Happy viewing … if you can get your hands on the movie or TV show you want to watch.
So here’s the memo, though it all should go without saying at this late stage:
- National boundaries have been eroding for decades, and haven’t existed for 15 years in the realm where most media consumers get their information. Don’t window by geography.
- In-home viewing quality rivals that of theaters, so why not try selling first-run product into our homes much sooner? Charge us for timely access, not for sticky floors and toxic popcorn.
- Don’t make us be detectives to find your show. Amazon vs. Netflix is their battle to fight. License everywhere. The most valuable asset is an addicted audience that can find its fix. Ubiquity is good.
- Your product is infinitely replicable and shareable. Senseless windowing invites piracy. Piracy is not primarily about free content; it is about content living where the users live.
It’s funny that the US is finally on the receiving end of annoying international release schedules (Downton Abbey aired in the UK first, with ensuing #spoilers), but these closing points actually articulate the problems with regional restriction (for films, TV, music, ebooks) well.
Not surprisingly, there is a lot of resistance to overcome and it grows out of that typical committee mentality where everybody talks but nobody will make a decision. Record companies may resist the Web until the last minute before being forced into action. My record company isnt exactly jumping on board, but Im indifferent to it. You dont have to stay with a record company forever. I get bored of those interminable situations.
Thirteen and a half rodding years ago!
The way our society constantly breaks down parameters has led to the disintegration of intellectual property. Whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing is to an extent irrelevant, without a doubt things in the future are going to be different.
Ha ha ha ha ha if only…
People are starting to look for the next social network: one that isn’t ad-driven and data-hungry, an open network where you can own your data and control how it’s used.
One of the main moves I’ve seen has been towards federated open-source social network software like Diaspora and Status.net (the platform behind Identica). Diaspora could maybe end up being a place where geeks hang out and share stuff and that’s great, but does it solve the problem? And what is the problem?
The problem isn’t that we don’t have a way to share stuff. It’s that we don’t have a good way to publish our stuff without giving away control of it.
We are the creators. We create the social objects that inspire the conversations that form the social networks. We shouldn’t be worrying about getting everyone onto open networks or finding the next Twitter; we should be concentrating on designing, building and popularising self-hosted publishing platforms that expose completely and easily shareable chunks of content.
I don’t think I need to repeat the arguments for having self-hosted content (or at least paid-for hosting where you have complete access to your data). Kroc Camen recently wrote a good post about it. Lots of people already use self-hosted Wordpress, which was a great start because it made lots of people aware of the benefits of owning your own space on the internet. But Wordpress is mostly limited to blogging and simple sites, and certainly not up to the challenge of publishing all your photos, status updates, music, books and so on. I know you can do all that stuff with a million plugins, but it’s ugly.
The idea that the social web is built of shareable chunks of content isn’t new. There are plenty of companies that do a great job of it – YouTube, Bandcamp, Soundcloud, Flickr and a million others. If you paste a link to one of those sites into Facebook or Twitter it understands what you’re posting and creates a thumbnail image or an excerpt or a music/video player. Most of that magic is done behind the scenes or with proprietary HTML tags.
If you post a link to a web page you’ve built and hosted yourself (maybe a music page on a band website with a few audio players and text and links) Facebook doesn’t really know what to do with it. It will try to pull out an image and grab the first bit of text, but the sharing experience won’t be seamless (unless you’ve manually created the proprietary Facebook tags).
There’s an open standard called oEmbed that tries to make all this stuff work a bit better. It works in a similar way to the Facebook tags but it’s standardised across the internet, so in theory you just add the tags once and any app or site or social network can use them to create a perfect embeddable preview of your stuff. oEmbed is what Diaspora uses to magically add a Soundcloud player to your post whenever you mention a Soundcloud URL.
This isn’t a call to scrap the Facebook tags and only use oEmbed. People are going to want to share your stuff on Facebook and you should give them the best experience you can. This is just to get you up to speed on what’s out there so that the next bit makes more sense…
A lot of my stuff is on free hosted platforms. I love posting little bits of writing, images, music and links to Tumblr. But it’s all on the Tumblr servers and sometimes it disappears for a while. I love posting little updates and links to Twitter and having conversations. But it’s all on the Twitter servers and sometimes it disappears for a while. We still use Facebook as a band to post links and updates. All of that is on the Facebook servers and being used to sell ineffectual ads to other companies. Every once in a while they make the interface shittier, and they don’t care what we think of it. Instagram is cool. It made photos social in a more advanced way than the old Flickr/Facebook photo album ever did. But now Facebook owns it and although I have a backup of all my Instagram photos, it feels like that process is the wrong way round.
Like Kroc says, I probably shouldn’t be using these services “unless I am a paying customer, accountable to my own data, and copying data into these services rather than creating data inside them.” I shouldn’t have to publish all my stuff on other people’s sites then chase around trying to back it all up in case it disappears or becomes evil. I should be publishing my stuff myself, on my own server, and using these services to share it. But that’s not as easy as it should be. Yet.
Why can’t I install something on my server that lets me publish photos in a really useful way? With easy galleries for family to flick through, obvious hi-res download links for press people and oEmbed/Facebook tags for sexy previews when people post a link to a photo (or photoset). Surely that’s better than having them hosted elsewhere? I can then use Flickr, Twitpic, Instagram or whatever to share them with different communities if that’s useful.
And the same goes for other stuff. My blog, tumblelog and status updates could all be self-hosted. I could automatically repost the status updates to Twitter and reply to people there, but it’s on my server first and if (when!) Twitter goes to pot, I can just flick a switch to point the reposts somewhere else. And if the self-hosted status update platform implemented the Twitter API (like Identica does), posting to my site but reading from Twitter, I could even keep using TweetBot and not some crappy iPhone app that I had to build myself.
I think people worry that if their stuff isn’t on a particular platform it won’t get seen and shared. I certainly do. But think of XKCD, the genius web comic. Nobody has a problem sharing XKCD URLs. If it’s worth sharing, people will share it.
Of course there are some hosted services I’m happy to pay for (Bandcamp and Dropbox for example) because they do something that I couldn’t do, and they do it very well. Also, they charge me money and take responsibility for my data.
The CASHmusic platform is starting to look really promising for self-hosting some of the band stuff (mailing lists, shop).
I’m going to go on a hunt now to find the software to fill in the gaps. Some of it must exist. Some might need a little tweaking. Some we may need to create. If you know of some software that fits the bill, or use it already, let me know.
I’d argue that an obsession with the new has been more damaging to music than piracy.
The best cure for bad internet is making your own thing that is not a response to another thing but building your own whatever.
My mind’s spinning with interesting thoughts, so I’m going to spew them out here in case they make more sense when I see them. Fingers crossed…
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