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Shane Greenstein, Kellogg Chair in Information Technology at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management, discusses his recent paper, Collective Intelligence and Neutral Point of View: The Case of Wikipedia , coauthored by Harvard assistant professor Feng Zhu. Greenstein and Zhu’s paper takes a look at whether Linus’ Law applies to Wikipedia articles. Do Wikipedia articles have a slant or bias? If so, how can we measure it? And, do articles become less biased over time, as more contributors become involved? Greenstein explains his findings.

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Alice Marwick, assistant professor of communication and media studies at Fordham University, discusses her newly-released book, Status Update: Celebrity, Publicity, and Branding in the Social Media Age. Marwick reflects on her interviews with Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, technology journalists, and venture capitalists to show how social media affects social dynamics and digital culture. Marwick answers questions such as: Does “status conscious” take on a new meaning in the age of social media? Is the public using social media the way the platforms’ creators intended? How do you quantify the value of online social interactions? Are social media users becoming more self-censoring or more transparent about what they share? What’s the difference between self-branding and becoming a micro-celebrity? She also shares her advice for how to make Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram and other platforms more beneficial for you.

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Sherwin Siy, Vice President of Legal Affairs at Public Knowledge, discusses emerging issues in digital copyright policy. He addresses the Department of Commerce’s recent green paper on digital copyright, including the need to reform copyright laws in light of new technologies. This podcast also covers the DMCA, online streaming, piracy, cell phone unlocking, fair use recognition, digital ownership, and what we’ve learned about copyright policy from the SOPA debate.

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Jerry Ellig, senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, discusses the the FCC’s lifeline assistance benefit funded through the Universal Service Fund (USF). The program, created in 1997, subsidizes phone services for low-income households. The USF is not funded through the federal budget, rather via a fee from monthly phone bills — reaching an all-time high of 17% of telecomm companies’ revenues last year. Ellig discusses the similarities between the USF fee and a tax, how the fee fluctuates, how subsidies to the telecomm industry have boomed in recent years, and how to curb the waste, fraud and abuse that comes as a result of the lifeline assistance benefit.

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Adam Thierer, Senior Research Fellow at the Mercatus Center discusses his recent working paper with coauthor Brent Skorup, A History of Cronyism and Capture in the Information Technology Sector. Thierer takes a look at how cronyism has manifested itself in technology and media markets — whether it be in the form of regulatory favoritism or tax privileges. Which tech companies are the worst offenders? What are the consequences for consumers? And, how does cronyism affect entrepreneurship over the long term?

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Richard Brandt, technology journalist and author, discusses his new book, One Click: Jeff Bezos and the Rise of Amazon.Com. Brandt discusses Bezos’ entrepreneurial drive, his business philosophy, and how he’s grown Amazon to become the biggest retailer in the world. This episode also covers the biggest mistake Bezos ever made, how Amazon uses patent laws to its advantage, whether Amazon will soon become a publishing house, Bezos’ idea for privately-funded space exploration and his plan to revolutionize technology with quantum computing.

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Just finished watching President Barack Obama’s State of the Union speech and Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell’s response.

For some reason, this reminds me of the annual honors ceremony at my daughter’s school.  Why?  Because at my daughter’s school, when they award a plethora of awards to students in each grade, they ask the audience to hold our applause to the end.  Why? Because  applause prolongs the ceremony interminably.

Sound familiar? Members of Congress imitate Jack-in-the-Boxes springing up and down at appropriate applause lines. Democrats sprang up at appropriate applause lines relevant to the president’s agenda. Republicans sprang up too, when the president praised small business or said said he wanted more nuclear power plants.  President Obama expected applause from Republicans when he listed his tax cuts, but he was disappointed and then joked about it. If you watched the speech on TV, some members of Congress seemed to be applauding with a look on their faces that said they didn’t quite know why they were applauding. The Joint Chiefs of Staff finally stood up and applauded when Obama praised veterans. Vice President Joe Biden has perfected the “sage” look, though sometimes he looked grumpy enough to be mistaken for a Republican!  

Republicans have finally cottoned to this phenomenon. Instead of presenting a solo speaker in a sterile environment, they presented Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell with an audience in the Virginia State Capitol. Like the president, the governor was interrupted by applause from legislators and others in the audence. Rhetorically, I thought it added an extra “oopmh” to the governor’s speech — both because it showed he has folks who agree with him and because he highlighted the state perspective. Given the rules of the political game, it was a smart choice. 

But that doesn’t mean a change in the rules wouldn’t make everyone better off. It’s friggin’ 11:50 at night, and I’m wiped out from a day of simultaneously working at home to get something written and running multiple scans on the home computer to get rid of the friggin’ Security 2010 virus, or Trojan, or whatever that thing  is.  I would have appreciated shorter speeches that simply told me what each party wanted to accomplish.

So here’s my suggestion. For the State of the Union Speech and the opposition party’s response, they should make the same request made at my daughter’s school awards ceremony: “Please hold your applause until the end.”

Now … anybody got any interesting technological solutions that would accomplish this goal?

Greg Elin (@gregelin) of the Sunlight Foundation schools you on government trasparency in under 5 minutes:

At George Mason University a while back, I was treated to a preview of some economic research; this time, a paper studying whether or not consumers read the fine print. “Does Anyone Read the Fine Print? A Test of the Informed Minority Hypothesis Using Clickstream Data.”  Authored by Yannis Bakos, Florencia Marotta-Wurgler, and David Trossen. The conclusion: in online software sales, no one does. Barely anyone. Less than one percent.

Well, of course not. Continue reading →

US Wireless Bandwidth per capita 2000-08Over the July 4 weekend, relatives and friends kept asking me: Which mobile phone should I buy? There are so many choices.

I told them I love my iPhone, but all kinds of new devices from BlackBerries and Samsungs to Palm’s new Pre make strong showings, and the less well-known HTC, one of the biggest innovators of the last couple years, is churning out cool phones across the price-point and capability spectrum. Several days before, on Wednesday, July 1, I had made a mid-afternoon stop at the local Apple store. It was packed. A short line formed at the entrance where a salesperson was taking names on a clipboard. After 15 minutes of browsing, it was my turn to talk to a salesman, and I asked: “Why is the store so crowded? Some special event?”

“Nope,” he answered. “This is pretty normal for a Wednesday afternoon, especially since the iPhone 3G S release.”

So, to set the scene: The retail stores of Apple Inc., a company not even in the mobile phone business two short years ago, are jammed with people craving iPhones and other networked computing devices. And competing choices from a dozen other major mobile device companies are proliferating and leapfrogging each other technologically so fast as to give consumers headaches. Continue reading →