by Mike Masnick
Fri, Nov 4th 2011 6:39pm
by Mike Masnick
Tue, Feb 22nd 2011 11:42am
from the misplaced-priorities dept
Interim CEO and president Bob Pisano told Hillicon Valley earlier this month that the media's fixation on who would succeed former chairman Dan Flickman hadn't changed his organization's unwavering focus on its top priority, which is increasing the federal government's efforts to stop online film piracy.And, yes, the amusing misspelling of Dan Glickman's name is in the original. But, more to the point, why is getting the government to fight piracy the MPAA's "top priority," when study after study has shown that piracy, alone, is not damaging the industry. It's the failure to compete and to come up with smarter business models that is causing trouble for filmmakers. Even if you got rid of piracy, it's not like it would suddenly drive people to start buying again. Perhaps the real problem is that Pisano (a lawyer, of course) is so clueless when it comes to business, he doesn't realize what business the movie industry is even in:
"I don't care how much you talk about it you can't compete with free," Pisano said.And, that, right there, is why the MPAA should fire him and hire someone who actually understands business (which is not Chris Dodd). Of course, you can compete with free. Lots of businesses do it all the time and plenty of movie makers have successfully done it for years. Why would Pisano flat-out lie?
It's almost not worth mentioning that Pisano also talks up the importance of COICA and how happy he is that Homeland Security has been seizing domains in violation of the First Amendment and basic due process, even taking down tens of thousands of perfectly innocent sites. These are the people who run Hollywood now? Censorship-loving folks who can't understand basic business principles? No wonder they're so worried about failing. They have no clue what they're doing.
by Mike Masnick
Tue, Aug 10th 2010 10:26am
from the say-what-now? dept
"Backlogs can also prevent the timely capture of criminals, prolong the incarceration of innocent people who could be exonerated by DNA evidence, and adversely affect families of missing persons waiting for positive identification of remains."Perhaps I'm missing something, but doesn't it seem like missing persons cases and identity fraud are the sorts of things the FBI should be working on, as they're cases where individuals can be seriously harmed? Copyright cases are really just business model issues, where the only "harm" is caused by copyright holders refusal to adapt to a changing market. Isn't it time the FBI got its priorities straight?
by Mike Masnick
Mon, Aug 17th 2009 5:36am
from the perhaps... dept
But, of course, talk is cheap (especially in politics). And, while Chopra (and Vivek Kundra, the government's CIO) both actually have a nice track record of accomplishing these sorts of goals in their past jobs, the proof is in what's actually getting done. We'd already mentioned at least one success story with the IT dashboard at USASpending.gov, but can it continue? I have to admit, a second thing that impressed me about Chopra was that, even with such a success, he didn't focus on it. The fact that he got together such a site in such a short period of time is impressive enough, and while he mentioned it in his talks, most of them were much more focused not on what he'd already done, but on what he was going to do -- and the plans all seemed quite achievable.
So I have to agree with Anil Dash, that one of the most interesting tech "startups" to watch this year is the federal government of the US. The tech projects that they're already coming out with are compelling and well done. As Anil notes:
What's remarkable about these sites is not merely that they exist; There had been some efforts to provide this kind of information in the past. Rather, what stands out is that they exhibit a lot of the traits of some of the best tech startups in Silicon Valley or New York City. Each site has remarkably consistent branding elements, leading to a predictable and trustworthy sense of place when you visit the sites. There is clear attention to design, both from the cosmetic elements of these pages, and from the thoughtfulness of the information architecture on each site. (The clear, focused promotional areas on each homepage feel just like the "Sign up now!" links on the site of most Web 2.0 companies.) And increasingly, these services are being accompanied by new APIs and data sources that can be used by others to build interesting applications.There's plenty going on in the administration that I disagree with and am troubled by -- but efforts on the tech side are something worth applauding, while also watching to see what the folks there can do in the next few years.
That last point is perhaps most significant. We've seen the remarkable innovation that sprung up years ago around the API for services like Flickr, and that continues full-force today around apps like Twitter. But who could have predicted just a year or two ago that we might have something like Apps for America, the effort being led by the Sunlight Foundation, Google, O'Reilly Media and TechWeb to reward applications built around datasets provided by Data.gov. The tools that have already been built are fascinating. And, frankly, they're a lot more compelling than most of the sample apps that a typical startup can wring out of its community with a developer contest.
