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Some Podcast Suggestions…

I’ve evolved my podcast listening preferences quite a bit from last time, if ever, I posted about what I was listening to.

What I’m digging in the Podcast World:

What the Tech (http://www.guysfromqueens.com/tag/what-the-tech/)

Hosted by Andrew Zarian and Paul Thurrott – This show sort of reminds me of Windows Weekly Lite.  Windows Weekly is one of my longer listening Podcasts and one of my favorites.  A lot of it has to do with Paul Thurrott.  I really enjoy his thoughts and ideas of most subjects and based on the ideas he has and some of the things he talks about doing I feel like some of this stems from an overall comparable life style and outlook.  Not an exact match, but it’s close, like I dunno, 10-20% range of compatibility or something.

The problem is, Windows Weekly also has Leo Laporte in it, like most TWIT shows, and while I do enjoy Leo, he does at times tend to talk over and push too much on his other hosts (he seems to do this less on WW).  Also, if you listen to a lot of TWIT shows, he can get repetitive with his view points.  So What the Tech, gives Paul, minus the Leo influence, which I really really like.  Andrew Zarian, sorry to say, I don’t really know much about him but he does seem like an alright guy.  Also without the Microsoft/Windows angle, Paul Thurrott is able to go off on other tangents, not even necessarily related to Tech (despite the show title).

The Nerdist (http://www.nerdist.com/category/podcast/)

Hosted by Chris Hardwick – This is a sort of celebrity interview sort of Podcast and the host is some sort of celebrity himself, a comedian I think.  What’s really great about this is that they have slightly “lesser” celebrities on and all with some sort of nerdy angle.  While, I have been cherry picking from the backlog, there is a lot fo good stuff there and the nature of the show keeps them really interesting.  The whole thing is done very natural, not so much a straight interview, it’s almost more like the person on is just another host. 

The ones I’ve particularly enjoyed, which actually I think is every episode I’ve listened to so far.  Patrick Stewart was really good on the show, though the audio levels were way off.  Jenna Elfman was surprisingly hilarious.  Zooey Deschanel was really interesting all around, she’s so adorably great anyway.  Possibly the most surprising was the first one I listened to with Scott Ian of Anthrax, a band I really don’t care about and a guy I didn’t know who he was, yet the show was still a fun listen, which just helps all around for giving incentive to listen.

East Meets West (http://www.subbrilliant.com/emw/)

Hosted By Tom Merrit and Rodger Chang – This is a very informal sort of Podcast, just a couple of guys talking about whatever whenever they feel like it.  It’s a fun model, one I wouldn’t mind trying to replicate if I ever had someone to do a show with (and the time to do one semi-regularly).  The topics are all over and the conversation is pretty good.  They recently started doing it via Google+ hangouts so random people have been stopping by, which adds to the mix.

NOTE: This got a little rambley and random at times but whatever, I don’t care.

So, when a person goes out and buys, say, a desk, they bring it home, maybe they assemble it, they put their computer on it, they sit at it, they use it as a desk.  Other people can come over and use this desk if the need to for all of these activities as well.  There is only one desk here, and when the person is done with the desk, they can do whatever they want with it.  They can throw it out, or give it to a family member or sell it to a stranger.  If they want they can disassemble it and cut up the parts and make a bookcase out of it, or a table, or even a different desk.

If you buy a CD, or a book, you can do many of these things as well (good luck building a book case out of a CD, you may have better luck doing it with the book.)  The thing is, as far as the companies are concerned, when it comes to media, many or all of these activities should be or are illegal.

For example, did you know it is illegal to listen to music publicly in your workplace?  This includes the radio, which, by the way, is broadcast freely to anyone.

The media industry has also tried many times to make it illegal to but used music and games.  This hasn’t worked out very well for them with physical media but these days everything is moving towards digital anyway, which makes the problem moot.  These digital files are often licensed and tied to a particular account and are not transferable anyway.

