I saw this today at Target. Yes, they’re adult sizes. I feel bad for any man wearing them.
Blizzard recently added “Real ID” to their forums system. What this means is that people who post on the forums are identified by their real names rather than pseudonyms. I’ve seen some movement on the internet towards a “real name” type of system. More and more websites allow people to post using their Facebook account, and there’s even been a few suggestions by politicians that web-postings should identify their author (at least in the run up to an election). While I can see some benefit in forcing people to post using their real name (people tend to be more civil with each other when their opinion is linked to their real-self), I’m actually against these types of setups. If I’m required to post a comment under my own name, then I’m much less likely to post a comment at all.
Some might argue that if I’m not willing to post a comment under my own name, then maybe it’s something I shouldn’t be saying in the first place. I disagree. For one thing, I don’t need my comments living forever on the internet for anyone to find with a simple google search. Real-name systems require me to think about everyone who might ever do a search on my name – friends, family members, potential employers, bosses, girlfriends, etc. Is my comment suitable for everyone in all of those groups? What about my comments about politics, religion, gay-marriage, evolution, global warming, foreign policy, and so on? Nobody agrees with me on every issue, and I don’t need potential employeers getting turned off because we’re on different sides of a political or religious debate. I specifically avoid having discussions at work on certain topics because they’re likely to inflame people. I don’t need my immediate or extended family giving me trouble because I disagree with them on religion or politics. Real-name systems would let people do google searches and get angry with my opinion.
In the end, the real-name systems will either cause people to be quiet about all kinds of controversial topics, or they’ll tie people to comments they made – causing trouble for them years later. Even though pseudonyms might give people a little too much freedom to unload vitriol on other people, it’s better than a real-name system.
Related Article: Why Real ID is a Really Bad Idea
Update July 9th: Blizzard retracted their plans to roll out the Real ID system.
One of the questions that seems to be coming up a lot in the past few years is the question “Are games art?” or “Can games be art?” I have to admit that it’s not really a question I’m all that interested in. I like games. I enjoy games. That’s enough for me. It seemed to me like the “games are art” people were looking to get more respect for games by getting them classified as “art”. On the other side were people looking down on games, and dismissing them as “not art”. It’s almost as if people are looking to gain respect or denigrate games based on whether or not they can successfully categorize them as “art”. My own feeling on this is that games can be art, and there are some existing games that could be classified as art, but, at the same time, it seems like we’re raising the status of some existing games to higher respect than they deserve by calling games “art”. I also hate the whole mind-game of saying X is in category Y, and objects in category Y should be treated with [ respect / disdain / insert whatever emotion you want ].
Nevertheless, here’s an interesting talk by Kellee Santiago, of thatgamecompany giving a pretty good TED talk:
( via PennyArcade )
I’ve called out the EFF and Doctorow in the past for fearmongering. Well, their latest articles take the cake. Apparently, being a “consumer advocate” is a great way to garner fame, scare the public into doing what you want, and set yourself up for donations by protecting them from the big bad wolf. Let me explain.
The RIAA and MPAA recently released a 23-page document containing suggestions to the government on enforcing copyright law. The EFF wrote up an article commenting on it, and Doctorow picked it up and commented on it further.
From the EFF (quotes from the RIAA/MPAA article are double-indented):
The Entertainment Industry’s Dystopia of the Future
We’re not easily shocked by entertainment industry overreaching; unfortunately, it’s par for the course. But we were taken aback by the wish list the industry submitted in response to the Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator’s request for comments on the forthcoming “Joint Strategic Plan” for intellectual property enforcement.
“Anti-infringement” software for home computers
There are several technologies and methods that can be used by network administrators and providers…these include consumer tools for managing copyright infringement from the home (based on tools used to protect consumers from viruses and malware).
Okay, now at this point, you should be asking yourself, “Gee, why would someone install tools to ‘manage’ copyright infringement from the home? Afterall, if someone is a pirate, they aren’t going to install these tools. If they aren’t a pirate, then what’s the point of installing the tools?” One possibility is that parents could install the tools to prevent their kids from getting involved in piracy, similar to the way that “NetNanny” prevents children from accessing porn:
Net Nanny Products from ContentWatch provide Internet Protection software, including parental controls and internet filtering software, computer cleaning …
I suppose that’s one possibility. It’s not clear what exactly was meant by the RIAA/MPAA suggestion. Certainly, they would have no standing to force people to install this software, and it would be a gross violation of privacy anyway. I’m sure the RIAA/MPAA is smart enough to realize this. The EFF and Doctorow, of course, imagine darker scenarios:
In other words, the entertainment industry thinks consumers should voluntarily install software that constantly scans our computers and identifies (and perhaps deletes) files found to be “infringing.” It’s hard to believe the industry thinks savvy, security-conscious consumers would voluntarily do so. But those who remember the Sony BMG rootkit debacle know that the entertainment industry is all too willing to sacrifice consumers at the altar of copyright enforcement.
