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Singularity Summit 2009 – report

October 8, 2009

(In Swedish at least for the time being. To view the tweets in English I wrote during the conference, use this search)

Jag var på Singularity Summit 2009 i helgen som gick, och publicerade mina någorlunda hastigt nedskrivna tankar om det efteråt. Klicka på länken för att läsa ;)

edit: The videos of the presentations are now available

Spotify – liberation or DRM-hell?

September 22, 2009

Spotify, seen by many as the music service Napster should’ve been and thus would have saved us from the last 10 years of evil piracy, has a darker side to it as well. To understand, let’s do some history:

First, one of the suggestions from the media industry on how to “solve the piracy problem” (that still hasn’t been shown to exist, worth noting) has been to create a “broadband tax“. Everyone should pay for some imagined or real media usage to the existing rights holding companies.

I wrote about this in a column several years ago (2003, not linkable), where I referred to it as being “the most brilliant business idea I’ve ever known”. Imagine enacting laws requiring everyone to send money to a private entity that doesn’t do any actual work – when you’re the entity! (Sadly this is the case in several countries already, like Canada and Sweden, with a copy-tax on writeable media)

Naturally, file sharers and non-file sharers (in this blog post, let’s pretend that file sharing actually means distributing copyrighted works without proper support by law) have been in uproar with this silly idea. To start with, such a license scheme wouldn’t be able to know whom consumed what, and thus wouldn’t be able to distribute the eventual income fairly. It would also help to keep an outdated power structure in place (media companies of old actually did advertising, printing of media on physical substrates and costly distribution – including deals with storefronts with regards to shelf space) when it’s no longer needed (see; the Internet).

Secondly, that same industry fell in love with DRM – Digital Rights Management. Ignoring such things as the intention of law (in some countries, not-law), suddenly media wasn’t something you bought and could re-use or sell yourself (as it had always been), you instead consumed a license that could expire without warning and the things you had bought became worthless. Now, to be fair, thanks to the evil pirates DRM on audio died somewhere around 2007 and I’m projecting the end of DRM on video to begin already in 2009. After all, the world hasn’t ended and even some media company executives [children] might want to create their own ringtone from a piece of music they bought every once in a while. It might also help that there indeed were a few DRM services that closed up shop and everyone could see (and some experience) the very real threat of having paid for something that in the end amounted to nothing.

… so, let’s get back to Spotify.

1) It’s a flat tax (ad-supported or with real money) upon all its users, no matter what they listen to or how much. It’s not even a freemium-model if you want it available on your mobile.

2) You pay the equivalent of twelve full albums a year (how many of you have purchased that amount lately?) and end up owning nothing. When Spotify disappears, so will all the music.

Are you surprised that Spotify is owned by the media industry, who claim to make more profit out of it than actually selling you the (DRM-free) music available at digital music stores (while at least one actual musician – you know, the ones who create stuff – argues he gets basically nothing)?

I’m not. With minor exceptions, Spotify is exactly what they’ve been trying to accomplish over the last few years.

The only surprise is that we seem to love it.

[disclaimer: this blog post was written under the influence of music streamed through Spotify Premium]

Another blog, another place

September 2, 2009

While I’m sure I’m going to cross post some of the things I write about, the more mobile related posts will appear at Sony Ericsson blogs instead of here. I’ve kicked off with a post on It’s not about smartphones – on how some of the new devices on the market differ in their actual usage from what we’ve seen before and what that might mean.

Twitter, trees and culture

August 27, 2009

A pretty informal study made the global headlines a week back about how 40% of everything posted to Twitter amounts to just “pointless babble”.

That conclusion is seriously flawed, and likely stems from a misunderstanding on how humans communicate.

