QoTD: John Lanchester
"But ‘socialism for the rich’ was supposed to be a joke. The truth is that it is now genuinely the way the global economy is working."—John Lanchester
Dude, we're winning
Apparently, crowdfunding is all well and good, but you have to watch out for shady characters who would take advantage of a crowdfunding system to peddle fraudulent "boiler room" investments to the long-suffering US middle class.
Gillmor cites a paper from law professor John C. Coffee, Jr., who writes, "every barroom in America could become a securities market, as some unregistered salesman, vaguely resembling Danny DeVito, could set up shop to market securities under the 'crowdfunding exemption.'"
And this sales guy is going to beat the socially connected, SEO-enabled network of real crowdfunders how, again?
The same way the encyclopedia salesmen beat the Wikipedia-Google Complex?
The same way that "high-touch interactions with potential customers" works so well for the software business?
If we get a better loophole for crowdfunding in the USA, it's likely to cause fewer opportunities for fraud, since the potential investors would already have sunk their money into bona fide companies—companies that they ran into while doing regular things on the dang ol'Internet, as customers, followers, employers of friends, whatever. Crowdfunding is more likely to displace the shady investment opportunities that people already have than to create more.
Fraud is an evil form of sales, and sales doesn't scale. When fraud tries to scale, it turns into spam, and the Internet has an immune system for that. (Hasn't everyone who would have sent money to bogus crowdfunders already sent their money to a 419 scammer, anyway?)
In conclusion, how about a nice hot cup of good old Internet optimism from JP Rangaswami? You're welcome, and enjoy your future crowdfunded investments just like you enjoy dealing with great small companies.
Cato Institute: can anyone save the good parts?
Blog frenzy this weekend over the Ed Crane and the Cato Institute vs. the Kochtopus! story.
A little background: most of the libertarian-sounding noises inside the Beltway come from rent-seekers. Corporate-welfare-receiving companies pay for the think tanks, and you, the taxpayer, pay for the corporate welfare. (Hey, wait a minute. That means, in a way, Solveig Singleton works for me! We need to have a talk.)
One exception, at least a lot of the time, has been the relatively independent Cato Institute. They actually published "Archer Daniels Midland: A Case Study In Corporate Welfare." Nobody else in the think tank business wants to publish an article that will scratch a potential donor off the fundraising list, but Cato pulled it off.
But the end of an era is here. Cato co-founder Charles Koch, who along with his brother David is a prominent corporate welfare queen, is tightening up on the leash. Yawn. Looks like Cato is going to turn into yet another rent-seeking group.
With Cato either melting down or joining the noisy herd of fake libertarians with both front feet in the trough, what's a would-be reader of corporate welfare research to do? How about looking outside the think tank system entirely? After all, Kickstarter's funding for art projects is approaching the size of the NEA.
Your typical libertarian-sounding think tank is essentially a government program anyway. But it's an inefficient top-down channel for funneling corporate welfare dollars into content creation, and loses a lot to transaction costs. Let's think outside of the box here, and put the market to work.
Anybody want to write a think-tank-style report on a corporate welfare problem, but can't get it funded? Why not put it on Kickstarter?
Google gets DNT
Good news from the big G: Google commits to respecting "Do Not Track" in their advertisements.
SFX: the exploding head of Jeff Jarvis, head cheerleader for creepy database marketing everywhere. DNT is the "wholesale devaluing of advertising in a medium." People don't realize how much great online stuff owes its existence to hard-to-understand tracking practices.
There has to be something more going on here. If tracking is worth so much, why would the undisputed champion of online advertising just throw away so much potential revenue? Have the Googlers made themselves stupid?
I don't think so. Let's dig up the latest version of a classic chart. Compare the time people spend on different media to the percentage of advertising budgets spent there.
Internet and mobile advertising, which have the best potential for tracking, consistently pull in less ad revenue than their time share would justify.
If tracked ads are so much more valuable, then extra money should be chasing those highly-tracked Internet users. Thirty seconds of exposure to Jane Doe, expectant mom in ZIP code 90210, should be worth way more than 30 seconds in front of Joe Random Super Bowl Fan.
But they aren't. Manifest Density blog: "Is it really a coincidence that the advertising medium with the best instrumentation also appears to be the least effective?"
It's not a coincidence. It's basic economics. Advertising's main role is signaling. Most of why you spend money on advertising is to say "I spent money on advertising."
