31.8.07

Bazaar Blanket - Blanket Licenses done right

Bazaar Blanket, a term I've just invented, is my intention to (re)define blanket licenses in a way that they might in fact work. For that matter I'm going to try to explain the concept of blanket licenses, what are the flaws of that licenses, and how could they work.

We're, fortunately, starting to hear about "Blanket Licenses" more and more, specially related to the music world. This is a concept that appeared as a way to redifine copyright and its issues. As you surelly know piracy is growing more and more, and while we're allways listining that "piracy is bad", "piracy is wrong", there are two statistics that should not be ignored: for one people are listening to more and more varied music, and seem to be more interested in music and art in general; on the other hand most people who practice any form of that so-called "piracy" don't consider or feel that they are doing something wrong, even if they know that they're doing something that society says it is wrong. So, copyright might be outdated (I believe it is, and I may talk about that later, but that's not the point of this article). But do we really need copyright? Some people thought that, while the concepts behind copyright might be good (I say might because you have to believe that copyright is aimed to give financial and moral retribution to artists) they also think that the actual scenario is wrong, with big corporations get the big stake of the profits and the control of the art without being really involved in the process, while artists win nothing but exposure with the deal, and consumers are treated as criminals (and these are really the two parts related to the art itself). So, they think that all this mess could be solved with a "blanket license": people pay a fair fixed price per month and have the right to have access to any form of copyright material they want to (legalizing the big bulk of p2p traffic that entities like RIAA or MPAA want to anihilate). Those same people usually point out uniquely one downside of this: its implementation would have to allow the perfect calculation of what content and how many times is being transfered, as a way to pay for the copyright holders for it, and that's difficult.

Now my part: I've allways said that I don't agree with blanket licenses, which amazes many people. Here's why: I don't believe you could implement a fair blanket license.

First, you would have to force people to pay, or they wouldn't. See, I pay my water bill, but if I don't I'll stop having water at home. Now, if you would have water in the pipes anyway, do you really think that people would pay for the water? Notice that we're talking about the same people that many times can buy the music they're downloading in an online shop, but they don't. Of course that you can avoid that and do what some countries, including Portugal, do with physical media: every CD, DVD, hard drive, pen disk or other physical media they remembered of pays a "copyright tax", so everytime you buy a CD-R you're paying a copyright fee, and every time you're buying a CD burner you're also paying a "copyright tax". The problem here is quite obvious: I never burnt on my CD/DVD burner any CD-R or DVD-R with copyrighted material without permission, but still I payed that tax, and I don't like it. So, if you force people to adhere for that blanket license and pay for it, is it really good?

Then, the question of retribution: how can you see which copyright holder gets 100 and which ones gets 10? Thinking that you can implement such scheme is completely ridiculous: that doesn't even work (nor is fair) in radio station licenses, where there's a similar scheme implemented, with the particularity that it is a closed environment (one entity to pay to, one list per month to report to that entity, each licensee needs to give that list). But let's look wider: if RIAA can't stop (and is avidly trying to) piracy, do you think they could do the tracking necessary (basicly the same) to make blanket licenses fair, specially when they're getting their money anyway (so they don't really get any monetary benefict in doing such an effort)?

So, how to fix "blanket licenses" and turn them into something praticable? Welcome to the "Bazaar Blanket". First of all, this is almost a request for comments, this ideas I'm writting aren't really well defined. This is something that must evolve until reaches a state of "full praticability", meaning that it must be in a way that it turns out to being the obvious way to lid with this matter. Also, I know quite well that this is almost "radical", utopic, and I know that the actual copyright industry would never let such thing to be implemented.

Abolish the concept of copyright. Copyright is outdated. Copyright doesn't work. Plus, copyright isn't needed, at all. I'm starting with this so you understand from the start why I say that the copyright industry would never accept this: without copyright there's no copyright industry. But that's exactly the particularity of abolishing copyright that makes that abolition necessary. See, to get the most of art, you need artists that are free to be artists, and you want that anyone, in any case, can get access to art. Societies without art do not evolve (I really should put a reference here, but if you fuss a little you'll find thousands of resarch papers telling you this). Copyright could be defined as the process of putting barriers between the artists and the general public, so, as we don't want barriers, we don't really want copyright. Oh, BTW, abolishing copyright is what I'm really calling "Bazaar blanket", since it solves everything.

Let me explain. The first issue I pointed out to blanket licenses is that people would be force to aquire such licenses. Well, without copyright they don't, no copyright means no need to have a license that lets you have access to the content. The second issue is that artists should get money fairly. Well, paying for the art is a astonishing concept that we're forcing to accept, but I defy someone to really understand and deffend it. See, I understand that artists should get money - I really do, and I want that they can get that money with this Bazaar Blanket, but if you can reproduce something tending to the infinite with a cost tending to none, then the price of the thing you're reproducing tends to none. Damn, I'm listening to an awsome music that I didn't pay nothing for, and I'm not taking nothing to no one while doing so: this CD was bought by a friend that lended it to me, but since there's nothing like "while you're listening to it I can't" (remember, the reproducing cost is virtually none) I'm not priving anyone of anything. So, should music be free? YES! That doesn't mean that artist shouldn't make money. See, there are physical costs with being an artist. For instance, I'm listening to a CD, and while the music in it does not have costs, the CD itself has. As going to a concert has. As a DVD has, as a book has. You don't need copyright to be able to sell stuff if you abolish stuff. Plus, you stop having to worry to who deserves more money. Pick Don and Joe. Don has a musical project, makes some gigs and people dig him, he records some CD's at home and do some nice DIY packaging for them, with some photos and an autograph, he goes to the next retail store with 50 CD's and sells them to the store so the store sells those CD's. He's making money. No copyright - no rules - no laws - he makes money and all this is legal. Jon though "hey, that's easy money!" so he decided to make something simillar but since he doesn't know nothing of music he skips the concerts part, and just into recording a CD. He makes 50 CD's full of, er, grunts and burps and tries to sell them. No one buys, of course. This is the Bazaar Blanket.

