free markets, free culture

Archive for February 2009

Free as in beer, free as in speech

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Wedding- and funeral-crashers have nothing on NYC-event-crashers.

On any given night, from gallery receptions to magazine launches, we’ve got a city just begging us to take their free wine, beer, crackers, and cheese. Sometimes you even walk away learning something new.

Creative Commons NYC held a salon in the city last night, hosted at the loft space of web video company For Your Imagination. (Nice digs — open space with an enormous green screen, tapestry rugs, and rows of shabby chic sofas. Reminded me of an old Alanis Morisette stage, or the beginnings of an Anthropologie window scene.)

Between Yuenglings, learned a few things by osmosis…


Machine-readable copyrights

You can add some metadata (HTML snippet) to your Creative Commons license so that machines (computers, servers) can recognize your copyright. Can’t pretend to know what this means, but it’s all about making the computer smarter, and promoting (dun dun dun!) the semantic web.

Socialist commies

Sometimes open-source conversations give people the heebie-jeebies. All this talk of distributed wealth and progress for all brings some people uncomfortably close to socialism or communism. Mike Hudack (CEO of cc-friendly videoblog service brought up the persistent question of “How is all this free stuff gonna make us money?” He emphatically said that remixes aren’t gonna make us money. Growth will make us money. He had a great quote about developing a “class consciousness” for a new generation of creative thinkers. Unfortunately I can’t reproduce his thought process here… but this idea of class is a recurring theme…


Back to your roots

The guys from Indaba music-collaboration site showed up. They pointed out that music was made for sharing and mixing — it’s all digital and multi-track these days. Business models at major record labels are gradually changing, and relaxing its rules on remixes. Quick quote from the guys:

“At the end of the day, people care more about The Roots than the kid who remixed them. The remix just drives them back to The Roots.”


Written by @hellopanelo

February 25, 2009 at 7:30 pm

Complex credit crisis requires cartoon explanation

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Withered noggins, neural pathways

Watching this “visual essay” gave me more insight into the credit crisis than the stream of news-media chatter bombarding us the last few months. Smart animation and infographics can explain complex stuff in a short amount of time (see lifecycle of a blog post) and I get excited about what this means for the futures of education, entertainment, journalism, and just plain storytelling.

I have a strong hunch about the new visual languages but I’m not sure where it will take me. For now, I’m just enjoying the ride! So far it’s brought me to Edward Tufte’s seminars and visual thinking conferences. I’m still putting together the pieces and looking for inspiration in kindred communities. One group that should have been obvious to me from the beginning (but wasn’t) is motion graphic designers.

When motion design is paired with intelligent writing, you get a brilliant form of persuasive reasoning that sticks in the mind of many contemporary viewers.

Iā€™m a visual guy. I need you to draw me a picture. Mr. Jarvis [creator of the credit crisis video] has done exactly that, helping my withered noggin create more lasting neural pathways to understanding and retention.

(via motionographer)

Semiotics, semantics, and other academic hacks

As an ex-English Lit major, I’d always preferred text over image. The film version is rarely better than the book. A picture is worth 1000 words, but real prose strings meaning together in narrative sequential order.

The information age is rapidly dismantling my worldview. What started as a system of linked text — HTML’s Hypertext Markup Language — is increasingly a system of signs and symbols, from icons to avatars to emoticons.

Eye-catching: some links

  • Israeli-based Zlango specializes in “pic-talk”, a colorful icon-based language for web and mobile.
  • FFFFOUND is an image bookmarking site. Think of + flickr + a filter for hipster art.

  • The Story of Stuff is a quirky and effective 20-minute animation of our consumerist habits and how they affect the environment and society.

