After GameGate, the deluge

GamerGate began with a sex-for-reviews microscandal concerning a free-to-play online game. It continued with coordinated editorials in which major publications asked their primary demographic to stop reading their magazines, in perhaps the most self-defeating series of op-eds in history

It is now an ethics-in-journalism movement.

Those all will pass. What comes next is the deluge.


The Economies of Scale

There are two kinds of economies of scale. One, producer-side economy of scale (just called “economies of scale” by old textbook) refers to the cost advantages of dividing a large fixed cost of capital over an even larger number of consumers. The great modern enterprises of our day — Barnes & Noble for example — were primarily based on the immense cost savings of producer side economies of scale.

Producer-side economies of scale allowed Barnes & Noble to nearly destroy the local bookstore industry.

Barnes & Noble’s rise was the crowning glory of the Modern Age.

They were once even cool enough to draw protesters.


But there’s another kind of economy of scale: consumer-side economies of scales. This, called “network effects” in the booming days of the .com bubble because the socialized road and postal systems had been frozen for so long as to be invisible, refer to the transactional cost savings (reduction of duplication of effort, reduction of friction, etc) of acceting a standardized communication platform. The Internet itself is an example of something with massive consumer-side economies of scale: the more consumers are on it, the easier it will be to procure goods and services on it.

Consumer-side economies of scale allowed Amazon to challenge Barnes & Noble, until it had acquired enough producer-side economies of scale to bury it.

Amazon was, and is, a company straddling the line between Modern enterprises, and whatever comes after.


The Publishing Industry

There are two ways to treat a human client. You can treat him as your customer, from whose wallet you obtain your income. Or you can treat him as your product, selling him to your actual customers. Amazon is an example of the first sort of enterprise, Google the second. Both approaches can lead to happy humans, and happy shareholders.

But not always.

Consider magazine publishing. Traditionally, magazine publishers received their income from a combination of subscription revenue of and advertising revenue. These magazines benefited from a “multi-sided market” in which they the human end-users were both the client and the product. This allowed magazines to nimbly change their pricing strategy as the situated warranted. Humans were happy. Advertisers were happy. Shareholders were happy.

And all this coincided with massive supplier-side economies of scale, and no consumder-side economies of scale except for the socialized (and static) highway and postal systems. This was the Golden Age of publishing


The introduction of new consumer-side economies of scale meant that it was really, really cheap for each marginal consumer to aquire published materials — the internet, the web, web browsers, even communication lines were there, and accepting these standards was invisible. This allowed micro-amazons, with goals of large readership bases and exploiting consumer-side economies of scale, to thrive.

Time’s cover stories were for a quant age, in which transaction costs were still high enough to exclude low-cost low-quality competitors. Instead, new competitors enjoyed the benefits of economies of scale, from both the consumer and producer sides.

The new companies (Buzzfeed, Vox, and so on) were further able to exploit the economies of scale by substituting quality of audience for quantity. Instead of dedicated readers paying $10 or $20 or $100 dollars a year, instead htey focused on “click-bait” or emotional pieces written by even worse paid writers. The advertisers got their audience, the new publishers still got money, but the core readership felt increasingly alienated.


The day of the endless “Top Ten Reasons Why You’re Addicted to Buzzfeed” had dawned.


Self-Publishing and GamerGate

Just as Amazon put fatal competitive pressure on Barnes & Noble, Buzzfeed and its ilk put fatal competitive pressure on Time-Warner. With consumer-side economies of scale taking away its moat, and producer-side economies of scale fading with declining readers, the old Modern enterprises began fading.

Two-forces kept churning: consumer-side economies of scale continued to reduce transaction costs. And the most engaged readers (those who had been most willing to pay for subscriptions, and more enthusiastic about their subject) felt increasingly alienated by the new Buzzfeed world.

In gamer-oriented commentary-and-entertainment publishing – because of the relatively young and educated nature of its target demographic — we see this post-Modern world right now. Self-publishing is more valuable than traditional (magazine-based) or hybrid (listicle-based) publishing.

