Adequacy front page
Stories Diaries Polls Users
Google

Web Adequacy.org
Home About Topics Rejects Abortions
This is an archive site only. It is no longer maintained. You can not post comments. You can not make an account. Your email will not be read. Please read this page if you have questions.
 Slashdot Subscriptions and VA Software -- what's going on?

 Author:  Topic:  Posted:
Mar 06, 2002
 Comments:
Here at adequacy, we've always kept a close eye on our competitor news site, slashdot, and its parent company, VA Linux (now VA Software). We've made a few good calls on this company in the past; particularly, we identified six months ahead of the event that it would have to exit the hardware business, and three months ahead of the event that Sourceforge (its main software product) would be moved from an Open Source to a proprietary license. Now, there have been a couple of big pieces of VA Software news; the 2Q02 accounts were better than expected, and Slashdot announced its intention to move to a subscription model. And we at adequacy.org have got an inside scoop which explains a lot about the internal workings of VA. Read on for the real details …

Disclaimer: Adequacy.org is not in the business of making investment recommendations and never will be. This article is journalistic in nature; while reasonable care has been taken to avoid defamatory or misleading statements, reading adequacy.org is not a substitute for doing your own due diligence on any company whose securities you may wish to speculate upon. We make a number of speculative statements about what may or may not have gone on in the internal workings of VA Software in the last six months; these are clearly identified as such, and the entire article should be taken with a pinch of salt

money

More stories about Money
LNUX = FC?
Climbing the Corporate Ladder through Castration
World Trade Center - Capitalizing on terrorist atrocities.
Great Britain must keep the pound.
Stocks Crash - Adequacy linked

More stories by
jsm

The Gay Tax
LNUX = FC?
Linux Linux Linux -- Part One -- Trying to Be a Hero
A Declaration of Independence for the Indebted States of America
Kill Yr Idols: Nelson Mandela
Open Letter to a Stripper
Milosevic Goes Free, Thanks to Godwin's Law!
Tax the Childless, Double Votes for Parents
Luv Yr Enemies -- Jesus Christ
Open Letter to the USA: Please Don't Drown Me
The Real Darwin Awards
Harnessing the Computational Power of Autism
'English Style Lovers', with jsm
Why the Bombings Mean That We Must Support My Politics
Kill Yr Idols - Donald Knuth
Linux Linux Linux Part Two - Crossing the Linux Fault Threshold
Teaching Astrology In Schools
Chip Hell -- the AMD story
We Licke Icke
Wicca and the Insult to Religion
Linux Zealot and Economics 101
A New Kind of Feminist Science
Since VA Software (ticker: LNUX) is now trading at a substantial premium to book value and cash (after writing down goodwill on a number of acquisitions made at optimistic dot com valuations), its cash generation or lack thereof is a much more important issue than it used to be in the days when the stock was available for less than the cash on its balance sheet. Which leaves us unsure of what to make of the latest developments.

Good results …

First, we have the second quarter fiscal 2002 results, released last week. These were actually really quite good. VA has reduced its cash burn to $6.1m/quarter &emdash; this is not only a massive fall from the hardware services days of a >$30m cash burn, but is substantially below the target of $8m/quarter which VA announced at the time of quitting the hardware business. Having left the hardware and consulting businesses, VA was concentrating on selling its main software product, Sourceforge 3.0, and had made a number of new sales to blue-chip customers such as Stanford Universty and Pfizer. We had a few problems with their statement in the conference call and the press release that they had "$61m in cash and marketable securities" &emdash; which is true, but highly misleading as to their actual financial position as they also have current liabilities of $18m (ie; they need this much to pay bills falling due in the next six months, so the actual cash available to burn is more like $43m), and we regard their description of the redundancy payments and lease cancellation fees which make up their restructuring costs as "non cash items" as actively ludicrous, but this is nit-picking; the facts as of a couple of weeks ago appeared to be that VA Software was on the raspberry road to profitability.

But ….

Then we got this little bombshell; Slashdot, jewel in the crown of VA Software's OSDN network of Open Source websites, is moving to a pay subscriptions model a la Salon. Well, perhaps that's being a little bit too harsh; Slashdot isn't doing the full reader reduction exercise of making you pay for the only content you came to read, but it is going to be having "more intrusive" ads (by which I think we mean expanded banners and skyscrapers &emdash; surely Slashdot wouldn't dare to go down the route of pop-ups or interstitials, would they? WOULD THEY? AARRGH!), and you'll be able to view slashdot without these ads at the bargain subscription rate of $5 per thousand pages. Obviously, this caused much wailing and gnashing of teeth among the assorted slashbots (2275 comments so far, nearly a third as many as adequacy.org's most popular article), but we can't help thinking that they're missing the point. Nobody, least of all VA, thinks that there will be material revenue opportunities from the subscription model; all this is, is a figleaf designed to allow Slashdot to accept pop-up X10 ads while giving its editors hobbyists Rob Malda and Jeff Bates, a lightning conductor of "well, why don't you subscribe?" to deal with the floods of threatening email they are likely to receive.

So fair enough. But when we read the actual announcement on Slashdot, we at adequacy.org got worried. When we think we're looking at a company which is on the right track, we don't like to see senior staff at its only profitable business unit making statements like:

" The large ads that you see on many other sites are coming here. We really don't have an option: these are what advertisers want, and if we don't provide them, we won't be around much longer"

or

" We won't create subscriber only features that cost more to maintain than they generate. But we do need support from you if we are to continue."

What the hell? Slashdot was known to be profitable and cash positive when taken over by Andover.net in 1999. Andover.net was known to be profitable and cash-positive when taken over by VA Linux in 2000. The OSDN group of sites was, according to the 2Q02 results conference call, the source of more or less all the revenue generated by VA Software. And now we're being told that the ad market is so precarious that the VA cash pile is likely to be burnt up imminently? What gives? Quite apart from anything, statements like "we won't be around much longer" are Forward Looking Statements. Companies with publicly traded securities outstanding should not be making forward looking statements outside of the context of a scheduled conference call or an announcement to the general public under Regulation FD. It is, quite simply, not good enough for Rob Malda to be making this kind of wild assertion about the trading conditions faced by the key media property in the only profitable division of VA Software, ad hoc and without any kind of "safe harbor" statement. We don't know whether or not this announcement was technically in breach of Section 21 (E) of the Securities Exchange Act 1934, but we do know that well-managed companies with competently run press office and investor relations functions don't leak rumors in this kind of way.