Bazaar Blanket - a concept disruptive and caustic, but fair and praticable, more than Copyright. Just so far from the actual reality that most people won't get it. What are your thoughts?

30.8.07

Virtal Worlds usage stats

Yesterday on Terra Nova there was a discussion about what was the average "play time" per week in a virtual world, namedly on Second Life. Some measurement issues were discussed, but I still think that there is preety good information you can take from a Virtual World if you do the measures server-side. Thus, and more as an exercise than anything else, I decided to do some stats about the Portuguese Virtual World Jungle. Since this was only an exercice, and because nothing of this is automated, I did the stats using only the information of 11.7% of this Virtual World users, but it would preety trivial to use 100% of the data. On the other hand, the raw data isn't that much important than what do you do with it, so...

First, I did what I called "full stats", that, although more accurate, is revelant in less cases. Full stats means that I used the data from every user that entered in the system, including those who never spent one full minute on it, or those that came only once and did nothing before leaving. Everything's here, and the result is that users are here for an average of 3 hours and 15 minutes per week. BTW, this is the only kind of stats you can also take from Linden Labs data, getting as result an average of 4 hours and 11 minutes per month.

Then, I inserted some intelligence on the stats, and decided that those records that the system doesn't even consider as "users" wouldn't count. The result is that real users are here for an average of 6 hours and 24 minutes per week.

I wasn't happy, and decided that you should ignore those users that came a few times and never came back: after all they're probably not users at all, and are messing with the stats. I discarded all those users that stayed on the system less than a total than 24 hours. The result is that returning users are here for an average of 9 hours and 9 minutes per week.

This data still seems way lower than it feels when I'm there, so I think I might do this exercice another time, counting only with adult animals (users that spent at least 8 hours in world), and with all of them.

Now, this is real data. Polls? Mailing Lists? Nah... The problem is that you can't really trust Linden Labs figures, can you? You know they'll allways want to make them look nice...

29.8.07

BarCamp Portugal 2007

BarCamp Portugal

Next weekend (1st and 2nd of September) I'm going to be attending BarCamp Portugal 2007, and you should too. 11 presentations, 4 workshops, 106 geeks, a free dinner... What do you want more?

For readers of this blog going, don't be shy and give me a couple of words. BTW, if you're going to BarCamp and at the end of Sunday you're returning to Lisbon, I would love to accept a ride ;-)

Frets On Fire

Once in a while I read something about Guitar Hero, in the lines of "this is so cool!" and "I wish I could do this or that with it"... So I assume that most people don't know about Frets On Fire: an Open Source clone of Guitar Hero, made in Python, and available for Linux, Mac OS or Windows. Since it is Open Source, you can do with it all those things you wanted to in Guitar Hero. Enjoy!

28.8.07

More Portugal on Second Life

After the Portuguese Mediation Center in Second Life, now it is going to be "Banco Espírito Santo" (known as BES), a Portuguese bank, to create its presence on Second Life. Today, 19:00 Portuguese time, the inauguration party starts on a virtual representation of Cascais' Marina.

Read the full news here.

DRM. once again

Damn, when did Lusomundo started to cripple their DVD's with DRM? Once again, the story happens: last saturday I bought a DVD, checking for any indication of "copy-protection" or stuff like that. There was nothing telling me than the DVD was defective, with DRM, so I bought it. It does not play in my DVD player. DAMN.

Oh, BTW, if you're thinking of making comments like those on my last post about this, NO, I'm not going to change my DVD player NOR Operating System. My Operating System is fine, thanks, and my DVD player works well, playing every DVD I put there. It's not MY fault that some DVD's are DEFECTIVE.

27.8.07

SLTalker - bug tracking system

Hi there,

This quick post is just to tell you that SLTalker already have a bugs page, so, as you can imagine, the release is going to be soon. BTW, the BTS I'm using is 16bugs, which is a preety nice service for those that just want a simple bug tracking system without the fuss of having to host one.

24.8.07

Damn you, Murphy!

Even if you're paranoiac with security and backups, there will be the day when you do a security upgrade to your kernel, the machine stops responding, and you end seeing that one hard drive died and the only partition that you still needed to change the backup scheme on was in that hard drive.

*sigh*

23.8.07

What to expect from SLTalker

Some people started to ask me about what should they expect from SLTalker's first public release. Here are some hints:

  • SLTalker will release soon. Soon means that it will have lot's of bugs, and few functionality: both implemented stuff needs to get better and there's a lot left to implement. Soon also means that I want to get this thing done because I'm lacking time in the next couple of weeks, and that I'm going to stop coding so much on it in the next month or so.

  • SLTalker is a talker, but it might not seem like one. This means that if you're willing to try out SLTalker, maybe you should start by knowing your way in a regular talker. If you're Portuguese I recommend Selva, if you're nor I recommend EUTS. You might even end up realizing that talkers are funnier then Second Life O;-)

  • SLTalker is a service, which means that, while I intend to Open Source the client (and I know you're willing to fiddle with it to create your money-making bots, right?), the first "public release" is not going to be a "code release" but a "service release". You'll be able to log on into Second Life by telnet'ing a server somewhere.

