Adam Fields (weblog)

This blog is largely deprecated, but is being preserved here for historical interest. Check out my index page at for more up to date info. My main trade is technology strategy, process/project management, and performance optimization consulting, with a focus on enterprise and open source CMS and related technologies. More information. I write periodic long pieces here, shorter stuff goes on twitter or


Why all this mucking about with irrevocable licenses?

The Google+ Terms of Service include various provisions to give them license to display your content, and this has freaked out a bunch of professional photographers:

‘By submitting, posting or displaying the content you give Google a perpetual, irrevocable, worldwide, royalty-free, and non-exclusive license to reproduce, adapt, modify, translate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute any Content which you submit, post or display on or through, the Services.’

I don’t even understand why this is necessary. Why can’t this just be ‘you give us a license to display your content on the service until you delete it’?


Attn: Dyson, Inc.

Filed under: — adam @ 2:17 pm

“I have purchased a number of household appliances, more than a few of them made by the Dyson corporation, and never have I been so embarrassed about any of them as I am about this Dyson DC16. I am embarrassed for myself that I didn’t immediately return this unit after trying it out the first time, instead giving you the benefit of the doubt. I am embarrassed for you that you produced it and sold it as a functional appliance, sullying the reliability of your brand.

During the first year I had this handheld vac, never once did a full charge of the battery last more than 5 minutes. When it got down to less than 3 minutes, I spoke to your support representatives, who told me that the charger was probably defective, and sent me a new one. That helped for a short period of time, and I lived with it.

However, I’ve reconsidered. I no longer want to own this device. Its complete inadequacy at the task for which it was designed plagues me, and I am sufficiently disgusted with it that I cannot bear to pass it on to someone else. Nor am I willing to just throw it in the garbage – it is not worthy to even contribute to landfill somewhere.

I am therefore left with no choice but to return it to you. Please do as you see fit.”


Something interesting about scarcity

We used to have a 6-at-a-time Netflix plan. We’d get 6 movies, but then sometimes we’d go months before watching them, or even just deciding that enough was enough and sending them back. And frequently, even among those 6 movies, there would be nothing we wanted to watch on any given night. And then an interesting thing happened. As part of a general cost trimming in our house, we dropped down to a 3-at-a-time plan. And suddenly we started watching a lot more Netflix movies. With 6 movies to choose from, there was always “something else” to watch, and we didn’t have to worry about clearing out all of the cruft to make room for something we really wanted to watch. As a result, we didn’t think as carefully about whether we’d really want to watch a new movie, because just renting something wouldn’t really block something else that we wanted to see more if it came along. But when we introduced a little artificial scarcity into the mix, a slot became something worth protecting from something we didn’t really want to see, and we started thinking more about which movies to put to the top of the queue, and then actually being more aggressive about watching them and sending them back.

This seems like a strange effect to me – we’re paying less, we’re technically using less (3 out instead of 6 out), but we’re turning over more, so the net effect is probably that we’re heavier users now than at 6-out. Because the pricing is only on the number out instead of the turnover, we’re unarguably paying less and using more, even though we’re technically on a “lower usage” plan. At this point, even if we wanted to spend the extra money, I have no desire to go back to a 6-out plan, because I like the extra sense of urgency that comes from having the out slots be a scarce resource, and it makes me want to use the service more.

I don’t know if this makes me a better Netflix customer or not, from their perspective. Obviously I’m paying less money to them per month and using more in mailing fees, but I’m also holding onto premium movies for a lot less time than I used to, freeing them up to be sent to other customers.

Anyone notice the same thing?


Toys and Testing

BoingBoing reports that new rules on consumer safety threaten to put small producers out of business because the testing is too expensive.

I have a few thoughts on this.

This is a pretty common libertarian vs. nanny state disagreement – should consumers be allowed to make their own choices, but I don’t think it’s that simple, for a few reasons. (Before you go on, I think it’s worth reading my previous piece on some failure modes of the market.)

Keeping toxic chemicals out of kids toys can’t really be the responsibility of the parents, because it’s not within their domain of control. You can be a responsible parent, you can only buy toys you “trust” (whatever that means) and your child will still be exposed to toys you didn’t have any say about. It’s unavoidable – other kids have toys, day care centers have toys, kids play with toys in the playground that other kids bring or leave behind. The only way to prevent these toys from coming into contact with kids is to keep them out of the marketplace to begin with. If you like, it’s society’s responsibility to keep poisons out of kids’ toys in general, because the incentives don’t line up for the individual actors.

After-the-fact deterrents are simply not effective. Lawsuits take years to resolve, are overly burdensome, and it may be impossible to even track down the responsible party (I’m told it’s nearly impossible to sue a foreign company). On top of that, even an expensive PR-nightmare lawsuit may not be a sufficient deterrent to a large corporation with a hefty legal budget. A few million dollar settlements can seem very small in the face of a few hundred million in profits per year. Also, it’s worth noting that this is a reactive response which doesn’t actually fix the problem, but tries to throw monetary compensation in an attempt to “make things better”. But that’s basically what we’re being asked to accept here with the free market solution – let us do what we want and if you don’t like it, sue us, because it’s “too expensive” to ensure that we make safe products. We have that prefrontal cortex for a reason – people are uniquely capable of making predictive decisions, and to allow reactive forces to handle problems we can plainly see are coming seems ridicuously primitive to me. One might argue that we don’t have the capacity to predict how our actions might affect these complex systems, but that’s exactly why we need to be able to adapt and tweak them as we go. I haven’t seen any evidence that the market makes better choices in these kinds of situations, and in fact the call for regulation is a response to the failure of market forces – these companies have already shown an inability to keep toxic ingredients out of their products, yet we still continue to have these problems. Public outrage and whatever lawsuits are currently in the pipeline haven’t served as an adequate deterrent. Why’s that? I don’t know.

This is similar to the conundrum faced by small food producers. See Joel Salatin’s Everything I Want To Do Is Illegal for a lot of good examples of this. The main thrust is that the rules that are meant for large corporations where the overhead gets absorbed by the scale are overly burdensome for small producers, who don’t have the resources for dedicated testing facilities but also have less capacity to do harm, both because they have fewer customers but also because some kinds of harm are caused by the steps needed to operate at scale in the first place. I like to buy local food from farmers that I’ve come to know and trust. This can work at a small scale – if I want to see their operation, I can go visit the farm. I have no similar way to verify that with a larger company.

I don’t think that broken regulation is a condemnation of the entire idea of regulation, but I think it’s obvious that the rules need to be different depending on the scale of the domain they apply to. It is not unreasonable for Hasbro and Mattel to have to follow different rules than the guy who’s carving wood figures in his garage and selling them on etsy. Scale matters – more is different, and bigger is different.


The Google Chrome terms of service are hilarious

I’ve been very busy lately, but this is just too much to not comment on.

There are other articles about how the Google Chrome terms of service give Google an irrevocable license to use any content you submit through “The Services” (a nice catchall term which includes all Google products and services), but the analysis really hasn’t gone far enough – that article glosses over the fact that this applies not only to content you submit, but also content you display. Of course, since this is a WEB BROWSER we’re talking about, that means every page you view with it.

In short, when you view a web page with Chrome, you affirm to Google that you have the right to grant Google an irrevocable license to use it to “display, distribute and promote the Services”, including making such content available to others. If you don’t have that legal authority over every web page you’ve visited, you’ve just fraudulently granted that license to Google and may yourself be liable to the actual copyright owner. (If you do, of course, you’ve just granted them that license for real.) I’m not a lawyer, but I suspect that Google has either committed mass inducement to fraud or the entire EULA (which lacks a severability clause) is impossible to obey and therefore void. [Update: there is a severability clause in the general terms, which I missed on the first reading. Does that mean that the entire content provisions would be removed, or just the parts that apply to the license you grant Google over the content you don't have copyright to? I don't know.]

Even more so than usual, these terms are, quite frankly, ridiculous and completely inappropriate for not only a web browser but an open source web browser.

Nice going guys.


Coming to a Rational First Sale Doctrine for Digital Works

In reference to this Gizmodo piece analyzing the rights granted by the Kindle and Sony e-reader:

I think the analysis in that article is flawed. It doesn’t make any sense to be able to resell the reader with the books on it, because the license for the books is assigned to you, not to the reader. For example, if your Kindle breaks, you can move your books to another one. I’ve never heard anything other than the opinion that you can’t resell the digital copy – the assumption has always been that these sorts of transactions break the first sale doctrine. The problem then becomes “what are you buying?”, if there’s nothing you can resell.

The first sale doctrine has to apply to the license, not the bits themselves, because under the scenario in which it applies to the bits, arguably Amazon retains no rights whatsoever. They had no direct hand in arranging the bits of your copy the way they are – they merely sent instructions to your computer about how to arrange them in a certain pattern. The article asserts that you can’t “transfer” the bits, but in the same way, in downloading a copy, Amazon hasn’t actually “transferred” anything to you, either.

There’s no reason you shouldn’t be able to sell your Kindle, and the books don’t necessarily go with it, but if you want to sell the books separately, you can do that too. Legally, if you do that, you’d be obligated to destroy all of the copies you’ve made. Amazon’s inability to police that is as relevant as their inability to police the fact that you haven’t made a photocopy of the physical book you sold when you were done with it. There’s no weight to the argument that this will encourage rampant piracy, given that unencrypted cracked copies of all of these things are available to those who want them anyway, and always will be. People comply with reasonable laws willingly because they’re honest, it’s the “right thing to do”, and they feel that the laws are an acceptable tradeoff for living in a civilized society where sometimes you have to make compromises and not just do whatever you want. People do not comply with one-sided laws where they feel like they’re being ripped off for no reason. A law which turns your sale into a non-sellable license is of the latter kind. It turns normal users into petty criminals who don’t care when they break the law, because the law is stupid. Once they’ve ignored some of the terms, it’s a shorter step to ignore others, or ignore similar terms for other products. People like consistency, especially in legal treatments. I would argue that it’s in Amazon’s interest (and the others) to not niggle on this point, because a reasonable license with terms that look like a sale makes for happier customers who aren’t interested in trodding on the license terms, and that’s better for everyone.

