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Digital rights in question as business model October 22, 2006

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Via DefectiveByDesign.org :

“Last week Billboard (the music industry publication) ran a great article about DRM and the digital music market. The article was picked up by Reuters and ran in many other publications”

The Billboard article says that any DRM scheme is likely to be cracked, and so its use inconveniences people who want to do the right thing, rather than people who want to steal music. And that it isn’t a smart way to treat customers who have a choice.

A recent Newsweek article quotes Steve Jobs saying that customers knew along that iTunes Music Store (iTMS) songs will only play on an iPod; and from the public figures [*] he’ll know that his informed customers fill the majority of their iPods with non-DRM’d songs from elsewhere. However, the sale of iPods is driven by available music, and iTMS (and its Fairplay DRM) could have been ‘merely’ a way for him to make the ‘music industry’ complicit in their sale, preventing lawsuits. The Economist says “Mr Jobs persuaded the record labels (which were panicking about illegal internet downloads) to sell music on iTunes for 99 cents per song, and then used music as a loss leader to make money from his gadgets”.

The Billboard article also says that legal digital downloads have not grown this year, and iTMS is dominant. So, if even a dominant player can only sell 24 DRM’d songs to a device probably containing thousands of non-DRM’d songs, then presumably there’s a customer need to be satisfied. Can you spot one? Thousands of artists on MySpace can.

* In 2004, itunesperipod.com had a data point of 21 iTunes songs per iPod. In 2005, Steve Jobs said “The average iTunes account holder has purchased 60 songs” (so <60 average per iPod). As of early 2006 the figure was an average of 24 tracks per iPod, according to Chris Anderson in his book “The Long Tail” (42 million iPods and 1 billion iTunes tracks over nearly 4 years)

“Downhill Battle” October 22, 2006

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New posts at the Downhill Battle ["Music Activism"] blog restarted recently, after a few months absence, (though the RSS feeds at Bloglines don’t reflect it)

“Down with DRM” October 20, 2006

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FreeCulture.org has announced the winners of its “Down with DRM” video contest …[via Lawrence Lessig]

From Palm to iCalendar : Part III October 20, 2006

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In Part I, I moved my data from Palm Desktop to a .csv file, via Microsoft Outlook. In Part II, I found that it was a mess when imported into Mozilla Lightning, and looked at other options to get my data into iCalendar form. Now I’ve tried AirSet and Google Calendar…

AirSet : I downloaded the tool and synchronised with Palm Desktop. It was simple, took only a minute or so, and the events looked correct. I’d have put up with the small niggles that (1) all events were in the same Group, despite me creating [Business] and [Personal] Groups (and Unfiled) as suggested; and (2) the sync changed items in Palm Desktop from Unfiled –> Personal. However…

“Completed Synchronization : Desktop calendar events over 12 months old have been skipped in this transfer. These events remain on your desktop, but will not be available in AirSet.” …etc.

So, an interesting diversion, but not a solution.

Google Calendar (GCal) : The import process was simple, but repeatedly generated a server error message of “temporarily unavailable”. Overcame this by creating several smaller .csv files instead (ie. exporting from MS Outlook, one year at a time), and imported the first few files without problems. However, then came the message…

“Processed 1194 events. Successfully imported 1160 events”

…and files after that had their events processed but not imported. I didn’t get any help from Google Groups; and when trying to delete current/future events, to make space to complete a year, repeatedly got the message…

“Error : Server failure. Try again later”

After 4 days, occasionally able to delete an event, I gave up and deleted the whole calendar (dustbin icon). The re-import went smoothly, every “processed” event was also “imported”, and all looked ok. However, I’ve noticed that some items in Palm Desktop are missing from GCal (even though they were in Outlook and .csv). eg. For 1998 I had “Processed 392 events. Successfully imported 392 events”; and I’ve had to manually input 139 events. There was no obvious pattern.

Events are also missing from (at least) 1999, so it’ll take me a couple of weeks to complete my conversion; but the end is in sight! It’s been a long and frustrating process, and the easy alternative would have been to leave my calendar in Outlook, and hope that better tools exist in future. Anyway, I’m happy that I’ve got my data into iCalendar format, and hope it’ll last for a while!

Next steps will be to figure out how to keep my Treo handset ‘in sync’ easily (or not to bother), and whether I should have my primary calendar offline. Meanwhile, here’s an explanation of how to export iCalendar data from GCal to somewhere else, or how to set up a feed if you want GCal to remain your primary calendar

Friends & Family 2.0 October 14, 2006

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Interesting suggestion at Telco 2.0 : To have a far greater effect on churn, the Orange “Magic Number” offer (…$Free to call a friend that you choose) should automatically make it free for that friend to call you (as well), if you’re both Orange customers.

As it says there :

Would I dare leave Orange myself if the result was an increase in expense for many of my friends? The social pressure would greatly outweigh the financial considerations.

The cost to Orange is limited, because those on a monthly plan have largely ‘free’ voice calls anyway. (Pre-paid customers have a limited version of the offer. Can you switch?) In a couple of years, the ‘network effect‘ could mean all your calls are free, and you’d resent the fixed cost of a monthly plan for voice; but the Orange business/pricing model will have changed by then, anyway.

From Palm to iCalendar : Part II October 13, 2006

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In Part I, I created a .csv file and imported it into Mozilla Lightning. The result was an unusable a mess! I recognised events, but they were duplicated many times, and showed up in dates when they shouldn’t. I couldn’t see a pattern, let alone explain it.

