Adam Fields (weblog) » News / Media entertaining hundreds of millions of eyeball atoms every day Mon, 08 Apr 2013 17:49:20 +0000 en hourly 1 Why all this mucking about with irrevocable licenses? Sat, 09 Jul 2011 12:43:46 +0000 adam 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’?

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Vote. Tue, 04 Nov 2008 02:00:12 +0000 adam Get out there tomorrow and do what you feel you need to. This country has gone astray, and we need to fix it. The next four, eight, twelve years are important, and what you do tomorrow will dictate the path for those years. We need strong leadership who will listen to the concerns of our citizenship.

On that note, the Columbia Journalism Review has reported on a new map of political blogs that my company, Morningside Analytics recently produced for a study being conducted by Columbia’s Toni Stabile Center for Investigative Reporting and the Berkman Center at Harvard.

Political Clustermap
(Click the image to read our blog post about it.)

I find this map extremely compelling, and it speaks volumes about the respective approaches that will follow one of these two men to the White House tomorrow.

John Kelly, our chief scientist and founder, sums it up:

“There are some groups of pro-McCain and anti-Obama blogs that are well connected to each other but not densely linked with bloggers in the longstanding political blogosphere, even those on the conservative side [...]. If these were typical political bloggers, we would expect to see them better woven into the fabric of the network.”

Cogitate on that, sleep well, and vote proudly.

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Shifting the Debate Fri, 24 Oct 2008 14:37:08 +0000 adam My company (Morningside Analytics) has just launched our Political Video Barometer, which tracks the movement of YouTube videos through conservative and liberal blogs:

The Barometer is updated 4 times a day and allows you to see which new videos are starting to break through within either the conservative or liberal blogs and which ones are breaking through to non-political audiences. We identify influential blogs through a unique cutting edge clustering approach – the underlying technology was also used earlier this year to produce this detailed report on Iran’s blogosphere for the Berkman Center at Harvard.

We are also running a blog at which will examine interesting findings from the barometer.

It’s always fun to launch a new product. We worked very hard on this, and I’m proud of it.


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On libertarian/capitalist intent Thu, 02 Oct 2008 13:13:06 +0000 adam For some time, I was a staunch Libertarian. That lasted until I started to examine the boundary cases where Libertarianism didn’t seem to offer a good answer. I still hold a lot of those principles dear, but I’m no longer convinced that complete Libertarianism can work in the real world. What follows are some of my recent thoughts on the free market.

The proponents of the free market often propose that private ownership gives people an incentive to make the most of resources, and that people with ownership incentive are likely to make the best decisions about the use of resources.

I tend to agree in many cases – the market does often work and find the best solution, but I’ve been mulling over some exceptions to that rule.

Some traps that individual decisions in the market can fall into:

1) Divergent interests: the interests of the owning party may not be the same as the general public.

2) Irrationality: people don’t always act rationally or in their best interest.

2a) Obscured Information: even in the face of good information, which is often not present, the right decision isn’t evident.

3) Vested Interest: ownership of a thing is not the same as stewardship of a thing, and if you don’t have a personal vested interest in the thing, your best use of it may be to divest yourself of it (i.e.: use it up, parcel it, consume it) in exchange for lots of short term money you can use to buy something you actually want.

4) Value dilution: the more stuff you own, the less you care about any given individual thing. Ownership of lots of things probably means that each individual one is less valuable, because the value of a thing must be measured not just against the external market value, but also its proportion to your total assets, difficulty to replace, your incentive to replace it if you lose it, sentimental value, subsidiary values (prestige from ownership, etc…), and a whole host of other things.

