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Archive for January, 2008

Digg and the Pirate’s Dilemma

Digg Pirate’s Dilemma

Steve D of TechVat has done a very cool appraisal of Digg using the ‘four pillars of community’ idea from the book, a device I use to think about building open source systems, social networks and other types of communities that will attract participants.

It’s cool that people are starting to pick up on some of the other ideas in the book. The pirate’s dilemma model is actually one of many (well, eight…), but it seemed to be the best title that tied them all together. The main points are quoted below, but check out the full post here. Steve uses the four pillars as I outlined them to examine where he thinks Digg is faltering, and where it’s doing well. He writes:

“Pillar 1: Altruism – Inspire your Audience to Help You Start Something.

When Digg began it was all about getting great content on the site. Back then it was strictly a tech site and the user base consisted of a large following that came from Kevin Rose’s days on TechTV.

Kevin had a vision. He wanted to harness the Wisdom of Crowds for the purpose of spreading great content to a multitude of users all over the web. If there was a money making system at work no one saw it back then. Many members wanted to see Digg succeed because they felt it was the wave of the future, putting the power of the media back into the hands of the common man.

Pillar 2: Reputation – Let Your Audience Create New Identities and Distinguish Themselves.

MegaDeth had a song in the 80’s, “Peace Sells, But Who’s Buying?” Even the most altruistic of people like to have a modicum of recognition for their deeds. Many Internet forums are run by volunteer administrators. They do not do it for pay they do it as they see personal value in it. Having the title of admin on some forums gives you a title equivalent to King or Queen. It is something you have earned and others respect.

Between the top digs users list and the DiggNation podcast Rose and company offered a valid reward system to get members involved; fame.

Many of the top Diggers on the site grew to have followings. They became social news celebrities in their own right. Becoming a top Digger was not something that was handed to you. Oh no, it is something that you had to work your ass off to achieve.

Pillar 3: Experience – Give Your Audience a New Experience and the Chance to Improve Their Skills.

Not all users of Digg are in it for the fame. Some of them just want to learn a thing or two about how social media works.

I know, from my own personal experience, that my involvement in Digg has been rewarding because I have met many new friends. People I would have never met outside of Digg are now people that I can call friends.

Not only have I met new people but I have also been able to debate my ideals and sway others (or been swayed myself) all because of Digg. Outside of home, work and my small circle of local friends I do not encounter many people who do not share my ideals and way of looking at things. Thanks to Digg (at least in the early days) I was able to learn things that have changed my point of view on various subjects.

I have found myself to be a better writer and debater because of the time I have spent on Digg.

Pillar 4: Pay Them!

I am not talking about cash money here (wouldn’t that be nice!) but about paying back the Digg user base for, without them, Digg is nothing.

Digg does still give back in the form of the DiggNation podcast but, they dropped the top Digger list. Not only have they dropped the list but they have turned the site upside down by making harder for the top Diggers to stay in the game. They have created an un-level playing field by forcing the more popular members to acquire more Diggs on a story before it gets promoted to the front page.

I understand that Digg wants to attract new members but what about all those people who made Digg big in the first place? If I, as a new user, am told that I am only welcome to submit content to the site until I hit a certain popularity threshold than why should I invest any time at all into the site? Digg is effectively telling me that they are scared of influential members using the site.

It has long been said that good managers hire good workers while bad managers hire bad workers so that they will not be shown up. Is that where Digg is headed?”

Get Steve’s answer here…

Pirate Bay Charged

Pirate Bay

This just in from Ernesto at TorrentFreak:

The Swedish prosecutor Håkan Roswall has announced the charges against four individuals involved with The Pirate Bay. The four, aged 23 to 37, are being charged with “assisting copyright infringement” of 4 software applications, 9 films and 22 music tracks.

The operation of The Pirate Bay is financed through advertising revenues. In that way it commercially exploits copyright-protected work and performances,” said prosecutor Hakan Roswall in a statement. The prosecution claims the site generates annual ad revenue of more than $4 million.