  • SLTalker needs some care, you know? There are four urgent things to do with it that I only expect to do after the release:
    • nowadays if you get a teleport request you automagicly accept it

    • If you .tell something to someone who's not online, the message is going to be queued for delivery, but you'll think that the avatar is online and read your message

    • I have some urgent interface changes to make

  • SLTalker is beta, so I take no responsability for what happens to your stuff. I'm going to take off for now all "dangerous commands" to stop you from giving away all your possessions of giving away your money while using SLTalker, but you'll never now

  • SLTalker is not secure, since that you have to trust me your credentials (I'm not logging them, really, but I could...) and for now the only log in interface is going to be via telnet (unencrypted)

  • SLTalker needs you to test and leave your comments. I really hope you'll enjoy it.

  • SLTalker is lacking functionality, and I might talk a little about what will you be able to do with it even before the release, but yet keep in mind that you'll be able to chat with others, but I doubt that you'll manage to have avatars sex with it :-P


22.8.07

Lately, on Second Life

Second Life is so hyped that it's no surprise to know that everyday someone is writting about it. But lately some nice writting appeared about it, so here's a small round of links for those interested in the matter. Freelance Samurai started playing with Second Life only recently, and three days after his first experience he was addicted. In his article he explains what is that he finds interesting in Second Life, in a "games perspective", considereing Second Life (or, I assume, these kinds of virtual worlds) a next-gen gaming experience. The article is not only interesting, but raised some nice comments, including one that reminded me that I need to write more about "centralized vs. de-centralized virtual worlds":
That's what's so cool about the 'net, and maybe before that BBSs - because it's here, and it makes sense TODAY. SL does not - it's controlled by a single company (if the 'net was like that, we'd have thousands of little 'internets' and would be stuck with paying tolls between them). It's not open, so security fears are a must. It?s too plastic! 'Cool, I'm doing the Travolta with my awesome textured suit and'*CRAP* my mouse's batteries are dead. shit, did I buy new ones?

While I don't think that this is the sollution, seems that the virtual worlds industry is starting talking more about intercommunications between virtual worlds, which will help solving these issues. OK, it's nothing like the web, but it might end being a usefull enough communication system between VW's as Fidonet was to BBS's: HiPiHi is aiming to establish "3D virtual world standards", which, I hope, can be combined to the old news from Linden Labs wanting to open their grid... While some people are starting to understand the potential in Virtual Worlds, and using Second Life in the propper way to achieve that, like helping deaf people or doing simple interfaces that can be used, for instance, by blind people, others just don't understand the concept behind virtual worlds, even if there are companies aiming to help you create a virtual shop, since the real issue here is that, as Paula said,
If you want to sell your product in SL, the best way to do it is to create a community around your product. Because SL is about communities, not about buildings.
Of course that others might be successful: for instance Thinkgeek has a virtual store in SL, and while I stopped buying from them IRL (issues with customs), I might end spending some linden dollars with virtual clothing from their store. Let me give you more examples: new forms of education are appearing there, aiming for a nieche market, but aiming directly for avatars, and succeeding. On the other hand, WWF didn't know how to play their game, while others succeded in getting environment consiousness in VW's.

Finaly Branding in Second Life matters, and don't forget to check out Second Life Insider if you want regular news about Second Life.

21.8.07

SLTalker website

I finally decided to create a quick site for SLTalker, so fell free to check it out. For those not knowing SLTalker is a project of mine that aims to create a talker-like interface for Second Life. The development itself is going quite well actually, if you take into consideration that I've been wildly busy, with the new home and all. Until now only two persons saw it in action, and there's quite a few things to do until I can think into turning the whole thing (2.2M gzip'ed code ATM, but most is junk) into a talker. Before that you might read a rand on how much I have C#.

HiPiHi aiming to establish standards for 3D

HiPiHi a Second Life-like Chinese virtual world (only running on Windows, I'm afraid), announced yesterday that
"First, HiPiHi will cooperate with global leaders in the Internet and communication industry to establish a set of relevant hardware and software standards for the development of the 3D platform. Second, HiPiHi will cooperate with other major 3D virtual worlds to finalize these standards, and bring the possibility for users to interact and transact between different virtual worlds. Lastly, HiPiHi will actively build its “Global Market Partnership Project”, “Third Party Developer Project” and “Community Partnership Project”, to establish a HiPiHi virtual world global value chain. "
(according to Virtual World News)

Metaversed has a small review on the announcement, exited with the effort, but saying that this is something difficult to achieve, special when you enter into the field of who patented what (is still there any doubt that software patents suck?).

HiPiHi guys will be, with lots of others in the sector, at the upcoming Virtual Worlds 2007, and I'm sorry now more than ever that I can't attend to it... It will be a great discussion, undoubtly.

Wevent invites

Yesterday the events social network Wevent went into private beta, meaning that you need an invite to go there. If you want one invite, feel free to ask me, since I have a bunch of them. If you want to read a review on Wevent, try this one.

Second Life for Debian Etch (i386)

New Second Life (slviewer) packages for Debian Etch (stable) i386 are available here.

19.8.07

Augmented Reatity vs. Virtual Worlds

With the rise of adoption of Massively Multiplayer Online Games such as World of Warcraft or "maybe this is not a game" Virtual Worlds like Second Life, it is arguably now more than ever the interest (and confusion) around these two concepts: augmented reality and virtual worlds. In this post I'll try to focus on some items to help both defining and distinguishing both.

First of all, augmented reality and virtual worlds are two different, distinguished and uncommon concepts. The two refer to two quite different yet emerging things, both with a quicker evolution and adoption then ever. The confusion grows when people try to relate concepts by using words, since, for instance, most Virtual Reality gadgets are gadgets made to help creating an augmented reality, and usually not related to virtual worlds, despite having "virtual" in the concept name.

Augmented reality is the term often used to describe how technology is used to enhance your perception and interaction with reality. While it is often used as a buzzword to sell you the latest ubiquous gadget ("with a mobile phone you're everywhere at any time!" or "listen your music everywere!") this concept of "augmenting reality" defines something that is happening since the rise of humanity: basicly we're constantly developing more ways of expanding our communication, expression and presence.

