January 31, 2004
Cool Catalog of Music Posters
Naoki at Music Posters Archive is doing a lovely job of cataloging music posters he cares about (though they are commercially available for order from another rather ugly site). The nice part are Naoki's comments to the side of each poster he lists, which tell us what he thinks, why a poster matters to him. Nice project blending the blog format, digital media and a love of music.
I would love to know what public domain posters exist, those posters given freely by bands to their fans though still under copyright, as well as posters from a variety of sources besides just the one he currently references.
January 30, 2004
On Orkut: Social Network as Sport
Kevin Marks says "We're just collecting baseball cards here...".
I say, "this is like a video game for social networks... how many people can you click...." Doc's got 99 and danah's got 101, but Joi has 200! Doc is the only guy in a tie on Orkut. Cool.
Five million people each day read a Web log - M Nisenholtz, Head Of NYT Digital
Recommended: Jeff Jarvis with The Click Heard 'Round the World about the new, distributed citizen's media. Nisenholtz is quoted in a speech from this week's Information Industry Summit, which looked pretty cool. He's speaking again at the Digital Media Summit in 10 days in NY. It'll be interesting to compare, see if he talks the same things the same ways.
January 29, 2004
A Thought About Orkut, Privacy and Google
Free Cell Phone For All
January 28, 2004
Does Your Porn Come From Sex Slaves?
Peter Landesman/NYTimes in The Girls Next Door has a very scary story about the sex trade industry, which most of us probably think of as something people who trick do by choice. Not the reality according to this article, which gave me the willies reading, and then listening to Landesman interviewed on NPR.
But the part I care about in the context of this post is the part where women who are kidnapped and raped into submission, are then put into porn, and sold across space and time, to porn consumers, via digital media online. It's horrifying.
- Andrea told me that she and the other children she was held with were frequently beaten to keep them off-balance and obedient. Sometimes they were videotaped while being forced to have sex with adults or one another. Often, she said, she was asked to play roles: the therapist's patient or the obedient daughter.
- Cybernetworks like KaZaA and Morpheus / through which you can download and trade images and videos -- have become the Mexican border of virtual sexual exploitation. I had heard of one Web site that supposedly offered sex slaves for purchase to individuals.
I have no problem with consuming porn, adult porn, if that's what you like. But when you do get it, please ask yourself if what you are watching comes from sex slaves, men or women, cause frankly, that's not very sexy. And then demand that those who blog about or sell porn certify that it is made by consenting adults. Fleshbot should be on the front lines, demanding some kind of certification, some proof, something to reduce the market for sex slave porn, cause I'll bet you some of their images are of these slaves. It's hard to know for sure, but it's time to start asking.
January 25, 2004
Building a Social Network in 48 Hours
Orkut popped up on John Battelle's blog on Friday, and by Friday afternoon there were invites in my inbox (though as I mentioned, I was doing flowers for a wedding, and so missed them until late Friday night). Had many more invites late last night when I got home, and today, invited some others myself, and joined a few communities. Apparently, people were primed for a good social network after the soc-shill faux pas of Friendster, which is primarily for dating, and makes the mistake of thinking that A=B and B=C so therefore A=C. Social relationships aren't transitive, and yet people do want other interesting ways to communicate information amongst people interested in the same things, and ways to look at what others with similar understandings are looking at. Orkut seems to have answered the call.
Apparently, it was developed and tested internally at Google, so many of the first users are Google employees, but now, it's taken the cognoscenti by storm. I wonder, as this is a cool target group, how long this mecca will last before some spammer/marketer gets an account, sending unwanted messages to communities, inviting himself into Orkut multiple times, to keep the spam alive (presumably, they will kick out abusers but they could always invite themselves with new email addresses). Or how will it go for people who might unintentionally do the wrong thing, disturb someone or make a ruckus, causing upset? The people I know personally on this understand online communications, knowing that there are different ways to be online than in the analog world (as Christian Crumlish told me earlier today, who wants to walk around with their fly unzipped while everyone looks on?), though there have been a few blanket posts to all users, which is a little odd. These are issues online social network systems need to work on, some of which are interface issues, and some are architectural.
