facebook ads and failures of monetization.

Depressingly, I do not have access to the screen shot I took of the specific Facebook ad that so offended me. If I get to it, I'll edit it into this post in the near future.

One of my issues with monetizing social networks is that it's always done in the least logical model possible. Instead of selling information (which, really, is the only product they have to offer other than the easily offended and fickle masses that make the entire engine run) they inevitably attempt to create a full service perfect storm of failure, that ends up making the advertisers look clueless and stupid, and makes the company itself look like they don't value the community in the least.

Looking at you, Facebook.

Here's the short version of my experience with Facebook ads. On my News Feed, I find an ad for Modest Mouse. I like Modest Mouse, and Facebook knows this. Because I told them, in my profile. Facebook also knows I live in Canada, again, due to my profile.

What Facebook doesn't seem to know is WHERE in Canada I live, or which venues are conceivable accessible to me, despite that information being very available to them. So I get an ad that says, more or less, 'Hey Canadian Modest Mouse fan! Modest Mouse is touring Canada. Now click this and dig through a bunch of crap to find out when they are near you! Then go to ticketmaster and go through more crap!'

I can see why they wouldn't want targeted ads that are actually well targeted. More work, more money, and the assumption that the true fans (the kind who label themselves such) are willing to hunt a little. And I guess that's fine. But from my point of view, it's also a waste.

If that ad had popped up with "Hey [NAME], Modest Mouse is playing at [Venue] and [Venue] near you, on [insert dates here]. If you would like tickets or further tour information, click here [link to ticketmaster page with info on the concert / venues]."

This wouldn't bother me, if the ads were calibrated to my stated interests, and my stated location. This is, I would argue, the whole value of social networks. The idea that advertising can be so targeted that it stops being an intrusion, and starts being a service.

A little more effort on the experience, and a fairly meaningless ad could, conceivably, have driven me to buy tickets on the spot, rather than compose a blog post in my mind.

I'll be following this up very shortly (possibly this evening) with another, more general post on my issue with how social networks are monetized, and how they could generate revenue without disrupting the user experience on which they completely rely.


the doug morris hypothesis.

By now, everyone has read the shockingly idiotic statements of Doug Morris, CEO of Universal Music Group.

If you haven't, here's a fairly accurate and completely awesome summation.

This, for me, raises an interesting question. It's fairly clear that Doug Morris isn't qualified for his current position. What the Wired profile also makes clear, is that Morris is a very experienced and proven A&R guy. He knows about finding that thing that makes an artist salable, and he knows how to push them over the edge, to fame. He more or less directly states that he considers that his real job, and all of the technology related issues are considered an annoyance.

This would be cool, if he was still just an A&R guy. Or even heading artist development, although one would hope the focus would be on a grander scale than breaking individual acts. Morris is a CEO, however. Which, to me at least, seems a lot like hiring the world's greatest car salesman to run Toyota. Yes, it's an important skill set, but it's also woefully unsuited to the issues one would hope a CEO faces.

This leads me to a potential explanation for everything wrong with the current state of the music industry. What we're seeing is an army of content management experts who think they are also experts in content ownership.

The roots of this are pretty simple to see. By the time the major music industry players started demanding ownership of songs, they had created a near-perfect system for creating stars. If you wanted to make it, you had to play by their rules - so why only ask for a percentage of the revenue when they could ask for the back catalogue, which is more or less a license to print money. This was fine when the most important parts of the industry were content management roles, like arranging recording, arranging printing physical merch for sale, building a buzz, media relations, etc. Even the direct content ownership stuff, like royalties and sales, was relatively simple. There was a major approved method of delivery, it was the only viable one, and the legal product was inevitably and noticeably different than any knock offs.

The game has changed. Music is, for all intents and purposes, free. So, content ownership has gotten messy. While competition in music sales was traditionally a matter of attention, fighting with other artists and labels, now it's a matter of fighting pirated material which is 1) free, 2) often easier to use as desired than legal options, and 3) more or less interchangeable with the legal alternative, the inadequacy of the music industry machine to deal with these issues is becoming somewhat clear.

I've, for a while now, been advocating that if music labels want to survive, they should abandon content ownership as a means of making all of their money, and focus instead on content management. This would require negotiating a percentage of revenue with each artist, or a set yearly rate, and offering the ludicrous amount of experience in these companies to break artists, create public interest, manage tours and appearances, promote, etc, all the things that the music industry has always done, and considered essential but secondary to getting paid for the creative creations of others.

A company like universal, to me, doesn't actually sell a product so much as they do a service. That service, in short, is making bands into a marketable commodity, and turning that notoriety into money. What they don't seem to do well, however, is create new revenue streams, deal with the issues related to format and distribution, and adapt to the current digital media landscape.

Everyone is looking at guys like Doug Morris and expecting some bold new strategy that is going to keep the content ownership portion of record label business prominent and afloat. Doug Morris just wants all of that to go away so he can find the next big thing, and teach them how to fill stadiums and empty wallets. Why is anyone asking him to figure out big picture stuff that he considers a waste of time?


democratic panopticon

[This is a work in progress, and it will be either heavily edited (when I am less sleepy), or re-written and re-posted (possibly with better defined arguments). Let's just consider this one workshopping online.]

This post is heavily thematically linked with a previous one, titled Paparazzi Panopticism.

Thing one: Warren Ellis' Crooked Little Vein includes a character who discusses the idea of cellular phones with cameras as a weapon. Any they are, because it allows anyone to create content, news content, information content, disruptive content. If you want the speech, buy the book. Seriously. It's brilliant.

Thing two: My father, who has, over the years, gone from the kind of guy who buys a 286 and convinces his wife that it's good for the kids (which it shockingly was), to the kind of guy who dislikes that blogging gives anyone a platform to say anything, made a compelling comment over dinner. That a world where people have cell phone cameras is a world where corruption is harder to get away with.

These things got me thinking. The effect of everyone being about to record anything isn't the us vs them issue that so many people think it is. The Panoptic reality this creates isn't binary, there is a more complex dynamic than authority vs people. What we're left with instead is a democratised panopticon, where interpretation and evidence can come from all sides, and from all agendas.

The intriguing part of this, for me, is the subversion of the original theory. Panoptic realities are about people policing themselves in fear of an authority who may or may not be watching at any given time. But the current situation isn't just about authority. Now there is reasonable need to fear that any action that would offend a reasonably sized community will be shown, and you will be penalized socially for it, by that group, and groups affiliated.

To put it simply, this isn't just about being caught standing against the whims of authority, now. It's about the possibility of being caught, at any time, for any act deemed against society, or even peace in society. This is more involved than fighting authority, for one simple reason - a democratised panopticon is inescapable.

In terms of fighting authority, it's marvelous that someone can't be tasered needlessly without it being caught on film. Authorities should be held responsible for their actions, because they have power. The same can be said for celebrities, which justifies, to an extent, the concept of the paparazzi panopticon. But a democratic panopticon seems to bring with it a need to better define the limitations of acceptable behaviour, of what acts, statements or opinions are anti-social in a strong enough sense to require response.

Or will the standard reply be something to the tune of 'live like no one's watching'?

fixing subscription model music services.

I've already written at length about what I think Microsoft should do with the Zune. Go read it. It's surprisingly comment free for something I consider a solid piece of speculative strategy. This time, I'm talking about the issues that are keeping subscription based music services unpopular.

People don't like the idea of a subscription model music service, for many reasons. The foremost among them is the idea that they are renting the music, and that other services are offering them the ability to own it. This is undeniably correct in the sense that the music goes away. It's incorrect in the sense that most digital music retailers, including the behemoth iTunes Music Store, would disagree that they are offering to exchange ownership of digital music for money, and would instead say they are selling you a license to use a certain copy of a song a certain number of ways, on a certain number of devices. This is important, because ownership by definition includes actual control over the product. In either case, the user doesn't have it.

At least a subscription based service doesn't lie to you. And, truthfully, it offers you a better deal by leaps and bounds. That is more or less unimportant, however. The issue is public perception. And people care about the fact that the music will go away if they stop paying.

The solution to this is offering a buy-out option for users, something in the vein of a lease to own deal. However, you can't set a standard fee for this buy-out option, because 1) if the price is too high, it may as well not exist. The same price as an individual download is too high, if the user is already paying a sub fee, and 2) if the price is too low, people will sign up and download insane amounts of music in one month, paying the cost at the end of the month, because it will be cheaper than individual downloads.

If, however, the cost of buying out tracks downloaded on a subscription basis decreased over the length of the subscription, there is both a sense of security that you CAN own your music if you decide the service isn't your thing anymore, and a solid reason to stick out the subscription long enough for it to become habit. If, for the first month, buy-out costs the same as an individual download, this is reasonable. Anything less, and the retailer will get screwed. But if the price per song for buy-out decreases over time, then it becomes a good deal. Six months into a subscription, and the buy-out cost could be half the price of a download, approx 50 cents. A year in, 25. Eighteen months, 7 cents, etc.

Obviously, the price drop over time would have to be calculated to take into account the revenue generated by the service per user, as well as the amount of downloading that takes place for the average user. But it offers all of the benefits of a subscription model service, while dealing (at least somewhat) with one of the major drawbacks.

