Vote For Obama in the Primary!

I don’t like to blog about generic politics here, but I really don’t want Hillary Clinton to be the Democratic candidate.

Also, I really don’t like to support the Democratic Party or the Republican Party but since one of the two of them will almost definitely win the presidential election, I re-registered as a Democrat just so I could vote against Hillary Clinton (generally, I register undeclared).

As far as Democrats and Republicans go, I really think Obama is the best choice.

Here’s a good video of Obama speaking and then being interviewed at Google’s headquarters.

Please, DON’T VOTE FOR CLINTON!

Matt Pardee, challenging you to a duel

Last night you said you wanted to discuss our differences on the matter of whether or not it would be a good idea to have an App that organizes and allows users to mine Social Graph Data from across different services and transcodes and hosts the data as FOAF and other semantic social data formats, injecting social graph data into the Semantic Web (and/or services unknown to us today). …Or something like that.

So here, in public, let’s discuss the why’s and why-not’s of this idea.

This is a public conversation and anyone is welcome to jump in.

-Andrew

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Amanita Muscaria Mushrooms (Fly Agarics) Near my House. Neat.

I live in Sebastopol CA.

When I was younger, I used to be really into mushroom hunting. My friend Wes and I would go out and look for mushrooms and then look up the ones we’d find. I always wanted to find a Fly Agaric because they’re so damn pretty.

I noticed a bunch yesterday when I was walking, and I was going to leave them alone until my desk got attacked today by some ants (for no reason. There’s nothing for them here and I even just cleaned everything too). The Wikipedia says Fly Agarics contain a natural insecticide. Maybe having these pretty darlings on my desk for a few days will make the ants go away.

Aren’t they beautiful? They’re like the quintessential fairy-land mushrooms. Big too!

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Amanita Muscaria are generally considered poisonous, but are also ‘psychoactive,’ causing a delirium or dream-like state. Don’t eat them. Delirium is not a desirable form of intoxication, especially at the cost of the sickness these mushrooms also promise. These mushrooms are good for looking at, and possibly for killing bugs.


“Talking With Talis” Podcast: Go Subscribe to It!

If you’re interested in being cool, go subscribe to the Talking With Talis Podcast.  (iTunes Link HERE)

I have to say, first, that I don’t really understand exactly what it is that Talis does, and second, that it looks pretty interesting.

Either way, the podcast is great.  A series of interviews with people working in the Semantic Web, Library and Knowledge Management spaces, if I’m saying it right.

There’s no better companion for the walks I have been going on lately than my little ipod loaded with people talking about the emerging Semantic Web.

The conversation is usually pretty down to earth too, so don’t worry if you’re not a programmer.

Also, be warned:  Sound quality is often TERRIBLE.

Scott Westerfeld, DJ Spooky & More on TTBOOK This Week

In case you missed it and you probably did if you’re the type of folk that will read this, I wanted to steer you toward the last episode of the PRI show, To The Best Of Our Knowledge.

Their Podcast is broken down by segment and can be found here (itunes store url).

Part one, is about apocalyptic settings in fiction… I really thought the last part was interesting. An author named Jonathan Lethem Scott Westerfeld wrote a novel, apparently for teens, about a scenario in the future where Social Currency via the Web is everything (or something to that effect) – a sort of Social Software Hell. The interview touches on some ideas about privacy and technology and also why Teens may relate so well to dystopian settings. All very interesting to me.

The other segment is about plagiarism and there is various anecdotal fuel for discussion there too.

It’s amusing to me that I would find it strange that both of these topics, Intellectual Property and Privacy, be touched on by a radio program in the context of being completely unrelated. I’m so used to thinking about these two topics as parts of the big can of worms that is the Digital Age we’re just starting to come to grips with.

Swedish Cops Charging The Pirate Bay: “Conspiracy to Breach Copyrights”

The Pirate Bay is an infamous (or just fairly reliable) BitTorrent Tracker that has previously been completely out of range from legal action by the RIAA and others because they are in Sweden where the law apparently doesn’t consider BitTorrent illegal.

