Back to: AFK | Forward to: This is what the future of the EU hinges on

Bubble 2.0

The smart, fashionable startup-people these days are all trying to come up with brilliant and innovative new business models that disrupt struggling industries and synergize for break-out growth potential forming new markets. (Ahem. At least that's what they say.)

I submit that it is somewhat harder to disrupt an industry that has been dead for so long that the corpse is fully skeletonized. By the time that we've got people seriously pitching for an IPO on the back of the poetry market[*], we're scraping the bottom of the barrel that started out full of brilliant and innovative new business models. What next: a dot-com startup targeting the overdue-for-disruption steam locomotive market?

I am calling this a bubble economy in startup bullshit, and it's just about ready to pop; we are now at the stage of the shoe-shine boys offering stock tips, and if I had any money invested in hyperparasites like Zynga I'd be yanking the eject handle as hard as I could.

[*] I have nothing against poetry; it's just that it has been impossible for anyone to earn a living as a working commercial poet in the English language for close to three-quarters of a century and counting. For various reasons, we just don't seem to consume the stuff any more. Or we give it a backing track and call it rap or rock music or blues. Gramophone killed the poetry star.

196 Comments

1:

Time to invest in distrupting the horse and buggy whip manufacturers of the Eject Handle industry

2:

Unfortunately, bullshit seems to be the one product where there is infinite demand and infinite supply.

3:

Charlie, love the post.

Way back in nineties, during my third start-up and at the company that would be my second IPO I joined early enough in the company to get 'founders options', stock before a very large media holding company invested and set our path down the IPO road.

Shortly after our IPO in the spring of 1999, the CEO called several of the company leaders into a meeting. There he said "We are in an untenable position, we have a market cap greater than that of General Electric. GE makes washers, dryers, refrigerators and the components of nuclear missiles -- we make fucking websites...." He continued "the ride is far from over for us, however this irrational exuberance will collapse. Set your expectations accordingly."

Here I am 13 years later, the IPO money long spent with nearly as many more start-ups under my belt. When I look at the looming facebook IPO, I have to ask myself, is the human product really worth more than what large portions of the fortune 500 produce?

this bubble too shall come to collapse, set your expectations accordingly.

4:

I am waiting with bated breath for the startup model that disrupts the bubble model for disruptive startup models.

No, wait, I got confused there...

5:

Actually I'd suggest we are at bubble for advertising funded startups. Hence the bullshit quota.

Startups with an actual line that can make money, not necessarily - but I simply don't see the business model that says "people will pay for other people to look at their ads" can sustain - particularly with blockers.

6:

Facebook revenue is something like $1.2 per account-holder. There are a MAXIMUM of 7 billion account holders on this planet. Ergo, their revenue will peak around the $8Bn/year mark, unless they can find a way to make MORE money per account holder. As their current account holders are in the RICH part of the world, this would appear to be unlikely.

As they've actually got around 1 billion account holders, a market cap of $86Bn would appear to represent a p/e ratio of way more than 100:1 ...

Am I missing something?

7:

What? You can make a living at being a poet! I mean it's not like it's a broadly available position but...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poet_Laureate_of_the_United_Kingdom

8:

"Facebook revenue is something like $1.2 per account-holder. There are a MAXIMUM of 7 billion account holders on this planet."

That is probably an underestimate, there are institional (private, public, shared interest, etcetera) facebook accounts as well. I am not arguing that the facebook IPO is not overvalued though.

9:

Why sir, you are too cruel. I have in fact recently presented a revolutionary new business offering that will replace a struggling and moribund industry; namely that of making suitable matches between families.

My telegraphy system will allow young gentlemen to hold a conversation with young ladies, without the need for a chaperone! Their presences will be in completely separate rooms, their anonymity maintained by means of a numerate filter, and the concerns of rightly worried parents will be eased. By such means the highest standards of public decency shall be maintained, for not so much as an ankle can be viewed.

If this does not excite you, perhaps you could be interested in the recent scheme proposed by the Right Honourable John Aislabie? He proposes to privatize the National Debt...

10:

Disrupting poetry? For some reason I am seized by the sudden urge to mention hip-hop...

11:

From that article: "Why don’t most poems make sense?" My oblique response is "Never underestimate the influence of rhyme on the plot of songs."

I for one will get disrupting poetry when I have a moment left over from my opera IPO*. Until then I'll just write poems when I feel like it.

What happened before will happen again
As my memory changes and flickers
I sketch the circuit with paper and pen
Needing to make myself a replica

As my memory changes and and flickers
Combine history and engineering
Needing to make myself a replica
I'm desperately looking, seeking, peering

Combine history and engineering
Building from nothing what has always been
I'm desperately looking, seeking, peering
Sometime and somewhere is my time machine

Building from nothing what has always been
I sketch the circuit with paper and pen
Sometime and somewhere is my time machine
What happened before will happen again

* Curse you Andrew Lloyd Webber!

12:

Maybe what they need is a killer app that persuades people such as myself that we actually can't live without a FriendFace account?

13:

Mark @ 7:

The Poet Laureate is paid in wine. Not very much wine, either: I think it's about two cases of good claret, per annum. Ample to support life, if you were a fruit fly or a mould colony. Wouldn't support life at the level of poetry writing.

15:

It's not entirely impossible to earn a living writing poetry—just this month I have been paid my highest per-word rate ever for three short verses—but it's almost impossible to earn a living writing (a) only poetry, and (b) the poetry that you want to write instead of poetry that someone commissions you to write.

Honourable possible exception: children's picture-books writers. Though I wish the bastards would learn that verse is supposed to bloody SCAN.

(My three short verses? A competition for a film company, and not my idea. But huge fun.)

16:

Guys come on,

All of you are probably paid by someone to deflate this market and bring wages etc back down to peanuts.

What this boom is showing us is the true value of software and all the involved people getting paid accordingly!

17:

I can't tell if that was masterful satire or humourless quackspeak.

18:

I have a startup idea and business model that would disrupt the startup world for you. What's more, I'm not even selling it, I'm giving it away for free!

I give you: IdeoMart!

(What bugs me, and has bugged me since the early stages of the first internet bubble, is that people are pitching ideas, not implementations.)

19:

What we really need is something to come along to disrupt globalised capitalism. The last few attempts seemed to have more or less failed.

A business model that rips up all other business models and spreads virally? It sounds like any VC sufficiently steeped in bullshit would go for that except they would (probably) make themselves null and void the moment they signed on the dotted line.

20:

Rehashing something I said on reddit about this recently, bubbles are a feature of capital, not technology. The sea exploration stock bubbles of the 17th century were not built on wrong fundamentals -- sea exploration turns out to be great business --; the dotcom bubble of the 90s was more or less correct about ecommerce -- hell, there are at least two up-to-isomorphism Webvans in my city. And despite reports to the contrary, tulips are really, really pretty.

Bubbles aren't a feature of unproven technology at all. The golden age of expert systems and Lisp machines and so on wasn't accompanied by widespread capital misallocation -- it happened mostly to large organizations (what Manuel de Landa calls "antimarkets") that could absorb the blow. (Save for the Lisp machine start-ups, but the very fact that they were very short-lived goes to show the lack of speculation in re: very promising technology).

Differential diagnosis: why did ecommerce (and social cha-cha-cha now) become bubbles and expert systems/corporate AI/Lisp machines didn't? The sociological explanation is that even now I don't really understand what expert systems are all about -- it's not a sexy concept, it's not clear how it will change the world -- but "artificial intelligence" is something that can be made sexy with enough B2B marketing. The determinant factor was probably the Volcker shock. It's surprising that there was any investment at all in unproven technology in face of the Volcker shock.

In other words, features of capitalism (delandian antimarkets, monetary policy drying up excess capital), not of Lisp at all. Pick your theory of capitalism at will: Marx's long-run tendency of profit rates to fall, Walras and Marshall's diminishing returns to scale, Schumpeter's (and Prescott's, for that matter) business-cycles-driven-by-technology, Mises' malinvestment, Minsky's speculative investors -- heck, you can even turn to valuation technologies and Roll's critique and say "if they just had used Vasicek betas instead of covariance betas". Add "animal spirits" to your taste. I'm a pretty Walras-Arrow-Debreu plus Delanda-Prigogine guy, but all the important features of capitalism as a wider system of allocating productive resources can be traced to isomorphisms in wildly divergent theories.

For full disclosure's sake, I have very small (single digits) equity in a social buzzinga start-up. I didn't bring money, I'm working out algorithms and such. And from this inside-the-guts-of-the-tech POV, the big drivers behind all of this are (1) massive, passive data gathering (you said this about Klout, but get a plugin like Ghostery of DNT Plus to see how widespread this is) and (2) combinatorial dynamics in how new data makes old data more valuable. Is this technologically different from the 90s dotcom system? -- yes: they had volunteer user data gathering and relied on the exponential dynamics of internet usage growth.

BUT: does the success of this stuff hinges on the underlying technological features? Just look at the history of promising and abandoned technologies since forever. This is all about excess capital that (in the US, because there the story is simple) had dried up to real estate and consumer credit.

Will this excess capital continue to bet on unproven technology that may or may not turn to be profitable? Well, will the collective hysteria about austerity in recession continue? Will alternative uses of capital compete with unproven tech? I mean, everything from recovering consuming credit to infrastructure in barely-emerging countries (not BRICs). This is the real story.

This is why we probably won't get a Macx singularity -- technology almost never comes from "pull" (save for Manhattan Projects), almost always from "push" (technology seeks capitalist who seeks users). Macx lives and dies by pull, as much push as he's got. And the pull side is always quavering.

21:

Childrens' authors?

I can think of two easily: Julia Donaldson (a tale of lies, deceits, and threats to life - aka The Gruffalo), and Daniel Postgate (the "Smelly Bill" trilogy; a modern masterpiece).

22:

Shall I compare thee to a scammer's play?
Can IPO a glitt'ring fortune make?
Thou art less crass, and Wit doth hath its way,
And small profits are what wise men sold.
'tis nothing new, the fancies of the age,
Are seen before, but new fools gloss the old,
And those who win are not writ on the page.
Can all this change, can Wisdom be preserved?
Will those who keep the truth, for once, prevail?
Or do Page Three's distractions, sweetly curved,
Divert the blame from those who made it fail?
There is a chance, the internet is fat
With truth for ev'ry lie--Ooh look! A cat!

