G’DAY WORLD #271 – Vernor Vinge, SF Author Extraordinaire

Today I had the fortune to chat with another living legend – Vernor Vinge (pronounced “vin-jee” as in, he explained off air, “stingy”). While VV may not have the public profile of a William Gibson or Neal Stephenson, in geek circles no SF author carries more respect. Why is it so?

In 1981 Vernor wrote a novella called TRUE NAMES which was the one of the earliest stories to present a fully realized concept of cyberspace which he called the “Other Plane” and which people accessed by attaching electrodes to their scalp. Inside the Other Plane, people hid their “true names” from the Government by creating avatars with pseudonyms – sound familiar? This was several years before NEUROMANCER (William Gibson, 1984) or SNOW CRASH (Neal Stephenson, 1992) and is therefore a seminal work in cyberpunk fiction.

Vinge’s novels A FIRE UPON THE DEEP (1992) and A DEEPNESS IN THE SKY (1999) both won the Hugo Award for Best Novel. In 1993 he wrote an essay called “The Coming Technological Singularity” which popularized that term.

His latest novel, RAINBOWS END, is a masterpiece of near-future Sci-Fi which explores the world circa 2025. Marc Andreessen called it “the clearest and most plausible extrapolation of modern technology trends forward to the year 2025 that you can imagine.” It has been nominated for the 2007 Hugo Award for Best Novel.

Rainbows End
You can learn more about the huge potential ramifications of the Singularity by attending the Singularity Summit 2007.

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    Cam’s World 31 July 2007

    I’m amused this morning that Duncan wrote up my “Telstra Bans Facebook” in TechCrunch and the rash of comments accusing him of being a Facebook shill. I often tell corporate-types when they ask about why blogging is important that I may only have a few hundred regular readers of my blog but a handful of them are people with real reach – like Duncan. Google “telstra facebook” and see what happens.

    Meanwhile, some people like Allen Stern still miss the point. This isn’t about Facebook. This is about businesses feeling the need to block the use of online services because they feel their employees will waste time on them and not get the job done. I know of at least one Melbourne government agency that still blocks instant messenger! Even their online team can’t use it!

    Any employee who has enough functioning brain cells to use a PC and the net should have enough to work autonomously towards a set out pre-agreed results. When companies block access to internet services, rather than change their corporate culture, all they are doing is shoring up their command and control environments. This is bad – for profits, for shareholders, for employee satisfaction, for everyone.

    I’m going to be talking more about this (and Telstra’s brief banning of Facebook) in my Marketing magazine article.

    ******

    Prepping for my Vernor Vinge interview this afternoon by re-reading his classic novella “True Names” which he wrote in 1981 predicting the internet YEARS before Gibson or Stephenson. If you haven’t read it, you should. Here’s a sneak peak but buy yourself a hard copy as well, it’s an incredible piece of work.

    ******

    I chatted with a representative from Telstra’s media department today about the Facebook issue. She said that it was a “technical problem” that prevented employees from accessing Facebook last Friday and that the error was resolved later in the day. When I asked for details about the problem, she couldn’t provide any. I asked if it was true that Telstra employees are not allowed to have Instant Messenger at work and she also said she couldn’t confirm that. When I asked what Telstra’s official position is on making Facebook and other internet services available to their employees, she said they don’t ban access to anything but all employees have to abide by their guidelines which means they can only use them as a “business tool” and as part of their job function.

    Do you believe the official story?

    ******

    Cam’s World 30 July, 2007

    Shoe-lovin’ Telstran CathyE has created a Twitter profile purely for announcing Melbourne tech events. Very handy. Don’t forget MODM this Thursday night! We’ve got our biggest registrations to date and a new venue.

    ******

    I’m writing an article on Enterprise 2.0 and Web 2.0 for MARKETING magazine. If anyone has any good examples of how Aussie companies are using Web2.0 in a respectable fashion, let me know so I can include them.

    ******

    Speaking of Enterprise 2.0, I had lunch today with Tony Clement, one of the guys behind AEGEON, a young Melbourne-based services company focused 100% on helping corporate clients adopt Web2.0 technologies. I’ve known Tony for a few years, he was a CTO client of mine back in my MSFT days, and it’s great to see him taking the stuff we were doing back then around web services and helping other companies adopt them. Tony ran one of the first significant Microsoft.Net-based projects in Australia back in 2001/2 and had a bold vision even back then for how to use web services in an enterprise environment to innovate and engineer value. Keep an eye on Aegeon. They are the first services firm I’ve heard of in Australia that is really throwing serious effort behind Web2.0.

