Devon Cooke's Techdirt Profile

Devon Cooke

About Devon Cooke

Devon Cooke's Comments comment rss

  • Feb 23, 2021 @ 08:23am

    Re: Re:

    However, to get the most out of my comment, you should download the "Patent Disputes" DLC, yours for just $0.99. It's a cheap joke.

  • Feb 23, 2021 @ 08:01am


    Your sarcasm detector is working.

  • Feb 22, 2021 @ 10:53pm

    PrePear fixed it

    Well, looks like PrePear finally got the message. They could have saved everyone a lot of time and money if they drawn the leaf without rounded corners in the first place.

  • Feb 09, 2021 @ 09:22pm

    The VC Business Model is the problem

    The second one, on the burden shifting is perhaps equally problematic. And, here, the real risk is in killing off new startup creation. When VCs invest in a startup, their hope is that the startup is their unicorn or rocketship -- becoming a multi-billion dollar market leader. These are the deals where VCs make all their money -- on the huge success stories, the 100x return investments. But only a very small percentage of investments are such hits. The second best result for a VC is to have the startup acquired for a decent gain. A 10x gain is nothing for them to write home about, though it's nice. A 2 to 3x gain is a failure in the world of VC, but it's better than... nothing at all.

    This seems like a fairly perfect description of the problem. VC's are trying to create companies so big they overpower all existing competition ... a monopoly, in other words. A world dominated by "multi-billion dollar market leader[s]" is not a world that allows for much depth in competition. VC funded "disruption" functions by dumping so much money into one company that it gains enough market power to force the rest of the industry out of business. That's the goal.

    And if the consolation prize is a merger, and the consolation prize is the result 99% of the time the companies don't outright fail, in what sense are VCs ever creating competition? There is no final outcome that results in a genuine competitor; either the VC-backed company dominates and pushes all the other companies out of the market, or it "fails" and serves to bolster the market share of one of its competitors — likely one that is already on the large side, since larger companies are usually the ones that can afford acquisitions.

    So, for an investor to fund startups, it helps to know that the backup plan for companies that don't become billion dollar unicorns is that they can sell out to someone else, and at least get some return. But under this bill, the deal flow for those kinds of deals will dry up. The big companies that startups and VCs rely on for decent (but nothing special) exits go away. As a result, it makes VCs less interested in investing. Because the expected returns drop significantly. That means it's likely that they'll invest in fewer startups, thereby diminishing innovation and competition.

    There was a time when we argued that record labels had no right to their business model, which was true. The same applies here: VC's have no God-given right to the VC business model of fishing for unicorns. If we change the rules to make unicorns harder to create and the consolation prize (acquisition) harder to achieve, yes we'll force VCs to adapt, but so what? Things change. The question we should be asking is, does the rule change make for a more competitive marketplace? Which, I would argue, it probably will.

    Saying it will make VCs less interested in investing because they can't exit so easily sounds to me like the notion that artists will be less motivated to create because they don't have copyright. In both cases, it misunderstands the motive involved. VCs are motivated to invest, and they will still have money they want to invest if the rules change. If they can't make money from acquisitions, they'll find a different business model.

    If we are lucky, maybe they'll invest permanently in exchange for a share of the profits (i.e. dividends), which means they'll be incentivized to ensure that the company remains independent, and thus a viable competitor in the marketplace.

  • Feb 01, 2021 @ 08:55pm

    Re: Re: I'm not convinced

    you would keep to talking about issues where you have a point and stop complaining about communities kicking off toxic members
    Who do you think I am exactly? Where did you see me complain in the slightest about users being banned? That has nothing whatsoever to do with my post.
    do you realise that section 230 has absolutely fuck all to do with ad networks?
    I do realize, and I explicitly said as much. I literally wrote "This comment isn't about Section 230 at all." So ... why are you bringing it up?

  • Jan 30, 2021 @ 01:22am

    I'm not convinced

    Second of all, the entire point of having utilities is when you have natural monopolies over commodity style, non-differentiated products. That's not true of social media.