23:

As for poetry, the only thing I want is for all nations to have a lifetime Poet Laureate that's not only given money to buy food and such, but called upon to write meter verse about important events -- everything from earthquakes and terrorist attacks to important breakthroughs in technology.

It's a heck of a darn of a shame we don't have a "Villanelle for Jonas Salk" or "The Ballad of the Transistor".

24:

Slam would be a better fit, I would think?

25:

Facebook scares the heck out of Google because it has the potential to steal all of the most valuable search traffic because FB has the potential to know far more about what you actually like/dislike and are interested in. I don't disagree about the bubble aspect, but the revenue per customer could easily be much higher.

26:

marc @13

These days, the Poet Laureate receives a stipend in place of the wine - £5 750 pa, I think. You still couldn't live on that, but it's a nice extra bit of income.

27:

I agree but it's not just the startups. I had stock in Amazon, because I thought my self quite the tech prognosticator. Recently tough I dumped the Amazon has a company price of 179.77 times it's earnings. If I am correct, this is normally 4 to 8 times earnings. That is madness!

I'm not touching tech stock until the bubble bursts.

28:

Hear, hear.
After five or six years working in the startup area, I finally got sick enough of it to leave and go work for a larger, more stable company building things that actually do underpin things. All the BS from all the startups put together isn't worth the amount of revenue from one deal that $CURRENTBIGCOMPANY makes from selling $CURRENTPRODUCT.

Startups are fairly necessary things - you can't exactly test agile in a large company on a critical product that represents as much revenue as some small country's GDP - but they're a tiny, if visible part of the industry. They're the chocolate frosting on the cake, but people keep thinking that that means they're the entire cake because it's all they see. They're seriously not.

I wouldn't want to see them go away, but if the hype got lost, that'd be really nice...

29:

Poetry moved on sometime in the 60s.
Is Bob Dylan not a poet?
It followed the money and never looked back.

30:

Actually I'd suggest we are at bubble for advertising funded startups. Hence the bullshit quota.

I think this is key. The last bubble's air started to go out when everybody realized an ad impression without a click was worth approximately nothing and you started to hear multiple stories of ad-funded websites fighting their ad providers for money due (typical example here) and ad-funded startups starving for funds.

And when ad revenue cratered, it punched a hole right through the lithosphere. I was working at a would-have-been spinoff of EA for most of 2000, and their brilliant plan was to fund the new company largely from ad revenue. By the time it launched late that year, actual ad revenue was 10% or less of the projections in the spring. If a behemoth like EA couldn't cope, you knew that sites whose whole business model was something like "we give away socks ON THE INTERNET... banner ads!" were going to die.

31:

History's not heard
As men learn naught from the past
Winter always comes.

32:

Meanwhile, here we are 12 years later and I still have to use AdBlock Plus and NoScript and FlashBlock to have an acceptable browsing experience.

Have we lived and fought IN VAIN??!?

33:

John Cooper Clarke mavern of the Punk Poetry movement was forced to suppliment his income by hitching up with The Honey Monster and pushing Sugar Puffs.

34:

My link was broken;
Unintentional, but shows
Saying isn't doing

35:

"Facebook revenue is something like $1.2 per account-holder. There are a MAXIMUM of 7 billion account holders on this planet. "

The hidden assumption there is that the ad revenue/account is fixed. Ad revenue is dependent on the accuracy of ad targeting. We all see how pathetically bad it often is, wasting ad space on irrelevant pitches because of a bad keyword match. There's huge room for improvement in ads, and therefore in ad revenue.
I'm not arguing that Facebook is correctly valued, just that its valuation may be based on the potential for revenue as ad targeting improves. And there's a LOT of room for improvement.

36:

@Diego Navarro
Who thought that bubbles were a function of technology? A bubble is formed when $product is overvalued by the market, the identity of $product is irrelevant.
However, I suppose that because technological concepts can require a lot of specialised knowledge to understand makes them easier to over-value to naive investors, and thus makes it easier for bubbles to form around things like websites.

37:

Just three words:
Poetry slam boom!

38:

The only prominent tech companies worth the risk of holding right now are companies like Apple or Microsoft. Even Google is something I'd stay away from -- I think it could survive a bubble burst but right now it is overpriced.

39:

Fully agree that we're in a bubble, however I'm not quite sure it's ready to pop...I think this one's still got some legs.

I'd look for it to pop when interest rates go back up. When they finally do (2013?) it'll be harder for "investors" to raise capital to leverage their stupid bets.

In the meantime, the JOBS act will be fully implemented, making it easier for a) companies to monkey with their financial statements, and b) for the shoeshine boy to throw his money behind the next asinine startup.

40:

Not "about two cases of good claret".

In Tennyson's time, the annual stipend was £200 plus a butt of sack (i.e. 477 litres of fortified wine), which I would find challenging to get through in a year, even with a bit of help from my friends. For some years this alcoholic component was waived, then it was revived by Betjeman, as a barrel of sherry, I believe. No idea what size of barrel; I'm guessing it's not a butt.

Anyway, I believe the current stipend is enough to live on and, more to the point, I'm certain that Duffy had been making a decent living at poetry for many years before her appointment (I used to live on the same road as her, and she had a very pleasant-looking house). I guess that there are somewhere between a dozen and fifty poets making a living in the UK.

OGH is of course correct: the big money in poetry is being made by Flo Rida, Jay-Z, Eminem, etc etc.

41:

Anyone who can't come up with an alternative recreational use for buggy whips lacks imagination.

42:

@Nick Barnes @ 40

Does your estimate include those people who make a living not by selling poetry but who are able to make a living selling what they are selling because they have a reputation as a poet?

I’m thinking of teachers of creative writing as an example.

43:

Dave @ 22: Either the fourth line is missing, or you've set us a fine competition. Either way, Bravo!

44:

True this. You may call me any evening on 079098[crackle sizzle] Connection terminated by host!!
;->

45:

Let's put some numbers in perspective.

The global advertising spend is $465bn based on this source

For a mature industry, a sales/price ratio is around 2x. So FB, capitalized to be valued at $100bn, would need to have about 1/10 of all global advertising spend to justify its price. You have to believe that global advertising spend is going through some huge growth over the next couple of decades to justify that, or that you believe online advertising will become the major outlet for advertising and that online rates will rise to that of other media, like print and tv.

46:

"Greater Fool" theory in action. ;)

47:

I'm not sure. The UK tech industry certainly feels less effervescent than it did in the 90's.

I spend most of my work time with startup-ish companies and they seem vastly less stark staring bonkers than the ones I encountered in the late nineties.

(I remember with fondness one place whose founders gave us a completely different business plan every month for three months in a row - each plan negating most of the work that had been done the previous month.)

This time around while there do seem to be a few organisations whose valuations I would question - there doesn't seem to be *anywhere* close to the amount of "silly money" that I saw invested in the nineties.

It's possibly different in the US - but from the folk I know over there I hear the same sort of story. There's much, much less "dumb" money than there was the last time around.

48:

I would say that Facebook is valued on the assumption that it may become the "high street" of the future. So not just ad revenue, but to become the (a) place where actual transactions take place. I find it quite unlikely though.

And I really really wouldn't invest in poetry.

49:

Dave the Proc @ 4
I call ... Jonathan Swift!
So there.

Diego Navarra @ 20
I once saw a suggestion that a real driver of tech progress was... instrumentation.
One reason why H-P did so well for so long, apparently.
Certainly applied during the steam/railway age as well (think Wheatstone)


50:

"Am I missing something?" (re: Facebook's ridiculous market cap)

Yes - *when* will the collapse come. Right now, anybody shorting Facebook has got to be able to eat the continued gains before the crash.

It's like the dot-com bubble - anybody shorting in Jan 1999 would have lost big-time; shorting in Jan 2000 would have been very profitable.

51:

I suspect that Swiftian verse was lurking somewhere at the back of my mind (throwing peanuts and ducking behind the over-stuffed couch of the subconscious when I glanced around), but really I wasn't consciously trying to ape it. Always pleasant to be compared favourably with Swift, though.

However, I would suggest that in reference to economic bubbles, ad nauseam may be the more appropriate description ...

52:

The hidden assumption there is that the ad revenue/account is fixed. Ad revenue is dependent on the accuracy of ad targeting. We all see how pathetically bad it often is, wasting ad space on irrelevant pitches because of a bad keyword match. There's huge room for improvement in ads, and therefore in ad revenue.
Is that the case?

53:

Thanks for the traffic, Charlie :)

54:

I think you're falling into the usual "advertising exec" trap, of assuming that seeing adverts for product you might buy converts into sales of your product, and therefore more adverts means more sales.

In some areas, eg washing powder, I find that non-advertised brands are equally effective for half the price, so I assume that the reverse is also true and if you're spending more on adverts you're spending less on making a better product.

55:

You're welcome :-)

56:

I would have to say, Dirk, that although I have loved the Zim's work since adolescence, he is not a poet.

Consider his ballad "A Hard Rain's a Gonna Fall". It is usually assumed to be a metaphorical reflection on the Cuban missile crisis, and the catastrophe which that crisis threatened. Dylan has since revealed that he wrote it before the missiles were sited on the Caribbean island.

If he had been a poet, it really would have been about the Cuban thing. I rest my case.

(Leonard Cohen is about the only singer-songwriter whose lyrics count as poetry: but he was a published poet before he went into the singing trade. Joni Mitchell's lyric depend for their effect on their juxtaposition of words with sounds - so her work, excellent though it is (even better than Leonard C's stuff, in my opinion) cannot be considered poetry per se).

57:

I think Facebook could make far more per customer. I remember reading(I can not find source) that the click through rate for Google ads was 8% where as for Facebook it was 0.8%. Facebooks advertising always seems shockingly bad and unprofessional. If they got to the level even of mediocre then I believe there would be far more clicks.

