Day 59: Embarking on Tour 2

Spent the last 10 days in Abu Dhabi editing our first three episodes and planning our second tour of four cities: Seoul, Tokyo, Bangkok and Melbourne. We leave tonight for South Korea. It will be another whirlwind tour and we’re slightly less prepared than the first tour due to less prep time and more distractions in post, but I have no doubt it will be a blast. I love Japan and Australia. I expect to love Thailand and Korea as well.

As a side note, Google has been a great assistant to me on this trip. In fact, Google’s my only friend on this trip offering me logistical travel support. Google Now is an app that predicts what useful information you might want on hand and prepares it for you. For example, it plucked our flight reservation out of my email inbox and returned our flight status without me prompting a thing. So helpful!

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Wish us safe travels and luck shooting! I’ll try to stay in touch.

Leaving A Data Legacy

I would love to know how my grandparents lived their lives half a century ago. Now that all but one have passed, I’m left with only a few pictures and stories. While there may be a Big Fish fantasy charm to the finite amount of information I have, my curiosity endures.

FoursquareI finally adopted Foursquare in January and checked in nearly a hundred times since. To this day, I struggle to find direct utility in the service (beyond specials, which I have never successfully used). That said, I am a data nut. I appreciate the value of collecting information on my life, whether I do anything with it or not. I’m too lazy to keep a journal, so social and location services help a lot. Despite the fact that my data may be used to serve the gains of others, I (perhaps naively) trust that these services will evolve to capture and interpret the nodes of my life back to me and all who follow.

I am of the camp that sees big data not as a violation of personal privacy, but as a path to building a data legacy. I don’t presume to become wildly famous and expect the world to care what I ate for breakfast yesterday. No, I mean to say that I want to leave slices of history for my children and children’s children to better understand me and the times I live in. Does anybody really care that I had Pad Thai for lunch yesterday? Fuck no. But the next generation might appreciate a rich data set on American dining habits and dietary evolution. My grandchildren might appreciate that Pad Thai is one of my favorite dishes.

Like donating your body to science, I want to donate the computed history of my life to the next generation of sociologists, historians and nostalgics. I want my grandchildren to have access to anything they could possibly want to know about me and learn from my mistakes. We all have an opportunity like never before to contribute to the nuance of our generation’s history books.

So, in spite of all this privacy hooplah, I will continue to check in and contribute to big data through applications and organizations that lend to a long shelf life and value for greater societal context.

Protest

I keep my mouth shut and seldom declare my stance on tabled issues in public. I avoid stirring the pot for the sake of it and do what I can to preserve my nonpartisan relationships. But when it comes to legislation or executive decisions that may invariably keep my mouth shut against my will, I speak up.

I learned a lot from Hollywood in the five years that I studied and worked in Los Angeles. I respect and support the industry’s need to fight piracy. To produce and spread content on a sustainable scale requires considerable revenue chains that dare not waver. Due largely to the size of teams necessary to complete them, films will always be expensive to produce. Losing control of your content – and thereby losing the ability to recoup costs on your production – is a huge issue and must be curtailed.

That said, I do not respect Hollywood’s conservative grapple-hold on content in an antiquated scarcity model. While the studios contend that they make more by staggering the release of a film across all mediums, these rigid exhibition windows from theater to home regularly deprive hungry consumers of content they want to consume. The Hollywood release model is effectively inspiring piracy – not because people want to maliciously destroy the industry, but because people want to consume content and cannot do so when and where they want. Street vendors in the third world do not sell ripped DVDs as an attack on studios or because tickets are too expensive; they do it because Hollywood failed to make the content available in their market. Contemporary piracy stems more from accessibility issues than anything else. Hollywood is utterly failing to provide. By holding product close to the chest, the entertainment industry is failing to reach customers, scale brands at the contemporary pace necessary to survive, and collect the money of eager and willing fans. The media industry is killing itself. They need no help from pirates.

Out of desperation and a lazy aversion to change, entertainment turned to lobbyists to craft a bill that would effectively give our government the power to censor or shut down websites. There are constitutional ways to fight piracy; the Stop Online Piracy and Protect Intellectual Property Acts are not it. To learn more about the bills, I encourage you to watch this video.

Tomorrow between 5am and 5pm MST, I will join many Internet companies – including Wikipedia and Google – in protesting these bills by shutting down my site. You will not be able to read my blog.

