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Seth Finkelstein
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I think the problem is in what you say here: "Presumably federal appellate judges and even federal district judges (or their law clerks, more likely) will simply read the cited material and give them the persuasive authority that is inherent in the arguments, without any need to look for the hidden biases that might be revealed by financial information." The phrase "inherent in the arguments" is where it goes awry. Abstractly, in the most rarified theory, it shouldn't matter if one is an industry shill or not - and say, a paper on smoking and cancer from a tobacco company should be evaluated purely on its merits or or lack thereof. Pragmatically, being a paid corporate shill is a pretty good proxy for an argument being deceptive. So with finite resources, in practice we apply heuristics rather than investigate everything from first principles.
I suspect what Tim Wu is doing is trying to reframe the antitrust issue in a politically acceptable manner. If you examine the words literally, the meaning may not make sense in terms of the nuances of the topic. But that's not the point. The idea is to put the issue in a way that can be a rallying cry. Like "Net Neutrality" (neutral to what? does that mean quality-of-service is illegitimate? must voice-over-IP be treated like file transfers, in some bizarre technical dictate from ideology?). Don't get me wrong, you're correct that it's really an antitrust issue. But in today's business-ideology world, you're almost not allowed to argue something as an antitrust issue. Pundits and PR flacks will call you a liberal, and that will be the end of being taken seriously in terms of being listened to by anyone in power.
@Vilx - That's the theory. But it should be stressed more, and it's difficult to do it well in practice. It's not true that, in the above, "The only thing preventing us from being awesome is our own fear of sucking.". Having to make a non-awesome living is a big thing.
@Vilx - While it can't be proven in an absolute sense, like one can't prove that bad things only happen to people who sin, I think the evidence of many startup companies with good technology but which failed because the time wasn't right for some reason, argues very strongly that the chances are pretty low (not zero, again, someone wins the lottery). And intrinsically, every Steve Jobs at the top of the heap requires almost by definition that there be tens of thousands of workers underneath - so that puts a very strict limit on how high the chance can be. Note the downside of such an optimism bias is that it tends to produce a fault-finding hunt for the thing that wasn't done right, as the reason why one didn't become AWESOME.
@Cryptnotic - Yes, but still, everyone can't be vastly above average, even if the average is rising on a historical scale. People don't consider themselves great successes nowadays because they type in an office cubicle rather than doing back-breaking physical agriculture labor from dawn to dusk. @Btdsys - The issue is basically whether you can "learn" to be in the right place at the right time, or whether that is purely luck akin to hitting the lottery. Note, I didn't say success is purely luck, don't rush to knock that down. Rather, if a crucial aspect is *low-probability* luck, then that's a hard limit to the results. Consider this - if drawing on past experience, you can raise your chance of getting AWESOME by a factor of 100 times - from one in a million to one in ten thousand - that's still going to be a loss almost all the time.
Ah, but just as half of a group is average or below, it's a mathematical fact that most people will never have more than the median level of success. If you buy a lot of lottery tickets, and one pays off big - AWESOME. But there's not an unlimited budget for buying those lottery tickets (taking risk). Much of the recent financial crisis has been driving by traders taking big risks in pursuit of the AWESOME, and then sticking someone else, especially the taxpayer, with the losses. Risk-management, personal and global, is very important.
The problem is the difference between: 1) Successful people have failed a lot 2) If you fail a lot, you will be successful Statement #1 DOES NOT imply statement #2. The problem is survivorship bias - the people who have failed a lot yet never succeeded, and a completely miserable as a result, don't get held up as examples. Yet there probably many more of them than others.
It strikes me that there are plenty of scenarios where someone might subsequently agree that they got a story wrong, but did enough checking at the time so didn't act with malice or reckless disregard for truth. Yes, yes, this can be a false declaration based on intimidation. But journalists getting burned or deceived by supposedly "reliable sources" is hardly unknown. Never allowing any recourse under any circumstances, as a matter of law, because alleged recantations might be based on intimidation, seems like a pathological outcome.
Exactly, survivorship bias. Like the joke about an athlete never saying "Jesus made me fumble", we need to hear a speech "I followed my dreams, and ended up broke, homeless, and hungry". Obviously, we all can't be beloved billionaires (or even unbeloved billionaires). I think lurking behind that phrasing in this case is a version of the old concept that the rich are successful due to their superior personal character, presented here as a tenacity with regard to goals (i.e. "visionary").