(Yes, I’m arguing that restrictive license “sales” are anti-civilization.)

The Kindle ToS not only prohibits selling the Kindle with your books on it, it prohibits anyone else from even looking at it. If someone reads over your shoulder on the train, you’re in violation.

This is, of course, ridiculous.

The right legal response here seems to me to be to not dicker about with splitting hairs about whether you can sell your digital copies if they’re on a physical device and you can’t if they’re not, but to declare that anything sufficiently close to a “right to view, use, and display [...] an unlimited number of times” de facto consitutes a sale, and with it comes certain buyer’s rights regardless of what kinds of outrageous restrictions the licensor tries to bundle in the ToS. The fact that this also seems to be the right business response reinforces my belief that this is the correct path. This kind of a transaction is different from renting, which is by nature a temporary one.

It is the right thing for society to declare that if you’ve bought something that isn’t time or use limited, you’ve therefore also bought the right to resell it, whether it’s a physical object or a license.


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Fed up with food labeling

Filed under: — adam @ 10:59 am

Our food labeling standards are completely out of whack.

As an example, let’s take “100% fruit juice”. I’m pretty sure that at some point, “100% fruit juice” meant that what you got in the bottle was, prior to being put in the bottle, a piece of fruit that was crushed and maybe filtered. I’m 100% sure that that’s what most people still expect when they buy something that’s labeled “100% fruit juice”.

Except that’s not what you get anymore. Now, it’s reconstituted from concentrates, mixed from different kinds of fruit juice concentrates (which may have vastly different nutritional profiles), and blended into whatever they like, but it’s still the healthy choice kids, because it’s 100% fruit juice!

Right off the labels:

Kedem concord grape juice (which, incidentally, is among the sweetest of the grapes):

The label says “100% fruit juice”.

Ingredients: Grape Juice, Potassium Metabisulfite Added To Enhance Freshness.

It has 150 calories per 8oz.

Welch’s grape juice:

The label says “100% grape juice”.

Ingredients: Grape Juice From Concentrate (Water, Grape Juice Concentrate), Grape Juice, Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C), No Artificial Flavors Or Colors Added.

It has 170 calories per 8 oz.


They’re not using grapes that have 13% more sugar in them, they’re dickering with the proportions to make their juice sweeter.

This is just one particularly egregious example, but it’s all over the place – many “100% juices” are sweetened with cherry juice or other concentrates. It’s a complete sham. Even the Kedem is pushing it because it’s got preservatives, but at least the juice is actual juice. No way does that Welch’s bottle contain “100% juice”.

Our food labels don’t mean what they say anymore, they have very detailed technical specifications to go with them, and it’s impossible to know what they mean from common sense without understanding those specifications. This isn’t even about making dubious health claims – it’s about defining away the actual contents of the package.

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Disappointed in the Macworld Keynote

Filed under: — adam @ 4:54 pm

I’ve become a huge Apple fan over the past two years. I think they’ve done a number of wonderful things for desktop computing interfaces, and they’ve far surpassed Windows in usability, stability, and general pleasantness. I spend a lot of time in front of computers, and I try to make as much of it as possible in front of a Mac.

But I’m disappointed with a number of items in today’s keynote.

The Macbook Air is certainly pretty, but when you look at the limitations, who’s this really aimed at? No firewire, only 2GB ram, 4200rpm disk – this rules out mobile creatives. No replaceable battery – this rules out actual mobile executives. It seems to be an upgrade for the regular Macbook users – mobile browsing, email, writing, maybe a little video and music, but it’s far too expensive for that. So, I don’t get it – who’s this aimed at?

I can understand that new hardware sometimes makes old hardware obsolete. But a few of the “hardware upgrades” announced here are really software upgrades in disguise, but which nonetheless are forcing you to buy new hardware to take advantage of the new features. The Time Capsule looks good, but it’s really just an Airport Extreme with an internal disk. Why isn’t this feature available on existing Airport Extremes with external disks?

Note to Apple: your existing customers generally love you. They love you even more when you go the extra mile and suddenly update the stuff they’ve already bought with new capabilities. This makes them more likely to buy new stuff, not less, and even much more likely to recommend that to all of their friends. Are you really going to sell enough $299 Time Capsules to make up for the hate you just scored with everyone who uses an Airport Extreme with an external disk and wants to back up their laptop to it, who now think you’re being greedy and trying to force a $300 upgrade for no reason?

Same deal with the multitouch gestures on the Macbook Air – why aren’t they being backported to the existing Macbook line? The trackpads are multi-touch capable, and this is a software update, to applications that are already running on those machines.

And then there’s the actual software update for the iPod Touch. I’m the last person to say that all software should be free (free software should be free, but that’s a discussion for another day), but these are people who just a few months ago paid a premium to buy your top of the line product, and now you’re fleecing them for a bit of extra cash.

I don’t expect a world-shattering new product line every year, but these “announcements” look like the actions of a company that’s scrambling, not one that’s innovating.

[ Followup: Some suggestions for what I wanted to see instead. ]

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Dear Netflix

Dear Netflix:

I would very much like your website to stop redirecting me to a page that tells me that Im using an unsupported browser. I know I use Opera. I like it. I understand if you dont want to support it, but at least set a cookie so I can just tell you once that I dont care, instead of making me click through your tedious “only browsers we like are supported” splash page every time I want to check my queue.

Thanks. Have a wonderful day.

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The HD format war is lost by existing

[I've posted this as a comment on a few HD DVD vs. Blu-ray blog posts elsewhere, so I thought I'd put it up here as well.]

An HD format war is simply the height of stupidity, given the nice example of how quickly DVD was adopted by… everybody.

This happened for a few reasons, none of which are being replicated by the HD formats/players:

1) One alternative with no difficult competing choices.

2) Fit into existing home theater setups easily.

3) Clear, obvious quality advantages, even if you set it up incorrectly.

4) Significant convenience advantages – pause with no quality loss (anyone here remember VHS tracking?!), random access, extra features, multiple languages, etc…

5) More convenient and durable physical medium.

So – let’s look at what HD formats offer over DVD in these areas:

1) Multiple competing incompatible choices. Not just between HD DVD and Blu-ray, but also between different HD formats. 720p/1080i vs. 1080p, HDMI/HDCP vs. component. People aren’t adopting HD formats because they’re confusing.

2) Does not fit into existing home theater setups easily. If you had a DVD home theater, chances are you’re replacing most, if not all of your components to get to HD – you need a new TV/projector, you probably need some new switches, you need all new cabling, and you need at least three new players to do it right (HD DVD, Blu-ray, and an upscaling DVD player so your old DVDs look good). Not to mention a new programmable remote to control the now 7 or more components in your new setup (receiver, projector/tv, 3 players, HDMI switch, audio/component switch).

3) Clear, obvious quality advantages, but only if properly tuned and all of them work properly together. I can easily tell the difference between even HD movies and upscaled DVD movies. Upscaled DVD movies look fantastic, but HD movies really pop off the screen. But if things aren’t properly configured or you’re using the wrong cabling, these advantages disappear.

4) No significant convenience advantages, with some disadvantages. Pretty much the same extras, but most discs now won’t let you resume playback from the same place if you press stop in the middle, and they make you watch the warnings and splash screens again.

5) Indistinguishable physical medium. Maybe the Blu-ray coating helps, but we’ll see about that.

I’ve gone the HD route, because I really care about very high video quality, and I love tinkering with this stuff. Most people don’t, and find it incredibly confusing and expensive.

Is it really any wonder that people are holding off?

The HD format war is already lost, by existing at all, and every day that both formats are available for sale just makes things worse. The only good way out of it is to erase the distinction between the two formats – dual format players that reach the killer price point and aren’t filled with bugs.

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Will the iPhone experience be as good when winter rolls around?

Filed under: — adam @ 9:35 am

It seems to be a serious problem for those who live in places where it’s not warm all the time that the iPhone will be completely unusable while wearing gloves.

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I have been stunned into submission by Marc Andreessen’s new blog

Filed under: — adam @ 4:49 pm

It is simply great. Post after post is just captivating, interesting, and relevant if you have anything to do with tech these days.

Go read that for a while:

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Brilliant DMCA side effect

Crappy DRM company says the DMCA forces you to buy their technology instead of building your own because not buying their technology is a circumvention of an effective copyright tool.

The thing is, I think they’re right. I mean, it’s stupid, but then so is the DMCA.

There are some other provisions (which seem to not apply), but the crux of it is:

“No person shall manufacture, import, offer to the public, provide, or otherwise traffic in any technology, product, service, device, component, or part thereof, that–

`(A) is primarily designed or produced for the purpose of
circumventing a technological measure that effectively
controls access to a work protected under this title;”

It explicitly does NOT say “copy the work”, it says “circumvent the technology”. “Circumvent” is not the word they were looking for.

In fact, now that I think about it, convincing someone that DRM is bad is also a violation, as that may be interpreted as offering a service that is primarily design for the purpose of circumventing technological protection. Crap.

(via boingboing.)

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Circo Hazardous Sock Packaging

Filed under: — adam @ 2:27 pm

I happened to take my 6-month old to Target this weekend, and we bought him some socks. He was playing with the package and put them in his mouth, and managed to get the little hanger plastic piece out. There’s certainly enough to say about parental responsibility, and not letting the baby get into dangerous things, but until this little plastic piece disappeared (it turns out he dropped it on the floor), we didn’t even give a second thought to the idea that a pair of socks for a 6-12 month old might contain this kind of incredible choking hazard. I’m normally pretty paranoid about this. Didn’t these things used to go all the way across? Is this REALLY the place where Target wants to save a tenth of a cent of plastic? It seems like a lawsuit waiting to happen.

