Andrew Breese

Musings of a professional geek

Category Archives: Digital Media

xkcd’s ContextBot comic

Pathways and barriers to Australian viewers

There are shows that are so damn good out there that make me want to slap on an eye patch, glue a parrot to my shoulder, and gurgle “Arrrrr” all the way through a BitTorrent client. The Game of Thrones, the Walking Dead, Breaking Bad, Sherlock, and Hell of Wheels are the top shows I can immediately think of. These shows are incredibly high quality and worth paying for.

Alas they are distributed in an unfriendly manner in Australia. Some are not available, others are shown in Pay channels only, populated with ads and still broadcast at unfriendly times. The Walking Dead is shown on a pay tv service, with ads, at times which are probably appropriate for its rating but still frustrating.

Even the previews and community information sites which banter about these shows are often blocked, which leaves me feeling like a second class consumer.

Of these TV shows I’ve seen smatterings of some, and a fair proportion of others – via a range of mediums, be that purchased dvds, borrowed media, downloads, and some such. Some were even free to air (actually free) and at almost consistent times during a schedule. Sometimes I get to watch the preview teaser and that’s about it. I’m not sure that some of the shows will ever be on free-to-air TV in Australia at all, which is why Aussies get used to either streaming content, or more often using a Pay TV service or the DVDs.

There are any number of website blogs/posts talking about how it’s fair and reasonable to pirate content because it takes too long to get to Australia, or that the distribution network is unfriendly, or not high bandwidth enough. I feel that pain too.

But it struck home today after flipping through the comments on a Walking Dead page just how much rubbish those points of criticism are. The fact is that these shows are awesome and I mirror some of the attitudes of the “pirate customers” where the range of barriers frustrates me too much.

In spite of that the distributors creators are:

  • not silly to wish to be paid for their content,
  • not at all likely to be paid by me for the content if it requires a subscription to a wider service per month (i.e. no way in hell I’ll pay Foxtel just to watch 2x TV shows),
  • focusing on the “low hanging fruit” who already have pay to view subscriptions,
  • likely to be unwilling to show on free-to-air as the ad revenue alone may not be enough,
  • unable to compete with the BitTorrent providers who will steal the content regardless of how free, fast, or packaged it is. Zero cost in a range of formats, with no ads, within 8 hours of the USA viewing is better than any Australian distribution channel can offer.

So I get why the Distributors are not interesting in changing, and also why the file-sharers will not stop stealing content. Two aspects of a problem, where one is clearly frustrated and also clearly illegal. The general rule for Australia is that the shows are unavailable in a timely manner after release in the USA, even when that option costs a very large amount of money.

This creates a huge divide between the two views, more of a polarity: those who pay and those who steal.

That said, there has to be a way for the distributors to get some of the money that the people in the middle would give them, if a channel which was not wasteful and expensive existed. Apple’s iTunes is one for Game of Thrones where a digital copy was allowed, and each episode was paid for separately. That is a reasonable option, is quick and current, although it still seemed too expensive to my taste.

So what would I pay? Approx $2-4 per episode. Yes I know that is cheap, and here is why.

I measure the cost of the service, entertainment, or experience against what else it can provide. A season of a show runs approx 13 episodes which gives a rather skimpy revenue stream of $26 to $52; or as I like to think of it a DVD season of a show. It could also be measured up against a good bottle of wine.

Also a single episode of a TV show is not worth a lot by itself, or out of order. That means that to create a valued product the offering would need to incorporate several shows, offering a bundle of content with flexibility. Then allow me to stream/downland that content in a timely way after the USA release and I’m happy.

Something like a AMC+HBO-Australia, where I can pick a few shows and get them all. I’d be really happy, and especially happy as I would not need to install a shitty Foxtel-like box in the house, and also can have flexibility to view it everywhere I wish. That is a product with appeal downunder. Do you think HBO or AMC would be happy to take $100 to $200+ per year from me direct into their coffers? Yes, I think they’d be keen. And I’ll happy give it to them if they can get on-board with a better global distribution model.

Happy viewing.

PS – It is ever stranger to me that the folks who locally “print” the DVD and BluRays download a master of the show, and then burn them for sale in stores. If the distribution networks are good enough to do that, then they can mock-up or use an existing distribution system to get content out to the masses via selective subscription.

Yes, that will slow down the DVD sales, but the pirates were never those customers, and the DVDs charge a heck of a lot for material which is just pointless to me as a viewer (packaging, freight, dvd extras, branding, etc).

Instagram and others – sell your stuff? Yep

No, Instagram can’t sell your photos: what the new terms of service really mean | The Verge.

