Thursday, April 29, 2010

Steve Jobs Isn't A Hypocrite

The reason so many bloggers are getting this wrong right now, as they parse his statement about Flash, is because they're imputing an assertion of moral superiority into what is ultimately a simple, practical decision: do we spend money to support Flash? The answer is no, and the reasons are logical. Calling Jobs a hypocrite because some of his own systems are closed is insane. He's not saying all systems should be open at all times. He's saying the overhead of supporting a closed system isn't worth it to him on this project at this time.

If you're angry at Jobs, here's a hint: anybody who looks for moral authority from technology CEOs is barking up the wrong tree. Ideologies that are life and death to hardcore open source partisans are just pragmatic decisions to someone like Jobs. The guy doesn't use BSD because it's the right thing to do, any more than he locks out interpreters to fuck with you, personally, and ruin your day. He sells closed systems, and if you don't want one, you don't buy one. He doesn't want Flash, so he isn't buying it.

It says fucked up things about the future of democracy online that so many geeks are angry about this meaningless non-issue, and so few object to Jason Chen getting swat-teamed more effectively than Osama bin Laden ever was.

How Google, 37Signals, Netscape, and Microsoft Set The Stage For The iPad

In the 90s, Microsoft violated antitrust law in its actions against Netscape, but not in the way most people realize. Microsoft created Internet Explorer to destroy Netscape as a company. Even in the very early days of Navigator, people were saying that the Web would be the new operating system, and that apps would move from the filesystem to the network. Microsoft knew that if that happened, nobody would ever buy Microsoft Word, or any of their other crappy products, because they owed the overwhelming majority of their sales to user lock-in through the operating system.

Another company which noticed all this going down was Google. Hence Google Docs. I have two useful spreadsheets on my iPad, zero on either one of my two computers, and at least 20 or 30 on Google Docs. Google liked the idea of moving applications off the desktop and onto the Web, since the Web mostly belongs to Google. (Of course, Microsoft hated it, because the desktop mostly belongs to Microsoft.)

Google championed the idea of lightweight Web apps in the days before Ajax was even a term, along with a whole community of small, scrappy entrepreneurial companies, of which 37Signals and Adaptive Path are the most famous examples. The modern ecosystem of Gmail, GitHub, Google Docs, Harvest, Shopify, Lighthouse, Campfire, etc., came from a rethinking of Web apps that was somewhat radical at the time.

Today, however, these apps aren't radical; we take them for granted. This is what makes the iPad possible. When Apple introduced the Newton, there was no concept of lightweight, easily accessible software, let alone a widespread belief that this newer software with less features was better. But this belief was strong when Apple launched the iPhone. At the time, Steve Jobs said that people who wanted to develop apps for it could use any language they wanted, as long as it ran on the developer's server and used HTML, CSS, and JavaScript for its user interface. Later, when the App Store opened, it featured the kind of small, lightweight software people had come to think of as superior.

Where Microsoft saw a hypothetical future coming and worked their asses off to spoil the party - being evil, as usual - Apple looked at the new landscape and questioned their most basic assumption. If all the apps are simple and lightweight and in many cases just run in a Web browser, then you can make your computers a lot smaller and simpler too. I'm writing this blog post on an iPad with a Bluetooth Apple keyboard. I do some spreadsheets on it, plenty of writing, and some music-making which is as good as the music-making on my laptop. I would never dream of editing video on this tiny sliver of a box, and its best SSH client still isn't ready for prime time in my opinion, but I use "dawn of Ajax"-era apps the most (e.g., Gmail, this blog) and for that, you don't really need a computer. If those apps hadn't changed what we expect from software, though, the iPhone would have been less useful, and the iPad might have never happened.



Death From A Pink Dildo

He continues: "One time I drove a prostitute to my girlfriend's house [in GTA: San Andreas] and when she jumped out in the chick's driveway I beat her to death with the pink dildo, and then I gave it to my girlfriend as a present." Laughs. "She loved it. It was hilarious."

I get psychoanalytical again; I ask if he resents women, or resents his nice guy status, and if he's acting out these feelings through the game. I expect the same kind of embarrassed dismissal that Rosie gave me. Instead, Pete gives a strangely bitter laugh and tells me frankly, "Probably."

X Is The New Y

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

You Don't Need To Maintain Your Software

I don't. I just don't give a shit. I like writing new things, but I could not care less about keeping them going once I've created them.

Here's what happens. My Towelie library has a fork with a new name, rewritten with a different parser. My Utility Belt gem has a fork with a new name, rewritten for Ruby 1.9. My password gem has a fork with a new name, rewritten with different password generation rules. If your software is good enough for people to use, but you don't maintain it, they'll maintain it for you. You lose ownership, but if you want ownership, just maintain your code.

This is why distributed version control is great. Compare this to the ceremony, process, and fear associated with forking projects in the Subversion world. Using modern tools means you're free to give away good code any time you come up with it, and you don't need to be burdened by its maintenance, unless you want to be.

Unplanned Career Change?

It's been weeks since I wrote any code. The crazy part is, the first thing I did when I realized I was staying afloat with my coaching program, blog ads, videos, etc.: I bought Let Over Lambda, a book on advanced Lisp techniques, and Computer Models of Musical Creativity, a book on algorithmic/AI-driven music by David Cope, probably #1 in the field worldwide and all-time. But I've been too busy working through books on analytics and psychology to get to either book yet. Likewise, if I had made a little bit more on my last video, I would have signed up for David Cope's Workshop in Algorithmic Computer Music - but I didn't make enough for that. (Or, at least, not along with the other things I wanted.)

I've been blogging about entrepreneurial topics for years without dipping my feet in the water. I never thought I'd find it so easy, and at the same time, I'm not sure it'll keep going. It's a little bit terrifying. Pretty much everything I've learned (and everything I teach in my videos) is valid and works, but it still surprises the hell out of me that I'm even paying the rent. It's a very disorienting experience, but I like it.

Anybody who's read my blog for a long time or seen my Archaeopteryx presentation knows that I'm also interested in other things besides code, most notably movies and music. Some people might think, "oh, well, if you're into movies and music, then of course programming is too nerdy for you." Except, between Facebook and the iPad, what is more fashionable today than apps?

It really shows how being a programmer is changing. Check out this recent Dilbert. The office intern got a cheap nose job from a veterinarian and ended up with a snout:

Consider: "you look too unconventional to be an engineer." What would Scott Adams, Dilbert's creator, think of the Ruby community?

For instance, here's a famous Rubyist:

why the lucky stiff, by rooreynolds on flickr

And a slide from MountainWest RubyConf:

Here's Nick Kallen's picture, from his Working With Rails profile:

Ooh la la! Sexy nipples!