If you wanted to get really difficult, you could offer whole or partial rebates of the subscription cost for the first few months, if a user bought out all songs. This also removes some of the fear that a subscription model service will be forcing you to pay twice for the same music. If you decide to buy-out at full price, getting 2 months subscription fees off of your total purchase means no net loss for testing the service.

And if you have a good product, getting people to test the service is more valuable than anything.



I've been reading a lot about Kindle, Amazon's exciting new e-reader type device, and the same thing comes to mind every time a new e-book type device hits the market. Who cares?

I've read several books in electronic format. On a PDA, or on my laptop or (on one occasion) on the screen of an ipod nano, broken into chapters. The major reason any of these things happened? They only required a device I already owned, that did something else useful.

Am I going to pay 400 bucks to read blogs (only some blogs) in black and white on something that looks more or less like a speak and spell spray-painted white? Not when, for the same price, I can get something (still unforgivably restricted but) able to do substantially more (ipod touch anyone?)

I get that the idea of an e-reader is attractive. I understand the appeal. But if something is supposed to supplant the physical book, it should probably be a cross-over device. If carrying the book is too much hassle for someone, carrying a heavier electronic version is probably unlikely. [EDIT: I was wrong, it's actually pretty light]

The display technology has a lot of applications, but not in multi-media. It's more or less only functional for print.

No one wants to carry a device that can only deal with print, when you consider the other options available.


music is already free

Dear Music Industry,

There's something you need to understand, and you don't seem to be getting it. Someone has to tell you, and they have to say it in no uncertain terms.

Stop arguing that music cannot be free. Stop it. It doesn't matter what your justification is, whether it's that the Radiohead model (as it is apparently now known) devalues music for other, less wealthy bands, or whether it's just plain thievery, and nothing else should matter, it's irrelevant.

I'll say it slowly, because I'm obviously not talking to the smart kids: MUSIC. IS. ALREADY. FREE.

We can't go back in time. Bandwidth and Compression made Apple a force in it's industry again. These technological changes made file sharing reasonable. And it made free plausible, not as a business model, but as a reality that cannot be ignored.

It doesn't matter if you can't work your old business model in a world where music is free. It doesn't matter if you feel it devalues your work. It doesn't matter if you think this paradigm only rewards the ultra rich, or those with a dedicated fan base who will spend money without needing to, or whether it just plain bothers you.

Music is already free. The genie is not going back in the bottle, because the holy triumvirate of bittorrent, bandwidth, and compression all have legitimate uses. And not in the NRA style 'guns are for protection, too' legitimate use, but there are entire business models that are only viable due to these innovations.

Music is free. You can't change that, you have to work with it. Radiohead decided that might be an idea - ACCEPTING REALITY - and hoping that, considering it would leak anyway, a portion of fans would be willing to give them a couple of bucks for something that, within minutes of release, WAS FREE ANYWAY.

I'm sorry that a lot of people, Music Industry, are caught in a transitional period where old ways are failing and new ways are undefined. I'm sorry that old revenue streams are falling by the wayside. I'm sorry that so many of you equate changing sources of money with doom.

But it doesn't matter if I'm sorry.

Because music is already free, and you can't change that will anything, even an endless parade of frivolous lawsuits.

With more than a modicum of disappointment,

The Broken Gentleman


watching the sky fall

Does anyone else feel like we're living in the ends times of content ownership as a business model? I've blogged before on my stance on content ownership (and copyright ownership) as a failing-to-failed business model in music, as demonstrated by the good folks in the music industry. Content ownership is only directly useful to content creators - for anyone else it's just a bunch of unnecessary hassle that complicates content management. Fighting over who owns the music is less useful than offering a service that creators are willing to pay for, whether in percentage or in a flat fee.

The WGA strike though, makes this feel like the entertainment apocalypse. Never before have traditional content channels seemed any less useful.

Cost of entry costs what these days? Well, that depends on how you define it. Cost of a decent camera, actors, etc, can scale based on what you want to achieve. But the cost of eyeballs is higher, and infinitely relative. You can either buy them with quality (which is immaterial and transient) or you can buy eyeballs from people who have them (advertising). One is free, technically, and the other is ludicrously expensive. Such is life.

The current structure of the entertainment system is based on a lot of things, arguably chiefly among them star power. But the reason networks and studios developed a power base, is the cost of entry, both in terms of creating content, and distributing it.

The issue is, that system has been running on intertia. And now we've torn down the financial support, and the distribution channel. This strike is both about payment for new content channels, and impetus to improve them.

This is what people do when the world is burning down, they fight over scraps. DVD revenue scraps, online distribution scraps, whatever. The same thing will happen when the actors renegotiate. Then the directors.

It's the same thing that happened in the music industry - when the world is run by guys nearing retirement, there's a lot less risk in looting than in learning how to deal with a new world.

The only real advantages that the film and tv industry have is the experience. Physical albums failed as an art form, but the music still had value. So they were separated. And the industry bigwigs blamed piracy, which is a rational reaction to removing the value from a product. Think about TV, and Movies watched on DVD, or in theatres. Is your experience that much better than it is through illegal content channels? Is that difference something that would be fixed by better speakers, a larger screen or projector, and higher quality digital files?

Although you will never have a home theatre that is better than a movie, you could get one that is better experientially when you include the bullshit of the excessive cost, the ads, the fifteen minutes of crap before the film actually begins. Same deal with DVDs. The extras are nice, so is the image quality. But the often unskippable ads beforehand? I'd rather just take it.

If you want to make money in this situation, you need to offer an experience that beats free as a price. You can't do that by putting restrictions on things.

And you can't make money by pissing off the people who supply the transient and immaterial source of interest, the quality. Because buying eyeballs is popular enough that you need a better hook than omnipresence.


how to stick it to apple.

So. This is how Microsoft could take over the digital music market, and create a whole new revenue stream in the process:

Before any of this starts, I love Apple to the point where it makes my significant other jealous from time to time. Steve Jobs is one of my heroes, slightly outranked by Fake Steve Jobs. I've bought three iPods, and am planning on a fourth already. My Macbook is necessary in the same way food and oxygen are.

But the approach they've taken to music is hilariously dependent on the labels they are fighting with over control. Luckily, I think Apple considers iTunes a means to the end of selling iPods the world over. This is, mainly, what it does in a manner that is above reproach.

Microsoft has several major advantages that have gone unused, or underused. 1) They are selling a player that has the ability to trade music built in to every unit. 2) Every major music label is looking for a credible place to turn that isn't Apple, and that is more willing to negotiate terms. 3) Microsoft is sitting on a massive user-base who trusts (or at least tolerates) their products. 4) Microsoft is Microsoft.

The music sharing functions on the Zune are crippled by DRM. This is inarguable, and definitely had to be thrust upon the company by the music industry partners they needed to launch the accompanying music service. Still, this is the game changing tool that is needed. Music is social. Music is supposed to be shared, and learned about through social connection, and that requires sharing. There was a time when that meant inviting someone over and playing it for them, but now it involves copies.

This is the main issue that isn't discussed. Music is not what it was. This is no longer a market defined by selling slabs of plastic. It's about offering context and convenience, because the competition is the now normalized act of online piracy. This is the basis of subscription models, which, if memory serves, is what Gates and Co are trying to push.

The first thing Microsoft would have to do is unlock the sharing function. Make it so that any song traded from Zune to Zune is traded permanently. This, obviously, will be a hard sell to anyone in the music industry. So, there's a simple solution. Make one of the requirements of the sharing function is that anyone who is not signed up with the Zune marketplace, or social, or whatever it's called this week, gets files wrapped in timed-delete DRM. Everyone subscribed, go nuts. Free and easy trading to anyone with a subscription, because in a sub-based service, they're getting the music anyways.

However, this is all useless unless you get people to try the damn thing, first. Which is why you need to bundle a year's subscription to every new Zune unit.

Unfettered sharing is a useful thing. So, it has the potential to become addictive. Let it do so. This will require concessions to the labels (as everything does) so offer them, at first, a percentage of the price of each new Zune. That might not be enough, but there are still two things up your sleeve at this point.

Firstly, you're Microsoft. The biggest, strongest, most willing to take a loss in the short term, most likely to break into a market already won and take over company in memory. Honestly, the major battle-cry here should be 'Apple dominates the market, and has defined the category? Well, we've never won in THAT situation before...' Play hardball. Make concessions, but make it clear that this is a no-holds-barred fight for control of the market, and not siding with you is like deciding in advance not to succeed. Artists with clout are already leaving labels and creating their own distribution channels. If a major one takes off, and a label has locked itself out of it for no good reason, well, you end up in the situation the music labels are now, with execs approaching senility wondering if that Fanning boy can still get them a dominant position in the market, like he was talking about back in the day.

Be Microsoft. Make it work, because crossing you is generally idiotic.

Secondly, and most importantly, offer them a whole new revenue stream.

In allowing open sharing between any Zune subscriber, which, at first, means any Zune user, you gain access to data. In something as simple as getting users to give you an email address, and A/S/L info, you gain access to a horrendous amount of information. Not only do you get demographic breakdown of who likes what music, and how it spreads among ages and locations, but you get something truly unprecedented. By tracking sharing, you get an epidemiology of music, information on who the influencers are, who shares music, who is the first in an area or social circle to discover it, and how many people they send it to. You get real time information on the popularity of an artist - not through plays, which though useful are misleading, but through exposure, who is downloading, who is sharing, and who is re-sharing.

