Media Influencer

helping people break out of pigeonholes since 2003

VRM journey

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For those who follow my VRM escapades, I have tried to capture what VRM is about and why I am working on it. So here is my paper (and manifesto) A VRM journey.

Loosely speaking, apart from my consolidate position on VRM, this is what it’s about (as summed up by my friend Carrie):

  1. ‘Social media’ is limited and people are outgrowing it
  2. There is demand from growing number of people for more control over their online ’stuff’
  3. There are benefits to users and ‘vendors’ for re-working the current imbalanced relationship
  4. Some tools are being developed to make that a reality
  5. It will be a hard slog but there is a call to arms for users to even out the balance; the most open vendors will also benefit – bringing more certainty to their future in this uncertain economic climate

Here is the PDF version for those who prefer a non-web format.

What I did last weekend

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Last Saturday I went to OpenTech in the afternoon to hear Ben Laurie, Bob Blakley and Alec Muffett pontificate on security. And a good pontification it was!

Then on Sunday, met up with Bob again, together with his frighteningly smart daughter and Alec for brunch in Covent Garden. The conversation was whirling around networks, identity, relationships but not exclusively so. (I will write about that in a separate post.)

Afterwards, Alec and I proceeded to Bloomsbury to meet with Marc Canter and a friend in the London Review Bookshop cafe. Another intense and fun conversation ensued and I have the drawings to prove it for the posterity. There is something else preserved from that afternoon and that is Marc signing opera for his lemonade (he doesn’t drink tea or coffee so Alec’s blog post headline is a bit of an artistic license :) ).

Even Marc’s voice couldn’t stop the cafe from closing and so we relocated to the nearest pub. Lovely time was had by all it seems and I am definitely up for a repeat performance. :)

Quote to remember

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UI is cute and all, but if the product doesn’t deliver, then what you’ve got left is Web 2.0.
- uncov in Songza: Beats The Shit Out Of Payin’

Deutsche Grammophon’s new web shop

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And great news for classical music fans, more bad news for CD retailers…

The DG Web Shop (dgwebshop.com), which touts an industry standard-exceeding “maximum MP3 quality at a bit-rate of 320 kilobits per second,” offers more than 2,400 classical albums. That includes about 600 currently out-of-print CDs, which only adds to the enticement. (More out-of-print items are on the way.) Complete CDs and multi-disc sets, and all the tracks contained on them, are available for download. Costs for complete CDs vary, but many are around $12; individual tracks of up to seven minutes are priced at $1.29.

This is indeed good news. The out-of-print CDs especially, as serious music aficionados will love it and online they are the ones that matter and pass the word along. The download quality is 320kpbs, which is almost 3 times better than Apple sells through iTunes. The music and film business should have made this possible, let’s say, a decade ago. Is this coming too late? Will enough people pay still a rather high price for something that can be obtained for free? Without the entertainment industry sitting on their arrogant business model, P2P would have probably stayed in the geekland. Now it’s user friendly to the point of helping the demand side supply itself, thank you very much.

The Deutsche Grammaphon site is usable enough, just make sure you go here, not to dgwebshop.com, to bypass an ‘evil Flash’ splash screen. (Someone should sit on the web designers hands when they have the urge to create full screen flash nightmares!) The searching by artist, composer and even series or album is good. And I love the format options and it is DRM-free! But as Techcrunch points out:

It may be worth noting that classical music receives less legal protection than contemporary music because only its recorded performances, not its compositions, are still under copyright.

The question remains – will the convenience of official web shops by music companies and labels outweigh the price and compete with the free bittorrent downloads? One way to tip the balance would be to go heavily for the long tail. And after that, the only hope is the Because Effect

Thanks to Mike Nutley for the heads up.

Another nail in DRM’s coffin

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And not a moment too soon! Well, more like wasted years.

I’m here to tell you today that I for one am no longer going to fall into this trap. If the licensing labels offer their content to Yahoo! put more barriers in front of the users, I’m not interested. Do what you feel you need to do for your business, I’ll be polite, say thank you, and decline to sign. I won’t let Yahoo! invest any more money in consumer inconvenience. I will tell Yahoo! to give the money they were going to give me to build awesome media applications to Yahoo! Mail or Answers or some other deserving endeavor. I personally don’t have any more time to give and can’t bear to see any more money spent on pathetic attempts for control instead of building consumer value. Life’s too short. I want to delight consumers, not bum them out.

via Simon Phipps

Quote to remember

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The triumvirate of phone manufacturers, mobile carriers, and entertainment companies are the world’s reigning champions at shifting blame and pointing fingers. Ask Apple why it won’t let you use any song in your iTunes library as an iPhone ringtone and it will tell you it’s the fault of the greedy record companies.

It starts to feel like a Mexican standoff, three tough guys, each pointing a gun at the others’ heads, deadlocked and unwilling to risk anything to break the standoff. These kinds of hostage situations make for gripping cinematic moments, but only when we care about one or more of the hostages. But if there’s no one on the screen that we particularly like, there’s an easy narrative solution to the problem: shoot one or more of the hostages. The equilibrium falls apart, and so does the deadlock.
- Cory Doctorow in The Solution To Mobile Phone Deadlock? Somebody Has To Die

Copyright blues

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This would be hysterical, if it were not so benighted.

Pariser [the head of litigation for Sony BMG] has a very broad definition of “stealing.” When questioned by Richard Gabriel, lead counsel for the record labels, Pariser suggested that what millions of music fans do is actually theft. The dirty deed? Ripping your own CDs or downloading songs you already own.

