January 12, 2004
Yet Another Must-Read... Weblog

Is Dan Froomkin allowed to call the White House Briefing he has started doing for the Washington Post a "weblog"? It is an extraordinarily fine one. I have only one question: what is the URL for its archives going to be? It is truly a wonderful world we live in, in which someone as smart and energetic as Dan Froomkin is functioning as my personal pre-processor for White House-related news......

Posted by DeLong at 11:25 AM

January 07, 2004
Eating Your Own Dogfood!

In a passage that seems ripped from a cyberpunk novel, a daring reporter hacks into the key communications system of a group of high corporate executives, monitors their daily activities, and then ambushes them by posting probing questions about their forthcoming unannounced merger directly to their computer screens. Of course, the "key communications system" was nothing but AOL. The "high corporate executives" were the executives of AOL itself. The "daring reporter" is Wall Street Journal reporter Kara Swisher. She "monitored their daily activities" by adding them to her own AOL Buddy List. And the direct access to their screens was provided by AOL Instant Messenger. AOL executives back then really did eat their own dogfood. And reporters covering them ate it too. From Kara Swisher and Lisa Dickey (2003), There Must Be a Pony in Here Somewhere: The AOL Time Warner Merger Debacle and the Quest for the Digital Future (New York: Crown Business: 1400049636). pp. 1-7: ...the door slammed in my face from 3000 miles away.... Luckily for me, it wasn't a heavy wooden door, but a virtual one. Many virtual ones being banged shut by different high-level executives at America Online Inc. almost immediately after I pinged...

Posted by DeLong at 04:16 PM

January 03, 2004
The 2004 Bruce Sterling State of the World Address

The 2004 Bruce Sterling State of the World Address: Bruce Sterling: In the case of the American polity, the manual is supposed to be the Constitution. It gets kinda spooky when power-players in the USA decide to no longer read it. I'm very interested indeed in smart-mobs, but a mob isn't a democracy, no matter how much hardware its members may be carrying or how clever they get at deploying it. Woodstock is unexpected, delightful and surprising, because nobody expected it and there are huge raw energies there. Altamont comes to grief. It's like a principle. Burning Man doesn't come to grief, but Burning Man has a cabal of hardened, experienced cadres, it only lasts three days, and it's swarming with cops. Burning Man is organization disguised as licence. If bikers started beating and knifing naked people at Burning Man they'd be jumped on by Danger Rangers and Nevada cops with guns. Burning Man is a party, not a city-state. I'm gonna believe in the Internet as a true-blue "platform for democracy" when a bunch of people go start some new settlement, using the Internet first, and then a town *grows up around that.* It's like the apotheosis of the...

Posted by DeLong at 08:13 AM

December 24, 2003
Frank Rich on Howard Dean's Internet Campaign

Frank Rich on Howard Dean's internet campaign: Frank Rich: Napster Runs for President in 04: Even after Saddam Hussein was captured last weekend, all that some people could talk about was Howard Dean. Neither John Kerry nor Joe Lieberman could resist punctuating their cheers for an American victory with sour sideswipes at the front-runner they still cannot fathom (or catch up to). Pundits had a nearly unanimous take on the capture's political fallout: Dr. Dean, the one-issue candidate tethered to Iraq, was toast — or, as The Washington Post's Tom Shales memorably put it, "left looking like a monkey whose organ grinder had run away." I am not a partisan of Dr. Dean or any other Democratic candidate. I don't know what will happen on Election Day 2004. But I do know this: the rise of Howard Dean is not your typical political Cinderella story. The constant comparisons made between him and George McGovern and Barry Goldwater — each of whom rode a wave of anger within his party to his doomed nomination — are facile. Yes, Dr. Dean's followers are angry about his signature issue, the war. Dr. Dean is marginalized in other ways as well: a heretofore obscure...

Posted by DeLong at 11:55 AM

December 13, 2003
Another Milestone Is Reached

James Surowiecki writes in the Chaucer comment thread, apropos of downloading 10,000 books from Project Gutenberg onto my hard disk: Apologies in advance: this has nothing to do with Chaucer, but instead is about the pace of technological change. Anyway, I was reading George Gilder's "Life After Television" today (don't ask why), and came across a passage where he was talking about the challenge that the PC would pose to the cost structure of centralized databases (which at the time charged thousands of dollars for searches). Gilder writes of this one guy who was trying to come with an alternative pricing method for information (this is in 1988): "[His computer's] hard-disk memory could hold dozens of megabytes of information, or the amount of data contained in more than one hundred books . . ." So at a price that, inflation-adjusted, was two or three times as expensive as a good PC today, you could hold the text of "more than a hundred books" on your computer. Now Brad's got 10,000, and it takes up what, a tenth or a fifteenth of a laptop's hard disk (one-seventy-fifth of the storage on my desktop)? We're living through this, and I still think...

Posted by DeLong at 02:54 PM

November 03, 2003
Let Us Now Curse the Webmasters of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York

Let us now curse the webmasters of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. May the Lady and the Shepherd turn their faces from them. May strange intermittent hardware faults plague their systems. May they spend their days dealing with clueless users of high rank and short temper. May they suffer the same "user experience" they offer to others. For they have broken outside links to their website. My post linking to Erica Groshen and Simon Potter's study of employment in the current stagnant-recovery now links to a cheery declaration that "The New York Fed has redesigned its public website. With the user's experience in mind, we have streamlined the navigation, updated the look, and added a more robust search engine. The page or link you requested no longer exists. Please select from the main navigation above or the more detailed drop-down menus to find the information you seek. You can also check out the site map or use the search engine. Don't forget to update your bookmarks." My inline links to their interesting figures are broken as well." Erica Groshen and Simon Potter's piece is now here....

Posted by DeLong at 07:46 AM

October 24, 2003
And Amazon Has Changed the World Again

Gary Wolf writes in Wired about how Amazon has once again changed the world: Wired News: The Great Library of Amazonia: ...An ingenious attempt to illuminate the dark region of books is under way at Amazon.com. Over the past spring and summer, the company created an unrivaled digital archive of more than 120,000 books. The goal is to quickly add most of Amazon's multimillion-title catalog. The entire collection, which went live Oct. 23, is searchable, and every page is viewable. To build the archive, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has had to unravel a tangle of technological and copyright problems. His solution promises to remake the publishing business and give Amazon a powerful new weapon in its battle against online competitors such as Yahoo, Google, and eBay. But the most interesting thing about the archive is the way it resolves the paradox of the book, respecting its physical form while transcending its limits. I recently drove to a home in Silicon Valley and spent a few hours digitally searching the text of books. My host was Udi Manber, an Israeli-born computer scientist and author of a popular textbook, Introduction to Algorithms: A Creative Approach. Ten years ago, while developing a seminal...

Posted by DeLong at 11:50 AM

Matthew Yglesias Seeks Help

Matthew Yglesias seeks help. I'm going to try to help--but only if he can keep his snarkiness quotient at a high level: Matthew Yglesias: Bleg: Perhaps folks read the "Weekend Update" thingy I wrote for Tapped on Monday morning. The bosses around here want to make that a regular feature, and I'd like to include a wider range of material but, sadly enough, I don't actually have time to read every single word that's printed in the USA. That said, if anybody reads a column or editorial over the weekend in a local paper (i.e., not NY Times or WaPost) that's strikingly insightful -- or really, truly awful -- and feels like e-mailing me a link, it would be a big help....

Posted by DeLong at 11:01 AM

Not Jane Seymour

Because Sumana Harihareswara works in San Francisco, she has not changed her internet name to Jane Seymour: Two Stories of Customer Service: 1. "Hi, this is Sumana with Salon Premium. What can I do for you?" I looked up his information. As I waited for it to appear, he asked, "Are you in India now?" I slowly replied (in my born-and-bred US accent) that no, I am in San Francisco, to which he said, "Same difference." Note that, were I actually in an Indian call center, I would fake a white name. Also, maybe this is why Salon hired me - by using an Indian for customer service, the management fools investors into thinking Salon has cheaply outsourced the work to overseas! 2. I assured a subscriber that I had emailed him a week prior. After digging through his email, he found the message, and explained that he had deleted it because my name looks like a spam name....

Posted by DeLong at 10:55 AM

October 20, 2003
Overkill

It is clear to me that Gregg Easterbrook was hoping to get some sort of a reaction from Disney when he wrote: The New Republic Online: Easterbrook: ...Disney's CEO, Michael Eisner, is Jewish; the chief of Miramax, Harvey Weinstein, is Jewish. Yes, there are plenty of... other Hollywood executives who worship money above all else.... Does that make it right for Jewish executives to worship money above all else, by promoting for profit the adulation of violence? Recent European history alone ought to cause Jewish executives to experience second thoughts about glorifying the killing of the helpless as a fun lifestyle choice. But history is hardly the only concern. Films made in Hollywood are now shown all over the world, to audiences that may not understand the dialogue or even look at the subtitles, but can't possibly miss the message--now Disney's message--that hearing the screams of the innocent is a really fun way to express yourself. I mean, you don't accuse anybody of worshipping Mammon rather than The One Who Is, of desecrating the graves of their murdered relatives, and of moral complicity in suicide bombings in Israel--not unless you are hoping that something will come out of the hole...

Posted by DeLong at 10:19 PM

October 17, 2003
Om Mani Padme Net

If I were younger, I would take Clay Shirky to be my internet guru. I would dress in a bright plain robe, and follow him around, chanting: Shirky: In Praise of Evolvable Systems : Why something as poorly designed as the Web became The Next Big Thing, and what that means for the future. If it were April Fool's Day, the Net's only official holiday, and you wanted to design a 'Novelty Protocol' to slip by the Internet Engineering Task Force as a joke, it might look something like the Web: The server would use neither a persistent connection nor a store-and-forward model, thus giving it all the worst features of both telnet and e-mail. The server's primary method of extensibility would require spawning external processes, thus ensuring both security risks and unpredictable load. The server would have no built-in mechanism for gracefully apportioning resources, refusing or delaying heavy traffic, or load-balancing. It would, however, be relatively easy to crash. Multiple files traveling together from one server to one client would each incur the entire overhead of a new session call. The hypertext model would ignore all serious theoretical work on hypertext to date. In particular, all hypertext links would...

Posted by DeLong at 05:31 PM

October 16, 2003
Neuroceuticals

I foresee a greater focus in our future: Brain Waves: Neurocompetitive Advantage: By enabling a higher level of productivity, neurotechnology represents the next form of competitive advantage beyond information technology.  I call this neurocompetitive advantage.  As I mentioned recently, innovation is one ubiquitous organizational process that will be impacted.  Just as workers today leverage information technologies for competitive purposes, workers in the neurotechnology wave (2010-2060) will turn to neuroceuticals to enhance their competitive performance. As Randall Parker surmises, financial organizations will be the first to leverage neuroceuticals to boost productivity.  He is right on target.  In her seminal work, Technological Revolutions and Financial Capital, Carlota Perez details how financial institutions have been at the forefront of adopting, testing and disseminating the latest cluster of technologies that have driven each of the previous five techno-economic waves.  This goes all the way back to the water mechanization wave (1770-1820) where banks were among the first organizations to extensively use the penny post. As more people live longer and global competition intensifies, many people will turn to regulated neuroceuticals as the next set of tools they will adopt to help them survive and succeed. Using cogniceuticals to increase memory retention, emoticeuticals to decrease stress and sensoceuticals to add a meaningful pleasure gradient, neuroceuticals will allow people to compete without being constrained...

Posted by DeLong at 01:26 PM

October 13, 2003
The Future of Scholarly Publishing

Michael Froomkin watches the future of scholarly publishing happen: Discourse.net: Watch the Future of Journal Publishing Happen: All hail the Public Library of Science Biology the free, elitist (in the nicest possible way), peer-reviewed, open-access journal whose inaugural issue appears today. This is the future for journal publishing, especially as even libraries are being priced out of the market for journals, especially scientific ones. All materials in this web-published attack on high-priced dead tree scientific publishing will be subject to the PLoS Open-Access License which happens to be identical to the Creative Commons Attribution License...

Posted by DeLong at 12:00 PM

October 08, 2003
Markets as Information Sources

Hal Varian writes: The Iowa Electronic Markets won again with an extremely accurate prediction 5 days before the election: Actual Iowa Electronic Markets for recall 54.3%53.5% against recall45.7%44.5% Schwarzenegger46.8%47.0% Bustamante32.4%30.1% Source: http://apnews.myway.com//article/20031008/D7U20PN80.html http://128.255.244.60/quotes/69.html http://www.biz.uiowa.edu/iem/markets/Recall.html...