Virtual Worlds are "alternative realities" or "another worlds". They usually define other place (other planet, other universe, whatever) where other beings (humans, orcs, flying pigs, whatever) live.

The idea that augmented reality and virtual worlds can cross is usually wrong. The most common misconception is that a virtual world is a virtual place where people go to meet each other, which is basicly is a way of augmented reality. You can put in this type of augmented reality places technologies like IRC, where real people use virtual places (a #room in an irc.serv.er) to be able to chat with each other without distance constraints (you can talk at the same time with your nighbour, and your friend living in the other side of the world). But IRC just can't be seen or defined as a virtual world: there's no "virtual place where virtual beings exist).

In WOW or SL you can be a human or an orc or a flying pig, with a name chosen by yourself. Your avatar (the being in that virtual world) has to follow and live with the social and physic rules of that world. You and your avatar are different beings, different kinds of beings, living in different worlds. Your "one world" needs, relations or behaviour aren't your "other world" needs, relations or behaviour. Dying in one world doesn't mean dying in the other, if you eat doesn't mean that your avatar ate, and vice-versa. They are two different entities. If you have, or can have that in some system, you're probably on a virtual world, and not just some augmented reality technology.

The fact that you don't have the imposition to role play in a virtual world, it doesn't mean it is not a virtual world but just an augmented reality. Furthermore, virtual worlds can be thypicaly used as a mean of augmented reality. As an example, in Second Life you'll see avatars that are (or try to be) exactly like the humans behing those avatars are, but you'll also see RL executives with female avatars that do sex for money, or RL lawyers whose avatars are of mythical beasts.

If you use a Virtual World as a way to achieve an augmented reality, or even if most people use some virtual world as a way to achieve an augmented reality, it doesn't mean that the described technology isn't a virtual world but just a way to achieve an augmented reality, it only means that in that Virtual World all avatars are being used as a way to achieve an augmented reality, nothing else.

17.8.07

2007 so far - movies

Keeping up with my "2007 so far" series, today I'm going to talk about the movies that I've seen so far this year and that I think are worth talking about, and maybe convincing you to see them. It's quite hard to write about movies and books without spoilers, which I refuse to write here, so I'm just giving my relation with each movie. If you get curious about some of the movies, but still not decided to see it, I encourage you to check more info about it on IMDB or such.

On Piracy. I talked about this movie by the time I saw it. This is basicly a movie about what's usually called "Digital Piracy". It shows an imparcial vision, allways talking to both sides on each issue, and focusing on several aspects of Piracy. It is refreshing to see a documentary of this kind, since we're used to see allways the same stuff from the content industry, saying that "piracy is evil and is a form of terrorism", and here we see the real oppinions of both sides, and not only the legal side of the question (what is legal? what is not? what is moral? what is not? what is fair? what is not?) but we also see the cultural issues (Why do people download music? Why does the music industry refuse to reinvent their business model?). To make it even better, this movie is free.

Les glaneurs et la glaneuse is another documentary, but this one reflecting on human nature. Of course, the theme isn't real that one: it's a documentary were we see various examples where people live with what others don't care to see. What is garbage for ones, can be vital for others, or can be used as art (just to give you a pair of examples). Also, with this you see alternative lifestyles, away from what's commonly accepted, and yet, it seems, more human. This movie is, in fact, a reflexion, but the great thing about it is really the fact that, while it explains and explores each argument for that reflexion, it settles the ground for you to do a reflexion of your own.

PlayTime, or my introduction to Jaques Tati. And, well, I'm way too curious to see all the other stuff he made (I actualy didn't stop with PlayTime, as you'll read in a moment). A futurist movie, describing the mechanical world and the mechanical animals. Each angle has ninety degrees, each city works the same way, everything has a place to fit. What happens if someone just doesn't fit in? Probably the world doesn't care. While a far topic from dystopias, I imagine that the fan of PlayTime will be those who are fans of dystopias - specially mathematicly inspired ones, like Zamiatyn's "We".

Fahrenheit 451, an addaptation of Ray Bradbury's book. I was talking about dystopias, so here is one of those stories that I consider the "obligatory four dystopias": We, 1984, Brave New World and Fahrenheit 451. The adaptation of the book to the big screen is better than I was hoping, and every little storyline change is well justified and justifiable. Also, this story has the particularity that even Ray Bradbury liked to change and adapt it to the medium it was going to be told - from several forms of writting to several forms of playing. I wonder if Ray was living only nowadays he would like Clive Barker's thoughts on art, and release it as a game instead...

Mon Oncle, another Jaques Tati movie. Far lighter that PlayTime, extremely funny, it ends talking about the same kind of concepts than PlayTime - it almost seems that it is a previous chapter of the story (which maybe it is, I don't know the release date of one and the other). Also an excelent movie, this one that tells a story of a family of father, mother and son, and their new home. Of course, there is also the uncle, best friend of the kid but not really into the social standards of the family... It's fun to see that, while PlayTime is "one society black sheep", Mon Oncle is more about a culture clash between social levels, told in the funniest way.

Having Cypher on this list is somewhat like cheating, since this was not the first time I saw it. What made me wanting to see it for a long time was the fact that it was made by the same guy from "Cube" (an awsome movie, IMHO), but I didn't really know much about it when I saw it. When I did, I really liked and it was one of those movies that I didn't forget about, and several times recalled it. The problem is that I never thought of it as "Cypher" but allways as "that movie where 'a' and 'b' happens", so when the movie was being played again in a movie festival in Coimbra, this year, I read the movie descriptionand didn't relate it to the movie itself. I had the same thought, "if it's directed by the same guy who worked on Cube it must be good", and I only recognized it as being the same when I first saw the movie start. And I'm glad, 'cause this is one of those movies I don't mind watching more than once.