58:

Yeah, they could figure out a way to make more than $1.20 per user. They will have to, because the other 7 billion they will only make something like 12 cents with the current business model.

However being able to reach 950 million customers instantly is the best distribution network the world's ever seen. Just they have to figure out how to monetise it better.

59:

[ comment deleted for violation of moderation policy. Don't be rude to the blog owner. ]

60:

[ comment deleted for violation of moderation policy. Don't be rude to the blog owner. ]

61:

HINT to new readers coming via HN and elsewhere:

Read the moderation policy before you comment.

If you violate it, your comments may be deleted. (This is a community website, with certain standards.)

HTH. HAND.

62:

That depends on the poet I suppose.

Hans

63:

Snicker. Or for that matter Leonard Cohen and Suzanne Vega.

64:

The UK Poet Laureate gets a "a butt of sack" which is 477 liters (504 quarts) of Sherry wine, which is usually converted into an honorarium worth a bit over US$9200.

65:

The difference between the Google and Facebook advertising models is that Google is able to present ads that are relevant to a thing you are actively looking for; if I type in "car dealers in Boston" I'm very likely to click on ads for cars dealers in Boston. So provided Google maintains its place as the top search engine their revenue stream is pretty secure.

Conventional advertising of selling ads next to unrelated content (regardless of how personalized it is) is always going to have the main effect of annoying the user. If I'm not in the market for something, I'm probably not going to click, even if it is for a product I would otherwise be interested in.

I suppose Facebook could start data mining people's individual status to guess the things you're likely to be buying in the near future. Creepy.

66:

Instrumentation may have been a driver at one time, but it's a commodity now (buy me a beer or three and I'll tell you the saga of Tektronix, which was a giant of instrumentation and is now a dwarf; also note where HP gets its revenue these days).

As some have mentioned here, these aren't really "tech" bubbles; companies that sell real technology, the stuff, whether hardware or software, that enables these bubble companies, usually survive the bust in one form or another. They're e-business bubbles, where most of the capital has been poured into speculative business models, not questionable technology. And what causes the bubbles to burst is not failure of technology (we're still capitalizing on all the network infrastructure the Web 1.0 bubble left behind), but a sudden failure of confidence in the possibility of all those speculations actually returning anything on their investment. As soon as someone asks "just who the hell is going to pay all that money for a tulip?" the investors are going to stampede for the exits.

I predict that in the next year or two Facebook is going to move its corporate headquarters to Nigeria to support its new business model.

67:

Yes. Zynga. Since a few years ago, all social games on Facebook had to sell items via Facebook credits, where FB takes a 30% cut. (Zynga probably has a special arrangement with FB so pays a bit less).

Given that's there's some Alabama housewives that have spent over 10,000$ on Farmville vegetables -- of which $3000 or so goes to FB.

From reading Facebook's SEC filing they actually made a fairly significant chunk of revenue from Zynga alone (at least 10% IIRC). Other social games totalled up to a similar amount.

Maybe social games are a fad that will pass, but it goes to show that FB can make money from more than just ads.

68:

Re: Relative success rates of web-site ad performance.

First, Facebook appeals mostly to extroverts who typically make up about half of the total market for most commodities but account for >80% of the noise/hoop-la. In contrast, pretty much everyone (whether extro- or intro-vert) uses Google. This probably accounts for a large part of Google's better performance.

Secondly, in general, extroverts (historically) tend to overstate their interest in new products. Plus, a larger chunk of extro's than intro's have limited attention spans. This means that website design needs to vary depending on if you want to sell to an extro vs. an introvert. (Introverts are likelier to want to mull things over and test out the product promise before committing to a purchase.) Anyways, my point is that you need to be able to present the appropriate web page layout - aka "user experience" - which means that Facebook needs to (a) know whether the visitor is an extro vs. introvert and (b) have a much more flexible site design.

No idea what the exact market share within various product categories based on personality types is although this is definitely something that Facebook should be working on. (I can understand Google not doing this, but Facebook - c'mon, it's a gimme!)

As for figuring out when/what the next bubble is likely to be - as well as poetry - I suggest "Imagine (How Creativity Works)" by Jonah Lehrer. He discusses both Silicon Valley and the Elizabethan age - the era of the English language's best poets. Would be a good read for most the bunch visiting here. :)

69:

Dave Bell @ 22:

Very nicely played. See your cat and raise you a hairy Wookie.

70:

Charlie sez,

I am calling this a bubble economy in startup bullshit,

Well, sure, but the last one was bullshit too. We've all seen the standard bubble business plan:

  • 1. Paragraph of buzzwords.

  • 2. Wave of magic wand.

  • 3. Vast Profits!

What the bubble merchants have been doing all along is monetizing the awe left over from the rise of the computer industry, as if Moore's Law was a model for the growth of profits from any fixed pool of resources whose limits aren't expandable1. The only real change from one bubble to the next is the set of buzzwords in the latest incantations.

1. The computer industry rode Moore's Law for 40 years by starting with a universal substrate (the Turing-equivalent microprocessor computer architecture) and continually making it bigger and faster and letting other people find applications for it in increasingly more complex and widespread fields. Every few turns of the crank a new application blooms, grows exponentially, and hits the point where the venture music stops and shakes out the bullshit organizations that didn't have time or smarts to find a chair with a real business on it, and becomes a mature business, not interesting to venture capitalists anymore, and a new application area opens up, with new bullshit business plans.

So the computer industry has been able to avoid hitting limits by re-targeting its sales to new industries, and by re-inventing the nature of the platform it supplies (desktop to laptop to (webserver + desktop) to (webserver + laptop) to (webserver + smart phone) to ...

71:

"What next: a dot-com startup targeting the overdue-for-disruption steam locomotive market?"

Yes!

The _long_ overdue for disruption Web-based software control industry for charcoal pod - container distribution for steam turbine locomotives:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Chesapeake_and_Ohio_Railway_steam_turbine_locomotive_500.JPG

(sorry, couldn't find the article for the charcoal pods. I think it was in Popular Mechanics during the US gas crisis of the early 70s)

72:

"It's not entirely impossible to earn a living writing poetry"

I give you Atilla the Stockbroker. Though he sings as well. As does Benjamin Zephaniah. I think most poets who get paid for it are and have to be performers.

Its not completely impossible. I guess - only a guess - that there are maybe half a dozen to a dozen poets in Britain who can keep themselves in a prosperous middle-class lifestyle mainly by selling books of poetry to publishers. (That's rather less tham the number of SF writers who have bought me a drink in a bar- it doesn't count the other way round ;-)

Quite a lot more f poets perform as well, and many teach, and more than you might think get a bit of money from the BBC for the odd appearance. They can make ends meet but not puirely by publishing their poems. Even more poets never earn a penny from it. Don't give up the day job.

But then that's true of all sorts of writers as well. Yes there are some who make it big, and the mid-list isn't quite as dead as its often said to be (if it was Charlie might be behind a desk somewhere in an offirce each instead of at home writing or not) But lots of writers earn money in bits and pieces here and there. Yes they might publish some novels and stories, but they might also do some tech writing, or journalism, or advertising, or pseudonymous porn as welll. And try to get paid for going to festivals or conventions (not easy to do). And perhaps teach as well.

Is MIchael Rosen a poet? Or a children's auther? Or a radio presenter? Or a university lecturer? Yes he is, all of those. Would he get enough money to have a nice house and foreign holidays if he relied on poetry book sales? I have no idea, but I doubt it.

73:

>I once saw a suggestion that a real driver of tech progress was... instrumentation.
> One reason why H-P did so well for so long, apparently.
> Certainly applied during the steam/railway age as well (think Wheatstone)

There's a whole theory that monopolistic or quasi-monopolistic "antimarkets" (to borrow Delanda's usage again) are key for tech progress. Electronics was mostly invented because a telephone monopoly (1) wanted faster and faster switchboards and (2) let engineers run wild because they kept coming up with the sweet stuff. Universities could be said to be a special case of this, with the product being certification.

Essentially, technology improves your average cost, but competititve markets tend towards the marginal cost. (A classical Marshall monopoly optimizes its profit pricing at average cost.)

74:

I stand corrected. My "two cases of good claret" was based on a misapprehension concerning the size of a "butt of sack". I had the notion that it was the sort of barrel that might be tucked under one arm.

75:

The famous example being Bell labs.

Now my personal hypothesis is that right now we are in something of a slump in terms of useful world changing innovation. What research is being done just now that will lead to massive changes in 20 years time, to compare with the internet or the telephone or the internal combustion engine? Corporate takeovers of university research, cuts in funding, the effects of managerialism and cutting everything for bigger profits leads to a lack of basic research when compared with the 'good old days'.

Obviously this doesn't mean there isn't research of one sort or another going on, and innovation in the likes of software or controls or suchlike, but what can be researched to give a decent return - as said above the bubble is a capital problem, when too much money is chasing too few good returns on investment. So what is worth investing in?

76:

I will buy you a drink at a bar in SF :)

77:

I think you are right that the setting is quite different, but that still doesn't explain why the ads are so terrible. So many of them are political or for buying gold or some other exploitative thing. They rarely seem to be trying to sell me something anyone would want. I do think they could get up to Google level click through rates but surely they could get much better.

78:

Meant to reply to Peter Amstutz, 65. I failed.

79:

"(Leonard Cohen is about the only singer-songwriter whose lyrics count as poetry: but he was a published poet before he went into the singing trade. Joni Mitchell's lyric depend for their effect on their juxtaposition of words with sounds - so her work, excellent though it is (even better than Leonard C's stuff, in my opinion) cannot be considered poetry per se)."

I would suggest you consider Gordon Lightfoot. Not the big hits as a rule, but some of his later and less well known albums. Take a look at "Tatoo" from "Salute". Or "If Children Had Wings" from "Endless Wire", or "Restless" from "Waiting for You".

He also writes better tunes than either. The melody of "If Children had Wings" would not be out of place in a Tchaikovsky symphony, in my opinion. It's as sadly beautiful as the main theme from the first movement of the latter's Sixth Symphony. All the best tunes are sad ones.

Poets can make a lot of money if they can put them to a good melody and sing them on time and in tune.

