Thirteen years of coffee and commentary. Tridecaphobes, beware.

Shopping Cart

May 20, 2013
by deCadmus

What’s That in Your Shopping Cart, Marissa Mayer?

I was hoping nobody would win PowerBall this week so I could take the $1.2B I was planning to win next week and buy Tumblr, but Yahoo’s Marissa Mayer beat me to it. C’est la vie.

In my view the most interesting take on the purchase is all about content creation and consumption. Naturally. :)

From the irony it’s-not-over-until-the-fat-lady-sings department: that feature’s found on Fast Company, a magazine / digital property that knows something about meteoric rises to fame, large living, and subsequent transformation to maintain some relevance after a fall.

March 28, 2013
by deCadmus

“I am not an advocate for frequent changes in laws and constitutions. But laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths discovered and manners and opinions change, with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also to keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors.”

– Thomas Jefferson

Inscribed in the southeast interior wall of the Jefferson Memorial.


Happy BDay Twitter!

March 21, 2013
by deCadmus

Bloggled: On Google Keep, Twitter’s Birthday, And Wow! Voyager Is Really Out There

March 14, 2013
by deCadmus
1 Comment

Happy Π Day

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Growing Bandwidth

March 13, 2013
by deCadmus

Just What Do You Do With A Gigabit Of Bandwidth, Anyway? Paradoxically, You Wait.

So, just what do you do with a gigabit of bandwidth, anyway? Slate technology columnist Farhad Manjoo recently traveled to Kansas City, home of Google’s über-fast fiber optic Internet service — Google Fiber — to get a first hand look.

“During my time in Kansas City, I spoke to several local businesspeople, aspiring startup founders, and a few city boosters. They were all thrilled that Google had come to town, and the few who’d gotten access to the Google pipe said they really loved it. But I couldn’t find a single person who’d found a way to use Google Fiber to anywhere near its potential—or even a half or quarter of what it can do. It was even difficult to find people who could fully utilize Google Fiber in their imaginations.”

Okay, so much for the man-on-the-street interview angle. What about the point of view of the geeky engineers?

“This was true even of Google employees, both the folks on the ground in Kansas City and the execs who are managing Google Fiber from Mountain View, Calif. ‘What can you do with Google Fiber?’ I’d ask, and I’d often get an answer like, ‘Anything you want.’ Technically, this is true. It’s also singularly unhelpful.”

Let’s consider the possibility, then, that Manjoo is asking the wrong question. As fun as it is to instantly load and simultaneously play a half-dozen HD video streams, link up multiplexed teleconference sessions and upload every image in your high-school yearbook to Facebook, the point of gigabit Internet isn’t to saturate the bandwidth, any more than the point of buying a bigger home is to fill up its generous walk-in closets.

 The point of gigabit Internet isn’t to saturate the bandwidth, any more than the point of buying a bigger home is to fill up its generous walk-in closets.
Trust me — I’ve been through as many homes as a binging hermit crab — in time, stuff will accumulate to fill the void. It always does. And in a very real sense it’s the unused capacity itself — whether for shoes, hats, holiday decorations or bits — that stimulates the drive to acquire, accumulate, or otherwise populate the available space. As the great philosopher George Carlin has observed, “A house is just a place to keep your stuff while you go out and get… more stuff!” And get more stuff, you will.

But bandwidth is only part of the story. Latency, too, figures in. Where your current broadband Internet connection may route you through a series of hops at rates of 50 to 300 milliseconds, Google Fiber might provide that same route at 1 to 3 milliseconds… provided that your target *also* has gigabit Internet. Which is to say, Metcalfe’s Law — which I’ve previously characterized as the second law that governs the Internet — has a role to play here:

Metcalfe’s Law, offered by Bob Metcalfe — a guy who knows quite a lot about networks — he invented Ethernet, and founded 3Com… states that the utility of a network equals the square of the number of its users. Consider the computer you’re looking at now. Imagine it unplugged from the network. Alone. Isolated. It’s still a computer. You can run a spreadsheet, edit a document, play a game. But once you connect that computer to even just one more, the power of your own computer increases dramatically. You can now share those documents, or send messages to the other computer on your network. The utility of your computer continues to increase — geometrically — with each additional node that is introduced to your network.”

The corollary here: it’s not the sheer number of nodes on your network, but the number of nodes who have a similar capacity in terms of bandwidth and latency as you. Gigabit Internet will realize its full potential when *everything* you want to connect to is also served by gigabit Internet. Until then you’ll still be subject to the weakest link in the chain, or the longest (in terms of latency) hop in your route. Your connection to Netflix will be mediated by their server capacity, and the capacity of the routing networks in-between. Your peer-to-peer file or document sharing will depend on the rate and capacity of your peers’ networks. If ever there were an argument for cloud-based storage, where shared assets are kept in highly-connected and massively scalable data centers, this is probably it.

In the end, this isn’t entirely lost on Slate’s Manjoo:

“Gigabit broadband is like that. For it to become truly useful and necessary, we’ll need to see a long-term feedback loop of utility and acceptance. First, super-fast lines must allow us to do things that we can’t do with the pedestrian Internet. This will prompt more people to demand gigabit lines, which will in turn invite developers to create more apps that require high speed, and so on. What I discovered in Kansas City is that this cycle has not yet begun. Or, as Ars Technica put it recently, ‘The rest of the Internet is too slow for Google Fiber.’”

Let’s hope the rest of the Internet catches up. We’re waiting.

March 11, 2013
by deCadmus


March 11, 2013
by deCadmus

Et Tu, Best Buy? Why Are Captains Of Technology Scuttling Their Own Ships?

There’ve been interesting developments since Chief Yahoo Marissa Mayer put the kabosh on work-at-homers in late February. Just a week later, Best Buy — famously a case-study in implementing a flexible, Results-Only Work Environment (ROWE) — announced it, too, was eliminating its tele-working program, even while Cali Ressler & Jody Thompson, workplace management consultants and pioneers of ROWE, posted an open letter to Marissa Mayer excoriating her for sending her employees “back to the 1950s”:

We were absolutely shocked and disappointed to see this story break over the weekend and we are having a very hard time understanding how this will benefit Yahoo! and how your employees can ever really trust you again.

We don’t think you deliberately meant to send a message to Yahoo! employees that you are an Industrial Age dictator that prefers to be a babysitter vs. a 21st century CEO that can lead a company into the future. Or did you?

What’s so great about the office, anyway?

I’m not inclined to believe Mayer is a Luddite. Nor do I think she’s a throwback to an earlier era (either neolithic, or mid-century) of simpler, more conventional work paradigms. And while I do wonder if she’s maybe panicking a little about what she’s finding (or not finding) while wandering the halls of the Yahoo-plex, I also wonder if maybe she’s missing the point.

Fact is, most corporate office spaces are *terrible* places for getting work done. They are noisy, interruptive, intermittently hot and cold, dehumanizing, creativity-sapping sinkholes. They are where innovation goes to die a lingering death under flickering fluorescent tubes. The corporate office sets the stage (and the clock) for unnatural and artificial  barriers between people’s work lives and home lives, when intermingling the two might prove a better path.

We are most of us working remotely, already. Smartphones, tablets and pervasive Internet and virtual private networks have extended the reach of office systems to wherever the worker is. Few and far between are the office workers who are not responding to emails at all hours and in all places, from the kitchen table to the doctor’s waiting room to the sidelines of their kids’ soccer games. And you know what? That’s okay. That’s Jim-dandy, even, provided it’s acknowledged. And considered. And provided-for in constructing the rules of engagement of what constitutes work, and being accountable, not merely being present.