Adrienne #1!

The pinnacle of life.

[if you don’t see the video, try here]

Originally the video had a better soundtrack that used two short excerpts from copyrighted songs from albums that I purchased several years ago. Since the use of short excerpts of a copyrighted song in a non-commercial video made available on a personal website is highly controversial under copyright law, I deleted my original soundtrack and replaced it with the present one.

Given that I spent significant time to make this video, I would have been willing to spend a small amount of money to get rights for non-commercial use of the song excerpts in a video posted only on my personal blog. One song used words and melody from “Happy Birthday,” which itself is a copyrighted work. Not sure how to sort that one out.

The website of the group that recorded the other song had a FAQ on song use that pointed fans to a licensing site. The licensing regime is very complex. In addition, the licensing site notes, “EMI does not allow their songs or recordings to be used on the Internet in any form.” The licensing body encourages potential customers to send them a written proposal. It explains:

Due to the high volume of requests, the amount of research involved as well as the various levels of approval your request will have to go through, it may take 4 to 5 weeks for you to receive your license, which will be sent regular mail. We are unable to respond directly to each request as they come in. Rest assured, we will process your request as quickly as possible.

Of course they will. That’s why they use regular (snail) mail!

Telephone companies could teach music licensing bodies a lot about customer service.

ferrous mashups

A great thing about a bike is that it comes with major user rights. Public display, public performance, sharing with friends, adaptations, derivative works, mashups — you’ve got the rights. Alabama folk artist Butch Anthony took advantage of this wonderful freedom to create a vibrant design for a new bicycle rental kiosk at the corner of 19’th and N. Moore in Rosslyn, Virginia.

flower wheels sculpture

From a plaque at the site:

Butch Anthony takes his inspiration from society’s castoff metal parts found in junkyards, backyards or the side of the road. A self-taught artist who hails from Seale, a small town on Alabama’s eastern border with Georgia, Anthony’s style of working is grounded in rural southern traditions of making do with what the environment provides.

You can see more of Butch Anthony’s work at his Museum of Wonder.

bike rental kiosk

The bicycle below, which I saw in the nearby Gateway Park during the Rosslyn Jazz Festival, is the fully functional work of a local folk artist. Arts are alive in Arlington County!

bicycle useful art

localism in news reporting

Localism is now attracting considerable attention in media business strategy. Stephen Gray of the Newspaper Next project observes:

It’s becoming a truism these days that “local” is the core value proposition for newspapers.
The reasoning goes like this: With tons of national and international news and other non-local content available free online, “local” is the one thing a local newspaper can do better than anyone else.

Gray emphasizes compiling a wide variety of local information:

How often do you wish you knew where to buy something locally? What contractor, plumber, doctor, lawyer or mechanic you could trust? What you or your family could do on the weekend for fun? How to help with your daughter’s algebra assignment? What’s the best pizza joint, Thai restaurant, dry cleaner, etc.? Where the cool parties are? (Yes, much of this is age-dependent.) What’s a good elder care or child care solution? Whether there’s a traffic jam right now on the expressway home?

While much valuable information has a local aspect, local information isn’t a good concept for bounding a media business. Local traffic data, like local geographic data that Mapquest and Google Maps offer nationally, is associated with objective technical problems of acquisition, database organization, and query services. “Where the cool parties are?”, in contrast, is information inextricably intertwined with social relations of the sort that friending functions support in social networking sites. In another business direction, identifying a trustworthy service supplier is a reputation management problem of the type that Ebay and Amazon rating systems address. The way and extent to which local information is embedded in local personal relationships matters a great deal for a media business.

Traditional local newspapers’ comparative advantage is in making news. Making news means defining what’s publicly important. Putting you, your friends, schoolmates, workmates, and neighbors into the newspaper makes the newspaper more interesting to you.

Citizen journalism is not the same as hyperlocal news reporting. Orato bills itself as “True Stories from REAL People: Featuring FIRST PERSON, Citizen Journalism from Around the World.” In a post entitled “The Scoop on Citizen Journalism,” Paul Sullivan in Orato’s editor’s blog observes:

Today, as the Pickton trial begins, Orato is coming off its highest traffic week ever. Most of it, we’re sure, comes from recent media play over our decision to give ex-sex trade workers Trisha Baptie and Pauline VanKoll an opportunity to report on the Pickton trial [the trial of a man accused of killing 26 Vancouver women, most associated with sex-for-money transactions with a large customer set]. I guess you could say we’ve made a great leap forward, but after a 15-second self-applied pat on the back, it’s clear to me, and no doubt, to the small army of citizen journalists who regularly visit and contribute to this site, that we’ve got a long way to go.

This is the sort of story and reporting that would be extremely valuable to traditional national news organizations. Measured with respect to journalistic ideals, neophyte journalists can totally outperforming highly experienced, resource-rich, professional journalists. Among Louisiana folk storytellers, “true stories” is a term of art in the art in which they excel.

