Friday, February 12, 2010

Some People...

This week has been problem week; missing refunds, software glitches, hardware glitches, employee glitches, flat-out errors. But most of all, whine-and-stomp-my-feet-like-I'm-six clients, including one that demanded a refund of her free return.


The good news is that the crunch supposedly ended today and the rest of the tax season is supposed to be dominated by more-evolved clients. I wouldn't know as on our busiest day so far, we did about half the returns we were projected to do. Most days are like today; six hours of watching videos on the internet, an hour to do two tax returns, and another hour to try to a) figure out why I was being yelled at (harder to figure than one would realize), and b) what in fracking hell I was supposed to do about it. But it is TGIF, we both have a two-day weekend for the first time in over a month, it was sunny and in the high 30's today, what little snow we got is completely gone, and it is supposed to be more of the same all weekend.

Whoa. Fell asleep on the couch and now it is 4:30am Saturday. Anyway, what was I saying? Oh. Right.

Nice weather this weekend, blah, blah. We are planning a road trip that will cover around 100 miles. It has an aspect of work to it, in that I'll be doing a bit of my side job, but we will also get to see a part of New Hampshire we haven't been to yet. We plan to take the camera with us and maybe do a little wandering about in a few little New England towns.

Not much has caught my eye the last few days, likely because of work sucking up so much of my mental energy lately with all the problems. But the National Review has an uncharacteristic good bit on the current climate brouhaha:
Exaggeration and alarmism have been a chronic weakness of environmentalism since it became an organized movement in the 1960s. Every ecological problem was instantly transformed into a potential world-ending crisis, from the population bomb to the imminent resource depletion of the “limits to growth” fad of the 1970s to acid rain to ozone depletion, always with an overlay of moral condemnation of anyone who dissented from environmental correctness. With global warming, the environmental movement thought it had hit the jackpot — a crisis sufficiently long-range that it could not be falsified and broad enough to justify massive political controls on resource use at a global level.

Emphasis is entirely mine. There are people in the environmental movement that actually care about the environment and make substantive sacrifices in their daily lives in an attempt to live up to the ideals they preach. Al Gore isn't one of them. None of the private-plane-and-limo crowd in Copenhagen are in their number either. The vast majority of the people in the environmental movement don't give a damn about anything beyond money and power. Never forget that.

The internet is often described as a game-changer; disruptive technology to use the lingo. The internet got its start as a better mousetrap; an incremental improvement over previous ways of connecting multiple computers together. (Anyone remember token ring networks and the perpetual lost tokens?) What it became was something no one expected. Well, some people expected it; science fiction writers mostly. But it was never taken seriously outside a fringe minority anymore than the average person today really expects people to fly around in giant cities in space and have holosex, er, holodecks for entertainment. This is the great part about disruptive technology; those most affected never see it coming:

Imagine this sweet deal: Instead of paying big bucks for dozens of channels you don’t watch, you get to pick only the content you want: ESPN. Dexter. Every film Jessica Alba was ever in.

OK, now forget it. Ain’t gonna happen.

Um, excuse me? It's already happened. Not that digital, on-demand delivery is currently making a huge dent in traditional cable service, just as e-books still only account for a few percentage points of all book sales. But in both cases, that is up a long way from the zero of two or three years ago and I expect the slope on that line to be very steep. So why the blindness?
From a technical standpoint, à la carte programming is a real possibility.

From a business standpoint, not so much. Many cable companies buy content in packages (MTV, for example, might come with VH1, BET, and Spike), so if you could pick only what you wanted, providers would be stuck paying for a lot of unused programming. They would likely have to raise fees to maintain their revenue. In 2006, the FCC explored à la carte programming and found that customers would be able to get only 20 channels before they saw hikes in their bills. And niche networks would likely fall by the wayside. (We’d miss you, Syfy.)

The industry isn’t going to budge any time soon, says Will Richmond, president of consulting firm Broadband Directions. “What we’re seeing instead are third parties chipping away at its model.” TiVo. Roku. Vudu. Xbox 360.

Hulu, Netflix, Bittorrent. Darknets. Vimeo. YouTube. Thousands of others. It says something when even those who profess knowledge of what is hacking away at the foundations of their business model miss the most significant players. I'm willing to bet that there is several orders of magnitude more program distribution via Bittorrent than Xbox 360. Note the argument: It can't possibly happen even though it is technologically feasible because the current business model can't support it. A past guest on CarPool that has worked in the music industry since the late fifties explained it in terms of the stages of grief: denial (what we see demonstrated here), anger and an attempt to destroy the source of the disruption (DRM, DMCA, MPAA and RIAA instigation of legalized blackmail, wholesale purchase of members of Congress), and finally, acceptance that the current way of doing business must be scrapped in favor of something radically different.

Well, speaking of being disruptive, I need to go watch an entire week's worth of The Daily Show on Hulu.

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