Thoughts on big trends in technology, media, politics, and society. Oh, and kind of a diary except more public.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

"The Economist " Validates Obama, Sort Of

In the latest Economist, one of the editorials commends Obama for many of his stances. They clearly like his style. Anybody who reads the Economist will understand why they do. And maybe it says something about my leanings, but their position made sense to me. In essence, they welcome his desire to bridge divides, whether domestically in terms of bipartisan initiatives, or internationally in terms of reducing American isolationism. They do express nervousness about his impractical recommendations for ending the Irag war and his sometimes anti-capitalist economic policy pronouncements.

I think his youthfulness also appeals. John McCain is one of the most vital, energetic politicians in Washington, so he should not be discounted because he's in his 70s. But for the first time in awhile, our generation those in our 40s and 50s and 60s can't credibly state that we're leaving things in better shape than when we inherited them. We face wars that have no end in sight, housing and banking collapses, food riots around the world, global warming concerns, and gas prices rising out of control. When Obama says it's time for change, that may resonate with a greater and greater percentage of Americans.

So if Obama wins, the issue for the Economist (and lots of others) will be "Can he turn from rhetoric to realism and modify his populist positions to make him effective as the President?"

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Couldn't Pennsylvania Stop The Primaries' Insanity?

Reading the news this weekend, I see how vicious the attacks have grown between Obama and Clinton. McCain and Republicans in general must be full of glee. I live in Pennsylvania. I feel bad the race didn't end here.

If Clinton had maintained the 20 point lead she held initially, she had a legitimate case to gain an overall super-delegate majority. The case would be that Democratic prospects in November would be much better with her demonstrated ability to win big states.

If Obama had lost by five points or less, that would be close enough to a victory (especially coming from 20 points out)that Clinton would have needed to drop out. If she wouldn't drop out, money for her campaign would have dried up so she would have been forced out anyway.

With a 10 point win for Clinton, Pennsylvania passed the buck. I wonder if state luminaries, especially Governor Rendell and Mayor Nutter, now wish they hadn't been so quick to announce their backing for Clinton. Right now they get to feel the temporary high of helping her win. But they must know she didn't win by enough to turn this around. They could have persuaded her it was time to back out gracefully, perhaps to create the Dream Ticket and pull the whole party together tightly.

Instead, the battle will become more bitter in coming weeks. Obama remains on path to win but with an increasingly weakened position against McCain. National Democratic leaders will express more and more frustration this couldn't get solved in Pennsylvania. Will people like Rendell and Nutter begin to regret they missed their chance to be kingmakers for Obama?

Friday, April 25, 2008

The Argument's Just Silly That ISPs Wilfully Block Traffic

If ISPs actually blocked content consumers wanted, consumers would go elsewhere. They have increasing choices of Internet access. But ISPs must manage their networks so that the experiences customers want get delivered as expected.

If as a consumer I use Vongo and I'm trying to download twenty 1GB movies at the same time over even a 16 MBps broadband service, but there's one of those twenty I want to watch right away, unless there's some way that movie's download gets handled ahead of the rest, I'm going to be frustrated.

If I'm a start-up operating a web application that augments a prime time TV show and my business model depends on reaching millions of people at the specific moment that TV show starts, and 99 or 999 or 9,999 other web applications are also trying to appear to similar people at the same time, if there aren't some rules in existence for which applications get seen and with what quality, I'm not only going to be frustrated -- I might be out of business.

Peer-to-peer computing of any type, including Bit Torrent who are today's cause celebre, represents special challenges. Because unbeknownst to specific Web users, their computers could be invoked in uploading or downloading activities. Completely unintentionally, these could negatively affect performance of their own or even other people's apps. I'm not sure that most people who have subscribed to Bit Torrent type of services want them to function to the detriment of other web activity.

So the only way any ISP can hope to satisfy consumers and web app providers is to implement rules to address the natural, and clearly growing, oversubscription of the ISP's assets and capabilities. Consumers and web app providers who aren't satisfied with how those rules get applied should have the ability to go to ISPs and pay to broaden the pipes. Presumably, since there is substantial competition in the ISP segment, if any one ISP isn't willing to broaden its pipes at a price deemed fair by the requestors, those folks can give their money to that ISP's competitors.

I think that's known as capitalism. It seems absurd to me that much of the squawking about this issue comes from Silicon Valley types who have pocketed boatloads of cash thanks to similar free market capitalism. Similarly, I can't understand how an FCC Chairman supposedly in favor of competition and protecting consumers, can view any ISP's efforts to follow standard network management practices as inappropriate, unless he is consciously seeking to create advantage for that ISP's competitors.

