Tuesday, March 27, 2007

A sad day ...

Arrived at E-Tech on Saturday.

Currently suffering some knock-on effects of jet lag - I still owe a post for Jenny on some of the questions she raised regarding my views of enterprise 2.0 (I'll do that soon).

I also need to get a name for my blog - noticed that Bob has switched.

First day of E-Tech has been good, the O'Reilly executive briefing has lived upto expectations with some interesting conversations from energy to fabbing to wall street and to infrastructure.

I was even pulled on stage by Tim for an impromptu talk on fabrication - great.

There is however one piece of shocking news. Kathy Sierra has had to pull out because of death threats. This is a very sad day and my support and thoughts are with Kathy.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Blink ... did I miss something?

I'm following some discussions on organisational structure and development on the 21st Century Organisation Blog

Euan and Jenny have been very kind not to shoot my observations completely out of the water (thanks!) - there are some very smart cookies on this blog. Well worth a good read, it's certainly got me scurrying off to check up on stuff.

Excellent job, this is a field which my eyes are being rapidly opened on ... it's way more developed than I realised.

Last week, I thought I knew something on this field ... now I'm in the dark ages .... that information cycle has certainly speeded up again.

More Fowl, less foul ....

There are some people whom I am very grateful to, mainly because of the excellent ideas which they generate. The list is long, from many that I have been fortunate to work with, to others I have just read the work of or occasionaly met - such as Bruce Sterling (invented the term "Spime"), Andrew McAfee ("Enterprise 2.0"), Nick Carr ("Commoditisation of IT") and Tim O'Reilly ("Web 2.0" and other concepts).

I have met Tim on rare occasions, and in my view he is an interesting person who has provided some outstanding conferences (from EuroFoo to ETech) through which I have been fortunate to meet some highly creative people.

I'm very grateful for this (along with the books of course) as my life has been enriched by such experiences.

However I have seen some fairly hostile posts against him the past. The latest comment from Steve though is just acidic.

First Tim, thanks for organising great conferences - very much appreciated.

Second Tim, thanks for posting your views on the radar - very much appreciated.

Yes, I'm speaking in a vendor slot at E-Tech, I'm a vested interest and I'll be talking about a subject matter (commoditisation of IT) which I'm not only interested in and passionate about but I'm also trying to make a good living in to.

So I suppose I'm up for the duck shoot too.

We need more fowl and less foul in this world.

Look ... big teeth

Picked this up on Artur's blog about the origin of Vampires. Great fun

Printing chips ....

Just to note that Nanoident's printed electronics factory is up and running. Also I'm seeing more and more talk about the need for open hardware. Well, it's all starting to kick off - hybrid printers (both functional form and electronics, something I talked about at EuroFoo'04) are just around the corner ... they've been in some labs I know for a few years now, obviously research stuff.

IDTechEx's printed electronics conference is just around the corner, this will be the first Cambridge one I've missed but I'm sure it will be great as usual.

I notice that Tim is also running a session on "On-demand manufacturing"

... excellent.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Oink Oink ...

I was reading this petition on abolishing inheritance tax. It's not one that I agree with, seeing that inheritance tax has an important role to play in a society.

However I did note the following:-

"Inheritance tax is an immoral form of taxation that penalises hard work and thrift."

and

"millions of households have been drawn into the death duty trap by steadily rising property prices"

Steadily rising property prices ... oh, that's the hard work and thrift bit is it? There's me thinking that most property purchases involved speculation ... doh.

As for the "millions of hard-pressed families" - well the threshold is currently £285,000 and you have to really reserve moral outrage for the 2.7 billion people living on about a £1 a day.

I'm trying to feel sympathy ... nah, just not happening.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Make it so ....

I've been talking about fabrication technologies and the distribution of manufacture (commoditisation of the manufacturing process) for almost a decade, and I've seen some wonderful advances in this field - from printed electronics to hybrid object manufacture.

Every now and then, I come across something which makes me smile.