Posted by DeLong at 08:32 PM

September 25, 2003
One Degree of Separation

Ah. Patrick Nielsen Hayden of Electrolite has found the weblog of my best-friend-from-second-grade Michael Froomkin and recommends his Outstanding Layperson's Summary of the Verisign Fiasco. After Patrick Nielsen Hayden discovered my website he greatly improved my quality-of-life by sending me three not-yet-published books from Tor. (Two very nice historical fiction--realist historical fiction: they tell you that the peacocks eat better than the slaves--novels by H.N. Turteltaub, the published ones in the series are Across the Wine-Dark Sea and The Gryphon's Skull; and one Regency romance-cum-feminist detective story, Point of Honour by Madeleine Robins, that really got me forty pages from the end when it began to dawn on me what the last plot twist was going to be: very highly recommended as well.) Now let's see if somehow free unpublished books from Tor begin showing up in Michael Froomkin's mailbox......

Posted by DeLong at 10:39 AM

September 22, 2003
iPod Serendipity

One of the nicest things about an iPod is discovering songs that you had all but forgotten you owned. After listening again to the Cowboy Junkies' "Miles From My Home," I understand very well why New York Observer columnist Ron Rosenbaum was moved to propose marriage to Margo Timmins of the Cowboy Junkies. After listening to Joan Armatrading's "The Weakness in Me," I do not understand why he did not subsequently propose marriage to her....

Posted by DeLong at 01:56 PM

September 12, 2003
Replacing Big Brother with Big Processor

The end of personal privacy creeps a little closer: Economist.com | MONITOR: THERE are more than 1m closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras in use in Britain, keeping a beady eye on public places in a bid to fight crime and control traffic. This Big Brotherly obsession has caught on elsewhere as concerns about security have mounted since the terrorist attacks of September 2001. But as the number of remote video cameras has risen, so have the problems of dealing with their output. There is not much point in aiming a CCTV camera at a car park or road if nobody is watching its monitor. Of course, many security cameras do not actually need watching all the time. They need watching when something in the image changes significantly. That is why CCTV monitors are stacked in banks in security offices, so one person can scan their otherwise stationary images for changes. Now, engineers at Roke Manor Research, a Siemens subsidiary based on the south coast of Britain, have come up with an automated way of keeping an eye out for change......

Posted by DeLong at 09:14 AM

September 11, 2003
Arnold Kling Thinks He Wants Comments

Arnold Kling thinks he wants comments on his weblog. I'm not sure that he really knows his true preferences. But he does think he has a clever plan to neutralize the downside: Economics: information technology - Corante: The Bottom Line: I want to respond to the typical pushback I get when I extol the virtues of comments.... "Comments turn into flame wars." I have a modest suggestion, which is to have the site automatically preface each comment with "I may be wrong, but,"  That is, If I write, "Virginia, you are an ignorant slut," my comment will be posted as, "I may be wrong, but, Virginia, you are an ignorant slut." Brother Shirky of many-to-many says that software can make a difference in social climate.  I'd be curious to see if an innocent little thing like the automatic "I may be wrong, but, " preface might induce people to change the tone of their comments.  My hope is that it would encourage people to think about how to establish the validity of their arguments as opposed to how to dehumanize their opponents. But even if flame wars break out, I think that a flame war is healthier than the silence...

Posted by DeLong at 02:46 PM

September 10, 2003
Don't Want to Be Churlish

It would be churlish if I were not to note that Tom Maguire has moved his weblog to http://JustOneMinute.typepad.com. Now I'll just look over my shoulder out of fear of the Churl Liberation Front......

Posted by DeLong at 09:37 PM

September 09, 2003
Growth Lunch Talk

I'm supposed to give a very informal talk about American productivity growth at the inaugural growth lunch tomorrow. Here is my handout. Eighteen months ago I would have been pretty confident about what to say. (And, indeed, I said it.) I would have said that the information technology revolution had attained critical mass, and was boosting American prosperity through three channels: Faster productivity growth meant that the labor market could deliver sustained wage increases no greater than the productivity-warranted rate of real wage growth at a lower unemployment rate, and thus that the infotech revoution had reduced the economy's natural rate of unemployment--perhaps by as much as two percentage points. Outstanding productivity growth in the making of infotech products was boosting economy-wide productivity growth by the rate of leading-sector productivity growth times the share of economy-wide total expenditure spent on infotech products. Outstanding productivity growth in infotech boosts economy-wide productivity growth by a further important channel: cheap infotech capital goods raise the economy's capital intensity and boost productivity growth by the rate of leading-sector productivity growth times the quotient of the infotech production-function share divided by labor's production-function share. But the past year and a half's data have been really...

Posted by DeLong at 08:30 PM

September 07, 2003
Email and Service-Sector Productivity

Morgan Stanley's Stephen Roach is an oppressed, exploited, and alienated laborer. His work-activity is not an expression of his species-being as a member of a free society of associated producers, but instead a mind-numbingly and boring accomodation to the requirements of the poor user interface that his technologies of information possess. For Stephen Roach, it is things that are in the saddle and ride mankind: Morgan Stanley: I spent the first 45 minutes of my workday fighting the mindless edicts of the technology gods. I always remind myself not to take it personally. What caused these 45 wasted minutes? Two things, Stephen Roach says: cleaning out the excesses of my e-mail inbox and changing the passcode to my voicemail. Over the years I have become quite adept at performing these tasks, but there’s no getting around the time-intensive nature of the response. And yet these tasks occur with increasing frequency. In a world of information overload, e-mail inboxes hit their limit in shorter and shorter timeframes and the proliferation of passcodes has no end in sight. My reaction is that Stephen Roach is ill-served by his company's IT staff. Changing your voicemail password should take five minutes, tops, even if...

Posted by DeLong at 12:29 PM

September 05, 2003
Golden Founder's Elite Lodge

It's been a while since I mentioned Andrew Northrup's weblog. I apologize because I'm sure everybody reading this already knows it, but it is really gosh-dang wonderful....

Posted by DeLong at 07:25 AM

September 03, 2003
One More Expensive Camera

John Robb predicts that I will buy only one more expensive camera in my lifetime: John Robb's Weblog: This last weekend my brother and I were discussing how long it would take for reusable digital cameras to become as inexpensive as calculators (from $1 to ~$125).  It's fairly clear that the feature set for digital cameras can't extend indefinitely, as has the personal computer (many people thought that PCs would go the way of calculators in the early 80s).  So, the question is: when does the market run out of gas (product differentiation) and move to pure price competition?  There clearly isn't much more headroom in megapixel growth (4 MP is fine for most purposes, particularly when the photos look fantastic on a $150 photo printer or on a 21" monitor).  I expect that differentiator to fade when we hit 7 MP in less than 2 years. Next is storage.  Disk drives, ala personal storage devices (iPod and Archos), will clearly eliminate memory sticks and insertable memory soon.  10 gigabytes of storage will hold 10,000 photos.   The next phase will be digital video features and increased memory to hold those videos.  That race will end in the next five years with 1600x1200 XGA resolution and 500 gigabytes of memory (enough to hold ~5,000...

Posted by DeLong at 03:25 PM

August 28, 2003
In the Shadow of Mt. Moran

In the shadow of Mt. Moran: Lodging at GTLC's Jackson Lake Lodge: Jackson Lake Lodge is situated on a bluff with spectacular views across the water of Jackson Lake to the skyline of the Tetons. There are 348 guest cottage rooms located on either side of the lodge as well as 37 guest rooms in the main lodge building. The upper lobby features 60 foot picture windows framing the Teton Mountain range as well as a collection of Native American artifacts and Western art.... Guest facilities include gift and apparel shops, a large heated outdoor swimming pool, horseback riding, scenic Snake River float trips, lake cruises on Jackson Lake, bus tours of Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks, lake and river fishing, a service station and a medical clinic. Extensive conference facilities are available for groups up to 700 people, featuring 17 breakout rooms, over 17,000 square feet of meeting space and the finest in banqueting conference services. In keeping with the National Park location, rooms do not have televisions or radios, but do have telephones, voicemail and data ports. In what sense are data ports in keeping with its location in the shadow of Mt. Moran? (Not that I...

Posted by DeLong at 08:01 AM

August 27, 2003
Clay Shirky Is Enthusiastic

Clay Shirky is very enthusiastic about world-writable strongly-versioned information systems--"wikis": Social Software: Every time I show a wiki to someone who has never seen one, I invariably see the same two reactions: "That's pretty cool", followed seconds later by "It'll never work." This second reaction is understandable, as wikis take a radically different attitude towards process than almost any other piece of group software. Process is an embedded reaction to prior stupidity. When I was CTO of a web design firm, I noticed in staff meetings that we only ever talked about process when we were avoiding talking about people. "We need a process to ensure that the client does not get half-finished design sketches" is code for "Greg f***ed up." The problem, of course, is that much of this process nevertheless gets put in place, meaning that an organization slowly forms around avoiding the dumbest behaviors of its mediocre employees, resulting in layers of gunk that keep its best employees from doing interesting work, because they too have to sign The Form Designed to Keep You From Doing The Stupid Thing That One Guy Did Three Years Ago. Wikis dispense with all that -- all of it. A wiki...

Posted by DeLong at 09:19 AM

August 26, 2003
1100 Words on Service-Sector Outsourcing

We economists don't spend enough time pushing the political arguments for freeing-up trade and accelerating the development of poorer countries. We feel that the economic case alone is so strong that that should be sufficient. FT.com / Comment & analysis: ...On the political side, does anybody really want Indians and Chinese in 50 years' time - the 3bn educated citizens of what will then be industrialised economies and proud countries - to remember that western Europe and North America took whatever steps they could to slow Indian and Chinese economic growth in the first half of the 21st century? Democratic politics will produce strong pressures to compensate and assist those who work in industries that will be battered by foreign competition. But, please, let the compensation and assistance take the form of social insurance rather than trade protection....

Posted by DeLong at 09:18 PM

Daily Reading

"What are you doing?" "I promised the Financial Times 1100 words on service-sector outsourcing." "By when?" "Tuesday 9 AM Pacific Time." "That was rash. What are you going to say?" "Ah..." "Do you read the Financial Times every day?" "I have an electronic subscription. I try to visit its website at least every two days or so. But how much I read... If I read everything I should read, my day would be twice-gone already." "True. But do you think the Financial Times is something I should make time for?" "There are rumors that they think they are too dry and grey--'tart it up' was the expression I heard--perhaps pictures of topless central bankers on page 3." "Be serious." "It does assume that its readers are intelligent and well-informed--like the news pages of the Wall Street Journal assumes that its readers have background information and can absorb new stuff quickly. And, because it's British, it is witty. They are wittier than we are, even when they do not intend to be." "So what do you read regularly?" "Ah. I'm turning into a grazing infovore. I read a lot, but few things day-to-day." "But surely you read things like the Economist...

Posted by DeLong at 09:00 PM

Open Courseware

One reason that MIT is a global treasure: Wired 11.09: MIT Everyware: Lam Vi Quoc negotiates his scooter through Ho Chi Minh City's relentless stream of pedal traffic and hangs a right down a crowded alley. He climbs the steep wooden stairs of the tiny house he shares with nine family members, passing by his mother, who is stooped on the floor of the second level preparing lunch. He ascends another set of even steeper steps to the third level and settles on a stool at a small desk, pushing aside the rolled-up mat he sleeps on with one of his brothers. To the smell of a chicken roasting on a grill in the alley and the clang of the next-door neighbor's metalworking operation, Lam turns on his Pentium 4 PC, and soon the screen displays Lecture 2 of Laboratory in Software Engineering, a course taught each semester on the campus of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. "Here," he says, pointing at the screen. "This is where I got the idea to use decoupling as a way of integrating two programs." In a huge brick house that Evan Hoff shares with three other guys in Nashville, the 20-year-old brings up...

Posted by DeLong at 03:02 PM

August 24, 2003
Online Music Addiction

Escritora admits addiction to Apple's itunes music store: Mac-a-ro-nies: It started off normally. I would drop into the place and hang out for a while, doing more browsing than buying. In fact, at first, I rarely bought anything. Then, I began to make one, two or three purchases during each visit. The visits became longer, sometimes lasting 30 minutes or more. The amount of the purchases increased from 99 cents to triple and quadruple digits. The funds in my PayPal account showed a noticeable decline. Now, I find I would rather be there than read short stories by most unknown authors or eat ice cream on sultry summer days. The email invoices I receive daily intimidate me. I fear I am addicted. The place is Apple's iTunes Music Store. I've gradually succumbed to it, like a junkie who starts out smoking drug-laced cigarettes and ends up sticking needles in his arms without a second thought. Though the store is relatively new, its marketing, with MP3 singles that can be quite long selling for as little as .99 cents, is extremely seductive. Persons even more balanced than I have probably become victims. It is for that reason I seek your help....

