Monday, May 28, 2007

Word and concept of the day: agalmics

Another person tries to make a compact characterization of the economics of open-source and other freely copyable goods: (via Notional Slurry)

agalmics (uh-GAL-miks), n. [Gr. "agalma", "a pleasing gift"]
The study and practice of the production and allocation of non-scarce goods.

agalmia, n.
The sum of the agalmic activity in a particular region or sphere. Analogous to an "economy" in economic theory.

My own particular interest is in how open source economics interfaces with the "normal" economics of scarcity -- ie, while it's wonderful that software can be given away for free, until potatoes can reproduce themselves as easily it will be problematic for people working on open source to feed themselves. Back in the embryonic days of the FSF I made this argument, but nobody paid me much attention, and as it turns out my objections, while valid, did not stop open source from taking over the world. And many people seem to be able to support themselves while working on free software, one way or another.

I still suspect there is something screwy about the economics, and I'm not the only one. It seems like programmers are collectively undermining their own value in the for-pay economy, to the delight of big service corporations like IBM.

what we're seeing playing out among coders is what I'll term the Programmer's Dilemma. Because skills in open source programming are increasingly necessary to enhance the potential career prospects of individual programmers, individual programmers have strong motivations to join in - and as more programmers join in, the incentive for each individual programmer to participate becomes ever stronger. At the same time, the total amount of money that goes to programmers falls as open source is adopted by more companies. Individual programmers, in other words, have selfish motives to engage in collectively destructive behavior.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

That syncing feeling

[profundities and delicious ironies have been scarce lately, so I'm lowering my posting threshold for awhile and will be sending out random bits of not-very-interesting tech geekery. This is by nature of an experiment.]

For various reasons, my life is scattered across several different machines and physical locations right now, and I'm looking for ways to keep things together. I set up an svn repository for most of my work files and code, but there's too much damn state information in tools.

One thing that promised to help was Google Browser Sync, which copies various items from one Firefox instance into another. At first I didn't think much of it, because it didn't do the one thing I wanted most (copying over extensions and their state). However, it does sync browser history and cookies, which is actually pretty useful. And I just found today that if you work with the history sidebar open, you can actually see the syncing happen, as elements from one computer pop on the other. That's pretty nifty.

Now if all the random config files of other programs would migrate themselves automagically from one place to another. It seems like half of the work in programming today is configuration, and the other half is glue.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

I'm naming my kid Trev.r

The other day I was joking with a pregnant colleague about the importance of picking a unique baby name that will permit easy Googling down the road. Turns out I was behind the curve by a few days since the WSJ ran an article on this very subject (via Rough Type).

There's something mildly disturbing about this new twist on technological systems reshaping human existence. It used to be enough for names to be reasonably unique within a family or village, but if we're all globally connected then we will need globally unique identifiers, or close to it.