The Unrepentant Individual

...just hanging around until Dec 21, 2012

December 5, 2006

Podcast Feeds?

I now have an iPod nano, and I’m looking for links to worthwhile podcasts. I currently have QandO and Craft Beer Radio, but could use any suggestions… If you have anything that you particularly enjoy, drop a link in the comments.

Posted By: Brad Warbiany @ 2:54 pm || Permalink || Comments (1) || Trackback URL || Categories: Blogging, Internet, Personal Life, Technology

October 16, 2006

Anatomy of a Flame War

If you’ve ever spent time around internet message boards, you’ve seen one or two of these. Depending where you’re at, sometimes it can be put out, but on a relatively unmoderated message board, it can get out of hand quickly.

I’ve watched it play out over the last few weeks. It’s no secret that Purdue had a very rough year last year, and when a team goes from 8 consecutive bowl games to a losing season, the boo birds come out. Well, when that same team starts playing I-AA and MAC competition, squeaking by them, the next year, the trolls started coming out on a Purdue message board I participate on. The board is owned by a newspaper, and there’s basically no moderation whatsoever on the message board.

For the most part, it started out fine. There are some people who felt like the program was slipping, and they believe that Purdue will only get better when Joe Tiller moves on, and we get a new coach. Others (like myself) saw 2005 as an aberration, and are excited about this season, with a team that plays together, a young and improving defense, and a big chance for upside the next two years. A situation like that caused a lot of disagreement, which tended to get heated from time to time. For the most part, though, people were respectful and actuallyl debated facts. But it all got crashed the day one guy showed up after the Miami (OH) game (where they took us to overtime).

The first sign is that there is little argument involved. The guy showed up, said Purdue looked horrible, probably wouldn’t win many more games, and Tiller should be fired. He didn’t offer any argument behind these statements. He declared it, setting out his bait, to see who would take it. Once people started arguing with him, he fired back. Did he offer argument, facts, or logic? No, he called the pro-Tiller folks “jackasses” and “f’tards” and “clowns”. He mocked and berated us for about two weeks, and during the whole time, he wasn’t offering anything resembling argument or logic. Just straight attack, attack, attack.

Now, in the real world, someone who acted like that would soon find himself alone, or considering some of the things he said, someone might have physically shut him up. But an interesting thing occurred… People took the bait. You see, even if 18 out of 20 are fed up with what’s occurring, if you have 2 who are willing to rise to the challenge, everything runs downhill. The troll involves himself in every thread on the message board, and everywhere he shows up, his new opponent follows. The attacks quickly became two-sided. It doesn’t matter where the attacks are headed, either. It can be someone’s upbringing, education, intelligence, ability to spell, their mother, sexual preference, sexual inadequacies, anything is fair game. And I repeat, anything. Although it rarely moves above a 5th-grade level, as evidenced by one pro-Tiller poster offering to take it out to the playground at recess, the offenders now start picking for anything that will pique their opponents ire. People looking for rational, intelligent debate have nowhere to go, as every message board thread becomes polluted with name-calling and attacks.

The odd thing about it, though, is that this is exactly what the troll wants. It’s an attention game. He’s trying to see just how much havoc he can cause. When people start taking the bait, they’re just feeding the troll. And as long as you feed troll, he sticks around.

What happens next is worse. A lot of people just drift away from the message board (as I did). Some of the people who aren’t interested in being a part of the flame war get themselves sucked into it. And this is where it gets really ugly. People who would never ordinarily act like boorish heathens find themselves lobbing personal attacks. When arguing with a troll, they’re going to do their best to drag you down to the gutter where they reside. The problem is, they’re a lot more used to being down there, and even if you “win”, which is an impossibility with someone who relies on vitriol instead of logic, you’ll still get mighty dirty.

To be sure, I’ve seen plenty of flame wars in my time, since I began getting onto online forums back in the BBS days of the early 90’s. I’ve learned two things. First, the only way to win is not to fight. Second, an unmoderated message board is almost certain to eventually devolve into flame wars. Most often, user-created and user-moderated boards are more-likely to survive, as the users have a vested interest in keeping the environment free from pests.

