Come to TEDMed -- SMART Letter #83 (fwd)

Eugen Leitl
Tue, 28 Jan 2003 12:57:21 +0100 (CET)

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Tue, 28 Jan 2003 04:21:45 -0500
From: David S. Isenberg <>
Subject: Come to TEDMed -- SMART Letter #83

            SMART Letter #83 -- January 27, 2003
            Copyright 2003 by David S. Isenberg - "real news, fair and balanced" -- -- 1-888-isen-com

>  Quote of Note: Larry Lessig on the Price of Connectivity
>  Come to TedMed, by David S. Isenberg
>  Smart Remarks by SMART People
  + Juha Saarinen on New Zealand's Broadband Situation
  + ??? on U.S. Telcos Investing in New Zealand
  + Steve Maloney on E911 services
  + Chris Meyer on national-security-hardened networks
  + Rohit Khare on physical plant assurance
>  Beware Telco FUD, by David S. Isenberg 
>  Quote of Note:  Disney's Rodent, on Life as a Kept Mouse
>  If it's Funny it Must be True, by Scatt Oddams
>  Conferences on my Calendar
>  Copyright Notice, Administrivia

Quote of Note: Larry Lessig on the Price of Connectivity

  "To repeat again, here in Japan, they are selling 100 
   megabits per second for US$50/month, 12 mbs for $25." 

Larry Lessig in his blog, January 4, 2002,

Come to TEDMed
by David S. Isenberg

If you want to be part of a superlative meeting, come to 
Richard Saul Wurman's TEDMed, June 11-14 in Philadelphia,

Richard Saul Wurman is my conference guru.  He does the 
best conferences I've ever been to.  TED stands for 
Technology, Entertainment, Design.  Actually, Design should 
come between Technology and Entertainment, because design 
is the presentation of technology to people -- so it 
appeals to people, and can be used by people.  
Unfortunately, TDE doesn't trip off the tongue as readily 
as TED.

Wurman's conferences are more than ways to "get 
information."  They're much, much more than people on stage 
talking.  He designs his shows like a great chef prepares 
food -- presentation matters.  There's "there" there.  You 
don't just experience Wurman's events; you experience the 

There's a meeting by the name of TED in Monterey, 
California next month, but it won't have Richard Saul 
Wurman.  Wurman sold TED, keeping only the rights to 
TEDMed.  If you've never been to TED (or maybe even if you 
have) it's likely to be a very good meeting.  A lot of 
superb presenters will be there.  "But it just wouldn't be 
appropriate for me to show up," Wurman says.  

I've done the experiment.  I've been to two consecutive 
TED-type events, one with Richard Saul Wurman and one 

The first one was named TEDCity.  It was held in Toronto; a 
Canada-flavored TED.  It was co-hosted by Wurman and TV 
innovator/entrepreneur Moses Znaimer.  From the surreally 
lit Chihuly stage to the bisonburger hors d'oeuvres, it was 
transcendent.  I effused about it to savor the experience 
for a few more days in "SMART Letter #40 -- You Can't See 
*THAT* on TV," see

The second one was renamed ideaCity due to a minor business 
disagreement between Wurman and Znaimer.  It was Znaimer's 
show.  It was good.  But it was more a mirror reflecting 
Canada's values than a Canada-colored lens through which to 
examine our world.  I felt uncomfortable at times; from the 
U.S., eh?  I learned a lot, but I did not feel my horizon 
expand.  I didn't write it up in The SMART Letter.

Why Med?  The medical establishment is the least well-
understood, poorest designed, major sector of the economy.  
Perforce, we're all investors.  And we're all customers -- 
or will be soon, boomers.  Hey, if food can be designed, if 
meetings and houses and roads and music can be designed, 
why not medical care?  