Apparently, the EFF didn’t consider the “people with children” case.
Doctorow takes the EFF’s suggestion into darker territory:
spyware on your computer that detects and deletes infringing materials;
I’ve seen Doctorow exaggerate plenty of times in the past, but this is quite a stretch. The term “spyware” is generally used to describe a program that is acting on the orders of some other third party, outside your control, while reporting information back to that third-party. None of those three items describes what they’re talking about. He also seems to be suggesting that “big content” is going to force this application onto your computer (why else would someone install “spyware”)? Nowhere in the RIAA/MPAA document does it mention “deleting infringing materials”. Gizmodo actually managed to take Doctorow’s claims and exaggerate them to shocking new heights — Gizmodo: RIAA/MPAA want government-mandated Spyware that deletes infringing content automatically. In three steps we’ve gone from “consumer tools for managing copyright infringement from the home” (original) to “voluntarily install software that constantly scans our computers and identifies (and perhaps deletes) files found to be “infringing.”” to “spyware on your computer that detects and deletes infringing materials” to “government-mandated Spyware that deletes infringing content automatically” (Gizmodo).
Amazingly, none of the commenters seem to have scrutinized Gizmodo’s claims, they simply accept it as 100% true. (It’s stuff like this that makes me think the majority of humanity is swimming in a sea of misinformation and manipulation, and even when they think they’ve found a source for accurate information – like the EFF or Doctorow, rather than the ‘lies’ of the mass-media – they’re still nowhere close to the truth; just a whole new set of misinformation.)
Pervasive copyright filtering
Network administrators and providers should be encouraged to implement those solutions that are available and reasonable to address infringement on their networks. [This suggestion is preceded by a list of filtering methods, like protocol filtering, fingerprint-based filtering, bandwidth throttling, etc.]
The entertainment industry loves widespread filtering as a “solution” to online copyright infringement â€” in fact, it has successfully persuaded Congress to push these technologies on institutions of higher-education.
“Protocol filtering” would allow networks to block things like P2P applications. “Fingerprint-based filtering” would allow networks to identify certain digital media by the pattern of bits sent across the network. For example, an mp3 of a particular song would have a particular “fingerprint”. The main problem with this is that one piece of media might have lots of different fingerprints based on encoding, plus there’s encryption, which makes fingerprinting pretty much useless. “Bandwidth throttling” would allow network providers to reduce the network speed of people using lots of bandwidth. Often times, it can be detected when someone is sending P2P traffic, and pirates often transfer vast amounts of data (pirating one movie, for example, is going to require sending/receiving hundreds of MB). If someone’s internet connection gets degraded to a slower speed, it becomes more time-consuming and inconvenient to send P2P data, which tends to dissuade and frustrate pirates. The EFF apparently doesn’t like that colleges and universities (where students are heavily involved in pirating digital media, in part, because they’re poor) use these techniques to put some brakes on piracy over their networks.
The EFF has three problems with this:
(1) It will block fair use (I’m unclear on specifically what situations this will block)
(2) It will fail to stop infringing behavior because pirates will use encryption, “darknets”, or transfer things hand-to-hand with hard drives and burned DVDs. (The problem with this complaint is that, while fingerprinting is useless against encryption, they still have to transfer massive amounts of data over P2P connections, which is detectable. “Darknets” sounds sinister, but it’s just a name for computers that either are in a closed network or aren’t easily visible to the internet. This makes piracy more difficult for the average person, since it’s a private network, not an obvious public system, like PirateBay. And the hand-to-hand transfer issue is nonsense. If pirates are forced to transfer pirated media on darknets or hand-to-hand, it will have a huge drag effect on piracy. Yes, piracy will still happen, but it’s so terribly inconvenient for them that 90% of them will simply stop doing it due to the inconvenience. One of the weird arguments pirates use is to say that “you can’t stop all piracy”. This is true. However, it’s as relevant as saying “you can’t stop all shoplifting” – it’s never about stopping 100% of anything, it’s about making it less frequent.)
(3) This system could become a foot in the door towards larger government surveillance. (Admittedly, I think a lot of these systems should be in place anyway to block other internet problems. For example, I think it’s a good idea for ISPs to detect traffic from botnets, viruses, denial of service attacks, spam, etc, and then notify the computer owner of such infections or even cut them off if necessary. Those systems are similar to ones that could detect P2P traffic. I suppose the EFF would also be against systems designed to defend the internet from malware, because “This system could become a foot in the door towards larger government surveillance”.)
