The coming war on general purpose computing

So, our regulators go off, they blithely pass these laws, and they become part of the reality of our technological world. There are, suddenly, numbers that we aren’t allowed to write down on the Internet, programs we’re not allowed to publish, and all it takes to make legitimate material disappear from the Internet is the mere accusation of copyright infringement. It fails to attain the goal of the regulation, because it doesn’t stop people from violating copyright, but it bears a kind of superficial resemblance to copyright enforcement—it satisfies the security syllogism: “something must be done, I am doing something, something has been done.” As a result, any failures that arise can be blamed on the idea that the regulation doesn’t go far enough, rather than the idea that it was flawed from the outset.

Cory Doctorow — The coming war on general purpose computing

Neal Stephenson: Innovation Starvation

Innovation can’t happen without accepting the risk that it might fail. The vast and radical innovations of the mid-20th century took place in a world that, in retrospect, looks insanely dangerous and unstable. Possible outcomes that the modern mind identifies as serious risks might not have been taken seriously—supposing they were noticed at all—by people habituated to the Depression, the World Wars, and the Cold War, in times when seat belts, antibiotics, and many vaccines did not exist. Competition between the Western democracies and the communist powers obliged the former to push their scientists and engineers to the limits of what they could imagine and supplied a sort of safety net in the event that their initial efforts did not pay off. A grizzled NASA veteran once told me that the Apollo moon landings were communism’s greatest achievement.

[…]

Today’s belief in ineluctable certainty is the true innovation-killer of our age. In this environment, the best an audacious manager can do is to develop small improvements to existing systems—climbing the hill, as it were, toward a local maximum, trimming fat, eking out the occasional tiny innovation—like city planners painting bicycle lanes on the streets as a gesture toward solving our energy problems. Any strategy that involves crossing a valley—accepting short-term losses to reach a higher hill in the distance—will soon be brought to a halt by the demands of a system that celebrates short-term gains and tolerates stagnation, but condemns anything else as failure. In short, a world where big stuff can never get done.

Neal Stephenson — Innovation Starvation.

Alex Payne on the process cults

When I look around the world, the businesses that dominate don’t seem to be the ones that formed around process as a rallying cry. Rather, they adapted processes to bolster world-changing, market-creating ideas. The world doesn’t need a lean startup, or a developed customer, or a REWORK’d business; it needs solutions to problems, magic where previously there was darkness. How that magic happens is interesting and maybe even useful as a basis for other people running businesses to compare to, but it’s not a recipe for success.

Alex Payne — On Business Madness

Brian Lam on what technology means for happiness

Informationally, we are becoming lard-asses. In the pageview and ratings driven media economy, too much of the content these days is designed to be just like junk food to quickly boost quantifiable viewership. If you make content that is the intellectual equivalent of gummy bears, your site will appear to grow quickly. Advertisers reward size, and growing fast is expected in most places I’ve seen.

[…]

I think we–and information workers like programmers, designers and writers especially–are capable right now of living a fantastic life that marries the wild vitality that Thoreau experienced at Walden with the better parts of civilized living. This is a life that Ted, if he were still in his cabin, could be envious of–if we could only muster the discipline to get away from the noise.

Brian Lam — Happiness Takes (A Little) Magic

Today’s two WordPress.com VIP launches: PandoDaily and Grist

Today, MLK day even, two new sites launched on WordPress.com VIP that I’m personally pretty excited about.

PandoDaily

PandoDaily is a brand new tech site started by Sarah Lacy, former senior editor at TechCrunch. From her announcement post:

We have one goal here at PandoDaily: To be the site-of-record for that startup root-system and everything that springs up from it, cycle-after-cycle. That sounds simple but it’ll be incredibly hard to pull off. It’s not something we accomplish on day one or even day 300. It’s something we accomplish by waking up every single day and writing the best stuff we can, and continually adding like-minded staffers who have the passion, drive and talent to do the same.

So… this sounds like a newer, better, and fresher TechCrunch starting from scratch. And she’s recruited Michael ArringtonMG SieglerPaul Carr and Farhad Manjoo as regular contributors. Props to Sara Cannon for pulling off the design.

Grist

Grist, a non-profit environmental news publication, is near and dear to my heart. It’s why I’m on the technology side of publishing instead of photographing in the third world. In summer 2007, I worked an awesome web production internship where, in exchange for a bit of copy and pasting into the CMS, I had the freedom to explore publishing on the web and to start developing my skills. That was back in the days of Bricolage; Grist has since been on ExpressionEngine. Props to Matt Perry and Nathan Letsinger for making the switch happen (and to the Otto and Nacin show for their support).

Want to help publishers kick ass with WordPress? Come join my team — we’re hiring.

The Local-Global Flip, Or, “The Lanier Effect”

The Local-Global Flip, Or, “The Lanier Effect”. Absolutely fascinating interview. Two technologies on the cusp of going mainstream: self-driving cars and (dis)assembling robots. Also, technological efficiencies tend to have a positive benefit to the already wealthy (you save more money) but a negative benefit to the already middle-class or poor (you don’t have any money to begin with). What do we do when machines can do it better?

Status

Newspapers are technology companies, and more of them need to start acting that way.

Own your identity

But all of these proprietary networks that want to own and hold in your content are reversing much of the web’s progress in some other areas, such as the durability and quality of online identity.

If you care about your online presence, you must own it.

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Sadly, most people don’t care about giving control of their online identity to current or future advertising companies.

But there will always be the open web for the geeks, the misfits, the eccentrics, the control freaks, and any other term we can think of to proudly express our healthy skepticism of giving up too much control over what really should be ours.

Marco Arment — Own your identity. Amen.