Posted By: Brad Warbiany @ 10:02 pm || Permalink || Comments (2) || Trackback URL || Categories: Internet

October 4, 2006

I Hear China Has Some Good Proxy Servers

As some of you probably noticed, I had a couple of links on the left-hand sidebar that were ads for PartyPoker and two Casinos. I had an affiliate relationship with them, that while it never actually produced money (since I didn’t promote them much), might have been lucrative if people had signed up through my links.

Well, thanks to Congress, that’s over.

From PartyPoker:

PartyGaming will no longer accept wagers from US Customers once the Act becomes Law.

Customers resident in the United States or accessing us from US will no longer be able to access our real money gaming services. Customers will still be able to use the play money and any non-gambling services we may offer. They will also be able to cash out their present balance if they wish to.

From CasinoPartners:

Due to the imminent passing of the Federal Unlawful Gambling Enforcement Act by
the United States Senate on September 30, 2006, and in line with the high level
of service that we have always provided to our affiliates, it is important for
us to advise you that our clients have decided not to accept wagers from
residents in the United States. We will therefore stop handling U.S.-based
traffic effective October 4 2006.

Thanks a lot, Congress. You’ve given a new meaning to “The Land of the Free”. It now holds about as much meaning as you’ve let the 10th Amendment have…

I never thought I’d say this, but it might be time that we here in the USA are going to have to start using proxy servers, like the Chinese, to make sure we can go to the places online that the Feds have determined are too dangerous for us to access.

Posted By: Brad Warbiany @ 7:40 pm || Permalink || Comments Off || Trackback URL || Categories: Blog News, Internet, Libertarianism, News, Poker/Gambling

October 3, 2006

Protecting You From Evil Gambling Sites That We Can’t Tax

Congress is, once again, doing the Lord’s work, making sure that you don’t have access to immoral offshore gambling web sites.

US President George W. Bush this week is expected to sign a bill making it harder to place bets on the Internet, a practice which already is illegal in the United States.

Bush was expected to act quickly after Congress approved the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act making it illegal for financial institutions and credit card companies to process payments to settle Internet bets. It also created stiff penalties for online wagers.

Billions of dollars are wagered online each year and the United States is considered the biggest market.

The bill’s chief Senate sponsor was conservative Republican Jon Kyl, who, like Leach, has said he believed Internet gambling was a moral threat. He has called online betting as the Internet version of crack cocaine.

“Gambling can be highly addictive, especially when its done over an unregulated environment such as the Internet” he said this year.

You see, you are too weak to make your own choices. Especially in an “unregulated” environment. Perhaps we, the esteemed Congress, might allow you gamble from time to time, but only when we’re watching over you.

This, like every other vice law, doesn’t do anything to stop gambling. Especially since the “unregulated internet” moves a lot faster than Congress. Try to shut down one payment method, another will crop up. Just like with every vice law, from gambling, to drugs, to prostitution; if people want it, they will find a way to get it.

When it comes to a vice law, though, this is typical government behavior. They made it illegal. It didn’t stop it. So they’re going to expand their power, in order to try even harder to find the behavior, and punish it more severely. When that doesn’t work, they’ll expand their power again, expanding their reach and control over our lives, because they have to crack down on this “immoral” behavior.

But the true coup de grace? They’re protecting the family and the children…

“It is extraordinary how many American families have been touched by large losses from Internet gambling,” said US Representative Jim Leach, the bill’s main sponsor in the House, in a statement after its passage early Saturday.

Leach cited research which showed that young people who tend to spend hours of leisure time on the Internet, are particularly vulnerable.

A 2005 survey by the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg Public Policy Center found that 26 percent of male college students gamble in online card games at least once a month, while nearly 10 percent of all college students gambled online at some point last year.

“Never has it been so easy to lose so much money so quickly at such a young age. The casino is in effect brought to the home, office and college dorm.

“Children may play without verification, and betting with a credit card can undercut a players perception of the value of cash, which too easily leads to bankruptcy and crime,” Leach said.

Ahh, it’s for the children… How can you argue with that?

