How to be a Toolbox and Complain about Success

this is what got my attention:

Pete Waterman, the force behind dozens of multi-million selling chart hits, claims he is being “exploited” by internet giant Google.

say what?

oh yeah. and he goes on…

The 62-year-old said the Rick Astley classic Never Gonna Give You Up, which he co-wrote and which was the subject of a YouTube craze last year, had earned him just £11 from Google, despite being viewed 154 million times

and on…

“Panorama did a documentary on the exploitation of foreign workers in Dubai,” he said.

“I feel like one of those workers, because I earned less for a year’s work off Google or YouTube than they did off the Bahrain government.”

okay, tool. lemme explain how this works to you really, really quickly and easily.

  1. for the last 15 years, your song was lounging in obscurity. we’re talking “6-digit amazon sales rank” obscurity.
  2. google “exploits” you with rickrolling.
  3. you can actually see a trend line tying rickrolling with a sales rank increase of “Never Gonna Give You Up” — yes. sales of the single, not just ad impressions.
  4. in fact, it puts your track at number 77 on the amazon charts selling up to 2500 units in a week. that’s money from a sale of your song every… 4… minutes….
  5. you are worth £47 million. ($68 million for those of us in the colonies.)

just for kicks, let’s look at what being 77 on the amazon download store means. as of right now, that’s more popular than artists like kayne west, kenny chesney and the killers. all (despite your taste in music) much, much more relevant today than rick astley.

wtf, noob?

by the power vested in me, i hearby declare you a toolbox and revoke your ability to complain about anything, ever on the interweb!



The Case for Both Symmetrical and Asymmetrical Relationships

sorry i’m so late with this.  i know i threatened to write it up last week, but, you know.  spare time being what it is.


there are quite a few smart folks out there putting forth theories on why followers (vs. friends) are the “right” way to go.  it’s good stuff.  you should read it as a preface to this.  it’s the kind of stuff i churn over all the time as chief web dude over at metaplace.

the crux of the discussion is what’s better? friends or followers?  friends where, through granted requests, you explicitly create a two-way relationship with someone or followers where, by you “following” them back, you create an implicit two-way relationship.

and here’s my official thought, social media sites. (twitter, friendfeed, facebook, myspace, etc.)  so listen up — you need both.

here’s why: both methods, regardless of how they are implemented, are dual purpose.

purpose 1
you create an important relationship between you and another person.  you want to know what they’re doing.  you want to keep in touch.  it’s someone you care about.  you know — that whole “social” thing.

purpose 2
it’s a scoreboard, man.  who has the most friends?  who’s the most popular?  who has the biggest network of contacts?  you know — a social leaderboard.

“so?” you say.

well.  it leads to a problem.  mostly, it’s all about the extra noise. 

someone requests a friendship with you, either by clicking “add friend” or simply by following you, and you say “oh, i casually know that person” or “that was nice of them to follow me” and you confirm the relationship.

pretty soon, you have hundreds — even thousands in some cases depending on your notoriety — of friends.

well, as it turns out, that dunbar number isn’t really a lie despite facebook’s best efforts.  you don’t really care intimately about all of those people.  but, there you are, with a huge polluted friends list that you can’t really trim down without looking like a huge douche.  (celebrities are mostly exempted from the “trim means douche” rule just because of the sheer number of fans they have)

you start dropping all those people you knew back in high school or your friend’s parents or whatever from your public friends list, you’re gonna get called on it.  just ask kevin rose.


this is a lot of words to really explain something pretty simple: we need to use something akin to the rss model.

you have private friends.

and you have public subscribers.

this still gives you a public scoreboard number that you can show off like a freakin’ badge of honor and yet, you still can have a smaller, more manageable list of “important people” that you care about.

subscriber is easy and carefree.  very asymmetrical.  like twitter’s followers.  you subscribe.  they subscribe.  everyone subscribes!  it’s free love and big points for all my friends!  … er… followers.  er… subscribers.

