Python obfuscation

Alex Martelli aleax at
Thu Nov 17 19:53:24 CET 2005

Anton Vredegoor <anton.vredegoor at> wrote:
> Maybe this micropayment thing is already working and active. What is
> the cost of a mouseclick and what is the monetarial value of the fact
> that someone is clicking on a link? Someone bought virtual property for

I believe that all of the currently dominant models for pricing in this
field are based on auctions -- each would-be advertiser bids how many
cents (or dollars;-) a click-through into their advertisement is worth
to them, Google or one of our competitors shows the "highest bidding"
ads for a query or site (adjusted by all sort of factors, such as for
example the click-through rates), and money changes "hands" only if a
click-through does happen (the amount of money involved may be the
amount that was bid, or a lesser one based for example on a
"second-price auction" or other mechanisms yet -- there's a lot of
fascinating economic literature on auction mechanisms and the various
effects slightly different mechanisms may have).

If an auction mechanism is well-designed and tuned in minute detail, it
will presumably determine accurately the "monetarial value of [a click]
on a link" when that link is an ad paid for by such a mechanism.  Value
of clicks on other kinds of links is harder to compute, of course, since
the monetization may be extremely indirect, if one exists at all.

> real money and sold it later with a lot of profit. There are pages
> where one can buy pixels. Maybe me replying to you will provoke some
> other chain of events with payoffs for you or me (I hope positive :-)

Maybe -- but you'd have to estimate the probabilities in order to
estimate the expected payoffs;-).

> The idea of using a webservice to hide essential secret parts of your
> application can only work well if one makes some random alterations to
> the results of the queries. Like GPS signals that are deliberately made

I disagree on this general statement and I have already given two

a. a webservice which, for some amount X of money, gives an excellent
heuristic estimate of a good cutting-path for a woodcutting tool (for a
set of shapes to be cut out of standard-sized planks of wood by a
numerically driven cutter): this is a case where ESR, acting as a
consultant, advised his clients (who had developed a heuristic for this
task which saved a lot of wood compared to their competitors') to keep
their code closed-source, and it makes a good use case for the "hide
essential secret parts" in general;

b. a (hypothetical) website that, given time-space coordinates (and some
amount Y of money), produces and returns weather predictions that are
better than those you can get from its competitors.

It appears to me that any application of this kind could work well
without at all "making random alterations" to whatever.  Point is, if
you develop a better algorithm (or, more likely, heuristic) for good
solutions to such problems, or predictions of just about anything which
might have economic value to somebody, using a webservice to hide the
essential secret parts of your discovery is an option, and it might be a
preferable alternative to relying on patents (since software patents may
not be enforceable everywhere in the world, and even where they're
nominally enforceable it could prove problematic and costly to actually
deter all would-be competitors from undercutting you).  I do not see
anything in your post that contradicts this, except the bare unsupported
assertion that a webservice "can only work well if one makes random

> But the more one messes with the ideal output the more often the user
> will rather click another link. (or launch another satellite)

Of course.  If my "better weather predictor" is in fact based not on
inventing some new algorithm/heuristic, but on having better or more
abundant raw data due to my private network of satellites or other
observation platforms, this doesn't change the economic situation by all
that much (except that patenting may not even be an option in the latter
case, if there's no patentable innovation in that private network); a
competitor *could* reach or surpass my predictions' quality by investing
enough to re-develop the heuristic or duplicate the sensors-network.
So, my pricing should probably take that risk into account.

Deliberately giving predictions worse than I could have given, in this
context, seems a deliberate self-sabotage without any return.

> what's the current exchange rate for clicks and dollars?

As far as I know, it varies wildly depending on the context, but I
suspect you can find ranges of estimates on the web.


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