Monthly Archives: January 2006


Produced IT humor

Huh, it’s pretty cool what the Brits can do with their low-budget TV ways. Spreading the money around lets them explore farther out-there.

I’ve watched the first episode of “The IT Crowd” online, and I have to say that it was pretty darn good, with actual production values and real scripts and actors and stuff. Not world-class, but British-class for sure. Easily one of the best IT-focused bits of comedy television I’ve seen, but then, well, you know… it’s the only bit I’ve seen. The Dilbert cartoons don’t count cuz they weren’t really IT-focused.

Anyway, I can’t tell from the site whether this is an ongoing concern or whether there are just the two eppies, but in any case, hit these if you can:
The IT Crowd.


Field v. Google

Wow, how amazingly different. Today I read a legal document, for fun, and found it readable and informative, and it did not raise my blood pressure.

This is a pretty interesting case. It highlights some of the complexities surrounding copyright law, and comes to what I consider to be reasonable conclusions. One almost thinks that Field tried this not to win, but to lose and thereby establish some precedent for further decisions, or to at least draw some public attention to the matters.

So if it turns out that this is all an elaborate ruse by some intellectual freedom fighter, or Google itself, you read it here first. Just don’t cache it, OK?



“Analog Hole Bill Would Impose a Secret Law”

I wonder what other such gems can be found in the land of the intersection between technology and law…

Freedom to Tinker » Blog Archive » Analog Hole Bill Would Impose a Secret Law


Marketplace of ideas

The idea of the Internet (or any other cloud of technology you might choose) as a “marketplace of ideas” is an evocative one. But it occurs to me that the idea brings along one of the flaws of marketplace thinking that could be even more damaging in the realm of ideas than in the realm of products-and-services.

Just a moment ago, on a blog that I follow, I read an article that made me a bit sick to my stomach. It wasn’t that the author was totally off his rocker, just that I couldn’t agree with his premises and found his conclusions to be way off the mark. This being the worst of three or four times that I’ve had that reaction to articles on the blog, I removed it from my feed list.

That’s the flaw I’m talking about. “If you don’t like it, don’t buy it” is the rule by which I make many decisions in the “real world”, and also in the “world of ideas”. That’s also an argument I hear advanced against someone who complains about a product, service, company or idea. But that’s a pretty weak sort of choice, “yes or no!”. What about some “yes, and…”, “no, but…”, “here’s another choice…”, etc.


Acausal acts of kindness

If you get a chance today, try doing an acausal act of kindness. Do something nice for someone for no reason, and preferably without them knowing you did it. Of course, I encourage causal acts of kindness as well.

If you want to get really rigorous, try this: do one such act for every bad thing you hear in the news, and for every negative judgement you mentally make today.


The success trap

I’ve seen lots of articles or books or whatever with that title, or similar. However, I haven’t really seen many that talk about this particular trap. The trap I’m talking about is believing that your definition of success fits everyone else.

It isn’t a good idea, says I, to think that other people would have to have the exact same circumstances in their lives as you have in yours for them to feel happy.


“Remember mismatched domains” extension for Thunderbird

Oh yeah, once again the open-source world provides abundantly for me. Thank you Andrew Lucking!

I have a shared webhost for my email domains, so when I turn on SSL for my POP3/SMTP connections, I get an error dialog at every first connect that tells me the domain name is mismatched, because the shared host’s SSL certificate is for the host’s domain rather than mine. This extension lets Thunderbird remember these mismatches and the fact that I’ve OK’d them, freeing me from having to hit ‘OK’ about twenty times a day, and in the process making my connection a bit more secure (since I’d hit OK on that dialog even if it really was a security risk).

Anyway, if you know what I mean, you know what I mean, and will love the extension. If you don’t, don’t worry about it.

Remember mismatched domains at


The best or consistent?

Here’s a business question that I think about, and I wonder if people offering services to the world often have any explicit philosophy about it: is it better to always give a little extra when you can, or to be consistent?

For example, suppose you’re a chef, and during a slow period you could arrange the cilantro garnish in a pretty pattern, but when you’re rushed, you would only have time to scatter it around semi-randomly. (More dramatic examples are possible, but that at least gives the flavor of what I’m talking about. Flavor, ha.) Would you consider it better to always scatter it, so that customers get consistency, or to arrange it when possible, so that some customers sometimes get something a little extra?

My personal philosophy is to tend toward giving a little extra when I can. To me, the benefits (to the customer) of those little surprises, and (to me) of the attention to the little details, outweigh the advantages of consistency. However, I bet a lot of business environments do explicitly quash their people’s desire to do a little bit extra, on the theory that it will confuse the customer about expectations or that it will waste time.

This is probably similar to the division between commodity services and more differentiated ones. Certain businesses keep themselves in the commodity space to save money, and certain ones try to stay differentiated to increase customer satisfaction. It’s good, I think, that there is a mix of those two paths in an economy, or even within a business, but my personal tendency is toward the differentiated path.


Wikipedia, media, academics, etc.

This article gives a fairly reasonable-sounding overview of Wikipedia’s latest appearaces in the newspaper headlines:

JOHO – December 29, 2005: Why the media can’t get Wikipedia right

This got me to thinking about the fact that, despite its shortcomings, the academic model of knowledge transfer has one clearly good effect: it forces researchers to learn to write (usually).

One of the problems of the journalistic model (highlighted in the Wikipedia thing) is that, except for the fields that are popular enough to have dedicated news staff (politics, weather, sports…), journalists are people who know how to write but don’t necessarily know much about what they’re writing about. If there wasn’t a specialization between the knowers and the writers, news outlets would have a lot fewer incidences of distortion.


Don’t let the door hit you…

… wait, there isn’t a door. I think it’s pretty cool that the Web doesn’t really have much need for ‘exits’ because you’re never really stuck ‘inside’ somewhere. So if someone doesn’t like what they find on a site, it’s not even a matter of ‘you know where the door is’, it’s more like… well, a better analogy fails to strike me at the moment.

There are those who don’t like the fact that the Web isn’t sticky, and they have devised some methods that can psychologically or technologically limit users’ ability to surf along, but overall, it seems people are enjoying the freedom and will tend to preserve it.