  • Three fun webcomics: xkcd, Perry Bible Fellowship, Toothpaste for Dinner

Written by @hellopanelo

February 24, 2009 at 11:15 am

We all drink from the same idea-well: The L Word weighs in on intellectual property

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a real copyfight

In last week’s epsiode of The L Word:

– Aspiring screenwriter Alice writes a preliminary film treatment for a murder mystery, and shows it to friend Jenny, an experienced writer, for feedback.
– Jenny thinks the story is trash, suggests Alice go into cartoon voiceover work instead.
– Jenny finalizes a screenplay of her own and sells it for half a million dollars (!) — using the same idea Alice pitched in her treatment.
– Drama ensues.

If you’re not familiar with Showtime’s The L Word, it’s about the the lives and loves of queer women in West Hollywood. Jenny’s character in particular is one everyone loves to hate. She’s lying, stealing, and conniving — no wonder she’s rumored to die by the end of this season… and Alice is building a good motivation for murdering her!

When confronted about stealing Alice’s idea and selling it for $500K, Jenny counters that this type of idea-“sharing” is typical of Hollywood writers:

Jenny: If my screenplay happens to bear some resemblance to something that you just jotted down, then it’s pure coincidence.
Alice: [So Hollywood is] where people steal their friend’s ideas and sell them off as their own?
Jenny: No. It’s something called the idea well, okay? There is a well. All of the writers drink from the same fountain. But it takes genius, talent, craftsmanship to take a kernel of an idea and turn it into ā€” ta-da! ā€” a sellable screenplay.
Alice: Jenny, you are so f***ing full of s***

Does Alice have legal recourse? Likely not — copyright protects expressions, not ideas. A film treatment is the concept for a screenplay, but is not the completed product. Jenny claims she’d been working on a screenplay for months — it’s not her fault that it bears passing resemblance to a treatment Alice scribbled out in one night. Jenny finalized her screenplay and brought it to market first, reaping the lucrative award.

Alice calls bullshit on Jenny’s “idea-well”, but hasn’t this happened to any of us with a great idea? We’ll think of something genius, google it, and find out others all over the world have had the same idea. It’s the person who moves from idea to execution first who wins.

Written by @hellopanelo

February 22, 2009 at 1:53 pm

The global copyfight: NZ edition

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Remember when people donated their FB statuses during the election? This is happening on Twitter too, for different causes. Any place where you have a voice that reaches others becomes prime real estate for broadcasting messages.

When my friend Sanford blacked out his photo profile for some internet controversy in New Zealand, I did a quick scan for news.

A crowd of 120 descended on the capital parliament building in New Zealand this week, protesting a law allowing Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to disconnect customers who allegedly infringe on copyright. This ruling, Section 92A, has terms of copyright infringement that are so broad and so vague, protesters want to throw it out.

This NZ blogger raises a few hypothetical situations of “copyright criminals” — such as downloading a full-text newspaper article emailed from a friend, or playing your iTunes so loud that someone on the street could hear your music.

Admittedly, I still don’t “get it.” I don’t truly get why intellectual property law is so hotly debated. So many of us break copyright rules all the time without consequence. On the internet, it’s a cut & paste, copy & remix, kind of world. We do it all the time, without major paranoia and stress about being arrested and sued for millions. I’ve definitely got a learning curve here, to understand why some very smart people devote a lot of time and energy towards this subject.

The New Zealand demonstration was organized by the Creative Freedom Foundation. From their website, looks like a pretty small grassroots organization. In fact it looks like a party of two. Still, that’s two people (self-described artists and technologists) who feel strongly enough about Section 92A to take some action.

(They distributed a CD of their “Copywrong Song” to members of parliament. I took a listen — it’s not a bad rock ditty, but I couldn’t make out the lyrics through the New Zealand accent. No doubt it was an impassioned plea for creative freedom.)

I need to ask Sanford how the “American entertainment giants” are involved with New Zealand’s internet policies…

Written by @hellopanelo

February 21, 2009 at 8:57 pm

Posted in global copyfight

help yourselves! the self-help factor

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Fuzzy cameraphone shot, sorry. And yes, I thought Ben Franklin's bio might be a good self-help book.