5) Lack of patience and susceptibility to fear: People in control of a thing may require immediate access to it (liquidity), and will sometimes act to preserve that liquidity at the expense of the health of the overall economy, and therefore at the expense of some value of the underlying asset. This happens even though the people controlling an asset may be able to see the writing on the wall – everyone will be fine if everyone sits tight, but if you wait and someone else moves first, you lose. I think this usually manifests as “private enterprise tends to seek short-term gains”, but it’s tightly tied to #6:

6) The Tragedy of the Selfish: this is a concept I’ve been toying with on and off for a few years. It’s not the Tragedy of the Commons, and it’s not quite the Tragedy of the Anticommons, though there are aspects of both in there, as well as an arms race component, and some Prisoner’s Dilemma. This is the situation that exists when an individual makes what is logically the best decision to maximize their own position, but the sum effect of everybody making their best decisions is that everybody ends up worse off rather than better. Libertarian capitalism hinges on the assumption that making everybody individually better off is the best way to maximize the happiness of the group, and it’s simply the case that there are situations where that assumption does not hold. The example I often use for this is buying an SUV to be safer on the road. You buy an SUV, then other people do, because they want to be safer too. Except that if enough people make that same decision, you’ve overall raised the chances that if you’re hit by a car, it’ll be an SUV, which will do much more damage than a smaller car. Everyone is better off if everyone else backs off and drives smaller cars. It’s a simplification, of course, but I hope that makes the point.

That’s what I’ve come up with so far. I’m sure there are more. Of course these don’t always apply, but I think at least one of them does often enough to warrant a better justification that “the market will solve the problem”. They’re certainly things to watch out for when getting out of the way and letting the market work.

What do you think?

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Cool photo roundup Mon, 04 Aug 2008 16:39:07 +0000 adam Nasa:

Museum of Natural History:

400+ forms used by the NSA:

London Bananas:

How to make an inkjet print that will last 10000 years:

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Warner Bros. goes Blu-ray exclusive Sat, 05 Jan 2008 17:15:04 +0000 adam Warner Bros., one of the big dual-format holdouts in HD video, announced yesterday that they’re switching to Blu-ray only as of May 2008, abandoning HD DVD. The format war isn’t quite “over” yet, but this is a significant victory for Blu-ray.

This leaves Paramount as the only major studio still backing HD DVD [update: oops, Universal too.].,20812,1700383,00.html

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The HD format war is lost by existing Fri, 28 Sep 2007 20:55:18 +0000 adam [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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New Star Trek movie apparently reboots with an open time loop Sun, 02 Sep 2007 15:15:58 +0000 adam “Picture an incident that throws a group of Romulans back in time. Picture that group of Romulans figuring out where they are in the timeline, then deciding to take advantage of the accident to kill someone’s father, to erase them from the timeline before they exist, thereby changing all of the TREK universe as a result. Who would you erase? Whose erasure would leave the biggest hole in the TREK universe is the question you should be asking.

Who else, of course, but James T. Kirk?”

Although I don’t think it would work as a standalone movie, I’m still waiting for the followup series they hinted at the end of TNG – the continual use of warp drive is found to be definitively unraveling the fabric of space-time. How do you deal with that? What does that do to interplanetary politics? How do you develop alternate forms of travel that don’t use warp technology? How do you stop everyone from using warp drive, and how do you police that? How do you impose that restriction on hostile entities? Nothing like a good galactic environmental crisis to bring Star Trek back into relevance.

(Of course, in TNG, the answer obviously lies in Wesley Crusher’s newly acquired godlike Traveler capabilities, but I think there are a lot of people who would find that objectionable.)

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Newer PS3s apparently use software emulation for PS2 games Sun, 02 Sep 2007 13:35:25 +0000 adam Apparently, Sony dropped including the PS2 hardware in the 80GB model, and the last version that includes it is the now discontinued, recently price-cut $499 60GB model. If you care about playing older PS2 games and are thinking about getting a PS3, you probably want to get that one, before it disappears. It should also be noted that the HD is user-replaceable, so there’s actually very little tradeoff there.

The new model includes a software emulator, but a fairly large number of the older games have at least some problems.

I’ve really been pretty blown away by how much fun the PS3 is, both for the newer games (which are huge and gorgeous) and for how much better it makes the PS2 experience – all games that support it can play in widescreen, everything’s faster, using the hard drive instead of memory cards is both more convenient and MUCH faster, and the analog sticks are more precise. I think dropping the hardware emulator is an unfortunate cost-saving move that will probably diminish the experience, if you care about that.