This information alone is worth losing money for a few years for. Not just to target advertising, but from a logistics perspective. Imagine the ability to plan a tour to maximize attendance, and therefore profit, at every stop - every single show in a place where the artist is at the peak of popularity. Imagine creating a market for selling this information to touring bands, imagine offering it to managers, to labels, etc, for either money or cooperation. This works for indie acts, as well. They more than anyone need a good turnout at shows, just to make money - price it on a sliding scale, and this information suddenly gets indie acts working with majors on a regular basis, for survival.

Imagine targeting advertising for an artist, or similar artists, to areas where they are right near a breaking point. Imagine trackable word of mouth.

This is ignoring completely random ideas, such as taking the influencers identified for this information, and slipping them preview tracks for new albums or artists. If they like, it, it gets distributed and re-distributed. Completely organic buzz and anticipation, kicked off from a concrete, calculated standpoint.

I've worked out further uses, and further details to make the plan work smoothly, but it's a moot point, as I don't run the Zune division of Microsoft. Other companies could technically do the same thing, but they either lack the software influence, the compatible hardware, or the influence to do it in a game-changing way. This is a method of offering something superior in user experience to a generation used to free music with minor hassle. They need something to play it on. And if Microsoft has taught us anything from the Xbox, it's that taking a loss in the short term, or even the shorter long term, is worth having serious sway in the market.

This is one way to do it.


state of the blog

I have ideas.

But my ideas are mainly, of late, designed in a way that makes them impossible for me to implement. Last month I had a concept for the Microsoft Zune, with a few minor modifications, and one major throwdown / risk, to actually differentiate itself from the music market. This was a good idea, arguably a great one (if great idea is equivalent to one that can't be picked apart by anyone I know) but useless to me, because it require a kind of control that I will never have, and the ability to shift an entire division out of it's business model (I'll outline the idea later, possibly tonight).

That I'm spending my time and intellect (such as it is) acting in a theoretical strategic consulting position is troubling - I like the ideas, I like slogging through and tightening them up, but I can't make any of them into anything for myself. I'm creating permanently fictional concepts. This is, except for the mental exertion, a waste of my time.

I also don't seem to have any truly independent ideas, lately. Everything is in service of adapting old structures to new, and new structures to society (and vice versa).

So, hopefully, a new phase, soon. I'll keep commenting, and offering vague (and not fully fleshed out) solutions to what I see as problems, but I'll also refrain from wasting too much time making them complete. What that time will be spent on, I hope, is treading a new path, or two. Or seventy.

I'm also going to try to remain more on my current path, publicity. Persona Management. And, hilarious though it may be, back to artificialism, as more than just a theory, but possibly as an approach - the truth of intentional falsehood, and the power of being a constructed person in a reputedly transparent world.


[Standard apology for radio silence.]

My good friend at Ghost Razor got me thinking about advertising and social networks. Well, he, the Microsoft-cash-certified 15 billion facebook valuation, and the fact that targeted advertising hasn’t really shown me much other than location targeting, and google style text ads that are based on the content of your screen / email / profile, etc.

The short version of this is there is a complete lack of creative work in these ads – text ads are boring. And text targeted ads result in some hilarious missteps, as well. Google is home of the brilliant proprietary algorithm, but I still get ads that suggest things based on sarcasm.

The response I’ve been seeing from advertising pros seem to be the most phoned in things in recent memory. I keep reading commentary about how targeted ads need ‘authenticity’ or how the essential missing ingredient is ‘engaging content’. For anyone who hasn’t been watching, this is the solution that is generally proposed by adver/creatives for anything in the universe. And it makes sense, because it’s important that spots be somewhat authentic, engaging, because these are code words for ‘not-insulting’ and ‘not boring’. Bravo.

There is place for creative content in targeted ads, and it just requires two major things – more work per account, and a better tool for profiling than just looking for keywords and spitting out the content that best fits.

My immediate reaction to being posed this problem was to think of profiling. Not in terms of looking for certain keywords and responding with certain ads, although that has a place. My interest is more in creating a dozen or so profiles for users that fit within the target market for your product, and then finding the interests, keywords, and relationships that identify these groups. This would require not only tracking the interests and usage of one person, but more important to track how interests spread between friends in the network – this could help in tracking the alpha consumers who are the holy grail. More importantly, it allows separation of users based on personality type, interest type in your product, related interests, etc.

Targeted advertising should be more than just sending people who say they care about something related to your product information, it should be about walking into the conversation of social networking, and treating different people with a past of different actions and different interests, differently. Treating people differently makes no sense in terms of broadcast model advertising, ie, advertising at scale.

This is different.

This is lucrative for both sides of the equation – the advertising agencies would now be creating multi-pronged campaigns with materials targeted to each of the X profiles created, so they would be (logically) charging substantially more. Also presumably logical would be increased effect from (actually) targeted advertising.

I guess all I’m saying is that targeted advertising means more to me than throwing the same content, or less involved content, at people who are more likely to care.

If facebook is worth 15 billion on the strength of the information it has gathered from it’s community, maybe targeted advertising should mean a little bit more in terms of giving people a personalized experience, rather than just very specifically aimed generic content.


it begins.

NIN is apparently free from label interference.

This, following the radiohead announcement, seems to me like the floodgates are about to open.

Expect major acts to be going it on their own all through 2008. Expect change.

Expect shit to get a lot more complicated for Apple, and every other music retailer, once they don't have lumbering, massive corporations to blame things on / deal with, and instead need to deal directly with every major artist, each with different terms, each with no real need for the service.

These are the glory days, new media fans. Watch the skies.


on helio (written months ago).

I’ve written before about Helio, the telecommunications company that actually seems to understand the point. I bought a fairly recent issue of WIRED, (mostly because I read the Halo 3 playtesting story online, and was intrigued enough to desire sidebar content), and with it came a little pamphlet from Helio, talking about the ‘new social ettiquette’. Good marketing from a company that offers a product refined enough that it doesn’t actually require good marketing – this is the road to awe.

Image set on flickr.

The New Social Ettiquette is, more than anything else, Helio making a subtle point about how seamlessly integrated into modern (youth) existence telecommunications tech is, and how dependent one can become on an increasing level of mobile communications. MySpace mobile, IM, email, etc. This is the un-blackberry, moreso than even the iPhone can claim to be. This is what I imagine South Korean telephony to be. This is the dream.

The dream is goddamn hilarious.

Helio recognizes it’s audience. It doesn’t talk about technology, other than mentioning a ‘superfast 3G network’. The focus is on what you can do with it, and the relation to flirting. Flirting as killer app. This is far from brilliant, but it’s a much more measured approach than other attempts to link technology and sex.

Helio is demonstrating that its marketing army aren’t deluded into thinking that features sell products and services. How the features are used is the only product. The only product is experience. The New Social Etiquette booklet is one page of features, and nine pages of fun things you can do with them.

Is it aimed at teens and early 20s frat-youth? Obviously. But it works. It works in the same way CP+B campaigns work. They get the idea across, and you go out and find the details because you’re addicted.

Helio. The New Social Etiquette. Or more importantly, She’s Not Interested If.


radiohead gets it.

I should be sleeping. I have to wake up in a little over 6 hours. But, there are things afoot. Things that cause bliss.

Thom Yorke and Company UNDERSTAND.

I've been rambling for a little less than a year about the separation between object and content. In relation to the music business, the point is simple: somewhere along the way, everyone forgot that the business was based on selling music, and assumed it was based on selling plastic discs. This more or less made sense when the plastic disc was the only method of moving music. Insert one massive digital revolution, and voila, an industry that thinks selling music means selling slabs of plastic begins to fail horribly.

The two best ways to deal with the separation between object and content in the music business are fairly simple: 1) recognise that to be worth money, you better have a slab of plastic that offers value beyond just the music, and 2) acknowledge that the music is really just a promotional tool for selling other, related products (slabs of plastic, tshirts, concert tickets, dvds, ringtones, etc.)

So what does radiohead to, when not tied to any old-distribution label paradigm?

They offer the album for sale, on the web, in a glorious package. 2 discs, vinyl, attractive packaging that realises the product IS A SLAB OF PLASTIC, and makes it the sexiest plastic they can. At the same time, they make digital downloads available for free to anyone who buys the meatspace version of the record.

The real brilliant move? The digital download by itself is available for a price of you-call-it. By you call it, I mean radiohead lets you add the album to your outbox from the exclusive retailer, and you get to decide how much it costs.

Not only is this invaluable research for a band in control of it's own pricing and sales, it provides a reasonable, DRM free option for sane consumers. As someone who actually downloads albums they already own, just for simplicity, this speaks volumes. Radiohead UNDERSTANDS, better than any other album release has ever indicated, that music cannot be sold as though it is still contained in plastic slabs.

This is the one record no one can justifiably download illegally. They are meeting you so far past half-way that you can't really bitch. At the very least, give the the data. Let them know you want it free, or for a cent, or what have you.

