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Defending the Net with Sarcasm

By Wah in Op-Ed
Sat Jul 28, 2001 at 11:06:56 AM EST
Tags: Internet (all tags)

The L.A. Times is currently carrying an article about how the Internet is fundamentally opposed to big business. And how big business is trying to change that. What follows are a few sarcastic (and a couple serious) asides about comments made by various people in the article. In order for my comments to make sense, you should probably read the article.

[ironic note: the L.A. Times has gotten the idea that keeping articles available to the public for longer than a fortnight would be bad for business, so you should get it while it's hot (and "Save as" if you want to refer to it later). This is irony defined, if you don't have a dictionary handy.]

The article starts with a quote from CEO #1, who has given up on the Internet since he can't control it. Who, in deference to teen girls everywhere, summarizes his stance as follows.

"The Internet is, like, 'Who ya gonna call?' "

Ghostbusters? His problem is that the Internet in its current form offers him very few excuses for why his service doesn't work. Which makes passing the blame doubly difficult, something that should scare the pants off most CEOs.

Next we move on to the big business solution, which is of course, control.

By adding "intelligent" switches and other devices, they believe, the system could work faster, avoid traffic jams, distinguish between high-priority data and other material that can wait, and generally live up to its promise as a worldwide communications and entertainment medium.

The strange thing is, for those that understand how it works, the Internet as it stands is an outstanding worldwide communications and entertainment medium. Offering what most people would want out such a thing, openness, freedom, and a wide variety of weird shit (the entertainment). Personally I like the "intelligent" switches where they are, in geek's heads.

The business world's discontent has increased as the Internet economy has unraveled over the last year.

Yes, and much of the real world has been laughing at them for it. But where's the real blame here? Is it the Internet, or the people who tried to exploit it without understanding how it works? Let's see...

"The Internet is an important cultural phenomenon, but that doesn't excuse its failure to comply with basic economic laws," said Thomas Nolle, a New Jersey telecommunications consultant. "The problem is that it was devised by a bunch of hippie anarchists who didn't have a strong profit motive. But this is a business, not a government-sponsored network."

Well, goollly, you mean stuff doesn't have to follow laws just because they exist? I think one of the economic laws he's talking about here is Supply and Demand, which, yes, the Internet pretty much ignores. And yes, you Mr. Nolle, are a business and the Internet isn't. And before we continue, can everyone who's ever done anything without a strong profit motive please report to the re-education centers. Don't you people understand how human nature works? Hiparchists.

Others detect a hidden agenda: an attempt by big business to stifle some of the cultural empowerment that the Internet represents.

Oh, it's not hidden.

"This is the past trying to kill the future at a time when the future is down," said John Perry Barlow, a former Grateful Dead lyricist who is co-founder of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a defender of free speech online. "And it's happening in ways that are generally invisible to the public."

Grateful Dead?!? Hippie!!! Hippie!!! What's that smell? Oh, it's all the money they made by giving away their music. I thought it was grass.

Next we move on to a bit about AT&T and some instructional information about the nature of monopolies.

The phone company decided when and how to roll out new services and how much to charge. Innovative features had to pass muster with AT&T's engineers, who often rejected those they thought would encourage competition.

I wish I was a monopoly, then I could innovate at will. Or was that crush new ideas that aren't mine. Same difference, right?

Mindful of these consequences of a centralized intelligent network, the founding architects of the Internet built its antithesis.

And for that, I thank you. The ideas and values built into the core of the Internet are ones that I cherish. Freedom, chaos, multiple paths to the right destination, porn, defined rules you can break in creative ways, surviving nuclear war. All pasttimes that I have enjoyed and will continue to enjoy as long as the packets of life travel through my veins.

But wait, all is not well. For this lifestyle does have its limitations.

If these bits are part of a Web page or an e-mail message, they can be easily re-sent. If they are part of a more complicated application, such as an Internet telephone call, the conversation will be reduced to gibberish.

Luckily you can still pick up a telephone and call the person to tell them what you said. But there are other difficulties.