The Verge has reasonable summary of the Intragram hype around the potential change of license, and the furor that it created within their community and in the wider communities who are concerned. The article is a reasonable and human readable presentation of what is going on in terms of Instagram, and will serve to act as a reminder to users of other services such as Facebook, MySpace, Flickr, Google+ and all the other social aspects of online life. Heck Redit and 4Chan probably also have the capacity to sell posts and material too. Why shouldn’t they? What security did the users pay for? And what is the contractual financial penalty for a breech. Fundamentally not much.

When did everyone brutally decouple their brains and un-think enough, to the point where they though SHARING STUFF ON THE INTERNET WAS SAFE? Seriously.

These companies seek profit, and that means that if you are not the vendor or the customer, then you are the product. If you share material online using these tools then you better get used to it. You = Product.

Instagram has clarified the position so that they are not selling material as much as using it in segway type adds, but really its the same thing (and that might have changed since this writing this, due to community backlash). To me the idea that the company can do anything with my material makes me and my material a commodity.

Users need to moderate what they share online so that anytime a company decides to share/sell/market or even miss-use your material you are not sharing something you thought was private or unique. We should consider posting material to social sites to be the same as posting them on a billboard on the highway. The person chose to post it, and cannot control what happens after that.

Honestly I can’t believe the uproar because I though this was obvious from the start. Content aggregators have been trawling the internet for years already grabbing material, and unless you are very tricky and tech savvy, or very litigious, their aggregation methods will be successful.

What can users do? Well remove and delete things that you don’t want to share. Perhaps delete your account if you feel that strongly, but to be honest the damage might already be done for some material. Be smarter and make a choice from this point forward for each phrase, image, or file you share online.

This is hopefully a blinding flash that scares people into considering what they post before they post. Perhaps the breadth of the impact is enough to drive home the point about keeping your stuff private?

I really hope so. Remember… you are the product.

Is CISPA another SOPA?

Update: CISPA Bill was successfully passed by the US House of Reps, 27 April 2012. Find a good encrypted VPN provider now!

The struggle between governments, corps, and the rights of the individual is not over. SOPA was brought down by a large public outcry, and my fear at the time was that we would see this a few more times until eventually we are sick of responding, or disinterested – and then something aberrant will get passed.

Well in the US a bill called CISPA (the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act) is doing the rounds in headlines, and it appears to be a slightly less, but essentially the same as SOPA in terms of impact to personal freedom and information. Yes, yes, I know CISPA is very different in terms of focus, but the devil is in the implementation (Wired mag).

Once again the US govt is proposing very powerful changes to law without significant tangible borders, so that it can protect me, itself, and companies from my worse self. These powers come at the cost of my information and personal privacy. By default I think we should be against these changes.

CISPA is not without its own critics, and you’ll have to either trust me (or read further) that the bill in its current form is still a very large concern for a lot of agencies. So much so that basically all the organisations who were against SOPA and PIPA are alarmed by CISPA (do you hate acronyms yet?).

A point of difference is that many public, well known, and potentially trusted organisations are happy to support the bill. As the person on this end of the internet, I’m not happy to have faith that Microsoft, IBM, and Facebook etc are benevolent trustworthy companies.

There is a saying that rings true here, when we think about the impact this has and how trustworthy the govts, corps, and private companies are:

“If you are not paying for it but getting it for free, then you are the product, not the consumer.”

My privacy and security is not a commodity, and it worries me as Australia will likely follow what the Americans do.

What to do if SOPA Passes?

The online piracy act is one of a few sets of legislation being worked out in the USA at the moment. If you’ve come across sites blacked out with SOPA written on them, they are protesting against it.

Fundamentally the proposals are seeking to inhibit distribution of copyrighted material, using a really vague set of criteria which will have the flow on effect of blacklisting many sites which are totally legit.

Satire, critical review, freedom of speech, poorly conceived internet memes,  and happy snaps with brands in the background will all be open for turn down. Worse – the companies which host the material (Facebook, youTube, WordPress, etc…) will face legal challenges. You as the user will suffer.

Its a cluster-fuck of an idea. Sorry for the language, but – that is how impressively stupid this concept is.

I think the idea of censoring the internet is a joke as it will irritate everyone, have major impacts on businesses and individuals, and not protect against piracy. Oh, what, wait – you think it will help? Really?

Then shut up and read.

How to ignore the legislation once passed:

Step One – find a country with far more free ideas for information distribution. There are heaps. China rings a bell, but they’ve got their own Internet firewall issues, and we all know that China is Un-American. Instead try any country in Europe, perhaps Sweden, or some such. Anywhere that thinks Wikileaks is OK will probably be fine.

Don’t even bother trying Australia, our media ownership rules are so borked that we’re likely to just turn the internet off instead of apply some common sense. And we’re 10,000 miles away from anything fun too.

