I was just telling someone about TinyURL and it reminded me of some math I did to calculate the number of unique identifiers they can create with the 36 alphanumeric characters they use for various lengths of IDs (check out the context of that comment).

In my introduction, I wrote, "it's even more than that, should they choose to have URLs with unique identifiers of between 1 and 6 characters". Reading this made me wonder: does TinyURL do this? And if so, what's the first TinyURL? http://tinyurl.com/0 doesn't exist (so subtract 1 from my answer ;-) but http://tinyurl.com/1 does. It is kind of fun to check out all these other people's URLs. http://tinyurl.com/z is pretty amusing.

I also realized that TinyURL's identifier is basically just counting in base 36. Ah, the ease of constructing unique IDs if they don't have to be hard to guess. 1...2...3...4...5...6...

— October 23, 2003

Social Sharing

Back in August, I wrote about semi-private networks. I suggested that they would not take off unless the RIAA succeeds in limiting the value of open networks like Kazaa. I also suggested some empirical research into whether or not this was actually happening.

Clay Shirky has a recent piece called File-sharing Goes Social. He writes, "[t]he RIAA has slowly altered the environment so that relatively efficient systems like Napster were killed, opening up a niche for more decentralized systems like Gnutella and Kazaa. With their current campaign against Kazaa in full swing, we are about to see another shift in network design, one that will have file sharers adopting tools originally designed for secure collaboration in a corporate setting."

Meanwhile, Philip Greenspun proposes that portable MP3 jukeboxes are home audio recording devices, and sharing music between them with your friends is legal:

Consider this scenario. You are sitting at Starbucks and see a friend. He is not inside your Starbucks but across the street in the other Starbucks. You walk across the street. Both of you happen to have your MP3 jukeboxes your pockets. He says "Have you heard the latest Britney Spears song? It reminds me so much of the late Beethoven Quartets with some of Stravinsky's innovative tonality." You haven't? Just click your MP3 jukeboxes together and sync them up. Any tracks that he had and you didn't you now have. You're using a digital audio recorder; the device won't do anything except record music. You're not paying each other so it is noncommercial. Under Section 1008 what you're doing is perfectly legal in the United States.
Imagine having a party at your house in which 30 people show up. By the end of the evening every person has the union of 30 personal music collections.

This idea makes me want to get a 40 gig iPod and synch it up with all my friends' music collections to see how much music I could get, and whether or not I would want any of it. That would be an interesting experiment. Maybe someone will pay me to write an article about it. Then I could afford the 40 gig iPod. :)

— October 23, 2003

Space Ladder

Josh Marshall reacts to one of the suggestions in Rumsfield's memo about the progress of the "war on terror":
Couldn't we just build a super-strong ladder up into space instead of using those rockets?


— October 23, 2003