by Mike Masnick
Fri, Jun 5th 2009 5:11pm
from the good-signs dept
While those bullet points may sound a little vague, they certainly are the key things he should be focused on, and the rest of the article details some of the details of where he may be heading on all of those points, and it suggests that he's certainly going beyond the soundbite style thoughts found all too commonly in political circles these days. For example, when most politicians talk about economic growth through innovation, they usually mean just dumping more money into research programs or increasing the number of patents. But, as we've all seen, those don't necessarily serve as an accurate proxy for real innovation. Instead, Chopra wants to focus on looking at actual data about how products are getting to market:
- Economic growth through innovation
- Addressing presidential priorities through innovation platforms
- Building the next-generation digital infrastructure
- Fostering a culture of open and innovative government
Rather than purely thinking about basic research, he said, the government should focus on investing in technologies that can be developed. A first step is to find ways to actually measure how much research is being commercialized.It's great to see that he's skeptical of the common wisdom that R&D automatically leads to economic growth, but wants to dig deeper into the data to see what the numbers really mean. He's also hoping to learn from how different universities lead to commercialization:
"There is an implicit assumption that R.&D. investment will lead to job growth and economic success," he said. "The measurement question will lead us to think about, how do we begin to assess the outcomes."
Mr. Chopra noted that among universities, there is a wide range in how effective they are in commercializing the work of their laboratories. He wants to take the practices used by the most commercial of universities and spread them to other research facilities.Again, this is good news. Many people falsely assume that things like the Bayh-Dole Act, which pushed universities to patent their research to drive commercialization was a good thing. But there's a growing amount of research suggesting that Bayh-Dole has actually harmed research and the ability to commercialize products. Hopefully, the data that Chopra is looking at takes that into account. Bayh-Dole caused many universities to set up "tech transfer" offices, but the vast majority of them are losing money -- in part because they've focused on the patents rather than the actual steps to innovation. The universities that have focused on enabling innovation rather than just collecting and licensing the most patents, have had the most success.
Hopefully, there is where Chopra will lead the government... but, as always, until we see it in action, it's worth being skeptical and watching closely. At this point, though, it's nice to see that he actually seems to be looking in the right direction.
by Timothy Lee
Tue, May 27th 2008 11:33pm
from the cyber-hysteria dept
A new report (PDF, via Slashdot), by a security analyst named Gadi Evron, analyzes the recent Estonian "cyber-attacks" and makes recommendations about how to deal with such attacks in the future. While it makes some good suggestions, it also rather dramatically overstates the nature of the threat. For example: "The Estonian authorities need to revise some of their former preconceptions and define the Internet as critical infrastructure, equally strategic to national security as its electricity grid and water supply." This is rather silly. If the water supply is cut off, people can die of thirst or sanitation problems. If the electricity grid fails, it can lead to the death of old people dependent on their air conditioners or medical devices. If the Internet fails, it's a big headache for a lot of people, but it's unlikely to be a life-threatening emergency.
The report points out that some mission-critical activities, including voting and banking, are carried out via the Internet in some places. But to the extent that that's true, the lesson of the Estonian attacks isn't that the Internet is "critical infrastructure" on par with electricity and water, but that it's stupid to build "critical infrastructure" on top of the public Internet. There's a reason that banks maintain dedicated infrastructure for financial transactions, that the power grid has a dedicated communications infrastructure, and that computer security experts are all but unanimous that Internet voting is a bad idea. The Internet's architecture is optimized to be cheap and ubiquitous; such a network is never going to be perfectly secure or reliable. There are too many botnets, incompetent administrators, and other problems on the Internet. And so transactions that absolutely have to be done correctly and on time need to be done on a dedicated network, or at least the people doing them need to have a backup plan in case the Internet has problems.
But the report takes the opposite approach, essentially concluding that because people do important things on the Internet, the Internet needs to be treated as an essential national security asset. This reaches absurd lengths when Evron writes that because attacks often originate from botnets consisting of compromised personal computers, "personal computers need to be reprioritized and considered as critical infrastructure." He doesn't discuss what that means in any detail -- maybe they can post soldiers with automatic weapons outside peoples' home offices. Evron concedes that "the attacks in Estonia did not hurt critical infrastructure, energy, and transportation," but nevertheless insists that "an Internet-staged attack on energy could easily disrupt entire supply and distribution chains, prompting severe shortages." He never elaborates on how that would work, but if he's right, the solution is to do a better job of separating critical infrastructure from the public Internet.
Wide-scale cyber-vandalism is a real problem, and it's good to be talking about ways to respond to it more effectively. But we need to keep a sense of perspective. Launching a distributed denial-of-service attack -- even a really big one -- is nothing like conventional warfare or a terrorist attack. Terrorism and warfare lead to massive loss of life and destruction of property. Internet vandalism rarely involves more than a few hours' inconvenience and lost productivity. That's certainly something we should try to prevent, but we shouldn't blow it out of proportion.