Which brings up the next side of this.  Digital Content and Copyright.  When something becomes digital, that is, a file on a computer, it immediately becomes infinitely copyable.  There is no way to prevent a file from being copied.  There are ways to make it inconvenient.  There are encryption methods and proprietary formats, that can be used but even with some encrypted capsule of data that can only be opened using a special program to prevent copying, you can still copy the capsule itself even if it meant doing a one to one ghost image of the drive’s data.

The problem is, that history has shown that the more encapsulation, or DRM (Digital rights management) a file has, the more difficulties it creates for normal users to use their files.  Your DRM music file may only work in a specific player on your PC, and only play on an specific brand of music player.  Then that player starts bundling ad banners or toolbars so it becomes a pain to use or maybe the brand of music player is more expensive than the others on the market or possibly just poorly made.  The DRM means you’re locked in to that system so it doesn’t matter how good the software or player is.

Well, it doesn’t matter until you say “screw it” and go to another brand but that’s a story for another day.

And despite all of the DRM a media file may have, the people who want to pirate it, will.  They will crack the encryption and extract the important data.  For movies and music, to enjoy them they have to be played out into the real world, which can always be routed and looped back in to be re-encoded.  This is known as “The Analog Hole”.  Until they start implanting chips in our heads or something, you can’t encrypt natural real world acoustics and visuals.

But this isn’t supposed to be a piracy rant.  I’m not advocating piracy or suggesting that all content should be pirated.  I’m just pointing out that the lengths companies have gone to in the past make it inconvenient for normal people and the pirates will do it anyway.  The music industry learned this and most music you can buy, easily, is DRM free these days.  The movie industry is still learning this as is the ebook industry to some extent, and it’s going to still bite them until they learn.

The point is, why do people pirate this stuff in the first place.  the obvious answer is cost.  Some people simply can’t afford it.  Some people don’t want to afford it.  A lot of people CAN afford it and choose not to.  There is an excellent book on this subject called Free Culture by Lawrence Lessig,  that puts people into four categories and explains it very well.  The book is freely available via Creative Commons Liscence and you can find a copy of the applicable chapter here.  The relevant part is here:

File sharers share different kinds of content. We can divide these different kinds into four types.

A. There are some who use sharing networks as substitutes for purchasing content. Thus, when a new Madonna CD is released, rather than buying the CD, these users simply take it. We might quibble about whether everyone who takes it would actually have bought it if sharing didn’t make it available for free. Most probably wouldn’t have, but clearly there are some who would. The latter are the target of category A: users who download instead of purchasing. B. There are some who use sharing networks to sample music before purchasing it. Thus, a friend sends another friend an MP3 of an artist he’s not heard of. The other friend then buys CDs by that artist. This is a kind of targeted advertising, quite likely to succeed. If the friend recommending the album gains nothing from a bad recommendation, then one could expect that the recommendations will actually be quite good. The net effect of this sharing could increase the quantity of music purchased. C. There are many who use sharing networks to get access to copyrighted content that is no longer sold or that they would not have purchased because the transaction costs off the Net are too high. This use of sharing networks is among the most rewarding for many. Songs that were part of your childhood but have long vanished from the marketplace magically appear again on the network. (One friend told me that when she discovered Napster, she spent a solid weekend “recalling” old songs. She was astonished at the range and mix of content that was available.) For content not sold, this is still technically a violation of copyright, though because the copyright owner is not selling the content anymore, the economic harm is zero—the same harm that occurs when I sell my collection of 1960s 45-rpm records to a local collector. D. Finally, there are many who use sharing networks to get access to content that is not copyrighted or that the copyright owner wants to give away.

The book goes on to explain the pluses and minuses of each of these types of people and really, only the first tier, people who blatant pirate because they want to” are the only ones who are truly being criminals and the only ones truly causing hard to companies.  These are also, for the most part, the minority.

Most people, given an easy, appropriately priced option, will pay for media.

ANYWAY.

