It is all in the name

I just love stories like this.

In a wonderful case of mistaken identity a young American woman, Ashley Kerekes, while minding her own business, has become 450px-Ashes_Urna darling of the cricket world. Known affectionately by her family and friends as Ashes, she chose the Twitter handle of theashes . Now as anyone who has ever been exposed to cricket knows, The Ashes also refers to  the international series of Test matches, played between Australia and England dating back to 1882 and is probably one of the most celebrated international rivalries in any sport.

It seems that quite a few Twitterers (people who tweet) made the assumption that someone with the handle of theashes must be associated with the game of cricket. The good thing though is what started out as an annoyance turned out to have a silver lining for Ashley as she was whisked off to Australia to see the final test.[BBC article]. If you have the time, listen to the wonderfully British BBC announcer interview Ashley, it is delightful.

Supporting the Cause

[In the interest of full disclosure, my son works for Creative Commons]

While WikiLeaks and the reaction to it has been getting all the publicity, it is opportune to also remember other groups that make the ‘open internet’ a reality, such as Creative Commons (CC).  While there are many many definitions for the ‘open internet’. To me, it means ”facilitating the sharing of ideas and content while allowing for the protection of the original authors and other contributors”. Creative Commons supplies the tools to make this possible, whether it is allowing anyone anywhere to freely build on and translate MIT course materials, run a course at the Peer 2 Peer University on anything from Web Development 101 to Digital Journalism, or contribute to the incredible sum of knowledge that is Wikipedia. DSC_0649_edited-2

I, like many others, extensively use CC licensed works (including this blog) and the reverse is also true, the accompanying photograph is appearing in an Israeli online text  book written in both Arabic and Hebrew, which I think is kind of cool. This type of sharing is made so much easier through the efforts of Creative Commons.

So the questions I am asking you to consider are: How do openness, creativity, and innovation impact your every day life? How much more interconnected is your world now that music is remixed, videos are shared online, and educational materials can be downloaded before they’re bound in paper?

Creative Commons provides the tools necessary to make sharing, adapting to new paradigms, and the expansion of creativity possible. Help them make the world bigger and better by supporting their 2010  fund drive. [link]

Friends – who loves ya baby?

I have been thinking a lot about friends lately and the real value of social networks like Facebook, LinkedIn, Plaxo etc. I came across an excellent (if long) presentation on slideshare by Paul Adams of the User Experience team at Google. It looks at relationships (friendships) and the differences between the way your online social networks (such as facebook) work and your real life social relationships and how they influence each other.kojak

Online, people are either your friends or they are not. There is some filtering at a very high level, Plaxo and LinkedIn for example are typically limited to business acquaintances not personal friends, but beyond that everyone is treated the same, from your best buddy to the guy you met yesterday. To paraphrase that wise TV philosopher Theo Kojak, “(online) Who love’s ya baby?” the answer is all your online friends. He uses the analogy of the time and trouble folks take on planning the seating at a wedding in real life and yet how on a social network they are all just lumped together.

Paul provides a view of your offline relationships that can be segmented by groups of people (family, college, neighbours, activities etc. (most people have 4 to 6 major groups)) and the strength of the relationship (strong (4 to 5 relationships), weak (up to 150 relationships) and temporary) and how they influence your decisions. As he points out,

Social Networking is a means to an end.

You need to understand what the end is.

So what does this mean? I think there really is a need to be able to segment friends on social networks to better reflect how life really works. Until then, I for one will continue to be just a casual user of facebook (social networks). As always comments welcome.

Mail is not dead yet – (SPAM)

An odd thing happened to me over the weekend. I received my first ever letter from Dar Es Salaam, postmarked 12 November 2010.charles taylor jnr It was from Charles Taylor Jnr. the infamous son of the former dictator of Liberia, Charles Taylor. It promised me 30% of $177,000,000 or a shade over $50 million dollars, and all I have to do is fax my contact details to a number in London to get the ball rolling.

