More Grokster follow-ups

A few emails in reaction to my Grokster piece, both pointing me to more detailed responses elsewhere. David Goldenberg writes, “Thought you might enjoy this most recent interview with Mark Cuban over at Gelf Magazine…”:

At first glance, it would seem that the Supreme Court has dealt Mark Cuban, who helped fund Grokster’s legal team, a pretty severe blow. But Cuban says the Supreme Court focused on how the technology was marketed, and not the technology itself, and thinks that the ruling will stem any moves by Congress toward passing laws that could potentially be even more restrictive of technology….

Gelf Magazine: Is this a major victory for the entertainment and recording industries?

Mark Cuban: No. It’s a major victory for lawyers everywhere.

And according to Business Week’s interview with Larry Lessig, the famed intellectual property specialist is in agreement:

Q: Why do you think the Supreme Court decided to take on this case rather than letting the issues get decided in Congress?

A: Increasingly, this court is oblivious to the costs of its own decisions. The Reagan Administration pushed the regulatory-impact statements. I think we need an equivalent Ronald Reagan to push the judicial-opinion-impact statement that tries to calculate the efficiency costs of certain legal rules. I continue to be disappointed in Justice Souter’s obtuseness to the costs of the complexity that he adds to the copyright system….

Q: So the problem with the decision is just that the Supreme Court rendered an opinion at all, rather than letting legislators decide?

A: Right. By making it a process that goes through the courts, you’ve just increased the legal uncertainty around innovation substantially and created great opportunities to defeat legitimate competition. You’ve shifted an enormous amount of power to those who oppose new types of competitive technologies. Even if in the end, you as the innovator are right, you still spent your money on lawyers instead of on marketing or a new technology.

In Congress, we might have a lot of argument about what the statute should look like. But that would be a process that would resolve this intensely political issue politically. Instead, Justice Souter engages in common-law lawmaking, which is basically judges making up the law they want to apply to this particular case. And not just Supreme Court judges—what they’ve done is invite a wide range of common-law lawmaking by judges around the country trying to work out the details of what this intent standard really is.

Thanks to Rob Hof, Business Week’s Silicon Valley bureau chief, for the tip about the interview (also see the comments thread on his BW blog post). I kept waiting for Lessig’s comment to appear on his blog, and I’m still waiting; this confirms my suspicions that the so called “inducement test” from the ruling is anything but a bright line.

Whose podcasting directory is this?

itunes podcasting directory

New York Times: Web Content by and for the Masses. The tone of John Markoff’s article is fairly laudatory toward the efforts by various large corporations toward what I am starting to think of as Our Internet—the part of the Web featuring content that touches our lives or that we generate ourselves. Markoff’s examples include Flickr, the applications that have been layered on top of Google Maps, Yahoo’s My Web, Apple and Microsoft’s embrace of RSS in their browsers, Will Wright’s Spore, Technorati, and the infamous LA Times wikitorial experiment.

So what about the most recent corporate foray into Our Internet: Apple’s new podcasting support? The subscription model is clean, the price is right, you can grab individual episodes or subscribe to a podcast indefinitely, clean model to take the content with you, and clear instructions on how to publish your own feeds (even if the namespace is funky). What’s not to like?

Well, take a look at the Podcasting Directory (iTunes required, or see screenshot). Who creates the content in this directory? How deep do you have to go before you find true user-created content? On first glance, it looks to me like podcasting is about Disney, ABC, ESPN, public and commercial radio, and Adam Curry. if you scroll down there’s “Indie Podcasts,” but that’s a tiny percentage of the directory’s public face that looks like Our Internet. Everything else is business as usual.

The irony is that if you dig into the directory through one of the category links on the lower left, the balance is redressed: there are 816 audioblogs (as of this writing) listed, compared to probably three hundred other listings. But from a promotional standpoint, it’s all about big content (and maybe about ad or sponsorship revenue for Apple; surely the presence of ABC, Disney, and ESPN all above the fold suggests some kind of promotional package with ABC Corporate).