Several months ago, I was ecstatic when the iTunes music store began selling DRM free (sorta) downloads. That was premature, and I apologise. Assuming this isn't a hoax, radiohead have just (again) knocked the music industry on it's ass. It's so rare to see innovation even musically, but this group of consistent innovators are trying something legitimately new, and inarguably well-informed.

Shall we make it worth their while?

[this is ignoring the fact the album comes out in 10 days, and they have created nearly unlimited press just by setting a tight deadline, and doing something logical, but unheard of.]


ipod touch.

Oh god I played with an iPod touch for 10 mins at the Eaton Centre yesterday.

I know it's first gen, I know it's overpriced, I know no sane person browses the internet on a 3 inch screen.

I Want One. Desperately.

(For extra geek points, first think I did with it? Surfed to BrokenGent and saw how it was navigated via multi-touch.)

Apple has developed a severely customer unfriendly business model in it's non-pc business, and yet they continue to grow based on an unmatched ability to create pure consumer lust.

I am Steve Jobs' bitch, and I have a problem.

which came first, the lawsuit or pain and suffering?

Hi all. Too little too late, I know.

But when someone so misunderstands law that they sue the creative commons for misuse of a CC licensed picture, I feel I must comment

Thanks to the filthy assistant for this link, which got me onto the trail.

The gist of it is, Virgin Australia misuses a picture that was CC licensed off of flickr. An image being free to use does not mean the model has signed a release for international promotional use. This is, as the French say, a big time mistake on the part of the mid to low-level internal promotions guy/gal at Virgin, who misunderstood the 'some rights reserved' approach as some kind of carte blanche -- take note, this is usually why happens when someone tries to make information free -- because business can't see freedom of use without seeing opportunity.

This is not the point, because a google search for 'flickr virgin australia' will explain enough opinions on this, in enough detail that I need not bother.

The issue is that the family, and moreover the lawyers they have hired, somehow think that the Creative Commons Foundation, or the EFF, or whoever is going to butt heads in court, either 1) has enough money to be worth suing, or 2) has ANY RELATION to the problem encountered.

If you take something as situation specific as a type of creator control license, and ignore the limitations, don't be shocked if issues arise. You don't sue the soap company because unwashed hands are dirty. You don't sue the Creative Commons because someone ignored another, vaguely related law.

When I read Lessig's Free Culture, he made the point that a society in which power comes from having enough money to lawyer issues out over the course of years is not all that just, at least in terms of people vs rich people, or people vs corporations. This is just another incident that makes me think law is an issue of throwing feces at the wall to see who will pay you a settlement first.

It's late and I'm tired, so I ask forgiveness on my lack of clarity, or my misunderstanding of any legal ramifications. Merci.


sentences are the new paragraphs.

This came up randomly in the last LTI, but I think it has merit. The statement 'sentences are the new paragraphs' started out as a joke, but it is getting the job done as a 'medium is the message' style incomplete encapsulation.

Moving information is becoming cheaper, more intuitive, and largely seamless. If we go back to looking at letters, nonverbal long distance communication had to be of a certain importance to justify it. You wouldn't write a letter to someone if the only thing you had to say was 'I read a book today. Disappointing. Love you, Blank.' Letters require a certain amount of content to justify them.

This informed email, in that many earlier adopters send long emails. I personally find myself padding them at times, because I have an expectation of length. There's no physical reason for this, as email is more or less instantaneous, but it relates to the connection to traditional mail that is presumed. A letter, perceptually, has to be a full letter. An email, however, can be a few sentences and still fit into the little box I (and I assume we) have defined for it.

Instant messenger fits into a different world, because it's supposed to be direct, instant back and forth communication. It's conversational. There is no defined 'right' size for each message.

Twitter, Pownce, and Facebook status are the current end point of the lowering entry level to justify communication. Unfocused, sentence-length, and not aimed at any individual, they get sent not because they are important, but because they are expressive and additive. It reminds me of conversations had in creative writing classes, about how short a story could be while remaining a story. The common example is Hemingway's 'For Sale: Baby shoes, never used.' Which isn't a story, it's an allusion. This is what Twitter, Pownce, etc, the world of microblogging I suppose, fulfills. It's the venue where someone can write ' grande long americano. life is good.' and consider it justified use.

Sentences are the new Paragraphs; meaning that the level of justification needed for communication has dropped, due to lowering cost of entry, ease of use, and social role.

The interesting this is that this doesn't necessarily stunt communication in the least. It just requires that people use much of it as additive, rather than a complete experience. You can understand me just by reading my blog, or my journal, or personal conversations. Adding my pownce, my facebook and my flickr works quite well if you have context, though.

Just a thought.


liveblogging the inconsequential (2)

3:46pm - There is another hour and 14 minutes left in the work day. I shall attempt to chronicle the next 14.

3:47 - Am feeling the effects of having converted from milk-based Starbucks products to the more reasonably priced triple long Americano,

3:48 - Minor confusion of whether I was talking about something present, or something past. Since I'm relaying a phone message, this is far from simple to clarify.

3:50 - I did not make a single PDF mag this summer. I tried. I have a lot of work in progress to deal with. But I have not. So, going to repurpose some blog content and start on it tonight. In other words: that Helio post is now going to be a Helio article. Of sorts.

3:53 - Email sent out to a friend (and sometime reader) who is looking out for me. As with most of my emails, it contains insults, innuendo, and a thank-you for putting up with me.

3:54 - Okay, the thank you was for a favour, not for mere tolerance.

3:55 - Pownce is still cool. I got bored with it, but it serves a purpose that I previously used livejournal for. Sentences are the new paragraphs.

3:57 - Can someone put 'Sentences are the new Paragraphs' on a shirt for me? I feel like I just encapsulated something very depressingly web2.0.

4:00 - I have reached my inconsequential liveblogging limit. Thanks for playing along.

[This is in the LTI Tradition, explained Here.]


laughing at microsoft - becoming common in my life.

Two posts in one day? Something disruptive must have happened.

I recall, earlier this summer, a conversation with a friend, relating to the UX of the iPod, and what could trump it. This pops back into my mind because the iPod touch is basically forcing me to laugh at microsoft.

The Zune was interesting because it had a big screen (a beautiful screen, from everything I've heard) and wi-fi. These were the features that everyone saw and started muttering 'iPod killer' over. And with good reason. When bitching about the iPod's UX (which took some thinking, but there were still complaints) my major problems were 1) no search mechanism on the ipod itself other than scrolling, 2) have to be hooked to a computer to download music. This discussion went immediately to how simple it would have been for MSFT to address at least one of these issues, if they hadn't put so much effort into appeasing the DRM lust held by music labels, tv networks, movie studios, et al.

I'm not laughing at Microsoft because they are releasing a new set of Zunes into a marketplace that refuses to stay static long enough for them to play it safe. I'm laughing at Microsoft because the Zune proves, to me at least, that they can no longer even steal ideas and improve on them effectively. The fact that there was a wi-fi enabled, bigger screened competitor available for so long, and they managed to make it less appealing not in spite of the wi-fi, but BECAUSE of it, boggles the mind.

And then Apple walks back into the throne room and says 'Oh yeah, wi-fi, cute idea. Maybe we'll let people use it for what they want, and what it can do'.

I'm laughing because the idea of being able to download music directly to your music player is actually somewhat revolutionary in the current western marketplace. I'm laughing because I want it so badly.

i know, i know...

I am a terrible blogger. I've been working on a post on Helio's latest campaign for about 3 weeks, but I just haven't had the time what with renovations at home, and work, and upcoming crazy media event season type stuff.

But I have to make a simple comment on the new iPod touch - they are going to make a pile of money.

Things that sucked about the iPhone: U.S. only, AT&T only, no 3G, apparently unimpressive phone features.

Things that are still an issue on the iPod touch: no 3G, but it's a wi-fi iPod, not a goddamn phone, quit bitching.

Does it replace an iPod classic? Not in the least. First off, I can't imagine it'll be easy to use blind, and second, anyone with a 16 GB music / movie collection is not taking advantage of their hard drive space effectively. This is an additive product, and it speaks directly to the reptile brain of everyone who 1) really, really wanted an iPhone and 2) didn't care so much about the phone part.

I have a feeling this is a sector even larger than the people who were counting on Stevie J to save them from the tyrrany of Nokia, or whatever.

Time to start saving. Time to figure out what 16 GB of content is most essential for me to have at all times.

Time to swear to never, ever buy music at a Starbucks, just because it's the album or single of the month.


yeah, the respected ones never lie.

I'm not going to read Keen's Cult of the Amateur. There are a lot of potential excuses I could use here, but the pertinent ones are that a) the basic premise is so wrong I can rarely make it through skimming an article covering the book, and b) I'm to busy to waste that time.

This comes up because two rather new pairs of jeans have been stained. not just like, regular use dirt stained, but (through different circumstances) the kind of stains that require effort. After struggling to get grease out (and potentially trashing the pants), I googled it. The experience was worth noting, because my normal pattern for searching for how-to's relates mostly to techy stuff. The most recent example of this was the attempt to get non-DRM ringtones to play on my Nokia 6300; it didn't go well.

Searching for stain removal tips was painless. I typed in grease stain, and clicked on the least spammy looking result. Quick, painless. The interface of the page was hideous, it wasn't supremely functional, but I got the advice I wanted. all sounds good to me.

