Digital Decrepitude and the Folly of Human Behavior

A quick and interesting article about abandoned digital spaces like Second Life.

Removed from organic decaying processes, the only ruins in this world, including simulacrum of piles of dirt and construction vehicles, are ones that have been deliberately built and placed there by a designer. But despite its empty spaces, the world still feels full of possibility, perhaps specifically because it’s all still standing strong, so many years on. It’s not abandoned; it’s simply waiting.

In the real world, we can at least imagine that we are creating permanence; in the digital world, that pretense is impossible for a reasonably rational mind and possible only for the delusional. What always amazed me was that folks put so much faith in the meaning of those spaces– invested so much of their lives and energy into building virtual spaces whose effects are even more temporary than those structures that we build in the real world.

Kind of like blogging.


No matter what anyone hoped for, the ruling against ReDigi this week was unsurprising. Their approach to resale of digital files– in specific, your iTunes catalog– may appeal on an emotional level, but it never looked good on a legal level. That is, most people continue to confuse the “fair” in “fair use” for something that has nothing whatsoever to do with the reality of digital musical sales.

Here’s a bit of the ruling as reported by CNet:

“Courts have consistently held that the unauthorized duplication of digital music files over the Internet infringes a copyright owner’s exclusive right to reproduce,” Judge Sullivan wrote. “However, courts have not previously addressed whether the unauthorized transfer of a digital music file over the Internet — where only one file exists before and after the transfer — constitutes reproduction within the meaning of the Copyright Act. The court holds that it does.”

I would suggest that there is an easier way to look at this: when you purchase digital music, you haven’t bought actual ownership of the music. All you’ve done is license that music for your own personal use (indeed, at some point, I’m pretty sure that someone will have to test the heritability issue to find out if your spouse or children or pet, depending on how you’ve written your will, can actually assume ownership of those files after you’ve passed away– my guess is that a strict answer will be “no” but the pragmatics of policing the chain of custody will prove too difficult for enforcement). With a CD, a similar license is purchased but is tied to the actual ownership of the physical device carrying the music– and when you sell that physical device, you’re also selling your rights to “ownership” of the music therein.

The question of how courts view things like transfer of digital files and how copyright violations can occur when groups of people access the “same” file were answered largely when lost early court battles to the big music companies. Their scheme was just as careful and thoughtful as ReDigi, but their arguments failed. Rational or not, the precedent already exists for this decision. Indeed, Apple admitted as much when it made its big contribution to the record companies in return for launching iTunes Match, a service with a tremendous similarity to the way worked.

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Quick Link: An Important Farm Revolution in India?

This is promising and exciting. If the results are found to be accurate then the techniques can not only help subsistence farmers around the world in their search for food security, but it can also help them find ways to build profitable small farms.

Very exciting.

This was not six or even 10 or 20 tonnes. Kumar, a shy young farmer in Nalanda district of India’s poorest state Bihar, had – using only farmyard manure and without any herbicides – grown an astonishing 22.4 tonnes of rice on one hectare of land. This was a world record and with rice the staple food of more than half the world’s population of seven billion, big news.

It beat not just the 19.4 tonnes achieved by the “father of rice”, the Chinese agricultural scientist Yuan Longping, but the World Bank-funded scientists at the International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines, and anything achieved by the biggest European and American seed and GM companies. And it was not just Sumant Kumar. Krishna, Nitish, Sanjay and Bijay, his friends and rivals in Darveshpura, all recorded over 17 tonnes, and many others in the villages around claimed to have more than doubled their usual yields.

Read the rest.

Ripples Through the Economy…

Economic Art
Economic Art
Dollar Art Photo Courtesy Wikimedia Commons, selbstfotografiert.

Check this out:

The U.S. Chamber’s Institute for 21st Century Energy is telling the public that “Shale Works for US.” It not only creates jobs directly, but the beneficial effects are felt far across the country.

And to think, this is all due to George Mitchell who invested ten years and $6 million of his own time and money to make the combination of hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling technologies work to get shale gas out of the earth. That innovation is all his; we’re fortunate enough to be sharing in the benefits.

Firstly, I wish I were sitting on a big ol’ pile of frac sand. It’s amazing the amount of money that goes into something that seems so common.

Secondly, it is interesting to consider the economic ripples of these little boomlets in specialized industry. The jobs and the sales are obvious, but this also has a significant effect on machinery manufacturers, local tax revenues, and local businesses. For me, the most important effect is in terms of the manufacturers.

See, for some of the companies that sell equipment in this arena, it’s been a tough few years. The demand for aggregates has been low (in large part a side effect of the housing market implosion and a general economic weakness that has gutted the industries that account for a good amount of aggregates demand). For some companies, weakness in one, typically reliable, product line is being offset by new demand to support these guys.

And for some, it’s meant introducing things like new frac sand manufacturing equipment.

See, this is how jobs and economic growth happen. It’s not a function of government; it’s a function of governments getting out of the way and allowing growth. That’s not to say there shouldn’t be regulation and oversight, but that innovation and growth often start in the private sector. It seems obvious to say, but if those regulations and oversight become so onerous that the private sector is stifled, then your economy suffers.

Read the rest.

To Orbitz or Not to Orbitz. That is the Question.

Apple Computer

I imagine that many Mac users will be cranky to hear this bit of news.

Apple customers are known to pay a premium for their Macs, strong design, and integrated software. Apparently, Mac users will also shell out more for hotel rooms too.

According to the Wall Street Journal, travel site Orbitz has been able to segment its audience in Apple and Windows camps. The upshot: Mac users will pay $20 to $30 a night more on hotels than PC users.

But here’s the thing: they aren’t charging more for the same stuff. If a Mac user and a PC user order the same type room at the same hotel on the same day, they’ll pay the same price. What they’ve realized is that Mac users prefer  something that they believe is a little bit nicer. Which isn’t such a bad thing.

Seriously: I don’t stay at cheap hotels anymore. I look for a decent deal, but I also read the reviews on travel sites to try to find the places that best suit my needs. That often includes things like extensive spa services for my wife and nice bars for me. I don’t mind paying a little extra for what I believe is a better product, and that extends to everything from hotels and furniture to cars and shoes. I’m not so sure that I mind Orbitz realizing this about me and doing its best to offer me the stuff that I would prefer.

rbitz may have a nasty PR problem on its hands, though. The way the information is presented in the news outlets is designed to make Mac users feel like they are being treated like suckers. No one wants to be the sucker at the table.