Posted by DeLong at 11:58 AM

August 21, 2003
Milja van Tielhof, The 'Mother of All Trades': The Baltic Grain Trade in Amsterdam

Another book that I need to add to the pile. But how many $143 sub-400 page books will I be able to persuade Berkeley's libraries to buy over the next decade? Surely not very many. I won't even be able to muster the support of Vice Provost for Academic Affairs Jan de Vries--he has no need for Englished versions of recent research in Nederlandisch archives. Clearly we are approaching the end of scholarly academic book publishing as we know it, and the publishers are deciding that it is time to grab for as much money as they can from their captive academic library customers even at the price of eroding their relationships with the libraries. It's going to be interesting to watch what happens next. Milja van Tielhof, _The 'Mother of All Trades': The Baltic Grain Trade in Amsterdam from the Late Sixteenth to the Early Nineteenth Century_. Leiden: Brill Academic Publishers, 2002. xviii + 370 pp. EUR114 or US$143 (cloth), ISBN: 90-04-12546-9. Reviewed for EH.NET by Regina Grafe, Department of Economic History, London School of Economics. Milja van Tielhof's book _The 'Mother of All Trades': The Baltic Grain Trade in Amsterdam from the Late 16th to the Early 19th...

Posted by DeLong at 05:30 PM

August 13, 2003
It Is 10 PM. Do You Know Where Your Laundry Is?

When things communicate--or at least, broadcast their identity and their location: News: RFID chips sent to the dry cleaners: Chipmaker Texas Instruments on Monday announced a wireless identity chip for clothing which can survive the dry cleaning process, creating a new market for a technology that is expected to revolutionize the way products--and people--are tracked and identified. The Laundry Transponder, from TI Radio Frequency Identification Systems, is a thin 13.56MHz radio frequency identification (RFID) chip with a circumference of 22mm that can be attached or sewn into fabric. Its plastic casing is capable of withstanding industrial cleaning processes, making it practical for dry cleaners to track items through to customer delivery. Each transponder has a unique 64-bit identification code, as well as 2,000 bits of memory that can be programmed with customer data. The identification code can be laser-etched on the transponder casing for visual identification, TI said. RFID functions as an evolution of the bar code, but is more efficient and versatile because items can be identified wirelessly. For the retail supply chain, this means, for example, that a box of goods could be added to a shop's inventory system without opening the box and scanning each item individually,...

Posted by DeLong at 08:30 AM

August 12, 2003
Lurker Day

Chuq von Rospach talks about mailing-list "lurker days": Teal Sunglasses: experimenting in groups: the quiet voices: One thing Laurie and I have been investigating over the years is how to bring forward the quieter voices in a community. In most communities, there's a group of folks with fairly thick skins and a willingness to enter the mosh pit to get their comments heard -- and a second group with lots of interesting things to say, but not as willing to elbow in and make themselves heard over the noise... We've found that second population to be as knowledgable and interesting as the primary population -- just quieter. So one of the things we've looked for is ways to bring them forward into the community discussions. (it should be noted that when we've talked about this issue in our communities, the normal response is some variation of it's no big deal, just start talking -- and that normal response comes from the folks who don't mind the mosh pit atmosphere in the first place, of course...) One of our more successful ways we've found to draw these people out, at least temporarily, is a concept we've called lurker day. It's fairly...

Posted by DeLong at 09:36 PM

Google Calculator

Google calculates that the speed of light is 1.8026175 × 1012 furlongs per fortnight... The scary thing is that (tonight at least) it is faster than launching a calculator from the dock......

Posted by DeLong at 09:00 PM

August 11, 2003
Human Mental Augmentation

Henry Farrell expresses skepticism about "transhumanism"--which he defines as "the idea of the self as a sort of infinitely extensible meccano-set, where you can plug in new bits and pieces all the time, just because it’s cool": Crooked Timber: Better, Fitter, Happier : ...there are serious, principled reasons why you might want to disagree with transhumanism. And this argument has been going on for a long, long time.... What [Max Weber is] saying, I think, is that Tolstoy, and people like him, ask some interesting and important questions, which "progress"-obsessed types don't. They may not have the right answers to those questions, but that's beside the point. They're interested in whether life is meaningful, not whether it can be infinitely extended. And meaning, for Tolstoy, requires some reference point other than the internal desires of the individual. Which maybe allows me to articulate a little better what I find creepy about transhumanism than I could last week. It isn't the prospect of brain-machine interfaces, Singularities, telomere hacks and the like, few of which are likely to be with us anytime soon, if at all. It's the underlying philosophy behind this geek aesthetic - the idea of the self as a...

Posted by DeLong at 07:20 PM

The List Mom Is Dead

Grizzled Internet Old-Timer Chuq von Rospach--originator of the List Mom style of internet community moderation--thinks that the concept has reached the end of its useful life, and that it is time to shift moderation style not back to the List Nazi but forward to... what? It is not clear to me, and I'm not sure that it is clear to him either: Teal Sunglasses: The List Mom is Dead! Long Live the, um.....: ...all this begat a new, rather hard core administrative style, what I now fondly call my List Nazi period. But it was a response to trying to keep the existing subscriber base together and happy against the influx of a new group of people with a different culture and attitude.... Eventually, the need for such a tight leash receded, but the leash didn't loosen. This ended up causing other, different problems -- stagnation of the list population, and creating a strong disincentive to post to the list. People get tired of having their every move second-guessed. It kills the community aspect of things. So in late 1998 and early 1999 (as I remember it...), we threw out all of our list documentation, rules, attitudes, etc, etc etc,...

Posted by DeLong at 05:09 PM

August 02, 2003
Mutual Amazement

Arnold Kling is amazed that anyone can understand the decentralized libertarian internet and still be a non-libertarian "statist": Economics: information technology - Corante: The Bottom Line: Libertarians Need Not Apply: Congratulations to Dr. Weinberger on becoming Senior Internet Adviser to Howard Dean.  I gather that it is a position for which libertarians need not apply. I think that at some deep level it is impossible for someone as conventionally leftist as Dean to "get" the Internet... it amazes me that people can champion a decentralized Internet and be in favor of statist economic policies.  Conversely, it amazes me that people who understand the incredibly complicated social division of labor that is the government-supported, standards-based, cooperative, information-sharing internet and not understand that agoric systems can only be built on top of a powerful and appopriate foundation of... ahem... "regulation." Adam Smith understood this well: that the security of property and reasonable enforcement of justice needed to provide the foundations for his system of natural liberty had been built by an extremely long, hard, and painful process of "civilization." The truly natural, spontaneous, "unregulated" order--the catallaxy--is something like what existed to the north of Adam Smith two generations before his birth: a...

Posted by DeLong at 09:54 AM

External Brain Packs

Sign of the times: Laptops Take Center Stage (TechNews.com): In May, for the first time, the dollar value of laptop sales nudged past that of desktop computer sales......

Posted by DeLong at 08:59 AM

July 31, 2003
Shorting Poindexter

Tom Maguire wonders why it was that proponents of DARPA's Policy Analysis Markets played up the idea of the U.S. government funding trading pits in bioweapons attacks on Israel and assassinations of foreign leaders, rather than talking about forecasting indexes of political stability and economic output: Semi-Daily Journal: Comment on More on DARPA's Policy Analysis Market: ...Well, props to James S (and others), for attempting to explain what this program was, rather than recycling the hype offered by the critics. A DARPA doc describing the program is here (p B-8 of Appendix, or p. 68-9 of the .pdf file): http://www.darpa.mil/body/tia/TIA%20DI.pdf. So, sort of related - why the fierce opposition to what is arguably a useful idea? Was it a hit on Poindexter? And why did the plan proponents get so stupid? Letting the critics make headlines with these examples of "assassination contracts" was incompetent. Why did they not have their ideas thought through, with clear, sensible example that they were ready to defend? Why are we dragging the details out of tired old James, when they should have had a press kit available for that hearing? Or was it a mousetrap, where the subject was sprung on an unsuspecting Wolfowitz?...

Posted by DeLong at 05:07 AM

July 29, 2003
iPod

The most important thing about the iPod is not that it is portable: I find that the overwhelming amount of time I spend listening to it is in my office, in my bedroom, in my car, or in the family room--all four of which have fine sets of speakers through which the iPod's music is pumped, and all four of which have CD players as well. It's not that it lets me listen to music in non-standard places. What is it, then? It is that it is concentrated music, essence of music, everything I have ever bought (and a few things... ahem) in a 10 cubic inch box (how did I ever wind up with three copies of the Brandenburg Concerti, anyway?). So I keep rediscovering wonderful things that I had forgotten I owned... Ani de Franco and Maceo Parker doing Prince's "When You Were Mine"... "Five Variations on Dives and Lazarus" by Ralph Vaughn Williams... "By Way of Sorrow" from Cry, Cry, Cry... Truly not what I had expected: I'd expected a smaller, better, larger-capacity portable CD player. That's not what it turned out to be....

Posted by DeLong at 05:51 PM

July 26, 2003
Technorati Is Remarkable II

Christopher Lydon makes my enthusiasm for Technorati look like weak tea: Christopher Lydon : Continuously reading more than 700,000 Weblogs, introducing writers to their readers and noting just who's linking to whom, Technorati is for me the simplest clearest sketch we have of the coming wonderworld.  I depend especially on the rolling count of the "Top 50 Interesting Recent Blogs With Context." Technorati is an editorial conference without editors--Jeff Jarvis's dream come true.  It defines an open, egalitarian, potentially universal community of news and opinion.  It's a "semiotic democracy" in which every blogger counts.  It's also an invention that brings the most compelling subjects and comments to the fore.  It doesn't dictate a consensus, but it composes a moment-to-moment "front page" of buzz in a bigger and bigger network of participating minds.  Most marvelous to me, it is all the work of one man and his amazing machine.  There's nobody else, it turns out, under the Technorati hood.      Technorati was born in a flash around Thanksgiving last year, as David Sifry recounts.  It is a means of counting the "votes of attention" that bloggers give eachother.  With a fresh appreciation of both the voting and the counting, he can see "an incredible lesson in civics for a new generation" that...

Posted by DeLong at 07:04 PM

July 25, 2003
Technorati Is Remarkable

David Sifry's Technorati is remarkable! It does an amazing amount of very useful things. A lot of thought has gone into various ways to avoid the "internet celebrity" problem. I can imagine lots of ways to use it, if only I had more time to play with it. It's wonderful. I cannot imagine why Google hasn't bought it yet... In fact... Technorati sees... all... knows... all... Its eye pierces metal, cloud, stone, and... flesh. You know whereof I speak. You have seen it, too......

Posted by DeLong at 02:39 PM

July 24, 2003
Where's My Stuff?

The future really is here. It's just not evenly distributed yet. This will only be really important to *me* when each of my books knows what it is. Those are the only things I regularly fail to find... Mercury News | 07/21/2003 | Wozniak's latest project: GPS locator tags for everything: Steve Wozniak, the guy who brought us the personal computer, has another idea. His new company has created a wireless network that he says can help you find almost anything -- lost keys, lost dog, lost child. His Los Gatos company -- Wheels of Zeus (WOZ, get it?) -- has designed tags that you can attach to a child, a dog or just about anything. A handheld monitor uses global-positioning-system satellites to show where the tagged items are. The genius behind the idea, called wOzNet, is in the use of a low-power, long-range wireless protocol that operates at about 1,200 baud. That's roughly a fifth the speed of a dial-up modem, but fast enough to send a quick burst of information about an object's location......

Posted by DeLong at 10:58 PM

July 22, 2003
We Understand What It's Like to Delete All Your Files

So I went searching for a couple of articles written by Userland Software President John Robb, and came up with "404" messages. I went to Userland Software's home page, and learned: UserLand.Com: Easy Content Management: Every UserLand employee runs a weblog. People wonder how such a small company gets so much done. We use the tools, and refine them to make them work better in real world tasks. We understand what it's like to use our software because we do. Apparently John Robb is no longer President of Userland Software. And apparently one of the extra benefits of having Userland host your weblog is that when you leave its employ, it deletes all your files--with no pointers, no forwarding at all. Ah. Here they are. But--alas--unindexed because Google hasn't found them yet. A major pain... I can't find anything from Robb about this other than a semi-cryptic "Thanks for all the e-mails (there have been a huge number) of support for me as I recover from the outage at UserLand. The good news: lots of great things to come and this new location offers lots of new flexibility. The bad news: a huge number (probably over 30,000, not even counting Google) of inbound links have...

Posted by DeLong at 12:42 PM

July 13, 2003
The Gospel of Metadata

Dan Hon preaches the gospel of metadata as he looks forward and tries to figure out how he will find things on his terabyte-to-be hard disks of the future: danhon.com articles: Inflection Point I'm much lazier than he is. I have decided that my strategy will be to gradually expose everything on my hard disk to the world and rely on Google to make it easily searchable....

Posted by DeLong at 06:38 PM

July 03, 2003
Notes: Clay Shirky on Groups

Arnold Kling tells us we should all run and go read Clay Shirky: A Group Is Its Own Worst Enemy...

