The way things are supposed to work is that we’re supposed to know virtually everything about what they do: that’s why they’re called public servants. They’re supposed to know virtually nothing about what we do: that’s why we’re called private individuals.
You’ve heard it before… social media is a cocktail party. You have to be interesting and interact. Lurk at a cocktail party and you will get bored. Even worse your friends will get bored of you and not invite you again. So get stuck in there.
The problem is that this is a metaphor… Being funny at a cocktail might be ok. Being amusing on social media? Not always. Not for the first time I put forward this view at a discussion between politicians and social media scholars in Borås.
Here I argued that tone of voice is important and government bodies should be wary of social media. In particular I used examples of the police in a Swedish town creating and using their own Gangnam Style parody. I tried to explain that this was problematic in relation to copyright law, use of government property and the way in which the police are to be perceived.
Not everyone agreed. They argued funny was good for government and that parodying popular memes could only create a popular buzz. We agreed to disagree. So today, not without a touch of schadenfreude, I read this on Torrentfreak:
Four mayors in Denmark now know what it’s like to become a target of an international recording label out for blood over copyright. The controversy stems from the publication of a YouTube video featuring the officials dancing to Gangnam Style. Universal Music, the company holding the copyright to the original track, have warned the mayors that unless they pay $42,000 by tomorrow, a copyright infringement battle will follow.
Supposing they “chose” to pay rather than going to court my question is who should pay? Should the Danish taxpayer be forced to pay for the mayors’ lack of judgement? Or is it a personal liability? Shouldn’t the mayors been doing something better with their time that attempting to follow the tail end of a dying meme?
So the next time someone questions my ideas about the importance that government bodies not have a sense of humor I shall ask if they can afford their own amusement.
Many companies want to be part of the “new” “trendy” world of social media but they are not prepared to accept the realities of the world in which they enter. Often the campaigns just get lost, they are a failure in silence but occasionally they turn into magnificent failures that make your job drop in amazement – what were they thinking?
In January 2012 it was McDonalds who attempted to create buzz by asking people to tweet their cosy moments under the hashtag #McDStories. They were obviously expecting plenty of nice little tales of happy customers enjoying advertising like moments but – of course – this was not the only thing that happened. Forbes published a story on the campaign #McDStories: When A Hashtag Becomes A Bashtag which included examples such as
One time I walked into McDonalds and I could smell Type 2 diabetes floating in the air and I threw up.
Hardly a brilliant piece of marketing.
In a more difficult situation the oil company shell has been the “victim” of an interesting Internet anti-campaign by Greenpeace. Greenpeace set up a copy of the Shell site and asked people to automatically generate advertising posters for their (Shell’s) arctic oil. Huffington post writes:
Since June, Visitors to the site arcticready.com were treated to a spoof mimicking Royal Dutch Shell Plc’s website, a collaborative effort by Greenpeace and The Yes Men, a pair of activists known to imitate companies they dislike.
The results were obvious
According to design consulting firm, PSFK, the public was ready to believe that Arctic Ready was a legitimate marketing campaign. “It is entirely plausible Shell might have been reckless enough to crowd-source adverts using its ‘Let’s Go’ line, and that the crowd-sourced efforts had included gems such as ‘This fox will murder you unless we kill it first. Let’s Go’”
Greenpeace soon released a statement claiming responsibility for the campaign…
When it comes to Social Media dialogues corporate budgets are inadequate when dealing with the sheer numbers of responses capable of being generated by individuals using social media. Any responses left for the corporations (such as suing for copyright violation or defamation) are more likely than not going to generate even bigger PR failures. What is a poor multi-billion dollar corporation to do?
Steve Mann is an amazing person. He is the father of wearable computers and is well worth reading about (Wikipedia for example).
He recently published a recount of an assault he suffered at the hands of some paranoid McDonalds staff. It’s strange, it’s terrible and it deserves to be spread. Obviously McD should be offering apologies and offering to repair his equipment.