And because podcasts are just audio, there are none of the attention-sharing features (like searchability, tags, or even hyperlinks) that might help provide automated ways of discovering and surfacing new voices. Unless I’m missing something? But it seems like we have a level content publishing model but a very un-level content promotional and discovery market.

Soli deo gloria

An emotional and thought provoking sermon from Jennifer Mills-Knutsen at Old South on Sunday, on the occasion of music director Gregory Peterson’s last service prior to taking his post at Luther College. In the course of the sermon, she raised John Wesley’s instructions to singers, which I hadn’t read in a while and which seemed particularly pertinent, not only to our choir on Sunday but to me as I prepare to sing Mahler’s 8th:

  1. Learn these tunes before you learn any others; afterwards learn as many as you please.
  2. Sing them exactly as they are printed here, without altering or mending them at all; and if you have learned to sing them otherwise, unlearn it as soon as you can.
  3. Sing all. See that you join with the congregation as frequently as you can. Let not a slight degree of weakness or weariness hinder you. If it is a cross to you, take it up, and you will find it a blessing.
  4. Sing lustily and with a good courage. Beware of singing as if you were half dead, or half asleep; but lift up your voice with strength. Be no more afraid of your voice now, nor more ashamed of its being heard, than when you sung the songs of Satan.
  5. Sing modestly. Do not bawl, so as to be heard above or distinct from the rest of the congregation, that you may not destroy the harmony; but strive to unite your voices together, so as to make one clear melodious sound.
  6. Sing in time. Whatever time is sung be sure to keep with it. Do not run before nor stay behind it; but attend close to the leading voices, and move therewith as exactly as you can; and take care not to sing too slow. This drawling way naturally steals on all who are lazy; and it is high time to drive it out from us, and sing all our tunes just as quick as we did at first.
  7. Above all sing spiritually. Have an eye to God in every word you sing. Aim at pleasing Him more than yourself, or any other creature. In order to do this attend strictly to the sense of what you sing, and see that you heart is not carried away with the sound, but offered to God continually; so shall your singing be such as the Lord will approve here, and reward you when he cometh in the clouds of heaven.

While Rule 5 (also known as the Tenor Rule) and Rule 6 (the Bass Rule) are always pertinent, Rule 7 is interesting in the context of praise. The question of what it means to praise God through song (or any music, really) is of more than passing academic interest if, like me, you are starting to ask questions about the nature of faith, but you spend every Sunday in the choir loft instead of the congregation.

Ghost in the machine

I want to let this one go but I can’t; it’s stuck in my head.

I was at Home Depot for the third time in 72 hours or so at lunch. On Friday I picked up the wrong module for the media distribution center, and when I went in this morning to return it and get the correct one, I picked up the right box. But when I got it to the car and was driving to the office, I opened it at a stoplight and realized there was no module inside—just a punch-down tool.

I thought, Great. Not only would I not believe myself if I went back with the opened box and told them there was no module inside when I bought it, but I had used the self-checkout and so there wouldn’t even be a cashier to vouch that they had seen me.

But I went back and stood in the return line, and did a slow burn as I waited, and waited. And when I explained to the return cashier, whose first language was not English, she called over the MOD, and then the head cashier.

I started telling the story to the head cashier, but she cut me off. “You were here this morning, weren’t you? I saw you.” Yeah, I said. “Go ahead and get a correct module. Sorry for the trouble.”

I had set myself up for nothing but trouble: go in first thing in the morning, take the purchase path that involves no human contact, walk out with no proof that I hadn’t just taken the module out of the box. But because someone happened to see me and vouch for me, the system made an exception.

Hugely important, that human ability to make judgments and to decide that there should be exceptions. It doesn’t get implemented in code that way, and we forget about it all the time. But we are more than just ghosts in our machines. Sometimes we’re here to make decisions they can’t, so that people who need help can get it.