Posted by DeLong at 12:13 PM

May 20, 2003
Wow. My Brain Explodes

Wow! My brain explodes. Not in a bad way, you understand. In a good way. Stuart Robinson (who is he?) goes live with his weblog. How can he know about so much good stuff that I have missed? Stu's Weblog: I’m still not convinced choosing blosxom over Movable Type was wise. But the plugins rock and at least RMS won’t hunt me down. Corporate computer security consulting still sucks? Interesting idea from Charlie Stross. EasyCinema: EasyJet’s Stelios Haji-Ioannou pushes his yield management techniques into the cinema industry. New wifi cards work on any frequency = no Linux drivers: This gives us a preview of the major shitstorm that software radio is going to cause. South Korea: a futurologist’s wet dream: Want to see what 70% broadband adoption does to a society? Korea tells you Microsoft licenses Unix IP from SCO: Coincidentally at the same time as SCO are suing IBM to stop Linux. Microsoft are a company capable of learning and adapting. What they learnt from the antitrust trial seems to be ‘get someone else to do your dirty work’. You can take my money but you can’t take my grades: Sometimes D-Squared is good... and sometimes he’s awesome LifeLog,...

Posted by DeLong at 03:24 PM

May 19, 2003
Reports From the Future

Lance Knobel brings back some reports from the future of the Information Age: the place known as South Korea: Davos Newbies Home: They've seen the future  More and more interesting information is coming out about South Korea, the country with the world's highest penetration of broadband networks. Dan Gillmor writes about Ohmynews: "OhmyNews is transforming the 20th century's journalism-as-lecture model, where organizations tell the audience what the news is and the audience either buys it or doesn't, into something vastly more bottom-up, interactive and democratic." I'd already noted the reports that the Internet -- and Ohmynews in particular -- had been a significant influence in the Korean presidential elections. There's clearly a lot more to come. And games developer Greg Costikyan has some astounding data on massively multiplayer games in Korea. According to Costikyan, total annualised dollar gross of Korean MMGs is probably larger than the US market. And he notes, "One Korean game, Legend of Mir III, claims 700,000 simultaneously online users in China. (It's rare for [EverQuest] to have more than 100,000 online simultaneously)."...

Posted by DeLong at 07:44 AM

May 16, 2003
New Modes and Orders

Arnold Kling reads my rant against the false claim that representative democracy is inferior to "participatory democracy": Brad DeLong: Democracy is not to be found in the streets. What we find in the streets are vanguard parties, the dictatorships they bring, and politics understood not as collective self-government but as expressive theatrical performances. And seems to anticipate with glee the prospect of a televised caged death match :-) between me and Howard Rheingold of "smart mobs." Let me hasten to add that I see big differences between Howard Rheingold and the person I was criticizing, Naomi Klein. We today know, broadly speaking, three ways to accomplish the social engineering task of structuring collective action: multi-party representative democracy, bureaucracies that set up formally-rational procedures to achieve previously agreed-upon goals, and hierarchical business organizations constrained by market competition. All three have big flaws, but also many virtues. Naomi Klein makes familiar fascist critiques of representative democracy ("...corruption of democracy itself... turned voting into a hollow ritual...real power... outsourced" to powerful financial interests aligned with foreigners) and in its place exalts participatory democracy: "Argentinians poured into the streets banging pots and pans... told... politicians... 'Everyone must go'... starting a democratic revolution... the first...

Posted by DeLong at 11:57 AM

May 09, 2003
My Brain Is Full

Arnold Kling's The Bottom Line - The economics of information technology on Corante has just too many good and interesting things this week. My brain cannot process them all. So I'm going to take a short nap instead......

Posted by DeLong at 06:17 AM

May 08, 2003
Last (Formal) Office Hours of the Semester

As the spring semester spins to a close, I had my last (formal) Wednesday afternoon office hours yesterday. Office hours have been a lot of fun this semester, and yesterday was no exception: an undergraduate thesis that has leapt back onto track (yay!), a student signing up for a reading course in Austrian political economy over the summer (which will be interesting), graduate student papers inching toward completion, scheduling lunch with the delightful Trevon Logan, a very interesting conversation about Eichengreen and Flandreau, eds., The Gold Standard in Theory and History, and two pleasant surprises: The first pleasant surprise was Hal Varian, who last week I said was one of those whom-I-never-see-on-the-Berkeley-campus. He came wandering over from his haunts among the SIMians to the Economics Department's Wednesday afternoon coffee, and said many interesting things. Among the most interesting things was how Coca Cola values the options it grants to its executives: it issues a few more, auctions them off, and sees how much money they bring in. The second pleasant surprise was Sumana Harihareswara (Berkeley Political Science '02), who has smart views on why comments sections of weblogs (and everything else collective on the internet) tend to degenerate rapidly to...

Posted by DeLong at 10:14 AM

May 04, 2003
How to Hide Things on the Internet

The Head Lemur offers a lesson on how to use the internet to hide things: The Head Lemur: One of the re-occurring themes that appear on design lists is 'hiding content', or making one's code invisible. Most of the solutions just don't work. The internet is not about hiding stuff. But in the interest of fairness I can offer a proven method of hiding content.Below is how to do it. I can help you! If you are serious about hiding contents follow the 6 point program below. 1. Take it down from the publicly available internet location. 2. Turn off the computer with the original files. 3. Remove the harddrive. 4. Destroy the harddrive by using a 18 LB sledge hammer. 5. Bury the remains in a land fill. 6. Have hypnosis to remove any traces of memory of the above. These 6 steps which save you 6 steps such as you find in drug and alcohol 12 step programs are the only sure way to hide contents such as you would find on the portion of the internet accessible through the use of a browser. If you want to hide things the web is not the place for you....

Posted by DeLong at 03:34 PM

My Virtual Hallway, the Virtual Neighbors to My Virtual Office

One of the truly nice things about the internet is that one can occasionally perform the virtual equivalent of accidently running into people in the hall--people like the extremely keen-witted, intelligent, and mentally well-balanced Jack Balkin. This is not to say that I don't accidently run into very smart people in the halls here at Berkeley (although the campus is sufficiently sprawling and too much the result of insane architects set loose that one generally has to go to specific places--the Peixotto Room, the Business School Courtyard, La Strada at Bancroft and College--to have a reasonable chance of running into somebody interesting by accident). But the internet greatly enlarges the effective range of my personal intellectual community: it's as if interesting people like Michael Froomkin and Paul Krugman and Stephen Roach and Hal Varian were in the next offices over, rather than 3000 miles away. (Actually, Hal Varian is only a hundred yards north and forty yards down right now--but I almost never run into him on the Berkeley campus: the past three years prove I'm much more likely to run into him in the checkout line of Trader Joe's or the basement of a Washington hotel or at...

Posted by DeLong at 09:02 AM

April 28, 2003
Kevin Werbach on the Next Layer of Innovation

Kevin Werbach peers across the web at O'Reilly's Emerging Technologies conference, and finds that it confirms three of his basic beliefs about the world today. The era in which integrated circuits were the cutting and most exciting edge has long passed (but technological progress in integrated circuits has not slowed down: it has provided the foundation along which everything else was built). The era in which personal computers were the cutting and most exciting edge has long passed (but technological progress, et cetera...). The era in which the internet was the cutting and most exciting edge has long passed (but technological progress, et cetera...). And now--well, according to Kevin we don't yet have a word for where the cutting and most exciting edge is. But it is definitely there: Contrary to popular belief, innovation hasn't stopped. There are exceptionally exciting technologies and companies out there. Some are solving new problems, while others have new approaches for big old problems that haven't gone away. Why did we ever think the NASDAQ index was a proxy for the health of the technology industry? The exciting innovations are inter-related, in ways we don't yet have words for. Social software, Weblogs, rich Internet applications,...

Posted by DeLong at 09:25 PM

Apple's New Music

Marc Canter muses about Apple's new online music store, and about how it is peculiar that much new computer innovation is taking place on the Macintosh--when the market for Macintosh software is less than one-tenth as large as the market for Windows software. I agree: it is peculiar. Marc Canter: "An online music store that lets customers quickly find, purchase and download over 200,000 songs from music companies including BMG, EMI, Sony Music, Universal and Warner Bros. for just 99 cents per song, without subscription fees, the iTunes Music Store allows burning songs onto an unlimited number of CDs for personal use, listening to songs on an unlimited number of iPods, playing songs on up to three Macintosh computers, and using songs in any application on the Mac, including iPhoto, iMovie and iDVD." Oh well - I was hoping for a significant price break.  But at least they got the terms concept down.  Pretty hard to get customers excited about buying something if they don't get to keep it.  The "appliance" engineering at Apple is clearly going to be the future of the company.  The combination of their OS X, an expanded line of appliances and smart Rendezvous-driven Home LAN...

Posted by DeLong at 09:16 PM

April 27, 2003
A Loud Cry from Martin Wolf

It's unconscionable that so much time passes by without my reading the columns of the sharp-witted pull-no-punches guy who is Martin Wolf. I have my online Financial Times subscription. What is it that is stopping me? Martin Wolf: ...The mixture of global security risks, post-bubble adjustment and unbalanced growth in demand puts into perspective the euphoria at the end of the war. While the world economy could, in principle, enjoy a strong and durable recovery, it is unlikely to do so without vigorous policy action. The outlines of these actions are well known. That does not make them less important. The US must inject a larger fiscal stimulus, without endangering longer run fiscal solvency. The big eurozone members must take reform seriously, while the ECB should recognise its responsibilities as a central bank in charge of an economic superpower. Japan must, at last, both restructure its banks and halt deflation. Beyond this, the Doha round must be accelerated. It is grotesque that in trade, where the European Union is already a superpower, it is unable to offer radical liberalisation of its indefensible farm policies. Yet nobody looks good. The US has spent as much on its war in Iraq in...

Posted by DeLong at 01:42 PM

April 23, 2003
SARS Watch

Tim Bishop's sarswatch.org....

Posted by DeLong at 09:53 PM

April 15, 2003
Another Testimony for Tivo

Yet Another Testimony for Tivo... We have Tivo, which has (and this is not hyperbole) changed the way we watch television. We watch what we want, when we have the time to watch it. Unfortunately, there is a small issue with having the time to watch everything we want to watch. But we simply don't watch much network programming at all anymore.... We pick and choose, basically, which is the short answer to your question... I haven't seen good network programming for a while. Network programming was always... peculiar... It was lowest common denominator stuff, oriented toward gaining eyeballs for advertisers, rather than for consumer satisfaction. The idea was that network programming had to be something that those who wanted to watch TV would barely prefer to staring at a blank wall (and to staring at what else was on), so that you could sell eyeballs to advertisers. A network show that was loved by 3% of the potential audience was an extraordinarily big flop. Advertisers only got 3% of the eyeballs. The fact that the fans loved the show didn't get the network any money. Tivo has the potential to break this cycle: to turn us into a world...

Posted by DeLong at 04:40 PM

April 07, 2003
Unwired

Paul Boutin loves the color supplement to this month's Wired magazine... Paul Boutin : Get UnWired : The current issue of Wired mag includes a Wi-Fi primer, bundled as a 60-page mini-magazine that pops out to keep or, better yet, pass around. UnWired features articles on understanding the Wi-Fi landscape and setting up your own network. BoingBoing regular Xeni Jardin and I were both so enthusiastic about UnWired that we contributed two articles each. Xeni explains our use of the radio spectrum as it is, and as it could be. I put aside my usual snobbery about doing how-to articles and business landscapes to hammer out a long getting started primer written with my family in Maine in mind. It lists specific products and services - Linksys, AirPort, Starbucks, Surf and Sip - that I know will work for those who follow the instructions, yet won't bankrupt families that can't rush out to buy a new laptop. Or businesses that can't splurge on T1 infrastructure. I also list "25 Companies to Watch," a cocktail party primer rather than an investment guide. Most of the blog-reading crowd will find much of this familiar material, so here's a suggestion: Buy Wired for...

Posted by DeLong at 12:24 PM

April 06, 2003
Has the New York Times Shot Itself in the Foot?

Richard Gayle thinks that the New York Times has just lost an enormous amount of long-run intellectual mindshare by trying to make a little bit more money from its archive. I tend to agree. I think that (a) people are going to be surprised at how rapidly their links to the New York Times succumb to linkrot, and that then (b) they will start linking to other news and opinion sources in preference. I know I will. Richard Gayle's Weblog: The New York Times Changes Access to Old Content. The New York Times has just changed their archival policy so that all links we've used in the bIPlog that are more than 30 days old will redirect to a page requesting that you purchase the article for $2.95. Links have worked before now, even though articles were months or years old. Vin Crosbie, President of Digital Deliverance, talked last week at the JSchool about news online, and the mechanisms and logic that publishers use... [bIPlog]This could be the end of the Times as a source of links in the Internet. I will no longer link to any of their pages since no one would be able to see anything after...

