Jeff Rowberg’s Techdirt Profile

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About Jeff Rowberg


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  • May 21st, 2013 @ 8:06am

    Bring it on

    Conditional federal funding wreaks havoc on the integrity of curricula, and federal funding of any kind--a.k.a. coercive subsidies--breaks the price system of any economy it touches. The removal of federal funding will push educational innovation in the right direction.

  • Aug 10th, 2012 @ 8:36pm

    Re:

    Sort of. While OSHW is usually patent-free, the specific main point is to actually provide the source designs, just like with open-source software. It isn't that you're just allowed to copy or improve it, you're actually encouraged to do so.

  • Jul 31st, 2012 @ 11:53pm

    (untitled comment)

    As someone who has suffered from a ridiculous IP litigation threat, I vote that they take the resources that will no longer need to be needed to determine which of the multiple filing parties was the first to invent and instead devote those resources to taking note of glaring prior art and obviousness, to immediately reject a much larger portion of patent applications.

    That seems like it should be about as beneficial as anything else could be.

  • Jul 23rd, 2012 @ 11:13am

    Re:

    Because it wouldn't stop DRM, it would only make it more expensive, a cost increase that would surely be passed on to customers. A patent in the hands of a patent troll is absolutely worthless unless somebody infringes. Therefore, the best business model for a troll is to claim infringement on stuff that is (1) widely used and (2) considered too important not to have by those who use it.

  • Jul 23rd, 2012 @ 10:47am

    "A" problem, not "The" problem

    A common argument for patents is that inventors won’t invent unless they can protect their ideas. The problem with this argument is that patents apply even if the infringer came up with the idea independently.


    That is a problem for sure. But there is an even bigger problem: that argument is empirically false. Inventors will still invent if they can't protect their ideas (and many people actively reject any protection, for many reasons.

  • Jul 17th, 2012 @ 7:58am

    Re: Re:

    I don't think I have ever seen such a simple and concise condemnation of patents before. Bravo.

  • Jun 30th, 2012 @ 9:24pm

    Vote flowchart

    1. Do I know what's in it?
    1a. If no, can I find out what's in it?
    1a(I). If no, STOP. The vote is NO.
    .
    .
    .

    You don't have to get very far down the list to know exactly what to do, at least if you have any integrity.

  • May 31st, 2012 @ 8:07pm

    Heinous criminals

    Anything that causes fans to take advantage of this clearly exploitative process must be illegal. Won't somebody think of the business models??

  • May 18th, 2012 @ 11:39am

    Re: as per coding discussion with NYC Mayor

    I wonder if Moore's Law implies that we may always have politicians so hopelessly behind the innovation curve that this kind of thing will keep happening. I certainly hope not.

    Knowing that the current generation will one day be the political leaders ruling us is alarming in many ways, but at least they'll have some kind of working knowledge of basic computing technology. Yikes.

  • Apr 30th, 2012 @ 10:55am

    Xs and Os

    Internet, n: A series of tubes through which Xs and Os flow, mostly containing virus code, stolen intellectual property, and child pornography. (New Political Dictionary, 2nd Ed., 2012)

  • Mar 12th, 2012 @ 12:49pm

    Re: Re: mass confusion

    The criteria "if you're going to pull the strings you should put your name on it" needs a clear definition for "pull the strings" before I'd be willing to agree--that's a fair point. But there is a real difference between publishing under a pseudonym and publishing under someone else's name while pretending to be them.

    If I say something--anything at all, positive, neutral, or negative--under a false name or no name, that's anonymity. But if I say the same thing while intentionally representing myself as a different, real entity whom I am clearly not, that's fraud.

  • Jan 23rd, 2012 @ 10:10am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Yes!

    In short: negotiate payment with customers before or during the completion of the work instead of demanding it afterwards, once you have a product that is infinitely reproducible at $0 marginal cost.

    Also, sell value-added finite components that complement the infinite portion of your product.

  • Nov 29th, 2011 @ 10:24am

    Re:

    ...except that Canonical gives away all of the source code for their entire OS. If you don't like how they're doing it, you're completely free to fork the project. Try getting that kind of freedom from MS. Open-source doesn't necessarily mean "directed by users."

  • Nov 29th, 2011 @ 9:32am

    Re: honest question about patents

    Disclaimer: I'm in the middle of actually doing this with another design. I haven't finished yet, but things look good and it seems like it's only a matter of time before I succeed if I play my cards right.

    1. Use NDAs where appropriate early on.
    2. Employ trade secrets as often as necessary during development.
    3. Publish the design online (OSHW etc.).
    4. Be the first to market and nail the quality and support aspect of the business.
    5. Profit!