Be careful out there…

Circo Socks Hazardous Packaging

Circo Socks Hazardous Packaging

Circo Socks Hazardous Packaging

Circo Socks Hazardous Packaging

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Microsoft should release XP for free

Filed under: — adam @ 3:47 pm

It is well known that free products are used more widely than products that people have to pay for. If Vista is so much better, then people will still pay money for it, and having more installations of XP around to keep people using Windows apps instead of switching to Mac or Linux can only be a good thing for Microsoft, whose continued success depends not only on agreements with PC manufacturers, but also on the continued existence of Windows-only software that people need to run. This benefits Microsoft, and will result in more sales of Vista (and subsequent versions), as other software vendors evolve into the same “The XP version is free, but if you want the premium version, you need Vista” pattern. Essentially – XP becomes the shareware limited demo version of Windows, and you pay if you want the full version.

This obviously benefits the consumer, because free is good, and there are plenty of places (VMs, especially), where it would be useful to run XP, but where the current price is cost prohibitive. Making XP free would open up the Windows market to those potential customers.

Anyone who’s switching to Mac or Linux has already made the decision to do it, and isn’t turning back because they can’t run Windows in a VM… because they already can. This would just make everyone’s life easier, and generate a LOT more goodwill for Microsoft than they have now.

Microsoft, despite being ridiculously profitable, is in danger of losing relevance. This is one way to combat that.

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New social networking features on Confabb launched today

Filed under: — adam @ 2:41 pm

I’m extremely proud of the Confabb site, and it’s nice to see it evolving past the limited feature set we were able to squeeze in before launch. There’s a LOT more great stuff coming. The development team has been working very hard for the past few months, and a bunch of new social networking features went live today.

From the press release:

New Logged-in Homepage

Log in and check out ‘your new homepage.’ Above ‘your conferences’ is the new ‘your network,’ a bird’s-eye view of bulletin board messages from within your network (more on that below), your online Confabb connections and any messages sent to you by those within the Confabb community. Click on ‘My Account’ to see the full range of search and connection possibilities. Post your own messages for everyone to see on “your bulletin board,” which will be broadcast globally—Confabb pings no fewer than 68 of the major alerting services—or have a one-on-one discussion with other Confabb members. You can also see what others are talking about and invite new people, either from within or outside of Confabb, to join your network.

New Search!

There are two new forms of search on the site (you’ll all remember that the search function was Confabb’s Achilles Heel when we launched). There is now an advanced search for conferences which drills down into multiple parameters such as location, keyword, location, category and when the show date starts and stops. That nullifies one of the biggest knocks we got at launch. People will love it. We’ve also added a “User Search” which lets Confabb users search for and connect with other Confabb community members. Of course that sets us up for connecting people within the community and that’s the best part.

MY Connections (or “buddy lists”)

Just as you keep a list of people with home you correspond daily, the “My Connections” tab is your gateway to the personal contacts you’ve made within the Confabb community–people with whom you’ve connected before and want to stay in touch with going forward. This is your personal network; friends, colleagues and other contacts whose whereabouts and doings you want to follow as they prepare for and an attend events. Attendees can view a list of other conference participants, check out their profiles, invite them into their personal network and email them directly through Confabb’s personal messaging feature.

Personal Messaging

This is the Confabb community’s personal email service. We respect everyone’s right to privacy so messaging within the community is handled by us; simply use the “contact” link to jot a note to the person of your choice and we’ll send the message to the email that person has registered within our system. Responses are handled by us as well so your information is never revealed unless you choose to do that outside of the community.


This is cool. “Media” is just that: everything that interests you from across the web, from text-based articles and links to photos, RSS feeds for breaking information and even full blown videos. The content comes from the web’s leading sources of open information, including Technorati, Google and Yahoo!, Feedster, Flickr and YouTube. Simply click the “Media” tab at the top of the navigation bar and find information on just about anything by searching for the subject’s name or the subject’s tag in the desired content source. The Media tab lets you experience the conference through everyone else’s eyes, and they experience it through content you create, find and share with them.

Bulletin Boards

Confabb now provides all of its users with their own personal blogs, or bulletin boards, from which they can share their thoughts, opinions on the issues and experiences. This is the community member’s space; it’s intensely individual, consisting of the member’s content and comments from their readers. People can also read the musing of others within their network by clicking on the “Bulletin Board Posts within My Network” tab, which shows what others within their network are saying too.

Each board–the individual blog and the personal network bulletin board–are completely searchable by the major search engines. You will build traffic from within the community as well as anyone from around the globe with an interest in what you have to say!

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Google has just bought a lot of browsing history of the internet

I pointed out that YouTube was a particularly valuable acquisition to Google because their videos are the most embedded in other pages of any of the online video services. When you embed your own content in someone else’s web page, you get the ability to track who visits that page and when, to the extent that you can identify them. This is how Google Analytics works – there’s a small piece of javascript loaded into the page which is served from one of Google’s servers, and then everytime someone hits that page, they get the IP address, the URL of the referring page, and whatever cookies are stored with the browser for the domain. As I’ve discussed before, this is often more than enough information to uniquely identify a person with pretty high accuracy.

DoubleClick has been doing this for a lot longer than Google has, and they have a lot of history there. In addition to their ad network, Google has also just acquired that entire browsing history, profiles of the browsing of a huge chunk of the web. Google’s privacy policy does not seem to apply to information acquired from sources other than, so they’re probably free to do whatever they want with this profile data.

[Update: In perusing their privacy policy, I noted this: If Google becomes involved in a merger, acquisition, or any form of sale of some or all of its assets, we will provide notice before personal information is transferred and becomes subject to a different privacy policy. This doesn't specify which end of the merger they're on, so maybe this does cover personal information they acquire. I wonder if they're planning on informing everyone included in the DoubleClick database.]

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Remember when DoubleClick was pretty universally reviled and sued for privacy violations a few years back?

Oh yeah.


Cadbury got busted for reducing the size of the Creme Egg and then lying about it

Filed under: — adam @ 3:31 pm

I used to get a Cadbury Creme Egg a year about the same time I had my annual McRib. Since I’ve realized over the course of the past few years that you’re only supposed to eat food, I didn’t know that Cadbury reduced the size of the Creme Egg this year. And then they lied about it! And they blamed it on the increasing size of their consumers (possibly from eating too many Creme Eggs)! And then they got busted on National TV! At least they could have had the dignity to release the “New Creme Egg”, and then release the “Creme Egg Classic” in the smaller form factor when people complained about the new formula.

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The end of DRM is nigh

The iTunes store is about to start selling the entire EMI catalog DRM-free. It’s slightly more expensive, but also higher quality.

This completely destroys the rationale behind having any DRM at all. It can’t be because they’re afraid of the higher quality recordings getting out, because those are the ones they’re releasing without DRM. All that remains is shafting the customer, which is of course all that DRM is actually good for.

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ISPs apparently sell your clickstream data

Apparently, “anonymized” clickstream data (the urls of which websites you visited and in what order) is available for sale directly from many ISPs. There is no way that this is sufficiently anonymized. It is readily obvious from reading my clickstream who I am – urls for MANY online services contain usernames, and anyone who uses any sort of online service is almost certainly visiting their own presence far more than anything else. All it takes is one of those usernames to be tied to a real name, and your entire clickstream becomes un-anonymized, irreversibly and forever.

I’ve talked about the dangers of breaking anonymization with leaking keys before:

Short answer: It is not enough to say that a piece of data is not “personally identifiable” if it is unique and exists with a piece of personally identifiable data somewhere else. More importantly, it doesn’t even have to be unique or completely personally identifiable – whether or not you can guess who a person is from a piece of data is not a black and white distinction, and simply being able to guess who a person might be can leak some information that might confirm their identity when combined with something else.

This is also completely setting aside the fact that you have very little direct control over much of your clickstream, since there are all sorts of ways for a site you visit to get your browser to load things – popups, javascript includes, and images being the most prevalent.

Preserving anonymity is hard. This is an egregious breach of privacy. Expect lawsuits if this is true.

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Google to purge some data after 18-24 months

Filed under: — adam @ 6:33 pm

Well, that’s a nice start. Good for them.

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Confabb is hosting the Personal Democracy Forum 2007 site

Filed under: — adam @ 11:39 am

Exciting! — Confabb is hosting the site for Personal Democracy Forum 2007.

The science of politics is changing, and these are the people who are doing interesting things about it.

You can browse information about the conference (news, events, sessions, speakers, and more), and register from the site. You can use your existing Confabb login, if you have one (OpenID is coming, but not yet).

(Disclosure: I’m one of the co-founders of Confabb.)

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The Penny Gap is the difference between free and mostly free

Filed under: — adam @ 11:16 am

Interesting post about the Penny Gap. I think this is directly related to a similar concept which might be called the Unlimited Chasm.

The Penny Gap says that if your service is actually free, it will have a much greater uptake than one that is merely very very cheap. Rather than being a smooth curve up the value chain, there’s a quantum shift between “free” and “costs anything”. I think this is largely due to the implicit value factoring of the “cost” (in effort) of the transaction. If you could just wave your hand and pay a penny for something without getting out your credit card number or typing in your password, it seems like this gap would largely disappear.

There’s a similar effect at play when dealing with “unlimited” services. If you have to pay for usage, it takes a lot of mental effort to add up everything you’re paying and make sure you’re not over a certain amount. If you don’t, and have an unlimited plan, that mental effort goes away. Even if the unlimited service is more expensive than you’d pay with metered service, there’s less hesitation to use it because you never have to worry about keeping track of it. I feel like this effect is less prominent on services that give you constant feedback about how much you’ve used. Presumably the extra security of insurance of not ever going above a certain limit has some value to it as well.

Free and unlimited are obviously closely related, mentally and emotionally. I’ll have to think about this some more.

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Followup commentary on Windows Vista

Filed under: — adam @ 12:29 am

Perry said “I think you held back too much. Tell us what you really think.”

Okay. I think Windows is rotten to the core and always has been. Between Windows 3.1 and XP, there were no serious contenders. With Win2K and XP, it’s at least had the benefits of:

1) it being reasonably possible to hammer it into sufficient shape to be usable and secure “enough”.

2) running on significantly cheaper hardware.

3) being reasonably open for a closed-source product, and at least focused towards providing a good user experience, and aimed at the needs of the end user.