Read the full story here: Physical assault by McDonald’s for wearing Digital Eye Glass it will also give you an idea of why Steve Mann is important to tech development in general and to Googles upcoming glasses in particular.
While this tragic and scary it is not really something I was going to blog about. I tweeted it… fine. I was going to post it on Facebook and got this:
Well ok that’s odd but I didn’t use the exact link, how careless of me. So I tried again.
Seriously? Is Facebook blocking Steve Mann’s blog? What is going on here?
What is public space? Ok, so it’s important but what is it and how is it defined? The reason I have begun thinking about this again is an attempt to address a question of what government authorities should be allowed to do with publicly available data on social networks such as Facebook.
One of the issues with public space is the way in which we have taken it’s legal status for granted and tend to believe that it will be there when we need it. This is despite the fact that very many of the spaces we see as public are actually private (e.g. shopping malls) and many spaces which were previously public have been privatized.
So why worry about a private public space? Who cares who is responsible for it? The privatization of public space allows for the creation of many local rules which can actually limit our general freedoms. There is, for example, no law against photographing in public. But if the public space is in reality a private space there is nothing stopping the owners from creating a rule against photography. There are unfortunately several examples of this – only last month the company that owns and operates the Glasgow underground prohibited photography.
Another limitation brought about by the privatization of public spaces is the limiting of places where citizens can protest. The occupy London movement did not chose to camp outside St Paul’s for symbolic reasons but because the area land around the church is part of the last remaining public land in the city.
Over the last 20 years, since the corporation quietly began privatising the City, hundreds of public highways, public pathways and rights of way in place for centuries have been closed. The reason why this is so important is that the removal of public rights of way also signals the removal of the right to political protest. (The Guardian)
This is all very interesting but what has it got to do with Facebook?
In Sweden a wide range of authorities from the Tax department to the police have used Facebook as an investigative tool. I don’t mean that they have requested data from Facebook but they have used it by browsing the open profiles and data available on the site. For example the police may go to Facebook to find a photograph, social services may check up if people are working when they are claiming unemployment etc.
What makes this process problematic is that the authorities dipping into the Facebook data stream is not controlled in any manner. If a police officer would like to check the police database for information about me, she must provide good reason to do so. But looking me up on Facebook – in the line of duty – has no such checks.
These actions are commonly legitimized by stating that Facebook is a public space. But is it? Actually it’s a highly regulated private public space. But how should it be viewed? How should authorities be allowed to use the social network data of others? In an article I am writing right now I criticize the view that Facebook is public, and therefore accessible to authorities without limitation. Sure, it’s not a private space, but what about a middle ground – could Facebook be a members only social club? Would this require authorities to respect our privacy online?
A major focus of discussion recently has been about the value of Facebook. This is kind of obvious as they have an ongoing Initial Public Offering, where the company is selling shares to the public based on an estimated value of around one hundred billion dollars.
The first question is whether the company is worth the money? But then again value is just what the market thinks its worth so its basically a consensual hallucination, which is fine if you share it and odd if you don’t. But the more interesting issue is what the value is after the shares have all been sold. This is still part hallucination but it’s also about performance and this is where it gets interesting. Techcrunch has an interesting article with shiny figures and tables but what makes me think is these quotes:
In terms of Facebook’s overall ad pitch, the company’s chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg said that the company’s long-term goal is to be the place where 70 million businesses worldwide go to offer personalized, relevant advertising…She said, “Every day on Facebook is like the season finale of American Idol times two,” in a reference to the home page
The company really needs to sell to advertisers that they are One place, One market with access to billions – this follows the usual rhetoric of “if Facebook were a country”. But the problem with this is that we are not on Facebook for Facebook, we are there for the content. Facebook knows this and tailors the experience for the user. But with this tailoring there is really no Facebook, at least no one version of Facebook. And if there is no one version then the comment that its like the final season of American Idol is pointless. Facebook may be the box, the television we are all staring at – but we are looking at different channels.
