Liberals shouldn’t slam Facebook

TV rots your brain

Every Christmas I like to have an argument with my mum, usually about technology, and usually conducted like an irregular serial – picked up several times over the course of the holiday.  In previous years my Christmas technology arguments have been about kitchen appliances; can you believe we still don’t have a microwave or a dishwasher?  Next Christmas it has got to finally be about the pitiful size of our TV, a debate that was this time sidelined by 2009’s topic: social networking.

In a car ride to visit grandma, mum passes this article by Julia Neuberger over to the back seat. (Her producing articles from the Guardian, often snipped out and left on my bed, is a feature of our arguments.)  Essentially Baroness Neuberger had summarised what my mum thinks:  that social networking is making us less social by wrapping us in a virtual world and isolating us from ‘real’ relationships.

This is of course bunk. Continue reading Liberals shouldn’t slam Facebook

I’m a better person because of Facebook (we all are)

DebateAP2202_468x355Pretty much anybody I meet I try to friend on Facebook.  I’m friends with my dad, I’m friends with some kids I used to teach, my colleagues, my uni friends, school friends, some people I’ve only ever met once, and I’m sure I’m friends with some people I don’t actually like.

Let me quickly say this is not a post about how you should use Facebook.  There are legitimate conversations to be had about how we should interact with each other online.  But you miss the point if you debate things like how many friends you ‘should’ have on Facebook (what portion of your social graph you should friend).  The internet is almost defined by the fact that we are able to use the tools that emerge in – often unexpected – ways that most suit us. Continue reading I’m a better person because of Facebook (we all are)

A little (Blairite?) optimism about the internet.

Peasants Revolt 1381
Richard II diffuses the 1381 Peasants’ Revolt at Smithfield

The tools that are (really only just) becoming available on the internet have the potential to place the interests of the many, probably for the first time in our history (since the early Medieval period, since…forever?) , on an equal footing with the special interests of the few.

Continue reading A little (Blairite?) optimism about the internet.

Missing the point about Twitter

I think the guys at Pear Analytics, as reported by the BBC here, are missing the point about Twitter.

The whole bloody point of this social web business is that there is zero cost to tweet or post or comment.  So it is almost impossible to pass-along no value.  Even if only my mum is interested that ‘I’m eating a sandwich’ then I have passed on a tiny bit of value at zero cost.

Moreover, it is exactly their categorization of this kind of message as ‘pointless babble’ that show they miss the point.

We are in an age of zero cost, peer to peer and mass communication.  It is not the role of anybody to describe conversation as pointless babble.  That’s an old media mindset.  There aren’t gatekeepers any more.  I’ll define what I think is pointless thank you very much.

It is very difficult to separately categorize ‘self-promotion’ from ‘conversation’ or even ‘pointless babble’.  Anybody in the business of self-promotion is increasingly required to engage in conversation.

And far more importantly:  Aggregate the pointless babble of hundreds of thousands of people and it’s no longer pointless babble.

Head to Head: Should music be free? Part 2

This is another from my work blog.head to head

Does the music itself have value, or is monetization through gigs & merchandise enough?

Cont’d from Should music be free? Part 1 where Oli and Jacob discussed the musician Trent Reznor’s pioneering efforts online to make music pay.  And Oli told Jacob he may have got the wrong end of the stick.

Oli:  Why shouldn’t people pay to own or play a record (and yes, ‘pay’ here could include Spotify style ad-supported models, I mean it in a wide sense where musicians are being reimbursed for people listening to their recorded music)?  I believe musicians should be able to monetize the actual music.

Some people are claiming that music should be free, that digital piracy is absolutely fine because Artists can and should make money out of just gigs and merchandise.  This is a position held by a fair number of technology utopians but I believe is disconnected from how most people feel.  Most people see value in music and are quite happy to buy a song from the artist.  The current problems have been to do with cost and ease of purchase/use, not with the actual concept of paying for music.

Jacob: Completely agree that music has a value.   I’d be cautious of one point:  ‘musicians should be able to monetize [it]’ – I’m not sure how far ‘shoulds’ get you in economics…

Artists need to monetize music however they can.  And I don’t think making money out of gigs and merchandise is a consolation prize for them.

I think you’re right that the Nine Inch Nails innovation is exactly what we need to see.  I also agree that the concept of paying for music is probably accepted and that it’s issues around ease of purchase (and also ideas around ‘fair value’ – the feeling that we’ve been ripped off for so long) that are really the important ones.

Oli: Fair point on the sloppy usage of ‘should’. What I intended to convey was that I believe people are actually okay with the concept of paying for recorded music and most people do not expect it to be free. If I am correct in this, then musicians should be in a position where they can charge money for it and people will want to pay for it. I didn’t intend ‘should’ to convey that there was some ‘God-given’ right, or that there was any moral cause here.

I still disagree about gigs & merchandise.   I think we may be going across purposes here because I’m not saying that these aren’t important revenue streams, I am merely rejecting the notion put forward by some people that all recorded music should be free and that gigs & merch are an entirely satisfactory alternative revenue stream.

This is hugely insulting to these individuals who have worked to produce the music, they are effectively being told that all that work is worthless and they must now do further work before they should be recompensed.  I can’t understand how it could be argued making money off merchandise is okay, but making money off recorded music is not. If someone were to come along and start producing perfect replicas of the bands merchandise at a lower cost, stealing their customers, how does the band now make money? Purely through gigs? If we would protect the band and make producing these cheaper replicas illegal, why is this different from recorded music?

I currently cannot see the feasibility of any system where bands are not recompensed for recorded work.  Ultimately I won’t be surprised if the mechanism for payment gets hidden (e.g. a subscription/tax is hidden somewhere, song plays are tracked and artists are then recompensed out of a pot based on this) but there has to be some system whereby artists get paid for recorded music.