See if you can’t lock down that plaster chunk, Artoo.

i think this shopvac has a bad motivator!

Looking at HouseInProgress’s post about their weekend painting exploits, I was struck by the incursion of a familiar silhouette into the bottom photo in the article, just beneath those fantastic windows. Yes, the familiar big ass ShopVac, steady presence in all good home renovation projects.

Which of course leads me to the comparison: ShopVacs are the astromech droids of the houseblogging world. Tireless workers dealing with thankless jobs, they’ll all essentially identical except for the colors.

(I can’t be the only one to be geeky enough to make this comparison, can I? No, I see I’m not. I’m probably the first one to note that the high-pitched whine a one-gallon ShopVac makes when you accidentally tip it over and lodge the vacuum float in the top of the unit sounds a lot like Artoo’s squeal when he gets his droid ass shot off in the Death Star trenches, though.)

The blog in the machine: redesign of, the official site of the DNC, has relaunched, as I hinted this morning. Much more prominent messaging on the party’s agenda, strategy and initiatives.

The code-head thing I hinted about? Well, for one thing, the site is now being served as XHTML 1.0 Transitional (though there are some minor validation weirdnesses). For another, if you view source on the main site pages (i.e. the pages that aren’t part of the Blog Formerly Known As Kicking Ass), you see mt-* URLs, including mt-search.cgi. Word has it that the whole DNC website has been ported to a customized, mostly static version of Movable Type.

I could be wrong, but I think this is the first time a blogging platform has taken over an entire web presence for a major American political party. (For all I know, that sentence doesn’t need the qualifier “American,” but I don’t have enough information to go out on that limb.)

Peer to peer found harmful

So Grokster loses. Software developers are responsible for the actions of their users. Hollywood’s dying business model lives to hemorrhage money and customers for another few years.

At least the ruling attempts to provide a test that should help lay down a line for evaluating whether peer to peer developers are subject to litigation:

“One who distributes a device with the object of promoting its use to infringe copyright … is liable for the resulting acts of infringement by third parties using the device, regardless of the device’s lawful uses,” Justice David Souter wrote in the ruling.

I will be interested to see Lessig’s take on the test. It seems to me that it might be possible to interpret that test pretty broadly.

Media wiring day 1: Go Fish

Yesterday was the second day in a row it’s hit or exceeded 100° F (that’s about 38 C, for those of you following along in metric countries) here in Boston. On the face of it, not a rewarding day for home improvement projects. But the open stud bays in two of our bedrooms aren’t going to go away by themselves. And my spur-of-the-moment declaration that I was going to run wiring for phone, cable, etc. up the bays before I closed them has taken on a life of its own. Lisa was particularly enamored of the idea of a phone upstairs, as our new air conditioning, while not loud by any stretch of the imagination, still generates enough white noise to make hearing the phone downstairs more difficult.

So I started running cable yesterday afternoon after returning from church. And quickly learned a few things. Like: it might have made sense to drill my own holes for the wiring between floors, rather than sharing space with the pipes the AC contractors ran. (No real issues until I got to the final run into the basement, at which point things started to get very tight.) Also learned the benefit of dedicated wiring conduit and true bundled cable. I fished my lines from basement to second floor one at a time, since I didn’t have a whacking great hole to drag them through, and it took me almost all afternoon. And I still haven’t run the speaker wire, which I decided to add to the mix at the last minute because I thought it might come in handy.

But I have coax cable, terminated on both ends with F-connectors, and category 5 cable run to the office and the master bedroom, as well as cat 3 which I’ve punched down into the phone block. Next steps: pull the speaker wire; mount the receptacles and pull the cables through them; and gird up my loins and pull the cable wire across the ceiling of the library into the distribution center so the cable connections will light up. I’ve resisted doing the last point for long enough. After that I’ll insulate the bays (since there was only horsehair insulation, I feel bad closing them up without providing at least some modicum of real R-factor) and hang drywall, and start plastering. Then we get to paint. (Joy, joy.)

