Media Influencer

helping people break out of pigeonholes since 2003

Untrusted computing

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This video nails it:

The industry’s interpretation of the trusted computing idea is … to find
threats and to make computing trustworthier. The main difference is
that you cannot decide by your own what is trustworthy, and what is
not. Because they already decided for you. And they already decided not
to trust you. So, if they don’t trust you, why should you trust them?

thanks to The Long Blonde Tail

Here is the Wikipedia entry on trusted computing and here the excellent FAQ by Ross Anderson that helped me understand the attitudes behind TCPA and its threat.

Swag bag bonanza

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This is marvellous – a chance to watch detailed reaction to contents of ‘goodie bags’ given out at conferences. The swag wonks can see what happens to their carefully selected, overpriced promotional tat. Or they could for something tells me that they wouldn’t necessarily know where to look for Rafe Needleman’s video. Not all of it is bad of course, a geek can make use of most things, but note the items that get a positive reaction. They are all useful or related to something he already knows or likes – storage drive, Jason Calacanis start-up Mahalo, YouTube tube socks etc. My particular favourite useless bit is the Sports Illustrated themed mp3 player, pre-loaded with some music (not clear what kind). I can just see a meeting room full of young virile PR executives thinking this is what counts for ‘cool’. Sigh.

ASCII portrait

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How geeky is this?!

Wifi Routers: Silent, blinking death?

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A wonderful parody or just too close to the way some documentaries are made?


Earth vision

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I really love Flickrvision. It’s beautifully mesmerising to watch. And the best thing about it is that no single or centralised company or institution could do this. Perhaps it is the tangible, visual and undeniable evidence of the internet’s connectivity and pervasiveness worth remembering in times of doubt or criticism from those who don’t bother to look


How to build strawmen

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Nick Carr’s in his post about the book Everything is Miscellaneous picks on a particular thing on page 9 (and stops reading there).

For decades we’ve been buying albums. We thought it was for artistic
reasons, but it was really because the economics of the physical world
required it: Bundling songs into long-playing albums lowered the
production, marketing, and distribution costs because there were fewer
records to make, ship, shelve, categorize, alphabetize, and inventory.
As soon as music went digital, we learned that the natural unit of
music is the track. Thus was iTunes born, a miscellaneous pile of 3.5
million songs from a thousand record labels. Anyone can offer music
there without first having to get the permission of a record executive.

Carr baulks at Weinberger’s calling track the natural unit of music and proceeds to ruminate on the history of music formats – large pieces a la Beethoven, music albums that can transcend the ‘meaning’ of individual songs, etc., etc.. All vaguely interesting and possibly true. Alas, not relevant to the point David Weinberger is making. As a listener – and also a potential creator and distributor – I can now unbundle someone else’s albums (i.e. packaging of tracks) to create my own combinations. Calling something a unit does not suggest it is complete and finite, it merely makes it a discrete piece to be used as a building block to bigger, better or more meaningful things. In identifying the track as a unit, David Weinberger highlights the possibility of creating new ‘albums’ rather than reducing music experience to tracks or singles.

And yet it is the wholesale unbundling of LPs into a "miscellaneous
pile" of compressed digital song files that Weinberger would have us
welcome as some kind of deliverance from decades of apparent servitude
to the long-playing album. One doesn’t have to be an apologist for
record executives – who in recent years have done a great job in
proving their cynicism and stupidity – to recognize that Weinberger is
warping history in an attempt to prove an ideological point.

And what’s wrong with an ideological point? After all, we do live in interesting times, which even professional contrarians such as Nick Carr cannot ignore. We all have things that we appreciate and treasure – whether it be LPs or music albums, rustling of the Sunday paper, favourite ads and brands. It would be very odd indeed to say that things we are accustomed to are not worth our attention. Nostalgia for things past is not objectionable, forcing it on others as the best or only option is.

Will the new stress on discrete digital tracks bring a new flowering of
creativity in music? I don’t know. Maybe we’ll get a pile of gems, or
maybe we’ll get a pile of crap. Probably we’ll get a mix. But I do know
that the development of the physical long-playing album, together with
the physical single, was a development that we should all be grateful
for. We probably shouldn’t rush out to dance on the album’s grave.

We are getting a new flowering of creativity in music thanks to the internet, as well as in writing, video and spoken word. And yes, we do get both – a pile of gems and a pile of crap. So Nick Carr’s question is either an empty rhetoric or ignorance of the online world. As for the LP album or a single, nobody’s taking that away from him. There are some artists who are releasing new music on vinyl LPs for nostalgia’s sake. But there are millions of others that are no longer constrained by the tyranny of music industry (and of other industries that easily come to mind).  The choice of an album as well as your own mash -up is what it’s about. But to Mr Carr, a mash-up may be something that only cooks and amateurs do.

There are bigger fish to fry though then music albums. It is called …the liberation mythology of the internet according to Mr Carr.

This mythology is founded on
a sweeping historical revisionism that conjures up an imaginary
predigital world – a world of profound physical and economic
constraints – from which the web is now liberating us. We were
enslaved, and now we are saved. In a bizarrely fanciful twist, the
digital world is presented as a "natural" counterpoint to the supposed
artificiality of the physical world.

Historical revisionism? I don’t think so. I can see the difference between the digital and physical worlds in parallel existence right now. In music distribution The Long Tail is one of the most obvious example of the digital world not facing the constraints of the physical world.

