End of the Free Lunch

I’m part of that awkward, in-between cohort, a little too young to fit in with Gen Xers but — although we grew up with computers like our younger siblings, the much-loathed Millennials — still old enough to recall life before the Internet. The Oregon Trail Generation still remembers, dimly, the screech of a dial-up modem on a phone line that went into the wall.

When I was a kid, my family subscribed to three daily newspapers. My favorite was the Washington Post, because it had the most comic strips.

We didn’t buy newspapers because we wanted to read the news — that came free from radio or television. Buying newspapers was just what you did if you wanted to know what was going on: movie showtimes, restaurant hours, job listings, or who was selling a boat trailer.

Sure, there were other ways to get that information. With the Yellow Pages (remember those?) and some patience (remember that?) you could find just about anything. But it would take hours to gather up all the information conveniently dropped on your doorstep every morning. So we bought newspapers. And because we bought newspapers, so did advertisers.

Nobody minded if a little journalism happened along the way. It gave the whole enterprise a kind of public-spirited sheen, as if you were fulfilling a civic duty by skimming the “World” headlines before turning with a sigh to “Arts & Leisure” (in my case, for the comics).

As an Oregon Trail adult, I have never subscribed to a newspaper. I don’t recall having bought a newspaper since about 2003. In that time, newspaper revenues dropped by half while Google grew 1,452%. You, as my generation used to say, do the math.

Whenever I read another article (on the web) bemoaning the decline of newspapers, the end of journalism, and the collapse of civilization — these are, of course, written by journalists — I wonder what business they thought newspapers were in. Nobody ever paid for news. News is a commodity. Being the sole gatekeeper for information, now, that’s a good business to be in.

Today Google is the gatekeeper. So we go to Google, so go the advertisers, so no more subsidized journalism. Instead, we get subsidized email, calendars, word processors, spreadsheets, maps, directions, translations, web browsers, operating systems, and self-driving cars. All we had to give up was a little privacy.

And it’s not as if journalism is going to disappear completely. It will just have to get used to surviving like all the other unprofitable civic institutions: on the philanthropic whims of rich people.

JDK Version Survey Results

After a month and about 175 responses, here are the results of my JDK Version Usage Survey (now closed):

Versions: Almost everyone uses 1.6. A few are still using 1.5, and a few are trying out 1.7. Only a handful are still on 1.4. Fortunately, no one is on a version older than 1.4.

Reasons: These are more varied. The most common reason for not upgrading is lack of time, with “it just works” running a close second. A little less than half of respondents are limited by external forces: either operations/management or third-party dependencies.

Not much came out in the comments. Banks and other large institutions seem to be the most resistant to upgrades, especially if they’ve been bitten by past JDK changes.

Two Upcoming Clojure/Hadoop Talks

Hello, everyone.

I’ll be performing my Clojure+Hadoop magic tricks at the following events:

Friday, October 2: Hadoop World NYC.  Use the code hadoopworld_friend for 10% off the registration fee.

Monday, October 5: NoSQL NYC Meetup.  Free!

At both events I’ll be talking about:

  • Why Clojure and Hadoop are a perfect fit.
  • How to write Hadoop jobs in Clojure.
  • My clojure-hadoop library.
  • Storage options for Clojure data structures.

Will post slides after, and recordings if they are available.

Twitter Heckling

I have, to my chagrin, recently discovered Twitter. I was at a conference at which the attendees twittered (tweeted?) every presentation as it happened. One speaker accidentally/deliberately left his Twitter client running during his presentation, resulting in a stream of jokes and off-color comments in the corner of his PowerPoint slides.  Maybe every presentation should do this. That way you’d know if you were boring your audience.

Clojure talk at LispNYC, June 9

Update: Slides and video available at LispNYC.

Ok, it’s really happening this time:

Stuart Sierra presents: Implementing AltLaw.org in Clojure

This talk demonstrates the power of combining Clojure with large Java frameworks, such as:

  • Hadoop – distributed map/reduce processing
  • Solr – text indexing/searching
  • Restlet – REST-oriented web framework
  • Jets3t – Amazon S3

Join us from 7:00 – 9:00 at Trinity Church in the heart of the East Village. Afterward the discussion will continue at the Sunburnt Cow on 9th and C.

Clojure Talk May 12 Canceled

We had to cancel my talk for tomorrow night, due to problems with the venue. LispNYC will still meet at the Sunburnt Cow, 137 Avenue C, for drinks and discussion. My presentation has been postponed to the June meeting.