The top self-publishing platform for gamers — — was recently purchased for for one billion dollars. This is ten-times more than the highest estimate I was able to find for an estimate of the entire Vox Media congolomerate (of which a very small fraciton is gaming).

And it’s not just revenue, but influence. “Steam” is the top online marketplace for video games. The top curator is a guy with a Youtube channel.


Of the top 10 curators, only 3 are magazines.

An example video from “cynical brit” is this op-ed piece, which combines footage of a computer game with commentary on Gamer Gate itself

These change are coming to other parts of the media. The recent fight between Amazon adn Hacette is just bargainin for a cut of the profits. It does’t matter. But what matters is when Amazon is able to drive the cost of reading for consumers to $0.

What happens then is what happened to gaming 15 years ago: a widespread collapse of the old publishers, a shift to an advertising model of some form, a collapse of wages, and a deprofessionalization of writers.

What happens after that? What happens when those future readers exploit even newer self-publishing platforms to cater to a nearly-forgotten core audience? What happens when book writers and journalists become as out of touch with their audience as game journalsits?


tdaxp storms New England

Before this week, I had visited only one state in New England — the ancient land of my paternal ancestors. But now, 3 of 6 states have fallen to the tdaxp March of Remembrance

tdaxp ri ma

First, I visited the grave of my cousin, H.P. Lovecraft, in Providence. The cemetery that contains many generations of my family is about 25 miles from the town that inspired Innsmouth — and my great-great grandfather sailed to the East Indies, much like old man Marsh….

hpl grave

Of course, Lovecraft wrote of giant indifferent gods and human sacrifice… hopefully nothing like that ever bothered tdaxp’s lineage…

cthulhu sacrifice

To get my mind off that, I next went to Pawtucket, real-life suburb of Providence and fictional home to the Pawtucket Brewery, from Family Guy. But the town is nearly dry, with beer not sold in gas stations!

Certainly Massachusettes did little to calm my nerves — but — those crazy elusive angles


But all too soon the trip ended, and we left by water taxi from Boston to the airport. Bye bye New England!

boston ma from water taxi

Impressions of “The Spectral Link” by Thomas Ligotti

The Spectral Link is a short collection of two stories, “Metaphysica Morum” and “The Small People.” They are of wildly different quality, and represent two possible directions for Mr. Ligotti’s future work.

The Spectral Link

Let’s hope his future output is more like “The Small People,” because “Metaphysica Morum” is garbage. Thomas Ligotti, besides being a first rate fiction writer, is a fourt rate philosopher. And a fifth rate writer of suicide notes. Whether “Metaphysica” is supposed to be philosophy, or farewell to an uncaring world, there’s one thing it certainly is not: entertaining. Save yourself some trouble, and stare intently into space instead.

That will prepare you for the Smalls, whoever they are.

“The Small People,” by contrast, is Ligotti in top form. The narrator presents a world almost identical to ours: except for the presence of Smalls. Doll-sized mannequin-like creatures who mimic human society, but seem to have no history of their own, most of the “Real People” simply ignore the smalls or avoid them in the way that a man may avoid an annoying bird. “The Small People” works on three levels: the world that’s presented by the narrator, the world the narrator may actually be in, and the metaphors that Ligotti uses to connect the first two layers with the “real” world.

If you are already a Ligotti fan, get the Kindle edition to read “The Small People” in about an hour.

Nevada and Arizona Fall to tdaxp


I keep track of states I visited by imagining the electoral college.  Any state I’ve been to (meaning slept in or bought something in, outside of an airport) goes for me: states I’ve never been to go against, and states that I’ve been to but do not remember (as a baby) are to a radical third party.

By that standard, my landslide keeps rolling…
electoral college post nv and az




“Pics, or it didn’t happen,” you say?hoover dam az

las vegas nv

Ways of Science

Imagine if I told you, we should trust corporate CEOs, or politicians, or public school teachers to be “self-correcting.” Imagine if I said that because they have similar degrees from similar institutions, they alone should judge their own, and they alone will correct any flaws or mistakes that appear.

