doubts:

  • Given that coordination is hard, gaining knowledge is expensive, and optimization path dependent, the entities and movements I criticize may not have room to improve, at least not in the direction I want them to improve in. The cost of making “more fulsome and coordinated” true might be greater than mutual reinforcement and other gains.
  • See the second doubt in the previous section — competition from the commons might be futile. Rather than promoting them at every turn, they should sometimes be held up as victims of bad policy, to be protected, and sometimes hidden from policy discourse.

The first doubt is surely merited, at least for many entities on many issues. For any criticism I have in this space, it makes sense to give the criticized the benefit of the doubt; they know their constraints pretty well, while I’m just making abstract speculations. Still, I think it’s worthwhile to call for more fulsome and coordinated strategy in the interstices of these movements, e.g., conversation and even this blog, in the hope of long-term learning, played out over years in existing entities and movements, and new ones. I will try henceforth to do so more often in a “big picture” way, or through example, and less often through criticism of specific choices made by specific entities — in retrospect the stream of the latter on this blog over the last year has been tedious.

International Apartheid

For example: Abolish Foreignness, Do we have any scrap of evidence that [the Chinese Exclusion Act] made us better off?, and Opposing “illegal” immigration is xenophobic, or more bluntly, advocating for apartheid “because it’s the law”. I hinted at a subtheme about the role of cities, to be filled out later.

The system is grossly unjust and ought be abolished, about that I have no doubt. Existing institutions and arrangements must adapt. But, two doubts about my approach:

  • Too little expression of empathy with those who assume the goodness of current policy. Fear of change, competition, “other” are all deep. Too little about how current unjust system can be unwound in a way the mitigates any reality behind these fears. Too little about how benefits attributed to current unjust system can be maintained under a freedom respecting regime. (This doubt also applies to the intellectual freedom theme.)
  • Figuring out development might be more feasible, and certainly would have more impact on human welfare, individual autonomy, than smashing the international apartheid system. Local improvements to education, business, governance, are what all ought focus on — though development economics has a dismal record, it at least has the right target. Migration is a sideshow.

As with the intellectual freedom theme, these doubts merit engagement, and such will strengthen the case for freedom. But even moreso than in the case of intellectual freedom infringing regimes, the unconscionable and murderous injustice of the international apartheid regime must be condemned from the rooftops. It is sickening and unproductive to allow discourse on this topic to proceed as if the regime is anything but an abomination, however unfeasible its destruction may seem in the short term.


Although much of what I write here can be deemed political, one political theme not subsumed by others is inadequate self-regulation of the government “market”, e.g., What to do about democratically elected terrorist regimes, Suppose they gave a war on terror and a few exposed it as terror, and Why does the U.S. federal government permit negative sum competition among U.S. states and localities?

The main problem with this theme is omission rather than doubt — no solutions proposed. Had I done so, I’d have plenty to doubt.


I fell behind, doing refuting only posts from first and second quarters of 2005. My doubt about this enjoyable exercise is that it is too contrived. Many of the refutations are flippant and don’t reflect any real doubts or knowledge gained in the last 8 years. That doubt is what led me to the exercise of this post. How did I do?

False similarities, true nuisances of 2005q2

Saturday, December 14th, 2013

Graham's Hierarchy of Disagreement

First quarter, 8 year refutation start. This post is about six months late.

Imperial Public License. Protection of growing industries within a jurisdiction is how that jurisdiction’s economy moves up the food chain, gains competitive advantage, develops. The GPL limits one means of protecting a budding software industry within a jurisdiction, and the beneficiaries are jurisdictions with dominant software industries. Jonathan Schwartz was right: the GPL is, perhaps inadvertently, a tool of U.S. economic imperialism.

Individual Rights Central Railroad. A site promoting a symbol that looked like a railroad logo, promoting the faulty idea that freedom is founded on individual rights:

The Individual-i symbol is not owned by any organization. There is no platform, no organizational structure, no meetings. This symbol is in the public domain: uncopyrighted, untrademarked, unowned. Anyone can use it for any purpose.