Gabriel [lead counsel for the record labels] asked if it was wrong for consumers to make copies of music which they have purchased, even just one copy. Pariser replied, “When an individual makes a copy of a song for himself, I suppose we can say he stole a song.” Making “a copy” of a purchased song is just “a nice way of saying ’steals just one copy’,” she said.

The poor (and I use this term very loosely here) lawyers are actually following a certain logic. It is the logic of physical property rights that have been translated into ideas and intellectual property. This was done at the time when technology was lined up behind those who controlled production and distribution of the goods based on those ideas. Supply chains and business models followed. But technology (and behaviour based on it) has changed that and the current understanding of copyright seems a rather crude application of property rights to the realm of ideas and innovation.

So the lawyers are not being ‘evil’ in following the letter of law but in their inability to look beyond it. I know, I know, they are not paid to do that by those who want to protect the status quo of copyright. However, this is going to be a legal battle. The users-pirates can bring on the pressure to shift the debate but ultimately, it will be lawyers who will have to create a legal framework that reflects reality.

via Simon Phipps

The show must go on…

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The music industry has been one of the single most shortsighted,
foolishly run, lawyer fed industries in this country, and I am a member
of it, being a professional musician for the last 30 years. Perhaps if
the industry wasn’t so interested in the ONE demographic they think
will spend money, and catered even just a little bit to the REST of the
music interested world, they wouldn’t be in this situation. If you are
over 25, they don’t give a flying rat’s butt about what you want to
hear, or even what you will pay for. They just don’t care if you aren’t
in the 13-25 year old demographic. And so, when the kids who grew up
with computers can outsmart the old idiots running the RIAA without
even trying, I can only laugh. Too bad they insist on destroying not
only everyone trying to actually get MUSIC out to people, but their
audience, too.

Yeah. Note the role of advertising in all this.

Amateur? I think not…

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This is simply marvellous. The guy can play neither drums nor piano but he’s a mean video editor.

Apparently, he did the clip to demonstrate his editing skills. Within two weeks he gets a couple of hundred thousands hits and counting. That’s what I call distribution in the networked world.

The only sensible copyright notice

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Woody Guthrie’s copyright notice, as published in a 1930s songbook:

This song is Copyrighted in U.S., under Seal of Copyright 154085, for a period of 28 years, and anybody caught singin it without our permission, will be mighty good friends of ourn, cause we don’t give a dern. Publish it. Write it. Sing it. Swing to it. Yodel it. We wrote it, that’s all we wanted to do.

via JP

Easter Vigil

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The local church of St Thomas More has risen to the occasion and the Easter Vigil was… both spectacular and cosy. The music and the choir made for the former and congregation that didn’t quite fill up the church for the latter. This is because many people from the area leave for their country estates, I imagine, and so the rest of us have more room left. This is a good thing as I used to spend hours waiting in front of the Westminster Cathedral (not to be confused with the Westminster Abbey) to get a seat at all.

The first part of the Easter Vigil is the Service of Light, with blessing of the fire and lighting of the Paschal candle. This happens in a complete darkness, with only the fire illuminating the church and the words the priest reads out. There is something primeval about the naked flame burning boldly in the most civilised of surroundings. The fire is then shared by all – it is magical to watch the tiny flames jumping from candle to candle as everyone lights their own. A perfect setting for intoning of the Exsultet.

There was another beautiful piece of music, a psalm:

Sicut cervus desiderat ad fontes aquarum, ita desiderat anima mea ad te, Deus.

As the deer longs for streams of living water, so my soul longs for you, my God.

The choir sung the Latin version, set to music by Palestrina.

The second part was the liturgy of the Word and after many, many a reading, the Easter Alleluia resounded. That was the music that captured my heart tonight. Surprisingly, I could not find any rendition of it whatsoever, not even the music score, online. The internet is letting me down on spiritual matters, it seems.  [Update: Found it here! Not very good quality but that's the best I can do.]

The service continued with baptism and confirmation, followed by the Eucharist liturgy, for which the priest suddenly broke out in Latin. It was good to see the years of attending high masses in the Church’s lingua materna kick in. The music of this liturgy is ageless, based on Gregorian chants.

Tonight there was harmony of the spheres or as the Exsultet puts it far better:

Night truly blessed, when heaven is wedded to earth…

The power of this holy night dispels all evil,
washes guilt away, restores lost innocence,
brings mourners joy;
it casts out hatred, brings us peace,
and humbles earthly pride.

Once again, Happy Easter and may you weather the seasonal outbreak of religion on this blog…

Music that makes the angels weep

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Today is Good Friday and I went to the local church of St Thomas More in Chelsea. The service is unusual, the only day of the year when no mass is celebrated. During the veneration of the Cross, the choir sung most extraordinary music. It was Crucifixus by Antonio Caldara. I am very fond of polyphonic music of 16th century and no stranger to the soaring tunes of Palestrina, Tallis, Allegri and others but I have never heard Caldara’s music. It was an amazing experience and I have scoured the internet for it. The only thing I found was a music sampler from amazon.com (Crucifixus is the first on the list).

My favourite piece of Easter music is Exsultet, which will be sung tomorrow during the Easter Vigil, celebrating the most important event in the Catholic calendar – the Resurrection. I have already written about it last year.

It is said to be the sublimest expression of joyful sound that has ever come from the human heart and mind. Mozart once said that it is the most beautiful music ever written and that he would have given all his works to be able to say that he had written the first line of the Exsultet.

The music’s purity and spiritual power speak to me of the rapture of faith across the ages. It transcends the historical context and connects us to those who were inspired to create such beauty. It is a validation of sorts, not based on reason but on shared impact of the divine.

Happy Easter!

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