Posted by DeLong at 09:52 PM

March 20, 2003
A Policy on Politeness, on Acceptable Comments, and on Other Matters

This is not usenet. Be polite--to me, and to other commenters. Or your comments may be gone. The decision of the judge is final....

Posted by DeLong at 07:42 AM

March 19, 2003
More Evidence that Josh Marshall Has Arrived

Quite some time ago, Virginia Postrel wrote up what I call the Devil's Guide to Webmanship: Dynamist.com: The Scene (vpostrel.com) for week of 5/20/02: ...FACTS OF LIFE: Eric Olsen at Tres Producers has raised a minor ruckus by noticing that Andrew Sullivan almost never links to other bloggers and generally fails to give credit where it's due. Eric might have also noted that Andrew is the rare blogger who never identifies readers who send him letters, regardless of what those readers might wish. (Obviously, some would prefer to be anonymous. But they're almost certainly a minority.) A single byline keeps the focus on the Main Man. It's a savvy media strategy. This is the way the professional media world is. You become prominent, first and foremost, by knowing the right people and then, secondarily, by attacking or crediting people more prominent than yourself. (They stay prominent by not responding to you by name, a tactic well-honed by neocon intellectuals who almost never identify, much less quote, the objects of their criticism. Exhibit A: Francis Fukuyama.) If you must mention someone less prominent than you are, make sure it is someone much less well known, so you can be recognized for...

Posted by DeLong at 08:12 AM

March 17, 2003
Moore's Law Comes to Telecom

Why are WorldCom's physical assets worth only 1/4 what they paid for them? Some people blame incredibly stupid management. I have always ascribed the write-down of the market value of telecom assets to vastly greater progress in telecommunications software control than had been expected--if you can push ten times as many bits through a fiber as you had thought you would be able to, that kinda cramps your ability to make money off of the scarcity of fiber. Kevin Werbach and Scott Rafer seem to have a somewhat different take, but I'm not quite sure what it is. New York Times: "WorldCom's hard assets, including its network, are now worth almost 75 percent less than what they had cost." UPDATE: Scott Rafer's take on the same announcement. He thinks we're ascribing different causes to the writedown, but I think we agree. Worldcom's problem is that it didn't build its business (and capex plans) with Moore's Law in mind. [Werblog]...

Posted by DeLong at 07:16 PM

I Want My Broadband Telecom Competition!

I look out my bedroom window to the northeast. There, a third of a mile away, on top the hill, stands a forest of wireless antennas. Why, oh why, is my only choice for broadband the cable modem? Why, oh why, is no one interested in selling me wireless broadband? I WANT MY BROADBAND TELECOM COMPETITION, DAMMIT!! Broadband competition might still be possible: When anyone asks how to find innovation in technology today, I answer, ``Look where you don't find monopoly control or crushing regulation.'' One such place is in wireless communications, specifically in the open-to-all part of the airwaves, and lately I'm seeing some things that give me hope for the broadband future America so desperately needs to create. Regulatory missteps and marketplace misbehavior are creating a dangerous duopoly in the ``last mile'' of data access to our homes and small businesses. Unless wireless can compete, the regional telephone and cable monopolies will control communications well into the 21st century. I'm beginning to think that wireless can compete, because of enormous recent innovation in what's called the ``unlicensed spectrum.'' That's the part of the airwaves not controlled by government or specific industries and companies. The rise of the 802.11...

Posted by DeLong at 07:52 AM

March 16, 2003
On the Impact on Web Quality of Positive-Feedback Linking Practices

Are the best websites--the most interesting, the most informative, the most authoritative--the easiest to find? We have a world wide web in which we use the link structure to find things. But because we ourselves add what we find to the web's link structure, the number of links to a site depends not just on its quality but also on how easy it is to find. To the extent that services like Google that are in part functions of the web's link structure have become key search tools, these potential positive-feedback mechanisms have been strengthened. Is there a danger that we are drifting toward a web of celebrity rather than of information--one in which well-known sites are well-known and prominent because of their well-knownness rather than their quality? This is an interesting problem to try to think about... Let's start with the simplest possible useful model of how the links to a website evolve over time. At any moment the rate of change of the links L to a website are: increasing at a rate b1L as relatively clueless links are added by people whose websurfing is guided by the existing link structure, or by things like Google that aggregate...

Posted by DeLong at 09:50 AM

Little Brother Is Watching You

Arnold Kling links to a Technology Review article about how many people are or are likely to be watching you in a few years. Surveillance technologies are avidly desired not just by Echelon but by "'Nanny cams,' global-positioning locators, police and home security networks, traffic jam monitors, medical-device radio-frequency tags, small-business webcams." David Brin has a book called The Transparent Society that argues that near-universal monitoring is coming, and that our key task is to construct social institutions to manage what it is used for. It's looking smarter and smarter as time passes. Corante: The Bottom Line - The economics of information technology: Technology Review on Surveillance: Compared with this blog, there are some things that are just flat-out better, and more worth reading.  One of them is Technology Review.   The latest issue has a lot of postable material.  For example, the cover story is on surveillance. "Nanny cams," global-positioning locators, police and home security networks, traffic jam monitors, medical-device radio-frequency tags, small-business webcams...Extensive surveillance, in short, is coming into being because people like and want it. What is happening is a kudzu-like spread of diverse surveillance technologies. For example, the article cites a survey by the American Management Association which shows...

Posted by DeLong at 06:53 AM

March 14, 2003
Resist the Oppressive Dominant Internet Hierarchy Through Link Sluttage!

I got an email last week from the thoughtful and highly intelligent Gary Farber of Amygdala that got me thinking. It read, in part: If you're too busy to take a look, I understand.... I try not to write e-mail on my own blogging too often; I know it can be annoying. So if you'd like to never get such mail from me, please, of course, let me know. Otherwise I'll try to keep my link-whoring to, on average, well under once a week. (This is largely content-dependent, of course.) Meanwhile, a spot now and again seems, alas, the only route to getting an occasional link.... Clearly it would be a far better strategy for me to start blogging early in 2001. I'm working on a Clever Scheme to achieve that, but meanwhile.... My first reaction was that I definitely need to appease Gary Farber of Amygdala, one of the geniuses of our age. His Clever Scheme presumably involves signals sent to well-armed and powerful aliens, wars of conquest waged by said alients using technology beyond human understanding, the construction and use of alien wormhole time machine with their throats threaded with Exotic Matter, and finally with Gary Farber's beginning...

Posted by DeLong at 06:19 PM

Reruns: Ontological Breakdown...

Brent Sleeper realizes that he's heard of me before: Blogger and Child Reunion (Brent Sleeper's Web Site): For much longer than I've been publishing my weblog, I've been carting around a manila folder stuffed with interesting articles and pictures I've clipped to remind me of particular places and times. I was looking through it this morning and had a funny moment of recognition: one of my favorite clippings turns out to have been written by Brad DeLong... Here's what he's talking about: Ontological Breakdown Date: Mon, 31 Jul 1995 15:16:24 -0700 From: delong@econ.berkeley.edu (Brad DeLong) To: apple-internet-users@abs.apple.com Subject: Ontological Breakdown Message-ID: I am not at all sure that this is the right place to put this. I can already hear Chuq Von Rospach saying "Now, if this were apple-philosophy-internet-virtuality..." Nevertheless, the experience was profoundly disturbing, and made we want to consult a philosophical professional (in the same way that a health problem makes me want to consult a medical professional...) Let me back up. For the past year or so one of my main Internet activities has been to use it to look for pictures of dinosaurs. The five-year-old sits on my right knee and the two-year-old on my left....

Posted by DeLong at 06:01 PM

March 11, 2003
Consequences of Korean Broadband

Consequences of the Korean broadband buildout. Lance Knobel notes: Kevin Werbach spots the extraordinary: "On Alexa's list of the Top 500 Sites on the Web, Yahoo!, Microsoft, and Google are in the top 5. That's not surprising. But sites #3 and #4 are, at least to me. They are two South Korean portals. In all, 11 of the top 20 sites on the Alexa list are Asian, dominated by Korea. I knew Korea had the world's highest penetration rates for broadband and mobile phones, but hadn't realized how much usage patterns have shifted as a result. After all, this is a country with less than one-fifth the population of the US. Something major is happening when the usage disparity is that great." For quite a while we in greater San Francisco have been used to thinking that we are blazing a trail for the world--that the future of the information age is here, albeit not evenly distributed, and concentrated around Silicon Valley. But here is a sign that--because of how extraordinarily wired South Korea has become--those who want to study what the future information age will look like might be well-advised to learn Korean....

Posted by DeLong at 08:17 PM

March 10, 2003
Yet More Stuff to Add to the Pile

Lance Knobel adds to the list of things I must read: Davos Newbies Home: There's been an enormous amount of comment on two recently posted documents: World of Ends, by Doc Searls and David Weinberger, and The Pentagon's New Map, by Thomas Barnett. I'm still digesting World of Ends. On the New Map, I agree that it's largely a cogent restating of what has already been amply documented about the new strategic doctrine of the Bush administration... I have read one of them. I did read The Pentagon's New Map. I had an uneasy feeling while reading it. It seemed to me to be a set of arguments I had run across--in what seemed to me to be a more developed and systematic form--in Singer and Wildavsky's The Real World Order, and I kept on expecting a footnote dropped to or a paragraph engaging Singer and Wildavsky's view of the argument that did not come. When it's not my field, and when even I with my limited knowledge nevertheless think that the author has not taken appropriate care to situate his argument in its proper place in the web of past and present thoughts on the topic, I get very...

Posted by DeLong at 11:17 AM

March 09, 2003
Web Services: Technorati

We can see dimly through the mists what Vannevar Bush's vision of the networked web of human thought would really be like to implement. In fact, two pieces of it have recently been put into place: Movable Type's Trackback, and Technorati... Sifry's Alerts: The Technorati Story: How a New Web-Services Product Grew out of a Research Assignment: The result, after three weekends of hacking, is Technorati.com, a new site that provides four services: Link Cosmos shows you what blogs are linking to your blog, or any other blog or any arbitrary URL. Every time another blog saves a post, it sends out an RSS notification that Technorati receives, puts in a database and lists on request in your current cosmos. This is a major advance over referrer logs, which only show followed links. Google Rank shows you the top 100 sites on Google for a given search term. Technorati rechecks Google's rankings daily, so you can see how the rankings change over time. Google Juice tells you where your blog ranks in the top 1,000 for any search term. Watchlists keep and track historical information about a given site, allowing you to see new links to your site quickly as...

Posted by DeLong at 05:11 PM

March 07, 2003
In the Information Age, Librarians Will Rule

In the information age, librarians will rule, because only they will be able to find things in the dataflood in a timely fashion. Teresa Nielsen Hayden has a post on how to welcome our wearing-their-glasses-on-chains-around-their-necks sweater-wearing overlords-to-be: Making Light: March 2003 Archives: Why You Should Fall to Your Knees and Worship a Librarian, from the Librarian Avengers website. See also their Stupid Research Tricks and What They Didn’t Teach Us in Library School sections, which will teach you that (1.) being a librarian is more challenging than you may have imagined; and (2.) it isn’t hard to make them happy, so get with the program already. (via The Shifted Librarian) Librarian Avengers: Ok, sure.  We've all got our little preconceived notions about what librarians are and what they do.  Many people think of them as diminutive civil servants, scuttling about "Sssh-ing" people and stamping things.  Well, think again buster.  Librarians have degrees. They go to graduate school for Information Science and become masters of data systems and human/computer interaction.  Librarians can catalog anything from an onion to a dog's ear.  They could catalog you. Librarians wield unfathomable power.  With a flip of the wrist they can hide your dissertation behind piles of...

Posted by DeLong at 11:25 AM

March 02, 2003
Deciding Which Robots to Block Is a Very Personal Matter

Recommended reading for a lazy Sunday morning. Patrick Nielsen Hayden writes: Electrolite: Stuff I meant to blog last week: from Mark Pilgrim's uber-techblog Dive Into Mark, "How to block spambots, ban spybots, and tell unwanted robots to go to hell." Essential reading if you run a web site and pay for bandwidth, but what I particularly enjoyed was the sensation that I live in the science-fiction future after all. Writes Pilgrim, "Fighting robots is a neverending battle with no winners." And "The decision of which robots to block is a very personal matter." Well, we knew that....

Posted by DeLong at 01:15 PM

February 22, 2003
Yet Another Procrastination Helper

Dave Sifry provides us with yet another way to widen the scope of our infovore grazing behavior in an interesting way: Technorati: Top 50 Interesting Recent [We]blogs with Context: Sort of a list of [we]blogs that people are talking about today. This is still experimental, I'm getting a feeling for the usefulness of this search. It should bring up relatively less-known [we]blogs that have new, interesting content posted on them. In other, related, news, Kieren Healy begs for mercy: Oh Not Another One: Via Patrick Nielsen Hayden comes yet another interesting goddamn [we]blog, this time from a history prof at Swarthmore. My God, have you people no pity? Give it a rest with your pithy and insighful commentary already. I'm supposed to be writing articles, for crying out loud. I think I'll be distributing this to my students soon, in the hope that it will do them some good....