No trampling on the free speech or other rights of any individual there! Very self-consistent. But also self-refuting, in time. The site went down after only 4 years, cared for by nobody, as with all freedom founded on individual rights.

Really Offshoring. Even if working on a boat offshore a wealthy area were feasible (that part of the post is nearly self-refuting, admitting that boats are expensive), it would have a miniscule impact on talent utilization and wage equalization. Good local education dwarfs any effort to bring existing capital and labor geographically closer.

Evidence-free Policy. Policy does not get made without evidence, let alone delusionally. What’s delusional is me not looking at evidence indicating that outcomes I desire are not those of the majority. Poking fun at seemingly awry policies that repeatedly result in, e.g., cost overruns or incumbent protection, is the romance of the libertarian social engineer: demanding premature optimization of democracy.

Apartheid for Musicians. Perhaps visas should be easier to obtain for musicians — to the extent they were made difficult to obtain in order to keep USians free of foreign influence, they are outmoded. But generalizing this to a call for removing all national barriers to travel, live, and work is wildly uncalled for. USian workers, including musicians, do deserve to be protected from race-to-the-bottom competition, and difficult to obtain visas are a key mechanism of protection.

Manifesto for the Abolition of International Apartheid. The international system of states, borders, and movement restrictions is not Apartheid. Almost every person in the world is equal, in that they are born citizens of one state. Under Apartheid, non-whites denied citizenship in their birth state. The Apartheid regime tried to legitimize this by creating puppet states for non-whites to be citizens of. The international community of nations refused to recognize this scheme. There may be situations in which a population of one nation state is so oppressed by another nation state that the population of the former have effectively been stripped of their citizenship. This relation may bear some similarity to Apartheid, and one extreme solution would be to make the entire population of the oppressed state full citizens of the oppressor state. In his 2008 campaign for U.S. president, Toyama Koichi made a case for the United States having such an oppressor relation with the whole world, and thus the obligation to grant all rights as citizens. However, the proper solution is full independence, de jure and de facto, for the oppressed people’s state (watch the linked video to the end, and see that Koichi agrees). In no case however is there a call for any citizen of any state to claim citizenship rights in or travel to, live or work in, any other state, without restriction, nor is there any similarity of this general system to Apartheid.

Open the H1B Gates. The narrow industrial policy tweak of scrapping H-1B visa limits wished for by Bill Gates in no way supports generally removing restrictions on travel and work across borders. Shrink-wrap software development not leaving the U.S. for India and elsewhere shows just how little value could be obtained through the disruptive policy of scrapping H-1B visa limits, let alone removing all citizenship-based restrictions.

Public Goods Group Shopping and Kragen Sitaker on Dominant Assurance Contracts. Assurance contracts do fine for funding simple consumer products but have never addressed any political problems, and a handwaving assertion that many political problems can be thought of as public goods problems does not make it any more feasible for this to occur. The additional capital and mechanics required by dominant assurance contracts make them a merely cute idea.

Housing (Ad) Bubble. Distressed sales still needed to be advertised. (Pointers to data on how this actually turned out would be appreciated.)

Swiss Cheese Jesus. The theory that Jesus did not exist “has failed to convince the vast majority of scholars, who ‘regard it as effectively refuted’.” On quibbles with the film: it is entertainment, personal stories and exaggerated assertions are for the good.

Nothing has a URI, everything is available. Ensuring good permalinks to everything can be premature optimization, especially when paying customers always use other forms of navigation. Assassination references are never funny.

Public Goods Rent Seeking. “How can an artist make a full time living doing only art” is (one statement of) a public goods problem. The art produced is the public good, but we can’t ignore production costs. Further, more full-time artists enrich society in immeasurable ways; their existence is a massive public good.

Ugly metadata deployed. See Metadata is technical debt. Deployment as an ugly hack makes it an even more obvious no-brainer no-go. Also, the uselessness of license-filtered crawl-based search.

Betting Policy Consequences. Eventually could be longer than 8 years, but after that time betting markets are still of zero importance. That they have remained so in spite of probably being legally feasible in much of the world is particularly damning.

