Very cool article by Olivia O’Sullivan about a 5 year old mobile phone based payment system that works well. It is posted on “Digital Diversity”, a service that I will be keeping an eye on.
Archive for July 4th, 2012
Whether ACTA was reasonable or not is no longer an issue. The European Parliament yesterday voted to reject it. And the vote was crushing - 478 to 39. As prominent Pirate Party founder Mr. Falkvinge gleefully reports, this kills off the possibility of making ACTA a global legal tool for IP rights holders.
And what to make of it? I think the longer term trend is becoming clear. The fight against piracy is looking more and more like a power grab by Hollywood. What was not questioned (pre SOPA) is now more routinely questioned. I would expect that this questioning will intensify.
Not all would agree that these questions are well aimed. Copyright and Technology, for example, offers a long post arguing that popular acceptance of downloading musical content without paying for it is an attack on its underlying value as a product. He bases this on a case study - and exchange between a musical artist and a music fan. He argues that the question is not whether to fight piracy but how to do it. This is an argument that was taken for granted not too long ago. No longer.
FOLLOW - Bobbie Johnson writes at Giga that not all would agree that ACTA is dead.
2d FOLLOW - And why do I think that questioning will intensify? The perception is growing that Hollywood, using US government resources is going too far in its piracy fight. To get a sense of this, consider the O’Dwyer extradition case. Mathew Ingram tells the story for giga. Should the US government be making such a big deal about this? In the old days, few would have noticed. Now more are. And more are scratching their heads wondering whether the US government should be so aggressive. That is the trend that I see.
3rd FOLLOW - NYT reports on the EU Parliament vote. I find it fascinating that the main complaint from treaty proponents is that their work was misrepresented. From US Trade Representative spokesperson Carol Guthrie
It is unfortunate that there has been so much misrepresentation of ACTA, because its language explicitly preserves free expression and privacy while fighting commercial-scale intellectual property theft. There continues to be a need for international cooperation on these issues, and the ACTA can still serve as a valuable forum through which countries can coordinate to stop counterfeit trade and piracy.
I don’t think that this addresses the real problem that this vote symbolizes - right or wrong, trust has been broken.
4th FOLLOW - Wired comments as well on the vote. An interesting comment there - the Obama Administration has invested a significant amount of political capital in the ACTA process. Hmm … time for a re-think?
The criminal prosecution of Megaupload, its founder Kim Dotcom and assorted others is only partially about law. Sure, there is a legal component. But it is equally important for IP rights holders that the prosecution send a powerful message to folks who they say are “pirates”. Borrowing Ronald Reagan’s famous line, that message is “You can run but you can’t hide.”
At first, this marketing message was successful. The media identified Kim Dotcom as a renegade and oddball. The presumption was that a dude like this was probably up to no good.
But it seems that the tide may be turning. First there were embarrassing legal setbacks for the prosecution that put dents in the marketing message. Was this prosecution well thought out? Maybe not. More recently Dotcom himself started doing some messaging. And as NYT reports, he turns out to be a pretty skilled message maker. His message - the prosecution is about a desperate Hollywood using the US government to try to hold back changes in the market.
Today, Dotcom has released a new message - that the decision to take Megaupload down came from Vice President Joe Biden. Ouch. It is a clever move. First, the story that the decision to prosecute was made for political reasons (Biden doing a favor for his friend Chris Dodd) has surface plausibility. And the more the prosecution looks like politics than required by legal concerns, the more it embarrasses the Obama Administration and the Hollywood crowd. The marketing message backfires. Second, we now are moving up the political food chain— Biden is a big name actor and it is an election year. This is no longer just about drooling lower level lawyers making questionable judgment calls. If media outlets pick up the story, Biden now may have to either deny his involvement or explain it. In other words, fess up to his relationship with Dodd and Hollywood or back off. And I am quite sure that he would prefer to do neither.
The story is getting interestinger and interestinger.
This quote today in VF about Kurt Eichenwald’s study of the decline of Microsoft caught my eye
Eichenwald’s conversations reveal that a management system known as “stack ranking”—a program that forces every unit to declare a certain percentage of employees as top performers, good performers, average, and poor—effectively crippled Microsoft’s ability to innovate. “Every current and former Microsoft employee I interviewed—every one—cited stack ranking as the most destructive process inside of Microsoft, something that drove out untold numbers of employees,” Eichenwald writes. “If you were on a team of 10 people, you walked in the first day knowing that, no matter how good everyone was, 2 people were going to get a great review, 7 were going to get mediocre reviews, and 1 was going to get a terrible review,” says a former software developer. “It leads to employees focusing on competing with each other rather than competing with other companies.”