Yahoo Should Prosper Best if Part of Microsoft

I've always admired Yahoo. Not just for what they provide as services to hundreds of millions of people worldwide. Their leaders have shown abundant commitment to causes of social and economic improvement, justice and other noble purposes. You have to like a company where one multi-billionaire co-founder shows up every day to work in the company's operations. And the other returned as CEO, with all kinds of personal reputation risk from so doing, and is clearly committed to doing right by their various stakeholder groups.

Sometimes deals come along, that even a strong company like Yahoo, have to take. This is especially true when the deal logic is bullet-proof, and there aren't viable alternative options. Google can't buy Yahoo due to anti-trust obstacles. Advertisers, and possibly consumers, would be served well if Google were forced to perform and evolve with at least one strong competitor nipping at their heels. Today, Microsoft is losing to Google. Yahoo is losing to Google. Putting Microsoft and Yahoo together would be better for Microsoft, better for Yahoo, better for advertisers, better for consumers, and in the long run better for Google (although Google can be forgiven for not seeing that right now).

This is not the Microsoft of old, who acted (and felt) so superior that any company acquired could expect to be closed down, assimilated fully into Microsoft, or emasculated. Microsoft has eaten a lot of humble pie over the past few years. By many accounts, they are better, smarter, friendlier partners, suppliers, and acquirors. They are likely to embrace Yahoo as a desirable, positive infusion into Microsoft to make Microsoft better for customers, investors, and employees.

Microsoft has repeatedly dropped the ball as a service operator, which could be their Achilles heel as Software-as-a-Service and Cloud Computing proliferate. Yahoo, for all of their woes, is known throughout the industry as a very strong service operator and innovator. I expect to see Yahoo people, processes, and operating models taking over activities in MSN, Hotmail, and many of Microsoft's recently announced SaaS initiatives. I believe Microsoft investors, customers, and business partners will apply heavy pressure to see early evidence of this approach to integrations rather than Microsoft running roughshod over Yahoo.

We'll know soon enough, methinks. Yang needs to procure from Microsoft a final price adjustment and perhaps a few concessions on post-merger org structure and people roles, so he can ride into Yahoo HQ on a white horse and be the savior he deserves to be.

Negativity in the US Democratic Primaries

US citizens should feel great about the fact there are three solid, capable people in the running to be their next president. The Pennsylvania primary results are interesting: Clinton's margin of victory, while less than polls suggested two months ago, was almost double what pundits were forecasting just before the voting. But over 80% of Pennsylvania voters said they felt the campaign had turned too negative, and blamed Hillary for that.

So why did she do so well? I think her own assessment in this case (I usually don't agree with her) is correct: People understand the US presidency may be the toughest job in the world. If any candidate can't take some punches, avoid getting defensive, hit back without lowering their own stature, and rise above the criticisms, people assume he or she will likely have a hard time dealing with the much heavier, much more consequential pressures in the White House.

When other Democratic leaders plead for less negativity, thinking they may be helping Obama stand up against Clinton's attacks, they actually may be hurting him. For the average voter, that may raise the question, "Why does he need to be protected?"

There is potential Hillary's attacks may backfire. While both Bill and Hillary can be about as pleasant and empathic with common people as we've ever seen in America, they've each shown vicious streaks at times that are pretty scary. If candidate Clinton goes too ad hominem in her attacks or sounds too shrill, then the focus will turn to "Is she resorting to personal attacks because she can't win on the merits of her own positions and character traits?"

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Why This Blog Title: A Personal Philosophy

"Communications Bringing People Closer Together":

I work in the Communications and Media sector with responsibility for innovation and new products. Some might say I've been responsible for introducing at least some aspects of major communications and Internet technologies in use today. I've been at this for 20 years in one way or another, with the pleasure and good fortune of being able to work with many great people in the industry.

As corny as it may sound, I do this to reflect a personal mission. I truly believe if different people, even or perhaps especially those typically adversaries, have opportunity to communicate up close, clearly, and richly, they will understand one another better. If they understand one another better, they are likely to develop empathy for other people and their positions. If they do so, they are going to be less likely to want to hurt, undermine, or fight with one another. This can break down racial, religious, and other divides. It might even help keep couples and families together. I've done public policy work in many forms over the years, and I'd like to see more positive change in the world. I'm not likely to make that happen through running for office, or joining a cause. But if my job allows me to help improve communications among people, perhaps that's what I'm destined to contribute to the world.

Starting a Blog

I see many friends and associates blogging. It seems like a good way to share ideas. You can communicate more substance than through email or other forms of correspondence. Blogging also creates a flow of writings, a diary, a form of living autobiography. I keep written journals, but they can't be searched or hyperlinked. I risk losing them, too. I've left journals on airplanes, never to be returned. So let's give this a shot....