"With bits on a dumb pipe, I can't do a major Webcast event," said Milo Medin, co-founder and chief technical officer of At Home Corp.'s Excite@Home, the leading provider of broadband Internet access over cable lines.

Luckily there was technology created that makes Webcasts a breeze, it's called television. To paraphrase "Square peg, round hole, whatever, it doesn't fit and my stockholders are getting pissed. Get a bigger hammer."

Yet, precisely because it is configured as a huge web of interconnecting pipelines, the Internet is almost universally accessible and resistant to local damage, political censorship or the designs of corporate landlords. In just over three decades, it has grown to serve more than 400 million users worldwide.

Damn, what a collosal failure. Bringing 400 million people together from all over the world without censorship or the profit motive. Hardline capitalists and communists are no doubt happy about this, since Hell just got a bit colder.

Explosively popular applications such as the instant messaging system ICQ and the music file-sharing service Napster were developed privately by amateurs and allowed to find their own audiences on the vast World Wide Web.

You guys hear of this Napster thing? My only comment here is that if you dropped the Wide Web part of that sentence (and fixed the grammar) it would be more accurate and informative.

Many communications executives complain, however, that as the Internet has evolved into a ubiquitous public utility, its shortcomings in service quality and reliability have lost their charm, which is evident to anyone who has waited a seeming eternity for a Web page to load or suffered through a weeklong outage in an e-mail account.

And don't we all know how ubiquitous public untilites are bad for...um...people who want to sell you the same stuff at a higher price. Slow internet "charm"? Did I miss some sarcasm here?

Whether the open model and the business model can comfortably coexist is debatable. As with any culture war, a wide spectrum of opinion lies between the two extremes.

Welcome to Kuro5hin, we do accept donations and you can buy a subcription, if you want.

Now we finally get to the point of the article, that people have differnet opinions about what to do with this thing. I'll skip most of this (since this is getting wicked long) but I though this quote was funny, so here ya go.

"We haven't fully explored the range of business models and opportunities here," he [John C. Klensin, chairman of the Internet Architecture Board] said. "That process will be significantly other than painless."

And speaking of pain. Here's the kicker.

"The existing open Net is so firmly implanted in education and research that it will continue there as an open Net indefinitely," said Michael Roberts, former chairman of the Internet Corp. for Assigned Names and Numbers, a public body that oversees the distribution of Internet addresses. But he added, "It's too big, too important, too political to be treated as something for only a band of talented engineers to preside over."

So thanks for building this wonderfully democratic, open, useful, international network of computers and keeping it running. Now shut the fuck up while we exploit it.

Wars have always been fought over resources and control of those resources. In a war over information, is sarcasm a suitable weapon?


Voxel dot net
o Managed Hosting
o VoxCAST Content Delivery
o Raw Infrastructure


Why is the Internet bad?
o Because it hates censorship? 13%
o Because it bring people together? 5%
o Because of the naked bodies everywhere? 21%
o Because it is logical and practical? 17%
o Because of Inoshiro? 28%
o Because of sarcasm. 13%

Votes: 52
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o Kuro5hin
o you should probably read the article.
o longer than a fortnight would be bad for business
o wide variety of weird shit
o laughing at them
o it's not hidden.
o monopoly
o Also by Wah

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Defending the Net with Sarcasm | 34 comments (20 topical, 14 editorial, 0 hidden)
finding the tilt (4.33 / 12) (#8)
by dr k on Sat Jul 28, 2001 at 01:55:58 AM EST

From the article: "[A]nyone who has waited a seeming eternity for a Web page to load..."

This old saw was already tired in 1996, and people will be saying it until the end of time. If you read between the lines, you main point of the article is the final section, "Companies Are Having to Pay for Reliability", where coporate America is trying to get some sympathy for all the money they've spent. You told us the Internet had zero distribution costs! And, in the end, Big Business has cooked up a new variation on that old fear: the death of the Internet is imminent, unless you make it better for business.

