Tuesday, February 17, 2004

A short post on Retaliation

This will just be a short post on retaliation. My masters thesis deals with cooperation in game theory, what does this have to do with retaliation. Think sustainable cooperation is about always turning the ther cheek? Think again. Cooperation without retaliation in iterated prisoner's dilemma type games is a recipe for low utility, as it is so easily exploited. An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, or tit-for-tat, however, also works poorly unless both agents have full and accurate knowledge about what the other agent is doing. In the presence of noise, it leads to Israel-Palestine or Northern Ireland style constant retaliation. What is needed are recoverable retaliation strategies, which retaliate for a short period of time over percieved wrongdoings, but then are capable of returning agents to mutual cooperation.

I've been having trouble finding evidence of the results I'm finding in my simulations/analysis in the real world, but then I just borrowed Peacemaking amongst Primates after following a link from slashdot on Animal Social Complexity
and it talks about exactly the stuff I've been dealing with. It talks about tolerance, in a similar way as I have. It talks about reconciliation, meaning a similar thing to my recoverable retaliation strategies. And it talks about "Good" Agression, and agression as a "Das sogenannte Bose" or so-called evil, in the same way as I concluded that retaliation was an essential part of sustaining cooperation, even in simulations with some amount of partner selection and reputation, where one might have thought these other factors might have mitigated the need for retaliation. In fact allowing retaliation would have over complicated the reputation system I'd developed, so I ditched the reputation system :-)

Anyway the main point is that I've found some real world ammunition to support some of the claims in my thesis in the field of game theory and software agents, from the unlikely field of primatology. But I think I'm quite used to finding interesting connections to all sorts of research now, working in the very fertile (IMO) area of agents and game theory.

Thursday, February 12, 2004

Repairing Politics

I posted this to a mailing-list (OnLineOpinions), but I thought others might be interested so I've reposted it here:

I was just reading Mark Latham's article Repairing Politics

I thought it was excellent, and have selected a few choice 'sound grabs' that I
especially liked:

"There's no question that Australians have a low opinion of politics and

"To be frank, Australians in their twenties now look at organised politics as a
redundant activity for people who like going to lots of meetings."

These quotes set the scene of our current opinion of politics. They are
followed by:

"We should use the potential of the Internet to deepen and enhance the public

Next comes a welcome criticism of television driven politics. Can you tell I
don't own a TV?

"The loss of public trust in politics has also coincided with the rise of
television as the dominant medium for political debate."

"In the age of television, politicians and the media have created a vicious

Finally Latham launches into a discussion of how the internet (amongst other
things) can help solve these problems:

"Our great hope for the future is the Internet."

"Whereas TV has fostered a shallow and adversarial debate, the Internet relies
on a deeper dialogue and flow of information."

"Seven-second grabs and repetitious messages are redundant on the Net."

"The new information technologies have an important role to play. Internet chat
rooms and online ballots should be a regular part of the political process."

I would just like to say that if Mark Latham (or anybody else for that matter)
really believes this stuff they should check out http://lathamforpm.meetup.com
What I am trying to start up is a Howard Dean or Wesley Clark style internet
support campaign for Mark Latham.

Matt Pattison

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

Proposal for article on Internet Politics in Australia

Here is a pitch I wrote for a hypothetical article about Mark Latham and internet campaigning, for a "Writing for Readers" course I'm currently attending. It's especially hypothetical because there isn't really a Mark Latham internet campaign at the moment. I gave the pitch to an Age journalist and a lady from the Bulletin, and they both seemed to like it, especially the Bulletin lady. So if there ever is a Mark Latham internet campaign, I'm sure the media will be interested in it. Here's the pitch:

Dear James and Kathy,

I have an interesting pitch for a story you might like to run. It is about a new way of political campaigning using the internet, which has revolutionised political campaigning in the US, which people are trying to bring to Australia to help Mark Latham win the upcoming election. The 3 new parts of this campaign, which to my knowledge have never been tried in Australia, are
(a) the website meetup.com, where regular people can organise over the internet to meet up in real life about topics that interest them
(b) weblogs, or personal news websites where candidates and supporters have unprecedented control to tell their own stories by 'routing around' the traditional media
(c) online donations, whereby candidates can raise large amounts of money (>40 million for Howard Dean in the US primaries), largely by collecting lots of small donations of $100 and under over the internet, rather than relying on the traditional $2000 per head fundraising dinners.

The story could be told in 800-1000 words, and might be a good accompaniment to the many articles on Mark Latham currently being written. It might also be interesting because presents a fresh angle, and deals with the topical issue of the growing influence of the internet changing our everyday lives.

Again for anyone who wasn't reading properly, this is a *hypothetical* article pitch. A grassroots internet campaign supporting mark Latham does not, as far as I know exist (I'm trying to help start one though with lathamforpm.meetup.com)

Monday, February 09, 2004

On Clark, Dean and Kerry

Here are a few interesting articles I just read about Clark and Dean (this post
is a lightly edited and expanded version of an email I recently wrote, to a
fellow Australian who is also interested in the upcoming US election).