I hope this succeeds and users find the system useful and nuanced enough to satisfy, but interesting enough to be worth the time and effort such social networking requires (and not too trendy, or too harsh in their posting policies, closing off the network, etc. as Liz Lawley reports). I am excited, and amazed that in 48 hours, Orkut has made something that could engage some many so fast. Though I would point out that this afternoon, they seem to be taking a break, maybe due to their newfound popularity....
UPDATE 1/25/04: Joe Hall makes a good point in the comments about online social networks, where people he didn't know invited him to link to them. This is a problem in many online communities as people have different ideas about how far out in one's experience the linking should go (my friends and closer business relationships, or everyone I know, or everyone including those whose blogs I read and therefore feel like I know, even if we've never met...). Earlier today when Christian and I met to talk about online communications, we reviewed what was happening with Orkut, and he asked me about whether I used the star system to denote a "fan" (you can -- I guess this is the term -- rate your connections). I replied that I did, and in fact, feel like a fan of all my friends and those I'd linked to or invited (I had only gone so far as the "my friends and closer business relationships" category and I do really like them, or appreciate their work, in some way, in every case). He mentioned that this might lead to a stilted relationship where I was subservient, but to me, I wasn't subservient at all. I was simply saying that I think each of these people is fantastic and I feel strongly about that. They all do amazing things, are amazing people, and I want them to know that I think they are great.
But in that regard, others with other conceptions of how wide to cast their network, or how deeply, might characterize only those they are subservient to, with a "fan" star, or might star everyone, even those they don't know, to suck up. You know, all this in a way represents the playground at school, where our social interactions took on different meanings for each of us, and we had to work it out. Orkut is similar, though the manifestations in the digital world are different, counter-intuitive, and we will have to navigate it all over again.
What's Going On
Well. A lot. Okay, here's the deal. BIPlog is moving from the Journalism School servers to the Boalt.org servers. Why? Well, I'm the only poster from the original class (you remember the one: the one that was going to be the Altamont of blogging) and I'd like more posters, because I want to focus more on Napsterization. Also, the blog can live on as more Law and other students join Boalt.org (the student organization at Boalt Law School) to keep it sustainable and alive. So the last two weeks we've been working on the stuff to get that done (some technical, with a huge thanks to Scot Hacker, and some procedural) and will let everyone know when to change the RSS and linking information, though old original links will continue to work, because I hate broken links to posts and so will not do this to those who've linked to bIPlog.
Secondly, I've had the most stressful week of my grad school era this past week, which thankfully has ended, as well as, in my voluminous spare time, a friend's wedding the past two days. Why two days? Well, in a past life, I used to do flowers for events to earn spare dollars as an undergrad. Now, occasionally I do them for friends as a gift for the wedding. Involves a 4am trip to the flower market, some advance planning, and then two solid days of work. My body aches everywhere. I think I'm going into retirement on this one. Though it is fun to spend $1500 on wholesale flowers and do a really high end job (retail, that would cost ten grand). But at this point, my time is more valuable than it used to be, and I just can't do this too often. Did one last summer, and while it's such a great gift, and sumptuous and beautiful to get to work with such great media, it's too much. So, I have one more bar mitzvah, and then I'm out of the biz. At least for a few years. Hopefully.
It was this week with school and the wedding that really put me behind in my technical work, blogging, school, etc. However, once bIPlog is transferred and one other project is over, I resolve to get back to my regular schedule. Please forgive me the interruptions, but I actually have quite a bit I've been wanting to do here. Stay tuned.
January 20, 2004
Ceding Control of the Controls
Rick Porter/Zap2it: Fox Looking to Change the Business of TV.
- NBC chief Jeff Zucker said he wasn't ready to declare the traditional fall TV season dead. His counterpart at FOX, Gail Berman, has fewer qualms about it.