To Wurman, design is about access.  TEDMed is about making 
the ideas, the technology, the performance of medical care 
accessible to us.  Sure there will be doctors at TEDMed, 
most notably Oliver Sacks.  Of course pharmacologists, 
technologists, innovators, natural healers and 
entrepreneurs will be there.  But there will also be 
musicians, artists, extraordinary patients and tenacious 
survivors.  The details are still coming together at

I visited Richard Saul Wurman at his home in Newport, Rhode 
Island a few weeks ago with my friend Ted Stout.  I asked 
him what he thought about the fact that more people die 
from information accidents in hospitals than die in car 

He said, "Medical care is delivered by people.  People 
screw up.  If you have to go to the hospital, the best 
thing you can take is an advocate -- a friend who can ask 
questions, use common sense, look over the nurse's shoulder 
and call somebody if your condition changes."

He went on.  "When I go for a physical, I get them to draw 
double blood.  They send the samples to two different labs.  
A 'miss' can hurt you more than a false positive."  He 
continued, "It's insurance against mistaking your sample 
for someone else's -- a mistake that's more common than 
we'd like to believe."  I wonder how many SMART People's 
lives will be saved by this little trick.

I arrived at Wurman's house fully prepared to plunk down my 
US$3000 admission to TEDMed.  I wanted him to know first 
hand how much I valued his work.  But he surprised me.  He 
offered to comp me if I'd write up TEDMed in The SMART 
Letter.  I felt honored.  Wurman explained that he wants 
SMART People in the audience.  

To Wurman, the design of the audience is as critical to the 
architecture of the event as the design of the stage or the 
sessions or the breaks.  In TEDs past, I've been able to 
turn to my left or right with reasonable certainty of 
meeting a delightfully surprising individual.  

So if you're SMART, you'll realize that you need a more 
accessible understanding of the processes that could extend 
your life.  You'll want to experience TEDMed.  Come and be 
part of Richard Saul Wurman's grand design.  

Smart Remarks by SMART People

Juha Saarinen [] writes:

  "I enjoyed your report from Wellington [In Trans-Pacific 
   Tour, part two -- SMART Letter #81].  However, 
   Wellington isn't typical -- it is the political centre 
   of New Zealand, but not the business centre.  Auckland 
   is NZ's sprawling business centre, with a million-plus-

  "You might expect Auckland to have at least as good 
   network connectivity as Wellington, right?  
   Unfortunately, that's not the case.  

  "If you are outside Auckland's central business district 
   (CBD), your only option, apart from modems, is Telecom 
   NZ's DSL.  Telecom has priced DSL at ridiculous levels.  
   Residential customers pay NZ$89 a month (plus phone line 
   rental, plus other small telco charges) -- and there's a 
   quota of 1 Gigabyte of data per month.  After 1 
   Gigabyte, you pay NZ$0.20 per MB, very expensive for 
   most NZ customers.  Business users can get a 10 Gigabyte 
   per month plan for NZ$999 (12 cents/Megabyte excess).

  "In Auckland's CBD, there are more options.  I'm a 
   regular contributor to IDG publications, and recently we 
   upgraded IDG's offices to a 10 Mbit/s Ethernet over 
   fibre connection, which costs $1,200 a month, plus 12.5% 
   GST, but there are no traffic charges.  It's a very good 

  "Last April I visited Telecom NZ's new lab in Wellington.  
   I spoke with the people behind the design of Telecom's 
   DSL network.  They told me that a 'sales decision' was 
   made to dummy down the DSL offer so it wouldn't 
   cannibalise Telecom's dedicated data circuit revenues.

  "Telecom NZ is surprised that very few customers are 
   taking them up on such 'generous' DSL offers.  Most 
   people prefer their NZ$30/month 56K modem connections.  
   The latest figures I saw showed that Telecom NZ has 
   23,000 DSL customers in a potential market of 350,000 

  "One-way satellite (like is also 
   available.  According to the Web site, it offers burst 
   speeds of 1 Mbit/s, but no performance guarantee.  It 
   seems to cost between NZ$25-30 a month for 500MB (a bit 
   tricky to figure from their information), or twice that 
   for 1GB. And you need about $40/month for the extra 
   phone line for the upstream connection.

  "Wireless providers like Walker Wireless also service the 
   CBD, but they have hefty charges for low-speed service.  

