Searching for the Moon

Shannon Clark's rambles and conversations on food, geeks, San Francisco and occasionally economics

Archive for October, 2004

ItSeemstoMe: Bob Metcalfe, Acrimony & 3rd Parties

Posted by shannonclark on October 30, 2004

ItSeemstoMe: Bob Metcalfe, Acrimony & 3rd Parties

Shel Israel has a post up about conversing with Bob Metcalfe at PopTech on the subject of 3rd parties. I have contributed a long comment with my thoughts on the matter.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a Comment » Full Disclosures

Posted by shannonclark on October 29, 2004 Full Disclosures

I posted a rather long comment. Steven Johnson has announced his next book – a polemic on “Everything Bad Is Good For You: Why Today’s Pop Culture Is Making Our Kids Smarter”. As I greatly enjoyed his previous book Emergence, I look forward to reading his next book (and he has another book which I will be seeking out when I have cought up a bit with my current too large too be read shelf – okay shelves)

My comment is mostly to agree with his premise. I think that modern pop culture – both here in the US and globally, is increasingly complex and sophisticated. I also would add that the growing trend towards creativity being easy and rewarded, as well as a focus on text (email, IMs) over voice is a very good thing. As well the trend to time-shifted self-programmed (Tivo, iPods, napster, iTunes, etc) vs. earlier broadcast models is also a great and important trend.

The complexity of the future will be how we merge the best elements of the broadcast, common culture model with the 1000’s of separate tribes model of the Internet and other connected media. That is, how do we consolidate and edit into selective summaries complexity – but also support and foster that complexity. I think current media may or may not figure this out, but I am confident that some of them will (MTV, Comedy Central perhaps faster than ABC, NBC, CBS or FOX).

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Supporting John Kerry

Posted by shannonclark on October 29, 2004

Presidential?Enblogments?2004 :

An experiment in “enblogment” – inspired by Larry Lessig and set up by David Winer.

I am an independent, but this election I will be voting for only the second time in my life for a major party candidate – for John Kerry. While I disagree with many of the Democratic base (specifically Unions in general but especially public sector unions and the teachers union whom I find in general serve a negative role. More on this follows) this year in particular I am very strongly in favor of many of John Kerry’s positions (especially a number of them which are in keeping with Hope Street Group positions. As well I am very strongly against nearly all aspects of George Bush’s policies – from how his administration has mismanaged the war in Iraq and anti-terrorism in general to domestic policies that reward the very very rich, penalize the poor, further divide the country, and seek to put one specific group’s religious views enshrined into the Constitution itself.

Unions. My problem with unions, and especially the teachers union but also public sector unions, is that they serve as a very significent negative force on innovation, change, or achievement in areas of education and government which I think are the very areas where change and innovation are desperately needed.

In the 7th grade I had the major misfortune of having a teacher who was completely unqualified to teach, but who had his “choice” of classes because it was the school’s local union representative. As a result I spent literally a year of school during which I did not learn anything in that class. Now as a kid I was always quite advanced, so my natural desire for learning and a great high school made up in part for his lack of skill and qualification, but I felt strongly then and still do that union contracts that reward only senority and perhaps to a lesser degree education (but generally only education in “education”) are a major factor in the difference between public and private school education.

(Though I had bad teachers at the Catholic elementary school I attended prior to going to public junior high, so bad teachers will be everywhere).

In contrast, my high school was non-union. The teachers negotiated a very generous contract, but were not unionized. As a result I had a multiple teachers with PhD’s, in the subjects they were teaching! They were attracted to my high school, which was a public high school, because it paid well, provided good resources, and had a large and good student body. Most of my teachers had a masters degree specifically in the field they were teaching, many of the teachers had been at that school for decades. It should be noted that while my high school was in a near suburb of Chicago, it was also highly diverse – ethnically and financially – to a degree rarely found anywhere in the US. (we actually had a speaker at graduation who noted that the “real” world would unlikely be as diverse as we had experienced in high school)

