Friday, November 30

youtube, censorship and the open conversation space

Re: Egyptian anti-torture blogger says YouTube shut his account. - Boing Boing

This is a very egregious case of censorship. I've been following the censorship issue on youtube as it has happened time and time again.

These issues of censorship will inevitably happen again and again and again because Youtube has little concern in safeguarding the rights of it's users. It has an fundamental incapacity and has no economic incentive to protect it's users rights, nor the rights of copyright holders. In short, youtube is a mess.

Whether the excuse be violation of youtube's terms of service or copyright infringement the bottom line is centralized closed systems like youtube are fundamentally bad for safeguarding diverse conversation and culture.

On one hand video bloggers should know better to depend exclusively on a service like youtube. In order for the space to be diverse, dynamic and safeguard free speech it must support a diversity of hosts including completely independently hosted video blogs.

You might accuse me of tooting my own horn here, but this is not me promoting mefeedia (a pet project of mine for several years), but this is WHY I started working on mefeedia in the first place.

There must be an "open alternative" to the walled gardens like youtube. Mefeedia is approaching 30,000 video blogs and audio podcasts and they're hosted on 14,000 websites. Which include 300-350 video or audio specific hosting sites and the rest completely independently hosted endeavours. These videoblogs and podcasts reflect a quality and a diversity that is not found on youtube. This includes everything from the entire CBS nightly news (hosted by CBS), to independant endevours like Alive In Bagdad.

In a marketplace / conversation where people can host their own media or choose from a variety of competing services that marketplace can support the innovation and the diversity of the whole world and those people can safeguard their own voices from censorship.

Youtube may have had an early lead, and I bear them no ill will, but they have simply become the AOL of video. Just like AOL before it is not an ecosystem which can meet the diverse needs of a global conversation. The conversation must be decentralized, diverse, and remixable.

These means independant hosts of content, and independant places for sharing, searching and discussion of that content. It is not just about Wael Abbas' right to securely post his videos of human rights abuses, but also the right of the individual to comment and discuss them independantly of Wael Abbas's domain. The videos are the very article of discussion. As such they must not be bound to any one host or domain and to do so it to restrict and censor the scope of that conversation.

Thursday, November 29

The future is open, Verizon to support any device or app on it's network?

Some people may overlook the importance of this.

Verizon opens up, will support any device, any app on its network

However, the end-to-end (aka. common carrier, aka. network neutrality) principal of the Internet is slowly taking over how other networks operate as well.

These networks are increasingly finding themselves *competing* with the Internet and they cannot do so without opening themselves up and creating a level playing field for innovators as well. You can see it with cellular networks (competing with wifi & the infinite array of internet services), traditional telephony (competing with VOIP), and to some degree cable TV, which is now competing in a very direct way for the attention of younger generations.

What this eventually means for Verizon customers is:

  • Good bye having to *rent* the GPS features on your phone.

  • Good bye ridiculous 10 cent text messages.

  • Good bye paying $2.99 for ring tones.

  • Good by buy or rent stupid applications like "weather" on your sell phone.

  • Good bye having to pay $10 a month extra just to be able to blog photos from your camera capable phone.

  • Good by having to choose a cell phone based the scant choices your cellular company provided.

What this means is in the long run a veritable cornucopia of services will be available to you on your phone, whatever entrepreneurs or anyone else can dream up, and all you'll have to pay Verizon for is the bandwidth you use.

What Verizon looses off charging service fees for few obtuse services they will MORE than make up for selling bandwidth for the 100,000's of thousand mobile services that will increase the utility, use and validity of their network.

Verizon no longer gets to tax based on the contents of the package or the type of service. Unlike the cable companies they no longer get to pick which content makers get to use their network.

They're now pledging to be a "carrier neutral" shipping company for bits. This throwing away of arbitrary and frankly stupid criteria can now mean innovation can really happen. Verizon will no longer arbitrate the winners and losers instead the playing field will be open to ALL comers. All, specifically meaning anyone who has access to the Internet or a cell phone. This means potentially billions of users can use or offer services or benefit from services on their network instead of the few dozen services Verizon offers its customers now.

It is funny to watch how the cellular provider "tax" on items like the absurdly overpriced 10 cent text message and other capabilities of cell phones have shifted and distorted innovation which has routed itself around them.

This taxing has been going on, and will still continue to go on for a while, but with Verizon declaring its cellular network neutral, the apple iPhone challenging traditional rules set down by cellular carriers and above all Google throwing down the gauntlet in helping create an open source mobile OS the paradigm for these closed networks like cable, cellular, and traditional telephony seem to be opening up.

The future is open.

Related article: Apple to Unveil Faster IPhone, AT&T's Stephenson Says -

Friday, November 23

Six things to be thankful for in technology, 2007

From: Six things to be thankful for in technology, 2007

Number 1:

Finally, DRM is dying

Ken Fisher: 2007 is the year of the infamous Steve Jobs open letter on DRM, the year that EMI got brave enough to kick DRM to the curb, and even Universal is considering the idea. I've long argued that DRM isn't about piracy, it's about selling your rights back to you. With the growing backlash against DRM, smart players are realizing that their customers don't want to be treated like thieves, even if the MPAA has the gall to suggest that they do. Yet, even the MPAA knows that customers are tired of seeing their fair use rights trampled, coming out earlier this year to call for a change in the industry.