Typing International Apartheid. Cherry picks some sentiments that seem to align national borders with Apartheid, bypassing their fundamental dissimilarity. See Manifesto for the Abolition of International Apartheid refutation above.

Zocalo experiment. The zocalo (market) leads to nowhere. Self-refuting dead project. On the fantasy that virtual games would soon change youth perception of market and power failures — a carnival mirror reflection of the reality — thin, manufactured, fraudulent markets purely in service of entertainment centered around violence, power, intrigue, and get-rich quick schemes.

Aubrey de Grey at Stanford. We don’t need a formal prediction market to read the market’s collective wisdom about de Grey’s proposals: he has attracted negligible funding in the past 8 years.

Sort of open source economic models. Gratis access provides almost all of the value to be had from sharing of research data, publications, and software. Introducing someone sharing as such to copyright and copyright licenses is an attack on their time and sanity. There should be nuisance laws discouraging such hectoring.

Autonomous Liberalization. Independent reforms may in the short term produce more quantifiable gains than multilateral and regional agreements, but this is a penny-wise, pound-foolish analysis. Multilateral, regional, and global agreements (and this ought be generalized to all such agreements, not only trade) set the norms and expectations for all to strive toward, beyond mere agreement compliance, set the stage for further agreements, are more robust than self-directed reform which may be repealed at a whim, and develop crucial institutions of regional and global governance.

Metadata is technical debt

Monday, September 9th, 2013

Rob Kaye of MusicBrainz writes about their RDFa dilemma. My summary of the short post and comments:

  • Someone paid to have RDFa added to MusicBrainz pages a few years ago.
  • The code adding RDFa is brittle, hasn’t been maintained through MusicBrainz schema changes, thus is now broken.
  • There are no known consumers the RDFa in MusicBrainz pages.
  • Unless someone volunteers to fix and maintain the RDFa, “we’re ready to remove the broken code from our pages in an effort to remove technical debt that has accumulated over the past few years.”
  • A few people want RDFa in MusicBrainz pages maintained because “Very long term I think this is a sensible way forward – the web site as its own API” and compatibility with other semantic web initiatives.
  • Some people tentatively volunteer to help.

Kaye’s post is a model for how to remove features — inform the relevant community, ask if anyone cares and is willing to maintain the feature in question. This could be applied in a commercial context, eg asking customers if they’re willing to pay to maintain a feature or to keep a service alive. It is somewhat odd that transaction costs are high enough/coordination poor enough that such is not as commonplace as feature removal and service shutdown.

I’ve long liked the notion of the web site as its own API, to the extent of feeling a strong dislike for many RPC APIs for web applications, and like RDFa, but mostly I think most metadata implementation is premature, and as with choosing a metadata format, it is best to just ignore it till there’s an unambiguous and immediate gain to be had from implementation.

People pitching metadata as a solution, public or private good, are frighteningly like SEO pushers, except usually not evil. The likeness is that the benefits are vague, confusing, apparently require experts to discern and implement, and almost everyone would be better off wholly ignoring the pitchers/pushers.

I apologize for doing a bit of pitching over the years, wasting people’s time, making whatever I was actually trying to sell more difficult, lowering my intelligence (had I woken up on the other side of the bed some day, I’d have been pitching another layer of snakeoil) and adding technical debt to the world.

Mitigating all this: there’s often no clear separation of “data” and “metadata”. It’s all data of course..

Perhaps people who prefix with “meta” are another class deserving a punch in the face. Note that Kaye’s post does not include the string “meta”; I’m just exploiting the appearance of “technical debt” and “RDFa” in the same text here!

Googbye Adalytics

Saturday, August 10th, 2013

I featured a 468×60 Google AdSense block in the footer of this blog since 2004-08-30, and included Google Analytics javascript since 2006-12-29. I failed to note adding either.

I’m behind on my 8 year blog refutation schedule, will probably do a six middle months post rather than Q2 and Q3 separately; see Q1. In the meantime, I’ll note removing AdSense and Analytics now.

