Posted in history, philosophy, recommended, ror, ruby on rails, sustainability, trains, web 2.0, tagged history, philosophy, ruby on rails, sustainability, trains, web 2.0 on November 1, 2007|
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Nathaniel Talbott is really rocking my world with his recent essay comparing the transcontinental railroad with the ruby-on-rails phenomenon. As he points out, there are some surprising similarities in enabling markets and disintermediation– the physical railroad opened up new territories and new markets, and the rapid development cycle of ROR is enabling software customization of previously unaffordable (in time or money) types.
They [the co-op members trying to use a wacky uber-customized spreadsheet macro that breaks when you look at it cross-eyed] have little to no means of affecting the software that they use, and no real choices to use something else. And there are literally millions of others like them out there—small business owners, hobbyists, clubs, families and civic groups. But that’s the other, more profound thing that I think is changing and will greatly change how our kids think about software—one day we’ll look around and see everybody commissioning software, not just people with lots of money or people who can do it themselves. Tickets to the interior are suddenly affordable, and everybody’s buying one.
Everybody wins. Cool stuff happens. Ma and Pa Kettle can get custom software written affordably while GoogroSoft is still polishing paisleys on monolithic software applications.
OK, that last one is a bit Strata-filtered, but you know what I mean. Go read it, and if you’re not familiar with some of the background, such as the original Long Tail essay, NT is a nice guy and scattered links throughout his essay back to some of the prequel material.
Why, you may ask, is this tagged for sustainability? Because, in my opinion, the cottage-industry model of programming offers a lot of options in that area: telecommuting, bespoke efficiencies, disintermediated access to change, etc.
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I will quote directly from this excellent factual article on the history of hemp in America:
The American colonists relied heavily on hemp. At that time, hemp was the world’s leading crop. A law enacted in Virginia in 1619 made hemp production mandatory for all farmers. Similar laws were passed in Massachusetts in 1631, in Connecticut in 1632 and the Chesapeake Colonies in the mid 1700s. George Washington and Thomas Jefferson both farmed hemp. “Make the most you can of the hemp seed and grow it everywhere,” wrote George Washington in 1794. The first drafts of the Declaration of Independence were written on hemp paper and all early American flags were made with hemp. …
So why is hemp not grown in America today? Why has the American creative genius not found ways to process hemp efficiently and turn it into a myriad of useful products, at least on a large scale?
The reason is twofold: Hemp competes directly with wood products and hemp belongs to the same plant family as marijuana. The history of how hemp products were removed from the American commercial scene deserves retelling, but only after this important disclaimer: This article is not intended to endorse the legalization of marijuana or the recreational use of this drug in any way. …
While I personally think that the criminalization of hemp is ridiculous alongside the legal use of alcohol, this is not a song about Alice. My position on hemp is that it could be a key crop for sustainability, from the useful fibers to the oil-rich seeds. There are low-THC strains out there, but growing hemp in this country is very hard to do because of the fanaticism of the anti-drug folks. I’ve read pieces of the story in other places, but this Weston Price article lays it out and links several of the pieces together in ways I’ve not seen before, such as the Dupont/Hearst deal.
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