Often the ‘liberation’ that occurs in the online world is so palpable that the constraints of the physical world becomes intolerable at times. This is disturbing many a business model and bringing some industries to their knees – the shifting balance of power towards people formerly known as consumers or audience. And as to the natural aspect of the online world? In as much human interactions and communication is naturally distributed and decentralised, or peer-to-peer in other words, the online environment has helped us come the full circle from the buzzing of the bazaars to the chatter of bloggers. Communication is natural, it is a survival trait and only in industrialised artifice of the media industry something like that can be called a skill. The internet has ‘liberated’ many a writer, podcaster and film-makers. In other words it has ‘liberated’ individual expression by giving it tools to produce, share and distribute. And it doesn’t take a history degree to know that this is a step forward.

Weinberger, Anderson and others trying to articulate and describe such changes will inevitably become lightening rods for those who feel threatened or do not understand what is happening around them. They attack those who put this to words, which is fair enough. Words can be imperfect reflection of reality, especially when the changes are fundamental and across many dimensions. That however, doesn’t make what they attempt to describe any less true.

After all it’s not about the demise of long player but the dawn of play-as-you-like-it.

Consumers want a divorce

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Alright, Microsoft is behind this but still… good stuff.

The Break Up
Uploaded by geertdesager

via Jaffa Juice

OFM or the ‘oh fuck it’ moment

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A commenter called Zakamundo has an insightful comment that Hugh turned into a posting. I left a lengthy comment of my own – got carried away there a bit – which I shall reproduce here for two reasons. It describes something of what I do and it gives me something to blog about during a week with a client. :)

"The way corporate life works is that change needs to come from the top down, as well as the bottom up. Feverish activity in the middle is at risk of being wasted."

Yes, and yes again. I see change as a laborious and slow building of a momentum (finding the genie and the neck of the bottle), which must be based on the understanding that you CANNOT change a system from within. What you can do is build a parallel alternative system/process/network with the notion of bypassing the existing one. Do this by doing things that work i.e. small projects under the radar, borrowing the motivation and dynamics for them from the internet…(tools, autonomy, simplicity). Then stand back and watch the bad bits of the company and its culture fight it. Whenever I get this far with my clients and the change to their companies, it always involves getting them into their discomfort zone. There is no ’safe’ way of doing this. Think of it as a controlled implosion.

I also know what Hugh means, small things/changes can impact even a big entrenched system but generally they tend to be too minute and therefore too fragile. Occasionally they start a snowball or tap into something bigger and cause a fundamental shift. This however does not offer companies much consolation as it cannot be easily understood, let alone replicated.

The change may be driven by people from within a system (and yes, they have to be at the top as well as bottom) but they really have to understand that they can’t use the system and its dysfunctional process to change it. There is too much resistance and by the time they crack it, the outside world has overtaken the company by a long way. And that is no route to innovation.

In my experience, the people who become part of change I try to bring to companies have what I call an ‘oh fuck it’ moment. They have tried to use the approved processes, implement tools and generally do things by the book. They run against a wall and attitudes that firmly hold it in place. When they realise this – it’s time for ‘oh fuck it, I am going to do this anyway’. And that’s when we get really started. :)

It’s not the technology, stupid

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Hugh nails it again:


It’s interesting and infuriating how many people repeat the mantra of we know ‘it’s not about technology’ and then proceed to lock in people in other ways.

Quote to remember

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Even if many bloggers are now entertaining hopes of
Buck Two or Buck Two Thousand, blogging is still that garage band. And,
at its best, it still rocks.
- Doc Searls, Why I keep blogging

Microsoft: we have a big stick and want to hit someone

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There is much noise (and deservedly) around Microsoft’s lashing out at Open Source and accusing it of violating 235 patents. The title of CNN Money article say it all – Microsoft takes on the free world.

I agree with Doc (who I hope will write more on this in Linux Journal) who quotes Cory Doctorow:

The Microsoft position is this: even if you
don’t use Windows, you still have to pay them as much money as they
would have gotten for selling you a copy of it.

Hugh is also uneasy about the move – not that he had any delusions that Microsoft is not capable of it, but to wonder what will happened to the people he works with. I have a few guesses but let’s hope for the best.

And to see the long-term, first you have to ask the following question: Who owns the soul of Microsoft?
The people with the Blue Monster cartoon on their screensavers? Bill,
Steve, Ray and the other guys living in the big houses? The lawyers?
The shareholders? I know which answer I prefer, but ultimately, they
have to answer it for themselves. And do it well.

Here is where things are at:

"The free world appears to be uncowed by Microsoft’s claims." Exactly. Nor should it be.

Rock on Jonathan:

All of which is to say – no amount of fear can stop the rise of free
media, or free software (they are the same, after all). The community
is vastly more innovative and powerful than a single company. And you
will never turn back the clock on elementary school students and
developing economies and aid agencies and fledgling universities – or
the Fortune 500 – that have found value in the wisdom of the open
source community. Open standards and open source software are literally
changing the face of the planet – creating opportunity wherever the
network can reach.

That’s not a genie any litigator I know can put back in a bottle.

And a geeky reminder of why Microsoft cannot win…

Why censorship does’nt work – reason #1,340,998

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Clever ‘publishing’ of the HD-DVD AACS key and another reason why trying to control information or content online is not a good idea:


via Boing Boing

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