friends, however, is an explicit declaration by both people to “become friends” or promote the simple subscriber relationship to a full-on “lemme know ALL your dirt” relationship.  nobody outside of you two has to know about the relationship.  it can stay clean and pure.

best of all, it gives you a chance to filter the data accordingly. (this is where i pwn all you who are saying to yourselves “why not just use followers and groups, noob!”)  the data you care about is going to be different from friend to subscriber.  you have two different buckets where data pours into.

let us use facebook as an example.

raise your hand if you hate, hate, hate getting all the retarded app requests from every single person on facebook that you’ve friended.  *scans the room and sees everyone but crazy aunt hilda in the back has their hand raised*

if you merely subscribe to someone, you wouldn’t get those.  you’d get explicit updates (comments, photos, direct messages, etc.) they put out, but not all of the app spam we all “love.”

all that goes into a subscriber bucket (prolly more like a lake, really) that you can dip your toes into and pull out memes or themes every now and then or just submerge yourself and let the noise of it all just wash over you.

however, your newly minted m3mnoch-proposed friends would be sending you full feeds of everything like normal.  all the subscriber stuff, plus app notes or anything else that they’re doing that would implicitly be interesting to you.  because, if they’re one of the 10 or 20 friends you actively follow and they update their facebook bowling app (is there really one?) with the turkey they just threw, dude — you wanna know!  cause you’re prolly playing the same game!  right now!  (i promise i won’t tell…)

…especially if that saves them the email they’d have to send to you bragging about it anyway.

and then!  then, you don’t have to worry about spammy updates!  the people who you are real friends with would now only include the people you’re prolly on im with all day anyway.

and once you can get the wires that tight, there’s all kinds of cool integration you can do.  automatic trust-type stuff you just can’t assume with today’s friending setups.  not to mention awesome data mining and discovery stuff you can assemble from a developer’s standpoint.

hell.  you might even be able to pull all that external im conversation onto your site.

i mean, wouldn’t it be nice to not have to worry about how many people billy sends an app request to because you would know that all his friends — not subscribers — are honest-to-god interested in it?


Content has Nothing to do with Channels

so, mark cuban’s got this post about how cable subs — yeah, that’s a term “the people” would use — should unite agiainst the freeloaders!

so, lemme get this straight.  you just come off back-to-back tirades about how a la carte is stupid and cable operators — you know, “content people” — should get paid and the internet suxors.  aside from cuban not being a content person (you’re a content distribution person!), he seems to think that a la carte is bad, the devil and every other evil reference you can think of.

the problem is that he’s thinking a la carte channels.

that’s not what we want.  we want a la carte shows.  i could give a damn about the other 98% of tv on a given channel.  choosing between bundled channels and a la carte channels is like choosing between bad and worse.

that means channels are soooo dead.  and, if channels are dead, then distribution and bundling deals are dead. (long live filters and recommendation services!)  and, if traditional content distribution is dead, mark’s out of a job.  my prediction?  well, knowing mark’s track record, this is what happens:

  1. the amount of content online starts growing exponentially.
  2. a successful filtering/recommendation service rears its head and pwns the online video market.
  3. cuban realizes his mistake and pours more cash into hdnet and apes the successful service.
  4. hdnet still doesn’t gain traction.

(just basing all that on icerocket‘s history…)

again, a la carte shows, not channels.

and, by the way, mark.  i can answer all of your questions for you.

“How many people have really given up cable or satellite for internet only delivery of content ? 100k at the most  ? Based on company reports, it seems like people are giving up their wired telephone lines at home long before they give up their cable/sat/telco TV”

this is exactly what the phone companies said 10 years ago.

“Why are DVR sales continuing to climb ? if the internet is a better solution, why buy, lease or even use a DVR ? Shouldn’t DVRs be immediately obsolete ?”

again, a la carte shows, not channels.  people are building their own channels.  and dvrs are easy.  always bet on easy, cheap, and choice — in that order.

