Writings and Musings

Bob Frankston (bio)

Welcome to my writings.

If you want the recent essays check out the sidebar on the left or, better, go to Further Readings for a curated list of essays.

Other essays are listed in chronological order and then by category. The main essays are in larger letters and minor documents (such as messages posted on discussion sites) are indented and in smaller letters. The documents themselves are located on this site (www.Frankston.com) and as well as external sites.

Note that I'm currently writing shorter transient posts on Facebook as "Bob Frankston". I'm gathering links here.

You can send me Email. Note this unique address is only valid for the next few days.

The best way to link to a document is as http://rmf.vc/keyword.

By default only the most recent posts are shown, to see:
Recent By Date Posts from the last few months
Columns Columns written in 1998-1999 -- blogging before blogs. Look here for my more recent columns.
All All posts -- hundreds

Writings and Updates by Date

Some of the recent entries are also listed on the sidebar. Secondary items such as postings on other mailing lists are indented. Note that the year shown is the year the essay was updated. An essay written in 1979 might be listed under 2009 if it was updated recently.

Further Reading 18-Feb-2015 (Updated: 24-Feb-2023 PDFAny one essay can only skim the surface. For further reading ...
The Frankston Challenge 10-Nov-2015 (Updated: 26-Aug-2016 Dan Bricklin does a great job explaining the need for Ambient Connectivity.
Deconstructing Television: Delivery, Content, and Policy 01-Apr-2015 (Updated: 14-Jan-2016 PDFThe business “Television” as we know it is very much tied to the accidental properties of 1930’s vintage technology. We need to rethink very part of the technology and the industry.
Netflix vs. Caps vs. Neutrality vs. The Internet 19-Dec-2015 Issues like capacity limits and network neutrality are framed in terms of telecommunications. We need a different narrative if we are to understand the Internet. (See further comments here)
Zero-Rating vs. The Internet 04-Nov-2015 PDFThe idea of setting the rate for a given class of content is a concept that comes from the traditional world of telecommunications. It doesn't map into the raw packets of the Internet that are carried apart from their context.
The Internet is about Relationships 01-Oct-2015 (Updated: 30-Oct-2015 PDFA big idea of the Internet is that we can focus on the relationships between two end points (devices) and not worry about what is between.
Identity Chaos, Courtesy of Your Federal Government - The New YorkTimes 17-Oct-2015 If we're going to use the SSN as a primary identify we should update it from the 1930's design point.
Implementing VisiCalc 06-Apr-2003 (Updated: 12-Oct-2015 PDFThe story of how we implemented VisiCalc. We always viewed VisiCalc as a product, not a program. The program itself was just a means of delivering the product and only part of the larger experience.
A Software-(re)Defined World. 08-Jul-2015 (Updated: 09-Oct-2015 PDF 📹 (video) My Keynote from the ICCE conference in Taiwan June 2015
Undercover New Hampshire police nab cellphone ban violators / AKAbanning photography 01-Oct-2015 If your camear can run a telephony app does that make it illegal to use in a car even if it's stopped?
The Engineers "Dilemma" 27-Sep-2015 The telecommunications business model has problems. The FCC's well-meaning efforts to make that business work has the unintended consequences of protecting it from alternatives approaches that can work far better. This extends to protecting it from better engineering.
Snake Oil for the Innovation Age: Problems with Clayton Christensen's "Disruptive Innovation" 19-Sep-2015 We need to be wary of claims that we can manage our way through disruptive changes. But nostrums and solutions sell books so we tend to try to tame disruption rather than embracing the new opportunities. We should read the The Innovator's Dilemma as descriptive rather than prescriptive.
Let Consumers Use Better, Cheaper Cable Boxes - The New York Times 31-Aug-2015 The FCC may be getting ready to encourage set top box competition but that only fixes a symptom. It doesn't address the problem of silos.
#APIFirst: How Things Speak to Each other 01-Jul-2015 (Updated: 11-Aug-2015 PDFIf we are to understand the world of connected devices we need to look behind the surface of the web to the APIs (Application Program Interfaces) that are the building blocks for the services we use and the ways devices “listen”. The hashtag #APIFirst emphasizes the importance of this foundation.
