Wk32: I predict a riot – technology in the age of protest.

I wanna riot...

I make lists of topics for this blog, and more for months I have been sitting on the idea of writing about technology’s use in events of social unrest. Well, looks like the events in London will bring this one forward.

Although this might get a tad polotical, it’s political about the technology and how people feel about it rather than the events of the actual riots.

It was only recently that technology played a part in social unrest and political protest. It happened mainly in the middle east. People in Egypt organised themselves using social media. They were so effective that the government actually shut the internet down.

That didn’t deter people. Through clever use of phone lines linked to twitter, people could say tweets and still spread the word. People could actually speak their tweets. (http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2011/feb/01/google-twitter-egypt) In the wider world, we applauded the people of the middle east for not letting a facist government shut them down. They were called innovators.

That was January. And the technology world moves fast.

The role of social media has gotten quite a lot of attention in the London Riots. I am going to be forgiving and suggest it’s because we all want answers, and in this 24 hour news cycle, everything is being picked apart. Some poor editor out there is going for new angles to try and save their business.

But it’s the uneasy vibe of these headlines. As if Social Media is helping these kids wreck this city. People are talking about Blackberry messenger as if it was some new system that thugs have made up to hide from the public.

It reveals, for me, the darker side of the public perception of social media. Or maybe it’s just the right wing, insecure part of the public. But let’s not forget that a lot of people are scared of new technology, and social media is one of the big ones.

Following people’s comments on twitter, there were plenty of people calling for the shutdown of the Blackberry messenger service, and lesser so, Twitter and Facebook. The fact they were saying this on Twitter seemed to be lost on them.

These people come from the same insanity that Murbarak did. Looking at the riots and thinking, isn’t there an off switch for this? Has Apple made an App for that? Murbarak actually managed to turn the internet off. People calling for Blackberry to step in were left having to scream at a wall.

So what actually happened?

So, to the surprise of no one, all these kids have phones. And they talk to eachother with them. Then, to the surprise of no one with half a brain, they use Blackberry messenger. Like a lot of people. I’ve used it a lot. Why? Because it’s free.

Blackberry started life as a business tool. Sending emails and a phone together. They added, in the background, a little chat service. But what it really turned out to be was more like Twitter – leaving short messages. But direct to one user – NOT public.

Lots of people in my world use Blackberry Messenger. And so do these kids, it seems. They also use Facebook and Twitter. And god knows what else. This is not a new thing. To imagine that these gangs learnt a whole new broadcast and chat program just so they can riot is insane. That they chose one that is pretty secure is only half luck. Blackberry’s technology is old, cumbersome and on the descent. No one has even tried to crack it. No one gave a shit.

Social Media is a broadcast network – and it’s filled by the words of people. We cannot and should not censor it.

It has made it easier for people from all walks of life to gather. Be it protesters or rioters, of even the nutjobs who attended that recent Christ rally in the US. Social media unites people with similar interests.

And lets not forget the good social media did at the same time. So much information and communication about trouble areas, what the avoid and even on the basic level, how dangerous it was. God knows how many more idiots would have hit the streets thinking that it was an over reaction if not for the sea of Facebook and Twitter updates.

Google Maps of fires popped up within minutes. People were checking of friends and family. And the clean up project has been powered by social media. Using the same technology, strangers of all walks of life and gathering to clean up this mess. Should we kick them off Twitter too?

In the coming days, the British Conservatives will ask Blackberry to hand over the data. It will be a sad day if they do. Especially as they took such a stand in Egypt and the Middle East. And it will set a precedent. Will goverments be able to get private data from undesirables.

There will be a price to pay for the riots. People will hate kids even more. The fires of racism will rise and the BNP will probably win a few extra seats. And in the tech world, we might see tighter controls, censorship, big brother-ism and more mistrust. It will take a pretty extraordinary people and government to not go down that scared route. And David Cameron is the last person in the world to be extraordinary.

And yes, there are lots of important issues surrounding these riots to consider. But this is a digital culture blog. So shut up.

Technology doesn’t choose politics. The rioters in London and the protesters in Egypt are different people. But they were both better served by our advances in technology. That’s the way the world is now.

Don’t let the irrationally scared set policy. Because this is going to happen again.

In our fractured world, people are going to want to stop people gathering in groups, and letting ideas take shape. And technology brings us together and helps us develop ideas. If anything, the clash is going to get bigger. And then we’ll have a real fight on our hands.

Wk31: Wait A Minute Mr Postman – The Problem With Email

Is this really the best way to deliver your mail?

Have you ever sat in a corporate seminar that taught you how to email? I have. Many times.