Also, not mentioned in the EFF quote, but in the original document: “Site blocking, redirection with automated warning systems/quarantine of repeat offending sites”. So, for example, ISPs might be encouraged to block access to websites like the PirateBay. While there are ways around this, it wouldn’t run afoul of “fair use” (virtually nothing on the sites would fall under fair use), nor would it lead to government surveillance. Though, it would only slow down piracy a bit.
Doctorow, of course, has to always up the ante. He describes it this way:
mandatory censorware on all Internet connections to interdict transfers of infringing material;
Doctorow really seem to worry too much about sticking to the facts. First, this is not “mandatory” since the original document says “should be encouraged to implement those solutions that are available and reasonable”. Second, his use of the word “censorware” is also quite inflammatory. Although, since he would probably describe copyright as “censorship”, then all attempts at blocking copyright infringement is necessarily “censorship”. Third, he says that these systems are “on all Internet connections”. Since it isn’t a mandatory system, it can’t possibly be “on all Internet connections”. And, “all internet connections” sounds like he’s talking about these systems running on people’s personal computers or something. Fourth, bandwidth throttling doesn’t “interdict” anything. It just makes it less convenient to upload and download gigabytes of data.
Intimidate and propagandize travelers at the border
Customs authorities should be encouraged to do more to educate the traveling public and entrants into the United States about these issues. In particular, points of entry into the United States are underused venues for educating the public about the threat to our economy (and to public safety) posed by counterfeit and pirate products. Customs forms should be amended to require the disclosure of pirate or counterfeit items being brought into the United States.
So, the EFF turns “educate the traveling public” into “intimidate and propagandize travelers”. Now, if someone were carrying pirated media, they probably wouldn’t disclose it, it’s next to impossible to catch, and the only suggestion is that people declare these things on the customs forms. If that doesn’t sound dystopian, I don’t know what does.
While I think the RIAA/MPAA’s suggestion is completely ineffective (people won’t put it on their customs forms, 99.9999% of piracy happens internationally over the internet anyway), I still have to take issue with the over-the-top interpretation given by the EFF and Doctorow.
Does that iPod in your hand luggage contain copies of songs extracted from friends’ CDs? Is your computer storing movies ripped from DVD (handy for conserving battery life on long trips)? Was that book you bought overseas “licensed” for use in the United States? These are the kinds of questions the industry would like you to answer on your customs form when you cross borders or return home from abroad. What is more, this suggestion also raises the specter of something we’ve heard the entertainment industry suggest before: more searches and seizures of electronic goods at the border. Once border officials are empowered to search every electronic device for “pirated” content, digital privacy will all but disappear, at least for international travelers.
So, the EFF has turned “educate the public and declare counterfeit/pirated goods on customs forms” (which nobody will do anyway) into “searches and seizures of electronic goods at the border” and “digital privacy will all but disappear”. The reality is that digital storage devices are so big that I don’t really see this happening. They’ve got better things to do than search through people’s laptops for pirated copies of Photoshop. Even further, the US law already prevents exporting encryption software because the US is afraid foreign governments will use it. Obviously, the fact that it was illegal to transfer encryption software didn’t lead to a situation where “digital privacy will all but disappear”, yet, based on the EFF’s interpretation, it should’ve.
Travelers are already asked to declare lots of things on their customs forms. Does the fact that travelers must declare if they are carrying foreign species (which can be a real problem when introduced into new ecosystems) really mean “travelers will be cavity searched at the border”? Clearly, we need to make sure that nobody ever has to declare foreign animals at the border!
Ready for Doctorow’s over the top interpretation?
“border searches of personal media players, laptops and thumb-drives;”
Yup, they never said that anywhere. But, in Doctorow’s mind, “please report pirated and counterfeit material on your customs forms” equals invasive searches of everyone’s electronic equipment.
Bully countries that have tech-friendly policies
The government should develop a process to identify those online sites that are most significantly engaged in conducting or facilitating the theft of intellectual property. Among other uses, this identification would be valuable in the interagency process that culminates in the annual Special 301 report, listing countries that fail to provide adequate and effective protection to U.S. intellectual property rights holders. Special 301 could provide a focus on those countries where companies engaged in systematic online theft of U.S. copyrighted materials are registered or operated, or where their sites are hosted. Targeting such companies and websites in the Special 301 report would put the countries involved on notice that dealing with such hotbeds of copyright theft will be an important topic of bilateral engagement with the U.S. in the year to come. (As noted above, while many of these sites are located outside the U.S., their ability to distribute pirate content in the U.S. depends on U.S.-based ISP communications facilities and services and U.S.-based server farms operated commercially by U.S.-based companies.)