I added AdSense as a small way of getting to know a hugely significant part of the net a little better through direct experience. My revenue expectations were met over the years — trivial, due to trivial traffic and relatively innocuous placement. Viewing my blog with a browser sans adblock and with flash for the first time in perhaps years just now prompted the removal and this post, which I had planned to do in the fullness of time — the innocuous placement was still ugly, and with flash enabled all of the ads are graphical and many animated. Clearly I have learned all I am capable of learning via this experiment, which I am glad I did. If I ever have something characterized as third party ads here again, it’ll be via some very different mechanism.

I more dimly recall adding Analytics because I never looked at log analysis generated reports, and maybe if I looked I would find something to optimize. I seldom looked at Analytics, and never discerned anything. If I really feel the urge to look again, I’ll use a log analysis program, and if I want an Analytics-like interface, use Piwik. I realize for some analysis, and especially some experiments, in-page javascript can be very helpful. If I ever really want to do that, Piwik can.

Relatedly, I’ve meant to recommend Don Marti’s blog for a long time, when I got around to saying and doing more about net advertising, but don’t wait for me.

Every post and category in 2005q1 on lite fizzle mode

Sunday, March 31st, 2013

Previous quarter, 8 year refutation start.

Year in Prediction Markets. None of the highlights matter 8 years later. Also see a previous refutation re what I did care about.

Infoanarchy, DRM and Celestial Jukebox. Cutesy post closes with “It is on this point [claim that strong intellectual protectionism drives economic growth] that Gates must be rebutted” but fails to offer anything. Self-rebutted.

Semantic Web Oligopsonies. One could argue that supports the post. But, adoption by sites does not seem impressive, and consumption by search engines and browsers, of near zero importance. The oligopsony trumped by that universal quality of metadata: it’s all crap!

Not following tags tries to have it n-ways but is willfully confused: “metadata as a side effect of useful work versus metadata as spammy make work.” Tagspam has utility for web publishers; it is categorization for navigation that is useless make-work: recency and search rule, metadata is crap.

A lie halfway fulfilled. Lie? Politicians can’t predict the future either. They have to protect their jurisdiction. Massive overruns in war spending are justified by even a tiny chance that barbarians sack the land, in which case all is lost! Our protectors realize that the people want defense on the cheap and have to state that it will be cheap and suffer criticism when it is not. The bravery of our leaders!

Faith. The threat of barbarian regimes that will not be lured by a good example is real and this post is in denial.

Mass Destruction of Software Patents. Though still hyped, software patents have turned out to be weapons of attrition. “WMD” is typical of delusional fear-based talk in the free/open source software space. Make and more importantly promote better software, move on.

Shallow thinking about filesharing. As Creative Destruction wrote: “I find it funny when I read technologists arguing that downloads of movies aren’t a problem because they’re slow. When do technologists talk about how technology sucks and isn’t going to improve? When the improvement of that technology hurts their public relations effort!”

Decision Markets, Quantum Computers, Blogs, Longevity mentions many things, none of which have been pertinent in the last 8 years, except perhaps in speculative fantasy, which is what the post amounts to, with references to other bloggers blogging substituting for a sorry plot.

CodeCon Friday, CodeCon Saturday, CodeCon Sunday consist of mere talk summaries, but in sum reveal a romantic attachment to particular kinds of decentralization, leading to blindsiding by Cloud.

he is HE. A class act in two parts: disrespect for recently deceased, imply posession of positive attribute of same.

Use [the] force. See “Faith” above.

Open Source and Free Software non-Reciprocal Trivia. “Only” might be inaccurate, but “trivia” is generous, so I’m not going to bother.

Technorati DeepCosmos. Fragile, confusing, useless: pick all three! Conversation doesn’t need to be presented as a tree. Heck, it doesn’t even need computers.

Bitcollider-PHP. I’m doubtful anyone successfully downloaded or completed other action from a link generated by this code, except to test that such could possibly work.