Here's my old boss at ENTP, along with the CEO he hired and a Python programmer - who are also the members of his band - right after shooting a music video:

They look too unconventional to be engineers, but the same is probably true for two out of every three engineers in San Francisco. When you consider that we have Richard Stallman as a role model, I think normal people are probably lucky that engineers don't dress like Lady Gaga and speak only in Esperanto. Who knows - maybe Scott Adams is just getting old. Bringing the tanget to a close, it actually makes a lot more sense today than it might have a few years ago for a person's major interests to be music, movies, and code.

I totally forgot where I was going with this, but it'll all make sense if I begin dressing like Lady Gaga and blogging in Esperanto.

El punto es facil: ¿qué código usted escribiría, si usted no tiene que escribir código? Y: ahora yo non necesidad de escribir código. Pero puede ser que necesite escribir código otra vez muy pronto. No se. Tengo miedo. Pero me mucha gusta. Y sé que las actrices que dirían este nivel de riesgo se están relajando. Viven con los niveles de riesgo que hacen que el empresario más valiente parece wuss.

Qué sucede después sigue siendo un misterio a mí.

By the way, that was Español, not Esperanto. I don't speak Esperanto, and (more to the point) neither does BabelFish. Then again, I'm not sure BabelFish speaks Spanish, either, or even English.

The point that BabelFish engrished there: the amount of code I'm writing is unusually minimal for a programmer, but the level of risk I'm under (scary though it is) is unusually low for an actor. Likewise, a guy like Why The Lucky Stiff might have been unconventional for a programmer, but he was pretty straightforward for a musician - which I am, or at least, which I like to imagine myself. I like to imagine myself a programmer and an actor, too.

In fact, the only reason I began looking into Internet marketing was because I needed a way to make money which leaves open the option of going to auditions at any time. In theory working part-time, remote, as a programmer should have worked; in practice, it failed, several different times, in several different situations. Either I didn't make enough money, or I made part-time money while spending 40 hours or more in the company's chat room, or I made great money but worked 40 hours a week or more (up to 60 or 70!), or I got told I'd work 20 hours a week and ended up being asked to work 40+, etc., etc., etc. The work I did as a Rails programmer brought me into contact with a few very conventional corporations and a lot of optimistic entrepreneurs who had every reason to tell me whatever I wanted to hear; the result was that after several years of trying, I gave up on the whole idea of working part-time as a programmer and went back to the drawing board.

In everything I'm doing now, I'm researching the hell out of every angle and forming strategies based on principles I abstract from the research. I know logically that it should work, but it still surprises me every time, and I think the reason is, I don't get why everybody isn't doing the same thing. After all, researching, analyzing, and forming strategies that surprise you when they work is the long way round. There are shorter paths.

You would expect more geeks to abandon the startup culture for the Internet marketing culture, simply because it just works and there's plenty of short paths from "I'm on the Web all the time" to "I'm making money on the Web." There are Rubyists embracing Internet marketing and information products - Peepcode, Pragmatic Screencasts, Envycasts, Amy Hoy, Ben Orenstein, 37Signals' first book, Marc-André Cournoyer - but by and large, the VC culture still reigns supreme.

The VC culture annoyed the hell out of me a few years ago, back when I still thought it at least made sense; but today, with the knowledge of so many simple, proven ways to make money on the Internet, the VC culture mystifies me. In a sane world, it'd be normal for everybody to establish a simple, profitable, minimal-effort business online before or while also launching high-risk, high-effort experiments; VC represents to me a substrate of society where people seem determined to pretend that establishing simple, profitable, minimal-effort businesses is impossible, and launching high-risk, high-effort experiments is necessary.

I spoke to somebody recently who is considering teaching his children about Internet marketing. There are already very successful teenagers making great money online. Imagine that you could make money while working much less than you do now; now imagine what it would be to like to figure that out at around 16 years old. It's got to be a freer world.

Speaking of a freer world, I heard a podcast where Tim Ferriss told a story: when he graduated from college, he asked a girl in his class where she was going to work after college, and she wasn't. Her family had money, so she didn't need to work. Instead, she was going to explore the Amazon for a few months. Ferriss of course pushes the idea of building a simple, profitable, minimal-effort business online and then bailing to travel the world. But of course, that couldn't ever work.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

1997 Turntablist Hip-Hop "The Positive Step"

Rediscovered this underground classic in a book of old CDs. (And found it on YouTube in a matter of seconds.)

Monday, April 26, 2010

Sign A Petition To Break Up The Big Banks

Minutes ago, Senate Republicans filibustered the Wall Street accountability bill!

Senate Democrats now face a choice: water down the bill and beg Republicans for "bipartisanship" or offer an even STRONGER bill and DARE Republicans to keep blocking reform.

Two brave Senators -- Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Ted Kaufman (D-DE) -- announced they will stand strong and do what politicians have been afraid to do for too long: offer a proposal to BREAK UP the big banks that dragged our whole economy down.

I say we take off and nuke the entire site from orbit. It's the only way to be sure.

The big banks tricked us into subsidizing their irresponsible, criminal shenanigans. They held our economy hostage; we need to replace them with something less fragile and more fault-tolerant. Anything too big to fail is too big to exist. They are a haven of criminality and a threat to American financial security. Destroy them forever and pass laws against their ever being built again.


Give Lawrence Lessig Your Money

Change Congress

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Codeulate Screencast: Vim For Rails Devs

I got a free review copy of this nice 36-minute screencast from Ben Orenstein and I'm glad I watched it. Fair warning, this is affiliate marketing, if you buy a copy of the screencast I get a small commission. However, I'm going to go the simple review route rather than the hard-sell route.

I've been using vim and its predecessor vi for fifteen years at least, and I still learned a bunch of new tricks, yet the screencast starts out with some really basic stuff like how to learn to type quickly, making it good for beginners as well. My main takeaway was that Tim Pope's rails.vim is terrific, and that everybody should use ctags. Between rails.vim, ctags, and the Snipmate plugin, Ben's use of vim is very smooth and productive. Ben also shows how to use ack instead of grep in vim, which is a very nice improvement.

I think the screencast could have used more detail on how to download and install plugins, and a little bit of info on configuring .vimrc and syntax highlighting. (I also hear praise for the NERDtree plugin from people who use vim more than I do.) Overall, though, I think Ben's screencast is a nice bit of training, and certainly goes deeper than the average 5-minute Railscast. Peepcode has a great little screencast on emacs, but nothing on vim so far.

Ben also created a video on how to use Amazon S3 in a Rails app, and I'll be reviewing that soon.

iPhone, Gizmodo: Legal Analysis

Theft liability, from a journalist

Trade secret liability, from a guy who provides zero information on his qualifications but appears to be an engineer in law school

via the fireball

Thursday, April 22, 2010

iPhone, Gizmodo: Gruber Naive About Law

Gruber proves surprisingly naive about law. He says Gizmodo fails to satisfy California law's requirement that a good-faith effort be made at returning found property, because they called Apple on the phone but didn't think to put the new iPhone in a box and mail it to Apple's corporate address. That's absurd. The law cannot require resourcefulness, originality, and intelligence; a good-faith effort is a good-faith effort. If I call you on the phone and tell you I have something which belongs to you, ask you if you want it back, and you shrug me off, I've made a good-faith effort, at least as far as the law is concerned.