One time, the instructor told us this: that emails are legally binding documents, like mail. And should be treated like mail. Like legal documents.

This is, of course, bullshit.

Email is like language itself. We, the people, define it. And we have decided that the formal document is just one of it’s many uses.

But when we divide up what we use email for, we see that other alternatives are creeping up.

The crux of all this is that email serves a lot of purposes. And some people treat it like one thing.

It can be quick sharp text messaging.
It can be short notes and banter
It can be a long letter
It can be a 40 page report.
It can be….anything.

With links and attachments, emails can be absolutely anything.

And we send 107,000,000,000 of them a year.

But are they the best at everything? It’s quickly seeming like a no.

It seems insane that email might become redundant. And maybe we will replace it in parts.

Email has it’s limits and it’s drawbacks.

Spam is a problem. I hate keeping track of people’s changing emails. Both those problems are solved in Facebook’s message system. Some universities don’t give their new students email addresses. They get a social media account.

I don’t have to update my Facebook address book when someone changes work. It’s constantly updated for me. In a way, Sean Parker’s failed dream of Plaxo has come true.

Think about it. Before Facebook, there was still a chance you could lose track of someone. If you don’t have their email address, then what?

Spam is less of a problem on Facebook too. A Spam Robot can’t trawl the net for your Facebook inbox and send you a message. Those message are protected.

Ok, yes, there’s limits. No attachments. And maybe you want the odd unsolicited message. And more.

Let’s get to those.

Why else do people use email?

I subscribe to things. Band newsletters, site updates etc. And Twitter is just far better for that. And more instant. Most mailing list send outs have a link to read them online. And they will never go to spam if I just follow the headlines from Twitter.

No attachments? Plenty of sites to store files. As we head into an era of could computing, why send me that mp3? Why not just share it with me on my the cloud? Who needs downloads?

The irony, of course, is that most of these services take an email to sign up to. Facebook’s Connect service is a big challenge to that. Some sites like Rootmusic allow you sign in from your Facebook account – no email required EVER.

Emails are easier to store, and easier to file. But not THAT easy. I’ve been dragging certain emails around for years. And have lost many more. My gmail account, almost a decade old, is unsearchable, full of crap.

The fact it’s supposed to be everything is one of it’s problems. Useless notifications about some WordPress setting are mixed in with important receipts. Newsletters mixed with work figures. Personal emails mixed with links to jokes.

Everyone has thousands of emails under their belt. Thousands is probably cutting it short by a long way. Millions is more like it. Being a desk jockey, my whole job is just pushing emails around. Is this really the best way to communicate?

Google Wave is considered now a failure, but I thought it was interesting. The Google team obviously thought about what was wrong with emails tried to address them. Instead of twenty mails back and forth about one thing, it all sits in one “conversation”. It wasn’t perfect, but they tried to address the way people loop in others or exclude people as email trails grow and grow.

It might sound like a small issue but all that crap you get at the top when you reply to an email – the “to” and “from” stuff. Useless. Sometimes I have something to send but cannot be fucked coming up with a subject title all the time.

Email has not really developed the way just about everything else online has. I can’t embed videos. File sizes are still a problem.It is a formatting nightmare all around. And they aren’t as instant as they first seemed. God knows how many times I’ve asked someone if they have my email yet.

Spam and security are still issues. I still have to manually allow graphics in my emails in most cases. Most identity fraud and hack jobs use email as their way in. Yet we still hang on to email as our main means of communicating with eachother.

It’s one of the nice things about technology. If what you have isn’t perfect, and not improving, then someone somewhere is quietly reinventing it.

And email is far from perfect, and definitely not improving.

A few years ago, friends of mine started to abandon the landline. It was a bit risky, but they felt like they never used it. They will learn to live without it.

Maybe that day is coming for email. Not soon, but it’s coming.

It’s an interesting experiment to think about. Can a person survive without an email address these days? And if not, are we getting closer to the point where that can be true?

It’s obviously unfeasible right now. But not so impossible as we once thought.

Wk30: Live Forever – Sequels, Reunions, Franchises and the never ending story.

Superman returns...again...and again

Disturbing numbers coming out of Hollywood. There will be a record for sequels this year – a whopping 28. It’s a figure that has rising steadily in the past few years. More disturbingly, things like Harry Potter 7b (essentially an 8), Fast Five, X-Men First Class (essentially another 5), etc makes the average sequel number 3.7.

How did we get here? Franchises seem to live forever these days. And maybe it has to do with digital technology making everything available. It’s never been easier to catch up one something.