I’m starting to fly off the track again…

The point i want to make is, as far as the industry is concerned, you don’t own the media you buy.  When you pay for a CD or an eBook or a BluRay disc, you are paying for the license, to consume that media, in the format you’re buying.  If you want to listen to that CD on your media player, legally, you must buy digital copies of that music and can’t legally rip that CD to your computer yourself.  You paid to listen to the music in CD format.  The same applies to movies as well.  It technically applies to books but digitizing a book is a bit more of a pain than it’s worth doing.

Consumers, people, normal folks, do not “think in legalese” and do not see it this way.  They only see that they already own this music, why do they need to buy it again?  Some of them may even see that they already own the Vinyl and the Cassette and the CD, why do they need to pay, again, to listen to this music?

This is where some of our piracy comes in.  It’s easy to rip a CD, not so much a cassette.  It can be done and it requires the use of the Analog Hole but it’s not convenient.  So people will just download their cassette collection illegally.

Also, on the radio at work point made earlier.  You also pay for this music, so that YOU can listen to it.  The license you buy applies only to you, and letting your friends or coworkers listen to the music is not legal either.  As far as the media industry is concerned, when you buy something, you are paying to listen to it alone, in a silo and you may never share this experience with anyone.  Make them buy their own damn media.

Guerilla Journalism Hurts Independent News

There is a video floating around the internet lately that you may have seen where a Congressman “attacks” a student reporter and demands to know “Who Are you?”.  In case you haven’t seen it, here’s a link

This is not the first of these sorts of videos to go around.  Nor will it likely be the last in this world of citizen Journalists and bloggers.  I’m not here today to discuss this video or who is right or wrong in the video, what I am here to discuss is this video in the sense of it’s “type”.

Many people will agree that the mainstream news on the cable channels tends to be somewhat mediocre, full of pointless paranoia and alarmism with little actual digging into the details of even the most important stories.  One Sided tends to be the term applied.  Bloggers take these stories and try to dig a bit deeper sometimes, or at the very least, they will question some aspect of what is being reported to possibly suggest an alternative viewpoint.  This is great except when the blogger or Independent news source starts pushing the same sort of paranoia and anger fueled type of news that they show contempt towards cable news outlets for.

Like the video above.  Taken at face value, assuming honesty on the part of these “students” the Congressman is clearly a bully and a jerk.  However there are too many unknown facts at work for a true judgment to be made.  For example, why is it so terrible that these students can’t let the guy know what they are really doing?  They claim “Students working on a project”. 

What kind of project? 

What school?

The students don’t provide any of this information.  The Congressman is not required to respond to any of their questions either.  These are people who receive death threats and get harassed by nut jobs pretty regularly, what makes these students any different if they can’t or are unwilling to back up their story.  Even if they said “Hi, we’re students working on a Journalism project for the University of Whatever”, that cordial greeting will go a lot farther in getting a response than the ambush style of “We’re students, why do you need to know more, PS answer our question, answer our question.”

Which brings up the other questionable part of the video.  This clip is almost totally out of context.  For all we know these students have been harassing this poor senator as he walked down the street for an hour.  It’s one thing to keep a straight face and look the other way but there’s a point when people just break from harassment.  This may have been the main goal all along even. 

1) Find some Congressperson

2) Harass him endlessly with vague questions he won’t want to answer

3) Wait for him to explode at you and yell at you (or worse)

4) Post it online for kicks and hits!

Yet people circulate these sorts of videos constantly, out of context with no back story.  I’m not saying that it’s not possible it’s what it seems to be, nor am I supporting the manhandling of this student, I’m just suggesting that even if a story of video comes from some independent “non biased” source it should still be questioned.

youtube-logo Viacom is suing Youtube over copyright violations.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for the protection of copyright, though the whole concept of copyright has been completely and deliberately destroyed over the last 60 years or so.  That is the subject of a whole separate article however…

The best part of this lawsuit is that Viacom itself uploaded much of the “stolen” content as part of various marketing schemes.  They took many lengths to ensure that the videos couldn’t be tracked back to them in order to make them seem like authentic “leaks” for it’s programs.

