“I asked for an OS and all they gave me was these stupid colored squares!”
After the success story that was Windows XP and the more recent Windows 7, Microsoft are upsetting a lot of purists by disallowing users from booting directly to the desktop and the beloved Start button. Instead — just like anyone else — they’ll be dropped into the rich Metro UI graphical environment.
If you are fascinated by the massive stone structures of Stonehenge and the Egyptian pyramids, the temple ruins of Baalbek will put you at your wits’ end. A part of these ruins next to the Litani River in the Bekaa Valley of Lebanon belong to the Roman period but major portions of the ruins are believed to hail from a much older pre-historic civilization. These ruins are hailed as one of the most intriguing wonders of the world.
Even though I know what it is, and what its purpose was, I can honestly say that I never had to use one. They were part and parcel of my parents old-timey record collection.
Heh. Kids today, eh? They haven’t lived. The amount of useless stuff that they just won’t ever know or understand is mounting furiously. They may pull out your old v.90 MODEM and ask, “What on Earth is this? Is it a telephone?!”
But when it comes to terminology, some things just refuse to die…
A dashboard, for instance, is not that piece of plastic that stretches across the front of the car behind the steering wheel, where you store your collection of parking tickets and assorted crap. It is actually from a bygone ere when horse and buggy was the common means of transportation. The dashboard was a piece of wood put up as a shield to protect your face and clothes when the horse took off running and its feet started slinging (or dashing) mud up at you.
So, I wonder what terminology that we take for granted will be passed down without thought as to its original meaning. I mean, we use a lot of expressions that we don’t truly understand. That doesn’t stop us from understanding the context of the expression, but most people can’t explain the origin.
But then, there are some things that just need to go away. They belong to the past, and only made sense then. Now, they’re just a pain in the neck. Checks (or even cheques, if you prefer), are one item that comes to mind. I mean, here we are with technology being bent to handle a financial transaction in the form of a piece of paper. Why bother at all? (I’m sure somebody knows why, and would just love to explain it to me!)
On the plus side, though, technology has already made some things go away. Things that were never fun — like waiting for your photographs to be developed, for instance. Our kids will never know what photo development is, and they may even laugh at the mere notion. How silly? Physically taking (or sending) something away to be converted into something else that you pick up (or have mailed back to you).
And almost on a daily basis, there are other acts that are fast becoming a thing of the past. One day, your kids will look at you in disbelief if you talk about having to leave the house to rent a movie. (“You’re crazy!”) They will be beside themselves with laughter if you dare to mention that an encyclopedia was an actual physical book… with pages… printed on paper! (“It must have been a nightmare!”)
How long will it be before the humble action of writing will be abandoned. It’s already starting to die out. I think I can go for months at a time without ever needing to write anything on paper. And heaven help you should you make mention as to what a typewriter was once used for. And if you still own one… you risk being called a relic yourself!
Here are some more things that I can think of in a pinch:
1. Toy guns
2. Candy cigarettes
3. Going to the bank
4. Floppy diskettes
5. Compact cassettes
And, quite possibly, I could add one more item to that list (at serious risk to my health)… the original Star Wars Trilogy!?
When every problem looks like a nut… get the government involved…
Y’know, a common saying you hear nowadays in arguments about music piracy is, “I think people should get paid for their creative work”. I do too… most of the time. Actually, I think you should get paid for how well the free market likes you and decides to pay you. It is your job to figure out how to run your business to make money.
If you are being pirated, it probably means that there’s something wrong with the service to begin with. Somebody finds it more enjoyable or puts more value on the experience of pirating your work than to get it via the channels you are offering. (We’ll get to the “channels” in a moment.) Therefore you need to find a way to make your product more valuable than the pirated one.
Let me repeat that: It is your responsibility, as the person who wants to make money, to find a way to make your users happy enough that they want to pay you.
I don’t know of any other example of a business where I can launch my business, make money, have a competitor come in and then beg the government to make them go away. And that’s what piracy is, legitimate or not. Let’s face it, it’s nothing new. It wasn’t heralded in by the rise of the Intertubes. It wasn’t even something that arose out of the possibility of CD copying. Pirates have been around since it’s been possible to duplicate onto a tape delivery system. It was being done by kids with their 8 Tracks, it was being done by your Uncle Ernie on his Compact Cassette system, and now it’s being done digitally by most anyone who has the desire.
But to get back to Argument 1: People who complain that piracy hurts their business is simply avoiding the problem of providing a product that is marketplace savvy enough to make money by giving people something worth paying for. Sure, piracy is incredible efficient so it makes your problem harder but why make that everyone’s problem? Technology’s job is to make life more efficient and better for end users, it’s called progress. And where music is concerned, if the kids don’t think your music is sufficiently valuable then they won’t pay for it. Of course, the other side of the coin is marketing and demographics. Music of the pop culture variety has been consistently marketed to a young audience that don’t appreciate economic principles. In fact, in some cases, they are so young that they haven’t developed an ethical view-point, and that means they don’t care.
Even at this juncture, the entertainment industry are still completely in the dark as to what could be done. Their business model, which they’ve only made shallow attempts to improve and innovate, is still rooted in the days of the 78. That was a time when no ordinary individual had the resources to copy the medium. Of course, the fact that they never foresaw the effect that Compact Cassette would have on their bottom line was one thing. But to repeat and worsen their problems with the rush to market that was Compact Disc was just stupidity. In every case, their attempts to shore up their draining income were done after the fact, and poorly at that. In most cases, attempts to halt copying simply injured the innocent users (such as locking up the Mac!)