Adequacy investigates

When we at adequacy.org witness an informational cluster-fuck like this in the making, we want to dig and delve, for the benefit of you our readers. We're about to make a few fairly controversial statements in this report, and we'd like you to take the following on trust: all the statements we make below which are in bold face can be sourced to a prominent (as in, you'd recognise the name if we told you) employee of Slashdot. We at adequacy don't want to cost anyone their job, so we'll make the following statement:

The statements sourced to an employee of Slashdot were acquired as the result of IRC conversation on an open channel. For this reason, adequacy.org does not feel bound to protect its source come what may. However, on general principles, we will only hand over the IRC logs which prove the veracity of our information on receipt of a subpoena from VA Software. In the event of our receiving such a subpoena, we will do our very best to publicise throughout the Internet the fact that VA Software issued such a subpoena to us in order to track down a critical employee, something which we would imagine would not generate good publicity with the core slashdot audience.
Ok, here's the dirt

Sourceforge is not profitable and looks like it never will be. According to our source, "it's a giant vacuum". And this seems about right to us. The recent conference call with VA Chief Executive Larry "Eleven Million Dollar Man" (that's how much VA stock he's sold for cash since the float) Augustin was full of the joys of Sourceforge "Enterprise Edition" 3.0, a "proprietary" version of the popular Open Source collaborative software development tool. Indeed, in response to a question, VA's Chairman and Chief Executive told the world that VA Software (a company which, according to its CFO made "substantially all" of its revenue from the online advertising of the OSDN) was "a company in the enterprise software market". Much was made of the fact that new sales had been made to Stanford and Pfizer, two new key clients. But when you try to pin down these sales to hard revenue numbers, it kind of drifts away. The hard fact is that Sourceforge charges $1000 per seat license (there are apparently issues relating to revenue recognition over the term of the long-term licensing contracts which VA is trying to sll, but $1K was the hard number given at the conference call). That means that, before VA Software can be considered to be mainly a software company, it needs to be selling 5000 seats worth of Sourceforge per quarter (generating $5m of revenue, roughly the same as OSDN's revenue). How close is it now to that goal?

Not close. Although the reference implementation of Sourceforge; the licensing level at which it starts to generate positive RoI for its customers, is estimated to be 120 seats, the vast majority of its current customer base are installing it on trial implementations of 30 seats to see if it's any good. Two or three big sales of Sourceforge might make a quarter of a million bucks at the outside; Sourceforge revenue for 2Q02 might possibly be as low as $60,000. Since Sourceforge 3.1, with better integration with other tools and added functionality is on the way, we can't see anyone springing for a full installation of 3.0, meaning that sales are at the mercy of the development schedule. In any case, we're not sure why anyone would buy 3.0; as far as we can tell, the main advantage over the Open Source version is that you get to use Oracle rather than PostGreSQL as a back end, which shouldn't be too terribly hard an alteration to make in-house given that the source code for the biggest existing implementation of Sourceforge (http://www.sourceforge.net) is available.

So, on the basis of publicly verifiable facts, our source appears to know what he's talking about.

OSDN is run tightly; VA as a whole is not. This is more or less a direct quote from our source, and we believe it. OSDN, for all its expensive branding and new name, is the business of Andover.net, which was always the poor man's CMG, or Ziff-Davis for the technologically literate. Which is to say, a bunch of guys who knew how to sell ads for computer stuff. They're still good. Let's consider the following:

Again from the conference call, we learn that in 2Q02, Intel accounted for 20% of total revenues. That's (cue drum roll, Dr Evil voice) one million dollars! Did they buy a thousand Sourceforge seats? To put it bluntly, no. They spent this on advertising

You can't spend one million dollars on advertising

At any reasonable CPM rate (or indeed, at OSDN's quoted rates for "selfserve" ads recently posted, one million dollars would buy you 250 million ad impressions. According to the OSDN advertising screen, they serve 120 million page views a month. So, by this standard, roughly two out of every three ads on OSDN during the second quarter of fiscal 2002 would have been ads for Intel. I have to tell you, and every regular viewer of Slashdot will agree, that they weren't.

Slashdot is notorious for running ads for thinkgeek tshirts, other OSDN sites and caffeinated mints, but surprisingly few ads for the high-end server gear which is the unique selling point of OSDN to its advertiser base. And slashdot accounts for an awful lot of those 120 million pages. Specifically, according to figures given in in Malda's statement, Slashdot has "one third of a million visitors per day", and the median visitor generates ten pageviews (we guesstimate this from the statement that, at a subscription rate of $5 per 1000 pages without ads, "82% of our readers could view slashdot for a year for $20", ie, 4000 pages per year). That means that over a quarter, just about 90 million of OSDN's 120 million pages are accounted for by Slashdot. So if Intel has spent One Million Dollars on OSDN advertising without making a material impact on slashdot, then something pretty strange has gone on.

Here's our guess. Intel is the sponsor of the "Large Linux Installation Foundry" on sourceforge.net. What's been going on here is "narrowcasting" &emdash; Intel isn't so much interested in serving 250 million pages to random Slashbots, but is more interested in serving about 400 pages over the quarter to a group of people possibly as small as nine or ten, who were making the decision in 2Q02 about which technology provider they would be going for in … a large Linux installation. It is not at all unknown for big ticket computer salesmen to drop a seven-figure check in promotions if they're hoping to land a nine-figure contract. It's also not impossible that the sponsorship of Sourceforge Large Linux Installations during 2Q02 was the subject of a bidding war between to rivals over the same large contract. We can't prove this, but we're pretty sure that something of this sort happened (if there are any more disgruntled VA employees out there, we'd love to know if we were right). In any case, it's not what you might call "high-quality income"; although VA hope to continue doing business with Intel, this is a big chunk of revenue to be dependent on one piece of marketing whim.

