Monthly Archives: February 2003

Forget Moore’s Law

Michael Malone, top tech journo, says in The Herring that we should forget Moore’s law. The thesis is that, as the universe of chips expands, more buyers are sticking with older, lower-powered devices because they don’t need the extra power. The industry’s legacy chips – almost all of which are still being manufactured somewhere – are going to undermine the latest stuff and make it impossible for the chip makers to continue to make 67% annual improvements. He quotes Google’s Eric Schmidt: “We aren’t interested in getting maximum power for a high price. What we’re looking for is maximum functionality and that’s a whole different thing.” We should unwind our dependence on Moore’s law now before it’s too late. Difficult to see how we actually could, though, since it’s wired into the economy itself, determining investors’ expectations as much as techies’.

PR Works

The recording industry has the best PR. Evidence: a quite startling suspension of balance on The BBC’s agenda setting morning news show The Today Programme today. An item, by Stephen Evans, about the proposed extension of European copyright protection for music recordings from 50 to 95 years (to match American law) was breathtakingly skewed in favour of the record labels.

“There’s a good argument to be made that the greatest male singer of all time was Tito Gobbi and the greatest female singer Maria Callas and that the greatest opera recording was made by EMI when the two sang together in 1953. That Tosca is now one of the jewels in EMI’s treasury. Under European coyright law, though, its a jewel that’s about to become legally available to any company with the means to burn and sell a CD.“

The impeccable industry PR line, reproduced without question by Evans, is that the treasury of European recorded music is about to be “made free to all comers”. The PR ‘hook’ is the fiftieth anniversary of this famous recording.

No mention was made of the powerful arguments for the rolling back of copyright protection, no mention of the effectively unlimited protection offered by Digital Rights Management systems, no consumer voice, no artists, no mention of the potential damage to the public domain, nothing. Just the undiluted record industry line.

Evans failed to note that a 45 year extension to copyright protection necessarily means the removal from the public domain of substantial parts of the recorded legacy. Did he ask if the labels would agree to keep their entire libraries in circulation in return for this near doubling of their period of exclusive ownership? Not likely.

Worse, the labels were allowed to play the part of the earnest defenders of the musical ‘treasury’ and the indefensible idea that record labels might actually be depending on the profits from those extra 45 years was tried out (speaking from my experience running businesses, I’d like to shake the hands of the board of directors that signed off on that 95 year business plan – admirably long-term thinking).

Stephen Evans is an admirable reporter but this was PR cut-and-paste of the worst kind. Incidentally, I wonder if Jim Naughty’s well-known passion for opera can have anything to do with the way this story has surfaced?

The Real Audio file is here (not sure how long it will be available)

Graeme Payne has put a transcript here (thanks Graeme!)

Reassembly in Wapping

wilson_aeroplane.jpg
Half term is over but Olly (my four year-old) and I saw out our last day of freedom in style. We went to the handsome Wapping Project in… er… Wapping and watched sculptor Richard Wilson and his friends reassembling a light aeroplane they had previously squashed to a crumpled heap.

Using tensioned straps and the iron frame of the gallery’s retired power station building they’re pulling the plane’s frame back into a recognisable shape over a period of several weeks. In a couple of weeks he’ll screen a time-lapse film of the process and the reason the whole thing is called ‘butterfly’ will become clear.

Olly had the time of his life running round, talking to technicians and generally making a nuisance of himself. We spoke to the artist and I took a couple of rolls of pictures that I’ll put up as soon as I’ve had them scanned. If you have time in the next couple of weeks I’d recommend a visit.

Ouch

Bill Thompson comes back stoutly to my sarcastic response to his BBC article about Google and the Bloggers. Read the comments here. The thing is, I usually find it difficult to disagree with Bill on the big issues. It’s just that this time I’m pretty sure he’s wrong, particularly about blogging. Bill damns weblogs with faint praise when what thinkers and provokers like him ought to be doing is driving the medium forward, creating challenges to the established media and testing the limits of the form, not defending journalists and tired media standards (to the barricades!).

Guardian.jpgMicropayments and probability

I could have been kinder to the big brains at Peppercoin I’m sure but someone had to say it. This week’s Guardian column is about the latest brilliant but doomed micropayments scheme to hit the net ? based on an exotic and genuinely innovative probabilistic approach to settlement that promises to make tiny transactions profitable for merchants by… chucking most of them away. The proposition to merchants is (literally): “trust us. You’ll probably get your money in the end”. I don’t think they’re going to like it ? it has the entire history of innumeracy against it.

Some more links on this story:
Pretty good overview from The Boston Globe (via Werblog)
Clay Shirky on why micropayments won’t work
Very good slashdot thread on the topic.

Blogger basher

Bill Thompson has flipped. According to this article for the BBC (and in no particular order): blogging is not journalism and will not effect mainstream journalists, link frequency and pagerank are ‘just the rule of the mob’, Google is storing your personal search data for sinister reasons and we need an ‘Ofsearch’ to police the search engines.

In fact, he obviously hasn’t flipped but this is a good example of a fairly common response to new stuff in general. First, a natural and appropriate resistance to hyperbole and loss of perspective and, second, a defensive reflex that snaps in when something new threatens a hard won worldview. Bill is a genuine UK Internet old-timer and a true believer and I think the scale and pace of change of the blogosphere probably represents a profound wobble for his stable understanding of the way the net works.

I can say this because that’s how it feels for me too… In fact, I’ll bet every prematurely grey hair on my head (and that’s, like, all of them) that blogging is the ‘paradigm shift‘ we were pretty sure was happening back in 93 or 94 but which disappointingly evaporated.

(incidentally, this entry includes my first embedded link to Google Labs’ very promising Glossary feature).