Also interesting – I found this list of current and upcoming PS3 exclusives, including PSN (downloadable) games:–a1079-p0.php

I think the PS3 has only shown a mere fraction of its power, and Sony didn’t do even a passable job of promoting it properly at launch, but the slate of games on the list for the next six months and beyond has me very excited.

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Why am I writing about HD home theater frustrations? Wed, 18 Jul 2007 17:21:26 +0000 adam The consumer electronics companies really have their collective head so far up their ass they’re wearing their tongue for a hat.

So to speak.

I made the jump to an HD projector, which I have nothing but good things to say about. It’s a Mistubishi HD1000U. At this point, it’s a few years old, but that’s how you get a 720p projector at a sub-$1000 price instead of dropping a few grand. The picture quality is amazing, the contrast is strong, and it’s bright enough for me. We’re projecting onto a plain off-white wall instead of a screen, and the color is brilliant and rich. For the most part, we watch movies at night with the lights off, and I sometimes use it during the day with a computer for web browsing and email. For these purposes, it’s just fine. I’m very sensitive to picture artifacts, particularly the rainbow effect of DLP projectors (which this is), and while they’re still sometimes present, they’re MUCH less noticeable than on any other projector I’ve looked at. Big thumbs up to Mitsubishi here – this is a winner at this price point or cheaper. Two small notes on the setup:

  1. This projector has a weird throw angle which is noted in many reviews, so positioning is limited and they claim you’ll want to ceiling mount it or put it on a table in front of your seating. I put it on top of a high bookshelf behind the seating, angled down at about an 18-degree angle by putting it on top of a Roadtools Podium CoolPad at the maximum height. This is stable, allows plenty of air circulation under the projector, and is well within the 30-degrees of maximum tilt usually recommended for projectors.
  2. The native resolution for the projector is 1280×720, which my Mac Mini couldn’t do by default. It looked terrible at all of the choices, so I dropped a whopping $18.37 on SwitchResX, which let me set a native resolution of 1280×720, and which looks fabulous.

Set aside for the moment the fact that there’s an HD disc format war to begin with, which is the height of idiocy because DVD was the most successful consumer electronics uptake ever solely because there was one single format and everyone looked at DVD compared to VHS and said “oh, yeah, well, I’ll take that”.

It was the cheapest option and I might get a PS3 at some point in the future, so I picked up a Toshiba HD-A2 HD-DVD player to check out some HD content. I got rid of cable a while ago (but would probably go back if I could just buy Discovery HD and maybe cartoon network and scifi), and Netflix, sans tonguehat, kindly offered to send me a bunch of stuff that was already in my queue in HD-DVD instead of crappy old regular DVD.

They’ve reproduced a bunch of the usability problems in the first generation DVD player which I bought ten years ago (which, now that I think about it, may also have been a Toshiba). The machine itself is big (same form factor as my 6-disc DVD changer). The machine takes a long time to boot up. Backward compatibility is weird – regular DVDs play in a tiny portion of the screen unless you manually set the machine to 480p mode before starting. The first round of discs don’t seem to support the “resume from where I stopped when I press stop then play again” feature, so if you press stop for a minute, you have to watch the FBI warning again. Why is there even an FBI warning in the first place?! Isn’t the overly invasive “copy protection” they foisted on me supposed to prevent me from copying it, even if I wanted to? Oh wait, that’s right… it’s just there to irritate me and not prevent anyone from actually copying anything. The warning I have to stare at every time I switch discs does that.

Which brings me to inputs. I’m somewhat of an expert at setting up electronics, and I find this needlessly frustrating. The projector has HDMI and component inputs, but no output. Previously, I’d had everything wired through S-video and optical audio (TOSlink), using my receiver as a switcher. This worked pretty well. However, the receiver is older and has neither component nor HDMI in or out. I have a component switcher with TOSlink support which I’m using for all of the things that I used to use S-video for (DVD player and PS2), and the component video goes to the projector and the TOSlink goes to the receiver on a single input. But this totally breaks down with HDMI. They collapsed the audio and video streams into one cable to “simplfy things”, but that doesn’t change the fact that the two streams need to go to different devices. There seems to be no standard way to deal with this. There are HDMI switchers that will split out the audio portion to a TOSlink audio cable automatically, but they’re prohibitively expensive (hundreds of dollars). The solution seems to be to use separate switchers for HDMI and TOSlink, and program a universal remote to switch them at the same time. Hardly fun for the average person. It’s doable, but what were they thinking?!?. It makes no sense to put audio and video on the same cable unless all of the devices support that (they don’t) and you can freely move the signal around, which of course you can’t because the “copy protection” won’t let you.

