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Malcolm Gladwell Challenges the Idea of "Free" 206

Posted by kdawson
from the crying-out-from-a-world-of-hurt dept.
An anonymous reader brings us another bump on the bumpy road of Chris Anderson's new book, Free: The Future of a Radical Price, which we discussed a week ago. Now the Times (UK) is reporting on a dustup between Anderson and Malcolm Gladwell, author of The Tipping Point, Blink, and Outliers. Recently Gladwell reviewed, or rather deconstructed, Anderson's book in the New Yorker. Anderson has responded with a blog post that addresses some, but by no means all, of Gladwell's criticisms, and The Times is inclined to award the match to Gladwell on points. Although their reviewer didn't notice that Gladwell, in setting up the idea of "Free" as a straw man, omitted a critical half of Stewart Brand's seminal quote.
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Malcolm Gladwell Challenges the Idea of "Free"

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  • Summary?! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by girlintraining (1395911) on Tuesday June 30, 2009 @06:52PM (#28535973)

    Summary, n.: a comprehensive and usually brief abstract, recapitulation, or compendium of previously stated facts or statements.

    That is exactly what this slashdot post isn't.

    • Re:Summary?! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by sakdoctor (1087155) on Tuesday June 30, 2009 @07:03PM (#28536117) Homepage

      Editor, n: a perl script used to push a slashdot article to the frontpage "as is" or with random perturbations.

      kdawson.pl is widely acknowledged as the buggiest and least effective of these script.

      • by daveime (1253762)

        It has come to our attention that people are trying to launch multiple copies of kdawson.pl at the same time.

        Please refrain from this practice, as it leads to duplicate articles reaching the front page with only minor random perturbations of the text and/or links.

        Thanks

        CmdrTaco

    • by Chris Burke (6130)

      Well it certainly was abstract!

    • by overcaffein8d (1101951) <d...cohen09@@@gmail...com> on Tuesday June 30, 2009 @07:16PM (#28536279) Homepage Journal

      or my mother's / sister's definition:

      summary (also summery), adj.: of or relating to the summer, esp. with clothes, e.g. yellow cotton dresses.

    • To try and make a long story short, but not too short:

      Malcolm Gladwell and Chris Anderson are, according to the Guardian newspaper, "Two of the world's leading thinkers". A title seemingly obtained from a long career of writing endless books about things no one really cares about, but everyone likes to have an opinion on.

      Andeson is the author of a book called, "Free: The Future of a Radical Price", in which he argued that in an age where terabyte drives can be had for less than $100 , and megabytes of data can be whizzed around the tubes in seconds, a story or articles or other pieces of data only a few kilobytes in size can only be worth, well, nothing.

      The spat began when , Gladwell, in his review of the book, became a bit, harsh, in his critques of Anderson, calling his arguments "pithy"(sic!) and "uncompromising", and generally regarded Anderson's arguments as lacking in substance(my word!).

      Unfortunately, this rather vicious assault came at a time when Anderson was recently caught plagiarising material, and worse from Wikipedia, so he must have felt a need to defend his intellectual honor from Gladwell's slights. He therefore promptly responded with am open letter titled "Dear Malcom: Why so threatened?"

      At this point everyone in the playground let out a collective "OOOUUUUHHHHHHHHH!!!" and someone was heard to yell "Fight!". Needless to say, this sort of hubbub is rarely seen in such great intellectual circles, and the social clubs are just brimming with gossip about the scandal.

      The Guardian, ever the vigilant reporter of great matters of state, has dutifully brought the matter to the attention of the greater public. In addition, their great commentator Murad Ahmed, has already declared that Gladwell "wins this one on points", which is certain to stir things up a bit.

      It's all so exciting! Wouldn't you agree?!

      • by timeOday (582209)
        Maybe there is something about the reporting that makes this seem boring, but really, intellectual property is a huge issue at the present moment and going forward. Basing our economy on something that may or may not have any actual long-term value (depending whether nations play nice and protect each others' IP) is actually quite momentous.
        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          Basing our economy on something that may or may not have any actual long-term value (depending whether nations play nice and protect each others' IP) is actually quite momentous.