The Unrepentant Individual linked with I Hear China Has Some Good Proxy Servers
Posted By: Brad Warbiany @ 8:10 am || Permalink || Comments (1) || Trackback URL || Categories: Internet, Libertarianism, Poker/Gambling, Politics

September 7, 2006

Keep Your Mouths Shut – The FEC Is Watching

From Coyote Blog, lamenting McCain-Feingold:

In a stunning beat down on one of America’s longest-held and most sacred principles, your first ammendment rights to criticize incumbent politicians, at least on radio and TV, are suspended from now until the November 7 election. Congress has decided, and incredibly the Supreme Court has concurred, that only members of the media, including intellectual giants like Bill O’Reilly and Keith Olbermann, can legally criticize sitting politicians on TV and radio in the runup to the election. These restrictions also came very, very close to applying to this and all other blogs. John McCain, Russ Feingold, and everyone who voted for this un-American incumbent protection act need to be voted out of office at our next opportunity.

Watch what you say over the next couple months, folks. You never can be too sure who’s listening.

Actually, screw that. Say whatever you want. The last thing we want to do is obey.

Posted By: Brad Warbiany @ 2:28 pm || Permalink || Comments Off || Trackback URL || Categories: Around The 'Sphere, Constitution, Internet, Libertarianism, Media

August 9, 2006

Netroots – Don’t Count Your Chickens

The whole “netroots” crowd is patting themselves on the back for taking down Joe Lieberman. But are they getting ahead of themselves?

I think they may have bitten off more than they can chew. Winning the Connecticut primary shows that they’ve got some power, but they took aim at a big fish in a small pond. Connecticut is a state where you declare a party at registration, and a very large number if people are registered as Independent. Thus, only registered Democrats can vote in the Democratic primary, meaning it’s even more partisan than most states. And the small population makes it a lot easier to effect a change. It’s a veritable “perfect storm” of primary upset, where a far-left candidate can unseat a moderate-left candidate. But they left Lieberman with a leg to stand on. He had enough time to plan to get himself on the ballot as an Independent. While they’ve won the first salvo, I think they’re in serious danger of losing the campaign.

There’s a big reason you see Democrats urging Lieberman not to run as an independent. He’ll beat them in November. So they keep asking him to “respect the will of the people” and drop out of the race. But as I saw Lieberman point out on PBS today, only about 15% of Connecticut registered voters took part in the Democratic primary. And barely less than 50% of those 15% voted for him. So he’s supposed to assume that because a very small majority of a tiny minority of the population picked Lamont over him, that means the rest of Connecticut voters won’t prefer him in the general election?

The “netroots” crowd are in a tough spot. Unless they convince Lieberman not to run, they have to beat him in November to count this as a victory. If they beat him in November, they’ve proven that the tide has turned against the Iraq war amongst the general public. But if they don’t beat him in November, they’ve only proven that the Democratic party has marginalized themselves by heading farther left, and they’ll look foolish. If Lieberman doesn’t run, Lamont will win, and while that’s not (IMHO) a real victory, it will be seen as such.

It will be an interesting couple of months. Lieberman isn’t going anywhere, and there’s a good chance he’ll beat Lamont and the Republican challenger. The “netroots” crowd, if they want validation, is going to have to put serious money into the Lamont campaign, possibly to the point of attacking Lieberman, the man who they supported only 6 years ago to become Vice President. And the Republicans can either walk away from their own candidate, ensuring a Lieberman victory, or put serious money behind him, hoping to capitalize on Lieberman and Lamont splitting the Democrat vote.

Either way, the only way for the “netroots” crowd to win is if Lamont beats Lieberman and the Republican. I think that’s pretty unlikely.

Posted By: Brad Warbiany @ 8:52 pm || Permalink || Comments (1) || Trackback URL || Categories: Internet, Media, News, Politics

July 17, 2006

Poker Players Alliance

Our wonderful Congress has decided they need to ban online gambling:

The House easily approved a bill yesterday to curb online poker games, sports betting and other Internet-based wagering that gained infamy as a central focus of a major lobbying scandal.

