Twitter: Can trillions of Tweeting Twits be wrong?

I’ll be honest. I’ve never understood Twitter. It seems dumb.

I admit, I’ve got one, (making me dumb by association?) but it was for Uni. That’s right, Media made me get it, I swear.

I first signed up to see what all the fuss was about, and so I could understand my lectures. I followed a few things: CNN, the UN, Coldplay. All the important stuff. And then, I began to get followers. Complete randoms who would add me, and then, after realising I didn’t actually tweet, would quietly delete me. Weird. (I often get mistaken for Matthew Perry, no biggy.)

Since then I’ve managed to cut Twitter out of my password memory. But recently I’ve started again. For Net Comm, just to help stick my blog out there in the big World Wide Web. And while I’m still not a fan, I can’t help but wonder at how popular, and (apparently) useful, it’s become.

For one, look at the recent social media revolutions. Take the Iran election protests. Then the recent Arab Spring. Both instances where people have been using Twitter, amongst other social media, to circumvent government censorship of traditional media to great success. It seems the ‘140-characters-including-spaces’ is truly mightier than the sword.

Of course, being mindless and popular, it’s no surprise celebrities have jumped on the Twitter bandwagon. In fact, celebrities are the biggest twits of all; from Charlie Sheen, who hires someone to tweet for him (he’s probably too busy ‘winning’ with all his coke and pornstars), to Shaquille O’Neal, who recently announced his retirement from the NBA on Twitter.

That’s right, Shaq: 4 time NBA Championship winner, one of the greatest basketballers of his generation. A man loved by millions for his both his post-ups and his personality, and he retires with a measly 11 character tweet. He didn’t even use all of his precious 140. Arrogant.

And so it made me think. If you’re breaking news, you usually want people to hear about it. As many people as possible. Thus, for Shaq to tweet his retirement first; he’s either being a clown, or someone very smart and well paid told him to do so. In the latter more likely case, Twitter’s reach must not only be incredibly widespread, but in fact considered even more so than that of the mainstream media.

Could it be possible? If everyone is not only tweeting, but checking other people’s tweets, then I guess so. It’s a more succinct (and clearly effective) version of Facebook.

I’ve always thought Twitter was for Twits. But the world is changing. And if everyone is a Twit, then maybe it’s time to start Tweeting?

(Still confused as to why it’s so popular? Check this out)

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Will working for free ever work?

Lawrence Lessig hates copyright. Or at least that’s the impression I get from reading his work and listening to his lectures. He believes that it’s unnecessary, that it stifles creativity, and that remix culture is not only the way of the future, but it has actually been the way all along. We just haven’t realised it.

To his credit, he co-founded Creative Commons (CC) to fix this. Providing an alternative to copyright for people who believe that sharing is caring, or rather that sharing is creating. There’s no denying Creative Commons is useful. If I want to put an image in a slideshow for my school project, or share it on my personal blog, why should I have to ring up some faceless corporation in Hollywood to make sure they won’t come knocking my door down over 10 cents.

That said, however, whether CC and other general licensing schemes such as GNU or FLOSS, can be viable alternatives to copyright in the long term, remains to be seen. At the end of the day, CC and others rely fundamentally on the belief that people are happy to have their works distributed and remixed, (usually) for free. While this may be fine for those who, as Medosch puts it are “still very young and live in a squat or have very rich parents or both”, whether the creative professional, the struggling musician, or the fledgling artist can live with this (and more precisely live off this) seems unlikely.

Personally, I think it is naive to believe that in a capitalist society, such a model can become the viable alternative to the current, even if extreme, model of copyright.

But it sure would be nice.

One day...

AttributionNoncommercial Some rights reserved by Toban Black

References:

Medosch, Armin. ‘Paid in Full’: Copyright, Piracy and the Real Currency of Cultural Production’. in Deptforth. TV Dairies II: Pirate Stratagies, London: Deptforth TV, 2008. pp. 73-97.

Plundering Pirates or Digital Robin Hoods?

Pirates are thieves. Plain and simple. From Disney to Digital Rights Management, this is what we’ve been taught. Pirates steal the hard work of artists and distribute it for free, leaving them penniless and powerless in the face of an online epidemic.

But are we taking it too seriously?

