The Pebble and the Avalanche

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Current Revolutions in Business and Technology

by Dr. Moshe Yudkowsky,

author of The Pebble and The Avalanche: How Taking Things Apart Creates Revolutions


Tue, 2011-Jun-07, 06:09

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The Irony: Twitter and Apple

Yesterday was precisely either the right day or the wrong day for Apple to announce that the next release of Apple's operating system for the iPhone will integrate Twitter.

As Apple announced their new Twitterized features, back in New York City Representative Anthony Weiner (D-New York) called a press conference to admit that he'd lied about his use of Twitter to send an embarrassing photograph of himself.

Apple may view Twitter integration as a win for their users, and that might even be the case for some of these users (and if Twitter proves reliable enough to provide service and remains profitable enough to continue as business). But I know that I don't want to accidentally send all my emails out in my Twitter feed; that I don't want all my photos uploaded for the world to see; that I don't care for anyone other then my spouse to know my location at all times. Apple's integration of Twitter should make everyone nervous — a single misplaced tap on the screen away from sharing corporate secrets, vacation plans, or your child's birthday party photos with the entire world.

I'd say that Weiner's timing was impeccable. Weiner inadvertently performed a public service with his demonstration of the pitfalls of improper use of Twitter. With Apple's integration of Twitter into every nook and cranny of the iPhone, expect to see an entire new level of inadvertent disclosures.

Thu, 2010-Jul-08, 05:08

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US Cyber Command

I personally find any product or service to be less believable when the prefix "cyber" is applied; as someone who works in high technology, to me the term smacks of decades-old terminology and attitudes, used by ignorant marketing executives who are ignorant of technology but desparately want to sound modern and up to date. The US "Cyber Command" falls into the category of distrusted services.

I've just seen this thoroughly unbelievable assertion in the Wall Street Journal:

Intelligence officials have met with utilities' CEOs and those discussions convinced them of the gravity of the threat against U.S. infrastructure, an industry specialist said, but the CEOs concluded they needed better threat information and guidance on what to do in the event of a major cyber attack.
Frankly, I find it very hard indeed to believe — given the Obama Administration's blundering, dithering, and outright obstructionism in the Gulf oil spill — that any CEO would look to this administration, or any other government agency, for instructions on how to respond to a security attack. That is, of course, unless the authorities require them to do so...

Tue, 2009-Jan-20, 12:33

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Silence (and Cheaper Rooms) at eComm

For once I'm attending a conference without speaking — from the podium, that is. I certainly intend to pay careful attention to the talks and to allocate generous dollops of time for networking.

The eComm conference schedule and registration is here. I have a discount code which ought to get you 10% off the registration: YFEDHW5E. Oh, and sometime in the next 24 hours it ought to be fixed, but the room rate has now dropped to just $159 per night (instead of $189 per night as listed on the web site and with the call centers).

Wed, 2008-Nov-12, 09:20

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Automobiles and Arbitrary Disaggregation

Andrew Jenkins at the Wall Street Journal has written yet another interesting summary of the automobile industry "crisis" in the US. Well, actually, not exactly; Jenkins writes about the so-called "Big Three" companies headquartered in Detroit. Other companies, such as Toyota and Honda, employ thousands of US worker and profitably build and sell tens of thousands of cars, but these companies are not the ones in line for handouts.

As Jenkins has mentioned before, the people running the Big Three automobile companies are not idiots; their problems stem in large part from government intervention. Jenkins advocates the simple but remarkable idea that the government help the automobile companies not by giving them money but by changing laws and regulations that force them into untenable situations.

I particularly enjoyed reading the first article I referenced for two reasons. Firstly, Jenkins explains in loving detail why GM's Volt, an automobile that may go on sale in 2010 and touted as the salvation of the company, will actually (if anything) put GM into an even more precarious situation.

Secondly, in both articles Jenkins mentions the "two-fleet rule." This rule, put into place at the insistence of automobile workers' unions, forces the Big Three to build small cars in the US using union workers. Put simply, the government artificially disaggregates the cars built by the Big Three into two categories: built in the US, and built overseas. Each separate "fleet" must meet Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) requirements. As a result, the automobile manufacturers must build small, high-mileage cars in the US as a counterweight to their less fuel-efficient big cars; they cannot blend the two "fleets" to find their average fuel economy.

The result of this artificial disaggregation is very simple: union jobs and huge costs to the manufacturers. But of course, the former was the intent of the disaggregation while the latter is simply a side effect. Still, I find it interesting to see the role that artificially-imposed disaggregation can play in killing, rather than invigorating, a company.