The Lowbrow Corner
Saturday, March 25, 2006
Sunday, March 12, 2006
Respect: Relativism and Patronization
Slavoj Zizek, a Slovenian, is the international director of the Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities. His Op-Ed on Atheism, written for the New York Times, is centered on a thesis best summarized in this sentence:
The paradox is that [European] Muslims' only real allies are not those who first published the caricatures for shock value, but those who, in support of the ideal of freedom of expression, reprinted them.Zizek’s Op-Ed is a worthy read; a couple of paragraphs grabbed me tenaciously. In my mind these paragraphs capture the essence of the Israeli left’s phoniness:
While a true atheist has no need to boost his own stance by provoking believers with blasphemy, he also refuses to reduce the problem of the Muhammad caricatures to one of respect for other's beliefs. Respect for other's beliefs as the highest value can mean only one of two things: either we treat the other in a patronizing way and avoid hurting him in order not to ruin his illusions, or we adopt the relativist stance of multiple "regimes of truth," disqualifying as violent imposition any clear insistence on truth.This is spot on. Over the course of the last decades, the Israeli left tolerated the violation of agreements, ignored hateful speeches by “peace partners” and justified vile terrorist actions using a mixture of relativism and patronization. Since intellectual honesty is not a forte of their milieu, I doubt that reading the op-ed will change their ways or that the Israeli left will even make an attempt to connect the dots. I did.
What, however, about submitting Islam — together with all other religions — to a respectful, but for that reason no less ruthless, critical analysis? This, and only this, is the way to show a true respect for Muslims: to treat them as serious adults responsible for their beliefs.
Friday, March 10, 2006
Mercury News Editorial
The Mercury News published my response to their March 5 editorial. Copied on Certifiably Yours and here for your convenience.
Your editorial of March 5, “Paid e-mail will lead to separate, unequal systems”, is fraught with flawed logic. Not only did you get the economics wrong but, more importantly, your editorial thoroughly ignores and neglects the only actor that should matter in this play: the consumer.
In a perfect world, customers are not phished, spam doesn’t exist, and legitimate messages are never caught in spam filters. We don’t live in this utopian world. Truth is that a vast majority of consumers would rather lose a message occasionally than be spammed and phished to death. ISPs, such as AOL, and mailbox providers (Yahoo!, Hotmail, others) heeded the call and installed filters. Filters are invariably imperfect and good messages mistakenly blocked or mislabeled are the inevitable collateral damage resulting from the war against spam and against phishing. CertifiedEmail is nothing but a tool that helps reduce this collateral damage, restoring trust to the medium.
Consumers and brands alike seek protection from phishing. Experts often can’t tell apart a legitimate message from a phishing attempt. What is the average consumer to do? Use the internet less? Never use on-line banking? Abandon e-commerce? Donate to the American Red Cross through paper mail? CertifiedEmail restores trust in the channel. With CertifiedEmail, Joe can trust that the bank statement is indeed from his bank; Jane can click-to-donate, knowing her money goes to the Red Cross and not to an evil crook.
On the economics:
There is nothing perverse about charging for a service and there is nothing more egalitarian than charging volume senders based on their volume. For a mailbox provider, the costs associated with our service scale with volume; asking a national retailer with a mailing list of 4 million addresses to pay the same as a little bike shop with a list of 10,000 faithful customers makes no sense at all. Do you really want mom and pop shops to subsidize national retail chains? As an analogy, you probably know that most volume senders outsource their email campaigns to Email Service Providers (ESPs) who send email messages on their behalf. Paying a volume-based fee is not one of the models there, it is the only model.
Any wanted message that is not delivered hurts the sender, the recipient and, consequentially, the recipient’s mailbox provider. Purposely degrading treatment of non-certified message makes no economic sense for a mailbox provider: any revenue from CertifiedEmail will be dwarfed by losses stemming from churn with dissatisfied customers leaving the mailbox provider in droves and switching to one of hundreds, if not thousands, of competitors. It is thus ludicrous to claim that adopting CertifiedEmail is synonymous with worsening the treatment of non-certified messages.
On the technology:
You write “The costs of certifying a sender are largely fixed. So the only reason to keep charging a sender who's already been vetted is to turn e-mail into a cash cow.” Nothing could be further from the truth. To provide the level of safety and integrity CertifiedEmail was designed to achieve, one needs to track messages individually and to put in place the other mechanisms we built. Your “fixed price, one time vetting” solution presumes a certificate authority can issue a certificate of goodness and then leave the stage. There would be a long queue of buyers for an unlimited license to spam and phish–at any price.
