Oct 252007

Record companies are not enjoying the digital information revolution. Last year I ran into Magnatune, which is attempting to be the the first real Internet-era record label. Their motto is “We Are Not Evil“; and this is echoed in their commitment to no DRM, high quality CC by-nc-sa licensed try-before-you-buy mp3s, decent payment of artists, and full CD quality downloads.

One of the distinctive features of Magnatune is that customers decide the price they pay for an album (between $5 and $18). Because buyers know that a full 50% of what they pay goes directly to the artist (rather than the measly 5% or so that artists usually get when you buy a CD), they are often willing to pay even more than is recommended.

Radiohead recently tried a similar scheme with its new album In Rainbows.  Similarly, they found that fans are even more willing to purchase music when they know their money isn’t being hoarded by a greedy middle-man. Continue reading »

Oct 122007

Today it is possible to get a map of essentially anywhere on Earth, but in years gone by there were plenty of empty holes in even the best world maps.  A favourite way of indicating that these gaps were unknown and potentially dangerous was to mark “Here be Dragons” on the map (unless it was a Pirate Treasure Map, which usually had “Here be Sharks” instead).

An OpenStreetMap contributor recently moved out of London to the city of Durham, which has not yet been mapped in the OSM database.  He has decided not to use any map that he can’t legally modify and display however he likes, which basically leaves him with the dragons.   When friends invite him to a certain location, they need to sketch a map rather than simply give an address to look up.  That is, until he has added that location to the OpenStreetMap.

He is writing about his experiences as he maps Durham and evicts the dragons, and his determination not to use restrictive maps should make it interesting.

Oct 052007

Last weekend Clansi and I drove down to Geelong for a Conference on Science and Christianity, and my clever wife had the idea that an audio book might be a fun way to stay entertained in the car. She found a recently produced recording of “The Horse and His Boy” at the library, and it really was a fantastic way to enjoy the hours of driving.

I have never fully enjoyed listening to music while travelling in cars, because my brain ends up fighting to differentiate between the road noise and the recording. Speech, I have found, is much simpler to detect and thus more enjoyable while on the road. Having a flow of words to interpret also helps keep the brain active, which I strongly suspect diminishes the dangers of fatigue.

My recent “discovery” of audio books led me on a search to find whether this medium has been liberated by Free Culture, Continue reading »

Sep 212007

Virgin Mobile Australia is being sued by a family in Texas that claims the corporation used a photo of their teenage daughter Alison on billboards and website advertisements without consent. The Sydney Morning Herald reported on this today, but it was reported in Australian IT months ago.

It turns out the photo was taken by Alison’s youth counsellor, Justin Ho-Wee Wong, who shares his photos on Flickr under a Creative Commons Atribution license.  It quickly becomes obvious how little people actually understand about Creative Commons. Continue reading »

Aug 112007

The Sydney Morning Herald has published an article about an MP angry at a fake MySpace profile. Although the profile has now been removed, Stewart McArthur was upset that the “offensive, vulgar and inflammatory” fake site was set up in his name.

In closing, the article concludes:

The Web 2.0 phenomenon which includes sites like MySpace, Facebook and YouTube has come under increasing fire from government and industry due to its largely user authored content which is notoriously difficult to regulate.

This raises an interesting issue – isn’t freedom of expression one of the highly esteemed aspects of the participatory Web 2.0? Re-emergence of independent and individual voices is one of the exciting things about read/write culture and the technologies that facilitate it. Why should it be regulated?