4) providing a mostly effortless hardware compatibility experience. Most of the things I’ve plugged into my XP box have simply worked, without too much trouble. Sure, I’ve had to install the driver, but there are a number of things where you have to do that with OSX, too.

5) having software exclusives, and existing in the world where virtualization/emulation on other platforms was at the end-user performance level of “barely usable, if you really need it”.

All of that seems to change with Vista and the fun 2007 world it inhabits:

#1 might have been good enough with XP, but I fail to see why none of those lessons have been learned, and we have to do it all over again with a new OS, especially one which otherwise seems to provide marginal benefits.

#2 the hardware requirements for Vista seem like simply an excuse to sell more hardware for overly bloated and inefficient software, because…

#3 they’ve totally sold out to the content industry and everything has been reoriented towards content protection, all of which eats hardware resources and diminishes usability, because of which…

#4 they broke the unified driver model and so we have to start all over again with hardware compatibility, and…

#5 now there are cheaper, better alternatives for running the same software, which actually seem to work this time around.

We’ve known this all along – Unix in any flavor is superior to Windows. We’ve finally reached the complexity point in operating systems where that difference is unmistakable even if you don’t have advanced degrees in Computer Science.

I’ve been a Windows user and defender for a very long time, because of the list of five advantages above. My primary desktop still runs XP. I expect that to be the case until I need to replace it, at which point I’ll probably get a Mac, for the five same reasons. Obviously, I haven’t hit all of the reasons, but this is a big chunk of why I have little interest in Vista. It’s the same reason I got tired of manually assigning SCSI ids to all of my disks. Tinkering is fun. Sometimes, tinkering is fun even when it’s mandatory and things don’t work unless you tinker. But after a while, you just want things to work.

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It is time for the distinction between Mac software and PC software to go away

Filed under: — adam @ 6:21 pm

I’ve been thinking about the issue of Mac software vs. PC software a lot lately, particularly with the cross-platform beta and coming production release of Adobe CS3.

I’ve only been a recent convert to the Mac, and the thing that was holding me back was that certain software that I absolutely needed was not yet available on the Mac. Until recently, things I needed to do my job wouldn’t run on OS X, or wouldn’t run well, or would run perfectly well under Windows and OS X but would require me to buy another license (and a full price non-upgrade license at that) to run what was essentially the same software as I was running under Windows.

But with the conversion of the Macs to Intel chips and the consequent advent of Parallels (and eventually VMWare Fusion, which is not yet ready for prime time in my limited tryout), this distinction essentially evaporated. I could run all of the great software I wanted natively for Mac, and anything else that wasn’t available or would cost extra for the Mac version I could run under XP on Parallels. Since then, I haven’t bought any new Windows machines. Virtualization technologies existed before, of course, but the difference this time around is that Parallels works.

And now, Adobe, I’m looking squarely at you. Your license permits me to run a copy of CS2 on my desktop (which is still Windows), and one on my laptop (which is OS X). I’m not going to buy another full $1000 copy of CS2 for the Mac, so the question now is this – the license permits me to run it on my laptop, so why are you making me run it under Parallels? You’re letting me preview the beta version of CS3 on the Mac, but now you’re just teasing me, since you’ve said that there won’t be a cross-platform license available for the full version. When CS3 comes out, I’ll have no option but to buy the Windows version. Notwithstanding the fact that I already own the Windows version, that’s the only option that will let me run it on both my desktop and my laptop, there being no way to run OS X in a virtual machine. But that’s a degraded user experience for me, for no gain for you.

So why are we still dealing with this inconvenient fiction?

Here’s my call to arms to all software developers: where you’re making a Mac and Windows version of the same software available and currently require two separate licenses, collapse and simplify. Don’t make me run the Windows version under Parallels. It just makes me love you less, and the extra love goes to Parallels instead. I want to love you more.

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Cisco owns the trademark on “iPhone”. Apple was apparently in negotiations to license the term, but had not actually completed doing so prior to the product announcement. Negotations would not seem to be going well, as Cisco has filed a suit against Apple for trademark infringment:

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Confabb is a conference portal and social networking service

Filed under: — adam @ 2:13 pm

Over the past six months, in addition to all of the other things going on in my life, including several exciting other projects, I’ve been working as the lead architect for Confabb, a comprehensive conference portal and social networking service. It’s a testament to the magic of rails and modern business practices that we’ve been able to pull this together with an entirely distributed team, some of whom have never met each other, in our spare time, with an outlay of cash measured in hundreds of dollars. On that note, the incredible rails deployment team at EngineYard deserves our unqualified thanks.

Check it out!

If you’re at all interested in conferences, we should have something interesting for you. On top of the large conference database, we’ve got features to help you track conferences you’re interested in, review and rate conferences and speakers, plus some treats for speakers and conference organizers.

The application has been an interesting ride. It fills a real need, and provides solid, useful features. After 10 years of building CMS and intranet systems for clients, I’ve spent the past few years on viscerally owning the projects I’m working on. This is the first of those launches, but it’s not the last. Stay tuned in the next few months to see what else I’m working on.

Techcrunch covered our launch today:

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Google has your logs (and all it took was a fart lighting video)

The non-obvious side of Google’s purchase of YouTube: Google now has access to the hit logs of every page that a YouTube video appears on, including LOTS of pages that were probably previously inaccessible to them. MySpace pages were probably going to get Google ads anyway, because of the big deal that happened there, but many others weren’t.

Add this to AdSense, the Google Web Accelerator, Google Web Analytics, and Google Maps, and that’s a lot of data being collected about browsing habits, and the number of sites you can browse without sending some data to Google has just dropped significantly.


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Amazon Unbox is a travesty

I was going to write something about this, but Cory beat me to it.

Amazon Unbox has the worst terms of service I’ve seen in a long time. Like Cory, I’m a longtime Amazon supporter, and I think their customer service is outstanding, and this is a travesty. Way to fuck over the people who won’t actually read the terms because they just want to download a movie.

I only really have one thing to add with respect to the “if it has value then we have a right to charge money for it” proposition. Does the MPAA reserve the right to charge more retroactively if you enjoy a movie more than you expected to? That’s hidden value, right? This madness has to stop.

Mr. Bezos, you should be ashamed of yourself, and also whoever you put in charge of this.

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AOL releases “anonymized” search data for 500k users

This is a serious breach of user privacy, and I can’t imagine there won’t be lawsuits over this.

Either they didn’t think this through, or this is the best way they could think of to raise a public outrage.

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Pixmantec acquired by Adobe

Filed under: — adam @ 2:22 pm

I got word this morning that Pixmantec was acquired by Adobe. Great going, guys!

Rawshooter is by far my favorite raw converter, and it’ll be great to see those tools integrated into the Adobe suite.

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Finally, a good use for Flash

Filed under: — adam @ 5:37 pm

Gliffy is an online diagram maker (a la Visio).

You all know how I feel about diagrams. This rocks!

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Another nail in the theater experience coffin

Filed under: — adam @ 6:55 pm

I’ve just about had it with theaters.

We tried to go see the new Superman movie this evening. I bought tickets on Fandango a few weeks ago. We arrived at the theater about 45 minutes early, which would have been plenty of time, except that the machines for some reason couldn’t find my ticket. After being shunted around to three desks, I finally arrived at the Guest Services counter, where they told me I could just use my printed receipt (which I’d thoughtfully brought) as a ticket. Of course, by this time, it was only 25 minutes before the show, and the theater was already getting pretty packed.

There were plenty of empty seats, but they were all “saved”. Normally, I expect that a few seats will be saved. Maybe even half. But we’re talking several rows of more than 12 seats. Saved. I approached a manager who seemed to be guarding them, who simply told me that they were saved. He “informed” me that there were plenty of places where we could get two seats together, and he couldn’t release any of the seats. I asked him where, and he pointed out two of them. I went to check it out. Saved. I went back and told him that, and he pointed out two more. Saved.

Saved, saved, saved.

Sorry, AMC IMAX theater, but no. Just no. I came expecting some competition for seats, and I arrived early. But I didn’t expect to be denied seats by your staff for actually being there, and told that I was just shit out of luck. For as long as I’ve been going to the movies, there have always been rules about general seating. One of them is that you can’t save more than two seats, three tops. But twelve?
I got a refund and was given two free additional tickets, but I still feel shafted. After all of the complaining about how people aren’t going to the movies anymore, the theaters should be falling over themselves that there’s actually this excitement.

I wanted to go to the movies to have some kind of shared experience, and instead I encountered a complete lack of any hospitality whatsoever. To be honest, I’m still kind of confused by the whole situation. I don’t know if I encountered some kind of special VIP situation, or just incompetence. But I do know that my time was wasted in going to the theater and going through all this, and the whole thing was pretty frustrating and unpleasant. I suppose it’s naive of me to expect them to recognize that their business lies in providing pleasant experiences.

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On the integration of Web 2.0 apps

Filed under: — adam @ 9:48 am

Britt sent me this link lamenting the lack of interaction between Web 2.0 services:

This is an interesting and correct observation, but let’s look at an analogous situation – unix command line tools.

Unix is designed around the pipe – the ability to string long chains of commands together, each of which only does a small thing, to accomplish what you actually want to do. There are some places where this breaks down, but by and large, this method has been spectacularly successful.

Web2.0 apps are much better positioned to emulate this than Web1.0 apps, but they’re still not there yet.

What’s missing is the switches that enable those apps to play nice with other apps.

You’re probably familiar with ls, which lists files in a directory:

fields@server2:~$ ls /tmp
mysql-snapshot-20060621.tar.gz mysql-snapshot-20060621_master_status.txt

ls also has another mode, that outputs a long listing, which includes more detailed information about the files:

fields@server2:~$ ls -l /tmp
total 841520
-rw-r–r– 1 root root 860863512 Jun 22 19:08 mysql-snapshot-20060621.tar.gz
-rw-r–r– 1 root root 382 Jun 22 18:50 mysql-snapshot-20060621_master_status.txt

Once you have that, you can pass the list to other programs that may want to filter the list by one of those pieces of data. The default mode is useful for dealing with the files themselves, but less useful if you want to interact with their metadata. What if the -l flag was left out, and that behavior was restricted to maintain ls’s competetive advantage (in the hypothetical situation where it’s something provided by your filesystem vendor)? If the information you’re looking for isn’t returned at all, you may have no other way to get at it. Maybe you’d have to use the vendor’s lslong, which costs money. You may be just fine with that, or you may be compelled to look for a filesystem competitor that does what you want. I’d argue that ls is less useful without that ability. That’s the situation we’re looking at when a Web 2.0 API is lacking certain core features to interact with the data it represents.