I don't know if Clark's campaign has any traction with the US media, or much
traction with voters in the primaries, and whether any of this is going to
change for the better, but I still think he would be good, and don't know why
he's being ignored.

This explains the main reason I think Clark is the best choice, by a Cornell
Physics Professor:


here's an excerpt:

In making their decision, Democratic voters should keep in mind the following facts: In the 13 presidential elections since World War II (excluding the 2000 election, where the actual winner is still a matter of debate),

* The incumbent won six of the nine races in which a president sought a second term.
* Democrats who were generally perceived as liberal won 3 presidential elections, and lost 6. Democrats perceived as middle-of-the-road won 4 elections and lost 1.
* Democratic candidates from southern states won 4 times and lost once; those from mid-western and eastern states won once and lost 6 times. (The 1948 Truman victory is not included, since Missouri is both southern and mid-western.)
* No Democrat ever won the presidency without winning at least 5 southern states.
* Polls consistently show that the American people have more confidence in Republicans to manage our national security
* Since 1948, the fraction of voters declaring themselves Democratic has declined from about 50% to about 30%. The Republican fraction has stayed constant at about 30%.

These historical data portend a grim 2004 race for Democrats. To win, the Democratic candidate will need everything going for him (alas, there are no longer any "her" possibilities this year). The ideal candidate will have southern roots, have strong national security credentials, and will not be generally perceived as a "standard democratic liberal". He will have to draw votes from outside of the basic Democratic base, and must win back those Democrats who are concerned with the dangers of a post 9/11 world.

After reading this re-read the mountains of press about Kerry being the most
electable candidate, and how people support Kerry because he has the best
chance of beating George Bush. Chance is intimately related to probability and
statistics. How many people who talk favourably about Kerry's chances of
beating Bush have taken into account the statistics in the previous article.

Also, with all the opinion polls showing Kerry beating Bush, how many people
have acknowledged:

(a) Bush hasn't started campaining.
(b) Opinion polls are often a very poor indication of what voters will write
on their voting card.
(c) There is no prize for winning the most votes. Labor has often done this
in Australia and lost, Kerry could easily follow in Gore's footsteps and
win the most votes but lose the election, by not winning them in the right

Here's an interesting article about use of open source software by the Clark
campaign, including comments by an ex-Redhat employee:


Finally, there's been a few threads on the Clark weblogs about joining the
Clark and Dean campaigns where possible, to avoid Kerry/Edwards. This is
something I think would be very cool.

here is an active thread on this on Dean's weblog:


and here is the letter which started most of the discussion:


If you're interested in creative use of the internet in politics, Dave Winer has an interesting blogpost:

Howard Dean is not a Soap Bar

He deals thoughtfully with the problem of mass-media bias, (I consider it to be more a case of media ignorance and incompetence at their job) and how to 'route around' this. I think however that we're a way away from candidates being able to 'route around' television, newspapers, radio and mainstream websites to win an election - how many marginal voters use weblogs as a primary source of political information?

If you're interested in grassroots and internet based political campaigning in Australia, I'm still surprised why more people haven't signed up for htpp://lathamforpm.meetup.com . Is it because us Australian bloggers all love John Howard so much? Is it because we're politically apathetic? Or is it just that I've been crap at getting the message out?

This post has been pretty much all over the shop, but I hope it is still of interest to people interested in grassroots politics and the internet.

Tuesday, February 03, 2004


I just got myself a copy of Co-opetition from the remainder bin at Borders, and have been having a bit of a read. Co-opetition was coined by Ray Noorda, the founder of Novell, who noted that in the computer industry "You have to compete and cooperate at the same time. Examples of this are setting standards and creating interoperable devices and software. You don't always have to cooperate, if your the biggest kid in the sandpit, but if you're a smaller or non-dominant competitor especially, you may have to do quite a lot of cooperating to stay alive. I'd already considered writing today about co-opetition in the computer industry, which is not very well understood by many industry commentators IMHO. The specific example I wanted to talk about was Apple's strategy with the iPod, after reading Show Time! (in Business Week, Asian edition, February 2, 2004).

People are quick to talk about the business genius of Bill Gates, or Larry Ellison, because they are so phenomenally rich, and especially in Bill's case because his company is so dominant in such a large market. I'm not putting Steve Job in Bill's league for business acumen, but I do think his story is fascinating, in that he has been so creative, in so many areas, from (allegedly) garage blue boxes (phone phreaking equiptment), to Apple ][e's to Macintoshs which commercialised the amazing R&D work being done at Xerox Parc at that time with mouse driven windowing systems, to convincing the CEO of Pepsi to become CEO of his company ("Do you want to sell fizzy drinks for the rest of your life, or do you want to be a part of the future?"), to his highly innovative NeXT Computer, Inc. which developed the NeXTSTEP OS, which OS X is based on, to founding Pixar, to returning to Apple & returning it profitibility and focus, to OS X, a snazzy commercial operating system based on some core open source components, to now iPods and iTunes and revolutionizing digital music. Phew, that was a long sentence, but Steve jobs has a long list of achievements. And whilst he isn't in Bill Gates' financial league, he isn't poor either, at approx. US$12 billion net worth.

