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Archive for December, 2007

Is the porn industry about to screw itself, or save Hollywood?

Some interesting internet porn statistics brought to you by Good Magazine (mildly NSFW)

Like piracy, porn has always been at the cutting edge. The adult entertainment industry has a long history of embracing new distribution systems and driving new consumer technologies – cable TV, pay-per view websites and DVDs took shape the way they did because of it. Which is why I was surprised to read this article in the FT last week about Vivid Video, one of porn’s biggest players, filing a suit against the Adult Entertainment Broadcast Network, parent company of PornoTube. As the FT sees it, “the adult entertainment industry has joined the battle between old and new media companies over copyright issues on the internet.”

So here we are again – same story told with a different cast of players. PornoTube is Napster, while Vivid and co. will star as the major record labels, we all know how this one ends. As Piers Fawkes put it over on PSFK: “Despite all the lessons that the content and entertainment sectors could have learned about the recent history of the music industry, very little action seems to have been taken. The movie industry appears to be re-enacting the great fight the music industry had with that invisible giant – the web.”

I think both Piers and the FT shouldn’t look at this case as a clear indication of where the whole business is going. Porn as an industry isn’t embarking on a one-on-one fight with the web – the big picture looks more like a freaky three-way. While Vivid is suing, others in the adult business are already competing with online piracy, and doing pretty well as a result. Take SugarDVD for example, the Netflix of porn, who earlier this year rolled out their video-on-demand (VOD) business which has been growing at a rate of 50% a month, which their competitors in the San Fernando Valley have been watching with interest.

The FT reports that “after a decade of steady double-digit growth, sales of DVDs – the industry’s biggest money-maker – fell 15 per cent in 2006 to $3.6bn, according to trade publication Adult Video News, leading to dramatic layoffs. Vivid and other companies have blamed the collapse on the widespread availability of free clips on the internet.” Instead of looking at who to blame for the decline in DVD sales, Vivid should be looking at the explosion of clips on the web as an opportunity to roll out a new business model. Piracy is a market signal, one porn companies stuck with declining DVD sales, not to mention mainstream movie studios, need to pay close attention to.

According to Sugar DVD’s CEO “Jax”, who I spoke to earlier this year, the DVD business isn’t dwindling because of piracy, it’s because VOD is just a better experience. “It’s about the customer experience” he says. “Rentals are discreet, VOD even more so. It’s good value because you pay per minute, so you can turn it off or switch channels, its not like paying $30 for a DVD only to get home and find it wasn’t what you were looking for. VOD means more variety, more movies, and we don’t have to deal with the Post Office so the customer gets everything they are paying for. Our margins are better because there is no envelope.”

The adult entertainment industry has always been in the business of pushing the envelope, and despite what Vivid are doing, it looks as though as a business it will continue to do so. The advantages of the VOD model are obvious, not just for porn but all kinds of movies. If porn can make VOD work in the next year or so, my guess is Hollywood won’t be far behind.

“Hey, that’s not a bug, that’s a FEATURE!”

Pirate Malignoo

Logo remix submitted by Malignoo. In the spirit of sharing source code, you can get what you need to make your own version here.

I really liked this post by Linus Torvalds, creator of Linux, that was posted on Google Groups (by way of a Usenet newsgroup – thanks Luke) and just made the Reddit top spot:

“On Fri, 30 Nov 2001, Rik van Riel wrote:

> I’m very interested too, though I’ll have to agree with Larry > that Linux really isn’t going anywhere in particular and seems > to be making progress through sheer luck.

Hey, that’s not a bug, that’s a FEATURE!

You know what the most complex piece of engineering known to man in the whole solar system is?

Guess what – it’s not Linux, it’s not Solaris, and it’s not your car.

It’s you. And me.

And think about how you and me actually came about – not through any complex design.

Right. “sheer luck”.

Well, sheer luck, AND:

– free availability and _crosspollination_ through sharing of “source code”, although biologists call it DNA.

– a rather unforgiving user environment, that happily replaces bad versions of us with better working versions and thus culls the herd (biologists often call this “survival of the fittest”)

– massive undirected parallel development (“trial and error”)

I’m deadly serious: we humans have _never_ been able to replicate something more complicated than what we ourselves are, yet natural selection did it without even thinking.

Don’t underestimate the power of survival of the fittest.

And don’t EVER make the mistake that you can design something better than what you get from ruthless massively parallel trial-and-error with a feedback cycle. That’s giving your intelligence _much_ too much credit.

Quite frankly, Sun is doomed. And it has nothing to do with their engineering practices or their coding style.


Piracy: A new TV ratings system?


There’s a great post by Guinevere Orvis over at Last 100.com on how TV executives are looking with interest at how new TV shows get pirated and downloaded. She reports that unofficially, the networks are even starting to leak television shows themselves on BitTorrent sites to get a better idea of how well they will be received on television. She writes:

“Broadcasters aren’t posting their shows directly on PirateBay yet, but they are talking informally and giving copies of shows to a friend of a friend who is unaffiliated with the company to make a torrent. Why? Well, it’s partially an experiment, but the hope is that distribution of content this way will lead to new viewers that wouldn’t have been reached through traditional marketing means. Early signs indicate that these experiments are working.”


The Most Important Film Ever

The Story of Stuff

Annie Leonard’s new 20 minute film is a must-watch, and you can watch it for free here. I don’t think I’ve seen anyone explain the myriad problems of using linear systems in a closed world as clearly and simply and as convincingly as this.