Is that an acceptable tradeoff? Maybe it is for a free service. It seems less so for a service you pay for, because fundamentally, you’re paying for the ability to manage your data, not for the ability to use the particular software – that’s the whole concept behind software as a service in the first place.

This is, of course, made more complicated by the fact that Web 2.0 isn’t just data sharing, it’s also about more dynamic interfaces. Theoretically, these two are interconnected and the dynamic interfaces work better because they can deal with small chunks of data that are in more standardized formats, and also theoretically, the data access mechanics are decoupled from the actual interaction semantics, which would have the effect of making outside non-gui access to your data easier with standard tools. In practice, that seems to rarely happen.

This is the only good rationale I’ve heard for using XML for gui/backend interchange.

These are good things to be thinking about when designing web applications. It’s not enough to think of them in a vacuum; we have to consider the implications of living in the ecosystem. It’s possible that that means opening up far more access to the underlying workings than we’re accustomed to. I would LOVE to see some applications that fully work if you take away the browser front-end, but still interact in exactly the same way via HTTP.

[Update: More on this discussion from Phil Windley.]

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Musings on Consumer Content Experience (or sometimes, maybe you need a brand)

Filed under: — adam @ 3:00 pm

Doc Searls gave an interesting closing keynote talk on the Live Web at the Syndicate conference yesterday. He started with search engines and how they index the static web, but they’re also branching off into indexing the live web via blog search and rss (not sure I agree, but more on that later). From there, he drew further dichotomies between marketing and participation/demand, and publishing as a finished product and blogging as a provisional conversation. All of this centers around his assertion that the Live Web is (or will be) a dynamic expression of the demand side of the equation fulfilling its own needs. Instead of a value chain, you get a value constellation, where each star participates in the network, and in between is freedom. I like that metaphor, and it flowed right into his main point that the Live Web economy consists of two halves – the attention economy and the intention economy. In the Live Web, consumers not only command where they look (attention), but are also in control when they’re ready to buy (intention).

The intention economy hasn’t really arrived. As a customer (no longer “consumer”), when you’ve decided what you’re going to buy, you still have to go find someplace to buy it. In the intention economy, you should be able to announce your intention to buy, and companies who are selling will come looking for you. We’re getting closer to that – shopping comparison sites help, but they’re still static snapshots. What’s needed is a dynamic marketplace around these ideas. Incidentally, that’s why I don’t necessarily think that blog search is a marker of the Live Web – RSS feeds aren’t interactive. They’re push, to be sure, so you get more updated static information, but like the shopping comparison sites, they’re still just static snapshots. On the other hand, getting people used to having some automated process working in the background is a step in the right direction.

The existence of branding is tied very closely into this. In a certain sense, a brand exists primarily to help make products seem better than they are, by associating them with other things that are known to be good. If you already know what you want to buy, maybe you’re past this point, and it’s more honest to do without. As a counter example, consider these two products, which are made by the same company and basically identical. One’s a piece of foam sex furniture for adults, and one’s a piece of foam gaming furniture for kids. Esse vs. Zerk. Same product, two very different uses. Brands serve to make the distinction. Does the fact that the same product has two different names for two different audiences make a difference? I’ll have to think about that one some more. Incidentally, if you switch the marketing copy on those two pages, it’s really funny.

(Who wants to help me come up with a brand for my spool-fed bacon-wrapped CPU cooling scheme? You have to refresh the bacon every once in a while, but on the plus side, it’s tasty.)

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Towards the zero-energy home

Filed under: — adam @ 10:30 am

A developer in Oklahoma has built a zero-energy home prototype for $200k. It’s a combination of energy efficiency, and photovoltaic and geothermal power production, mostly built with readily available off-the-shelf components. That’s fantastic.

“Ideal Homes built the first zero energy home in the country priced under $200,000. The modest one-story, three-bedroom, two bathroom home produces as much energy as it consumes in a year, achieving net zero energy consumption.”

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An important first step towards unmanufacturing

Filed under: — adam @ 11:08 am

Nokia phones are going to use a heat disassembly process that allows them to be broken down into their constituent materials, which can then be separately recycled. It’s not quite unmanufacturing, but it’s the first thing I’ve heard about a step in the right direction.,6771,27610,00.html

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Google forced to release records by the court

As predicted, U.S. Judge James Ware intends to force Google to hand over the requested data to the DoJ.

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How to be the boss

Filed under: — adam @ 4:06 pm

I was thinking about using this to kick off a business and technology blog I’m planning, but I just haven’t had the time to do the work necessary to launch it, and this was too good to not share (and a corollary rule is that when you’re the boss, you need to realize early that things aren’t going to work out and make alternate arrangements).

This is from an exchange with a client who has a problem which is, in my experience, not unique among small business leaders – they’re the bottleneck.

“I don’t like being the bottleneck but I am on most projects and I can’t seem to break the trend”.

The answer I gave him, and the answer I give you, is this:

Stop doing other people’s work for them. Stop being the customer. You’re the bottleneck because you have the vision. When someone does some work, they’ll reach a point where they have to stop and check it with you, because you have the vision for what it should be. If they had the vision, they’d know if their work was right or not, but they’re not sure. And when that happens, sometimes, maybe even often, instead of helping to transfer the vision, you get involved in their work more deeply because it worries you that they don’t have the vision and that means you need to do more oversight. That makes you busier, and takes away the time you have to approve the other things that are waiting for your approval of the vision. Maybe you’ll even take over some of those things, “because it will be faster if I just do it”, which sucks even more of your time, which makes you more of a bottleneck. As the boss, concentrate on transferring the vision instead of doing work that other people can and should be doing. You won’t always be able to, but wherever you can, it will help. Focus on giving people a template to check their work against, and you’ll have to do less of it.

This is not to say that you shouldn’t be involved, but when people bring work to you for approval, it goes a lot faster if they’re already confident that it’s right.

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Massive fraud alert on Citibank ATMs

Filed under: — adam @ 4:17 pm

Some kind of massive fuckup is going on with the international ATM network, possibly a class break of the interbank ATM network. Lots of conflicting information, but it’s pretty clear that things are not going well:

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Conversation about CC licenses

Joe Gratz and I are having an interesting discussion about Creative Commons licenses over in the comments of his blog post about Schmap:

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Taking advantage of the Commons

Filed under: — adam @ 10:21 am

I received this email in my flickr inbox this morning:

“I am writing to let you know that one of your photos with a creative commons license has been short-listed for inclusion in our Schmap Rome Guide, to be published late March 2006.”

And a link where I was given an opportunity to remove my photo from the queue or approve it for use in their guide. I responded to this before I had my coffee, so I didn’t capture the text from the page as I should have before clicking no. But it had a short blurb of text with something along the lines of “oh, even though some people may disagree, this isn’t really a commercial use, because it’s free to download and the ads support keeping it free”.

I might buy that if there was any sort of community sharing going on here. I don’t see the content of the site being released under a CC license, I see a big fat “All rights reserved” at the bottom of the homepage, and the terms of use (which also, incidentally, says you’re not allowed to use ad blocking software) contains this choice little gem:

The geographic data, photographs, diagrams, maps, points of interest, plans, aerial imagery, text, information, artwork, graphics, points of interest, video, audio, listings, pictures and other content contained on the Site (collectively, the “Materials”) are protected by copyright laws. You may only access and use the Materials for personal or educational purposes and not for resell or commercial purposes by You or any third parties. You may not modify or use the Materials for any other purpose without express written consent of Schmap (”Schmap”). You may not broadcast, reproduce, republish, post, transmit or distribute any Materials on the Site.

This is a gross perversion of what Creative Commons is about. Ad-supported “free” content is commercial (unless Google is “just trying to organize the world’s information and any money collected from selling ads is just helping keep that goal alive”). Taking CC-licensed media from other sources and roadblocking the license while claiming that the use is non-commercial is possibly deceptive.

[Update: there's more discussion on this Flickr Central thread.]

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This is what we mean by abuse of databases

Okay, here it is, folks.

When someone asks “what’s wrong with companies compiling huge databases of personal information?”, this is part of the answer:

Someone signed up for a Miller Brewery contest using a throwaway email address, and they tracked her down and signed up her “real” email address. The second link above concludes that they did it by using information collected by Equifax’s direct mail division, Naviant (which was supposed to have been shut down years ago). They own the domain from which the email was sent.

When we talk about privacy, it can mean a number of things. But indisputably, one of the definitions is “the right to be free from unauthorized intrusions”.

Maybe this is a small thing, but it’s a terrible precedent.

This person obviously didn’t want to be permanently signed up for messages from Miller. Letting an address expire is probably the ultimate form of “opt-out”. Yet, Miller thought it was okay to use personal information gleaned from who-knows-what sources to tie her to another email address, and send her more spam. Would they do the same thing if you changed your phone number to avoid telemarketers? What else is fair game?

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This is very very bad for Google’s stock price

Filed under: — adam @ 7:46 pm

“Billy Hoffman, an engineer at Atlanta company SPI Dynamics unveiled a new, smarter web-crawling application that behaves like a person using a browser, rather than a computer program. “Basically this nullifies any traditional form of forensics,” says Hoffman. The program comes from different internet addresses, simulates different browsers and throttles itself to human-like speeds.”

Currently, it’s hard to tell the difference between a human click and a robot click, but it’s still possible to make a reasonable guess, and cheap as they are, getting banks of low-paid clickers in 3rd world countries is still comparatively pricey.