There is a problem with depriving artists of remuneration for their hard work. Undoubtedly. And I in no way condone the theft of someone else’s work. Yet, often the losses of artists and corporations are exaggerated, and more importantly, it is undeniable that piracy does have its  benefits both for the wider community and the individual user.

Piracy is ultimately motivated by money (or more precisely, the lack of money), however, it also plays a much more important role in society. In fact, piracy forms an integral part of contemporary culture, or more precisely, the distribution and development of culture. Without pirates, many, if not the majority, of society would go largely unexposed to art, music and technology. All over something as trivial as money. Does this seem fair?

The extent to which someone can learn and participate in their culture shouldn’t be based on how much they are able to pay. In any case, isn’t educating the human collective more important than deepening the pockets of greedy celebs and corporations?

South Park sure thinks so. And I tend to agree.

After all, piracy’s not that bad is it?

Piracy's not stealing, it's piracy!

[Image: AttributionNoncommercial Some rights reserved by Travelin’ Librarian]

Creative Commons Licence

Week 10:

Following week 10 tutorial’s exercise, explain why you chose the Creative Commons license that you added to your blog and discuss the relevance (or not) of adding the license.

Like all original works, this blog is protected by copyright from the moment I press ‘Publish’. It’s automatic. It’s free. It’s comprehensive.

In fact, copyright is so thorough that it can often stifle the creativity of new artists, authors and musicians. In this digital age, the extent of copyright can reach far beyond the physical copy of a book on your bookshelf, or paper in your photocopier. New technologies are now working, often without our knowledge, to protect copyright in ways few actually understand. (Take DRM technology: everyone knows it stops copied music, just no-one knows how). While this is all done in the name of reserving an author’s rights, often such measures end up going too far.

If copyright is too protective, then we need an alternative. A different system by which an author’s rights are respected without leaving them open to misuse and abuse. Cue Creative Commons.

Creative Commons

[Image: Attribution Some rights reserved by jorgeandresem]

Co-founded by anti-copyright campaigner and lawyer, Lawrence Lessig, Creative Commons (CC) licences provide a (legal) alternative to copyright. As its website puts it, Creative Commons seeks to create “a pool of content that can be copied, distributed, edited, remixed, and built upon, all within the boundaries of copyright law.”

I’ve chosen to licence this blog with Creative Commons because I believe that, at least for certain things (like a Uni blog), copyright is far too strict. So go ahead. Rip off all my stuff. Do what you will with it. (Conditions apply)

Wait. Conditions? What conditions? Isn’t CC just anti-copyright?

No. Not at all. A common mistake.

Creative Commons does not and was not designed to replace copyright, it just turns down the level of control over a work to a more acceptable and practical one. All Creative Commons licences allow people to re-distribute someone else’s work, unmodified, for free. But within the CC licences there is still room for variation. In fact, there are six possible licences, founded on four fundamental conditions:

1. Attribution (BY) – you must attribute the work to its author.

2. Share Alike (SA) – you can make derivative works, as long as they have the same or a similar CC licence.

3. Non-Commercial (NC) – you can’t make any money from someone else’s work.

4. No Derivative Works (ND) – you can’t make any derivative works based on someone else’s work.

From these conditions I have chosen the BY-NC-SA (version 3.0) licence.

Allow me to elaborate:

1. Attribution: If you acknowledge that it’s mine, then I’m fine with you sharing my work with others. Besides, you have to do this anyway, copyright or CC, so get used to it. (Unless you are a plagiarizer, in which case, carry on.)

2. Share Alike: Again, if you attribute the original work to me and acknowledge that your work is based on mine, then great. Good on you. Go for your life. I won’t be suing anybody today.

3: Non-Commercial: Ahh, now we have something. I’ve chosen the NC condition for my CC licence because, well frankly, if you happen to find a way of making money from something that I’ve created, then I want some too. This may sound selfish, and beyond unlikely, but I don’t care. I’m a Uni student. I have $20 in my wallet, and $50.78 in my bank account, so if you’re making money off my ideas, then I had better be as well.

As I’ve mentioned before, it’s easy to advocate the idealistic principles of culture sharing and remix culture, but in practice its much harder to defend. I doubt Lawrence Lessig goes home to a one-bedroom share house, full of guitars and trashed manuscripts in between his lectures at Harvard. Not that I do either, but you get the idea.

