15 July 2008

An Extra Serving of Sausages

There is so much dead animal waiting to be ground into tasty interthingy links this week that I'm celebrating the bounty with an extra peek into the smokehouse. Some of this, though, isn't really ready for consumption yet — it's tough going.

  • Speaking of dead animals, Jaws was really offended by this item on dead sharks and "art". He would appreciate it if you would keep all of the "jumping the shark" jokes to yourself.
  • There's a long, thoughtful, Canadian-perspective article on fan fiction at the Literary Review of Canada that is worth some real consideration. Ultimately, I think the article gets the proper sequence wrong, but that's probably because I am predisposed to "unfettered creator's choice" as the proper consideration. That's not "publisher's choice," or "media conglomerate's choice": Those are strictly commercial considerations that lead to bullshit decisions like Air Pirates and Dr Juice (although neither is fan fiction, both decisions express the ordinary treatment of fan fiction).
  • Far more important, remember that booze is the ultimate fuel for civilization... and writers (even while we grudgingly move into the 21st century). As Ben Franklin once noted, "Beer is proof that god loves us and wants us to be happy." Or, at least, that nature does, since by the end of his days Ben seemed to be an athiest everywhere except in public.
  • It's been a while since I've ragged on the music industry — two whole days! — so here's a start. Peter Gabriel thinks that the music industry should restructure itself on a service model, rather than as "owners." There's a lot to be said for that in concept, but I remain unsure of how one might do it. Just as with the returns system in book distribution, the problem is not that the goal is either unachievable or unworthy; it is that the transition from the current system to that goal will result in a bloodbath at best. Meanwhile, some performers in Europe try to cling to their own vested interests by pressing for longer music copyright terms — that is, more-deeply investing themselves in the status quo. The problem isn't with the copyright term, guys; it's with the contracts y'all signed.

    As usual, there's another article out there on the purported utopian ideal: the long tail model. The real problem with the long tail model, though, is that it makes no sense from a fundamental, mathematical point of view, for two reasons. First, it assumes that a Gaussian curve's shape represents the actual — rather than merely most probable predicted — distribution of real results. Exploring the actual math behind distribution functions reveals that most statistical operations applied more than about 3.2 standard deviations away from the mean are extremely sensitive to the exact actual distribution — that is, they have little predictive value. (That's one reason that there is no real difference between a 760 and an 800 SAT score.) Second, as that article documents but never points out, the number of results for individual long tail items may not itself reach any kind of threshold for statistical validity. In the end, the real problem with long-tail "strategies" is simple: Hope is not a strategy; neither is relying upon Maxwell's Daemon as a strategy to overcome market entropy.

  • Another repeat from Sunday: Professor Patry discusses yet another overreaching "license" attempt, this time for World of Warcraft. Although I haven't read the opinion, I suspect from Professor Patry's writeup that it's even more muddled than usual. Ultimately, one must ask whether a shrink-wrap agreement can overcome the first sale doctrine as statutorily defined (17 U.S.C. § 109)... but that's one of those ideological "freedom to contract around" questions with no definitive answer anyway.