Creative Commons Update

As I’ve been blogging about recently, I’ve been struggling with the use of a Creative Commons license for IT Coversations content. The best example occured a week ago when someone — an honest person — told me that he planned to create his own site using the MP3 files from IT Conversations. He pointed out that so long as it was non-commercial, this was allowed by the CC license on our site. I wondered why he would do that. Was he going to include the photos, descriptions, listener ratings and the AAC/M4B files as well as the MP3s? No. He just wanted to present all the shows in a big list and host them on his server. No editorial opinions; no ratings or other information. Was he adding any value whatsoever? No. In fact, as he willingly admitted, the presentation would be such that the user experience would be poorer than on IT Conversations.

Ultimately I was able to convince him that it would be better for everyone if he built his site as a list of links (as he had planned), but to link back to our details pages for each show. That way he doesn’t have to bear the cost of content delivery, his visitors get all the benefits offered by him (whatever they might be) and by IT Conversations, and we can include the count of listeners in our reports to sponsors and underwriters, which in turn helps us keep this thing going.

But the problem remained that it was quite legitimate to replicate the entire IT Conversations web site, adding no value, and in fact diminishing the experience. This wasn’t about remixing or mashups. It wasn’t about excerpts or fair use. It was just about trying to take something of value and give at least a partial impression that it was someone else’s.

Thanks to some great advice from Denise Howell and Lawrence Lessig, I checked out the new Sampling License from Creative Commons, and that’s the license I’ll be using for the forseeable future. In addition to fair use, copying for convenience, etc., which Larry suggested was implicit in the fact that we offer the MP3 files for download to begin with, the Sampling License allows others “to sample, mash-up, or otherwise creatively transform this work for commercial or noncommercial purposes.” In other words, you’re free to excerpt the interviews and other recordings, combine them with your own content (or not) and create a new work that adds value to what we’ve already done. That’s what the remix culture is all about: not ripping off content, but being able to take what others have created and to make something new and different.

Whle even the CC Sampling License isn’t perfect, it’s quite clear that the benefits of publishing under a CC license far outweigh the disadvantages. And that, after all, is the whole idea behind Creative Commons: to make this simple for publishers and licensees alike.

IT Conversations News: March 25, 2005

(Hear the MP3, which contains far more detail.)

New Shows

  • Google’s AutoLink Feature (rated only 2.7, but very popular!) It’s another new IT Conversations series: Sound Policy with Denise Howell, and she starts it off with a bang. Denise hosts a spirited debate about Google’s controversial AutoLink feature. Her guests are Cory Doctorow, Robert Scoble and Martin Schwimmer. Google is no stranger to providing invaluable services to users of the Web, and the Google Toolbar has been no exception. However, the beta release of the Google Toolbar 3, with its link-adding AutoLink feature, has many wondering if Google has forgotten its “don’t be evil” credo. What might AutoLink mean for Web publishers and users, and how it might be impacted by intellectual property law?
  • The Telephone is a Platform! (2.4). We’ve got an amazing panel of experts to discuss the future of the telephone as a platform: Om Malik (Business 2.0), Jeffrey Citron (Vonage), Hossein Eslambolchi (AT&T), Charlie Hoffman (Covad), and Mike McCue (Tellme). From the Web 2.0 conference.
  • Ourmedia.org (3.8). I drag out my own mic to interview Marc Canter and JD Lasica who have just launched Ourmedia.org. It’s only an alpha release, and the site has already been SlashDotted, so in case you can’t get in there to check it out for yourself, this interview with the founders is the next-best thing.
  • John Smart (3.8). What will Windows (and the Google Browser) of 2015 look like? It will include software simulations of human beings as part of the UI. First-world culture today spends more on video games than movies. These “interactive motion picture” technologies are more compelling and educating, particularly to our youth, the fastest-learning segment of society, than any linear scripts, no matter how professionally produced. From Accelerating Change 2004.
  • Henry Jenkins (3.9). On Tech Nation with Moira Gunn, Dr. Henry Jenkins explains how video games will revolutionize education. Dr. Jenkins is the director of the Comparative Media Studies Program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the co-editor of Rethinking Media Change: The Aesthetics of Transition (Media in Transition).
  • John Beck (3.6). Moira also speaks with John Beck, a Senior Research Fellow at USC’s Annenberg Center of the Digital Future, warns that the “Gamer Generation” is about to enter the workforce — and that means change.
  • Belinda Clarke (3.3). And in this week’s Biotech Nation segment, Dr. Belinda Clarke talks about her beliefs that scientists have a moral obligation to communicate science. Dr. Clarke is Science Liaison Manager at Norwich Research Park, Norfolk, England.

And this week’s Doug’s Favorite from the IT Conversations archive:

  • Dan Geer (3.7). He ran development at MIT’s Project Athena when Kerberos and X Windows were developed there, but Dan is more recently known as the guy who was fired for co-authoring a report proclaiming the security risks posed by the monoculture caused by Microsoft’s dominance of the software industry. Hear or read — yes, there’s a transcript of this one — Dan’s long-term assessment of our information security challenges. “As the threat increases the security perimeter skrinks.” But as we shift to protecting assets at the file-object level, access control will prove unscalable. The solution, Dan says, is the introduction of accountability. And yes, he tells the monoculture story, too.

