An interview with
Technology Columnist for the San
Jose Mercury News.
Conducted via email by John S. Rhodes
What is the San Jose Mercury News and what is your role?
The Mercury News is Silicon Valley's daily newspaper, part of the Knight
Ridder chain. I'm technology columnist. I also write an online column for SiliconValley.com,
which is part of KnightRidder.com,
the company's online arm.
How do you stay on top of the news? Where do the ideas come from? How do
you keep your finger on the pulse of the new economy?
I read everything I can and talk with as many people as I can. My best
ideas come from noticing trends or from sources who tell me what I'm missing
(I miss plenty, it seems...). I've been a skeptic on the near-term prospects
of the "new economy" but not the long-range changes we're going to
see. My own business is will be among the most severely affected, I
What are the three most important technology issues? What are the burning
topics right now?
Not necessarily in this order:
- The war over intellectual property in general.
- Ubiquitous computing.
Opinions and More Opinions
Have large companies taken over the internet? What are they doing to
crush their competition? What unfair or unlawful practices are they
Large companies are taking over major pieces, in part by throwing lawyers
at people they don't like. AOL and Microsoft are clearly trying to carve out
a piece of the Net, and may well do so. Microsoft's moves to own the browser
mean that it controls the single most important access method, at least
today. AOL's stance on instant messaging is contrary to the Internet's
open-standards traditions. The cable TV industry is refusing to provide open
access to other ISPs. The phone companies are offering DSL at prices their
competitors can't match in most cases, and continue to obstruct competition
Should every person be allowed equal access to the web? Why? Why
I'm not sure what this means. Should taxpayers buy PCs and ISP access for
everyone? Probably not. It's too expensive, and Moore's
Law is taking care of the cost within a few years. I do think the
taxpayers should consider building fiber to every home and business in the
nation, just as we paid for the interstate highway system.
Why do so many web sites suck? Why do they have poor writing, poor
editing, and poor design? Do you have any suggestions?
Because engineers and, sometimes, marketers have been the designers, not
people who understand user interfaces. That's changing, I think.
How is the internet landscape changing? Do you think people understand
how these changes will hit them? Feel free to use the recent AOL and Time
Warner merger as an example.
I don't think the public in general is aware of how it's changing. We are
in danger of having very few choices for ISPs, and the owners of copyrighted
material are working in the courts to make the Web a one-way system, not the
multidirectional Web it was supposed to be.
This is dangerous in all kinds of ways, but the loss of worthwhile speech
Who do you respect? Who are your role models? What person had the most
impact on your life?
I try to respect everyone unless they do something to cause
What are your personal rules? What is your creed? What is your
I try to do the right thing.
What are your favorite books? What are your favorite web sites?
No special favorites, though I visit many on a regular basis.
Tell us something amazing. Stun us. Hit us with something that would be
impossible to know without reading this interview.
It will soon be all but impossible to protect what we call
"intellectual property" from what is called "piracy" --
both of which terms are grossly misleading in that context. Everyone in the
copyright business will need to find a new business model, because the
alternative is a system of protection so restrictive that it will destroy
all privacy, public libraries and other things we tend to like.
What important question did I forget to ask you? What is your answer to
None at the top of my brain right now...
Final thoughts? Shameless plugs? Pearls of wisdom?
Wisdom comes from wiser people than me...