The site actually even throws a giant bird at all the lawyers that send them cease and desist letters and other threats, often responding with childish obscenities.  And they post it all on their site HERE.  Pretty audacious (and funny).

According to TechCrunch, according the The Wall Street Jounal,

Based on evidence collected in a 2006 raid on the offices of The Pirate Bay, Swedish prosecutors say that by the end of January they expect to charge the individuals who operate the file-sharing service with conspiracy to breach copyrights.

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The Pirate Bay’s operators say they are expecting the charges and will prepare their defense with the aid of government-funded lawyers for a trial later this year. “We’re not worried,” says Fredrik Neij, a Pirate Bay co-founder. “We think the law is on our side.”

The Pirate Bay’s operators say they have been followed in recent weeks by camera-toting private detectives in foreign-registered cars. In September, they filed a police complaint claiming that MediaDefender, a U.S. counterpiracy company, had been hired by several Hollywood studios and music companies to hack into their site and shut it down.

MediaDefender, which itself was hacked by a shadowy group last year, denies the accusation. “We’re a reputable public company,” says Chief Executive Randy Saaf. “We’re not going to be doing hacking. That’s silly.”

Thoughts: FaceBook TOS, Robots, Control/Access to Contact information Etc

Still a lot of chatter in the blogosphere about the recent Scandal, famous tech blogger Robert Scoble‘s FaceBook account getting suspended after he was using a script Plaxo is working on that can extract email addresses from your friends profiles, using text-recognition (user’s emails on FaceBook, if they decide to share them, are displayed embedded in images on their profiles to prevent text-scraping)

This is a comment I left on the SixApart News Blog’s post:
Looking Through the Hype of Scoble and Plaxo’s Facebook Conundrum” 

EDIT: Later, I decided to reuse this rant over on Publishing 2.0’s post here: The Coming War Over Data On The Web” I’m linking to these things because I think you may want to go read them and the comments they are sparking.  Pretty interesting.

From my point of view, as a pretty avid user of social web apps, I think there are a couple of things missing from the way this discussion is playing out in most cases.
1. By “friending” someone on MySpace, Facebook or wherever, you’re agreeing to give them more access to you. Generally there are two levels of access – the non-‘friend’ level and the ‘friend’-level. A user has control over what is published on each tier of access so it seems pretty obvious to me: if you don’t want someone to have access to your email address or phone number, don’t give it to them. Don’t give them that access.
Whether or not someone uses a script to manage the information you give them is beside the point. We don’t hand people our business cards saying “You may only use this email by manually typing it. You can’t put me in your bulk emailing lists.”
2. When you give someone your email address (or whatever), whether it’s embedded in an image or not, you are trusting them to not abuse it.
3. there are a few advantages to using Social Networking Services’ messaging systems in lieu of regular email. One is the ability to communicate with people despite the fact that you haven’t given them your email address, phone number, messaging handle or other private information. The other is the ability to ‘block,’ (and sometimes even flag) a user so that they actually lose privileges.

As users of a networking service, I think making a distinction between running scripts or not, with regard to how I can use the information you gave me, is terribly naive. I mean maybe I shouldn’t be able to use keyboard shortcuts for copy and paste either. It’s a slippery slope. If we draw the line for how I can and cannot use data that you give me at using software, then how about this scenario: I just so happen to be fairly wealthy and I hire a whole room full of overseas workers to manually manage my contacts, send messages etc… See?

Can I be trusted more because I’m not using a bot? No. Making the privilege of access to your contact information hinge on whether or not I will use software to help me organize it is a bit like saying I may only have your information if I promise to only use it in relatively more difficult ways.

When I tell people about some of the work that’s being done to create more universal data formats in the Semantic Web space, they often freak out about privacy, big brother and all that. It’s like people believe that if everything is disorganized and harder to use, there is more safety, privacy etc. This is troubling to me. Thank goodness people don’t manage their households and personal wealth with this approach to security!

If we rely on disorganization as a layer of security It means that only those with greater access to more powerful tools (whether they’re software tools or human resources) can extract and mine the data – data that’s already intended to be public in the first place!

Similarly, contact information should be managed via it’s point of access, not how it’s used. How it’s used is a matter of trust and those of us with integrity have reasons to honor the privacy and comfort of our contacts.