But the ability to run a crawler that’s indistinguishable from a human blows all of that out the airlock. And if it’s impossible to tell the difference between an automated click and a human, the AdWords value proposition goes away.,70016-0.html?tw=rss.index


Opera blogging policy

Filed under: — adam @ 8:34 pm

Opera has a public blogging policy. Google, which has fired at least one person for comments on his blog, doesn’t. Yet one more reason why I like Opera.

Interesting list of Google acquisitions

Filed under: — adam @ 12:38 pm

This is a list of companies that Google has bought. There are some on there that I hadn’t seen before.


Rumours of Google acquisition of Opera

Filed under: — adam @ 12:19 pm


Dear Google: Please stop buying good companies/developers and ruining them with your consumer unfriendly terms of service and loose privacy policies. Thanks a bunch. – Earth.

And I quote from Opera’s privacy policy (

No personal information is collected or shared, and providing ad profile information in the browser is strictly optional. The Opera user’s Web usage is not tracked.

There’s nothing like this in any Google policy, because this very idea is antithetical to Google’s philosophy, which wants to collect and know everything about you and use that to “improve the Google user experience”/stock price. This phrase in the Opera privacy policy is critical to what makes Opera any good at all. Let’s all gather round and keep an eye on that if this rumor turns out to be true.


Alexa index is now open to the public

Filed under: — adam @ 12:13 pm

Wow, that’s so amazingly cool.

‘In short, Alexa, an Amazon-owned search company started by Bruce Gilliat and Brewster Kahle (and the spider that fuels the Internet Archive), is going to offer its index up to anyone who wants it. Alexa has about 5 billion documents in its index – about 100 terabytes of data. It’s best known for its toolbar-based traffic and site stats, which are much debated and, regardless, much used across the web.’


Why are Firefox and Thunderbird at now?

Filed under: — adam @ 8:15 pm

Firefox and Thunderbird used to be at Now, with the latest release, they’ve moved to What’s the deal?


Google really wants your logs

I wrote here about some of the privacy implications of Google’s data retention policies:

With the launch of Google Analytics, Google is now poised to collect that data not only from every Google visit, and every site that has Google ads on them, but also every site processed by Google for “analytical” purposes (although there’s probably a fair amount of overlap between the latter two).

Remember – Google does not consider your IP address to be personal information, and so it’s exempt from most of the normal restrictions on how they use the data they collect. The terms of service for Google Analytics suspiciously do not mention whether Google is allowed to utilize any of the data they collect on your behalf. One must conclude that they therefore assume that they are, and consequently that they do. It’s unclear, but it’s probably the case that Google could, according to the terms of these agreements, correlate search terms from your IP address with hits on other websites. I don’t see anything in there preventing them from doing so, because the two pieces of correlated data are obtained by different means.

Looky there, Google Web Accelerator is back

Filed under: — adam @ 12:59 pm

Google has apparently relaunched their controversial Web Accelerator.

I think I’ve already covered in detail all of the problems with this, and nothing seems to have changed except they’re just hoping people forgot about all of the reasons since last time, so just go read the previous articles if you missed them the first time around:

And especially this one:


What’s wrong with the Google Print argument

Does this phrase sound familiar? “You may not send automated queries of any sort to Google’s system without express permission in advance from Google.” It’s from Google’s terms of service, and it’s just one of several aspects of that document that make this leave a bad taste in my mouth.

Larry Lessig makes the point that “Google wants to index content. Never in the history of copyright law would anyone have thought that you needed permission from a publisher to index a book’s content.” But that’s not what Google wants to do. Google wants to index content and put their own for-pay ads next to it. Larry says ” It is the greatest gift to knowledge since, well, Google.”

Don’t forget this for a second. Google is not a public service, Google is a business. Google isn’t doing this because it’s good for the world, Google is doing this because it represents a massive expansion in the number of pages they can serve ads next to. In order to do that, the index remains the property of Google, and no one else will be able to touch it except in ways that are sanctioned by Google. It’s not really about money, it’s about control. It’s against the terms of service to make copies of Google pages in order to build an index. Why should it be okay for them to make copies of other people’s pages in order to build their own? It’s not that they’re making money that bothers us, it’s the double standard. The same double standard that says that Disney can take characters and stories from the public domain, copyright them, and then lock them up and prevent other people from using them.

Oh, but you hate that, don’t you, Larry? (And I think a lot of us do.) How is what Google is doing any different? Google is just extending the lockdown one step further, into their own pockets. There’s no share alike clause in the Google terms of service, and that is what’s wrong with it. They want privileges under the law that they’re not willing to grant to others with respect to their own content.

The day Google steps forward and says “we’re building an index, and anyone can access it anonymously in any way they please”, then sure – I’m all with you.

(Found at


Apple announces pro-level raw and image processing software

Filed under: — adam @ 3:32 pm

Looks like Apple has finally decided that they don’t need any other software companies at all.


Cool Guinness ad

Filed under: — adam @ 5:23 pm


Mini shopping

Filed under: — adam @ 9:45 am

Where to buy travel sizes for all sorts of things.


Unthrilled with the Office 12 UI

Screenshots for Office 12:

Okay, they’ve cleaned up the interface a bit by grouping related things into similar boxes that are actually labeled, and I’m told that the interface elements are all vector-based so you can resize them arbitrarily. That’s nice.


Over many years of designing custom content management interfaces for lots of people to use, it became crystal clear that there’s a huge difference between a “tool” and a “task”. A tool is a function that lets the user do something, but a task is a function that lets the user accomplish something.

In my experience, most successful content management interfaces are primarily task-based. When the user sits down in front of the computer, the goal is to get something done, not just use some tools. Tasks are for most people (beginners and power users alike), but tools are for power users. If you know what you want to do, but it doesn’t fit nicely into the framework of getting something done, you need a tool. Tasks should be the default.

This is why the new Office UI is still confusing – it’s full of tools.

Let’s take Word as an example. The forefront example of tools vs. tasks is the question “why is there still a font box?”, and the corollary question “why do the font options still occupy a huge chunk of prime screen real estate?”. Changing the font is a “tool function”. When you change the font in a document, you haven’t really accomplished anything. Sure, you’ve made it look different, but “making it look different” probably wasn’t the goal. What you were really doing is the unspoken “drawing attention to this text” or “making it match the company colors” or any number of other things that aren’t just “making it look different”. With a tool, you can “make it look different”, but it requires a lot of input from the user in order to get the rationale right, and this is why expert users get frustrated when beginniners change the fonts and their results don’t match their intent. The software shouldn’t make it easy to change the font without understanding why. There should be tasks centered around things you might want to do, and the software should guide you. Importantly, if you do understand why, and you have different intentions than the software does, it should get out of your way – but that comes around to letting you use tools to get around the limitations of pre-defined tasks.

(An important note: a “wizard” is not a task-based interface. It’s a poor substitute that attempts to graft tasks onto what is primarily a tool-based interface.)

This goes right to the heart of the debate of semantic content vs. formatting. A huge portion of the tech community has been trying very hard to get people to think in ways that are structured, for various reasons. It’s not always the best approach, but it’s by far the best default if you don’t know what you’re doing. If you go through your document and decide “this needs to be 14 point Helvetica and this needs to be italic and this needs to be 24 point Times”, the onus is on you to understand why you’ve chosen those particular settings. “It looks nice” isn’t good enough, if it doesn’t match your intent. You’ve lowered the chances of getting the right result, and you’ve made things more difficult for the next person to go through and standardize your settings when your one-page memo gets reformatted to be used in the company brochure. You’ve probably also made things more difficult for yourself. Instead of trying to decide what it should look like, you could have just told the machine “this is a heading, that’s a title, and this paragraph is a summary of findings”, and made your life easier.

The UI appears to have some of this by grouping tools by tasks, but it doesn’t follow through — “Write”, “Insert”, “Page Layout”… but then, “References”? Nope. “Mailings” – maybe, but probably not. “Review” – we’re back. “Developer”? That’s a noun. Obviously there isn’t a consistent organizational structure here. Task-based interfaces are a radical shift from tool-based ones, and they require the UI designer to ask of every function put in front of the user: “Do I really want to give them this power? Am I making their life easier by doing so, or just giving them a shotgun to aim at their feet?”. It’s Microsoft Office, not Microsoft Fun with Fonts, Colors, and Margins. There’s a strong argument to be made that it shouldn’t be easier to use all of the features, because they’re a waste of time for most users.

Microsoft should have taken this opportunity to put together a new interface that’s not only prettier, but also radically easier to use, more intuitive, and above all, more productive. Instead, they’ve produced what appears to be more of the same.


Treo 700w

Filed under: — adam @ 4:33 pm

Can someone tell me what’s compelling in any way about a Treo running Windows CE (or whatever they’re calling it these days), especially one with only a 240×240 screen? Sure, it’s got EVDO and 64MB RAM, but you probably need that extra to run Windows, and besides, those are hardware enhancements.

Apparently, the Office integration was rewritten by Palm and it isn’t using the built-in windows mobile implementation (and one would assume they could just as easily have done so for PalmOS or Cobalt or whatever), so… what’s the upside here?


Planned Parenthood turns picketers into profits

Filed under: — adam @ 2:13 pm


Here’s how it works: You decide on the amount you would like to pledge for each
protester (minimum 10 cents). When protesters show up on our sidewalks, Planned
Parenthood Southeastern Pennsylvania will count and record their number each day from October 1 through November 30, 2005. We will place a signoutside the health center that tracks pledges and makes protesters fully aware that their actions are benefiting PPSP. At the end of the two-month campaign, we will send you an update on protest activities and a pledge reminder.

If you pledge 30 cents per protester, and PPSP has 100 protesters in October and 160
protesters in November, your donation would be 78 dollars for the entire two-month campaign.


More on oil shale extraction

Filed under: — adam @ 8:35 am

Obviously, this won’t be an alternative to oil field extraction, and I believe we should move to alternative energy sources as quickly as possible. But infrastructure shifts like that take time, and this may provide a needed buffer to ease the transition.

Some counter comments on the original article are here:


In Situ Conversion is oil extraction from rock

Filed under: — adam @ 10:41 pm

Um. Holy shit.