The certificate proposal is the worst possible solution for small senders. A certificate that provides unlimited privileges would be also unobtainable for most senders. An egalitarian certificate that provides privileges commensurate with a risk assessment, monitored in real-time and tied to volume, is well … CertifiedEmail.
A one-time accreditation is only the first step with the CertifiedEmail service. Privileges and token allocations are assigned carefully; each message is individually tracked; sending and complaint profiles are built and monitored; alerts are issued; privileges are revoked – all to safeguard the system’s integrity and to protect the consumer on the receiving end. Furthermore, to protect privacy, it is all done without Goodmail being ever exposed to message content or to recipient addresses. Can you see the difference between your simplistic Panglossian certification proposal and the solution we actually deployed?
Sunday’s editorial ends with the sentence “… a plan that could threaten the free and open nature of the Internet's killer application.” Using a hysterical tone when discussing email seems to be a pattern with your newspaper. Back in November 24, 2004, you ran an editorial titled “Exterminate spam or the Internet dies”. This recurring theme, playing the alarmist and pre-announcing the Internet’s death, might sell newspapers but does not really help foster a serious debate. It is almost humorous to note you cried wolf both on the problem and on the solution.
Co-Founder and Senior Vice President
Saturday, March 04, 2006
Stop HBO's Cable Tax!
Micah Sifry blogged about my company on the Personal Democracy Forum website. He ended his post, Another Side to the Goodmail Debate?, with the sentence "What do you think?". Here is what I think (cross-posted as a comment there): [Note: Cindy is the Electronic Frontier Foundation's Cindy Cohn]
The EFF’s crusade is about opposing innovation, limiting choices and preventing mailbox providers from protecting their customers.
In Cindy's imaginary world, mailboxes are not filled with junk, phishing and identity theft do not exist, legitimate messages are not caught in spam filters and email is still the great medium it used to be ten years ago -- before spammers and scammers took it away from all of us. In her imaginary world, the internet is free (not only as in free speech but also as in free beer); mail servers, bandwidth capacity, storage and sysadmin services are all manna, I guess.
Ask most experts in the email and anti-spam community and they will tell you that when it comes to email, the EFF is clueless. Cindy opposed CAN-SPAM, and is against spam filters unless these can be made to never, ever, make a mistake (again living in fantasyland).
To Cindy’s dismay, the American consumer *demands* spam filtering. A mailbox provider who chooses to deliver unfiltered mail will face an exodus of customers, seeking a protected mailbox elsewhere. With filtering, false positives (the mistaken labeling of a legitimate message as spam) and false negatives (letting a phishing message go through) are inevitable. CertifiedEmail is one solution to this problem.
Consumers and brands alike seek protection from phishing. Experts often can’t tell apart a legitimate message from a phishing attempt. What is the average consumer to do? Use the internet less? Never use on-line banking? Abandon e-commerce? Donate to the American Red Cross through snail mail? CertifiedEmail restores trust in the channel. With CertifiedEmail, Joe can trust that the bank statement is indeed from his bank, Jane can click-to-donate, knowing her money goes to the Red Cross and not to an evil crook.
The “electronic postage” concept was once championed by no other than Brad Templeton, the EFF chairman: "E-stamps ... Recommendation: Support as long-term solution"
How can the idea be so evil now if it was once the EFF’s very own recommendation? Why portray it as a tax?!
Email is an ultra-competitive market with hundreds of mailbox providers offering free or paying services, why can’t the EFF let AOL users vote with their feet and wallets if they like the service they get?!
I once had a lot of respect for the EFF as I believed they were on the right side of things for most non-email-related issues. Their recently demonstrated total lack of intellectual integrity and the recourse to the tax demagogy have irreparably eroded that respect. It is now clear to me they subscribe to the notion that the cause justifies the means. Using the catchy but purposely misleading “tax” terminology is not something an honorable institution would do.
Taxes are inevitable and imposed by governments. CertifiedEmail is about choice. This is an email tax just like HBO is a cable tax.
Daniel Dreymann, Goodmail Systems
PS: I wish I could claim credit for it but the HBO simile is not mine(http://www.networkworld.com/community/?q=node/4712).
By DTD at Sat, 03/04/2006 - 13:20