Compensating content creators

At last week’s MITX event I badgered the panel about the possibility to payment for content creators on social sites. I was told the question was “naive” and heard from a commenter that there was no way this would happen in for foreseeable future. To his credit, that person did mention that YouTube was doing something like this but he wondered is anything had actually been paid.

Imagine my relief this morning when I saw this article on the BBC.com. Apparently I’m not as naive as some believe and the foreseeable future as arrived!

YouTube users in the UK will be given the chance to make money from the videos they post on the site.

The project is already up and running in the US and is now being extended to other countries, starting in the UK.

In the US some contributors are already earning thousands of dollars each month from their films, according to the video-sharing site.

The amount that is earned will depend on the number and popularity of the videos, it said.

Will this eventually extend beyond YouTube and become standard industry wide? Why not?

Paper Hats

Today is a day for paper hats. I was on my way to work this morning and realized I’d forgotten my hat. My head was cold. What could I do? The answer was simple: make a paper hat. As soon as I got to work that’s just what I did.

Paper Hat

The result was stunning. I am so happy with my hat – and I want other people to be happy too – that I’ve created a new Flickr group dedicated to paper hats. Take a second today and do something fun. Make yourself a paper hat and post a pic. You’ll feel better, trust me.

Reconsidering created content

For most of our history, creative content has moved freely – if slowly – through culture. Before the printing press, stories were passed through oral tradition of through hand written reproduction. Both of these models allowed room for change and adaptation. Once he technology of printing and publishing arrived, written content was increasingly locked, owned and protected.

The same has been true for musical content – especially in the folk tradition. Music passed from player to listener. People would learn and swap songs, change the lyrics, reuse the tune and create together. Obviously someone somewhere had written the song and the music and often it was available in sheet form for others to play. The understanding and assumption was that people would play and perform the music.

Once sound recording came onto the scene, that seems to have changed. No more sharing songs with friends. No more repurposing tunes or lyrics. Thanks to recording audio content became something that could be locked, owned, protected and commoditized. Are we better off?

There’s a relationship between the level of skill/technology needed to produce content and the lengths people are willing to take to prevent its reproduction. I mean if I relate a story I’ve read in a book no one raises an eyebrow. If I were to tell a story – or even read from a book – in front of a group, no one cracks down.

If I were to play a piece of produced content in front of that same group – whether it was sound or images – what then? Would that be OK?

One think that’s interesting to consider is that a company like Sony used to actively encourage people to reproduce copyrighted produced content. How many tape decks and blank cassettes have they sold over the past 40 years? Why was it OK to tape but now not OK to rip? And Sony’s taken the extra step to suggest that copying music you OWN for your own use may be criminal.

The barriers to producing and sharing content are down. We’re back in the content world that we have existed in for hundreds of thousands of years. Technology took the freedom to create and recreate and share away as the ability to produce and protect content became prevalent.

We’re kind of back to where we started but we need to be responsible. Wholesale copyright infringement isn’t OK but a more liberal understanding of fair use needs to be developed to allow for the resumption of non-homoginized cultural development.

Check out Tom Pettitt’s paper on the Gutenberg Parenthesis for more coherent thoughts on this whole issue.

What do you think?

WebInno 16 Preview

WebInno16 is right around the corner and so I thought I’d take a few minutes to preview the companies that will be presenting and sidedishing at the event. To see them for yourself, come to the meeting on Tuesday, January 29th at 6:30 at the Royal Sonesta in Cambridge.

Here’s who’ll be there and what I expect from each of them:

Main Courses

MakeMeSustainable

The Rap:
This is a tool that helps people understand and do something about their carbon footprint and it’s pretty slick. Lots of nice graphics that illustrate how much carbon is being used and some very practical suggestions for reducing CO2. One of the things that I thought was really cool about the site is that it tells you not only how much carbon you can reduce by doing simple things (recycling, composting, raising or lowering your thermostat, etc,) but also how much money you’ll save in the process.

I found parts of it to be a little confusing. The “action” (where you make adjustments to your carbon use) is rich but not always super clear. For example, it suggests limiting the number of newspapers you receive. Well, I don’t have any delivered but there’s no way for me to tell it that. I THINK I can commit to the number that I will reduce by but if I’m already at zero, well, what can I do?

That said, it’s a really clean and good looking site and given the fact that it’s still in beta very strong. It’s similar in spirit in some ways to Carbon Rally but it doesn’t have the same competitive edge to it. Both are cool and ought to be checked out and supported.

Expectations that I’ll be wowed:
I’m looking forward to seeing the demo and hope that someone who knows the site will be able to make it clearer to me. I mean the idea is pretty simple but I’d love to see all it can do. I am keeping my fingers crossed that I’ll be wowed and don’t expect to be disappointed.

Chances that I’m way off base:
Pretty low. I think I get this one.

