Monthly Archives: August 2010

if you having streaming problems i feel bad for you son…

…i got 99 problems but getting content on my device of choice ain’t one.

i have used hulu like twice, both times it sucked. i guess some people are actually paying to use it, but are not impressed and they got this in response:

due to stringent contract agreements on how content can be shared through certain devices, we are not able to have all of the content that everyone wants at this time.

this is hulu saying “yes we suck, but it’s not our fault”. well hulu, yes it is your fault. the current state of affairs in the TV industry needs to be destroyed, and you could be poised to destroy it, but for some reason you keep caving in to the demands of content providers.

you see, TV has always sought to destroy new entrants into the market:

and every time, new licensing deals are made and the market grows significantly.

need i remind you that i can get whatever i want, in whatever format i want, on whatever device i want, with bittorrent and a bit of research? that is your competitor hulu, but it’s also your content provider’s competitor as well. you guys could totally compete with that by being legal and easy to use. especially if hulu was easy to get onto a TV.

you guys do in fact compete with piracy. pirated content is a superior good, don’t ever forget that, but more importantly, don’t let your corporate TV overlords forget it either.

PA on the used games industrial complex

i love penny-arcade, and most of the time they have a very refreshing and often irreverant take on the gaming industry. as with a lot of people who are deeply embedded in their respective industry, i do not agree with their take on piracy, and as it would appear, the used games market.

the crux of the issue with used games is the doctrine of first sale which basically states that once you legally own a copy of something copyrighted you can do whatever you want with it, and with software and other digital goods, the basic premise is that you do not legally own it and therefore you can’t legally transfer it to someone else. if intellectual propery is like real property (in the sense that you can steal it and unauthorized copies are a criminal offense) then first sale says i can sell my legally purchased digital goods and any attempt to stop me, be it legal, technological, or otherwise, is violation of that doctorine. if intellectual property is different from real property, (in the sense that the first sale doctorine doesn’t apply) then i can’t really be stealing it when i make, receive or distribute unauthorized copies.

now, i don’t expect tycho and gabe to get into this whole intellectual property thing the way that i do, and even if they did, i don’t expect them to agree with me.

it should be noted that video games are headed in the direction of steam/xbox live/itunes and since there won’t be any more physical game media, there won’t be any more physical sales of used physical game media.

the PA premise, which is an extension of the game developer’s premise, is that game companies sell new games and that if you don’t buy them new, you are not their customer. that sounds fair enough. what doesn’t sound fair to me is the idea that a used game would somehow lose online multiplayer functionality by virtue of it being used. i pay for my xbox live membership and i really think that any legal xbox game (including a legally purchased used copy) ought to work the same as a new copy. the situation gets weird with free online play services that provide dedicated game servers, like the playstation network does.

this, to me, sounds like a business model problem. if you are providing online play at a loss hoping to subsidize that loss with game sales, then used games sound like a bad thing for your business. this is why i disagree with the idea of selling scarce goods, like hardware or access, at a loss. this is why i feel no remorse about modding consoles or unlocking/jailbreaking phones.

but beyond that, the fundamental problem that i have with this idea that a used game player is not a customer is one of attitude. i don’t have to buy a game at all in order to play it. i could simply pirate the game and get all of the value with none of the cost. in today’s landscape, paying for a game is a choice. like it or not, belive it or not, i have a choice about paying money to support a product. this sort of anti-consumer hubris basically cost the music industry my business, and to a large extent, the movie industry as well. so game developers should becareful. i choose to pay to support games, and this sort of behavior is what drives me to stop making the choice.

here are a few suggestions to help me continue to make the choice:

1. go easy on the DRM. i realize you are beholden to guys in suits who think it’s necessary, but it doesn’t work and even encourages piracy.

2. lower your prices. i don’t mind paying a higher price for hardware so you aren’t taking a loss, and i don’t mind paying for access to your networks, but the $60 price tag for a new game just isn’t sustainable.

3. take a chance on something creative. remember when all FPS’s took place in WWII? then they were kinda different but everything was all brown? then they were in different colors but they all featured bald space marines? now they are all WWII games that take place in the near future with near futuristic weapons? stop doing that.

