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Brad Bell

"After a quick demonstration of how she uses the service, I asked how many people she was connected to at any one time. She seemed very confused by the question, but after a short pause replied with a furrowed brow, ‘Everyone’."

I recall reading about a principle from a networking expert, which suggested the only way to find the value in a network is to 'waste' it, much as your niece is doing. It is a way of experimenting to find out what value the tools have. It also keeps supply high. Like processing power and storage, bandwidth needs to keep doubling if we are to extract the full economic value from it. This is the inverse of the normal approach, where we try to conserve utilities like water and electricity.

On the supply side, what we tend to do is marketing: we declare an artificially high price which creates a psuedo-scarcity and therefore value, purposely inhibiting use. The goal is fewer people using less, paying more. In other words, reduce the network effect that makes the network valuable!

Apparently when the phone was invented it was priced for business, and it never really took off. When the phone companies finally gave up trying to extract the higher 'business' value from the service, and allowed that it could be 'wasted' on the lowly gossip and chit chat of housewives, adoption finally rose.

I have a smart phone, which is really a tiny, mobile computer. The device is one of the great achievements of the digital age. It also makes phone calls. The networking - the unremarkable phone bit - represents half the cost of the device (Yikes!) despite the fact that it's too slow for its primary use as a mini-computer. I try not to waste it. (According to our wasteful Korean pioneers, 4G is also too slow for smart phones, and there's nothing faster to replace it.)

Gossip and chit chat are the engines of the information economy :-)

James Cherkoff

Thanks Brad, love that. It makes a lot of sense to me that people need the room to waste time, aka experiment, to find out how a new environment works best for them. I suppose this is really the net neutrality argument in personal micro-terms - more convincing I think than some of the loose innovation chat going on about a level playing field for business.

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