SpotScout

The Rap
From discouraging the carbon life style to celebrating it! Talk about niche, SpotScout is a parking space. It’s not really fair to say these guys are about celebrating carbon, in fact, a ton of fuel is spent cruising and looking for spaces so anything that improves the process will actually cut CO2. While I get and like the concept, it seems like it could be tricky – especially for on-street parking.

Reading about it makes the whole seem sound pretty complicated to me. There are “SpotCasters” who broadcast information about available spaces via the Web and “SpotScouts” who are looking for spaces. These can be spaces on the street, a driveway, parking lot, etc. I guess that since I don’t usually drive this doesn’t seem that pressing to me but I guess I could be missing something.

Expectations that I’ll be wowed:
Very low. I just don’t see the pressing need. Hey everyone, leave your cars at home if you can and take the train. Here in Boston they’re a way better alternative.

Chances that I’m way off base:
Pretty low. This seems like a cumbersome answer to a petty annoyance.

Urban Interactive

The Rap:
“Discover the secrets of a city with an interactive sight-seeing adventure,” hmmm, sounds kind of interesting I guess. But the site goes on to say, “learn about a city while solving riddles, performing stunts and competing for prizes.” Performing stunts? Listen, if I live in the city and am confronted by a gaggle of giggling yucksters on a fun filled adventure in my neighborhood I could see myself being a little less than amused.

I CRINGE when I see people acting like idiots and the idea of people “engaging in exquisitely goofy behavior” is probably more than I need to know. Last WebInno featured Untravel which seems like a more civilized and less annoying way to learn about a city.

Expectations that I’ll be wowed:
Very low. The idea of people wandering around searching for “lost relics” and interacting with comedians is enough to make my skin crawl – no thanks.

Chances that I’m way off base:
Pretty high. This is probably a really fun way to see a city and I’m sure that the people involved have done a great job in setting things up and preparing the groundwork so a good time is had by all.

Side Dishes:

MyHappyPlanet

The Rap:
“Learn a Language. Make Friends. Have Fun.” Hard to argue with the concept. Unfortunately, the site is in a closed beta so I can’t say much about it.

Expectations that I’ll be wowed:
Super high, I mean, how couldn’t they be since I don’t know anything about it.

Chances that I’m way off base:
How can I be off base?

Survol

The Rap:
“Building Wireless Data Use through Usability” Hi Survol, 1996 called and they want their Web site back. This is all about streaming data to mobile devices. I THINK i has to to with navigational data but I’ll be honest, the site is SO poorly designed and written that I glazed over in five seconds flat. And I actually really like geeky stuff but this was a snoozer.

Expectations that I’ll be wowed:
Pretty high. Look, just because the site stinks doesn’t mean that what they’re doing isn’t cool. I just can’t really get it online. I’ll bet that talking to a person about it will make everything clear. At least I hope so.

Chances that I’m way off base:
Moderate. It’s possible that this is just really, really boring . . .

Glassbooth

The Rap:
“Glassbooth connects you to the 2008 presidential candidate that represents your beliefs the best” Heady stuff and this site tackles it well. In fact, this is a totally awesome site. If you don’t know who you’ll be voting for next month, you have to go to this site. Not going, why that would be just dumb.

Basically, the site starts by asking you which issues matter to you more or less. You’re give 20 points to weight your preference. While I was doing this I was thinking, “Hey, it’s not clear if I’m saying I am for our against these things.” As a friend of mine would tell me, “Patience young Jedi.”

Why be patient? Because the very next thing that happens is a little quiz. There are only 20 questions and you’re asked to rate statements like, “I support or oppose gay marriage” or “I support or oppose increased funding for public schools” on a five point scale, from “strongly oppose” to “strongly support.” The questions are based on the issues you said mattered to you.

Once you take the quiz, it lets you know which candidate is closest to your point of view. For me, it came out with John Edwards and Mike Gravel being 81% similar to me. What’s really great about the site is the ability to drill down into all of the issues and to see each candidates statements, voting history, etc.

This is a totally awesome site. You’ve GOT to try it.

Expectations that I’ll be wowed:
I already am about as wowed as I can be with my clothes on.

Chances that I’m way off base:
I would put that at a great big ZERO.

Mofuse

The Rap:
“Increase your brand awareness & conquer the mobile Web!” I’m still trying to crack the Web that’s sitting right here still in front of me but I guess I could use this thing. I have a bunch of blogs and there’s one in particular that would benefit from a little mobile twist. Mofuse sounds totally smart and easy. I didn’t set it up because I don’t have a mobile browser that I don’t think sucks. Maybe tonight I’ll try it and check out the results on my wife’s Touch.

Expectations that I’ll be wowed:
Very high. I think this is a great sounding tool and am looking forward to see it in action.

Chances that I’m way off base:
Pretty low. This is fairly self-explanitory and if it works like they say it will be great.

Buildium

The Rap:
“#1 in online property management” Last WebInno saw two companies – FlipKey and iiManagement – dealing with property management. And now a third? Who knew that online property management was such a strong sector here in the Boston area? Just doesn’t do much for me.