Shell has come up with a way to extract oil from oil-bearing rock instead of oil fields.

Drill shafts into the oil-bearing rock. Drop heaters down the shaft. Cook the rock until the hydrocarbons boil off, the lightest and most desirable first. Collect them.

Please note, you don’t have to go looking for oil fields when you’re brewing your own.

On one small test plot about 20 feet by 35 feet, on land Shell owns, they started heating the rock in early 2004. “Product” – about one-third natural gas, two-thirds light crude – began to appear in September 2004. They turned the heaters off about a month ago, after harvesting about 1,500 barrels of oil.

While we were trying to do the math, O’Connor told us the answers. Upwards of a million barrels an acre, a billion barrels a square mile. And the oil shale formation in the Green River Basin, most of which is in Colorado, covers more than a thousand square miles – the largest fossil fuel deposits in the world.

And it gets much better than that. Go read the whole article.,1299,DRMN_86_4051709,00.html


Some thoughts on the new Sur La Table in Manhattan

Filed under: — adam @ 10:37 am

A new Sur La Table store opened in Manhattan recently. I was looking forward to it, but having seen it, I think it’s a bad move. The store is far enough away that it doesn’t stand to take business away from The Broadway Panhandler, and it will compete directly with Dean & Deluca. Their selection is pretty good and interesting, but nothing special.

On top of that, their prices are high, nearly a 10% markup over Broadway Panhandler (which I consider to be still on the expensive side) with a brief informal comparison on some items.

The store is too small to be really great – I was very much looking forward to getting some of their famous classes here, and the space seems particularly poorly suited to that. It’s too small, too crowded, and too cluttered. On top of that, I assume they now have to charge sales tax on mail orders to NY, so that pretty much kills them as a mail order source too.


~50 banks exposed in ID keylogger spyware theft

Filed under: — adam @ 4:53 pm

The guys at Sunbelt have discovered a massive ID theft ring running a spyware pingback keylogger collecting lots of personal data.

“This is a very different type of trojan than others, because how it transmits data back. To our knowledge, it’s the first of its kind. So get a software firewalll in place that has outbound protection.”


Google and MSN search results differ on Google/Microsoft lawsuit results

Filed under: — adam @ 8:07 pm

A researcher found that a search for “Dr. Lee court documents Google Microsoft” (no quotes), in reference to the lawsuit between MS and Google over the hiring of a key employee, yielded vastly different results from MSN and Google. As happens, the results have been a bit skewed by the existence of this observation, but my results seem to roughly correspond to those reported.

This is an interesting contrast to the usual “we refuse to comment during an ongoing investigation”. I wonder if this is indirectly caused by indexing of internal company pages that link to one viewpoint or another.

Incidentally, I find it not suprising in the least that the search results aren’t impartial.


Is the paint buddy new?

Filed under: — adam @ 9:02 am

This thing has been making the rounds:

It’s a new Rubbermaid product called the “Paint Buddy”. The idea is that when you paint, you leave a little left over in this thing for making touchups.

Didn’t I see this in a Lillian Vernon catalog, like 20 years ago?


UK government considering selling ID card data to pay for ID system

What’s that slightly coppery smell? It’s irony mixed with incompetence.

So, let me get this straight. The UK government decides to implement a national ID system amid serious criticism of its effectiveness at all and its cost-effectiveness in particular, and now is considering selling the data to pay for spiraling costs.

I bet that idea is guaranteed to reduce identity theft and abuse of the system.


“Beware the Google Threat”

Filed under: — adam @ 1:22 pm

Wired picks up on the fact that Google is growing fast, aggregating a LOT of data on its users (some of it incredibly personal) and not telling anyone what they’re doing with it behind the veil of vague privacy policies.

The article is a decent summary, but it also misses the point that a good deal (if not all) of the Google information is subject to revelation simply if “We conclude that we are required by law or have a good faith belief that access, preservation or disclosure of such information is reasonably necessary to protect the rights, property or safety of Google, its users or the public.

That is NOT the same as a subpoena. I talked about this previously in a discussion about why Google’s needs come before your own.,1284,67982-2,00.html


Open letter to Adobe

Dear Adobe:

Your activation system is a failure.

I have been a loyal customer for more than ten years. I’ve dutifully paid pretty much whatever you’ve asked for upgrades over the years, and I’ve always been happy with your product.

I understand that you don’t want people to steal your software. Never mind that Photoshop is largely the industry leader in image management because it was mercilessly copied by everyone. Your product is good, and I like it.

Let’s be clear about this. I’m not stealing your software.

But you’re treating me like a criminal. Twice in the past few weeks, I’ve had to talk to one of your activation support reps because your online activation system is broken. It has several times just decided that I’d activated enough, and was suspicious. Never mind that I was reinstalling on a brand new replacement computer. Never mind that on the first occasion this happened, there was no grace period, and the software simply would not run until I talked to a representative on the phone, who, by the way, are ONLY AVAILABLE DURING WEST COAST BUSINESS HOURS.

Thanks. You’ve given me reasons to think twice about giving you more money in the future and tarnished your spotless reputation.

Bravo. I hope it was worth it.

[Update: I've spoken to Adobe support after my fourth automated reactivation failure, and apparently, this is an issue with RAID devices, where the activation system sees it as a different computer configuration on subsequent checks. My previous comments stand. This is totally unacceptable. Worse than that. The system is not only broken, it's returning false positives for theft masquerading as valid and accepted disaster prevention techniques. So, my opinion is now this - Adobe has not only foisted misguided copy protection techniques on us, but, to add insult to injury, they're still beta. There is a patch available, so contact Adobe if you have this problem.]

[Update #2: I installed the patch, and activation failed yet again. Holding for support... ]

[Update #3: After activating again via phone, all seems to be working. For now. ]


One-page PDF for sale for $1500 on Amazon

Filed under: — adam @ 7:54 pm

This PDF entitled “Sony to Include Blu-ray in PS3: HD-DVD Green with Envy” is $1500 on Amazon. It’s one page.


I’m not sure if the one page is the pictured cover page, or there’s another page after that.


Mastercard data theft possibly exposes 40m cards

Filed under: — adam @ 4:52 pm

“MasterCard International reported today that it is notifying its member financial institutions of a breach of payment card data, which potentially exposed more than 40 million cards of all brands to fraud, of which approximately 13.9 million are MasterCard-branded cards.”


Google patent filing reveals interesting information about ranking

Filed under: — adam @ 11:29 am

They apparently look at how far in the future your domain expiration is, how your links manifest over time, and how the focus of your site is directed over time, among other things.

It does look to me like, using their definitions, “blog” is largely indistinguishable from “spam”.

Here’s the actual patent application:

(Note: Google’s name doesn’t appear to be on this patent.)



Filed under: — adam @ 12:19 pm


No, this doesn’t seem like a good idea at all.


Google will eat itself

Filed under: — adam @ 11:58 am


“We generate money by serving Google text advertisments on our website With this money we automatically buy Google shares via our Swiss e-banking account. We buy Google via their own advertisment! Google eats itself – but in the end we will own it!”


More thoughts on Mac and Intel

Filed under: — adam @ 11:12 am

Having thought about this for a while, and heard all of the conspiracy theories about how this is Apple’s latest move to dominate the world, here’s what I think.

There is no master plan.

Steve Jobs got backed into a corner by IBM, because IBM wanted Apple to put more money into the PowerPC chip line, which IBM is not terribly interested in keeping alive because, frankly, Apple doesn’t sell that many computers and the technology’s a dead end. So Apple didn’t pay up, and IBM didn’t produce faster, cooler chips for the laptops that Apple wanted, and Apple was left with two choices: produce no more faster laptops, or move to another chip vendor. Intel is the obvious choice, as the largest-and-not-cheapest vendor. Intel’s a little pissed off at Microsoft, and they’ve been getting some heat from AMD (despite continually producing better but not cheaper technology, IMHO). Porting OSX to Intel or anything else is actually laughably easy, because all along, it’s been built on top of a Mach microkernel architecture which is designed specifically for this.

So Apple dumps IBM, who doesn’t really care because they’ve got Sony’s business for the new Cell processors and the PS3 is going to way outsell the Mac any day of the week. Apple will sell, what, 5 million Macs this year? Sony sells that many PS2s in two months. Intel gets a little coolness factor for selling even more of their incredibly popular chip line, and Apple gets their dual-core Pentium M laptops.

Microsoft continues to dominate whole industries through sheer obstinacy.


Cringely thinks Intel is buying Apple

Filed under: — adam @ 4:04 pm

“Intel is fed up with Microsoft. Microsoft has no innovation that drives what Intel must have, which is a use for more processing power. And when they did have one with the Xbox, they went elsewhere.

So Intel buys Apple and works with their OEMs to get products out in the market. The OEMs would love to be able to offer a higher margin product with better reliability than Microsoft. Intel/Apple enters the market just as Microsoft announces yet another delay in their next generation OS. By the way, the new Apple OS for the Intel Architecture has a compatibility mode with Windows (I’m just guessing on this one).”


They announce 12 months ahead of product, Mac sales go in the toilet while people wait for the next big thing, Apple’s stock price gets depressed, and Intel can snap them up at a bargain.


Maybe I’m just feeling a little childish today

Filed under: — adam @ 1:57 pm

There’s something deeply wrong with this product image.

Memory foam


Three simple rules for good customer service

Filed under: — adam @ 11:42 am

There are three simple rules for customer service:

1) Don’t ask me for the same information more than once.

2) When I give you information, understand it. This goes double for when I tell you I’ve already tried certain steps to fix the problem.

3) Help me solve the problem. If you can’t (see rule #2), reroute me to someone who can (see rule #1).