Actually try somewhere that also offers private bank accounts – they’re bound to be dodgy enough to stick it to the USA’s new laws.

Step Two – purchase a dedicated VPN service to a provider in that country. Its anywhere from $10 to $5 per month. And when the entire population of the USA can’t watch YouTube the prices will drop due to massive competition. In 6 months you’ll pay $25 to US$30 for a Year subscription.

How do I know the price will drop? Look at the pricing of Internet bandwidth in the USA. Actually don’t, keep concentrating on this.

Step Three – reconnect to the new Internet, and all your traffic cannot be traced back to you via your ISP, and the countries which thought you were American or whatever, now only know that you come from some tin-pot country where the Internet is still free.

Thats it. Re-open what ever you were doing, and keep sharing. I’m sure a new http://www.Facebook.ru will be started shortly, and we’ll all be posting junk there in no time.

Net effect = lots of irritation. Loss of revenue. Loss of jobs. Less freedom. More lawsuits. Same allowance for piracy. Same downloads from dodgy places.

Brilliant.

Now go type “SOPA” into Google and learn how to make your voice heard. Soon you may not be able to.

A web based eReader, Bookish

I’ve just wandered across the Booki.sh tool – a web based eReader that can handle ePub formats in almost any modern browser; created by Inventive Labs in Fitzroy. Damn smart.

The creators have answered all the obvious questions (many platforms, moderate compatibility, DRM and free, and offline/online) in reasonable and commercial ways. It has a robust FAQ and help area, provides a sample interface for what the app is like, and is well designed.

I’m pondering an eReader of some sort at the moment, and I’d have to say that the idea of having one repository which can be used on any of my devices is just the perfect way to go. One device to rule them all, one device to bind them….yup. I wants it.

It also helps that these folks are not only Australians, but also from Fitzroy in Victoria, a place I’ve lived and still love to this day. So yes, call me a screaming fan for anything this high quality done in Melbourne, especially when it looks this strong.

From a CMS perspective you can see why this hangs off a good content management system; you develop a smart back end to process the content, then delivery is all about the platform specifics. Mark-up an interface for selection and bingo (bingo being months if not years of development). The fine folks at Fusion (where I worked a few year back) did something similar for a Uni’s online course catalogue – and it was a darn successful product too.

My only peev would be the bloody name – where I can say and type Bookish easily, Booki.sh is off to me personally. Its like dotNet development rather than .Net development – brain hurts.

So go visit Bookish and see what these clever people have done. I’m kind of jealous.

Web Video Content Stats

Clickers YouTube Nation image

Found via LifeHacker, some stats on the percentages of what is uploaded as video to the internet. I’d say this is typical, but probably needs to be more granular in the categories, but I can see how adding more category types might make the distribution more open to speculation. That said, the demographic breakdown is actually darn good, and I can see this being very useful in marketing and communications circles.

Best thing I like here is the tagline – YouTube Nation. Indeed we are, and who doesn’t like some graphics?

The source article is by Killian from Clicker, with a great selection of breakdown information.

Reaching Agreement Website Award

I’m chuffed to find out that the Reaching Agreement website project of mine (while with Areeba in Melbourne) from a little while ago was an award winner of a national technology prize at the National Multicultural Marketing Awards.

Reaching Agreement Website Logo

The website is a multi-language video website that provides advice for people seeking to resolve and avoid disputes in their neighbourhoods. Video coaching is available in seven community languages – Arabic, Chinese, Croatian, Greek, Italian, Spanish and Vietnamese as well as Australian Sign Language.

Mr Kerkyasharian commented “For many newly-arrived migrants, dealing with government can be intimidating. Whether this is due to language barriers or personal experience in the home countries, it can make seeking assistance from much-needed government services, like those available to assist in dispute resolution, difficult.

“The Reaching Agreement website directly addresses this issue through the video medium by putting a friendly and open face to dispute resolution services.

“It acknowledges that language differences can be a barrier to effective dispute resolution, and offers site visitors simple and effective solutions to enable them to resolve disputes with people from any cultural, professional and socio-economic background.

“This is a fantastically practical use for the techniques of multicultural marketing. I commend those public servants involved in creating this Reaching Agreement website highly for their ingenuity and their humanity,” he concluded.

I left the company just before the project went live, and was so overwhelmed by the new job that I missed the buzz.

Congratulations to the Areeba team (Dan, Kirsten, Matt, Eric), the ADR project team (Adam, Glenn); and especially to the Dispute Settlement Centre of Victoria and the Appropriate Dispute Resolution Directorate for having the vision to support an initiative like this.

Darn happy day today.

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