Just Imagine a world without amateurs or free sharing

Co-founder of Flickr, Hunch etc. Caterina Fake is no stranger to the culture of sharing. One could easily argue that her and husband Stewart Butterfield were really on the front-lines of pioneering and cultivating that very activity on the internet. Enter Jaron Lanier, who among other things coined the term ‘Virtual Reality’ in the early-80s and recently wrote a book called ‘You Are Not A Gadget’ where he boldly claims sharing and collectivism have turned the internet into what he calls the ‘World Wide Mush‘ in a Wall Street Journal excerpt.

Lanier seems to imply that people who give their efforts, music etc. away for free or without credit are either killing innovation or on a crusade to force everyone to do the same. It’s hard to tell if Lanier is taking this position intentionally to ruffle the web’s feathers, is grumpy, or is it that he is so skewed by his own lens and experiences that he can’t see the value of other pursuits or motivations? To put it bluntly, he pissed Caterina off, and rightly so in my mind. I’d paraphrase Caterina’s response but she’s far too gifted with words to do that, so in the spirit of ‘sharing’ here is the gist of Caterina’s rebuttal.

…(Lanier) appears to believe that quality is a zero sum game. A bunch of amateur musicians singing in someone’s living room take nothing away from Lady Gaga. There’s a lot of tilting at windmills in this excerpt. I’ve never heard anyone assert, as he appears to think everyone in the digital arena is constantly asserting, that “collectives make the best stuff” — quite the opposite. Everyone agrees that 99% of everything is crap, and no one is claiming Wikipedia’s entries are better written than those of Charles Lamb or Edmund Gosse in the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica (my favorite). But really, who cares? By sharing my (admittedly crappy) snapshots on Flickr, I’m not claiming to be Margaret Bourke-White. And my sister *likes* to look at photos of my dog. Who am I hurting? Should I charge a penny to look at my photo? Do I need a photo credit? No. If someone other than my sister admires my cute dog, they are welcome to do so for free.

Additionally Lanier does not understand that people do things for reasons other than bolstering their egos and making money. You shouldn’t need a motivation or justification to correct spelling or factual errors on Wikipedia — a certain desire for orderliness, good grammar, or truth should be sufficient. Those who enjoy correcting spelling and grammatical errors online — I do — are they thereby “robbed of dignity” as Lanier would have it? Of course not.

I could go on. I haven’t touched on his claims that we’re destroying innovation, or his implication that people who license their work with Creative Commons licenses or give their music away for free insist that everyone do the same. The open source software movement that could be mentioned, the free culture movement, or, frankly, any of the other many great things that are taking nothing away from auteurs such as Jean-Luc Godard, and even Jaron Lanier. They’re safe from the incursions of amateurs like you and me. Of course the word “Amateur” comes from the French word “to love”. Good enough reason for me to participate. And you?

Yeah, but who wants to listen to amateurs anyway, right? 😉

Dark Knight movie proves piracy isn’t the villain?

The 2008 blockbuster movie of the year, Dark Knight, has now grossed over a $1 billion at the box office. A staggering figure to say the least. However, I thought it was particularly interesting to read today that the Dark Knight was not only a box office juggernaut, but it was also the most pirated movie of the year.

Amassing over a million downloads in under seven days, ‘The Dark Knight’ is by far the most pirated movie of this week. Earlier this year, Cam and DVD-screener versions of the latest in the Batman series already found their way onto the Internet, making this blockbuster the most pirated movie of 2008.

That leads to the inevitable question; is movie piracy the big villain that the movie industry would like us to believe it is? Or has piracy to some degree become a precursor for box office success? In other words, if nobody is pirating and downloading your movie, is it doomed to fail? Maybe the Dark Knight is the exception, not the rule. With its big budget aesthetics, perhaps many people who pirated the movie simply had their appetite whetted with the pirated version and then subsequently went to the theater to see it on the big screen to get the full experience. I’m not sure what the answer is, but it appears that piracy alone can’t be blamed for the overall downturn in box office revenues.via TorrentFreak

UGV gets a bad rap

User-generated video (UGV) gets a bad rap. Here are three reasons why user-generated video is king…845654-media_httpwwwjamescogancomimagesugvjpg_ytDEEivsxAbpAmo

#1 – UGV: Many people continue to make broad-sweeping generalizations about user-generated videos as though they are all equal. That’s a big mistake because UGV is the deepest and widest bucket of online video content, and it also garners the most attention. UGV cuts across every demographic line, has many tiers of varying production values and quality, and hits on every topic or category imaginable. While many big-brand advertisers don’t want their brands next to all UGV, I believe many big-brand advertisers want their brands next to some of it. That is a technology problem, and like all technology problems, nobody should sweat them because eventually they always get solved.

In fact, as UGV continues to evolve and mature, more of it will begin to look a lot more like semi-professional and professional video content. While talent is not universal, it is incredibly widespread, and as the tools to create high-quality video continue to proliferate, get better and cheaper, the volume of ‘better quality’ UGV will continue to rise.

#2 – Attention, attention, attention: UGV tallied 22 billion views in 2007, up 70% over 2006. Where there is mass attention, there inevitably are ways to monetize it. If urinals can have ads, so too will some of the lowest forms of UGV. Technology and time will solve this. Similar to blog content, which when it first began to gather momentum had the same knock against it. In the early days of blogging, many pundits thought nobody would make money from it because advertisers wouldn’t want their ads next to some random person’s diatribes. Technology solved that problem and will do so for UGV. Ironically, it’s unscripted video blogging that scares mainstream media execs more than any other form of online video. Why? Because people love watching it, and mainstream media can’t do it.

#3 – 3rd Party advertising blinders: If you’re constantly thinking about 3rd-party advertising when it comes to monetizing online video, you are not seeing the big picture, or the future of online video. As an addendum to point #2, attention can and will always be monetizable and YouTube as well as many other online video distributors will eventually make a good portion of revenues indirectly from the attention that UGV garners. This revenue won’t come from serving 3rd-party ads. Gotta think outside the box a little, but soon you will begin to see some very interesting monetization strategies play out in the online video space that have absolutely nothing to do with serving 3rd-party ads.

It’s far too easy to get caught in the moment of ‘now’ when it comes to online video. These are early days still. What seems difficult to monetize today, may be the cash cow of tomorrow. Stay tuned, and don’t get caught in the echo chamber when it comes to UGV.

image cred abbyladybug