Under the First Amendment, we have the right to contest any act abridging the freedom of speech. We have the freedom to protest and stand up for our rights. Do not dismiss protests as mass whining or vanity noise. Without protest and public forums for opinion, women would not have the right to vote and many of us would still own slaves. Do not take the freedom of expression lightly. Celebrate your voice at every possible turn. Use it when you can.

What Do You Get From Social Media?

Today’s major platforms have connected me with people I would have otherwise lost touch with and to a wealth of digital content shared by peers. Beyond that, I am slowly failing to identify with Facebook, Twitter, and Google+’s value propositions. I am very curious to hear from you, dear audience. What do you get from social media? What services do you use and how have they changed your life? How could they be better? If you have thoughts on the subject, I’d love to hear from you – simply post in the comments below or email me.

Dear Facebook: Stop Wasting My Time(line)

I just finished playing with Facebook’s new Timeline after unlocking it through this method. While it was an aesthetically pleasing experience, I closed my laptop and wondered, “What the hell did I really do in the last two hours of my life?” Reorganize personal updates for the sake of vanity and privacy? After seeing old college party photos mixed in with work updates, I felt the need to clean things up a bit. It took two hours of my time. And I’m sure there’s plenty more I should do to clean up six years of personal updates.

Who has time for that? What value do I get as a user from that time investment? And who really benefits from the new layout? At first, I believed in the biographical nobility of Timeline. But that wore off in 15 minutes. I think there’s a place for this sort of biography in the public search space, but not on Facebook’s community full of people who are supposed to be my friends. Access to the past is key, and I commend Facebook for making that easier for me. But I’m not sure its worth the time to manage it.

While Open Graph may be a game-changing release, the Timeline is not. A personal vanity biography is not a useful tool. Google’s new Hangout tools and productivity suites are useful tools. Facebook doesn’t seem to be solving the world’s problems; Facebook seems to be solving its own problems. I’m not impressed.

New Media: Producer’s Intent? [Film Friday]

This is the first in a series of posts I announced last week called “Understanding New Media.”

One argument I’ve heard from filmmakers trying to define “new media” favors a producer’s original intent for the material. If the story being told was meant for web and first launches online, then it (by definition of producer’s intent) should be considered “New Media.” I suppose that’s fair – if it was made for web and only ever lives on the web, what else do you call it? Well, I call 99% of it “Casual Video.”

YouTube is the biggest marketplace for “Casual Video,” where users upload literally anything they can capture. Most YouTube videos have no revenue agenda, are authored by individuals arbitrarily, and lack front-end logistics or financing. For a video to transcend “casual” status, I think it must first have at least a little foresight, structure, and craft tied into its execution. “New Media” is a film industry term, so there should be a certain level of “industry” to the content being produced. There is really no “industry” to my friend Jim skateboarding off of a cliff. It’s merely pure, casual fun.

So I’ve raised a little money and produced something for the web. “New Media,” right? What happens when that content syndicates on television? Or premieres on the big screen? Is it still “New Media?” Or has it become more than that? On the flip side, what happens when a feature film, originally intended for the big screen, first ends up online out of failure to platform in theaters? Is it still a “Feature Film” or has it become “New Media” in spite of the producer’s original intent? Tough call.

Moreover, what happens when our televisions and movie theaters are networked through the web? Is a cable show broadcast on Google TV “New Media” or “Television?” I stream Netflix and South Park the same way I stream YouTube antics. Don’t you? So what’s the difference? Well, there is no difference to the consumer, except perhaps the quality and duration of content. The lines between web and other platforms are blurring. Just because something plays online does not necessarily make it “New Media.”

I suppose the “original intent” argument can stand for now concerning content that was financed, produced, and distributed exclusively for the web. But there’s much more to it than that. Does the content play as part of a greater whole? Is it a spinoff or tie-in to another intellectual property on another distribution platform? Should the content then be called “Bonus Material” or “Marketing” instead?

Tune in next week for a discussion on web content’s autonomy.

Understanding New Media [Film Friday]

Few people inside or outside the movie business can really explain the “New Media” trend. The term “web series” has developed an underestimated connotation, suggesting handicam YouTube videos, goofball kids, and poor craft. While a large share of the 3 billion videos uploaded daily are casual video, the professional web video industry has exploded. Many companies (including the one I work for) are spending millions and millions of dollars to produce for the Internet, embracing gear and talent normally resident to major motion pictures. The web is the new frontier and everyone is boarding the train.

Producing video for the web does not necessarily make it “New Media.” If that were true, all movie trailers, skits, and press material released online would qualify. But we often separate this type of material into “marketing” or “publicity.” So where do you draw the line? Having worked in “New Media” for over a year now, I feel safe taking a crack at it.

