How many times yesterday did you do a web search that led you to a Wikipedia page that then didn’t load because of that site’s SOPA protest? I didn’t notice the effect immediately but once I did I was later able to go back through my browser history and see that I tried and failed to open a total of 13 Wikipedia pages so far. Whether you give a damn about SOPA or public protest, this experience has given me a whole new respect for the role Wikipedia has come to play in my life and probably yours.
As a result I made a small donation to Wikipedia around lunchtime then cursed it the rest of the day for failing me seven more times.
As for the SOPA/PIPA protest itself, I sympathize. But in my view what we have here is mainly a conflict of business models, dying industries, and really, really poor design that will work itself out over time.
Remember the record album — the LP? Some were great, most were not. Too many B tracks if you ask me. The music industry has long had a problem of value. The groups I liked sometimes didn’t have many good songs. The record companies would put one or two good songs on an LP or CD, then throw in 10 more that weren’t so good. There were no warning labels which matter to me now that I am a parent. All we wanted were good songs at a reasonable price, which didn’t mean the 15-20 percent yield we were getting from albums.
Then came iTunes and all those problems went away. iTunes did more than just sell the songs the record companies were pushing: they sold whole collections of music. As a result, more, not less, music was sold, most of it the good stuff. Music — if not the recording industry — is better as a result. Steve Jobs proved thinking about the consumer is very good business.
Now we have SOPA and PIPA. I would like to have the same ability to build an online movie library as I have done with music, but there are big problems with this, starting with Windows Media Center and, yes, even iTunes — pretty good products in their own right that protect the copyrights of stored content. That part is okay. But they have very little third party support. Then there is the problem of content. I can buy only a fraction of what I’d like to get and it is scattered over several suppliers. If the movie and TV industries think I am going to subscribe to 5-10 services for $10-25 a month each, they’re nuts.
The movie and TV industries are doing now exactly what the recording industry did before iTunes. SOPA and PIPA will die but they’ll be replaced with something just as bad because lawmakers are stupid and producers are afraid of the future — a future that’s coming no matter what the entertainment industry does. For the money they are spending on lobbying, a design team could develop a new system that would make more money by exposing more content, not less, enabling new business models in the process. At least that’s my take on it.
Changing subjects, Jerry Yang recently got his choice of replacement CEOs again (Jerry’s fourth CEO — fifth if you include choosing himself in 2007) then almost immediately bailed from his every Yahoo connection: what’s up with that? I wish I knew, but I have some suspicions. An intervention, perhaps? Jerry was such an obstructionist to Yahoo moving forward in almost any direction that someone on the inside may finally have told him to sit down and shut up, which I am sure Tim Koogle wanted to do many times.
I can see Jack Ma making a preemptive move like that, saying he’ll pay $1 billion more for Yahoo’s Alibaba stake if Jerry takes a hike first.
Nah, sounds too simple. More likely Yang finally got tired of playing the bad cop and decided to retire to his private golf course. I’ll be very interested to see what his next career move will be. Off the board and owning less than five percent of the company (no SEC reporting requirements) it could be trying to make money trading on what’s sure to be a wild ride for Yahoo over the next several months.
Another change of subject — remember my problem just after Christmas trying to upgrade Windows 7 Home Premium to Windows 7 Professional using one of those instant upgrade cards I bought at WalMart? Though I tried to do the upgrade every day, it wasn’t until this past weekend — two and a half weeks after I started — that the Windows Instant Upgrade website was no longer down for maintenance. I’m not making this up nor can I be the only person with this particular problem, yet run a Google News search and you’ll see I’m almost the only person to write about it. What’s with that?
Well it is certainly humbling for me: I’m clearly not the hotshot reporter thought I was or possibly use to be. But it also brings into question the whole idea of viral growth in news stories and why one story gets picked up and another doesn’t. It beats the crap out of me why it happens. One thing I don’t suspect, though, is any concerted effort by Microsoft to shape the news other than by simply ignoring me. I certainly felt no pressure from them.
Frankly, I wish I had been pressured by Microsoft. That would have been fun.
And now that I have Windows RDP service to my thin clients from a brand new Windows 7 server, how is it working out for my trio of young users? Terrible. Even elementary school gamers overload this system despite first 8 and now 16 gigs of DDR3 RAM. Thin clients (and thick — I’ve tried both) fail the FusionFall test.