Posted by DeLong at 12:01 PM

February 18, 2003
Less Than $1 a Gigabyte

Moore's Law gets all the press. But should it? Dan Gillmor writes about the mass-storage equivalent of Moore's law: how hard disk prices have now dropped below $1 per gigabyte: Mercury News | 02/16/2003 | Dan Gillmor: Disk-drive capacity continues to grow: The cost of disk-drive capacity has dropped below a buck a gigabyte. The news was anticlimactic in a sense, because it was predictable in a time of constant technological progress. It was one of those milestones that still means something -- not just a testament to the storage industry's achievements, but also a reminder of how the seemingly most prosaic of information technologies may have turned out to be the most disruptive. Like others of my generation, I can remember my first computer with a hard disk, which I bought in the mid-1980s after years of personal computing with floppy disks and, before that, cassette storage. I wondered how I'd ever fill the 10 megabytes on the IBM PC, given that an entire novel's worth of text takes up less than 1 megabyte, or 1/60,000 of the space on today's typical 60-gigabyte hard drive. I soon found out. In a Digital Age corollary to Parkinson's Law, data expanded...

Posted by DeLong at 08:45 AM

February 14, 2003
Google and Larry Page

Google: 25000 computers all held together by velcro. How much--one cent? ten cents? twenty-five cents?--for each ad click-through. How many searches a day? And now they cannot be unseated from their king-of-search position unless someone has a truly much better software idea... Scattered notes taken that have very little to do with the substance of Google founder Larry Page's talk: "Inkjet printers made of legos" "Disk drive cases made of legos" "Actually, they weren't even legos. The point was to save money by building cheaper disk-drive cases. They were knock-off duplos from CostCo." Larry Page: "Keynote would be really outstanding if you had a fast machine to edit your presentations on." Smart-Ass: "A machine faster than those at the disposal of the founders of Google?" Larry Page: "You know what I mean: a machine faster than this laptop here." Larry Page: "Google has been profitable since the first quarter of 2001. Why did we make becoming profitable such a priority? It's good that we did, because we might well be gone if we hadn't. The real reason is that we became profitable in the first quarter of 2001 because Sergey Brin made it a priority. You see, Sergey would try...

Posted by DeLong at 04:45 PM

February 11, 2003
Broadband Is an Inalienable Right

Speak of the devil department: The State of Kentucky will provide broadband Internet access in low-income housing projects: Taking an aggressive stance on the issue of the digital divide, the Kentucky Housing Corporation, or KHC, has listed broadband Internet access among the inalienable rights of its low-income housing residents. As part of an effort to enact universal design standards for public housing, the KHC passed a mandate (PDF) stating that all new housing units funded more than 50 percent by the KHC must be equipped with access to high-speed Internet service... [Link to Full Story] [From Boing Boing]...

Posted by DeLong at 08:47 PM

The Wisdom of Anil Dash

Another sign of the increasing density of wireless access points. Maybe Wired should change its name to Wireless... Note to dumb self: If you still can't connect to the computer that's 10 feet away from you, even after trying fifty million times, you might want to make sure you're logged into your own wifi network, and not one of the 3 neighboring ones that surround you. Note to dumb neighbor: Turn off file sharing. And run a spell-check on that cover letter before you send it, or there's no chance that place is going to hire you....

Posted by DeLong at 03:40 PM

On Machiavelli's "Letter to Vettori," or, The Value of the History of Economic Thought

A surprisingly-large number of people have recently asked me why I am interested in the history of economic thought. They make various points. First, we don't learn physics from Galileo's Discourse on Two New Sciences. There are other, better, more complete, more accurate ways of presenting the material. In any real body of knowledge, the more up-to-date has to be preferred to the less because we know more than they did. Second, there are the dangers of promoting dead and dry texts to the status of unquestionable authorities. Karl Marx saw misery in industrial England in the 1840s, jumped to the conclusion that market economies could never deliver persistent, sustained, significant improvements in real wages to the working class, jumped to the conclusion that markets had no place in any truly human mode of social organization, and--because his words became Holy Writ, the sacred gospel that was never to be questioned of a Millennarian World Religion--more than a billion people were doomed to even deeper poverty for more than a generation. Third, there is the danger that one will read texts one has placed high on a pedestal and discover in them a secret message, a crucial form of knowledge...

Posted by DeLong at 03:08 PM

September 12, 2002
Who Benefits Most from the High-Tech Revolution?

David Wessel writes about one of the secrets of the new economy: the principal productivity gains and cost reductions are found not in IT-making but IT-using industries. Indeed, given the fierceness of competition in (most) IT-making industries, not just the productivity gains but the profits are likely to be found in IT-using industries, both here and abroad. WSJ.com - Capital: ...Ireland is proudly turning itself into the Silicon Isle. The Philippines and Thailand boast of their electronics exports. But one of the biggest beneficiaries from information technology is Australia, which hasn't any high-tech industry at all. Yet it is one of the few economies to have enjoyed a 1990s surge in productivity (or output for each hour of work) as impressive as the one the U.S. has seen. Its secret: import high-tech gear that others make. As in the U.S., the spread of bar-coding, scanning and inventory-management systems is making Australian wholesalers much more efficient, and that is paying economywide dividends. Compared to its population, Australia has more secure servers, the sort used in e-commerce, than anyone else besides the U.S. and Iceland (that is another story). "Australia is far better off being an importer of information- and communications-technology equipment...

Posted by DeLong at 01:48 AM

September 10, 2002
Strangeness-Squared

I just got home from a Berkeley administrative meeting that seemed very strange to me. And I have just realized why it seemed strange. Let me back up. The Berkeley administration has asked for a proposal to hire six new faculty and create a teaching-and-research program-center-committee-group engaged in the study of "New Media." And they asked me--along with a bunch of other people--to go to an organizational meeting to try to decide what sort of proposal to write. I talked about how a huge honking new-media studio would have allowed my cousin Philip to try out alternative ways of creating and then distributing animation. A music professor talked about how new media interacted with old media--about "Switched-on Bach" and how often one of the first things you did with new instruments was to try to make them sound like old instruments. One of the Information Management School people talked about how new media would flourish only if it could be built on top of viable revenue models. And those were--in fifty minutes of conversation--I swear I am not making this up--the only points made in the discussion that even touched on actual new-media concepts or examples. People talked about how...

Posted by DeLong at 08:52 PM

September 09, 2002
A Platonic Dialogue on Eldred v. Ashcroft

A Platonic Dialogue on Eldred v. Ashcroft Ignoramus Inquisitivus: I have a question. Why did the Supreme Court grant cert. [that is, agree to hear and decide] in Eldred v. Ashcroft [the case arguing that the most recent copyright extension act was unconstitutional because Article 1, Section 8, Clause 8 of the Constitution gives Congress the power to grant copyrights only for limited times, and only to promote the useful arts--and since the extension act was not intended to promote the useful arts Congress did not have the power to lawfully enact it]? One natural way to decide would be to say, "The Commerce Clause gives ample power for Congress to do whatever it wants as far as economic regulation is concerned. I§8¶8 covers patents and copyrights and should be read in a way consistent with the overall Commerce Clause to give the Congress effective plenary power..." A second way would be to say, "Congress has granted patents and copyrights for limited times, 100 years is a 'limited' time, 1000 years would be a 'limited' time, so what is the problem?" Realisticus: But this is not a Supreme Court that accepts cases simply to affirm the Appeals Court decision, and...

Posted by DeLong at 07:06 PM

Why So Many Things Went Right with the Internet

From Dan Gillmor's Sunday column in the San Jose Mercury News: 10 choices that were critical to the Net's success By Dan GillmorMercury News Technology Columnist In our modern, corporate culture, the rise of the Internet is a happy accident. In its roots and growth, says Scott Bradner, the Net never had a business model. How did technologists, government officials and a host of other early players turn something with no obvious business model into a system that has become so intrinsic to the new century? A series of decisions proved critical -- choices that helped turn data transport into a commodity business and put the power in users' hands, not in the centralized telecommunications companies' controlling grasp. At a telecom conference in Massachusetts last week, Bradner, senior technical consultant at Harvard University and a longtime leader in the formation of Internet standards, listed 10 crucial decisions along the way. (You may have other candidates; send them to me and I'll list them on my Web page). Here are Bradner's picks: 1) Make it all work on top of existing networks. Designers deliberately didn't try to build a single, new über-data network -- it was about ``networks, not a network,''...

Posted by DeLong at 11:43 AM

Stephen Roach on "The Great Failure of Central Banking"

I don't agree with Stephen Roach that the Federal Reserve should have made interest rates higher and tried to make unemployment higher in the late 1990s in order to diminish investment spending and collapse the stock market bubble. In my view, the time to deal with any problems created by the bubble's collapse is when the bubble collapses--not before. Relative to a lower-stock prices, lower-investment, one-percentage-point-of-unemployment-higher bubble-popping path for the U.S. economy in the late 1990s, the actual path that we took gave us an extra $1 trillion of real production. You can complain about how that $1 trillion was distributed. You can regret that a large chunk of it--$200 billion?--was spent on investments that have much lower social value looking forward than their social cost. You can fear the damaging consequences of banruptcy and fraud on the economy. But you have to argue that these drawbacks from the fallout are quantitatively very large for the cost-benefit analysis to go Stephen Roach's way. Nevertheless, he makes his case more strongly than anybody else does: Morgan Stanley: ... Yet out of this glorious disinflation a new inflation was borne -- asset inflation. And central bankers didn’t have a clue how to...

Posted by DeLong at 09:58 AM

September 08, 2002
Cory Doctorow on DRM-in-Practice

The principal serious objection to tight control over content by IP rights holders is made by those who argue that by so doing they destroy most of the utility--and most of the consumer surplus--of the technology. Here Cory Doctorow makes this argument, with details, as applied to Toshiba's new clone of Apple's iPod: Boing Boing: A Directory of Wonderful Things: ...Toshiba's new digital music player shows us more evidence that (consumer electronics) (digital rights management) = a**. The DRM vendor's mantra is, "DRM needs to be invisible, it needs to get out of the way of legitimate activity and only crop up when the user tries to infringe on copyright." A good sentiment, but it's more wishful thinking than design specification, as the new Tosh Mobilphone demonstrates. The Mobilphone is an iPod clone with a 5GB drive and a USB 2.0 interface. The iPod, of course, rules for a number of reasons, but one of the biggies is that by using FireWire to synch MP3s with your computer, the iPod is capable of filling itself up with music in a matter of minutes. USB 2.0 leapfrogs FireWire and delivers even greater speed. So far, so good. But for "security" reasons,...

Posted by DeLong at 02:20 PM

Six Degrees of Paul Krugman

Peter Passell writes about his twelve favorite economics websites. From the Milken Review that he edits: paul krugman | www.wws.princeton.edu/~pkrugman/ | Unofficial site:www.pkarchive.org/ Everyone, it seems, either loves Paul Krugman, or loves to hate him. One reason is that he gets amazing exposure through his Op-Ed column in The New York Times. Another is that he writes better than any economist since Keynes. Yet a third is that he doesn’t suffer fools (or knaves) easily – which often makes his opinion pieces a gas to read. His own Web site contains a sampling of his work, including some striking analytic pieces. But his unofficial site, run by Krugman groupies, is a whole lot more complete, and a whole lot more fun. It includes a lot of material about Krugman as well as stuff by him. xavier sala-i-martin | www.columbia.edu/~xs23/home.html Some economists are smart. A few are funny. A very few, including Columbia University’s Xavier Sala-i-Martin are smart and funny. Who else, after all, would grace his home page with a picture of Miss Piggy in her pigs-in-space getup, and a pair of floating eyeballs that follow your cursor around the site? Check out the picture of his favorite supermodel. Or...

Posted by DeLong at 11:01 AM

September 06, 2002
High-Tech Investment

High-Tech Investment If you read your business pages, you might well think that business purchases of computers are way down. Guess what? They're not. This year it looks like America's businesses are going to buy 13% more in the way of quality-adjusted computers and peripherals than in any previous year. In 2001--the only year in which real investment in computers and peripherals fell--quality-adjusted purchases fell by only 3%. Spending on computers and peripherals has indeed fallen. But that's because computers have become cheaper--a lot cheaper--not because American business is installing less computer power this year than in the past. Things look less bright if you aggregate up all high-tech investment--not just real investment in computers, but also software and "other": real investment in this broader category this year will be 4 percent below its year-2000 peak--but still higher than in any year other than 2000. Why the different pattern? The falloff in telecom investment. We are no longer spending a fortune digging holes and stuffing large quantities of fiber optic cables down them....