The 317-to-93 vote came nearly six years to the day after a similar measure went down to surprise defeat. At the time, unknown to its conservative supporters, the bill was derailed by lobbyist Jack Abramoff and the office of then-House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, on behalf of the disgraced lobbyist’s gambling clients.

“This is the opportunity to expunge a smear on this House done by many lobbyists,” Abramoff included, said Rep. Robert W. Goodlatte (R-Va.), one of the legislation’s chief sponsors. “Now is the time to set the record straight.”

Oh, you’ve set the record straight. We can see that you care very little about freedom, but that if you’re getting enough money, you’ll care about whatever you’re paid to.

Thankfully, a new group called the Poker Players Alliance has stepped up to fight for our rights. Let’s hope they’re doing more than tilting at windmills…

Michael Bolcerek, president of the Poker Players Alliance, released the following statement after the U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation that would prohibit Americans from playing poker on the Internet.

“We are disappointed that the House of Representatives would assail the rights of Americans to enjoy the great game of poker on the Internet. It is unconscionable that a skill game like poker gets swept into the net of prohibition, while online horse betting and Internet lotteries get free passes,” said Mr. Bolcerek.

“The United States should follow the lead of the United Kingdom by regulating and taxing online poker, not banning it. An economic analysis just released by our organization shows that U.S. regulation of online poker has the potential to raise more than $3.3 billion in annual revenue for the federal government, in addition to another $1 billion for state coffers. We hope that this analysis will give a fresh perspective for U.S. Senators about the benefits of regulation.

“The Poker Players Alliance is undeterred in its mission to promote and protect the game of poker and we will continue to advance the cause on behalf of poker players in the United States.”

I do have a problem with this. They harp on the fact that poker is a skill game— which it is— as the basis for it being allowed. I’d rather just let them argue for liberty, rather than arguing that poker is worth of an “exception” to regulation.

I don’t wish to let any Congressperson, even my own, tell me whether or not I have the right to play poker online. I’m an adult, and I can make that decision for myself. And frankly, if I want to play a little blackjack or roulette, I’ll do that too.

Posted By: Brad Warbiany @ 10:45 pm || Permalink || Comments (1) || Trackback URL || Categories: Internet, Libertarianism, News, Poker/Gambling, Politics

July 16, 2006

Firefox Gaining Ground

This story, courtesy of Doug:

According to the Amsterdam analytics firm onestat The FireFox browser has jumped from a global market share of 8.7% to a whopping 13% since April 2005.

The national usage of firefox make some interesting reading, too, with FireFox making up 16% in the USA, 24% in Australia and a huge 39% in Germany.

Doug asked about the upcoming IE7. Since I recently reviewed it, I’ve since uninstalled it. It conflicted with MS Outlook, causing any email I read to show up as plain text, not HTML. This made reading work email considerably more annoying, and since I used Firefox for all of my web browsing, wasn’t worth it.

My quick analysis puts IE7, at best, about 90-95% of where Firefox 1.5 is in terms of functionality. And considering Firefox 2.0 is on it’s way, I think Firefox will expand their lead.

Below The Beltway linked with Firefox Use On The Rise
Posted By: Brad Warbiany @ 6:52 pm || Permalink || Comments (1) || Trackback URL || Categories: Internet, News, Technology

July 12, 2006

I am Unstoppable!

I mentioned last week that I got some free money from PartyPoker, played a tournament, winning it and $150. I didn’t mention it at the time, but the next day I played again, winning another tournament, for another $100.

I figured, knowing my luck, that I’d be screwed last night when it came time to play the company tournament.

But I won it… Again.

It started off beautifully. We had two tables, and I immediately knew I was at the “soft” table to start. There are some very strong poker players at my company, but only one of them was sitting at my table. So I started off, and within the first 15-20 hands had basically doubled my chips. I had aces one hand, kings another, and ended up busting one player out with those two hands. So from an early point, I was riding high.