Roswall consequently asks the court for a $188,000 fine for each of the four individuals – Fredrik Neij (”TiAMO”), Gottfrid Svartholm (”Anakata”), Peter Sunde (”Brokep”) and businessman Carl Lundström – and the confiscation of their computers. Among the works that were mentioned in the charges are “Let It Be” from the Beatles and Harry Potter’s “The Goblet of Fire”.

The plaintiffs, including Warner Bros., Colombia Pictures, 20th Century Fox, Sony BMG, Universal and EMI have until the end of February to file claims for damages.

In a response to the charges, Pirate Bay co-founder Peter Sunde (”Brokep”) told TorrentFreak: “We’re of course interested in seeing the outcome of the case, and we welcome that they want to try to criminalize something we already know is legal.”

Read the rest here.

How pirates lost the console wars

DJ Glo Xbox

Modified Xbox by DJ Glo

Mike Masnick at Techdirt wrote about piracy as an innovation strategy a few weeks back, and this comment caught my eye:

“A great example of this is the original Xbox. A modified Xbox had a lot of great features like the Xbox media center and emulators that let you play ROMS of classic games. Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony all copied this feature in their current generation of consoles. Xbox Live for the 360 and Virtual Console for Wii both make Microsoft and Nintendo a lot of money. This was copied straight from the pirated, modified Xbox.”

This is a story of the console giants responding the right way to a Pirate’s Dilemma. They didn’t just fight piracy, but co-opted the good ideas the pirates came up with.

Illegally modified or ‘chipped’ Xboxes started with private owners eking out ways to improve the machine, dropping in custom-built mod chips such as the X-ecuter 2 Lite and upping the horsepower of their sytems by adding in 80+ gigs of extra hard drive (the original Xbox came with just 8 gigs). Some fans simply wanted to play or back up other media they owned, such as their legally purchased games, mp3s and movies using their machine. But this warranty-voiding practice was understandably frowned upon by Microsoft, because it turned the Xbox into a giant iPod for storing pirate video games. And soon enough, custom-built chipped Xboxes were appearing in stores, selling for $500, that didn’t just come with more hard drive space, but fifteen or more pirated games pre-loaded as well.

Microsoft, true to form, sent in the cavalry. In 2003 and 2004 stores were raided, modded machines were confiscated, store owners were arrested and some even imprisoned. Fans and modders had mixed feelings about this. They recognized that the piracy was wrong, but they liked the new features of the modded versions as well. Xbox owner and modder Karl Reinsch wrote about what he saw going on in his local mod chip store on BoingBoing in 2004:

“I stopped in one of the locations just about two weeks ago looking into PS2/Xbox mod chips and was stunned to see them selling modded systems with games already copied onto the hard-drive (They were defintely doing it with Xbox systems and may have been doing it with PS2 systems as well).

“They even printed up stickers with the list of included games and attached them to the packaging for each system. You could pick your Xbox based on the size of the hard-drive and the list of included games. “Oh look, this one has ‘Halo 2′ on it!”

“They were also preloading the Xbox systems with tons of emulators (arcade and console) and as many ROMs as they could find. I watched a customer walk in and ask about a specific original GameBoy game – the employee immediately fired up a GameBoy emulator with the appropriate ROM right there on the demo Xbox and handed the customer the controller to play with. I was shocked.

“They appeared to be to be doing pretty brisk business. I left the place seriously disturbed by what I had seen and wondering whether to report them. Guess somebody already had. They definitely crossed the line. And it is sad to see that happen with one of the few reliable local suppliers of mod chips.”