Geez, I just noticed this is one of those crappy "Column One" stories. No one takes those seriously. Do not confuse the L.A. Times with a real newspaper.
Destroy all trusted users!

Channel problem or content problem? (5.00 / 1) (#30)
by sqwudgy on Tue Jul 31, 2001 at 04:52:25 PM EST

``[A]nyone who has waited a seeming eternity for a Web page to load...''

IMNSHO, it's a content issue. But most businesspeople find it far, far, easier to assert that it's this mysterious thing called ``The Internet'' that's to blame for your web pages being loaded so slowly by (potential) customers. It wouldn't have anything, at all, to do with the fact that they insisted on downloading ungodly amounts of Javascript, a half dozen or more animated advertisements, not to mention all the additional graphics that your overpaid web consultants told you was necessary to provide the web visitor with ``a rich Internet experience''. After all, they loaded just fine on the intranet when the consultants ran that demonstration, right? We understand... it's far easier to blame the communications channel than it is to blame yourself for skimping on the number of servers, the number of connections you have to the internet, or the bloated web pages you've created.

[ Parent ]

Capitalism (3.83 / 6) (#13)
by Bad Harmony on Sat Jul 28, 2001 at 01:31:23 PM EST

I sometimes run into people who have a strange brain defect. They are unable to understand anything that is motivated by something other than making money. They judge the value of everything on the basis of ROI (return on investment). If you talk to them about the Internet or free software, the first thing that pops into their head is "What's the business model and how can it make me rich?" Anything without profit potential is, by definition, worthless and flawed.

5440' or Fight!

I know these people (4.00 / 2) (#14)
by Nachtfalke on Sat Jul 28, 2001 at 02:23:10 PM EST

They are almost all called "Boss".

[ Parent ]
quotes from these people (3.80 / 5) (#20)
by Ender Ryan on Sat Jul 28, 2001 at 08:06:01 PM EST

Here's a few that I love, just off the top of my head...

"How is Linus Torvalds making money? He should stop giving Linux away for free and start charging for it."

"Why do people write software if they give it away for free?"

"I bet a lot of the people who write all this open software put code it to cripple it after a while so then you'll have to pay to get it working again."

I wish I could think of more, my co-worker has said some things that almost killed me because it was so hard to hold back my laughter.

Anyone else have any good ones?

It's just so sickeningly hilarious hearing this crap from people who's only ambition is simple, green paper...

Exposing vast conspiracies! Experts at everything even outside our expertise! Liberators of the world from the oppression of the evil USian Empire!

We are Kuro5hin!

[ Parent ]

Another quote (4.16 / 6) (#22)
by FuzzyOne on Sat Jul 28, 2001 at 09:49:42 PM EST

"Personally, I'd rather use Microsoft development products because there's a company behind it you can call to get fixes. With open source, it's just a bunch of guys out there."

[ Parent ]
To Quoth the Article (4.85 / 7) (#15)
by wesmills on Sat Jul 28, 2001 at 02:25:38 PM EST

Bud Michels has given up on the Internet.

Excellent. I haven't. Please go away and quit taking up valuable bandwidth I can use to stream MP3s.

---------- Do not meddle in the affairs of sysadmins, for they are quick to annoy and have the root password.

Hoo-ray for our side! (5.00 / 2) (#17)
by Tahpoozi on Sat Jul 28, 2001 at 03:02:54 PM EST

This is pretty much preaching to the choir, but it is a fun read anyway:)
Grateful Dead?!? Hippie!!! Hippie!!! What's that smell? Oh, it's all the money they made by giving away their music. I thought it was grass.
LOL! I've always admired the Dead for making a ton of money, not in spite of , but because of the fact that they *encouraged* the taping of their shows. Don't these corporate types understand that there's money to be made by *not* explicitly setting out to *only* make money?? Oh yeah, of course they don't! -ugh-

The choir is growing larger (4.00 / 3) (#18)
by Wah on Sat Jul 28, 2001 at 04:24:56 PM EST

And it sounds better now too.