Then I made a mistake. I was holding QJo, and raised the blind (from $60 to $180) to try to buy the pot. One player stuck around with me, and the flop came out rags. He checked to me, I bet $200, and he called. The turn was another blank, he checked to me again. I responded by betting $300, roughly half his stack. He moved all-in on me. Since I was heavily bluffing, I just couldn’t call. I realized as soon as he moved in what an idiot I was. In that situation, I have to either take the initiative and push him all-in, or simply check. All things considered, since he’d called me on the flop, checking would have been optimal, but moving all-in wouldn’t have been a bad idea. But not betting weak into him. By betting I was giving him the chance to force me out of the pot, instead of forcing him to make a decision. Of course, he later told me he had pocket kings that hand, so I was screwed either way, but I still misplayed it.

After that point, things got a bit tougher. I was nearly all-in against the other strong player at the table (he was all-in). I was holding KQo, and raised about a quarter of my chips preflop. He moved in on me, and I called him. I had him barely covered, but would have been a serious short stack if I had lost. And when he turned over ATo, I thought it was over. But I caught a miracle queen on the river, and managed to knock him out, nearly doubling myself up.

And from there it was just gravy. The cards weren’t great, but good enough, and they were there when I needed them. At the final table I played relatively conservatively until we were down to the last few players, and found myself heads-up at the end. The player I was heads-up with is a semi-professional poker player, and supplements his income at the local card house. But he’s got a flaw. He’s a limit ring-game player, and I’ve been honing my no-limit tournament skills. He’s come a long way from where he was in no-limit, but once we got heads-up, I think I just had a little more experience on him. That and cards, which are probably the important part. So after about 10-15 hands heads-up, we went all-in and I took him out.

That was a nice $315 win for me.

But that’s not the end of the story. I’ve been withdrawing everything I can from PartyPoker, but can’t pull out that last bonus $40. So today, I decided to see what I can do with it. I played another $30 sit-n-go, and won it too! That’s another cool $150. And my luck is flowing so much it’s absolutely laughable. I never should have survived a few of the hands I was in, but got just so damned lucky.

PartyPoker just claimed back their bonus, and I just cashed out my winnings, so I can’t play on there unless I deposit. But waves like this don’t come along often, and you need to take advantage when they do. Since I’m in California this week on business, I’m halfway tempted to get in the car and go to Vegas. I figure I can be there by 1 AM, play cards until 4, and can still get back to work by 8ish… I’m not actually going to do that, but it sure is tempting!

Posted By: Brad Warbiany @ 11:46 pm || Permalink || Comments (2) || Trackback URL || Categories: Internet, Personal Life, Poker/Gambling

July 2, 2006

Free Money!

As most of you know, I play poker online at I had hit a rough strain of luck, and ended up losing everything in my account, a year or so ago. Really, I had been pulling money out every time I had a big win, so I was definitely up overall. But with the run of bad luck, I hadn’t played much since.

Well, PartyPoker sends me an email about once or twice a quarter telling me they’ve put free money in my account. It’s the sort of thing where I must play a certain number of hands within a certain amount of time to keep the free money, and since I usually play tournaments, I need to win some tournaments to actually make money.

Well, I got an email a few days ago that they were putting $40 in my account. I used it to play a $33 buy-in single table tournament. Normally I’m pretty cavalier with the free money, but decided I’d play it conservative this time.

I was getting some decent cards, and pushing hands when I needed to. I always had a decent number of chips, and as the blinds increased, everyone else started knocking each other off. Eventually, we got to the top three, and nearly every hand I was holding ace-high or king-high. I ended up winning the tournament, for a cool $150!!!

This has me just about ready for my company tournament next week. Since I haven’t played poker much in the last few months, I needed a tune-up. My coworkers had better be ready, because I’m looking to repeat!

The Unrepentant Individual linked with I am Unstoppable!
Posted By: Brad Warbiany @ 8:55 pm || Permalink || Comments (2) || Trackback URL || Categories: Internet, Personal Life, Poker/Gambling

July 1, 2006

Sue Different

France Lawmakers Approve ‘ITunes Law’

French lawmakers gave final approval Friday to government-backed legislation that could force Apple Computer Inc. to make its iPod music player and iTunes online store compatible with rivals’ offerings.