Heard of the WWW? How about the GGG?

Tim Berners-Lee recently posted on his blog about the idea of the “Giant Global Graph,” an alternate name for the Semantic Web which is also called “The Data Web” (as opposed to the “Document Web”) “The Web Of Data” (as opposed to the “Web of Documents”), and even “Web 3.0”

Cool quote from his article:

“The less inviting side of sharing is losing some control. Indeed, at each layer — Net, Web, or Graph — we have ceded some control for greater benefits.

People running Internet systems had to let their computer be used for forwarding other people’s packets, and connecting new applications they had no control over. People making web sites sometimes tried to legally prevent others from linking into the site, as they wanted complete control of the user experience, and they would not link out as they did not want people to escape. Until after a few months they realized how the web works. And the re-use kicked in. And the payoff started blowing people’s minds.

Letting your data connect to other people’s data is a bit about letting go in that sense. It is still not about giving to people data which they don’t have a right to. It is about letting it be connected to data from peer sites. It is about letting it be joined to data from other applications.

It is about getting excited about connections, rather than nervous.”

Google, FaceBook and Plaxo Join the Data Portability Work-Group

I just read that FaceBook, Google and Plaxo have joined the DataPortability Workgroup.

Here’s the official story-breaker on TechCrunch (I think).

It seems pretty cut and dry to me that all three of them stand to gain from non-portability. Sharing their company’s user bases with other companies seems to me like it would devalue them in the short-term.

This is interesting news, if only because it means that all three are at least listening to bigger and better ideas.

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(Data Portability)Robert Scoble:”FaceBook is a Walled Garden”

Video of Robert Scoble talking about his recent scuffle with FaceBook over on the Sun BabelFish Blog.

Henry Story’s article is worth reading too. In case you missed it, Scoble was scraping his contacts out of FaceBook using a script from Plaxo… FB detected the bot activity and shut his profile down. Later a little diplomacy got his account freed up again…

There’s a lot of chatter about this going on which makes me feel good.

Maybe it will be this year, maybe in 5 or 10 years but eventually we will have distributed social networking owned by the people who are in it. I will own my data and you will own yours. Standards will make our data friendly.

From Henry Story (this is clutch!):

Really what you want is the following:

  1. Selectivity in who gets what information about you:
    • Strangers should be able to see the minimum information I want to make public.
    • acquaintances should see more
    • family should see other information
    • … these policies should be flexible and determinable by the owner of the information, by the person making the speech act of affirming it.

    And even though I may be happy for a service provider to maintain this data, you may not even wish to allow them access to it. It should be possible to have this information on your server at home controlled only by you.

  2. Link to friends wherever they are. After all if you have to go through one central aggregator of relationship information, then that aggregator will have a view of all the relationship information available, giving one actor complete and overwhelming advantage as opposed to everyone else. You need distributed data, also known as linked data or hyperdata.
  3. An Open Data structure so as to allow ecosystems to grow and use that information. I want the tools on my computer to all be able to work with my social network information.
  4. A way to determine trust

Radiohead’s Recent ‘Statements’ vs Trent Reznor’s Full Disclosure

Radiohead’s singer Thom Yorke has recently been talking a little about the unusual way they initially released the band’s latest album “In Rainbows.” See this BBC story and this interview in WIRED‘s latest edition.

The release was exciting for me because I’m anxious to see new things happen in media distribution, especially when they sidestep the typical gatekeepers.

Basically the deal was, in case you missed all this: Radiohead announced that their new album would be available as a digital download for whatever the customer felt like paying. That amount could be Zero or Ten bucks or a Million. Whatever you decide! (Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails actually claims to have paid $5,000 for the download, just to support the idea. More on him in a minute.) In addition, fans could opt to purchase a “Diskbox” containing the Album on vinyl, an extra CD with 8 additional tracks, a hardcover book of artwork, some stickers etc for about $80. And the transactions taking place would be directly between the band and the fan. No record label.