In any case, that is the licence I’ve chosen. I’m not sure how relevant it will be, since I doubt anyone wants to remix my posts. But, on the off-chance that it is, now you know how you can use, copy, distribute, edit, remix and build upon it, all without going to jail.

Thanks, Creative Commons Man.

Creative Commons Man

[Image: AttributionNoncommercialShare Alike Some rights reserved by Mickipedia]

Cloudy Copyright

You wouldn’t steal a car. You wouldn’t steal a handbag. You wouldn’t…”

Blah, blah, blah. We get it.

You know how it goes. Copyright, piracy, free. They’re all words we’re familiar with, and frankly sick of.

Are you a pirate?

[Image: courtesy Broken TV]

Yet, the recent announcements of various ‘cloud’ music services raise some interesting new points in the copyright debate.

Google recently announced their “Music Beta service“, following in the footsteps of Amazon a few months ago. Apple is expected to follow suit in June.

Both Google and Amazon, however, have released their cloud music services without backing from the four major record labels (EMI, Sony, Warner and Universal). Both companies have refused to impose any copyright conditions on their services. They’re working off the principle that you don’t, and shouldn’t, need permission to store something you already own  somewhere else. All obtained legally, of course.

Fair enough. After all, a ‘cloud’ is just a like a big hard drive, except online. (What is a cloud, you ask? Watch this. Or look outside.)

Yet, Google have also said that it will take action against pirated content. Just what kind of action this will be remains to be seen. (I’m assuming something similar to how it treats pirated YouTube content.) But it’s a precarious balance. Will Google dob in pirates? Will people be too scared to use the Google service at all? And what will Apple do?

The copyright fat cats are used to getting what they want, but then again so is Google. It’s an interesting time for the online-music-technology-copyright world in general. I’m excited.

**UPDATE: Apple have just announced their own iCloud service. With the backing of (soon to be all 4) major record labels.

As expected, Apple is running a very slick operation, both technologically and practically. It looks great, plus iPhones, iPods and iTunes libraries are all ready to be sent to the cloud in a click. The record deals also make things much quicker and easier (online copy matching means no time wasting library uploads) . Plus, it’s legal. (Yay, no jail!) The catch, you have to pay an annual fee to store non-iTunes bought music. (Read: pirated music.)

(For more details check my latest post)

What this will mean for the popularity of Google and Amazon will be interesting to see. One things for sure, copyright’s not dead just yet.**

Stuck in a bog. Check someone’s blog.

I’m not entirely sure that the title makes sense, but hopefully it will after you read this.

I’ve posted in the past about how I’ve always found blogs pointless. In fact, although I’m enjoying this a lot more than I thought I would, I still doubt that I would be blogging if it weren’t for this subject. Facebook and YouTube waste enough of my time… Anyway, that’s irrelevant.

For once, I want to talk about how useful blogs can be.

I won’t lie. Most of the time that I do the readings for this subject, they don’t make sense. Or perhaps they make sense after the 5th reading. (I wouldn’t know, I never have the time.) And so when I’m stuck, confused over just how “the use of visual metaphors from older media in web design…naturalize[s] the limitations of the new medium by disguising them within those of older media” (just one of our weekly blog questions for those playing at home – reader pg 228), I scratch my head. Then I scratch my ear. And then I go fishing. For blogs.

That’s right. After someone suggested it in class (probably our tutor Nicole, thanks!) I decided to check other people’s blogs to see what they thought of the readings. (Other people in this case refers to classmates, my fellow Net Commers).

No, don’t get worried. I don’t do it to plagiarise, I do it to decipher. While I use WordReference for French, I use blogs for Net Comm. A translation of the readings into English, or at least people english, not computer english.

One of the most useful blogs has been Allan’s. (http://allanalderson.wordpress.com/)

Allan is the resident mature age student in our class, and thus the envy of everyone else. Why? His real world/life experience has given him actual organizational skills and the motivation to turn up to lectures. Damn him and his wisdom. But back to the point. When I’ve needed it, Allan’s blogs have provided the insight I’ve been looking for, and he always has some cool videos too. (So thanks Allan! Hope you don’t mind.)