So, the EFF uses the phrase “Bully countries that have tech-friendly policies” to describe using trade agreements to get countries to crack-down on piracy and counterfeit goods. First of all, the word “bully” is just an inflammatory word used when you want to make someone look bad for putting pressure on someone (ignoring the fact that it’s sometimes in someone’s interest to do the wrong thing, and pressure is a way to get them to do the right thing). Based on what I’ve seen in past EFF articles, it seems like they pull out the “Bully” word whenever any kind of enforcement is suggested at all. Second, they use the word “tech friendly”. Apparently, this is the EFF’s euphemism for “pirate-friendly” or “counterfeit-friendly”. The entire Western world is “tech friendly”. To suggest that the US is bullying “tech friendly” nations is totally inaccurate. It just sounds a whole lot better than “use international trade agreements to put pressure on countries to crack-down on piracy and counterfeit goods”.
No doubt, if the EFF thought countries should be allowed to sell nuclear weapons internationally, and the US wants to crack down on that, they might say, “The US is bullying trade-friendly nations”. Or, if they thought all drugs should be legal, and the US puts pressure on countries that create or traffic in drugs, they’d say, “The US is bullying freedom-friendly nations”.
I actually find it interesting that the EFF would describe “pirate-friendly” nations or websites as “tech-friendly”. It goes along with my earlier claims that the EFF wants 100% legalization of filesharing. It’s not a bad thing that the US would put pressure on Sweden or the PirateBay to crack down on piracy, but the EFF certainly seems to think so.
“international bullying to force other countries to implement the same policies;”
He says that the US would “bully” and “force” other countries to “implement the same policies”. What are these “same policies”? The only thing that nations that were “hotbeds of copyright theft” would be expected to do is crack down on piracy and counterfeiting. Saying “the same policies”, Doctorow implies that the other nations would be forced to implement the full list of RIAA/MPAA suggestions in the 23 page document, which is clearly not the case.
Using those same inflammatory words, he could make anything look bad:
“international bullying to force other countries to outlaw slavery;”
“international bullying to force other countries to allow freedom of religion;”
“international bullying to force other countries to reduce government corruption;”
A person’s initial response to those three statements is probably, “Well, gee, I agree with those things, but why does the US have to be such a jerk about it? I don’t think the US should be doing that.” See, now I’ve just made any kind of law enforcement look evil, just by attaching the right rhetoric. To use a real-world example, a few years ago there was talk of bringing a UN force to southern Sudan to stop the genocide there. Here’s how one article puts it:
China has the economic leverage to gain the ear of [Sudanese] President Bashir, but that hardly means it has the abilityâ€”or, more to the point, the willâ€”to bully him into accepting a large U.N. peacekeeping contingent in Darfur. (Source)
Notice the use of the word “bully”? Instead of focusing on the genocide, the word “bully” can be used to turn anyone who tries to get UN troops there into “bullies”.
One of the interesting tactics used by Doctorow is that, as long as he can make copyright defenders look like jack-booted thugs, there’s really no reason to talk about the actual issues. Just look at them – can you not see that they are evil? A while ago, I read a short story that Doctorow had written. It involved a kindly old man who had a duplicator machine. He kept duplicating things, for the benefit of society. But, then a SWAT team wearing black flak-jackets busted into his house and imprisoned him. It was all very clear the picture he was painting, and it didn’t require thinking about the issues at all. It was all about the kindly old man who wanted to help people, and the violent, aggressive faceless government agents. You could’ve pretty much made the old guy doing anything at all, and you’d be on his side because the whole thing was setup to make you like the old man, but hate the government – if for no other reason than their violent, overaggressive behavior.
Federal agents working on Hollywood’s clock
The planned release of a blockbuster motion picture should be acknowledged as an event that attracts the focused efforts of copyright thieves, who will seek to obtain and distribute pre-release versions and/or to undermine legitimate release by unauthorized distribution through other channels. Enforcement agencies (notably within DOJ and DHS) should plan a similarly focused preventive and responsive strategy. An interagency task force should work with industry to coordinate and make advance plans to try to interdict these most damaging forms of copyright theft, and to react swiftly with enforcement actions where necessary.
Interesting idea — and by “interesting” I mean “really dumb”. I don’t think that the feds need to get involved in cracking down on pre-release leaks of movies. I also think Federal agents would probably laugh at this one.
and free copyright enforcement provided by Fed cops and agencies (including the Department of Homeland Security!).
