Fresh Faces 21

They say Saturday night’s alright for fighting but it’s even better for photography if you ask me – and this past Saturday was one of the best. It was the first time in a while that I shot full on strangers on the street and it was a blast.

I always enjoy photographing people but there’s something different about approaching someone you don’t know, in a place you have no connection to, and asking for a photograph. There are three responses. People can ignore you. They can say “no.” They can say “yes.” I’m fascinated by how people respond, how they interact with me and how they face the camera.

If you’ve had your picture taken by me you know there’s no mistaking what I’m doing. I stand less than two feet from whomever I’m photographing and my lens (a Tokina 12-24) is not something you can easily ignore. People can use the UV filter as a mirror and many do. Then there’s the external flash. No, there’s nothing about the process that isn’t in the person’s face and I like it that way.

Occasionally people suggest that I use a zoom so I can photograph people more candidly. No way! I want people to know what I’m doing. I always ask and I want them to share their face with me as they would anyone else – openly and looking clearly ahead. It’s how we look at the world and that’s what I want in the faces I photograph.

Saturday night was spent as a handful of bars and sidewalks in Boston and Cambridge – Revolution Rock, Zuzu, the Corner at the Middle East and Mass Ave in Central Square.

Everyone was really great. I think in the whole night there were only one or two people who said “no” to being photographed. Most people were totally into it and had a great time. Here are some of the shots from that night. You can see all my faces on Flickr.

People Together
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One thing I wonder about is whether or not to write descriptions of the people in my pictures. Sometimes I’d love to but I think that changes things too much.

Crazy Content Concerns?

I was lucky to see Len Edgerly talk about eBooks at PodCamp 5 in Boston. His talk was mostly on the processes around publishing and promoting eBooks. What interests me about them is their role in copyright and the licensing of our cultural commons. This was something I was able to chat with both Len and Paul Gillen about later during the event.

First this is something that’s bugged me for a while and every time I think of it I get irritated all over again. Here’s my deal on all this.

The written word is the most common – and perhaps the most effective – form of information sharing that exists. Printed material can be stored in many conditions, produced fairly cheaply and shared easily. But this isn’t a paean to the the physical form of the book. It’s about what the book represents – the cheap and easy transferral of ideas.

A book can sit on a shelf for hundreds of years and its content is still as available and accessible as the day it was printed. Will the same be true of eBooks? Will those who control proprietary distribution formats be around in 200 years? Will they or those who follow continue to support the devices needed to access the content? What happens if my library is locked into a device that’s no longer sold or supported?

These are important issues when thinking about our culture.

It’s not just the physical issues though that bother me – it’s the idea that one has to enter into a licensing agreement to access some of the central assets of our shared heritage. For THOUSANDS OF YEARS people shared content without restriction. People “borrowed” content from each other without attribution. People created and shared and consumed content more or less as they wished.

Now content is locked down – and has been for around three hundred years. In terms of our history of writing (to say NOTHING of creating content in general) this is less than 10 percent of our literate history. It seems crazy that thousands of years of human behavior can have been so totally turned on its head in so short a period – but not surprising I suppose.

When I was talking with Len he brought up that copyright was designed to encourage creativity and to reward content creators. I have no problem with that but it’s a little more complicated for me. I mean it isn’t as though people DIDN’T create content before copyright laws went into effect. Really, a whole ton of stuff was written before that – the Bible, Don Quixote, the Decameron, the Iliad, the Odyssey, the Tale of Genji are just a few that popped into my head.

I do agree that copyright protects creators – especially in an ear of perfect and frictionless identical copies of virtually any type of content. But that protection needs to be considered in the context of our culture. Today, even incidental inclusion of protected content is frown upon – let alone using elements of that content to create something new. Rights need to be reconsidered to encourage content creation – not punish and restrict it for decades and decades and decades.

So what does this have to do with eBooks? I think that what’s happening over time is that we’re becoming desensitized to the real nature of our relationship with content. One used to be able to share a book with a friend – now not so much. One used to be confident that the book on the shelf would be there and ready to read today, tomorrow or decades down the line – now that isn’t certain.

I realize this isn’t especially well thought out and that it might be a little all over the place but to voluntarily ceed our right to access content to technology companies seems crazy to me. What do you think?

Fresh Faces 20

In the past few weeks I’ve picked up the pace on photographing people again. Yay! Not at the rate I once was but certainly faster than I have been over the past several months. And I expect that’s only going to continue as the Fall event season gets under way. Over the past several weeks I shot at WebInno and a party at 1781 Comm.

Here are the recent faces. You’ll see some familiar favorites as well as some new ones.

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Well, there they are. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do. More to come!

Are they stupid or do they think we are?

Today the Republican Governors Association launched an advertising campaign targeting Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick. The gist of the campaign is that Governor Patrick is responsible for the State’s high unemployment rate (8.8% in August 2010). It made me wonder – how does our unemployment rate stack up against other states? How do states with Democratic governors stack up against states with Republican governors? How does Governor Patrick compare with other governors across the country?

Here’s what I learned:

– Of the 50 States, Massachusetts is 26th. Just about in the middle.
– The average unemployment rate for states with Democratic governors is 8.55%.
– The average unemployment rate for states with Republican governors is 8.67%.
– Haley Barbour, the Governor of Mississippi, is the head of the Republican Governors Association.
– In August the unemployment rate in Mississippi was 10%.

These are very simple and demonstrable facts. They raised a few questions for me:

– Will the Republican Governors Association be running campaigns against any members whose states have higher unemployment rates than Massachusetts?
– Are the members of the Republican Governors Association stupid?
– Do the members of the Republican Governors Association think we are stupid?