But here's the issue, which I think Microsoft bloggers have already partially covered: Steve Jobs knows how to innovate, and built brand recognition, reputation and the elusive 'coolness', but does he know how to survive in the big bad mass market, not just in high priced niches? This is the important question to ask now that Jobs has gone cross platform with iPod and iTunes. In the mass market interoperability is king, which is a form of co-opetition in that you're competing with other companies in the same market, but you are cooperating by making your devices completely interoperable, so that the consumer has the freedom of choice, and can avoid lock-in, and hardware manufacturers further up the supply chain can provide the same standardised components to all competitors. Steve Jobs is promoting his own music format, called AAC, whilst most people use MP3 and Microsoft is pushing heavily their WMA evil format :)

My prediction: Steve Jobs is very smart but the iPod will likely become a niche product like Macs are, because he doesn't seem to or doesn't want to understand that most people want low prices and interoperability, and interoperability is also very important for many of the companies he will be dealing with. If Apple wants to not support WMA on their iPods initially that's fine, but they'd better make sure more and more companies use their format quickly, not just HP with their iPod clone, otherwise regular Joe consumers are going to avoid iPods and iTunes so they don't get locked in to a minority format. And in the longer term, Apple should support WMA on the iPod if that is what consumers want. Intolerant strategies which try to lock-in customers or lock-out opponents can work well in the short term, but in the long run tolerant strategies like openness, free choice and interoperability usually win out. Therefore in my opinion, if Appple want to suddenly have a mainstream, dominant in its sector product like the iPod, and not get annihalated by Microsoft and the big Taiwanese computer component manufacturers, he should heed Ray Noorda's advice and follow the co-opetitive path of interoperability. Eventually. Hopefully in the meantime he can stymie as much as he can the evil WMA format with it's highly restrictive evil DRM capabilities and give the big finger to Bill Gates while his at it.

Monday, February 02, 2004

That dirty word: Politics

I seem to be getting far too worked up lately about political issues, some of them not even in my own country. I've decided that rather than boring my family and friends to death with long rants about this sort of stuff, I'd just put it on my weblog. If it works for thousands of other boring political bloggers, why can't it work for me. My two main political concerns are that the US can rid itself of a dangerous and extremist political regime which likes to invade other countries even if the rest of the world thinks they're wrong in doing so, and that Australia can rid itself of an (IMO) divisive and "racism engouraging" government which (1) plays fast and loose with the truth and (2) supports the US government's dangerous and extremist ideology and actions.

I also think that Mark Latham has some great ideas, which should appeal to thoughtful people across the political spectrum, and breathes a big breath of fresh air into an otherwise moribund Australian politics. I don't just want a change in government to turf out Howard because I don't like him. I respect Peter Costello as a man of conscience and a great manager of Australia's finances, like Latham he is socially progressive and fiscally conservative. In a battle of say Costello vs. Beazley, I would vote Liberal, but as this is both unluckily and luckily the case (respectively), I am wholeheartedly behind Latham. I have actually started a meetup trying to create grassroots support for Latham amongst Australia's technologically literate called lathamforpm, in the same way that I believe Howard Dean and Wesley Clark have revolutionized political campaining in the US. A few people have signed up, but I would really like it if a few more would do so before the next meetups (Feb. 10, and then especially March 10). Yes that's you if your reading this, and you care about the future of our country.

On to the US, I think that Clark is the real deal, and I'm not sure why other people can't see it. I think the media have scrutinised Dean and Clark incessantly, and unfairly, whilst I think that John Kerry has got off very lightly, going from no-hoper with no media attention to supposed rightful heir to the presidential throne and the widely accepted 'most electable' candidate, still with no critical media attention, especially to the important claim that he is most electable. Why? Is it because he's a north-eastern liberal and north-eastern liberals usually do so well in US presidential elections? Is it because he has so much personality and charisma like say JFK or Bill Clinton? Or is it because he has the common touch and a humble background like say Jimmy Carter? And for all the pundits who make out that Clark is crap because he beat John Edwards in New Hampshire, but not by enough, and talk about the race as if Kerry, Dean and Edwards are the only candidates left - how long has Clark been campaining for? And how long have Kerry and Edwards been at it? What did the general population think about them at a similar stage in their campaigns? I think Clark has done an excellent job to get where he is, in the short time he's been at it. I'd like to see some of the pundits have a go at stepping inside of Clark's shoes, and maybe while they're at it they could try toppling a dictactor *with* the support of the rest of the world, and saving 1.5 million lives in the process.

But that's enough for now, my intention was to let off steam, not to build up a head of it.