Take reunions. With a band like Pulp in the CD era, people would have put away their CD copies of Different Class, occasionally bringing it out for nostalgia. In the era of iPods, many lapsed Pulp fans can carry around Pulp songs in their pockets every single day.

Every band in history is on equal footing. Every album ever made might as well be a new release. They are all equally easy to find. No wonder there is so much money in reunion shows. I’m not sure if bands can even break up anymore. Looks at artists like Pavement or the Pixies. Despite disappearing, their popularity never waned. They reunited to equal, if not bigger, audiences than ever.

Stock issues are disappearing. The idea that a record can fall out of print is outdated. In the 90s and the 00s, it was kinda hard to get Pixies albums in Australia (compared to say Britney).

There are a bunch of golden albums that used to never go out of print, and would be discovered by every generation. Be it Tapestry for thoughtful young women, or the first Violent Femmes album for nerdy young boys. And even the smallest CD store would stock them. Now there is no such thing. Every album is a golden album ripe for rediscovery.

I used to carry CDs in my school bag. I’d fill it with anything I might want to listen to. But no school bag can fit as much as an iPod. And soon those iPods will be streaming from an infinite harddrive in a cloudy sky.

The same used to apply to old movies. From hoping something would be re-run on TV to searching for a DVD at a shop. There was always limits. But no more. There is an infinite database of films online.

Which is why sequels work better than ever. I have friends who have just caught up on all seven Harry Potter films in just the weeks leading up to the 8th. It is the reason films like Fast Five can exist. Because Fast One to Four are so easy to get.

It goes on. Look at reboots. The first Scream movie never fell into an oldies film. Freddie Krueger never died. Even Wall Street was given a sequel 23 years later. Why invent a new brand to discuss the financial crisis? Just use the one that everyone still talks about.

Then there’s good old “nerdstalgia”. Transformers used to be so 80s. Now it’s the biggest franchise there is today. This year, both the Muppets and the Smurfs are back on the big screen. Nothing ever dies.

TV Shows of course fall into the same category. Although huge gaps exist, so many TV shows live online. Most are at unreasonable prices, but hey, that’s how you give birth to a piracy market.

You can always catch up to the story. Season 4 of Breaking Bad is out and you’ve not seen the first 3? It’s really not a problem anymore. Hell, you could have been waiting to be born when the first Harry Potter film came out and you’re probably the target audience for the new one.

Slightly ironic that the very first physical format – print – is the last to drag itself into the digital world. But you can see it going the same way as it’s louder and brighter cousins. Books will never go out of print. They will be instantly accessible to anyone who wants them. The stories will never get old.

This new world brings with it some new concerns. Making something that’s timeless pays off. Flash in the pan also never dies, but who’s going to be looking for it? You don’t need to go back at watch some shit network sitcom because they still make those. But the Sopranos will remain timeless.

What happens to plot twists. I don’t know how it would feel to try and watch Lost now. I think it’s widely known that the ending was a let down. With a show so structured towards an ending, does it lose something?

Then there is the big fight over copyright issues, and when things fall into the public domain. When the UK write copyright rules that allowed people to own their music for 50 years, no one thought Paul McCartney would be one year away from losing the rights to Love Me Do. Or, indeed that ANYTHING 50 years old would have any value.

Public Domain is a funny thing. And I think, on the whole, if something falls into Public Domain, it is terrible for that thing. Because the old arguments about it being free and easy to access are gone. We have solved the access issue. And it just means anyone can make money off someone’s work. No one is going to give it to you for free.

(One of my favourite movies ever – Charade – is one of the more interesting copyright cases around. Many cheap DVDs are no better than people filming shaky cameras in a theatre. But it’s legal to sell that. Proper prints with decent quality are hard to find because they are hard for anyone to sell any.)

The UK are seeking an extension to be in line with the US – 100 years (or so). There needs to be a worldwide consensus because we are dealing with the worldwide web. There is an argument that those rules need to be more lax (in regards to thing like sampling). But really – do they not imagine another Muppets movie in 50 years time? Maybe 100 is not enough.

Are we ever going to forget anything again?

Reboots have become part of our popular culture now. I think the idea was perfected in the comic book world. Bit reboots are getting sooner and sooner. Including the upcoming Avengers film, there will be three Hulks in ten years. Each one a reboot to some degree.

I find it interesting that people can just decide that OK, we are now starting again. Forget the past. This is a new Star Trek. This is a new Spiderman. Is anything sacred?

Franchises are worth more and more. Bands reform to take advantage of it. What happens when HBO realises that another generation has discovered the Sopranos? Will they remake that too?

