Monday, November 20, 2006

The Overton Flush

Mark Pilgrim and Tim Bray have latched onto yet another concept that they say comes from the ThinkTanks (the same guys who put games into the same market as weapons). The concept is that of the so-called, Overton Window, where diametrically opposing concepts are graphed by the linkage between intervening positions that would make the unthinkable thinkable. They claim such planning goes on in these Tanks to get the nitwits of the world to rally around causes as diverse as letting fly with nukes on Tehran to letting fly with farts in the general direction of the W3C and it's standards.

Of course, what is unthinkable is a position itself outside the dichotomy. And if you want to get really dimensional, what is thinkable today might be unthinkable tomorrow. And if you want to lose your pea-picking brain altogether, what is unthinkable for my kids might be thinkable for your kids, and so it goes across the whole manifold mystery of real time events and causes.

Having seen some Tank thinking, it usually isn't that simple an analysis. Dumb as we can be this side of the Northern Border, we did manage to pick up how to do multivariate analyis of real time events. It's a heckuva complicated graph but heck, we have computers and real time 3D to help us sort out the players. If that fails, we flip a coin and attack or take time out for Miller and Budweiser.

Behind the Overton Flush is yet another set of analysts trying to tell us they have it all figured out in advance. In the case of Pilgrim, "W3C Good! All Others BAD!" and usually in dear Tim Bray's case, "Microsoft and the US BAD! Sun and Canada GOOD!" It gets a bit noisier if you go back a few years and both wanted consulting work, or were supporting yet another war that the Americans would go on to fight stupidly, but the Canadians would stay safely at home.

I read these guys for technical advice and that is always excellent. Politics and world events analysis, no, we have our own to Tank for that.

As to the W3C: they won't go away because they are as they've been from the beginning, useful to them that funds'em. They fund their competitors too. That way if one group gets uppity, they can use the other groups to put 'em back in their place. The politics of economics are never as simple as the politics of technologists. That is why geeks get to play with the world but they never ever ever run it; just the conferences.

Who sez? Just another kook, but one that knew Iraq was bad juju and that we were likely to have a Democratic Congress right about now. The big bad question haunting the right today is whether or not in two years time the two most powerful positions in the public hierarchy will be held by two women. I'd say, 60/40. Not likely but way more likely than it's been in some time. Two boobs are better than one.

And they might decide to give control of the Internet to the UN. They are bored with it so its time as the big topic of conversation is about over. The new topic is clean water.


Anonymous said...

"As to the W3C: they won't go away because they are as they've been from the beginning, useful to them that funds'em. They fund their competitors too. That way if one group gets uppity, they can use the other groups to put 'em back in their place"

You are soooooo right about this. This is definitely the strategy at at least one of the BigCos, and probably the others as well.

len said...

It's the policy of big money to take all sides until a winner emerges and to use that connection until it is no longer useful. That's just politics in general. Check out the contributions to your local elected candidates sometime and take note of how many companies fund both sides in a primary.

In a way, that's good. It prevents lock-in and early corruption. It is the after-the-election contributions that you want to watch carefully. These can be money but experienced lobbyists don't do that; they use honorariums, influence over public awards and titles, etc. Didn't you ever wonder about some of those big prizes handed out to members of various organizations? Do you read the society page?

Man, that's just capitalism in an open society. Then that has, gets. Them that has not, gets got. It means that to make it, you have to get it from someone who has it and if you can't by honest means, you steal it. That is why we are a nation, hell, a civilization of pirates.

Otherwise, learn to give up stuff you really don't need and horsetrade for the rest. I note that as I age, I care less and less about the nits of standards politics, more about the local implementation I am using of some language such as VRML, and try to narrow my relationships down to just a few vendors and trusted friends and colleagues. It really is better for the art.

Big Co sword swinging is a game for people with no real passions beyond their own name and who knows it. One discovers that won't keep you warm at night. :-)

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