    ******

    I’m back on my weight-loss regimen. Listened to The Health & Fitness Show #058 – Easily Identify Low Fat + Low Sugar + High Nutritional Value Food this morning. Lots of great tips from Beti on how to tell what you are putting into your body. I was thinking we should run a competition for G’Day World listeners to see who can lose the most about of weight over the next 90 days. Get a sponsor to put up a prize. Who’s in?

    ******

    McDonald’s just don’t get blogging, do they?

    Some of you will remember the fake blog they put up in early 2005.

    Now some hired PR guy in Perth is blogging on PerthNorg under the alias “cookie2”. He’s pushing the “Name the Burger” campaign that McDonald’s is running in Australia at the moment.

    Cookie2 writes: “Burger naming legend Ken Thomas, renowned for his creativity in naming the Cheeseburger, Double Cheeseburger, McChicken and the Hot Apple Pie, has retired from the senior ranks of McDonald’s Australia, giving the company the opportunity to throw the job open to the Australian public.”

    Unfortunately, Cookie2 (aka John Cooke a PR consultant working for McDonald’s Australia) has just broken Rule #1 of Corporate Blogging – Be Honest.

    “Ken Thomas” is (perhaps obviously) a fictional character
    , created by advertising agency Leo Burnett.

    So why can’t McDonald’s just tell the truth? Why not just start a campaign about naming a burger? Why do they have to make up some bullshit story? I don’t get the rationale. Do you? Can someone explain it to me?

    ******

    Watching this amazing “Russian Scam” video (aka “How To Take Someone’s Wallet Just By Asking Them”) by Derren Brown. Amazing.

    After you’ve watched that, watch this guy’s attempt at explaining it using NLP.

    ******

    Just been watching Tanya Levin, author of a soon-to-be-released book about the very scary Hillsong Church, on Denton’s Enough Rope. My old mate Phil McCreddan has an article about Hillsong, which includes an interview with Tanya, on his Signposts blog. Interestingly, publisher Allen & Unwin were going to publish her book (“People In Glass Houses”) but pulled out of it, apparently because of a perceived risk of defamation. The book was picked up by Black Inc which is owned by Morrie Schwartz, who also published Monthly magazine. This is the church that has links to Gloria Jeans (see my earlier posts on that here and here and why I don’t drink Gloria Jeans anymore), has received a bunch of government grants, and where the founder’s father, who held senior positions in the church, but was forced to resign in 2000 following exposure of his homosexual paedophile activities whilst ministering in New Zealand some thirty years earlier.

    I’m looking forward to reading her book.

    G’DAY WORLD #270 – Affluenza

    Richard Giles joins me tonight to talk about a bunch of questions that have been on my mind:

  • Are we all suffering from Affluenza?
  • Are the Government, the advertising industry, and the mass media all conspiring to make us feel broke and scared?
  • Does the car I drive define me as a human being?
  • Do we really want a country where the government runs our health care? (after watching SICKO)
  • In Second Life, does everyone know you’re a dog?
  • All that and more, on G’Day World 270.

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    Cam’s World 29 July, 2007

    What does driving a Prius *say* about you? As a person?

    What a load of crap.

    You aren’t defined as a person by what clothes you wear or by the car you drive. You are defined by what you *do*. Are you contributing something every day towards the betterment of the human race? Or are you merely buying things you don’t need with money you don’t have to impress people you don’t like?

    The average income per household (in real dollars) in Australia is up 300% since 1950. And yet two-thirds of the population believe they don’t have enough money to buy everything they *need* to be happy. The advertising industry spends billions of dollars a year trying to convince you that you are unhappy, incomplete, that you aren’t successful until you have one more piece of *stuff*. The Government, the media, big business and the advertising industry all want you to buy more stuff and they spend BILLIONS trying to convince you that you *need* it. Not just want it – NEED it. Advertising is all about creating new wants and then turning those wants into NEEDS. You can fill that hole inside of you, the hole that tell you that you aren’t quite right, if you just buy a new pair of shoes, flat screen tv, house, shares, iphone. Meanwhile, the factories that make the stuff, vomit out pollution into the atmosphere, use energy which is dug out of the ground, that requires us to invade other countries, killing hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians.