          Forget long term. The real question facing is is whether intellectual property has any value whatsoever. While various arguments may have sufficed in bygone days, in the digital age it's hard to justify how something which has unlimited supply can still have a non zero price. As technology improves and it becomes trivial to copy and

          • by Quothz (683368)

            in the digital age it's hard to justify how something which has unlimited supply can still have a non zero price.

            Artists are immortal these days?

          • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

            by cliffski (65094)

            I hope you live in china, or some other economy that actually has factories. Because if not, you just doomed your entire generation to depression-style unemployment.

            the USA is more dependent on IP than anywhere else on earth. I'm surprised to seeso many college educated US slashdot readers act so aggressively to devalue the one thing their economic future really does depend upon.

      • My take is that Gladwell is post-peak and he knows it.

        IIRC his last book got kind of panned, and I don't know if the one before that was super well received, either, and the last thing he wants is someone else with "big, revolutionary & daring ideas" shoving him out of the spotlight.

        I mean, if that happens, he's just another loudmouth with an iPhone and a bunch of opinions.

        Gladwell's "big" ideas and how-smart-am-I delivery I think will be non-starters in a world of 15% unemployment. They may keep going

        • by iluvcapra (782887) on Tuesday June 30, 2009 @10:47PM (#28537975)

          My take is that Gladwell is post-peak and he knows it.

          Give him a little bit of credit, at least try to address his arguments.

          They're both rather accomplished bullshit-pop-sociology writers, but the real disagreement has a lot to do with their style. Anderson is like Tom Friedman and Ray Kurtzweil, in that he is a messianic This Is The Future pop philosopher-type, and tends to construct his argument around absolute, theoretical propositions, and asserts his case as if it were inescapable physical law. He writes like an Austrian Economist or a Straussian. He is a structuralist.

          Gladwell is the skeptic. All of his books have mainly focused on picking-apart the assumptions of structuralists; you think entrepreneurs are the movers in an economy, he puts up 10 reasons why it isn't so simple. You think hockey teams always select the best roster of players? Outliers is about how social institutions are highly irrational in identifying the successful. You think people make rational decisions at all? He wrote a book called Blink where he calls it all into question.

          I'm not saying he's right, it's just his MO. When he sees a book like Free, that makes Big Important Statements about How All Of Us Order Our Lives, it's bait to someone like him.

      • the social clubs are just brimming with gossip about the scandal.

        You mean those fancy clubs that would never allow Cretans like us to bask in the glowing light of their intellectual presence? Somehow, I cannot say that I am sorry to have missed this one. Perhaps this Gladwell fellow can turn his attentions next to Perez Hilton? If ever there was someone who needed to be taken down a notch or two it is him.

        • You mean those fancy clubs that would never allow Cretans like us to bask in the glowing light of their intellectual presence?

          Oh, you're from Crete? I'm not, so I suppose I must be allowed into the fancy clubs... :-)

          I think the word you're probably looking for is "cretin", i.e. "a stupid, vulgar, or insensitive person : clod, lout" (Merriam-Webster [merriam-webster.com]). "Cretan", properly capitalized to boot as it is in your comment, means "someone from Crete".

          But if you are indeed a Cretan, then I suppose I must be a cret

        • by abigor (540274)

          You mean those fancy clubs that would never allow Cretans like us to bask in the glowing light of their intellectual presence?

          Hahaha, this is one of the stupidest/funniest things I have ever read. Weird how both authors are biased against the good people of Crete.

      • by dargaud (518470)
        Thank you for the excellent summary, sir. Now would you mind to also comment on all the other kdawson posts that don't make any sense, if you have a couple months at your disposal ?
      • It's all so exciting! Wouldn't you agree?!

        (squeaky high-school girl voice) Sure is! And have you heard, I hear that Theresa, you know, the one who had a crush on Jimmy, said that she saw how they made out in the cafeteria...

