Interlude: introduction to trivia posts

Warning! Warning! Warning!

For all the people who is only interested in politics, economy and society
Stop reading and go the next post.

From now on I will incorporate a series post under the heading “Interlude” where I will write about trivial issues. I will write about boring stuffs that will interest no anyone unless you are seriously bored, seriously disturbed or you are my mom. If you are my mom, don’t read the a bit where I talk about drinking, being lazy or not eating vegetables.

Ok, now a little bit about my self.

My name in the real world is Steven P. Han HSIEH. I was not too sure about advertising my name on the internet. But than I though I should not cowardly hide behind an anonymous cyber name “Neouto” instead I should stand by my views. That’s my reasoning anyway.

The picture to the right is me in Darwin. A city name after a man who’s theory of natural selection and evolution has affected my views in political science. His theory is useful in my opinion for the understanding of the fundamental logical of human action which political activity is an expression of.


She says “self-interest”, I say “that great”

One of the great things about the modern ability of individuals to publish online cheaply from almost anyway in the world is the surface of previously ignored perspectives.

The article of discussion is from Baheyya: Egypt Analysis and Whimsy a blog maintained by a self proclaim Egyptian female democrat is one of such example. She question American commitment in the promotion of democratic reform in the Middle East, accusing America of acting on self-interest and urge for a promotion of democracy without condition.

Overall the paper is informed, passionate, yet, rather fair. However I do think it’s a little off the mark. She accuses American policy elites of indifference to the suffering of Arabian people whose democracy promotion are inseparable to “the best ways to preserve American national interests”. She is right, however there maybe an alternative perspective on American policy discourse. Policy discourse under American national institution has to address the American national interest. Any policy elites who are passionate about the plight of Arabian people they still have to argue for the promotion of democratic reform in the guise of American interest. This kind of discourse can only be good as it align the America interest with the democratization of Middle East and other parts of the world. It’s a little ironic when She compliant that Americans effort to increase the capacity of Arab parliament sum up to buying them “nice computers” only to forget its is the power of computers that let her publish her view to billions of people and gather information she need for her article.

Well, the above is my positive spin from the positive me.

Please take time to read her article, its long but its worth your time.


If not for oil, for what?

One of the more persuasive arguments against the view that the United States invades Iraq because of its oil has being the cost of going to war would out weight the benefit from Iraqi oil. In short, American could have just bought the oil it wants with the money it spends in the costly war.

This infamous price tag of war has just being broadcasted in the op-ed of New York Times by Linda Bilmes, an assistant secretary at the Department of Commerce from 1999 to 2001. She estimate if the war last five more years ”the total outlay for the war could stretch to more than $1.3 trillion or $11,300 for every household in the United States.” The Vietnam War took the total of seven years. Iraq war started in 2003 will it last till 2010? $1.3 trillion american dollar is a lot of oil .

(Of course, there are other reasons for war, including other oil related reasons like Oil control and Bush oil conspiracy which I am skeptic of both. I will talk about them if someone ask me.)

Now, I feel obligated to ask all my American readers who voted for Bush in the 2004 election a question.

Why did you support a president who may have just took $11,300 out of you or your family’s pocket and spend it on a war overwhelming American international relation experts did not approve of and think that it have decrease or greatly decrease American security? Not to mention that American has undermined its standing with many parts of the world and ended the lives of many young patriotic Americans?

George Bush may have has just destroyed its younger brother Jeff’s aspiration for the American presidency.


Graphic source

Google’s future is looking good

Believe it or not Google is worth 77.5 billion. Yet all it does is search. It needs to diversify and place more than text advertisement says some Google critics. Nope, I don’t think so.

First lets look at diversification. Diversification is good because it help reduce risk and enable firms to translate strength in one area to another i.e. synergy. Microsoft is perhaps the most successful user of diversification. It uses its dominates in its Windows operating system to introduce new products as bundle components, thus reducing consumer’s incentive to look for alternatives from competitors.

Diversification proponent are urging Googles to go beyond search and go into other areas such as selling or producing games, music, and other services that will provide an alternative source of income other than placing relevant ads with search results. In another word Google should be more like Yahoo. Sound good, but diversification may leads to incoherent and conflict of interest. When two Google products get into each other’s way, which one should give in? For example should a product be rank higher simply because it belongs to Google? If it does wouldn’t it distort research results and drive away users? And, will the loosing products become a burden to the winning products? Sony’s lost of its dominate in the portable music market that it created to Apple’s Ipod is perhaps the most telling example. Sony was not able to translate its dominate in analogue portable music to digital portable music was mainly due to its content producing divisions (music & movie) fear that digital devices will facilitate piracies and thus reduce division revenue.

Moreover, despite its success Google is no Microsoft and Search is simple and easy it is not like an operating system where switching is tiresome, costly and require retraining. Googles is apparent dominance is nothing like Windows’s monopoly. Google’s market share in Internet search is only 36.5% and its closest competitor Yahoo is at 30.5%. Simply put Google’s narrow market lead does not allow it to use Microsoft’s diversification strategy.

Google should not make Sony’s mistake nor does it have microsoft’s monopoly. However this does not nassary exclud the use of diversification strategy. Google just needs to diversify with coherent and adhere to a single vision. What is Googles vision? On their website its says

Google’s mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.

