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Comment: Re:Agreed (Score 1) 167

by west (#47834723) Attached to: Scientists Sequence Coffee Genome, Ponder Genetic Modification

Nature has already perfected coffee, just as nature has already perfected ALL of the foods we eat. No amount of genetic engineering can make food taste better than hundreds of thousands of years of co-evolution (between plant and animal). The notion is absurd. And no, selective breeding is NOT the same thing as genetic engineering.

Um, evolution in most plants is "trying to make them taste BAD", otherwise, they... get eaten.

Nature's evolutionary "perfection", as a human might define it, would be a plant that replaces every living thing on the planet.

Of course, in reality evolution has no "goal". It is not "trying" anything. Producing something that is more fit is no more a "goal" of evolution than having a boulder roll downhill is a "goal" of gravity. Evolution is the simple outcome of the mathematics of self-replicating systems.

Comment: Re:Don't worry, Uber et all will end up regulated. (Score 1) 218

by west (#47590101) Attached to: The Great Taxi Upheaval

I completely agree with everything you say. My point is that for relatively rare, non-costly (i.e. non-headline grabbing) events, the public will demand regulation, even if the only effect is incumbent protection.

If a bad thing happens, and there is no regulation, then that's negligence in the eyes of the voter. If a bad thing happens and there's regulation that makes sense to the voter (even if it has no effect on safety), then that's simply bad luck.

The "meta" part, is that like a placebo, ineffective regulation, while having a cost, also has a benefit. Simply feeling safer makes people happier, and for relatively rare events, that's going to be the dominant effect almost all the time,

Comment: Don't worry, Uber et all will end up regulated.. (Score 2) 218

by west (#47588997) Attached to: The Great Taxi Upheaval

When enough consumers have a "bad experience" with anything vaguely taxi-like, there will be demand that anything that looks of feels like a taxi be regulated to ensure minimal levels of safety and service.

Sure, perfect information is out there, but that takes effort. Measure the cost of regulation vs. the cost of determining reputation and you'll find that the populace goes for regulation every time. They want to be able to call anything cab-like and be safe. They want to eat in anything restaurant-like and be safe.

Even if it doesn't significantly increase safety, it doesn't really matter. The feeling of being protected by government regulation increases happiness significantly enough that regulation is pretty much whole-heartedly endorsed by most of the population.

Comment: Re:Curation: Apple does high profile reviews... (Score 1) 258

by west (#47570533) Attached to: Is the App Store Broken?

First, if Apple puts a measure to sort by review score, then absolutely it will be taken seriously. Most people would not be informed enough to even care where the review came from - it's simply a metric.

For the informed, I would expect it to have as much credence as magazine reviews, which get taken fairly seriously by most.

Remember, *nothing* is going to work perfectly. What I want to see is ideas that allow more (not all, more) decent apps without $100K budget to get some more discoverability.

Comment: Curation: Apple does high profile reviews... (Score 2) 258

by west (#47569791) Attached to: Is the App Store Broken?

One possible imperfect solution:

For $x ($200? $500? $1,000?), Apple will do a real review of the application and attach the results to the app store listing. Then allow sorting by rating.

This is imperfect, in that it's still one person's opinion and subjective as any review is, but:

- It allows good applications to have an possible (no guarantees) avenue to stand-out apart from sales.
- By charging enough to cover the cost, it allows Apple to hire enough people to do timely reviews.
- Keeps out the chaff (who's willing to pay $500 for a guaranteed 'F' rating)

Nothing will guarantee successful curation. The question is what methods might *improve* discovery. Remember that any method that can be done by anyone, will be done by everyone, making it useless.

Comment: Re:.7% (Score 2) 168

by west (#47530977) Attached to: Amazon's Ambitious Bets Pile Up, and Its Losses Swell

Given the opportunity cost of the money an investor spent on buying Amazon stock, it's pretty much effectively a loss.

Heaven help Amazon if its investors ever start demanding actual market returns. Luckily, it may never happen. By now, every investor has got to realize that Amazon's profits will never justify their stock price. Yell that the profits aren't high enough, and all you're doing is yelling that "the Emperor has no clothes", when you're invested in the Emperor.