Of course, Doctorow doesn’t bother to mention this suggestion was focused on primarily on blockbuster movies (not all copyrighted content, and not for all time – just the window before/near release), and it’s unclear from the original document that this would be “free copyright enforcement”. Not that I’m suggesting that this idea is okay, just putting it into perspective, something which Doctorow clearly does not want to do.
What have we learned today? First, being a “consumer advocate” involves lots of exaggeration to scare the general public into giving you fame and money to protect them from the evil government and corporations. Second, if you believe that piracy should be completely legalized (as, Doctorow certainly does, and the EFF seems to believe), it’s important to always make the other guy look really, really bad because it will scare people to your side. It seems to have worked quite well, for example, one commenter on Doctorow’s site writes:
I think what needs to be done is to bankrupt these industries as fast as possible.
Unfortunately, the EFF/Doctorow articles have been quite popular and people don’t seem to scrutinize their claims, choosing to actually exaggerate the claims even further (Gizmodo: RIAA/MPAA want government-mandated Spyware that deletes infringing content automatically). Like they say: a lie runs halfway around the world before the truth can get its boots on.
Scare-tactics are used by people all over the place to steer the public, and while writing up this post, I couldn’t help but be reminded of this political flier that was distributed in Arkansas:
One of the obvious effects of the internet is that it’s allowed people to pick and choose news outlets that match and reinforce their own preexisting beliefs. It ends up creating communities of people reinforcing their own common viewpoint. Even worse, news stories that confirm their beliefs get brought into the internet site, providing additional “support” for their ideas. The problem is that there’s always a filter going on – the filter eliminates information conflicting with the community view, while popularizing information supporting the community view.
Now, as if that wasn’t bad enough, all information ends up getting filtered and reinterpreted – so that information which only tentatively supports a viewpoint gets reinterpreted as proving one viewpoint. I ran across a couple instances of this recently on the internet. A few cases:
Via Slashdot, I ran across an the article “Why my books are no longer for sale via Amazon”, which contained this paragraph:
Amazon still uses Digital Rights Management. This is not a customer-helpful feature. In fact, Apple iTunes has gotten rid of it, as have many other music sellers, and found that sales increase. If Amazon was doing this â€˜for the little manâ€™ then where are all their attempts to get rid of proprietary Kindle software and DRM? We know it increases sales to drop DRM, so why arenâ€™t they doing it? Customers would love it. But Amazon would lose control.
Now, like a lot of creators, I have mixed feelings about DRM. But, what I was interested in was the quote “we all know if increases sales to drop DRM”. Fortunately, he provided a link. So, I’ll bite. For someone who wants to get to the facts, what’s the evidence for his statement that “we all know”? His link leads to a 2007 Crunchgear article, “EMIâ€™s DRM-free Sales Are Working”:
Plenty of people looked disgusted with EMIâ€™s decision to turn its catalog of music loose, free of DRM. Now it seems the tables have turned, as EMIâ€™s DRM-free approach to selling digital music is working out quite well. According to reports, Floydâ€™s Dark Side of the Moon has seen a sales increase between 272 and 350 percent, while OK Goâ€™s Oh No has increased 77 percent. Those are huge numbers and could mean the difference between a paltry paycheck and a big fat one.
So with increased sales and widespread praise from just about everyone, will other record labels follow suit? Is this what the industry needed to realize that DRM just isnâ€™t the way to go anymore? Looks like it to me.
Okay, sounds good. What’s their source? A 2007 BoingBoing post “DRM-free EMI music outselling lockware”:
The Inquirer reports that in the short time since EMI went DRM-free with its music, its sales have skyrocketed: Since EMI ditched the DRM on iTunes it has seen sales of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon increase by between 272 and 350 percent… According to Bloomberg, digital sales for other DRM free music increased by between 17 to 24 per cent. OK Go’s Oh No increased 77 per cent. Coldplay’s A Rush Of Blood To The Head jumped 115 per cent.
Hm. What’s BoingBoing’s source? The Inquirer.net, “EMI has DRM free sales boom” (I bolded a few interesting sentences left out of the above “news reports”.)
RECORD OUTFIT EMI is reporting that the sales results for its DRM-free music are better than those with protection. Since EMI ditched the DRM on iTunes it has seen sales of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon increase by between 272 and 350 percent. It is too early to tell if this is just a temporary rise as punters replace their old DRM infected tracks with those which are protection free. However it does look like punters have given the record labels the thumbs up for DRM free music. According to Bloomberg, digital sales for other DRM free music increased by between 17 to 24 per cent. OK Go’s Oh No increased 77 per cent. Coldplay’s A Rush Of Blood To The Head jumped 115 per cent. Sadly CD sales still are dropping down the toilet.
