25 August 2010

Calling Dr Scrivellum

  • First up, the "It's Money That Matters" aspect of copyright and intellectual property. Here, one finds yet another in the long list of laments on how are musicians going to get paid, anyway? It's got several graphics that violate just about every rule of good graphic design in general and are candidates for Edward Tufte's hall of shame: the false 3-D perspective, the excessive use of gridlines implying data precision where there is none, and the very existence of multiple data sets in Figure 2. And the analysis is nothing to cheer about, either, as it focuses solely upon recorded (as opposed to live) music; fails to distinguish between performer and writer; uses a radio-based measurement metric; and, perhaps most egregiously, draws its data set from the 1990s, what the article characterizes as "a simpler time" (which, in non-music-industry language, means "absent long-term viability of independent labels"). This essay gets a C- on the second day of school.

    But that's better than the other offering. To begin with, consider this quotation from the opening of the article, which represents both the article itself and its source all too well:

    The struggle to control and monetize intellectual property is hardly a new one for publishers and other content creators, but it is one that is constantly evolving. With an ever-changing set of technologies for creating and distributing content, users tend to create new norms and come up with new ways to circumvent intellectual property law faster than publishers can find ways to stop them.

    Michael Baumann, "A Copyright Battle for the 2010s" (01 Jul 2010). Given the source — a trade rag/'netization from Dun & Bradstreet — it shouldn't be too surprising that the article already has dropped itself to the C- category by conflating "publisher" and "content creator." It relies upon the CCC as a source on user perceptions (not even remotely valid)... and then, instead of actually discussing methods of "monetizing" content, as implied by the article title, it turns to a stealth endorsement of weak DRM plus an education campaign. The battle is not about copyright; it is about copying and getting paid for it, a second-order inquiry well beyond the scope of any of the sources cited in the article. This is a D paper, although since it was over summer vacation maybe the author expected to get an easier grader.

  • Have a few back-to-school annoyances:

    • This is a college town. Why, then, does practically nobody — and I'm including the two big-box office supply stores — stock college- or narrow-ruled paper products? There are about seven times as many college students (not to mention all of the adults) as third-graders-and-below around here. Even the campus bookstores do a poor job... and the less said about the dearth of quadrille (graph) paper available for notetaking and lab use, near one of the leading engineering schools, the better.
    • The Pilot Razor Point has disappeared from stores. Sharpies don't cut it for note-taking — the ink takes too long to dry, it soaks into the paper too much, and the pens run out too quickly — and the alternatives are worse.
    • I'd rather share a parking lot with Asian students just learning how to drive in the US than with the local version of soccer moms. Or, for that matter, with the idiot who designed the traffic signalling and sightlines on North Prospect (hint: not everyone drives a suburban assault vehicle or 4x4 pickup, so setting up stop lines and government-owned greenery and signage to create blind spots for sedans isn't too bright).
    • There are worse things than Wal-Mart. Many, if not most, of them are so-called "main street" stores. That's not to say that Wal-Mart, and other big box retailers, have no problems; it's only to say that they're not replacing paradise... and that's before getting into the whole Peyton Place problem with knowing too much about one's customers (such as the pharmacist who casually mentions the teenage daughter's birth-control prescription/supplies over the back fence, not realizing — or caring — that said daughter got that prescription because she's smarter and more responsible than her seventeen-years-older-than-her parents).

      The relevant inquiry is not whether Wal-Mart is better/worse for the customers and business environment than some hypothetical, never-attained vision of Rockwellian paradise; it is whether it is better/worse than reality. Or has nobody ever thought about the base/post exchange and commissary system and its relation to the surrounding communities? I thought not.

    • Laptop/notebook makers need to pay a great deal more attention to battery life and keyboard usability than they do to offering 5.1 surround sound or internal BluRay discs, particularly for machines aimed at students.
  • Random House and Wylie appear to have settled their e-book rights dispute. As I mentioned at the beginning of the tempest in a teacup, I'm quite displeased with both of them; I don't view this as a victory for either side, except insofar as it enables both of them to move on to other issues. Contrary to the spin being placed on things by RH and its apologists, this is nowhere near definitive.
  • Meanwhile, PW's new ownership has demonstrated that it has no more journalistic (or other!) integrity than did its predecessor media conglomerate with the new pay-to-play quarterly "special edition" coverage available to self-published authors. If it's a "processing fee," as characterized by PW itself, $150 seems very, very high — it costs a maximum of £75 to enter a feature film at Cannes (in a timely fashion), and most major film festivals cost less or nothing, in a situation in which there is real "processing" to undertake.
  • Peter Schaffer perhaps unjustly "accused" Salieri of complicity in Mozart's death. It's still a great play/film... and more psychologically and culturally plausible than physicians arguing over a two-centuries-gone corpse.

And now, off to see Dr Oren Scrivellum — DDS. If I were a real shark, I'd ignore it; let the damned thing fall out; and wait for its replacement to slot in. I'm not.