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Comments from Frankston, Reed, and Friends

Thursday, August 15, 2002

DanB at 11:40 PM [url]:

Why we buy or don't buy music is complicated

Josh Bernoff, who once worked with the three of us at Software Arts, did an interesting survey for Forrester. He's quoted in a Forrester press release titled "Downloads Did Not Cause The Music Slump, But They Can Cure It as saying: "There is no denying that times are tough for the music business, but not because of downloading. Based on surveys of 1,000 online consumers, we see no evidence of decreased CD buying among frequent digital music consumers...Plenty of other causes are viable, including the economic recession and competition from surging video game and DVD sales..."

I guess this isn't surprising. People I know who download still buy, maybe more because they are sampling new (to them) groups by downloading and learning they want the full CD. The people who download and don't buy didn't used to buy, either. I also see the buying of CDs as a gift becoming even more special. You show you care enough to get the pretty shrink-wrapped copy, not the hand-labeled home-burned one. I've heard (but can't confirm) that in Israel, when the local CDs lowered their prices (something about that they aren't price controlled like ones from overseas) sales went up. [Do any SATN readers know about this?] Israel also has low cell phone prices and one of the highest usage rates in the world. Sounds like old fashioned economics.

Another thing I've noticed. People make mixes of songs for other people as gifts. (PCs make this real easy compared to the cassette tape days.) Those songs are sometimes ones that remind them of times together because they are the main ones they listened to over and over again when working, riding in a car, at camp, etc. Those songs come from CDs, often purchased, that one or both parties own. The "gift" is the compilation -- the mix -- not the music, since they already have the music. That's interesting, because a compilation can be an expressive thing, maybe even worthy of its own copyright protection. Our use of music is evolving.

Tuesday, August 13, 2002

DPR at 9:44 PM [url]:

FCC Spectrum Policy process looks promising

Last Friday, 8/9/02, I participated in an FCC Public Workshop on Spectrum Rights and Responsibilities (available in RealVideo). I was particulary heartened by Chairman Michael Powell's introductory remarks. Here is a man who really wants to change things in spectrum policy. He brought in Paul Kolodzy, a real technology guy from DARPA, to create a Spectrum Policy Task Force, and Paul has been making things happen in a way that most FCC watchers have never seen before. Both panels were particularly interesting. The first one, which I participated in, was about technology change and its impact on Spectrum Policy - and it was very interesting to hear different points of view. The second one was about policy changes. I was particularly encouraged by Tom Hazlett's attempt to bridge the gap between the "commons" folks and the "secondary markets" folks - pointing out that what we really need is a "cheap" means of allocating spectrum, whether technically based or auction-based.

I think this panel, and the other one I participated in on 8/1/02 about unlicensed RF technology (RealVideo), were very important, and I hope enlightening.

All of the workshops are accessible on the FCC website.

BobF at 11:09 AM [url]:

Of Blogs and Security and More

I just posted two new essays on Frankston.com. They were a bit too long to post directly on SATN though still only two or three pages each.

In Blogging, Spam and Discovery I look at blogs in the context of sharing information, not just publishing it. Of course news stories look at blogs as competing venues for posting stories. But what is the difference between news and advertising? Of course there are differences but they are not very sharp and often overlap. How do the breathless stories about new gadgets and gewgaws differ from advertising? Connectivity gives us a voice and the blogs are mechanisms for taking advantage of the opportunity. We can also use technology to control our public accessibility and just as we question our role as just consumers of news, we can also question the ease with which others can reach us and determine for ourselves what is news and what is harassment.

In So You Want to be Secure I complement David's essay on security. Blaming users for security problems with computers is only part of the story. Implicit in such government policies is the naive assumption that we know what security is and worse, the assumption that security is about keeping bad people from taking what we own. One consequence is to make it difficult to create new value and thus what we gain in protection from "them", we lose even more in the price we pay for limiting an economy which depends on disruptive change. I also recommend reading Homeland Insecurity in The Atlantic.

When writing formally and analytically I carefully work to decompose problems in order to better understand the issues. For these essays I'm taking the opposite approach and viewing ideas in the context of the larger world. I am interested in technology issues in their own right but I'm much more excited by the possibilities and what I can do with the technology. Conversely I try to use my understanding of technology to enrich the world that I observe. I hope I can convey at least some of the wonder and opportunity as I show the interplay among the seemingly disparate concepts.

For more, see the Archive.

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