UPDATED 08:09 EST / MAY 27 2010

Technologists: A Call For A MetaPolitical Party

Recently, I argued with Fred Wilson until he changed his mind about Net Neutrality.

I’ll explain the stuff he had to grant later, but the greater point and what has disturbed me is that Fred is a guy who nails it so routinely it boggles the mind; but even he is more than willing to get cozy with DC.

And now we have Danah Boyd muttering regulation of Facebook is inevitable… as a public utility.   Imagine Russian billionaire Yuri Milner upon reading a Microsoft researcher argue we can expect a Socialist takeover of a private company he’s investing in like mad.

The mind reels.   Sorry there, Yuri.  So before I go any further, let me make this clear:

Technologists trump government employees.

What does do I mean by technologist?  If you believe government ought or should be an active “decider” in our sector of the economy, you are not a technologist.  You are a statist/socialist/corporatist paying lip-service to geeks.  Own it.   If “on just this one issue…” you think tech needs regulation, you are either not a true believer in technology, or far worse, you are a true believer whose short-term interest is rent seeking.

This isn’t really even debatable. It is almost a tautology because of this maxim: Technology does all the things government takes credit for.  Only technology raises the living standard for people.   Only technology delivers 500 channels of HDTV, keeps food longer, provides 50Mbps broadband, boils water, gets 31MPG out of a Ford Mustang, creates jobs, and cures AIDS. The list is endless.

And yet we allow our nation to forget.   During the last twenty years, when wages have been stagnant for the middle class, we have still dramatically raised their standard of living.

Let me repeat that to the technologists: Only we have raised the middle class standard of living.

Clothes are cheaper and more fashionable for a broad array of lifestyles.  Custom made still grows far more common.   People don’t get lost when they are driving.   1.9% of our population produces all our food, while the variety of flavors and quality of cooking continues to increase.  $30 a year provides you unlimited nationwide calling.  Drugs that were under patent are now generic.   My daughters know how to video conference before they know how to read.

And our government, in its current construct, gets in our way.

Why?   Because there is no running measure of government productivity; there is no downward pressure on government headcount.   As such, when the agents of government must choose between improving our lives or improving their own, we get the high hard one – every friggin time.   And government employees are not as smart as we are.

This is not to say we must end government.  This is not an anarcho-capitalist screed.  This isn’t a libertarian treatise.  You can be a progressive technologist. You can demand, expect, and help provide a safety net for the poor.   You can (under certain circumstances) vote for Obama in 2012.   And while I personally would love it if you also scream to end Ag Subsidies… that isn’t required to be a technologist.  And you should be a technologist.

The Technologist Party

I’m calling on geeks everywhere to think radically anew about government.   Instead of getting excited about the web being used for politics, instead of rejoicing the government has a CTO, let’s get real.  Let’s take over. Let’s exclusively support politicians that promise to turn over archaic government procedures to thousands of web start-ups.

And we certainly cannot sit idly by while the bureaucrats try to corrupt us.

Technologists recognize that our world moves far too fast to be regulated.   It is the line we don’t cross.   To cross the line is to doom the people.   To doom them with higher costs and less life improvements.  As government will not be raising real wages anytime soon, it is up to us to make wages worth more.

Making things cheaper is patriotic.


“Productivity,” is the manna we have rained down on the US economy. Productivity has driven down the cost of everything in our lives for the last twenty years.

Except government. Think on that. While every modern company has provided more for less, government has sat on its fat ass.

As an example: Social Security. It’s a simple depository service. Sign-up is a breeze. Problems only arise because a small amount are still allowed to receive checks. But we have 67,000 Social Security employees spread out over 1600 local offices (imagine the overhead). Many of these are call center workers, easily costing us well over $100K a year per employee.  They handle only one call per social security recipient all year.

Compare that to Live Ops. Operators work from home. Most are moms. 80% have college degrees. They make $1.57 per call.  Eight calls per hour.

If Live Ops took over those calls?  Just under $180M per year (which includes a 100% markup over labor).

A technologist hears this comparison and knows EXACTLY what to do. This single example is enough for a technologist to immediately view government productivity as our next boom. Anyone who claims membership in Web2.0 starts to analyze the cost savings, thinking through an API, the call routing, the ever improving call scripts, the IVR, the voice response.

This is what GOV2.0 truly means.   Now contrast this with Tim O’Reilly’s GOV2.0 Expo in DC.   The entire thing reads like a menu of panel discussions where no one says, “FIRE PUBLIC EMPLOYEES.”  Am I missing something?   Where’s the god damn cost savings?

The closest thing we see is Tim’s “Government As A Platform.” And let me be clear, if the primary function of said platform is not an Open API to promote automation, and cost reduction through online self-service and outsourcing, then Tim = FAIL.   And he needs to let go of the conch.

I’ve been making this argument over at Brietbart’s Big Government in a series promoting GOV2.0.  I’d invite you to peruse Napsterized Education.   We’re talking about TRILLIONS in cost savings, and new Billion Dollar start-ups with just one small change in the law (Creative Commons licensing).