Going to a year round schedule with "scripted" and "unscripted" programming reflects the audience's desire for content untethered to time or place, where they have full control over those qualities. The competition of so many forms of media, like DVD's and personal video recorded programming as well as interactive things like games, the internet, mixing your own CDs, is so great, and digital media gives so much control over experience, that I don't see how broadcast TV can not be undermined, because their business model is all about ads, and that is based on TV's control of time, place and content, at least for now.
Why did they follow a "fall schedule"? Was it to follow a school calendar? To have an official kick off season to sell to advertisers, control the pipes to distribute just a few new shows? Control the battlefield of competition between a few networks, scrimmaging in a common time and place? For Nielsen? For the benefit of those working on the shows so they could take vacations in the summer, or work on movies and other projects? All this recedes when the control is gone, and it's already gone. Yes, a few people still watch in the old style, 8pm on Thursdays, in their living rooms, but that audience is dwindling, and people think about content as being something they control, master, click through. It's no longer mom, apple pie, and the Brady Bunch reruns at 2:30pm when the kids get home from school. It's anything you want, anytime, and in many ways, anywhere.
January 15, 2004
P2P: a Yin and Yang of Cultural Revolution
- The language of anarchy used by Siva Vaidhyanathan to describe peer-to-peer networks cannot capture the nature of the change they represent – no less than the birth of a new epoch of culture.
Essentially they agree over P2P generally, but at a closer level of abstraction, they disagree on terminology and effect. She believes P2P is a quieter, more subtle affair, that "will play a crucial role in the evolution of the next major world culture." Read them both for their interesting discussion.
Magazine Formats and Digital Media
Magazines are doomed. Doomed! Okay, they're not, but in one way in particular they are very backward, and in no way compatible with our digital media world online. They are often formated and sent for printing formated in Quark, the most awful program, in that it is difficult to move files back and forth between PC and Mac systems (fonts and extensions get lost and what's the point if you are trying to copy layouts dependent on those), hard or impossible to make pdfs, hard to figure out what's going on even (you have to see it to realize, but basically, there is so much white space around pages that it's not simple to navigate or find the pages others have made). Yes, an expert would say all this stuff is easy. But what if you've never used it, and just want to translate a print magazine to the web, make it digital? Even if it was easy to translate, those designers put a couple of words each into millions of little boxes, that make up the layout over 65 pages, and well, you can't just drag select, and then paste all that into an html file. Cutting and pasting each little box is itself too time consuming to do on a regular basis.
I've been trying to do all this, and it's sapped days, and still all the converted files are corrupted, as I've tried to move them from Quark to Photoshop eps files, or make pdfs, or copy them into jpgs or cut and paste the text into a .doc file. At this point, I'm taking the original image files, and then retyping a lot of the text that is in small blocks and then scanning the rest into jpgs, though those look muddy and not very nice.
Magazines are lovely on paper, but as we move more to the digital for our news information (as was reported the other day in the PEW study everyone was talking about), news magazines if they want to stay relevant will have to shift from this old way of publishing to something quickly compatible with the web. Some do it now, but not nearly enough, and if we want to preserve information in the future, we need to stop using proprietary software like this to make things, and keep it simple. Otherwise, the information is as good as lost, if we can't get to it.
January 13, 2004
Political Action Gets Distributed
Move On has announced the winner for their "Bush in 30 Seconds" contest, where 1500 entries were submitted, 14 finalists chosen and then judges and anyone else interested voted. The winner was apparently the favorite of both the judges and the individuals who voted.
Hermann Maiba (U of IL/Chicago) in Shifting the Lens (pdf, 2001) talks about how "Like the swapping of MP3 files over the Internet, information about movement struggles and tactical innovations diffuse globally among likeminded activists. This phenomenon can be best described as a Napsterization of political activism."
I think Move-on's contest is the most salient comparison yet to napster, where there is distributed collaboration, peer-to-peer sharing of information, and the disintermediation of traditional political power.