“Technology doesn’t always move in the direction you expect it to.  Anyone for faster airplanes ? The return of the Concorde ? More efficient electricity grids ? More fuel efficient cars ? You can blame the lack of progress on the incumbents or their industry, but doesn’t that make my point ?”

what on earth are you talking about?  those examples sound like the old guard holding others back.  i have no idea what you are even trying to ask much less whatever the hell your point is…

“Read this great post from the NetFlix Blog Why do people ignore in last mile and  home bandwidth constraints ? More devices at home, more utilization,  more hard drive storage, require more backups, which consume bandwidth, whether local or online.”

um.  okay.

“Why do people think that bandwidth to and in the home will grow faster than applications can consume it  ?  If you believe in the inevitable progress of technology and innovation then shouldn’t you believe that this collective genius will come up with better uses of increasing bandwidth than replacing TV ? I certainly do. Health Care, Security, Who knows what, have to be a better and more rewarding use of bandwidth than just TV.”

i can’t think of a single person who says “awesome!  i have plenty of bandwidth to run all my games, tv and sufing all at the same time!”  i’m sure there will be a “better” use of bandwidth than replacing tv.  but, hey, it’s the internet — we can do both!

“Always remember that the long tail of content, whether audio or video, never gets paid. Thats why its on the long tail.  One hit wonders do not disprove the rule. Creating hits is hard and very much a numbers game. Any content game that is a numbers game is expensive to play. Which explains exactly why there are so few internet video only companies (our friends at Rev3 being hopefully a shining exception) making money.”

never gets paid?  huh?

you should read about niche markets.  then, go tell the couple who started they aren’t making money.  or maybe talk to jill sobule or kristin hersh or the guys from marillion.  or, if you want tv, how about the guys from the guild or yoga today or star trek: new voyages.

you’re wrong.  you don’t need hits.  selling 1,000,000 copies of one piece is the same as selling 1 each of 1,000,000 different pieces when distribution costs (people like you) are marginalized to zero.

it’s only expensive to play when you think like a cable operator and not an web publisher.  niche markets work because, unlike specialty cable channels, a small percentage of dedicated customers finance the entire thing.  this is because the costs associated with it are so low and with the a la carte web, you can get your show — not an entire channel — in front of the people who want to pay you for it.  you just can’t do that at cable operator scale.

as you are ever conjuring the image of music execs of the last decade, here’s a quote from robert pittman, cofounder of mtv: “When I talk to people in the music business, most of them will admit that the problem is they’re selling songs and not albums. I mean, you do the math.”

people want shows.  not channels.

“P2P has been around for how many years ? It has yet to find commercial success anywhere. Its not a solution to any problem and in fact is a huge risk. Anyone with any sense of fairplay knows “free bandwidth” for commercial distribution of content is inherently wrong.”

you’re not paying attention.

every single mmo video game uses it as a distribution method for downloading clients, content and patches.  yes.  all 12 million world of warcraft subs who pay $15 a month for example use it.  why?  because it marginalizes the cost of bandwidth for content delivery.

now, imagine if the online video marketplace’s biggest complaint — cost of delivering high quality video — was marginalized!

“For all those that think there will be an explosion in bandwidth, remember we are in at least a recession, if not worse. Don’t expect any capital to be invested to take the last mile to multiples of current experiences. In fact, you might see the opposite as capital constraints encourage networks to try to manage as best they can with what they have. It could be far worse on the wireless front as lack of capital could shut down installs”

again.  you sound like the music industry execs 10 years ago.  or the movie industry execs 5 years ago.

you are just in denial if you think tv is different than movies (who said they were different than music) or music (who said they were different than the printed word) or newspapers.

you wanna see what people want?  go cruise the torrent networks.  the reason the content is out there is because it’s the content people want.

there are entire categories devoted just to tv shows, dude.  a la carte is here and delivered via the internet already.  why?  because it solves a consumer pain point.

if you don’t give us what we want, we’ll get it ourselves.  (see the lambasting of the music industry for reference.)