Yourhub is an excellent example of innovative, hyperlocal news reporting. In a recent top story, Ann Himel reports:

Cabin fever hits in less than 12 hours for me, but I waited it out without maiming any of my family members in order to venture into the depths of snow today, Thursday, December 21, 2006.

Dateline, Littleton, CO: Ann Himel and her two companions, daughter Catherine and faithful Labrador Rocky, ventured outside in (not quite) the worst blizzard on record to clear a path to freedom. Where will they go?

The best stories from Yourhub are published each week in a printed newspaper delivered to subscribers of the Rocky Mountain News and The Denver Post. This is like the idea of a placeblog, or neighborhood networking, married to an important physical news reporting form and distribution system. It’s news provided on real (dead) wood that has endured many seasons of weather.

Hyperlocal news reporting faces some significant challenges. Only a small share of citizens are likely to be interested in writing news stories, although a larger share would be interested in reading them. Professional journalists need to figure out how to expand efficiently the personal scope of their coverage and how to encourage and work with citizen journalists. Generating sufficient volume of hyperlocal news stories and distributing them to interested persons are significant business challenges. In addition, policies for hyperlocal news reporting need to be discussed and considered rationally. These are challenges that traditional local media are best positioned to meet.

Business models and policies for hyperlocal news reporting are just starting to be explored. Localism is a potent issue in U.S. national communications regulation. With new communication technologies, localism in communication is likely to become more important to many more persons and local organizations.

social networking success

Dogs and cats are probably more important than Second Life to the future of the internet. While major media have hyped Second Life, the number of concurrent online users of Second Life rose above 20,000 for the first time on December, 29, 2006 (oddly, “peak concurrency” reportedly was 25,000 about a week later). The CEO of Linden Lab reported in early January, 2007, that “252,284 people have logged in more than 30 days after their account creation date”. That’s an upper bound for reasonable definitions of current active users in December, 2006.

Dogster and Catster have been about as successful as Second Life in acquiring active users. Dogster and Catster currently host about 244,000 and 103,000 dog and cat profiles, respectively. Some Dogster and Catster members post multiple profiles: 260,000 members accounted for over 300,000 pet profiles across both Dogster and Catster. Dogster/Catster has made available of variety of additional statistics:

* Over 20.5 million virtual treats given
* There are 7.8 million distinct friend-to-friend connections
* 2.6 million private messages have been sent through the sites
* Over 50,000 pets keep a diary
* We host and server 1.34 million pet photos
* Almost one million forums posts
* Members have created 4,601 affinity groups
[stats reported on Oct. 9, 2006]

Assuming that pets can’t write, “over 50,000 pets keep a diary” provides some indication of persons who actively use the service. However, one user may write more than one pet diary. On the other hand, active use can involved many activities other than writing a diary for a pet.

Define active users to be persons who used a service in a given month and who had also used the service more than 30 days prior to their use of the service in the given month. Based on the scanty available data and estimates, I would guess that the number of active users of Second Life and the number of active users of Dogster/Catster were both about 200,000 in December, 2006.

While Dogster/Catster has received relatively little funding, it has a much more propitious field for development than does Second Life. The economic value of Second Life artifacts is rather speculative. In November, 2006, Second Life users cashed out about US$1.1 million. Real-money trade of virtual commodities in all virtual worlds worldwide has been estimated at US$1-3 billion in 2006.

The value of pets is well-established and much larger. At the end of 2001, 36% of U.S. households had a dog, and 32% of households had a cat (see Table 1227). Total spending on pets in the U.S. in 2006 is estimated to have been $38 billion. This spending is not just for necessities:

As it is becoming widely recognized, pet owners’ spending is not limited to the basics. [American Pet Products Manufacturers Association]’s National Pet Owners Survey shows 27 percent of dog owners and 13 percent of cat owners buy their pets birthday presents, and 55 percent of dog owners and 37 percent of cat owners buy their pet holiday presents.

Pet-based social networking has real business potential.

Pet-based social networking opens up a new field of creative possibilities. Vinny the Pug may become more famous than a world-famous mountain climber. When the Dogster company blog reported more than 300,000 pet profiles on Dogster and Catster, a commenter wrote:

I was wondering how i can get my 2 year old brindle great dane to be in movies, or magazines, everyone seems even my self that she is a sight to see for being as large of a dog which she is. i would like if you could email me at [address omitted] and give me some insight of how or who would like to give cagney a chance to be a star in the dog world, i do have her site on dogsters here and i hpe you like what you see hope to hear from you soon

At the technological cutting age, SNiFlabs, pioneers in Social Networking in Fur, are developing intelligent pet collars, active leashes, and supporting information services:

Unlike impersonal web services, SNiFlabs lets someone you know and trust make personal connections for you: your dog. Every time you take your dog out for a walk you meet other dogs and other dog owners in your neighborhood. The SNiF® tag takes advantage of this and automatically keeps track of the dogs you have met while out and about. Want to meet new people? You already have something in common with other dog owners. Need to find a good plumber? Want to try a new neighborhood restaurant? Chances are that some one in your dog’s social network can make recommendations for you. [see Meeting People]

The future of the internet is as real as pet-based social networking.