The other day, a friend mentioned that self-help books are actually behind many success stories. Cheesy as they are, self-help books can provide the [motivation, epiphany, inspiration, what have you] that help people accomplish…. whatever it is they bought the self-help book to accomplish.

I admit, I’m a periodic self-help junkie too, often in my battle against dirt and time. (Recent titles: Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui, Organizing from the Right Side of the Brain, The Now Habit: A Strategic Program for Overcoming Procrastination and Enjoying Guilt-Free Play).

Right now, I’m obsessing over alternative forms of work, and how we can escape the 9-to-5 grind as independent workers. I’ve got a healthy reading list this year, as people keep churning out books about how technology and globalization can let us work anytime from anywhere. Some titles are published traditionally and available easily at Amazon and other big bookstores (The 4-Hour Work Week, My So-Called Freelance Life).

Other titles I’ve heard about word-of-mouth, and are published by people I’ve met through networks. I’m Outta Here! is a book about the futures of work. It’s marketed and distributed by Lulu, a printing operation that lets you self-publish your own books, ebooks, music, and other materials on-demand.

Like fortune cookies and horoscopes, I take self-help books with a grain of salt. Keep what works for you and is relevant to your life — trash all the rest.

What are your self-help guilty pleasures?

FYI: Shelfari is an interesting web 2.0 way to track your reading consumption and keep up with others’ reading lists. My bookshelf’s here. It will look more impressive once we tackle this semester’s reading…

Written by @hellopanelo

February 17, 2009 at 9:50 pm

Posted in, good reads

The Wealth of Networks = free stuff! Literally, the book is free.

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Theres a lot of genius in that beard

There's a lot of genius in that beard

Like others in our class, I hadn’t heard of Yochai Benkler before he showed up on our reading list.

The Benkler is faculty co-director of Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society. I’ve seen a lot of interesting projects come from Berkman; it’s definitely an org to watch if you’re into cyberlaw for cyberspace.

The Wealth of Networks, his book we’re reading excerpts from, was released under a Creative Commons Noncommercial Sharealike license. If you want the whole book, you’re free to download from a variety of filetypes here.

Or, more immediate and accessible, here’s Benkler’s 2005 TED talk on collaborative, open-source economics (17 minutes):

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Written by @hellopanelo

February 16, 2009 at 10:04 pm

Facebook’s new TOS has everyone in a tizzy

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After their last fiascos with Beacon and social ads, Facebook is freaking everyone out again — this time with their new Terms of Service. New language in the TOS states Facebook can pretty much do whatever they like with your uploaded content, even if you choose to leave Facebook.

Consumerist has a great write-up of the story here.

I wonder which way the reaction will go on this one. The Beacon controversy prompted advocacy groups like to file complaints to the Federal Trade Commision. But many people just didn’t know, or care about Beacon. A cNet article quotes wise truth from a social media strategist:

“A lot of (young people) are totally willing to give up tons of privacy information for like, free crap.”

I’m not sure Facebook would use your photos for, say, launching the next ad campaign for Diet Sprite. They’d probably use it to promote Facebook and affiliate networks. This has happened to me before! I used to have a profile on the dating website Nerve. Next thing I knew, a friend in Texas said he saw my ad in the Austin Chronicle, a hardcopy alt-weekly newspaper. I was in a print ad for The Onion personals. They used my picture and a lame quote I used (“cynism is sexy; re-enchantment is sexier”) to promote their dating site. Apparently, The Onion and Nerve were both part of Spring Street Networks, a media company that owned a ton of online personal ad sites. I guess they decided to use all the free content to sell itself.

I didn’t mind this use of my image and words — maybe someone awesome in Texas would contact me? — but it does drive home the fact that the internet is essentially a free-for-all right now. Anything you upload could end up in the unlikeliest of places.

UPDATE: a good resource for 10 Privacy Settings Every Facebook User Should Know

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Credits for this post:
From my reliable twitter and facebook feeds



note the specific call to action for creative artists

Written by @hellopanelo

February 16, 2009 at 6:52 pm

Posted in privacy

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