Napster and convergence again.
August 15, 2000 9:03 AM   Subscribe

Napster and convergence again. I suppose, like Lance, I can't get tired of this conversation much, either. I mean, my head might explode as I try to run down all the ramifications and possibilities, but I doubt I'd get tired of trying to work it out. Although, it would probably be better to stop just talking about it and jump out in front and start doing things with those thoughts. But, this isn't a 'damn Napster' point. It's a convergence thought. Will people buy a server and storage medium when they hbuy a house, lke we buy a new fridge today so they can network their lives? What's going to be the new compensation plan for content? How can infomration be guarranteed?
posted by rich (15 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
"The captain has now turned off the seatbelt sign and you are free to move about the train. Emergency exits are non-existent. We may encounter bumps in our journey as we run down corporations, ideas and assumptions so we ask that you please keep your seatbelt fastened while seated."

Sorry Lance, but there's no seatbelt. Never was.

This is inevitable, and there's gonna be some growing pains, people. Still, the Star Trek World of Roddenberry's "fever dream" has already come marginally true in some respects. Communicators are cell phones. Bones' diagnostic bed was a crude simulacrum to today's MRI machine. Or maybe MRIs and EKGs and all those things are still a little primitive but we're getting there.

I don't see money lasting forever either.
posted by ZachsMind at 10:12 AM on August 15, 2000

This dead horse was beaten up about two weeks ago.
posted by endquote at 11:45 AM on August 15, 2000

yeah but Lance wrote a NEW tirade about this dead horse, so this is a NEW dead horse we're beating up. I think Lance's images of the future and detailed explanations of the logical progressions is very accurate, but while he sees it as bleak for the artists, I find it exciting!

In the past, it has been when information is made publically available that everybody benefits. Compare Apple to Windows. Microsoft allowed software packages to be made by anybody who could figure it out. Apple preferred to keep it more inhouse. Who won? Yes Apple was superior in technology. I'll grant you that. But who won? Which one is EVERYWHERE? Who got rich and who got bought out?

Information not only wants to be free, trying to keep knowledge from being free is like trying to force the Mississippi River to flow north. It is going against the laws of ifni. Yes. Atlas WILL shrug. But Barbra Streisand had it figured out long ago, and she was more accurate than Ayn Rand, oddly enough. Streisand turned herself into a scarce commodity after building up the demand by making her public appearances very rare. Now she'd only have to breathe on some people and she'd get a hundred bucks from them.

It's all about supply and demand, baby. I love beating this dead horse. It's fun!
posted by ZachsMind at 12:42 PM on August 15, 2000

I'll thank you never to include Ayn Rand in a discussion of art. ;)

So let me ask what this "inevitable" new world will do for us.



Wait!!! - no.

Oh, I know what the problem is! There will be a million and one ways to speak, but what if no one is saying anything worth reading/watching/listening?

Quite frankly, if this train is gonna bring us more stuff like, oh I don't know, Jerry Bruckheimer films, Total Request Live, etc., then we might as well pull the plug and dive headlong into cultural heatdeath instead of letting it happen bit by bit.

This bothers me...I can't quite put my finger on it, but it's this feeling that I don't exactly trust that linking up everything to everything else will be a good idea.

Maybe I'll come back when this is more thoroughly formed in my mind...
posted by solistrato at 1:25 PM on August 15, 2000

I should know better than to come to Metafilter for out of the box, innovative thinking past whatever is placed on the tip of your nose.

Except for Zach, of course.

See, the vision of the future that Lance is seeing, though is not the future, it's the now. I mean, here you have this commodity, information, in whatever form you want to put it (music, news items, industry secrets).

And in the ast, the distribution of this commodity has been through a channel that could control it. So, first, you have the issue that you can no longer control it, but you have the issue that it gets wider distribution than it ever could hope to get.

And then you have this convergence of technologies which will wipe out some and create new ones. I mean, CD's and DVD's. Thinking about it, they'll be outdated quicker than 8 tracks went out the door. I mean, if everything is stored digitally, and made portable, why have "hard" portable storage? The only hard storage you'd need is this wireless storage device in your basement which connect to your house server that wireless updates everything else you have, from I-appliances to your Visor.

And then, do you really need a radio in your car, a walkman, a phone, and a beeper? At the rate things are coming together, one PDA device will be a phone, beeper, and even an MP3 player that you can slide into a port in your car's dashboard, or hell, connects wirelessly to the speakers in the car and to the mic on your head so when you make a call, the music automatically decreases in volume as the PDA takes your call and your wireless earphone and mic let you speak without using your hands as you drive.

But, also, will all information go the way of 'news' type information where only the presentation costs money, only the bandwidth transfer is charged and somehow that makes it back to the producers of the information?

But if it all becomes advertiser-driven, like TV or the radio, then won't the advertisers gain control over what content is seen the most? (So we go back to the Britney Spears is Queen model instead of that underground band that isn't signed yet making it big). But, then again, what will the advertisers advertise for if all information is free?