    It's not??? Ok, yes there are plenty of options for social media, but that's not the business that Google and Facebook are in. If you evaluate the need to regulate them as utilities based on their actual industry — online advertising — I think the claim at least deserves consideration.

    Do Google and Facebook have a monopoly on online ads? There are other ad networks, but, as Techdirt has discovered in moving away from Google, the pool isn't very deep, and advertisers tend not to be as interested. The two companies may not have complete dominance yet, but things are tending in that direction. Both companies have network effects that lock-in they eyeballs they are selling, as insofar as those network effects are effective, that pushes their duopoly towards being "natural". Users may have a legitimate choice to go elsewhere, but if advertisers want to buy effective ads, they have no choice but to buy from the companies that have attention to sell. That means the companies that successfully aggregate attention, and Facebook and Google do this on a scale that is unmatched.

    Are they selling a commodity? You bet they are: Attention, measured in standardized units (CPMs, views, engagements). It doesn't matter whose attention; eyeballs are interchangeable from the point of view of the ad buyers.

    Is the attention differentiated? Well ... a little bit. To the extent that targeting is believed to be effective, the different targeting models serve as product differentiation. But, mostly that amounts to selling advertisers what they want to hear. At the end of the day, advertisers are looking for conversions (i.e. sales), and there simply isn't much differentiating a sale via Facebook from a sale via Google. The mechanisms may be different, but the end result is fairly similar.

    So ... maybe it's not cut-and-dried that Google and Facebook are natural monopolies that deserve to be regulated as utilities, but I think there's enough of an argument to be made that it shouldn't be dismissed out of hand.

    P.S., because I know this will come up: I haven't read and don't have an opinion on the original Tribune article about Section 230. This comment isn't about Section 230 at all. I'm purely critiquing Mike's assumption that it's self-evident that social media is not like a utility. When you look at the actual business (advertising), rather than user-facing service, I think there's plenty of reason to consider them utilities.

  • Mar 02, 2020 @ 04:02pm

    This is the best Techdirt article I've read in a long time!

    More like this please! I started reading Techdirt because it was so full of examples of how copyright law and truely open culture are at odds. I miss those articles, and this one is a great example of the genre!

    Our culture truly suffers when the decisions around what kind of information and entertainment get made are solely profit-driven. Copyright enables this kind of media production, and even though those problems are more often talked about in the context of social media these days, copyright still has a strong effect on the types of media that get produced.

  • Mar 14, 2019 @ 11:29am

    Here's a compromise I could live with

    If Axel Voss really thinks Article 13 is only intended to affect a small number of sites because only "commercial" works get copyright, let's compromise.

    The price of Article 13 is another clause that states that copyright exists by registration only. No more copyright on creation — it's strictly a commercial right that you have to register and pay for.

    That would reflect the way he thinks things work already, and it would solve nearly all of the unintended consequences. Real user-generated content is not ever going to be registered, and would be considered copyright-free. Thus, 98.5% of websites would indeed not fall under Article 13 (including, notably, YouTube).

    Publishers get a tool for going after pirate sites that distribute their registered commercial work. Everyone else gets left alone. As a bonus, going back to a registration-only system would solve a huge host of other copyright related problems that arise from automatic copyright.

  • Apr 17, 2017 @ 10:34am

    Re: Re: Contest submission link


  • Apr 15, 2017 @ 11:52pm

    Contest submission link

    Before I submit my essay ... Do you want it submitted to the generic contact form linked to in the article ( or should I use the official news submission page? (

  • Dec 15, 2015 @ 11:20am

    "The capabilities we’ve built allow us to break down any byte that is carried across our network and have all or a portion of that sponsored"

    That's great news! I'd like to find someone to sponsor all of my 00000000 bytes.

    Or ... maybe we can find a sponsor for all the "0" parts of the bytes and all the "1" parts. That would be great.

  • Aug 25, 2015 @ 01:57pm

    This is number inflation

    "Airbnb says will cost the city $58 million in tax revenue over the next 10 years."

    This is number inflation to make the number sound bigger than it is.