On the other hand, the picture quality is quite stunning. DVD looks “really really good”. HD-DVD looks “better than film”.

A big thank you to Mitsubishi, Netflix, and the film crew on that BBC Planet Earth Documentary. The rest of you, please buy another hat.

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New social networking features on Confabb launched today Mon, 16 Apr 2007 19:41:55 +0000 adam 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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The end of DRM is nigh Mon, 02 Apr 2007 16:27:57 +0000 adam 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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The water’s GOOD, come on in Fri, 22 Dec 2006 06:01:02 +0000 adam Last week, we relaunched the GOOD site, with the very first round of new community features. We’ve got a lot planned for the next few months – this is just the beginning. But now, you can register with the site, comment on articles and posts, and vote for your favorites.

Check it out!

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NYT on the Iraqi version of the Daily Show Tue, 24 Oct 2006 13:45:11 +0000 adam This is a NYT article about an Iraqi show which seems to be called “Hurry Up, He’s Dead”.

The description is painful to read, a horrible ironic reminder of the awfulness:

“In a recent episode, the host, Saad Khalifa, reported that Iraq’s Ministry of Water and Sewage had decided to change its name to simply the Ministry of Sewage — because it had given up on the water part.”

“Mr. Sudani, the writer, said he has lost hope for his country. Iraq’s leaders are incompetent, he said. He fears that services will never be restored. The American experiment in democracy, he said, was born dead.

All anyone can do, he said, is laugh.”

Via Perry Metzger:

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Songbird media player looks pretty cool Mon, 09 Oct 2006 17:03:27 +0000 adam This looks VERY promsing.

Open source, cross-platform, extensible media player based on Mozilla to browse, collect, and play web and local media files. Sure.

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GOOD Magazine Wed, 20 Sep 2006 14:59:07 +0000 adam One of the projects I’m working on is GOOD Magazine. We have some incredible things planned for their site in the next few months, and there will be future updates about that. In the meantime, the magazine itself is pretty good. The first issue has come out, and it’s an interesting read. These guys are genuinely interested in the phenomenon of doing good, and they’ve uncovered some great stories.

For a $20 subscription, you get a year’s subscription (six issues), and 100% of your subscription fee goes to your choice of 12 partner organizations.

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Amazon Unbox is a travesty Sun, 17 Sep 2006 15:13:45 +0000 adam 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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Wikipedia refuses to censor in China Tue, 12 Sep 2006 04:10:16 +0000 adam Bravo.,,1869074,00.html

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Designing community Sat, 29 Jul 2006 19:33:01 +0000 adam There’s something really important in here about designing community.

And also, it’s about Snakes on a Plane.

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Jim Baen died yesterday Thu, 29 Jun 2006 16:34:40 +0000 adam Not just a luminary in science fiction, but also a guiding light on free ebooks.

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All video is suspect Tue, 20 Jun 2006 15:18:20 +0000 adam Fascinating movie about the process of making Marlon Brando speak new lines for Superman Returns.

Remember when you first realized that everything you saw in a photo could be faked and you couldn’t tell the difference? It’s here for video too.

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Collected thoughts on the futility of online communities Sat, 17 Jun 2006 18:39:21 +0000 adam This is a long post collecting comments and thoughts from some emails and conversations with Britt Blaser, Doc Searls, and others. Some of this is from external impressions of the Dean campaign (I wasn’t involved, and I haven’t found a good postmortem), but also about my own participation in online communities and the lack of incentive that I often feel to do so.

