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Social commentary on social forums, and the moneyless information economy
Michael considered fate at 01:48   |   Permalink   |   Post a Comment

Dude. This is a good post. Your writing style and philosophical acumen is really coming along. This is a nice throwback to the red hotdog days, if you know what I mean. Carve your niche, man. Keep on carving.

Also, I'm in San Diego, so don't flip out and spend hours wondering who was reading your blog from there. You freak. 
In as much as Slashdot is an information site, it is also a social forum. Digg and Metafilter are two other good examples. Among the various uses of these sorts of sites there is the communal information pool, where reader and content interact. consider this beautifully efficient example of the exchange of information, on Ask Metafilter:
Is there a good tasting, long lasting, hard candy that won't kill my mouth?
I'm looking for some kind of hard candy, I guess something similar to a jawbreaker, that I can keep in my mouth for long periods of time (couple of hours at least). I'm not a fan of jawbreakers because of the massive amounts of sugar; it also leaves my mouth feeling soft and overall weird. It doesnt' have to be sweet necessarily, it just has to taste good.
Does candy like this even exist?
So, here we have someone whose life is doing good, or at least okay, cause we know they can afford candy. This isn't some important life matter, but more like one of those little luxuries; why shouldn't one not have candy if one wants candy? (rotten teeth and diabetes aside)

So the hive mind (as they are called) reply back:
Gin Gins hard candies by The Ginger People. You have to really love ginger, though, these suckers are potent. But oh-so-delicious.
Okay, good call, close.. but not quite right.. You could tell the guy was asking for something more .. normal? But there is more:
Werther's Originals are smooooooooooth. You can buy 'em in big bags.
Hmm, yah.. good point, but I always associated them with old people (sorry, I'm personifying).

But lo, - and the links are missing, sorry:
What about lollypops?

The old-fashioned kind are pretty big.

See's Candies lollipops always seem to last forever, and are soo good.

Jawbreakers are too sugary, do you mean in taste or content? Unless it's sugar-free, most hard candy is going to be extremely high sugar. You want it to last several hours; does it need to fit in your mouth? Given a minimum dissolve rate, the candy piece might have to be pretty big to accomplish this.

Hmm... the best I can think of is Barley candy; which is hard to find. According to this story:

"Barley candy, the concoction’s called. It’s harder than most hard candy. Barley alters surface tension. Candy lasts longer. Hours of licking and sucking. In the late eighteen-hundreds, Atlantic Canadian candy makers worked barley candy into moulds—Santas, reindeer, trains. Barley toys, they’re called. Another name for them was clear toys."

This company seems to sell them but I'm sure Google will turn up more.
And wow, the hivemind comes through. An obvious candy lover with knowledge pipes in with a great response giving a very thorough and complete answer. Including a dissolve rate discussion!

Barley candy, indeed. I'd like to believe that's a little part of our economy working in some way: information as currency. Above and beyond a site like Metafilter's ad revenue as an economic entity, there is something outside of that (or in it?) that consists of an information economy (and not in the buzzword sense, but a more literal sense). I would like to believe this higher or more subtle form of an economy is efficient in ways that we haven't even thought of yet, because it's part of what makes a village a village and a tribe a tribe; there is a cultural economy. When the whole world can chime in on the internet, the cultural economy just gets much more dense and active, like in a high volume bull market. And that's just it: The web as a phenomenon, or a more abstract "product" (imagine the physicality of "the framework that enables the online economy" - both real and figurative).. well, information is to oil as the web is to an oil rig. Except the oil rig framework (or what makes the internet work) is essentially ethereal, and therefore infinite. And the oil, well.. that's the information, which is infinite in its own right.

There may be costs in (admittedly significant) energy and hardware, but "Software" has a fungibleness about it that fungible doesn't even know about yet, making it far more malleable than any commodity in the real world. Limited only by our own ability to innovate.

So what's so special about this "economy"? Well, for starters it hasn't really seen its version of a bear market - even when the real economy was in a bear market due, in a large extent, to the .com bubble: or, the very internet itself. Ironic?

I claim this to be true with this basic fact: most anyone reading this sentence right now must, in all likelihood, admit to themselves that they have progressively used the web more: from before the .com bubble, to now. Again, that may be naive, but think of the internet as some abstract mall, an "information mall".. where web-surfers are mall patrons. In that metaphor, the economy of that mall is pretty damn large.

So should we be at all surprised that a company like Google comes along and grows into a giant behemouth in the blink of an eye? Not really. I'm not saying I could have picked Google back in the day, but it was only a matter of time before some company really got a stranglehold on what the web is, and used it to their economic advantage. Google did that, and that's why their growth has seemed, at times, almost impossible: Google's economy is the web economy, and it's getting rich off of it. Not just in real dollar terms either, but in information. How much is almost impossible to tell, because we can't even have an idea what the full economic value of information is at this point - our caveman-like SQL databases and simple data-mining techniques will seem quaint some day.

So, Microsoft did it with operating systems, and Nike did it with sneaker fashion. Where there is a market, there is a way. The question is, does our ever-increasing technological innovation dictate a shorter lifetime of a company's worth at it's peak. Does Google last like Microsoft has? IBM?? Since 1896 they've been around and really are still a powerhouse, even with the ups and downs along the way.

Nevertheless, I expect the information economy still has a lot of room to grow, no matter what stock prices might be or how many people are unemployed.. everybody still needs some global advice about hard candy; you still check your email. And there are a lot of people doing a whole lot of things, too. Even on Ask Metafilter hard candy isn't even the tip of the iceberg. If you're the sort of person that has an old Time-Life DIY fixit guide or a "bathroom reader" near your toilet, you're probably the kind of person that would like Ask Metafilter.

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