The Frugal Algorithm: begin as you mean to go

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

Once I decided on the Frugal Algorithm as the name of this new site, I checked to see if the domain was still available. It was, and for the trivial amount of $30.00 or so dollars for the domain, private registration, and ICANN fee, it would be mine.

Hold on a sec, though. Thirty dollars is a tank of gas, a donation of food for a family of four for a week, not to mention three albums of digital music, or a couple of DVDs. The money would be worth it, if the domain was worth it, but the question is: is the domain worth it?

At one time, it was important to have an easy to remember domain name for your site. After all, we had to hand type in the domain addresses when we wanted to visit the site. However, that was in the days before most sites were found via link from others, or search engine results. Having one domain is important, because you can’t depend on owning the same IP address forever. But you don’t need to have a domain for every interest, itch, and thought that crosses your mind. Big companies might need domains, but the small business owner, organization, or individual can get by with one domain. Just one.

It would be a sad commentary on this site if my first act in creating it was to spend money I didn’t need to spend. Thirty dollars doesn’t seem like much, but it adds up. Not only would I need to obtain the domain for The Frugal Algorithm, but I’d also need to renew my domain for MissouriGreenSecret of Signals, and the domain, for Just Shelley. Yet, I doubt that anyone has ever looked at the domain names for the sites, much less typed the domains into a browser’s address bar.

I hestitated on not renewing MissouriGreen, as eventually I’d like to get a jacket with the name of the site embroidered on it, so when I take photos at events, people know where to look to see if their picture appears. But if I display “MissouriGreen” on the back. rather than “”, people will just look up “MissouriGreen” in Google and find the site. And though it may seem as if my encouraging the use of Google will melt the polar ice caps and drown baby polar bears, I have a feeling from an environmental perspective, it’s all a wash.

Look how much money I’ll save buy not buying the new domain, or renewing the old ones. I estimate I’ll save about $150.00 a year in domain fees, and that’s a conservative estimate. That’s enough money to pay half of my annual server fees, sponsor Crackers for a year, or buy 15 books for my Kindle.

Ummm, 15 books for my Kindle…OK, OK, I’ll split the difference: Crackers gets half, the server gets paid this month, and I’ll get those three history books I’ve been wanting.

Art Money

Stop creating and get a real job

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

I don’t know that I agree with Nick Carr’s assessment that the Bebo deal is equivalent to sharecropping. Anyone who contributes anything to any social networking site should be aware that what they contribute will eventually be monetized in some way by the site owner. In other words, if you want to give it away for free so that others profit, I don’t necessarily have a lot of sympathy.

I did like what Broadstuff had to say on the issue, though.

A good rule of thumb with the mass Tech Media is that when such howls of outrage are heard, the howlee is generally onto something. And what Bragg is articulating in essence is this simple thought – the only real difference between the New Music Aggregators and the (automatically despised) Olde Aggregators is that the Olde Industry actually paid the artists something.

That, in a nutshell, is the bottom line on this discussion. It’s not whether the artists knew they weren’t going to get paid or not, but the fact that we hold social networks like Bebo up to high acclaim while sneering at the old record companies, when both groups profit from the efforts of the artist. However, it is only the old companies, those badies, that actually pay for music. Even if the payment is considered miniscule, it is pay and is a whole more than you’ll ever get for your efforts at Bebo or any other site that promises you “fame”.

The intrinsic value of fame on Bebo aside, I am irked to see this discussion used, yet again, for the cry that all art demands to be free and that artists should be happy with getting attention. If artists want to pay the rent or buy food, then they should get a “real” job, and quit whining because people download their stuff for free.

According to people like Michael Arrington all recorded music should be given away for free, and artists make their only income from concerts. If they can’t make their living from concerts, or busking for tossed dimes in the subway, than they should consider music to be their hobby, and get a job digging ditches.

Of course, if we apply the Arrington model to the music industry, we should be able to download all the songs we want–as long as we’re willing to sit through an ad at the beginning and in the middle of every song. Isn’t that how Techcrunch makes money? Ads in the sidebar, taking time to download, hanging up the page. Ads at the bottom of the posts we have to scroll past to get to comments? And in between, loud, cacophonous noise?

It angers me how little value people in this online environment hold the act of creativity. Oh we point to Nine Inch Nails and Cory Doctorow as examples of people who give their work away for free but still make a living. Yet NIN levies an existing fame, selling platinum packages at several hundred a pop to make up for all the freebies, and Doctorow has BoingBoing as a nice cushion for the lean years. They bring “fame” to the mix, and according to the new online business models, you have to play the game, leverage the system if you really want to make a living from your work. We don’t value the work, we value the fame, yet fame doesn’t necessarily come from any act of true creativity.

