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Waterloo, Ontario
Recent Activity
New post at Should the Apache Foudnation Delist Accumulo? Continue reading
Posted Jun 14, 2013 at Whimsley
New post at Free Software and Surveillance. Continue reading
Posted Jun 10, 2013 at Whimsley
Frances: "Identify the market failure that is preventing competitive markets from providing bike sharing." What I know about bike share programs is - well basically that they involve bikes and sharing. But onward! My guess is parking/bike stands. The city can build bike stands where it wants to, because sidewalks and streets are city property. A private provide would have to get access to spots to put stands throughout the city for a service to be useful. There may be a bit of natural monopoly to that problem if you are not to have incompatible bike-sharing services with inadequate stands.
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K - I don't have first hand experience, but here's the first scenario that comes to my mind. I take a Bixi bike, but on the way to my destination I stop at a shop to pick up a few things. I come out of the shop and the bike has gone. Does this never happen? If not why not?
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It seems to me that most of your arguments would also apply to other forms of public transit, in particular buses. Am I missing something? And if not, would you argue against public bus services?
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New post at is "Evgeny Morozov's 'To Save Everything, Click Here'". Continue reading
Posted Mar 9, 2013 at Whimsley
New post at is "Notes on Identity, Institutions, and Uprisings". Continue reading
Posted Feb 26, 2013 at Whimsley
This blog's new home is It gives me a single site to maintain, and it gives me a bit more control, because it's Wordpress based, and hosted by local non-profit Web Networks. This material will stay here, but I... Continue reading
Posted Feb 6, 2013 at Whimsley
A few updates after my "self-assessment" post. First, I've received a dozen or so really helpful and constructive emails from a number of people. It's been good for the ego, and it's definitely given me encouragement to keep at this... Continue reading
Posted Feb 3, 2013 at Whimsley
The comment thread under the Krista Caldwell article is great, by the way. Some people are fairly angry, but it does highlight the tremendous variance of experience from city to city and fleet to fleet, and give a glimpse into the taxi world.
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John: the only reason that I am bundling AirBnB and Uber together here is because they are bundled together elsewhere as part of the "sharing economy"/"peer-to-peer economy" hype. I do get what you are saying - that Uber is not really peer-to-peer, but if there is confusion I think it starts with those I'm debating, not with me. Although you say "Uber drivers are licensed black car drivers" and although that is Uber's take on the matter, it's not clear to me how much they verify. In Toronto, for example, at least one unlicensed driver using Uber's app has been charged. I don't claim to be an expert on the ins and outs of taxi licensing, which seems to vary from city to city and country to country. But the attitude of Uber seems different to that of other players in the space. In Toronto again, for example, Hailo applied for a dispatch license, but Uber refuses to. Krista Caldwell's article seemed convincing to me. You're in DC? I came across this quotation, which is from a Washington Post article from January 1933, which led to the licensing of taxis in the city. Quoted in an article by Luke Brock about cab licensing in Vancouver. Cut-throat competition in business of this kind always produces chaos. Drivers are working as long as sixteen hours a day, in their desperate effort to eke out a living. Cabs are allowed to go unrepaired… Together with the rise in the accident rate, there has been a sharp and concomitant decline in the financial responsibility of taxicab operators. Too frequently the victims of taxicab accidents must bear the loss because the operator has no resources of his own and no liability insurance. There is no excuse for a city exposing its people to such dangers.
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How embarrassing. I just looked back over my royalties and the number was actually about 2,000. I've corrected the post. Thanks for the encouraging comments.
Toggle Commented Jan 5, 2013 on Self-Assessment 2013 at Whimsley
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Attention conservation notice: self-involvement. Update: Comments are closed because, in the light of morning, this looked like fishing for compliments (with added whining!) But no! It is merely an aide-resolution, to get myself moving forward in 2013. Background New Year.... Continue reading
Posted Jan 4, 2013 at Whimsley
Sharon: commiserations on your sister's experience. Yes, bad or criminal behaviour happens with or without peer-to-peer systems and I'm not surprised that there are many cities with problematic licensing. Reputation systems owned by companies who make money off the volume of trade have some built-in conflicts of interest of their own. And I think that they are much better suited to cases of minor but correctable problems than rare but serious violations. Giving a driver a one-star rating doesn't seem much of a feedback system for assaults such as the one your sister faced. So I agree that there is a wider societal concern over ethical behaviour, but I still don't agree that peer-to-peer will help it.
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Sunny: I had not even thought of that connection. That needs some thinking about. Thanks.
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Agree on Gattaca, which seemed like it should be more interesting than it actually was. Also MMML, which I found intriguing. I liked Contagion more than you did - found it an enjoyable enough popcorn film. Best film I've seen recently is Monsieur Lazhar, now available on DVD, which is a gem and not nearly as depressing as the description makes it sound.
Toggle Commented Jan 2, 2013 on December Movies at Bianca Steele
Fazal: agreed.
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Dear Tim Wu, Has something happened to your brain? Can your short article in the New York Times, Apps to Regulate Apps, be the product of the same grey matter that produced the excellent "Who Controls the Internet?" and the... Continue reading
Posted Dec 31, 2012 at Whimsley
Seth. Good to hear from you again. Yes, I had seen the Paul Carr piece, which brings some needed sanity to the issue. I was really disappointed to see Tim Wu's New York Times piece: I expect better from him.
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Wikibollocks entry for today comes from Grist magazine, a "source of nonprofit, independent green journalism", who just ran a piece on peer-to-peer sharing which includes sentences like this. We’re choosing peer-to-peer because we want to do business differently. We actually... Continue reading
Reblogged Dec 29, 2012 at Whimsley
Steven - thanks; me too. Shane - that's one for my reading list. Dipper - I might agree, about styles of thought, except for point 1.
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Charles - I see the point, but there is room for many kinds of book review, and after trying out a few, what can I say? This is the format that felt like it captured my personal reaction to the book. Sometimes you've just got to go with what seems to be working. Steven - Thanks for the generous response. In the end, I suspect we see the forms of organization spawned (or inspired) by the Internet as having different consequences. The for-profit centralized network, in particular (Facebook, Twitter, and so on) is a form that I am deeply suspicious of, whereas you clearly see it as a model to emulate and imitate elsewhere, requiring as it does a huge amount of trust in the network owner, and the organizations that have access to the data it owns.
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We interrupt the posts on identity and uprisings to bring you this not-so-handy print-off-and-keep companion for readers of Steven Johnson's new book Future Perfect: The Case for Progress in a Networked Age. From here on, the author is "SBJ" and... Continue reading
Posted Dec 15, 2012 at Whimsley
Attention conservation notice: 3,000 words of amateur rumination on the problems with agent-based theories of uprisings. Part of a series about identity, institutions, and uprisings. In the torrent of debate over the causes and dynamics of the "Arab Spring" uprisings,... Continue reading
Posted Dec 8, 2012 at Whimsley
Today's theorizing may not be of much use, but people will inevitably be theorizing anyway, whether we realize it or not. To take one example: Malcolm Gladwell wrote a piece in the New Yorker in 2010 saying that "The revolution will not be tweeted" (link), and that "High-risk activism ... is a 'strong-tie' phenomenon." Others disagreed, but all of them were theorizing about how uprisings work and what the necessary conditions are for them. Even talking about "internet freedom" has a theory behind it about the relationship between digital technologies and the rest of society, which you pick up on in your comment. So I'm not trying to argue that theory holds the answer, but that we all do it anyway even when we think we aren't.
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