Our consciousness has very low bandwidth. Exactly how low is hard to measure, but in The User Illusion author Tor Nørretranders argues it to be around 16 bits-or-so per second. Thus, when humans communicate we do so trying to guess as to how many bits we need to use to get our full message across to another person, and that requires us to share a lot of background information. Tor coined the concept of exformation in that context, the information-not-mentioned but still expected to exist. The word trees in the headline referes to the trees of talking that describes this process.

Tree of talking at Flickr

Now, naturally, not all of us have the same background knowledge. That’s culture. You might like Van Gogh, I might like Rembrandt. When discussing art, you need to explain concepts to me that you wouldn’t need to when talking to someone who, like you, understands Van Gogh. You would need to use more bits, more time, more effort.

Twitter is about building exformation as much as it is about communicating information. It might not be seen as valuable and interesting when I read you had a headache yesterday, but in a weeks time when I see on Facebook that you again have a headache it’s used as exformation and allows me to better sympathize and ask if everything’s really well with you at home or at work.

Twitter (and Facebook) aren’t filled with pointless babble. They’re tools helping us building a common culture of exformation thus enabling us to communicate more information using less bits, to more people.

We’re all our own little Hollywoods of the world.

Science and peer review

August 14, 2009

In our daily exposure to science, we’ve been told that there exists a quality metric that allows us to distinguish between “bad science” and “good science”. Peer review; the concept of scientific works being sent to certain publications, where editors then asks other scientists in (hopefully) related fields for their opinions, and if the paper “passes” it will be published. Some publications are taken to be “better” than others at this, and there’s a sense of pride and justification between scientists depending on how many papers, and where, they’ve managed to get published through the peer review process.

The only problem is that peer review seemingly doesn’t work, and cannot be used as a quality metric. A good example popped up yesterday, where Michael Mann of the infamous “Mann hockeystick” (seen in Al Gore’s movie about global warming), got a paper published in the very highly thought of publication Nature. (Subscription required, news article can be found here)

What’s interesting about this paper, besides it having been contradicted one day before being published by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in an equally peer reviewed publication, is that it apparently received harsh critique during the peer review process from at least one reviewer, Chris Landsea. Thankfully, he’s sent an open letter to Mann for everyone to read on the subject – search for “open letter” in the comments here (well worth the hassle). Basically, there seems to be no basis for Mann’s claims, neither in the published paper nor in the press around it.

So. We’ve apparently got bad science published in a well respected publication, having gone through a peer review process where one of the reviewers in effect stated that the paper didn’t support its own conclusions.

Another area where we can find peer review is in open source. No editors, no elite selection of reviewers. Anyone can publish, anyone can spot faults.

It’s likely the better version.

Negative tip

August 7, 2009

I have a problem.

While the culture of giving something extra for good service, tipping, varies greatly between countries, I’ve so far found no solution to the problem of being given bad service. It doesn’t matter if the local culture practically mandates a tip or if it’s just considered to be something you do when you feel you’ve been given something “extra” – I’m unable to in a culturally satisfactory way show if I’m displeased.

If I tip, you believe I was satisfied. I can tip more to show extra appreciation, but if I tip less, or nothing, you will only think I’m cheap (or that I do not know the local tipping culture – elaborated on below).

Possible and rejected solutions:

1) Pay less than the value of the goods/service

A good way to get in trouble. Especially abroad where you do not know how well the local establishment have ties to the police.

2) Pay exactly the stated value

Displaying that you’re cheap or ignorant. A good way to get a Las Vegas cab driver to throw your luggage into concrete as hard as possible.

3) Pay half the local norm

Displaying that you’re cheap or ignorant. The norm is 20% in some countries, 10% in others and many of my fellow countrymen pay 5% and think they’re tipping well no matter where they are anyway.

Now I’m quite sure there is a solution, and I’d love to hear it. Very few companies run a “pay what you think it’s worth” style service, too few to help me out with a very general problem. Tipping is a form of customer feedback, and any company worth your time is interested in both the negative as well as the positive.

