EXAMINE THE NET WAY OF LIFE
ICANN, You Can, We All Can
by Paul C. Pinderski
It was probably around the first communal campfire that votes were tabulated on what the next course of action by the group by majority rule. The Internet can be compared to an electronic communal campfire. The space around the campfire, the domain names, are available to anyone. It is a large, global group of potential voters.
ICANN, the organization that handles domain names, met in late June, 2002. It used to run like the Internet that spawned its creation, by popular vote and imput from its user base. It held on-line elections for its board of directors. A pure electro-democracy that could have been the model for expansion into other governing boards.
However, ICANN has changed course. Its current board decided that the online election by individual Internet users would be abolished in favor of appointed board members from governmental, technical and not-for-profit groups.
It is a bad decision. Eventhough one man one vote in cyberspace may not mean much in a single keystroke, the right to be heard by having that single vote was a powerful tool to be heard. The ICANN board will now be run not by popular vote, but by the special interests who may not have the same political agenda as the average Net user.
There are fundamental issues on the horizon that Internet users should have a voice. Internet access, new technology standards, and taxation. In the political jargon, those are pocket book issues to the normal user.
ICANN is not supposed to be a political force, but can easily be a political enforcer since it controls the real estate for the Internet landscape, the domain names. Without a registered domain name, you cannot fully utilize the space to express yourself.
If government lobbyists get control, is it not possible that the board will drift to pro-taxation of Internet transactions (which will cripple the infant e-commerce infrastructure)? If you have one technology lobbyist, will he push for his company's proprietary standard over another?
The fundamental question posed by the board's radical change is simple. Was the Internet intended to be a true democracy of users or a republic, run by special interests?
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Gambling on the Net
by Paul C. Pinderski
The last few months have had a tremendous turnover in confidence in the New Economy. Software companies were bemoaning the fact that they were short 500,000 qualified programmers a year. They were raiding high school math classes for summer internships that paid more than their parents were making prorata. The teachers and school administrators in the East wanted to put a stop to these summer hires last year because they feared these talented students would never return to graduate. Because they had a high paying job! (Which a diploma is supposed to get you after you have been educated by professionals.)
The shortage of qualified labor led companies to find new hires overseas. The INS choked under the strain of H1B applications. The number of annual slots it could fill was quickly filled in a quarter. There was a tremendous backlog of applicants, and employers who felt that their business was stagnating for the lack of new development. The key tool were the intellectual property housed inside the mind of coders.
Some companies took the last bold, step. They moved operations to more friendly immigration countries like the Caribbean to continue the 24/7 Microserf-style coding marathons.
Massive amounts of capital was allocated in search and employment of human capital. In all the literature about computers being the flawless productivity tool of the century, it is still the human underpinnings that drive this sector. Companies gambled on the never ending prosperity that the Net economy brought to bear since Y2K. American business was spending on IT like never before; almost drunk on the newest, fastest, securest intranet integrated business software that man could dream up. The promise of instant access to all phases of a global empire were supposed to be at the tip of a finger. In theory.
Many a person, executive or program genius put his or her career on the line during this time of massive wealth creation. The Internet millionaires spawned Fortunate 500 billionaires. Good times had by all.
Until the bartender called last call!
The go-go 90s industries ground to a halt like a clogged meat grinder. Telecom seized to a standstill. Corporate capital spending dried up like a sprinkle in the Sahara desert. Software firms found their customers not buying new product updates or spending for IT development. Programmers and IP staff were being laid off by the companies. Headhunters can't find their best clients any jobs.
The harsh reality was that this time in America was like a man throwing nine sevens in a row at a crap table. Giddy with success, he lets his winnings ride. He can't lose because he hasn't lost. The people around him surge with hot shooter. No jinx. Bet with him and roll the dice for the easy money.
Boom. Snake-eyes. You lose. Everything. See ya!
And the buddies around the crap table, either cursing or gape open shocked at the result, filter away into the noisy slot rooms to get away from the snake-eye loser, who only moments ago was the King of the party.
This party was rigged to end from the start, just like any other gamble. The odds are always stacked against you. No matter what you do, even cheating. You can sell the net as the distribution channel of everyone's dreams, have people buy into the myth, cook the books, say you make money, the potential is more important than earnings..... but the house of cards eventually falls. Each day there is a new business story about the collapse of another huge billion dollar corporate giant. Even those companies who were not in the Internet game played it on the side; to the same result.
But the one thing that the go-getter CEOs, the stock analysts, and the experts forgot to factor into the Bubble equation was that computers may get faster, sleeker, cheaper and more powerful, but the general public still may not want to upgrade. Who desperately needs to change word processing programs every year? Who is willing to change spreadsheet programs when one is comfortable with the old familiar formula? How long has the average consumer computer user had the net modem of 56k? And how often does he ever approach that limit in connecting to the net? Why buy new if it won't really improve your situation?
Another factor that the players forgot about in this theatre of ever-expansionism, was that the Bubble grew on margin. Debt. People borrowed through the eye balls with cheap money to gamble their retirement savings on the next sure thing. You can't get back into the game if you are broke, and you owe the House more than what you started with in your pocket.
And now there is a surplus of programmers and a shortage of buyers. There is stagnation of product releases. There are treading water updates. There is no national buzz for a must have software program. Only a few highly specialized IP techs are landing jobs. The outlook is not pleasant.
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Viva! Los Virtues!
by Paul C. Pinderski
Ah, it was only two years ago when the New Economy had the Old Economy spinning; everyone from big time CEOs to trailer trash housewives were logging on the net to punch in symbols for $8, no risk, high flying post-IPO, super Tech stocks. Since everything continued to go up with unprecedented extrapolation, this was no gamble. This was the American Dream.
Hard work got you no where. The fast track was in the fast microbursts of bytes along copper wires. It was the California gold rush; one that you did not have to leave your home in order to participate in. It was Las Vegas without the bright lights or cheap buffets. Old fossils like Warren Buffet did not understand the Game. So they were run over.
A lot of other things got trampled in this gold rush stampede. Honesty. Civility. Self worth. Respect.
Who honestly believed that a company formed on a back of a Silicon Valley diner napkin that had no employees, no products, no earnings, just a B2B idea, was worth more than a billion dollars in the IPO market?
Who does not believe that daily civility has worn thin by the everyday mantra of go-go quick cash ideas, fool's gold IPOs, a burst bubble stock market paid on margin, wiped out mutual funds and retirement accounts, unpaid bills, and the stress of massive corporate lay-offs? Telemarketers are even gruff; call center employees abusive; we are a nation of grumpy losers.
Who does not think in America's celebrity driven volcanic society that the average person wants to believe that he or she has more than fifteen minutes in the limelight? Doing something bad gets you famous, thus rewarded. And there is a culture of boomerdom that they should be paid more than their parents made collectively during their lifetime for skills that produce mere paper shuffling than tangible products? And if that is not enough, they want to spend their inheritance before their parents die.... because they have created a self-image lifestyle they cannot support.
Respect for the institutions was tarnished. The stock market is in free fall because the general investing public, the suckers brokers prey upon, are not throwing money into the crap table. They are investing in what they know and can trust: real estate and certificates of deposit. The New Economy hype turned into a bitter pill for most people to swallow. It has made tech a four-letter word. As a result, it will stagnate the capital markets, slow the old economy, and remain a volatile cultural riptide. It may be a good thing in one respect: the sharks will now have to feed upon themselves to survive.
Just like the excesses of past generations - - - Elvis has left the building.
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