Four Eyed Monsters is an exquisite movie: it was made by too persons that met via the web, and the movie is about their story. But that's not it: the movie not only was made, hyped and distributed using a lot of new technology, namedly social networks, blogs and so on, they also focus that new means of connecting and getting toguether in the movie. The movie can still be viewed and downloaded for free on YouTube (I don't know for how long), being the first featured movie on YouTube. The movie was all made with money from a huge bunch of credit cards, that they're now paying for. It's arguably the first "Movie 2.0", and while that would be encouraging enough for you to see it, the story and plot are also very good - even better than the concept itself.

M - Eine Stadt sucht einen Moerder is another movie that you can download and see for free, but this time not on YouTube nor because the author lets you do, but because this is a Fritz Lang movie that is already in Public Domain, so you can get it (with subtitles of your choice) at archive.org. As you might remember from an earlier post of mine, I'm a fan of Fritz Lang's Metropolis, and I was curious for a long time on "M". Seeing it was a great experience, and I really recommend this movie almost-dystopian movie, that shows a dark side of humanity and society, while telling you a preety easy to follow plot: a child murderer is out there, and everyone is both afraid and wanting to catch him. What scares the most is that the movie is as actual now as it was at the time.

Det Sjunde Inseglet is a movie from Ingmar Bergman, that recently died but will never be dead, and is considered one of the movies that helped defining the European cinema. From 195, this black and white movie was the only one that I've seen from Bergman (yet), but that something that I have and want to fix soon enough. This movie reflects about death, God, religion and myths, and shows, among other things, that Bergman had guts. While the movie itself is excelent, I felt that I need to see more of his works (specially those made near this one) to have a full understanding of what's going on Bergman's mind with some particularities of this movie. But making me wanting to see more of his movies is one good indicative that I liked it, and I really expect to like his other works.

16.8.07

Debian turns 14

And I couldn't end my day without saying happy birthday to Debian, my Linux distro of choice. Thank you, everyone that, with a lot or only a little bit, made Debian the excelent teenager it is today. Let's keep it moving.

Selling Music on Social Networks

On Reuters there was a piece where they were saying that labels are eyeing social networks as retailers, which isn't really news to me: I've been seeing this countless times, an effort made by both bands and/or labels in different kinds of promotion and profit. It's not small the number of record labels with a MySpace profile, but what's really interesting (and cool) to see is the number of record labels betting on social networks like Last.fm, showing that they have at least a glimpse of what they're doing. Also, it seems that major labels are seeing a bad side of DRM: besides the technical issues of implementing it, social networking users simply don't want DRM in their tracks, so an artist selling in those networks DRM'd files is in a clear disadvantage in relation to other, DRM-free, artists. I don't really like Snocap (I'll write about that in a later post), but Snocap's Rueff said something in conclusion that I want to quote:
"Social networks are the (peer-to-peer) networks of the future [...] They're this generation's MTV. If you want to be at a point of sale at the highest point of desire and consumption, be where the fan is."


Oddly, Gooveshark guys didn't like what they read: their first post about the Reuters' article basicly states that turning social networks (and services that float around them like Snocap) is a model "where your own network's members make a little side money for yourself, but a boatload of cash for your corporate overlords". They keep going, saying that "with more innovative services like Grooveshark out there, where you can not only make money off of your music but be part of a social network in the process? Who would deny that opportunity?". This quite amuses me, since the "innovative service" that Grooveshark presents is, basicly, the same as this Social Networks. Snocap, AmieStreet, GrooveShark, they're all the same concepts: bands sell, fans sell, buyers pay, a boatload of cash is supposedly made. What makes GooveShark different?

But they didn't stop here: a second article called "Damn Those Myspace Window Shoppers" was written. The writer quotes a study from EMR and Olswand saying that "More than half of internet users surveyed by Entertainment Media Research and the law firm Olswang said they surfed social networking sites such as MySpace and YouTube specifically to come across new songs.", but then tells us, without any kind of source, that "most of these people love to discover new music knowing full and well that they will ultimately dip from the illegal pool of music downloads to obtain the freshly discovered music". First, we don't know if that's truth, then there are no sources telling if illegal downloads contribute for sales increases or decreases - it surely depends from person to person but I doubt that they can find an imparcial source saying that it decreases sales, which should be good for them since GooveShark's business model depends on that. Then, he keeps randomly ranting, talking about how "added value" is needed, but saying that CD's give few or none (where's the extra value in digital music bought on GrooveShark?), even if "CDs had vastly superior sound compared to cassettes or records" (sorry mate, but vinyl records have way better sound!).

The conclusion? Well, there's really no directly related conclusion to take from this post. Finaly record labels are discovering the potential of the web and the turndowns of DRM, which is good. In relation to GrooveShark's comments, I just have to say that while it's preety important for a start-up to be close with their readers, using several ways to achieve it including mantaining a blog, a blog makes an image of that startup. Writing articles like these (and others) only contribute for people taking GrooveShark less and less seriously.

13.8.07

Proper nouns and HTML

Rui wrote a post about the use of the "õ" character in XHTML. I tried to comment but something went wrong with it, so here's a post about it:

Propper Nouns are untranslatable, so my name is Marcos Marado wherever I am or whichever the language I'm talking is. The same way, Paula Simões is called Paula Simões either I'm talking about her in Portuguese, English or Japanese. So, if I'm talking in English and I want to refer to Paula, I should say "Paula Simões", and this doesn't mean that I'm "mixing languages": Proper nouns are universal, they have no nationality and are untranslatable. It's the same as "Internet", there's no translation for that. When you have to use such entities, you must write them this way:

ã turns ã
á turns á
à turns à
â turns â

...and so on. There's nothing wrong in the way Paula writes her name in her website, nor does it affect the page's ranking on search engines (not that I believe that she's trying to apply any kind of SEO technique on her website).

