free markets, free culture

Archive for the ‘free ideas’ Category

DIY Days, a roving conference for those who create, comes to Philly on Aug 1

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DIY Days logo big

Feel less guilt about the Indienomics blog, as my time is going directly to an independent media conference this weekend. If you are in or close to Philly, consider checking out DIY Days this Saturday. It’s free and interesting 🙂


Written by @hellopanelo

July 27, 2009 at 8:06 am

Media portals (legal) vs. “Feed scraping” (illegal)

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Fluid content

Chalk it up to ignorance, disinterest, or media illiteracy, but I’m just now opening my eyes to all the different ways a piece of content gets sliced and diced for distribution to different outlets.

For example, a documentary can stand alone as a film, but can also be edited for airing on broadcast TV, or sold in bits and pieces to educational institutions, like schools or museums.

Media portals

Online content can appear on several sites at once, for example an article on can actually be a shorter, edited version of a full-length piece originally on OPRAH magazine’s website, and the CNN article drives the traffic back to Oprah’s website.

For a better walk-through of media portals, check out this interview with Chris Johnson, VP Hearst Digital: “We are very aware that you can’t just create a magazine website and expect people to simply show up… you want to find the right strategic partners who can help you distribute your content and drive traffic back to your site.”

In essence, media portals are sites that use other sites to get their own traffic, and in turn drive traffic to their strategic partners.

Feed scraping

But what if you took content and placed it on your own site so that it appears the content is your own, thus driving traffic to your site? This is a concept called “Feed scraping” and it’s a form of content theft has seems to blur the lines of plagiarism.

Merlin Mann of 43 Folders defines feed scraping as “Republishing online work without consent and wrapping it in ads.” Blogger Jason Kottke calls it “Extreme borrowing in the blogosphere”, also the name of his post on the subject.

Recently, blogger Joshua Schachter had a story of his linked to All Things Digital, a blog owned by Dow Jones and run by writers from The Wall Street Journal. All things Digital correctly attributed the blog post to Joshua and made it clear who the author was. However, a big hullabaloo ensued when some folks thought there an implied affiliation between Joshua and Dow Jones, and that Joshua worked for Dow Jones, or had his material copyrighted by them.

artist's rendition

artist's rendition

The conversation it started was about affiliation, attribution, and transparency of online works. Is it right for a media company to “reblog” your content, without your permission, and make money form the ad sales generated by the traffic?

Metafilter creator Matt Haughey had an article of his also excerpted on the All Things Digital website. His thoughts on it:

“This is weird, apparently the Wall Street Journal’s All Things Digital does a reblogging thing. I sure wish they asked me first though. That’s a hell of a lot of ads on my ‘excerpt.’ If they’re just trying to drive traffic to articles, why have comments on excerpts? That makes no sense to me.”

Written by @hellopanelo

April 27, 2009 at 11:28 am

Academia vs Industry = Interrobang?!

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In a recent post to the Harvard Business blog, president of RISD design school John Maeda broke down the differences between academia and industry, in terms of punctuation:


Basically, academic thinking takes a lot of free, expansive thinking, that can wander sometimes, and sometimes go on tangents, and ask rhetorical questions, on its quest for knowledge. Academia can be the unending sentence, braced by more commas and continuations.

Contrast that with business and industry, which require a goal and an end date. Business is a full-stop period. It knows where its going and stops.

Industry is also a loud exclamation point. It has to shout to be heard in a competitive market place (!!!!!)

In contrast, academia is the question mark, the critical thinking that guides us.

Read John’s post for a good synthesis on how these four punctuation marks play out in the academic and industry spaces. It explains some of the miscommunication or misplaced intentions between academics and business folks — one thinks the other is stuck in the ivory tower; the other things the one is too short-sighted.

(I’m sure some situations call for the interrobang: a typographic character, a combination of the question mark and exclamation point at once.)

Written by @hellopanelo

April 12, 2009 at 4:11 pm

The next Big Idea — the insaner, the better

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What’s a meta for?

