A holiday card to the IT industry, 2012

Windows 8? Ignore it. BYOD? BYOB. NoSQL? No worries. Keep your perspective and it's all good or at least more than good enough

"Never be afraid to try something new. Remember, amateurs built the ark. Professionals built the Titanic." -- Source unknown

Twitter, the curmudgeons complain, is worthless, because how can you write anything worth reading in just 140 characters?

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Samuel F. B. Morse could have answered. He sent the first telegram in the United States in 1838.

A century and a half ago, a tweet would have cost about $150 in inflation-adjusted dollars. Senders and receivers considered messages that length valuable enough to warrant the price.

The problem with Twitter isn't the technology. It's plenitude. This, not the medium itself, is what encourages so much uninteresting chaff that finding the few tweets worth reading is so difficult.

My unpublished opus, "Lewis' Laws," contained, as one of its entries: "The ability of software to be slow will always outstrip the ability of hardware to be fast."

Plenitude leads to as many problems as scarcity. It's why, for example, we have spam. With direct mail, the cost of each additional recipient is high enough to matter, so senders carefully prune their lists to reach only those with encouraging characteristics. Spammers have no reason to care. 

Faced with abundance, there's little incentive to be frugal, whether the abundance comes in the form of memory, computing cycles, or toothpaste -- yes, toothpaste. Don't try to fool anyone. When you open a new tube, you squirt more toothpaste onto your brush than you do when the tube is nearly empty. What's true of toothpaste is true of everything else, too.

It's in the nature of long division that when we have something in abundance, the value of each bit of it is, to us, tiny -- so if Larry Ellison, or Bill Gates, or Warren Buffet were to accidentally drop a dollar bill when a stiff breeze was blowing, none of them would expend the time and energy necessary to chase it down. But were a homeless man to accidentally drop the exact same, he'd run after it as if his life depended on it.

Plenitude is, I think, half the reason so many Americans are so angry so often. The other half is plenitude's flip side: that luxury isn't absolute, it's comparative. That is, luxury is something I have that you don't. If we both have it, it isn't a luxury any more, whether it's a Lexus, a Rolex, or beef Wellington.

Why are we angry? We all have so much that we devalue it, and because someone else (the detestable "they") has it too, it's worth even less. Encouraged by the shouting heads on the various cable news outlets (most long ago stopped being "talking heads"), we ignore what we have, which is everything we need, most of what we want, and a lot of what we desire besides. Instead, we pay attention to what they have that they don't deserve.

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