If the .csv file exported from Outlook has errors, I could try Outlook2vCal or Outport instead – but am reluctant, given their age. However, I didn’t see errors, with it open in Microsoft Excel, other things may be the cause.

The .csv file that I exported from Lightning (as a check) was different from the one imported into it, which isn’t a good sign. Although I’m a very happy user of Mozilla Thunderbird and Firefox, Lightning is only at version 0.3 (as is the stand-alone Mozilla Sunbird, that it is based upon), so maybe bugs within it caused the problem and I should look for another app until it improves.

30 Boxes : I’ve had an account for a while, but not really used it. Can’t log in at the moment because of a database error.

AirSet : Just found this. It offers a downloadable desktop application that will synchronise with Outlook, Pocket PC Devices, Palm Desktop, or Palm Devices …and data can be exported, as iCal. Will probably try this.

Backpack Calendar (37Signals) : I have a paid Backpack plan, a free Basecamp plan, read the Signal vs. Noise blog, may learn Ruby on Rails, and am still avidly waiting for Sunrise! So, I’m very impressed with this company, but the calendar won’t import a file unless it’s already iCalendar (and with a url).

Trumba : Think I had a free account a year or two ago, which has lapsed. No reason to choose this above others.

Google Calendar : I’ve had Gmail as a reserve email account for a while, but haven’t used the calendar. Lots of widgets get built, and there’s active coverage on Lifehacker. I’m a little concerned about my data being crawled, even anonymously, but will probably use this.

More comment when I find a solution.

From Palm to iCalendar : Part I October 13, 2006

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I use Palm Desktop for my calendar and contacts. In its favour, it synchronises with my Treo handset, and isn’t Microsoft Outlook (which I’ve used before). However, I’ve wanted to move to an open data format (iCalendar) for a while …for reuse/ mashup, for stability because I’m over a size limit, and in case support for PalmOS ends.

If this was easy, Palm DT would export all the data in a single iCal/ vCal file, or the Treo would sync with a (Windows) app that supports iCal. End of story.

BUT NO, Palm DT only exports to a .dba file, (for archival) …or to vCal, one event at a time! I have 9.5 years of data, so neither is helpful. For Windows users, the only suggestion I can find is to go via Outlook …Ironic, but at least I have a copy.

So, the planned steps were :
Palm –1-> Treo –2-> Outlook –3-> .csv file –4-> ‘app’.

Palm Desktop –1-> Treo :
Sync Palm DT with Treo, as usual.

Treo –2-> Outlook :
a) Change Hotsync conduit : Start > All Programs > PalmOne > PIM Conduit Sync > Sync with Outlook. I was prompted for a file from my Treo “companion CD” : \\English\PostInstall\OutlookSwitcher.exe
b) Change Hotsync Manager, so that “Handheld overwrites Desktop” for Calendar; and Contacts, Memos and Tasks “Do Nothing”
c) Sync Treo with Outlook.

Outlook –3-> .csv file :
a) Try to export from Outlook as a “Comma Separated Value (Windows)” file : File > Import and Export… > Export to a file
b) I had a copy of the requested PRO11.MSI file, on a “MS Office Professional Edition 2003″ CD. Chose advanced customization, and then to ‘Run all Outlook “Importers and Exporters” from my PC
c) …Continued by exporting from the Calendar folder, and not mapping Custom Fields. After clicking “Finish”, I had to select the date range to be covered. The .csv file was created.

.csv file –4-> App that can export iCal :
Imported the .csv file into Mozilla Lightning.

However, there’s no happy ending (yet). More in Part II.

90-9-1 rule October 11, 2006

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Web usability expert Jakob Nielsen has a post suggesting ways that online communities can encourage more users to contribute

…starting from a rule of thumb that :

  • 90% of users are lurkers (i.e., read or observe, but don’t contribute)
  • 9% of users contribute from time to time
  • 1% of users participate a lot and account for most contributions

Mobile IM October 9, 2006

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Martin Geddes (-ve) and Paul Golding (+ve) have a couple of good and contrasting posts about mobile instant messaging, compared with texting (SMS)

My Treo smartphone and multiprotocol IM application give me an atypical experience …eg. My SMS conversations do have a visible chat session (and are threaded by person); and a PC client doesn’t flag up that I’m a “mobile” IM user

I hardly ever use mobile IM. My current situation seems to be :

I tried to check some of these things over the weekend, but couldn’t get my IM application to connect

Tom Peters on “House” October 6, 2006

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Tom Peters gives an interesting ‘assessment‘ of Hugh Laurie’s character in “House M.D.

The Ideal Business October 1, 2006

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Extracted from Richard Russell’s most popular article on his Dow Theory Letters website [via "The Independent"], The Ideal Business… :

  1. …sells the world, rather than a single neighborhood
  2. …offers a product with an “inelastic” demand
  3. …sells a product which cannot be easily substituted
  4. …has minimal labor requirements
  5. …enjoys low overhead
  6. …does not require big capital outlays
  7. …enjoys cash billings
  8. …is relatively free of gov’t and industry regulations
  9. …is portable or easily moveable
  10. satisfies your intellectual needs
  11. leaves you with free time
  12. …is one in which your income is not limited by your personal output (lawyers and doctors have this problem)