Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Twitter as a newspaper?

Virtual crossover as any Twitter feed becomes a newspaper.  You can find my main Twitter feed here, thus displayed.

This is a further example of how putting up paywalls can only harm traditional publishing - as the thirst for reading content generated in a crowdsourced and unpaid context only grows.

As curator of a Twitter feed which can now generate a newspaper, I wonder how this will affect who we follow and why.  It was always a conditional relationship - nothing wrong in that.  Now it may become a tool for substituting the high-priced content the media moguls claim we need.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

How the real crime is market failure confused as crime

This is a lovely piece of synthesis:
‘Piracy’ is a clear example of a market failure that’s being mistaken for a crime.
And this is also pertinent:
The classic example of this is The Beatles. I’ve said before that if you have any Beatles songs on your iPod then you have broken the law. The Beatles music is not legally available in MP3 format and ripping a CD to your MP3 player, so-called format shifting, is a breach of copyright law.

Where the blame lies for The Beatles’ absence from MP3 stores is anyone’s guess but Sir Paul McCartney placed it firmly with EMI in an interview with the BBC last week. Regardless of blame, I doubt anyone will feel they have done anything wrong if they have ripped legally-purchased Beatles CDs to their MP3 player. And EMI is likely to turn a blind eye to such behaviour.
More from Shane Richmond, writing in the Telegraph along similar lines, here.
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As a postscript to all of this, I recently bought a Toshiba VHS/DVD/HDD recorder from Amazon which allows you to copy VHS tapes to DVD - and possibly to the internal hard drive as well as other external USB devices (I still haven't had time to fully investigate its copious documentation).  If this kind of format-shifting is possible, what's the point of me spending £200 on a device which can do something I'm not allowed to do?  Or, indeed, what moral right does a company like Toshiba have to design and manufacture such a device with so many legal caveats?

As a further postcript, I've had a DivX DVD player with a USB port for almost a year now - and still have been unable to find a reliable source of legal DivX content.  I did use Vuze right at the beginning, but one of the files which appeared to be legal downloaded with a virus attached to it - so, unhappy with that experience, I'm afraid I've gone back to renting and buying DVDs from my local supermarket.

As a final postscript, I also acquired a portable Samsung USB hard drive not long ago which came with a digital copy of Michael Jackson's recent film "This Is It".  Great film and pretty decent quality too - only downside I could see is that you can only install it on three different devices, all of which must be Windows.  If you want to stop people downloading content illegally, you really have to do better than that.  If DVDs can work on Windows, Apple, Linux and standard DVD devices, then their virtual equivalents must absolutely do no less.

"A vault of darkness"

An interesting phrase from Alan Rusbridger, the editor of the Guardian, in this report on the imminent paywall the Times is going to have to shortly deal with.
However, though claiming it would be crazy to be "fundamentalist" about staying free if The Times succeeded, the Guardian editor went on to nail his colours to the mast by saying "if you erect a paywall around your content you kind of go into a vault of darkness".
Rusbridger goes on to say:
He believed openness to and collaboration with the wider internet "ecosystem" were key assets in future journalism.
Interesting also that access to Sky News' website will remain open.
Rusbridger also noted that Murdoch's Sky News website would still provide free news competition, memorably saying: "Rupert Murdoch is having it both ways at the moment and he would as readily stab you in the back as the front."
So is this part of a wider and longer-term strategy by Rupert Murdoch to increase users at the fiercely partisan, Tory leaning and Fox-like Sky and neutralise any remaining latency of true liberalism at the Times?

(This, incidentally, all came my way via Ian Bissell's Twitter feed.)

Friday, 2 April 2010

iPad, ¡sí! o iPad, ¡no!

Interesting article from Cory Doctorow on why the iPad is not the second coming. There are many people out there who need it to work - but that's not the same as actually making it work.

To be honest, as I've previously observed, I'd rather the iPad did provide that immersive experience of publishing the traditional publishers so hanker after - if only to get them off the web again and into their little profitable niches. Leave rapacious search engines to continue their valuable job of finding out interesting virtual corners and nooks and crannies. Create a parallel "web" - and leave the real one alone.

That's what I'm looking to happen. So I'd be glad if the iPad did work.

For those foolish, lazy and sad enough to need it.

Saturday, 13 March 2010

On folkbildningsidealet

A "profoundly democratic vision of universal learning and education"?  It sounds lovely - though perhaps terribly out of place in this curiously uncertain and still undefinable 21st century.  We are wavering between an all-out and absolutist conception of humanity as money-generating appendages of giant corporations and that far finer understanding of common interest and intelligence that the first years of the Internet have brought us.

More on the subject of a new Alexandria here.  Thanks to John Naughton (as always) for the link.

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

This is what you sign up to as an Apple Apps developer (or how to become an IT freemason in one simple step)

Do the words devil, sell and soul come to mind here?  The full text of the agreement can be found at the Electronic Frontier Foundation's website - but since one condition of being an Apps developer is that you don't reveal the terms and conditions pursuant to being an Apps developer, a Freedom of Information Act request was needed to obtain the gory details.  As I have mentioned on other blogs of mine, Microsoft seems a paragon of virtue compared to the current control freakery of the (once) beautiful Apple.  We can argue about whether we prefer open source to proprietary software, of course.  Even as a self-confessed addict of open source ways of doing things, I can see examples of when - at least as business people - we would prefer the latter to the former.  But proprietary terms and conditions?  Where you cannot reveal the context in which you are working to anyone who is not a member of your select club?  This is more like freemasonry for the digital world than a relationship between 21st century creators.

Definitely a bad day for electronic publishing, the day Apple got its grubby fingers in the pie.