        It sure feels like petty high school bickering over who is right on a matter nobody cares about.

    • by caladine (1290184)

      Posted by kdawson on Tuesday June 30, @04:46PM

      [sarcasm] Oh, wow. I'm surprised by this one! [/sarcasm]

      kdawson's SNR is pretty low.

      • by daveime (1253762)

        SNR ? zero divided by zero ?

        +++ Divide By Cucumber Error. Please Reinstall Universe And Reboot +++.

    • by Swampash (1131503)

      Just kdawson using Slashdot as his personal blog again.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 30, 2009 @06:53PM (#28535985)

    Could anyone understand that mess? Is this a book review? If I didn't know that "outliers" was a book, I'd be clicking past.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by WaXHeLL (452463)

      Glad to see we have editors who can't re-write a summary so that it actually means something to 99% of the people out there.

    • The item is reporting a Times article, along with some related links. The issue is a familiar one and the language perfectly grammatical. What's the problem?

      • by langelgjm (860756)

        The issue is a familiar one and the language perfectly grammatical. What's the problem?

        The stinky cloud thought to herself, "I'm hungry."

        That language is perfectly grammatical, but also nonsensical. I'd also question whether "challenging the idea of free" is a familiar issue... challenging the idea that information or music should be free, maybe, but not challenging the idea itself, which is what the headline says.

    • It's about journalists, so they naturally assume that you know what they're talking about. They live in a tiny, insular world...
  • To be fair (Score:4, Funny)

    by Locke2005 (849178) on Tuesday June 30, 2009 @07:04PM (#28536129)
    Does Gladwell also have a problem with the Wikipedia articles that Anderson plagiarized for the book?
  • by bennomatic (691188) on Tuesday June 30, 2009 @07:05PM (#28536131) Homepage
    ...it just wants to be anthropomorphized.
    • Only something non-human can be anthropomorphized, therefore the desire to be be anthropomorphized is a desire to be non-human. Weird.

  • by DriedClexler (814907) on Tuesday June 30, 2009 @07:10PM (#28536199)

    FACT: Chuck Norris is the only one who can read Malcom Gladwell without losing brain cells.

    But even he loses one.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      wikipedia: [wikipedia.org]

      During his high school years, Gladwell was an outstanding middle distance runner and won the 1500m Midget Boys title at the 1978 Ontario High School championships

      1000 times taller than the average human and still classed as a midget?

  • Captain Obvious (Score:3, Interesting)

    by EmperorOfCanada (1332175) on Tuesday June 30, 2009 @07:14PM (#28536235)
    I love how this guy discovers the obvious and then gets people to buy his books. What is it? His hair cut fools people into thinking he is smart?
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by piojo (995934)

      I love how this guy discovers the obvious and then gets people to buy his books.

      Well, his talent is that he can talk. His ideas aren't "obvious"; in fact, I sometimes doubt that he is correct. His books don't employ the level of rigor that Freakonomics, for example, uses. But he has interesting ideas and explains them well. That's why his books are best sellers.

      • by piojo (995934)

        Oh, I should add that he makes his readers feel smart... I would guess that's actually the reason he is so successful.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by timeOday (582209)
          I like Gladwell's books because he selects a field and recaps the landmark studies (or anecdotes) in an interesting way. Granted, he then tries to make some over-arching argument, which is sometimes not too convincing. But IMHO he is an engaging reporter of others' research.
        • Oh, I should add that he makes his readers feel smart... I would guess that's actually the reason he is so successful.

          That's so obvious, it ought to be the thesis of a Malcom Gladwell book.

      • by radtea (464814)

        Well, his talent is that he can talk.

        Nope, his "talent" is his funny haircut. Notice how all the self-proclaimed pundits have really weird hair? Gladwell is a canonical example.