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Regarding "If your search process succeeds in aggregating what large numbers of people think, it will mostly reproduce established, mainstream cultural hierarchies, by definition.", that reminds me of something I tossed off a while back, which I called the "Central Pundit Theorem" (apologies to the "Central Limit Theorem") "All programs which do popularity data-mining of a topic, tend to converge to a small pundit subset." Roughly, if one has a tiny number of gatekeepers on a topic, then reconstructing the set from "bottom-up" references will give the same result as "top-down" specification (all roads lead to Rome, all links lead to the A-list ...). On another point - "as a site of contention rather than as an actor in the continuing struggle over the future shape of society" - this is the divide between the technological determinists versus the non-determinists (indeterminists?).
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I don't think we're quite talking about the same thing. Maybe what you call "story machine" might be "cultural symbol". And the point being made is that potentially any of a range of cultural artifacts might serve the role - which specific one ends up doing so is more a product of luck and chance rather than it being somehow the best symbol("story machine"?). This is not provable in an absolute sense. But there's a lot of evidence that is suggestive, such as the experiments noted in the post above.
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RAD, part of the point is that there are many ways to be "not like the other". And the one which becomes world-famous often has as much to do with having a good press agent as anything else (note, this is not saying that good press is all that matters, but instead, from a pool of possible choices, the winner may simply be one of a set of peers who happens to garner the most publicity or an initial boost which then snowballs). There's something of a logical paradox here, in that it's very easy to say "The winner won because its qualities are the absolute best - just looks at how fantastic it is, that's why it's the winner". The problem is that argument is tautological to the extent we're conditioned to see those qualities as best because we already know it's the winner.
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Further to the current Nick Carr/Jay Rosen debate, you might enjoy their previous debate in this old post: "The Great Unread" I'm very biased, but I think Nick Carr won that one definitively.
Toggle Commented Jul 12, 2011 on Links: Carr, Facebook, Ravelry, Amazon at Whimsley
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Thanks. I think it almost makes Internet history when someone concedes a point due to blog comments :-). FYI, on predicting the financial crash, see this blog post from good financial blog: http://www.ritholtz.com/blog/2011/02/the-truth-about-the-financial-crisis-part-iii/ Myth 7: Nobody saw it coming. Reality 7: No. Plenty of people saw it coming and said something.The problem wasn’t seeing, it was listening.
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> But that's asserting that the participants believed the lie that the experimenter was telling them, and I don't see how that step is justified. Have you ever seen the videos which were recorded? Their belief is very clear. It's quite informative. There's a sort of presentism in projecting back decades to the participants thinking "This isn't a real experiment, those aren't real shocks, it's all a set-up to test if I'd really kill someone". It's not too much of a reach to see the fake experiment replicated for real in interrogation with torture, and the memoirs of torturees (and even torturers) match pretty well with what's shown, in terms of the psychology.
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Jay Rosen has that as a long-time rhetorical tactic. It's effective when he can simply flame from on-high, as it simultaneously denies the excesses of the hucksters and paints the debunkers as sloppy or dishonest. It's not so effective when he can be called on it - but that requires a fairly high pundit-rank. Take a look at Jay Rosen's exchange with Nick Carr in: "The Great Unread" http://www.roughtype.com/archives/2006/08/the_great_unrea.php And my own go-around at: "The People Formerly Known As The Audience" ... are STILL the audience" http://sethf.com/infothought/blog/archives/001035.html I call it "The Game Of A-lister Wins". The outcome of this game is simple: The A-lister wins, because, drumroll ... they're the A-lister and you're not. But the mechanism of the win does illuminate a deep issue. The basic problem is that if an A-lister is caught saying something wrong or stupid, they get to redefine it so that they didn't say it. Because, again, they're the A-lister and you're not. If you claim they did say it, they always have the option of writing a personal attack on you to their audience, which may be two or three orders of magnitude more than your own. It's misleading to analyze it as a truly factual argument on the evangelist side. It's much closer to "plausible deniability".
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Sounds like there's quite a story there. He must have been an interesting person.
