Mobile App Pricing

I read an article today about Microsoft supporting a premium app model for its own version of the iPhone app store. Basically, they want to avoid a race to the bottom where there is so much competition for users that app developers price their products at very low prices to capture sales. The problem, which is not a problem at all for consumers, is that this encourages everyone else to lower their prices as well. Since you do not want to be the only $10 app when everyone else is $1.

Trying to just introduce something anti-competitive like arbitrary price controls will not work, for a few reasons.

For one, the cost of distribution is zero. The cost for entering the application market is effectively zero. You can market your application at any price you wish. So, if you cannot demonstrate effective value for your price, that is your responsibility. No consumer owes you a certain price, especially with relation to digital goods for which there is no necessary ongoing cost following development.

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Amazon Consolidates Position in eBooks with Stanza Purchase

I’m a big fan in general of ebooks as a concept and to a lesser degree a fan of Amazon and its Kindle ebook reader. I trust Amazon to deliver a good user experience, but I think open standards and a diverse marketplace are the best way to move forward. With that said, I follow the ebook business with interest as it such a newly vital market. We can credit Amazon and the Kindle with much of the recent vitality.

With the acquisition of Lexcycle, the producer of the iPhone ebook app Stanza, Amazon is consolidating its lead in ebooks. They are also signaling that it’s less about the device you use to read ebooks and more about distribution. Distribution is where the real profits lie. People buy a Kindle once, but they may purchase thousands of dollars worth of ebooks and e-periodicalsover their lifespan as a consumer. This is where Amazon wants to be. Not in making hardware, but in selling digital goods and controlling a large portion of the marketplace. The only reason Amazon really needed the Kindle was to create the marketplace. Once people are accustomed to buying their ebooks from Amazon, the device becomes irrelevant.

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Notes on Jung and Persona

He carefully recorded his dreams, fantasies, and visions, and drew, painted, and sculpted them as well. He found that his experiences tended to form themselves into persons, beginning with a wise old man and his companion, a little girl. The wise old man evolved, over a number of dreams, into a sort of spiritual guru. The little girl became “anima,” the feminine soul, who served as his main medium of communication with the deeper aspects of his unconscious. #

Good description of “anima”.

The anima and animus, in Carl Jung’s school of analytical psychology, are the unconscious or true inner self of an individual, as opposed to the persona or outer aspect of the personality. In the unconscious of the male, it finds expression as a feminine inner personality: anima; equivalently, in the unconscious of the female, it is expressed as a masculine inner personality: animus. #

Try to see the beauty in things

It is easy to look at a situation and see the bad. Every situation could be looked at in a negative light. But, what does this attitude do but rob us of our initiative and hope? Focusing on the bad will stop you from moving forward. It is far better to accept the bad as it arrives, feel it and process it and then finally put it aside. Any other attitude goes against reality and is impractical. If you want good things in your life you will learn to let things go when it is time. Why do we try to hold on sometimes to the way things are not? It is an interesting question. Fear of the unknown? Avoidance of suffering?

The Promise of Television

Having spent so much time lately with my Dad as he recuperates, I’ve had the opportunity to watch hours of programming on Encore Westerns. They play mostly obscure westerns and western themed television shows from the 50’s and 60’s like Maverick, Bat Masterson, Big Valley, and The Rifleman.

It’s hard to remember a time when if you didn’t catch a show when it came on TV, you just totally missed it. My Dad says The Rifleman would come on once a month along with several other programs.

Watching all these shows you quickly realize that the TV western is a dead genre. Maybe like good old country music, it represents a longing for simpler times and the belief in certain values. The Rifleman is full of moral lessons: what it means to be a man, responsible for others and standing up for what’s right; the importance of hard work and honesty. Each episode Lucas McCain never misses a chance to instruct his son Mark on how to do the right thing. Watching a show like The Rifleman, you realize that popular media has the amazing ability to promote certain values through story. It just doesn’t seem to anymore. Can you think of any recent music, film, or television show which tries to promote certain values beyond the purely political? In what venue do we now consider larger moral questions?

The portrait of a doomed man.

Another argument for casting your net widely is that you learn about new and fascinating things that rarely pop up in daily conversation, especially in our cloistered workaday lives. Today by way of a diary entry by Samuel Pepys, the ‘Eikon Basilike’ (full text), the “Royal Portrait”, a purported autobiography by King Charles I published after his regicide following the English Civil War.

I am not so old, as to be weary of life; nor (I hope) so bad, as to be either afraid to die, or ashamed to live: true, I am so afflicted, as might make Me sometime even desire to die; if I did not consider, That it is the greatest glory of a Christians life to die daily, in conquering by a lively faith, and patient hopes of a better life, those partiall and quotidian deaths, which kill us (as it were) by piece-meales, and make us overlive our owne fates; while We are deprived of health, honour, liberty, power, credit, safety, or estate; and those other comforts of dearest relations, which are as the life of our lives.