In this case it's not using inkjet-like technology and it does not have the geometric and compositional freedoms of other technologies ... but it's engaging.

It also reminds me of one my early presentations (back in 2000) when I talked about printing domestic items in the homeplace ... it's well worth watching.

Less bang for your bucks....

According to the Independent, Peter Ayliffe, CEO of Visa said:-

"by 2012, using credit and debit cards should be cheaper and more convenient than cash".

Cheaper than cash? Yep, apparently:-

"retailers could soon start surcharging customers if they choose to buy products with cash"

Hmmm, well a number of my friends have recently complained that they've been sent a fee for not using their credit card often enough. According to one of them, the apparent "reason" for this is basically they weren't making enough money for the bank.

This is quite concerning, but it seems that there is a growing trend towards imposing such annual fees according to the BBC.

So, soon it'll be cheaper to use your card than cash (because cash will be surcharged) and banks are going to start charging you for the privilege of using their services, especially if you don't use them much.

That's another way of saying - your savings are our financial opportunity. In other words, if you have small amounts of money, low interest rates and you avoid debt by saving then please just go hand your money into your local "money" service with the kind words:-

"there you go, you've earned it".

I can understand that some of them must be a bit strapped for cash, only estimated to earn in profit more than the GDP of Luxembourg. I often find myself feeling the same way ..... if only I had a few more billion.

Hence I do understand what "cashless" society means; it means I'm going to have less cash than I used to or my bucks are going to be worth less.

They have got to be kidding, right?

The net effect would be in the long run to disadvantage those whom use cash, and do not want to or either cannot partake in the debt frenzy or be involved with the financial services for personal or other reasons. We should especially not disadvantage those that save or can least afford.

Now money & banking services are infra-structural (or essential) needs of society, just like power, water, food etc. Now it's reasonable that I should be charged for what I use (utility consumption), and in many case pay a fee for access to the service.

However is it reasonable that the cost of access to such services should vary according to how much I use them?

Maybe I don't buy enough food for the supermarkets liking - would it be reasonable for them to charge me extra for access?

Maybe I don't consume as much electricity as the power company would like - would it be reasonable to therefore increase my access charge because I don't use enough?

No it's not reasonable! It discriminates against thrift and those who can least afford to pay, but must pay.

So here is a petition (I'm waiting for them to approve it, so it may not be there yet) to make it an offence to:-

  • financially discriminate against cash customers by providing a service at a lower rate than that which would be charged to a customer paying in cash.
  • financially discriminate against savers as opposed to other consumers.
  • financially discriminate against consumers for connection or access to an essential service (banking, power, communication, water, food etc) because of a low rate of consumption.

I've called it Wealth-Neutral (as in Net-Neutrality) since it relates to access, but obviously I need to fit within the 16 character limit of E-Petitions

Friday, March 09, 2007

Manchester United are good .. world ends.

As David Hume once said :-

"Rational proofs for the existence of god are as non-sensical as rational proofs for the non-existance of god"

Atheism is the belief in the non-existence of a supernatural being, not based on proof or material evidence but based fundamentally on volition. It is not agnostic to the matter, but is the positive belief that deities do not exist.

Such a system can be described as a faith. You choose to believe in this faith or not.

So when does a faith based system holding certain beliefs in the state of the supernatural by a community identified with that faith become a religion?

  • Are there a certain number of beliefs it has to have?
  • Do you need to have a number of rituals?
  • Does it have to have a certain number of members?

The arguments seem fairly pointless and purely semantic as all such systems can be described as religion to some degree. I use the words "some degree", as I have yet to come across an absolute truth (other than the trivially defined) and so I tend to see things as more true (+true) or more false (+false).

However, this is not a popular view of atheism with some quarters, but then again it's not quite as unpopular as "globally traded carbon permits are a future mechanism of deprivation and exclusion" or "global climate temperature change may not be solely attributable to anthropogenic emissions but also natural causes, whether reinforced or diminished by them" - both are subjects which merit more discussion but neither are a case for inaction or procrastination.