And their source for this information? They provide two links, but one is dead. The working link is a blog about the music business: Coolfer, “EMI Says Dropping DRM Showing Good Initial Results, But Questions Emerge”:
Bloomberg News has an article in which an EMI SVP said, “The initial results of DRM-free music are good.” Increased sales of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon were singled out. That’s true. Digital sales of Dark Side of the Moon have averaged over 3,600 units since the launch of iTunes Plus and the availability of unprotected AAC files. In the 11 prior weeks, average sales were 830 units per week. That’s an increase of 272%. In the week iTunes Plus was released, digital sales of Dark Side of the Moon jumped 350% that week alone. (iTunes Plus, which enables users to upgrade tracks to unprotected AAC from the older, protected AAC versions for $0.30 per track, lauched May 30th.)
Okay. So, sales jumped from 830 units/week in the 11 weeks leading up to May 30, to 3,600 (units/week?) in the 2-weeks or 2.5 weeks following. Now, my first question looking at this is: Are these results typical for all music sales after iTunes Plus, or was there some other factors involved to drive-up “Dark Side of the Moon” sales specifically, which could undermine the claim that these increased sales were due to dropping DRM.
The blogger goes on:
Here’s the main question: Does an upgrade using iTunes Plus count as a scan? I can’t find out. If that’s the case, the increase in sales will actually a temporary thing. Once people who want to upgrade their tracks have done so, sales should drop and level off at pre-iTunes Plus levels (or, as EMI is hoping, above pre-launch numbers). My gut tells me SoundScan counts an upgrade as a sale. Those Pink Floyd numbers look to be more indicative of a technology-enabled sales jump than they are a sign of support for DRM-free downloads.
Yes, that’s true. If iTunes counts every $0.30 upgrade from DRMed “Dark Side of the Moon” to DRM-free “Dark Side of the Moon”, then does that really count as an argument against DRM?
What about other albums? Digital sales in the last two weeks for Smashing Pumpkins’ Siamese Dream rose 17% versus the 11 prior weeks’ average. Norah Jones’ Come Away With Me jumped nearly 24%. OK Go’s Oh No increased 77%. Coldplay’s A Rush Of Blood To The Head jumped 115%.
Notably, these numbers aren’t nearly as high. It makes me wonder if other things were going on with these bands at the same time that iTunes Plus launched. Afterall, if these sales increases are caused by eliminating DRM, then why are there such large disparities in sales increases? In other words, why is there a 272% increase for Dark Side of the Moon, but only a 17% increase for Siamese Dream? I also wonder if these sales increases were picked from the albums that spiked that week. They’re only showing five albums. Are there thousands of others that showed virtually no change? And did the announcement of DRM-free tracks cause a spike in iTunes sales in general – not necessarily because they are DRM-free, but merely because iTunes was in the news? Interestingly, the lower sales percentages were dropped from the downstream blog-posts citing this article. By the time you get to the CrunchGear article, only two albums are cited (Dark Side of the Moon +272%, and Oh No +77%) and then they act as if these results are typical.
Those are just digital album sales I’m talking about. But here’s something very interesting: CD sales of four of those five titles dropped sharply over the same period. CD sales of OK Go’s Oh No dropped 45%. CD sales of Coldplay’s A Rush Of Blood To The Head dropped 24%. Norah Jones’ Come Away With Me fell nearly 33%. Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon is down only 12%. Smashing Pumpkins’ Siamese Dream increased almost 15% — probably the result of the band’s new single and upcoming album hype.
Interesting, so sales of DRM-free digital downloads might be cannibalizing sales of DRM-free CDs. Even worse, CD sales are still much larger than digital sales. From numbers I’ve seen, CD sales in 2007 would’ve been bringing in 7x as much sales revenue as digital sales. This means, a 50% increase in digital sales won’t offset losses from a 10% drop in CD sales.
The blogger seems to agree with the cannibalizing interpretation:
“The most likely scenario is one in which iTunes Plus — and the emergence of higher quality, DRM-free downloads — has somehow accelerated the CD-for-digital substitution that has eroded CD sales.”
What’s the point of all this? When you look at people citing one source after another, the information was filtered and twisted into a viewpoint that confirms their preferred beliefs. The original article said that “We know it increases sales to drop DRM” – a bold and unequivocal statement, but the follow the chain of links down to the original source and you find a much more complex picture – one that’s far more tentative and unclear, with unanswered questions and conflicting information.