Napsterization: What it's meant to do
Scott Woolley/Forbes talks about the possible Napsterization of Hollywood in The Big Squeeze (reg req) with digital media. The article relates the tale of Jordan Greenhall who took the codex technology with him after leaving MP3.com, just before it was bought up by Vivendi, who is now gambling that he can beat Microsoft to the digital media punch.
- Greenhall's big idea was this: Ever greater degrees of compression would soon upend other, even bigger, industries. He seized on a medium that remained hobbled from unwieldy digital files--video. An hour of Survivor (the reality show on CBS) takes up 300 times as much room as an MP3 version of Survivor, the hit song by Destiny's Child.
True enough, and this is why the Broadcast Flag has been discussed as unnecessary for some time because most people don't want to wait forever to download a movie (the real threats to movie piracy include Hollywood leaks and street distribution of videoed movies). But then the article suggests that with the codex technology to compress and decompress rich media:
- Users would be able to stream movies and TV shows over high-speed Internet lines with no lag time. That could lead to either massive piracy--the Napsterization of Hollywood--or, with the right copy protection, supplant DVDs as Hollywood's richest revenue stream. Better video codecs also open the door to portable video players, much the way MP3 led to iPods and the like.
So DRM is the answer or it's the Napsterization of Hollywood. But is it possible that there is an alternative to these two choices? How about low res/highly compressed video for viewing on small portable screens is offered to entice customers to view large commercial screened movies? It seems to me that it's not an either or situation. Maybe, codex enabled work is a plus, given the right positioning and business model. There is no DRM system that hasn't been broken, and often it's customers who are frustrated with its limitations because they don't know how to make it coincide with the reasonable fair use expectations they have, or even play the media at all, while hackers break it and the business model it supports. Why not develop a business model that doesn't need DRM, and works with your audience as they promote and share your work? And one that takes into account that people still love going to the movies in a moviehouse, watching on a big screen? Offer something cheap, much like rentals now, but without the requirement to get physical media through the mail or in a store, that people could download in low res, but good enough to play on their TVs at home, that is just better and easier and more reliable than those on illegal file sharing networks, and make it ubiquitous, easy.
Update: Kevin Marks explains why compressed media is not such a good idea, because with storage subject to Moore's Law, it is irrelevant and causes a bottleneck for the CPU accessing the compressed media, but more importantly, the quality for compressed media is compromised by the process where the compression removes redundancy. This process leads to a situation where with no redundancy, there is no way for the system to compensate when an error occurs, so errors become visible and intrusive, and may destroy the rest of the file following the error. Therefore, compression will not lead to high quality or archival quality media.
January 09, 2004
Napsterization of TV and Movies From Internet Piracy?
Holland & Knight, a law firm with worldwide presence, has in their latest newsletter an article on FCC Issues Broadcast Flag Order to Protect Digital Content (by Kristen E. Fligel) about how because of fears of napsterization, the MPAA has pushed the FCC to issue the Broadcast Flag order - meant to combat internet piracy. She notes:
- The MPAA reports that as a result of piracy, the U.S. motion picture industry loses more than $3 billion each year in potential worldwide revenue, not including Internet piracy losses. According to the MPAA, "It is safe to assume Internet losses cause untold additional damages to the industry."
This isn't quite right. It is very important to note that the $3 billion per year piracy figure is actually that piracy that occurs outside of internet piracy (people selling homemade DVDs and VHS tapes on the street, for example, with movie content videoed from a movie theater). Internet piracy is actually estimated by Informa Media (a Media Industry research company) at about $92 million per year as of last year, because so few people will hang out waiting for 24-36 hours to download a movie over their thus-clogged high-speed internet connection.
- the "...Study, from U.K-based Informa Media, concludes that, Hollywood and other film copyright owners have far more to gain through legal streaming, online subscription, e-tailing of discs and other legit downloads than they stand to lose.... But the sector's main advantage so far is speed and infrastructure (or lack thereof). Online film piracy will only reach the problem level that the music industry is suffering when most homes have super high-speed fiber optic connections, and that's not likely to be pervasive before 2020".