        In a way, it's really nice, because it makes it really easy to stop the charlatans: if a media-hyped "expert" has weird hair you know they're a pretentious wanker. So on the one hand it attracts the attention of idiots to their stupid ideas, and on the other hand it paints a big red flag on them for anyone with two brain cells t

  • by phantomfive (622387) on Tuesday June 30, 2009 @07:14PM (#28536243) Journal
    The biggest point, in my opinion, that Gladwell makes, is that you still need to find a way to make money. Both sides use the example of youtube, which gives away everything for free. However, they have infrastructure costs of somewhere around $300 million a year, which they haven't been able to cover with advertising. Will they be able to find a way to cover their costs, or not? I don't know the answer to that, maybe eventually.

    I think Anderson is kind of stumbling upon a point an MBA told me once, that given enough time, all new technology becomes a commodity. There are a dozen word processors you can choose from, a dozen different types computers, a dozen types of memory to choose from, hundreds of flash game sites (which are free, but 20 years ago people paid real money for games just like those). So for the most part, things will get sold for a little more than the cost to create them (the MBA then went on to tell me a number of different techniques to 'lock in' customers to your product: trapping users with file format was one, there were many other more devious methods, and Microsoft uses many of them. I don't underestimate quality MBAs anymore).

    What Anderson is saying is that more and more, marketers will use freeness to suck users in. This is actually common knowledge among marketers, they've been playing with 'free' for years, and they are really excited about it, and talk about it amongst themselves, and to anyone else who will listen. Basically Anderson is right.

    What Gladwell is saying is that you still need a way to cover your costs. Basically he is right as well.

    They are both right, and what's more, if you asked an MBA about this, they might wonder why you are arguing about such basic ideas. And if you ask nicely, they'll tell you tons more about things you never even thought of.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Phurge (1112105)
      Will Youtube be able to cover its costs? Probably not - but that's probably not the right level to look at the issue.
      Will Google as a whole be able to recoup value (financial or strategic) from Youtube? ..... well maybe, but I guess the jury is still out on that one too.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by mr_mischief (456295)

        There are more specific questions about how they could gain value from YouTube. Will Google, which reportedly uses a homogeneous infrastructure for all of its apps, learn important and valuable lessons from hosting a popular high-bandwidth site on that infrastructure? Will they gain important mindshare in other markets because of it? Will they learn important rules about search, user interaction, or advertising markets which they can apply to other services they offer?

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by MichaelSmith (789609)
          Yesterday my wife found out that her father may have cancer. She organised for a specialist to see him tomorrow. When she got home she asked me to find the location of his office. I found a pointer to a medical directory site with his details, okay. Then she asked me how to find that address so I went separately into google maps and searched for the address. Google gave me a nice sidebar with a list of businesses in the general area I was searching for including the doctor I had been previously googling.

          N
      • You should expand on that.....what sort of strategic value do you envision for youtube? Because many companies have failed for amassing mountains of non-profitable strategic 'value'.
        • For Instance, people "google" for YouTube video's all of the time. Even if you start out at bing.com and end up at youtube, Google is steering you to their search engine, which gives them more ad revenue. It is one of many less direct means that something like YouTube creates its value.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Phurge (1112105)
          Well the way I see it, google thrives by keeping users within its ecosystem. Having users drives advertising. So as long as it keeps competitors out (by offering free products) then the adsense gravy train continues to roll on....
      • by grcumb (781340)

        Will Youtube be able to cover its costs? Probably not - but that's probably not the right level to look at the issue.

        True, but I suspect everyone is missing the point. The question is: How will Google make money from youtube?

        The possibility that they won't is a nightmare scenario, with P2P everything at its logical conclusion.

        If Google can't make youtube pay, they fundamentally subvert the whole premise of centralised Internet services built around content delivery....

        ...and Gladwell looks even more like a vacuous twit. So I guess what I'm saying is that I'm okay with that. 8^)

        • by Raffaello (230287)

          How will it make Gladwell look like a vacuous twit? Gladwell is the one arguing that business models based on providing free content don't magically work; they need to find some way to make the free content profitable. So if Google fails to make money from youtube Gladwell will be vindicated.