All you have to do to generate fame nowadays is be controversial enough, say enough that’s outrageous, connect up with the right people in the beginning and then kick them aside when you’re on top to be successful. You don’t have to have artistic talent, create for the ages, or even create at all–just play the game. If you do it right, you get Techcrunch. If you do it wrong, there’s the ditch.

Though I may not agree completely with what Nick wrote in the previously linked post, I agree wholeheartedly to what he wrote in a follow-up post, written in response to Arrington’s statement, Recorded music is nothing but marketing material to drive awareness of an artist.

As a poem, one assumes, is nothing but marketing material to drive awareness of a poet. As a sculpture is nothing but marketing material to drive awareness of a sculptor. As a film is nothing but marketing material to drive awareness of a director.

In the fallen world of the social network, “awareness” is the highest, most noble accomplishment that anyone could possibly aspire to. Because, you see, “awareness” is a monetizable commodity.

In a world where the only measure of success is attention, can anyone truly be great?

Money People

Obscene Math

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

I was a double major in university, psychology and computer science. Double majors weren’t all that unusual, except that most doubles were in fields that had some class overlap, such as computer science and math. The only overlap I had in my two fields were statistics courses. I could take undergraduate and graduate level statistics classes in the psych department to meet a portion of my computer science math requirements.

There were only two of us signed up for graduate level statistics class, so the professor had us meet in his office. The statistics were so complicated, we had to use computers and software created in the days before “usability” was a criteria for all of our course work. I’ve since managed to forget most of my statistics training except for one valuable lesson: don’t trust statistics. If you’re determined, you can manipulate statistics to prove any point, regardless of how extreme.

A case in point is a New York Times op piece by two gentlemen, Michael Cox and Richard Alm, from the Federal Reserve Bank in Dallas. According to their statistics, there really aren’t two separate classes, rich and poor, in this country. In fact, the poor live a comparable lifestyle to the rich.

Income statistics, however, don’t tell the whole story of Americans’ living standards. Looking at a far more direct measure of American families’ economic status — household consumption — indicates that the gap between rich and poor is far less than most assume, and that the abstract, income-based way in which we measure the so-called poverty rate no longer applies to our society […] if we compare the incomes of the top and bottom fifths, we see a ratio of 15 to 1. If we turn to consumption, the gap declines to around 4 to 1. A similar narrowing takes place throughout all levels of income distribution. The middle 20 percent of families had incomes more than four times the bottom fifth. Yet their edge in consumption fell to about 2 to 1.

The data the authors use to perform their statistics is based on the fact that though rich people invest or bank their extra income, while poor families “magically” live beyond their means, they all “consume equally” and therefore are more equal than not.

Of course, Cox and Alm gloss over the fact that most poor people are overridden in debt, barely keeping ahead of bankruptcy in order to indulge in frivolous expenditures like medical treatment.

No, Aunt Sally has a 19 inch color TV in her mobile home while Aunt May has a 60 inch top of the line plasma TV in her pad overlooking Central Park, so there really is no difference between the two.

It’s true that the share of national income going to the richest 20 percent of households rose from 43.6 percent in 1975 to 49.6 percent in 2006, the most recent year for which the Bureau of Labor Statistics has complete data. Meanwhile, families in the lowest fifth saw their piece of the pie fall from 4.3 percent to 3.3 percent.

Income statistics, however, don’t tell the whole story of Americans’ living standards.

Speechless. I’m just…speechless…

update More from Paul Krugman and Dean Baker, especially in regards to flawed sampling forming the basis for the pretty charts.

update 2 Excellent commentary from The Big Picture, who focuses only on exposing the flaws in the statistics applied (because there’s not enough time to expose all the other flaws in the writing).


I can’t be the only one

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

…depressed by all the news of buying and selling this week, can I?

The web site, which is supposed to track technology related items of interest reads more like the Wallstreet Journal. There were some vague mumblings about tags coming out of Web 2.0, but most of the story from this pricey event is about which company bought what service, including Verisign buying and AOL buying the Weblogsinc web site.

Verisign and AOL. Knowing both of these company’s backgrounds, I’m sure these two organizations will add much to the environment. Family values and hard-ass corporate greed, all rolled up into one taffy-like ball.

About the only true tech story was Newsgator buying NetNewsWire, but that’s probably because I’ve been working with the Newsgator API this week.

Thankfully, money can’t buy everything: Happy Birthday Wood s lot–may you continue your apostrophe-less presence for many years to come.