10.8.07

Still the OpenCoffee Lisbon

After my post about OpenCoffee, Celso and Ricardo posted some thoughts. I understand and agree with lots of Celso's points, but I don't think you can compare OCL to MCV because the number of potentially interested people in OCL is way less. And Ricardo, maybe "procrastination" was a bad word, but I wasn't using it as a rude critic. I've seen two attempts at an OCL #2, but it didn't passed (at least publicly) from a "ping"... I'm not saying that as "they should go for it anyway", just stating that it seemed that there was an "oh, well..." attitude there.

I don't really agree with some stuff said by both, and maybe I'll write about that sometime. What's important here for me is that there's an attempt to make it work, even if not in the "OpenCoffee" format, and that's good. I'll wait and see (and hey, I'm here if you need any help), and I like the way this has been talked about, because it feels like you're open for improovements. So let's see what comes out, and then see if it worked.

~, sweet ~

~, sweet ~
Finaly, a new home. I wonder when will I manage to call it "my home".

Suggestions for maintaining Debian

Since many people ask me about these, here's a quick post about some Debian stuff:

apt-get vs. aptitude - aptitude is, IMHO, more flexible, even if you don't want to use the interective client (aptitude update && aptitude upgrade also work). If you use apt-get and aptitude now tells you that you have some unused packages, you can fix that by making an aptitude install to those packages.

apt.conf - you can configure your debian box behaviour in a really flexible way. For instance, in this box I have this:


# cat /etc/apt/apt.conf
APT::Default-Release "stable";
APT::Cache-Limit 20000000;
Apt::Get::Purge;
Aptitude::Recommends-Important "true";
Aptitude::Suggests-Important "true";

The first line says that I prefer stable packages. That means that if I have stable and testing repositories, he tryis stable first. To force testing, for instance, do a {apt-get|aptitude} -t testing install package .
The two last lines tell you that I want aptitude to install recommended and suggested packages by default.

wajig - This tool is most commonly used for:

Common JIG commands:

update Update the list of down-loadable packages

new List packages that became available since last update
newupgrades List packages newly available for upgrading

install Install (or upgrade) one or more packages or .deb files
remove Remove one or more packages (see also purge)

toupgrade List packages with newer versions available for upgrading
upgrade Upgrade all of the installed packages or just those listed

listfiles List the files that are supplied by the named package
listnames List all known packages or those containing supplied string
whatis For each package named obtain a one line description
whichpkg Find the package that supplies the given command or file


But what I think it's most important in wajig is:
$ wajig installrs package - Install package, including recommended and suggested others
$ wajig list-orphans - List installed libs not required by any installed package
$ wajig purge-depend package - Purge package and libs that would get orphan with the removal
$ wajig purge-orphans - Purge orphaned libraries

9.8.07

Tech events in Portugal

Portugal is not that poor in Tech events. Even today I informed a couple of people about WIDM 2007 (Lisbon, November 9), and others about OTM 2007 (Vilamoura, November 25-30). I, myself, am planning to attend to BarCamp Portugal 2007 (Coimbra, September 1-2), I Fórum de Software Livre de Lisboa (Lisbon, October 12-13), and SHiFT 2007 (Lisbon, date tba).

Yet, it allways felt that something was wrong in Portugal. But things in Portugal were awful for a big load of time. The best events were academic, the others were purely commercial. Things evolved over time, specially because we started seeing another kind of events happening, like Minho Campus Party, and people started to realize that we needed more relaxed events in Portugal, like the ones we were craving to go in other countries.

Things started changing, specially in the last year: we had our first BarCamp and SHiFT, both inspiring the first Tecnonov and the first Takeoff. There are also some regular meetings: both the Perl community and the Ruby comminity have them, for instance.

Today Vitor wrote about OpenCoffee in Lisbon. For those not knowing, the OpenCoffee Club is an idea somewhat simmilar to that of a BarCamp, but this time we're talking about a regular, open and informal meeting place for people involved in startups to meet. A first attempt was made, but the results weren't that good, because it wasn't good enough to beat the procrastination that fell over the organization, so what was supposed to be a weekly meeting never saw #2. Celso Pinto gave his oppinion about Vitor's comments, but I think we're missing the point here, we should instead think about what is failing, what needs to change, and how to do it. First, I think that there are lot's of interested people in this in Portugal, but not only in Lisbon. Changing OCL to OCP (OpenCoffee Portugal) would be a nice step. The other thing is that I don't think there's that much of an attraction for this kind of event to make it be weekly. I still think that monthly is good enough. There are already a number of monthly events I'm interested in, but usually I go to none of them: they're in a weekday. I know of others that think the same way. A solution is to make them during a friday or a saturday. Also, instead of the thipical rule of "every first week of a month", we should avoid conflit of events, with an allways changing week. But the most important thing, IMHO, instead of a rigid schedule we should have "date discussions" on the mailing list.

For now, my idea is that one issue of this meetings (maybe #2?) should happen in the upcoming BarCamp, where we would surely find lot's of interested people. There we could not only have "an OCLOCP meeting", but also discuss how could be make it work. It would be awsome to have more stuff like these happening...

Avoid PDF for On-Screen Reading

I wrote four or five times this post, and deleted it before posting. It had several different titles and different tags, but it allways sounded too harsh. So, stopping, taking deep breaths and only writing afterwords have some advantages.

