location-based mobile phone management

Despite the standard, stern command to attendees to turn off their mobile phones and wireless devices at a concert, lecture, religious service, etc., some persons always forget.  Remembering to do tedious tasks should be unnecessary.  Smart phones could supply an automatic courtesy setting.

Smart phones could have a courtesy mode that would shut the phone off in response to an electronic silence signal.  The individual user would be free to use the courtesy mode, or not use it.  The user could also over-ride the courtesy mode in an emergency or in response to an irresistible impulse to be obnoxious.

Location-based mobile phone management would have broader applications.  Some users might prefer no wireless calls at home in the evening. Others might prefer no calls on their personal mobile while they are at their workplace. Rather than requiring users to change continually the state of their phones according to location-based preferences, smart phones could implement location rules directly.

Mobile phone service providers now compete to provide more extensive geographic coverage. With relatively good geographic coverage across service providers, that competition can create little additional user value. Competition in location-based mobile phone management offers greater possibilities for creating user value and effectively differentiating services.  Location-based, managed-access to mobile phones is already being developed to address the problem of contraband cell phones in prisons and jails. This sort of technology potentially has wider and more general applications.

COB-53: Conway's Law

birds top a boat

Every educated person should understand the First Fundamental Theorem of Bureaucracy, also known as Conway’s Law. An illustration of the First Fundamental Theorem:

A contract research organization had eight people who were to produce a COBOL and an ALGOL compiler. After some initial estimates of difficulty and time, five people were assigned to the COBOL job and three to the ALGOL job. The resulting COBOL compiler ran in five phases, the ALGOL compiler ran in three.

More generally, “there is a homomorphism from the linear graph of a system to the linear graph of its design organization.”  Communicative boundaries, such as that between talking to yourself and talking to someone else, are the common structure of the design organization and the designed system.  Thus:

organizations which design systems … are constrained to produce designs which are copies of the communication structures of these organizations.[*]

If you want to understand the deep structure of the intelligently designed universe, study how bureaucrats communicate.

Other bureaucratic issues this month…

Josh Marshall, founder of Talking Points Memo (TPM), proudly describes TPM’s bureaucratic development:

We have a squad of reporters who report to editors. And those editors report to a managing editor.

Editing  is a crucial bureaucratic function.  The more layers of editors, the better the bureaucracy.

UK Independence Party leader Nigel Farage has launched another demagogic attack on European bureaucrats.  Just who the hell does he think he is? Bring Farage into the government as a Deputy Assistant Vice Department Head before he does any more damage.

We are pleased to report that Wikimedia, by far the most cost-effective educational institution in the world, has a user status formally designated as “bureaucrat“.  Bureaucrat is a higher administrative level than an administrator or sysop.  Bureaucrats help Wikimedia projects such as Wikipedia and Wiktionary  run smoothly.  Everyone should be thankful for the work of these and other bureaucrats.

That’s all for this month’s Carnival of Bureaucrats.  Enjoy previous bureaucratic carnivals here. Nominations of posts to be considered for inclusion in next month’s carnival should be submitted using Form 376: Application for Bureaucratic Recognition.

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[*]  This and the previous two quotations are from Conway, Melvin E. (April, 1968), “How do Committees Invent?“, Datamation 14 (5): 28–31.

the new movie business

The well-established movie business has high movie production costs, high movie promotion costs, and close relationships between movie studios and movie theaters. Online services such as Amazon Studios suggest possibilities for much lower movie production costs.  The growth of social media and online advertising, as well as services such as Amazon’s Withoutabox, creates powerful means for low-cost movie promotion.  Digital movie distribution can enable much more dynamic, data-driven placement of movies in theaters (“releases”). Movie theater revenue in the U.S. in 2008 was $11.4 billion. New possibilities for movie production, promotion, and distribution point to changes in the movie business and in the supply of long-form video content.

Related post: movie negative cost increased 60x since 1929

visits to public libraries trending upwards

The number of public library visits per person in public library service areas rose 30% in the U.S. from 1995 to 2008. Circulation per person increased 20% across this period.[1]  The share of persons and households that use public libraries increased only slightly if at all.[2] These figures suggest that libraries are adapting well to changes in the information economy.

Libraries have long offered more than books.  Early in the twentieth century, public libraries lent prints, magic lantern slides, and piano rolls.  Some included rooms for playing piano.  In 2009, 45% of persons in the U.S. ages 14 and older who used a public library in the past year used a public library’s Internet access. [3]

Cloud services are currently a hot tech trend.  Like Centrex, libraries are a cloud service architecture.

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[1] National Center for Educational Statistics library use data.

[2] According to National Center for Educational Statistics, the share of households containing a person who used public libraries within the past year fell from 65%  in 1996 to 48% in 2002.  See Use of Public Library Services by Households in the United States: 1996 and Households’ Use of Public and Other Types of Libraries: 2002.  Such a large decline seems rather implausible. The 1996 study includes references to surveys in 1991 and 1995 that found the share of adults using a public library in the past year to be 63% and 67% respectively. Based on its U.S. nationally representative survey in 2009, Becker et. al (2010), p. 26, reports 69% of persons ages 14 and older used a public library in the past year.

[3] Becker et al. (2010) pp. 26, 32.


Becker, Samantha, Michael D. Crandall, Karen E. Fisher, Bo Kinney, Carol Landry, and Anita Rocha. (2010). Opportunity for All: How the American Public Benefits from Internet Access at U.S. Libraries. (IMLS-2010-RES-01). Institute of Museum and Library Services. Washington, D.C.