Both the Senate and the National Assembly, France’s lower house, voted in favor of the copyright bill, which some analysts believe may cause Apple to close iTunes France and pull its market-leading player from the country’s shelves.

Currently, songs bought on iTunes can be played only on iPods, and an iPod can’t play downloads from other stores with similar premium content from major artists _ like Napster and Sony Corp.’s Connect.

Uh oh… The American left isn’t going to like this. If France tries to break up Apple, who’s going to take on the Evil Empire?

Posted By: Brad Warbiany @ 1:33 pm || Permalink || Comments Off || Trackback URL || Categories: Internet, News, Technology

June 12, 2006

Net Neutrality

I haven’t posted much on the whole Net Neutrality debate. As most of you know, I take a very critical look at anything that will expand government’s regulatory powers, especially into an area like the internet. Even if Net Neutrality will be ineffective and a miniscule bit of regulation, I know what happens when you let the camel’s nose in the tent!

I’ve stayed out of the debate, though, because it’s really rather confusing. And given that I’m a lot more internet-savvy than the average American, something that confuses me this much is indecipherable to others. What I didn’t understand was the hysteria generated by the pro-regulation crowd, to regulate something that seemed to be functioning well, and the lack of substance in their website. They do very little to tell you what their regulations are, or how they’ll work, yet you’re supposed to believe they solve a problem that doesn’t even exist. That’s not a red flag, that’s a truckload of red flags.

But I was struck by something. I checked out the Net Neutrality Scare Ticker, where there’s been a running tabulation of how long it’s been since the Net Neutrality movement began, without the internet implosion its supporters have predicted (it’s already been 3 1/2 years). They linked to this story talking about Microsoft joining the movement, and then this story (PDF), talking about Microsoft’s exit from the Net Neutrality movement a year after it began:

It all started about a year ago when a fuzzy group named the Coalition of Broadband Users and Innovators (CBUI) was formed., Disney, eBay, Yahoo! and many Internet and technology associations threw their lot in with Microsoft to fight for the right of free passage online, otherwise known as network neutrality.

The CBUI argues that the federal government should regulate the broadband industry, effectively creating rules that would prohibit broadband providers from forming content and service partnerships that, theoretically, would harm users and competitors.

There’s one fact I have always been able to count on: when companies are lobbying for their own industry to be regulated, they’re doing so for their own sake, not the consumer. I think in this case, it may be a fight between them and the telcos, rather than them and their own competitors, but you can be sure it’s for their sake, not ours. Companies don’t spend millions of dollars on lobbyists to protect consumers, they do it to protect themselves.

Posted By: Brad Warbiany @ 9:22 am || Permalink || Comments (3) || Trackback URL || Categories: Economics, Internet, Libertarianism, Politics, Technology

June 8, 2006

When Criminals Meet the Internet Swarm

In the matter of 3 days or so, one stolen Sidekick (a cell phone/PDA/camera/etc) has generated some absolutely insane traffic.

In New York, a Sidekick accidentally left in a taxi was retrieved by its next inhabitants. Despite numerous attempts to alert the new holders of the Sidekick, including offering a reward, they decided it would be better to use it as if it were there own. Big mistake. They took photos which have let the original owners know who they are, have logged on to AOL and other incriminating behavior, and now there’s a web site devoted to the whole fiasco:

Check it out. Sometimes, it makes me think that a smart person would be able to be a pretty devious criminal, yet somehow countless morons are drawn to that profession.

Posted By: Brad Warbiany @ 11:15 pm || Permalink || Comments (1) || Trackback URL || Categories: Internet, Technology

June 7, 2006

Book Review: An Army of Davids

Ahh, the advantages of plane travel: I finally get a chance to read in peace!

I just finished reading Glenn Reynolds’ (of Instapundit fame) An Army of Davids. The tagline, “How Markets and Technology Empower Ordinary People to Beat Big Media, Big Government, and Other Goliaths”, pretty well sums it up. Reynolds believes we’re at a turning point in world history, where technology has leveled the playing field, chopping down the natural advantages that the “Goliaths” have had for many years. If anything, Reynolds is a firm believer in the Adam Smith “invisible hand” theory, where millions of distributed individuals, working at what they love, bring about monumental changes. It’s not government that does so, unless they find ways to harness the power of those individuals.

