Tuesday, November 24, 2020

I Rest My Case

Jeff Rothenberg's seminal 1995 Ensuring the Longevity of Digital Documents focused on the threat of the format in which the documents were encoded becoming obsolete, and rendering its content inaccessible. This was understandable, it was a common experience in the preceeding decades. Rothenberg described two different approaches to the problem, migrating the document's content from the doomed format to a less doomed one, and emulating the software that accessed the document in a current environment.

The Web has dominated digital content since 1995, and in the Web world formats go obsolete very slowly, if at all, because they are in effect network protocols. The example of IPv6 shows how hard it is to evolve network protocols. But now we are facing the obsolescence of a Web format that was very widey used as the long effort to kill off Adobe's Flash comes to fruition. Fortunately, Jason Scott's Flash Animations Live Forever at the Internet Archive shows that we were right all along. Below the fold, I go into the details.

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Storage Media Update

My last post on storage media was After A Decade, HAMR Is Still Nearly Here back in July. Below the fold, I look at some of the developments since then.

Thursday, November 12, 2020

Even More On The Ad Bubble

I've been writing for some time about the hype around online advertising. There's a lot of evidence that it is ineffective. Recently, the UK's Information Commissioner's Office concluded an investigation into Cambridge Analytica's involvement in the 2016 US election and the Brexit referendum. At The Register, Shaun Nichols summarizes their conclusions in UK privacy watchdog wraps up probe into Cambridge Analytica and... it was all a little bit overblown, no?:
El Reg has heard on good authority from sources in British political circles that Cambridge Analytica's advertised powers of online suggestion were rather overblown and in fact mostly useless. In the end, it was skewered by its own hype, accused of tangibly influencing the Brexit and presidential votes on behalf of political parties and campaigners using its Facebook data. Yet, no evidence, according to the ICO, could be found supporting those specific claims.
Below the fold I look at this, a recent book on the topic, and other evidence that has emerged since I wrote Contextual vs. Behavioral Advertising.

Tuesday, November 3, 2020

The Order Flow

The MacGuffin in the last two books of William Gibson's Blue Ant trilogy is Chombo, a reclusive hacker. In Spook Country he tracks a container full of US currency, and in Zero History:
"It's the order flow, isn't it?" Milgrim had had no intent to ask this at all. Hadn't been thinking off it. Yet it had emerged. His therapist had told him that ideas, in human relations, had lives of their own. Were in a sense autonomous.
"Of course"
"That's what Chombo was doing. Finding the order flow."
"He found it a week before they kidnapped him, but his work, to that point, would have been useless, Without him, I mean."
"And the market, the whole thing, it's no longer real? Because you know the future?"
"It's a very tiny slice of the future. The merest paring. Minutes."
"How many?"
Bigend had glanced around the empty lounge. "Seventeen, presently."
"Is that enough?"
"Seven would have been entirely adequate. Seven seconds, in most cases."
Entirely adequate to make Hubertus Bigend much, much richer, because knowing the order flow allows him to front-run the transactions.

Wikipedia defines front-running thus:
Front running, also known as tailgating, is the prohibited practice of entering into an equity (stock) trade, option, futures contract, derivative, or security-based swap to capitalize on advance, nonpublic knowledge of a large ("block") pending transaction that will influence the price of the underlying security. ... A front running firm either buys for its own account before filling customer buy orders that drive up the price, or sells for its own account before filling customer sell orders that drive down the price. Front running is prohibited since the front-runner profits from nonpublic information, at the expense of its own customers, the block trade, or the public market.
Follow me below the fold for a discussion of why the architecture of cryptocurrencies means that no-one needs Chombo's mysterious skills to front-run the order flow.