Toggle Commented Nov 10, 2010 on My favourite gravestone at Whimsley
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I think it's a much longer and more complicated story than the Spanish Fork - that was just one (albeit important) incident. I would be hesitant in forming an assessment of anyone from a puff-piece interview. There's plenty of gushing portrayals of Jimmy Wales around, which hardly give an accurate picture. I wouldn't argue against that men largely outnumber women working on Wikipedia, though I couldn't give exact numbers (and it may be different proportions for casual vs. highly committed participants). I was more responding to your point about where they are, versus the paid Content Farmers. Regarding my perspective, non-commercial is not the be-all and end-all of making something laudable. Wikipedia seems to me built on a huge amount of misery, suffering, and dysfunction, surrounded by the same type of "Web 2.0" hucksters who have the motto of "You do all the work and we get all the money". Except they haven't figured out how to get all the money directly, so they settle (so far) for indirect monetization. There's a reason Jimmy Wales is asking for $50K-$75K ($100K?) PER LECTURE, and it's not because he's so entertaining. When I say "Wikipedia is a cult", people often don't get what I mean, knocking down a strawman comparing it to crazy murderers like Charles Manson. But I'm trying to convey the element of emotional manipulation, of exploiting people to do free work because they believe in The Cause, that they're Making The World A Better Place - while a few at the very top of the pyramid sure have the world being a better place for them. All the hype around it - the techno-mysticism (bumblebee glurge), the pseudo-popularism (amateurs -yay!- can write an encyclopedia, just as a good as those pointy-headed - boo! - elitists), the marketing tricks (if the article was wrong, the reader should have fixed it) - all these should be big red flags that something very baleful is going on. If you think of it as an *unpaid* Content Farm, dedicated to making non-spammy search results for Google, running on appeals to status and petty power instead of any wage - would that make some of my objections clearer?
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"Looking at the second issue, we can think of part of the propaganda model wrt content found in blogs." Absolutely. This is very very obvious if you read the blog-evangelists in detail. Many of them make their incomes in one form or another by selling services to big corporations (or want to!), or as partisan political operatives. It's perfectly within the model regarding structural influences. Note, for example, the incredible howls of outrage over recent issues of financial disclosure of blogs with regarding to campaign finance or corporate advertising. Compare the dismissive treatment of extreme conflicts of interest. It's all making very clear what influences are paramount.
Tom, many of these issues were actually addressed in one form or another in the past decade, but it's necessary to have followed the law/policy debate in detail to know it. One of the very weird experiences to me in the last few years is the effects of the recent anti-ISP politics - it's the most literally Orwellian thing I've personally ever seen, in the way the politics simply was rewritten due to all the big-money interest involved (now I'm not saying it's the most Orwellian ever globally, but rather, that I've experienced directly). Anyway, the two big concepts you need to know about are "CDA section 230" (no liability for user-generated content) and "DMCA section 512 take-down" (no copyright liability if ISP's take-down on notice). Plus the various legal cases involved. The site http://www.cybertelecom.org is a good place for an overview of this material, see especially http://www.cybertelecom.org/ip/dmca.htm So - "ISPs who argue that "we can't be responsible to the law for the content we deliver, but we have to be responsible to our shareholders for the content we deliver" have an obvious consistency problem." - not really. The ISP's got the law to exempt them from liability here many years ago. And the sort of network management at issue for ISPs are very different from the copyright issues. The hot issue right now is not ISPs, but platform-owners, who are fighting the idea that they have any sort of pro-active copyright obligation. And so far, they've been winning. "As soon as Google started down this path it could no longer shrug its shoulders at regulators and say "who me? I don't know what's on YouTube. I'm just the carrier." To make money it built algorithms that know about the nature of the content, and the more it wants to make money the more those algorithms will know, and the copyright owners will have Google by the short-and-curlies." An appealing chain of logic, but the flaw is in overestimating what the algorithms "know". Google can say "The algorithm knows what this is about in a vague overall sense, but that's nothing like knowing if it's copyright infringement.". "Google's response has been to accept liability to preserve its advertising revenue." Huh? I think you're talking about "DMCA section 512 take-down" here. That pre-dated Google. "the more Google extends its advertising throughout the site, the more it accepts the role of content cop, tracking down and removing material that is accused of breaking, the terms of copyright." You're reasoning from an abstraction here - the legal details don't follow. "The advertising model is currently driving all before it when it comes to the Web, but while Google, Facebook and others will try to play both sides of the game, in the end you can't be both a common carrier and a successful ad-driven company." Why not? It's worked fine so far. Don't argue "It's logically inconsistent!!!". That's only even true in some sort of ultimate limit of perfect AI, which isn't the case in the real world. "Google's defense of "it's not me, its my algorithms" will be challenged at some point, and Google will either have to take responsibility for the content it delivers, or forego revenue." Not at all. I'd say they have a great defense in "My algorithms don't do what you want them to do". "Right now, Google expects us to take on trust what it can and cannot do, but that defense won't last for long, particularly because of the barriers to entry for large-scale search and content hosting." I don't think this follows. And anything that's examined as part of a legal case will be under very strong protective orders (Google is quite tough on this general aspect of legal cases). I sympathize with what you're trying to examine, but I fear you've been somewhat led astray by all the misinformation floating around on these topics. Anything you read about it nowadays is likely 99% nonsense or more.