Slashdot could be sold to another media organisation. We had to read between the lines to get to this one, and it's probably not fair to pin it on our source, but he certainly entertained our speculation on the subject. And the interesting thing is that, with the information we were able to glean about the decomposition of 2Q earnings, Slashdot doesn't look like the cash cow for VA that we thought it might be. Out of the $5m revenue of VA Software, we can take out approximately $750K of interest income on the cash balance and maybe $200K for Sourceforge, meaning that the Intel contract accounts for roughly a quarter of the operating income of OSDN. From the pagecount, we know that Slashdot accounts for three quarters of the pageviews (and thus roughly three quarters of the bandwidth costs); to assume that it generates three quarters of the revenue would be tantamount to assuming that the other OSDN sites make next to zero revenue. Which is a crazy assumption, particularly given the intangible benefit to VA Software of having sourceforge.net as a promotional device for Sourceforge Enterprise Edition. And if Slashdot accounts for three quarters of the costs and less than three quarters of the revenues, it's a dog in the OSDN portfolio, not a star or a cash cow.

So, why not sell it? Although Slashdot may be a drain on the average profitability of OSDN, it probably breaks even, and in the world of magazine publishing, that's not bad. Publishing companies know that profitability has to be measured across a portfolio of magazines, not unit by unit, and it's often worth your while publishing a loss-making Talk Magazine for a while for the touch of stardust glamour it adds to a lucrative (but potentially rather prosaic) Conde Nast Traveller. Slashdot would be a perfect "hood ornament" for a profitable stable of computer magazines, dragging the kids in while they were in college and then cross-promoting them onto other titles by the time they had reached a saleable demographic. And all this could be done without compromising its "editorial integrity", which is something usually respected in the media world, though not so much in the software publishing world ("Andover.net had all sorts of evil plans for Slashdot", our source reveals).

Bottom line: If Larry Augustin wants to claim to be running a company in the enterprise software business, it's time for him to walk the talk. Let's see some divestment of non-core assets like Slashdot. Otherwise, we ought to be facing facts and reminding ourselves that the company which used to be "VA Linux" and is now "VA Software" has always been "VA Media". It's a publishing company, and ought to be managed as one. If that means getting rid of Eleven Million Dollar Larry and getting a graduate of the Si Mewhouse academy, then so be it.


What About ESR? (5.00 / 1) (#2)
by doofus on Wed Mar 6th, 2002 at 08:15:00 AM PST
Does this mean he is a rich and powerful man again?

That is what truly concerns me about Slashdot subscriptions.


 
Good to see concerns raised by someone else (none / 0) (#3)
by Anonymous Reader on Wed Mar 6th, 2002 at 02:16:09 PM PST
For quite some time I've been concerned by VA[whatever they are now]'s behaviour. My concerns are primarily on two fronts.
  1. Cases of management squandering shareholder wealth and manipulating stock prices really get me going
  2. One of my investments (RedHat) gets hit at the same time
I'm glad to see someone else is concerned too. Will anyone be referring the slashdot editors to the SEC?


VA whatever (none / 0) (#5)
by Anonymous Reader on Thu Mar 7th, 2002 at 12:52:49 AM PST
It's VA Lunix of course !


oh goody this again (none / 0) (#7)
by Anonymous Reader on Thu Mar 7th, 2002 at 07:58:54 AM PST
It's VA Lunix of course !

The correct spelling is Linux, not Lunix. Please provide proof that your spelling is correct. The name of the company is VA Software, not VA Linux, but of course you're too stupid to know that lol.


Are you sure? (5.00 / 3) (#8)
by Anonymous Reader on Thu Mar 7th, 2002 at 08:11:05 AM PST
I thought it was Lenix, named after Vladimir Lenin?


Proof, please? (none / 0) (#9)
by Anonymous Reader on Thu Mar 7th, 2002 at 10:58:16 AM PST
You state that its spelled "lenix" yet you provide no...

Holy crap, it's hard acting this stupid.

I was gonna continue the meta-troll, but my head hurts, and I'm getting hungry. Mmmm, turkey sammich.


Come on, be fair to them (none / 0) (#10)
by because it isnt on Thu Mar 7th, 2002 at 11:19:57 AM PST
If there's only one joke to tell, you can expect to hear it quite often...
adequacy.org -- because it isn't

 
You weren't doing a very good job anyway (none / 0) (#16)
by Anonymous Reader on Thu Mar 7th, 2002 at 04:05:21 PM PST
There's a fellow around here called PotatoError who makes you look worse than a TrOlLaXoR contributor.


Maybe so (none / 0) (#19)
by Anonymous Reader on Thu Mar 7th, 2002 at 05:07:20 PM PST
but I fished in two, didn't I?

I was attempting a proof of concept. I had thought that the NAWL-like posts were actually Elenchos-targeted trolls, but I think I've proven the opposite. It takes too much sustained effort to be that clueless, unless you're actually that clueless.

But if I'm wrong, then my hat's off to you, Mr. Troll. I am as Booger sitting at the feet of The Master in Revenge of the Nerds II - "teach me!"

-- not because it ain't, nor cosmic fish. Maybe someone else.


I'm guessing you're sdem (none / 0) (#21)
by Anonymous Reader on Thu Mar 7th, 2002 at 08:56:13 PM PST
In which case, if you want to convince us you're unintelligent, I can recommend a much faster way.


 
Don't get it yet ? (none / 0) (#12)
by Anonymous Reader on Thu Mar 7th, 2002 at 11:52:19 AM PST
There is a very simple rule on this site: if your spelling is bad, your argument is bad, and your opinion uninteresting.
There is one exception to that rule: you may, pardon, you must spell bad anything related to Linux, except in the expression "Linux Zealot". That makes all the bullshit you may write on that subject The One and Very Truth.