Anyway, that is one of my issues with the Democratic base. But irregardless, I am strongly supporting John Kerry and encourage you who are reading this to get out and vote on Nov 2nd. Also, if you are in one of the many states with constitutional ammendments or resolutions againsts gay rights I encourage you as well to vote against denying rights to one group of Americans on the basis of sexual preference.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a Comment » News | Dems bash GOP on national sales tax plan

Posted by shannonclark on October 26, 2004

Salon posts a news article about Dems bashing GOB candidates over a proposed (very loosely it seems) national sales tax. News | Dems bash GOP on national sales tax plan

I wonder if there are lessons which could be learned from how other countries with a national sales tax implement it which might help the US? Personally I have long thought that a national sales tax of some form is a good counterpoint to other trends in federal taxes such as the seeming repeal of the estate tax, lowered income taxes, more other tax loopholes/credits etc.

However, I agree and understand that if just passed on all transactions, people who spend most of their earnings (or indeed more than they earn) will be most heavily penalized.

So a few suggestions:

1. Exempt education, healthcare, food, beverages (perhaps non-alcoholic ones only), public transportation. This covers a significent percentage of basic household purchases, but leaves out some critical areas – housing, school supplies and clothing being two obvious ones.

Say that a federal sales tax were 1% (another option is a graduated sales tax, something like 0.5% – or lower, on the first $100, then go up to 1% above 100. (sure, some very rich people might “break up” transactions above $100 into many smaller transactions but existing laws might cover this and in any case it would perhaps put the retailer at risk as well)

If everyone nationwide got a sales tax credit of $100 (and a true credit, refundable if you do not owe any federal taxes), this would more than cover the tax burden of most low income families.

I would further suggest giving “rich” people an option such as “donate your tax credit to …” (presidential election campaign funds, paying down the debt etc.)

I do not have the exact sums, but it seems to me that if imposed on end use sales (retail sales, sales to businesses not for resale purposes) and if bound by existing sales tax exemption (but perhaps with greater audit/enforcement powers to limit abuse) such a sales tax could generate very significent funds while minimizing the impact on lower incomes, and only minimally impacting “the rest of us”.

A few items would be controversial:

– gasoline (I personally think higher taxes/costs of gas are likely a net positive in the change in behavior they might impose on the economy but this is an arguable point as they may also raise costs across the board

– clothing – we all “need” it, however it seems ripe for abuse if exempted, instead I think the across the board credit approach is better

– tourists / non-filers – I think tourists should probably pay taxes, however could be handled in a similar manner to VAT refunds in Europe, especially on things such as hotels, airfare, rental cars etc.

– meals out vs. food at grocery stores – easiest I think would be to exempt it all, though perhaps impose the tax on alcohal which is perhaps viewable as a luxuary good.

– how to define “public transportation” “eduction” “healthcare” – especially optional items such as plastic surgery or over the counter medicines/supplements etc. On the otherhand I think this might be easiest if handled very simply.

– phone – i.e. when is a phone a phone vs. a computer? Again a case I think were simplicity should reign.

What would remain?

– Cars.

– Furniture.

– Jewelry

– art

– games and entertainment

– Housing (purchased only perhaps – exempt rent though may make some complicated tax loophold available)

– Investments – tricky, could be defended as having a value and separate tax cehicle (capital gains), often are also tax deferred/avoided entirely in any case.

Anyway, I think it is something worth consideration. The Democrat’s points are valid, but not impossible to address in a way that still is a net positive (in a very significent manner) to the federal government, and which might also have some very serious other positives to the economy as a whole.

Why do I say that?

Well, for one, a simple, federal sales tax which is levied on corporations as well as individuals alike, and which is paid at the time of the transactions (and filed monly as current state sales taxes are filed) means federal revenues spread across the 12 months of the year vs. concentrated in April and quarterly.

More critically it is a way to collect revenues from corporations that otherwise pay very little in taxes at present (via tax shelters, creative accounting, and other means – though many do pay some state sales taxes and property taxes).

The process of setting up to collect this tax will impose some burden on many businesses (though no to little burden on individuals – though the issue of individuals selling such as via Ebay is a complicated one worth consideration). At the same time this burden might impose new investments in technologies to connect with the government and to collect and track sales tax, this in turn might create efficiences and cost savings.