Though, as a KING, I think My self to live in nothing temporall so much, as in the love and goodwill of My People; for which, as I have suffered many deaths, so I hope I am not in that point as yet wholly dead: notwithstanding, My Enemies have used all the poyson of falsity and violence of hostility to destroy, first the love and Loyalty, which is in My Subjects; and then all that content of life in Me, which from these I chiefly enjoyed.

Indeed, they have left Me but little of life, and only the husk and shell (as it were) which their further malice and cruelty can take from Me; having bereaved Me of all those worldly comforts, for which life it self seems desirable to men.

The Obama Speech

Tonight’s speech by Barack Obama at the DNC was perfect. If Obama can be the president backing up that speech, then there is room to hope for good things to happen in the next 4 years. When Pat Buchanan is praising your oratory (as he’s doing now on MSNBC), you know you’re doing something right. Can’t wait to see McLaughlin Group this Sunday.

Did you see it? What do you think?

A Digital Soul

Transhumanism has become a well-flogged topic of conversation with all the discussion of the Singularity. I don’t know if we’ll ever be able to transcend biology and mortality, but I do know that we would benefit from the wisdom of our greatest minds if we could preserve them. Of course, we already do this, in the sense that our thinkers and innovators left behind their words and discoveries to guide us. From Plato to Leonardo da Vinci to Isaac Newton, we are the beneficiaries of a deep wealth of human knowledge and experience. Our entire civilization, even if we take it for granted, is the cumulative result of every human contribution. Our culture is like an immortal organism, while our individual lives are its constituent cells.

In A Martian Time-Slip, robotic teachers based on important cultural figures lead classes. Although this was presented in a typically unsettling Philip K. Dick fashion, it is an interesting idea. If you could emulate the personality and knowledge of our best minds, wouldn’t it have some benefit? In the Star Trek universe, characters routinely consult with historical figures through the holodeck. Provided we had the technical ability to present a human simulation, how would you create a model of a distinct personality? What would I have to know about you to create a simulation that would reasonably behave as you would in any given situation or circumstance?

Good news – A little crazy is adaptive.

From an article on how nutty “creative types” get laid more often than their normal peers:

The study also included some known schizophrenics. And Nettle’s personality surveys revealed that the artists and poets shared certain traits with schizophrenics. Again, perhaps no big surprise. But these traits are linked with increased sexual activity, Nettle and his colleagues say (though full-blown schizophrenic patients tend to withdraw from society and have less active sex lives).

Insofar as evolution is concerned, maybe teetering on the brink is a good thing, the researchers speculate.

“These personality traits can manifest themselves in negative ways, in that a person with them is likely to be prone to the shadows of full-blown mental illness such as depression and suicidal thoughts,” Nettle said. “This research shows there are positive reasons, such as their role in mate attraction and species survival, for why these characteristics are still around.”


For example, the first of our ancestors to empathize and read facial expressions had a striking advantage. They could confirm their own social status and convince others to share food and shelter. But too much emotional acuity — when individuals overanalyze every grimace — can cause a motivational nervousness about one’s social value to morph into a relentless handicapping anxiety.

Pondering the future

Another cognitive innovation made it possible to compare potential futures. While other animals focus on the present, only humans, said Geary, “sit and worry about what will happen three years from now if I do that or this.” Our ability to think things over, and over, can be counterproductive and lead to obsessive tendencies.

Certain types of depression, however, Geary continued, may be advantageous. The lethargy and disrupted mental state can help us disengage from unattainable goals — whether it is an unrequited love or an exalted social position. Evolution likely favored individuals who pause and reassess ambitions, instead of wasting energy being blindly optimistic.

Natural selection also likely held the door open for disorders such as attention deficit. Quickly abandoning a low stimulus situation was more helpful for male hunters than female gatherers, writes Nesse, which may explain why boys are five times more likely than girls to be hyperactive.

Similarly, in its mildest form, bipolar disorder can increase productivity and creativity. Bipolar individuals (and their relatives) also often have more sex than average people, Geary noted.

Sex, and survival of one’s kids, is the whole point — as far as nature is concerned. Sometimes unpleasant mental states lead to greater reproductive success, said Geary, “so these genes stay in the gene pool.”

History is an illusion

We sometimes take it for granted that history is a social construct. Out of the wide river of human experience, we dip out a cupful onto the ground and try to read the waters before the earth drinks it up.

History is a story we tell ourselves rather than a photograph of the past. What we include and leave out in the telling reflects who we are. Tell me your history and I will know you.

A while back, I photoshopped this image of The Smiths and included myself standing next to Morrissey. In searching through my server logs for 404 errors, I noticed that several people are embedding this image in their blogs or Myspace pages presumably without realizing that it is not really The Smiths. It’s some bizarro Smiths where I am a member, and yet across these different sites they are inserting me into history. Everyone is familiar with Morrissey, but I can safely replace one of his lesser known band-mates. It’s enough to fool several people even with a half-assed photoshop job.

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