Freemium Cash

okay.  i’ll be the first one who says it:

we all know that freemium games pwn subscription games as far as subscribers.  this is what you don’t know yet:  before the end of the year ’09, runes of magic will announce they’ve also pwnt all of the subscription-based games’ revenue numbers — wow excepted, of course.

whew.  glad to get that off my chest.


World of WARGloat

back in september, i seem to remember making a bold statement about how, in order to be successful, war didn’t get to “opt out” of competing with wow despite whatever mark jacobs has to say.

in fact, i have here, documented, a friendly wager with my friend voorshwa.

oooh! i smell a wager!

i say: by april of next year, war has fewer than 200k subs.

the bet will be the loser pays the other one’s fantasy football dues next season. (*sigh* my draft this year evidently sucked…)


so, now, i introduce my plan to win that wager…

step 1:

October 10, 2008

Mythic Entertainment, an Electronic Arts Inc. (NASDAQ: ERTS) studio, today announced that 750,000 players have registered for the critically acclaimed fantasy MMORPG, Warhammer® Online: Age of Reckoning® (WAR) in North America, Europe and the Oceanic territories.

step 2:

February 03, 2009

Warhammer® Online: Age of Reckoning®, an MMO from EA’s Mythic Entertainment studio, ended the quarter with over 300K paying subscribers in North America and Europe.

step 3:


step 4:

April 01, 2009


sounds like a plan to me.


Digital Rights Backfire

for those of you who’ve been living in a cave, spore’s got itself some hellacious drm.  there’re rumors it’s so bad it rewrites your dvd drive’s drivers, it installs a rootkit and probably even purposefully throws out a bsod for good measure.  i hear it’s so bad that it even kills kittens!

anyway, pc gamers of course hate, hate, hate this.  duh.

but the funniest part?

Ironically, the game was leaked several days before the official released date and a quick search seems to indicate that pirated copies, along with mechanisms for bypassing the copy protection mechanisms, are freely available on the Internet. So it seems that the copy protection schemes only inconveniences legitimate customers.

so, by trying to prevent piracy, they’re driving legitimate users to pirate their games because pirates make a better product — one that’s not wrapped in malware.

please take note:  drm doesn’t stop anything.  and, the money you save by kicking your legitimate customers in the collective groin, you lose because you pay to get them on a first-name-basis with your technical support people.  meanwhile, pirates are still pirating your game.

and they’re doing it with possibly with even more bile and determination because YOU threw down the “screw you pirate!” gauntlet.



Missing the Browser as an OS Point

chalk another one up to completely missing the point of my explanation of the browser as an os.  business week aparently doesn’t understand the idea of applications as plugins that run in a local execution space directly against the underlying os.

Let’s start with the operating system. What’s your favorite flavor? Windows, OS X, Linux? Whichever your allegiance, for at least the next several years, you’ll need an operating system to boot your computer and store the applications that are still too large and unwieldy to run from inside the cloud. Take iTunes, Photoshop, or PowerPoint. While online equivalents exist, they just can’t match the processing power and functionality that come from the applications you run from your computer’s operating system.

in other words, in the “browser as an os” world, photoshop is a browser plugin.  it’s really about the separation of logic and data.  the application runs and is installed locally, but the the data is stored in the cloud.  not all applications will run in the cloud.

i’m pretty sure they would have said windows couldn’t exist because it can’t run directly from your motherboard like a standard bios can and has to be installed to this clunky thing called a hard drive.


WAR Success

this was originally a comment on mark’s new blog.  it was getting a bit verbose, so i just thought i’d turn it into a full post.  hate when that happens.

if war is to succeed, you have a few real issues to overcome:

1) people (any substantial number anyway) have room for one monthly sub.  plain pure fact.  that means you don’t get to be “second choice” for anyone.  you have to be the only choice for your subscriber base.