4. when given the choice between gameplay and technical wizardry, always choose gameplay. a great looking game with a shitty control system is a shitty game. i shitty looking game that is great to play is a great game. you can run and tell that.

gamers are your customers. the dudes you are selling your games to play other games, from other companies, from other genres, possibly even on other platforms. keep that in mind before you start declaring who your customers are.

RIAA: the DMCA that we created isn’t working for us anymore

just when i think the RIAA couldn’t be more out of touch, they go and say something like this:

You cannot monitor all the infringements on the Internet. It’s simply not possible. We don’t have the ability to search all the places infringing content appears, such as cyberlockers like [file-hosting firm] RapidShare.

translation:

we can’t stop piracy because it’s impossible. so we want to make other companies responsible for stopping the impossible. also, the people we are suing don’t actually have any money, so we also want to be able to sue ISP’s, since they have money. we paid lots of money in campaign contributions and we aren’t getting the kind of return on that investment that we were expecting.

and what facet of the DMCA doesn’t work for them? the safe harbor provision. it’s the one provision that makes sense in the DMCA, so clearly the RIAA wants it gone.

the comments on the article reek of ignorance. hopefully it’s shills or trolls. if not, there’s this:
quit yer stealin

in other news: mainstream music sucks so bad that auto tune the news managed to make it into the billboard hot 100.

how do we save the $content industry

i have been writing comments on forums and blogs for a really long time and lately it feels like i am writing the same stuff over and over.

in the last couple of years, there have been all of these articles about saving the newspaper industry, or the music industry, or the publishing industry, or the insert content type here industry, and there are all of these industry shills saying the same stuff. it’s gotten pretty repetitive so hopefully i can write one of my long screeds that will collect all of these ideas into one place and i can just start posting hyperlinks instead.

industry that is based on content is sort of like energy: it can be neither created, nor destroyed, it simply shifts state. there will always be an industry surrounding the creation of content, but changes in the market and technology can cause drastic changes in the industry. those changes can be so drastic that the industry may be completely unrecognizable.

if you want to read something, then someone has to write it for you. the printing press made it cheaper and easier to create copies of writing, which meant a huge increase in the availability of books, so now if you want to read something, you simply buy a book that someone wrote. other advances are made: public libraries make books available temporarily for free, paper backs are cheaper than hard covers, second hand resellers offer used books for less than new ones, the list goes on.

and then the internet shows up. suddenly books are free and we are worried about books ending up like music: all digital, all the time, all pirate/all free, all the time. this same story has played out for just about every content industry, and it actually started with software. you see, digital stuff is easy to copy, so people copy it and share it. they’ve been doing this since solid state devices made digital stuff possible, and people will continue to do it for as long as they are human and stuff is digital.

before you can “save” an industry you have to realize a couple of universal truths about content. one: content has always been a vehicle for marking up the price of physical media. two: there will always be a demand for physical media, it just won’t ever be what it used to be.

content is a vehicle for selling media. it’s essentially a markup on ink and paper, binding, plastic disks, basically whatever physical materials you can use to deliver content. media is sold at a significant markup, along with distribution and promotion, in order to subsidize the the entire production process. digital distribution has taken these materials out of the equation, and in doing so, has wrecked the subsidy model for production. people are writing words, shooting videos, and making music in record numbers, while the sales of CD’s, DVD’s, newspapers, and books have given way to websites and downloads.

sounds bleak, huh?

remember that industries based on content cannot be created or destroyed, however, industries based on physical goods can be. people can stop buying cars and refrigerators, and the reason to sell those items goes away. likewise, people can stop buying ink on paper and plastic discs, and the reason to sell those will go away as well, for the most part.

there will always be demand for physical media, it just won’t ever be what it used to be. some people will always treasure books and records, and so some people will be able to make some money selling those items, but that is a specialty market, like the people who collect obsolete machines or electronics.

so the ebook will not be the death of the traditional book, but it will probably become the default state, just like the MP3 has replaced the CD in the minds of young people. the baby boomers will not be around forever, and when they are gone, their preference for physical media will go with them. my mother is a baby boomer and she reads the newspaper, watches broadcast television, and has a land line telephone. she also has an ipod and a nook. let this be a warning to the $content industry: she was once your ideal customer, she has evolved and it is time for you to do the same.