It’s all up for grabs. Nothing ever dies. The idea that they could recast Star Trek means that they can recast anything. Imagine Star Wars movies picking up after Return Of the Jedi. Why not? We are getting new Spidermen, Supermen and Hulks. The next Batman movie is not even out and they have already announced a reboot to follow. Anything to keep the brand alive.

Try to imagine a situation where they would cancel the Simpsons. They could replace the voices. Get in a whole team of new young writers and producers. Reinvent the show for a new current audience. Use technology to make it cheaper to make. Really, maybe that show will outlive me. And all of us.

With so much information out there, the problem is not finding entertainment. It’s finding something you like. Filters will be the next big thing.

What do my friends recommend. What lists tell me what the greatest movies are. What the hell should I watch next?

It is the next big question in our cultural lives.

http://www.npr.org/2011/07/01/137502459/hollywoods-got-a-bad-case-of-sequelitis-this-year

Wk28: Here’s To the Future: Extreme Computing Today

Our future is here...or is it?

Computers are becoming part of our every day lives. What seemed unachievable and high sci fi, we now carry around in our pockets. Be it video chatting like the Jetsons or a Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy in an iPad, it seems like the future is here.

But there is more future to find. So much technology becomes part of our every day lives, it’s fun to keep an eye on where computing is taking us that is not every day. Supercomputers and technology that is far beyond iPhones and Facebook. The cutting edge of what we are doing with computers as a species.

Supercomputers.

Last month, a new supercomputer was crowned. K, based in Japan, is now the most powerful computer in the world. It is three times the computer of the former number one, and more powerful than the next five combined. We are dealing with ten petaflops of computing power – a term that sounds insane, and is roughly a million times more powerful than my Mac laptop.

It is, of course, expensive and power intensive. It needs the power of 10,000 houses and costs $10 million US a year to run. It’s purpose? A varied assortment of environmental calculations. Counting the minute changes in our weather, with every particle a variable.

In fact, many supercomputers are used to study our climate. Even something as mundane as weather is beyond our calculation abilities. So we are increasing them. The top of the Top500 list, the list of the most powerful computers in the world, changes almost every time it’s published.

Sadly for our climate, there is a Green500, a list of the most environmentally friendly supercomputers, and it doesn’t match the Top500. The best computers we have are also the most energy hungry and damaging to our environment. K takes a lot of power to run, and even more power to cool.

Still we build. Companies like IBM, with many supercomputers on the Top500 list, persevere, to some degree making better computers for computer’s sake.

Artificial Intellegence

IBM are an interesting company. They just turned a whopping 100 years old this year. They helped to pioneer computer mainframes and building stunning calculating towers. But in a industry full of nerds, they were the nerdiest. In the 90s, the home computer started to take hold. Silcon Valley filled up with hot shots in jeans, and IBM scientists still wore suits and coats. I mean, they invented the barcode. Now they are all about high computing.

The idea of computing for computing’s sake thrives at IBM, to this day. And they’ve been playing around with Artificial Intellegence for over 50 years. An IBM computer could learn from it’s mistakes in the game of checkers in 1956. In 1997, Deep Blue made international papers by beating world champ Gary Kasparov at chess.

This year, IBM took AI back into watercooler talk when their computer, named “Watson”, appeared on Jeopardy and won (against two Jeopardy champs). It was not connected to the net, but had lots of information stored (including all of Wikipedia). From simple questions, it managed to use the data it had stored and supply an answer.

Watson wasn’t perfect, but a door is opened. What if Watson was connected to the internet? And it learnt from it’s mistakes?

Still, Watson is a lot like a search engine. What about emotion? Well, we are learning more and more about human emotions. And that learning is being analysed in computers as well.

The wonderful TED always has time for robots. Be it David Hanson’s robot face that shows emotion on the surface, or Heather Knight’s stand up comedian robot that can react to the crowd and shape it’s act internally.

Computers can learn. They can react. They can even make you laugh. It is only a matter of time before they take over. I for one will welcome our new robot overlords.

Consumer spaceships

The Apollo 11 Lunar Module had a computer. It had 76kb of space and 4kb of RAM (sort of). My Facebook profile picture is bigger than 76kb. Mac laptops come in 4GB RAM configurations – a million times the Lunar Module.

Why the hell can’t we get back to the moon then? Seems like it’s a matter of economics (NASA ended their shuttle program this year). But whereas governments continue to de-invest in space exploration, we are seeing a private market emerge. And it’s technology making spaceships more powerful – and cheaper – then ever.

International treaties state that no one owns outer space – it belongs to us all. But you can definitely sell a trip there. The most famous seller is Richard Branson, and his Virgin Galactic project.