Posted by DeLong at 05:34 PM

American Labor Productivity Growth Trends

Labor Productivity Growth Trends Bill Nordhaus just gave a paper on U.S. productivity growth. One problem with the subject is that the year-to-year data are so noisy: errors in measuring output this year, errors in measuring output last year, errors in measuring hours worked this year, and errors in measuring hours worked last year all disturb the numbers reported for any given year. As a result, such papers almost always divide the time period up into a few chunks--1977-1989; 1989-1995; 1995-2001--and simply compare averages over those chunks. But the time series is considerably richer. So while Bill was talking, I found myself (a) taking the annual data, (b) adjusting productivity growth for the business cycle (for productivity growth jumps by 0.39 percent for each percentage point increase in this year's unemployment rate, and falls by 0.77 percent for each percentage point increase in last year's unemployment rate), and (c) taking a centered five-year moving average (using our current forecasts for 2002, and taking a truncated four-year not-centered moving average for 2001). The resulting series--the "actual" and the "trend"--are plotted as the green and the red line in the figure below: As a measure of the underlying pace of potential economic...

Posted by DeLong at 05:28 PM

August 24, 2002
Google Bombs

John Hiler wrote five and a half months ago about "Google Bombs"--how you can try to influence the direction taken by the billion searches a week through Google: Google Time Bomb - Will Weblogs blow up the world's favorite search engine? - Microcontent News, a Corante.com Microblog...

Posted by DeLong at 04:45 PM

August 22, 2002
Hanging Ten in Choppy Waves...

So there I was websurfing along, and I clicked on a link, and it took me to the New Republic, and there I was, suddenly faced with: You have reached an article that requires registration. Please complete the form below for access to all available online content. It shouldn't take more than a minute. After you complete the form, this page will redirect to the article you selected. We will be sending you an e-mail with a link to complete your registration, so please enter a valid e-mail address. Your e-mail address and any other personal information will never be shared with third-party companies without your consent. If you have already registered, please login in here: "Ah, s***!" I thought to myself. "I know I've registered, but under what userid? And with what password?" I thought I had done so while I was on vacation. I checked: there was no post-it on the computer's lid, nothing in my palm pilot telling me just who I had registered as. So I tried delong, I tried DeLong, I tried jdelong, I tried jbdelong, I think I tried bdelong and braddelong, and I tried them with my normal, unsecured password, and then with...

Posted by DeLong at 05:43 PM

August 19, 2002
Boosting the Signal-to-Noise Ratio on the Internet

Ray Ozzie believes that groups of weblogs are to discussion groups much as Google is to other more conventional search engines. Let me explain: The big problem with conventional search engines was that there was no filter, no mind judging whether the web pages that contained the search words was worthwhile or not. Indeed, there were many minds devoted to fooling whatever filters conventional search engines set up by assigning false relevance to their own web pages. Google solved this problem through page rank: requiring that others--human others--have found a page worth linking to before it would rank it highly. Similarly, conventional discussion groups produce either an appallingly low signal-to-noise ratio or rapid moderator burnout for largely similar reasons: flamers, spammers, et cetera have every incentive to post irrelevant information. Groups of weblogs, in Ozzie's opinion, solve this problem by a means similar to Google: if a flamer publishes a rant on his own weblog and nobody links to it, does it burn anything? I don't know how right or relevant this argument is, but it is a very interesting one. Architecture Matters: The Rebirth of Public Discussion: Over the years, I've been either a participant or a lurker on...

Posted by DeLong at 12:38 AM

August 15, 2002
Lots to Read Here...

Go now and read Amygdala. Gary Farber writes and links to good stuff about Counterpane Internet Security; Bruce Sterling, Cory Doctorow, and Open Source; U.S.-Jordanian military exercises; the H.M.S. Ark Royal; Moore's Law and the Singularity; In-N-Out Burger; Ashcroft's refusal of congressional oversight; and the language gene. I may get nothing done all day......

Posted by DeLong at 09:16 AM

August 14, 2002
Making Life Difficult

Now will someone please explain to me why Apple's and Linux's desktop market shares are so small? On Lisa Rein's Radar: Warning To Windows Media File Collectors: Your Music Will Die With Your Computer: A guy reformatted his hard drive and then found out none of his Windows Media files would work. Turns out that Windows Media Player turns the "copy protection" (copy prevention) on by default when it rips CDs, so when he reformatted his hard drive the player thought he was trying to play the copy protected files and a computer other than the one they had been licensed for. Let me say this another way: when you rip CDs on a Windows machine using Windows Media Player, it makes a unique identifier for your computer (that has privacy implications, yes, but I'm trying to make another point here). That unique identifier is associated with a license that is stored separately from the file itself that will only let those files be played back on the one single computer that matches the unique identifier. No other devices. Ever. (Without a lot of hassle anyway -- Without having to backup and restore your licenses on the other computer --...

Posted by DeLong at 02:55 PM

July 22, 2002
Simon Tisdall Said What?

One of the nice things about the developing wired intellectual culture is that one is required to link to whatever one is criticizing--and so people can immediately surf over and see if your summary of it is accurate. The hope is that misrepresentation and sleaze will be harder if people can--and many will--check whether your summary is fair. I don't like the Guardian's general take on how to deal with our current problem of wholesale terrorism. So I didn't necessarily expect to find something amiss when I clicked through to check on Andrew Sullivan's giving the "Sontag Award" to Simon Tisdall... www.AndrewSullivan.com - Daily Dish "It has taken the IRA 30 years to apologise. Let us hope it does not take the Israelis and Palestinians so long, writes Simon Tisdall." - The Guardian, equating IRA terrorism with Israel's self-defense. I wonder why he doesn't ask for Britain and Ireland to apologize to the IRA as well. Oh, never mind... ...but I guess I should have expected to find something amiss. Here are Tisdall's nut paragraphs: ...without time - time to stop, pause, think, reconsider and change - those most directly involved in the conflict could never have hoped to see...

Posted by DeLong at 10:10 AM

July 20, 2002
Never Build the Manhattan Project Unless You Have To

"Never build the Manhattan Project unless you have to!" said the twelve-year-old from the backseat of the car. The remark was completely unrelated to any previous conversation. Indeed, there had been silence for about five minutes. He was running his mind back over his experience with a computer game: Civilization. In Civilization, if you--or anyone--builds the Manhattan Project, everyone rapidly acquires the ability to build nuclear weapons. Since in the world of Civilization many civilization leaders are unbalanced nationalist militarists (think "Genghis Khan--literally--with ICBMs") the existence of nuclear weapons means that the nuclear war threshold is likely to be crossed, with the expected consequences. Both the kids have been spending a lot of time playing Civilization in the past three months. They can now both discourse learnedly on the advantages and disadvantages of different forms of government, on how to conduct foreign relations and how to read the true intentions of foreign leaders, on the mechanisms of technological and economic development, and on the tactics and strategy of imperialism in different technological ages. I think that most of what they are learning about history is, in some sense, "true." Simulation games are, however, a somewhat insidious form of learning. It...

Posted by DeLong at 08:53 PM

July 17, 2002
Amazon Made Usable

From Teresa Nielsen Hayden Making Light: July 2002 Archives Amazon made usable Boingboing already blogged this, and I don't care. It's too useful. Basically, it's Amazon stripped down to its working essentials. Posted by Teresa Nielsen Hayden at 03:41 PM | Comments (3)...

Posted by DeLong at 09:40 PM

July 16, 2002
Google: It's Superfreaky

I've found yet another situation in which Google is worth its weight in gold... I have always been lazy about keeping track of my bibliographies when I am writing. My drafts are filled with cryptic references like "Blanchard and coauthor (1996)," "Stiglitz (read sometime in the late 80s)," "Taylor (2000, discretionary fiscal policy) or "Vishny and Shleifer (198?)." Then comes the day when it is time to turn these cryptic references into references in a proper bibliography like: John Taylor (2000), "Reassessing Discretionary Fiscal Policy," Journal of Economic Perspectives 14:3 (Summer), pp. 21-36. Back in the really old days, before-the-web, before 1995 or so, fixing up the bibliography always required spending the better part of a day in the library stacks, looking up articles one by one in the archive copies of journals, hunting for books, and cursing that of the three copies of the key 1960 volume of the American Economic Review, two were out and one was lost. Yet this task of fixing up the bibliography was very worth doing, and was worth doing "thickly" with lots of references. First of fall, providing a thick reference trail is a way of helping those (few) people who will...

Posted by DeLong at 05:27 PM

Surveillance (the Real Thing, Not the Financial Thing)

I found this on Bruce Sterling's website. It reminds me: I should find where I put my thoughts on David Brin's The Transparent Society. The Infinite Matrix | Bruce Sterling | Schism Matrix Current Day 07.16.02 These Canadian guys started out wanting to sell "location-based" ads on mobile phones. Then they figured out that they could sell their knowledge about where cellphone users go to antiterror forces. That's called "geo-profiling." Do you hang out at nuclear waste sites at 3 in the morning? Better turn that cellphone off, Ahmed. http://www.wirelessadwatch.com/profile/2001/profilium.shtml http://www.mobic.com/news/2002/01/avesair_matches_mobile_marketing.htm How long before this handy technology service hits the divorce courts? "She's an unfit mother, Judge. My private detective tracked the phone in her purse, and look how she hits those singles bars." http://www.sun.com/products-n-solutions/government/cjo/press04.html...

Posted by DeLong at 12:59 PM

July 15, 2002
Yes, People Should Make Sure Someone Edits Their Weblog

Does Mickey Kaus really think that Wanda Dunn, 37 year-old African-American Stone Mountain web designer, would be on AFDC if not for the mid-1990s welfare reform? Miscegenation, By Mickey Kaus ...the increase in black women dating white men.... Why the shift?... [I]sn't there another possible factor, something that happened in, say, the mid-90s, something like ...(the suspense must be killing you) ... welfare reform?... when you're working the virtues of pooling your income with a male earner are now far more obvious than in the days when that could cost you your AFDC check. If there aren't enough "marriageable" black men around... then women expand their "options," as one African-American Web designer puts it: "I'm not going to sit on a porch in a rocking chair, all alone at 80 years old because of color," says Wanda Dunn, a 37-year-old Stone Mountain Web designer......

Posted by DeLong at 02:50 PM

July 05, 2002
MIT Thinks About How to Build the Universal Library

One of the problems of the information age has been to figure out how to build the digital library of everything. It looks as though we are evolving a distributed system for indexing and evaluating the quality of information in the universal digital library: it's called Google. But how do we build the tools needed so that everything gets into the digital library? That's still a big question. MIT is trying to solve it. The Chronicle: 7/5/2002: 'Superarchives' Could Hold All Scholarly Output The most ambitious and most closely watched superarchive is being developed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. It is called DSpace, and its goal is to collect research material from nearly every professor at the institute --Athough participation will be voluntary. "We want to give faculty the infrastructure that supports alternative forms of publishing," says MacKenzie Smith, associate director of technology for MIT's libraries. Over the past two years, officials at MIT have been building a set of software tools to support the repository, and to make it easy for professors to submit material. Those tools are nearly ready, and four departments and programs at MIT will be testing them this summer. Beginning this fall, MIT plans...

Posted by DeLong at 09:24 AM

July 04, 2002
Computer-Telephone Convergence

"I have always wished that my computer would be as easy to use as my telephone. My wish has come true. I no longer know how to use my telephone." --Bjarne Stroustrup (originator of C++ programming language)...

Posted by DeLong at 07:41 PM

July 03, 2002
Google Doesn't Worry About Stickiness

Jason Kottke meditates on how Google understands the web--how it is eager to make its website an elastic place that you use to trampoline to the rest of the web, rather than a sticky place that it is hard to get away from. kottke.org :: Elastic, not sticky | Google now has this bit of text on the bottom of each of their results pages now: "Try your query on: AltaVista Excite Lycos Yahoo!" Click on Excite (for example) and it takes you directly to an Excite search results page for whatever term you were searching for. What's going on here? Google linking directly to competitors' Web sites? Have they gone insane? What Google is doing here is instructive for most companies offering online content or services. Google knows their search results are good and displayed in a useful way. You want to wander off to Excite? That's ok because they know you'll be back soon. Google doesn't care about stickiness (which is a nearly unattainable goal unless you're AOL or Yahoo!)... they know that you're not going to spend all your online time at their site. They care much more about making their site elastic: vistors aren't stuck in...

Posted by DeLong at 03:06 PM

The Boom in IT Investment

Real gross investment in IT relative to real GDP. The series is in chained 1996 dollars, so the relative levels are equal to nominal spending levels in 1996. We could choose an earlier base year, and blow up the apparent salience of IT investment today. We could choose a later base year, and reduce somewhat the salience of IT investment today. The first thing to note--the thing that is invariant to the choice of base year--is the extroardinary rise in the relative salience of IT, and how quickly it was accomplished. The second thing to note is how small the real decline in IT investment in the current recession has been. It erased less than two years' growth in relative real IT investment. Real Investment in Information Technology Equipment and Software Divided by Real GDP From the National Income and Product Accounts prepared by the Commerce Department's Bureau of Economic Analysis. Real gross private investment in information technology and software divided by real gross domestic product [GDP]. Note that this is not a "share": it is just two series of numbers, one divided by the other....

