Sunday, February 21, 2010

Performance Tax?

When I see something like the "Performance Rights Act" (or performance tax, as most are calling it), I can draw one of two conclusions:

1) Legacy media (and their partners in government) really don't understand that there's a fundamental flaw in their business model, and are trying to use the government to hold back the coming flood.

2) Legacy media understands perfectly well the doom that they are facing, and they are simply trying to suck all the blood out of a dying beast before moving on.

There is a very big problem if the two biggest threats to your music business are having fans that want to hear your music and having those fans who want to share it with others. I truly feel bad for radio stations. Remember when record companies would *pay them* to play their music? Now they're trying to *charge them*. Astounding.

Technically, even the idea of charging radio to play music isn't quite accurate. They want to *tax* them.

Here's my suggestion to the RIAA:

If your business model has been undermined by progress, and the there's no way to market your goods, then get out of the business. Do not use your influence in Washington to extract money from a sector where you can no longer earn it. The market is giving you very important information. That information is: you aren't needed anymore. Because you used to be an industry does not mean you always will be.

The same could be said to all legacy media companies. There was a time in our history where they did not exist. There is a time in our future where they may not exist. Legacy media companies like newspapers and record companies had a business model, because they filled a need: moving the product from producer (writer/artist/musician/reporter) to consumer. Thanks to the Internet, for good or ill, this is no longer a need, hence the business model is dying.

We still need people to create, write, report, comment, perform, sing, and play. So, we need to find the business model that works for *them*, instead of the intermediaries who used to do something useful back in the 20th century.

I know we live in the age of the bailout, but if we ask the government to step in to prevent the creative destruction of every single industry that gets overturned by the Internet, that isn't progress, it's regression.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Google Buzz: Why Open APIs Matter

This will be the last I say about Buzz for a while. Two posts in a row is one too many, but I really want somewhere to put down this idea so I can just link it every time I get asked the question.

Why is Buzz better than Foursquare/Facebook/Twitter/FriendFeed/etc.?

It's not. Well, it is. But it's not really in competition with them. Asking the question is treating Social Media like a zero-sum game where each social network is a silo, and there can be only one winner, at the expense of every other competitor. But Social Media is not a zero-sum game. You think we'd have learned this already, given all that we've seen in the Internet's brief history.

Once upon a time, our networks were mostly separate silos. We'd log into our favorite community, make contact with a few of our digital friends. Sometimes we'd trade deep conversation, sometimes just a few inside jokes, but mostly useless trash that just let them know we were around. Our friends would introduce us to new friends. We'd play games together, or leave each other messages when we weren't logged in at the same time.

...And then we cancelled our Prodigy account because we could access this new thing called The Internet...

Right now people think of Buzz as "one more social network". This is wrong. Buzz is not just another GEnie to compete with Prodigy or CompuServe. Buzz is HTML and HTTP! (Technically, I think of Buzz as NCSA Mosaic v0.9) Buzz is the first step towards hammering down the agreed-upon protocols that will bind our social networks together.

Some of us will use Buzz directly for social networking (just like many of us accessed the Internet directly on UNIX machines back in the day). Some of us will prefer a more mediated interface, or one we're more comfortable with and will use Facebook, or FriendFeed (just like your Mom continues to use AOL). Some social networking platforms will simply specialize in what they do best (Twitter is already terrible for conversations, but excellent for one-to-many textcasting).

Thanks to the ground forged by Buzz (and it's use of open APIs!!) we can look forward to a future where the platform you prefer to socially network is as irrelevant as the domain name in your e-mail address.

  • You post on Facebook, and I reply on Buzz. Your facebook post is updated with my reply and our friends on both networks see it.
  • You check in on foursquare, and my Buzz layer in Google Maps updates with your check-in, or I see you in my Goggles overlay.
  • I comment on tweets, Youtube videos, blog posts, (each on any number of different platforms) and it gets buzzed. You reply to that Buzz, and it gets linked on the original source page.
  • I have control of my content's privacy, publicy, or some subset in between.
Buzz doesn't add one more splintered shard to the social web, it's the first tool we've really had to start gluing it together. If we're lucky, it can knock down the barriers between the anti-social silos that social networks have become.

This is the future of social.

This is what the Buzz is about.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Buzz about Google Buzz

The title reminds me that I have an irrational fear of bees. Just sayin'. Where was I? Oh yeah...