The problem is that this makes Facebook less trendy. It turns it into an infrastructure, nobody wants to invest in infrastructure, its too untrendy. That’s why Facebook insists on talking about itself as ONE place were 800 million people meet.
A genre is a category or grouping of similar types of cultural phenomena. But at what point does something stop being a mutation of an existing group and evolve (or is it more of a revolution?) into a sub-genre or new-genre? According to Wikipedia the process is always ongoing – almost like glacier-like processes:
Genres are formed by conventions that change over time as new genres are invented and the use of old ones are discontinued. Often, works fit into multiple genres by way of borrowing and recombining these conventions.
But yesterday I came across what was – for me – an explosive birth of a new genre in the form of Dramatic readings from the iTunes EULA by Richard Dreyfuss on Cnet. Cnet explains why they created this exciting new artform
This Friday’s Reporters’ Roundtable is on a topic that vexes us all: why are end user license agreements and terms of service so long and convoluted? To get ourselves in the mood for this show, we asked CNET fan (and Academy Award winner) Richard Dreyfuss if he’d help us out by doing a dramatic read of the Apple EULA. He said yes.
Sure, it was meant as a joke. But listen to Dreyfuss readings and you realize that he fills a valuable need, fills a void in litterature and drama, and also a gap in the market.
As part of my research I have written about licensing and EULAs and very often felt my head becoming numb through attempting to battle through the awful prose that make up these “agreements”. Imagine the great service to the world if great readers followed the Drefuss example and provided this amazing service to lawyers, law students, activists and the general public.
Dreyfuss is a pioneer but I am waiting for a world where Stephen Fry reads the GPLv3, Patrick Stewart reads excerpts from the Creative Commons legal code and Seth MacFarlane (the voice behind Peter in Family Guy) reads the classic Microsoft Windows XP Professional End-User License Agreement.
The problem with technological change is that the original technological stage creates business possibilities, followed by the creation of business models based upon established technology.
Not all technological change needs to be great. Some small changes in socio-technical arrangements just create shifts that end sustainability in business models. A beautiful elegant example of this is the nylon stocking vending machine in use in Stockholm in 1956.
Life Magazine has a fantastic photo essay In Praise of the Automat
The charge of the light brigade was caused when bad leadership sent British cavalry on a disastrous, suicidal charge against superior Russian forces during the Crimean War (1854) (Wikipedia).
ASCAP is a membership association of more than 380,000 U.S. composers, songwriters, lyricists, and music publishers of every kind of music. Through agreements with affiliated international societies, ASCAP also represents hundreds of thousands of music creators worldwide. ASCAP is the only U.S. performing rights organization created and controlled by composers, songwriters and music publishers, with a Board of Directors elected by and from the membership.
Sounds nice, normal and peaceful. But this peaceful summer scene was shattered in June when ASCAP began mobilizing by asking for additional funds to support ASCAP’s Legislative Fund for the Arts (ALFA). Read part 1 of the letter here, and part 2 here (via BoingBoing 23 June) the letter from ASCAP’s president Paul Williams begins:
At this moment we are facing our biggest challenge ever. Many forces including Creative Commons, Public Knowledge, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation and technology companies with deep pockets are mobilizing to promote “copyleft” in order to undermine our “copyright”. They say they are advocates of consumer rights, but in truth these groups simply do not want to pay for the use of our music. Their mission is to spread the word that our music should be free.
This paragraph is so monumentally misguided its difficult to know where to start.