DRM isn't dead yet, but the writing is on the wall. DRM for music will likely not last another year. DRM for video is another matter, as those players remain convinced that their products need protection. Once DRM dies in the music scene, however, the pressure will be on Hollywood to explain why it continues to trample on fair use.
Number 3:

The big disrupter: the iPhone

Eric Bangeman: I admire many of Apple's products—and I've been a Mac user for 22 years—but I also find myself irritated by some of the things the company does. But this year, I'm truly thankful for a game-changing product from Apple, the iPhone.

I've been a smartphone/PDA junkie for close to a decade and have used just about every mobile OS known to humankind during that time. The iPhone has truly made my life easier with its innovative UI, ease of use, and incredibly tight integration with Mac OS X (something no other smartphone has ever achieved). It makes me more productive (NewsGator's iPhone RSS interface is simply amazing), entertains me when I want to be entertained, and in its jailbroken form allows me to add extra functionality as I wait for official third-party apps to be released early next year.

The iPhone is significant not just because it is such a compelling product, however.The iPhone is sending a message to people at Apple and indeed everywhere that phone lock-ins aren't cool, and that the product can and will be made better by its community. In just a few short years, we'll look back and see how the iPhone caused a mobile revolution much like the BlackBerry did in the Enterprise.

No further commentary necessary. :)

Monday, November 19

Is there any potential for youtube high definition?

For those of you who don't know a few weeks back, one of the leading hosting services for video creators offered a high definition hosting service. Last week Youtube announced their own intentions to do so. Note, no youtube service yet exists.

This brings up a very valid point.

What use is their in HDTV for youtube?

Youtube has in effect created a service that fundamentally gives creators neither freedom, nor security.

Censorship of content is completely at random and widespread on the service as is copyright infringement to the point it's entirely impossible to track where the infringement ends and the censorship begins.

Authors have had whole histories of 100's of video deleted on a whim. These and all comments and discussion on them are gone from history has if they never existed. Youtube takes no responsibility for safeguarding creators works and simultaneously takes no responsibility for protecting copyright owners.

Worst of all youtube fundamentally requires ownership of all materials posted to it. Requiring users to give up all liberty / freedom of their content. This means there shall be no profiting and no innovation on youtube except by that by which youtube deems fit. Furthermore there should be no illusion as to whether any potential profit shall be taken by the users or youtube given youtube's sale for $1.6 billion to google and given creators have signed away all right to such profits on any materials posted.

This sort of lopsided structured agreement (if you can call it an agreement at all) is not a conducive environment for creators of valued content.

One must therefore question whether their is any chance for youtube's service to become anything more than the simple experimental playground it is. One must question whether it has any potential to grow up into a content provider that offers anything more then at best fair use clips, viral video clips, experimental clips from home users and other such elements of so called "clip culture" or at worst copyright infringing materials.

Personally I see no future for youtube as a host for any content worthy of HD. It's not a host for artists, not a host for videographers, not a host acceptable for film shorts, not for documentaries, not for sitcoms, fundamentally not acceptable given it's censorship for forms of news, societal critique, critical dissent nor any other form of valued content.

In short youtube has defined itself as a proprietor of only the most base form of video and has no capacity or potential for greater value to either the general public or the traditional media companies whom are pulling out of it in droves. Youtube has defined itself as such, and is now stuck in a rut. It is no longer the nimble young company it is and no longer has the capability to redefine itself as a worthy proprietor of content.

On the flip side (disclaimer: my hobby of the last 2.5 years) has tracked to date almost 30,000 video feeds coming from over 15,000 different hosts. These vary from Vimeo, to, to over 350 similar professional video hosting services. However the vast majority of these 15,000 hosts are independent creators.

This content represents the true vitality and future of the video space. These creators and OWNERS of their content represent the true scope of humanity. They vary from hobbiest and home recorders to professional artists, videographers, hollywood types, even the largest traditional media companies. They represent from simple video snapshots as one would shoot and record photos, to the entire CBS news, feature length movies in the public domain, to critical political dissent, to the politicians themselves.

This is a diversity that is not reflected in youtube and which can fundamentally only occur where the creators retain their ownership, and with that ownership both their freedom and security of their speach.

This is fundamentally important because this space is not simply about entertainment or any of the more traditional forms of media, it is above all about communications. Not mass communications, as in communicating to the masses, but mass communications, as in video henceforth will be another means for the masses to communicate with each other, like email or the telephone but infinitely more powerful.

The following is what Jakob Lodwick had to say on the same issue. Hopefully he will not mind my putting it forth in it's entirety. It is not a subject that I feel can be made sound bytes or pull quotes of.

