Piracy and Music sales

Interesting post about music piracy realities from Richard over at the Gadget Lounge (and also cross-posted on the Gadget Show on the Podcast Network). It reveals some misleading ARIA stats regarding the decline in music sales of 5-6% (depending on the format). He notes:

Fortunately, we’ve got some very clued in researchers, just like Alex Malik. Malik is conducting research at the University of Technology, Sydney, toward his PHD, and being a former ARIA in house lawyer, happens to know the market well. His research, which uses ARIA’s own data, points out that the major labels have released 39% less albums and 42% less singles for the year when compared to 2003. No wonder sales have decreased.

Of course one might argue that the major labels have invested less because they are getting less return due to piracy, etc. But I would go back to an earlier point that Richard mentions – the music is crap. One commenter points to the X-Factor/Idol phenomenon for sucking the life out of the music industry, but perhaps it’s not just that the music is crap, but more that those shows reveal just what a sham and marketing scam 75% of the business is and we’ve all got a bit wiser as a result. I can’t imagine many people have been downloading pirate copies of Casey Donovan albums. This is exemplified by the fact that the independent labels doubled their album sales.

If it’s good and people are able to download it easily and legally, then they will. Has the music industry learned nothing from the iTunes Music Store? The kind of attitude ARIA are showing only drives people away from legitimate music because they resent the greed.

Killing trackback spam with MT-Moderate & co.

Just installed Chad Everett’s MT-Moderate plugin in an attempt to cut down on Trackback spam, which has, let’s face it, been more than my real trackbacks. (Come on you three readers out there, give me a plug, a trackback or a comment for goodness sake).

Also MT-Ban-Numeric-Entities which should get rid of all those spam trackbacks that have numeric entities instead of ASCII to try and get past the filters.

Lastly, MT-Keystrokes which uses Javascript (okay standards purists, I know, but the spam is just too much, sorry) to make sure a human has typed into the comment fields.

Thanks to the ever wonderful Jay Allen for his tireless fight against spammers and whose MT-Blacklist already works tirelessly to keep spam from me. Occasionally I check the logs and send love into the universe for Jay and the amount of time he has saved me. Most of the time I don’t look at the logs, it’s too depressing.

Fastest robot in the East

Hitachi's Emiew, the fastest humanoid robot

Hitachi have just created the “fastest robot” called Emiew. The inventors want it to be able to keep up with people, hence the wheels. Pal, one of the other robots (Chum is the other one), had this to say:

“I want to be able to walk about in places like Shinjuku and Shibuya [shopping districts] in the future without bumping into people and cars.”

But er, what about staircases and kerbs? It’s the old Dalek conundrum…

The phone is dead, long live the phone

Free Internet telephony that just works. Skype.com

So, the telcos are still banging on about how voice over IP (VOIP) won’t affect their business or that it will and it’s unfair (poor darlings). Yet Skype’s continual rise and the addition of SkypeIN numbers (so you can be called via a normal phone as well as calling to them with SkypeOUT) says different.

There’s quite a bit over on SkypeJournal about the shift back to using normal phone handsets plugged into your router/PC. It’s obviously the way to go because it really does feel weird talking into a PC – everyone seems to be able to do the speaking aloud thing on Star Trek okay, but I still find it odd. There’s an intimacy with a handset that you don’t get with speakerphone or headset I think.

Andy Bryant gives a review of his rapidBox and Riaan gives a great rundown of his (terribly named) Actiontec Internet Phone Wizard. One big gripe is that they all seem to be PC-based, so someone bring out a Mac one please (though I suppose I can bypass the machine all together).

Also, I want a mobile that just hooks into the VOIP network when I’m in range and the GSM one when I’m out and about. Anyone know if one exists? Surely one handset is the way to go these days.

There’s a market here for more retro phone VOIP handsets/headsets rather like Nik Roope’s fabulous Pokia headsets/handsets. Get cracking Nik.

The thinking behind Growl

Great interview over at Drunken Blog with Chris Forsythe, the lead on the Growl project.

For those that haven’t checked it out yet, Growl is a notification framework for OS X. Now, that sounds really dull when you put it like that, but actually it’s an interesting interaction/interface development. Basically the theory is that you want some subtle notification of information, but not have to change applications or be bashed over the head with it. It’s a very subtle approach and you’ll find you’ll use it all the time. It’s a bit like Exposé – so obvious it’s not intrusive, that’s what makes it a radical leap.


(The screenshot above is from Growl Clock – it’s just about to fade offscreen again, it doesn’t just hang around unless you tell it to).

While you are at it, download and get friendly with Quicksilver too. It will change the way you work on the Mac forever more, especially if you have a 12″ laptop.

The King Has…



p> Great new project from Krister Olsson over at Tree-Axis called “The King Has…”

We all carry secrets we cannot reveal. Taking its name from the famous fable “The King Has Donkey’s Ears,” “The King Has…” Gives individuals an opportunity to unburden themselves of stressful secrets–be they their own or those entrusted to them by another person–by displaying the secrets in a public space under the veil of anonymity.

You will receive an automated message confirming receipt of your secret. If your secret is too long, you will be asked to shorten it and resend it.

Your secret will be printed on a piece of wood using a specially designed slab printer.

This piece of wood will be mounted on scaffolding at the heavily foot-trafficked stretch of 6th St. between Los Angeles St. and Main St. in Downtown Los Angeles.

It works via SMS and Krister has given up his mobile for the project, so he’s probably going to keep getting a few when it’s done…

The slab printer (above) looks like it does a very cool job of transferring the digital to the analogue real world. It’s great when artists work out mechanisms like this.

Although your anonymity is guaranteed, I wonder if people will post other people’s secrets to it. “President Bush is secretly really intelligent”. Maybe not.

If you’re in LA, go an visit the site too. That’s the site as in the real place, in LA. Not the website stupid.

Cameraphones as personal storytelling

Howard Rheingold has just written an interesting summary of a paper by Keio University researcher Daisuke Okabe. Okabe has made an ethnographic study of cameraphone usage in Japan.

On the one hand, it’s what we already know ourselves (those who use them): We archive our lives, important moments, silly moments, etc. and we also use it as a kind of “personal note taking” device. It’s also becoming responsible for a media form that’s about strings of moments, a kind of personal photojournalism.

What’s refreshing is the completely different attitude to the moral panic that’s going on in Australia about cameras in public places. Some local councils have now taken the step of banning all cameras on the beach in case “perverts” take photos of topless sunbathers (and children of course). So that means anyone from a professional photographer to a tourist to a parent taking snaps of their child runs the risk of being pestered by police.

Every small step to reclaim public space seems to be constantly jumped upon by government and corporate interests. Mobiles, blogs and camerphones chip away at this trend so well documented in Naomi Klein’s Fences and Windows. As if Australia didn’t have enough Government and bureaucracy as it is…

What’s sad is that many of these people in a panic appear to have no real idea of how any of this technology works, or how people actually use it. One suggestion has been to make cameraphones flash when they take a photo and, in Korea, they’re forced to make a “shutter” sound. As if someone taking surreptitious photos couldn’t put a bit of tape over the Flash or disable the sound. Or even use a real camera. Perhaps they should read Okabe’s paper and we need some research on Australian culture too.