The following links are to various bands that have embraced the business model that the Grateful Dead pioneered. If you wish to support them, go see them live, it's where the magic happens. If you wish to find out if you want to see them, fire up some sort of digital file tranciever and type in one of the following strings [press enter].

Phish (crazy stuff, challenging music by college educated music geeks, who laugh at their fans. currently on hiatus)

String Cheese Incident (bluegrass based jams and pop covers. Weird wild stuff, currently in their prime)

Disco Biscuits (younger with a techno flava, only seen em once)

Sound Tribe Sector 9 (see above)

Widespread Panic (if you're ready to PARTY, if you know what I mean)

Tenacious D (the greatest band in the world)

And a whole bunch more.
Some things, bandwidth can't buy. For everything else, there's Real Life | SSP
[ Parent ]

Corporate types... (4.00 / 1) (#29)
by sqwudgy on Tue Jul 31, 2001 at 04:26:04 PM EST

``Don't these corporate types understand that there's money to be made by *not* explicitly setting out to *only* make money?? Oh yeah, of course they don't!''

That's right. They don't. I find it's always useful to keep in mind an old Monty Python skit with John Cleese as the banker who is totally befuddled as to the purpose of donating five pounds to charity. You can just imagine a boardroom full of Cleeses cocking their heads and asking ``No, no. I'm afraid I'm not following you... in unison.

[ Parent ]

Internet vs Highways; an imperfect analogy. (4.00 / 4) (#21)
by sker on Sat Jul 28, 2001 at 08:24:25 PM EST

I suspect that if you asked a group of the companies who make the most money from the existence of public roads if they would like to assume control, construction, and maintenence of highways they would probably laugh and then decline, hopping away to continue counting their money.

Imagine the public highway system if it were maintained by private corporations with "Internet-style" business models. The freewheeling nature of public highways would then be a danger to their business model. They would obviously try to get roads that only accepted General Motors cars. Then of course we would have Volkswagen-only roads, Hertz-only roads, Ryder-only roads, all winding around the AOL/TimeWarner/GM/Goodyear/Huffy/ClearChannel-only roads (after the merger). (Microsoft roads would be delayed pending a court battle where their plans to raise tire-spikes every 5 miles without confirmed debit card payment would be challenged by an ambumance-drivers union.) -sker

Snowcrash... (5.00 / 2) (#23)
by Daemosthenes on Sat Jul 28, 2001 at 10:18:00 PM EST

Ever read Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash? There's a good bit in there about commercialized roads; there are 2 major companies, Fairlanes Inc. and Cruiseways Inc. Fairlanes offers quick transfer from point A to B, while Cruiseways emphasizes the enjoyment of the ride.

Of course, there was the point at which highways of the two companies actually crossed, leading to sporadics skirmishes and sniper fire...

[ Parent ]
Locking down the Internet is the wrong approach. (4.20 / 5) (#24)
by Sunir on Sat Jul 28, 2001 at 11:41:21 PM EST

If you want profit, the right approach is to build another Internet.

Let me say that again. In order to make profit, you must regain control from your customers. Since the Internet is a lost cause for this, the only way businesses can guarantee sustained profit is by creating a separate network, thereby creating artificial scarcity.

While you may think this is a ridiculously stupid proposition, may I direct you to the wireless internet. It is universally controlled by the wireless providers. In Japan, the carriers even prevent people from offering services without prior approval. Similar moves are expected here in North America. Indeed, the wireless Internet is almost completely separated from the wired Internet. At best, the wireless 'Net has gateways to the wired.

I often wonder about this. Do I support the for-profit, reduced-access wireless Internet or do I support the more random wired Internet? I think my opinion changes depending on the position of the sun and moon; paid time versus personal time.

I guess both would work. I'm an old Fidonet user; amateurs will always have their own free network.

"Look! You're free! Go, and be free!" and everyone hated it for that. --r

re: Locking down the Internet is the wrong approac (5.00 / 1) (#32)
by technik on Wed Aug 01, 2001 at 02:43:13 PM EST

Let me direct you here, to FreeNetworks or,here, to Consume (UK), or here, to Seattle Wireless or, perhaps, here, to NYC Wireless?

