Pirate LogoThe Pirate's Dilemma


Archive for the ‘Ethernomics’ Category

This about sums it up


This and the fact that the iPad is choc-full of some of the most restrictive DRM ever to hit a consumer product. Defective by Design calls the iPad “a computer that will never belong to its owner.”

They’re sending this to Apple:

“Mr. Jobs,

DRM will give Apple and their corporate partners the power to disable features, block competing products (especially free software) censor news, and even delete books, videos, or news stories from users’ computers without notice– using the device’s “always on” network connection.

This past year, we have seen how human rights and democracy protestors can have the technology they use turned against them. By making a computer where every application is under total, centralized control, Apple is endangering freedom to increase profits.

Apple can say they will not abuse this power, but their record of App Store rejections and removals gives us no reason to trust them. The iPad’s unprecedented use of DRM to control all capabilities of a general purpose computer is a dangerous step backward for computing and for media distribution. We demand that Apple remove all DRM from its devices.”

Sign the Defective by Design petition here.

AIDG’s Catherine Lainé, live from Haiti

Boing Boing posted a great interview with my friend Cat Lainé, Haitian-America tech activist who runs the amazing non-profit AIDG with her husband Peter Haas. Both Cat and Pete are on the ground in Haiti right now. As Cat explains the situation in Port Au Prince is beyond dire, as we’ve all seen and heard by now. Cat’s brother, who lives in Port-Au-Prince, is not yet accounted for.

I don’t know many people more resilient than Cat and Pete, and it’s pretty amazing to hear Cat explain how the Internet, cellphones and social networking is helping people on the ground in real and meaningful ways. If you can, please donate, details are below. AIDG does incredible work at the best of times, and in the worst of times, they are vital. They are also looking for volunteer engineers – details below:

Got this update from Cat this morning:

We have established an operations center in Cap-Haïtien with our partner SOIL to serve as a hub for coordinating volunteer efforts and supplies coming into the country, especially those coming in through the port of Cap-Haïtien and the Dominican Republic (one of the few open routes into Haiti these days). Our presence in the north, away from the destruction zone, has allowed our communication and logistic abilities to continue relatively intact, which has been extremely useful in coordinating efforts on the ground with other partners and aid groups.

As an immediate priority, we are recruiting and mobilizing teams of engineers and other technical experts to directly support relief efforts of key partners. As I write this, we are preparing to send our first teams of engineers into Haiti to support the medical response efforts of Partners in Health, an organization that, as we previously noted, is having a significant impact here. We are particularly interested at this moment in placing French or Creole speaking civil and structural engineers. If you are, or know, an engineer that might be interested in volunteering in Haiti, please send a resume or CV to helphaiti@aidg.org.

AIDG will also be helping to coordinate the distribution of a large number of cookstoves in affected areas. Even before this week’s disaster, AIDG was in discussions with several leading stove groups (including Prakti Design, WorldStove, and Trees Water People), and in fact had been planning to host these groups at a conference in Cap-Haïtien next week to strengthen our collaboration in Haiti. Our focus has obviously shifted in the past couple days, and the group is now mobilizing very quickly to bring in as many stoves as possible, while at the same time developing local manufacturing capacity.

Aside from these immediate response priorities, we are also already hard at work developing a longer term strategy for supporting reconstruction efforts in Haiti, including a collaboration with our friends Architecture for Humanity to promote the development of low cost earthquake resistant housing. More details on this will follow in the coming weeks.

As you can imagine, we have all available hands on deck right now to support the response in Haiti. But WE NEED YOUR HELP to make sure we have the resources to continue these efforts. These next weeks are critical for us and for Haiti, and we are asking you to make a donation, whatever you can, to support our work here. Every dollar helps, and every dollar will have an immediate and direct impact in the wake of this tragedy.

You can make a secure donation online here:


Or if you’d like to mail us a check, you can send it to the following address:

AIDG P.O. Box 104 Weston, MA 02493

We can’t thank you enough for all of your support.


The AIDG Team Cap-Haïtien, Haiti

Why is buying a fake handbag more exciting than buying a real one?

Rachel Nasvik

Picutre from www.wherethenighttakesyou.blogspot.com

Buying fake handbags is a contact sport in Chinatown. On a daily basis, groups of (mostly) women from all over the country bob and weave through the Canal Street crowds, many snapping up garbage sacks full of counterfeit products to take back home and sell on at ‘purse parties’. Just as it was with music piracy, handbag piracy has birthed an underground subculture, and Canal Street is the nerve center.

So nothing seemed out of the ordinary about the cluster of women descending on a handbag vendor at the corner of Broadway and Canal one Saturday back in June. But something strange was going on. These particular women were running faster than everyone else, desperate to get to this particular vendor before anyone else, and the first five in line were elated when they discovered the particular purses they were looking for were there. Because not only were these designer handbags real, they had been put there by the designer herself.