You would say I’m insane.

Or, more generously, you say that such a blind faith might be acceptable for limited times in emergency situation. For instance, during a war we might put our faith in our military, up to and including the Commander-in-Chier. Indeed, that may be the best decision. But let that trust last to long, and you end up with an Egypt, or a North Korea: a kleptocracy good only at keeping itself in power.

Science, as an institution, is very new. While there were always mathematicians, and always engineers, scientists (full time employees of universities who democratically control their departments and whose primary job was research) are very new as a profession. It dates to 1880 or so, nearly a generation after Abraham Lincoln died, in the United States, though it appeared (minus the democratic control) about a generation earlier in what is now Germany.

The first “wave” of American science was made possible by the Department of Agriculture, which funded research programs to increase farm productivity. The Department of Agriculture is still heavily involved in science, to the extent that reliance of Department of Agriculture funds (which have always been bureaucratically allocated) are a political issue in the Association of American Universities.


This first “wave” was not self-correcting. It was bureaucratically-correcting. The Department of Agriculture (motto: “Agriculture is the foundation of manufacture and commerce”) was guided by clear and well understood metrics (such as cross yield per acre) which allowed a fair and reasonable prioritizing of grant proposals. This system has worked well for a century, though obviously is open to political corruption.


The second “wave” of American science was made possible by the experimentation of the FDR and Truman administration. There was widespread consensus of extending the Department of Agriculture model to other fields. While Senator Harley Kilgore (D-WV) focused a direct extension, emphasizing local stakeholders for research, Vanaveer Bush emphasized self-regulation of science, with scientists alone deciding which scientific research would be funded. The institution created to push this was called the “National Science Foundation” (motto: “Supporting Education and Research across all the fields of Science, Mathematics and Technology”). As Wikipedia summarizes:

[Vannevar] Bush did not like the idea of letting social interests and community members drive science policy. He feared that the selection of research projects would become politicized, and he also had complete faith in the ability of scientists to pick the best possible projects. Furthermore, in contrast to Kilgore, he felt that the agency should have the narrower mandate of pursuing only basic science, rather than basic and applied science. Unlike Kilgore, he believed the public should not own research results and products, instead responsible researchers should own the research results. Broadly speaking, Bush’s vision was significantly more narrow than Kilgore’s proposal. It maintained the status quo in patenting arrangements, it limited project selection to scientists, and it narrowed projects to basic research

Unlike the Department of Agriculture model, which focused on bureaucratic control and practical research, the National Science Foundation focused on self-correction and abstract research. Instead of the corrupt but sustainable Department of Agricultural Model, the Untied States decided to focus on a pristine but unsustainable model that relied on the high moral standing of a small number of experts.

And now, we may be near the end of all that.

You don’t hear about Department of Agricultural research scandals because there are none. Seriously, bing it. Google it.  Everyone knows that political pull matters. But the focus on applied research means that there is little room for “trust me” by scientists. The corn grows with less water or it doesn’t. The goose has lower morality or she doesn’t. The bull’s calves are healthier or they aren’t. Too many stakeholders are too dependent on scientific progress in agriculture for falsified results to spread.

The Department of Agriculture’s “stakeholders” aren’t the easily ignored, like veterans or under-represented minorities. They are large land-owners, large farm services, and agribusiness. There’s well known waste and inefficiency in the Department of Agriculture, but the model (while inefficient) is fundamentally sound and sustainable.

Meanwhile, in NSF-land, most “findings” are false. Not some, not much, most. No profession “self-corrects” without outside pressure. Instead, careering spreads, and questioning results of another is considered “bullying.” Like in any corrupt political system, “anti-corruption” is simply a mask for elimination of enemies, because everyone knows everyone is corrupt.