If you’ve read me for any period of time, you will see that I’ve had some influence by the ideas Reynolds brings up this book, although since I rarely read, he hasn’t been a primary source for me. I’ve posted here, here, and here about how I believe the current shift has moved away from government to the individual. I think I had found my way, through the blogosphere and my own introspection, to agreement with Reynolds on a number of subjects presented in the book.

As for the book itself? Well, how can I dislike a book whose opening line in the introduction is “About fifteen years ago, I started brewing my own beer”?! It was a very well-written look at the ways that individuals are gaining power in the world, with only a short look at blogs and the media. Moving along, he touches on subjects like the growing ability of workers to telecommute and the rise in entrepreneurial opportunity, the change in music recording and distribution brought about by the internet, and the ability of humans (both within the blogosphere and in the meatspace world) to act as a pack of individuals with a common goal– and not a herd being led. He goes on to point out how our media has grown and will continue to grow with the revival of the citizen-journalist, and how “horizontal information”, as he calls the greater inconnectedness of information in today’s society, changes the learning curve of humanity itself. Throughout this first section of the book, he gives real-world examples of trends he’s spotted in today’s world, and where and how he sees them impacting humanity in the short and long term.

When you get into the second section, he moves farther into true futurism, such as nanotechnology, life-extension, the colonization of space, and the Singularity. Through these chapters, his greatest theme, as far as I can see, is a simple one: “Hey folks, this stuff is coming. We’d better get used to the idea, so we can plan for it.” Reynolds doesn’t ask whether these advances will occur, he asks what we’re doing to help ensure that we know how to handle life when they arrive. In this section (with the exception of the space colonization chapter), he does tend to stray from his “Army of Davids” theme, though. He occasionally comes back, with discussions of how technologies such as nanotechnology might empower individuals, but it ceases to be a central theme here. Either way, it’s still an interesting read through these chapters, especially if you’re not already well versed in these areas.

The central theme of the book, of course, is truly a heartening idea to individuals. For a very long time, the dominating change in our world has been towards greater and greater centralization of power, whether it be in corporations, media, or government. Technology, however, has now reversed that trend. We are seeing every one of those areas returning power (though reluctantly) to individuals, as individuals find their voice to demand it. From the effects of blogs on media (i.e. Dan Rather) and politics (i.e. Porkbusters), to the effect of open-source on technology (i.e. Microsoft), loosely-connected groups of individuals, working for their own personal reasons, have acheived incredible accomplishments. He points out the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, when– in the absence of government control– individual citizens simply organized on the fly and took care of what needed to be done. As the world becomes more complex, central control becomes less useful. With the march of technology, though, it becomes unnecessary even more quickly.

Reynolds uses the example of the creation of the internet as a global information warehouse, pointing out the naysayers– had they been asked 10 years ago if our current access to information was even possible– would never have thought it could occur. The argument of “it would take every librarian in the world decades to input all that information” doesn’t make sense when you have millions of individuals willing to do it for them, for free, simply because they find it interesting. Curiously, Reynolds doesn’t use the example of the open-source movement, which has the same nay-sayers. The open-source nay-sayers think that programmers would never work tirelessly to bring about major innovations in the software world. Yet exists, and provides a usable alternative to Microsoft. Did someone organize huge stockpiles of capital to make it happen? Nope, a million dedicated people who wanted to see it happen simply did it.

Overall, I consider it to be a great read. However, for those of you who are already evangelizing for the “Army of Davids” world, and who consider yourself a “futurist”, there isn’t a whole lot new here. Reynolds does craft it into a very readable and cohesive package, though, so it’s a great read regardless. If the preceding description doesn’t apply to you, though, buy it now! There are a heck of a lot of people who think the world is headed for some big changes, and Reynolds lays out a simple, readable, and entertaining description of what shape he (and I) think it will take.