E*Trade Bank: Poor Customer Service?

Okay, so this has nothing to do with IT Conversations or perhaps anything else that interests you, but maybe blogging it will at least make me feel better. 🙂

I’ve got an account with E*Trade bank, and I send deposits in by mail. I just noticed that none of the deposits I’ve sent in since late December 2004 have been credited, and I also just figured out why. They give you these postage-paid deposit envelopes that fit into the box of checks. The problem is, if you put a check and deposit slip into the envelope and fold it where it’s creased, the flap covers the postal address. Turns out, you’re expected to re-fold the envelope at a different point so the flap is shorter. Since it’s a pre-paid envelope, I never bothered to notice that the address isn’t visible. There’s all sorts of stuff on the envelope, and at first glance all looks well. (When I showed it to my wife, I had to point out the problem.)

Tomorrow I’ll try to get the sources to stop payment and re-issue the checks. That should be straightforward unless something else went wrong. I have no idea why the post office hasn’t found at least one envelope and opened it up. The checks have my address as well as the sources’. And there’s a deposit slip with E*Trade Bank’s address, too.

But here’s the stinker: It turns out that E*Trade Bank has known about this problem for some time. I’m not the first one to complain! So I asked the poor service rep why the bank hadn’t sent out a recall notice to eveyone who received these bogus envelopes? Of course, it wasn’t his decision, so he could only play dumb. He said that I wouldn’t be docked for any stop-payment charges (than you very much), but I asked, “What about the interest?” These are fairly large checks.

Since they knew about the problem and know (or should know) who received these bogus envelopes, I can’t imagine why they wouldn’t inform their customers ASAP. Customer-relations 101 teaches you that one. Strange management style, I guess. It’s particularly strange since they need to convince customers that it’s safe to do business by mail instead of going to a local branch of a traditional bank and getting a receipt for the deposit. I think I’m now in that cateogry. These guys are going to have to work hard to keep my business.

If you’ve got an E*Trade Bank account, check those envelopes and you’ll see what I’m talking about.

Marantz PMD660

For the past week I’ve been playing with a new Compact Flash recorder, the Marantz PMD660 ($499 street price). Based on the others I’ve bought or tested, I think it’s the best compromise for a portable device for podcasters and those who want to record long-format sessions such as conferences.

Jeff Towne over at transom.org has an excellent review in which he picked up on almost all my concerns. Comparing it to other similar devices of interest to podcasters, Jeff wrote:

The Marantz PMD 670 is larger and more expensive, and while it offers more recording options, such as recording to MP2, and a limiter, the 660 does most of what its big brother does, and provides a simpler, less intimidating interface and more convenient form. The Edirol R1 is a little smaller and less expensive, but does not offer XLR mic inputs or phantom power. The Fostex FR2 is about twice as expensive and much larger and heavier. The Sound Devices 722 is more than 4 times as expensive, but offers a large dedicated hard drive and superior input sonics. Any of those recorders will do the job, and might fit someone’s specific needs better, but the PMD 660 is a well-designed tool, especially for remote interviews and other newsgathering-type activities.

I just ordered a 4GB SanDisk CF ( another ~$300!) that will give me nearly 13 hours of recording capacity at 44.1kHz/16-bit PCM (WAV) in mono. Half that in WAV stereo, and a whopping 71 hours if I was willing to record in 128kbps MP3 stereo, which I’m not if I can avoid it.

Paid Placement in Podcasting

Eric Rice (EricRice.com) and Bill Flitter (Pheedo) have put together a paid-placement deal with Warner Brothers that I think establishes an historic milestone in the short life of podcasting. According to the story by Zachary Rogers in ClickZ News”

[Warner Brothers will give Eric] exclusive interviews, banter and impromptu jams featuring “The Used,” which were recorded on the band’s current tour. Starting on Thursday, that material will be made available on Rice’s podcasts. “The Used” is on Warner Brothers’ Reprise label. When Rice uses the content, he’ll disclose the financial relationship between the show and Warner Brothers.

I spoke to Eric a few minutes ago to learn more and to clarify a few points. This is an experiment for all involved. Eric previously participated in another paid-placement test with Marqui, in which bloggers were paid just to mention the company and its products. (Disclosure: IT Conversations was a beneficiary of this experiment when Eric kindly donated $500 of his revenues from the experiment to the IT Conversations tip jar.) But this is a bigger deal, not because of the dollars involved (undisclosed), but because it’s a deal made with a major markeing organization outside of the pod/blogosphere. This deal moves podcasting into the marketing limelight, at least for the next 15 minutes.

I’ll also be announcing at least one major sponsor for IT Conversations in the next few weeks, but it won’t be a paid-placement deal. Our sponsors will be treated like public-radio underwriters, and will not be involved with the content or editorial decisions. Don’t take that to mean that I’m critical of the paid-placement model; I think it’s great. It’s just not what I want to do on IT Conversations.

Eric may not get as much press coverage as Adam Curry (PodShow) or Evan Willans and Noah Glass (Odeo), but he’s someone to watch. Of all the people in podcasting/blogging/video, he is pushing more boundaries at once. If anything, he may not sit still long enough for any one of his projects to realize its full potential, but there’s no one out there doing more in the way of experimentation than Eric. And now I think Bill Flitter may also have established his credentials in podcast marketing as well.