[Walker Wireless is providing fixed local loop and wireless 
data competition to Telecom NZ in places on the South 
Island, but I did not get the story first hand when I was 
there. -- David I]

  "Who's going to pay top dollar for a substandard service 
   with unpredictable billing?  Most customers would accept 
   that geographical isolation makes international data 
   cost more.  However, very few can see the benefit of 
   going from $30 month connection to one that could cost 
   up to ten times more, especially if you get hit with a 
   DoS (Denial of Service) attack.

  "When you attribute per-megabyte charges to Telecom's 
   scarcity-based pricing of Southern Cross capacity, you 
   couldn't be more right.  But it's not just Southern 
   Cross traffic that's being milked for the last penny.  
   National traffic, which should essentially be free, is 
   also being overcharged by Telecom.

  "Ironically, Southern Cross Cable's CEO, Ross Pfeffer, 
   complained to the press in 2001 that the low broadband 
   uptake in NZ was harming revenues, see  I'm not sure if Telecom's 
   corporate Gestapo has gagged him now like they have with 
   the other managers.

  "The situation won't get any better until Telecom NZ 
   faces real competition.  The previous and current 
   governments have shown very little interest in this 
   crucial part of the national infrastructure.  The best 
   way for Kiwi Internet businesses to get fast access is 
   to go offshore. It makes financial sense for us to house 
   as much of our Internet business as possible in the 
   United States."

??? writes:

[Note: I have lost the name that used to be attached to 
this correspondence.  If you wrote this, my apologies. 
-- David I]

  "[In Trans-Pacific Tour, part two -- SMART Letter #81] 
   you wrote: 'Southern Cross is the undersea cable [from 
   New Zealand] to the U.S., Australia and Asia . . . Most 
   of its 40 Gbit capacity lies idle, unconnected, unused, 
   thanks to Telecom New Zealand's scarcity tactics."

  "The problem, of course, is to recover the high fixed 
   cost, so whether you are a public utility or a profit-
   maximizing private corporation, you are likely to be 
   tempted to go for the revenue-maximizing toll schedule.

[There might be more than one revenue maximum along the 
toll-schedule axis, which is what the theory of positive 
elasticity is all about, but the Midas-touch strategy of 
the big telcos will never discover more than one. 
-- David I]

  "3. You also wrote:  'Two U.S. incumbents, Ameritech  
   (now SBC) and Bell Atlantic (now Verizon) . . . as the 
   Kiwis see it, they drained hundreds of millions of 
   dollars from from the Kiwi economy.' 

  "From the data you give, it's impossible to decide 
   whether there was any drain.  If SBC and Verizon 
   collected hundreds of millions of dollars from Telecom 
   NZ without reinvesting anything, then perhaps.  On the 
   other hand, when SBC and Verizon bought their share of 
   Telecom NZ, they pumped substantial sums of money into 
   the NZ economy by making their funds available.  If they 
   have now sold their stake to other non-NZ investors, 
   then the NZ economy is not affected at all, and no money 
   has been drained from it."

[Fair enough.  I was just reporting how the Kiwis I talked 
with see it.  I don't know who bought the shares that the 
U.S. telcos sold, or what they did with it. -- David I]

Steve Maloney [] writes:

  "One thing I don't recall seeing addressed in these 
   discussions [Dregs and Grabs -- SMART Letter #79,] is how services like E911 might 
   be addressed . . . it seems unreasonable and unlikely 
   that those services would be addressed in [a Stupid 

Chris Meyer [] writes:

  "One flank your op-ed [Dregs and Grabs -- SMART Letter 
   #79,] left uncovered is the 
   national-security-hardened-communications-system part, 
   which would somehow have to be taken over by the 
   military or replaced somehow."

Rohit Khare [] writes

  "I figure you've already heard from a gazillion sources 
   about how VoIP isn't ready for the lifeline/physical 
   plant assurance of the current network . . . there is an 
   element of I'd-rather-trust-the-Bellheads on 

Beware Telco FUD (for Steve, Chris and Rohit)
by David S. Isenberg

Let's review.  One kind of network has centralized points 
of failure.  The other has distributed control.  One has 
services that are tightly integrated with its physical 
layer, the other is designed to work over any physical 
layer, even unreliable ones.  One network completely ground 
to a halt on September 11, 2001 (I know.  I was waiting in 
agony for the call that would tell me whether my wife was 
alive or not) and the other network kept on ticking.