 
Ha ha! (none / 0) (#13)
by Anonymous Reader on Thu Mar 7th, 2002 at 01:17:34 PM PST
One of my investments (RedHat) gets hit at the same time

That will teach you not to make stupid investment decisions when there are plenty of wonderful companies to invest in.


 
Good to see concerns raised by someone else (none / 0) (#31)
by inkyyy on Fri Mar 8th, 2002 at 10:11:23 AM PST
Regarding your item number 1...

I don't really care that top management gets rich. But I do care when they do it at my expense and the expense of the employees and shareholders. A public company has an obligation to report to the shareholders and the employees and to be truthful. VA has, at the very least, failed to be truthful.

When a public company can inform its employees that they are not permitted to sell shares after the lockup expires, that they "should" consider the betterment of the company when they are finally allowed to sell and that they are "counseled" to consider selling considerably fewer shares that desired, that is a problem.

I regret having cowtowed to their "suggestions". Remember that Enron did the same thing.

I have a lot to say about VA on this particular subject and just wish that I had the funds to pull off a real lawsuit, not the kind of things Milburg Weiss tries to pull off that only make the lawyers rich.

VA sold out the employees. Pure and simple. I just wish I could get enough testimonial energy around this topic to sue.


Don't despise Millberg Weiss (none / 0) (#34)
by jsm on Fri Mar 8th, 2002 at 01:00:40 PM PST
I have met one of the principals (Millberg) IRL, and while he is certainly a commercial lawyer out to make money, he is neither unprincipled or a shark. He has recouped a lot of money for a lot of people who were ripped off in the stock market, and in general has a good record of refusing cases he believes to be unethical. I don't think that there is much of a case against VA per se (as opposed to the underwriters, which I believe is being settled out of court), but if you have reason to believe that the employee shareholders were badly advised, then I know that is an area in which Bill is very interested.

... the worst tempered and least consistent of the adequacy.org editors
... now also Legal department and general counsel, adequacy.org

 
whats going on (none / 0) (#4)
by turmeric on Wed Mar 6th, 2002 at 11:38:02 PM PST
in a world filled with pain
whats goin on
can we all be the same
whats goin on

oh mother mother mother, theres
far too many of us dying....
war is not the answer only loooove
can conquere hayyyayayayayte

anyways this is fucking commendable, but i dont know what the hell you are talking about for the most part. if i were smart enough to understand all this crap i probably wouldnt be wasting my life pointing out how stupid slashdot is... although you seem to have succesfully combined the worlds of corporate finance and slash bashing... i dont even know what interest adjusted whosit means.

sorta like 'why do hackers never break open the AMA database of doctors with malpractice suits against them'? because hackers are too stupid to care about it, and too cocooned in video games to even know it exists.


 
I think.... (none / 0) (#11)
by PotatoError on Thu Mar 7th, 2002 at 11:42:08 AM PST
the fact that you need a disclaimer says it all.
<<JUMP! POGO POGO POGO BOUNCE! POGO POGO POGO>>

I think... (none / 0) (#15)
by RobotSlave on Thu Mar 7th, 2002 at 03:39:30 PM PST
the fact that you have never seen a disclaimer on a piece of financial reporting before says it all.

PotatoPrat, every piece of serious journalism that purports to examine the fundamental value of a publicly traded company relative to its stock price must carry a disclaimer similar to the one you see here.

Is there any other relevant wisdom you'd like to share with us, now that you've revealed your utter ignorance of the financial press?


© 2002, RobotSlave. You may not reproduce this material, in whole or in part, without written permission of the owner.

Sad world... (none / 0) (#17)
by The Mad Scientist on Thu Mar 7th, 2002 at 04:29:30 PM PST
...where everything has to bear a disclaimer.

By overprotecting stupid people by disclaimers everywhere we'll just let their number (and - worse - total population percentage) rise beyond control.


thank you for admitting (none / 0) (#18)
by nathan on Thu Mar 7th, 2002 at 04:35:18 PM PST
That you believe in eugenics.

Nathan
--
Li'l Sis: Yo, that's a real grey area. Even by my lax standards.

Just think of it... (5.00 / 1) (#22)
by jvance on Thu Mar 7th, 2002 at 09:08:13 PM PST
...as Evolution in action.

Your trite quote of the day, brought to you by the number and letter e.
--
Adequacy has turned into a cesspool consisting of ... blubbering, superstitious fools arguing with smug, pseudointellectual assholes. -AR

Yea. (3.00 / 1) (#23)
by tkatchev on Fri Mar 8th, 2002 at 12:51:44 AM PST
Except you don't understand evolution.

(Hint: It's not "darwinism", unless you're talking about genetic algorithms for solving the backpack problem.)


--
Peace and much love...




Just because (4.00 / 1) (#27)
by jvance on Fri Mar 8th, 2002 at 07:25:59 AM PST
I chose a quote from "Oath of Fealty" does not mean that I haven't studied evolutionary biology. It's kind of required if you want a degree in Anthropology from one of the top 10 departments in the US.

Or did you miss the word "trite"?
--
Adequacy has turned into a cesspool consisting of ... blubbering, superstitious fools arguing with smug, pseudointellectual assholes. -AR

 
What's bad... (none / 0) (#26)
by The Mad Scientist on Fri Mar 8th, 2002 at 05:30:20 AM PST
...on eugenics?

Yes, it backfires when aimed to achieve a "racial purity" - but if aimed to produce subjects with the best available operational parameters regardless of race, why not?

Genetic engineering is a big hope here. Think of it like of an evolution on steroids.


Very good. (none / 0) (#28)
by derek3000 on Fri Mar 8th, 2002 at 08:49:14 AM PST
Yes, it backfires when aimed to achieve a "racial purity" - but if aimed to produce subjects with the best available operational parameters regardless of race, why not?

Three words: Slippery Slope. Dicknose.

Besides--what would you do if I decided to weed out all the genes that cause people to talk about humanity like a fucking computer program?