A small number of revolutionaries, for a limited amount of time, can take great advantage of an unaccountable lack of power. Before they remember they have families, before others who want to be like them succeed in their goals, great change is possible. Maybe that time period lasts twenty years. But the NSF model, which is based on honesty and self-correction, is surely past its prime. Most research is false. Uncovered faked results are on the rise.

This is the background of the “replication crisis” in NSF-land.  Pure science has lost her cloak, which hid her flaws.   And the wolves are circling.

In the future research may still be under the “NSF” umbrella. But the importance of peer-review and self-correction in science are on the decline. Their time has come and gone.

A World Uncensored, the home invasion is a streaming site owned by $GOOG that features user generated content… primarily computer & video game playing and commentary. The feeling of watching a favorite gamer on twitch is similar to listening to a favorite radio DJ — relaxing, enjoyable, and you feel part of a club.


At least — most of the time. Recently, one twitch gamer was robbed on live stream following a home invasion. So far one suspect has been arrested.

No extra points for guessing the demographics.

Memorial Day

Today is Memorial Day, originally Decorations Day, a day for the dead from both sides of the Civil War.

Thanks to my brother, who runs Geographic Travels, I know I have ancestors who died on both sides. The Virginian died the day after the Battle of Seven Pines. At the same time, the history of the town where our direct male line lived during the Civil War records numerous deaths in my family from the fighting.

The Civil War killed more Americans than any more in American history. Following the end of major combat operations and the subsequent military occupation and guerrilla war, the situation was similar to before it began: broad home rule for the South, and Union control of foreign and military policy. Slavery was ended, though “slave-like” conditions persisted, and civil rights would not be enforced in the South until the 1950s, then a far less bloody method was found.

May our leaders have the wisdom to know when to fight, and how to fight, and what the costs will be.

Internet-Centric Entertainment (an example)

Yesterday I talked about how most of my video entertainment now comes from the internet. The on-demand and interactive nature of internet video builds on itself. Here is a specific example of that.

Using Youtube on Xbox One, a bit ago I watched this trailer for Godzilla:

That led me to Red Letter Media’s review, which I watched on my Surface Pro connected to my tv:

That review stated that while the new Godzilla was better than the 1990s version, both were inferior to the current directory’s previous film, Monsters. Monsters is a post-9/11 style movie, portraying life several years after the dramatic events of a Monster movie. I watched Monsters on Amazon Prime, thru its Xbox One app.

There’s still a few ‘killer apps’ for TV. Some sports, Game of Thrones, and 24 hours news streaming would still be painful to lose. But that seems just a matter of time.

(Inadvertently and almost) cutting the cord

ervice and getting their entertainment exclusively thru the internet. I almost loved television too muh for that — the news is interesting, and there are so many great shows — but I recently realized my weekly “TV” viewing time was probably down to 2 or 3 hours per week.

The reason wasn’t austerity or puritanism. Rather, there are so many on demand options on my Xbox One it’s hard to justify cable as a separate purchases.

Youtube on Xbox One has many great news channels that my wife and I “subscribe” to for free, such as Vice News, New York Times, CNN, and The Verge. From the same source there are entertainment sources such as Jimmy Kimmel, College Humor, GoPro, and Cyanide or Happiness which provide a pleasant welcome to each new day.

vice news

We are living in a golden age of television, however, so it’s great so much of it is available without cable tv. Most every show are available for purchase from either Xbox Video or Amazon Video. Similarly, movies can be purchased from Xbox or Amazon, or watched from either the Amazon or Netflix streaming services.

Even sports is moving to a cable-also format, with great apps from the NFL and Major League Baseball. There’s also the woman’s football (which streams live games) and computer games on watch Twitch.

As of now, there are only two things absolutely missing. There’s no easily watchable 24 hours streaming news channel, and HBO shows aren’t available for either download or purchase without a traditional cable tv plan. Hopefully, HBO’s eroding market share will make them reconsider this move.

We’re not in a post-cable-tv world yet, but that world is rapidly coming. It’s harder and harder to justify having a cable TV plan at all,.

The tDAxp eXPerience