As I wrote in my widely ignored, "Buy as many nines as you 
need -- SMART Letter #73" [], which 
was overlooked with such acclaim that Business 
Communications Review forgot to put it in its Table of 
Contents [but turn to Page 53 of the June, 2002 issue]:
  "Often people take too narrow a view of reliability 
   differences between Internets and conventional telephone 
   networks.  It is like trying to compare the flying 
   abilities of bumble bees and 747s.  Not only are there 
   vast differences (and a single similarity), but it is 
   much easier to 'prove' that a telephone network is 
   reliable and that a 747 can fly."

I'm amazed that people who *should* be in the vanguard of 
the networked cognoscenti still smoke this kind of telco 
FUD.  Do you still think there's some magic process by 
which creaky old complex single-purpose single-owner 
networks are more reliable or more secure than modern 
simple redundant multiple-owner ones?  I'm reminded of my 
friends who stayed at AT&T because they wanted a secure 

Quote of Note:  Disney's Rodent on Life as a Kept Mouse

[In honor of this month's U.S. Supreme Court decision in 
the case of Eldred vs. Ashcroft keeping the Sonny Bono 
Copyright Extension Act intact and opening the door for 
more extensions, we quote from an unauthorized interview 
with a mouse so enslaved (but only for a limited time, 75 
plus 20 years) that we can't use his real name, even though 
it has become a synonym for "trivially simple." -- David I] 

  "For almost 70 years, I've only been allowed to do what 
   the Disney people say I can do. Sometimes someone comes 
   up with a new idea, and I think to myself, 'Great! 
   Here's a chance to stretch myself!' . . . 

  "In 1971, for instance, Dan O'Neill got me a part in 
   something called Air Pirates Funnies. It was great: I 
   got to have sex, I got to use drugs, I got to explore 
   the whole underground comix scene. It was liberating.

  " . . . After two issues of the comic book, [Disney] 
   issued a summons and took us all to court for trademark 
   violation and copyright infringement."

[Allegedly spoken by Disney's Rodent in "Mickey Mouse 
Clubbed" by Jesse Walker, in Reason On Line, January 17, 

If it's Funny it Must be True, by Scatt Oddams

Hey!  Check out Dan O'Neill's original Air Pirate Funnies 
covers (the ones Disney sued him for) and a bunch of other 
great Dan O'Neill works at  
So sue me -- and Isenberg too!  
Mickey Mouse, Mickey Mouse, nyah, nyah, nyah!" 


February 4, 2003, Santa Barbara CA.  Center for 
Entrepreneurship and Engineering Management (CEEM) at UC 
Santa Barbara.  I'll deliver the Stupid Network stump speech 
and explain why it is time for the telephone companies to 
take a walk in the snow.

March 31 through April 3, 2003, San Jose CA.  VON.  I am 
organizing a panel on April 1 (5:00 to 6:15 PM) with Tim 
Horan of CIBC, Roxane "smarter-than-your-average-bear" 
Googin, and Anders Comstedt, the fellow who built the 
profitable, profitable, profitable, profitable, profitable, 
dark fiber network in Stockholm.  April 1 is one of my 
favorite holidays.  You will believe EVERYTHING my panel 
presents --

April 22-25, 2003, Santa Clara CA.  O'Reilly Emerging 
Technology Conference.  My presentation will be called 
Operating Models for Stupid Networks, Friday, April 25 at 
2:00 PM --

June 11-14, 2002, Philadelphia PA.  TedMed3.  Come if you 
possibly can.

COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Redistribution of this document, or any 
part of it, is permitted for non-commercial purposes, 
provided that the two lines below are reproduced with it: 
Copyright 2003 by David S. Isenberg -- -- 1-888-isen-com 

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David S. Isenberg            , inc.                         888-isen-com                       203-661-4798 
     -- The brains behind the Stupid Network --