Holland & Knight/Fligel may believe they are writing in an objective manner, but leaving out this information slants the story in favor of the MPAA's assertion that the Broadcast Flag was necessary in the first place, when in fact the real piracy problem is unrelated to internet downloading of movie/TV content. In fact, the MPAA's own representatives have asserted that the BF has a lot of problems.
And as far as foreign piracy, Fritz Attaway has "admitted that there were currently no recorded losses from piracy of broadcast shows." He also admitted "the broadcast flag would still be completely and utterly useless at addressing the problem. The thing leaks like a sieve." Attaway goes on to admit that existing consumer electronics and the analog airways will keep the BF from being effective.
The H&N newsletter does mention the many issues still outstanding, including the analog hole, the fair use problems for users trying to do normal things like time shifting TV shows, the analog to digital and digital to analog problem, whether existing equipment will continue to work after July, 2005 when the BF goes into effect, whether the FCC has jurisdiction to order the BF, whether the BF will motivate competition, distribution and facilitate the digital transition, but the article offers no solutions.
January 05, 2004
Napsterization of Rubber Compared to the Napsterization of Knowledge and IP
From TechCentralStation: Is Los Angeles the Next Manaus? by John Pinkerton.
Manus, Brazil was where the first big rubber-rush took place, where huge wealth was generated, until Henry Wickham, a British plantation owner figured out how to grow rubber in Ceylon and Malaya, which were under British rule in the 1870's. In the meantime, a grand opera house was built in Manus at the time when the rubber boom there was ending. Is the entertainment industry, and the newly built Disney Concert Hall in LA similar?
- ...this nation, which gets its power from knowledge, might wish to think about what will happen to its power if its knowledge can be duplicated and replicated by friend and foe alike.
I don't think the comparison is quite so similar. Rubber is a physical product and when a physical commodity is used up, it is gone. Information products, which knowledge and digital entertainment are, have different properties. When an information product is distributed, it is not gone. It can be copied and distributed again, remixed, reused, repackaged. It grows in value the more people use it or experience it. It can be attached to a physical media product, or not, and that product can change over time, and is often inconsequential to the digital media itself. He does give the example of the potential napsterization of pharmaceuticals which is much more aptly compared to the rubber industry disruption, because people cannot consume medical treatment over the internet, but rather in person, and when a pill is used, it's gone.
But there is something Pinkerton doesn't address regarding the napsterization of intellectual properties: that these may become a loss leader, because of the properties of digital media, and instead real, live, in person entertainment may gain cachet to become that which people then pay money for enjoying. In other words, I download all the mixes from my favorite musician for free, but I pay $150 to see the concert. And maybe I go twice because of the richness of the live experience. Or, I am given the free download of the movie, but I go to the movieplex to see it play "live" on the big screen with all the other people there, and maybe have some other sort of live experience bundling movies or other entertainment. If creators realize the potential for giving away the commodified loss leader to gain business through that which cannot be commodified, then they simply may have to accept these changes, where one another aspect becomes rarer and more sought after, and the way to generate the sought after experience is via the loss-leader give-away.
Pay Phones Turned into WiFi
Mobile phones have disrupted the pay phone business for years, but the most clever solution for doing something with all that payphone infrastructure is Verizon's recycling of them into WiFi access points. While long distance WiFi currently in development might reach far enough, and therefore mean that lots of little WiFi spots aren't needed (ie one in every old payphone) the reality is that in cities, there are lots of barriers and other noise interference issues that keep those estimated "lab" distances down.
One example of this is with RFID where the reader manufacturers estimate a 5-foot distance (with the one I've looked at), but dust in the air and other noise cause the reader distance to shrink to around 18 inches. Same is true with WiFi. My first home WiFi setup worked around 20' but the second system I use now has 100' in one direction, but only about 30' in another because of various physical barriers and noise, but it does better cover the house now. Maybe having lots of little access points in certain densely built spaces makes sense for the pay phone recycling. I would really like to see better cell and WiFi coverage maps than we currently have, over more places, with more reliable data about coverage, to figure out how and where to deploy effectively.