Open Source P2P: No Malware, EULA. The claim made is ridiculous in theory, supported by anecdote in a narrow domain. It’s clearly wrong today, and probably was wrong then as a practical matter for many people: though offical distributions of open source filesharing clients may not at the time have included malware, many secondary distributions did.

SXSW & Etech. Oh, how cool. I’m going to smarmy faux-tech conferneces.

SemWeb not by committee. True, one can experiment without joining a committee, but it’ll be pretty useless, unless deployment is for self-consumption (in which case why impose such fragile technologies on yourself?). True, joining a committee, even paying for a committee with other oligopsonists, is not sufficient for usefulness. Basically it is imposible for upper, lower, or some other case semantic technologies to be useful, outside of some niches that none of us were or are in.

Snap Associative Decision Recall. Oh, how cool. I’m at a smarmy faux-tech conference that spent a lot of money to have an entertaining faux-intellectual flatter us.

Collective Market Intelligence. See “Decision Markets…” above.

SemWeb, AI, Java: The Ontological Parallels says “the web is one huge heterogenous data integration problem.” Fundamental misunderstanding of the web. Instead, it presents infinite data integration opportunities. Almost none of which are worth acting on, and almost none of those have anything to do with formal metadata.

H C. There does not exist a copyright license compatible with “every cell and fiber in my body on heavy sizzle mode.”

Economic Neanderthals. Trite complaint about superfluous use of word free, trite pejorative use of neanderthal. Self-refuting.

BlogPulse Conversation Tracker. See “Technorati DeepCosmos” above. BlogPulse redirects to one of countless social media marketing firms. Blogs never generated such a mighty industry!

4th empty quarter of 2004

Wednesday, November 28th, 2012

Previously, September.

Inalienable Rights. I thought that I had misunderstood these as impossible-to-remove instead of impossible-to-transfer, but I should not have readily accepted the latter. There seems little agreement over what inalienable rights means, and even if it did refer to impossible-to-transfer, it is not clear why 1:1 transfer is of universal interest (e.g., a murderer doesn’t get to enjoy living their victim’s life directly, but may obtain many other related things) nor why some such things should be described with the politically loaded term “rights” and other such things not: both non-comparability and substitutability and related are rampant; categories such as “inalienable rights” are mere posturing. Ironically for this refutation series, the post claims joy in recantation. But really, it is a pain; loose talk wins assuming a realistically high discount rate.

Divided Attention, Poor Judgement. Bush won the election; the traders were probably correct in judging the debate, but had to incorporate the stupid reactions of pundits, which they could assume may slightly influence electoral outcomes. My “divided attention” speculation had no basis, and even if it did would not hold today, under the assumption that pundits are also always dividing attention between a debate or whatever event is at hand and increasing their klout score.

Best Bitizen. As the post says a “dubious honor”, thus self-refuting. Also note that every single paragraph has a parenthetical, and one an inner parenthetical: difficult to read and atrocious writing.

Intellectual Protectionism amelioration committee criticizes a literal rather than intended reading of a statement. The essence of boring argumentation.

Morpheus with Bitzi “anti-spoofing” put this feature in the best possible light, highlighting a file that had been negatively rated by many Bitzi users. Most likely a very mall proportion of files that a user would encounter were rated at all, and invoking the feature would be a waste of time.

MusicBrainz Discovery (I) and MusicBrainz Discovery (II) claims that “it’s about discovery now” (I probably meant in contrast to to production of new, possibly free, works), but this never happened: music discovery has changed little, and imagined changes have had no appreciable impact on discovery of free works. The sweet spot for metadata is very, very small, and it is not clear MusicBrainz will ever be in it; that sweet spot includes many socio-economic factors, and both industry and the worldwide copyright beuracracy and hangers on, when they occassional have delusions about metadata solutions, play in their own sandboxes.

Brutally Bogus Link Policy Clearinghouse critizes Boing Boing’s probably joking and never enforced anti-anti-linking policy and adds a proposal that assumes linking policies are material and would add fragility to the web long before its time (link shorteners).