----------------
"Feel me when I bring it!" --Gay Jamie

Even better. (none / 0) (#36)
by The Mad Scientist on Fri Mar 8th, 2002 at 03:20:19 PM PST
Three words: Slippery Slope. Dicknose.

Seems there is no other choice between "zero tolerance" and "slippery slope". I tend to choose the more promising one, in this cause the second one.

Sorry for being English-as-second-language but I can't find "dicknose" in any official dictionary. Maybe it's some weird slang? Word structure parsing would suggest so but not beyond doubts...

Besides--what would you do if I decided to weed out all the genes that cause people to talk about humanity like a fucking computer program?

I'd wish you good luck finding them. Nature vs nurture; I don't think this one trait is caused genetically. And what don't you like about seeing things in more objective way? That someone doesn't see your Absolutes as Absolutes?


Hello, Mad Geek. (none / 0) (#37)
by RobotSlave on Fri Mar 8th, 2002 at 05:58:36 PM PST
You again reveal your lack of culture. "Dicknose" is a reference to one of R. Crumb's more famous creations.

Anyway.

At some point in this little eugenics dust-up, you said that genetic engineering ought to be used to improve human intelligence.

Despite what you might think, intelligence can not be quantified. Nor is there overwhelming evidence that it is geneticly determined.

But let's think about a couple of obvious examples for a moment. We know that there are some people born who evince an astonishing capacity for education at a very early age. We also know that there are some people born with eidetic memories-- total recall.

If we assume a rather narrow definition of intelligence, one defined essentially by genetic aberrations of this nature, then we must ask ourselves a very interesting question.

Why haven't those genes spread throughout the species by now?

The geek outlook suggests that there ought to be a tremendous survival advantage attached to increased capacity for learning and perfect memory, in conditions either prehistoric or modern. There is nothing to suggest that there is any physical imparity imparted by these genes-- those who have them represent a broad range of physiology.

That these genes have not been wiped out entirely suggests that they do impart some benefit to the species in some conditions, but the fact that they have not come to dominate the species suggests that the traits they impart bestow some disadvantage on the individual.

This suggests that the capacity for learning and memory that the "average" person is born with is in some very real way better than that of a child prodigy or "genius."

Let's keep this in mind when we get out the home gene-splicing kit. Genetic engineering is not going to put an end to natural selection.


© 2002, RobotSlave. You may not reproduce this material, in whole or in part, without written permission of the owner.

Hello. (none / 0) (#42)
by The Mad Scientist on Fri Mar 8th, 2002 at 08:58:20 PM PST
You again reveal your lack of culture. "Dicknose" is a reference to one of R. Crumb's more famous creations.

Never heard about Crumb. Apparently he isn't famous enough to be known over the ocean. Or the character name hadn't survived translation.

At some point in this little eugenics dust-up, you said that genetic engineering ought to be used to improve human intelligence.

Despite what you might think, intelligence can not be quantified. Nor is there overwhelming evidence that it is geneticly determined.


It is possibly partially determined genetically, but major part is influenced by handling during early brain development. (I suppose the two most important causes of the current stupidity proliferation problem of the West are too busy parents and sucking elementary schools.)

But let's think about a couple of obvious examples for a moment. We know that there are some people born who evince an astonishing capacity for education at a very early age. We also know that there are some people born with eidetic memories-- total recall.

If we assume a rather narrow definition of intelligence, one defined essentially by genetic aberrations of this nature, then we must ask ourselves a very interesting question.

Why haven't those genes spread throughout the species by now?


Maybe they are too recent. Maybe they pose social disadvantage - if the mates have too different intelligence levels, the probability of estabilshing a working long-term relationship goes dramatically down (both ends of the Gaussian curve are affected - the suitable mates pool is severely "diluted").

The geek outlook suggests that there ought to be a tremendous survival advantage attached to increased capacity for learning and perfect memory, in conditions either prehistoric or modern. There is nothing to suggest that there is any physical imparity imparted by these genes-- those who have them represent a broad range of physiology.

As I said above, some performance advantages could present social disadvantages if they are too uncommon. Maybe bringing the relative percentage of these traits up could push the system to new balance, where they would lose their current disadvantages.

That these genes have not been wiped out entirely suggests that they do impart some benefit to the species in some conditions, but the fact that they have not come to dominate the species suggests that the traits they impart bestow some disadvantage on the individual.

As said above.

This suggests that the capacity for learning and memory that the "average" person is born with is in some very real way better than that of a child prodigy or "genius."

Nope. In some way, "averageness" is an "advantage". However odd it sounds.

Let's keep this in mind when we get out the home gene-splicing kit. Genetic engineering is not going to put an end to natural selection.

You're right here. Genetic engineering will just become one of the natural selection factors.


Hang on. (none / 0) (#43)
by RobotSlave on Fri Mar 8th, 2002 at 09:41:50 PM PST
It looks like we can add anthropology and paleoanthropology to the list of subjects that are not "scientific" enough for you to put any effort into. No doubt they're just a bunch of "Babbling philosophers," especially those anthropologists.

Are you trying to tell me that there has been some constant "social factor" keeping people with early learning capacity or eidetic memory from reproducing for the past million years?

Human societies change faster than their average genetic makup, Mad Geek. A lot faster.

Or wait. Maybe that's not what you're saying. Maybe you're just saying that people with the aberrent "intelligence" genes can't get laid. Wasn't that implicit in my argument in the first place?

The interesting question, Mad Geek, is why can't they get laid? I mean, if they're so smart, shouldn't they be able to figure out a way to screw pretty much anyone they want to?

But they can't. And they haven't been able to in any society that has existed in the whole of hominid evolution. They reproduce, yes, but not prolificly. This is because they are inferior in a way that a person of "average intelligence" can see or sense, but you can not, or refuse to consider.

The evidence is pretty damning, Mad Geek. You can keep waving your hands and trying to make it go away, but you'll find your objections are easily shot down, because you are arguing in order to support an unsubstantiated a priori hypothesis that you don't want to let go of.

If you're so scientific, then why can't you accept the most sensible conclusion here? Why can't you let go of your initial assumption? Do you only believe in the scientific method when it applies to ideas that you don't hold as dear?