Why the BBS documentary was released with a creative commons license and what that means

Filed under: — adam @ 12:08 pm

This is a great piece from the creator of the BBS documentary on why he released it under a fairly unrestricted creative commons license:

Now, under copyright law in the United States, I have, as a content creator, an amazing arsenal of statutes and legal decisions at my disposal to make your life, assuming you are playing the part of someone copying my films without my permission, into a bitter fucking hell. I mean, a seriously bad, stinky, horrifying pit of suck. I can threaten you with years of jail. I can sue you in civil court while pursuing a criminal case against you on a state and federal level. If I am feeling somewhat kinky I can try and drag Interpol into the whole mess. And the laws out there, approved, let me attempt to have you put away for YEARS. Absolutely YEARS of your life for videotaping a copy of my film.

In other words, I have an enormous amount of incentive to be a jerk.

And yes, it’s so easy, having now created something that has the potential to cost me a lot of money, to reach out and want to use these tools for my own end. Even though, in my own high school and college years, I made songs that used samples from professional productions, even if I took screengrabs from films and put them on a website to make a funny parody in 1995, I see my own work and the temptation is there to go “No, this is different. This is my stuff and you can’t have my stuff without paying for it.”

But that’s not what I did. Instead, I stayed true to my belief system and licensed it under Creative Commons, giving away a lot of the tools that US copyright law grants me, because they’re are By the Jerks, for the Jerks, and should perish from this Earth.

It was in some ways a tough decision, because you want to “protect” yourself, but then you realize you’re not really “protecting” anything; all you’re doing is being a paranoid twitch-bag. And once you realize this, then it becomes a little easier.

It keeps coming back to these four points:

1. People like to spend money.
2. People dont like to be treated like criminals.
3. People like to spend money on those they consider friendly or part of their community, even if its not true (you know who you are).
4. People share with their friends.

Creative commons is not just sharing, it’s good business sense. It massively produces goodwill and exposure for your products.

Rent Anime DVDs

Filed under: — adam @ 6:49 am

RentAnime is a new netflix competitor that specializes in anime DVDs.

They have a Hentai section, but no Overfiend.

Netflix has it though.


End of the 9 line

Filed under: — adam @ 6:58 pm

The 9 line has been eliminated by the MTA:


I’m very confused about EliteTorrents

The MPAA shut down EliteTorrents, which was supposed to be “one of the first peer to peer networks to post an illegal copy of Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith before the movie officially opened in theaters last Thursday”, according to the MPAA press release.

(Sorry, word format.)

This kind of thing has a limited lifetime, because Bittorrent has gone trackerless. What this means is that once a full copy is out there somewhere, the network becomes very resistant to taking down any particular copy. I’ve written about the MPAA’s problems with this before, but I feel the need to reiterate: this is not something that you can just make go away. It’s not a technology, it’s a technique. The ability to reconstruct a whole from disparate parts, without a central resource means that it doesn’t help to shut down one, or even a few sites to stop the flow – you have to eradicate every last copy out there. Frankly, I don’t see that happening, and even if we did, the means to get there could not possibly be worth the end product.

So, assume that p2p file sharing is here to stay, and can’t be stopped.

Now, this is very interesting, because although I can’t find a reference for it, I’m told that Revenge of the Sith made back its entire investment in merchandising tie-ins before a single ticket was sold. If that’s true, even setting aside the record numbers of ticket revenue on opening weekend, this is hardly a poster child for revenue lost to filesharing, but instead an argument that filesharing is, in fact, great for generating buzz and activating supplemental revenue streams.

I’m not a marketer, I’m a technologist, but even this is obvious to me:

  1. People like to spend money.
  2. People don’t like to be treated like criminals.
  3. People like to spend money on those they consider friendly or part of their community, even if it’s not true (you know who you are).
  4. People share with their friends.

The creative commons folks get it.

I’m also confused about why EliteTorrents was hosting a copy of the movie, if in fact they were. With a trackerless torrent, if someone puts up a movie, and then they take it down, but multiple other people have sucked it down and are sharing it, you’ve got a pretty big whack-a-mole problem. The original sharer has probably complied with a what a C&D would accomplish, but the problem still exists. This is bad, I think – it increases the incentive for copyright owners to try to make the penalties greater for smaller instances of filesharing, and I think that would be counterproductive approach.


Gizmodo doesn’t like Verizon either

Filed under: — adam @ 10:03 am


Rent a Dildo


(Given their rental model, I’d have gone with something like “NetPrix” instead of the name they chose.)

Adobe is buying Macromedia

Filed under: — adam @ 8:55 am

This is a very interesting merger, and it totally makes sense.

1. Adobe gets Dreamweaver, which is way more advanced than Go Live, in my limited experience.

2. Adobe gets Fireworks to integrate into ImageReady. I’ve never really used Fireworks, but I’m told that it makes common web graphics a lot easier.

3. Adobe now controls PDF >and< Flash.

And, possibly most importantly:

4. Adobe has been doing a lot of dynamic PDF generation with J2EE. Macromedia has Coldlfusion/JRun. I think, but I’m not sure, that I smell a really kickass CMS brewing here that integrates directly with Adobe’s image server. Moreover, it may be what I’ve been waiting for from Adobe for years – print and web output from the same system, and a web-based interactive system for editing content for print publications based on InDesign (or similar) templates.

IBM has been working on techniques for combining PDF and XML documents via J2EE:

I’ve put together a possible pretty simple flow diagram for #4:


UNH paper on the mechanics of widescale biodiesel production

Filed under: — adam @ 8:52 am

“In the United States, oil is primarily used for transportation – roughly two-thirds of all oil use, in fact. So, developing an alternative means of powering our cars, trucks, and buses would go a long way towards weaning us, and the world, off of oil. While the so-called “hydrogen economy” receives a lot of attention in the media, there are several very serious problems with using hydrogen as an automotive fuel. For automobiles, the best alternative at present is clearly biodiesel, a fuel that can be used in existing diesel engines with no changes, and is made from vegetable oils or animal fats rather than petroleum.

In this paper, I will first examine the possibilities of producing biodiesel on the scale necessary to replace all petroleum transportation fuels in the U.S.”


Something foul in wordpress land

Filed under: — adam @ 9:57 am

The creator of Wordpress is apparently using the pagerank gained from every wordpress site linking to to game adwords by having thousands of unrelated articles cloaked on the site:

I can’t blame the guy for trying to make some money off of his wildly successful software, but this is the sort of thing that really ought to be disclosed to the community of people putting in their work for free.

Also, it raises the question (and I have no reason to believe that it’s the case) – “if the leader of this project thinks it’s a good idea to host a link farm, what other surprises may be lurking in the code?” It’s a GPL project, so of course, you can check the source code. But it’s a blow to think that you have to check for something that was widely considered a community-based project.


Godaddy silence

Filed under: — adam @ 2:53 pm

So, I’m on hold for Godaddy support, and I hear the wonderful words of freedom:

“To hold without music, press # now.”




So, what does this mean for bloglines?

Filed under: — adam @ 9:14 pm

Ask Jeeves bought bloglines. Now IAC has bought Ask Jeeves.

Where does this leave bloglines?

Yahoo acquires Flickr

Filed under: — adam @ 12:29 am


Tivo lives!

Filed under: — adam @ 10:39 am

Apparently, Tivo has signed a HUGE partnership deal with Comcast, stopping the Tivo Death Clock. The initial term of the deal is seven years. This is great, and I hope they sign a similar deal with the other cable companies. The idea of anyone out there using a Scientific Atlanta DVR and thinking “this is what it’s all about?” gives me the shivers. Congratulations to Tivo!

“On March 15, 2005, we entered into a non-exclusive licensing and marketing agreement with Comcast STB Software DVR, LLC, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Comcast Corporation, and Comcast Corporation, as guarantor of Comcast STBs obligations under the agreement. Pursuant to our agreement, we have agreed to develop a TiVo-branded software solution for deployment on Comcasts DVR platforms, which would enable any TiVo-specific DVR and networking features requested by Comcast, such as WishList^ searches, Season Pass^ recordings, home media features, and TiVoToGo^ transfers. In addition, we have agreed to develop an advertising management system for deployment on Comcast platforms to enable the provision of local and national advertising to Comcast subscribers.”


ChoicePoint exploit is probably far worse than anyone knows

Filed under: — adam @ 12:33 pm

Bruce Schneier points out that the ChoicePoint exploit is probably far worse than anyone knows:

“Catch that? ChoicePoint actually has no idea if only 145,000 customers were affected by its recent security debacle. But it’s not doing any work to determine if more than 145,000 customers were affected — or if any customers before July 1, 2003 were affected — because there’s no law compelling it to do so.”


Google nailed for using sleazy SEO tactics

Filed under: — adam @ 9:42 pm

Does Google really need to stuff keywords to increase their own rankings?

“10 Things I Have Learned”

Filed under: — adam @ 9:31 pm

Interesting read. Basically, be true to thine own self, be honest with others, and some people just suck.


Social Networking is the new email

Filed under: — adam @ 2:37 pm

Just as every program will attempt to expand until it can read mail, all web apps will expand until they become social networking hubs:


Are people just stupid?

Filed under: — adam @ 8:01 pm

Would someone please explain to me why the very public exploitation of T-mobile’s notably bad security has resulted in an increase in sales of the Sidekick II?

Do people go shopping for a cell phone and think “Hmmm… today, I’d like to be like that Paris Hilton. Maybe my data will end up on the internet and people will gather round and just throw piles of money at my head and I’ll get to have sex.” ???

They keep your data, they take poor care of it, and THEY’RE SELLING LIKE HOTCAKES.

I don’t get it. I’m completely at a loss. What’s the motivation here?

My optimization services

Filed under: — adam @ 3:57 pm

I launched the first of my optimization kickstart consulting packages. This one focuses on MySQL. If you use MySQL, and you’re having performance issues, need a tuneup, or just aren’t getting the performance you need, I can help you.


You can order a real pizza in Everquest II

“Real” meaning “physical”, of course. It is, after all, Pizza Hut.


Theater to DVD in 4 days

Filed under: — adam @ 4:00 pm

I sort of wonder why they bother releasing it in the theater at all.


Bloglines acquisition is official

Filed under: — adam @ 3:02 pm

Good for them! I really like bloglines.


Apparently, AskJeeves has bought bloglines

Filed under: — adam @ 4:49 pm

If this is true, I just hope they don’t botch it.

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