World Intellectual Freedom Organization discusses the then-proposed WIPO Development Agenda, which adopted 45 recommendations in 2007. Social welfare is included (but “balanced” with “balance”) in the very last recommendation in genius-named “Cluster F.” Case closed. I also used the word “model” without irony in the post, and have since not carried out a WIFO agenda.

Add 190k libertarian votes to Kerry’s margin based unwarranted (as the post says) extrapolation from an informal survey of quasi-libertarian quasi-celebrities. I don’t know whether a greater percentage of libertarians voted for Kerry than Gore (and that might get into definitional questions concerning whether a supporter of the Iraq invasion could possibly be considered libertarian), but the calculations supporting the +190k margin in the spreadsheet linked to the post, even more strongly indicated that libertarian support for both Nader and the Libertarian Party nominee would plummet. Nader’s support did crater, but libertarians were probably a negligible part of that. However, Badnarik, the LP 2004 candidate, did about as poorly as Browne did in 2000. For the candidate/party the informal survey ought to have been the strongest indicator for, it completely failed; all other calculations based on that data considered refuted.

Spitzer shits to music exploits a mistaken translation. Classy.

Richard Epstein’s open source leavings weakly countered a column Why open source is unsustainable which ought to have been instead titled Why open source is non-scalable. Some open source software is produced, and even plays a significant role in industry — but where it has, is not novel — standards, consortia, and other inter-firm cooperation has been important since before computers existed. All ought be deeply skeptical of a methodology which demands universal application based on mere existence proof. Families, unions, and cooperatives do not support implementation of universal communism, nor do GNU/Linux, Apache, and TuxPaint support universal software freedom. There can be no doubt, excepting extreme critiques of all technology, that software has greatly improved human lives, and most of that software is proprietary. As for my claim that government is a kingmaker in technology markets, and therefore should mandate open source so as to avoid rent seeking — Epstein would surely say that the problem is too big government: fix that rather than adding yet another to its list of favored industries.

Programmers’ National Party berates U.S. computer programmers and last century’s white South African miners for fearing and seeking to exclude competition. Instead, compassion is called for toward the fearful trade workers, and agitation against their bosses who seek to breed and profit from fear and hate on both sides of relative exclusion. What has been the greatest extent of cooperation between groups of workers where one group has obtained relatively vastly superior conditions and compensation to the other group, which is excluded by law and custom from the market the first group trades in? Perhaps this question would be a more effective tool for reducing hatred and grappling with fear among relatively wealthy workers than would impugning their morality.

Mundane floating concrete claimed that the biggest obstacle to seasteads would not be government opposition, but economic viability. While this might seem justified so far (there have been no seastead attempts), it is disingenuous in the long term. Seasteads do not have to become the dominant locus of production or even trading (generally outcompete land-based activity) in order to be “viable” — outcompeting land in even one medium-sized niche would be very exiciting, and could lead to more. But the post also fails to justify its critique of seasteading as “mundane” — not politically revolutionary. If seasteads did meet engineering and economic challenges, they would merely be used by states to stake exclusive claims to all of the planet’s surface (it turns out I have an unpublished draft from 2005 making this claim; I misremembered it being in the Mundane post, but I’m happy to not refute it now).

Kerry for temporary dictator says we must drastically curtail the prerogative of the imperial presidency. If this were a worthy objective, the endorsement of Kerry was a mistake. Had he won, it only would have terminated opposition to executive power four years earlier than actually occurred. But, the premise must also be attacked: a maximum leader is efficient; rather than casting out each in a fit of rage after one term, we must try harder to elect ones that will be beneficient in the first place. Hating the maximum leader for hard choices that a maximum leader must take only deters candidates that are potentially less power mad and more beneficient. We should celebrate democracy and our collective responsibility, not monkeywrench our elected leaders.

The futility of [un]voting uncharitibly and without warrant dismisses the primary contention of unvoting — that being loud about not voting, and one’s reasons for doing so, might be politically powerful — and instead attacks the strawman of merely not voting. One does not even have to speculate about unvoting as if it were something novel — explicitly political boycotts of elections deemed to be utterly corrupt (the elections themselves or the system they legitimize) is a regular occurance around the world. There is no reason to rule out the strategy “here” (wherever that is for you).