It is just like you’d imagine. Branson is using his fortune to build spaceships. For a cost, you can go too. I saw a replica of the first spaceship at the Science Museum in London, and it looks more like the Heathrow Express than Apollo 11.

OK. It friggin blows my mind that one day I might make it to space. It costs about $200,000 to go right now, and trips have not started yet. Right now, the current ship can only take you into the region of space, not into orbit above our planet. But orbit is the goal. I am thirty now, and let’s say I am still fit to go by 50. Orbital commercial flights could be reached by then. And I would gladly sell everyone of my earthly possessions for just 1 second of seeing both poles at once.

Or maybe I’ll even have some buying power as competitors are popping up. Now that Google’s mapped the world, some feel like space is the next great holiday destination. And they are investing heavily. I wonder what zone it will be for a travelten.

And there’s so much more. Mapping the super-micro world of sub atomic particles. Seeing other universes with extreme cameras. The Large Hadron Collider making black holes in our own atmosphere.

One of the things I teach in my Digital Marketing class is to be aware that numbers grow. We used to be impressed by 10,000 YouTube views, because we were impressed by 10,000 CD sales. Now we deal with millions of page views. Soon, calculating files in megabytes will be gigabytes – or petabytes.

It might seem crazy numbers, but your current computer speeds and space must have seemed crazy just 20 years ago. Maybe in 20 year time, you will be able to calculate every particle in our atmosphere in an app on your phone.

Top500 – http://www.top500.org/

Green500 – http://www.green500.org

No more space shuttles – http://www.ibtimes.com/articles/177136/20110709/nasa-space-shuttle-program-shuttle-launch-spacex-next-generation-richard-branson-virgin-galactic.htm

Virgin Galactic – http://www.virgingalactic.com/

Wk25: Pay Your Money Down – the fear of the Scam App Store.

Some Apps are no better than a pick pocket

I am scared to buy Apps. For one really simple reason. In-App purchases.

Perhaps I’m being overly paranoid. But so many Apps on the App-Store tell horror stories of fraud and swindle, it’s hard to not be scared.

Take the Smurfs. A quite high profile case. It is nothing but a swindle. Bright colours for kids, with up to $100 of in app purchases. Buy for free for your kids, and the kids will click on pretty things that are charged to your credit card.

It is an absolute scam. It makes me wary of buying Apps. It’s a surprising move for Apple. And it raises questions about the quality of the Apps in the App Store and Apple’s approach to pricing policy.

Some Apps to avoid like the plague.

Smurf’s Village. Who the hell owns the trademark for the Smurfs? Why would they let people shit on their brand like that? It’s a very typical version of this scam. A simple, inane game. Aimed at children. During this game, you need some sort of element – in this case “Smurfberries”. You can acquire some for free. But the game prompts you to buy them. Like pop-up ads, they are deliberately confusing. And you’re a quick click away from spending $60.

Pokerist is another one. This one is based around poker. Very simple – buy chips to play. The odds are so stacked against you anyway, you have to buy chips to keep up. This is nothing but a pokie machine, with no regulations. And more expensive and more confusing to understand when you’ve spent money.

The really evil ones are the kids one. Fashion Story is designed to trap young impressionable girls. You have to buy “gems” at every step to continue the game.

Lots of “farm” and “animal” apps – growing something and cute characters. Zoo Story. Farm Story. Zombie Farm. All free to enter. All aimed at kids. All aimed at your credit card.

In fact, just go to the App Store and look at Top Grossing Apps. And then see which ones are free.

So, don’t buy them eh?

That’s fine to a point. And it’s that we have these Apps that are designed to steal your money, just hanging around. And there’s already cases where some people have ,managed to install Apps without their knowledge. Sure, it’s not easy to do and you were probably napping, but however it gets on your device, it could have you. And you wouldn’t even notice.

Now, some caveats. Here’s how it actually works.

You buy an App on iTunes. You buy with, with everything else on iTunes, with your credit card, protected by a password. Then for the next 15 minutes, you don’t need a password again.

Initially, in-app purchases were not allowed for Free Apps. Why this has changed is beyond me. It would solve all the problems with this scam.

There is a new App industry. The In-App Swindle. It kills the image of the App-Store. Apple claims to have a competitive advantage over other phone platforms because of the number of Apps they have. But a majority are Scam Apps.

The whole point of this blog is to bring new ideas to light. And calling out this credit card scam seems to be curbed from all angles. And I’m giving them a name – Scam Apps.

Why can’t we call this a scam?

