Archive for October, 2004

The problem of bike thieves

My bicycle was stolen today. It wasn’t my first bike, patient which was stolen.

The first bike I remember for good was a three-speed DBS. I got it when I was something like 8-years-old. It was a great bike, unhealthy which was later named as “Kossu”. The bike lasted definitely more than 5 years, unhealthy through all summes and winters, heavy daily use, lots of customization, until it simply rusted out. It was my last bike, which wasn’t stolen.

The next one I got when I was like 12 (I still drove with Kossu at nights). This one was an adult-size 10-speed tunturi. It was my bike the next 7 years or so until it was stolen from Riihimäki railway station. It happened soon after I had started to drive regularly to the station since I went to the University of Helsinki. I didn’t mind too much about this bike because it was almost rusted out and I had left it to lie at the station for over a week for some grazy reason. I mostly wondered who was so stupid to get it.

My dad educated me about bike thieves at the Riihimäki station. He needed to buy a bike typically once a year because they were frequently stolen (He went by bike to the station every morning and came back at night). That’s why he always bought the cheapest used women’s model there was. The most unlike model to be stolen.

I moved on to one of such cheapies, a fifty euro worth 10-speed DBS. I don’t remember too much of it because it was stolen within 6 months from the Riihimäki station. That was the last bike I owned in Riihimäki. I thought I will never buy again a bike there.

I moved to Helsinki and lived almost a year without one. But then something struck and I bought a used good-looking body from police auctions. One more fifty euros and another fifty for new black paint, new tires, new chains and such. I really liked the new paint and named the biked Indurain. I used a lot of time for refurbishing it. Indurain lasted for less than two months. It was stolen from Pasila railway station in Helsinki. After Indurain, I thought I will never again own a bike in Helsinki.

That promise lasted for the next seven years or so. Last fall I bought a new K2 mountain bike from Berkeley and brought it eventually into Finland. I added the biggest Kryptonite lock and some other additions into it. It cost me something like 300 euros. It was a good bike to drive, 21-speed, front suspension etc.

Today, my mountain bike was taken from Ruoholahti metro station. I left the bike at around 16 and returned around 21, something like an hour after it became dark. Man, I was pissed off! After I realised what had happened I walked around the neighboring blocks just to ask if anybody had any idea who idiot took it.

My little sociological field study consisted of meeting with two gangs of 12-15 year-old Finnish kids and two Somalis. The first kid-gang, mainly girls, was talking quite loudly how they had experimented with “speed” and other hard drugs when I approached them. Apparently they didn’t like me and I got nothing. The next gang, just five boys, looked like they were trying to sneak through the backdoor of a store. I approached the guys and asked about my bike. One guy comes to me a little bit ashamed. He looks like stoned. “No, I don’t know about your bike”. When I leave, another boy whispers back “…and what if we did?!” I decide to walk to home when I finally see the Somalis. Two tall guys, not very well clothed, scouting all the corners, heads turning all the time. Just like looking after a new bike… I’m outta here! Who ever it was, and there are many possibilities, needed the money from it badly.

I will buy a bike again, that’s for sure. Bikes are too useful not to have. However, my budget is limited to 50 euros and it must be the oldest and ugliest women’s model available.

Published in: Politics | on October 21st, 2004 | No Comments »

When open source went dot-com

Just came back from Joi Ito’s talk in Helsinki. He talked about the future of music business largely based on a recent Wired article.

Don’t get me wrong. The talk was great and thought-provoking. I did enjoy it. I just happen to have second thoughts of most of the stuff he said. His talk was like a troll-post to me and I’ll post my second thoughts here as I’d post them to any troll. Keep this in my mind if you go on to read my harsh critique in what follows.

* * *

The main message as I got it was that the music business is going open source. You’ll have the commercial “head” which is shrinking and is doomed. You’ll also have the long “tail”, generic which has all the future talent, hospital and the real creative force. Folk, medicine karaoke, Garageband, the stuff you really want to do. CDs are history. Big labels who do physical distribution and search artists at the moment will suffer and need to fundamentally change their “business models”. Mass media made us believe they had a role but in reality what they produce us is just crap (in terms of quality). We won’t have new Michael Jacksons’ anytime soon…

And the business in this new world of music? Mr. Ito claimed “prosumers”, for the lack of a better word, at the tail’s end will pay to get more attention. So one idea is to make some platform stuff (obviously software) for them. What else? Niche groups around folk bands and artists will be the center of action – so you can for example sell T-shirts to your audience. Great! Moreover, if you release just some of your stuff free you might later get bought by the big Hollywood-guys!! This is getting better and better – still more ideas!? The real bomb: DVDs!! They won’t disappear, there is a lot of development potential in music DVDs.