There is a huge untapped market for community software. There’s a lot of “community software” out there, and it all fails on the same key point – it’s all centered on the software itself (or more specifically, the website experience), and fundamentally, communities don’t happen in discussion groups or impersonal online participation. People come to a community like dailykos or metafilter or whatever, and they “join” the community, but those ties are fragile, and the experience of most participants is that they almost never extend to anything beyond participating in the online community itself. If you suddenly disappear, no one will come looking for you. This is not the same as an actual community.

Reading isn’t participation in a community. Writing to the public isn’t participation in a community, and the fatal flaw of the existing approach is that the underlying assumption is that the collective act of reading and writing is equal to participation. This is especially misleading if the online community is supposed to be mirroring some sort of participation in the real world, like political involvement.

The end result is exactly what we saw with the Dean campaign, as perceived by an outsider. Lots of “participation”, lots of “involvement”, but everybody sat around reading and writing and thinking that they were somehow involved, but when it came down to it, no one got up to vote.

Now, actually, there’s a corollary problem here, which is that the online community itself, while very vocal, was also VERY bad at doing anything to engage anyone outside of the online community, because they spent all of their time reading and writing, and those activities, even as they fail to engage those inside the online community to action, COMPLETELY fail to engage anyone outside the online community.

As I wrote the above, the universe graciously provided a perfect example to illustrate my point:,,1788774,00.html

It’s an article about the futility of discussing things online, which has somehow accumulated an inordinate number of comments.

I’ll pause for a moment while that sinks in.

So, we have some problems to fix. Participation in the online community needs to have the following properties:

1) It should be centered around activity that breaks out of the online community. This needn’t actually be physical meetings, although those are also good, but all actions must be classified as “inward” (aimed towards engaging with others in the online community) or “outward” (aimed towards engaging with other outside the online community). EVERY inward action must have a corresponding outward action. If it doesn’t, there’s already a name for this – it’s called “preaching to the choir”, and it’s the death of activism.

2) It should allow and encourage those inside the online community to engage with each other temporarily to reinforce the commitments of those who are already involved, but all such actions should be considered subsidiary to engaging with others outside the online community. Think of this as the difference between vegetables (outward) and chocolate (inward). A little bit of the latter is very rewarding and tastes good, but if that’s all you eat, you get fat and die.

3) It should allow those in the online community to evolve internally the mechanisms for accomplishing goals outside the online community. This may involve consensus building, electing representatives inside the online community, collaborative letter writing, legislation hashing, and so on.

4) It must have a mechanism for elimination of cruft. Old ideas, bad ideas, unpopular ideas, and irrelevant ideas are all barriers to entry. The online community must be able to decide on what the salient points are, and delete the rest. I’ve had it with relativistic egalitarianism. There is such a thing as a bad idea, and they’re distracting and harmful. We need to create a marketplace where all ideas have an equal opportunity to flourish, but if they don’t, then let’s be done with them. Archive the discussion for posterity, and clear it out of the center of attention.

It’s not enough to talk, communities must be a driver for action.

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Musings on Consumer Content Experience (or sometimes, maybe you need a brand) Thu, 18 May 2006 20:00:04 +0000 adam 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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Sony can’t make up its mind if music is sold or licensed Sun, 30 Apr 2006 14:21:13 +0000 adam

At issue is whether the music sold through these services is a “license” or a “sale.” Sony pays less to its artists for sales than for licensing (Sony artists reportedly earn $0.045 for each $0.99 song sold on iTunes). Naturally, Sony claims that the songs sold on iTunes are sales and not licensing deals.

This is where it gets interesting. As Brad Templeton and others have pointed out, Sony and others have long maintained that what you get when you buy an iTune is a license, not ownership of a product. That license prohibits you from doing all kinds of otherwise lawful things, like selling your music to a used-record store, loaning it to a friend, or playing it on someone else’s program.

But if Sony says that it’s selling products (and therefore only liable for 4.5 cents in royalties to its artists) and not licenses, then how can it bind us, its customers, to licensing terms?

Good question.

The distinction between sale and license is VERY important. The trend has been towards licensing instead of selling, and the difference has not been a big part of the public dialogue.

I wrote about this a while ago, with respect to DRM, consumer usage rights, and how this pattern might affect other kinds of consumer transactions if they followed the same rules:

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An Inconvenient Truth Sat, 22 Apr 2006 17:09:27 +0000 adam Al Gore has made a movie about global warming, in case you needed some more convincing.