First fight is on the App-Store itself. Many of these Scam Apps have paid stooges who give it five star reviews, despite hundreds of one star ones. So these Scam Apps are hard to spot from within the store. A good solution to this would be an eBay feedback model. A simple positive or negative rating. Too many negative ratings can easily flag someone for a scam.

But maybe it’s not in Apple’s interests to do so. They have quietly refunded some people who have been ripped off – which seems to be a clear sign that something is wrong. But they have yet to get rid of these Scam Apps.

It’s a store after all. And everyone is making money. And these Scam Apps are making a killing – definitely enough to make a difference to Apple’s marketshare figures. They make a cut of every In-App purchase too.

Nowhere is this clearer than the fact there even is a Top Grossing Chart. They have a Top Paid chart app, but this is for Apps that have made a killing from In-App purchases. Those Apps that have no In-App stuff, well, they would be in the Top Paid Apps Chart, no?

And in these Right Wing times, it seems like it’s not OK to take people to task for making money in any way. These people found a way to outsmart you, they deserve your money. It is one of the things you see in comments, possibly from paid stooges. A “you deserve it” attitude.

There’s also an anti-App buyers attitude. A real “well if you can afford an iPad, you can afford to get ripped off a thousand dollars”. And even better – “shouldn’t have bought an iPad at all”. And the good ol’ “computers are not for kids” one. Oh and let’s not forget “First world problem”.

Really unhelpful, missing the point and all it does is put money in the pockets of scamsters.

Ok. So there are valid uses for the In-App purchase.

In fact, this tech was likely invented for one industry alone – magazines. And then there are various plug-ins and upgrades that would qualify. But anyone and everyone can hide a little buy button, anywhere in the App, and swindle you. Yes, there are notifications now, but people don’t know what they are – they are trying to avoid Apps that do that too much to identify them.

Shopping at the App Store as it stands right now is much like a markets at Las Ramblas. You are constantly looking for pick-pockets.

And it’s not just Apple. They are the biggest store so they deal with these issues. And less Apps on other platforms means there’s less people to keep an eye on. But security around those stores are even worse than Apple. Android has already had a high profile App scam.

Apple also seems to be setting the precedent on how Apps work. So it is essential they address this soon. Or this whole App thing will become $2 shop fodder. Cheap, shoddy products that is likely a scam.

There are answers. Don’t make Apps with In-App purchases free. Sure, I can see how Marvel comics wants their reader to be free and to charge for their books. But charge me 99 cents for the reader. Or do a LITE version that is free with a selection of Free books to hook me in. In short – FREE should be FREE.

Apps with In-App purchases should be clearly marked. With a big dollar sign. They are a different sort of App. Tell people they are only buying into part of something.

Clearer negative feedback will improve the quality of the store. I have a lot to say about the quality of Apps (in regards to music), but that is for a later time. But the star system is irrelevant and too easily swayed.

And be careful of ANY Free App you buy. Look on the left of your screen for what is the In-App purchases available.

Finally, there needs to be an attitude change. This shit is not OK. I can’t believe the shit we put up with. Leave bad feedback. Email developers. Warn your friends. Demand your money back. Kick back. For God’s sake. They are stealing our money right our of our pockets.

Smurfs swindling $1400 – http://www.tuaw.com/2011/02/09/smurf-it-all-to-smurf-in-app-purchases-ring-up-1-400-in-charge/

Android App security holes – http://www.informationweek.com/news/security/vulnerabilities/229218789

In-App Purchases Driving Top Grossing Apps –  http://www.clickz.com/clickz/column/2032615/-app-purchases-driving-grossing-apps

 

 

Wk24: Ten Questions about iCloud from a music fan.

Will we be trying to get off the cloud?

Apple announced, to much fanfare, the iCloud last week. A dynamic way of controlling files across all your devices, all stored on a central server.

I’m worried. Apple has really let their music business fall away in recent years. iTunes LP. Ping. They’ve been living on the success of 2005, and have done very little to expand their audience. iCloud was supposed to be their new way of revolutionising the music experience.

In short, everything you buy on iTunes can be re-downloaded to any device free of charge. You can also use your own music, uploaded to the “cloud”, and treated like purchased music, at a cost.

One of the things the music industry sometimes forgets is not everyone wants to own music. The CD era seems like an anomaly these days, because people had to buy music that fell out of a conservative radio format. So iCloud could be good for them.

But what about the music fan?

I have my questions. About how it will work. How it will cost. And what it will mean to give up control.

1) What about deleted music?

This is the first one that came to mind for me.

Music catalogue move around every day. Things fall out of print for many reasons. Does this effect my collection, if I don’t own it?

