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Comment Re:Dear Amazon (Score 1) 237

I'm on the publisher side and I think there are some bits you're missing about this. First of all, I work in the poetry and academic spaces, where a print run of a thousand is a solid seller. We see 40% of retail cost in the actual printing, and easily another 10% for shipping. Now, you can easily object that we do much higher quality paper (acid free, thick) than the average paperback, and also have a lot of diagrams and photo inserts and crap that drive up cost. Fair enough. But your experience is also pretty atypical--paperbacks don't wholesale for $20 or retail for $50, so printing and shipping costs are a much larger relative share.

The other side of it though is that publishers frequently eat an enormous number of bookstore returns, frequently eat the interest between when they pay to print it and the bookstore gets around to selling it to someone else and actually paying the publisher for it, and often pay bookstores for prominent shelf placement. Those things can easily amount to 20-40% of the retail of a book and obviously aren't relevant for ebooks. So 20% for printing and 20% for logistics should equal a solid 40% off.

The reason it doesn't is that goods are, as a general rule, sold on a market basis rather than a cost basis. People who read ebooks are already shelling out for a Kindle, so they're probably a market segment which is getting more consumer surplus to begin with, and should be segmented by the pricing model in a more expensive slot. Last minute airline tickets don't cost more because the user is a bigger chunk of the fuel price, after all...


Balancing Choice With Irreversible Consequences In Games 352

The Moving Pixels blog has an article about the delicate balance within video games between giving players meaningful choices and consequences that cannot necessarily be changed if the player doesn't like her choice afterward. Quoting: "One of my more visceral experiences in gaming came recently while playing Mass Effect 2, in which a series of events led me to believe that I'd just indirectly murdered most of my crew. When the cutscenes ended, I was rocking in my chair, eyes wide, heart pounding, and as control was given over to me once more, I did the only thing that I thought was reasonable to do: I reset the game. This, of course, only led to the revelation that the event was preordained and the inference that (by BioWare's logic) a high degree of magical charisma and blue-colored decision making meant that I could get everything back to normal. ... Charitably, I could say BioWare at least did a good job of conditioning my expectations in such a way that the game could garner this response, but the fact remains: when confronted with a consequence that I couldn't handle, my immediate player's response was to stop and get a do-over. Inevitability was only something that I could accept once it was directly shown to me."

Comment Re:he's right (Score 1) 680

1. It's philosophers like Rene Descartes and Francis Bacon who came up with the idea that mathematics should be used to control nature, thus making life better for man.

2. Philosophy as a field doesn't punish sloppy work? Are you crazy? You've clearly never been to a thesis defense, read peer reviewers' comments on an article, or sat in on a tenure review. Philosophy graduates have some of the highest GRE scores and lowest unemployment numbers for a reason. I used to study philosophy, now I'm a successful sysadmin, and the latter is vastly, vastly easier and more tolerant of error. Yes, I said that--running a site that loses thousands and thousands of dollars during any downtime is easier and more tolerant of error than being a philosopher in U.S. universities today.

3. That is in fact one of the major objection's to Searle's Chinese Room story, and was made almost immediately by a large number of people. It's because he has made careful answers that, while possibly wrong, certainly further stimulate thought that it hasn't been laughed out. Your ignorance of those debates doesn't make their practitioners dumb.

Comment Re:So now the question is... (Score 1) 520

Because what would the 2LD in your 3LD be, your ISP? That stinks. The whole reason everyone wants their own domain to begin with is to avoid being tied to their ISP. The people who didn't care about that are just me.wordpress.com or me.googlepages.com right now, and never were in the domain name market in the first place.

Comment Re:Geee! (Score 4, Informative) 105

I'm sorry to say it, but if you want privacy, this is wrong. You can have authentication without encryption (digital signatures) but encryption without authentication = Man in the Middle. PGP and SSH don't get around this in any way, shape, or form--they just seed trust differently, with PGP using the web-of-trust model and SSH a repeatability model. Neither of those work very well for the classic "online banking" use case, however--average users are not going to seed their trust webs, and expect to be able to bank from computers at cafes, work, and friends' houses--none of which would have connected previously, making the SSH model unworkable.

That's not to say there's nothing here--extensions to the SSL model like EV certs, DNSSEC, and phishing databases have all made these attacks harder. Perhaps browsers will implement web-of-trust or trust-history type extensions to make it harder yet. And it may well be the case that you simply cannot safely bank at computers you don't own, though with pre-shared keys and time-generated PINs both embedded into mailed fobs, the possibilities open up enormously as long as the execution is correct.

But at the end of the day there's no true privacy without authentication built-in and for the core e-commerce use case, SSL is probably the best model.

Comment Re:PhDs at Google at totally idiots then... (Score 1) 444

I'm also on the ops side, and I think a lot of people not running dozens of SQL servers really underestimate the pain of this. I do worry a bit about the visibility with NoSQL though--if you trust it to manage that there are 3 copies of your data at all times or whatever, how do you really guarantee that? And how do you know which bits to back up? The promise is good, but I definitely worry about whether we're there yet as we start to deploy Cassandra in production.

Comment Re:Resources vs. Smarts (Score 1) 444

That is, for better or worse, just not true. I work for a $400MM company, nearly half profit, and there's no way we'd invest in Oracle & DBAs for our OLTP systems. It's not the total dollar volume, it's that since you always try to grab the most profitable niches first, you tend to grow by eeking profit out of places with less room for it, e.g. less profit per user/transaction/whatever, and thus anything but open source on commodity hardware means that your costs grow faster than your profits and the tech department is unpopular. You might think that's silly, but in the consumer online space that's how the business thinks.

Comment Re:Right! (Score 1) 444

Strongly agreed, though I do worry that many NoSQL projects' websites are overly blase about runtime issues, including crash safety and online schema changes, as well as upgrade-safety. Now this is really all about using alpha software rather than anything conceptual/design related, but it is a real issue at the present time.

Comment Re:Can't wait it to die? (Score 1) 444

What would be better for keeping every user's profile thumbnail in memory than memcache?

And would it have gotten off the ground in the first place if it weren't written in a scripting language? Probably not. Now that they have a million lines of PHP code, would it survive a rewrite? Probably not.(see: Netscape). So it's ugly to be sure, but it's almost certainly rational.

Comment Re:Article summary (Score 1) 444

It's 2010. "GB in size" no longer means something big anymore. That said, MySQL and PostgreSQL both handle datasizes up to a terabyte and several-billion-row tables just fine with mostly standard SQL using the usual tricks. If you're talking petabytes, now that's a separate grade of mess. But if you follow the people using this in production at scale and talking about it in public (eg Facebook, Google) you'll see that the issues for MySQL are really around update/insert performance, replication speed, and replication transaction safety. I don't see anybody talking about Postgres scaling quite that publicly, but in my own experience Slony also has some issues with replication speed (and hot standby is great, but until you can query the slave it's not solving a huge class of realworld problems--and that capability has been forthcoming for a long time, but I'm not sure we're really any closer). Anyway, that frustration aside, PostgreSQL is a damn fine database, and I wish I didn't have to deal with MySQL at all.

Comment Re:Article summary (Score 1) 444

Really? Because I can almost saturate a gigabit pipe for around $100k/yr these days. Say I've got MySQL on almost 100 cores...now sure you'll say Oracle is more efficient, and it probably is, but I still need at least two boxes in case of hardware failure. I haven't seen anything suggesting I can get Oracle on say 8 cores for $10k. Now maybe this just means I don't "need" Oracle, which in some sense is trivially true since it's running on MySQL and it works, but that doesn't seem very helpful.

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