The handbags were made by internationally renowned designer Rachel Nasvik, whose totes and clutches typically retail anywhere from $150 – $700 at high end boutiques. She is the last person you’d expect to be hawking her wares in knock-off friendly stores, but this summer she did exactly that. Nasvik created a scavenger hunt that sent women chasing handbags across the city. She made 96 limited edition neon-pink purses, and hid them all over town. She set up a blog and used a twitter feed to drop clues as to their whereabouts. The hunt caused a fashion media stampede, and a more literal one as women flocked to the locations where the bags had been hidden. Some were simply left in public to be found, while others were given to pirate vendors (each vendor was given five, and asked to sell them at $10 a piece, which they did). It was a fantastic marketing campaign which created a large uptick in brand awareness for Nasvik, not to mention orders. But what really struck me about this was the truth highlighted by the bag hunt, a truth the hunt was designed in part to point out: Getting a handbag from a pirate vendor can be much more fun than buying the real thing.

Fake Louis

This has been true on Canal Street for a good few years now. As counterfeiting has become more of a problem, the city has stepped up the fight, forcing the pirate bag sellers underground. But as the stakes have gotten higher for the vendors, so too has the thrill for consumers. The experience of buying a fake bag is exhilarating: Someone approaches you on the street, usually saying something along the lines of “Handbag? Handbag? Gucci? Prada? Handbag?” in hushed tones. If you say yes, a call is made to someone at a secret location, not far away. You are then led there, via false doors, secret staircases and rooms hidden in false walls in other shops. You are led down dark alleys or secret passages in subway stations. All of this can be scary for first timers, but it is one of the coolest and most authentic New York experiences you can have – one reason so many tourists flock to these secret pirate handbag stores in droves. Piracy is a huge problem for luxury goods companies, one that is growing every year. But the fact that the experience of buying a fake is so much fun could be an opportunity, one that more designers should be exploiting they way Nasvik did.

It all comes down to some pretty simple economics. With luxury goods like designer handbags, you get most of the satisfaction from them in the moments before you actually buy the good. The thought of wearing the new handbag at the party is more satisfying than actually doing it. This is why we are shopaholics. We all crave that first pure hit of customer satisfaction we don’t get from the 200th time we lug the designer handbag to work on a Monday morning. So creating an amazing purchase experience should be the main focus of the luxury goods business. But down on Canal Street the pirates (and Rachel Nasvik) are doing it better.

A few blocks up from Chinatown in SoHo, you can buy a real bag in an impeccably turned-out glass and steel store, an experience which pales in comparison to the thrills and spills of the secret passages a few streets away. If the real and fake products look the same (or in some cases, are the same), then providing consumers with an authentic experience is the only way to compete. If you’re selling a luxury good, or any good that can be easily copied, you better make sure the experience of buying it is great. If they’re just copying your stuff, you can sue them. But if the pirates are providing a better experience than you are, you’re in trouble.

We are united.

For Dave Carroll, lead singer of Sons of Maxwell, revenge is a dish best served Country. Here’s what happened according to Dave:

In the spring of 2008, Sons of Maxwell were traveling to Nebraska for a one-week tour and my Taylor guitar was witnessed being thrown by United Airlines baggage handlers in Chicago. I discovered later that the $3500 guitar was severely damaged. They didn’t deny the experience occurred but for nine months the various people I communicated with put the responsibility for dealing with the damage on everyone other than themselves and finally said they would do nothing to compensate me for my loss. So I promised the last person to finally say “no” to compensation (Ms. Irlweg) that I would write and produce three songs about my experience with United Airlines and make videos for each to be viewed online by anyone in the world.”

The first song, United Breaks Guitars, is already at 168,000 views and counting. And now of course, United is ready to work something out. It’s cool that protest songs can still influence corporations, they stopped having any effect on governments long ago. But is it cool that this is fast becoming the most effective way to lodge a complaint against a company?

Street Fighter II Turbo Battle Vinyl

Street Fighter II Turbo Battle Vinyl

Via Hypebeast

After a long morning reading various accounts of corporate copyright douche-baggery, I needed some cheering up. This did the trick. Not only is this piece of vinyl totally awesome in every possible way, it’s also a great piece of marketing for Street Fighter IV.

Sue your fans, they’ll wage war against you. Give them battle weapons, they’ll go out and fight for you.



Illustration by Matias Vigliano, nicked from Wired.

In his latest column for Wired, Scott Brown rings the death knell for storytelling. “Hollywood, vendor of Story in its most denatured form, is most at risk” he writes. “The film industry is slowly but steadily being forced to part with quaint artifacts like the “hero’s journey,” Joseph Campbell’s so-called Monomyth.”

I think Brown is dead wrong.

Networked storytelling is going to become more and more prominent, I agree. But the death of the hero journey? Pure fantasy.