Metaphor has scandalized philosophers, including both scholastics and semiotics, because it seems to be wrong: It asserts an identity between two different things. And it is wrongest when it is most beautiful.

– Walker Percy, The Message in the Bottle

Like the artist with collage, the author who arranges a metaphor has to ask — will it blend? That is, will the two disparate concepts come together and create a metaphor of new meaning?

Shakespeare says the world’s a stage. Life, to Forrest Gump, is a box of chocolates. A dream deferred, says Langston Hughes, is a raisin in the sun.

Creating and marketing nonsensical products

Big Think Strategy — a book from marketing maven Berndt Schmitt — continues this line of reasoning. What are the seemingly unrelated ideas we can pull together to inject new life and meaning to a brand?

Schmitt likes to rip up magazines to mix the metaphors.

The Big Idea is a card game you can play for the same effect:


Game theory + chaos theory = idea generation

The deck of cards features nouns and adjectives. Mix and match the cards, then try to market and pitch the resulting wacky products — Erotic Chowder, Mentholated Shampoo.

Sumana H. — intrepid marketer when she wants to be, and a previous interviewee — brought my attention to this game, by way of her pitched ads for these nonsensical products:

  • Edible High-Priority Chowder, to cure anxiety of choice at the salad bar
  • Herbal Natural Chainsaw, strong enough for a logger but made for a hippie
  • Networked Beer, to ensure you never feel like you’re drinking alone [Ed. note: Isn’t that what meetups are for?]

Cheapass Games, the cheeky manufacturers of this boardgame, challenge your marketing wits: “Do you think you’re the marketing whiz who can talk the public into a Perforated Kilt? Then you’re ready to play The Big Idea!”

[Note: Cheapass Games is an indie-nomics enterprise on its own, noting that most games are overpriced and generic. Dice, pencils, plastic parts — “these generic bits and pieces can account for as much as 75% of a game’s production cost, and that cost gets handed to you.”]

Not just a game: wacky product/service combos in real life

These (seemingly) nonsensical products — and services — are the wave of the entrepreneurial future folks! Just scroll through the list at, a running tally of new business ideas just ridiculous enough to work.

Like this, my current favorite — a mashup of current obsessions:


Written by @hellopanelo

March 27, 2009 at 12:33 pm

We all drink from the same indienomics-well

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I should have taken a screenshot of my original Google search for “indienomics,” immediately prior to naming this blog. There was scarcely a mention of this word (as picked up by the big search engine anyway) and I was happy to fill the internet vacuum with my brand of indienomics.

Today, someone sent me the link to Indienomics, a snazzy corporate website from IFC/Sundance. They spent more money (on a paid domain name) and time crafting their “indienomics” messaging, with a nifty catchphrase and a made-up definition.

It’ll be a short time before my indienomics digital footprint gets squashed by the corporate giants in a search for this term. Just as well. No one “owns” indienomics, and it was a riff off the popular “-nomics” suffix anyway (Reaganomics, Freakonomics, 3conomics).

Also, compared to the Sundance website, I’m probably the truer “independent” here, working for free on my student wordpress blog! As Chris Anderson would say (author of The Long Tail) I can co-exist with the megabrands online as “one of the millions of niche markets at the shallow end of the bitstream.”

Join me! Plenty of company here, water’s fine in the shallow end of the bitstream…

Written by @hellopanelo

March 11, 2009 at 10:44 am

Posted in film, free ideas, likeminds

band of thieves

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Written by @hellopanelo

March 2, 2009 at 2:13 pm

Posted in free ideas, likeminds, remix

Like Minded Studio presents… Sumana Harihareswara

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Logo from creative firm Like Minded Studio (TM)

Logo from creative firm Like Minded Studio (TM)

Sumana Harihareswara can deliver an elevator pitch anywhere, not least in an actual elevator. At last week’s Creative Commons salon, four of us crowded into the lift to the 6th floor. During the 30-second ascent, Sumana facilitated a group introduction, distributed her business card, and clued us into a sci-fi web anthology she was publishing under a creative commons license.

