According to a now-pulled web page, Leopard to be released on the 20th. Woot!
This is just so good on so many levels…
Walled gardens. Remember them? During the early-90′s internet boom, content owners in particular were really keen on walled gardens – the principle of creating protected, proprietary niches online which users couldn’t get out of.
In the early 2000′s, they became the prime modus operandi of mobile phone companies, which wanted you to pay to access a limited set of web sites from your phone – sites which they would charge the owners of if they wanted to be allowed inside the preserve.
Although he doesn’t mention walled gardens, this is effectively what Dave Winer is describing in his post on “Why Facebook sucks“. Dave correctly points out that Facebook is, for contact information, a one-way street:
“I mean, I understand why they want me to tell them everyone I know, but how about letting me download a copy [of my contacts] to my computer, so I can back it up, use it on my iPhone or Blackberry, bequeath it to my heirs, write a book about it, or give a copy to Google or Netflix or Yahoo, or you get the idea.
It’s the last thing they don’t want me to do, give a copy to a competitor of theirs. And they hope I won’t notice that I’m doing all this work and not insisting on at least being their equal when it comes to my data.”
Of course, Facebook has applications: but you can’t take the data from Facebook, your list of contacts and relationships, and download them to do what you want with them. As with many other kinds of social software, as Dave correctly surmises, the users are creating the important data – but they’re not getting the profits from it.
And this is the crux of the question which hangs over the future of social networks. Social networks depend entirely on the network effect, that is they become more valuable to individuals because of the mass of connections and data which users put into them. Without the users contributing data, connections and content, they are of zero value – something which has only ever been recognised by Jason Calacanis when he paid the top contributors to Netscape.
An application like Facebook, which is a one-way walled garden, is worse than useless. Not only is it leveraging the time and skill of thousands of users to add value to something which, without them, would be valueless, it is depriving them of the opportunity to take their content – information which they, not Facebook, own – and move it elsewhere.
The 800lbs gorilla hiding in the corner of the room is, of course, Google:
“Sometime in November Google is rumored to be revealing their answer to Facebook. Whatever it is it will surely have an API, and will allow Google apps to share the info, and it will, if it hopes to compete with Facebook, provide some access to this data to app developers. But the true measure of their gravitas will be whether they give full control of the user’s data to the user. If they do that, no matter what’s missing from their software, it won’t suck.”
It will be interesting to see what approach Google takes. My own hunch is that it’s going to be an almost-pure RSS play, simply tying together existing services like Orkut, Gmail, Picasa, Google Notebooks and Google Shared Stuff. The big API will be something based around Gmail contacts, which can already be synced and accessed using third party products like Plaxo. Whatever it is, I’m pretty sure that it won’t be the kind of one-way walled garden which Facebook appears to want to tie us to.
“Sure, you may get yourself a ticket from local police if you roll around with that in-car stereo cranked, but at least you’re not being sued for £200,000 ($407,680). Unfortunately for the Edinburgh-based Kwik-Fit automotive repair center, it actually is being taken to court for that astronomical amount by the Performing Rights Society, which ‘collects royalties for songwriters and performers.’ The PRS alleges that ‘Kwik-Fit mechanics routinely used personal radios while working at locales across the UK and that music, protected by copyright, could be heard by colleagues and customers.’ Astoundingly, Lord Emslie ruled that the case could actually be heard, so we guess we’ll be relying exclusively on headphones from here on out.”
1. Performance rights aren’t the same as copyright although (like lots of laws) I suppose they rely on their existence.
2. The amount isn’t “astronomical” for a company which turns over £1 billion a year.
3. If you bothered to read any background to this, instead of just reposting crap from Slashdot, you might know that this is actually a pretty clear case of a large corporation seeking to avoid paying something which every other shop has to pay by claiming “it was the employees wot dun it”.
The law is clear – businesses have to have a license to play music, whether that’s to their employees only or to employees and the public. The money is collected by a non-profit body, and goes directly to writers and composers. Who has to pay and what they have to pay is clear – there’s a comprehensive list of licenses on the PRS web site. This isn’t any kind of new issue, it’s simply a company trying to avoid the law.
Even if Kwik-Fit were completely closed to the public, it would still count as an Office or Factory and thus have to pay for a PRS license. The “oh, it’s the employee’s radios, we’re not responsible” is an obvious scam simply designed to avoid spending the cash.
Dave Winer’s post on the possibility of having a Twitter Pro raises some interesting issues about the future direction of what Dave and others have called “microblogging” – that genre of services, including Twitter, Jaiku, Pownce and others that enable sending and receiving short, instant posts from a variety of mobile platforms.
First, it’s pretty clear from Dave’s post that he really sees Twitter as another platform for blogging, rather than anything new or unique. Dave doesn’t understand why anyone would choose to receive via SMS, suggesting to Fred Wilson that he get an iPhone rather than use SMS.
This of course misses the point: Twitter, Jaiku and the like are partially interrupt-driven, rather than being pull media like a web site. This aspect of these services is about getting updates from your friends instantly, without having to be constantly checking, checking, and re-checking a site. If I wanted to have to check what my friends were doing, then I’d look to their blogs.