    A published design is not patentable in any country (except in the US by the original designer up to a year after publication, as far as I know). This should prevent other people from patenting you out of your own competitive field. Being the first to market with a good product gives you a much better chance at real innovative success than a patent portfolio would.

    Ideas are inherently unprotectable, whether or not they are ownable (which I believe they are not). There are a lot of smart people who can probably figure out exactly how your widget works very quickly and come up with a functionally similar design no matter how you try to protect it. There are vast resources in foreign countries that you can't hope to either control or compete with on scale and availability, so compete on time, quality, support, and branding instead. It might not be easy, but it sure is a lot less headache and psychological stress then trying to use IP laws in any way, shape, or form.

    And yes, there is a possibility that someone like Raytheon or Halliburton really can do it better, faster, and cheaper than you can. But if that's true, then what right do you really have to stop them, really? Just because you thought of it first doesn't give you a fundamental right to any percentage of profits made from the idea or its derivatives. (I'm not saying you believe this, but it does seem to be the predominant mode of thinking among people today.)

  • Oct 27th, 2011 @ 7:29am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Trademarks, copyright, patents, money. They need to go away.

    I think one of the problems with your plan is that you are focused too much on money as currency, and not money as a form of power. I'll grant that money is power, because that is exactly what it is. When I have $5, I can command someone to make me a sandwich. If I have $100 I can command someone to make me a Kindle. If I have $1,000 I can command someone to make me a laptop, and so on.


    This is not exactly true. You can't do command someone to make you a sandwich simply because you have $5. They also have to want your $5 more than they want to keep their time and sandwich ingredients. The same is true for the larger $ value examples.

    It's true that without the $5, it is unlikely that someone will make you a sandwich. But having $5 in no way guarantees, all by itself, that someone will make you a sandwich.

  • Oct 26th, 2011 @ 1:39pm

    Re: Re: Re: Trademarks, copyright, patents, money. They need to go away.

    Automated technology and abundant resources through sustainable resource management is how it works. You don't need money if you already have what you need through renewable and sustainable systems.


    Who exactly is managing the resources? That takes time and effort. Could such a system, which would necessarily be built on top of a dynamic and varying ecosystem for natural resources, really be able to run smoothly and perpetually with no human oversight?

    Also, money doesn't only enable efficient trade for the things we need; it also enables efficient trade for the things we want. How would a moneyless (or tradeless) system accommodate people's desires for things not strictly necessary for survival? Who makes the call for whether something is necessary for survival or not? Scarce (finite) resources have limited supply by definition, and if more than one person wants them, those people may not all be able to have all of said resources that they want. Prices and trade (made efficient by real money) allow for an orderly, negotiated, voluntary distribution of scarce resources.

    People will still want things that are in limited supply, whether they need them or not. Voluntary trade and dynamic prices make this possible. Unless and until every resource imaginable is effectively infinite, this is how the system works.

    Since you don't need money, you don't need laws that protect the acquisition of it either (i.e. Trademark, copyright, patent). You also have no reason to trade, since everything you need is provided.


    As I said before, you still need money, because you still won't have everything you want even if by some extraordinary miracle you do have everything you need. Human desires don't go away. We want stuff. In some cases, we invent stuff. Then other people want that stuff. That's how it's supposed to work. Trade is a core feature of any functioning society, precisely because the resources we all want are finite. There is always a reason to trade unless and until all resources are effectively infinite.

    I think it is that most people don't know what money really is. Civilization did just fine before money came along. When the people needed food, they grew/hunted/gathered it. When people needed shelter, they built it. They didn't bother with money to do this, they just gathered the resources needed and did it. Money is just a tool for controlling access to resources.


    I agree that most people don't know what money really is today, but I disagree with your definition. Money is not a tool for controlling access to resources (that's what property ownership is for, also critical to any society based on scarce resources). Real money is only ONLY a way to facilitate trade more efficiently. I don't want to have to pay you in cows just because you only need cows, because I don't have cows. I only have shoes, but you don't need shoes. So we use silver or gold instead, because it is rare, real, divisible, and easy to identify as authentic. You can use the silver or gold to buy the things that you want, and I can use it to buy what I want. This is what makes it useful as money.

    To the degree that "civilization did just fine before money came along" and "they didn't bother with money to [find/use/build what they needed]," they succeeded in spite of the lack of money, not in any way because of it. Do you really think that everybody did everything on their own, without negotiating (key word) with others? Not everyone is good at harvesting raw materials. Not everyone is good at cultivating farmland. Not everyone is good at preparing food. Not everyone is good at making and administering medicine. Trade (and money) allows each person to focus on becoming especially efficient at a subset of skills, which they can then trade with others in exchange for the goods and services they want.