Angående politikens framtida riktning

June 8, 2009

Jag röstade pirat i EU-parlamentsvalet 7e juni 2009

Nyckeln till att kunna rösta pirat även i riksdagsvalet 2010, och i nästa EU-parlamentsval, ligger i att kunna förklara det skifte som redan har inträffat inom politiken både för våra egna väljare och för media (blogsfären såväl som di gamle).

Skiftet jag pratar om är att det inte längre var det ekonomiska synsättet på politik som var den dominerande valfrågan för Piratpartiets väljarskara. Det här är inte första gången det är så (Miljöpartiet började likadant) men det kan bli, och måste bli, första gången den synen fortlever när partiet utvecklas. Det finns många förslag inom partiet just nu på hur det här ska kunna göras, men tyvärr ser jag inte många förslag som är mer konkreta än “sluta prata om det”.

Det finns redan ett bra förslag – vi behöver bara i god Seth Godin anda sprida det till våra medarbetare/följeskara/väljare: The Political Compass

Politics in two axis

Den vanliga vänster-höger skalan finns kvar i sin helhet i den här bilden av politiska yttringar, men en dimension till visas. Det är inte på något sätt en ny dimension, den har alltid funnits där i våra politiska värderingar – det är bara dags att göra den synlig.

(För tydlighetens skull bör man även tänka sig den här axeln spänna över auktoritär till frihetlig, eftersom orden liberal/libertarian är värdeladdade både i svenska och engelska)

Med den här bilden över politisk tillhörighet kan vi nu sätta svansen på åsnan:

  • Vänsterpartiet: Till vänster i ovanstående bild – och sträcker sig från auktoritär till frihetlig
  • Socialdemokraterna: Till vänster (men inte lika långt som V) – från auktoritär till frihetlig
  • Miljöpartiet: Till vänster, med någon övervikt på den frihetliga sidan
  • Centern: Till höger, med någon övervikt på den frihetliga sidan
  • Folkpartiet: Till höger, och sträcker sig från auktoritär till frihetlig
  • Moderaterna: Till höger, och sträcker sig från auktoritär till frihetlig
  • Kristdemokraterna: Till höger, med klar auktoritär övervikt

(Your mileage may vary – ovanstående är mina åsikter om partierna)

Så, vi kan se att de flesta partier i svensk politik sträcker sig över två kvadranter i den politiska kompassen. De har medlemmar som må vara överens om ekonomi, men som kan ha vitt skilda åsikter om huruvida man ska styra auktoritärt eller om personlig frihet ska stå högt på dagordningen. De här slitningarna har vi sett i svensk TV med en snyftande Federley, och med Reinfeldts partipiska vinandes om öronen på stackars liberala moderater. Det är ett under att de här partierna hänger ihop – och frågan är om de ens kan göra det framöver.

Piratpartiet sträcker även de sig över två kvadranter, men till skillnad från alla ovanstående – som är uppdelade enligt ekonomisk politik – har Piratpartiet valt en annan dimension som sin viktigaste, den mellan auktoritär och frihetlig. Det här betyder att Piratpartiet har medlemmar med skilda synsätt på ekonomi, men det finns inget konstigt i det!

Piratpartiet för frihet

  • Piratpartiet: Till vänster, centralt och höger – med klar övervikt åt den frihetliga sidan

Jag påstår att den politiska kompassen är det sätt vi bäst kan beskriva Piratpartiets väljarkår, inriktning på politik och är förklaringen till att Partiet inte måste göra som Miljöpartiet och välja ekonomisk inriktning. Det är helt enkelt inte en viktig fråga för oss. Vi är frihetliga, driver en frihetlig agenda och vi kommer att fortsätta göra det framöver.

Vi är dessutom övertygade om att våra medlemmar / våra väljare / våra medarbetare är kritiskt tänkande smarta människor som har överseende med att det kan ta ett tag för gammeljournalistiken att sätta sig in i en helt ny dimension. Vi har redan gjort det.


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