Thursday, March 02, 2006

XML Was Invented By Losers

Here's something to ponder. Winners may write histories but evolution is determined by the losers.

How many of the XML designers and primary supporters had, owned or worked for companies that were losers in the SGML market or standards fights? Most of them (the exception being James Clark but he was independently wealthy and has his own reasons). XML wasn't the Revenge of the Forty-somethings as it was once described, but the victory of the SGML losers over the SGML winners.

The trick here is pragmatic (as in linguistic pragmatics): the sentence may be true and the implicature false. Implication is in the utterance, not the sentence.

Can you think of cases where the sentence is true? In possibly more cases than we like to admit, losers determine the direction of the next generation. Why? Motivated to change. That's why BigCos are seldom the place to look for progress. The cost of ditching legacy is not something short-term profit project managers want to account for. It's cheaper to offshore the old, delay the new, and melt down the competence capital of the engineering departments. Then you sell the company to your wealthier competitors or even to the offshore companies you have been sending work to. After that, losers take the next steps.

Happy Mind Melting.

What happens as the cost of computer hardware continues to fall? Traditionally, it has been cheaper to replace or upgrade software because hardware changes were orders of magnitude more expensive given a system of some size? If both costs are falling, isn't there a point at which it is cheaper to FexEx the entire system? Is it true that the only future profits for information technologies will be in local customization?

I don't believe any of that, but the implications are fun. Those buying those companies, for example, may win by acquisition and lose by possession of the obligations because the losers in the last round of competition are waiting and weren't loafing while all of the buying and selling was paralyzing the engineers like deers caught in the headlights.

And now that they have lost, they have nothing else to do but work on winning.

"Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose." Kris Kristofferson

Tuesday, February 28, 2006


Ever go to a meeting and while you are trying to work out terms and conditions, your customer or the consultant are regaling you with a story about a neat new box that let's them provide themselves and five strangers within two hundred feet Internet Access over their cellphone?

Has your next door neighbor who has yet to buy a life insurance policy for himself to cover his seven children from his first and second marriage and his new girlfriend's three shown you his 1975 Rolex that he bought at the flea market?

Did your brother in law have a yard sale that included a first edition copy of "Are You Experienced?" while keeping a copy of his Morris Albert album that includes the megahit "Feelings" because that was his song when he was dating you know who before she left him for you don't care?

More often than not, you are dealing with FishBrains. Fish don't stop to think when they swim toward bright and shiny objects in the water that the object may have a hook inside. Fish only care that something is bright and shiny and they'll swallow it.

It is always interesting at any social event to figure out who the FishBrains are and who are sharks pretending to be fish. The clue is that predators steer prey and if they hunt in groups, they steer them toward the other predators by distraction. Remember: bright and shiny. While your lawyer is showing your wife his new Jag, his wife is showing you her new tits. And you're listening? Right.....

I don't know why but in America, more women are eager to demonstrate their Fishbrains. It may be that American men are equally inclined to live in the space between their opposing eyes, but American women are faster. It may be that American men are just slow in general. A Fishbrain prefers Britney Spears to Lisa Loeb and maybe that is why fish survive long winters in cold water frozen to the bottom of lakes. They don't rise to ugly bait. Remember, bright and shiny aren't the same as smart and whiny.

Fishbrains still believe conversion to the metric system is inevitable in America. Why? The French say so. Fishbrains believe the Arabs are causing all of the world's woes because we get so much oil from them. Of course anyone who reads Wired or watches West Wing knows we get most of our oil from Canada. If we dig deep enough, we'll find out Canadian Fishbrains blew up the Iraqui mosque. Cui bono? And it was bright and shiny... "like a Rhinestone Cowboy".
Fishbrains still have their Mood Rings and keep them next to their favorite Pet Rock. They euthanized their last Pet Rock because it pissed on the couch and they know the cat is too smart to do that.

Fishbrains tie yellow ribbons to trees to welcome home veterans in honor of a song about a guy coming home from prison... on a bus.

Fishbrains think the Chronicles of Narnia is a serious philosophical movie, applaud Sean Hannity for his deep grasp of the truth, and laugh when told that NASA surpressed evidence of global warning because they know the Rapture is coming soon so consume.

When George W. Bush says Osama Bin Laden helped him get elected by issuing threats, wiley Fishbrains nod in agreement knowing it was a ruse to get them to vote for Kerry because Bush is bad for Bin Ladin and the terrorists' cause.

Fishbrains tell you that the next generation of the Web is here because they can interact with their best friends who live down the street over the wire by typing messages into a telephone keyboard with a pen.

Fish aren't all bad. Fish make great bait. Fish can be used to hunt other fish. Fish are brain food. In one of the weird results of life seeking higher intelligence, lower lifeforms trying with all their mighty might are just filled with GottaEvolveAnxiety and yes, that is the life force. You can eat that and become smarter. In world of eat or be eaten, timing and position matter.

Fishbrains rule. Why? The more eggs you lay the better the chances of accidental fertilization.

To mix metaphors, as I said to Kurt Cagle, the difference between a bag of helium and a bag of gold is the bag of helium will float away, but if you let go of the string, either will disappear just as fast.

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