Expectations that I’ll be wowed:
Very, very low. I though iiManagement was cool but it will be hard to impress me with this kind of thing two events in a row.

Chances that I’m way off base:
Very high. I think, as is often the case, that seeing it in person will be cooler than reading about it on the Web.

Socrato

The Rap:
“Test preparation getting smarter” First, I can’t stop giggling about the name for some reason. You know, half the time I hate getting old and then I see something like this and I’m so grateful I don’t have to deal with these kind of tests any more. My kids do – but, hey, that’s their problem. I kinda wish I’d had something like this when I was a kid though. Basically, you can take sample tests, see how you’ve done and receive study materials based on your results. Sounds pretty smart to me.

Expectations that I’ll be wowed:
Moderate. I think this is a great idea and can’t wait to hear more about it.

Chances that I’m way off base:
Petty low, this is a simple concept that I expect will be really helpful.

So that’s my take on the companies lined up for WebInno16. Of all of them, Glassbooth is the one that really gets my blood flowing. Check back later next week to see what REALLY happened.

MITX and the need for some new thinking

I’ve been so busy with my other blogs lately that I haven’t been writing here as much as I ought to – now that the 2008 events are underway I expect that to change.

I went out last night to MITX. The panel was moderated by Larry Weber and featured Tom Arrix of Facebook, Pauline Ores of IBM, Juan Santos or StudioCom, Suzanne Skop of MySpace and Jeff Taylor of Eons. The event drew a good crowd, probably 250 people. It was less the hip social media scene people and more folks that I think were looking for ways to understand what’s happening. (I will say that most of the people in the room raised their hands when asked if they were using Facebook or Myspace.)

In terms of content, I didn’t come away with anything especially new or revealing. It was what has become a fairly familiar conversation – the way people want to receive content is changing so the way marketers communicate with them needs to change as well. Yep, got it.

What made this panel perhaps more interesting was the quality of the panelists – or at least of the companies for whom they worked. This gave me an opportunity to raise an issue that’s been bothering me lately. Let me explain the issue and then get into the panel’s response.

I’m reading, “The Ball is Round – A Global History of Soccer.” It’s a pretty good book and has been a good introduction to the game. One of the things that surprised me is that in the early days, “amateurism” was the spirit of the day. What this meant was that players weren’t paid. So the club owners would invest in building stadiums (often just a few wood stands or even raised earth mounds for spectators) and charge a gate. At the time though, the players saw NONE of the money and that, of course, suited the owners just fine.

Fast forward a hundred or so odd years and replace stadiums with social networking sites, replace the fans with visitors and the players with content creators (who might also be visitors). There’s typically no admission fee but there’s a ton of money flowing into the pockets of the companies that build and maintain the sites. The value of these sites is the content and interaction provided by the members. But the people creating the value are seeing NONE of the revenue.

It seems like a pretty exploitative model to me and one – over time – that’s bound to change in time as people recognize that this is the same old economic model that unions were created to deal with wrapped in newer and friendlier fabric. So I can pay Linden Labs for the privilege of creating value for Linden Labs . . . hmmmm. What’s wrong with this picture?

So I asked the panel what they though. Whether they’re respective companies would ever think of a model that recognized and compensated people for the value they bring to the community. Guess what? The short answer is no. I was told that this was a naïve question, that people are already rewarded with intangible things like recognition and kudos.

Those early soccer players were also rewarded by the cheers of the fans but sooner or later they recognized that cheers don’t buy a whole hell of a lot.

One of the big ideas of this whole social media thing is the democratization of content creation and distribution and that’s awesome. But the result can’t be a concentration of money and control in the hands of the few built on the work of the many. That just isn’t going to be sustainable forever.

Is it time to form a content creators union? Is it time to organize the unrecognized social media workforce? Is it at least time to take a step back and ask these kinds of questions?
Let me know what you think.

Stupid car hijinx

So our driveway is kind of lumpy and icy. Last week, I was backing out and got stuck as I tried to turn around to pull out (as opposed to back out) onto the street. This has happened before. I put the car into neutral and tried pushing it. No dice.

Now I could have gone in to ask my wife for a hand but I didn’t. Instead, I put the car into first gear and went back to push it again. I rocked it for a while on a little ice ridge and then cleared it. The car kept right on going. I ran to stop or steer it but was too late. It careened off a wooded planter and into the back of my wife’s car.

I was not happy.

The damage appeared minimal – a headlight, a cracked bumper, a shattered wheel well liner – or so I thought. The next day I brought it to a local body shop.

First estimate – $2100. I nearly crapped my pants. We managed to whittle it down to a mere $800 but that still totally sucks. The problem, the guy explained, was that it’s a Saab and parts are expensive. It’s not that I didn’t know that, what kills me is how dumb I am sometimes. I guess I figured that in a standard transmission car, no gas means no go. Guess not . . .

[tags]Saab, accident, ice, driveway, stupid[/tags]