There's a difference between the law and reality. In reality. the finder of the phone seems to have done exactly what a smart lawyer would have advised, if somebody had gone to this smart lawyer and said, "I have a phone, I want to keep it, but I don't want to go to jail." If you hate Gizmodo, you're sure that's what happened. But you can't prove that happened, and that's kind of the point.

Speaking of being sure because you hate Gizmodo, the only thing "unforgivable" that has happened at any point in this series of events is a sentence fragment in this paragraph:

In my book, anyone who did this with a phone left on a bar stool would be just as likely to, say, take it out of someone’s jacket pocket if they noticed its unusual nature while the engineer was using it at the bar — which we know the engineer did, given that he updated his Facebook page that evening with a comment regarding the quality of the beer he was drinking. There is no reason to take anything thieves claim at face value, particularly when it’s all been filtered through Gizmodo, which has a decided interest in painting a picture where they didn’t realize they were purchasing stolen property.

I don't care about this and I don't understand why anybody does, but I care about good logic, and Gruber's lapse here is unforgivable. The law never takes anything anyone says at face value, and it is absolutely unforgivable in my eyes to say "you have to conclude these people are thieves, because they are thieves." You cannot have an accusation in your argument; it has to come before or after. Seriously, if Gruber was my kid, I'd disown him.

It's also absurd to criticize Gizmodo for having an interest in defending themselves legally in the middle of a blog post which examines the civil and criminal laws that Apple can accuse them of violating. If you're discussing how to attack somebody, and then they talk about defending themselves, you can't say that their desire to defend themselves is suspicious, because your obvious intent to attack provides ample non-suspicious cause.

More importantly, Gruber falls short of the high standards I had hoped he was gunning for when he discusses both the civil and criminal laws regarding theft, and fails to notice that Gizmodo is absolutely OK on the criminal law and only vulnerable to attack on the civil law. For all his puerile sneering about coincidence, he fails to notice the only relevant "coincidence." That's why I think Gizmodo had a smart lawyer and they knew what they were doing.

And that's also why I think that what they did was OK. If it's legal, then the only thing to do is change the law, and I don't think the law should change. Laws which enforce corporate secrecy at the expense of journalism are a terrible threat to freedom and indeed public safety as well. Corporations have a right to privacy just like real people, of course, but if you get drunk and you fuck up, that's nobody's fault but yours.

Update: Gruber's subsequent posts have been way better; I think he just got emotional. Meanwhile, the New York Times spoke to a legal expert who confirms what I said:

A prosecution of the guy who found the phone is going to be really tough because he apparently did make efforts to return the phone. Theft is failing to try to return it. It’s going to be difficult to decide how much effort he made and whether that was sufficient.

("Difficult" is good for the defendant in a criminal case, because the state's burden of proof must go beyond reasonable doubt.)

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Purpose-Maximizing Business Design

This is really a great book.

If you've read The Four-Hour Work Week you're familiar with the idea that you can design a business not around maximum profit but minimal effort. Drive made me recognize the connection between that and people like Muhammad Yunnus, the Nobel Prize winner who championed micro-loans, or the L3C movement, which enables people to organize "low-profit corporations" which function by turning a profit but don't exist for the sake of profit. Just as a 4HWW "muse" business throws out max profit as a goal and optimizes on minimal effort, an L3C business disregards maximum profit and optimizes on maximum social good.

From Drive:

An L3C in North Carolina, for instance, is buying abandoned furniture factories in the state, updating them with green technology, and leasing them back to beleaguered furniture manufacturers at a low rate. The venture hopes to make money, but its real purpose is to help revitalize a struggling region.

They say "work to live, not live to work." If you have a take-what-you-get attitude to the world, that means just take it easy and enjoy life as well as working. But if you have an entrepreneurial, world-shaping attitude, it means your projects may need to generate revenue to be self-sustaining, but that doesn't mean they have to be mindless, soulless giant robots strip-mining the world for profit. It's not just you that should work to live, not live to work; your companies should work to live, not live to work as well.

It's Important To Have Fun

Open source depends on intrinsic motivation with the same ferocity that older business models rely on extrinsic motivation, as several scholars have shown. MIT management professor Karim Lakhani and Boston Consulting Group consultant Bob Wolf surveyed 684 open-source developers, mostly in North America, about why they participated in these projects. Lakhani and Wolf uncovered a range of motives, but they found "that enjoyment-based intrinsic motivation, namely how creative a person feels when working on the project, is the strongest and most pervasive driver." A large majority of programmers, the researchers discovered, reported that they frequently reached the state of optimal challenge called "flow." Likewise, three German economists found that what drives participants is "a set of predominantly intrinsic motives" - in particular, "the fun... of mastering the challenge of a given software problem" and the "desire to give a gift to the programmer community."

From Drive by Dan Pink.

Open source can do a lot for your programming career, or at least, a lot of programmers who've done well have participated a great deal in open source - which is not the same thing - so a lot of programmers participate in open source because it's good for their careers. This is a good idea, but it's not enough to produce great results in your career. There's a bit of a paradox: to make your open source contributions benefit your career, you need to find a reason for doing open source which goes beyond the benefit it brings to your career.

If you think about effort applied once, you judge its success or failure by the product it creates. If you think about effort applied over time on an ongoing basis, you judge its success or failure by the process it involves. The benefits from involving yourself in the open source process are (with very few exceptions) much, much greater than the benefits of creating any arbitrary open source product.

process ftw

Open source devs have a saying: "Scratch your own itch." It represents the belief that you're going to write the best code when you solve your own problems, because the process becomes brief, honest, and immediate. The OOP and XP communities gave us an acronym, YAGNI, which is kind of a mirror image to "ccratch your own itch." YAGNI stands for "you ain't gonna need it" and represents the belief that if you can't prove for a fact that you need to make a given decision right now then you throw it out. Don't build the feature, don't prepare ahead of time, only solve the problems that are right in front of you.

YAGNI and "scratch your own itch" don't just keep code clean, elegant, and succinct, they also keep it honest. The worst code you will ever encounter in your career will contain program logic which does something completely different than it claims to, either in its comments or its method, variable, and object names. Programmers spend more time talking about good and evil than priests or preachers do. The reason is simple: bad code is nothing but lies.

If you go into a project determined to write some open source code because it's a vital requirement for your career, the moralizing which comes with programming will combine with that seriousness and turn you into a royal Puritan asshole. So you have to make your open source code fun. What happens if you don't have an itch to scratch? You find a toy to play with. Don't find a job to do; that's not how it works.