A few things just jumped out at me. I was amazed that someone would waste an 800 Tanzanian shilling stamp (about 50¢) to send me SPAM. I had thought that SPAM was limited to email given the cost of paper and stamps. The letter was sent from Tanzania which last time I looked was on the other side of Africa and about 4,650 miles (7,500 kilometers) from London. I also wondered what made the spammers pick me out of the 350 million people in the US, at least they just had my old address (we moved about four months ago). A scan of the letter itself is appended below.

I guess the absolute giveaway was the mention of a meeting on the 19th of November, 2009 in London attended by Charles Taylor Jnr. Trouble is you can’t be in two places at once and at that time he was well into his first year of a 97 year prison sentence, for torture and summary executions in Liberia, in a US prison. [link]. I think I will have to make my first $50 million some other way.

Double click on the image below to view.

Charles Taylor letter fuzzy

Copying after a fashion

Came across a TEDxUSC (University of Southern California) talk by Johanna Blakely (link). She discusses the differences in approach between the fashion industry, where there is very little intellectual property protection, no copyright protection, no patent protection and only trademark protection (the reason for logo chic).

She focuses on the statement often used by the music and video industry to justify copyright -

Without ownership there is no incentive to innovate

One has to only look at Lady Gaga’s latest outfit to see the absurdity of that statement. lady-gaga-queen Fashion designers can sample and remix to their hearts content without any fear that they are impinging on someone else’s copyrighted work. This freedom of action has led to a ‘culture of copying’ a.k.a. a trend and fuelled the rise and success of the fashion industry.

But this effect does not only apply to fashion. Jokes and recipes can not be copyrighted (good news to all those e-mail forwarders amongst us). For comedians, the result has been the rise of a new style of comic, when everyone can use (and reuse) the same one-liners, comedians with personas (Seinfeld for example) become the new norm.

The kicker in the talk is when she compares the revenue of low IP industries (food, automobiles, fashion, furniture) with that of high IP industries (film, books, music).

Blakely TEDxUSC Gross sales

Makes you think, doesn’t it?

A copy of her charts (with some awesome fashion statements) can be found at the following link.

Ghost in the Machine

Yesterday, I got a note from Facebook.  “You’ve been away,” they said, “and we’ve missed you.  Your friends have missed you.  Please come back!”  Well, it wasn’t quite as gushing, but that was the gist of it.  I’ve been away because I finally deleted my facebook page, and so it was a little bit of a surprise to hear from them.

I left for a number of reasons.  First, I really didn’t want to know as much about so many “loose acquaintances” as I was being exposed to.  It was a little, well, familiar.  Second, I was becoming less aware of who was following me.  Third, it became increasingly difficult to moderate my communications, knowing that relatives, friends, old friends, not friends anymore, work colleagues, former work colleagues, and Goodness knows who else was listening in.  I know I had a list, but there were well over a hundred people and growing.  I can compare it to this.  If you’re speaking to family and friends, then you’re comfortable, and even with work colleagues who you know, and so on.  But if you’re giving a speech at a wedding – to, mostly, family, friends and so on, you moderate your language.  So that became uncomfortable.

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The Googlification of Everything Part 73: Television

The fifteen foot factor explained (Anthony's feeble attempt at Google-cool by using animation).

Google launched Google TV last night.  Their video (see below)  is graphically cool.  I really like the way they communicate – they define cool so many times.  But TV isn’t just a channel like they think it is.  TV is an institution.  It’s furniture.  It’s immovable.  That’s ok though, Google have not moved it.  We’re still watching the TV, and the fifteen foot factor has not been eliminated.

What’s still the problem, however, is that Google are acting on the instinct that has bedeviled attempts to connect the Internet and TV.  This is what I call the moron paradigm.  The moron paradigm is a little like Don Siegel’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers, a metaphor for the dumbing down of society, as TV and mass communications began to drive lowest common denominator type social development across America.  We don’t so much shows, as watch TV.  We may have a cellophane wrapped trilogy of “The Godfather” sitting in a drawer in the lumber room, but if “two” is on TV (as Tony Soprano may have put it), we’ll get in the popcorn and finish dinner before it starts.  Why?  I don’t know.  It’s part of the moron paradigm.

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