For Radiohead to do this at this moment in time was newsworthy because it is increasingly becoming unclear what role labels will continue to play. You know the story: Digital music and online promotion have made it possible for music products to hit the market and succeed without the kind of investment that has traditionally made the major labels necessary. And it’s no secret how unfair record contracts usually are for artists. Meanwhile the trade organizations that represent the labels are suing music fans over file-sharing. The labels seem to be doing everything they can to make us want to hate them. So when Radiohead’s contract with EMI expired and they made this announcement about going direct to the fans etc, all us New Media Enthusiasts went ape shit. Understandable, right?

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More recently, Radiohead took down the “experiment” and announced that they’d be doing a more typical retail distribution thing. There’s speculative numbers on how well or horribly the pay-what-you-want offering went. I’ve heard 1.2 million downloads in the first week alone with an average price paid of $6… WIRED is saying that ComScore says it’s more like $3 million total, again at about $6 per customer, on average. Which brings me to why I’m spending all this time writing this:

Why does it need to be a secret?

Some of the key points from Yorke’s recent minglings with the press are:

  • The 1.2 million downloads number is “absurd”
  • They are doing this retail thing because it’s important to have an “artifact” or “an object”
  • More money was made from the initial digital download release of In Rainbows then was made from digital sales of all their other albums combined “forever”
  • Some [or most?] of those past albums didn’t even have a cut of digital sales for the band defined contractually at all (which basically makes the last point meaningless)

Basically, ever since I started hearing about Thom Yorke’s recent statements, I’ve wondered what Radiohead is thinking in keeping their plan to do regular retail a secret until now. Also, I wonder why they are keeping the numbers on the pay-what-want digital release a secret. Saying that 1.2 million downloads is “absurd,” certainly implies that it’s a vast over-estimate doesn’t it? How vast?
Originally I got this sense of activism from the whole release and now Thom Yorke is talking about “moral justifications” in the band’s decisions, but all the secrecy seems self-serving to me. Was the whole thing a marketing stunt? A failed experiment?

Also, there always was an artifact: the $80 “Diskbox” version of the album that you couldn’t pay-what-you-want for. So in saying there needs to be an artifact, is Yorke really saying “there needs to be a cheap artifact.” or “there needs to be an artifact available to people who don’t buy things online…” or what?

I love Radiohead. And this is such an uncertain time for Media distribution, so I can understand if the first steps we take into the unknown future are awkward ones, and to an extent, Radiohead are already heroes for doing t6hings differently, but all the secrecy and vague language is a little annoying.

Meanwhile, Trent Reznor recently produced an album by a relatively unkown arist, Saul Williams and the team decided to release the album in a similar fashion to Radiohead’s initial release of In Rainbows. The download is available for a suggested donation of $5.

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Unlike Radiohead, Trent Reznor recently went public with their numbers as follows. I’m pasting so much of it here because Reznor doesn’t have a permalink or anything so when he takes it off the NIN front page, it will be [practically] gone (c’mon, Trent. Just get a regular blog going with a feed and all! Jeez.)

“It’s a strange time to be an artist in the recording business. It’s pretty easy to see what NOT to do these days, but less obvious to know what’s right. As I find myself free from the bloated bureaucracy of major labels, finally able to do whatever I want… well, what is that? What is the “right” way to release records, treat your music and your audience with respect and attempt to make a living as well? I have a number of musician friends who are either in a similar situation or feel they soon will be, and it’s a real source of anxiety and uncertainty.
I’d like to share my experience releasing Saul Williams’ “The Inevitable Rise and Liberation of NiggyTardust” and what I’ve learned from the process. Perhaps by revealing of all our data – our “dirty laundry” – we can contribute to a better solution.

A quick history: Saul makes a great record that I produce. We can’t find the right home at a major label. We decide to release it ourselves, digitally. Saul does not have limitless financial resources so we shop around for a company that can fulfill our needs. We choose Musicane because they are competent and are willing to adapt to what we want. The results are here: niggytardust.com

We offer the entire record free (as in totally free to the visitor – we pay bandwidth costs) as 192 MP3s, or for $5 you can choose higher fidelity versions and feel good about supporting the artist directly. We offer all major CCs and PayPal as payment options.
Here’s what I was thinking: Fans are interested in music as soon as it’s available (that’s a good thing, remember) and usually that’s a leak from the label’s manufacturing plants. Offering the record digitally as its first appearance in the marketplace eliminates that problem. I thought if you offered the whole record free at reasonable quality – no strings attached – and offered a hassle free way to show support that clearly goes straight to the artists who made it at an unquestionably low price people would “do the right thing”. I know, I know…
Well, now I DO know and you will too.