There's another reason, too. If you're starting out writing open source, then by definition, you haven't yet established a habit of writing open source. As an experiment, try to create two habits: a habit to do something serious every morning, and a habit to do something fun every evening. With the first, you face an uphill battle, but not with the second. The best way to learn something is to make it fun.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Twitter Annotations

This is huge.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Internet Marketing For Alpha Geeks: Unplanned Bonus

Internet Marketing For Alpha Geeks goes off the market at 4pm today.

Since selling this video is itself an internet marketing experiment - and the video talks about the role of marketing experiments - anybody who buys the video will also get an exclusive recap: a summary of the experiment, how it succeeded, how it failed, what I learned from it, and how I plan to use what I've learned.

Why It's OK To Manipulate Google

A lot of people hate SEO. Any attempt to influence the search engines looks like underhanded manipulation to them. You can say they overreact, but here's the truth: it would be fine even if they weren't overreacting. It's OK to manipulate Google. Here's why.

Say I don't want to use Twitter on the Web. Say I google for a Twitter client. What does Google give me?

Say you feel Tweetie is the best Twitter client. (Twitter did.) Google gives me useless noise before Tweetie: any combination of the word "Twitter" and "client", with none of Google's usual concern for relevance. Why does it do this? Because this useless noise happens to be on Twitter.

Google engineers buy into the Imperial Californian Ideology. One core tenet of this ideology is that integrating Twitter into your product and/or service matters much, much more than finding any valid reason to integrate Twitter into your product and/or service. Harmless enough, this time. This isn't enough to justify anything. But there's more.

As a geek and blogger who's discovered internet marketing, I see a lot of internet marketing content that says you need to create a blog, because Google will push your content higher up in the search results if it's on a blog. So start a blog, if you want to game Google. But say you don't want to game Google. Say your goal is to get valid search results from your search engine. You'll fail without knowing it, because Google will overestimate the value of arbitrary content if it appears on a blog.

Google doesn't just buy into the Imperial Californian Ideology; it also presents that ideology as fact.

Google is an author.

Imagine a news anchor who claims an election's over before it really is. The supporters of the "loser" get discouraged and go home. The supporters of the "winner" rally and cheer, and vote anyway because it's fun. The premature declaration of victory becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Google plays this role. Google's self-assured sense of righteousness and goal of "don't be evil" often combine with what appears to be either a desire for omniscience, or a presumption of omniscience. It's like some Google engineers think they're building God, and all the other ones think they already have. But the results they present as objective represent a particular opinion about the Web.

As an aside, the theocratic arrogance is not so surprising, because on a fundamental level, Google is doing what the Roman Catholic Church did. When the Roman Empire fell, its gigantic nervous system stayed intact and transformed into a religious organization. The aristocracy who controlled the Empire, and enjoyed a powerful transnational network for amassing and transferring wealth, dropped their military and their government but kept amassing and transferring wealth. They got so good at rhetoric that they threw away their swords. You don't have to threaten somebody with soldiers and tax collectors if they already think your invisible friend can magic them into a lake of fire for an indefinite period.

Today, the Catholic Church harbors pedophiles from justice; in the Middle Ages, there were Popes who died in the beds of married women. But the Catholic Church also built all the orphanages, schools, hospitals, and libraries of Europe, and continues that tradition today with missionary work all over the world. When people get very wealthy, they often become philanthropic and charitable, or hedonistic and even depraved. The same is true for networks of people. The history of the Catholic Church is filled with philanthropy, charity, depravity, and hedonism because it's been very wealthy for a very long time. It was very wealthy when it was called the beauraucracy of the Roman Empire, it's very wealthy today, and it was very wealthy in between.

You might wonder what this has to do with Google. I'll explain. Many dialects of English exist; depending where you live, the dialect considered correct is the variant spoken by the President of the United States or the variant spoken by the Queen of England. On the internet, no matter where you live, the dialect considered correct is the variant spoken by Google. Today, the rulers of Western society use Google to exert linguistic dominance. The rulers of Western society used to exert linguistic dominance with journalists and professors. Before that, they used Catholic priests. Before that, they used Roman soldiers.

I have to admit, I don't know what else this has to do with Google. It's always interesting to read your own unfinished blog posts and wonder where the hell you were going with something. If I had to guess, I'd say it's about that girl ten years ago who made me think she was going to dump her boyfriend for me but then didn't. Her boyfriend worked for Google. That bitch!

Anyway, I don't know how I was going to pin the Roman Empire on her, but I'm sure it's her fault somehow. Point is, Google pretends to objectivity but insteads presents an opinion about the Web, and that bothers me for some reason. First because it's dishonest to call opinion fact, second because of the Roman Empire somehow, and third because I don't agree with the particular opinion. For instance, in my opinion, Google should only show me results from Twitter when they're useful.

What if that's not the only way I disagree with Google's opinion of the Web?

Google’s algorithm gives preferential treatment to big brand websites.

Say you run a mom-and-pop business selling exercise bikes on the Internet. Say you're having a clearance sale, and it gets on Digg because it's such an amazing clearance sale, and then you go on TV because Larry King wants to interview you about your amazing clearance sale. Good for you! I'm proud. But Google isn't proud of you. If you go on Google, this is what you find: the number one search result on Google for "exercise bike clearance" is an error page on which says "We could not find any matches for exercise bike."

Error pages on carry more weight than valid pages on a mom-and-pop site.

I'm not even going to go into how this provides an obvious counter-example to the crazy authoritarians who claim affecting search results is so evil that even wanting search results to be different makes you a bad person. It's a waste of time; you can always take a flamethrower to a straw man. It demonstrates a more important point.

It's OK to game Google, because Google is gaming you. Google is a pimp, and we are its hoes. They're not building God in Mountain View. They're building (among several other things) a machine for turning the Web into a narrative. The narrative favors entrenched corporations at the expense of independent business, which is a terrible thing. It also favors Palo Alto fashion over practical utility, which is merely annoying. If you think there's something evil about trying to change that narrative, you're nuts. That narrative needs to change; where it's unfair, it needs to become fair, and where it's irritating, it needs to become fun.

By the way, if you're puzzled by the cynicism about religion, I think it's because I just read a great book with a very cynical take on religion: To Reign In Hell, by Steven Brust. I think it's the best Satanist book ever written, but I could be wrong.

Stupid iPad Tricks: iSSH

SSHing into Slicehost:

SSHing into my own laptop:

The quicktime command is an alias for open -a Quicktime\ Player. I used my iPad to launch music on my laptop.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Internet Marketing for Alpha Geeks: last day for a while!