I thought later, in the shower, how one of Keen's points (as far as I understand) is that the internet and it's ability to give equal access and weight to amateurs will result in a technocracy, where only the internet savvy will be able to find access to the good content. Well, looking for technology related stuff, people who are somewhere in-between in terms of tech savvy (I'm theory, not practice), need to parse dialogue they may not natively understand, and usually accept the need to dig through a lot of 'I know guy, MSFT suxx0rs' when trying to find drivers for an old scanner.

The internet is filled with information put forth by amateurs, and, unshockingly, the most accessible information in terms of content is usually the most accessible information in terms of accessibility.

The assumption that one needs to be tech savvy to get useful content via an internet connection has to come from someone who is either somewhat uncomfortable with the idea of the internet (such as my mother) or someone who forgets that anything needs a skill set to use it -- reading everything in the NYT as though it was gospel is just as stupid as reading everything online without suspicion -- and the assumption that less modern media are somehow easier to use forgets that the technology in play was not always invisible.

The cult of the amateur is another little thing in this society; at time we refer to it as democracy. Everyone gets an opinion, everyone has a RIGHT to that opinion, and each individual needs to decide for themselves. We go with the will of the crowd from time to time. What's enshrining old media as the high point in cultural representation is the exact thing that's presenting the internet as a better way.

If you're afraid that too many individual voices will drown out the 'respectable' ones, than the question is more about the power and validity of that assumed credible source, rather than an invading, more popular option.


paparazzi panopticism.

Communication Theory 101: Foucault and the Panopticon. The general idea, skipping past the actual specifics and the path to the point, is that people who know they may be watched, without being certain WHEN they are watched, police themselves.

This is, at core, the major principle behind law enforcement. Punishment is an issue of deterrent, rather than justice. In short, we don’t commit crimes not only because it would be wrong to do so, but out of fear of getting caught.

Enter the modern era’s obsession with celebrity personal lives.

I was watching Lionel Ritchie on CBC’s The Hour, and one of the questions he was asked was whether or not his daughter, Nicole of Simple Life and drunk driving fame, was ‘okay’.

His answer is irrelevant.

The point of Foucault’s ideas was that people policing themselves, a society that polices itself, is the end result of a watched society. If you look at any one of the pre-eminent gossip blogs, you’ll see that the exact opposite is in effect,

When Britney, or Paris, or Lindsay finally accepted that privacy no longer existed for them, that paparazzi were ALWAYS watching, whether or not they could see them, they had to make a choice. It was either to live their entire lives as though the entire world was watching (because, most of the time, it was) or to live as though no one was watching at all.

So we get upskirt shots as they come out of limos, and celebrity sextapes, photographic evidence of idiotic behaviour, whether neglecting the safety of a child, or neglecting standards of decency.

Foucault, apparently, was wrong. When faced with a panoptic reality, societal norms aren’t reinforced; they’re demolished. This is the same reason constant surveillance is the hallmark of an unjust state – if watched closely enough, everyone is a criminal, is a failure, an embarrassment. Ergo, if you’re equally despised whether you do something small wrong, or live like a hedonist hero, you might as well have the fun.

The interesting thing about this is that it can be read one of two ways; either they have decided to own up to their behaviour, radical transparency style, and not care what people say, or they’ve simply decided that any behaviour will be derided, so why bother behaving.

In no way am I excusing the current rash of drunk driving celebutantes. I’m just looking at the impact this has on theory, because everyone else just seems to focus on the decision to either mock or pity them.


i've been busy.

I attempted to explain the simplest truth of modern technology to my father recently. Here goes,

The easiest way to change the world is to take something people like to do, and remove either the time-, or space-bias from that activity.

In other words, take something static in time or location, and make it movable in one or more ways.

This isn't necessarily huge innovation, but it accounts for most of the new technology that people obsess over.


by way of explanation.

The electric car is perfected. You can drive now, with no emissions. Obviously, the oil companies are pissed. Because, they have a monopoly on providing energy for drivers. Getting the energy to move a car is what oil companies exist for. But suddenly, beautifully, they aren't as important. You don't need to buy the gas as a means of conveying the energy to your car. You can just buy the energy. Or even MAKE it. And some people, some way, will find a way to steal energy, because electricity is a hell of a lot easier to transport than gasoline. Leeching off the grid unauthorised is massively simpler than hijacking a transport truck filled with liquid kaboom.

Now, the oil companies are pissed. They are getting fucked over, here. Decades and billions spent creating this functional, if wasteful infrastructure, and now some bastard makes it all worthless. There's only two options. Either they can realise their core business was never oil, it was energy. They can start again at the bottom, but with their massive war chests, important connections, and influence; or they can fight tooth and nail to demand that everyone keep buying and using gas-powered cars.

So guess which one they choose.

They bribe/lobby government representatives, talk about the ease of stealing energy as opposed to being forced to buy it in a physical form. They start suing people who slip past their stranglehold on the new technology, after convincing the government to pass a law that makes it illegal to break through the industry created locks on automobile systems. The issue of efficiency, and of the actual product versus the popularised means of transport are occluded it's about theft, and right, and how much they put into creating the current, though obviously inferior system.

So, people do the logical thing. They make and buy their own electric car systems when they can, and sometimes, they go a little further. When the electric car sneaks through legally, and companies insist you buy electricity at artificially inflated prices, from a specialised grid that will intentionally be incompatible with certain car systems, consumers start stealing the energy from the grid, because, really, fuck it. At a certain point, it's no longer logical to keep bending to a market that forgets you are the one making them rich.

Eventually, the threatening lawsuit idea proves insufficient as a scare tactic, and society needs to decide whether to put everyone in jail, or to stop listening to an obsolete industry that has no clue how the world works now.


This all came to mind while I was driving home from starbucks, and wishing I had a good adapter for playing my ipod through the car stereo. There's a CD player, and a radio that doesn't work, but both of these come with limitations that make them more irritating than pleasant. Obviously, the above was an attempt at pointing out the idiocy of the music industry, who have forgotten that the only product that ever made them money, was music. Not vinyl, tapes, cds, radio play, whatever. They sold music. And suddenly, when you could buy music without having to buy it on some form of plastic slab, they freaked the fuck out and forgot that music had been the product all along.

Stop trying to recreate the plastic slab model in digital form, stop trying to make everything the way it was. I understand most of the people in a decision making position are old, and confused, and have no concept of how to operate in the conditions that have arisen in their market. Much as any technology, sufficiently advanced, is indistinguishable from magic, any massive shift in the realities of a market, provided it destabilises enough limitations, will always be taken as an attack, and probably morally wrong.

if you keep trying to sell people an electric car that ensures you get paid just as well as you did for the internal combustion engine, PEOPLE ARE GOING TO STEAL. In anger, in defiance, in acceptance of the fact that you really, really, refuse to help them out even a little here.

Does anyone else think it's crazy than in less than a decade the music industry has created a situation in which the majority of the population would rather face the risk of a lawsuit demanding tens of thousands of dollars, than pay for music? Any subway system in the world can create a happy medium that ensures more people will pay to ride, rather than jump the turnstiles and risk attack. Hint: they didn't do it buy increasing the fine for turnstile jumping until it would ruin a family financially. They just didn't demand that each rider submit to being handcuffed to a seat until they reached their predetermined destination, in a form they submitted a month earlier.

People are afraid of retribution. But not to the point where they will put up with anything to avoid it.


liveblogging the inconsequential (1)

9.32pm experiment starts. A line has developed at starbucks, and the cute manager girl is herding people in an attempt to make it faster. I’m drinking a caffe vanilla frapp. I’m also reading LVHRD magazine (pdf).

9.35pm I take a sip.

9.35pm there’s an irritating mass of high school aged girls sitting in the corner behind me. The phrase ‘ohmygod’ is being tossed around like al gore’s name at a hipster dinner party. Or, I guess, like the word ‘like’. If it was socially acceptable, I would argue that these are the girls who should be sold into slavery in eastern bloc nations. But I doubt it is socially acceptable.

9.36pm ‘do you really need another dress’ – justification for selling them into slavery?

9.37pm I remember that, as a black man, I should probably not be so free and easy with the slavery jokes. I go back to my magazine.

9.39pm LVHRD magazine is now my go-to example for design ‘style’ being more important than readability, or functionality, or anything that actually matters. Pretty is good. Pretty and works is infinitely superior.

9.40pm I’ve learned to tune out the prostitots in the corner. Am I the only person in the world for whom working in PR is actually mellowing?

9.41pm the phrase ‘on crack’ is the new black.

9.43pm paul pope is my hero. I need more THB.

9.44pm my parents call. I inform them I have taken out the garbage. Rejoicing follows.

9.46pm deep notes that ‘it’s pretty loud for a Monday’ I respond with ‘it’s pretty fucking loud, yeah’. I hate everyone in the room excepting deep, cute starbucks girl, and my mac. We will move outside when the situation permits.

9.48pm I am running out of frappaccino. Alert the authorities.

9.48pm I am nearly certain that this is more interesting than the last liveblog I read, which was basically ‘crapcrapcrapcrap what, no love for children of men? Crapcrapcrap’.

9.51pm I am currently eavesdropping on another example of one minority group attempting to corner the market on being discriminated against. No, not black. Guess again.