    Where does it end?

    ******

    Sitting at a cafe this morning, scanning the paper, saw lots of stories about celebrities out of control – Lohan, Richie, Spears, Hilton. All women. Girls, really. The media built them up into massive celebrities, role models for young girls, sexual fantasies for men and boys, and is now viciously tearing them down. It can’t be a coincidence. There must be an agenda. I’m trying to figure out what it is. Why are we seeing the destruction of the young female sex icon? What are they trying to tell us? That young women can’t be trusted? That our women are out of control? That behind every attractive young woman lies an alcoholic, drug-dependent kleptomaniac? That we cannot trust our fantasies? In this era of mass media controlled celebrity, we no longer have leaders. Who are our heroes? Who are the people we look up to?

    Sporting stars. The media builds them into celebrities and then reveals that they are all secretly druggies, lying sex maniacs, violent misoginists.

    Actors. But then we find out they are all druggies, racists, wife-beaters.

    Reality TV stars. But then we find out they are all vacuous and slutty.

    Business people. But then we find out they lied about stock options and profits, raped the environment, took the money and run.

    What’s the common theme?

    The mass media builds up non-entities into celebrities, heroes, and then tears them down in front of our eyes. They spend a couple of years telling you to admire someone, and then show you how shallow, cheap, flawed your hero is.

    The message?

    There is no-one to look up to. Your heroes are all shameful. Your politicians are liars, cheaters, bullshit artists, greasing their own pockets. Your sporting heroes used drugs to enhance their performance and have out of control egos.

    So who do they want you to trust?

    Them. The media. Trust them. They will look after you. Tell you who to trust and who not to trust. Tell you which politician to vote for. Which country to invade. Which products to buy. Which foreign leaders to fear. Which dark-skinned person to put in jail because they don’t look like you and don’t believe what you believe.

    It’s an economy of lies and the biggest lies, the biggest fraud, is committed by the very people telling you what to believe and what not to believe.

    The mass media.

    ******

    Speaking of things I *need* – check out this AT-ST Second Life avatar!

    ******

    I’ve created a couple of groups inside Second Life. You can now add yourself to the following groups:

  • Friends Of G’Day World
  • MODM
  • The Podcast Network
  • If I knew how to link directly to those groups from here, I would. But I don’t. So for now you just need to search for them in-world. Or you can add “Cameron Switchblade” to your friends and check out the groups I belong to.

    ******

    Apparently people DON’T need to be in Facebook to view or RSVP to an event in Facebook. That’s good news. One less reason for the spate of recent Facebook phobia I was subject to.

    ******

    Update on that Paypal fraud issue I had a week ago. Remember I ordered some products off a website, never received them, couldn’t get the site to respond to my emails, they didn’t have a listed telephone number? Well I took Fi’s advice (thanks Fi!) and made a complaint via Paypal. The process took a couple of minutes and, a couple of days later, the company refunded my money, claiming they were out of stock with the product. A good outcomes from Paypal! Obviously the company (DirectDiscount.us) takes Paypal’s emails more seriously than they do mine. A lesson for anyone out there who gets ripped off in a Paypal transaction – make a complaint.

    G’DAY WORLD #269 – Tony Smith, Roamfree

    A few months ago I had the opportunity to chat with Tony Smith, CEO of new online accommodation booking startup, Roamfree. I was asked to keep the interview on hold until the site launched, which was yesterday. Tony is a former Sydney Swans ruckman who started marketing Schoolies holidays when he was in his early 20a, then created management rights business BreakFree, which listed on the stock exchange and later was sold to MFS. We talk about the new business, his business history, and entrepreneurship.

    Become part of the G’Day World conversation.

    I’ve created a couple of groups inside Second Life. You can now add yourself to the following groups:

  • Friends Of G’Day World
  • MODM
  • The Podcast Network
  • If I knew how to link directly to those groups from here, I would. But I don’t. So for now you just need to search for them in-world. Or you can add “Cameron Switchblade” to your friends and check out the groups I belong to.

