Tag Archives: Dave Kusek

Blog like it’s 2004 (Italiano)

Da diversi anni partecipo a vari social networks. Ma non ho mai smesso abbandonato i blog, nè come blogger nè come lettore, e non ho nessuna intenzione di farlo. Dopo settecento post e duemila commenti, sono molto grato al mio blog: mi ha messo in contatto con persone e idee che sono diventate importanti per me (tra l’altro, gli devo il mio lavoro attuale). Scrivere mi aiuta a organizzare i pensieri, e a non perdere il filo di un percorso che non è sempre lineare.

Ma sono anche grato ai blog altrui. Negli anni i blog che leggo sono cambiati quasi tutti (anche perché alcuni che seguivo hanno chiuso i battenti, come quello di Luca e Mafe); ma continua a piacermi il rapporto che ho con i blogger che leggo, certo intellettuale ma stranamente intimo. Nel confronto serrato e prolungato nel tempo con una persona e le sue idee mi sembra di riuscire meglio a fare crescere le mie. Voglio quindi dedicare questo post alla seconda generazione del mio blogroll, i blog che leggo (e commento) adesso, in pieno spirito del 2004 e della breve età dell’oro del blogging.

Sui temi delle politiche pubbliche Internet e del governo aperto continuo a leggere David Osimo. David scrive da Bruxelles, e ha una bella prospettiva europea, anche se nell’ultimo anno, credo preso da altro, ha scritto meno che in passato. Da qualche mese ha ripreso a scrivere anche Beth Noveck, dopo una lunga pausa durante la quale ha diretto il progetto open government alla Casa Bianca di Obama: spero non si stanchi di nuovo, il suo contributo è davvero importante.

Grazie a Dave Kusek e a Francesco D’Amato riesco a tenere nel radar anche l’economia industriale della musica, uno dei miei primi interessi professionali. Il primo, americano, insegna alla Berklee School e ha una prospettiva generale sulle tendenze di mercato; il secondo, italiano della Sapienza, si interessa in particolare di crowdfunding: su questo tema è diventato molto esperto. Leggo anche un paio di blog tecnologici: quello di Alberto D’Ottavi, uno dei primissimi blog che abbia mai letto, e quello di Vincenzo Cosenza, molto forte sul tema Facebook e social media.

Sono un lettore fedele anche di due blog non specialistici ma ben scritti e che mi fanno pensare pensieri per me insoliti. Uno è quello dello scrittore di fantascienza britannico Charles Stross: intelligente, immaginoso e speculativo come solo la migliore fantascienza sta essere. L’altro è stato aperto recentemente dall’economista italiano Tito Bianchi, una specie di Tristram Shandy dell’economia che salta con leggerezza da un argomento all’altro riuscendo sempre interessante. Infine, se usate Google Reader, vi consiglio di seguire Costantino Bongiorno (si autodefinisce “engineer and troublemaker”). È troppo timido per tenere un proprio blog, ma fa un ottimo lavoro di filtraggio e condivisione dei blog che si occupano di hardware hacking, Arduino e affini. Grazie, amici bloggers, continuate così.

E voi? Volete suggerirmi qualche bel blog?

Blog like it’s 2004

For a few years now I have been participating in various social networks. But I never abandoned blogs, neither as a blogger nor as a reader, and I have no intention to do so. After seven hundred posts and two thousand comments, I am very grateful to this blog: it put me in touch with people and ideas that have become important in my development (on top of everything else, I owe it my present job). Blogging helps me organize my thinking, and not to get lost while moving along a trajectory which is not all that linear.

I am also grateful to other people’s blogs. Over the years, my preferred reads have changed almost completely, as both my interests and those of my once-favorite bloggers shifted; but I continue to enjoy the relationship I maintain with the bloggers I do follow, certainly intellectual but strangely intimate. Long-haul, sustained engagement with the thinking of a bunch of smart individuals, seems to help me develop my own. So, I am dedicating this post to the second generation of my blogroll, the blogs I am reading and commenting now, in the spirit of 2004 and of the brief golden age of blogging.