 

PS-- If you don't know what a word refers to, try Google. It has a lot of information on North American culture in addition to your own.


© 2002, RobotSlave. You may not reproduce this material, in whole or in part, without written permission of the owner.

Of the reproduction of geniuses ... (none / 0) (#46)
by Anonymous Reader on Sat Mar 9th, 2002 at 04:08:19 AM PST
First, observing the quality of the offspring of the geniuses we know, we must admit that if there is a gene of superintelligence, it is a recessive gene.

Second, our genius spend a lot of time asking why, who, who am I, why am I, where am I, where am I coming from and where am I going to, what is this universe, what about God, etc., while our average human is happily having sex without thinking one minute of the consequences of anything he does.


Intelligence is a liberalist myth. (5.00 / 3) (#47)
by tkatchev on Sat Mar 9th, 2002 at 04:47:56 AM PST
Don't be fooled by fascio-liberalist propaganda. There is no such thing as "intelligence".


--
Peace and much love...




May be (none / 0) (#50)
by Anonymous Reader on Sat Mar 9th, 2002 at 12:58:04 PM PST
Here. For the rest of the universe, I have some doubts.


No! (none / 0) (#52)
by tkatchev on Sat Mar 9th, 2002 at 01:54:33 PM PST
It is time to throw away your liberalist preconceptions away. Just do it, dude. You know I'm right!

Don't be a slave to the liberalist hegemony.


--
Peace and much love...




Give me a reason (none / 0) (#55)
by Anonymous Reader on Sun Mar 10th, 2002 at 04:41:42 AM PST
It is time to throw away your liberalist preconceptions away.
Intelligence being a liberalist myth, don't tell me that would be an intelligent move. And don't tell me I'm a moron if I don't do it. So? Necessity? I don't see it.


Intelligent move? (none / 0) (#56)
by tkatchev on Sun Mar 10th, 2002 at 06:15:29 AM PST
What? I'm not advocating investment choices here, dude. Intelligence has nothing to do with it.


--
Peace and much love...




 
I agree (none / 0) (#51)
by nathan on Sat Mar 9th, 2002 at 01:10:01 PM PST
...our average human is happily having sex without thinking one minute of the consequences of anything he does.

Seeing as how we intellectual types are never guilty of any kind of promiscuousness or sexual immorality, the rest of the mass of mankind is obviously fit only to be our slaves, pets, and food.

Nathan
--
Li'l Sis: Yo, that's a real grey area. Even by my lax standards.

 
Hanging... (none / 0) (#49)
by The Mad Scientist on Sat Mar 9th, 2002 at 08:02:22 AM PST
It looks like we can add anthropology and paleoanthropology to the list of subjects that are not "scientific" enough for you to put any effort into. No doubt they're just a bunch of "Babbling philosophers," especially those anthropologists.

Not entirely.

Are you trying to tell me that there has been some constant "social factor" keeping people with early learning capacity or eidetic memory from reproducing for the past million years?

Yes.

Human societies change faster than their average genetic makup, Mad Geek. A lot faster.

But some traits of them stay fairly constant.

Or wait. Maybe that's not what you're saying. Maybe you're just saying that people with the aberrent "intelligence" genes can't get laid. Wasn't that implicit in my argument in the first place?

More accurate would be that they don't get laid. Maybe because they want a more meaningful and stable relationship than just getting laid, and finding a suitable mate for them is not so trivial. Maybe because they spend more time pursuing other interests than screwing another female.

Another possible factor further lowering the probability of success in finding a mate can be uneven distribution of intelligence between genders. The curve distribution of intelligence among males produces a curve that is broader, with a lower peak, than the curve for females. Which means there is more of average females and above- and below-average males. (Which confirms my own experiences.) (Check ie. here or here or here or here.

The matter gets more complicated if the intelligence/memory genes are recessive, or even if there is a certain combination of them necessary for displaying the traits in question. Then the probability rates fall dramatically even without social factors involved. But this is just one of theories. Only the genetics itself will answer this definitively.

The interesting question, Mad Geek, is why can't they get laid? I mean, if they're so smart, shouldn't they be able to figure out a way to screw pretty much anyone they want to?

What if you want more than just that?

But they can't. And they haven't been able to in any society that has existed in the whole of hominid evolution. They reproduce, yes, but not prolificly. This is because they are inferior in a way that a person of "average intelligence" can see or sense, but you can not, or refuse to consider.

Handicapped, yes. Inferior, no way.

The evidence is pretty damning, Mad Geek. You can keep waving your hands and trying to make it go away, but you'll find your objections are easily shot down, because you are arguing in order to support an unsubstantiated a priori hypothesis that you don't want to let go of.

Not as much. Examine other possible causes than your pet "inferiority" one.

If you're so scientific, then why can't you accept the most sensible conclusion here? Why can't you let go of your initial assumption? Do you only believe in the scientific method when it applies to ideas that you don't hold as dear?

Because what looks "sensible" on first glance turns to be misleading on the second one?

PS-- If you don't know what a word refers to, try Google. It has a lot of information on North American culture in addition to your own.

Which I tried, and what I found led me to conclusion "dicknose" is a mild insult or a geographic location, which hadn't gave any sense.


You're in denial (none / 0) (#53)
by RobotSlave on Sat Mar 9th, 2002 at 02:29:31 PM PST
First, could you please stop the line-by-line reactionary denial? I find it quite rude. Plus, I think your last post contained more text authored by me than by you, and I consider that copyright infringement. I goes way past fair use.

Now then.

If you were not willfully ignorant, and instead had put some effort into reading in anthropology, you'd realize that this desperate notion that some "social factor" has remained in place for millions of years is complete garbage. You haven't even begun to understand variations in contemporary cultures; how on earth do can you make such a broad, sweeping statement about human culture of the past million years?

The audacity of this would be shocking if I weren't already familiar with your mindset-- you think that the fact that you can earn a lot of money with a soldering iron makes you smarter than others, which in turn qualifies you to comment on any subject at all.