2) because of the network effect, war will not only have to be better than wow, but much, much, much better with lots more content — right outta the gate. and, it will need to sustain the “lots more content” continuously and forever.

the one and only one instance off the top of my head where someone has successfully done that is facebook to myspace. the features and quality bar difference between the two were not iterative. they were not evolutionary. they were revolutionary.  because of facebook, we now have game developers targeting facebook as a platform.

3) yes.  you have to “beat wow.”  see #1.  if you have a monthly sub and aren’t trying to beat wow, you are simply setting yourself up for failure.  if you were serious about not caring about beating wow, you’d be releasing a free game.  the reason being because people (again, in any substantial numbers) won’t have two paid subs.  that means you either need to allow for people to play your game in addition to wow (meaning it’s free) or you have to take wow’s subscribers — aka beating wow.

4) you’re not just competing with wow.  you’re also competing with free.  you have to convince people beyond the first free month bump that your game is not only better (see #2) than wow, but it’s several orders of magnitude better (not simply better) than something like requiem — which is free and high quality.  not to mention something like runescape which is both free AND has over a million subs.

i wish you luck, sir.


When Does a Browser Become an OS?

there’s much hub-bub about the new google chrome being a threat to ie… wait, no.  it’s a threat to firefox and opera and safari.  afterall, it’s a browser.  or even worse, it’s not even a threat to ie6 much less windows!

and then, you have the guys who are saying that it’s a threat to windows.  they, of course, are right, tho none of them have really articulated why it’s a threat to windows.  there’s some “google os!” talk, but no one really lays that out.  it’s kind of a tricky thing to explain it, really.

and, you know me…  i’m here to make things that are hard to explain simple!

so, why is chrome a threat to the traditional os?

1) it has the web.  duh.  the primary activity people do on their computers these days is surf the web.  commerce, entertainment, news — chances are most of your computer-ing day is spent in a browser.

2) it has installed applications.  they’re just now called plugins.  (especially chrome’s new compiled, accelerated javascript!)  and, with google’s new sandboxed, tabbed-process, compiled, hardware-accelerated, non-traditional-browser-windows, non-crashing uber application thing, you have an os.  developers can now have their plugin fire up in an entire, stand-alone tab — erm. excuse me.  an entire, stand-alone “window.”  that means, you have local, “applications” that are “installed” and run in an “os”.  so, imagine a “microsoft word” plugin that runs in the browser.  they can do this where other browsers can’t because each tab is a separate, multi-threaded, hardware accelerated process — just like in a real os.

3) true write once, deploy anywhere.  just like today’s adobe flash player is very, very write once, deploy everywhere type of thing, so too will be plugins.  this is EXTREMELY true with these new-fangled compiled javascript applications chrome allows for.  think about that last bit mixed with #2 above.  so, there will only be ONE application that needs to be written and everyone — no matter if they’re on a mac, windows, linux, whatever — can use it.

4) the flavor of traditional os underneath won’t matter anymore.  just like the bios and drivers and all the other computer plumbing underneath your traditional os doesn’t matter, windows, linux and osx won’t matter.  nobody (other than the occasional SERIOUS nerd) cares about all that stuff because they don’t actively use it.  it comes pre-installed on their computers and worst case, they have to click some sort of “update reminder” thing.  windows, linux and mac will all become boring middleware that the average person doesn’t care about.  because, as #3 above states, they just get their full applications as plugins that work on every single traditional os.

still having issues visualizing all of this? just read back through that comic book and where they talk about a tabbed browser bar think “windows task bar” and where they talk about plugin, think “installed windows application like outlook or word”.

we are on the very cusp of a brave, brave new internet os enabled world and it has nothing to do with any of the profit centers up in redmond.


Electronic Artists

oh, how far has the ea apple fallen from the tree when they are being called out for “creating an environment where anonymity is not only accepted, but expected as well.”  by mainstream media even.


ah.  i miss the old days of putting developer names on the box.