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Cloud computing

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Twhirl is a new app that lets you manage multiple Twitter streams at once. For example, I have a personal Twitter account, and a group one that I contribute to.

I realize, for some people, this is already 2 Twitter accounts too many! But if you’re one of the vocal Twitter evangelists, you’re using Twhirl to manage multiple brands on Twitter, or ghost-tweet for any number of celebrities. Twhirl is for this kind of 21st-century-PR multi-tasking.

After two days using it, I’ve noticed a lot more random thoughts entering my brainspace. With Twhirl, tweets come and go like thought clouds. Bubbly boxes appear on the screen for a moment, just long enough for you to absorb the message before it disappears… only to be replaced by the next set of thoughts by semi-random Twitterers.

Public thought clouds can rapidly increase the “You learn something new every day” phenomenon. Followed by rapidly forgetting where I learned that something new….

Attribution, authorship, plagiarism, ethics — it makes anarchy look pretty tempting, huh? Ideas just want to be free!

(Will Twitter die before I finish this post? The next “killer app” is supposed to be video + Twitter. The frontrunner is Seesmic)


Written by @hellopanelo

April 21, 2009 at 7:34 pm

Posted in likeminds, storytelling

Like-Minded Studio presents… Amanda Conley

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Logo from creative firm Like Minded Studio (TM)

Logo from creative firm Like Minded Studio (TM)

At last month’s Creative Commons salon, I met Amanda Conley — self-professed radical feminist and lawyer-to-be at NYU Law. Amanda brings an interesting legal perspective to the “free culture” debates. After all, the very notion of “property” — physical or intellectual — is grounded in complex histories of common law. Amanda is also a privacy law researcher for an NSF-funded grant on digitized court documents.

We sat down for $3 pints at Commonwealth Bar in Park Slope and talked about culture, copyright, and — dun-dun! — the law.


Me: Good puppy! What’s your dog’s name?

Amanda: This is Gus. He’s a Tibetan terrier. It’s a misnomer though, they’re not truly terriers. I’ll let him explore. [Gus wanders, unleashed.]

Me: So you’re a rebellious lawyer!

Amanda: Well, I recently attended Reblaw 2009 at Yale, a conference for rebellious lawyers and social change. It made me realize I don’t want to be an activist. I want to be the person asking different questions about using the legal system to achieve different ends. What you learn in law school is that the way you frame your question is everything.

Me: I internet-stalked you and saw you were a fan of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF).

Amanda: It’s not stalking if I post the information publicly to the internet. Yes, the EFF attracts laywers who aren’t in a corporate gig. It’s law for the people. There is this annoying dichotomy in law school that you are either corporate or public interest. I prefer to sidestep the binary.

Me: You were at an event at NYU’s Public Interest Law Center, where you got a chance to hear Fred von Lohmann speak — the senior staff attorney at EFF, specializing in intellectual property matters.

Amanda: Yes, Fred went from women’s interests to IP law, back in the 90’s when the internet was young. He’s interested in both gender and the law. There are more women lawyers now and they’re more into theory. Fred talked to us about his conversion moment, when he decided “I want to be a public interest copyright lawyer.”

[Ed. note: Fred attributes this moment to reading the 1994 Wired article “The Economy of Ideas”, by John Perry Barlow, the Thomas Jefferson of cyberspace.]

Me: Why do you think feminist scholars are attracted to intellectual property law?

Amanda: IP law is all about theory, and theoretical questions. In IP law, the questions are like “What is a person’s identity?”

Me: It’s like an intellectual challenge, or philosophy.

Amanda: There was this interesting case where the International News Service was taking news from the AP wire and publishing it first. The questions that come from that are “Is news copyrightable? When does news have value?” News is something that has value the moment it is shared and, upon sharing, loses value.

Me: How else do you intersect with copyright or privacy issues in law school?

Amanda: I’m also doing research in privacy law and court documents that are public on the internet.

Me: Like the sex offenders registry maps online?

Amanda: Right. For example, divorce documents are becoming more public in higher courts. Nothing’s redacted. But there’s a big difference between looking up something on the internet, versus physically walking down to the courthouse. The internet is creating in-depth profiles of people. But people are supposed to know the law and have access to judicial information. In that sense, we should make things available to the public.

Me: What was your favorite part of the Creative Commons salon?

Amanda: I really liked Thingiverse. I loved the idea of “What if every object was shareable?”

[Ed. note: Thingiverse is a website where people can upload digital designs for physical objects — kind of like architect blueprints for buildings. Anyone can upload a design, and anyone else can create the object, or modify it and make it better. In an ideal Thingiverse universe, every physical object — like the chair you are sitting on — would have a URL, and anyone could look up the design of that chair, and create it, or improve on the design so others could have a better chair.]

Amanda: Sometimes it’s easy to poo-poo the internet and say “Why would anyone want to build a plastic rocket? We want to build things for a useful future!” But what Thingiverse does is make more concrete the value of building on other’s work, instead of starting fresh. The internet shows there are lots of smart people out there. It illustrates the power of working together.