First off, the traditional story format is not at risk, at all. Hollywood had its biggest ever year domestically in 2008, despite the deluge of digital content now competing for our attention (not to mention pirates, who may even be helping). The biggest selling film was The Dark Knight, a Cambell-esque monomyth of the highest order and pretty much all the Oscar nominees – Slumdog, Benjamin Button, Milk, The Wrestler etc etc are all hero myths of one sort or another.

Brown gives a tongue-in-cheek example of what might replace traditional story structure:

“Die Hard will look like this: John McClane, NYC cop, arrives in LA to reconcile with his estranged wife—but we already know all about their failing marriage from the ARG we’ve been obsessed with for the six months leading up to the movie’s release. (McClane’s potemkin Tumblr blog was especially illuminating.) With exposition rendered obsolete, we open instead on a Sprite commercial, which transitions seamlessly into furious gunplay. We don’t even see McClane in the flesh, but our handsets are buzzing with his real-time thumb-tweets: “in the air duct. smelz like dead trrist in here lol.” The film then rewinds to McClane Googling “terrorists” to read up on his adversaries. We then flash-cut to the baddies’ POV, which we’re familiar with (and sympathetic to) thanks to the addictive Xbox hit Die Hard: Hard Out There for a Terrorist. This is all part of the Action-Happening Plateau, an intensifying mass of things and stuff leading up to the Mymaxtm.

“The Mymax is not a lame old Freytag climax but a hot Escher mess of narrative possibilities suggested by you, the audience. With a mere click of your handset (and a charge of 99 cents), you furnish a Youclusiontm to your liking. This is how McClane somehow ends up defeating terrorists—and winning American Idol—with his ultrasonic melisma. McClane and Holly then celebrate by making a sex tape. (Awww!)”

That doesn’t sound like a good movie, it sounds like a bad video game with a Sprite commercial in it. No one will pay 99 cents to finish a movie like this, because by that point no one will be left in the theater.

The reality is that new tech and transmedia are making traditional storytelling stronger. The point Brown misses is that the fundamentals of storytelling haven’t changed much with new tech, which is why Joseph Campbell’s work on ancient myth has been so relevant to screenwriting all these years. Not to get all Robert McGee, but story is not about the media through which you experience it as much as it’s about conveying a sense of meaning and/or truth that audiences can relate to.

The media we use to tell stories is changing, no doubt about it. But from what I’ve seen so far, film and TV writers seem to be using new technology and media platforms to extend the traditional model of storytelling further, not replace it.

Take Cloverfield for example. The viral video that kicked it off? A very traditional act one set-up sequence, inciting incident included. What was different was where it was broadcast and how. Those crazy websites about seemingly unrelated stuff that kept everyone guessing – Tagruato Corporation, Slusho, MySpace pages for characters etc? All part of the back story. Screenwriters have always written elaborate back stories to develop character and plot, what’s new is these pieces of writing didn’t have a viable commercial outlet before.

Or look at Heroes – story arcs stretch across different formats, creating a totally new kind of immersion experience, but they are still just story arcs. In days gone by some of these might have been left on the cutting room floor, but now they can be revenue-generating graphic novels instead. That’s awesome, but fundamentally it’s still traditional, myth-driven storytelling.

Networked storytelling is a cool new part of the equation for sure – involving audiences can add value in a million ways. But the bottom line is new tech and new media platforms are making traditional storytelling more complete. Transmedia is allowing content creators to take monomyths to dizzy new heights, to tell monomyths in stereo. Our method of telling stories is as old as we are, and has worked for different cultures and generations for thousands of years. It’s going to take more than a half-baked twitter feed to change it.

With great power comes great responsibility.

barack obama spiderman

7 abundantly clear things about abundance

MY speech from Pop!Tech last week has just gone up. I talked about a few other things besides competing with pirates, including virtuous circles, a subject I’m getting really interested in. There were so many great speakers there – two others worth watching are Juan Enriquez’s “10 commandments” talk on the state of the economy, and Benjamin Zander, who was sort of talking about virtuous and vicious circles too, and was just incredible.

Sanza Hanza

Sanza-Hanza Official Trailer from Greg Passuntino on Vimeo.

My good friends Jamie James Medina, Nadia Hallgren and Matt Salacuse just made a great short film about train surfing in Soweto. Train surfing is the semi-suicidal act of climbing on top of and sometimes underneath moving trains to perform improvised dance moves. In the South African ghetto of Soweto, it has become an underground sport not unlike skateboarding in the 1970s. It’s a fascinating look at how harsh environments breed harsh forms of youth culture. There’s also a great book to accompany the film, and an exhibition opening tomorrow in Montreal.

That was fast

That one

If we are now capable of turning memes into entire product lines in less than 12 hours, maybe we are smart enough to fix the economy. Vote that one!

E-mail It