9.53pm I really should be spending this time working on my press release writing skills. Trust me, it’s harder than it looks.

9.54pm I have finished reading LVHRD, I am again an advocate, that shit was beautiful.

9.55pm when the hell is PULPHOPE coming out already? The wait is killing me. Screw harry potter, this shit is important. There is currently 3.50 left on my macbook battery. I am seriously impressed, considering I’m refusing to turn down the brightness for no good reason.

9.57pm I’ve begun to read coroflot number 2, because it distracts me from the frat-boy-esque tards that keep talking about trashing hotels with their hockey teams.

10.00pm I just wasted two minutes reformatting the word doc of this ‘liveblog’. Two. Minutes. And still, the tedium.

10.01pm so is this more stream of consciousness, or just idiocy? Is this any more or less relevant than most liveblogging? Experiment ended.

I once wrote that the revolution wouldn’t be televised, it would be liveblogged and photocasted, it would be available from the citizenry and for the citizens of the world. I’m wondering if that’s the case, or if the revolution will be lost in the twitter storm of ‘I just had a sandwich’ that you can currently watch on a google maps mashup (insert link).

This was a proof-of-concept episode of LTI. Next time, it’s going to be a more focused event, although meaningless. The real dream is to pull off an LTI that is completely within the topic.

Meta. Meta. Meta.

10.05pm Okay, I just had to add this. One emo, pete wentz looking guy, and an army of not-quite-aware-they-are-chubby emo girls just walked out of the starbucks, talking about how they are going to some place on Richmond, and it’s amateur night. Teen whores heading to a strip joint. Like, 15. There is no god.

Not that I thought one was coming.

liveblogging the inconsequential (intro).

Sometime this week I hope to start a new random feature, called 'Liveblogging the Inconsequential'. The gist of it is, liveblogging is one of those popular, common, and arguably useless things that crop up around new tech as part of the law of unintended consequences. I can understand the theory, which is that someone will be watching the Oscars with a laptop, and read your hilarious commentary by the minute, clicking refresh in-between bouts of laughter.

More likely, however, someone reads it later that night, or the next morning, or while not watching the show at all, or while never having the intention to watch. And what they get is a list of timestamped posts with commentary like 'Jack Nicholson sure has a creepy smile. I wonder how much charisma one needs to expend to overcome such a disability.' But hopefully funnier.

Given my teensy readership, I see no need to actually update a post ad-nauseum, time by time. Instead, I'll just post my timestamped observations and thoughts, while doing something meaningless. Candidates for the first LTI post include re-watching the season of entourage thus far, listening to classic reggae albums that my father insists are relevatory, or on-site people watching from some cafe with wi-fi.

I'm sure you are amped about it.


addressing my laziness.

For once, my radio silence isn't about looking for work. I'm currently putting in some intern time, and as such, haven't really had as much time as I'd like for things like brokengent.

But, I'm still posting when I can, and readying a few comments and statements about Pownce (hint; I compare it to livejournal).

Still, I want to draw your attention to two things.

One, is a post of the Freakonomics blog, asking a simple and powerful question, 'How well would the concept of libraries go over today?'

This is an important question to ask, because to me, the library is one of the low-tech examples of the kind of freedoms that digital information isn't really allowed to have, at least according to some corporations and representative bodies that push hard for tighter copyright laws. Is the library a good thing? I hope most people would argue yes. Is it an example of societal benefit being put before the concerns of an industry? Obviously. (This is the part where you wonder why that is supposedly a bad thing.)

Thing two is a company called 'Subvert & Profit', who's raison d'etre is selling influence on the Digg community, and trying to get advertisers on the front page.

I was listening to the CBC yesterday, and someone pointed out that there had been definite tension between market supporters, and those who were, if not anti-market, than pushing for an alternative to total market dominance. Obviously, the market won. This is why revolutions are so consistently profitable; the concept of revolution only exists within the market. Every revolution is really just a new product that changes the status of old products when it is introduced.

Social networks, user generated content, the blogosphere, whatever. It's revolutionary, yes, but it is also, at core, a new paradigm in a market framework. Everything is a medium through which to create a product. Everything will be, at some point, made into an attempt to turn a profit.

[To anyone who thinks this sounds dystopian, you are living in the wrong civilisation. Try harder next time.]

short one.

I managed to receive a Pownce invite (thanks, Brian) and am currently playing around with it. Clean interface, everything has been easy, and works as well online as it does as a desktop client.

But, I need a wider network to really test it out. So, anyone who wants an invite, let me know. And anyone who takes one, add friends, people I might know if possible.

I have a feeling the features will become clearer if I widen my net.


observations on open source

When I first made my never-far-from-the-conversation switch to Apple, I decided I was going to put my actions up against my words, and use OpenOffice for all of my text editing needs. And, for a little while, it was tolerable. When a fellow user and friend switched back to microsoft Word, he did so because OpenOffice felt like 'a windows app that just happens to run on a mac.' I later corrected him that it was much more like a linux app that just happens to run on a mac, but you get his point.

I persevered. But, today, I reached my breaking point. The hassle of settings, of formatting, of doing pretty much anything other than entering text, was getting to me. Hell, the hassle of saving a set of changes, and then opening .doc files to find that they had reverted, got to me. Moreover, my friend was right. The interface was hideous, counter-intuitive, and didn't work well with anything in a .doc biased world.

Today I learned something very odd. Microsoft products can look appealing. Apparently only when they are coded for a Mac, though. Confusing. Still, I had to abandon my open source ideals, and for one simple reason; it doesn't work well enough.

It works, inarguably. I COULD, if forced, live with using only that one program. But, for me, open source isn't just about escaping the tyrrany of massive corporations, or harnessing the power of crowdsourcing. For me, open source is mostly about creating alternatives to fight the limitations intentionally imposed on users for corporate gain.

Today I learned that unintentional limitations and failings are worse, on an individual experience level. Worse because being unable to do what you are supposed to do will always be more glaring than being unable to do something the designer doesn't want you to do.

Still, using Word makes me feel dirty. Maybe I should switch to Pages...


hitting close to home.

I just received my new phone in the mail, and was fairly certain the handset was broken - i couldn't set any mp3 ringtones that i attempted to transfer via bluetooth.

But no, this is a common problem in Canada, for fido customers, apparently. They DRM locked my phone so that it will only play ringtones downloaded from the online WAP store, accessible only via the phone.

They also, just to piss me off, seem to have locked out the option that lets me connect to my home internet through the phone, via bluetooth.

Fido is doing a really good job at making me regret customer status.


the broken gentleman wants a Pownce invite.

(And yes, I know I wanted an 8apps invite, and got one, and didn't really write about it, but that was mostly because I saw potential, but didn't feel I had either enough experience, or enough connection with the suite to judge. Frankly, it seemed like it would be good in the future, but at the time, felt rather Beta. So, I'm waiting, mostly because the potential there is enough that I refuse to write it off until I've seen anything resembling failure, rather than just a slow build to full functionality.)

But yes. Pownce. Ignoring the Digg / Kevin Rose connection, this is the first thing I've seen that gave me any indication that I would ever make use of Twitter. Then, about 3 seconds later, I decided that Twitter was weak in comparison, and so I'm holding out for Pownce.

Someone help a gentleman out.


finally going to talk about the iphone.

I haven't actually had the opportunity to NOT buy one yet, being Canadian, but I have essentially made it impossible for me to justify doing it financially, whenever it is that the iPhone gets a Canadian release. I am trying not to lust after the thing further, and the only method I have is to list the things that piss me off about it. Not the least of which is, the oft mentioned moratorium on third party development. No outside programs on your iPhone unless they run online, without flash. And over embarrassingly slow EDGE service.

Funnily enough, part of the reason I bought a Mac was to avoid Vista, because everything I'd heard had led me to believe that it was a DRM devil OS, designed to penalize me for using any non-microsoft approved software.

And yet, here we are.

I never cease to be impressed by Apple's ability to use it's position as a contender to obscure the decidedly non-little-guy-friendly stances being taken with iPods, the iTunes music store, and now the iPhone. The ubiquity of Apple branded media playing devices makes them, in my mind, one of the worst offenders when it comes to sales of locked media. At the same time, I'm typing this on a MacBook, which is connected to an iPod, and I'm saving for an AppleTV (my reasoning is at least somewhat solid on that one, see below). Obviously, I have developed a kind of cognitive dissonance that can only be described as having taken a liking to the Kool-Aid.

It was easy for me to blow off Microsoft products wherever possible, mostly because the simple act of USING them is enough to make you hate the corporation. Couple that with a distaste for practices, and I'm out the door. However, my Mac is a joy to use. The mixture of iPod and iTunes is, in my opinion, the best digital music experience (from a UX standpoint), and that makes it harder for me to flip out when I hear that there will be no third party apps on the latest Apple object of obsession.

I don't like this hypocrisy coming from my end, but I'm having a hard time seeing an out. So, I look at all the post-release hullabaloo coming from the south, and I'm repeating flaws like a mantra because there are MANY justifiable reasons to dislike the device. But at the same time, Apple has, in recent years, developed some kind of direct stimulation for the 'BUY IT' reaction in my reptile brain.

So I'm looking for a happy compromise, like maybe Jobs will wake up tomorrow and consider policies that are better for the community at large, even if they slightly complicate things in Cupertino.

