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Arguing in My Spare Time, September 1999 - December 1999

Title DateStarts WithEnds With
Grover and the Silver Bullet09-01When my kids were younger, one of my favorite bedtime stories for them was a Sesame Street book called "Groverís Resting Places." The most adorable scene is where Grover starts rummaging through a toy box looking for something.the cost of customization of a product or service may be much higher than is realized

--the cost of patching a system may be relatively higher and the cost of rewriting a system relatively lower than is realized

Wampum, Trading Posts, and Barter09-09Quiz: from which well-known doomsday scenario might the following description be taken?

"As conventional markets and monetary systems collapsed, people reverted to primitive forms of exchange.

These cost reductions can be achieved without reverting to wampum, trading posts, and barter. And genuine cost reductions will not require hype or investor exuberance to sustain their viability.
Boids and Kenny Rogers 09-18"Today, however, we are trying to straddle the fence--to maintain the traditional mind-set, in which capital is the key resource and the financier is the boss, while bribing knowledge workers to be content to remain employees by giving them bonuses and stock options."Prediction is particularly difficult if we accept the premise that talent must allocate itself. Both the "boids" problem and the "Kenny Rogers" problem are challenging.
Personalization, Portability, and Ownership09-25It has been said of Microsoft that their software products have to go through three or four iterations before they begin to get it right. Their Internet strategy seems to have followed a similar course.A better alternative would be for standards and tools to emerge that allow individuals and businesses to interact on the basis of individual data, without taking the ownership of that data away from the consumer. To the extent that Microsoft is headed in that direction, the current iteration of its Internet strategy is relatively forward-looking.
Low Growth, High "q"10-09In venture capital parlance, an "elevator speech" is a concise description of a business. When "q" settles down to a more reasonable level, I expect that the successful companies will be the ones that still can give elevator speeches.
A Sequence of Miscalculations10-12One of my beliefs about competition is that the business world is very forgiving of mistakes. This is based on my own experience.But a couple of percent of $85 million is still real money, particularly considering the sequence of mistakes, miscalculations, misjudgments, and erroneous forecasts that led to it.
Building a Bridge to Neil Postman10-17If media-studies professor Neil Postman understood marketing, he would have titled his new book "The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Philosophes." The new constitution of checks and balances that is required in education today is one that needs to be worked out.
Effective Tournaments10-26"Iím going to do it differently next time," Rob Main said to me last week during lunch. "Iím not going to work hard, risk all of my own money, and build real software. When I start my next business, Iím just going to pick a topic, put up a web site, get someone else to pay for it, lose tons of money, and go public after nine months."My guess is that for the Internet economy to perform the important task of separating winners from losers in the future, we are going to have to come up with a more effective tournament.
Microsoft and the Anointed11-08I live in a neighborhood where liberalism is so entrenched that my friends have no idea how to argue with conservatives. Diversity in political discussion consists of articulating different ways to denounce the evils of Republicans.Legal authorities, believing that they know how to correct the imperfect products of engineers and businessmen, will be able to impose their vision on us. Based on my reading of Thomas Sowell, I greet this prospect with fear rather than ecstasy.
Douglas Rushkoff, Anvil Salesman11-15In one of my all-time favorite movies, "The Music Man," the protagonist is a con artist who sells band instruments and uniforms to the rubes living in small-town Iowa. His opponent is an anvil salesman, If the cult model is correct, then the prophets of the "long boom" are likely to become even more fanatical over time. "The Music Manís" happy ending brings tears of joy to my eyes. But I have a feeling that in the real world, we are going to wish that we had listened to the anvil salesman.
People Protocols12-03The week of November 29, the city of Seattle was the scene of an uninformed mob feebly attempting by anachronistic methods to alter the shape of the future. While I could be referring to the demonstrators protesting the meeting of the World Trade Organization, in fact what I mean is the WTO itself. IMy guess is that we no longer are in an environment in which government can operate effectively. The People Protocols, like the Internet Protocols, probably will be developed by ad hoc task forces and implemented as companies compete to take advantage of important new standards.
Data Mining is a Fad 12-15In the spring of 2000, I am scheduled to teach a night-school course on starting an Internet business. The students may be disappointed, because my background is limited to one entrepreneurial effort. Michael Saylor and other scions of corporate data mining, who promise corporations big rewards for extracting data from consumers, could end up hitting a home run. But I see the thirty-mile-per-hour wind blowing in the other direction.
The Weird Turn Pro--my Web Faves 12-23"When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro" -Hunter Thompson, 1971.

Below are ten of my favorite web sites, listed in order of when I became aware of the site.

[10] is somebody who really understands the Internet. I just wish he could explain it more clearly to mortals like me.