    If you’re a member of Facebook, you can ADD ME AS A FRIEND and then ADD YOURSELF TO THE G’DAY WORLD GROUP.

    Add me to your Twitter account.

    Do me a solid and digg the show.

    Get the TPN version of Particls.

    Don’t forget to make use of my new comments line – +613 9016 9699.

    You can now buy transcripts of this podcast from Pods In Print.

    If you enjoyed this podcast, make sure you don’t miss future episodes by subscribing to our feed and leave us a voice comment!

    The G’Day World Theme Song is “Save Me” by The Napoleon Blown Aparts.


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    Cam’s World 28 July 2007

    Just went to pay the speeding fine I got leaving Bundaberg and discovered there are no online payment options?! Can’t even pay it over the phone?!? Have to send a cheque. By post. Wow. Queensland. Amazing.

    ******

    I’m fascinated this morning watching the shit-fight between Arrington and Furrier/Scoble over Podtech. Having met all three of those guys over the last couple of years, I would have figured them to be pretty tight. It does sound, though, like Podtech have been burning through their $7 million in funding. The business model for podcasting is still in the early days and I hope they make it through. People tend to forget that new business models tend to take 5 – 10 years to stabilize. The first banner ads were run in 1993, but it took nearly a decade before online advertising started to overtake radio advertising in most markets. I think the time frames will be compressed with podcasting, but it is still going to take a few more years before it’s well understood. Most ad agencies and media buyers still aren’t even considering podcasting in their spread. That’s starting to change, but we’ve got a long road ahead of us yet. The TPN model is to keep our overheads low, grow the audience and the content as much as we can, and grow the business through revenue. It’s a slower path but, hopefully, more sustainable in the long run and you don’t get crunched by investors when the journey takes longer than they would like (which seems to be what is happening to Podtech).

    ******

    TPN’s Digital Photography Show
    has been nominated in TWO categories at the Podcast Awards! Please click on the link below to vote for them in both the Cultural/Arts category and also nominated in the People’s Choice category! Congrats to Scott and Michael, this is just another piece of kudos for the great work they do every week on their show!

    Vote

    ******

    According to this post about the CIA:

    There are currently at least two criminal trials underway in Italy and Germany against several dozen CIA officials for felonies committed in those countries, including kidnapping people with a legal right to be in Germany and Italy, illegally transporting them to countries such as Egypt and Jordan for torture, and causing them to “disappear” into secret foreign or CIA-run prisons outside the U.S. without any form of due process of law.

    Oh, but you think the CIA is being watched by the Oversight board set up 30 years ago to stop the bullshit they were involved in from the 50s through to the 70s? Think again.

    However, on July 15, 2007, John Solomon of the Washington Post reported that, for the first five-and-a-half years of the Bush administration, the Intelligence Oversight Board did nothing — no investigations, no reports, no questioning of CIA officials. It evidently found no reason to inquire into the interrogation methods Agency operatives employed at secret prisons or the transfer of captives to countries that use torture, or domestic wiretapping not warranted by a federal court. Who were the members of this non-oversight board of see-no-evil, hear-no-evil, speak-no-evil monkeys? The board now in place is led by former Bush economic adviser Stephen Friedman. It includes Don Evans, a former commerce secretary and friend of the President, former Admiral David Jeremiah, and lawyer Arthur B. Culvahouse.

    And whose daddy ran the CIA in the late 70s? That’s right – Dubya’s. The CIA gets $48 Billion in funding every year, yet nobody knows where it goes or how they spend it and they still haven’t been able to catch bin Laden, they didn’t want America about 9/11 and they were pretty wrong when they said they had conclusive evidence that Saddam had WMD stuffed down his undies. If you want to search for the main reason we have terrorism in our lives these days, start with looking into the activities of the CIA. Get an independent, citizen-helmed inquiry happening. Set it up so it can’t be bought or threatened out of existence. I think we’d all be amazed what it would uncover.