Further, a common, uniform sales tax is one that could be imposed on online as well as offline transactions. Sure, we might all grumble, but it might point towards a way to greater parity on and offline, plus something like 1% is not a big difference in most transactions.

Anyway, bears consideration and further thoughts.

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Boston then home

Posted by shannonclark on October 24, 2004

As I type this I am in a Fairfield Inn outside of Boston, watching the world series which is happening not too far from my hotel. Glad to report that Boston is currently winning.

I will go over my notes from PopTech and post my comments, thoughts reactions etc. Overall it was a great experience, some great speakers (and some not so great) but more critically and importantly, a ton of really good participants with nary a boring person in attendance – everyone had a story as one woman on the bus back from dinner last night commented.

As such, amongst catching up on work for clients, preparing proposals, and generally all the catching up that you have to do post-conference, my week will also be filled with following up with everyone whom I met at PopTech. Sending them the articles/references I promised, sending them invites to come to MeshForum, sending them requests to help with MeshForum, etc. I predict a busy week ahead.

I commented to Julia this evening as we spoke, I on my generic hotel bed, her on our bed at home, that it feels like Wednesday (but “really” is Sunday). Saturday was a very full day, started early went late. Today I slept in a bit but then ventured out to get breakfast and do some shopping in Camden before leaving, ended up in one final PopTech discussion about IP, the Semantic Web, and other things. Then came the 4+ hour drive back from Maine to Boston, in the rain, to a non-selected hotel.

To get my hotel, I pulled into a Kinko’s parking lot, in the general area of Boston suburbs the person I am meeting tomorrow morning suggested was close to where he is, and fired up Yahoo! Maps.

From a basic map of Boston I zoomed in on the general area where I was – then I turned on the feature that shows hotels directly on the map.

Armed with that knowledge, I then fired up another browser window, went to Travelocity and searched for what they showed as the best rate at the hotels that were just minutes from where I was. I double checked this with and went with Travelocity. Then I confirmed with the hotel the specific directions as to how to get there, and went to have dinner at the Thai restaurant around the corner from the Kinkos.

Keep in mind, I did all this parked in my car – the Kinko’s was closed and it was raining steadily all the time.

Sometime I love modern technology – and wonder how I ever traveled without easy Internet access, cell phones, etc.

So, I will post more on PopTech later this week.

If you are in Boston, reading this, and want to catch up with me – drop me a line and/or leave me a comment. I will be free tomorrow afternoon – current plan is probably to head into Cambridge and spend the afternoon somewhere around Harvard.

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Indian Technology Information, Forecasting & Assessment Council

Posted by shannonclark on October 22, 2004

Technology Information, Forecasting & Assessment Council

Very rich and details website – worth paying attention to as India is both one of the largest countries in the world and increasingly one of the most technically advanced (clearly not all of it, but certainly lots of very smart people and much of Silicon Valley’s talent etc.)

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PopTech quick notes – Day 2

Posted by shannonclark on October 22, 2004

A few notes from the first panel of the day on Happiness.

See everything on the following site – Ze Frank really funny and very good stuff…

Largest Book in the world – on Bhutan from MIT.

A Visual Odyssey Across the Last Himalayan Kingdom Bhutan: A Visual Odyssey Across the Last Himalayan Kingdom
by Michael Hawley, Carolyn Bess, Sandy Choi, Dorji Drukpa, Michael Hawley, Becky Hurwitz, Choki Lhamo Kaka, Gyelsey Loday, Christopher Newell, David Salesin

Powered by JigZaw, Inc.

Also on a more serious note, while I may not agree with all of their political views, I do support much of what they do,

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PopTech – day one, Thursday

Posted by shannonclark on October 21, 2004

So, much to think about and write about – more on this when I have time to go through my notes and edit them into something coherent.

A few general thoughts and comments.

1. Conferences are fun and I have many people I know here, but I miss Julia, hopefully in the future for similar events she can share them with me (both a factor of her schedule, vacation days and our finances.

2. Maine is very beautiful, but we are spending most of the conference inside – if the weather cooperated, I think at least one of the breaks should have been outside.