And while, perhaps not world changing (at least not often) this is what blogs are best for. Giving people the opportunity to express their thoughts. I’ve argued that blogs are, at their core, inherently personal. And while I’ve always viewed such a personal outlet as trivial, I do see how blogs can allow other like-minded (or similarly enrolled) individuals to find and develop a community. Bringing people from all walks of life, all over the world, together. It’s true that everything is news to someone, and whether you find something interesting while I find it pointless is irrelevant. It’s about giving people a voice, even if that voice is rarely heard.

**UPDATE: While I’m at it, SWOTVAC has given me the time to trawl some other net comm blogs. Some great ones include:

Perry’s (http://pjsingleton.wordpress.com/). Who’s got over 1000 hits, so I assume I’m not the only one who does this!

And Jessica’s (http://jessicasargeant.wordpress.com/). Super insightful.

Well done guys. Great jobs!***

So while I’m still sold on all the benefits of blogging, I am starting to see its usefulness. And since the blogosphere literally has too many blogs too count, I guess plenty of others do too.

And that’s why, when you’re stuck in a bog. Check someone’s blog.

Web Creativity: But I can’t speak computer!

The Web is built to foster creativity. But which are the best ways to go about it? And do you need to be a computer hacker to succeed in online content creation?

Do you speak computer?

Attribution Some rights reserved by dullhunk

While contributing to certain aspects of the web undoubtedly require specific skills, the evolution of Web 2.0 technology is providing more and more ways for the average person to interact with the Internet. In particular social networking sites and the blogosphere pose the greatest potential for laypeople to create online. But can a website or online space every be truly completely accessible to the average person?

Coding: child's play?

AttributionNoncommercialShare Alike Some rights reserved by GrahamKing

This blog, for instance, is being hosted by WordPress. I don’t need any specific training or extra knowledge to get everything up and running and my thoughts out into the ether of the World Wide Web. From the outside, it appears as if I can do whatever I want to my blog. Customising its appearance, posting to my heart’s content and even changing the URL to my own personal domain, if I have the cash to do so. But if you take a closer look, everything is not as malleable as it seems. In fact, many argue that customizable domains such as blogs, and Facebook pages, are actually very tightly controlled. Think about it. What can you do to your Facebook profile, apart from change the picture. Not much.

I can’t even change the font of this post! Lame.

Which raises the question: is the full creative potential of the Internet truly available to everyone? Or only those who speak computer?

Week Three: What features can you identify in WordPress that define it as a Web 2.0 application?

Considering Tim O’Reilly’s eight design patterns for Web 2.0 applications, it is clear that WordPress is one such application. The four main design criteria displayed by WordPress are as follows:

The Long Tail:O’Reilly suggests that Web 2.0 is primarily composed of sites that cater to niche markets, allowing it to attract an incredibly broad audience. This is a definite feature of WordPress, in which any produser can create a blog that caters specifically to his or her unique interests.

Users Add Value: Clearly a key aspect of WordPress, O’Reilly argues that users must add data to an application for it to grow and succeed. As a blog hosting platform, WordPress relies on users adding to and adapting the software provided for it to even exist. Inevitably some users will add more value than others, for instance those writing and improving software code may be few and far between, but every user contributes in their own unique and useful way.

The Perpetual Beta: O’Reilly describes how Web 2.0 applications are constantly updated and being improved in real-time. This differs from the previous practice of packaging a set version of a product, selling it, and then requiring the user to upgrade at a later date. The nature of the Internet and the WordPress platform means that being in ‘perpetual beta’ is an inherent quality of blog hosting software. Since people do not have to download anything, the product is able to constantly with or without the awareness of the produsers.

Software Above the Level of a Single Device: As more and more people forgo their computers to access the Internet, Web 2.0 apps must be openly accessible to new devices. WordPress software is adaptable to and accessible on a whole host of new generation technologies including: mobile devices, such as an iPhone and tablets, like the iPad.

Hello world! Welcome to Net Communications

Welcome to my WordPress blog. Over the course of the semester I will be critically discussing and exploring the world of Net Communications. I hope that it will give you some insight into how the technologies that you use everyday, without thinking, actually effect, construct and enhance your lives. If not, there should at least be some sweet YouTube videos.

Cheers. Have fun.