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EFF calls for Sony to fix what they broke Tue, 15 Nov 2005 03:30:55 +0000 adam The EFF is calling for Sony to do a number of things to rectify their horrible botched DRM attempt, mostly recall the CDs, work with people to remove the software, and refund the money paid for those CDs.

I say that’s not enough. Sony, if you REALLY want to “make it right”, do this. How about you admit you tried really hard to fuck us, got caught with your pants down and both hands in the cookie jar, and do the right thing. Make a statement. Declare that henceforth, our computers are more valuable than your music, and demonstrate that you believe it. Take as a sacrifice of your lamb against the mountain of consumer rights every one of those 20-odd CDs, and donate them to the public domain. Distribute them as unrestricted files. Open them up. Do it. You know you want to.

You may find that with a little generosity, people might want to start being your customer again.

Oh, but do all that other stuff too.

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On sharing Thu, 10 Nov 2005 17:29:42 +0000 adam There are two competing monetary questions in content ownership: “How can I get the maximum amount for what I’ve already done?” and “How can I get the maximum amount for what I’m going to do next?”.

The former is seemingly answered by maximum control. Tight focused marketing, sell as many copies, wring every last dollar out of existing properties by making sure that people need to buy them more than once and can’t do anything interesting with them. In my opinion, this is a strategy for shooting the latter. It makes enemies, it makes people not care what else you have, and it makes people upset.

Feeding the commons is about ongoing effort. Releasing your work to as many people as possible gets you attention for the next thing you do. It’s so simple. It’s not about selling any one thing anymore, it’s about selling your stream. My previous post, Preaching to the Esquire, is a link that contains the entire text of an article from Esquire. It’s blatantly copied. But if it hadn’t been, only existing subscribers would have read it. As it is, that article is getting forwarded around to lots of people, and it has at the bottom of it this:

Wow. Not something I expected from “Esquire.”

followed by this ringing endoresment:

Esquire is a great magazine. Read it more often: there’s tons of articles on politics, science, current events…it’s, like, Maxim for intelligent people.

Esquire probably had nothing to do with this, but in one stroke, Esquire has certainly grabbed more people for their stream. Many of them will buy an issue. Some of them will subscribe. It’s not about monetizing this article, it’s about getting people to pay attention to what you’re going to do next – the recurring and predictable revenue streams that keep ongoing operations… ongoing.

Put your best work out there, let it speak for itself, and maybe someone will already be paying attention next time you have something interesting to say. Maybe they’ll even pay for the privilege. Locking it up where only people who are already interested can find it is a recipe for obscurity and irrelevance. Yes, TimesSelect, I’m looking at you.

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Preaching to the Esquire Thu, 10 Nov 2005 17:01:54 +0000 adam Long article copied shamelessly from Esquire about”Idiot America”.

“Idiot America is a collaborative effort, the result of millions of decisions made and not made. It’s the development of a collective Gut at the expense of a collective mind. It’s what results when politicians make ridiculous statements and not merely do we abandon the right to punish them for it at the polls, but we also become too timid to punish them with ridicule on a daily basis, because the polls say they’re popular anyway. It’s what results when leaders are not held to account for mistakes that end up killing people.”

Via Novitz:

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Quicktime sans warts Wed, 21 Sep 2005 13:40:07 +0000 adam Standalone quicktime installer without iTunes:

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Robert Barada Nikto Fri, 16 Sep 2005 00:12:56 +0000 adam Robert Wise died yesterday.

Forget the moment of silence, give me a few minutes of the opening theme against a flickering starfield.

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Having grown a spine a few months ago, the media’s balls begin to drop Wed, 07 Sep 2005 12:48:11 +0000 adam Keith Olbermann decides that Michael Chertoff’s mistaking Louisiana for a city is just one step too far.

You must watch this.

Transcript here:

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Sploid on the Katrina response Sat, 03 Sep 2005 23:10:37 +0000 adam Sploid has written a blistering critique of the federal government’s response to Katrina.

