Creative Commons: Good for Nature

At Overlap 08 this past weekend we talked a lot about sustainability in all its forms, including sustaining nature. This was on my mind this morning as I cycled over the Brooklyn Bridge and saw a small video crew capturing some footage of the bridge. Surely, I thought, there’s so much footage of this bridge already, you hardly need more. But of course they do need their own shots since most of the existing video is copyright protected. So crews all over the world today are traveling and otherwise consuming resources to recreate what was created yesterday.

Creative Commons is the legal infrastructure to change all that, helping us share all our media which gives us no competitive advantage, such as video footage of the Brooklyn Bridge. I’ve been sharing and using creative commons media for my work, and it occurred to me this morning that CC not only makes media available for everyone’s use, it encourages reuse which is one of the better ways to preserve our natural environment.

Put simply, reusing existing media is a more environmentally sound approach than creating media.

Lifehacker has a great list of 6 ways to find reusable media.

creative commons logo

Happy Birthday Noise Between Stations

This here blog turns 9 years old tomorrow. Quantitatively speaking, she’s got 2,041 posts, 590 comments, and 130 categories. Checking the PageRank, it’s a 6, the same as generalmills.com, whatever that means.

Location-Aware Ads Have Arrived

From the New York Times, In CBS Test, Mobile Ads Find Users

CBS plans to announce on Wednesday that it is trying one of the first serious experiments with cellphone advertising that is customized for a person’s location. Its CBS Mobile unit is teaming up with the social networking service Loopt, which allows its subscribers to track participating friends and family on their mobile phones.

Kevin Kelly on Eight Uncopyable Values

Kevin Kelly established himself as an Internet pundit with true foresight with the 1998 New Rules for the New Economy which is still a classic, if showing a little age with its dot com bravura. Now he’s working on a new book piece by piece on his blog. The latest chapter examines the future of value online. In Better Than Free he posits:

“When copies are super abundant, they become worthless.
When copies are super abundant, stuff which can’t be copied becomes scarce and valuable.
When copies are free, you need to sell things which can not be copied.
Well, what can’t be copied?”

His answer is eight uncopyable values, which he calls “generatives”:

Immediacy — Sooner or later you can find a free copy of whatever you want, but getting a copy delivered to your inbox the moment it is released — or even better, produced — by its creators is a generative asset.

Personalization — A generic version of a concert recording may be free, but if you want a copy that has been tweaked to sound perfect in your particular living room — as if it were preformed in your room — you may be willing to pay a lot.

Interpretation — As the old joke goes: software, free. The manual, $10,000.

Authenticity — You might be able to grab a key software application for free, but even if you don’t need a manual, you might like to be sure it is bug free, reliable, and warranted.

Accessibility — Ownership often sucks… Many people, me included, will be happy to have others tend our “possessions” by subscribing to them.

Embodiment – …PDFs are fine, but sometimes it is delicious to have the same words printed on bright white cottony paper, bound in leather. Feels so good.

Patronage — It is my belief that audiences WANT to pay creators… But they will only pay if it is very easy to do, a reasonable amount, and they feel certain the money will directly benefit the creators.

Findability — …no matter what its price, a work has no value unless it is seen; unfound masterpieces are worthless.

The State of Video Education

Having started a school of sorts, I’m interested in anyone pushing the envelope of what can be done to teach people, and lately I’ve turned my attention to reaching more people with sessions online rather than only in the classroom. The first generation of “distance education” from universities mostly sucked; schools were sold software that forced them to shoehorn pedagogy into a particular medium (discussion boards, online text, chat rooms) and it really only worked when you had a perfect storm of content that fit the medium, students and teachers comfortable and patient enough to use the medium, and classroom instruction that filled in the gaps. I taught an information architecture class at the New School/Parsons School of Design years ago and it was a royal pain in the ass, but for those few people in Asia that had no other option, it was probably fairly useful.

Fast forward several years where Web 2.0 meets the classroom. Specifically, with broadband our palette of media opens up to include audio and video, and our business models open up to include architectures of participation. YouTube is now the richest playground of education experimentation online. Here’s two examples:

You Suck at Photoshop
Boring, technical techniques are thwarted with dark humor. Perfect for graphic designers.

Team Ukemi Parkour Tutorial
Instructional techniques lifted from technical illustration, mixed with attitude, and applied to video (“just take the marker and draw right on my back”)

Awesome, but this just scratches the surface. How can we use this approach to teach business, design, and business design? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

We’ll Reach the Semantic Web One Small Step at a Time

XFN and FOAF were two small steps in that direction, and Google just built on them with the Social Graph API (watch the friendly little video intro).

Any day now we’ll see an application that not only helps us generate XFN and FOAF data, but does so in a way that manages our online identities, particularly with regards to search. It’ll tip the balance of art and science in SEO toward science.

Top-down semantic web visions were judged by skeptical-but-realistic critics to be overly systematic. Well, yes, but if we get there a piece at a time, helping people understand, implement, experiment, and capitalize with each little piece, we’ll get there in an organic way.

Time to go generate some XFN…

Links to what others are saying.