So my new video is only on the market for three days - and I released it on Monday at 4pm. So by my count that means it should go off the market tomorrow at 4pm. For some insane reason I'm on a daily cycle where days start at 4pm. Crazy, but not all that uncommon among people who work from home or with flexible schedules.

Monday, April 12, 2010

It's His Platform, Not Yours

A lot of people say about Apple's latest geek controversy things like "I want to own the product after I buy it"; but hacking an iPhone takes minutes, sometimes only one minute, and iPad hacks will become available and be just as easy. If you want to fully control the device, you can, and no matter what obvious bullshit Apple might spout about the DMCA criminalizing hacking, they don't have a leg to stand on, legally - your property is your property.

However, "your property" covers the product. It doesn't cover the platform. That belongs to Steve Jobs. "Your property" doesn't cover the operating system - that's something you license, not buy. "Your property" does not cover the App Store, either - that's one of Steve Jobs's businesses, and he's free to run it however he sees fit. Angry geeks of the Web, please: Whatever other absurdities you spew out there in your hysteric, thwarted rage, knock it off with the "my property" argument. You just don't have a leg to stand on. There is no validity to that argument at all.

I've been watching this madness for a while now, and avoiding blogging about it because it's just so obviously not worth caring about that I can't figure out what's wrong with you people. I saw one programmer blog that he was "calling on Apple" to change their policies - like we're supposed to all imagine Apple hears that call, or has any incentive in the universe to respond to it, when they don't even open the door to developers until the developers pay them first.

I even saw DHH enter the fray, which is absurd hypocrisy, given that the first time I ever saw this guy, he was putting a giant "Fuck You" slide on a screen and explaining how he wasn't going to add features to Rails that he didn't agree with, because it was his framework, and he didn't believe that anybody who disagreed with him on that merited any other response but "fuck you". What kind of response does he think he merits from Apple? It's Apple's platform, and they're going to do what they want with it. By his own logic, I think we know what response we could expect, if DHH were at a level that even merited a response from Apple in the first place.

Don't get me wrong, I'm no Apple fanboy. I think Steve Jobs is a little bit insane. Only a madman could sell iPods for ten years before he got the brilliant idea to put speakers in there that you can actually hear. I think Apple's DMCA argument is bullshit; I think Apple broke the law bricking people's hacked iPhones, and that the Department of Justice should prosecute. I even think that making iPhone OS a closed platform has Apple shooting itself in the foot. But even given that I think Jobs is a little crazy, all this furious programmer outrage is just beyond insane to me. It's not your platform and it never was.

Geeks control the Internet because geeks built the Internet. We earned the freedom we have here. We earned it by creating something incredibly valuable and sharing it with millions and millions of people. What did we earn with the App Store? Did we build the App Store? Did we write iPhone OS? Did we design the groundbreaking hardware? Or are we just customers?

If geeks want the power to make any kind of decision in this situation, they need to get off their lazy asses and stop imagining that the world owes them a favor. There is absolutely nothing preventing you from building an alternative operating system for the iPhone and/or iPad. The overwhelming majority of the work is already complete; more Linux variants exist than I can comfortably imagine. If you build an iPhone/iPad Linux variant, you can demand freedom on that platform, and not only that, you can enforce your demands. But to make ridiculous bellyaching noises about how somebody owes you something for free is just disgusting freeloader bullshit.

And all this hyperbole about a war between Google and Apple is just ridiculous. If it were war, Google would be the one challenging Apple's flimsy DMCA bullshit, not the EFF. Google would be the one building a Linux OS for the iPhone. But they're not. They've even got the OS, but are they porting it? No. Their rule is "don't be evil." They have no rule against being dickless.

When people say "I want to own the product after I buy it", what they mean is, "I want to own the App Store after I buy an iPhone or an iPad, and indeed, I want to control the App Store before I buy an iPhone or an iPad, as a precondition of buying one." It's not going to happen, and I don't understand why anybody is talking about it, because there's absolutely no logical reason to imagine it would. Apple has taken this attitude with developers for almost as long as I have been living and breathing.

It's a very successful attitude and it's worked very well for them. If they had a different attitude, they'd be a bigger company, and some of their problems trace to that attitude, but Jobs has gone on record saying that he never saw himself as losing to Microsoft, because his goal was not to create a ubiquitous company; he wanted a company like Porsche, a luxury brand for people with good taste, and he created one. This attitude is a big part of what got him there. I'm not even saying I like the attitude, but I know one thing for sure: it works.

Geeks got used to the idea that they get anything they want for free, but it's time for a reality check. Steve Jobs got the freedom to say "it's my platform and I can do what I want" because he built it and you didn't. DHH got that same freedom the same way, a few years ago, and looks ridiculous defending that freedom when he has it but attacking that freedom when someone else has it. But DHH and Steve Jobs are not the point. The point is, you get this freedom by making things for other people, not by whining on the bloggowebs about how Apple owes you something.

I totally respect if people decide they don't want to develop for iPhone OS under these circumstances. But it's ridiculous if you expect Apple to care. If Apple's haughty attitude sends away great developers, it won't be the first time; and if Apple's haughty attitude sends away great developers, but still leads to amazing products and amazing profits, it won't be the first time. This is history repeating itself, and if you really think it's news, you need to quit whining with your ignorant ass and go read a book. This is how Apple does business, and it just works.

New Video Launching 4pm Monday

It's technically already Monday - it stopped being late night Sunday and turned into early morning Monday an hour and forty-five minutes ago. But the new video won't launch until Monday afternoon. I'm going to make it available for a few days at half price, then take it off the market so I can focus on building a video download site - my current system is very hacky - and then bring it back on the market at full price. I'm not sure when that will be. So, when it goes on sale, that's the opening of a brief window.

The new video explains how I pay the rent without having a job. You get details, including my sales numbers for my last video; background on the information marketers I trust and/or respect; business models; and where to learn more. However, the focus is not on details but principles.

I am not an ebook gazillionaire. I am a tech industry refugee who wandered into the land of the ebook gazillionaires, learned the essential principles of how they do business, and used those principles to escape working for anybody else. I thought it would take a year, but I did it in a month.

FTC required disclaimer: typical results are unknown, but I am absolutely not telling you that if you buy this video, you'll be running your own business and working from home a month from now. All I'm saying is, that's pretty much what happened to me - I suppose you could say it was two months, depending how you define your terms - and although I absolutely can't guarantee any kind of result for you, I can tell you how I did it and what I learned. Sorry FTC but I'm really tired. The real post, when I actually release the video, will have a better disclaimer.

I did all this by studying successful information marketers to understand them and generalize principles from what they do. I read at least 10 books and watched at least 15 hours of video. I don't want to calculate how many mp3s I listened to, but it's got to be at least another 10 or 20 hours' worth. This hour and a half video condenses all that research into six key principles, and presents those principles, along with plenty of context, so you can see how to apply them in your own business or businesses. It also includes detail about five business experiments, some of which ended up paying for my bills and my iPad. You'll find out what succeeded, what failed, and why.

