Category Archives: Business

The Code, The Diggs, and The Coming Revolution

digg-attack.jpg It may well be a watershed event for Web 2.0, or at least a significant test. Things have been bubbling for a few days, but today (5/1), it finally boiled over.

In case you haven’t heard — a few days ago the hex code needed to crack HD-DVD encryption was posted to the internet. It probably would have died out after a short, bright flare of blog attention, once the requisite number of geeks capable of actually using the code obtained it (and after the requisite number of geek wannabes posted chuckles about it on digg).

But, “the owners of this intellectual property” (cough, MPAA, cough, cough, AACS, cough) decided to descend with cease and desist orders in an amazing show of hubris. Aside from confirming that the code is legit and will indeed crack HD-DVDs (in and of itself, increasing attention), these desist orders immediately inspired indignant posts of the code on blogs and comments around the net yesterday. (I first saw it in Wil Wheaton’s cleverly oblique post Monday, but Boing Boing, and all of the notable blogs have posted — and some have removed it — it seems.)

And then Web 2.0 truly kicked in — inevitably, those posts were dugg, and soon, many Digg posts repeated the code. Not surprisingly, once “the owners of this intellectual property” saw the growing numbers of posts, Digg itself was sent a cease and desist order.

Here’s where things got interesting. Digg decided that their best course of action was to comply, and they removed the posts and suspended the accounts of the posters, in accordance with their Terms of Service.

Fire, meet fuel. Soon, it became clear that Digg would need to suspend a significant portion of their entire user base and block nearly all new diggs, as angry, DRM-hating diggers championed the cause of their fallen comrades in what has become known around the net as The Great Digg Revolt.

So, Digg, with a melodramatic post to end all posts, proclaimed that it was (finally) making a stand in favor of Web 2.0 values in the face of overbearing corporate interests (DRM), and that if that caused them to be shut down, at least they will have gone down swinging.

The same activities have transpired around the net at Web 2.0 sites (Wikipedia has gone on Protect mode for HD-DVD, etc. – Wired Story »).

Like a whack-a-mole game, “the owners of this intellectual property” order sites to take down the code as soon as they see it, and web denizens continue to repost it even more quickly. Google and other hosters/providers seem to be complying with requests to remove or issue take-down notices to users. So far, Digg seems to stand alone, testing the waters.

Will Digg die? No. It will be interesting to see if “the owners of this intellectual property” (I refuse to call them by their proper acronym) actually do sue, though. A court battle would inevitably outlast the urge to post and repost the code, but even if “the owners of this intellectual property” were to prevail, how code the code be removed from every nook and cranny that it now occupies? It can’t be stripped out of our memories and imaginations.

This is the first step. With any luck, The Great Digg Revolt and the wide posting of the code will draw enough attention to this subject that a national debate ensues.

DRM is, and always has been, a ridiculous construct. The idea of protecting authors’ rights is important. Doing it with a code that restricts audience members from using the works they have rightfully purchased from “the authors” is silly, though — it is often fraught with compatibility problems, makes implementation more difficult, makes customers mad because of unnecessary restrictions, and, in the end, can never remain secure for very long. As Steve Jobs pointed out in his “Thoughts on Music,” a great deal of time and resources must be devoted to protecting and changing that code.

What is the solution? I don’t pretend to know at this stage. There must be a way for authors and artists to receive fair compensation for their work and protection from exploitation without so severely restricting the rights of end users. For now, I plan to sit back and watch the fallout from the coming clash between average users and the omnipotent-seeming forces of “the owners of this intellectual property.” It’s sure to get more interesting from here.

(Thanks, Wil, Chris, Joel, and Sion; photo parts by Steve Woods)

Signs of Life

Indexed Often, when a presenter wants to express a complex topic, he or she will rely on charts and graphs to express concepts, comparisons, and more.

Statistics, charts, and graphs can help to clarify things, or — in the wrong hands — bore and/or mislead audiences. It’s tempting to lean on these tools too much, or craft them hastily from PowerPoint templates, draining them of their expressive power and value.

Two clever minds have thought about this ‘PowerPoint culture,’ and explore what might happen if life — in all of its complexity — were reduced to simple graphs and charts. The results are humorous, and yet fascinating.

Jessica Hagy maintains a unique blog, Indexed, whose content is expressed through hand-drawn notecards, each bearing a different explanatory graph or chart that covers one of life’s mysteries. It’s a compelling concept, and — best of all — an ongoing blog, so there’s always a new insight to enjoy.

A nice introduction, however, can be found in Le Grand Content, a movie by Clemens Kogler, inspired by Indexed.

Both are worth a look (and, in the case of Indexed, an RSS subscription):

(Thanks, Presentation Zen)

How Much Would You Pay?

Daring Fireball John Gruber, writer of one of my favorite blogs, Daring Fireball, will complete his first year of blogging for a living on April 20. In April 2006, John quit his regular gig to live full time off of writing his blog. It has been a successful experiment so far.

As with last year, John is looking for members to pay $19 annually to keep him afloat (there’s also membership free with any t-shirt purchase). Members receive access to full RSS feeds and other goodies that the general public can’t access. Plus, during the three-week membership drive (and since the beginning of the year, it seems), members are eligible for a raffle including 128 prizes (at last count).

An interesting concept, no? In a way, it reminds me of public broadcasting pledge drives, and it results in a similar high-quality, low-ad volume product that informs and entertains in ways that traditional broadcasts/blogs don’t often reach.

So, if you like DF (if you’ve never been, give it a look), consider supporting him. The membership drive ends tonight, but I’m sure that he’ll be glad to take you as a member any time.

I eagerly await the results of how successful this latest drive has been, as a bellwether for blogs as an independent, reader-supported business model. (Full disclosure: I’ve sent in my bucks.)