So I'll come to the statement which I read on Tom Coates blog

"If atheism is a religion then not collecting stamps is a hobby"

It is amusing but based upon a co-equivalence designed to reinforce a particular statement by using two unrelated premises which are defined as true regardless of their real state. These "TRUE" statements are:-

"stamp collecting is a hobby" (+true)

and

"atheism is not a religion"(+false).

But then you can get all sorts of fun little statements by defining two statements (one +false, one +true) as both true, considering them equivalent and inverting.

By defining a statement such as "Science is a Religion" as true (when it is agnostic to the supernatural), you can argue

"If science is not a religion then 1+1=42"

and so on.

You can spend lots of time doing this .... complete waste, but fun.

Seeing that I'm a Chelski fan, I personally like

"If Manchester United are a good football team then the world ended five minutes ago"

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Oh .... I like this

A great example of an information market

Killer Startups

Smart, very smart.

Large Scale Disruption

I had a long discussion yesterday with a friend about the open sourcing of Zimki. The plan is to open source the entire environment later this year (probably GPLv3 for the engine and LGPL around the interfaces - though we are finalising this at the moment).

Now Zimki (which we first alpha'd in early'06) is a JavaScript application development and hosting environment on a "pay as you go" model.

So it has :-

  • Application framework - comparison is Rails
  • Cloneable applications - comparison is Ning
  • Utility computing - comparison is EC2
  • Federated services - comparison is ... (no-one else does this yet)
  • A JavaScript development environment.

It's not a direct competitor to any of these which have their own specialisations and focus but you can sort of think of it as EC2 + Rails + Ning + other useful "Yak Shaving" bits taken care of.

However what happens when we open source Zimk?

Well as posted before and also by James, the reason for open sourcing Zimki is to help establish a competitive utility computing market made from a large number of providers competing in the same space with customers freely & simply able to move applications and data between providers with no exit costs.

Now this marketplace could become a direct competitor to any singular large scale utility computing provider based upon propriatory services.

Yep. I know.

But then again, an open source based competitive market place avoids the dangers of anyone in the future providing a pipe like argument to infrastructure.

So I'm happy.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

(Crowd) We're all individuals ...

I'm currently writing a presentation for E-Tech on commoditisation (a mix of concepts and Zimki) and I needed some pictures of sexy / unsexy geeks under creative commons license.

So I looked on Flickr and found 144 photos of "Sexy Geeks" and NO "Unsexy Geeks"

Can you believe it? Zilch, Nada, Nothing ...

Search for Unsexy Geek

So now I'm the only one ...

Unsexy Geek

Oh you shouldn't ....

Whilst trawling the web I came across an example of your average Zimki geek

This got me wondering, ignoring my own stunning looks (not in the positive sense) - does your application framework & language say something about you?

Is there a difference between say a JavaScript & Zimki geek against say a Ruby on Rails geek, ignoring the minor technical issue of Ruby not running in the browser, so you have to use JavaScript anyway.

Hmmmm ....

For a more sensible discussion of languages - it's worth looking at Tim's "naughty but nice" post on programming wars

Monday, March 05, 2007

Free as in Speech

For me this started over a discussion with Gervase Markham on the Mozilla Manifesto.

My question was whether point 10 ...

"Magnifying the public benefit aspects of the Internet is an important goal, worthy of time, attention and commitment."

... is a role for private company.

After some discussion I resolved this issue within my own mind using a "flip" test.

"If the internet was a propriatory system controlled by a small number of self interested groups, would a company be willing to promote the opening up of the internet as an infrastructual good for the greater good of society and itself."

Obviously enough, if you're not part of the small controlling group or you believe that the internet serves humanity better as an infrastructural good or you believe in liberty in communication - then of course you would!

This led me to the concepts of net neutrality. Now if you don't know about this - then watch the video, it's old but useful.

For more info see Save the Internet and their video.