You shouldn't embed PDF's on your website. Forcing users to browse PDF files makes usability approximately 300% worse compared to HTML pages. PDF is great for distributing documents that need to be printed. But that is all it's good for. No matter how tempting it might be, you should never use PDF for content that you expect users to read online. Using one of those stupid flash thingies to avoid embeding PDF's, but for the same purpose (displaying an embeded document) not only is still bad, it is in fact worse.

Thank you.

More info about this here.

7.8.07

MUD's and IRC - a bit of history

There's an error being published countless times in books and articles, which makes me a little sad since it's not really that hard to check out dates before doing such claims. For the record:

MUDs were born in 1977 on the PLATO system.
IRC was born in 1988 on OuluBox.

Yes, this means that MUDs predate IRC.

Another Facebook lawsuit

While I have a Facebook account (don't we all?), I really don't like Facebook. I was (am?) intending to write about it for a while now, but until then I can leave the issue by just saying that I generaly agree with Fred's opinion about Facebook.

But not liking Facebook, nor the hype around it, doesn't mean that I think that something bad happens to them - as a matter of fact I wish them good luck, and it seems that they'll need it. They're already facing a lawsuit, which I think they'll manage to win, but now there are news about another lawsuit, about a patent infringement. Well, they are really infringing the patent in question, like any other social network, I might add. I find odd how did this guys got this patent, there is obviously prior art. See, we're talking about a software patent, bad by definition, that basicly say that this guys own the idea of «social networks built around communities of users with “common interests.”».

Do you need more proof that software patents are silly? Facebook, I wish you good luck.

6.8.07

Metal Heart - A magazine to avoid at all costs

Everyone in the Portuguese Metal scene knows how bad Metal Heart is - the magazine's birth was already surrounded by plagiarism accusations of all sorts, and one of the most important Portuguese underground blogs, Metal Incandescente, died in the proccess. The magazine is full of announcements to concerts that were already over when the publication hits the streets, it's layout and color quality makes me shine of pride with the quality of my old 'zines printed in a cheap and old inkjet printer. But, this weekend, they made me feel, again, pissed off. I should know better - I was randomly looking to magazines, and seeing Metal Heart I should either ignore it or spit on it. Instead, I opened it. My blood started boiling with rage since the beginning, but what made me real sick was their "review" on Empyrium's "A retrospective...". For those that do not know, Empyrium is a cult band from a cult label (Prophecy). They're now gone, but each album released by them is considered a masterpiece. For a burst of joy from Empyrium's fans, Prophecy decided to release "A retrospective...", a book-CD or a box with six book-CD's, including all the released and unreleased music by Empyrium, remastered, and each CD with a book explaining all the concept and history of the band. Well, a colector's and fans' relique. I talked about it before:
Many fans will be particularly interested in the in-depth band biography contained in the sixty-pages booklet of “A Retrospective ...”. This text takes a closer look at the history of the band and all its influences music- and content-wise.

In tandem with the regular release of "A Retrospective...", there there's a six-CD box encompassing the complete works of Empyrium, including the demo "...der wie ein Blitz vom Himmel fiel..." and "A Retrospective...", in an elegant and identical Digibook design, strictly limited to 500 copies.

Mine is on the picture... Where's yourse?

But if you think that my oppinion is dubious, here is the oppinion of the first Google search results:
On Lords of Metal:
This is a unique document of a devoted and accomplished musician of major importance in the art we use to call music, because of his compositions, his studio (in the Klangschmiede Studio E lots of bands record their albums) and especially his drive. The celebration of ten years of Prophecy Productions could not be honoured in a better way than with this release, a retrospective of the first ever signed band. Superb!

ApeShit:
The CD will be released as a lavishly designed, gold-embossed digibook. Many fans will be particularly interested in the in-depth band biography contained in the sixty-pages booklet. This text takes a closer look at the history of the band and all its influences music and content-wise, and it will make transparent the whole artistic aspect of EMPYRIUM and its changes in the course of years. Thus, it will contribute to a substantially deeper understanding of EMPYRIUM.

Heathen Harvest:
So it is with that said, that I thank Prophecy from the bottom of my heart for putting the money into releasing this collection of their remastered works. It's something this old fan desperately needed for inspiration, not only musically, but in my life in general. Thank you for the two new tracks as well. I hope that you continue to amaze me with these quality releases, friends. I can only hope one day we may say a vinyl boxset for Empyrium's past releases *hint hint*. Alright, on with the show.

So, after this arguments, I bet you'll agree that this was a welcome'd release. Well, while "reviewing" it, Metal Heart not only decided that this release didn't deserve scoring, but also started their crappy piece saying something like "We didn't hope to see Prophecy doing such a commercial release" Hello? We, fans, are very much happy by the fact that such a release is out there: You can in fact ditch all the stuff you have from Empyrium, grab this 60€ box, and you'll surely be at least twice rich Empyrium-wise. Failing to understand the importance of such a release, not only to Empyrium fans but to the entire neofolk scene, is proof that you don't deserve to have a magazine. Please stop.

5.8.07

Weekend rant

Grrr... It's already bad enough that some assholes put out there some DVD's crippled out with DRM, but it really pisses me off when those DRM'd DVD's don't even have a notice telling you that the DVD has DRM.

Assholes. Assholes. Assholes.

2.8.07

Elton John wants to shut the Internet down

Probably the craziest article today, this piece on The Sun Online tells us the lunatic vision of Elton John. The first sentence summarizes it: "POP legend Sir Elton John wants the internet CLOSED DOWN."

