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Comment Fiduciary duty of the board of directors? (Score 1) 472

Shareholders cannot simply demand things. Google's duty to its shareholders is to make money, plain and simple.

Isn't the fiduciary duty of a board of directors to serve the shareholders' interests? If the shareholders agree that their interests go beyond making money and are willing to trade off, why shouldn't the BoD obey?

(I'd love for you to cite law, but I'm lazy too...)

Comment Re:Because it's free (Score 1) 182

Look, you fucking moron, if everyone just copied everything, obviously no-one would ever get paid for anything.

Look, you fucking moron (see what I did there?):

I'm trying to explain my understanding of what other people think---I'm not stating my own opinion, and I'm not defending the views of other people.

I would love to live in a moneyless utopia, but until we do, it is ridiculous not to see that artists need some compensation for their work.

Or else?

Musicians might be able to live off of concert tickets and t-shirt sales---isn't that what they do anyways? If that money is sufficient to create an active and vibrant music industry, maybe eliminating copyrights on music is better for people at large (including musicians and non-musicians, music-consumers and music-nonconsumers), in the sense of increasing Betham's social welfare function.

I don't know---I think it's an empirical question. Now the position you're attacking is an empirical question rather than a straw man. Happy now? :-)

Comment On intuitive and non-intuitive utilitarian morals (Score 1) 182

Isn't it obvious that the person who does the work should be compensated for it, even if once the work is done it costs nothing or next to nothing to make extra copies?

That sounds a lot like the (normative rather than descriptive) Labor Theory of Value. I don't subscribe to it. Or rather, I subscribe to compensating the people who provide me the electricity I need to copy "their" file (volunteering, advertisement, ...), and compensating the ISP who provides the infrastructure that enables us, etc. But I don't think I have an inherent right to other people's money whenever I do something difficult or labor-intensive, just because it requires labor.

I *do* believe in old-fashioned Locke-ish property right (actually more Henry George-ish, but let's not get into land value taxation and rents right now). I'm not 100% certain about what the right set of rights is, with respect to ideas and creative expressions, although I do lean heavily towards the Free Software Foundation's views. I don't think that our current system of copyrights is the right set of rights (including various forms of the right to exclude) for people to have.

I am quite convinced, however, that what makes good economic sense (in my words that means "maximizes social welfare", or eqv "is consistent with the principle of utilitarianism") doesn't always have an intuitive, natural moral appeal to people.

Comment Because it's free (Score 1) 182

Because once it's created, making an extra copy doesn't cost anything.

Or rather, it costs the electricity of performing the copy operation, but that cost isn't borne by the creator, it's borne by the source of the copy, who (e.g.) in a peer-to-peer file sharing system volunteers that electricity to the recipient. On youtube, they have Google volunteering the electricity (so they can sell ads, of course).

So in the way people most often obtain copies in violation of copyright, they are not doing anything that hurts the rights holder, and the people who bears a cost does so willingly. "No one was aggressed against" seems like an intuitive and natural moral standard, which is lived by in this scenario.

Comment Of course, they project desires unto you (Score 2) 353

it does put you into the driver's seat alright - that of a train on a single track.

Hint: the passive voice was used in the summary.

We've taken a pretty different approach in the GNOME 3 design that focuses on the desired experience and lets the interface design follow from that

Well, the experience desired by whom? Me? Well, no GNOME developer ever asked me. I bet they didn't ask you either. I think they just sat around and discussed among themselves what users should want, and then created whatever they decided people should want.


Comment But... they're scientists (Score 1) 344

The developers need a good whack will a clue stick.

No no, you see, the usability experts in the GNOME camp are *scientists*.

That means that when they pull a person into their lab and asks them to do a small piece of not-real-work and x% more succeed and do it y seconds faster, that means the interface is objectively better, and the ivory tower economic planners know what's better for you than what you do. Did I say economic? I meant UI...

And never mind that it doesn't capture an essential part of the real work people do. It's scientific and statistically significant, ZOMFG!

Comment Then what's the distinction? (Score 1) 720

Uh, using a GUI doesn't preclude you from editing text.

Isn't that like saying "A CLI is a graphical UI, because the monitor needs to be on to use it" or "A CLI can be made into a GUI by using an on-screen keyboard"?

In my mind there's a real distinction between inventing and typing textual commands, versus choosing stuff from a menu or list of choices. Links (say) is in the latter category. Yes, it's displayed on a text terminal, but it's more like a GUI in that the user chooses from a pre-specified list of commands or actions, rather than composes one of their own.

Some things are not best done by choosing from a list of pre-specified functions.