Tracking reduces the effectiveness of the signal. The recipient can't tell if you're really supporting a product with advertising, or just targeting him. In a DNT world, Google can get the best of both worlds: match ads to relevant content, but get the extra value of signaling to non-targeted users.
Background and links here: Ad targeting: better is worse?
Why is Science losing?
Is anyone else getting a little tired of scare-mongering about "anti-science" trends, when it comes from organizations that do non-Open Access scientific publishing? This is like designing a new jewelry line, giving it to Gollum to conceal in the bowels of Middle-Earth, and then complaining about your shelf placement.
Let's say you wanted to send the message of "I'm running a large scary organization, and I'm trying to do something evil to you in a sneaky way." How could you do that better than by publishing original information in proprietary journals, then releasing patronizing, dumbed-down information for voters and patients?
How is modern medical science getting so badly out-publicized, out-communicated, and out-SEOed by "quacks"? And to come up with another example, where is the "scientific consensus" over climate change? Buried in expensive journal archives, while the controversy version of the story thrives online.
Scientists: If you get handed the keys to the Library of Wisdom, then choose to lock the place up and hand over the keys to Elsevier et. al., don't complain about the occult bookstore across the street. And come to think of it, OA is necessary but not sufficient. Maybe what we need now is SEOA.
Doc Searls says there's an advertising bubble.
Maybe he has a point. One of the ways that you can tell a bubble is when the "bubbling" trend starts to break out into places is really doesn't belong. Ships rotting at the pier in San Francisco because the sailors thought they could do better mining gold. Online shopping for BOOKS FOR DOGS. Stuff like that.
This is the actual back cover of a restaurant bill from an actual restaurant.
Inside: an ad. Who could have thought this was a good idea? You just enjoyed a meal and you're paying up, and they already want to sell an ad impression for something else?
(excuse the lousy photo. Lousy phone and no photo skills. Next time I'll just take Doc along.)
And synecdochic, on Dreamwidth, points out another one. "Solve Media's patent pending" TYPE-IN, a method to advertise via CAPTCHA."
Can you use your sense of things getting silly as a bubble detector?
Stop H.R. 3699
(Finally. I really need to move my "blog to Congress" script over to ikiwiki.)
Dear Representative Stark:
I am writing to ask you to oppose H.R. 3699, the Research Works Act.
If Rep. Darrell Issa came to you and said, "Let's give our grant recipients permission to steal taxpayer-funded equipment from the lab and resell it on the Internet," you would say he was nuts. But this is exactly what H.R. 3699 would do with those scientists' research results.
The Public Access Policy at the National Institutes of Health has been a success, and makes original papers available to health professionals, patients, and their families. Open access to research also encourages follow-up research in the public and private sectors.
H.R. 3699 would throw away these benefits for no gain. The foreign publishing companies that would benefit from this bill are not publishers in the usual sense. They do not provide the same editing and selection functions that a typical magazine does in-house. Our Federally funded researchers already do the work of reviewing and editing at no charge.
Please do what you can to stop H.R. 3699.
Donald B. Marti Jr.
SCALE Poker Quiz
SCALE this year had a quiz game for attendees, and here are my notes on how to play and some things we could do better next time. Lori Barfield, who was in charge of SCALE Game Night, brought it all together on a very tight schedule.
The object of the game for the players is to put together the best possible 5-card poker hand. Each card has an answer printed on it, and in order for that card to count as part of the player's hand, the player has to find the matching question. Card photo at Lisa's iXsystems marketing blog.
All of the questions are about information revealed at booths, talks, and other show events. It's important to get questions that are hard to look up online. The object of the game for the organizers is to get attendees to talk with each other, because they pretty much have to trade cards and information to win.
We gave out seven cards per player.
With a little more time we'll be able to make the game easier to run at the show. Things to improve next time:
Handouts for people who supplied questions, to give out at exhibitor or speaker registration at the show.
Entry forms for players turning in hands, to avoid having to write questions on the cards
Numbered questions on the question sheet, to make it easier to check completed hands.
Ask for questions earlier, to have extras to work with.
Give out two cards at registration, then have opportunities to get more cards later?
Some people thought the questions were too hard, but groups of attendees working together were able to figure everything out.
New HTML Parser: The long-awaited libxml2 based HTML parser code is live. It needs further work but already handles most markup better than the original parser.
Keep up with the latest Advogato features by reading the Advogato status blog.
If you're a C programmer with some spare time, take a look at the mod_virgule project page and help us with one of the tasks on the ToDo list!