I am going to spend the next several Fridays exploring this topic. I will take cases I have heard and wrestle with them. With any luck, we will come up with a suitable definition for “New Media” in a few weeks.

Tune in next week for a debate about “producer’s intent.”

Table of Contents for this series:

Groupon and Living Social Just Lost a Customer

GrouponI’ve had enough. Fitness classes, yoga, waxing, Brazilian blowouts, facials, tattoos, beauty products, home & garden, apparel, too many hair cuts, too many massages, too many poorly yelped restaurants. I cannot delete these daily spam notes quick enough. I would never spend money on any of those things. I’ve been registered to both sites for over a year and only purchased five coupons. That means that I found only 0.7% of all available deals relevant and 99.3% mostly irrelevant. Terrible odds. I unsubscribed from both services this morning.

Not sure if you’ve ever checked, Groupon or Living Social, but I’m a 23-year-old male and not really that into blowouts or bikini waxing. A basic search and your own profile form would reveal at least that much. Connecting through Facebook or Foursquare could teach you even more.

The marketing prowess of daily emails and a clever coupon system has completely worn off. If these services made a little effort to market their offers by listing “best steak in town” or “highest yelped masseuse” in the subject line, I might pay more attention. Otherwise, the deal messages sit in my inbox like spam at the mercy of the delete button.

Groupon, Living Social, OpenTable, Facebook Deals, Google Offers and all of the other ripoffs coupon services need to start delivering relevant, targeted and meaningful deals. “Deal type” subscription checkboxes on signup pages are not sufficient. The delivery mechanism of email needs to be treated more delicately. And they all need to compete for poignant brevity (deal announcements should be no longer than a tweet).

I will stay registered to Yipit.com, which aggregates all of the major deal players into one daily email and does a far better job weeding out coupon categories I will never buy. But even Yipit could afford to target better and market the benefit of each deal.

Pays Versus Plays: The Future of Digital Residuals

My MP3 play count for “I’m Not The One” by The Black Keys:  43

My MP3 play count for “Down for Whatever” by Ice Cube:  2

Who deserves more money, at least on my behalf? Well, obviously The Black Keys.

The way things are now, they each get the same. I purchased both MP3s for 99 cents and each artist collects a whopping 9 cents of that. Not fair, huh? The Black Keys should definitely get a bigger chunk of my money than Ice Cube (and a bigger chunk of that 99-cent MP3 sale, but that’s a different point). If an artist earns more plays, he or she should earn more dough. But it has never worked that way for consumer media ownership – pay for the album once and never have to pay for it again.

Artists theoretically collect more money per program their songs are used in. Current performance rights organizations (ASCAP, BMI, SESAC, and SoundExchange) use abstract systems of surveys and credits to track television, radio and public space plays to determine artist payments. Their systems are just as arbitrary and myopic as the Nielsen ratings. Needless to say, artists’ residuals are not accurate and cannot reflect the actual popularity of their music.

As digital space envelopes us, tracking is becoming easier and easier. By the end of the year, I predict that our entire music library can be synced to the cloud (Grooveshark has offered library uploading for a long time and Google Music sounds like it will be a formidable competitor in this space). Eventually, all music will be trafficked through the Internet. When this happens, play count data can be synced and shared. Artists and record companies can finally get accurate reporting on their play counts (and even more accurate insight into audience reception). Artists can get paid the portion they deserve, at least next to other artists. Plays will become more valuable than pays.

The trick is getting money into the system. I don’t think Google will have a problem with that, though.

After Hours

What do you do when you come home from work or school? Keep working? Relax? Watch television? Read a book? Write? Work out? Spend time with family? Go to bed?

It is important to keep your body healthy and mind sharp. Family is very important, not to be neglected. Balance is the key to successful living. But consider: your after hours are unencumbered by the expectations of a paycheck or supervisor. You have the freedom to live, the freedom to grow, and the freedom to innovate.

Many of today’s most impactful creations did not manifest at the hands of large corporate teams, wealthy R&D divisions, or policymakers – they were conceived by individuals as hobbies after hours. Henry Ford experimented with his first gasoline engine at home while working for the Edison Illuminating Company. John Pemberton, a late nineteenth century pharmacist, bottled Coca-Cola as a side project. The Wright Brothers assembled gliders in the back of their bicycle shop. Google and Facebook were both parented by active college students. The list goes on.

Live your life doing what you want to do. Embrace your hobbies. Embrace your time. What you do after hours can liberate you.