Comment Concentrated benefits, dispersed costs (Score 1) 278

These corporations are not a threat to tech innovation: Voter apathy is the threat.

I think it's the combination of voter apathy and industry benefit from retardation of progress.

That is, the benefits (of retarded progress) are concentrated in a few hands (the MPAA, RIAA, BSA perhaps, etc.), while the costs are dispersed among a large set of people (the voters and customer base).

This is the classic situation of public choice theory: the concentrated party has low transaction costs to lobbying their side, while the dispersed side has very high transaction costs to lobby their side.

In other words, it's perfectly sane and rational for the unwashed masses to not spend any effort to learn and demand what is good for them: they would have to give up things they value more (family evening, friday night bbq with the buddies, ...).

Comment You're exactly wrong (Score 1) 278

Sorry about the offensive title, but I think it's exactly the other way around

Voter apathy is [a symptom of] a legislative system that decentralizes decision making so much that elected officials are accountable only to their local constituencies and large campaign contributors and a legal system that is focused on the minutiae of rules and processes and that is all too content to lose sight of the bigger picture.

That's centralization. Power is centralized in the hands of fairly few campaign contributors.

Power is centralized in a national parliament and executive run in a way where each member is judged by his/her electors on the member's ability to do good for the few electors rather than the larger whole. If politicians want to stay in power, and only do so if they provide special favors for their voters, expect special favors.

I'm no legal expert, but I believe that just rules and predictable enforcement are valuable. And I like jury nullification, where the jury doesn't say "not guilty, he didn't do that" but rather "not guilty, the law is morally wrong".

For the legislative and executive, Fred Foldvary suggests multi-level federalism: from neighbourhood to city to county or region to state to interstate to nation to international to world, sovereign individuals should get together and solve larger social tasks in the smallest suitable group, deferring power upward only when necessary, and always retaining the right of lower levels to secede and join higher levels as they see fit (subject to payment for and/or loss of services, of course). That is: the solution to bad governance is more competition among those who govern, and rights of individuals to choose whom to be governed by.

Comment A serious take on a ment-to-be-silly point (Score 1) 490

That's it! We'll make career plans a high school requirement!

I think that's one of the least stupid education reform ideas I've heard in a long time.

The problem with western-world school systems (I know because I've experienced one and they're all equal and actually I went to a private school) is that they're compulsory.

One, that drains the motivation out of people. Many things which are fun or acceptable are a pain if they're forced (consider working and having sex). The best you can get out of people if you force their hand is begrudging compliance. That might work for factory labor, but not for intellectual development. At best you'll produce people who know a bundle of facts.

Secondly, it preempts the time of young people. Time which should be spent setting and pursuing your own goals. I think it has been said a million times in a thousand ways, but here's my take---to achieve your goals, you must first set them. Schools are an institution which obstructs the process of setting goals for oneself, working towards them and reaching them. I bet you'd have more successful people if they were put into a habit, from their youth, of setting goals for themselves and working to reach them.

You may worry about educational needs being met if kids are left to their own devices. Consider this: how come little kids ask a bajillion questions and are incredibly curious right up until the point when they're put into school?

But regarding my parent's point: if people only enter high school with a career plan, you'll know that people have a goal and that high school is (at least perceived to be) on the path towards that goal. That will probably mean you'll have more motivated students---why would you be motivated to spend time doing something which doesn't give you anything you want?

Comment Here's one to ponder (Score 1) 490

I agree with your pick of topics, and would like to add one

Consider this: people vote about once every four years (or is it two? And how about non-voters? But I digress...).

People engage in market transactions about once per day (working five days a week, buying groceries saturday and toys/clothes/tickets/... sundays).

Much policy is economic policy, in that it has an intended economic consequence (cheaper healthcare) or cost (military-industrial complex).

How come kids are taught civics and not economics? You can teach people that in the US two-party system, any non-Dem, non-Rep vote is wasted in something like five minutes. Teaching people the consequences of policies (so they can match them against intentions, both their own and those stated in campaign promises) takes a little longer. Also, economics goes a long way to explain the lobbying, corruption and two-party system in the US, once you understand how the incentives of large numbers of individuals interact.

And hey, I bet school kids would hate math a tiny little bit less if they saw how it applies to part of their world ("why do ${products young people want} cost what they cost?").

Comment That's kinda' ironic (Score 1) 161

I can understand why the title talks about Open Source---it would look weird for a "Mr. Proffitt" to talk about "Free" software.

[For the uninitiated: the FSF, and, is about software freedom and software that's free as in free speech. It tends to have a price of zero, but that's a consequence rather than a definitional requirement.]

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