Writings on business

Over the last few years I’ve offered several posts of commentary, reflection and prediction about  the profound crisis in America’s (and the world’s) economy. Here’s a list:

  • Why web 2.0 is a bubble, and why the deflation will be gradual (8/13/2007)
  • The American auto industry is not coming back (9/27/2007)
  • Techcrunch misunderstands basic finance (10/27/2007)
  • The long-predicted housing disaster unfolds (3/17/2008)
  • Let Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac collapse (7/12/2008)
  • Bush’s punks get ready for a government takeover of the housing debt market (9/7/2008)
  • Paul Krugman rejects Bush’s bailout idea – so should you (9/21/2008)
  • GM bankruptcy not surprising, should have already happened (6/3/2009)
  • Techcrunch thinks regulating Google is a kind of free trade (7/13/2009)
  • Foreclosures now legal in Dubai (1/17/2010)
  • Bush's punks get ready for a government takeover of the housing debt market

    Well now we’re about to see a government bailout the likes of which Lee Iacocca could only have imagined. Indeed, we are seeing the triumph of high-stakes government control of America’s economy.

    Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, those bizarre government boondoggles who again are being cited for shaky accounting and that I have criticized before, are about to be taken over (temporarily, supposedly!!) by the federal government. Of course this represents the logical conclusion of their path–what else but a cashing-in of their “implicit government guarantee” given the moral hazards involved?

    This situation represents a true summation of the moronic regime of George W. Bush–a high-handed fake capitalist, who learned long ago that those holding high corporate positions or government connections in modern America fail upward without regard to results–and so it is with the stupid Henry Paulson and the dim-witted Ben Bernanke, those creeps that Bush put in charge of the U. S. Treasury and the Federal Reserve respectively, who are meeting now in preparation for announcing the massive government bailout of those collapsing GSE mortgage market meal tickets, Fannie and Freddie, which the Chinese are fleeing faster than the floodplain of the Three Gorges Dam.

    Podpress meltdown illustrates problems with WordPress management

    Podpress is a plugin (or add-on) for WordPress that allows users to turn their blog into a podcast. For a while now it has been one of the the most popular ways to create a podcast–and Dan Kuykendall, the plugin’s author, was even invited to speak at Wordcamp 2007.

    But now that thousands of podcasters rely on it, Podpress has been broken by the latest version of WordPress.

    A new feature of WordPress 2.6 called “post revisioning,” which is basically a wiki feature, appears to conflict with the Podpress plugin’s function. This problem can be overcome by disabling post revisioning, but many people simply upgraded and expected it to work, and have had a lot of problems in keeping their podcasts online.

    This episode is a good illustration of a few problems with WordPress and the relationship between the CMS and its plugins. First, Automattic, the company that manages WordPress development, the core WordPress.org developers (who overlap to some extent with the employees of Automattic), is are extremely overzealous in pushing new versions on users at the expense of previous features working. Second, the lack of professionalism of plugin developers is a serious danger to the continued functioning of blogs for a wide range of WordPress users, from casual podcasters to large enterprises.

    The problem with pushing new versions and features on users is a fairly nuanced one. Let me explain: I do not mean to say that new versions and new features, even at the pace at which they come out, is a problem. Rather, the problem is the assumption by Automattic and the core WordPress developers that all users are ready for major upgrades every three months and have the time to install new versions and find updated plugins. Because the last few new major releases (WordPress 2.5 and 2.6) have included some fairly major changes, they broke the functionality of many plugins that were designed for older versions. That really is okay–I don’t want to stand in the way of progress here–but what I don’t understand is why they can’t maintain the older versions for a little longer while people scramble for new plugins. (And by maintain, I just mean come out with an occasional new version with security fixes, like 2.5.1.) Instead, WordPress users read draconian announcements like this:

    “2.6 is pretty much identical to 2.5 from a plugin and theme compatibility point of view, so upgrades from 2.5 should be pretty painless. The 2.5 branch will no longer be maintain so everyone is encouraged to upgrade.”

    So the 2.5 branch, which came out only a few months ago, is having support dropped and everyone should upgrade, according to Matt Mullenweg. Because, as he claims, it should be “painless.” But even before he wrote that, people were already describing the problem with Podpress, based on testing with beta versions of WordPress 2.6.

    Automattic and the core WordPress developers should work with major plugin developers more closely and maintain older branches for longer, or at least do more research before they make claims about whether there “should” be plugin compatibility.

    As for plugin developers, if they are going to promote third-party products through their plugins and also ask for donations, as Mr. Kuykendall does, perhaps they should provide a bit more customer service and actively maintain their product so it can be useful to users for more than a few months

    Though a new version was promised to be released by now, users are still waiting.