[In relation to the AppleTV, I want one as a solution to two problems; 1) I hate waiting for DVDs, 2) I don't keep a TV schedule. An addendum to this is, even though I pay for cable, I think subscribing to specific shows over iTunes on a per season basis would be a reasonable and useful option for me. And, even the time spent 'finding' 'reruns' is worth enough that I would be willing to pay.

That, and the salve to my conscience that would come from actually paying for battlestar galactica.]


a viable pirate myth.

I've been watching several documentaries lately on the state of copyright, on remix culture, and on the comparative bargain between rights-holders (large corporations) and the people. The problem isn't that they are focusing on piracy, because piracy is a big issue. The problem is that piracy has been subverted to only mean 'downloading copyrighted material from the internet', or more specifically, music or film content, with a notable amount of software, and some print content thrown in for flavouring.

When I talk to people about my opinions on copyright, I first and foremost raise the idea of the developing nations licensing, (creative commons style) and why it makes more sense than universal price structures, universal copyrights, and unilateral laws. Developing nations don't have money. They have economies, and funds, and purchasing power, but they don't have money on a western scale.

Copyright is about money, primarily.

This is evident in the idea of region coding, for game systems, dvds, etc. A global price structure is an impossiblity, because it would either kill profit in the west, or eliminate the market in the global south, and Asia. So, DVDs and movies come out in formats that only work on hardware sold in certain parts of the world. Otherwise, everyone would buy legal versions for the cheapest region.

A developing nations license is more or less the same idea, but taken to extremes. Copyright is waived in countries which would not create a viable market for it. Content, ideas, patents are used for the benefit of the people who need them, rather than locked down. The net profit for the creator / owner is nothing either way, but in one instance, people are helped.

The best application for this idea is medication, specifically AIDS drugs.

However, there's no pressure on this. The entertainment content industries are forced to at least TRY to reckon with the reality of their situation, because more people are downloading content than shaking in fear of an impending RIAA lawsuit.

There's no one pirating patented AIDS drugs in a series of mobile African factories, and distributing them to the people. And the free culture / anti-copyright movement has a lot of people who constantly try to emanate that kind of cultural responsibility, that kind of IMPORT in what they do. The undercurrent is always that, somehow, by downloading a record instead of paying EMI, they are fighting for a better future.

We've got the kids signing up with Amnesty International and the Peace Corps, and we've got the millionaires throwing money around in an attempt to make the world a better place.

If I had to pick a place to start, I'd ask Bono and Gates to fund an illegal, patent-ignoring lab on an offshore oil rig, where we would make lab-grade medicine for the people who need it, can't afford it, and will die without it. THIS is the kind of piracy that is only wrong according to the law, and is, or should be, a natural human right.

Instead we're downloading Spiderman 3 and getting confused when people don't treat us with the proper revolutionary regard.

no dead time.

Something I've been hearing since the first time I saw a mobile phone: 'yeah, but now they can find me wherever I am.'

This is usually an argument that is made by a professional, and usually about his inability to find time off work. The same argument is applied to smartphones, and blackberries, that they turn email from an office responsibility to something that is supposed to be handled in downtime, and therefore treated as an annoyance. The 'no dead time' thing is a problem for people who have high stress jobs, because it reclassifies all time as work time.

But, despite my best efforts, I am unemployed at the moment. And I've realised that having no dead time is a completely different beast for me, and probably always will be. Having no dead time for me, means that I have no time that cannot be filled with some kind of activity, rather than having all time not dedicated to a specific task pre-set for work.

My search for work is currently my job. I put near-full-time hours into it, whether it be looking for listings, editing and re-editing my resume and cover letters, or talking to people in the hope of finding a good lead, or getting good advice. However, time such as yesterday, when I waited in a walk in clinic (for an eventual strep throat diagnosis) necessarily results in dead time. When I'm not actually able to accomplish anything of value, I make a point of never completely 'wasting time'.

No dead time means that waiting to get into a doctor's office is the correct time to watch episodes of Dexter on my iPod. No dead time means that waiting for an email is the right time to re-watch the League of Noble Peers' 'Steal This Film', in case any of the references convinces me to think of something else.

No dead time means that entertainment is no longer something that has to be scheduled either. The reality of it is, the only reason business people complain about only the other side of it is that it has yet to occur to them that the blackberry goes both ways. Technology only chains you to work when work is the only thing you know how to do with technology.

Cue the 'I'm a PC' Guy.



Horrible illness is winding down. Content to follow.

Fully aware that half of my posts are explanations for the lack of posts. Am working on this, as well.

Many things bubbling beneath the surface.


burst / pack culture.

Burst Culture is Pack Culture. Pack Culture is Burst Culture.

Let me back up a bit.

Warren Ellis (Internet Jesus, Genius Comic Author, thank fucking god he's got a novel coming out in a month) wrote a little missive on 'Burst Culture', what it does, and what it's good for. Burst culture is twitter, it's fast fiction, it's aligned with out current reality, which is to say, it's designed for value with minimal instance-based interaction time. Burst culture gives people something they think is of use, without crossing the ever narrowing threshold of not-worth-my-time. Burst culture is, in short, the way to think when building ideas for the internet, at least the current version of web2.0 social networking insert buzzword here internet that I have trouble thinking outside of.

Pack culture, as I've been rambling for about a week, is in many ways something obsolete that the internet makes viable again. You can see it in 'My Five' cellphone plans, and you can see it in the Facebook option to hear more news about certain people. To anyone still on livejournal, it's the best example I can think of. Pack culture today is about integrating information on the lives of select people into yours in such a way as to know them without it seemingly requiring effort. Pack culture is why conversations I have with friends who live in other cities inevitably have the sentence 'yeah, i read that on your blog' repeated ad-nauseum. Pack culture is a small version of crowd sourcing. Ideas are sent en masse to a select few, and using the information they help you to synthesise concepts into theory. As opposed to having people all over the world interact with smaller units of information and suggest direction, you have a small group getting to know the entire framework, and then becoming integral in it's expansion.

Pack culture is about marking out your tribe, your collective, and them understanding that people who know you that well are often the only ones worth collaborating with.

Burst culture is tiny blasts of information, and Pack culture is the collection of those blasts, imperceptibly and without irritation, into a comprehensive understanding of another person, or group of people. So you can help them think, tear them apart, etc.

And the only reason I'm considering this something different than friendship is that it operates without a time bias, space bias, or even a particular affinity for the person. It's just a mixture of interest in their ideas, access to their bursts, and desire to benefit from mutual innovation.


i love the creative commons, part ten thousand.

Recently, thanks to the wonder that is boingboing, I downloaded 'Good Copy, Bad Copy', a documentary about the realities of copyright in our modern world, that makes you from the US, to Sweden, Nigeria, Brazil, and many other places besides, pointing out the real world justification for the idea that 'remix' culture is valid, creative, and on the verge of either being legislated out of existence, or of reaching such a powerful cultural status that it doesn't matter what the law says.

People who show up include Lawrence Lessig, Girl Talk, Danger Mouse, the dudes from The Pirate Bay, the creator of the Pirate (political) Party, MPAA representatives, and more.

It was enjoyable to spend an hour or so looking at a concrete reminder that there is an infinite room for creation, should we as a society decide to allow creating to be more important than hoarding all aspects of past creations.

Legislate for the future, not for those stuck in the past.

You can download Good Copy, Bad Copy here


one more rant on privacy.

These are showerthoughts (ideas that occur randomly while showering) so I ask that you bear with me.

I've written in the past about the generation gap, and it's relation to privacy and technology use, and I stumbled onto an explanation so simple that I am almost certain I've just forgotten that I read it somewhere else. Privacy, for the older generation is a matter of permission. The issue isn't whether or not information is available, it's a matter of being able to set your own terms for the amount of people, and the specific people, who know that information. Privacy, in this traditional definition, is a matter of having a life that is only open to those with your approval.

Privacy as it seems to be desired no operates on an opposite basis. Instead of information being given only to a select few 'cleared' entities, information is made readily available, for everyone to see. What privacy means in this paradigm is instead the ability to secure the information from a select few, whether it be family, certain friends, a boss, etc. This inversion makes sense on the grounds that privacy is (barring extreme situations such as stalking) only really important in relation to people you interact with. While my grandparents may not have wanted anyone else to know their business, the list of people who would actually care about the average private citizen's business is miniscule, usually less than 100 people, and a large number of corporations. Functionally, a desire for privacy is really just a desire to keep certain facts about your life away from certain people who are also in it, and away from corporate and governmental entities that will misuse that information.

The generation I'm living in seems, more or less, to have decided that a blocking approach works better. A permission system is great, if you only want a very select group to interact with your experiences and ideas. This is an example of pack level thinking, which I've been rambling about lately. However, a permission system is also the antithesis of the internet age. Closed information is dead, and can't be repurposed, reinterpreted, and reborn into something useful. Many people get excited about the idea of telling everyone they know what countries they have visited, movies they have seen, etc, as demonstrated in the latest round of facebook applications and invitations to install them I have been getting. There's value in the idea that anyone in the world can read your writing, or see your pictures or drawings. There's even more value in the details of your life being available to everyone BUT your boss, your mother, the government.