The tangible goods industry can't support that kind of money outlay. The info-tainment industry is just god-awful huge in comparison.

Maybe they'll let tabacco advertise again.

But the issues Lance raised were not the dead horse beaten 'Naspter Good. Record Companies Bad. Ooga Ooga' crap. Which, of course, I shouldn't expect people here to get right away, but that's regardless.

They were what's the new dynamic? What's gonna be the next paradigm for commerce? Not just for music, but for every industry...
posted by rich at 1:38 PM on August 15, 2000

The future? How about a Radiohead album all about Pepsi?

Seriously though, unless someone, anyone creates a new napster-type system that requires payment, and the record/movie/entertainment companies embrace it (and not try to make it their own proprietary thing, *cough* sony *cough*), these free payment-less versions are going to continue to propigate, and the quality of content may go way down as people stop creating works they can be supported for.

There's always going to be free copyright violating distribution models out there, but if some company were to take the lead and say here, pay for access to reliable fast servers, and we'll share the money with the creators of such content, then maybe we could get to a place we'd more like to see.

I don't think ad-supported content is ever going to take over, who wants their mp3 playlist to sound like the radio? Who wants more product placement in movies?

We're already bombarded with ads in our lives, I sure hope some ingenious payment system can be set in place so we can keep the volume of ads in check.
posted by mathowie at 2:21 PM on August 15, 2000

Ah, and Real seems to be giving that a try with a subscription model similar to cable TV.
posted by mathowie at 2:24 PM on August 15, 2000

Y'know, rich, for someone trying to argue a point, continually insulting the intelligence of 1398* people is probably a bad idea. Are you hoping to get hoofed in the gut but the flurry of jerked knees, or just trolling while calmly donning the asbestos suit? :-)

When that PDA you speak of is ready, sign me up.

I do agree that there's no point in debating whether or not Lance's description of the future is realistic, it's already reality.

Something people don't seem to realize is that information not only wants to be Free, it already is. For the most part, I can hop online and learn anything I want about anything I want to, to the level of knowledge I want to learn about it.

Specifics can still be closed. I'm not going to learn the inner secrets of Scientology or see the source for Windows 2000.

There are, however probably sites of former Scientologists who've posted documents, transcripts, etc., I'd start with alt.scientology myself, and there definetely are numerous discertations of what makes a good operating system, and how to program it.

(yes, yes, "What do good operating systems have to do with Windows?")

Hell, even "hop[ing] online" is becomming such a moot point in my life. The only times I'm not online is when I'm asleep or in my car. I'm constantly connected at home and work, and at 90% of the places I go to, I can get to the Internet in a matter of minutes.

Damn, I love when we live.

* this number is based on the number of users I saw last night, which was exactly 1400, which I thought was pretty cool. I don't often see round numbers.
posted by cCranium at 2:35 PM on August 15, 2000

If there's one thing preventing the possible future from being the actual now, it's The Mom Factor.

Or, more accurately, The Lance's Mom Factor.

Although we, you and I, are the technology elite and concepts like digital media and convergence and the TiVo-ized destruction of television networks due to time-shifting viewing habits and the erasure and ignorance of complete ad campaigns (goodbye, Super Bowl (pretty please?)), there are plenty more people like my mother to whom all this is terra incognita.

They have no concept of the power of the individual in the landscape of all-access everything. They find using Yahoo! confusing. Their computer spits back error messages that have no meaning to anyone but a tech support guru, and sometimes not even to them.

But does their TV ever talk back at them in gibberish because one of the channels they tried to access has a plug-in that's incompatible with their choice of OS/platform/browser?

If any of this is going to happen, it will be because the tools are so simple to use you never think about using them. Convenience is one thing. Easy-to-use convenience is nirvana. And using the currently available tools to beat a path to the bright, stain-free future won't lead anywhere. We're being forced to use what we have, but this won't, you should excuse the expression, hack it. We cannot expect the population to become Linux admins in order to customize their online environment for optimum through-put.

Why is TV popular? Because TV is easy.

We have a long, long way to go. Information is not free because the source is in question from where we are right now. Do you really think you can find anything on the Web? Maybe you can, or maybe it's filled with lies and half-truths. Not that what we get fed to us through media channels now is true, either.

But who do you trust? When there is no true source for anything, when is anything true?

By the way, if you want to learn all about something, try the local library. I hear they have these things called books you can take anywhere! You don't need broadband, a monitor, a keyboard, a mouse or even electricity.

posted by honkzilla at 9:27 PM on August 15, 2000

And you can use books in the bath, even if you're not that careful. Now that's a true test of convergence and portability.
posted by holgate at 2:20 AM on August 16, 2000

I was going to post *exactly* the same thing in the MS e-books thread. To me that illustrates why so many things fail to gain popular acceptance, you have to have special equipment and/or knowledge to use them, and people are generally lazy when there is a simpler, more convenient alternative.
Why? Why would your average Joe on the street want to make the effort to hook up to all that information when the TV can give him all the 'info'-tainment he wants.
The corporation which brings all things to all people will be the one with the simplest (not necessarily the best) method of doing so, and PDAs, PCs etc are nowhere near that yet.
posted by Markb at 4:48 AM on August 16, 2000

The Mom factor exists, but I'm not particularily concerned with it. Why? Because our Moms will die.

