Infrequently Noted

Alex Russell on browsers, standards, and the process of progress.

Updates from Portland

I've been in Portland since Saturday, first attending FLOSS Foundations meeting which was very productive, and now attending meetings and tutorials and such. I've been a bit disconnected from the rest of the world due to The Conference Effect, but Nikolai from Uxebu gave me a heads-up that today they've announced a new Dojo + Django integration project called Dojango. A lot of the Dojo community thinks the Django guys have done a lot of things right, so this kind of integration makes tons of sense. I can't wait to see how it evolves.

While here I also got wind that Sun has quietly announced a new version of the Java Communication Suite with a rich, Dojo-based web interface. I don't know if it's running publicly anywhere, but it looks like an impressive win for Sun's Communication Suite customers.

If you're in Portland, I hope you'll join us for tonight's dojo.dinner(), 6:30pm at the Chesterfield (and RSVP for it by by sendng us mail).


I'm leaving tomorrow for my yearly trek to Portland for OSCON. If you're going, don't hesitate to drop me a line if you want to catch up or RSVP for the Dojo meetup/dinner on Wed evening.

Speaking as a member of the OSCON program committee, I'm very happy about the quality of the talks in the web-ish tracks this year. There's even a Dojo talk – even though for the first time in a long while, I won't be giving any talks. The inimitable Matthew Russell, author of ORA's Dojo: TDG will be giving an awesome talk on 2D drawing with Dojo's GFX system. I know he's got some awesome demos worked up, so I can't wait to see the talk. Gavin Doughtie, occasional contributor to the GFX system, is also giving several talks that you'll find me in. Should be a lot of fun.

On a more macro scale, though, I've started to become concerned that "Open Source" as a brand has lost its way. Those who would speak for Open Source have focused narrowly on licensing and have largely ignored the other social processes and artifacts that define what it means to contribute to OSS projects and how those artifacts lead to success or failure of projects, and therefore, of the movement such as it is. There's a huge disconnect between what the letter of the Open Source law dictates (the licenses) and the social and process constraints that are required to build high-quality, trustable communities that ensure 100 point OSS products, and many businesses have struck on these differences as a way to use the Open Source brand to imply or insinuate that users should trust their products more than is warranted. OSI's failure to address this brand erosion has had some troubling effects in the small JavaScript corner of the OSS world of late, and I know we're not alone. OSI has also proven completely impotent in preventing license proliferation, further eroding the Open Source brand. There are, of course, lots of folks who are also concerned about these thing, and so I'm excited to see David Recordon (of OpenID, etc. fame) giving a talk which looks to talk about some of the community aspects. I tend to blow off "community" talks at conferences, but given David's use of the phrase "Open Web" and his unique perspective, I'll be interested to see what he says. I'll also be curious to see if and how any of this is discussed at the FLOSSCON meeting of OSS Foundation leaders tomorrow and Sunday.

If you'll be in Portland next week, don't hesitate to join us for the dojo.dinner() on Wed. I'm looking forward to seeing everyone again and talking though the issues. Should be a great time.

Only 2 More Days!

Go! Go right now to and watch Dr. Horrible's Sing Along Blog (if you aren't already compulsively refreshing the page in the hopes that they post episode 3 a tad bit early). Joss Whedon does it again.

Fascinating Data

Note: this post is far afield of my usual discussions. In the interest of not distracting those who read this blog because I usually discuss web-oriented things, the content of the post is beyond the jump.

Via Mark Thoma, the SF Fed's briefing numbers look really odd. The inflation expectation numbers look to depend on an extreme version of the commonly held assumption that workers have lost their collective bargaining power, thereby removing the wage/price linkage that caused so much damage in the 70's. That might be good for "the economy" (as defined by what's good for bankers), but if true, it seems bad for you and me.

What it means to you and I is that our economy has a chance of beating the rap on the fundamental inability of private markets (bankers) to judge risk accurately only because some percentage of our annual incomes will be shaved off and there's nothing we can do about it. And that is the good news. Put another way, we're staring down the last of the Bush Administration's regressive taxes and we just have to take it. The well-off pay a 17%-ish percent maginal tax rate on investment income, while those in "the productive economy" (the people those stimulus checks are designed to help out) pay well above that on every additional dollar they earn. Of course, it's basic economics that if you are in a situation in which you spend more of your marginal income than you save, then any tax on consumption hits you much harder than those who can afford to save. So prices increases without attendant wage increases hurt the middle and lower classes, particularly when the price increases aren't related to "core" inflation. When "core" inflation goes up, it really starts to squeeze asset values, but non-core inflation simply implies that it costs more to buy things like food, fuel, and all of the other daily necessities. While "core" inflation seems a good metric to talk about projected long-term inflation rates and linkages and embedding, its effects aren't the ones currently being felt by Americans.

Inflation is generically decried most heartily by the wealthy because it hurts them by reducing the real interest rate on savings, i.e. it reduces the return on assets invested. But not all inflation is created equal. The current situation is laying bare the difference between the average person's concerns about non-core inflation (the price of gas) and economists concerns about asset allocation (what's the rate of return on investment?). Put tersely: the current bout of inflation is hurting the people who can least afford it and those who can afford it are using the occasion to decry policies which they personally dislike even if their relationship is tenuous to the current trouble. There seems to be a lack of proportionality at work in the public dialog which I find deeply unsettling. Where did our conception of an adversarial press corps go?

The odd take-away is that inflation isn't so bad when it's tied to increases in productive output and income for those most at risk and when those increases promote stability, a fact that the "Washington Consensus" missed time and time again in its disastrous large-scale experiments in emerging economies. If those most at risk of income shocks are insulated by very low unemployment rates and a system that allows those in trouble to keep most of their (minimal) wealth in times of trouble (employment insurance, bankruptcy laws that don't strip people of fixed assets, etc.), then inflation is a tax that hurts the rich more, who incidentally are much more able to cope with such effects.

But inflation like we're experiencing? It's of a different sort. Non-core inflation is still in-check, which is good, but headline inflation is hurting those least able to cope at a rate not seen in decades. It's the last, grandest, "fuck you" of the current administration's policies to those who need to work for a living. Logic and data suggest that voting for regressive taxes isn't in my interest, or nearly anyone else's. Why then does a party looking to cling to power field bumbling fools who stand up for regressive taxation when logic, electability concerns, and basic math skills make plain how foolish that really is?

I'm a "right tools for the job" kinda guy. John McCain's economic and fiscal policy proposals certainly are making him look like a tool, but absolutely the wrong one.

Dojo Developer Day Boston, Sept. 28-29

As Dylan just posted over on the official Dojo blog, we're having our next bi-annual Dojo Developer Day event in Boston just prior to the Ajax Experience conference.

Like previous DDD events, the first day will be somewhat contributor-oriented, and many decisions about the direction of the project are likely to get made there. The Monday event will be community focused with tutorials, presentations of new work, time to present your Dojo-based apps, and opportunities for Q&A with the developers who are hacking on the features you use every day.

Sound interesting? Sign up!

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