Fighting Spam and Apologies in Advance

An off-topic post…

Apparently I have a high enough Page Rank that spammers love my site. I actually have two different anti-comment-spam plug-ins running on my WordPress installation. But lately there are been hundreds of spam comments per day that the system can’t decide are spam or not, and so it offers them to me for moderation. I just don’t have time to sort through them all, so I simply delete them.

I haven’t heard any complaints, but if your comment falls into the pit of false positives, my apologies.

Update: I installed another WordPress plugin that asks you to answer a simple math question before posting, and this seems to be working perfectly so far.

Hamel and the Technology-Driven Future of Management

Here’s some terms from a recent interview with Gary Hamel, management guru…

digital device
Internet
the Web
Googlers and bloggers and mashers and podcasters
community
open source projects
PCs, routers, and hubs
social network
MySpace

I’m fascinated by his view that technology — particularly Internet tools — will change management. This isn’t just the hyper-hype of the Cluetrain Manifesto, this is a top-tier business professor who regularly publishes in HBR. When I wondered aloud a couple years ago, Who are the new rebels? (Managers?), I saw this as daydreaming, but perhaps the entrepreneurs of the Internet will also influence future management techniques.

The Internet is the New LAN

As we build more and more functionality into both the client and server sides of the Internet, we’re ending up with, well, client-server technology. But instead of a server in a closet up on the 3rd floor, it’s around the world.

If Microsoft were to update Visual Basic’s user interface and transmission protocols a little, they could leapfrog everyone with a rich Internet application platform ;-)

Protoscript: AJAX for the Rest of Us

In the evolution of programming languages, we’ve been moving to higher and higher levels of abstraction, for example from binary to assembly to C to scripting. Writing code gets easier, but the more generalized functions are balanced with less flexibility, which limits how much abstraction is practical.

Bill Scott’s Protoscript is a small but significant step in this evolution:

Protoscript is a simplified scripting language for creating Ajax style prototypes for the Web… I am a huge proponent of breaking down the barriers for the non-techies among us to be able to do what us techie geeks can do.

There are many AJAX frameworks out there, but Protoscript is designed to address a different and widespread need — those of us non-programmers who would like to make rich websites — without over-generalizing the code too much. It still involves looking at code, which I think will scare off many people, but it seems he’s thinking about how a graphical interface can control this.

For designers, it means you will soon be able to do more without relying on a developer, and developers can focus more on the backend systems. For everyone else, it means the web will be getting more interesting more quickly.

An Open Letter to Internet Job Recruiters

The nice thing about having a blog is that you can pour your unfiltered frustration into it and walk away self-satisfied. Warning, this is one of those posts.

Dear New York City Internet Job Recruiters,

I’ve met several of you over the years, and many more lately now that the demand for talented people has outstripped the supply. For the most part, you are pretty nice people who are willing to go the extra mile to consider a good match of person and job and maybe even career, unlike the IT headhunters I knew in the early 90′s that were mostly middle men for resumes.

But, I have two giant gripes with the way you’re working these days:

1. Don’t ask me to do your job for you.
Yes, I know a lot of people, and yes I like helping them find new opportunities. But simply telling me about an open request you have tells me that you haven’t taken the time to build your network or don’t know how. Further, you’re being paid to do that, so if you want expert help you need to share a significant portion of your fee.

2. Great people are not found, they’re grown. There are simply not enough skilled workers to fill your jobs these days. This may be great news for you, but ultimately the companies you work for (and the clients they work for) will continue to suffer until you learn to cultivate good people. It’s easy to measure if a company knows how to do this, just look at the rate of employee turnover. If it’s under 5%, they do it well. If it’s over 10%, there are serious problems.

To illustrate the potential, I’ll tell you a story from the first dot com boom. I was working at a company that hired a certain smart guy as a receptionist. In between phone calls and signing for packages he taught himself javascript. Excellent, make him a developer. After a while doing that he wanted to be an information architect, so I trained him. At that point the company failed to keep engaging him, and he left to pursue a masters degree, where he formed a company with a classmate. Soon after his company was bought by Google.

That’s an extreme example, but I can tell plenty more about people hired that were not qualified, but had the right qualities, were smart, and got things done. A little training and encouragement made them qualified. But until your clients realize this and stop turning away good people, I’m done helping you.

Where’s the Hip Hop Culture Online?

chrysler300.jpeg Hip hop culture (at least here in America) has influenced not only our musical preferences but also our language, clothing, movies, and car styling. But you won’t see much of it online. The websites for hip hop artists resemble those for other artists, and the more innovative things are mostly done by us geeky white kids.

Why is this, and will it change? I asked my friend Elizabeth who’s familiar with both the online scene and hip hop. She says,

i’m not sure if the problem is available tools or simply culture and education. there are many tools available on the web. it may also be a difference in priorities. most of the people I know associated with “hip-hop” culture are more active/interested in making relationships in person and going to events vs. spending time online. online is just somewhere to sell things and post pictures and event invitations… maybe there is some web-evolution that cultures have to go to to adapt themselves to the web…?

I’m fascinated by the possibilities of hip hop infecting the web. And frankly I think the technology is a barrier to many low-income students. Rather than merely educate low-income students on tech issues, framing the offer as hip hop online — starting with what’s being done now like amplifying the functionality of event invites — could be more attractive and generative.