I've been working hard to get this thing ready, so I'm a bit too tired to go into my usual salesy spiel, but this is a good video, and it's only going to be available for a limited time before the price doubles. It's probably obvious what I think the smart move is going to be.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Controlling Propellerhead Record With an iPad

By Kurt Kurasaki, aka Peff, author of what is easily the most sophisticated book on Reason (and I've read them all, or close to it). I got to see Peff demo cool Reason hacks at the Producer's Conference last year. Follow him if you use Reason!

Friday, April 9, 2010

DJing On An iPad

In this video, I refer to a previous video, but YouTube and/or my browser and/or my wifi failed at uploading that previous video. So here's one I did the other day:

Likewise, the audio's not that great, so here's a couple mp3s done with the same iPad app, but recorded to Ableton Live via line in, rather than just picked up by the mic in my camera.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

How I Avoid Driving To Work Every Morning

I avoid driving to work every morning by not having a job; by running a few very small businesses from home. I'm going to sell a video explaining exactly how I do this, and what principles drive it, so you can study it and perhaps do the same thing.

I think I'll sell it starting Monday, the 12th. I also think I'm only going to have it on sale for a few days. I haven't fully decided, but I'll know soon.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

New Information Product Coming Soon!

Stay tuned!

Another Happy Customer

Thanks Raphael!

The video he's praising: How To Get A Kickass Job, Making Six Figures Working (From Home) With The Stars Of Your Community, Even If You Just Got So Fired That The Cops Hauled You Out Of The Building In Handcuffs

Help Wanted: Rails Volunteer Work

I want to build a review site for Rails and Ruby books which includes affiliate links to the books being reviewed. We'll donate all the profit to Rails and Ruby open source projects, and since we can set it up on Heroku for free, it'll all be profit. In addition to written reviews - which takes time and effort - we'll also allow people to endorse any book with just two clicks via Twitter OAuth, and possibly also by collecting retweets, since these provide a reliable emergent metric of a book's popularity among the Ruby cognoscenti. In the case of ebooks, like JavaScript Performance Rocks! or The Rails 3 Upgrade Handbook, direct affiliate programs usually exist, and in the case of books from regular publishers, we'll use Amazon affiliate links.

I'm really too busy to build this myself, so I need developers. Obviously this is pro bono work, no pay, but the karma's fantastic. If you're interested, e-mail me at, and please use "Help Wanted: Rails Volunteer Work" as the subject line, because I'm already behind on my e-mail, and anything which makes it easier to organize makes it easier to do.

Update: I got way more responses than I expected, so I'm not sure what to do now, but on the upside, there's now a #radog channel on freenode (stands for Ruby Automated Donation Generator, I think).

Monday, April 5, 2010

Evaluating Reddit Ads With Bayesian Probability: Messy First Attempt

Not long ago I did an experiment with Reddit ads, promoting my first information product, and an extremely naive analysis led me to believe the Reddit ads gave me an astounding 200% ROI. Yow!

However, I don't yet have proof of the ROI, and I need to be sure. The big ironic secret about Internet marketing is that the cartoon stereotype Internet marketing business which sells ridiculous ebooks on how to lose weight, bang hot chicks, and/or teach your parrot to sing the blues does so in a much more scientific way than any company I've ever seen in the tech industry - and I've seen a lot. It's all about precise math and clean data. If you can't prove an Internet marketing ad's usefulness mathematically, you don't buy.

Me, I've been in tech long enough to be tainted with its superstition, but I'm warming up to the Internet marketing way of thinking, so here's what I did. I spent $100 on Reddit ads, and $150 on books about statistics, probability, and web analytics. Then, since I had my data in CSV format and I was comfortable surfing around inside it with Utility Belt's unique combination of IRB and vim, I decided to have a little fun with it. By "fun" I mean "math."

By the way, at MountainWest RubyConf, I showed pictures of adorable or scary animals to counteract the inherent boredom of reading math.

Like, for instance, the hippopotamus.

I can't believe I found this.

The math to use: Bayes' Theorem. Here's Bayes' Theorem in a nutshell, first in English, then in Math, and finally in Ruby:

To find the probability that it rained, if you know that the ground is wet, multiply the probability of the ground being wet, when it rains, times the probability of it having rained, and then divide all that by the probability of the ground being wet.

P(R, if W) = (P(W, if R) * P(R)) / P(W)

I stole the code from a Python program I wrote 2005ish called rock_paper_scissors, which I had copied from an O'Reilly book which presented it in C, not Python (and used the more violent metaphor of kung fu). rock_paper_scissors learns your rock-paper-scissors strategy; if you play against it over and over again, the same way every time, it'll figure out how to beat you. (Given one of the dumbest possible interpretations of "figure out".)

I used Python because I'd never coded anything in C. However, if I'd known C, I would have used C. If I had learned Lisp first, and gotten incredible at it, I'm sure this code would be amazing. However, here's a hippo crossing a river.

So let's find the probability that I'll make money, if I buy Reddit Ads, by multiplying the probability that I buy Reddit Ads, when I make money, times the probability that I'll make money, and then dividing it all by the probability that I'll buy Reddit Ads.

P($, if R) = (P(R, if $) * P($)) / P(R)

I don't want to go into the numbers here; I'm shy about sharing private business data, and these numbers fail the science test. There's traffic unaccounted for, from both Hacker News and Twitter; I didn't do any click-tracking on my Reddit ads; Reddit and Google Analytics of course give me conflicting numbers of pageviews; and I hadn't at this point discovered the CSV export in Google Checkout, so I only did my math against the sales from PayPal.

However, to get these values, you're just looking at the frequency of these events. The O'Reilly book equivalated frequencies with probabilities, and until I get all the way through that $150 worth of books on probability and statistics that I ordered from Amazon, that's going to have to be good enough for me. Probability of making money, for example, was the number of times I saw sales above the daily average, divided by the number of days for which I was looking at sales figures. Probability I'd run Reddit ads was calculated a similar way. You get the idea.

This initial run through Bayes' Theorem indicated a 45% probability that running Reddit ads would give me a nice boost in sales. I looked at that 45% number and decided it was wrong, because, comparing it to my sales/traffic spreadsheet, I saw that both times I had run Reddit ads so far, I had seen a sales boost. So I disregarded my Bayesian analysis and went and bought more on Reddit ads. The ads didn't sell.

Two failed Reddit promos followed after a pair of successful ones, which very roughly validates the 45% rate my Bayesian analysis had predicted. You have to take that with a massive grain of salt, given all the shortcomings in my "science" here, but even so, the next time my numbers tell me I only have a 45% chance of seeing a return on investment, and I see a string of ROI, I might just recognize a lucky streak for what it is and avoid throwing good money away.