Saul’s previous record was released in 2004 and has sold 33,897 copies.

As of 1/2/08,
154,449 people chose to download Saul’s new record.
28,322 of those people chose to pay $5 for it, meaning:
18.3% chose to pay.

Of those paying,

3220 chose 192kbps MP3
19,764 chose 320kbps MP3
5338 chose FLAC

Keep in mind not one cent was spent on marketing this record. The only marketing was Saul and myself talking as loudly as we could to anybody that would listen.
If 33,897 people went out and bought Saul’s last record 3 years ago (when more people bought CDs) and over 150K – five times as many – sought out this new record, that’s great – right?
I have to assume the people knowing about this project must either be primarily Saul or NIN fans, as there was very little media coverage outside our direct influence. If that assumption is correct – that most of the people that chose to download Saul’s record came from his or my own fan-base – is it good news that less than one in five feel it was worth $5? I’m not sure what I was expecting but that percentage – primarily from fans – seems disheartening.
Add to that: we spent too much (correction, I spent too much) making the record utilizing an A-list team and studio, Musicane fees, an old publishing deal, sample clearance fees, paying to give the record away (bandwidth costs), and nobody’s getting rich off this project.

But…
Saul’s music is in more peoples’ iPods than ever before and people are interested in him. He’ll be touring throughout the year and we will continue to get the word out however we can.

So – if you’re an artist looking to utilize this method of distribution, make of these figures what you will and hopefully this info is enlightening.

Best,
TR”

David Byrne is Kicking Butt over at WIRED

David Byrne (The Talking Heads, remember?) wrote an Article for WIRED called
David Byrne’s Survival Strategies for Emerging Artists — and Megastars
If you’re interested in what’s going on right now in the music industry, go spend five minutes reading this thing. If you’re not, it’s pretty interesting anyhow.

Also, there’s an interesting Interview between David Byrne and Tom Yorke of Radiohead over there too. Cool.
David Byrne and Thom Yorke on the Real Value of Music

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New Category: Wish-List

I’m going to start putting things I need/want to get here.

If you ever wanted to get me a gift, looking here first might be a good idea.

If I ever feel like spending money, looking here might help me decide how to spend it.

A new category is born:  Wish-List

yay.

2008: Popular Realtime Online/Offline Apps (My Prediction)

There’s a ton of things to speculate about right now.

Here’s my little prediction.

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I think this will be a big year for Online/Offline convergence. The noise this last year about Pownce, all the Firefox-Extension-centric stuff like StumbleUpon (and its acquisition by eBay), The widespread adoption (and Acquisition by CBS Interactive) of LastFM, and in the development world, the introduction of Adobe AIR, MS Silverlight, and others are all good indications of where things are headed in my humble opinion.

Online Video is a big craze right now because we finally have the connection speeds for it. Well we now also have the connection speeds to make much more synchronization possible. I think the time is right for more services/applications/whatever designed with this in mind to start sprouting up all over.

I should mention, as I configure everything during Flock‘s probationary period on my computer (or in my Life), opening the browser is more and more like opening my computer. Many of the things I regularly do on the computer are all integrated into one portal-like interface. If my Flock settings, subscriptions Etc were all saved remotely (at flock.com?), perhaps I could sit down at another computer, log in, and be right where I left off. Imagine that.

I think this is clearly where things need to go.

And there already a ton of projects out there like DeskTopTwo that are anticipating the OS moving more and more online, although I think Local, with Online Integration/Synchronization/Storage is closer to what we’re after.

Obviously, there are privacy issues involved with this sort of thing. Privacy issues. It’s always privacy issues.

Bill Gates did a presentation about this a year or two ago and I’m trying to find the video of it… If/when I do I will post it here.