A technology executive and comedienne who has written for and the Oakland Tribune, Sumana adds a diverse perspective to the copyright conversation. The internet was made for people like Sumana — she thinks in links and connects ideas across disciplines.

She’s taught “Politics and Modern Science Fiction” at UC Berkeley and is a graduate of Columbia’s M.S. in Technology Management. We met recently at the Havana Central near campus, discussed the taxonomy limits of printed restaurant menus (too static, no tagging ability), and covered a whirlwind of ideas from there.


Me: Why should everyday people care about copyright issues?

Sumana: The ordinary person is affected by copyright and they don’t even know it. People are affected by all sorts of things and they don’t know it. With copyright, they don’t know that special interest groups have made it this way because of heavy lobbying. Do you remember that GEICO commercial Tiny House?

Me: Yes, that was hilarious. [The ad, a spoof of reality TV, features newlyweds stuck in a nightmare home where everything is built really small. It drives them crazy.]

Sumana: At one point the guy screams, “I just want to make an omelet!” Copyright is like that. Sometimes people just want to make an omelet, but they can’t. People want to download an e-book and share it, or buy a song and share it with their friends –- but at the moment they realize they can’t share, that’s a pain point. That’s when we can market to people, at these pain points. For example, you can’t share and download YouTube videos easily because of restrictions, so Miro [a product of the Participatory Culture Foundation] has provided a solution, the ability to easily download web video.

Me: Tell me more about these “pain points” people have with digital rights management (DRM).

Sumana: I call them teachable moments. Have you heard of Defective by Design? It’s an organization and a movement that exposes why DRM sucks in people’s personal lives. They organize protests at the Apple Stores, against all the iTunes stuff. They help people understand and explain why you have these problems.

Me: On your website, you ask people to donate to charity instead of buying you things for birthdays or holidays. Tell me more about the two organizations you chose.

Sumana: Both organizations — American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) — are pro-civil-liberties. The ACLU is, among other things, a beneficiary of liberals in Hollywood. They support things like 1st amendment free speech and LGBT issues. Corporations make money on the Hollywood system, but those corporations don’t support me. The EFF is a civil liberties group that operates in the digital world. [Journalist and copyright activist] Cory Doctorow blogs at BoingBoing, a blog I read every day, and he’s done a lot of work with EFF.

Me: Speaking of non-profits, did you make it to that OpenGeo forum on campus today? (OpenGeo is the open-source geospatial division of The Open Planning Project, a social enterprise with a passion for technology.)

Sumana: No. I took a nap instead. [grin]

[SIDEBAR] The “dot-org” is a hybrid of for-profit and non-profit structures. Often, one will spin off the other. For example, the Mozilla Foundation (non-profit) owns the Mozilla Corporation (for-profit), which developed Firefox — the free and open-source browser that has the #2 position behind Microsoft’s Internet Explorer. OpenGeo has a great explanation of the dot-org philosophy on their website.

Me: Tell me more about the cc-licensed sci-fi anthology you’re working on.

Sumana: Thoughtcrime Experiments is a web anthology of speculative fiction financed and launched by my husband, Leonard. He’s a member of sci-fi writing groups, and often came across stories with great potential. He’d say, “I adore this story, but I know it will never get published. There should be a place where these stories can find an audience.” He decided to invest $1000 of his own money in these stories. He would select five authors, pay them $200 each, and publish them in a creative-commons-licensed collection. The number of authors is now up to nine. I have to send out rejection letters to some of the authors. It’s very hard. I actually cried a little bit.

Me: Sounds like a true labor of love. What drives you to do this?

Sumana: This is completely a nonprofit enterprise. We are spending our own money, we are not making any money, we are not putting out ads. It’s our way of giving back to the commons and liberating these stories.

* * * * *

Thoughtcrime Experiements debuts in May, via popular DIY-publishing shop Lulu.

Written by @hellopanelo

March 2, 2009 at 12:37 pm