Geek Education

Teaching Geeks I often wish that geeks had a better grasp of markets and applied logic. This thought returned recently when I read an article linked from someone I follow on twitter. David Pogue’s questions in his NY Times article are all interesting to be sure, but some of them aren’t really all that unanswerable.

For fun, I’ll cherry-pick them for my own entertainment.

Why is Wi-Fi free at cheap hotels, but $14 a night at expensive ones?

This one’s a softball. Free Wi-Fi will often be a deciding factor when choosing one cheap hotel over another whereas the deciding factor in choosing expensive hotels is almost never free Wi-Fi. Basic market dynamics there.

Would the record companies sell more music online if it weren’t copy-protected?

Honestly? I don’t know. My guess is that they will. Since more music is being sold without copy-protection now, we’ll soon see. My guess is that people will be a lot more casual buying copy-protection-free music because they don’t have to worry about portability, compatibility, or preservation. I know that was a major concern of mine about buying music online.

Do cellphones cause brain cancer?


How come there are still no viruses for Mac OS X? If it has 6 percent of the market, shouldn’t it have 6 percent of the viruses?

Because people who write viruses don’t choose their targets randomly. Duh.

Why are there no federal rebates or tax credits for solar power?

Because not enough people have voted for federal rebates or tax credits for solar power. Duh. Since the case for creating federal rebates or tax credits for solar power is problematic, I expect this to continue to be the case for a while, yet.

SmartDisplay, Spot Watch, U.M.P.C., Zune… when will Microsoft realize that it’s not a hardware company?

Since when are companies forced to make only one kind of product? If Microsoft wants to offer hardware products, more power to them. The market decides if those products are worth support or not and the more products on the market (i.e. the more competition), the better. Just because you don’t like a product personally doesn’t mean it can’t make a profit in the marketplace.

Why don’t all hotels have check-in kiosks like airlines do?

Because there isn’t enough benefit for hotels to have check-in kiosks. If you think they haven’t explored the option, you don’t know big business very well. If it ever becomes beneficial, they will undoubtedly add them. Either hotels have to save more in having them than they currently spend on having staff check people in, or (as implied in my answer to question one) people have to be motivated to chose a hotel based on whether or not the hotel has a check-in kiosk. Obviously, neither is the case.

Five billion dollars a year spent on ringtones? What the?

What, buying ringtones makes no sense in your world? Elitist snob. There’s obviously a market for them. A five billion dollar market, to be exact. Mock if you like, but people like them so companies sell them.

Do P.R. people really expect anyone to believe that the standard, stilted, second-paragraph C.E.O. quote was really uttered by a human being?

No. But then, that isn’t the point. the cost of abortion

Why aren’t there recycling bins for bottles and cans where they’re most obviously needed, like food courts and cafeterias?

Because recycling is mostly a scam. If recycling actually saved resources, companies would pay you for your recyclables. Right now, recycling is just a way for people who believe in it to feel better about themselves.

Why doesn’t someone start a cellphone company that bills you only for what you use? That model works O.K. for the electricity, gas and water companies —and people would beat a path to its door.

Because the assumption that people would beat a path to its door is wrong. People don’t want to have a mental meter ticking when they’re using the phone. At least, people in the U.S. don’t.

Why doesn’t everyone have lights that turn off automatically when the room is empty?

Because such lights cost more than you’d save if you had them. Basic economics, there. Think of it this way: if a company could claim that people would save more with such lights, do you really think you wouldn’t have heard ads for them by now?

Why are so many people rude on the Internet?

This one actually has two answers. First, in mostly anonymous forums like blog comments or discussion groups, there’s no cost to being rude online (certainly nowhere near the cost you would have if the same conversation were face-to-face). Those people who are only prevented from being rude in face-to-face conversations by the censure they’d receive will frequently give in to rude impulses online.

Second, most communication on the internet lacks the interactive feedback that many of us use to clue us in on how we are being received. Thus, even people who aren’t naturally rude will tend to go farther online than they would in person. It isn’t because they’re different or secretly mean, it’s just because the social boundaries are harder to discern.

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18. October 2007 18:43 by admin | Comments (1) | Permalink


Anonymous Anonymous
"Because recycling is mostly a scam" - that P&T video you linked to is a pretty weak argument.  Is it a scam because the theory isn't sound or that the recycling industry is a scam?
3/11/2008 4:01:27 AM #


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