Approval Voting substantially reduces the expressive — the dominant — value of voting, and should thus be rejected. Voting for one (or in the ranked case, a #1) candidate promotes forming a very satisfying fantasy bond and group identity with one’s one or #1 and others with the same preference. Merely approving candidates, even if one voluntarily only approves one, kills the animal spirits that keep the economy of democracy at full engagement.

Temporary Dictator Election Prediction. Nader was the only candidate I made an accurate prediction about, and not a very precise one at that. Though probably very few people made any sort of prediction about all six candidates on the ballot in at least half of the states (apart from that implied by only taking two of them seriously) I would guess that most made better guesses than I did.

Major Party Vote Trading looked to increase the number of vote trading matches by facilitating trades across contests (there is a much more elegant way of stating this, but I’m failing to think of it) and directly between major parties — e.g., to coaelesce around relatively “good” executive and legislative candidates of opposite parties, or merely to encourage divided government, as the post suggests — rather than encouraging support of minor party executive candidates. But the increase in matches would be small, for trading across opposite major parties requires trading across an ideological divide, while trading votes between major and minor party candidates of similar leaning is only intra-ideology optimization.

Bush good for terrorist stocks. I already refuted an earlier post making identical points.

Sri Lankan restaurant closed not long after I praised it, and I have not eaten at a Sri Lankan restaurant since.

dx/dt Healthspan/Lifespan > 0 wants us to believe that even as average lifespan increases, average time spent in ill health decreases. This may be true, but does not incorporate magnitude of distress when health finally does fail — this seems highly dependent on how a particular society treats potentially terminal cases, and anecdotes about painful intervention being favored over pain reduction do not bode well. The healthy spin of the post also obscures a more funamental lack of progress — average lifespan has increased very slowly, and maximum lifespan not at all — it is hardly any accomplishment for healthspan to have increased more quickly.

Speculate on Creators. Such schemes have remained speculation or failed for good reasons, eg high coordination costs, low marginal impact. On the other hand, simple sales and donations work well. Useful optimization is along the lines of decreasing costs of those simple transactions, not the introduction of complex intermediation.

Logic of Collective Action can be overcome in maybe surprising (given only the theory) cases, but this misses the point: dominant institutions don’t surprisingly overcome collective action problems, rather they are configured so that collective action is facilitated and mandated. Exceptions prove the rule and are froth. Also see Epstein above.

Ordinary Submissions. In 2012 I am not able to locate let alone download the file mentioned via Gnutella. But there are many “download” web sites that claim to have it, and probably some do. Even better, the track appears to be on YouTube, many times over. Regarding theoretical checks on file quality, see “anti-spoofing” above.

Disunion Hopes bemoaned people bemoaning the sanctity of the unity of the Ukranian state, when there was a very strong (much stronger than “blue/red” state splits in the U.S.) geographical divide, such that many more voters could have their leader preference met if the jurisdiction split into two nations. But reactions of horror at the possibility of splitting of a state, however viscerally-based, ought be acknowledged as capturing much wisdom — and on the flipside, the notion that states ought split in order to maximize voter preference achievement is extremely facile. One could go on for a long time enumerating the pearls captured by pro-unity gut feeling, but to begin: any possibile split introduces a period of costly uncertaintly, and extended uncertainty and perhaps terror (a smaller number of voters do not achieve their leader preferences, but those that still do not are at an even greater disadvantage), and splits in one jurisdiction encourage those elsewhere, and thus create global turmoil. If the community of nations comprised a more efficient, well regulated market (see next), regular realignment according to voter preference might be more feasible.