I still haven’t seen anyone come out and say “If you voted for Bush or you didn’t vote in the last presidential election, you virtually begged for this response, and we told you so.”. This, the complete and total failure to respond to an expected national disaster in a way that even approaches sanity, isn’t the fault of the administration – we knew they sucked. This is the fault of every single red dot on that election map, for letting them still be in charge (for whatever that’s worth) when another problem finally rolled around.

A rising tide lifts all boats, my ass. A rising tide strands and drowns those who can’t afford boats in the first place.

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It’s not enough to say you’re sorry Fri, 02 Sep 2005 17:52:21 +0000 adam Bush tours gulf coast, says “the results are not acceptable”. I feel bad for the guy. I mean, he’s only one man, right?

If only there was something he could do to help out.

If only he could have gotten some advance warning.

If only there was some sort of trained, well-equipped organization that could begin to handle this sort of emergency.

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Even more on looting/finding Thu, 01 Sep 2005 20:22:28 +0000 adam

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Blistering observation of the non-science of Intelligent Design Thu, 01 Sep 2005 15:06:27 +0000 adam

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AFP photo feed describes white people as “finding food”, black people as “looting” Wed, 31 Aug 2005 01:40:01 +0000 adam [Update: I originally said: "Way to go for racial equality!", and I think it's important to temper that with the comments below. ]

Screencaps here:

[ Update: There are some clarifications, including a copy of an email from the person who wrote one of the captions, here: ]

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Buying ads just for the pagerank Thu, 25 Aug 2005 14:51:57 +0000 adam Tim O’Reilly discovered that a number of advertisers are buying ads on his sites (and others with high pagerank) not because they want clickthroughs, but because the pagerank boost is cheaper than buying their keywords through AdWords.

The discussion about whether there’s anything wrong with this is pretty interesting:

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Ourmedia needs your help Tue, 23 Aug 2005 14:25:04 +0000 adam Ourmedia is doing well. Too well. A huge amount of content in the internet archive now comes from Ourmedia, but that depends on allowing unrestricted uploads with after-the-fact policing. The admin team is struggling under the task of reviewing the submitted content of 40,000 users with only 40 moderators. Now would be a perfect time to volunteer, if you’re interested.

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US lowers expectations for Iraq Tue, 16 Aug 2005 04:07:14 +0000 adam Well, the US government, anyway. I seem to recall a certain vocal minority saying all along that this is how it would turn out.

“The goal now is to ensure a constitution that can be easily amended later so Iraq can grow into a democracy, U.S. officials say.”

Until someone else forgets that too.


“Washington now does not expect to fully defeat the insurgency before departing, but instead to diminish it, officials and analysts said. There is also growing talk of turning over security responsibilities to the Iraqi forces even if they are not fully up to original U.S. expectations, in part because they have local legitimacy that U.S. troops often do not.”

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Cam and Damien are auditioning for reality shows and blogging it Thu, 04 Aug 2005 18:20:57 +0000 adam Cam Barrett (one of the first bloggers) and his twin brother Damien are auditioning for The Amazing Race, some kind of reality show on that other medium. To boost their chances, they’re blogging the whole thing.

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Free textbooks coming next from wikipedia Thu, 04 Aug 2005 13:47:10 +0000 adam The founder of Wikipedia wants to put together a complete free curriculum for K-12 plus university, projecting a back of the envelope estimate of completion by 2040.

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Wikipedia is amazing Thu, 07 Jul 2005 16:20:34 +0000 adam /?p=850 The editors of Wikipedia, collectively, are my new hero.

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Google maps hack to display Iraq casualties Wed, 29 Jun 2005 14:31:17 +0000 adam /?p=839 Via hackaday:

[Update: another map (not a Google map), this one with casualties plotted over time by country and location in Iraq:]

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ourmedia seems ready now Wed, 23 Mar 2005 04:01:48 +0000 adam /?p=658 I’ve been working on performance optimization for for the past day and a half or so (for those not in the know – performance optimization is part of what I do). I’d submitted some photos and done a very small amount of template development a few weeks ago, but wasn’t involved in the launch, which, as you’ve probably heard, didn’t go so well.