But then, per Charlie's theme, the music industry bubble does rather seem to have popped so far as sucking in money goes.

80:

""What research is being done just now that will lead to massive changes in 20 years time, to compare with the internet or the telephone or the internal combustion engine?"

Watson and friends.
It will result in the de-skilling of much of the Middle Class and semi-skilled, from call centers and tech support through to lawyers.
What we have at present in AI is a whole range of systems running on supercomputers from vision eg google car, to Watson (intelligent database) to genetic algorithms (invention machines) and robotics (Big Dog and exoskeletons). Put them all together in one nachine that costs as much as a top end PC and the world will change.

81:

I think this is one of those cases where we can quickly find ourselves arguing over definitions. In the sense of instrumentation meaning "Lovely Oscilloscope or Spectrum Analyser" then I agree. However, in the sense of "Sensor and backup processing to do something useful" then there is a case that this is fundamental.

A basis of Control Theory is that you cannot control something any better than you can measure it. Therefore better instrumentation allows better control. This has major effects in industrial production processes, allowing the mass production of items and materials that otherwise would be impossible.

Note that `better` does not necessarily mean more precise. It can mean `precise AND cheap enough for this application`. Thus car engines now have a lot of instrumentation that allows much better performance, economy and emissions control. [That leaves you broken down on the M1 with wife and kids on Christmas Eve because a sensor in your crappy Fiat has failed, but that is off-topic].

A lot of technical improvements come down to the ability to measure and control something.

82:

Whether poetry can be a living depends whether you count teaching poetry (like Paul Muldoon or Robert Frost) and reading poetry (like Gwendolen Brooks) as part of the job description. After all, you blog and go to conventions.

And then there are the oddball cases like Vikram Seth.

But that's not enough money to fund a new channel; if it were, YouTube would already be doing it.

83:

Lyrics vs/identical poetry?

"Yesterday,
all my troubles seemed so far away
Now it looks as though they're here to stay
Oh, I believe in yesterday.

Suddenly, I'm not half to man I used to be,
There's a shadow hanging over me.
Oh, yesterday came suddenly.

Why she had to go
I don't know
she wouldn't say.
I said something wrong,
now I long for yesterday.

Yesterday,
love was such an easy game to play.
Now I need a place to hide away.
Oh, I believe in yesterday."

Some of us, of course believe in another yesterday ...
So that hearing the opening theme from "Also Sprach Zarathustra" / Richard Strauss
Will always do it for those of us of a certain age .....

84:
I suppose Facebook could start data mining people's individual status to guess the things you're likely to be buying in the near future. Creepy.
That's the sort of thing they're doing (not all that well IMHO), certainly the sort of thing they'll be telling investors they will be doing more and better in the future; and presumably the main reason for the ridiculous numbers being thrown around.

That, and social ads ("your friend Charlie likes X and you probably will too").

85:

Long before the Libertines and Babyshambles, Peter Doherty was a poet who once toured Russia on a British Council grant. I won't quote his lyrics here because you either like it or you don't. I do.

Graham Coxon's quite a Deep One, too.

86:

For pure poets, Les Barker does okay.

87:

Jim Morrison published poetry. If you didn't know that it's probably because it wasn't very good.

88:

Re numerous people bringing up poets who actually make a living: Charlie is I think pointing out the absurdity of an IPO based on the notion that investors will make profits out of poetry; not that it's impossible for any poets to make money. His link is the current day equivalent of pets.com: just because supermarkets sell pet food and even some specialist stores exist did not mean that it made sense to invest 300 million dollars (US) in a web site.

89:

I worked for a website that published poetry, we never made any more than £30 in the best year - but did better at that than when we were distributing slim volumes.

I do wonder now if we could have gone public (in 1997) and made some money off investors bewildered by the word "internet".

90:

While we're at it, word on the (digital) street is that there's a big bubble in the tech sector or somewhere about to burst.

Anybody know what's this about exactly and whether it has the potential to turn the current Long Depression into a Great Depression 2.0?

91:

"The difference between the Google and Facebook advertising models is that Google is able to present ads that are relevant to a thing you are actively looking for...."

Not entirely reliable. On Google Mail, I got an ad for "RC used cars." I hadn't shown any interest in cars; but I'd been reading a devout Roman Catholic discussing religion.

92:

The time to really worry is when a whole lot of experts are saying "This market will never go down."

93:

Popeyes Chicken has a smartphone app which allegedly will determine whether you'd prefer mild or spicy sauce by searching your Facebook and Twitter posts.

94:

Long live FB, a repository of grate poetry.

95:

Let's not forget Beanie Babies.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beanie_Baby

Some guys (in their 20s) were talking about flying from the US to London to by ones that were in demand over here but only in stock over "there". They were talking about how they could make $1000s per flight. They didn't understand why I wasn't interested.

96:

You have to believe that global advertising spend is going through some huge growth over the next couple of decades to justify that, or that you believe online advertising will become the major outlet for advertising and that online rates will rise to that of other media, like print and tv.

I read an analysis of the US advertising market. Over either the last 10 or 15 years adjusted for inflation, spending per person in the US was fairly constant. All that was really changing over time was how it was allocated. More to the Internet, less (much) to newspapers, about the I think to TV.

The key point was that there's only so much money in an industrial/mature economy for advertising. Grown in one area usually means a decline in another.

The only way around this seems to be to grow underdeveloped economies.

97:

"Popeyes Chicken has a smartphone app which allegedly will determine whether you'd prefer mild or spicy sauce by searching your Facebook and Twitter posts."

That seemed so bizarre, so very wrong, on so many levels, that I had to fact-check it. Holy crap, they really do! The 'Mood Wing'! Though it's the chicken itself, not a sauce, that can vary. OTOH, they market it as Bonafide(Registered TM symbol) Chicken. Bonafide Chicken? WTF is that? Non-extruded-from-a-vat-of-CHON?

Last time I ate Popeye's, years ago, it was really good fast food. Maybe that has changed, and this is a desperation move, or only the surreal survive, or they're really hoping to attract writers at The Onion?

99:

On the remuneration of the UK poet laureate: the amount of cash now given seems to be private, but the official site of the Royal Household does reveal that the current holder of the post gets a barrel of sherry every year.

We can assume it's a French barrique barrel, so that's 220 litres of expensive sherry, rough commercial value £7 thousand, far more if it's very expensive sherry, which we can guess it is, given the nature of the UK government's wine cellar. If the current poet had chosen red Bordeaux, they'd have done much better, prices between £20-30 thousand per case are common for the leading estates, and up from there. The barrel would be worth around £250 thousand minimum bottled at auction. If we guess at a lesser wine of one of the famous estates (as seems likely in these days of austerity) that's still £51 thousand. By comparison, Chaucer got a butt (1100L) of good Madeira, probably worth £18-20 thousand upwards today, plus a salary.

Historically, poets laureate got a government income that put them among the middle gentry (aka British untitled lower nobility) but it has drastically declined over time. I'd expect that now they either get something that looked good in 1890 (say £300) or about £45-60 thousand, I suspect the former.

While I strongly agree with our host's general point about ludicrous startups, I do find the idea of would-be rising young men devoting themselves to poetry appealing. It'd all be terrible, in an early Roman Empire or mid-18th century way, but it'd give future generations something to laugh at, and they'd probably cause less harm than if they went into politics, think-tanks or investment banking.

Sophia

100:

I shall merely note that "King Dick" is a long-established British manufacturer of mechanic's tools.

(Did I really just write that?)

101:

Dave Bell: *applause*

Now, if you could just get someone to pay you for doing it...

102:

Dave Bell @ 99
I'm suprised to hear that "King Dick" are still in business!
Their older models of heavy adjustable spanner were the best ever made.
I have 2 medium & 1 small (tiny) model - missed out on a LARGE in a secondhand shop several years back.
Much more solid, and giving a better grip than the current 45-degree-angled types.
An example (from Flea-Bay) can be found Here for illustration.

103:

The quality of internet ads makes sense when you consider the sorts of companies that find it profitable to carpet bomb a venue like Facebook. Low cost encourages the same bottom-feeders that used to populate the back pages of tech mags and until the ad market is saturated they have no incentive to put any thought or money into being selective.

I suspect that Facebook offers the tools to make advertising very specifically targeted, but nobody has a clue about how to use them effectively for internet display ads. At least nobody is motivated yet. The data's surely being sold for more lucrative purposes like direct mail.

104:

Well, that's a good example. I learned to like Gordon L. from my Dad, who was a big fan of the bearded Canadian. The lyrics of "Wake of the Edmund Fitzgerald" could work as poetry on the printed page, but the music does add a whole other dimension:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hgI8bta-7aw

105:

@23:
It's a heck of a darn of a shame we don't have a "Villanelle for Jonas Salk" or "The Ballad of the Transistor".
---
That's the sort of thing totalitarian states often like to do. I wouldn't be in the least surprised if the USSR had had a College of Poets who churned out the likes of "Ode to a Tractor" or "Glory to the Magadan Trash Collectors." After all, they put a lot of effort into ugly statuary to do the same thing...

106:

"I would have to say, Dirk, that although I have loved the Zim's work since adolescence, he is not a poet.

"Consider his ballad "A Hard Rain's a Gonna Fall". It is usually assumed to be a metaphorical reflection on the Cuban missile crisis, and the catastrophe which that crisis threatened. Dylan has since revealed that he wrote it before the missiles were sited on the Caribbean island.

"If he had been a poet, it really would have been about the Cuban thing. I rest my case.

I suggest that's not a particularly good case. Cuba may have been what brought the fear of genocide, war crimes, and weapons of mass destruction to the attention of some, but trust me, here in Europe this stuff was part of daily life going right back to WW1 Zeppelin raids, use of poison gas as a battlefield weapon, tracking through the mass issue of gas masks, evacuation, ARP, and V1/V2 bombardments in WW2, and continuing through the early days of the cold war before the US mainland came within range of Soviet missile. I would argue that the fact Dylan's lyrics foreshadowed the Cuba missile crisis and the existential fear it brought to some sections of the US population enhances his claim rather than detracting from it...