The amateurs recognize that wireless is the next wave and, with luck, will influence it.

- technik

[ Parent ]
Hippie anarchists (4.42 / 7) (#25)
by Chris Andreasen on Sun Jul 29, 2001 at 12:27:40 AM EST

"The Internet is an important cultural phenomenon, but that doesn't excuse its failure to comply with basic economic laws," said Thomas Nolle, a New Jersey telecommunications consultant. "The problem is that it was devised by a bunch of hippie anarchists who didn't have a strong profit motive. But this is a business, not a government-sponsored network."
(emphasis mine)
I laughed out loud when I read this. Next time Mr. Thomas Nolle happens to be strolling through the Pentagon, I'd like to see him walk down to the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency offices, call everyone there a bunch of hippie anarchists, and see what their reaction is. I wonder how long it would take before security forcefully ejected him.
Is public worship then, a sin,
That for devotions paid to Bacchus
The lictors dare to run us in,
and resolutely thump and whack us?

No doubt! (4.00 / 1) (#33)
by sparkane on Thu Aug 02, 2001 at 08:49:51 PM EST

That comment just defies belief. It makes me wonder if the guy meant it un-ironically.

On the other hand.. don't engineers laugh at economists? Let's see, how did it go..? Physicists are loosest with math, then there're the economists, then there're the mathematicians? I guess the engineers come before the physicists, and do the accountants come before the economists, but after the physicists? The point being, everybody laughs at everyone who comes after them.

[ Parent ]

Very Balanced Reporting (3.25 / 4) (#26)
by nakaduct on Sun Jul 29, 2001 at 04:12:00 AM EST

Barlow, a former Grateful Dead lyricist who is co-founder of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a defender of free speech online.
Where are the quotes from Bill Gates, "former college dropout and president of a software company"; and George W. Bush, "former cokehead who is now a politician".

What does Barlow's old job have to do with anything? One of very few insightful thoughts in the whole article, trimmed to one short sentence (you can be sure he had more to say) to make room for more views from big business ("but without a ContentTrol 10000 I can't do a webcast!") and painted as the words of some fringe hippie.

Hey newspaper guy: tuck in your agenda, it's sticking out a bit.

Waaaaaaaahhh!!! (3.00 / 3) (#28)
by Scrutinizer on Mon Jul 30, 2001 at 03:36:22 PM EST

"I can't make any money with my scarcity-based buisness model on the internet! Shoot somebody, anybody, quick! Pass a friggin LAW!!"

Jesus... Oh, it's the LA Times, never mind. Let us remember that LA is the "entertainment capitol of the wurld".
Can you say MPAA, RIAA, Sony/TW, MSNBC...

Of course, LA's also the "brain-dead jerk swimming in money" capitol too...

"Dumb" Pipes? Who wrote this?? (4.00 / 1) (#31)
by Flitrmaus on Wed Aug 01, 2001 at 10:57:14 AM EST

Anyone who refers to the internet backbone as a "Dumb" pipe because it doesn't differentiate important packets from trivial ones has a vague concept of packet switching, at best. TCP/IP is a very important part of the internet, and can hardly be called dumb. (I think in the time it would take to read packets and determine whether they are important or not, the routers would slow down all internet traffic, but I don't have any real evidence to show this.) Anyway, for the person who first wrote the article (And anyone else...) I have a reccomended reading: "Inventing the Internet" by Jane Abbate. Read that and tell me the internet pipes are "dumb"...

This has been posted on my website. (none / 0) (#34)
by Wah on Tue Aug 20, 2002 at 08:20:42 PM EST

Defending the Net with Sarcasm on Quantum Philosophy (the previous note is for the spiders). Only took a year, not too shabby.
Where'd you get your information from, huh?
Defending the Net with Sarcasm | 34 comments (20 topical, 14 editorial, 0 hidden)
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