What a mess of “ideas”. Let’s refute them quickly:

1. Platforms won’t be business to anyone. If it’s going to be popular, it’ll be open source and free for all. Read IT doesn’t matter.
2. T-shirts… remember dot-com?
3. Get attention to get bought by the big labels – what is exactly new in this? And doesn’t this go against the very idea of p2p, open source and amateur revolution?
4. DVDs… again, what’s new? Ironically, to refute his earlier arguments, mr. Ito went on to show enthusiastically a new Rolling Stones DVD (which has camera angles to exite the audience and make them not to connect this to the earlier bs about marginal-artist revolution and the death of CDs)

* * *

The main impression I’m starting to get is that all this open source, open content, free/open whatever Internet-related stuff is at the moment the worst kind of hype available. The problem is people are getting interested, they want gurus to speak and the cycle starts to feed more and more belief in us. Success story here, success story there. Somebody makes a business proposal and mass psychology takes care of the rest. Open is the answer! Freedom or death!

I don’t doubt that this hype reflects the cultural and social impact of the Internet. Obviously people will share more, and it is indeed possible to cooperate and get “creative” in some ways unthinkable a few years back. Richard Stallman is the real guru of creativity and freedom in this sense.

However, mr. Stallman has nothing to say about business. Guys like mr. Ito make that mistake. Further, they go on to generalize open source to open whatever without much reality checks. We should not believe that the open/free/power-to-the-people trend has any business impact in the first place. Money is conservative. Money doesn’t follow the free. Money loves control and hierarchies, it wants to be in a safe place.

I bet Gekko would said to freaks like mr. Ito something like this: “You’re walking around blind without a cane, pal. A fool and his money are lucky enough to get together in the first place.”

Published in: Economy, Tech | on October 14th, 2004 | No Comments »

The death of Finnish party-politics

Today, click I trashed the Finnish political parties.

Finland is supposed to have a multi-party political system. We should have left-wing social democrats, right-wing conservatives, new-age greens and everything in between. Three of the biggest parties have like 20-25% popularity each and three or four next like 5-10%. In short, there should be enough credible parties to choose from. I consider myself as a liberal but unfortunately the official liberal party has no political power. Thus, I’ve mainly voted for the conservative right as I’ve thought their values most closely reflect those of individualism and free markets. They are one of the top-3 parties.

In today’s Helsigin Sanomat, the party’s new chairman, a 32-year-old obvious political freshman answers questions before the coming municipal elections. He looks cool and credible in the picture. His face is also on the party’s official election ads (no other party uses such a person-centric approach). Ok, here is the new image of the party I’ll most probably vote. I read on.

Q: “Should tax money collected from the capital region be distributed more equally to rural areas?”
A: “Everyone has joint reponsibility…”, he starts the answer and my eyebrows go a bit higher. Then comes the bomb: “…I think it is the right kind of solidar policy.”

WTF? Right kind of solidar policy? When did the chairman of our only party (supposedly) opposing socialists during the soviet years started to speak about solidarity? What the hell was he thinking when he gave that answer? Was he thinking at all?

I didn’t object the content of this answer (that rural areas should be supported) but the arguments he gave simply made me mad. I threw the paper to the floor and called my friend who’s been a member of the party for years. He was very surprised to hear what their chairman had said. Solidarity. Really?

(The chairman wasn’t that impressive in other questions either. He could give the only clear answers to funny questions like “tobacco or cigar?” or “smoked or baked meat?” – I hope the journalist wasn’t ironic)

I did some research later during the day. I read through all the ideology and principles stuff from the main right-wing party web pages. No mention about solidarity. I go on to the social democrat site. The very first sentence of their principles states that one the main values of social democrats is solidarity. There you go.

What is the value of politics if the parties have no principles anymore?

I actually stopped voting conservatives already at the recent EU elections. I learned they are part of European conservatives in spite of there is a stong liberal group at the EU parliament. Instead, I voted for a candidate from the Swedish Folkparty since they belong to this liberal group. But I still felt some sympathy for the Finnish conservatives. Until it ended today.

I went on to daydream. Maybe the opportunity for liberals in Finland in the long term is the Center Party. They also belong to the liberal group at the EU parliament and are one of the three parties with enough popularity to take government reponsibility (the other two being social democrats and conservatives). The problems of the Center Party are populism, dull image and history. Their current image rests on a former Miss Finland (the populist part) and an uber-conservative prime minister, who’s 100% sober, very religious and haven’t ever smiled (the dull part). A problematic historical shadow comes mainly from the soviet years, when the party was constantly in power and authority went over democracy. They still have one too-well-known active guy around, a former minister and currently a member of the EU parliament, giving questionable image to the whole party.

Maybe I’d start believing in the Finnish political parties again if there were a liberal takeover in the the Center Party. Volunteers around?

Published in: Politics | on October 7th, 2004 | No Comments »