Unfortunately all these next steps are going to have to wait till Wednesday, since I have rehearsals at the beginning of the week.

QTN™: Dogfish Head Midas Touch

It’s been far too long since I’ve posted beer tasting notes; a reflection, I think, on the limited availability of off-the-wall beers in this little corner of the Boston suburbs, if not on my actual consumption. So it’s with pleasure that I renew the series with notes on the Dogfish Head Midas Touch Golden Elixir.

The backstory of this beer is almost reward enough: analyzing the residues found in drinking vessels in a Minoan grave site, archaeologists found they comprised a mix of grape wine, barley beer and honey mead. Dogfish Head took the finding and ran with it, creating a barley-based beer in which the yeast was fed with honey and Muscat grapes, with a little saffron added for color and bitterness. But the taste of the beer is almost as complex as its origin. Starting with a nose a bit like a Duvel (or other golden Belgian ale), the taste is sweet without a hint of the complex esters (banana or bread flavors) normally found in more complex ales. But a second after the first swallow, you get the part that balances the sweetness: the 9% ABV that provides the counterpoint to the up-front sweetness. There is a little bit of dry-cracker taste, as with more expensive wines made with méthode champenoise, providing the other counterpoint to the honey flavor.

This is one sophisticated beer. And as the alcohol content suggests, it should be drunk accordingly: in small quantities, preferably with friends about with whom you can share your reactions.

Funky fresh for the … 60s

I’m reluctant to give the Funky16Corners blog any more press, especially after it got well-nigh BoingBoinged into non-existence last weekend. But the music he posts—MP3s of funk, R&B, and soul 45 sides from the 1960s—is just too good not to rave about. The author, Larry Grogan, takes garage sale hopping for vinyl and turns it into something beautiful. And he is apparently also involved in a group blog, Funk and Soul, covering much the same ground.

I was going to write about my own garage sale vinyl experience from this week (a bunch of 80s sides—about a jillion early Elvis Costello albums, a David Byrne 12″ from the Catherine Wheel, the Cure’s Japanese Whispers, Big Science—along with Bob Dylan’s debut and a few tasty jazz recordings), but Larry has put me to shame. Perhaps I’ll be able to give my finds their proper due later today.

Well, that was interesting

It’s early morning on Sunday the 26th. I thought I’d be posting about the free Hatch Shell concert from earlier tonight. As it turns out, though, I slept through it.

And when I say “slept through it,” I mean I went upstairs for a nap at 4:30 PM and woke up at midnight.

And now, of course, my body doesn’t want to go back to sleep because it’s already had almost eight hours.

What’s the opposite of insomnia?

I have long suspected that my occasional marathon naps have something to do with depression, but this is a new one—I don’t feel depressed, just disoriented. Unless, of course, I’m hiding something from myself.

Where I hope to be in 75 years

Boston Globe: 82 years later, R.I. couple still holding hands. Tarnation. If Lisa and I ever make it that far—and I’m concerned about our individual vitality rather than the vitality of our marriage when I say that—I hope I’m saying “She had legs. And I said to myself, ‘I need to meet that broad’.” And I hope I can still move fast enough to keep Lisa from smacking me. 🙂

Oh: and how perfect is it that he was a typesetter? If there is ever a job that prepares one for the long view, it is that.

On that note: congrats to Furious on her nuptials last weekend. Sounds like quite a party—and I hope you’ll post the full vows at some point, as “I vow either to cook or clean up but rarely both” is about as perfect a replacement for “obey” as I’ve heard in this two-career world. Also have to give big ups to the choice of “Handle With Care” for a first dance, even though there’s an interesting contrast with that vow. I too have been uptight and made a mess, but the beautiful thing about marriage is that one never has to clean it up oneself.