Posted by DeLong at 02:30 PM

The Upward Shift in Gross Investment in America

Before the 1990s there was some evidence for a long, slowly-moving upward trend in the volume of investment relative to GDP. Many Republican politicians (and a few analysts) thought that the Reagan tax cuts of the early 1980s had generated an investment breakthrough: they looked at the rise in investment from 1982 to its 1984 peak, projected this rise forward, and forecast rapid economic growth as it was "morning in America." But whatever supply-side incentives did in the mid- and late-1980s to boost demand for investment funds, the large federal deficits (and the swing in the balance of payments back toward zero) did more to drain the pool of savings and reduce the supply of potential investment funds. Anomalously, the later 1984-1989 stage of the 1980s expansion saw not rising but falling investment relative to GDP. The 1990s, by contrast, saw a stunning explosion of investment in America. A fall in private savings was greatly outweighed by a combination of the Clinton administration's successful commitment to deficit reduction, the return of foreigners' willingness--nay, eagerness--to invest in America, and stunning declines in the relative prices of high-tech investment goods that gave firms undertaking investment projects much more bang for the buck....

Posted by DeLong at 01:12 PM

July 02, 2002
Movie Trailers

The movie trailer for The Two Towers. It's been a long time since I first saw a movie trailer in a movie theater... The Two Towers...

Posted by DeLong at 06:48 AM

June 30, 2002
Bet on Europe to See a "New Economy" Boom in the Next Decade

The second half of the 1990s saw an astonishingly large productivity boom in America. Moreover, the productivity boom did not come to an end when the recession began. Only a strong underlying tide of increased efficiency and productivity from the use of high-tech computer and communications equipment can reconcile the steep American "unemployment recession" coupled with the non-existent "output recession": The U.S. unemployment rate has risen by two full percentage points over the past six quarters, yet production has not fallen at all, but has risen by 2.4%. But why was the boom so tightly confined to the United States? Why wasn't it a world-wide boom? Why wasn't it at least an industrial core-wide boom? There is, after all, nothing in the air or water that makes high-tech equipment work better in San Francisco or New York than in Frankfurt, Lyons, or Edinburgh. The past four years have seen analysts puzzle over slow relative growth--especially slow relative growth in Europe--outside the United States. Some analysts from the Bundesbank suggested that it was all due to the undercounting of production in Europe, but this had a hard time explaining the component of the U.S. productivity acceleration found not in computer-making...

Posted by DeLong at 06:07 PM

June 23, 2002
Another Thought on Advertising

John Ellis of Fast Company writes about how Yahoo missed its opportunity to rationalize the advertising sector: Yahoo Kisses It All Good-bye Seth Godin, a former Yahoo executive and a Fast Company contributing editor, wrote the book on this subject. Permission Marketing ( Simon & Schuster, 1999 ) was ahead of its time -- but exactly right for the future of Yahoo. The premise was straightforward: People do want to be advertised to. They just don't want to be advertised to unnecessarily. If you ask them for their permission and give them lists of categories that are acceptable to them, they will be open and responsive to your appeals. When I worked in Boston in the 1990s, I can remember driving to work every morning and being bombarded with radio ads for Giant Glass ( I can still remember the song: "Who do you call when your windshield's busted? Call Giant Glass" ). Could there possibly be a less efficient marketing campaign? I probably listened to 2,500 Giant Glass ads in all that time. My windshield never cracked. Because of its customer base, Yahoo had the opportunity to merge with, acquire, or be acquired by one of the Big Three...

Posted by DeLong at 08:25 AM

June 22, 2002
Transistor Density Is Not the Only Locus of "Heroic" Productivity Growth in Our Modern Economy: There's Bandwidth, Storage, and Also Batteries

The Economist recounts the story of the lithium-hydride battery. It's fascinating. And you should subscribe to the online version of the Economist. It (well, maybe one of the Wall Street Journal or the Financial Times) is the only pay-per-view publication worth the cost for the internet-browsing infovore. Economist.com | Hooked on Lithium Without the lithium-ion battery, introduced a decade ago, portable gadgets--from mobile phones and video cameras to laptops and palmtops--would have remained brick-like objects best left on the desk or at home. But the innovation would have floundered had electro-chemists in America not teamed up with a Japanese firm. THE Mobira Senator, launched in 1982 by Nokia, was the grand-daddy of today's mobile phones. It consisted of a small handset connected to a brick-like battery pack, with a hefty handle on top--a vital feature, since the whole thing weighed 9.8kg. Today, a typical mobile phone is a hundredth of this (ie, 100 grams or less) and can be tucked discreetly into a shirt pocket. This 99% weight reduction has been achieved largely through advances in battery technology. Above all, it is down to one particular breakthrough: the advent of the lithium-ion rechargeable battery. Lithium-ion batteries are the foot-soldiers of...

Posted by DeLong at 11:52 PM

June 20, 2002
Is Bablefish Ready for Prime Time Yet? No.

Is machine translation ready for prime time yet? | Translated version of http://www.emmanuelle.net (BETA) | Los Angeles, world capital of the dangerous distorsions in the car: on the freeways, essential expressways to move in this mégapole of more than 100 km North-South, it is not rare to see women to apply will mascara in the rear view mirror and of the men to consult their Palm Pilot with the wheel between the knees. The L.A. Times questions officers of California Highway Patrol (as the heroes of the series TV Chips) who tell rather incredible things: they saw a motorist to follow a match of foot (yes, astonishing soccer..., not?) by holding small tele of a hand, adjusting the antenna of the other. Another officer saw a woman threading a pair of sticking to 90 km/h! Unfortunately, the article is hidden in the site of Times and I cannot announce you the bond... but this police officer with the retirement with photographs amusing on its site of a motorist eating fast Chinese food with rods while slipping by to 112 km/h! Is Babelfish ready for prime time yet? It seems that the answer is still "No," and is likely to remain...

Posted by DeLong at 06:08 PM

Microsoft Plays Hardball at the End of Its Antitrust Trial

The end of the remedy phase of the Microsoft antitrust trial. Looks like--once again--Microsoft's lawyers have decided to rely on the appeals court's finding something it doesn't like in the trial judge's conduct of the case. This is an extremely risky strategy.... | M E D I A U N S P U N | Judging a Judge's Smile | Before closing arguments in the remedy phase of the Microsoft antitrust trial, Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly asked the two sides to rank their arguments and consider which of their opponent's proposals might be tolerable to them. Attorneys for the nine non-settling states obliged. Microsoft hard-lined it, blowing off the judge's request and even proposing a last-minute scaling back of the already toothless Justice Department settlement. And the judge smiled. Reporters had differing interpretations of that smile. The New York Times said the judge smiled at Microsoft's lawyer's "open defiance of her efforts to extract concessions." The Seattle Post-Intelligencer guessed that the judge's smile meant that she "like most in the courtroom understood such elements have no chance of being dropped from any settlement." The San Jose Mercury News' Dan Gillmor made his opinion perfectly clear while admitting that the judge's could...

Posted by DeLong at 09:41 AM

Is UNIX the Answer for Office Workers?: It Can Be

Arnold Kling doesn't like UNIX-for-desktops, and criticizes Eric Raymond for thinking that UNIX is the answer to anything--including "version fatigue", the sense of exhaustion that comes from having to learn new things about user interfaces and system customization with each new upgrade of each new program. Unsatisfied with the fact that each new Microsoft system and application version is just incompatible enough with your previous version to make it both annoying and inefficient to have to learn the differences and also more annoying and more inefficient to remain one version behind everyone else? use UNIX, says Raymond. And Arnold Kling is not happy with this proposal: Let's go to the videotape: Here's Arnold: Corante: The Bottom Line - The economics of information technology. Command Line Bigots--An article called "Version Fatigue" by Instapundit drew this response from Eric Raymond: I have been using the same text editor since 1982. I have been using the same command-line shell since 1985, and the same operating system since 1993. But that last date is actually misleading, because I still get use out of programs I wrote for the previous dialect of my OS as far back as 1982, without ever having had to alter...

Posted by DeLong at 07:07 AM

April 10, 2002
What Strange New Technological Things Will We See in the Next Ten Years?

O'Reilly Network: Inventing the Future by Tim O'Reilly "The future is here. It's just not evenly distributed yet." I recently came across that quote from science-fiction writer William Gibson, and I've been repeating it ever since. So often, signs of the future are all around us, but it isn't until much later that most of the world realizes their significance. Meanwhile, the innovators who are busy inventing that future live in a world of their own. They see and act on premises not yet apparent to others. In the computer industry, these are the folks I affectionately call "the alpha geeks," the hackers who have such mastery of their tools that they "roll their own" when existing products don't give them what they need......

Posted by DeLong at 05:24 PM

March 26, 2002
Life Under Communism, Chapter CCCXLVII

Cuba Bans PC Sales to Public Cuba Bans PC Sales to Public | By Julia Scheeres | 2:00 a.m. March 25, 2002 PST | The Cuban government has quietly banned the sale of computers and computer accessories to the public, except in cases where the items are "indispensable" and the purchase is authorized by the Ministry of Internal Commerce. News of the ban was first reported by CubaNet, an anti-Castro site based in Miami. According to the organization's correspondent in Havana, the merchandise -- which had been sold freely in the capital since mid-2001-- was yanked off store shelves in January......

Posted by DeLong at 05:10 PM

September 15, 2001
A Talk on the Coming of the Information Age in Very Long Historical Perspective

CITRIS Kickoff: The New Economy For perhaps 9000 years after the beginnings of agriculture the overwhelming proportion of human work lives were spent making things: growing crops, shearing sheep, spinning yarn, weaving cloth, throwing pots, cutting down trees, copying books, and so on, and so forth. Technology did improve enormously over those 9000 years: contrast the clothes-making technology at the disposal of Henry VIII of England with that of Rameses II of Egypt three thousand years before; contrast the triple-crop paddy-irrigated rice- and water-control-based agriculture of the Yangtze Delta in eighteenth-century China with the scratch-the-soil-with-a-hoe agriculture of two thousand years before. But as Thomas Robert Malthus first wrote in the 1790s, rising populations had put enough pressure on scarce natural resources to offset the benefits of better technology and keep living standards nearly constant for the people if not for the elite: American President Thomas Jefferson in 1803 A.D. certainly enjoyed a higher standard of living than Roman Consul Marcus Tullius Cicero in 63 B.C. But did Jefferson's slaves enjoy a higher standard of living than Cicero's? A large amount of archeological evidence has not yet found significant differences. For the past two hundred and fifty years, since the start...

Posted by DeLong at 05:20 PM

December 13, 1999
Information-Age Markets Will Only Work Well with Proper Government Support

An E-conomy? Is the recent acceleration of American economic growth likely to persist? Could the next generation see the median American material standard of living, as officially measured by the Department of Commerce, rise at something like 3% per year (rather than the 1% or so that we have grown used to since 1973)? And will the next generation see other countries join the world economy's wealthy core not one by one (as Italy joined in the 1960s, Japan in the 1970s, and Korea hopes to join in the next decade) but in battalions? Maybe. The next generation might see a return of measured productivity growth to the levels seen back before 1973. It might not. Which will happen depends on the answers to two questions: "Is there really a new economy-an E-conomy-that is materially accelerating economic growth?" and "Will we provide it with the proper support-the proper resources and rules it?"...

Posted by DeLong at 04:13 PM

October 30, 1999
Getting a Head Start on Writing an Important New Category of Software

Review of Charles Ferguson, High Stakes, No Prisoners by Michael Froomkin and Brad DeLong Charles Ferguson has written a very honest book. That honesty is one chief reason to read it: he dishes the dirt on Netscape, Microsoft, his lawyers, his venture capitalists, and not least himself. But his very honesty gives the reader some critical distance--and gave us the tools to question how long the core conclusions of the book will continue to apply. In 1993 Charles Ferguson--MIT-trained engineer, consultant, and high-tech industry analyst--had a brilliant idea: the world needed a visual development software tool to create online information systems. The tool had to be visually-oriented to be useful to the non-programmers who knew the information. Yet the tool had to be sophisticated to allow organizations to structure their data in useful ways. Ferguson sunk his then-life savings into his idea. He created his software corporation, Vermeer. With his partner, Randy Forgaard, he assembled a very good programming staff. He raised venture capital. He pursued the enterprise with monomania mixed with paranoia. And by the end of 1995 there was code that was more sophisticated than the code of potential competing programs like NaviPress, Netscape Composer, or PageMill, and...

Posted by DeLong at 03:06 PM