What in hell is going on with these people?

Jeff Jarvis on the iPad:

The iPad is retrograde. It tries to turn us back into an audience again...We also hear, as in David Pogue's review, that this is our grandma's computer. That cant is inherently snobbish and insulting. It assumes grandma has nothing to say. But after 15 years of the web, we know she does. I've long said that the remote control, cable box, and VCR gave us control of the consumption of media; the Internet gave us control of its creation. Pew says that a third of us create web content. But all of us comment on content, whether through email or across a Denny's table. At one level or another, we all spread, react, remix, or create. Just not on the iPad.

From a blog post called The iPad: Where Creativity Goes to Die.

My response, in a comment:

the first thing I did with my iPad was make music. I draw with it, too. take a look at iElectribe, iDrum, Brushes, Sketchbook Pro, TouchOSC, Midipad, or any of the (very many) other apps for creative work. the New Yorker had already put three sketches done in Brushes on its cover back when Brushes was just an iPhone app and the iPad was barely even a rumor.

I also make music every day and draw from time to time as well. not a coincidence. creative people are doing creative things with the iPad. if you haven't done anything creative with your iPad, that's not the device, it's you.

even your own argument that Grandma has something to say fails here. Grandma can say it with an iPad. I'm writing this comment on an iPad. WordPress has an iPad app. all that Web 2.0 goodness is available on an iPad. the only Web technology it omits, Flash, is also the one Web tech that is more often consumed than created.

It only took a few seconds to poke holes in this guy's argument from two different angles. It was like playing chess against a Labrador Retriever. But that blog post was just one hurtling nugget in a giant tornado of horseshit. The iPad is driving the bloggowebz nuts.

I'm going to address this relentless blog noise about the iPad, but first things first: I bought one. I love it. Here's a few pictures. These all come from my photo set on Flickr.

DJing app Sonorasaurus Rex.

Watching Justice League on the Netflix app, my new TV.

iPads ship with a free copy of Winnie The Pooh.

My Hacker News mashup Hacker Newspaper looks great on an iPad.

Marvel comics look great on an iPad too.

This last pic is of Korg's iElectribe app, which simulates a Korg Electribe drum machine. I've owned two of these drum machines.

They're fantastic, and the app simulates them very well.

Here's a video with the Korg app (it starts with a harp app).

If you liked that, here's a couple mp3s I did with the Korg.

Here's another video, of a terrific video game called Geometry Wars Touch.

So there you have it - the reality of the iPad. It's good to start with reality. Very few blog posts about the iPad start with that step, but I think it's an important step all the same.

The post about "where creativity goes to die" disregards reality for corporate hype - Jarvis's core argument is that the iPad is anti-creative because Time magazine created an app for it - but the noisiest post which skips this crucial step disregards reality in favor of knee-jerk open source ideology. Cory Doctorow waves his hands like Glenn Beck and wails "Won't somebody think of the children?"

The way you improve your iPad isn't to figure out how it works and making it better. The way you improve the iPad is to buy iApps. Buying an iPad for your kids isn't a means of jump-starting the realization that the world is yours to take apart and reassemble; it's a way of telling your offspring that even changing the batteries is something you have to leave to the professionals.

Like much of Doctorow's writing, this is naïve, histrionic, and derivative. Doctorow copied his argument from Twitter developer Alex Payne:

The thing that bothers me most about the iPad is this: if I had an iPad rather than a real computer as a kid, I’d never be a programmer today. I’d never have had the ability to run whatever stupid, potentially harmful, hugely educational programs I could download or write. I wouldn’t have been able to fire up ResEdit and edit out the Mac startup sound so I could tinker on the computer at all hours without waking my parents. The iPad may be a boon to traditional education, insofar as it allows for multimedia textbooks and such, but in its current form, it’s a detriment to the sort of hacker culture that has propelled the digital economy.

In a postscript to his post, Payne showed a tiny bit more restraint:

First off, my remark about not learning to program if I had an iPad wasn’t intended to be a blanket statement about any child not learning to program on the device. There are plenty of kids out there who are way smarter and more motivated than I was in my formative years, and I’m sure they’ll tinker no matter what obstacles are put in their way.

As restraint goes, that's some pretty grudging, passive-aggressive restraint. Alex Payne is sure that some kind of driven superkid with incredible mental powers could learn to program with three rocks and a piece of string if they really wanted to. He's totally not being sarcastic at all. I recognize that kind of postscript; I've written them myself. I imagine he wrote it after his initial blog post got a lot of incoherent, angry replies. It happens.

He continues:

The iPad could actually be a great platform for teaching kids to program if Apple decides to remove the artificial restrictions on running interpreted code on the iPad/iPhone OS.

These restrictions upset a lot of people when the iPhone first arrived. Programmers, and the ideologues who pander to them, were hopping mad, because Apple banned their favorite toy. But how else do you prevent machines from being hacked? Apple made a strategic choice that enabled them to maintain extremely high standards in an era where people are hacking major city billboards to show porn just because they can - a hilarious trick, except it triggered a heart attack in one elderly motorist - and geeks worldwide, with characteristic social obliviousness, assume it's about them. Listen up, programmers. It's not about you. It's about that guy in his 80s in Moscow who you nearly killed by accident while you were doing something idiotic and childish because it was fun.

Comic: SMBC.

The proliferation of interpreted languages and ubiquitous computers means you can hack just about anything.

What should Apple do? Expose themselves to lawsuits over compromised business data and lost personal privacy, to avoid annoying a few nerds who can solve the problem themselves anyway? With Apple's hostility to hacking, the only people who can get hacked are the ones who went outside the system. It's like Warcraft, where the only way another player can attack you is if you choose to play on a server where that's allowed to happen.

It's not like the actual hacking itself is difficult in any way, shape, or form. You can unlock an iPhone and put it on T-Mobile with virtually no effort. If you're too lazy to do it, you can find a dude on Craigslist who'll do it for you for fifty bucks. Hackers unlocked the iPad in less than 24 hours. It's easy to hack your own machine. It's just very difficult to hack anybody else's.

I'm not a fan of Apple's closed-source attitude. In 2007, I blogged here about a class-action lawsuit which asserted that Apple violated Federal law when it bricked jailbroken iPhones. I support that lawsuit; I even think Steve Jobs should do time for that shit. But it's easy to see the business reasons here, and it doesn't constitute a threat to your four-year-old's future, or doom for creative tinkering worldwide.

John Gruber provides a more measured response, pointing out that "the children" - the ones we're supposed to be thinking of - are already on the App Store, selling apps:

The iPad and iPhone are closed compared to personal computers, yes. But they are remarkably open compared to so many kinds of computing devices. Here’s an email I received today from Sam Kaplan...