This chart shows who dropped which information from their blog-post. BoingBoing dropped all the negative information about the decline in CD sales and the possibility that this was a temporary increase. Tech Crunch dropped some of the lower sales increases in favor of the high-sales increases and suggested they were typical.
On that note, I’ll quickly cite a second example along the same lines. This is another BoingBoing distortion:
It’s been 18 months since O’Reilly, the world’s largest publisher of tech books, stopped using DRM on its ebooks. In the intervening time, O’Reilly’s ebook sales have increased by 104 percent…
Now, obviously, there’s been a big rise in the number of eReaders on the market in the past few years, so the claim that this rise is due to dropping DRM is questionable. What about the publishing industry as a whole? How have their eBook sales been going (which still include DRM)?
Based on a comparison of these charts, I’d say that the publishing industry as a whole has seen bigger increases in eBooks than O’Reilly. It looks to me like the publishing industry saw an 225% increase in eBook revenue over the time that O’Reilly saw a 104% increase.
Now, I’m not arguing that the music and book industry should use DRM. Personally, I think it’s nonsense to sell DRMed music when they’re also selling CDs (which aren’t DRMed) where it’s trivial to turn them into mp3s and upload them. I’m just pointing out the distortion of the facts.
What’s really sad is the way information gets cut-up and edited to support a viewpoint that someone wants to advance — to create an alternate reality where “everyone knows X” even though “X” isn’t supported by the data. At each step along the way, information was removed to make the story more simple and convincing, but less accurate. Notably, this isn’t corporations distorting data to serve their own financial interests, but it’s “consumer advocates” who are doing the distorting to reinforce and promote their own views about the world.
“You bring a game into a house, nothing to stop an eight year-old kid from becoming a terrorist and shooting people.”
Obviously, John Christensen could’ve done a better job with the interview, although he probably isn’t put into too many television debates, so I can forgive him for that. It also looked to me like they might’ve been doing the interview early in the morning, and Christensen was not entirely awake. The other people were obviously better prepared for the attack. The “let’s have a fair and balanced debate” by the host was rather farcical. It seemed more like “let’s both beat up this novice and unprepared public speaker, and the fact that we give him a chance to speak will make us look like we’re providing balance”.
According to Ripten.com:
Fox contacted [Christensen] that same day with just a few hours notice. In addition to Jon never having been on television before, the segment was filmed at 3:30 AM his time, which meant he wasnâ€™t exactly â€œwell restedâ€ before going on air.
Ultimately, though, game-companies are at a disadvantage because the media looks for things to talk about, wants to push people’s buttons, talk about controversy, and get credit for talking about it first. They will come after game companies because they want to drive-up viewer numbers. Playing on people’s preconceived notions is the easiest way to do it. At best, the only thing interviewees can do is hold them at bay – by providing a cogent defense of the industry. They’ll always be back, though.
Stephen Totilo, of Kotaku, does a better job of handling the press:
Cool New Flash Drive
I picked up a new flash drive recently. This is a 4GB flash drive that I picked up for $15. (All the electronics are stored in the black plastic area you see here.) A quick look at Amazon reveals that they’re selling 128 GB USB flash drives. I’m amazed how small this stuff is.
John Carmack and Apple
John Carmack recently commented that working with Apple is a big pain. I know how companies like to control their image, but there are some times when it gets ridiculous. Retaliation for saying the wrong thing about them?
“My relationship with Apple has been long standing, but it’s a rollercoaster ride,” he told Kotaku. “I’ll be invited up on stage for a keynote one month and then I’ll say something they don’t like and I can be blacklisted for six months.”
Working with Apple on iPhone games has been no different, Carmack said, but he is happy to see that former collaborator Graeme Devine is now working at Apple in the iPhone Game Technologies division. (Source)
You’d think that someone as big as John Carmack would have enough weight to avoid getting these kinds of punishments.
Ever wonder why Google made Chrome, and started pushing it on www.google.com? Aren’t there already a perfectly good browsers (Firefox, Safari)? I was confused for a while until I thought about this.
