February 12th, 2003


Choice. Diversity. Equity. You can't have all three.

An interesting article. So, if you rail and battle against the evil of inequity, face the music. Which are you willing to kill? Choice? Or diversity?
Because it seems that the law is "Choice. Diversity. Equity. Pick no more than two."

Power Laws, Weblogs, and Inequality

Prior to recent theoretical work on social networks, the usual explanations invoked individual behaviors: some members of the community had sold out, the spirit of the early days was being diluted by the newcomers, et cetera. We now know that these explanations are wrong, or at least beside the point. What matters is this: Diversity plus freedom of choice creates inequality, and the greater the diversity, the more extreme the inequality.

In systems where many people are free to choose between many options, a small subset of the whole will get a disproportionate amount of traffic (or attention, or income), even if no members of the system actively work towards such an outcome. This has nothing to do with moral weakness, selling out, or any other psychological explanation. The very act of choosing, spread widely enough and freely enough, creates a power law distribution.

Open Source is Cool, a small fix to Gaim IRC

I keep Gaim running on my laptop. Gaim is an instant messanger client that speaks multiple IM protocols, such as AIM/ICQ, YM, Jabber, and IRC.

The IRC protocol defines an error code, "422", which the server sends the client on login whenever the server doesn't have a "Message of the Day" file. Having Gaim pop up a warning dialog every time it starts or reconnects, just because an IRC server operator forget to create a file, got to be very annoying.

After complaining on the gaim-dev mailing list, I decided to invoke the open source guarantee ("if it's broken, you can fix it"). I pulled down the latest CVS sources, rebuilt Gaim, then found the IRC protocol module, and put in code to catch and ignore the 422 error. It worked great.

I've submitted the patch back to the Gaim SourceForge project page and also directly to the maintainer. Hopefully it will be incorporated.

Total turnaround? Less than half an hour. I've spent that long sitting ON HOLD on a CSR line to report a bug and ask for a fix, on a product with a five digit purchase price and a 24/7 "gold" support contract.
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