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That's a very blunt description of what I talk about in terms of "Digital sharecropping". The problem is that while it may work for a tiny tiny number of people at the top, basically hucksters, marketers, and owners of electronic plantations, it doesn't work in terms of supporting many people outside that group. However, it's very difficult to discuss this with the one of the hypesters, since their job consists of coming up with ways of selling it, not analyzing it. That is, if it were wrong, they'd have to find something else to flog.
Toggle Commented Jun 30, 2009 on Dear Malcolm: Why so threatened? at The Long Tail
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Tom, the issue is the meaning "of value". The _impression_ people are likely to get from his discussion, is that if you follow Wikipedia's processes, your project will be as fantastically successful as Wikipedia - he explicitly participates in the mystification here, where he quotes "But Wikipedia is the canonical bee that flies despite scientists' skepticism that the aerodynamics add up.". Now, I know that's putting it starkly, and I could be accused of making a straw-man. But I do think there's deep flaws in how he "sees an inspiration in Wikipedia". There's some relatively small value in Wikipedia's processes, but they are standard stuff, not a scientific mystery. But the secret ingredient was not those processes, but rather Google's. Thus, you really can't learn much new from Wikipedia, in terms of solving big community problems, except that having an enormously powerful sugar-daddy is great. One of the less obvious things I'm trying to do with analyzing Wikipedia as a cult is to undercut the idea that its processes represent any sort of overall solution to policy problems. As in, yes, it's sociologically interesting in how to have a big distributed online cult, and many papers can be written on it, but having cults to do work for free not a very good political program (i.e., this is in the same vein as the idea of not having a strong public sector, rather people should just volunteer and be charitable).
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This is the best review of Zittrain's book I've seen. Sadly, I deeply believe that Zittrain's treatment and lessons drawn from Wikipedia are incorrect, and the analysis he does is thus seriously flawed. Wikipedia has received an enormous _de facto_ advertising and marketing subsidy from Google's algorithm (_de facto_ meaning in effect, not that there's any sort of explicit deal). And that's very much not applicable to anything else, definitely not from any sort of community best practices.
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Understood, but Dan's not really a good case of the posture (the problem with his piece in specific is that it's very easy to inveigh against other people to do the high-risk low-reward job). Here's a good place to start reading more about his lessons: http://web.archive.org/web/20070202164112/http://bayosphere.com/blog/dan_gillmor/20060124/from_dan_a_letter_to_the_bayosphere_community Though not so much a lesson -- we were very clear on this going in -- it bears repeating that a business model can't say, "You do all the work and we'll take all the money, thank you very much." There must be clear incentives for participation, and genuine incentives require resources. [But he's running with a crowd - or more accurately, an elite - that very much likes that business model]
Toggle Commented Jan 27, 2009 on The Outsider Manoeuvre at Whimsley
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Dan Gillmor is an interesting A-lister. He's not a journalist anymore. He left the field years ago, for the data-mines, as there was user-generated gold in them their hills (in particular, he was an "angel investor" in Jimmy Wales's commercial wiki company Wikia!). He's had a couple of enlightening experiences in doing those digital plantations, err, I mean start-ups, and written some very intriguing articles. The problem is not his status as "outsider" for journalism, but where's he's an "insider" :-( TPM is "indy" media. Boingboing is just media.
Toggle Commented Jan 26, 2009 on The Outsider Manoeuvre at Whimsley
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