    $5.8m / year isn't nothing, but it's definitely NOT "an immense amount of revenue" in the context of a municipal budget that likely runs into the $100m or $1b range.

    If the city thinks they can get $5.8m of value by outlawing long-term AirBNB rentals, power to them. I don't know their motivation for regulating >75 day stays, but I can think of plenty of reasons why they would want to make sure that long-term guests are treated (and taxed) as residents rather than tourists. I would imagine that $5.8m / year probably covers the expense of one or two legal disputes that could otherwise be avoided under existing regulations.

  • Jul 21, 2015 @ 10:13pm

    I can't see how this is Markham's fault

    There's nothing right with paying a suspended police officer for three years before firing him ... but none of this actually seems to be the fault of anything Markham did. Sure, Markham's being a douche rubbing people's face in the wrongness of it, but ultimately, it wasn't *his* decision to abuse the system.

    He was suspended, and whoever signs his paycheques decided to keep signing them. Presumably, there are policy and systemic reasons at fault for that.

    The fault here is entirely with Markham's superiors, and probably several generations of administrators who instituted these policies. We can probably toss in Markham's union as well on the assumption that they lobbied for these policies.

    Markham is guilty of nothing more than benefiting from a corrupt system and being a douche about it (and, presumably the misconduct that led to his firing, but that's not in dispute). I actually sympathize with him for having the salary rescinded ... if he was already given the money, I think he has a valid beef if they clawed it back after the fact.

  • Jul 21, 2015 @ 02:56am

    I'll make you a deal...

    Dear USTR,

    I will make you a deal. You can repeal my data privacy laws in BC if I can repeal your PATRIOT Act.

    The PATRIOT Act provides an unfair competitive advantage to American companies because it authorizes the indiscriminate surveillance of non-American data while limiting such surveillance within American borders. As such, it provides greater data protection within America's borders, and this represents a foreign trade barrier for British Columbian businesses.

    I trust that this will not be a problem, as you obviously understand the importance of eliminating barriers to free trade, and of maintaining consistent global standards for data privacy.

  • Jul 17, 2015 @ 10:43pm

    Re: This is a GREAT idea...

    BTW, bittorrent gets an honourable mention as an open protocol (even though the official client is closed). But, I don't see it as a fully successful example because its adoption is largely techie-oriented; bittorrent never quite hit mainstream critical mass.

  • Jul 17, 2015 @ 10:40pm

    This is a GREAT idea...

    ... with some serious challenges towards implementation.

    We need to look at examples of existing protocols to see how this can be implemented and what challenged there might be.

    People have already mentioned Usenet and IRC as historic examples, but I think e-mail is an even better example (although, technically e-mail is implemented as several protocols, not just one).

    Here's the problem. All of these protocols pre-date the commercial internet. And, only e-mail still has critical mass in its adoption. And we're not exactly seeing much growth in the e-mail space these days.

    I would love to see a public "tweet" protocol, along with a public "like" protocol, a public "share" protocol, etc. etc. I think this would solve some fairly serious openness and neutrality issues that I see on the internet. But, I don't see how such a thing would get adopted. I don't see why for-profit internet companies would be satisfied with developing a front-end for a public protocol when they can get more data and more control by making the whole thing proprietary. And I don't see how a new protocol would gain mass adoption without the marketing and UI resources that a commercial organization can throw at the problem.

    E-mail as a protocol is in popular use because it had first-mover advantage; it was developed before the internet was widely used by laypeople, and laypeople adopted it because it was *the* standard for person-to-person messaging at the time laypeople started using it. Laypeople adopted it because there was literally nothing else, and good UIs were developed for e-mail because we understood that laypeople needed to learn how to use e-mail, and we didn't fully understand how business models worked on the internet yet. Gmail has basically set the standard for modern e-mail UIs, but it's hardly a profit centre for Google; it's unlikely gmail would work if it was produced by a stand-alone developer, especially now that encryption is making it harder for Google to snoop on the contents.