A nice case study about how to destroy teams.
This is the third and last post of a short thread about the cultural values of the 1960’s. In the first two posts I described three storylines that are distinctively based in 60’s values. Becoming cool, being cool, and transcending cool. Here is a link back to post nr. 2. Now for the big question - do these stories still resonate?
Looking back on the sixties, the thing I remember most is the energy one felt in being a young person back then. Culture pivoted suddenly in order to serve the whims of youth and its rebellion. Old fashioned fuddy duddies got out of the way. It was intoxicating and for a time, the message of the rebellion seemed highly relevant. So much so that wiser cultural leaders, like Sir Kenneth Clark, felt the need to remind everyone that the barbarism of this type of rebellion had a dark side. Paul Johnson and others thundered about the dangers of lost standards. But messages from folks like Clark and Johnson et al did not win the day. The genie was out of the bottle.
So what happened next? Well, the genie stayed out of the bottle. The great storylines about becoming cool, being cool and transcending cool stuck around. And they are still being told again and again today. What is the nature of that genie? Well, the political message of the sixties rebellion is less clear. Kurt Anderson writes today for NYT that it boils down to selfishness. The great sixties stories were a glorification of “me” as opposed to “we”. He believes that this selfishness rules today both in the politics of the right and left.
Kurt has a point. So will we go back to “we” stories? Not so fast. Focusing on “me” is selfish. I agree. But fist of all, the empowered classes have always gotten away with selfishness — within some limits (I have not forgotten about the French revolution). And as Adam Smith informs us, being selfish has a positive side (except perhaps in crisis).
The most positive aspect is valuing individuality over conformity. And to this day, we routinely bow down to building the potential of individuals as the key to making great “teams” and “tribes” and “communities”. We obsess about motivation, engagement, innovation and so on. Things that individuals can offer and conformists tend not to. BTW, this is a core part of our start up culture and I don’t think we would have a start up culture without the selfishness and individuality from the sixties.
But where are we going with this? Kurt thinks we should take a closer look at where the dark side is taking us. That would be towards more super rewarded rich and less robust institutions. Those who can’t make it, well, we don’t have a story line for them.
This world is already here, n’est ce pas? But like it or not, I don’t think that we will turn back. The storylines of 2020 won’t thrive solely based on nostalgia for “we”. What are those storylines? Good question. My crystal ball is a bit foggy on this point. But if I were a betting man, I would wager that we will not give up on becoming cool, being cool, and transcending cool. Not just yet. And why not? We have not yet been creative enough to fashion a more engaging alternative.
The phrase “constitutional obscenity” was used by a US law professor to describe the maneuvering that disenfranchised the first elected parliament in Egypt. So what is going on?
The situation in Egypt is not simple. Nor does it appear to be very stable. The rallying cry for freedom that brought people into the streets and brought down Mr. Mubarak was stunning in its emotional energy. But cooler heads are now at work to sort out where power will lie. The military has made an alliance with the Constitutional Court in order to assert control of the transition process. Why? To insure that the Muslim Brotherhood does not control that transition process. And what would be wrong with that? Well, the conventional wisdom is that the Muslim Brotherhood would use its newly won political power to build a religious rather than a secular state. True or not, the Muslim Brotherhood has certain political assets. It has the presidency and purports to represent the popular will.
As NYT reports, one can understand the reluctance of the military/judicial power to allow constitution writing to proceed in this atmosphere. They want to slow things down. At the same time, they have a credibility problem. Whatever the military may say, they also appear to be trying to protect the privileges that Mr. Mubarak lavished on them to keep his grip on power. And these privileges are a sore spot for the public. The military’s credibility problem suggests that they need another political voice to lead the way for them. If they thought that such a voice would emerge from the parliamentary elections, they were disappointed. Ooops.
One wonders what is most important to the Egyptian people. We have seen already that they urgently want freedom. It is likely that the people would re-appear in the streets to protect what they have gained so far. The most likely foe would be the military that appears to be in the way. So can the military find a way to persuade the people that the threat from the Muslim Brotherhood is real? Well, let’s see.
And what are the real motives of those calling the shots within the Muslim Brotherhood? Is it their aim to bring about democracy or theocrcy? How secure is their hold on popular support? Stay tuned.