No, it's not a cheery thought, and probably a nasty way to start a morning, but it's true.

I'm 23. There's been a PC in my house since I was 5, I had an intellivision growing up, I could program Vic20s and Commodore 64s better than most people that owned them.

I was one of those annoying kids that wrote bad words and "Rob Is Great!" in infinity loops on the computers in department stores.

So yes, I'm a geek, I'm a member of the techno-elite, I was even a help desk 'guru' for a while. Every year more and more people use computers, including my mother and yours, on a regular basis, because improvements in ease-of-use are constant. Cripes, just look at the "Blogs are a minefield of dull, no content because of the ease-of-use tools out there" arguments that have arisen in the past.

My neice is 4. She's had a computer in her house since she was born, she's been playing Edutainment Titles since she was two. Last time I visited she sat and played with my Wacom Tablet (which I just plugged into the computer, and it was up and running in under 5 seconds) drawing pictures, experimenting with different brushes. And she's FOUR.

I imagine in 19 years or so, she'll be complaining about the Mom Factor too.

I trust universities, RFCs, thesis papers, product documentation, information from reliable sources. If there's information I'm wary of - and I usually take everything I read online or off with a grain of salt - I'll look for confirmation or rebuttal from another source. I'll ask friends what they've heard.

In other words, I take the same precautions with online information as I do with hard copy. Read, question, learn.

I read hard copy every night, for at least an hour, thank you very much.

So yes, Honkzilla, I guess you're right. For some of us the future is already here, and for some of us the future will show up in a little while.

I know that, while being here, ahead of every one who isn't, I'm going to offer up a helping hand.

I need to stop talking now, because if I even had a point to begin with, it's long gone the way of the dodo.

I certainly don't know the answers, but talking about it sure is fun.
posted by cCranium at 7:27 AM on August 16, 2000

I'm always getting beaten to the punch.

The concept that everything is online is the one that is destroying the reserach abilities of the new generation of school kids.

My wife, being a teacher, gets reports with a string of URL's as the bibliography, no books, no magazines.

When was the last time a website won a Peabody for insightful, thorough analysis of an issue?

How can you really appreciate the conflict in Ireland without reading Trinity?

Of course, this feeds into the 'easy to use' angle. Sure, Lance's Mom can't figure out how to install AOL, but Lance sure can. And if Lance ever has a prodigy, that prodigy will probably be able to debug 12 year old source code before he or she is out of diapers.

So, from the technological useability side, that day is coming quickly. The 15 to 20 crowd is better skilled in technology than the 21 to 30 crowd I would wager. Ease of use is in the eye of the beholder. My parents hated VCR's - couldn't program them whatsoever. Me, I was like a duck in water when they first came out.

So it comes back to information, providing that infomation, getting that information.

First, there needs to be some model for payment. Right now, the only ones we have are advertising and access. And access payments (as in getting on line) in most cases don't go back to the content providers - we only see that when specific web sites charge for access.

So, then, what if someone wants to read Trinity. Say it's freely available online. How did it get online in the first place? Someone had to spend money to get it there. And then to store it. And someone's paying for the bandwidth transfers. Is everyone going to do things out of their good will? Publishing Houses?

I wager Trinity will never be online in that case.

And that because of that, people won't read it. Unless some new innovative payment system comes up.

And free systems will always be around. It just has to be EASIER by a certain order of magnitude to use the payment system. Either through technology, or, (god forbid, of course) legislation.

(As an ending note, I'd like to bring up the previews for that new TV drama with Oliver Platt where he tells his students to find out some information and the go 'We'll go online!' and he says 'No, you'll get your shoes and socks on and go down to the court clerk's office.')
posted by rich at 7:29 AM on August 16, 2000

My wife, being a teacher, gets reports with a string of URL's as the bibliography, no books, no magazines.

Heh. I remember when I turned in a report with a URL, and my teacher had no idea what the hell was going on. Crazy.

Anyway, I'm certainly not advocating research be done solely online. Just as I wouldn't advocate ignoring online information for research.

My original point referred to my life, and for my purposes.

What are those purposes? Programming, definetely, which is a huge swath of information, including syntax, standards, protocols, and all information related to whatever I'm currently programming.

Finding out what movies are playing, getting groceries, entertainment, finding out where to go for other entertainment (concerts, plays, etc.), communication with friends and family, finding addresses.
posted by cCranium at 8:57 AM on August 16, 2000

Not to be picky, but the reason no website has ever won a Peabody is because they're not eligible. Has to be a broadcast of some sort.

Man, I shudder to think that someday we might be the ones having to bed our 10-year-old kids to explain all that newfangled technology to us...
posted by aaron at 12:36 PM on August 16, 2000

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