The Buzz about Google Buzz

So a full 50% of all the buzz on day one of Google Buzz was, of course, the "Hello World!" of Social Media: "What's the big deal about this?".

Everyone else is trying to figure out if it's a threat to Facebook. Or Twitter. Or Foursquare. Or Yelp. Or Google Wave, for that matter. Here's my take on the Potential and the Perils of Buzz: What it is, what it is not, and what it may someday be.

The Potential:

1) Open Development

Google has announced that the Buzz APIs will be protected under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 license. This means open and shareable development. Programmers like this.

Furthermore, Buzz's APIs will take advantage of other open platforms, like OAuth, WebFinger, Salmon, and Activity Streams. What does this mean for you? Ultimately, smoother integration with many of the sites and services you already use. It won't be long before Buzzing this blog post will have you appearing in it's comment section below at the same time. This ability to aggregate conversations across platforms and media could someday be a game-changer.

2) Location Awareness

By making Buzz location aware on your mobile device, it allows you to stamp your Buzz on a geographic spot in the real world. If you haven't used Buzz mobile yet, you haven't used it.

Of course, this is just the beginning. With Google Maps, Places Pages, Goggles, and Android Navigation, combining location awareness with social is a HUGE opening. If Google can seamlessly tie together all of these platforms with what people are saying in realtime, they can provide instant reviews, give businesses aggregated feedback about their service, and turn every person with a smartphone into a breaking news reporter with a worldwide audience. (More about that last one in a minute)

3) Relevance

What Google is best known for in search, is the ability to find relevant information and weed out the noise. Can you imagine a ground more fertile for that kind of expertise than social media?

The Buzz feed already jumps items that are getting lots of feedback to the top of your list - the first of Google's organic processes designed to promote the relevant over the recent. Don't care about what I ate for breakfast today? No problem, it will fall off your feed pretty quickly in the face of more interesting conversations between friends. Of course, if some buzz *really* takes off, it can get recommended to friends-of-friends. What did I say above about breaking realtime news to a global audience? Now the relevance of your buzz post can surpass the constraints of your follower list!

Of course, knowing Google, their ability to show us the relevant data will only improve over time.

4) Control in the User's Hands

Each buzz post has a simple and accessible option to select whether or not your post will be public, or private to a select group of your choosing. This feature is just wonderful. Not only does it put the power in my hands to determine who sees what I post, but it also lets us help each other keep the posts relevant. (See #3 above).

The Perils:

1) The Big Heads and the Long Tail

(I'm going to call this a conditional problem with Buzz. Whether it's a bug or a feature I'll leave to you.)

More comments --> more buzz --> higher rank --> Domination.

Watch what happens to your feed when you follow someone famous. They have 70,000 followers and hundreds of comments for each post. You'll never see anything but Ashton Kutcher's posts if you follow him. This almost necessitates limiting your buzz circle to the people you actually engage in two-way conversations with (note that your buzz following is automatically generated by people you e-mail with frequently--this is not an accident). If Buzz takes off, I think it will drive Twitter to where Twitter's been heading anyway -- towards the big head of the Long Tail. Twitter will become broad/textcasting. Oh well, it was horrible for conversations anyway.

2) Google PR Problem

People are starting to get twitchy about Google knowing everything about them. Adding in social features and location awareness isn't going to help ease the minds of those concerned about such things. Of course, If you didn't want to be social, you wouldn't be on a social network, now would you? Google's privacy options are good to protect you from prying eyes that aren't your friends, but in this case, it's Google that people are worried about, not the leering stranger.

Considering how much of my life I've pumped into Google's products, I should probably be more concerned than I am, but I believe the "Don't be Evil" jingo.

3) Fizzle

Google's known for launching potentially transformational technologies, and then wandering off like a distracted 10-year-old. If they don't put real muscle behind Buzz, it could die of atrophy. Google has a huge hill to climb if they're going to get some real mindshare away from Facebook and Foursquare. I hope they don't get discouraged very easily.

On the flipside, their products and technologies never really go away. I see Froogle everyday in Google's shopping results. Buzz has more than a touch of Sidewiki in it, and I see a lot of Wave's tech under the hood. (Brief aside: Wave isn't dead Google tech, it's just deep Google tech. It's platform/power-user stuff, and it's not for everybody.)

If Google sticks with it, and developers get crafty with the APIs, this Buzz about Buzz might actually be justified in the near future.

By the way, you can follow my Buzz here: