Massport Loses its Wifi Monopoly at Logan Airport

As a “regular” of Logan Airport's Terminal C (perhaps a little too regular), I know how to get free wifi there. If you take your laptop to the seats near the Terminal C side of the walkway joining Terminals B and C, you'll be within range of the Continental President's Club's open wifi connection. I discovered this trick while stuck at the airport for hours during the blizzard of January 2005.

If you want to access wifi anywhere else in Logan, the only way to do it was to fork over US$7.95 to use the wifi service run by Massport, the public authority responsible for running airports, seaports and the transportation infrastructure in the state of Massachusetts. Massport has always jealously guarded its wifi monopoly in the airport, forbidding tenants to run their own wifi access points, citing bogus safety reasons. In addition to their long-standing wi-feud with Continental, Massport has also crossed swords with T-Mobile, forcing them to shut down their Terminal B access points and threatened Delta with legal action if they offered wifi in Terminal A.

The two-year battle between Continental and Massport ended yesterday when the FCC issued its ruling in Continental's favor, stating that they have a clear right to offer their own wifi service (one of the standard amenities of the President's Club). Hopefully, this ruling will set a precedent that prevents landlords from forcing their tenants to use a landlord-controlled wifi service.

The general reaction to the decision has been positive, but it can't hold a candle to the over-the-top statement made by FCC commissioner Jonathan S. Adelstein:

Today we strike a victory for the WiFi revolution in the cradle of the American Revolution…The WiFi movement embodies the spirit of American freedom, and in our action we say “Don't tread on me.”

One wonders what he'll say if we ever get network neutrality enshrined in law or practice.

Not everyone's cheering, however: David DeJean over at InformationWeek believes that it's a victory for big business. Massport, he argues, is a government agency and as such was providing a public service for a minimal charge. He states that the ruling effectively privatizes a public service and that in the end, it was just the FCC serving its corporate masters at the expense of the public. I think my bullshit detector is about to overload.



The Merit of Nothing

Aaron "Reddit" Swartz recounted an experience I found both amusing and thought-provoking:

Once I went far outside the city to have lunch with an author I respected. He asked about what I did, wanted me to explain it in great detail. He asked how many visitors we had. I told him and he sputtered. "I've spent fifteen years building an audience, and you're telling me in a year you have a million visitors?" I assented.

Puzzled, he insisted I show him the site on his own computer, but he found it was just a simple as I described. (Simpler, even.) "So it's just a list of links?" he said. "And you don't even write them yourselves?" I nodded. "But there's nothing to it!" he insisted. "Why is it so popular?"

At first, you might take this as an indictment of the value we place on the services created by business in general. It's a discontent we can aim as easily at YouTube as we can at Reddit; $1.6BB for a site where people share inane videos (with none of that money going to the videos authors, directors, or actors)?

Upon a little reflection, though, it struck me that the "nothing" the author saw is the key to the value of a service like Reddit. It's supposed to help me sort and sift through an unmanageable pile of information. To do it right, Reddit has to do it simply. So simply, that it's almost invisible to me. It approaches (but never reaches) nothing.

The internet has never had a problem with content scarcity. If anything, the problem is overabundance. We've got too much something. There's real merit in helping people find what they need without adding to the problem. Perhaps that's the "nothing" Aaron's author saw.


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WSJ Hit Job on Global Nerdy

I guess what the Sydney Morning Herald taketh away, the Wall Street Journal can giveth:

Two years ago, Mr. Arrington, a onetime lawyer and Internet executive, was living the life of a surf bum in southern California. Today, the 36-year-old has become one of the most influential people in Silicon Valley. Like a latter-day Henry Blodget, the onetime star Wall Street analyst who helped fuel the late 1990s dot-com frenzy, Mr. Arrington uses his TechCrunch blog to determine the destinies of new start-ups and to fan the flames of the current Internet boom.

For many Silicon Valley venture capitalists and entrepreneurs, TechCrunch has become a must read. Internet companies mentioned on the blog often report huge increases in business after they're featured. Others get unsolicited calls from venture capitalists who want to give them money. Last month, it was credited with being the first to report the rumors that search-giant Google Inc. was considering buying the online-video site YouTube Inc. for $1.6 billion.

Of course, in a Crunchnote on the story, Arrington seems irritated by the Journal's "fascination around the economics of our business and the conflicts/disclosure issue," which seems odd. First of all, isn't that the basis for how TechCrunch is different than the mainstream media and, second, it's just a graf in a pretty long article. It's actually quite neutral. The same, however, can't be said about this vicious attack:

Some investors worry Mr. Arrington and his ilk may contribute to an investment bubble that could end badly. In May, Josh Kopelman, an investor with First Round Capital in Philadelphia, warned on his blog that many Web companies today "run a big risk of designing a product/service that is targeted at too small of an audience," namely subscribers to Mr. Arrington's TechCrunch blog. (The number of subscribers, then 53,651, has since grown to 133,000, according to the site.) The TechCrunch blog has also spawned its own minipublicity loop, with other bloggers rehashing many of the tidbits Mr. Arrington reports and posting photos from his backyard keg parties. [emphasis mine]

Hey! What's with the "rehashing" crack, Journal?

Readers, there's a war going on between the mainstream media dinosaurs, and the young blogging Turks like Global Nerdy! To the barricades, comrades!


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Street Cred Isn't What it Used to Be

Yes, it's an old photo (it's from May of this year), but it's been getting a lot of play among my hax0r homies today — Bill Gates and Jay-Z, together at last.

Bill Gates and Jay-Z.

There's so much “Urkel” in this scene; no doubt we're pushing the theoretical maximum here.


Daylife to Come to Life?

paidContent has the skinny on an imminent round of financing for the stealth, New York-based "distributed news" venture  Daylife:

You’re reading it here first … After a year of mostly veiled references and speculation fueled by the involvement of Jeff Jarvis as an adviser and Craig Newmark as an investor, Daylife, the distributed news platform founded by Upendra Shardanand, is about to see the light of day—funded by roughly twice as many investors as it has employees.

Among the brand-name investors: The New York Times, Mark "TechCrunch" Arrington, Scott "Meetup" Heiferman, Dave "" Winer, Azeem "I Don't Know Him But He's a Big Deal British Technology Guy" Azhar, and a handful of other technology mover-and-shaker types.

Upendra is a friend of mine, and he's been nurturing this project for quite some time. I have no inside knowledge to share (as opposed to the insiders listed above, who have knowledge they won't share), but it seems like the core mission—organizing news from multiple sources in idiosyncratically relevant ways—has been pretty constant throughout, and I'm keen to see how it's ultimately developed.

Between Digg, Reddit, Megite, Tailrank, et al, lots of people are trying to add some structure and value to the overabundance of news out there, but none of the crowd-based approaches seems to quite hit home for me. I still find myself working to pick the needles out of the haystack. A different approach couldn't hurt and might help.


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More Proof that Extended Warranties are for Suckers

After reading our piece, Extended
Warranties are for Suckers,
go check out Robert
Mitchell's article in ComputerWorld Blogs,
I Got Suckered into an Extended


Aaron Swartz on the Reddit Afterparty [Updated]

There will probably be a plethora of cold, hard analyses of Conde Nast's acquisition of Reddit, some of which I'm sure will be worthwhile reading. However, make sure you get a look at this entry in Aaron Swartz's blog, in which he gives us a look at the deal from a more personal angle.

Maybe it's just me, but if I were his situation, I think I'd be considerably less angst-y. Actually, probably not angst-y at all. I'd likely perch myself in a suit made of hundred-dollar bills atop the tallest building in town, playing Spinal Tap's Gimme Some Money on my accordion.

Update: Be sure to check out Aaron's prior article, The Aftermath.