Why Can't We Be Like South Korea? 01-Aug-2015 We need to be careful about what we ask for and heed the lessons of Minitel which was the future in 1980 but lacked the dynamic of the Internet.
For .sucks Web domains, the currency seems to be paid in reputations| BetaBoston notsp 23-Jul-2015 What sucks is the idea that you can't owner your very identity nor reputation!
When Algorithms Discriminate 13-Jul-2015 We tend have faith in algorithms as if they represent a divined truth.
For Start-Ups, How Many Angels Is Too Many? 07-Jul-2015 Is angel investing become too much like a lottery?
Re: Where is Google taking us? 06-Jul-2015 Google is doing interesting projects but let's remember that they have a neat trick and not a crystal ball.
Chicago’s cloud tax 02-Jul-2015 The idea of an "Internet Tax" misses the point that the Internet is just the latest face of ecommerce going back to Sears selling from a catalog over the phone.
Why ICANN's Whois Accuracy Program is a disaster | Security contentfrom Dev Pro 28-May-2015 Yet another reminder of how ICANN is more about classic telecom providing services rather than empowering us.
Re how to Beat a Polygraph Test - NYTimes.com 13-Apr-2015 In our search for swift and sure justice we imbue hacks like polygraphs with magical powers far beyond those of mortal devices.
Surprise! Cell calls that sound superb ... but why? 09-Apr-2015 Verizon is selling VoLTE with the promise that one day it will be as good as Skype but that claim misses the point of VoIP which gave us the ability to do a Skype.
Product that do their own reorders 01-Apr-2015 PDFProducts that do their own reorders may create ecosystems that may give a strong advantage to incumbents.
Quora Question: What Is It Like to Have Been Programming for the Past Fifty Years? 21-Mar-2015 My response to the Quora question about what it's been like to have been programming for half a century. You can also see the answer on Quora.
Cancer genetic tests offered on websites often not all they promiseto be, Dana-Farber study finds - Metro - The Boston Globe 21-Mar-2015 While there is value in big data many of the expectations are driven by marketing rather than real science.
DL- GOOGLE Makes Us GODS (via Iona Miller) like Icarus 20-Mar-2015 The idea that we can gain by connecting our brains to the Internet. But our brains have never been isolated. They have always been connected to the rest of society and the intelligence outside the brain and inherent in its architecture have always been our source of smarts. We need to be careful lest this hubris lead us think this time we have the one true answer.
"The Computer Utility and the Community" - Prescient 1967 paper byBob Fano at MIT 16-Mar-2015 A prescient paper by Bob Fano from 1967 on the information utility.
Kill Chain: The Rise of the High-Tech Assassins 16-Mar-2015 Another example of hubris in assuming that we can automate warfare ... and the rest of society.
Internet-Native Policies 17-Feb-2015 (Updated: 19-Feb-2015 PDFAmid all the recent discussion about "Network Neutrality" a concern is that we may be losing the soul of the Internet – the ability to create our own solutions. Our "flow" metaphors fail us when dealing with the tolerant and bursty nature of the Internet. The Internet is not a utility, nor is it a consumable we can meter like electricity or water.

Now that the Internet has begun to "grow up" we need to move beyond policies appropriate for a nascent Internet seeking passage through a telecommunications network and start to adopt Internet Native Policies to facilitate connectivity
Connectivity Site 14-Feb-2015 I will be setting up a site for sharing approaches to sharing connectivity with our neighbors and communities at Connectivity.xyz
Verizon nears "the end" of FiOS builds | Ars Technica 27-Jan-2015 Verizon looks to wireless for profits but that may not last long
What infrastructure is needed for positively disruptive technology 30-Nov-2014 (Updated: 20-Jan-2015 PDF 📹 (video) The talk I gave to ISOCNY November 11 2014 aimed at helping policymakers revisit their "givens".
The Wrist: Information near Your Fingertips 27-Sep-1993 (Updated: 02-Jan-2015 PDFIn 1993 I wrote about the importance of the wrist as real estate for information. After twenty years the ideas seem be becoming mainstream.
Putting it all Together? 01-Jan-2015 PDFThe idea of an automated home is premised on the idea that we can just put together any number of programs and they would auto-magically compromise a coherent whole. After a half a century of programming I know we still have a lot to learn.
Bob Frankston
Copyright 1997-2023