The world is changing, and changing quickly. If there is truly an “Army of Davids”, consider me a self-ranked Lieutenant. Glenn Reynolds may just be one of our Generals. Thankfully, though, unlike the U.S. Army, the chain of command is nonexistent, and I don’t have to fear the UCMJ. I can go tell Gen. Reynolds to go pound sand if I like, and the best he can do is not link to me. Of course, knowing his sense of humor, he’s more likely to link to me with a derisive “Heh.”, defusing my suggestion of pounding sand pre-emptively. Either way, if Gen. Reynolds ever finds his way through Marietta, I’ll have a bottle of homebrew waiting :-)

As for what convinced me to “serve” in the “Army of Davids”? To that, I can only say the same thing I’d expect to hear from my fellow warriors: I’m doing this to make me happy, and any benefit you receive is ancillary.

Liberty Corner linked with Carnival of Liberty XLIX
Below The Beltway linked with Around The `Sphere
Posted By: Brad Warbiany @ 10:53 pm || Permalink || Comments (3) || Trackback URL || Categories: Blogging, Books, Economics, Internet, Libertarianism, Media, Science, Technology

May 27, 2006

Started Testing IE7

Click Picture for Larger Image

Ever one to look to maximize my browsing experience, I recently downloaded Internet Explorer 7 Beta. I’ve become a dedicated Firefox user, but I’m willing to keep an open mind as to whether the 800-lb gorilla can keep up.

Unfortunately, early testing isn’t very promising. I see some good signs, and see some bad signs as well.

The Good:

First, they finally have tabbed browsing. Frankly, this is one of the premier user-interface complaints about IE6. If you’re not familiar with tabbed browsing, you need to be! It’s a whole new way to access the web, and Microsoft has finally jumped on the bandwagon.

Second, they finally have add-ons. Called “Extensions” in Firefox, they are external applications that users can install to change their browser experience. In Firefox, I use several extensions, as I prefer to customize the browser to be exactly how I like to browse. IE7 beta is new, so there are currently not many add-ons available, but this could be a big plus. Firefox without extensions would be only slightly more competitive than IE, it’s the work of all the extra developers to create these add-ons that make it so versatile.

Third, it appears that they’re doing better to meet agreed-upon web standards in the browser. This is just an early look, though, but this blog used to appear differently in Firefox and IE6. In IE7, they’re much closer to being identical. There still may be some back-end things that are different (I’ll leave that determination to people who know more about the standards), but it is looking better from a user perspective.

The Bad:

First, I mentioned that they have add-ons. At the moment, those add-ons are mostly created by outside companies, and they’re mostly not free. Some of these add-ons are as expensive as $50 or so, for the same thing you can get free in Firefox. As I said above, this may change, but from Microsoft’s previous behavior, I don’t think they’ll offer the same sort of open-source access to individual developers that has made Firefox so great.

Second, the interface is klugey… This could just be a beta thing, but I don’t particularly like it. And at the moment, I don’t see much in the way of “skins” to modify it. Or, it could be that I’ve only played with it for a short time, so there may be some features that I haven’t gotten into yet. But out of the box, it’s quite a bit different than IE6, and not necessarily in a good way. They do say that one of the goals was to create as much browser space as possible, which they’ve done, but again, what they have is no better (and quite a bit worse) than Firefox.

Third, there are no real innovations that I can see here. At this point, it seems like Microsoft is simply following others, and not really doing a great job of it. Of course, that’s been their business strategy for years, so it may be enough to maintain their market position, but it’s certainly not enough to make me switch back. It’s a temporary stop to the bleeding, not a cure.

My conclusion:

Microsoft, in my opinion, was hemorrhaging users to their competition over the last few years. Mozilla is a much stronger product, and has met the unmet needs of users. IE7 will help Microsoft quite a bit to stem the flow. But they haven’t completely caught up. The product, at least in its current form, is still not as good as what Firefox provides, and without high-quality free add-ons, it’s not likely to get much better. The improvements to the product will cut down on the rate at which people leave Microsoft, but I don’t think it’s going to stop it, or help them to win many users back.

Posted By: Brad Warbiany @ 12:12 pm || Permalink || Comments Off || Trackback URL || Categories: Internet, Technology

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