    In small, self-sustaining societies, barter is common and can certainly work, since there is usually at least one person to be found in the group who specializes in any necessary skill. Maybe not everything can happen as fast as everyone would like, but there's at least one go-to guy (or girl) for farming, cooking, cleaning, tailoring, doctoring, animal care, and anything else--often even luxury items or services. Such societies may function without money, but the introduction of money (real money, not debt-as-money) can only make things more efficient. Real money is not a government invention; it systematically arises out of a genuine human need. There is a reason that just about every society ever develops some kind of a currency.

    If you need money, you are a slave to it because in a system that requires money, you can't get what you need unless you have it.


    Again, this has nothing to do with money. This has to do with the reality of finite resources. The stuff we need and want is not unlimited. Whether we have money to facilitate efficient trade or not, this is still the case. Nobody ever needs money, per se. They need (or want) the stuff they plan to buy with money.

    Your belief in the necessity for money is one of indoctrination. You've been told all of your life that money is necessary and you take it as fact.


    No, it's not indoctrination, it's a solution to a real problem. It's a way to streamline trade, which itself is a way for finite resources to change hands without violence. In a world of limited, scarce stuff, trade is far better than the alternative. Money makes it easy to trade.

    Apes, dolphins, and other intelligent animals already live under a moneyless economy. They help themselves by helping each other to improve each other member's condition. It's a collaborative society versus a competitive one.


    They do live in a moneyless economy, true. But if you think that nature is not predominantly competitive, you need to watch some more Animal Planet or National Geographic or something. There is a reason that natural selection and concept of "survival of the fittest" are so universally explained by observing nature. Yes, some groups of animals act together for the protection of the group, but this is hardly altruism. This is an effort to continue their own species. They still have to fight with other animals (often those within their own small group, let alone their species) for the limited resources they deal with, namely territory and food.

    It was humans that realized they could put themselves ahead by exploiting the many that they could achieve even greater prosperity by using money as the control mechanism. The golden rule applies: "He who has the gold, makes the rules". Money allows people to concentrate that money and thus, consolidate power. So long as money is in use, people will attempt to leverage it to exploit the many and elevate themselves above the rest.


    As a rule, people will attempt to leverage anything they can to exploit others and elevate themselves above the rest. Money is not necessary to make this happen, and its removal will not prevent it from happening. It will only make voluntary trade more cumbersome, which to me seems more like a step in the wrong direction.

    All this being said, I do believe that the fiat money system we have, where the dollar is worth what the government says it is simply because they say it, and new money is constantly introduced into the economy in the form of debt by fractional reserve banking and the Federal Reserve, is absolutely terrible and the source (or at least the enabler) of a huge portion of our problems, and at least most of what OWS is currently protesting, whether or not they can identify it as such. I do believe that money should not be able to affect political outcomes, since then you end up with corporatism, destructive regulations, endless inflation, etc. All bad.

    However, the solution isn't to remove money from the equation. That will do nothing. The solution is to remove government power from the equation, so that no matter how much money lobbyists or businesses spend to buy power, there is simply no power for them to buy.

  • Oct 26th, 2011 @ 11:42am

    Re: Re: Re: Trademarks, copyright, patents, money. They need to go away.

    I agree that the rosy society you desire might be possible, except that your the condition that "people don't have to work to feed, clothe, shelter, and heal themselves" must apply universally to everyone, and we are very, very far from that point. As long as some human labor is required to provide the things that people need, you'll never get by without paying those people for the effort. The world does not and will never run entirely on altruism. If no work is required, ever, then maybe payments aren't necessary. But such a condition will never be met.

  • Oct 26th, 2011 @ 10:40am

    Re: Trademarks, copyright, patents, money. They need to go away.

    I'm very, very curious as to how you think a society would function without money.

    I'm also curious (genuinely so) as to exactly how you would define each of those four things you propose getting rid of: trademarks, copyright, patents, and money. (Incidentally, I'm with you on copyright and patents, but not trademarks, and definitely not money.)

    I think you are not identifying money for what it truly is. I'm not talking about government-backed fiat money, which is what we have and is a very large part of the problem. Real money is simply a tool which allows me to trade efficiently with you by making it so that we don't need to each have exactly what the other desires (known as the "double coincidence of wants"). That is all real money is. If you eliminate money, all you'll accomplish is to make trade more difficult.

  • Oct 26th, 2011 @ 9:24am

    Wordage Win

    "That, my friends, is how you carpe the hell out of the diem."

    This just definitely became my favorite phrase of the week. Maybe even the month.

  • Oct 21st, 2011 @ 9:32am

    V for Vendetta

    I'm sure I can't be the only one who is reminded of that scene in V for Vendetta where the spy van is driving around, its passengers listening with adolescent glee to private conversations of people inside their homes, when they stumble upon the protagonist killing the corrupt priest. That level of privacy invasion seems to be exactly one small step away from where we are right now.

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