That’s the vision and any diversification that may contradict that vision should be restricted to shareholders portfolio and should not be in company’s product range. With this vision Google is already diversifying, over the last years Google has bought so many companies and introduced so many products I have lost count. They bought or introduced: Google Earth,, Google Maps, Keyhole, Google Desktop, Google SMS, Google Print, Google video, Google News, Gmail, Google Web Accelerator, Personalized homepage, Dodgeball, Orkut,, Picasa and Blogger. I have no idea why anyone would think Google is not diversifying. Almost all of Googles diversifications are positioned to serve its single vision by digitalizing information to make them searchable and organizing information. Google do not tries to create or provide content.

Is Google vision a viable one? I argue it is. As I have argue in pervious article that the explosion of content facilitated by the increase ease to create content will put premium on those able to make better sense of incoherent information not the content creator. Some people have even vision the demise of content creators like news media. With the world of information out there, the most desirable need of people is the make sense of it, not more information.

Its kind of weird reading the diversification proponent of Google’s urging Google to be a better Yahoo after reading a recent article in the Economist on Yahoo’s personality crisis of good at many excellent in none; and the result of strategy war game between Harvard business school students and MIT Slone management school student who assumes the identity of four of the biggest online presences namely, Google, Microsoft, AOL, and Yahoo. Google came up on top follow by Microsoft, AOL and Yahoo. The Economist argue the fatal flow of Yahoo is its inability to tap in the individual created content (blog, etc) like Google can, as well as the product divisions conflict (Yahoo content competing with individual created content) that might slow its growth and alienate some users.

And critics want Google to be more like Yahoo? What are they on?

I will continue and take about advertising strategy of Google in my next article.


To be edited…

Knowledge society and ICT: Part two ~ Future Trends

Rise of knowledge analyzers.

While raw date such as statistic, quotes, government documents will become increasingly assessable and freer. Knowledge analyzer who have reach to ever more relevant date will be valuable as they are able to understand the significant of seemly unconnected and incoherent raw data and reproduce its in an organized manner. In short the money are with data analyzers not finders.

Rise of tacit knowledge.

Our world is a competitive place. One of the most important sources of competitive advantage is knowledge. The effect of ICT on knowledge is really only on the codify-able form of knowledge, this is the kind of knowledge that is able to be transform in to communicable for of data like language, photos or sound etc. ICT has almost no effect to tacit knowledge, a kind of knowledge that you know but unable to put into communicable form. We all know a thing that is really difficult to put into words, like for example knowledge about how to swing a golf club. ICT has made some previously hard to communicate tacit knowledge into communicable forms like for example a person’s face. It’s really difficult to explain what person looks like yet we know when we see it. Graphic device like a camera has made this tacit knowledge communicable. How do we gain tacit knowledge? Well like golf, your have to do it to know it. In short, ICT advancement place a premium on learn by doing.

Nonprofit media

The best thing about public creating content and distributing it is that we are not profit driven entities in the sense that modern media are profit driven. This is not to say public bloggers are not bias (we all are), but the fact that bloggers are driven by diverse range of biases ensuring a level of diverse opinion. I suspect one of the reason why media outlet where not critical enough of Bush’s “slam dunk” case for the Iraqi war was simply because war sells news. Daniel Drezner an academic blogger argues bloggers or public content creators pass collectively pass information and opinions between each other. These collective actions are not only able to raise and change the agenda of public discourse but also influence the focus of the mainstream media.


I argue in one previous article that the enormous power that ICT give individuals ofter information may have a polarizing effect because people are given greater ability to read only what they want to read and block out the rest. A recent article by BBC News report on a research finding claims that information may lead to greater geographical polarization of our society in the real world by providing information regarding the status of each neighborhood (avg income, ethnicity etc). While some people have argue blogs often provide links to comments they are criticizing therefore limiting the extent of polarization. Do we read them? Aren’t we more incline to read sympathizing views?

To be edited…


Knowledge Society and ICT

Information communication technology (ICT) advancement has brought the mankind two incredible freedoms: to create knowledge and to access knowledge. The great question is -How will these new freedom effect our society? How should we respond to this new freedom? I don’t know, but here are what some people are saying and my educated guesses.

Access to knowledge

Today’s knowledge on the web is made ever more sorted, relevant by innovations from both profit and nonprofit organizations like: Google Search, News, Scholar and Print, Wikipedia (a free encyclopedia in all language in progress) and Technorati (a service that search blogs though “Tags” or hyperlinks in its posts). The best thing about them is that they are free and available to anyone connected. All the time, innovations like wi-fi broadband are increasing the number of people expose to connectivity as connections become cheaper, easier, faster, and more convenient and reducing the so call digital divide.

Knowledge creation

This trend is only likely to continue despise efforts and arguments against it because knowledge or content creation are becoming so costless people usually donate them for free. One of the two main reasons why knowledge creations are so cheap are: a) price reduction and widespread use of knowledge creation equipments such as computer, cameras, recorders and increasingly mobile phones; b) The increase in the share of knowledge workers in our economy.

Lawrence Lessig a leading visionary for freeing knowledge and his sympathizers are arguing for the rewrite copyright laws to allow even greater freedom to create knowledge, albeit there also other sensible views. While tags (hyperlink) in previous sentence sum up the legal argument for and against Lessig’s vision of copyright law, I would like to see its argued from an economic or political perspective.

What future?

That big questions are what is all this leading to? Organizations like wikimedia are calling for free knowledge for all. A very noble cause, I have mention in earlier article that wider distribution of knowledge will help the poorer economies to catch-up. Other advocates have conjured up vision of a demise of forth estate (professional news media) and phrenicea sees the information future as an interconnected brain network. Interesting but maybe not for the foreseeable future.

I will attempt to speculate what will be the likely tread of our future in the next post.