    • by serbanp (139486)
      Sure, but Anderson is dead wrong if he's waiting for the hardware price to drop to ZERO (i.e. free). Despite the spectacular price drop for all things hardware, they still have to be sold at a profit, otherwise no one would make them. They'll never get truly free, no matter how little you pay for them.

      .

      Gladwell's writing abilities keep improving, his latest book being way better written than The Tipping Point. Who the heck is this Anderson guy and why can't he write in meaningful sentences?

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by mugnyte (203225)

        Not true. You are considering only new hardware.

        However, not far from my house is a technology recycling warehouse. For some labor or a donation, you can pick up essentially free parts and build a machine of your liking. People use it for all kinds of projects, from PCs to hybrid microcontroller projects.

        Most of the new technology replaces something, pushing it into the used stream, then finally the waste stream. However, even outdated technology has uses. It's basically free an

        • by abigor (540274)

          Gladwell's article doesn't concern home computers or recycled computers. By "hardware", he means massive infrastructure. He makes this very clear in the article.

      • You are right, but I'm not sure how it relates to the topic at hand, since I didn't see anywhere that Anderson said he was waiting for the price of hardware to drop to zero. Did you see that anywhere?
        • by welcher (850511)
          He might not be saying that infrastructure etc will become free, but he is saying that the cost is negligible. One of Gladwell's points is that even that assumption is incorrect - these costs, even if individually small, become important when multiplied (as in the youtube case).
          • OK, I see you have read the articles, but I don't see how your comment fits in this thread. Maybe you were trying to reply to a different comment? Alternately, it would be helpful if you added a sentence or two explaining how it relates.
    • by Narpak (961733)

      However, they have infrastructure costs of somewhere around $300 million a year, which they haven't been able to cover with advertising.

      According to this article - "YouTube May Lose $470 Million In 2009" [multichannel.com]

      According to the firm's analysis of YouTube traffic and ad strategies, the site is on track to generate about $240 million in revenue in 2009, up about 20% year over year.

      But the cost of bandwidth, content licensing, ad-revenue shares, hardware storage, sales and marketing and other expenses will total about $711 million, putting YouTube squarely in the red, the Credit Suisse report estimated. Bandwidth accounts for about 51% of expenses -- with a run rate of $1 million per day -- with content licensing accounting for 36%.

      To arrive at the estimated $360 million bandwidth tab for YouTube, the analysts assumed the site will receive 375 million unique visitors in 2009 and that a maximum of 20% of those users are on the site at any given time. Credit Suisse's analysis then assumed each user downloads a video at 400 kilobits per second, to yield a peak bit run-rate for YouTube of 30 million megabits per second.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by BlackSabbath (118110)
      I think people keep mistaking "free" for "Freedom". "free" quite literally means no price. "Freedom" means having the latitude to do certain things you want to do.

      If I understand the nature of something that I accept for "free" then I have consciously made a decision to spend whatever personal effort is required to extract some value out of this "free" thing. Does my effort make the thing less "free"? Presumably, I know what I'm doing and still think its worth the price of my personal effort. This decision
      • by Raffaello (230287)

        RMS, is that you?

        • :-)

          No, but I was certainly thinking of him when I wrote that. Many consider him a kook but he's been spot-on about a great many things. His positions are typically very well thought out. People who have formed an opinion of him through hearsay really should do themselves a favour and read some of his essays.

          http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/
          - search for "Stallman" on that page for links to several essays.
    • It is common knowledge that has been confirmed by various higher-ups at Google over the past few years, that as far as Google is concerned, "What is good for The Web, is good for Google". Google spends hundreds of millions per year on various free giveaways that it will not now or probably ever recoup costs on - things like Chrome, supporting Firefox, YouTube, etc.

      Why does it do this? Because the more people utilize the web, the more it becomes the center of their daily lives, they more they will rely on Go

      • "What is good for The Web, is good for Google".

        Is that anything like "What is good for GM is good for the country"?

        Seriously, when a good idea and lucky timing come together and you succeed beyond your wildest dreams, it's easy to develop superstitions about your success. One can imagine all kinds of web goodness that wouldn't be in Google's best interests.