    I don't see how a *new* protocol would gain widespread adoption without the support of a very well-developed UI, and I don't see how that UI gets developed in an open-source context. The track record for good open-source UIs is not very good. There's a reason why open source's biggest successes are in the infrastructure that powers the net and not in the consumer software that everyday people use. It's because open-source design philosophy appeals to techies and tinkerers (i.e. me, and most of the Techdirt crowd), not everyday people who want a "one click" solution.

    If we need commercial companies to develop the UIs for mass adoption, how do we convince these commercial entities to develop for an open protocol, rather than one they control completely? There's an obvious business advantage to developing a proprietary solution that lets them capture the whole ecosystem rather than just a part. I don't think I agree that just focussing on the UI and community allows the same level of profit as a proprietary protocol, and I especially don't think it's easy to convince the VCs and Angel investors who would be funding these commercial ventures.

    I hate to throw out problems, because I LOVE the idea of adopting truly open protocols for social media. I'd like to see this become a reality. But I think the fundamental challenges here are marketing and commercial ones, not engineering ones. I'd like to see a case study of successful consumer-oriented open-source projects. I think Wikipedia is one of the only examples I can think of off the top of my head...

  • Mar 30, 2015 @ 08:46pm

    Destroying Television

    "...this is going to "destroy television as we know it." ... Except, Canadian law professor Michael Geist points out ... the idea will probably save consumers money"

    These two things are not mutually exclusive. This will save consumers money. It will also attack one of the few remaining sources of funding for Canadian production. It will almost certainly kill off all the "long tail" channels that don't have the viewership to actually sustain production. These are specialty channels that produce content for local niches. The Conservatives have already gutted most of the public funding for CanCon; spending requirements for Broadcasters are one of the few sources of Canadian funding left, and that will die with the broadcasters.

    The practical effect of the CRTC's decision is that Canadian television will be replaced by American television, because it's far cheaper to re-syndicate foreign content than it is to produce local content.

    I don't think it's unreasonable to say that Canadian television "as we know it" is probably going away. The bigger question is whether this decision had anything to do with that ... TV as a medium is being superceded by streaming content anyway, and Canadian producers have been facing the fact that producing solely for a Canadian audience is uneconomical for almost a decade now.

    I think it's disingenuous to argue that this won't adversely affect what's on Canadian TV. Less money for broadcasters DOES mean less money for creators, and while it's true that creators will keep creating, it's also true that the scope of what they can create will be more limited with fewer broadcaster funds to go around.

    The only question after that is ... does anyone actually care if Canadian TV disappears.

  • Mar 20, 2015 @ 12:03pm

    Re: generating photos is not hard

    It's not the capability to produce random images that's the problem. It's the mathematical improbability of generating anything that isn't gibberish.

    You can prove this by looking at encryption. Encryption works because to break it, you have to iterate through all possible keys to find the one key that was used to encrypt the data.

    With a typical 128-bit key (the equivalent of about 16 characters, or 2-3 words), iterating through every possible takes on the order of thousands or millions of years, even with the world's most powerful computer clusters.

    If you're talking about generating readable text or images, you are talking about many orders of magnitude more than that.

    People have done calculations on how long it would take for 1,000 monkeys on 1,000 typewriters to generated even a coherent sentence. I suggest you go read up on that.

  • Mar 20, 2015 @ 12:10pm


    Surely generating patents via algorithm should automatically fail one or both of the tests for novelty or obviousness.

    If an algorithm can "invent" something, how can you say that it's not obvious ... In theory, the patent system is supposed to protect the "intuitive leap" that makes an invention non-obvious.

    We all know that this isn't really how innovation works anyway, but it seems to me that the idea of creating patents algorithmically fails even within the flawed narrative of the patent system.

  • Feb 26, 2015 @ 09:16am

    British Columbia

    I'd love to know if you found any numbers about the film industry in B.C.

    We *invented* the film credit back in the '80s ... I think we've done well on it.

    I also think the requirement that all reimbursed labour is Canadian probably helps prevent the dollars from trickling away. We only have to compete with other provinces, not every state...

More comments from Devon Cooke >>