107:

@48:
I would say that Facebook is valued on the assumption that it may become the "high street" of the future. So not just ad revenue, but to become the (a) place where actual transactions take place.
---
That's basically the business plan that Second Life and at least one MMPRG have been pushing for years. They're still waiting for the skies to rain money.

Of course, Facebook could buy Second Life...

108:

Allow me to present The Worzels:-

http://artists.letssingit.com/the-wurzels-lyrics-ive-got-a-brand-new-combine-harvester-xpr6rr2

Ok, it's not a tractor, but it is agricultural machinery.

109:

@58:
However being able to reach 950 million customers instantly is the best distribution network the world's ever seen. Just they have to figure out how to monetise it better.
---
Probably 75% of my purchases that don't involve food or gasoline are off the 'net. However, "internet shopping" is frequently a tedious experience.

Hello? I'm a customer? I have a valid credit card number I'm ready to feed to your server. Dear internet vendor, why do you require that I leave extensive demographic information on your web form, then wait for some unspecified period for your salesman to call? In fact, why can't you just tell me the price up front and perhaps save his time? Why is your company and/or product, which I am looking for BY NAME, either buried 15 pages down in search results of the three most common search engines, or not show up at all? Since you have no useful information on your placeholder web site, why not provide a phone number, fax number, or (perhaps this is too much to ask) an actual working e-mail address that some flunky might check frequently, as in "more than once a month"? Why is your web site some Flash-infected mess that's hard-formatted to 1600 pixels wide, AND has earthquake-level SOUND embedded that not only pisses me off, but everyone within thirty feet of me, too? Why does your web site ONLY work with THE LATEST VERSION of either Firefox or Internet Explorer? Why, in fact, make it browser-dependent at all? That was childish in the browser wars of the 20th century; nowadays, it's simply stupid. Why is your site formatted entirely as separate pop-up windows instead of links within a single site? Why does your site require me to "Log in via Facebook!" just to get basic information? Why does your site have wiggly-jiggly dancing crap all over it? And if you're an actual commercial web site, why does it have "google ads" and doubleclick links on it?

Excuse me, I think I need another scoop from the Prozac keg...

110:

@65:
I suppose Facebook could start data mining people's individual status to guess the things you're likely to be buying in the near future. Creepy.
---
The "Target" department store chain in the USA already does this.

One account here: http://www.forbes.com/sites/kashmirhill/2012/02/16/how-target-figured-out-a-teen-girl-was-pregnant-before-her-father-did/

That's precisely the kind of thing nosy data collection practices and "data mining" were created for.

111:

If you want me to join FriendFace, or PayPal, before you'll do business with me, then you never will.

112:

@90:
Not entirely reliable. On Google Mail, I got an ad for "RC used cars." I hadn't shown any interest in cars; but I'd been reading a devout Roman Catholic discussing religion.
---
Every now and then Google's database seems to get corrupted. Every couple of years I'll start getting search results that are entirely unrelated to the search string, as far as I can tell. Not just one string; anything I type in.

Google's relentless desire to know exactly who and where I am has led them to partner with my internet provider. I don't have a Google login, but they can easily track me to the equipment closet in the next town. I'll get ads for "xxx in yyy" when I power my equipment up. After a few searches it'll know I'm actually in zzz, probably keeping a list of similar searches; mine are primarily small arms, explosive chemistry, and machine tools. Google probably slots all unknown users into a group of "preferred search results" based on similar searches, which is good enough for advertising.

Since my ISP requires DHCP, IP addresses are allocated from that pool. Back to the "broken search results", either zoophilia is very popular among the local populace, or a small number are really, really into the subject... every now and then, no matter what I type, say "5/16-24 stainless threaded rod", Google returns pages of sexual misconduct involving farm animals.

Besides unwanted results, Google is also prone to tailor its results to a point that comes very close to censorship. More than once, on the phone to someone geographically distant, I've had the experience of following someone down a Google link chain to a particular web site... or in these examples, not, even by feeding the complete URL of the place I'm trying to get to into Google's search bar. Google refuses to acknowledge some sites exist on my end, while they're in the top five at the other. Then I can reset the cable modem and grab another DCHP address, and sometimes the site is visible. Since the DHCP pool is (I assume) small, this means Google is filtering down to quite a fine level... and that it still treats an IP address as a unique user identifier, when they know damned well it doesn't, at least for more than a few hours or days, since many ISPs force DHCP renewals that often.

I use Google, but Google is definitely not my friend. Nor are Bing or Yahoo, but as long as more than one engine is available, I can spread my searches across all of them.

113:
Am I missing something?

One candidate might be identity and reputation.

Identity and reputation are really hard to do Right, but they're probably a lot easier to do merely profitably. There are niche reputation providers today that make 40% margins (John Wiley & Sons, 42%; the better-known Elsevier, 36%). If FB can manoeuvre itself into a similar position with respect to a billion people, it may be very sweet indeed, at least for FB. Not so good for the users, of course, just as the academic publishers are a bit of a mixed bag for researchers, but quite possibly very very profitable.

114:

@98:
Chaucer got a butt (1100L) of good Madeira, probably worth £18-20 thousand upwards today
---
In the kind of economic collapse some people seem to be praying for, a butt of Madeira would be worth a lot more than a plastic card or a wheelbarrow full of paper money.

Every now and then I've thought of Tim Powers' "Dinner at Deviant's Palace", a story set in a post-apocalyptic Los Angeles. As part of the backstory, the local government had reserved the manufacture of distilled liquor to itself, and issued paper currency redeemable in whisky.

It's an interesting variant on the concept of a hard currency base. There would have been a finite upper limit to how much whisky that could be made, this limiting the amount of possible inflation. But unlike gold or giant stone wheels, which just sit around forever, or taxes in grain, which would eventually spoil, whisky could theoretically be stored forever, but in practice some percentage would be drunk, which would permanently remove some of the currency reserve.


"Money can't buy you happiness."

"No, but it can buy you one hell of a night on the town!"

115:

Similarly, with the note that Google firmly believes that I am in a specific location some hundreds of miles from the actuality. Those who've met or e-mailed me may be able to make informed guesses as to the specifics, and will certainly confirm the stated generality.

116:

I followed the link from Charlie's seed post to the "disrupt poetry" article. The author referenced Robert Frost as a popular poet.

That brings a couple of things to mind, Frost being one of the poets I was exposed to in school...

First, the kind of poetry we got in public school was probably selected by adults with degrees in English Literature, who were selecting the kind of poetry they thought "the masses" *ought* to like. Most of the poetry we were harassed with used obscure or obsolete vocabulary we had never been taught. Almost all of it violated the "rules of grammar" we were being whipped with. Much of it involved social context we had absolutely no clue about, and most of the subject matter was boring crap we had no interest in anyway. The subject matter could well have been custom-tailored to cure any victim of any possible desire to voluntarily read any poetry for the rest of his life.

Now, some Kipling might have gone over well, or educationally-acceptable bits of the kind of doggerel soldiers have come up with for millennia, but there was no way anything like that was ever going to be seen in any of the schools I went to...

So, after generations of Pavlov-style conditioning against poetry, it's not hard to see why people don't exactly flock to it.


Now, back to Frost, who was a very popular poet in his day. But there are two major differences between the 19th and 21st century - first, back then, poetry was a performance art of a kind that's practically extinct now. (when was the last time you bought a ticket for a live reading?) Second, changes in copyright coverage and enforcement. Search for "lawsuit" and "Happy Birthday to You." The story is similar for popular music (as in, "the kind of music people might actually sing for themselves, as opposed to listening to on their player").

117:

@114:
Similarly, with the note that Google firmly believes that I am in a specific location some hundreds of miles from the actuality.
---
Every now and then Google thinks I'm in Australia instead of the central USA. My search results are dramatically different then. They're also different than the same search run through google.au.

118:

Interesting - apart from Spokeshave's "Shall I compare ye to a Summer's day? Dim and Wet!!" ;-) we mostly got stuff like Seigfried Sassoon, Wilfred Owen and later 20th century poets.
NB - In Scotland high school level English is a mixture of language and literature syllabii, although the 2 are often separated in other English speaking nations.

119:

I'm on my phone; forgive mangled text.

There is this talk of gramophones and the monetization of poetry, and I just realized I listen to A LOT of podcasts. There is in fact a veritable revival of the short story form (check Escape Pod and Pseudopod) and it just struck me that much of modern stand-up comedy -- made of discontinuous "bits", in the parlance of comics, yet adding up to a point about contemporary themes -- would have been classified as poetry by Aristotle.

Then there's The Bitterest Pill (google it), which is freemium and I pay to get all the episodes. It's about this man's life, but it's poignant in the same sense Tales of Mere Existence is, and it's also funny at times (dude is/was an erstwhile standup comic), but it's poignant and funny because of its composition and diction styles -- burst then long silence. If this dude wrote a book it'd have to be in verse. And then there's the function of pacing that's handled by meter in metered verse and often by whitespace in modern poetry -- throw a grenade and make us bleed.

Never thought about it this way, but The Bitterest Pill may be confessional poetry in the full sense of the term. It's really good, enough that people pay to get weekly rather than monthly installments. And dude thinks he's a loser house-husband who failed at his dream of being an actor and now drives his kids around the car jungle of LA while his wife yells at him on the phone about the lettuce. Maybe he's in the avant-garde, 20 years into the future from Tracey Emin.

120:

Regarding Facebook, from the idiot's perspective, 100B isn't a bad valuation. The revenue model looks a lot like Google - the main difference being that they have more information. Google is worth a bit over 100B at the moment. The main thing is that both companies are natural, possibly permanent, monopolies - so their margins are likely to increase with time.

Personally, I guess that Facebook's valuation is actually too high - because social content is harder to monetize than search engine content. (people searching for stuff often want to buy things...people chatting with friends do not). So, I'll guess that FB is really a 30B company. Still, 100B isn't ridiculous. (3x PE is more for companies with typical manufacturing margins.)

Regarding disrupting poetry, it sounds more like a vaguely profitable website than a company - but I kind of see the need. The fatal flaw I'd see in the concept is that I see poets as complete Luddites...