Mozilla, the organization behind the popular Firefox web browser, has extended its search deal with Google for another three years. In return for setting Google as the default search engine on Firefox, Google pays Mozilla a substantial sum â€“ in 2006 the total amounted to around $57 million, or 85% of the companyâ€™s total revenue. The deal was originally going to expire in 2006, but was later extended to 2008 and will now run through 2011. (Source)
Google’s business is advertising. Maintaining its advertising sector means staying on top as the number one search engine in the face of upstarts like Microsoft Bing. Sure, Google can keep paying Firefox hundreds of millions of dollars to be the default search engine (which, by the way, Bing doesn’t appear on the Firefox Search-Dropdown at all). But, someone at Google must’ve realized that they don’t want to be at the mercy of Firefox. The more marketshare Firefox has, the worse the negotiating position is for Google. I’m sure Google doesn’t want to get in a bidding war with Microsoft over Firefox’ search window. Someone at Google obviously realized that even if they can take 20% marketshare from Firefox, that would reduce Firefox’ negotiating power, and save them a lot of money. Ideally, Chrome would eat-up all of Firefox’ marketshare. Chrome users are, by default, pointed to Google’s search-engine. It just makes sense for Google to drop a few million on their own browser rather than pay-off Firefox year after year.
So far, Google Chrome has made a strong showing; 30 million users after just 10 months, which is a heck of a trajectory. Firefox is around 330 million users (24%), and IE still has 2/3rds of the browser market.
Smart people saying dumb things:
In the smart-people-saying-dumb-things department, I ran across the comment below on a blog recently. (To be fair, I can’t actually vouch for Brad Armstrong being smart.)
The internet has enlightened me to how misunderstood the software and the software industry is. I like the “big corporations” spin; it’s always a good way to side-step people’s critical thinking centers of the brain. Maybe I should comment about the legal system being a right of all Americans, and therefore, he should have to work for free. I think it’s entirely fair to call someone a hypocrite if they demand that software developers work for free, while they work a job that pays their bills. Only full-time volunteers (40-50 hours/week) and people who give 100% of their income to charity are allowed to cast that stone. It’s irksome that software developers have to justify getting paid for our work.
I’m also thinking of becoming an anti-physical property believer. Everything should be shared with everyone. That’s the best way to meet everyone’s needs. The big corporations don’t want us to share because sharing means buying less stuff. This means that you’re a wicked and evil person if you stop me from borrowing your car, watching your TV, using your computer, and sleeping under your roof. Oh, and I’m inviting all my hippie friends. They don’t shower because it messes up the natural oils on their skin. If you try to stop me, I’ll just have to “beat the system in order to fight the big corporations who own the corrupt legal system” – i.e. I’ll take what I want. Ownership is a scam created by the big corporations!
Joystiq has been running a few articles about how companies got their name. The story behind Stardock:
“I was in college and started the company to help pay for school until I could get a real job. I needed to get a computer and got a hold of a wholesale distributor to get the parts to build it. When I called, they asked me what the name of the company was and in panic, I looked around and was reading a book by Raymond E. Feist and the chapter was called ‘Stardock’ so that’s what I said the company’s name was. It stuck and has been since.”
Wow, he came up with a name on the spur of the moment.
The story Randy Pitchford tells about Gearbox (of Half-Life fame) is a little more harder to believe. It involves a high-stakes late night poker game in New Orleans with Gabe Newell. And, if that tall-tale didn’t trip your BS detector, it appears that Valve and Gearbox are now confirming that the story is a fabrication. I wonder if Pitchford was just seeing how far he could string Joystiq along with that unlikely story.
These stories remind me of a recent episode of This American Life, called “Origin Stories”. In the beginning of the episode, they discuss corporate creation myths. Google even has a myth about starting in a garage:
The Apple and Hewlett-Packard garages have now become such a part of Silicon Valley myth, that it’s made other tech companies want stories like it. Google, for example, they did not start in a garage. The founders began working on their search engine in 1996, when they were at Stanford. They didn’t move into a garage until 1998. They already had investors, and they were just in the garage for five months. But in 2006, Google bought the garage as a company landmark.
It’s like no one wants to hear the story of the rich, well-connected guys who meetup at the Marriott conference room to hatch a business plan. You know, there’s no romance in that.
Dan Heath has written about these origin stories in Fast Company magazine. He says one way to measure just how appealing these stories are, is to count all the ones that get quotes widely, even though they aren’t remotely true.
For instance, when eBay began, a story circulated that it’s founder created the company so that his fiance could buy and collect Pez dispensers more easily. Not true.
One of the creators of YouTube used to claim that the idea for the business came after a dinner party in 2005 when two of the company’s masterminds, Chad Hurley and Steve Chen, shot some video and tried to post it online, and found out just how hard that was back then…. Steve Chen later admitted in Time magazine that the dinner party [story] was embellished to provide a better founding myth.
Of course, there’s plenty of other myths created about historical figures, as well. For example, Christopher Columbus didn’t have some crazy idea that the earth was round back in 1492 – everyone knew that the earth was round. In fact, a Greek mathematician had made a pretty good estimate of the size of the earth back in the third century BC. And George Washington didn’t cut down a cherry tree.