I guess I’m just not understanding their point. I mean if Republican governors were running states with really *low* unemployment rates I suppose they’d have a point. They don’t. They are responsible for higher unemployment rates then their Democratic counterparts. Stupid.

WebInno27 Preview

Wow, I have been pretty lazy blog wise the past month. What was I thinking? Could it be the new job? The vacation? The general lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer? Check all of the above and you *might* have the answer. Now though none of those excuses are going to cut it. Just like Jimmy Cliff sang, “Good Times are Gone for Ever.” Sniff. But what the heck, there’s no reason for tears – summer was making me fat and lazy, like a tick engorged on the blood of some unsuspecting sap sleeping in the grass.

But enough about me! What’s really interesting (not that I’m saying I’m not) is what’s coming up at WebInno next week. Can you believe it’s number 27? That’s pretty incredible. It’s been going on for four or five years? I can’t recall but it’s been a while. Kudos to all involved for keeping the event relevant all this time. And what makes an event like this relevant? Why the companies of course! Let’s see whats on tap for Monday night!

Main Dishes:

Play140 – This is a Twitter game. Games are good. I don’t know if this is a good game but it seem like it might be fun. It certainly isn’t something that’s going to boost your productivity during the course of the day, that’s for sure! In this case tag is TAG and stands for The Acronym Game. Basically every six minutes a tweet goes forth with an acronym and you need to try to come up with a funny/clever meaning for it. Right now there aren’t very many people playing. There are only 72 followers and the result is that most of the game looks like this:

    Tweet 1 – Welcome to 4:30PM game of TAG! We tweet an acronym. You tweet a funny + creative phrase that follows the letters! Rules: http://go.p140.co
    Tweet 2 – Time for TAG! The category is GENERAL. You have four minutes to reply to this acronym: F.D.O.Q.
    Tweet 3 – D’oh! There weren’t enough players for the 4:30PM game. We’ll be back in 6 minutes with another game. Thanks for playing!

There, now wasn’t that fun? My guess is that there’s something more going on here than meets the eye. At least I hope so because if this is all there is there isn’t very much at all. Now one thing the company does have is Shawn Broderick. He’s done a couple of companies AND he’s into gaming so I do have faith there may be some good to come out of this. We’ll find out more on Monday.

I do want to say I’ve played a couple of rounds now and it is fun. Of course it means my Twitter stream is filled with random nonsense but then so is my life.

Turning Art – We’ve all gotten used to subscription based content services. We all love Netflix. Turning Art is teaching the subscription content model a new trick by replacing music or movies with genuine wall-mountable art. Starting at $9.99 per month Turning Art wil ship you a new piece every three months. (You can increase the frequency of exchange for more money – $19.99 gets you something new every month.)

It’s a fairly simple and cool idea. Like Netflix you get to build your queue from their collection. They will ship you a print of the work and then you send it back. You’re also able to bye the original of the work – but that’s not for the faint of heart with many costing multiple thousands of dollars.

Still, if you’re looking for a way to get more art into your life you could choose worse ways to go about doing it.

Aisle Buyer – Ah the Holy Grail of retail! Shopping without shopkeepers. No lines, no cashiers, nothing but you and the object of your desire. A few gestures with your smart phone and you’re the owner of whatever it is you want. Not only that but you can read and write product reviews right there in the aisle. Tell me that isn’t cool?

There don’t seem to be a *ton* of places to shop just yet but that’s OK. This seems like a solid and legit idea. I hope it catches on because I’d love to shop this way.

Side Dishes:

Discov.ir– Not the credit card that pays you back but a tool for receiving filtered information on topics of interest. Using your existing social channels discov.ir allows you to apply rules and then delivers a stream of data as it becomes available. Cool I guess but I’m not sure if I need it. The interwebs seem like they do a very good job of sending the information I want already.

HuddleHub – Have more fantasy sports teams than you can shake a stick at? Yeah, me neither. But some people do – and for those people there’s HuddleHub. It allows you to manage you fantasy teams from a single application. Not a bad idea but just not one for me. Punt.

Webvia – A Performance Inbound Marketing Platform (PIMP). Look, I like acronyms as much as the next guy but come on. Do we really need to pimp our Websites? And another thing – the site is AS CONFUSING AS HELL. We have PIMP we have Design, Build, Optimize, Repeat. We have the fat lady singing. It *says* the site is for Web professionals but I don’t get that vibe.

Custom Made – Billed as a source for artisans this site is designed to connect you with sources of custom and hand made items. Finding people to do custom work is a pain. The items on this site – and the people behind them – seem very cool. I want to check this out on Monday.

Brass Monkey – Use your iPhone as a controller for games on shared screens. Don’t let it sound confusing, that’s my fault. It’s cool – or at least it might be. It’s hard to say if it matters but what the hell, it seems worth trying.

Athleague – Not being an athlete or an intramural administrator I can’t attest to the troubles of organizing leagues or events but having attempted to organize smaller less complex things I can imagine it is a real pain in the butt. It would be cool if their engine could do more than sports (and maybe it does). I’ll have to ask about that.

Zazu – I have no idea what this is. When I tried to go to the site I got a bad gateway. Oh well, back to the drawing board guys . . .

Episend – Aside from the fact that this sounds like a hair removal product it is very very cool. Sending large files is a pain in the butt. Just the other day I had to get a video to a client and getting them to my FTP site was more trouble than it should have been. If I could just tweet a link – without requiring them to be a member of anything – it would be awesome.