A lot of people are asking me what I think about YouTube’s vague HD aspirations. My response is the same as to any other YouTube product announcement.

YouTube is an illicit organization built upon a self-destructive philosophy. This is not an academic point: all businesses depend on their philosophy. Whether that philosophy is determined though conscious design, or whether it accumulates randomly over the months, is the choice of the businesses’ leaders.

YouTube acts upon the premise that the creator does not have a right to his own creation. Claiming safe harbor under the DMCA is the cop-out of the decade. If they valued digital property rights, they would proactively delete stolen content.

Today, the quality of YouTube vids is so abysmal that it’s not an alternative to the iTunes Store or television. But releasing HD will bring YouTube one step closer to the legal decision that either cripples them or shuts them down entirely. It will only hasten the fury of the creators, both corporations and individuals, who hate seeing their hard work ripped off so that other corporations have a place to advertise. Both those groups have tremendous power: the corporations because they have billions of dollars, and the individuals because they’re creating the videos that are being watched in the first place and can easily post them elsewhere.

YouTube still has the opportunity to adopt a legitimate philosophy. They could adopt a policy of protecting the rights of the people who make videos. But do you really expect it from Steve Chen, who has uploaded two videos in the past 10 months, or Chad Hurley, who has zero videos? If you are a creator, these guys do not give a fuck about you, neither as a person nor as a demographic. They do not understand your values nor why you are valuable; why do you think this will change?

PS: I imagine they feel deeply guilty, consciously or subconsciously, about their current evil policies, and this explains their goofy non-profit “cause” efforts. If these guys truly want to “make a difference”, how about doing the right thing in the first place? One limp ‘right’ does not reverse the damage of a collosal ‘wrong’.

Sunday, November 11

F.C.C. Planning Rules to Open Cable Market

"The Federal Communications Commission is preparing to impose significant new regulations to open the cable television market to independent programmers and rival video services after determining that cable companies have become too dominant in the industry, senior commission officials said" I'll believe it when i see it and not a minute sooner!

read more | digg story

Friday, November 2

Saul Williams - The Inevitable Rise and Liberation of NiggyTardust!

I thought I should blog about this.
My Dearest Friends and Fans,

It is my greatest honor to present to you The Inevitable Rise and Liberation of NiggyTardust!,
my new album produced by Trent Reznor and mixed by Alan Moulder. The wall of sound that we've created is tagged with such graffiti that a passerby would seek out doors and ways to ENTER. Once inside a world defined by dreams come true they'd find aligned with the simplest act of sharing what we treasure. Most people aren't aware of the world of art and commerce where exploitation strips each artist down to nigger. Each label, like apartheid, multiplies us by our divide and whips us 'til we conform to lesser figures. What falls between the cracks is a pile of records stacked to the heights of talents hidden from the sun. Yet the energy they put into popularizing smut makes a star of a shiny polished gun. The ballot or the bullet for Mohawk or the mullet is a choice between new times and dying days. And the only way to choose is to jump ship from old truths and trust dolphins as we swim through changing ways. The ways of middlemen proves to be just a passing trend. We need no priests to talk to God. No phone to call her. And when you click the link below, i think it fair that you should know that your purchase will make middlemen much poorer...




I think what he's trying to say is go download his album.

Pay $5 if you like for a 320kbps mp3 or lossless flac version, or try the 196kbps mp3 version for free. He may be more poetic, but he's one of the few people who's wordier then I. Great song writer, bad copywriter. Get to the point buddy, we have short attention spans here! :)

Seriously though. This is the future, wordy copy writing doesn't mean a damn thing. Even if he had misspellings it wouldn't really mean a damn thing in the big picture. Such things miss the point. Being personal, building an honest direct relationship with your fans, that's what this is all about. Saul and Trent are just doing what huge corporate conglomerates have been doing for years, cutting out the middle men. This is just a first step, no need for perfection. Musicians have all the time in thw world to polish their communications skillz.

I must admit, I haven't listened to Saul's latest album yet. (Six minutes remaining till download.) However I have very much enjoyed what I've heard of his previous work in all its untamed rawness especially his music video, List of Demands. Since I haven't listened I don't know what I can say about this new album other then, "Why not go download it for free and see if you like it?"

If you do like it be a patron, add to the tip jar and pass on the good word.

P.S. Love the references to David Bowie's stage persona Ziggy Stardust.

Read more on Saul Williams/Niggy Stardust on wikipedia.

Also, It's important to acknowledge that Trent Rezner and Saul Williams are obviously following the lead of Radiohead with their freely downloadable, name your own price album In Rainbows (wikipedia) which came out in the last week or two.

This release follows the exact same model as Radiohead's In Rainbows. Trent Rezner and Saul have learned from Radiohead's rookie mistakes making sure it's much easier to find the new album on the website and are using Amazon's muchos scalable S3 hosting platform to handle the anticipated rush of downloads.

We are definitely at the very beginning of something big here. After years of it running over the damn is finally letting go. Let the music flow!

Update: Upon second, third and forth reading, I love Saul's copy.