Douwe Osinga's Blog: October 2006

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Pets.com 2.0

What goes around comes around. Pets.com, the company selling dogfood over the internet became the poster child of the previous dot  com bubble after they started giving away free pets with the food and apparently now dogster.com is one of the new social network phenomena’s, a social network for dogs (well, mostly for their owners).


I got me thinking about what was wrong with Pets.com’s plan. I mean lot’s of companies do this sort of thing where they give away something or sell it for very little (razor, printer) and then make their money on the supplies you need to use the item (blades, printer toner). Why not do the same with dogs and dog food? The answer is simple of course: for the razors and printers there are high switching costs. There are of course companies advertising copycat toner cartridge but in general people stay with the toner of the printer producer. With dogs this is so much harder – you buy a dog from one place and this dog will eat food from any place.


Or is it that much harder? Technology has progressed and I feel we’re ready for Pets20.com. See with genetic engineering it shouldn’t be so hard to create a dog that will only eat Pets20.com’s dog food. Some hidden allergy or a lack of some enzyme combined with a patented ingredient in the dog food or something. The marketing then is very simple; you target kids and give them these very cute puppies and an initial amount of food plus instructions on how to order more. After a week or so the food runs out and the choice is then between buying more food for the dog or seeing it starve.


Of course I am joking. Kinda. You see and will see this stuff more and more though. Usually in the name of security or quality, manufacturers will put microchips in products that make sure they will only work with selected other products – cars that only run if you put them on approved tires, printers that check some cryptographic key in the cartridge, laptops that won’t work with generic memory. You might pay a little more, the manufacturers will say, but it safer (this car just steers better with this type of tire), guarantees quality (the cryptographic key assures color correctness) or it just makes sure the batteries don’t explode.


We could even do this in the dog story – many people feed their dogs the wrong food and this makes the dogs unhealthy and unhappy. Better to make sure it only gets the approved type of food that guarantees a long and healthy life for the dogs 2.0.

Sunday, October 1, 2006

Genocide and Freedom

The Dutch are often proud of their freedoms and tolerance. Gay marriage, tolerance of soft drugs, abortion and euthanasia laws paint a picture of a society that lets people make decisions rather than the government prescribe what’s good for them. However, bring up the US Second Amendment, i.e. the right to keep and bear arms and there is a lot less understanding. I’ve always thought that there is something to this right though.


The Dutch, the Swiss and the Americans (and many other nations of course) all fought wars of independence in the name of freedom (well, and to protest against new taxes). If you think it is in the right of the people to revolt against oppression, you’ll need to grant them the right to bear arms, lest they’ll just be slaughtered by the tyrant any time they try. Anyway, that’s not what this blog is about. We were watching ‘Hotel Rwanda’, about the genocide in Rwanda and there were two things that sprang to mind.


First you cannot help but wonder whether if the Tutsi’s had had weapons, way less than 800 000 people would have been slaughtered. Yes, it would have been a civil war, but that beats genocide. Plus as it turns out, some of the Tutsi’s did have weapons and ultimately overthrew the government, saving the lives of millions.


The other thing is that maybe it is time to take this whole weapons bearing thing to the next level. See, the second amendment doesn’t just say you can bear weapons, it says:



A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.


A well regulated militia was something that surely was missing in Rwanda. You’d think the UN could have provided one, but the few hundred soldiers that were send, stood by and did nothing on explicit instructions from the Security Council. And later when it was clear what was going on and the Security Council decided to send in 5 000 troops, still nothing happened because they couldn’t agree on the details. 300 000 – 500 000 died after this decision.


What if there would have been a well regulated militia? Not one based in Rwanda, but just a thousand well trained commandos working for the people. During the Rwanda crisis, the people in the West knew what was going on, but we all felt there was nothing we could do. If there is a famine, we can send money and some organization will swoop in and send food. Why not an organization that after the money has been send, swoops in with a bunch of marines and kills the bad guys?


I realize that most people that want to support the third world are not much of the gun rights type of people and vice versa, so this proposal might be tricky.  Some people will say that giving mercenaries an official role can’t solve anything. A gun for hire might get hired by the wrong guys. But think about it, the wrong guys already hire guns.


The bottom line is that we all know there is most likely going to be genocide in the next 7 years. Read the Onion article ‘Nigeria Chosen To Host 2008 Genocides’, you’ll laugh and cry. Then read the Wikipedia on the Rwanda genocide and tell me how the International Community is going to react differently next time it happens. Having the Dogs of War on standby just might.