    • I think Anderson is kind of stumbling upon a point an MBA told me once, that given enough time, all new technology becomes a commodity. There are a dozen word processors you can choose from, a dozen different types computers, a dozen types of memory to choose from, hundreds of flash game sites (which are free, but 20 years ago people paid real money for games just like those). So for the most part, things will get sold for a little more than the cost to create them (the MBA then went on to tell me a number of different techniques to 'lock in' customers to your product: trapping users with file format was one, there were many other more devious methods, and Microsoft uses many of them. I don't underestimate quality MBAs anymore).

      Commoditization is usually a surface phenomenon. When you start using things you always find little niggles and poor design choices that you have to learn to live with, because you didn't have the knowledge and time to choose a more suitable product.

      There is so much potential for marketers to make their products stand out, and even deserve a premium, by giving their potential customers more help, rather than just agenda-pushing ads and blurb.

      This help can be provided by independent consumer advisors. T

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by cliffski (65094)

      This is very true. Check out the web game 'civony' (now evony) it is advertised absolutely everywhere nd by all accounts has a huge numebr of people playing. the game is

      FREE FOREVER!

      Unless you actually want to 'get anywhere' in which case you need to pay to get this item, or pay for that ability, or pay for this feature, or pay for that feature...
      By the time you are done you might as well just have bought CIV IV or have signed up to play World of Warcraft.

      People are suckered in by 'free', but it never works

  • Did it appear to anyone else that we may have temporarily slahdotted wiki? This may be the first time that that anyone's ever actually had to click the links to find out whats going on, so it seems plausible. At least its working again now.
    • I don't think Wikipedia was slashdotted because I can confirm I got the error message shortly before the story was posted when I tried to look up an article.

      Unless of course, the Firehosers slashdotted it. Do we still have the Firehose? I mean, a real Firehose, that like, doesn't look like a psychedelic trip that crashes your browser and has no option to revert to a pre-sharkjump format?

    • by CecilPL (1258010)
      Nope, it's been up and down for at least an hour now.
    • by owlnation (858981)

      Did it appear to anyone else that we may have temporarily slahdotted wiki?

      Nah, Jimbo probably just censored it.

  • by sphealey (2855) on Tuesday June 30, 2009 @07:42PM (#28536565)

    Political analyst Matthew Yglesias over at CAP has a fairly good take on both the book and the review [thinkprogress.org] at the CAP web site.

    sPh

    • Damn, you beat me to it. To your link [google.com], I'll add the abstract of his post:

      Where Anderson goes off the rails is his suggestion that the "give it away" business model is actually a promising business model.

      Competition is good for customers because it destroys profits. The way you make real money is by getting into situations where you're insulated from competition. Meanwhile, as market sectors turn to a Free business model, they're just going to become way less lucrative.

      Example: YouTube loses money. But since

  • Hack vs. the Void (Score:4, Interesting)

    by sam_handelman (519767) <skh2003@colum[ ].edu ['bia' in gap]> on Tuesday June 30, 2009 @08:03PM (#28536777) Homepage Journal

    Malcolm Gladwell is one of those people, not precisely stupid, but so shallow and lacking in insight that he makes Chris Anderson, who is simply a hack, look brilliant by comparison. Gladwell, lest we forget, specializes in gushing soft journalism pieces on people whom he has designated as "great". He's what I call a Mensa bottom feeder - he produces work for people who like to think about how smart they are, which is not how actually-smart people spend their time.

      Gladwell wouldn't know what to do with an actual idea if he had one (I envisage a dog with a great piece of artwork [walrusmagazine.com], sort of chewing on it.) Now, Anderson's piece is competent hackery, which is better than most people could do I don't mean this critically, but something about it intersects with the sort of faux-highbrow pablum that Gladwell thinks he understands. This is very threatning to Gladwell - going back to the dog analogy, it's like he's got some glimpse of a world of ideas and there's a threat to him there that he can't really understand. Gladwell is getting good money to stick his nose up Bill Gates' behind and there's an army of other dogs willing to do that for free. So he lashes out in a rage, and since he can dimly percieve Anderson (but not the more interesting and provocative people whose work Anderson has extended), Anderson becomes his target.