3. Three speakers for 30+ minutes each is about one speaker too many, especially for the last panel. And while a few questions from the audience are good, more would be a better and more audience interaction (not involving saving falling babies… more on that later) would be even better.

4. Note to self, bring (purchased ahead of time) something small to snack on/chew on while at conferences – some candies and gum would be perfect, but I find myself wanting something small, this afternoon after lunch I snagged a small apple, tonight after dinner a small cookie, but not exactly ideal.

5. A lack of diversity gets really noticible after a while, note to self, when planning MeshForum I should either make an active effort to get female speakers, or even more likely I should focus on having some highly interactive portions of the conference which will include most (hopefully all) of the attendees which therefore I hope means people from a very wide range of very diverse backgrounds (and genders etc)

So, more on the conference itself and today’s topics.

I think the conference has a bunch of interesting speakers and they are presenting intriguing points of view. However, perhaps it is a factor of what I read and what I pay attention to, but so far today there has not been a lot of really amazingly “new” stuff from any of the speakers for me, a number presented interesting points of view and in a few cases specific factoids or details that I had not heard elsewhere, but generally speaking they were all covering matters I have thought about/read about before.

On the otherhand the audience is really, really strong. Lots of interesting and intriguing people and lots of business (of some sorts) seems to be occurring, not sure if I am “plugged in” or not, though I certainly know a bunch of people who are here and there are a lot of people here whom I should try to meet.

A comment on that – while I like seeing the bios of the people who are speaking and the organizers, I would really, really like to see a short list and bio of the people attending – at least give me a sense of people who are here whom I should try to meet. People who work for firms I admire, who have backgrounds I am curious about, who might have a need for my services in some manner etc.

Lots of good connections in spite of that but it is not organized mostly random conversations and discussions, though everone is approachable and it is not hard to meet the other attendees.

Tonight was the blogger dinner, which was a lot of fun and certainly good company to be with (with quite a few “a-list” bloggers at the table, I felt rather small in terms of readership, but oh well)

I did, however, forget to bring my camera with me… need to remember that tomorrow.

Today I had intermittant email problems – so if you have been trying to reach me, don’t worry, I will hopefully get everything and catch up eventually, but if you still do not hear back from me either resend the email or call me.

Later tonight I hope to post about the speakers in detail, list the questions I had but were not asked (though one of my questions was partially asked by Bob Metcalfe, so that’s cool).

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Blogging PopTech

Posted by shannonclark on October 21, 2004

I am here at PopTech, blogging intermittedly as I have a connection (and battery life) to do.

Last night the dinner/reception was a chance to catch up with many of the people whom I have met in other contexts, but who all have also arrived here at PopTech. This is my first year, but I have already been meeting many interesting people and have a sense that this is something that if possible I will return to each year.

For now I will take notes offline and then post periodically on what is going on. I know that there is some form of Poptech backchannel, not sure if I will participate in that or not, for the moment my focus will be on the speakers and taking notes for myself.

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Attending PopTech

Posted by shannonclark on October 19, 2004

I will be attending PopTech. Flying to Boston tomorrow morning, driving down (call me/email me if you want to share the ride) to be there in time for the opening night party/networking event.

While at Pop!Tech I will be networking a great deal. With three primary goals, one, finding participants and perhaps sponsors for MeshForum, possibly finding additional interesting consulting opportunities for myself and/or JigZaw, and finally finding resources for a major upcoming project I am hoping to be working on this fall/winter. (more on that later).

After Pop!Tech I will be driving back to Boston sometime on Sunday, then will be in Boston Monday, flying back to Chicago in the early evening. If you are in Boston and would like to meet up, drop me a line or call me and I’ll try to coordinate.

The project I am hoping to be working on is still under NDA, but here is what I can say. It would be essentially producing the equivelant of 200+ hours of reality TV, with a very strong web presense (think’s ad campaign) but tied to a national sports league with a national TV contract. My role would be essentially producer/technical advisor. Help would be saught with the many exciting aspects of this possible project, including publicity, promotion, contests, sponsorship opportunities and more. It would incorporate what I (and many others) have learned about networks as well as incorporate probably a rich set of content, hopefully licensed in a creative commons style manner.

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