I don't see the same sort of bubble that happened last time. This one is, at a minimum, smaller. Yes, VCs are funding stupid projects. OTOH, it is _hard_ to predict the success of a company. At one point, I worked for a guy who'd founded 4-5 moderately successful companies (not an idiot). His first career decision involved turning down an offer from a tiny electronics startup called 'More Noise', after the founders, because he didn't see any merit in their business model. (besides...you don't want more noise in your electronics...) A few months later, they hired an advertising firm and changed their name to Intel... So, yep, I expect VCs to fund a few stupid projects.

--Erwin

121:

Which prompted me to check a print dictionary.

Poetry -
1) Literature in metrical form, verse
2) The art or craft of writing verse
3) poetic qualities, spirit or feeling in anything
4) anything resembling poetry in rythum, beauty etc.

From Latin poetria.

I'd say that even getting (3) or (4) is a stretch for most comedy sketches. Para (4) describes conceptual or performance art rather than poetry surely?

122:

Regarding the hyperparasitism: Right at this very moment our public radio station's 10 - noon talk show is featuring a woman who treats clients for Facebook stress disorders. Yes, she gets PAID for this:

Your 20s: My Life Should Look Better on Facebook Each week in May, Meg Jay, clinical psychologist, as: why twentysomethings think their peers are doing better than they really are.

This is a call-in show too, so every 30 seconds or so they take a call from someone eager to discuss their fb experience.

Love, C.

123:

Dirk - that sounds plausible, although I don't want to sound too enthusiastic because to my amateur eye, expert systems and AI's have been promised for too long.
But if it does come to pass, the social effects will be quite horrendous - deskilling the jobs inbetween labourer and senior manager will result in massive loss in purchasing power and standard of living under the current system. Unless you can persuade the owning classes to pay an appropriate amount of tax. I'd be happy enough living on a minimum income as long as I got to work away at voluntary work or academic research. But as things are just now the owners will want to keep all the immediate profits to themselves, then later on wonder why nobody can buy their stuff...

124:
Since the DHCP pool is (I assume) small, this means Google is filtering down to quite a fine level... and that it still treats an IP address as a unique user identifier, when they know damned well it doesn't
The IP address is what they see on the IP level, but you're (presumably..) talking to them through an application, which also gives out a whole lot of juicy information; the obvious thing to mention is cookies, but even with that turned off, sites can see what browser and version is used, the operating system, even things like the screen resolution and who knows what else.

So even if you're not unique by IP, you may be the only, or one of few people, in your IP pool that use – say – Opera on Linux with the language set to UK english and browsing at a resolution of 1600x1200. None of those are especially rare across the net as a whole, but taken together, and cross-referenced by IP...

Have a look att EFF's Panopticlick project to see just how unique you are. (And allow them to set a cookie, it's just to avoid counting people twice.) I was apparently in a very small set of people...

125:

Revolutionary in all senses of the word maybe.
The problem with AI to date, and all its false promises, is to a large extent due to limited processing power. I think the idea that one could have Human level AI without Human level processing is naive. And we are still not there - a billion dollar exaFLOPS machine is not "there" for the vast majority of programmers and experimentalists. When a PC executes exaFLOPS, we will be.

126:
As part of the backstory, the local government had reserved the manufacture of distilled liquor to itself, and issued paper currency redeemable in whisky.
In the 1600s (I believe it was), in my home town, miners were paid part of their salary* in liquor, and distillation was controlled. No small amounts either, but I don't have any numbers. Now, I just realized that if there were some kind of note involved (take this, go there and claim your share) we would most likely have had some semi-unofficial trade or barter involving those notes as well. Must remember to check...

As an additional wrinkle, miners' widows were given permits to open drinking establishments; I believe we had hundreds of them at some point.

*: Yes, I know the etymological origin of the word "salary", but go on and tell us...

127:

How about this, by Charlie Brooker?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D2rBDoCj2Gg

128:

@123:
Have a look att EFF's Panopticlick project to see just how unique you are.
---
I foresee several evenings of casual geekery ahead. Interestingly, it claims a standard install of Chrome on Linux is unique... but I cloned a fresh copy of a default XP virtual machine and fired it up, and it said the same thing about Firefox and IE6. Hmm... the only fonts on either OS are what installed by default, though both have the latest Flash. Since half the internet seems to be hardwired to require Flash, that hardly seems unique.

Thanks for that link!

129:

Certainly seems odd that all browsers should be seen as unique. Odd screen resolution perhaps? (If it's all running in a VM, and the desktop happens to be 1523x936 or something.)

130:

@125:
*: Yes, I know the etymological origin of the word "salary", but go on and tell us...
---
Yeah, I'm familiar with it, too. And without more confirmation than the dictionary I flat don't believe it, unless "salt" in that context was a euphemism for something like "discretionary spending allowance."

131:

I like Roland Barthes's definition of poetry in Writing Degree Zero: 'a possible adventure [at] the meeting point of a sign and an intention'.

132:

Performance poetry is still going on, humorous poetry is a significant component of the stand up scene. Ian McMillan (Poet in residence at Barnsley FC) is a fairly prominent performance poet, Craig Charles (Lister in Red dwarf) started out as a performance poet, his first television role was as resident poet on the arts programme Riverside and the daytime chat show Pebble Mill as One. It is a significant part of the stand up comedy scene

133:

Could we apply a form of Moore's law to the management speak/bullshit industry
I've always thought that language was meant to clarify explain, inspire and entertain.
Instead we have a whole crop of managers, bankers and politicians using words like synergise to give the illusion that they actually know whats going on.

134:

The ways of Google are truly hard to fathom

TRX: "Why is your company and/or product, which I am looking for BY NAME, either buried 15 pages down in search results of the three most common search engines, or not show up at all?"

When I google for "Mild Cheddar" - a widely consumed food if not exactly a good one - I don't get supermarkets or dairies I get a rant I wrote over ten years ago. That might even be the case in the USA. Weird.

135:

I tend to think of Les Barker as a singer and songwriter more than a poet. I think its where you are coming from. I first came across his work when I heard June Tabor singing "The Turning of the Road". (and then found out that he was on CIX and I had in fact unknowingly discussed stuff with him in the past)

136:

Quoting Wikipedia is a horrible stretch, I know, but I have a day job.

"Poetry has a long history, dating back to the Sumerian Epic of Gilgamesh. Early poems evolved from folk songs such as the Chinese Shijing, or from a need to retell oral epics, as with the Sanskrit Vedas, Zoroastrian Gathas, and the Homeric epics, the Iliad and the Odyssey. Ancient attempts to define poetry, such as Aristotle's Poetics, focused on the uses of speech in rhetoric, drama, song and comedy. Later attempts concentrated on features such as repetition, verse form and rhyme, and emphasized the aesthetics which distinguish poetry from more objectively-informative, prosaic forms of writing. From the mid-20th century, poetry has sometimes been more generally regarded as a fundamental creative act employing language."

137:
*: Yes, I know the etymological origin of the word "salary", but go on and tell us...

A more interesting question is why weren't they paid in Tequila.

138:

When he's performing as the Mrs Ackroyd Band it's music, but at least half the many times I've seen him it's just been him and the dog. Admittedly, that was in the 80's and 90's, I don't go to many folk events or festivals these days. Certainly in the 80's he was better known for spoken word and for his charming hand-produced publications. (according to wiki, 76 books vs 20 albums - some spoken word).

I think I still have a 'Jason And The Arguments' T-shirt somewhere.

139:

What the valuation of Facebook doesn't take into account is that most of it's users aren't telling the truth.

It's stupid to assume that every point made by every person is both true and factual. This is why 'targeted' marketing will never work.

I know it's hard for techy types to understand but the majority of 'normal' people are constantly lying to themselves and others.

140:

Poetry is complex:
Short on words and quickly said,
Yet so filled with meaning.

141:

It's been impossible for anyone to earn money as a poet for 2,000 years. In classical antiquity and in the Renaissance, poets attached themselves to wealthy patrons. Public performing poets (classical rhapsodes and medieval troubadors) were basically beggars with talent.

142:

Considering that Google works (at least partially) on the basis of how many pages link to a page to determine how relevant it is to a search term, and that that is a fine rant that may have thousands of links to it, then I can quite understand how it's got to #1.

143:

Well, that's their current revenue per user... the historical 'value' pegged on the notional annual value of a set of eyeballs is $10-$30, depending on the stuff being done...

So, at a 'notional' P/E ratio of 10:1 - if they were to get $20 per set of eyeballs on 5 billion humans, they'd be spot on.

The actual question is whether or not the notional of Social Search/Advertising (yes, all the stuff I know you like :)) brings in those numbers. I suspect not myself... but I've been known to be wrong.

144:

Well... it's a bubble, of sorts, but a different one. A lot of the IPOs and silly money floating around have been in Series b+ rounds to keep ventures which got funding and seem 'solid' pre-crash around until they can exit. Instagram closed their first substantial round pretty much the week they sold - which was purely good timing on the part of the investors I'm told.

The disruptive part has been the rise of Cloud Computing Solutions on start up economics. Basically put, you can start and operate on a shoe string without selling your soul to Ignition, Voyager or Atlas.

We're out looking for money at the moment purely because we've hit the practical limits on self funded growth. We can't deal with all the interest we're getting for our product and we need more working capital. In the old days we'd have taken our customer list, business plan and accounts receivable list to this thing called a bank and got a loan - except that doesn't seem to be a business that the banks are in anymore.

What has struck me, as a purveyor of a middleware solution that is deployed and making money and works, is how little interest there is in our measily little potential $20M+ a year business versus something shiny and social.

So... I'm less certain there will be a hard landing for this particular bubble because the money involved isn't actually as insanely daft as it was in 2000 and a lot of it is small(ish) Angel funds invested by people who got their money back when the Stock Market recovered in late 2010...

The rise of cloud computing solutions has really hammered the

145:

There's also this sort of thing that goes on here:

And Friday and Saturday night at Symphony Space the Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra is playing another one of their incredible one-of-a-kind concerts: Musica Nueva 5: Big Band Poetry Jam & Beyond. Real collaborations: composers, arrangers, poets. There's a student and a seniors rate.