Written by @hellopanelo

March 24, 2009 at 6:30 pm

Mood-altering “motivationals” — kitten posters, possibility books, and physical talismans

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In his book Snoop, psychologist Sam Gosling says we keep some stuff around to assert our identities (brand-name goods, affiliation markers), but other stuff we own to regulate our moods.

Sound familiar? What are all the things we surround ourselves with, to subtly or obviously motivate us towards goals?

Successories is a company that has seized this market for “visual motivation.” (I like to think they got their start from that inspirational “Hang in There” kitten poster from the 70’s.) You’ve seen the Successories posters before — a majestic bald eagle accompanies a pithy statement on “Excellence”, or a crew team rowing in early dawn exemplifies some proverb on “Teamwork.” The imagery and language of Successories is ripe for parody, not lost on, whose line of Demotivators posters are committed to “Increasing Success by Lowering Expectations.”

Successories is cheesy because it’s manufactured and corporate-minded. What does a DIY approach look like for motivational propaganda?

In the 2005 film Last Holiday, Queen Latifah keeps a “Possibilities Book” — a scrapbook of magazine clippings and handwritten notes of her dreams for the future. When she finds out she has a terminal illness, she sets out to fulfill every dream in her possibilities book (which apparently involves going to chef Gérard Depardieu’s hotel chalet restaurant in Prague.)

In the web 2.0 world, a possibilities book could be something like, a site that “makes your life a list.” You put you goals down, 43 things you want to do before you die, and get encouragement from others and presumably the motivation that comes from just expressing a specific ambition.

dollar1Sometimes the things you carry, literally, are an expression of your ambition. A young Jim Carey — way before his big break, working the stand-up comedy circuit in L.A. — once wrote himself a post-dated check for $10 million and carried that around as a tangible reminder of his goals.

But back to web 2.0 and the DIY approach.

Why not make your own visually motivating posters? After all, only you know what gets you out of bed in the morning. For these people, it’s simple: Make Something Cool Every Day. For Jeffre Jackson, blogger at Pink Air and inspiration for this post, he’s created his own nifty set of DIY motivation collages…


Written by @hellopanelo

March 21, 2009 at 7:05 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

Celebrate theft, embrace cliche, and go see Soul Samurai already!

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Talent imitates, genius steals. In the spirit of yesterday’s quote, here are 3 random picks from the
Cultural Remix Blender:

A) I Heart Wong Kar Wai

I ❤ Wong Kar Wai is a collection of short films in the visually-saturated, melancholic-love style of the famed Hong Kong filmmaker. “If imitation is the highest form of flattery, then these films are pure adoration.”
(Hollywood is the biggest recycler of them all, often to the point of formulaic mass appeal. Some directors strives for exact artistic replicas, like Gus Van Sant’s 1998 Psycho, which remakes the classic 1960 Hitchcock film, scene for scene, shot for shot.)

B) Dutch-style portraiture

Hendrik Kerstens’ quirky portraits are an uncanny take on Vermeer… or any Flemish painting where the women wear odd headgear.

C) Soul Samurai

I’m not usually a play-pusher, a fangirl, or heck, even that excited about “live theatre” but I’m on a mini-campaign for this show since I saw it two weeks ago. Beyond WOM marketing and the standard social media blasts, I’m twitter-stalking the playwright and broadcasting the last shows to relevant mass email groups. I even nudged a freelance writer to pitch a review (accepted by!)

Soul Samurai is great on many levels: writing, set design, acting talent, multimedia storytelling.

But the strongest point was the genre-busting! It had comic books + Kill Bill + Shaft + smart sexy heroines + mixed martial arts + puppets + blaxploitation + live-action digital shorts + philosophical pimp wordplay + post-apocalyptic American Apparel outfits.

And breakdancing. Lots of breakdancing. It takes place in Brooklyn after all.

“All of that… in a play? I’m impressed,” says Cheryl Metzger, who has yet to see it. (Hint!)

“It’s like it was made of all these cliches,” says Catherine Chiong. “Familiar phrases, and things I already knew — but put together in a unique way.”

The force of cliches can be powerful in the hands of a gifted author. Literary critic Umberto Eco tells us that familiar cliches are the force behind films like Casablanca, which is “not just one film. It is many films, an anthology.” It’s love, it’s death. It’s music and seduction. It’s all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, and “we’ll always have Paris.”

Arielle Schiff, fan of the Vampire Cowboys theatre company (producer of Soul Samurai), notes their shows are “always so fun and funny, and then there will be a really poignant moment that is surprisingly touching.”

As Umberto Eco explains it: “Two cliches make us laugh. A hundred cliches move us.”

Show ends March 15. Tickets on sale here, $20 with discount code VAMPFAN.

Written by @hellopanelo

March 3, 2009 at 3:15 pm

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