Becker-Posner for Perpetual War claims quoted authors imply suppport for perpetual war via their justifications terror-on-terror reprisals and preventative interventions. As if this would be a bad thing. Perpetual war is the only way to achieve perpetual peace and human rights. We’re doing a very bad job of it. As I’ve noted recently “The market euphemistically known as the community of nations must do a much better job of self-regulating…or else!” This self-regulation must include a police component, and ought be exercised constantly. Any state which harbors, encourages, or engages in terror (internal or external to jurisdiction) or shows indications of intending to do either should be certain of a violent intervention by other states. At the same time, international courts must be made much more powerful and robust. Non-rouge states will sue each other in these courts prior to military action. Just as within relatively peaceful jurisdictions, most would-be criminal activity is suppressed via norms and relatively certain punishment rather than through what appears on the ground as a war of all-against-all, so will perpetual worldwide peace be achived.

North Korea Time Warp. Some interesting-sounding tidbits in quoted article, but don’t know why I blogged them. Quoted author continues to read the tea leaves and predict change (that’s how to make accurate predictions) to this day. I never added a link, but one can easily find claims regarding the productivity of household plots in the USSR.

Calorie Restriction vs. Accelerating Change. “Virtual worlds are the future!” Indeed. It turns out I don’t have a couple decades of catching up to do (regarding virtual worlds), nor would I have a couple extra decades to do it in.

Center for Decentralization. Romantic. But cancer is at least one of these: easier, more interesting, more pertinent.

Search 2005 both predictions for 2005 (“metadata-enhanced search” and “proliferation of niche web scale search engines”) were utterly wrong, and thus far were not merely early, and require great generosity to predict they will appear ahead of their time at any point in the future.

N-level blog entry references is parodied by the silly social media Curator’s Code. Not really, but consider blog:microblog::multihop backreferences:curator’s code.

ccPublisher 1.0. Close the loop by introducing metadata embedding and uploading via a custom cross-platform desktop application? It should have been obvious then, but certainly is now: skip all that, use web browser upload directly to most relevant website, possibly sites.

Don’t Forget Your Turmeric. Generally you’d mix with, indeed rely upon: other spices, medicines, and blog posts.

Lexus, Mercedes, Porsche. Hongqi, Volvo, Zil.

Individual Rights Management claims national security state and DRM similar in that they both restrict competition. Sure, I can imagine a story supporting such an assertion. But it’s tenuous and far from the most important story. Further, a more pertinent similarity exists: stupidity before malice. Also: both work far better than opponents admit.

Flip a coin, don’t recount, revote, and litigate is too busy being annoyed at the (error-prone) recounting of “every vote” to have bothered imaginging improving recounting (by not usually requiring counting “every vote”!) and the integrity of elections generally.

Deployment Matters uses an odd word to characterize what an article in part contrasting BitTorrent with other filesharing schemes gets wrong — only if read uncharitably. It would have been more clear to praise the article, and make the further point that seemingly global search is often a terrible discovery and trading mechanism. Web search has fooled us. Calibrate.

September 2004 invitations to denigrate useful small talk and democracy

Monday, September 3rd, 2012

Invitation Marketing: Six Gmail Shills Available congratulates marketers and ridicules “otherwise respectable folk”, where the problem begins and need not be explained. Invitation marketing has become ubiquitous (“invite your friends”) and rarely takes the crude form of breathless “I have invites!” posts. Invitations help ration new services and discourage spam and other exploitation on same, encourage communication, put new services on relatively equal marketing footing, and steer new services away from sleazy, expensive, inaccurate, privacy compromising advertising and other marketing.

Markets and Election Outcomes didn’t “tell us much of anything at this point about the consequences of a (likely) Bush win”, similar in 2008 “did not provide valuable information about how the election would affect the world” and there are none in 2012. Election dependent outcomes are either obvious or complicated enough prices will be meaningless or additional fodder for cheering. As fair elections are the pinnacle of human achievement and thus the proper goal of all policy and prices dependent on election outcomes would destabilize democracy, election markets should be prohibited worldwide. Similarly, conditional markets should be prohibited within organizations for their simultaneously dehumanizing and destructive effects on structures that have been the venue for the creation of the vast majority of wealth and innovation in human history thus far.

Transnistrian voter invitation card.