I'll probably be there.

146:

from McAndrew's Hymn, by Rudyard Kipling

That minds me of our Viscount loon - Sir Kenneth's kin - the chap
Wi' russia leather tennis-shoon an' spar-decked yachtin'-cap.
I showed him round last week, o'er all - an' at the last says he:
"Mister McAndrew, don't you think steam spoils romance at sea?"
Damned ijjit! I'd been doon that morn to see what ailed the throws,
Manholin', on my back - the cranks three inches off my nose.
Romance! Those first-class passengers they like it very well,
Printed an' bound in little books; but why don't poets tell?
I'm sick of all their quirks an' turns - the loves an' doves they dream -
Lord, send a man like Robbie Burns to sing the Song o' Steam!
To match wi' Scotia's noblest speech yon orchestra sublime
Whaurto - uplifted like the Just - the tail-rods mark the time.
The Crank-throws give the double-bass; the feed-pump sobs an' heaves:
An' now the main eccentrics start their quarrel on the sheaves.
Her time, her own appointed time, the rocking link-head bides,
Till - hear that note?-the rod's return whings glimmerin' through the guides.
They're all awa! True beat, full power, the clangin' chorus goes
Clear to the tunnel where they sit, my purrin' dynamoes.
Interdependence absolute, foreseen, ordained, decreed,
To work, Ye'll note, at any tilt an' every rate o' speed.
Fra skylight-lift to furnace-bars, backed, bolted, braced an' stayed,
An' singin' like the Mornin' Stars for joy that they are made;
While, out o' touch o' vanity, the sweatin' thrust-block says:
"Not unto us the praise, or man - not unto us the praise!"
Now, a' together, hear them lift their lesson - theirs an' mine:
"Law, Order, Duty an' Restraint, Obedience, Discipline!"
Mill, forge an' try-pit taught them that when roarin' they arose,
An' whiles I wonder if a soul was gied them wi' the blows.
Oh for a man to weld it then, in one trip-hammer strain,
Till even first-class passengers could tell the meanin' plain!
But no one cares except mysel' that serve an' understand
My seven thousand horse-power here. Eh, Lord! They're grand - they're grand!

147:

Do poet-laureates receive any kind of money? I know Texas has one - it's a point of pride for them.

148:

it is the same and it is different

history does not repeat itself but it rhymes

149:

The United States Poet Laureate receives a salary of US$35k, according to wikipedia. The actual title is Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry.

150:

I have not read every post here, but there is a small industry out there building steam locomotives. It is not all about poets.

http://www.a1steam.com/

151:
The rise of cloud computing solutions has really hammered the
... the less than ...

The comment box needs a warning that it understands HTML – but not '<' signs!

152:

When I google for "Mild Cheddar" - a widely consumed food if not exactly a good one - I don't get supermarkets or dairies I get a rant I wrote over ten years ago.

This is in some ways something I like about google. If I want to find something to buy I usually add for sale to my search. Some times followed by an address or zip code.

153:

What has struck me, as a purveyor of a middleware solution that is deployed and making money and works, is how little interest there is in our measily little potential $20M+ a year business versus something shiny and social.

Because you're selling something that they can't analyse. At least not without hiring an outside consultant. Especially since it is not something you can touch.

Banks do best lending to businesses that sell things with reasonably well defined customer bases. An expansion of a local shoe store has metrics they can analyse. Middleware software that has a market all over the country or planet is beyond their ability to even guess at the risk.

154:

How about Rod McKuen? And thers Kipling's "The Sons of Martha" "They do not preach that their God will rouse them a little before the nuts work loose.
They do not preach that His Pity allows them to drop their job when they damn-well choose."
"Kipling wrote two science fiction stories, With the Night Mail (1905) and As Easy As A. B. C (1912), both set in the 21st century in Kipling's Aerial Board of Control universe. These read like modern hard science fiction." No they did not age well, but for their time?

155:

Dirk B @ 124
NO
"Processing power" alone is not enough.
AI will also need not just parallel-processing, but interconnections and internal feedback loops.
THEN one will get AI.
Lots ( 10^9-12? ) very samll processors arranged in a cube, with each processor connected to its' neighbours at all faces and vertices should/might do the trick

phil knoght @ 137
Mrs Ackroyd died some years ago - lovely dog - she sat on my feet and licked me!
Meanwhile, can you find your camouflage net?

Dave Bell @ 139
"I know of no frigate / like a book / to bear me to seas/ Far away
Nor any Corsair / like a page / of prancing poetry"
Quoted by H. Beam Piper - but I've no idea where he got it from.


.d brown @ 153
R K wrote a lot of other stuff that was borderline SF as well - just not as well-known.
And, of course, he was a master story-teller.
Try also "The Secret of the Machines", by the same author.

156:

A more interesting question is why weren't they paid in Tequila

An interesting question indeed, but since the Roman Empire pre-dates the discovery of North America by over 1_000 years, an easily answered one. You couldn't pay people in tequila because there weren't any Mexicoans to make it! ;-)

157:

See that and raise the Charlotte Rhodes on a downwind reach in open seas vs the Kingswear Castle sculling about the Medway. [cues up Love Theme from Spartacus as background music]

158:

"NO
"Processing power" alone is not enough.
AI will also need not just parallel-processing, but interconnections and internal feedback loops."

Of course hardware alone is not enough, but you try running the correct software on a 4MHz Z80 and see where that gets you.

Also, parallel processing is NOT necessary in theory since any serial machine can emulate any parallel machine. More generally, they are both Turing complete.

159:

Seconded, particularly para (4). Commercial Unixes have been doing this on single processors using time-division multiplexing since at least the late 1980s.

160:

Actually, the < still gets saved with the comment and one of the moderators can fix it manually if we notice; but Dave's comment just ends in mid-sentence.

161:

Ah, my mistake then. It seemed to fit the less-than pattern..

162:

There is no Frigate Like a Book
Emily Dickinson

There is no Frigate like a Book
To take us Lands away
Nor any Coursers like a Page
Of prancing Poetry –
This Traverse may the poorest take
Without oppress of Toll –
How frugal is the Chariot
That bears the Human Soul –

164:

There was a young lady...

166:

@Daevon @ 143

There is a long running difficulty with the funding gap at between $100’s k’s and $100’s m.

Below a few hundred k the individual risk is small enough that a bank can treat the loan as one of series of loans to be aggregated, the due dillegence requirements are not stringent and transaction costs are kept low by, well basically treating the loans like a sausage factory treats sausages.

For a bank $100k is not significant amount.

Above a few hundred k the exposure is sufficient that the bank (or other financial intermediary or direct investor) would really want to do some proper due dillengence. This is not cheap. It requires expensive specialists spending quite a bit of time investigating the business. The effort required to peform due dilligence on a significant loan doesn’t appear to scale much between a few million and a few hundred million.

Nor do the compliance monitoring costs once the loan is in place and nor do the costs of exiting the loan.

The basic problem, as I see it is, why spend that time and money on a $20m loan when you can spend the same time and money on a $200m loan. Hence the lack of interest your funding need is gathering.

It’s a well known problem but solutions appear to be thin on the ground.

167:

I'm not sure that panopticlick thing is a good proof of concept.

A lot of the "unique" information it was using was the specific versions of various plugins and bits of browser accessible software. That stuff changes all the time. Come back in a few weeks and it would again identify yours as a unique machine.

If I look different to your algorithm every few visits you can't track me with it too effectively.


However the real algorithms for doing this may be more sophisticated and work better than EFF's toy.

168:

Yeah, I think the point of Panopticlick is just to point out just how much potentially unique information we give away (in addition to cookies) when using the web; it's not supposed to implement actual tracking.

If the problem is that it uses too much information, it doesn't seem impossible to come up with an algorithm that uses less than everything to try and identify you. Big sites and ad networks probably already know which bits in the unique identifier change often and which do not..

169:

And moreover, the Romans didn't know how to distill alcohol, so they couldn't have made tequila even if they had sailed to Mexico and found the agaves anyway.

170:

Popeyes has decent fast food-- the Bonafide chicken is chicken on the bone, and I don't think there's any way to fake that. The spice is in the breading, not on the meat.

On the other hand, I tried their nuggets recently, they tasted like food, but a few hours later, I felt as though I'd overloaded on simple carbs.

171:

Ho Hum ..well, maybe, if you are thinking of Distillation as being an Old !8th ish Century Tech of the order of Gin/Jenever ..vile Stuff! ..of that ilk, but ...

" The origins of brandy are clearly tied to the development of distillation. Concentrated alcoholic beverages were known in ancient Greece and Rome. Brandy, as it is known today, first began to appear in the 12th century and became generally popular in the 14th century.

Initially wine was distilled as a preservation method and as a way to make the wine easier for merchants to transport. It is also thought that wine was originally distilled to lessen the tax which was assessed by volume. The intent was to add the water removed by distillation back to the brandy shortly before consumption. It was discovered that after having been stored in wooden casks, the resulting product had improved over the original distilled spirit.[5] In addition to removing water, the distillation process leads to the formation and decomposition of numerous aroma compounds, fundamentally altering the composition of the distillate from its source. Non-volatile substances such as pigments, sugars, and salts remain behind in the still. As a result, the taste of the distillate may be quite unlike that of the original source."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brandy

I suspect that Water of Life-ish sort of stuff, has been discovered by accident many times before the advent of Recorded Human History ..much as various Herbal Substances have been discovered by Medicine Men/Women and Rediscovered in Fiction by, say, that Great Mage Remy The Mouse... recognize the Brand? Remy Martin ? ...

http://www.remymartin.com/

Here we have the very essence of " Magic ".

http://www.cinemablend.com/reviews/Ratatouille-2340.html

Stuff that Other- ordinary - People Can't Sense but that the Talented can use for their own Advantage, or the Advantage of their Tribe Family or Polity that does give them an Advantage over the Others?

Not so very far off being an I.T. tech then Eh Wot?