As far as Internet-enabled public policies and open government I am still reading David Osimo. David is based in Brussels, so he has a usefully European perspective, though in the past year he has been writing less than previously. A few months ago Beth Noveck came back online, after a long pause from blogging due to her responsibilities with Open Government at the White House. I hope she keeps it going, it is a really important contribution.

Thanks to Dave Kusek and Francesco D’Amato I can keep the economics of mucis, an old interest of mine, in the radar. The former, America, teaches at Berklee and has a broad overview on market trends; the latter, Italian, teaches in Rome and has become a leading expert of crowdfunding for music projects. I also read a couple of Italian technology blogs.

I am also a faithful reader of two blogs that are not clearly specialized, but are well written and get me to engage with unusual trains of thought. One is that of the British science fiction writer Charles Stross: smart, imaginative and wittily speculative as trhe best science fiction can be. The other one was started relatively recently by Italian economist Tito Bianchi, a sort of Tristram Shandy of economics that moves nimbly from topic to topic in an engaging way. Finally, if you use Google Reader, I suggest you follow engineer and troublemaker Costantino Bongiorno: He is too shy to keep his own blog but he is doing an excellent job of filtering and sharing blogs about hardware hacking, Arduino and related topics.

What about you? Do you have any blog to recommend?

Schumpeter’s curse

In the late 90s I made my living as a rock musician. I stepped down in 2000, just in time. Jobs like my old one are disappearing fast; artists with an existing fan base are getting better at exploiting it cutting out various middlemen, while newcomers can get very popular very fast and with near-zero cash investment on Last.fm or Spotify, but they find it next to impossible to build a solid economy. They make music in their free time, the core skill is landing a day job that will pay the rent and allow you to go on tour. I’m told something similar is going on with videomakers and film directors. A deadly cocktail of low cost producton technology and online sharing has thawed massive reservoirs of creativity, turning it from scarce into plentiful. As it did so, it drove a stake through the heart of the music business, which turned into dust like a vampire at high noon (obituary by Dave Kusek). A texbook case of the creative destruction predicted by Joseph Schumpeter.

Fine, but startups are the new rock’n’roll, right? It’s the same narrative: bright, visionary youngsters, obsessed by their own ideas and in sync with the Zeitgeist, becoming millionaires at 23 and inspiring their generation to break away from the dull existence of their parents. And boy, do the young go for it: business plans contest have replaced rock band contests (the latter have migrated onto TV talent shows, maybe low on cred but endowed with a rock-solid business model).

And yet. Recently I found a post by Laurent Kretz, founder of Submate, that describes in merciless detail the hardships of the typical startup entrepreneur’s life. No dream job: it involves living on welfare, sleeping on friends’ couches, getting the boot from girlfriends tired to beg for attention, “being chased by your banker with a chainsaw”. A story all too familiar to my friends of CriticalCity, who triumphed in the end but paid a high price for it.

Mind you, this is not someone looking for a backer. Kretz does have an investor. A seed investor, that gave Mashape just enough money so that four people won’t starve to death as they put in 80-hours weeks for four months. This seems to be all the rage with early stage investor: I remember Joi Ito two years ago saying he only invests in a company that can bring him a working prototype coded by three people who locked themselves away in some cabin for a weekend, and even then he’ll only invest fifty thousand dollars.

Since then Ito has made progress. his latest experience is that a fully functional web services can be launched in three weeks by exactly two people: one designer, one developer. This is because code is modular: you don’t write it from the ground up, you just copy-paste existing routines. This process has been made more fluid by “metaprogramming” tools that stitch together chunks of code coming from different directions into an integrated program.

It does not take a genius to figure out that the startup world has entered a “hey, I can do that too!” phase. Since there is a limit to the market’s ability to absorb new stuff, software development skills could be on their way to becoming plentiful too. Before the job market reacts, we could even have a period in which a software engineer’s time is worth as much as a rock guitarists’, which is to say less than a baby sitter’s. It’s Schumpeter curse: when the market works, it commodifies or obsoletes everything.

Most economists interpret Schumpeter’s careful wording as a process that turns out to be a good thing in the long run, because it makes useful, expensive stuff cheap. I think they are wrong, because Schumpeter’s is not an equilibrium model: if creation and destruction are not in sync, the long run may never come around. What this means, I’m trying to figure out.