    ******

    As my car lease is up in a couple of months, we spent some time this afternoon test driving cars. Or a car, actually. We initially went back to the BMW dealership we bought our last car from. After standing there for 20 minutes without anyone asking if they could help us, we left and went to a Toyota dealership to test drive a Prius. I took a Prius out 3 years ago and couldn’t talk myself into it. This time, I actually quite liked driving it. Okay – it looks ugly and the interior finish just doesn’t compare to a BMW. But I like the efficiency and the tech. And it’s $25k cheaper than an equivalent Beemer. However, on the way home, the wife said to me “I’ll cry if we don’t buy another BMW. I love my BMW.” I asked her how long she’d cry for, thinking, well, I could handle a bit of crying to save the planet. “For the entire time I have to drive a Prius.” Sheesh. And she only drives the car about 30 minutes a week on average! It’s not like she’s even IN it every day. Anyway – score one for BMW’s engineering department. Nobody tell anyone at BMW marketing.

    Cam’s World 27 July, 2007

    The word on Twitter is that the fine folks at Telstra have banned Facebook on the corporate network. This would be a retarded move for ANY company, let alone a company that is trying to position itself as a company that “gets” online. It reminds me of a question someone asked me at the recent Microsoft ReMix event in Melbourne. We (that is, the panel) have been talking about Twitter, Facebook, etc, and a guy asked “I’m the owner of a business, how do I stop my people from wasting their time on these sites instead of doing their work?” I explained that any half-intelligent employer in the 21st century should be measuring their employees by their OUTPUT, not by what time they punch the clock or what they are doing each minute of the day. Microsoft, to it’s credit, understood this years ago. Most enlightened managers (not that there are many left at Microsoft in Australia now that Frank has left the premises) didn’t care what time you turned up to the office, when you left, or what you did during the day. What they cared about was one thing and one thing only – did you get the outcome accomplished? If you did – great. Here’s your bonus. If you didn’t – then you’re in trouble. Isn’t that the way every employer should be? If you ban Facebook, do you also ban books? Magazines? Telephones? Talking to the person beside you about everything unrelated to work? That isn’t even taking into account what a useful took Facebook can be for getting your job done (depending on what your job is of course).
    Anyway, this is just another example of how Telstra don’t really get what’s happening online.

    UPDATE: According to Rich in the comments of this post, Telstra turned Facebook back on this afternoon? Anyone know the story?

    ******

    Started reading “Affluenza” by Australian authors Clive Hamilton and Richard Denniss today. I’ve been meaning to get to this book for years. The book poses the question: “if the economy has been doing so well, why are we not becoming happier?”

    ******
    From the “I told ya so but you wouldn’t frakking listen” file:

    “TV viewing audiences have fallen by almost 6 per cent in the past five years, with a dramatic 17 per cent drop for 16-39-year-olds, according to TV ratings group OzTAM.” (source: The Age)

    And, according to Fortune:

    “Newspapers are dying.”

    ******

    I took my DOPOD 838PRO into the THREE store for repairs 7 weeks ago. At the time, they told me it would take a month. I rang four weeks later, they said it was going to take another three weeks. I rang today. They said it was initially with one repair center, Teleplan, for a month then it was shipped to another repair center, Phonetec, a week ago. The Phonetec people haven’t looked at it yet and can’t give them a date when it will be fixed.

    This is frakking unbelievable. I’m now on the phone to Three customer support, letting them know I want my entire contract canceled.

    Okay, well that was disappointing. I spoke with four people at Three customer support. When they couldn’t provide me with any idea as to when my phone would be fixed, I gave them a choice: give me a new phone or cancel my account. The guy in the Three cancellations department I spoke to offered me a new phone, but only the Dopod 595, an inferior model to my 838Pro. So I asked him to cancel my services. Sure, he said, but it’ll cost you $900! Bullshit, I said. That’s the hardware fee and I don’t HAVE the hardware. YOU’VE got the hardware. He said it also includes a $300 “cancellation” fee. But I don’t have the goddamn phone?!! He didn’t give a shit. So I told him I’ll find another way to make my complaint heard and get a resolution.

    Anyone know anyone senior at Three?

    Don’t make me angry. You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.

    ******

    Dave Wallace (from TPN’s Extraordinary Everyday People show) has made a TPN T-shirt in Second Life! Very cool, I hope he has it in my size!

    TPN T-shirt in Second Life

    He did!

    Cam in Second Life

    Second Life is so trippy. I can’t believe I just said to Dave “I bought a new body last night but I can’t figure out how to put it on.” Sounds like something straight out of Gibson.