Take Paul McCartney for example. His solo material just changed hands again. I’ve uploaded my “McCartney” album from 1970. It hits a match on iTunes, and now the newly remastered version is what I own.

What if McCartney moves again, and the album is unavailable. As a previous buyer, can I download it anyway?

The problem is, iTunes owns the tracks. Not me. That is whole reasoning behind their deal with the majors. So if they lose the rights to something, will I?

2) What about pirated music?

Music leaks. And leaked music can get played on iPods. Can Apple restrict this?

Say Arcade Fire’s next album leaks. Two weeks before release, I upload it to Apple. Can Arcade Fire’s label work with Apple to block those tracks? It is illegal for me to have them. And for Apple to have them. Will the enforce this?

And if they do, what if people have a valid reason for uploading? Could be members of Arcade Fire themselves. How can Apple tell?

3) Demos, bootlegs etc?

If Apple go down the path of restricting what you can listen to from their servers, then there are a whole can of worms here. Artists canning liver bootlegs of performances they don’t like, for example.

For the record, I don’t think Apple will go down this path. But they don’t own the music, and record companies could insist on it.

4) Can they hunt pirates down?

Especially in America, they are not afraid to sue consumers for piracy. With Apple’s new insight into your music library, can they spot a pirate if they see one? Can the RIAA compel Apple to hand over that data?

5) Will they use other uploaded versions?

Let’s look at a band that is not on iTunes. Say AC/DC. If I upload my AC/DC tracks, will it match with someone else whose uploaded it, saving me trouble? Or will they keep hundreds of thousands of Hell’s Bells on their servers?

Multiples go against what the cloud is about. And for a real music fan, I’m sure lots of your music is not available on iTunes. It would still take weeks for me to upload stuff. For something like AC/DC that a lot of people have, matching is the preferred option.

But they might have to. What happens if I have a version that is badly ripped and skipped, and that replaces all other versions?

6) Will my metadata be locked?

Anyone who has worked with iTunes knows they have a team of people who “fix” metadata to suit their own needs. I’ve had entire albums unreleased because iTunes didn’t like the metadata.

For the record, iTunes, you don’t call Abbey RoadAbbey Road – LP”. So similarly, you shouldn’t add “EP” to the end of every EP. Or “single” on the end of some singles.

If I upload something from an EP, am I stuck with Apple’s naming conventions every time? Will it now by iTunes way or the highway?

Also, what albums will things be tied to? Will “Something” be on Abbey Road or a compilation? Who’s to say?

I also make my own stuff up all the time. Various single tracks on my collection, I make a one track single with the 7” artwork. Will Apple wipe this?

7) What happens to international versions?

Will America trump again? I have an awful feeling if I upload Ash’s Nu-Clear Sounds album into iCloud, I will get the US album cover.

Or what if I want the US cover?

What happens to the Raconteurs/Saboteurs? Will the Saboteurs suddenly not exist?

8 ) Will it destroy bandwidth?

Sure, we will save storage space. But we are expecting to download a lot of stuff?

Music fans have lots of music. Moving the music around used to be free, with the use of a cable. If I had no cable, then I am using up my bandwidth on music I own and have.

And is it so revolutionary? I was always able to re-download apps that I bought with the same log in. Emusic also allowed for re-downloading.

I guess this question is, how much does cloud re-availability actually mean to people?

9) Is there a limit?

So far, the biggest number Apple has mentioned is 20,000. Is there a limit? I have 50,000 tracks (a lot of crap, sure). I can easily up that immediately. And thousands more a year.

Will Apple limit the space?

And why would I not let someone else log into my iTunes and use my collection to “match” as theirs? I should just spend a few weeks matching friends collections to my Apple ID. I’d break 100K in no time.

Which brings me to another problem. Why not use Spotify? That’s millions of tracks, that you can stream from lots of devices.

10) Finally, what if I leave?

Living in various countries, I’ve had a couple of Apple IDs. This has caused me lost of problems, and I’ve had to re-buy stuff.

So what if I leave Apple? Will I lose everything? I bought it, outright! I am only really subscribing to Apple’s music service, not buying it. Or am I?

It’s the final worrying point. If a spend years cultivating my collection with iTunes, will I lose it all when I leave?

There are a lot more questions. Sound quality? Wave files? Who gets the money? Is this financially viable?

It seems the iCloud is great for the mainstream. But less so for the music fan. And for us, we are waiting to see how it all works out in the wild. There are kinks, but maybe they can work out. Hopefully Apple can keep the repertoire owners at bay.

