“This analogy is not entirely hopeless. Alaska and Norway blunt the resource curse by proactively distributing the proceeds of resource extraction, limiting concentrated control and ensuing disorders. “Technology” is not a tangible thing that can be publicly owned and sold for proceeds. But like oil in the ground, it is a resource the scale of whose product far exceeds the reward required to incentivize its production. If we imagine technology as a source of value embedded in most goods and services, we can distribute claims upon it simply by distributing new purchasing power. A money-financed basic income would amount to a partial dispersion of technological bounty from those involved in concentrated production to “outsiders”. Like Norway’s Oil Fund, this might help preserve balance, economically and politically, in the face of our creeping resource curse.”
“I worked at Facebook from 2005 to 2010 in a series of roles culminating in a position as Zuckerberg’s speechwriter, and had an opportunity to observe the development of Facebook both as a social media platform and as what it increasingly aims to become: a global leader on par with nations. “Companies over countries,” Zuckerberg often said in meetings”
“In 1995, Chairman Lee was dismayed to learn that cell phones he gave as New Year’s gifts were found to be inoperable. He directed underlings to assemble a pile of 150,000 devices in a field outside the Gumi factory. More than 2,000 staff members gathered around the pile. Then it was set on fire. When the flames died down, bulldozers razed whatever was remaining. ‘If you continue to make poor-quality products like these,’ Lee Keon Hyok recalls the chairman saying, ‘I’ll come back and do the same thing.’”

On a side note, since I’m not a native speaker, I will always be grateful if you point out spelling or other mistakes in my posts so that I can fix them and improve my English skills.

Google Reader, open protocols and public utilities

Over the last few days following Google’s announcement about the shutdown of Google Reader, a discussion emerged about using Google (and cloud) services going forward.

Some people consider not even trying out new Google products anymore as they now fear that those might be shutdown within a few years again anyway.

Om Malik clarifies that it isn’t so much about Google services in general but specificially about the various side projects they launch and kill again and again:

"It is hard to trust Google anymore to make rational and consumer centric decisions. I said — nuanced as it might be — that I don’t trust Google to introduce new apps and keep them around, because despite what the company says, these apps are not their main business. Their main business is advertising and search — regardless of whatever nonsense you might read."

You might have a better chance if you choose a service from a company that primarily provides what you use and it isn’t just a side project for them:

"The point is that a company whose main focus is a specific service or a singular product, like Evernote, is far more likely to focus its energies to build a business around it and keep it around."

As Marco Arment and Andrew Turner point out, this isn’t really about Google but in general about proprietary services and businesses. The best thing you can do is to not rely on those services by always using open protocols and data formats and making sure you can always export your data to move it elsewhere:

"The point is that we must realize the vitalness of protecting and accessing our data. Whether my personal notes, email, photos, business plans, or any other information that I have, it is imperative that we retain ownership and rights to the underlying data. Users should be able to hold their data with permission to access, use and reuse regardless of future business decisions."

Krugman and Ryan Avent contemplate if Google is starting to provide infrastructure that the public relies upon but Google might loose interest in providing:

"So what’s the answer? As Avent says, historical examples with these characteristics — like urban transport networks — have been resolved through public provision. It seems hard at this point to envision search and related functions as public utilities, but that’s arguably where the logic will eventually lead us."

Izabella Kaminska adds that the concept of services turning into public utilities applies elsewhere as well, for example banks and maybe even general media (journalism?).

“Moleskine’s operating margin, its profit as a percentage of revenue, was 41.7% last year. That compares favorably—indeed, very favorably—to the luxury brands the company considers to be peers, like luggage-maker Tumi (19.7%), fashion firm Prada (27.2%), and beauty-product boutique L’Occitane (16.7%). It’s not hard to see why. The raw goods of Moleskine’s paper products, which represent 93% of the company’s revenue, are cheap compared to most luxury wares, so there’s more room to mark up the price.”
Everything you need to know about Moleskine ahead of its IPO Apparently you can achieve software-like margins in 2013 by selling paper of all things.
“Over the last week I’ve read Colin Woodard’s “American Nations - A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America”. This book was absolutely fascinating. The author’s hypothesis is that the original cultures defined when the first settlers arrived in the new world continue to largely define modern North American (he covers what is today the US, Canada and northern Mexico) politics.”

Ed Freyfogle’s blog: Book review: “American Nations” by Colin Woodard 

I haven’t read the book, but the underlying idea got me thinking how this could be applied to Europe and the EU (here are a few short descriptions of the different American regions and their political preferences). I’ve always been a big fan of the EU and European integration, but obviously the process has run into difficulties lately and it isn’t clear how things will continue once the Euro crisis is resolved. If you look at things like the different welfare state systems across Europe, it’s clear that at least historically there have been different preferences and I wonder how deeply they are ingrained in each culture and thus how far the European integration will be able to go. Unfortunately, as we’ve seen, partial integration can also be very dangerous (Euro crisis: monetary integration without a central banking regulator and fiscal integration), so I’m not yet sure what future integration should look like.