This is a point which Marshall Kirkpatrick makes well in his post about how essential Twitter has become to him. Twitter offers instant updates, which is why it’s best used with tools which live outside the web page, like Twitterific or Twitbin.
The second issue is, as I’ve mentioned before, with Twitter and its like brevity is part of the appeal. I want my friends to be limited to 140 characters. I don’t want analysis: I want to know what they’re doing, little tid-bits of information they’ve found and think are cool (although there’s better mechanisms for links). These services are about notification, discussion and presence – not providing yet another method for posting random long opinions and essays.
Of course, Dave is simply seeing Twitter through the prism of his own interests, which he accurately sums up when he says “I really only care about the web, and if your cell phone can’t do the web, well, get another cell phone.” That’s why he wants payloads in Twitter, so that he can replicate the functionality of RSS in the product.
But surely we already have a perfectly good system for payloads – and it’s called RSS. Dave, I believe, had something to do with making it in the first place, so I’m surprised that he’s forgotten it. There are many methods of getting RSS payloads on mobile phones, although notably not on the iPhone thanks to its lack of third-party application support.
What’s more, SMS, IM and email all allow you to include links to payloads – giving you as a mobile user the choice of whether or not you want to download something. Twitter even translates these usefully into short URLs.
My suspicion is that the reason that Dave wants this kind of feature is also bound up in a view of Twitter et al which is more about posting than listening. That posting is more important than listening is obvious from his statement that “if I had to check a box saying that my twits wouldn’t be available on SMS at all, I’d happily check it.” For Dave, it’s more important that the control should be at the content maker’s end, rather than the receiver’s.
Compare this with the approach of Jaiku, which allows you to aggregate together virtually anything with an RSS feed into you personal thread – but which also allows people subscribed to you to opt out of each individual feed.
So where do Twitter, Jaiku and the rest go next? I think that it would be a massive mistake to attempt to add more and more features. This isn’t a feature race. Instead, its about broadening the tools to as many platforms as possible, so that no matter where you are and what you’re doing, you can define the way you receive information and the degree to which it is allowed to interrupt what you’re doing.
“I think it’s a big mistake to draw conclusions about the Death of Big Labels based on the successes (or failures) of bands that built massive followings while on a big label. Radiohead isn’t coming out of nowhere: According the RIAA site, Pablo Honey, The Bends, OK Computer, and Kid A are all platinum records. So Yorke can breezily dismiss the need for labels now, but that’s after a decade-plus of benefiting from having the big-label machine work his records at radio, bankroll the early videos and tours when they weren’t megastars, etc. I’m not saying the old model isn’t under serious pressure; I’m saying that you can’t make sweeping conclusions without considering residual effect from the old model.”
Of course, none of that will stop the anti-copyright brigade making exactly these kinds of sweeping generalisations, but you could, at least, hope that it would lead some serious economists to look into the effects of lack of copyright on the economy.
Dave Winer on Twitter Pro?: “
A thread was started by Scoble who suggested, in a phone talk yesterday, that he would pay $10 a month for a Twitter that didn’t have the 140 character limit.”
Please god, no. I’d unsub within five minutes from anyone on Twitter posting longer than 140 characters.
Repeat after me: Twitter Is Not Blogging. I already have perfectly good RSS feeds which allow me to read anyone’s longer ramblings, including on my mobile phone. You already have the ability to use Twitter to send out a link to a longer post. If you cannot learn the value of brevity, then really, you’re not likely to have anything to say to me that’s so important it needs to pop up on my mobile.
(Note to others: This applies equally to people who split long posts over multiple Twitters. There is nothing you have to say to me that’s so important that I have to be interrupted by three SMS messages for it.)
Stephen Pritchard, the redoubtable reader’s editor at the Observer, has published what amounts to a retraction of last week’s story on Danie Krugel’s “evidence” in the Maddie McCann case. Kudos to Stephen and to the Observer for this – it’s nice to see a paper admitting it got it wrong.
It is, however, still disturbing that a newspaper would assign reporters to a case which is likely to hinge on DNA evidence who clearly have little understanding of the science of DNA. Perhaps that’s down to the horrendous state of science teaching in the UK – but I would expect, even under deadline pressure, a journalist to seek a second expert source on any claim like this rather than rush for the story and get it so badly wrong.
However, Stephen’s claim that the internet had “appeared to led credibility to his claims” doesn’t hold all that much water. Top search result on Google for “Danie Krugel”, both last week and this, is a blog post from Moonflake entitled “Midweek Cuckoo: Danie Krugel” – hardly a post to inspire confidence in Mr Krugel’s credibility.
In fact, there’s almost nothing on Google’s first couple of pages which lends any credibility to Krugel, except for straightforward reports of the programme “Fingerprint of Fate” which was made about him (and comprehensively debunked afterwards).
The big exception is a web site, Danie Krugel Facts, which provides only positive spin on Danie’s involvement in the McCann case and his other involvement in missing persons cases. The domain, incidentally, is registered to a PO Box in South Africa and judging by the page source design appears to have been done by CenterWeb, a company based in Bloemfontein – the city where Danie Krugel works, as head of security at Central University. I’d certainly love to know who’s paid for that site.
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