Then you go on to impose your own very highly specific cultural notion, and suggest that all people with abberrent genetic mental makeups in the past million years have wanted something "more" than sex. This is preposterous on its face. Let's add psychology to the list of subjects that you're too stupid to be interested in.

You continue to argue without evidence, Mad Geek. The fact of the matter is that "normal" people are smarter than you want to give them credit for. Much smarter.

Your reactionary denial is pretty much what I expected. What looks "sensible" to you on first glance is the notion that people who meet your definition of "intelligent" are naturally superior to others. I present evidence to the contrary, evidence that suggests that "normal" people are superior instead, and you flat-out refuse to let go of your misleading initial assumption.

You bring up "recessive" genes, as I expected. There are plenty of recessive traits that are far more commonly expressed than the mental aberrations we've been discussing. If those aberrations did not impart inferiority, wouldn't people with them be at least as common as people with attached earlobes or no freckles?

And let's stop blathering about the "gaussian distribution" and the "low end of the curve," Mad Geek. Most people who exhibit cognitive dysfunction from birth are a result of prenatal damage of one sort or another, not genetics. The few that can be traced to genetic factors are most often the result of an artificially constricted gene pool-- inbreds, in other words. They are not a product of natural selection.

Listen, Mad Geek. I'm smarter than most of the people I meet, according to me. I'd like to believe that this confers some sort of natural superiority on me and my big brain. But when I look at the evidence, and it points in a direction contrary to that notion, I don't just deny it. I'm too smart for that. I've got to figure out some new conclusion, see? This is how the scientific method works, right?

Now, the really, really intelligent people I've met, people who understand philosophy and literature in addition to quantum thermodynamics, people who have social graces and happy lives in addition to large incomes, have not been genetic aberrations. They had normal childhoods, nice normal parents, and they applied themselves to their studies. No freaky genes required.

This suggests to me that evolution has already done the genetic engineering required to produce a "super-smart" species. I can see how early cognition or an eidetic memory could be an intellectual handicap, Mad Geek. Why can't you? You haven't even stopped to consider it in this whole argument. You've just flatly denied it.

Then again, I've actually done a bit of reading on people who have eidetic memories or exhibit early cognition. The people who write about stuff like this are Babbling Philosophers called "psychologists." You probably think you're too smart for them.

 

© 2002, RobotSlave. You may not reproduce this comment, in whole or in part, without written permission.


© 2002, RobotSlave. You may not reproduce this material, in whole or in part, without written permission of the owner.

 
Robert Crumb (none / 0) (#48)
by jsm on Sat Mar 9th, 2002 at 06:34:41 AM PST
Is very certainly famous enough to have "crossed the ocean", though obviously not among ignorant people.

... the worst tempered and least consistent of the adequacy.org editors
... now also Legal department and general counsel, adequacy.org

 
some questions (none / 0) (#29)
by nathan on Fri Mar 8th, 2002 at 09:12:51 AM PST
Given the immaturity of genetic engineering as a technology, it is not to be considered of much use as of yet. Why do you expect it to be of any use yet?

All genes appear to be of some use. How would you feel justified wiping any out? Even such genetic disorders as cystic fibrosis appear to have adaptive benefits, within limits.

As you don't believe human life to be of absolute value, why do you even care about using genetic engineering to improve others' lives?

What are the 'operational parameters' for a human being? If we could, eg, visually resolve objects as well as an eagle, would that actually make human life on earth one bit better?

Nathan
--
Li'l Sis: Yo, that's a real grey area. Even by my lax standards.

Wake up and smell the flowers. (none / 0) (#30)
by Anonymous Reader on Fri Mar 8th, 2002 at 09:25:20 AM PST
Given the immaturity of genetic engineering as a technology, it is not to be considered of much use as of yet. Why do you expect it to be of any use yet?

Have you met any botanists, nathan? Granted, they're all Heil-Hitler Nazi Scum, but they do some nice horticultural cross-breeding stuff. Most flower-show winners need more than "God's Love" alone.


Well (5.00 / 1) (#32)
by Anonymous Reader on Fri Mar 8th, 2002 at 10:24:24 AM PST
SInce you've pointed out one good use for genetic engineering (although plant husbandry is most likely responsbile for the prize winning flowers you point out, and then only because nature's flowers are adapted for survival rather than beauty and as such cannot compete with flowers bred for beauty alone), I say open the floodgates. Bring on the two headed sheep, the flying snakes, the dogs with bees in their mouths and when they bark they spit bees at you.

Bring it all on. Some guy pointed out, albeit erroneously, that flower show winning flowers are the result of genetic engineering. That must mean that whatever we choose to do with that particular technology is A-OK.


 
immaturity of gen. eng (none / 0) (#33)
by nathan on Fri Mar 8th, 2002 at 10:32:08 AM PST
Give it up. Even the popular media is now beginning to point out that genetic engineering is based on false premises. Good grief, Harper's (Harper's!) has covered it.

Genetic engineering works on genes, not cells, but there is two-way interaction between cells and the DNA they contain. Therefore, genetic engineering is a crude, immature technology, with results that we cannot predict under the existing model.

I didn't say anything about God's love in this particular post, and I am not some Bible-banging know-nothing nutter. Kindly extend me the faintest bit of intellectual respect even if you hate what I stand for.

Nathan
--
Li'l Sis: Yo, that's a real grey area. Even by my lax standards.

 
some answers (none / 0) (#35)
by The Mad Scientist on Fri Mar 8th, 2002 at 03:10:12 PM PST
Given the immaturity of genetic engineering as a technology, it is not to be considered of much use as of yet. Why do you expect it to be of any use yet?

I don't expect it to be of much use at this moment; I am the first one to suggest to postpone usage of more crucial modifications on humans for next couple years - and do intensive research and debugging meanwhile. However, the technology is one of the most promising ones ever.

All genes appear to be of some use. How would you feel justified wiping any out? Even such genetic disorders as cystic fibrosis appear to have adaptive benefits, within limits.