The Oil Spill

This is the web site of Mineral Management Service.   (Nice wall map).  They were supposed to be regulating Big Oil.   Anybody out there think they could dream up a web platform to track regulators and:

1. keep them from surfing porn at work.

2. publish their email and calendar in real time so reporters could see who bought their football tickets.

3. examine their cell phone bill / credit history to figure out if they were childhood friends with anyone  in the Oil industry.

One small little Sunshine on the Regulators app could be used across government and save us how many billions?   If we are just as invasive as Apple, we might not even have to Audit the Fed.

Net Neutrality

So here’s where Fred went wrong.  And admitted it. Right now, Big Cable alone is able to build a display advertising network that can hurt Google’s grip overnight.

My “MassiveAd” example: By offering to double your down speed connection if you opt-in to their new ad network, cable announces it will provide 10Mbps full screen interactive video ad experiences to opt-in users, but only to those brands that pay a premium to have their MassiveAd hosted directly inside the cable headend in a flash (RAM) based server.  For inventory, they offer publishers a code snippet that replaces banners from other ad networks for opt-in subscribers; they pay publishers 50% more for that ad space.

Cable subscribers benefit from the discounted Wideband service.   Publishers benefit from the revenue.   All Internet users benefit because publishers have more money to spend on content.

Who doesn’t benefit?  Google?  The FCC?   More importantly, who cares if they don’t benefit?   Not a technologist.   A technologist just wants bigger, faster, better, cheaper.

Those who argue for Net Neutrality pretend we are in danger of a tax or fee being imposed by Cable, which is a crazy daydream compared to the obvious Net Neutering of Google’s competition.   But when Genachowski gets done, by simply prioritizing its own ad service, Cable could be accused of taxing the rest of the web, which is obviously not the case.

Even though Cable might not currently be an Information Service, doesn’t mean they can’t be one in the future – TV Everywhere anyone?   And when, not if, they create one – they deserve the right to exploit their native advantages.

We are the ones, after all, who benefit.

This is my entrepreneurial plea to Fred and anyone else still hoping to steal ISP cake: WE CAN MAKE FAR MORE BANK with an aggressive posture towards GOV2.0.

But if you people keep empowering the government by asking for their help on your pet causes, we won’t have the juice to feast on their GOV1.0 bones.


Danah is not a technologist.  Whatever she is… is very, very dangerous to technologists.  There isn’t much to be said here.  She’s very angry.  So am I.   She doesn’t want to quit using Facebook.  Neither do I.

That at this point in Facebook’s early life, Danah expects to regulate them as a utility is profoundly disturbing.   But hopefully, those people (Hi Fred) who still harbor some desire to seek rent in DC with Net Neutrality, will get a sick feeling in their belly how quickly the empowered government official starts to listen to people like Danah, and think about other ways to regulate technology.

We have to quit government regulation cold turkey.   Any agency strong enough to fuck your competition, is strong enough to fuck you. Thus it has always been, and will ever be.

Our proud hacker history

The Internet was built by a mindset far more like Moot, than people like Danah. From Captain Midnight to The Well. From Mitnick to Slashdot. Government does not love free expression. We do. Government does not love tinkerers. We do. Government does not love us.  But we do. Instead, we need to put our faith in guys like Reed Hastings; who even though he’d benefit in the short-term from Net Neutrality or ending TV Everywhere… he’s circumspect about involving government in our baby.  Reed, thanks.

Let me go further, after these twenty years, it is time to flex our muscles.   We don’t need to ask DC for anything.   We can tell them, and the voters, how it should be.   ALL of the voters are us, or they use our web sites, our software, they are our customers, we touch them daily more than newspapers, TV News, and radio combined. It won’t take much for us to promote the politicians who will leave us alone.

Don’t be afraid to remind your users that technology can save them money in DC. That their tax dollars can go FAR further.   That (gasp), they might not have to pay more in taxes after all.  Don’t be afraid of Politicians.   They are laughingly Luddite. They are easily scared off. Tell them our stuff is too complicated, and they will never understand. They will believe us.

VC!  And technologists everywhere! DONATE. But have a single voting issue that trumps all others, a single issue that if traded on, kills your support for any candidate. If they will not guarantee measurable productivity gains in government through technology, automation and outsourcing… do not support them.

The Meta Move: Close your checkbook

The regulation of technology, the picking of winners, the taxing of transactions, packet inspection–any further involvement of government in the Internet–if your candidate doesn’t forswear this, keep your wallet in your pocket.  Even if you can’t support the other girl or guy, don’t aid in your own destruction.  Don’t let the suits sit at our table.

We have to stand united. We know Game Theory. We understand the Prisoner’s dilemma. The only way for us to all go free, is to refuse to narc on anyone else. The true lesson is that we can’t negotiate with government employees and win. In the words of genius Thomas Sowell:

You are opening the floodgates to arbitrary power. And once you open the floodgates, you can’t tell the water where to go.

So let’s get corny. Reach out, touch your screen, and join me.  Quietly join the  Technologist Party.  We will support any candidate, support any agenda but only if they bow to our sole demand:  they will leave us alone while we save the country.

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