More background here from John Naughton.

Monday, 1 March 2010

How Apps can provide that immersive reading experience (and save the hyperlinked intelligences we covet so much)

Magazines which earn income from adverts really need you to want to sit inside their covers and stay there for a while.  The Internet has broken down the reading experience into a disjointed butterfly-like flitting from one promiscuous hyperlink to another.  That is really why traditional publishing and the Internet don't go together.  A carefully bound publication creates its narrative across lush publicity.  Your (now) standard Internet surfer creates his or her own utility-focussed story of information, in many cases excising the irrelevance of marketing from the often crowdsourced and amateur-based editorial filters.

Traditional publishing is, however, still a powerful medium.  Here I mean powerful in the sense of appealing and not in the sense of overwhelmingly controlling.  There is, therefore, surely a place for both a paywall-less Internet of hyperlinked intelligences and a supremely structured set of top-notch editorial environments.  Recent attempts by people like Rupert Murdoch on the one hand and apparently successful Internet players such as the New York Times on the other to deconstruct the Internet of hyperlinked intelligences and block the flow of discourse and comment have threatened a whole eco-system; indeed a whole way of life.  Mistakenly, in my view, instead of trying - with all their resources - to reinvent a different distribution system altogether, they've wanted to bend quite out of shape a lovely medium which is currently on a wonderful intellectual high.

So is there any way out?  Perhaps it's time I revised my initial unhappiness with the Apple iPad.  If Apple, with its locked-down consumer software, can take out of the Internet equation the high-class publishers who want upfront income and an immersive reading experience instead of banner advertising and promiscuous thought crickets, perhaps at the same time it can remove the risk of disintegration that such publishers currently pose to the creative commons of millions of souls that is our dearly beloved worldwide web.

I do hope so.

More here - from John Naughton today.

Monday, 8 February 2010

My Epson printer seems to be monitoring my wallet instead of my ink

Not happy.  My Epson printer, an admirable consumer durable in almost every other respect, no longer seems to be monitoring my ink as it should.  It would, in fact, seem to be monitoring my wallet rather than its cartridges.  In fact, rather than usefully tell me it's time to change cartridges when it's actually time to change cartridges, it forces me to change cartridges whilst there still appears to be a ream of paper's worth of printing swilling around their insides.  Even though I've disabled the ink monitoring, it won't disable what the ink monitoring prevents you from doing - which is simply print until all the ink runs out.

It's truly amazing how these big companies make money out of us without us really realising it.  Truly amazing.  Adding value for shareholders was never so dishonest a pursuit.  (Unless, of course, I'm missing something here and there's a simple button simply buried deep inside the software, designed simply to save legal-type faces from legal-type challenges that consumers like myself would be only too pleased to have an opportunity to mount.)

Saturday, 6 February 2010

Ikea's new online magazine (II) (thekitchen.ikea.co.uk)

More from the interactive side of Ikea here as they launch a new online kitchen design site here.  For full public consumption from the 24th February onwards.

A good example of how to publish constructively - and interactively - on the web.  This takes advantage of the public appetite and dynamic for crowdsourcing - as indeed did places like Ikea even before the web took hold.  Outsourcing the building of furniture to customers satisfied the growing need for more democratic prices as well as - in a sense - empowering these selfsame customers and making them more important.

Flatpack is the real world equivalent of Facebook, I suppose.
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Update to this post: free kitchen planner software from Ikea available for PC here.  So the lines between real world and virtual blur evermore fiercely.  We even begin to outsource the designer side of things - the real added value stuff.  As with teaching and the trade of optician, as with self-medication, little by little the bastions of all these professional black arts fall to the tide of self-education that is the modern information gatherer's natural habitat.

So will there ever come a time when something as literal as plumbing becomes a simple matter of calling up the ether and sticking a virtual thumb in the leak?

I do wonder.

Friday, 5 February 2010

iPad haiku

Here's my entry for an iPad haiku competition that may still be open for entries (never was able to work out time differences):
Big money beckons:
"Save books" is the cry - but why
take tablets? Read more!

Sunday, 17 January 2010

More on why newspapers simply aren't getting the Net

From John Naughton's Memex today, a lovely piece which explains far better than I ever could the reasons behind all the above.

More online newspapers to go down the pay route (though in this case without the accompanying Google-bashing)

Now it would appear that the New York Times will follow the Murdochs of this world - though with certain differences of opinion. No gratuitous Google-bashing going on in this case, for example. More on this subject here.

It seems that minds are being made up with a rather unseemly haste as economic crisis puts a brake on advertising revenues. How this will affect the web is unclear. I suppose that in some way it may drive even more people away from "professional" websites and into the expanding embrace of family- and friend-sourced communication and content. We may find that newspaper publishing becomes even less relevant to our daily habits as Facebook, Twitter and traditional blogging all tie up our time in essentially Web 2.0 focussed activity.

The truth of the matter is that it was our love affair with mobile phones that really started the rot. More than any other technology before or since, they have captured our hard-earned incomes with both pay-as-you-go and more traditional contracts. In doing so, they have allowed us to publish our thoughts on a one-to-one basis via voice, text, photo and - more recently - video in such a way that an industry can be built on the back of a viable economic model at the same time as satisfying the ever-increasing need of 21st century citizens to express themselves rather than be the captive object of makers of received opinion.

Now this one-to-one relationship has become multiple and globalised, we simply can't shrug of this intruding desire to both communicate actively and incessantly register in a plastic sense - somewhere - our thoughts and musings.

Newspapers which don't get this interaction or change in behaviours won't get the 21st century. It's as simple as that.

(The above link via StKonrath's Twitter feed.)