As the Story of Stuff website tells it, the film is designed to expose “the connections between a huge number of environmental and social issues, and calls us together to create a more sustainable and just world. It’ll teach you something, it’ll make you laugh, and it just may change the way you look at all the stuff in your life forever.”

A Postcard From New York

New York from Brooklyn

I did a postcard for The Observer Music Monthly on how music scenes have changed in New York, which came out at the weekend – which you can read below:

New York is a transient place by nature and has always refused to be defined by any one style, musical or otherwise. The fact that no single sound has ever been able truly to own the city might be why so many of them leave it.

Hip hop was born here in the mid-Seventies, but seems to emigrate to a new American city with each passing month (it is currently living in Chicago) and shows little interest in returning home. Hip hop shared New York with punk, which kicked up a storm here first in 1975, until the Sex Pistols stole Richard Hell’s thunder and made the sound synonymous with the UK. Disco sprang from the city around the same time, before it violently bit the dust. House and garage were established on dancefloors here in the late Seventies before becoming multinationals in the Eighties.

Today, a long and tangled tail of musical styles stretches over the bridges into the outer boroughs. A trendy bar serves up tech-house, while a nearby barbers plays the new mixtape by Cam’ron, and a passing cab bumps reggaeton.

The Strokes were the last rock band truly to own New York. The Mercury Lounge, from where they emerged, is still churning out new indie bands, just as the Canal Room in SoHo and Southpaw in Brooklyn still play host to the latest crop of MCs, but getting noticed is tougher than it used to be. The Lower East Side has ramshackle venues such as Rothko and the Knitting Factory catering to fans of house music’s quirkier offspring such as ghetto-tech and dubstep, while the cluster of clubs on Chelsea’s West 27th St pump out commercial sounds for the weekend crowd from New Jersey.

The Meatpacking district sums up the current state of NYC’s nightlife best – flyers rarely even mention what music is being played, just how much it costs to reserve a table, and whether a bottle of Grey Goose is $200 or $300. Every night of the week there is great music to be found in all five boroughs; the only thing you won’t find is cohesion.

Graffiti removal as subconcious art

the subconscious art of graffiti removal (excerpt) from matt mccormick on Vimeo.

Yay! Intertubes to stay open after all…

tubes 2

Arstecnica is reporting that the SAFE act won’t make WiFi a thing of the past. The tech site is adamant that “the bill doesn’t require any active surveillance of user behavior, and it won’t affect your local coffee shop’s WiFi.” ISPs do have to notify authorities if they stumble upon any child pornography (which they do anyway under current laws, the bill ups the fines for not doing so) but it does explicitly state that ISPs do not have to monitor their users or their content.

It is still troubling that the broad interpretation of this bill – which I described yesterday, counts paintings and cartoons as obscene content, and there is certainly room for people to abuse this new law to stifle free speech, just as copyright laws have been abused. We shall see. My bad for not even attempting to read the bill before blogging about it, but hey, not everyone has time to read bills.

House votes to shut down the Internet

Series of tubes

In a move designed in theory (and I use the term loosely) to combat child porn, the House of Representatives has passed a bill saying that anyone offering an open Wi-Fi connection to the public must report illegal images including “obscene” cartoons and drawings–or face fines of up to $300,000.

CNet reports: “That broad definition would cover individuals, coffee shops, libraries, hotels, and even some government agencies that provide Wi-Fi. It also sweeps in social-networking sites, domain name registrars, Internet service providers, and e-mail service providers such as Hotmail and Gmail, and it may require that the complete contents of the user’s account be retained for subsequent police inspection.”

Maybe I live in a bubble and am sheltered from the real world, but I don’t see too many paedophiles downloading teraflops of kiddie porn at my local coffee house on a Sunday. The effect this law will have on child porn is likely to be negligible at best. The effect this measure will have on free speech will be devastating. Aside from making it very difficult for art students to finish their assignments on Renoir in public, it would make it practically impossible for any business or organization to offer free wi-fi near or in any public place.

This is the stupidest law I have ever heard of, and there have been some real doozys these last few years. The Senate needs to squash this, and the government needs to start listening to people who understand how the web works. Or soon it will be illegal to check emails at home, in case terrorists try to bring toothpaste onto the Internet.

Live at the Intersection

Medici Summit

Frans Johansson is the best–selling author of The Medici Effect, an incredible book on innovation which focuses on finding “intersections”, places where we can create new ideas by combining pre-existing ones. Over the last few years, he and his wife Sweet Joy Hacheula-Johansson have worked tirelessly, building the idea into a global movement, with workshops, conferences and even Medici institutes now springing up around the world.

In March Frans is putting on his own show for the first time. The Medici Conference is happening in Scottsdale, Arizona on the 3rd and 4th of March, at the impressive AAA Five Diamond resort The Fairmont Scottsdale Princess. As well as the chance to see a few of Frans’ impressive presentations and pick his brain for two days, attendees will hear from top executives from companies such as IBM and Nike among others. I’ll be speaking there and attending for the duration as well. I wouldn’t have written The Pirate’s Dilemma if it wasn’t for Frans’ incredible insights – I can’t recommend this event highly enough. Get all the details here.

Advertising or Graffiti?

This advert on Sutherland train station in Sydney, Australia, was part of the local council’s anti-graffiti billboard campaign.

Come Clean 1

Until a local street artist turned it into a debate about what exactly counts as graffiti, when the average person is subjected to between 3,000 and 5,000 adverts a day.

Come Clean 2

via Wooster Collective

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