there are more physical things that can be sold than just paper, vinyl and plastic. traditional merchandising goods, like t-shirts and posters come to mind, but not all consumers are teenagers looking to decorate their bedrooms or make a statement when they go to high school or the mall. adults may not have use for these items. in japan it is possible to buy literally any physical item with “hello kitty” emblazoned on it. perhaps that should be true for everything else. any item that is useful and is capable of displaying a brand name would be suitable. look at the sheer volume of goods that carry the logos of sports teams as an example. my father in-law has an entire room full of objects devoted to ohio state, i should be able to do the same for my favorite nerdcore act, or william gibson novel.

this also assumes that the point of making music is the sale of goods for a profit. one could sell other goods which are both non-digital and non-physical (like face time), but that might be appropriate for another screed. also, as production costs lower thanks to technology, there may not be a need to profit from the creation of content. one might be happy to make things in his or her spare time simply for personal enjoyment. this isn’t a bad thing.

a lot of this drama comes from a confusion or conflation of price and value. a lot of people assume that price is a reflection of value, and a lot of times it is, but a lot of times it is not. i derive great value from linux, but the only time i have paid money for it, was when i got a linux CD with a book. i have gone on to buy several linux books with no CDs in them. conversely, i pay a great deal of money in taxes and for the life of me i cannot find any value in them.

so the plastic disc industry is most likely doomed. the newsprint industry is also doomed. the music industry, the film industry, the news industry, and the novel industry are all going to be fine after a significant period of adjustment.

rather than wax philosophical [again], perhaps i should simply share an experience. i ran across dual core music one day while reading penny arcade. i do pretty much whatever tycho and gabe tell me to do, and gabe told me to check them out. a quick search of my favorite torrent trackers didn’t reveal any tracks, so i bought a download of their first album, which i had never done before then. i was immediately hooked. i also became a serious fan, following them on myspace and discovering that the rapper, int80 lived in cincinnati. one status update indicated that they would be downtown to appear on NPR, and so i arranged to meet them for lunch at dewey’s pizza. int80 turned out to be really friendly and suggested i start coming to cinci2600. we became good friends and i met other friends via 2600 started going to hacker cons and stuff with the cincinnati crew.

in that time, i have not just bought music and tshirts, i have helped carry equipment and sold CD’s and merchandise at 80’s booth at cons. in exchange, i get to hang out with 80 and be treated like i am a small part of the act, and get small previews of tracks before anyone else. a girl actually came up to talk to me because she thought i was part of the band. i am not just a fan or friend, i am like a volunteer soldier.

imagine what an author, a newspaper, or a movie producer could do with a small group of volunteer soldiers like me, who pitch in to help when necessary, not because they want money, but because they believe in the project. penny arcade doesn’t have a bunch of fans, they have a standing army of loyal soldiers.

it’s possible to cut down production, distribution, and promotional costs, but there will always be labor and logistics associated with content and promotion, and building a community around your content is a good way to find and recruit fanatical followers to become your volunteer army to help you out when you need it.

disturbing news on the surveillance front

first, the obama administration asked for more surveillance powers without a warrant. remember his campaign promise?

second, and easily the most disturbing, is the revelation of a semi-secret volunteer internet monitoring group that hands over data to the US government. apparently this news broke at defcon 18, which i attended, but i missed the talk.

the talks at defcon were really difficult to attend, and the traffic jams in the hallways were especially hard on me since i am claustrophobic. also my friend needed help with his vendor booth, and so i did a lot of that.

some of the project vigilant story doesn’t add up, like the fact that they claim to have been around for 14 years, but no one’s ever heard of them. also, the site is https, when these guys supposedly monitor traffic in the clear (if you have nothing to hide… as it were) which sounds suspicious. also you have to register for their site to view info about a group known to inform on folks to the government… again a bit suspicious. hopefully this is some sort of prank or publicity stunt.

either way, if you don’t tunnel or use some other type of encryption, at the very least you should download and use the EFF’s “HTTPS anywhere” addon for firefox so that spooks of all kinds, be they real or imagined, private sector or government, are unable to spy on your surfing habits.