Insider Privileges

Prairie Home Companion begins with a mischievous maxim that all children in Lake Wobegon are above average. The equivalent adage in Silicon Valley goes like this: Every insider acts like an outsider. This adage reflects mythology as well as savvy public relations. The largest technology firms possess names recognized in most households, and they perceive …

The Value of Free in GDP

Did the rise of free information technology improve GDP? It is commonly assumed that it did. After all, the Internet has changed the way we work, play, and shop. Smartphones and free apps are ubiquitous. Many forms of advertising moved online quite a while ago and support gazillions of “free” services. Free apps changed leisure long ago—just ask any teenager or any parent …

Congestion on the Last Mile

It has long been recognized that networked services contain weak-link vulnerabilities. That is, the performance of any frontier device depends on the performance of every contributing component and service. This column focuses on one such phenomenon, which goes by the label “congestion.” No, this is not a new type of allergy, but, as with a …

A Toast to Eli

Delivered on Nov. 12, on the occasion of Eli's Bar-Mitzvah. My dear son, awesome Eli. This may be the last time in the next few years I can get your attention for an uninterrupted five minutes. Sorry to do this in public. Try to smile. A Bar-Mitzvah traditionally marks the time for passing into adulthood. …

Wikipedia and Political Discourse: The New Hope?

Rob Gebelhoff of the Washington Post wrote an awesome piece about the latest Wikipedia research to come from Feng Zhu, Yuan (Grace) Gu, and yours truly. The piece by Gebelhoff is called "Science Shows Wikipedia is the Best Part of the Internet." It refers to our research, Ideological Segregation Among Online Collaborators: Evidence from Wikipedia. A …