172:

And here's the poem that got Les Barker banned from the USA

http://www.blodtandsmidigt.com/LesBarker/questions.html

173:

I've never had the privilege of working with large websites, but based on my modest experience even with small numbers recognizable pattersn emerge - we just aren't as unique as we think we are. It always fascinated me how for example, a link from site X will, day after day for a very long time will reliably send the same amount of people. These are presumably different people, every single day, but the proportions remain stable accross time based on the traffic levels of the originating site and the position/visibility of the link.

The kind of real time experiments they can run with the numbers fb or others can play with must be really interesting. I think okcupid is one site that regularly blogs about this sort of large number experimentation

174:

Looks like I'm probably screwed then.

175:

Dave Bell @ 162

Kipling & SF & Fantasy - I've remembered the title which I was straining for - it was:
Tomlinson
Try that for size?

176:

"R K wrote a lot of other stuff that was borderline SF as well" Yeah, I read all that two towns libraries had back in school. and there was more SF. it knocked my socks off when i found it. Most of his work still gets the blood up. But "The Sons of Martha" matters now more than ever in this world. I read somewhere that baked wine (brandy)was invented by a Dutch shipper in the 1600s so more could be shipped and then add water back. It had more of kick too and never needed the water. And I bet that was the main thing. I don't think distillation goes all that far back. Its one of those thing that could have. But I don't think was. I know I could be wrong there, if so i missed it.

177:

I think that I shall never see
A billboard lovely as a tree
Perhaps unless the billboards fall
I'll never see a tree at all

- Ogden Nash

178:

Say, everybody knows what alcohol does to lead right. So early brandy, etc likely was like bad moonshine. Right? What would this do to the class of people who could pay for it. Or to the later poor, gin drinking class.

179:

Lead is far too soft to resist pressurised steam, surely? As far as I know distillation has used either glass or copper since the 1500s.

180:

Emerging poet whose tracks are performance pieces set to music rather than songs: E.M.A.

See, "California", and the Pitchfork writeup.

http://pitchfork.com/reviews/tracks/12152-california/

181:

'Pressurised'? What sort of still are you using? The ones I've seen in commercial whisky distilleries in England and Ireland run at normal atmospheric pressure.

Also, lead pipes in houses are quite capable of holding up against pressures into the fractional bar region, and have been since Roman times.

(If there was enough pressure to cause lead problems, I really don't want to think of it inside pre-modern glass.)

182:
You couldn't pay people in tequila because there weren't any Mexicoans to make it! ;-)

A mere technicality!

That said, is that persistent rumour about cocaine being detected in the wrappings of Egyptian mummy's wrappings true and hence implications of trade between the ancient european world and South America?

183:

Or is it

(a) contamination from a previous or neighbouring test in the same lab or worker?

(b) evidence of a smuggle using the mummy as a concealement - or the use of the container on a previous occasion.

(c) evidence a particular archaeologist, student or worker who handled the mummy liked a bit of the stuff (perhaps not even now but in the 1920's?)

(d) evidence a now-extinct local plant produced similar chemicals

184:

" That said, is that persistent rumour about cocaine being detected in the wrappings of Egyptian mummy's wrappings true and hence implications of trade between the ancient european world and South America? "

Ho Hum, well, maybe - but that does sound suspiciously Erich von Däniken " Chariots of The Gods " ish doesn't it? On the other Paw ...


" Up To 90 Percent Of US Paper Money Contains Traces Of Cocaine, Study Finds " ..


http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/08/090816211843.htm


And we can be utterly certain that non of the scientists that did the mummy autopsies were using Cocaine eh? Oh perish the thought! Or the thought that said scientists might have been a tad less rigorous in their anti contamination procedures than might have been desirable?

185:

" (c) evidence a particular archaeologist, student or worker who handled the mummy liked a bit of the stuff (perhaps not even now but in the 1920's?) "

Or even a bit earlier than that .. in the Victorian Age of Fashionable Egyptology ?

" Pure cocaine was first extracted and identified in the mid-1800's and was introduced as a tonic / elixir to treat a wide variety of real or imagined illnesses. Later, it was used as a local anesthetic in eye, nose, and throat surgeries. Its more famous 19th century proponents included the psychiatrist Sigmund Freud, who described it as a "magical drug" with the ability to ease the symptoms of depression, alcoholism, and morphine addiction. To the disdain of Dr. Watson, Sherlock Holmes made frequent use of cocaine's apparent ability to increase mental powers and reduce fatigue. Until the turn of the century, cocaine could even be found in Coca-Cola. It was made illegal after World War I, except for medical purposes. "


http://www.clarkprosecutor.org/html/substnce/crack.htm


And of course there were the Mummy Unwrapping Parties ...


http://www.history.com/videos/mummies-mummy-unwrapping-parties#mummies-mummy-mania


Well, they didn't have television you know and so they had to make their own fun.

186:

Today's drinking water copper joints should not be made with lead. That said I did a lot of them not long ago. What were old stills sealed with? Lead I bet. Some moonshiners still use lead and poison people.
The old time Wall Street rich got rich from making bubbles and selling out and selling short on them. From what I read they still do. The people who think they are rich from the stock they worked for, in startups usually can't sell their stock before it drops. The investors can and do.

187:

Its more famous 19th century proponents included

It was an ingredient for a long while in Coca Cola. All you needed for a mild hit was a $.05

188:

Distillation has used pottery or glass for well over a thousand years. The earliest alembics etc seem mostly to have been pottery, although Zosimos in the early 3rd century AD describes the use of copper pipes soldered into a copper or bronze still head; the question is at which time did they start to use glass? I don't know yet, but suspect the Moslem countries were doing so by the 8th century AD.
There is mention of a lead alembic in the 14th century book on how to run a household, the name of which I have temporarily forgotten. Certainly by 1500 or so copper was being used in Western Surope, but I would expect it to have been in use much earlier than that.

As for distillation of wine to produce spirits, C. Anne Wilson suggests that it goes back about 2,000 years and was a secret of the Cathars. Several of the things described in both Gnostic and Catha rituals, such as anointing the head with burning stuff, can be explained by the use of concentrated ethanol.
Certainly by the late 13th century in Europe, the various orders of Friars and Monks were banning the practise of alchemy, partly because it was theologically suspect and took the practitioners away from their prayers etc, but also it is suggested because they were busy preparing spirits and getting drunk on them.
So in the early 14th century a pseudonymous writer writing under the name of Raymond Lull wrote a book which mentioned the quintessence, which was a sort of spirit. And apparently mentioned the use of copperside tubes for the distillation, so they were likely using it then. Anyway, this was all taken up with great gusto across Europe, culiminating in the Book fo the Quintesssence in England in the mmid 15th century. Which tells you how to treat all sorts of illnesses using quintessence of gold and suchlike, and the use of burning water, i.e. spirits of wine.

189:

#169, 171 and 182 - Guys, the comment about Mexicoans in #156 was a Buffy reference.

Also, regarding the various speculations about hot distilling, why has no-one else considered the possibility of the Romans freeze-distilling wines?

190:

Because it is a possibility but nobody has claimed to have found any evidence for it. Feel free to trawl through the primary archives of the period.
According to Wilson, it was done in 7th century Tufan in China.

191:

The Romans freeze-distilling wines?

I'd consider that unlikely. If you consider the required local climate to freeze distil, and the required local climate to grow vines for wine, I'd guess there's little overlap. I'd rather expect that level of cold to kill young vines, at least with Roman vines and viticulture.

The Romans looked at places like Provence as the hot places for new wines, not the frozen north.

Sure, you could ship wine from the growing areas to the sufficiently cold areas, but how likely is it that the wine would then be put out to freeze rather than drunk.

192:

Ok, I can see the transport issue as exactly that, but all you need to do freeze distillation is an unheated building that can be secured against thieves and will reach around -10C for significant periods.
With this being the Romans it would be legitimate to ask where the records are, but it's not legitimate to say that there's no plant, because you don't need plant in the first place!

193:

-10C for significant periods? Perhaps the famous Roman colony in Stockholm?

Seriously, I can't think of anywhere in the Roman empire where the climate is consistently that bad, and that they'd have considered it worth colonising to any great extent. In Germany, they really didn't go much east of Cologne/Colonia. And while it can get pretty miserable up near Hadrian's Wall, trying to develop an industry based on the occasional really, really, cold spells would be nightmarish.

In the end, one of the major reasons for distillation is to make the product easier to transport. If you have to transport the feedstock further than you wanted to transport the distillate in the first place, it's rather silly.

It's not an impossible technology, I agree. I just find it deeply implausible. It's something that needs cold, and the one thing the Romans didn't like was cold.

194:

True, as far as we know they didn't freeze wine. But it does seem that at least a few rich Romans had ice houses, and there was some trade in chilled drinks.

There is no lack of snow and ice. Italy has Alps. They highest mountain in Italy is higher than the highest mountain in the contiguous United States. There is permanent snow within sight of many of the large northern cities. Not easy to get to admittedly... There is no shortaage of winter freezing - lots of very habital parts of Italy and Provence have colder winters than we do in England. There are lakes that freeze over.

As for vines, in fact they grow fine in places that have cold winters, they are a very cold hardy plant and don't leaf till May. But they want plenty of sun, and plenty of water, when bulking up their fruit in September and October, which is too late for frost-free growth in most of northern and central Europe - but then they have ice wine in Hungary and Germany

195:

Maybe in the modern era distillation is important to make ethanol easier to transport, but in medieval europe all the records are quite clear on it being done in order to make this amazing healing liquid that makes cares fly away and makes you feel younger and happier. Oh, and it burns easily as well, clearly it contains a lot of fire and thus has a lightening effect on your body.

196:

@Danieldwilliam - I'll be clear here. I don't think you'll get much luck getting a bank to lend you sums in the sub-$100K range.

We needed to run an overdraft recently as a wire payment was slow being processed. It was practically impossible. Thanks to a good personal business banker and a lot of phone calls we didn't have anything bounce but it took a lot of work, and that was for a $1000 business Overdraft so we could pay a tax bill on time.

They'll lend individuals small sums of unsecured credit again but not companies.

Specials

Merchandise

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Charlie Stross published on May 9, 2012 11:26 AM.

AFK was the previous entry in this blog.

This is what the future of the EU hinges on is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

Search this blog

Propaganda