Microsoft had every right to go after the pirates, but they were smart about it – they didn’t go after individual modders and private owners like Keith, only the store owners selling the machines on the grey market. But the real reason this was a winning strategy was Microsoft recognized the value in what the chip-modders were doing, and beat them by competing with them in the market place. When the Xbox 360 launched, the media center idea developed by modders was front and center, one of the most touted features of the new machine. The popularity of emulators, which let modders play old games from consoles of the past, is also a main feature of the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and Nintendo Wii.

The console companies didn’t treat fans like criminals. They gave the fans what they wanted instead, which meant the fans sided with the console manufacturers. Legitimate companies and copyright/patent holders are, in most cases, able to do what pirates are doing with their products more efficiently, more conveniently, and through legitimate channels more palatable to consumers. Often this leads to new revenues streams, as it did in this case for all three console giants. But all too often companies don’t compete with pirates, out of pride, ignorance or a failure to recognize that piracy can be a market signal. Piracy can be a way for fans to let companies know what they really want. It’s often advisable to fight pirates, but ignoring what consumers really need from you is the easiest way to lose the battle.

TPD: Brand Autopsy Remix

Pirate’s Dilemma

John Moore at Brand Autopsy has remixed my idea from The Pirate’s Dilemma about pirates looking for gaps outside of the market into a bite-size, consultant friendly chunk. I like the record label he made to go along with it, you can make your own record label here, and check out John’s remix here.

Reggaeton endorses Obama



I thought this reggaeton video was worth posting for sheer catchiness, my favourite campaign song yet from any of the candidates. Piracy is a bi-partisan issue, so I try and keep politics off this blog. But in terms of support of open government, net neutrality and defense of the commons, many who understand how important open systems are to the future of democracy, myself included, think Obama is our guy. If he’s elected, it wouldn’t be unthinkable for Lawrence Lessig to get some say in shaping tech policy, which would be pretty incredible.

The Pirate’s Dilemma Act 4: Downloading Sneakers

The Pirate’s Dilemma Act 3: Net Neutrality

The Pirate’s Dilemma Act 2: Pill Pirates

You Are Beautiful

You Are Beautiful

Loved this post over on Josh Spear:

“We live in a world that bombards us with fear-inducing marketing aiming to convince us that we’re too ugly, too fat, or too old so that we’ll go out and buy stuff to fix it. How often, if ever, do we get sweetly and succinctly told that there’s nothing wrong with us? It’s the simplicity behind You Are Beautiful that makes its message so immediate and powerful.

“The creators of the site and all it’s members are anonymous, choosing to let their message speak for itself. Collaborators design different versions of the three words “you are beautiful” and then hi-jack public areas that would normally contain advertising. From more traditional graffiti spaces to usurping billboards and lining the insides of advertising-riddled subway cars, the idea is to replace the ubiquitous consumer-driven messaging we normally see with a compliment. A little burst of positivity, unexpected in the midst of buy-buy-buy messaging, that asks us to do absolutely nothing but feel good about ourselves.”

Find out more here.

Teen pirates an entire human immune system

Demi-Lee Brennan

Demi-Lee Brennan: possibly the world’s most incredible bio-punk

Sometimes when a teenager copies something they weren’t supposed to, good things happen. 15 year old Australian Demi-Lee Brennan had a liver transplant after her own liver failed. Nine months later, her doctors were stunned to find that Brennan’s blood group had changed to the donor’s blood type. Not only that, her original immune system had almost totally been replaced by that of the donors, and donor stem cells had also replaced her bone marrow, meaning she no longer had to take anti-rejection drugs. While this didn’t break any patent of copyright laws, it does defy what doctors had previously thought possible, and maybe the beginning of an incredibly beneficial new form of copying.

“We consulted widely throughout the hospital and then looked at the medical literature and consulted colleagues around the world to see if anyone had seen this kind of thing before,” Dr Michael Stormon of Westmead Children’s Hospital in Sydney told ABC News. “No-one had, so we were stunned and amazed.” Doctors are now hoping to replicate the phenomenon, but acknowledge that this is “easier said than done.” Very cool nonetheless.

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