This is obviously confusing for people who grew up keeping things private in the old sense. At the same time, going back to the old approach looks from here like throwing the baby out with the bathwater.


pack humanity (2)

I'm wondering why social networks now are constantly trying to promote the idea of mass friend accumulation, a la facebook, myspace, etc. Not that that I don't understand the potential for associations as a social currency (I went to high school, after all) but that they seem so perfectly designed for smaller groups, whether it be a social circle, or a creative collective. So that's what I've been thinking about lately, the role that software and social networking can play in relation to creative work in groups.

The core of the idea is that working creatively with other is unavoidably personal, and usually gets better the more personal it is. When I write with / for someone I know well, I can tailor my work to what I now they will like, can get behind, etc. More importantly than that, I know what not to write. I know what I can just leave empty, because the interpretation of the other party overcomes some failing in either my skills or my understanding. Similarly, friends know when it's a good idea to override my work, and when I'll flip out over the order of temporally irrelevant sentences.

This is, to me, a method of creating value in social networking (because, honestly, value is needed). The internet has been fostering this for years, and one of the best examples of creative collective endeavours is the Webcomic subculture. I can think of at least a few fairly successful partnerships that began and grew before the principals ever met in person. The kind of personal understanding that aids the development of creative works in a small group is facilitated greatly by the internet - it's cheaper than long distance phone calls, it supplements memory, and relationships can be maintained without a time or space bias, and often without effort. There are many people I know well, mostly though web-based media, regardless of how often I see them face to face. This in no way makes me less able to read them in real life, but it does mean that I can maintain relationships with long silences.

Creative collectives can exist, and do, without any intimacy between the stakeholders. At the same time, a focused experience where you, somewhat passively, learn about those you work with, not just in a work setting, but in life altogether, has clear benefits. Making it easy is as simple as repurposing currently available tools; when the Ontario government banned facebook from it's offices, they not only cut themselves off from a means of contacting voters, they re-instituted the distance between people working in offices. Learning about co-workers is not simple or pleasant. Doing it unthinkingly, using a tool like facebook, is a clear solution.

I'm scribbling out ideas on how to create a social networking suite aimed not at individuals, but at members of creative collectives, with an eye to working within that social structure, reinforcing it, while still increasing knowledge and understanding about the actual (non-corporate) personalities around you. Right now I'm beating my head against the wall figuring out the mechanics of profiles being built over time, the possibility of recommendation of compatible collectives with needed skill sets, and different administrative systems (long story, but the difference between the Smashing Pumpkins and a freestyle Jazz ensemble has to be taken into account).

We were tribe people long before we were anything else. Logically there should be value to exploit there.



As of today, as of this post, I am a Mac Panther. That is right, I have finally abandoned the microsoft universe and am now the proud (absurdly proud) owner of a macbook.

What does this mean to the readers of BrokenGentleman.com? Very, very little. But it does mean the beginning of mobile posting, and of more frequent updates. Oh, and of slightly more justification for my apple love.

Thought of the day is the lack of activity in the front of the poster as a narrative medium. I mean, Chris Ware does it, and I have a great Ray Fawkes print sitting on my desk, still awaiting framing, but why is there so little mixture of cartooning techniques with the idea of displaying it as an addition to a room?

More of this later, right now I have to back up 40 gigs of music, carefully and legally purchased over the years.


i'm calling it now.

I was reading the most recent Wired in bed this morning, and the article on the Svalbard Global Seed Vault got me thinking.

I am officially calling a Sci-Fi product of some kind in the not-so-far future, based on a group of survivors in a post apocalyptic wasteland, fighting to make it to the Seed Vault, not for themselves, but for the agricultural future of the planet, and humanity itself.

This really does hit a lot of current hot points, giving the viewer adventure, a pro-green message, as well as a nice pat on the back for humanity, well, Norwegian humanity, for thinking about the children of the future.

The truly sad thing, is that I now have a strong desire to write this movie. Svalbard: The Search for the Last Seeds.

things to address.

1) I know I haven't been posting lately, but I have my reasons, including a move, finishing undergrad, looking for work, a fairly involved renovation, and a quarter life crisis.

2) I haven't actually addressed all of the above yet, but I recognise that at least a little consistency in my life will probably be a good thing.

So, I'm going to be aiming for at least three posts a week, for the forseeable future. I can't expect people to read if I post every ten days (which seems to be the current trend) and I can't exercise my writing muscles if I don't write something at least every other day.

This was a fairly meaningless PSA. Also, any leads for work that would suit someone with my interests would be greatly appreciated. Yes, I have finally reached the brand new low of asking for work on my meager blog.

More Soon.

thinking in fiction.

I was talking to a friend a while ago about the concept of human civilisation as a virus, of sorts, leading us on a destructive path, leading us to oblivion. He responded by asking how a civilisation could mature in any other way, while still becoming a credible threat (i.e., enough of a threat that another civilisation would introduce said virus). All I could come up with is that there could have been a positive effect on human social convention, or on our understanding of the world we occupy, etc, before we reached the point of changing the world to our needs, rather than bending to it. Of course, this got me imagining the effects of another million years of humans living in a hunter-gatherer mode, or the comparative benefits of a pack society.

As such, I've been toying with the idea of pack humanity as experienced through the current media paradigm; would people travel only in groups? Would packs live in an enmeshed world of pack-only blog posts, twitter updates, photosets, social networks and unlimited calling plans? Packs would undoubtedly grow, and how would the necessary division of unwieldy groups into sub-units play out? Part of me can't help but run to a primal idea of physical combat, but I can also see customs evolving until leadership is dealt with by non-violent mental and physical tasks. I'd even consider in-pack elections or genetic, mental and physical testing on an individual level as a credible option. How would politics work, would each pack align itself with a meta-pack? Or would everything operate on the basis of personal ownership, where packs tend to all of their own needs, bartering with other small groups for essentials?

This is obviously an interesting concept, but lately it has me thinking about the pack mentality that has entered my own social happenings. The people I am friends with in real life are the ones I interact with most through technological means. Blogging, in general, operates on the same basis; most blogs aren't written for the entire world to read, they are intended for a specific pack, whether it be family, friends, or even just one specific social subgroup. This is actually a large part of why I haven't deleted my livejournal account; the friend's page design is more than just a proto-rss concept, it's digital pack mentality put into practice. The vast majority of people who read anything I post on livejournal do so after aligning themselves with me publicly, as a friend.

While these concepts have been introduced to facebook, I think it facebook itself functions on more of an observation level. People read where I went to school, my status, my likes and dislikes, and look at pictures of me. I rarely get messages, and wall posts, though pleasant, are far from engrossing as a form of contact. This is the level I imagine twitter works on (though I have yet to sign up), a small list of updates which, even collectively, give little to no information about the actual characteristics of the user.

I'd argue that this is because it isn't directed at a pack, it's directed at the long chain of acquaintances that I'm happy to indicate I know, but not necessarily particularly interested in the day-to-day lives of.


what love?

Of all the things to bring me out of a blogging slump, Microsoft for the win. Who expected that? Anyways this 'Bring the love back' video and probable campaign is a very interesting beast.

First things first. Well done, kinda funny, but hardly a new message. Reading the project blog that I linked, the idea of conversation as the 'new' thing in the world of reaching customers online is floated at the end of april. This is not remotely a new idea. I can't even being to come up with the correct person to connect the idea to, but the internet as medium for conversation, and conversation as a medium for reaching consumers, is spoken about ad nauseum online. Not that it isn't completely true, but still.

The interesting part, however, is what is presented. It felt, to an extent, like an anti-advertising screed. The consumer complains about being ignored, is shown to be considered as only a section of a demographic, and desires something more than a discounted price or other form of 'bribery' for loyalty. Up until this point, it felt something like reading Adbusters. Advertising is the soulless pretty boy who doesn't care about the consumer at all, and the consumer has had enough. Except this isn't about rejecting marketing in all of it's forms, and arguing against urban spam. This is entirely about what messages are being shown to you via the channels you choose. This is about the tailoring of the message to the consumer.

I find this so amusing, because in essence, it's an anti-advertising clip, by Microsoft, and it might as well be a big ball of praise for Google.

The blog for this clip makes a comment about wanting to offer the "unique assets [...] to help advertisers to reconnect with today’s consumer (look at in-game advertising, personal expressions in messenger, Xbox, etc)" but these are doors already opened. I like the idea (and constant repetition) of the importance of creating a conversation as a means of reaching people, but at the same time, I feel this one is started under false pretenses, essentially an argument that consumer don't want discounts, and the 'same old' advertising practices, but instead deeply desire losing every last refuge from advertising, including in-game worlds, personal messages and emails, etc. For some reason, I doubt that being out of touch with your consumer base is something that is changed by the medium you choose to reach them. The first thing that pops to mind while looking into this 'Bring the love back' idea is that the conversation would be just as unsatisfying for the consumer whether it had been face to face, on Live Messenger, in email, written in a letter, through a tv screen, on a blog, or via messenger pigeon.

It doesn't matter how closely you stalk someone's interests in the attempt to find a new arena to throw your message at them. What matters is actually creating messages carefully tailored to the current interests and habits of the individuals in question. The 'Bring back the love' clip alludes to that. Google does it every time I check my email.