Wk23: Close Your Eyes – the flagging power of advertising and clickthroughs

Ads are getting quite silly these days

Is anyone else worried that there might not be enough advertising money to fund the internet?

By all accounts, the online market is STILL growing. Yet, right now, I am already sick of advertising covering just about everything I see online. Is it only going to get worse?

Be it apps, social networks or websites, everywhere is an ad. Advertising funds the internet. It funds Google, it funds Facebook, it funds Twitter. It funds newspapers online, blogs and more. It’s almost to the point where if you don’t have ads, it’s not a real site.

But it is lowest common denominator stuff. Pop up ads. Expanding video ads. Ads with sudden audio. Plenty of scantily clad ladies. Ads before videos. Ads before websites. They might as well hit you in the face with a coke can.

It is all about eyeballs and click-throughs.

Eyeballs is how many people see the ad. Click-throughs are how many people click on a follow through.

Which has turned the internet into one big game of eyeballs. And plenty of under-handed tricks are around to make you click on things just to add to someone’s eyeball count.

Take the Huffington Post. Possibly the worst site on the internet. Amongst the many under-handed and sly tricks they use is pumping out list after list that means nothing, just to get people looking at their ads. They are really, really good at it too.

Some topics bring in more hits than others. The Dark Knight, Harry Potter and Radiohead seems to draw bigger numbers, despite the value of the news. Constantly reporting about these topics, even when there is no news, makes more money than reporting on actual news.

It is not good for journalism. But it is how the internet has been running for years now.

Are we getting sick of ads? I know I am. In fact, many small ones I tune them out completely.

But ignoring them also leads to a worrying slide.

The more we mentally block out ads, the less we click on them.

The less we click on them, the less effective they will be (and… cheaper to buy too).

Meaning? There could be even more ads.

People say they want digital content for free – but it’s not free. It’s crowded with fucking ads.

You have artists like Tom Waits who take a hard stance against the use of their music for advertising. But when Waits’ music is already on Spotify, paid for by their ad clients, is there any difference?

And will anyone make a Tom Waits-like stand in the online world? Will any site with hundreds of thousands of readers refuse advertising on a cred argument? I’d like to see it but I doubt it. I think the online world has decided that ads are the way to make money.

And so we get to things like Content Farms. These are sites that are surrounded by ads, with one small piece of content. Say – how to tie a tie. Because people type those questions into search engines, you have these sites pop up and they will make money off someone.

Shitter still is the current run of “free” Apps filled with ads. Even when you buy games, some decide to show you ads as well.

Can anything be done?

Maybe.

I am toying with building a website naming and shaming annoying ads and boycotting them. Maybe it wont work, but I know I do it. But so far it’s all about dishwashing liquids and stuff where the audio pops up. Although if I was John Safran or the Chaser, I would go to the homes of these people and suddenly pump these ads at them at volume.

I am also careful where I click. It might seem stupid but I avoid shitty sites that are all about the ads. I also boycott the Huffington Post’s stupid lists. Or looks slideshow lists that make me click ten times. All these stupid tricks to get me to see ads.

I would list the sites but it might inspire curiosity in you, and get you googling.

But look out for these shitty sites. They use headlines like traps. They republish articles by others and hype them up to get traffic. You will notice them more. And if we all made a bit of an effort to avoid them, they wont grow.

Basically, the internet is moving away from the Encyclopedia Britannica and more like a Big W catalogue.

But back to my original worry. Is there enough internet money to go around?

How much stuff is there to advertise? It was a 2.3 billion dollar market in Australia last year. Will there ever be a ceiling? Or can we actually hit 5 billion? Or 10 billion? Is there that much to advertise?

Or if we hit the ceiling, what happens then? Then will there be even more underhanded tricks to get your eyeballs?

If we expand our number of readers, can we grow beyond a reasonable amount for anyone to advertise with? It’s the problem YouTube has. What do you advertise next to a cat video with 20 million views? What one product has any chance of appealing to 20 million people from such disparate places?

And then there’s the places they don’t advertise on yet. Like my operating system. Like my mp3 program. Apple’s iCloud perhaps? When the money runs out, you know some bastard will get there.

Hopefully the era of advertising paying for the internet will end before any of that happens. Google, Facebook, AOL, Microsoft and Yahoo make billions a year in advertising. They are not going to let that go. But if there was just ANY other way to make money, we could solve this.

Which is maybe the first step of asking if the internet is free. People pay for Spotify to get rid of the ads. Or if a site takes a stand as ad-free, we should support them. And perhaps subscriptions is the future after all.

I don’t know. All I know is that I’m sick of being sold things every second of my online life. And it’s only getting worse.