But the rise of digital media and the ability to shoot it across the world in minutes is what brought us to this point in history. I have some theories that might hurt, but I believe they are true and I’ll go as far to call them factual…
Fact One: Piracy is here to stay. The horse has already bolted, there’s no sense in closing the gate. At least not with legislation or by heavy-handed means. The real pirates — the ones that sell millions of bogus copies — should be handled by law enforcement as has always been the case. And don’t raise the specter of how inefficient that may be. Make those laws tough, and make the arrests. It’s always going to be hard to do.
Fact Two: In the majority of cases, the people doing “content theft” fall into two huge buckets: a. Kids with little to no monetary means to purchase said product, b. Adults with little to no monetary means to purchase products. At the end of the day, if something is worth paying money for then people will do that. Shopping has been proven to release certain chemicals in the brain. Stealing makes the average person feel nothing but guilt. And, if there is no associated guilt, then something is wrong with your product that renders it “worthless” in the thief’s eyes, which brings me to…
Fact Three: Popular music is aimed at teenagers and kids, usually tweens and sometimes even younger. Maybe I’m wrong and it really isn’t, but they’re the ones who seem to enjoy the current popular artists of the day. While I generally don’t think there’s anything wrong with the music or doing this as a business tactic, I do think that a great disservice is being perpetrated. To this day, people rave about The Beatles. Not just old people but people of my generation who were born as they were closing shop, and even young people who caught it from their parents. They serve as an example of greatness that will live on for quite some time. So my thought is this: can you foresee the same thing happening with the popular music of today? Certainly, even its audience don’t value it in any way that will lead to posterity. I’m quite certain of that. And, I saypopular because there is another stratum of music that doesn’t suffer anywhere near the same amount of piracy, which brings me to…
Fact Four: The music industry has lost its mind and lost its way. Their answer to a decline in music sales in the 1990s was to marginalize or ditch the artists that “didn’t do so well”. This is madness! Art isn’t supposed to work like that. Admittedly, the industry has a right to drop an artist that just isn’t cutting it, but to drop an artist because they don’t match sales with the Black Eyed Peas is complete lunacy, and here’s why. The don’t market the product effectively. The drop in sales was directly attributed to junk radio and almost no promotion to an adult market. I mean, think about it, where do you routinely hear about new adult-oriented music? Unless it’s radio-friendly fodder, forget about it. You may find it online on some niche web site or hear it from a friend. At the end of the day, the traditional channels have been given over to one or two colors of the entire spectrum (or lost to some bloated idiot ranting about women’s productive rights). And now, in the 2000s (and in spite of “rampant” theft), the sales of pop music are up and rising year on year. And where are those sales coming from you ask? iTunes and other online retailers, that’s where. Essentially, the same files that can be freed of their DRM’ness and freely transmitted across the planet to anyone. And that brings me to my final ridiculous question…
Could SOPA ever be used to shut down iTunes or Amazon?
Consider, if you will, what became of the once mighty “radio”. It was theInternet of its time. In its hey-day there was nothing else to compare. Nothing.
Eventually, it became a part of the entertainment spectrum along with television and movies.
Then one day, this big bully of a company started buying up all the ittie-bittie, teensie-weensie radio stations, and made them all into one big stupid pile of dung. Wherever you go, you can tune into “60s, 70s, 80s, and beyond”, or the wonders of (yet more) “classic rock”. It. All. Sounds. The. Same. It’s the very epitome of “homogeneous”. And as such, it’s pretty lame, dull, and downright crap.
Now, rocket forward to the 1990s. The glorious rise of the Internet. The home of geeks and nerds on a worldwide scale, geeking out with impunity. Free from commerce, and all that Microsoft-y type stuff that made them gag spontaneously. But, woe, for Capitalism was on the march, and it started to wreak havoc on the once-wonderful web…
All right, it’s not that bad. In fact, the ability to transact from the comfort of one’s home is probably the single biggest societal gain we’ve had as a result. But there, in the background, is the constant hubbub of the ever present home-grown Internet personality, and the wonders of the blogosphere, there to guide you in your personal choices on a range of topics. Even further back (for the humble consumer) is the still stirring voice of the geek, still playing with glee and mirth in this now-congested playground.
But they don’t want all that noise. They just want to turn it into disturbia. The powers that be have seen the profit they can make, and they want to make it bigger, much bigger. The Internet is still in its infancy, and being practically devoid of regulation, means it can be twisted and turned in heinous ways. All for the love of money.
Yes, they want to tune out the noise so they can sell you themselves, and themselves only. While the single mother blogging for fun and profit, or the independent musician plying his craft, has your attention, they can’t sell you more shit.
That’s what Net Neutrality is all about. It’s about not making their footprint bigger than mine, or yours. They can’t still your voice, but with some tweaks here, and some IP filtering there, they can make you as quiet as possible without evoking a complete backlash. It’s already started to happen (http://techland.time.com/2012/04/16/netflix-ceo-takes-swing-at-comcast-xfinity-over-net-neutrality/).
This will happen almost unnoticed by many. Only the watchful eye of people like yourself, and the many concerned parties on the case, will sound the alarm. If you don’t want the Internet to become passé then you must concern yourself with the monster in the closet that is the very real danger to Net Neutrality.