He’s 13 years old and he has created (with the help of his friend, 14-year-old designer Louis Harboe) and is selling an iPad app in the same store where companies like EA, Google, and even Apple itself distribute iPad apps. His app is ready to go on the first day the product is available. Not a fake app. Not a junior app. A real honest-to-god iPad app. Imagine a 13-year-old in 1978 who could produce and sell his own Atari 2600 cartridges.

Somehow I don’t think young Mr. Kaplan sees the iPad as hurting his sense of wonder or entrepreneurism.

I heard a sentiment similar to Gruber's from a longtime Mac developer and book author with a few apps in the App Store:

As for the app store submission process, it's generally a lot better than some loudmouths contend. Even with its faults, compared to delivering native code for any previous mobile platform, or god forbid shipping boxed software to stores, the app store model is so much better it's like a different planet. The problem is all these devs who cut their teeth on web dev, where shipping == "pushing to server" (or even "editing live page in vim"), for them waiting a week is like waiting for eternity.

(No link, this was a private e-mail.)

Now is as good a time as any to introduce Bowkett's Law: any time an argument comes down to "think of the children!", you've reached a threshold point which guarantees the presence of bullshit.

As an aside, it's kind of ironic that Doctorow's last book was a kids book about kids who use technology, when his argument can't even stand up to one kid who uses technology in real life.

This trend of bad logic and faulty reasoning among iPad haters continues with somebody who compares computers to stoves and iPads to microwaves, and then says that Apple wants you to buy only microwaves, never stoves, despite the fact that according to his own analogy, Apple sells both.

No one will become a world-famous chef by playing with making food in the microwave when they’re 12. The stove presents much more opportunity to mess up and spend hours cleaning up the aftermath, or even burn down the place. It also presents an opportunity for expression and exploration that just cannot be realized in the limited nature of the microwave oven.

It looks like Apple would really, really like it if more people would get rid of their stoves and only use microwaves.

I'm going to assume for the sake of argument we can agree that any time a company spends money to build something and sell it to you, they want you to buy it. That means we can disregard this foolishness as noise. Apple is not trying to destroy your precious computer. Apple is trying to sell you a stove and a microwave. Apple spends a lot of money and effort building and selling both types of product, and you can't use the "microwave" unless you plug it into a "stove" (an iPad is useless without a computer which runs iTunes). It's easy to explain this without some crazy conspiracy theory about the end of programming: they want to sell both kinds of product, because they believe that a market exists for both kinds of product.

This is actually the same mistake that Alex Payne makes:

The thing that bothers me most about the iPad is this: if I had an iPad rather than a real computer as a kid, I’d never be a programmer today.

The assumption is you're going to replace your "real computer" with an iPad, but that would be like replacing your real dog with an Aibo.

The iPad is going to destroy the laptop the same way that Linux destroyed the mainframe, which is to say, in no way at all:

Infoworld's Stewart Alsop famously predicted that the last mainframe would be unplugged in 1996.

That trend started to turn around in the late 1990s... The growth of e-business also dramatically increased the number of back-end transactions processed by mainframe software... Another factor currently increasing mainframe use is the development of the Linux operating system... IBM's quarterly and annual reports in the 2000s usually reported increasing mainframe revenues and capacity shipments.

Linux led to more mainframes being made and sold today than were made and sold during the days when the mainframe represented the pinnacle of computer technology. This is not actually an unusual phenomenon. Today there are more people making Stone Age arrowheads than there were in the Stone Age; we also have more blacksmiths than the Middle Ages did. The population explosion our species has seen in the last few hundred years is unbelievably fucking huge; hobbyist communities in obscure niches today are larger than the human populations of entire continents in the days before metallurgy or agriculture. Likewise, for all the money that "the music industry" is losing, the number of real honest-to-God musicians who make money from their music has increased since the dawn of mp3.

(By the way, if anybody else has read the book(s) where I found this stuff about blacksmiths and the Stone Age, please tell me on Twitter (@gilesgoatboy), because I can't remember, so I can't link to it, and this inability to back up a controversial argument with research is driving me nuts. Same with the music thing, although I do know that I found it after starting with Matthew Ebel's story.)

Anyway. The iPad haters think it's computers or iPads, us or them. This Malthusian attitude, that we'll have to choose one or the other, operates from a presumption of scarcity. Is it rational to presume a scarcity of demand for computing resources? Only if you disregard any and all historical and economic evidence. In a world where Linux drives mainframe sales, where you can still find COBOL jobs, and where new languages spawn new legacies almost every day, the idea that it's either your iPad or your "real computer" is ridiculous.

If you've used an iPad even once in your life, for just a fraction of a second, you know without a shadow of a doubt that the iPad is the future of computing - or at least a future - but take a look at the history here. Did the GUI destroy the command line, or do more people use a command line than ever before in the history of computing? I'll give you a hint: everything Linux did for the mainframe, it did for the command line too, but more so.

It's so easy to counteract all this mania with common sense that you have to wonder how it even got posted on the Web in the first place.

I think they're all just jealous.

I have an iPad and you don't.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Is That An App In Your Pants Or Are You Just Happy To See Me?

There's been a lot of noise about the iPad in the past couple of days, some of it worthwhile, most of it retarded and fucking ridiculous. I'm working on a blog post about this, and it might be good enough to post. You never know. In the meantime, I am sure of one thing. I want to highlight the funniest remark and announce a contest.

The funniest remark came from Nathan Bowers:

I always have apps in my pants.

It wasn't intended as a joke, but it's clearly a joke waiting to happen. Since that's a gift from the gods of comedy, a setup in search of a punchline, my contest goes like this: if you come up with the funniest use of this remark in a tweet or a blog post, all you have to do is tweet it (or a link to it) and include a link to this blog post in your tweet, and you get for free, as your prize, my awesome $39 video, which has a very long title: How To Get A Kickass Job, Making Six Figures Working From Home With The Stars Of Your Community, Even If You Just Got So Fired That The Cops Hauled You Out Of The Building In Handcuffs. You also need to include the hashtag #appsinmypants.

The rules are open-ended, and that's a deliberate choice. You can submit just about anything as long as it complies with these rules.

So to be clear, to play your tweet must:
  1. Use the hashtag #appsinmypants.
  2. Include a link to this blog post.
  3. Use this remark in a funny way, or link to something on your own blog or Tumblr/YouTube/Flickr (etc.) which uses this remark in a funny way.
To win your tweet must also:
  1. Be the funniest.
And if you win, you get my $39 video, entitled How To Get A Kickass Job, Making Six Figures Working From Home With The Stars Of Your Community, Even If You Just Got So Fired That The Cops Hauled You Out Of The Building In Handcuffs. Here's a screenshot:

Here is some praise for it:

Here is a brief sample, and here is a pair of pants:

Contest ends Thursday, April 8th, at 3pm. Ready? Set. Pants!