      Again, I have nothing against a competent hack. But I do have some real criticism for Anderson - seriously, you admire Gladwell?

    • Well put. Would have used my mod points, but I had already comments on how painful it is to read Gladwell, especially knowing people take him seriously.

    • A well-crafted post, sir!
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Martian_Kyo (1161137)

      I don't admire gladwell, but tipping point was an interesting read. Not brilliant, but it felt like an interesting conversation with a friend who had one of those crazy but interesting ideas. It made interesting observations, but made a conclusions I didn't entirely agree with. However it made me think and look up things, people and ideas.

      What bothers me about your post is that it says nothing. You have two paragraphs of cynicism, with typical array of cynical adjective: 'Mensa bottom feeder', 'Hack', 'Soft

  • Not a book review (Score:2, Insightful)

    by lyinhart (1352173)
    No, this is not a book review. And yes, in his books Gladwell does state the "obvious" and isn't always on point with his assertions. But in this critique of Anderson's ideas, Gladwell makes his point with one phrase: Free: The Future of a Radical Price (Hyperion; $26.99) Yes, for all of Anderson's extolling of the virtues of free content, he's still selling his book for money.
    • by dangitman (862676)
      But he's also giving it away for free. Besides, the fact that he's trying to sell physical copies does nothing to undermine his theories.
  • ...and it was basically a verbal blowjob for KIPP. When he wasn't doing that, he was praising Japanese models while poo-pooing different levels of ability, while Japanese models are super differentiated to the point that you have to earn your way into high school. Just a hodgepodge of inconsistencies that made his speech (pun intended) an outlier.
  • Gladwell just doesn't get it. Chris Anderson IS finding ways to make money off of giving things for free.

    No really, he took something free (wikipedia) and charged money for it.

  • It's not strictly true to talk about the kinds of economic models Anderson is talking about (if I understand this correctly) as "free". They just involve transactions on the consumer end that are too small to bother collecting money for -- from the consumer. That's not anything particularly revolutionary. Television ran for years that way with advertising revenues.

    But if you look at television news, you see the Achilles heel of these models when it comes to journalism. The three national networks for ma

  • It's amazing to me how the description of this article in no way describes what it is actually about!

  • Most notably that Anderson bases most of his argument on the idea that there is an enormous difference between 'extremely cheap' and 'free' ("the magic of the word 'free' creates instant demand among consumers" that is vastly higher than the increase in demand seen between charging $0.10 and $0.01) but, as Gladwell points out, at no point does Anderson say that information/data storage is actually free, just that it is heading that direction asymptotically. As such, it is still, always, $0.01 or thereabout
  • The lower the price of production gets, the more valuable IP gets. Consider cars for instance (this is Slashdot after all). The basics of building a car cost far less today than they did in 1950. Put another way, if you wanted to build a 1950-level car today, you could sell it for a lot less (in real dollars) than you could then. Manufacturing technology and management is just far more efficient now.

    But do cars cost a lot less now than they did in 1950? No. The reason is that today's cars are far more compl

  • Old news. (Score:3, Informative)

    by v(*_*)vvvv (233078) on Wednesday July 01, 2009 @01:04AM (#28538715)

    This is pretty much where this debate was during the IT bubble 10 years ago. Everyone was wondering how all the .coms were planning on making money when everything they sold was "free."

    Of course, those services that truly were free didn't last, and those that actually weren't free and had many strings attached didn't last either, except the latter pissed a lot of people off in the process. Some managed to IPO and raise money successfully, but raising money and making money are different things, and in the end everyone lost except those who knew when to get out.

    They should require by law that every company disclose how they make their money and how they cover their costs. This used to be obvious. Only recently has this become convoluted with all the "innovation" in the financial sector and with contracts. They should also require "simple commerce" without any non-upfront, opt-out type of fees.

    Manipulation is not innovation. It is manipulation.

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