Far better to praise Amazon's moves and sell it even higher to the next investor.

Comment: We lose money on every sale... (Score 1) 168

by west (#47530667) Attached to: Amazon's Ambitious Bets Pile Up, and Its Losses Swell

"We lose money on every sale, but we make it up in volume" has never been as true as with Amazon.

(No, it's not literally true - but investors seem pleased to accept below-market returns (if not indeed losses) forever... If only the rest of American businesses had owners willing to give all their money to their customers.)

Comment: Re:No more superstars (Score 1) 192

by west (#47500371) Attached to: Amazon Isn't Killing Writing, the Market Is

Today, people have greater access to writing and greater access to a possible audience.

And yet statistically, we're reading less than we have in the past century.

What you lament is the coming demise of writing and culture is no more than the death of the rock star, or the Shakespeares or Beethovens of the past because their numbers have multiplied through the spread of mass culture.

Not quite, it's the death of 100,000 somewhat notables, replaced by 100,000,000. And that substitution will almost certainly mean that the tens of millions who enjoy reading today will becomes tens of thousands...

I don't deny that those who enjoy fan-fic/amateur market won't be devastated by the loss of the book industry. But that's a niche market in the same way as knitting. Vibrant inside the community, but a niche, and certainly not the cultural force that books have been for centuries.

Comment: Re:The end of reading as culturally relevant... (Score 1) 192

by west (#47499807) Attached to: Amazon Isn't Killing Writing, the Market Is

Well, that's different; people don't read poetry now because no one is writing good poetry anymore.

How would you know?

There are *thousands* of poems written and published on the Internet every day and I've no doubt that some of them are good by whatever standard you choose to measure with. The problem isn't that there aren't good poems out there, it's there's no way of filtering the good poems to make it viable for you to find them.

Exactly the problem I foresee with books.

(Small difference - there are poetry publishers. Unfortunately, their standard of good doesn't really match the general populace's, so effectively, poetry that would reach you and me is all self-published. And to no surprise, we don't bother searching.

Comment: Re:The end of reading as culturally relevant... (Score 2) 192

by west (#47497547) Attached to: Amazon Isn't Killing Writing, the Market Is

That's strange, there's so many sites like metacritic, reddit, and even slashdot that allow people to rate the content they view/read. Too bad this can't be applied to books.

And notice that despite hundreds of thousands of self-published books, it's not occurring now... Ever considered asking why?

Almost nobody is willing to spend 100-200 hours to find a single book worth reviewing. And, sadly, the very few people who might be willing to do so on an occasional basis are completely eclipsed by desperate authors who have friends "review" or purchase reviews or whatever.. (Not that they are necessarily common, but given how few reviews occur, even 1 in 100 authors means false reviews will eclipse real reviews 10 to 1.)

Closing your eyes and pretending that magic Internet pixies will happily do unpleasant work for free isn't working now. Why should it start working in the future?

(And if you are wondering why it works for music, the answer (1) the investment by the reader/listener is vastly smaller for music - I can listen to music for 3 minutes and decide if I like a piece, as opposed to 2-3 hours for a book and (2) much of the discovery occurs in venues where someone else is doing the filtering for the audience. Open mike nights with no filtering are marginal now. Imagine how they'd do if they featured a single unknown band playing for 2 hours... How many would be willing to sit for weeks to hear one band that was actually decent? (And remember, no talking with friends while listening. This music requires your undivided attention.)

Welcome to the challenges of self-publishing. Sadly, there's no magic here.

Comment: Re:The end of reading as culturally relevant... (Score 1) 192

by west (#47494337) Attached to: Amazon Isn't Killing Writing, the Market Is

Indeed, in order to be happy, you must Consume. Consume, Consumer! Consume! I command it! Waste all your money! Consume, Consume, Consume!

There's no purpose to money if it isn't making you happy. Indeed, what *isn't* a waste of money?

And sadly for my heirs, I am not one of those who is made happy simply by seeing a large number just sitting there in my bank account deposit book while I sit on a park bench with a discarded newspaper for company :-).

So, yes. I'll keep consuming books as long as they keep publishing ones that I like and can find.

The generation of random numbers is too important to be left to chance.