The genes come as a "package deal". One can bear a part that is responsive for a positive trait, and one responsive as a negative trait (sickle cell anemia vs malaria resistance could be a good example). Significant proliferation of a new mutation by "natural" way needs long time.

As you don't believe human life to be of absolute value, why do you even care about using genetic engineering to improve others' lives?

I believe it to be of avery high value. Not absolute, but is there anything absolute? And the technology could solve some problems. Medicine is now saving lifes of next to everybody, with the side effect of degrading the gene pool; a technology that would counter this effect is more than necessary.

What are the 'operational parameters' for a human being?

Resistance to diseases, resistance to cancers, resistance to pollution, ability to synthetize essential aminoacids and vitamins? Higher intelligence, better sensorical parameters, better ability to process large volumes of informations?

If we could, eg, visually resolve objects as well as an eagle, would that actually make human life on earth one bit better?

Depends on how it'll be deployed.


Bland, horrid (none / 0) (#38)
by Robert Reginald Rodriguez on Fri Mar 8th, 2002 at 06:13:43 PM PST
Resistance to diseases, resistance to cancers, resistance to pollution, ability to synthetize essential aminoacids and vitamins? Higher intelligence, better sensorical parameters, better ability to process large volumes of informations?

Bigger muscles. Better senses. Faster reflexes. More stamina. Blonde hair. Blue Eyes. Six feet tall. Minimal body fat. Homogeneity.

If you can define the perfect human being based on objective criteria, and grow that person according to your blueprint, how would you feel if you were not lucky enough to be that person? How many parents would even want a child who was a product of a design lab, rather than their own earnest, incompetent genetic process?

What will genetic engineering end up costing the third world?


But logical. (none / 0) (#39)
by The Mad Scientist on Fri Mar 8th, 2002 at 08:27:55 PM PST
If you can define the perfect human being based on objective criteria, and grow that person according to your blueprint, how would you feel if you were not lucky enough to be that person?

How would you feel if you were not lucky enough to be [insert some rich person name here]? The same situation here is with education, with technology, with traveling...

On a side note, the "objective criteria" are dependent on the optimization for the person in question. Resistance to malaria is irrelevant for life in northern areas, blonde eyes are irrelevant for next to everything (maybe except the resistance of eyes to some wavelengths of radiation, where they are rather a disadvantage), resistance to UV radiation is now important for northern and southern areas. So it's a bit of lottery.

How many parents would even want a child who was a product of a design lab, rather than their own earnest, incompetent genetic process?



What will genetic engineering end up costing the third world?

Principially the same as any other technology they can't afford already costs them. By this logic we shouldn't deploy computers here because it causes a disadvantage to the Third World.


But not humane (none / 0) (#41)
by T Reginald Gibbons on Fri Mar 8th, 2002 at 08:43:49 PM PST
The decision to slaughter six million jews was once arrived at logically.


The decision will be arrived at logically (none / 0) (#54)
by Anonymous Reader on Sun Mar 10th, 2002 at 12:41:25 AM PST
once again, I am certain.


 
But logical. (Missing part) (none / 0) (#40)
by The Mad Scientist on Fri Mar 8th, 2002 at 08:31:30 PM PST
How many parents would even want a child who was a product of a design lab, rather than their own earnest, incompetent genetic process?

Depends. I expect sizeable part of the population (guessing over 10%), in case the method would be low-risk.


 
WARNING WARNING (none / 0) (#45)
by tkatchev on Sat Mar 9th, 2002 at 03:58:13 AM PST
Now you see what reading bad sci-fi as a child can do to you later in life.


--
Peace and much love...




 
Funny world ... (none / 0) (#24)
by Anonymous Reader on Fri Mar 8th, 2002 at 01:29:30 AM PST
... where stupid people presumably exist while everyone is convinced of their intelligence.


Confirmation (none / 0) (#44)
by Tyen on Fri Mar 8th, 2002 at 11:09:47 PM PST
"Unskilled and Unaware of It: How Difficulties in Recognizing One's Own Incompetence Lead to Inflated Self-Assessments"


 
News... (none / 0) (#14)
by Anonymous Reader on Thu Mar 7th, 2002 at 01:41:56 PM PST
The statements sourced to an employee of Slashdot were acquired as the result of IRC conversation on an open channel. For this reason, adequacy.org does not feel bound to protect its source come what may. However, on general principles, we will only hand over the IRC logs which prove the veracity of our information on receipt of a subpoena from VA Software. In the event of our receiving such a subpoena, we will do our very best to publicise throughout the Internet the fact that VA Software issued such a subpoena to us in order to track down a critical employee, something which we would imagine would not generate good publicity with the core slashdot audience.


Ooo, so pernicious and melodramatic!

However, your analysis is interesting and does raise some good points. The Financial Times' estimates might be useful to look at as well. Also, according to CNN, Cornell University uses SourceForge and VA recently announced their Open SystemC Initiative. Keep taking that salt...


Insider trades (none / 0) (#25)
by Ernest Bludger on Fri Mar 8th, 2002 at 04:23:12 AM PST
and restricted share transactions(insider and form 144 filings) can also be found here if you click on "Insider". It can be interesting to see what (disclosed) trading activity is being undertaken by those who are meant to know most about a firm's future prospects.


 
hah (none / 0) (#57)
by Anonymous Reader on Sun Mar 17th, 2002 at 06:04:43 PM PST
goto slashdot for real news. hosers.


 

All trademarks and copyrights on this page are owned by their respective companies. Comments are owned by the Poster. The Rest ® 2001, 2002, 2003 Adequacy.org. The Adequacy.org name, logo, symbol, and taglines "News for Grown-Ups", "Most Controversial Site on the Internet", "Linux Zealot", and "He just loves Open Source Software", and the RGB color value: D7D7D7 are trademarks of Adequacy.org. No part of this site may be republished or reproduced in whatever form without prior written permission by Adequacy.org and, if and when applicable, prior written permission by the contributing author(s), artist(s), or user(s). Any inquiries are directed to legal@adequacy.org.