The site wasn’t able to stay up past about 300 or so concurrent users, let alone the 10,000 that slashdot brought. I did some emergency MySQL tuning on the current server to alleviate the load somewhat, but it was clear that the first priority needed to be migrating to a bigger dedicated server. This evening, we completed that move, and the site was brought back up.

There’s still a bunch of tuning that needs to be done in short order, but it should hopefully be fairly stable from here on in.

I think this is huge, and I’m glad to have been a part of it so far. Congratulations to JD and Marc on their launch.

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AP adds RSS feeds Thu, 24 Feb 2005 16:11:02 +0000 adam /?p=593 This, I think, is huge.

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Marvel characters in City of Heroes (bare feet or no?) Sun, 13 Feb 2005 23:37:44 +0000 adam /?p=567 Nice little piece about actually trying to create Marvel characters in City of Heroes.


Part of this article is the claim that you can’t make bare feet in CoH. Yet, on page 041 of this month’s Wired, there’s a similar article, with an accompanying graphic clearly showing a “Not The Incredible Hulk” mockup claiming to be from CoH, but with big green toes and everything!

What gives? Did Wired fudge the graphic?

[Update: I've been informed that yes, it is possible to create bare feet in CoH. You just have to be a bigger geek.]

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Copyright is killing culture Wed, 19 Jan 2005 16:10:22 +0000 adam /?p=524 In recent history, copyright and First Amendment issues seem to have had a relatively clear professional/amateur line drawn. There has been a lot of discussion lately about how the rise of amateur journalists, content creators, music publishers, producers, etc… are blurring that line, where now everybody wants the privileges that were previously reserved to select few “professionals” in particular fields. This is not that debate. This is about the “professional” documentary filmmakers, and their struggle with increasingly rigid copyright protections for archival footage that, if not arguably in the public domain, is at least of valid historical interest.

This is an interesting post on the growing problem of documentary filmmakers who secure limited-duration rights to archival footage, but then face the problem that they can’t legally reproduce or broadcast their films after the rights expire.

The Eyes on the Prize documentary of the American Civil Rights Movement is cited as a classic example:

‘The makers of the series no longer have permission for the archival footage they previously used of such key events as the historic protest marches or the confrontations with Southern police. Given Eyes on the Prize’s tight budget, typical of any documentary, its filmmakers could barely afford the minimum five-year rights for use of the clips. That permission has long since expired, and the $250,000 to $500,000 needed to clear the numerous copyrights involved is proving too expensive.

This is particularly dire now, because VHS copies of the series used in countless school curriculums are deteriorating beyond rehabilitation. With no new copies allowed to go on sale, “the whole thing, for all practical purposes, no longer exists,” says Jon Else, a California-based filmmaker who helped produce and shoot the series and who also teaches at the Graduate School of Journalism of the University of California, Berkeley.’

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For some reason, jwz is fascinated by giant floating heads Mon, 03 Jan 2005 22:56:30 +0000 adam /?p=455

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Marine caught on film shooting an unarmed prisoner in Falluja Tue, 16 Nov 2004 02:34:23 +0000 adam /?p=219

Kevin Sites has been doing some fantastic reporting on Iraq via his blog:

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CJR article on the dynamics between the standards of journalism and science Thu, 11 Nov 2004 16:39:09 +0000 adam /?p=199 ‘[...] After all, the journalistic norm of balance has no corollary in the world of science. On the contrary, scientific theories and interpretations survive or perish depending upon whether they’re published in highly competitive journals that practice strict quality control, whether the results upon which they’re based can be replicated by other scientists, and ultimately whether they win over scientific peers. When consensus builds, it is based on repeated testing and retesting of an idea.

Journalists face a number of pressures that can prevent them from accurately depicting competing scientific claims in terms of their
credibility within the scientific community as a whole. First, reporters must often deal with editors who reflexively cry out for “balance.” Meanwhile, determining how much weight to give different sides in a scientific debate requires considerable expertise on the issue at hand. Few journalists have real scientific knowledge, and even beat reporters who know a great deal about certain scientific issues may know little about other ones they’re suddenly asked to cover.’

CJR November/December 2004: Blinded by Science

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