April 28, 2009
the swine flu map looks a lot busier than it did yesterday.
it’s great to have kids. we had an hours session of q & a this evening. it turns out that the Zs have both been learning about the black death. zac asked if he was going to die of flu. unlikely, i said. but the wonderful thing is, that at 11, he knows he is immortal.
April 25, 2009
software is free (open-source). software comes shrink-wrapped for a fixed price (is resold) or is downloaded for a fixed price. it’s given away free, except for commercial use; free, but there’s a charge for support. or you can use a basic version for free, but the extra whistles cost something (premium product). or you can rent it (SaaS). I currently use software purchased in each of these ways.
my least favourite isn’t up there. this is software for a price determined by who’s buying it. this is, perhaps, the most common enterprise model. it sucks and i actively try to avoid it. it makes perfect sense, of course, let’s suck up that consumer surplus (difference between what someone is prepared to pay, and what the price is set at). but when you phrase it as “how much can i get away with” it doesn’t sound so impressive.
but you’ve got to make a living.
any vendor has to look at how many users they think they’re worth. if there’s only going to be a handful, then the price is going to be high. if you’re going to cover the planet, then that’s different. of course, there will be competitors.
idly thinking about this i came up with two alternative pricing models, the first of which is ridiculous. that being to charge:
total amount the software is worth / total users in a set time period
the user get’s billed at the end of the end of the period. i see a “current price” ticking down with every download / take up. let’s see those early adopters pay.
the second is time-step pricing. there’s a $10 charge now, next month it’s $9. In a year it will be 10c. jump in when you feel it’s worth it.
It doesn’t matter whether we’re talking a one off charge or rental (SaaS), the same principle would apply.
April 19, 2009
this is a nice story. (and further evidence of the spread of gladwellism). it also accords with something i’ve always believed. that trainers are evil devices designed to remove all sense of ground. they do. give me a flat leather sole anyday. so it seems as though running with bare feet is faster and leads to fewer injuries. i smile thinking of some woman, on an escalator going down into the tube, reading this story in the daily mail, feet at 45 degrees in 3 inch heels.
April 15, 2009
waiting for the kids to get ready for bed i caught five minutes of david starkey’s series on henry viii. it made me wish i wasn’t eschewing television at the moment. it was a great five minutes. henry and francis i of france were to meet for the very first time. henry, a young king, wanted to prove himself. this meeting would set the tone. it is to take place on english occupied land outside calais. like the crystal palace, festival of britain in 1951, or even the bird’s nest stadium in beijing, henry pushed the boat out. there were 10,000 nobles and acolytes assembled. he arrived with a retinue of 3,500. his wife with 1,100. the field was full of brightly coloured tents, all trimmed with gold. it has become known as The Field of the Cloth of Gold. the centre peice was a vast palace of brick, timber and canvass, before which were two fountains. all were to last just two weeks. it was all just to demonstrate power, influence, and taste. if you had a time machine it would have to be on the itinerary.
April 14, 2009
just saw a jared diamond lecture (video) on religion. He lists five reasons for religion:
the talk was fine but it’s a ropey list. (1) covers, at least (2), (3) and (4) as well. beauty and “truth” are left, which is nice.
of course religion is a hypothesis. it made sense, once, to attribute certain phenomena to deities, what other explanations were available? polytheism morphed into monotheism, a necessary prerequisite for science. god could sit in the background, the why answered, while the hows were tackled. what’s happening now is that the hows appear to require no outside agency. why is increasingly seen as either an irrelevant or soluble question.
i always tell the kids that we are just hypothesis generating machines. all thoughts are hypotheses. there are no truths, simply hypotheses that have been tested well. (i know, poor kids.)
i rather follow c.s. peirce in this respect. although i truly came to his ideas through karl popper, rather like first hearing a cover version of a classic. but peirce is far richer.
i’ve banged on about peirce before and won’t do so again now, except in the context of truth. for peirce there is no platonic truth. he introduced the idea of community and time into the concept. i come to this as a historian. every historian should understand that there are no truths. we would say that our knowledge of any historic period increases over time. partly because we gain more evidence, partly because we gain more commentators that build on previous work or introduce new ideas. i.e. our hypotheses change. the same is true of that well-known branch of history, science.
key to this is community. we measure this in everyday life, and all of us know what the competing explanations are for a bunch of things, together with what is in favour and what isn’t. perhaps we could even measure this, calculate truth. stephen wolfram thinks we can and has built something to do it.
I see a new field of knowledge-based computing. Imagine a spread sheet that can pull in knowledge about the entries.
whether this is going to work well enough we’ll discover in time (launch next month). but whatever it yields will be improved upon. we’re getting better at analysing data. we’re also getting better, and smarter, at creating it. something else that’s launching soon, fluidDB.
April 3, 2009
the villagers of Broughton surround a google street view car and the police are called. yes, it’s madness. the best thing that google could do is to use the material they have.
fancy a trip out? what about Broughton? let’s take a look on google. oh, an angry mob (with blanked out faces), mmm, maybe not.