But lets jump in with: Copyleft is not anti-copyright or against copyright. Copyleft depends on copyright for its existence. Without copyright copyleft cannot work. Copyleft is commonly used in software programs where a programmer who creates software grants others permission to modify that software with the condition that any such modifications – if spread – must be spread under the same conditions. In other words if you take the software I have created and make modifications and then spread that new software you must allow others to make modifications. If you cannot do this you cannot make modifications of my software. That is copyleft. And it is only enforceable because of copyright. In Creative Commons licensing the equivalent to the copyleft term is the share-alike requirement. The story is the same. If I create music and license it under a CC license with a share-alike requirement you can make modifications to that music and spread them but there is a condition that you must allow others to modify the music you and I have created. If you cannot allow this then you cannot use the music I created. So copyleft cannot pose any threat to copyright or to ASCAP’s members.
The organizations that ASCAP wants to fight are also a mystery. Creative Commons is the organization behind Creative Commons licenses which are dependent on copyright. The next two are even more bizarre Public Knowledge, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation are consumer & digital rights groups. They fight for civil rights and technology. What is obvious is that ASCAP either does not understand the first thing about what they think they are “fighting” or maybe they are choosing to be ignorant in the hope that their members will think its sounds good in a classic scare-mongering tactic?
Naturally the replies were not long in coming. Eric Steuer (Creative Director at Creative Commons) wrote a Response to ASCAP’s deceptive claims (30 June)
Last week, the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) sent a fundraising letter to its members calling on them to fight “opponents” such as Creative Commons, falsely claiming that we work to undermine copyright.*
Creative Commons licenses are copyright licenses – plain and simple. Period. CC licenses are legal tools that creators can use to offer certain usage rights to the public, while reserving other rights. Without copyright, these tools don’t work. Artists and record labels that want to make their music available to the public for certain uses, like noncommercial sharing or remixing, should consider using CC licenses. Artists and labels that want to reserve all of their copyright rights should absolutely not use CC licenses.
Many musicians, including acts like Nine Inch Nails, Beastie Boys, Youssou N’Dour, Tone, Curt Smith, David Byrne, Radiohead, Yunyu, Kristin Hersh, and Snoop Dogg, have used Creative Commons licenses to share with the public. These musicians aren’t looking to stop making money from their music. In fact, many of the artists who use CC licenses are also members of collecting societies, including ASCAP. That’s how we first heard about this smear campaign – many musicians that support Creative Commons received the email and forwarded it to us. Some of them even included a donation to Creative Commons.
As a founding board member of two of those three organizations, and former board member of the third, I guess I should be proud that a 96 year old organization would be so terrified of our work. And I would be — if there were anything in this fundraising pitch that was actually true.
But there is not. Creative Commons, Public Knowledge and EFF are not aiming to “undermine” copyright; they are not spreading the word that “music should be free”; and there is certainly not yet any rally within Congress in favor of any of the issues that these groups do push.
Lessig then moves to a concrete suggestion:
This isn’t the first time that ASCAP has misrepresented the objectives of our organization. But could we make it the last? We have no objection to collecting societies: They too were an innovative and voluntary solution (in America at least) to a challenging copyright problem created by new technologies. And I at least am confident that collecting societies will be a part of the copyright landscape forever.
So here’s my challenge, ASCAP President Paul Williams: Let’s address our differences the way decent souls do. In a debate. I’m a big fan of yours, and If you’ll grant me the permission, I’d even be willing to sing one of your songs (or not) if you’ll accept my challenge of a debate. We could ask the New York Public Library to host the event. I am willing to do whatever I can to accommodate your schedule.
Let’s meet and address these perceived differences with honesty and good faith. No doubt we have disagreements (for instance, I love rainy days, and Mondays rarely get me down). But on the issues that your organization and mine care about, there should be no difference worthy of an attack.
Paul Williams posted his reply on the ASCAP website (19 July)
Anti-copyright crusaders are currently engaged in a publicity campaign to discredit ASCAP’s efforts to defend the copyrights of our professional songwriter and composer members…
Because of the respect I have for ASCAP’s members and the trust they have put in me, I am focused on those activities that will further ASCAP’s goals to work for fair compensation to music creators for the use of their music.