Via the Google Blog

For years, Viacom continuously and secretly uploaded its content to YouTube, even while publicly complaining about its presence there. It hired no fewer than 18 different marketing agencies to upload its content to the site. It deliberately “roughed up” the videos to make them look stolen or leaked. It opened YouTube accounts using phony email addresses. It even sent employees to Kinko’s to upload clips from computers that couldn’t be traced to Viacom. And in an effort to promote its own shows, as a matter of company policy Viacom routinely left up clips from shows that had been uploaded to YouTube by ordinary users. Executives as high up as the president of Comedy Central and the head of MTV Networks felt “very strongly” that clips from shows like The Daily Show and The Colbert Report should remain on YouTube.
Viacom’s efforts to disguise its promotional use of YouTube worked so well that even its own employees could not keep track of everything it was posting or leaving up on the site. As a result, on countless occasions Viacom demanded the removal of clips that it had uploaded to YouTube, only to return later to sheepishly ask for their reinstatement. In fact, some of the very clips that Viacom is suing us over were actually uploaded by Viacom itself.

Which of course makes this whole lawsuit seem totally ridiculous.  One, as many would argue, people uploading clips of shows more or less only serves as “free advertising”.  Obviously this advertising method works, otherwise why the hell would Viacom go to such a trouble to stage it?  They GET the whole viral style advertising, sort of.

The problem is they apparently also don’t get it.

There’s three reasons I can see why Viacom would argue against the upload of it’s content, though only one is really legitimate and it’s the one that is most likely to be caught by Youtube anyway, so we’ll start with reason number 1…

People upload entire episodes of shows…

I understand why they don’t want this and I support this sort of take down.  Like I said, due to the length of these uploads, these would be the easiest uploads to spot and take down.  Youtube does take measures to prevent this copyright theft and I’m sure this level of content theft is right at the top of the list.  That said, there is something ridiculous like 24 hours of video uploaded to Youtube every minute, it’s difficult to police it all.

People upload clips to criticize a show…

Firstly, I’m pretty sure criticism falls under “Fair Use” in terms of copyright.  The term Fair use is heavily abuse by people who try to support content theft but one of it’s main uses would be criticism since it’s easier to get a point across by using visuals of what you’re talking about.  Viacom would of course dislike this idea since it’s “negative publicity” for them.

Viacom thinks it needs to control all marketing exclusively…

This is the gray area.  Sure, we’ve shown that even Viacom thinks that viral video style marketing works and technically they have the right to control the marketing of their programming.  On the other hand it mostly just makes them appear really douchey by insisting on controlling things to such a needless degree.  Just accept that your “numbers” and “research” of the perfect marketing schemes are complete bull shit pushed by marketing specialists and roll with it here people.  You’re only going to irritate and turn off your customers.

So to wrap things up a bit, Youtube, which is of course owned by the internet juggernaut Google, has more than a leg to stand on in this case.  They have made efforts to police this content, much of which was uploaded by Viacom in the first place.  Still, I’m sure Viacom will try every crummy law trick they can think of to slip in a win.  Obviously they think they have something going on or they wouldn’t have bothered with the lawsuit in the first place.

World to Tech Blogs: Shut up RE: Twitter

failwhale There’s a fun poll going on over at Mashable right now.  They want to know if tech blogs should discuss Twitter more, less, or about the same.

The majority, as of this writing say LESS.  I couldn’t agree more.  I’ve mentioned it a few times here and on the podcast and probably on Twitter itself.  social Median also seems to be overwhelmed with Twitter addicts, I swear every third story mentions Twitter in some form.

Frankly, I’m thinking of taking some previous ideas to heart and dropping my Twitter use to almost nothing. I find it considerably more fulfilling to write longer form posts even if less people are going to read them.