He says that "The internet has stopped people from going out and being with each other, creating stuff". Now, claiming that "The internet has stopped people from going out" is the same thing as saying that "books have stopped people from going out", which I doesn't really need to justify as why it isn't really a revelant point. On the other hand, he says that, thanks to the Internet, people stopped being creative, an idea that he further explores: "Instead they sit at home and make their own records, which is sometimes OK but it doesn't bode well for long-term artistic vision." Well, pardon me, is there the long-term artistic vision? No, there are "long-term artistic visions", and while one-man "laptop bands" aren't suitable for E.J.'s long-term artistic vision, it's quite presumptuous to start from there and say that home-made records aren't compatible with a long-term artistic vision. Writers do it for centuries, and even if his recorded musical vision is the conservative one of "music is to be recorded in a studio", nowadays you can get a cheap home studio with better quality than those you had fifty years ago.

He keeps on going, saying that "We're talking about things that are going to change the world and change the way people listen to music and that's not going to happen with people blogging on the internet." and then "I mean, get out there - communicate." Man, people do communicate using the Internet. Technology and art were allways bonded toguether, so why do you suddenly think that the new means of communication and music-making technology is a bad thing? Is it just because people suddenly started to like more and more indie music and both less major artists and less pop in general?

"Hopefully the next movement in music will tear down the internet." - why? Hopefully the next movement in music will help defining the new Internet, as much as Internet is helping redefined music. As art, music has never been as healthy as it is nowadays: numbers point to more music being made and more music being listened. What's bothering you?

"I do think it would be an incredible experiment to shut down the whole internet for five years and see what sort of art is produced over that span." - Yeah, I imagine lot's of anti-fascist songs crying out for "give us the Internet back". W00t.

"There's too much technology available." - Now, that argument I know well, and I even know what's the name for that: age. When people age have more difficulties in leading with changes, new stuff in general and technology in particular. Of course that not everyone leads with this issue in the same way. Elton John has 60 years old, less then my mother and my father. My mother leads with new technology preety well - she ignores it. My father gets awed with technology (Google Maps made him blink a lot before saying a word), and a little sad for not knowing how to use the internet to read more news and general information. Elton here feels affected by technology - his music is selling worse and worse and so he blames on technology. The article says it: "Elton, who turned 60 earlier this year, has admitted in the past that he is a bit behind the
times", and cites him "I am the biggest technophobe of all time." If you don't want to use all the technology available, just don't use it - you're free to ignore it. Just don't shut it down for everyone, OK?

"I'm sure, as far as music goes, it would be much more interesting than it is today." - Interesting for who?

"In the early Seventies there were at least ten albums released every week that were fantastic. Now you're lucky to find ten albums a year of that quality. And there are more albums released each week now than there were then." - now, quality is a muddy field: you can't come with a definition of "quality music". As Elton won't be able to justify his argument, I won't be able to justify my disagreement, but I honestly think that nowadays we have more quality released albums per day than even five years ago. The difference, I try to guess, is that we're listening to different new albums, in different new places. I use almost exclusively the internet to know new music. You're probably still listening the junk major labels are putting on the shelves.

What is Web 3.0?

One year ago we were discussing wether Web 2.0 was or not a bubble waiting for the right time to blow. A couple of months ago several folks started using the Web 3.0 term, but all of them failed to create a better deffinition for it than the one for Web 2.0. Furthermore, each one using the term was defining it its own way, so there is really no consense on what Web 3.0 is.

The conflict of definitions is clear: Wikipedia's entry on Web 3.0 starts with Web 3.0 is a term that has been coined with different meanings to describe the evolution of Web usage and interaction among several separate paths. These include transforming the Web into a database, a move towards making content accessible by multiple non-browser applications, the leveraging of artificial intelligence technologies, the Semantic web, or the Geospatial Web., but maybe more important than that to analyze it is that the discussion page for that article has three times more text than the article itself.

My take is that Web 3.0 shouldn't be considered the same as the Semantic Web or the Geoweb. Those two terms were coined before the wide use of the Web 3.0 term, so if the Web 3.0 was just that, why wouldn't people refer to it by their names? I think (yet I might be completely wrong) that the idea of saying that Web 3.0 is the same as the Semantic Web was brought by this NY Times article, and if it is then it's relevancy is turned into nothing when you note that it was written by John Markoff. OK, OK, instead of dissing the article because of its author, you can instead check this article criticizing NY Times' one. But the term really appeared as a synonym of Semantic Web (if we ignore the sarcastic references to the term), they're also and already trying to coin Web 4.0... So let's stop this rush of wanting to increase the Web's "major version number", and see what Web 3.0 could be. Web 2.0 is a new web, in the sense that it is social, contextual, data-driven and focusing on its users. Web 3.0, to deserve that name, has to be such a big paradigm shift as that one.

Other thinkers of the Web 2.0 world have different definitions for it, tho, one of them being "Web 3.0 = Music 2.0 + Games 2.0 + Web 3D", and I don't doubt that, while that is an ugly definition, this one isn't far from truth. Maturing Web 2.0 will bring us Web 3.0, that will come naturally. Other definitions come, and this one is probably the nearest to my own vision of the future of Web: R/WW writer Sramana Mitra defined Web 3.0 with this formula: Web 3.0 = 4C + P + VS, or, in words, Web 3.0 is a mashup between Content, Commerce, Community, Context, Personalization and Vertical Search. Of course that this isn't an widely accepted definition, and R/WW even did a contest for definitions of Web 3.0 after that definition was posted and used.

But, more than finding out who said what, or what people say Web 3.0 is, the simple definition will never change from "the web we'll have in a couple of years". With that in mind, comes my own concept of Web 3.0, mashing up definitions from others.

Web 3.0: A web where the concept of website or webpage disapears, where data isn't owned but instead shared, where services show different views for the same web/the same data. Those services can be applications (like browsers, virtual worlds or anything else), devices or other, and have to be focused on context and personalization, and both will be reached by using vertical search.

So I've waited some months, to let the water boil down, and now I want to know: what do you think Web 3.0 is?