I don’t believe a debate with Lawrence Lessig will serve that purpose.
I am well aware of those “copyleft” mouthpieces who take a highly critical view of ASCAP’s efforts to protect our members’ rights. That will not change ASCAP’s commitment to doing so. ASCAP exists for one purpose — fair payment to music creators for the use of their music by businesses and others who seek to attract viewers and customers. ASCAP has long welcomed and licensed new technological means of performing its members works, seeking only reasonable fees for those performances. Our members have every right to give their music away for free if they choose, but they should not be forced to do so.
What I find most fascinating is that those who purport to support a climate of free culture work so hard to silence opposing points of view. They will not silence me.”
Instead of addressing any of the errors – which have been pointed out by several people -they continue to repeat the patently wrong statements. When a public person makes a error of this magnitude it is a given that bloggers who know anything about the area are going to be critical – this is the basis for free speech and open society – this criticism is hardly a “…a publicity campaign to discredit ASCAP’s efforts to defend the copyrights…”
The closing letter is amazingly weird – being invited to participate in a debate is the opposite of being silenced!! Being invited to a debate is obviously a mark of respect of ones opponent and respect for the whole open and free speech process. The lack of interest for this process and the ignorance about the “enemies” of ASCAP should be enough to question Williams suitability as a spokesperson.
Seeing the charge of the light brigade French Marshal Pierre Bosquet said “C’est magnifique, mais ce n’est pas la guerre. C’est de la folie” — ” (It is magnificent, but it is not war it is madness) (Wikipedia)
Tennyson wrote the poem: The Charge of the Light Brigade:
Half a league, half a league,
Half a league onward,
All in the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.
“Forward, the Light Brigade!
“Charge for the guns!” he said:
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.
“Forward, the Light Brigade!”
Was there a man dismay’d?
Not tho’ the soldier knew
Someone had blunder’d:
Theirs not to make reply,
Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs but to do and die:
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.
Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon in front of them
Volley’d and thunder’d;
Storm’d at with shot and shell,
Boldly they rode and well,
Into the jaws of Death,
Into the mouth of Hell
Rode the six hundred.
Flash’d all their sabres bare,
Flash’d as they turn’d in air,
Sabring the gunners there,
Charging an army, while
All the world wonder’d:
Plunged in the battery-smoke
Right thro’ the line they broke;
Cossack and Russian
Reel’d from the sabre stroke
Shatter’d and sunder’d.
Then they rode back, but not
Not the six hundred.
Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon behind them
Volley’d and thunder’d;
Storm’d at with shot and shell,
While horse and hero fell,
They that had fought so well
Came thro’ the jaws of Death
Back from the mouth of Hell,
All that was left of them,
Left of six hundred.
When can their glory fade?
O the wild charge they made!
All the world wondered.
Honor the charge they made,
Honor the Light Brigade,
Noble six hundred.
Techdirt reports that a newspaper publisher is suing 22 websites for copyright violation. Nothing really new here except the action that these bad sites have carried out is quoting text (with links back to the original articles). Apparently they even used the “you wouldn’t steal a car, so why are you stealing my content” analogy:
Say I owned a beautiful 1967 Corvette and kept it parked in my front yard.
And you, being a Corvette enthusiast, saw my Vette from the street. You stopped and stood on the sidewalk admiring it. You liked it so much you called friends and gave them my address in case they also wanted to drive over for a gander.
There’d be nothing wrong with that. I like my ’67 Vette and I keep in the front yard because I like people to see it.
But then, you entered my front yard, climbed into the front seat and drove it away.
I’m absolutely, 100% not OK with that. In fact, I’m calling the police and reporting that you stole my car….
Yet, when it comes to copyrighted material — news that my company spends money to gather and constitutes the essence of what we are as a business — some people think they can not only look at it, but also steal it. And they do. They essentially step into the front yard and drive that content away.
Do they even believe what they are saying?