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Henry Porter is just an amoral menace

by Suw on April 5, 2009

I’m sorry, I know this is childish and silly, but Porter’s anti-Google screed is the most ludicrous thing I’ve read in a long time. It is so misinformed it’s barely worth fisking.

The ever-growing empire produces nothing but seems determined to control everything

If indeed a new era of global responsibility has come into being with measures that actually restrain banks and isolate tax havens, it may be time for the planet’s dominant economic powers to focus on the destructive, anti-civic forces of the internet. Exactly 20 years after Sir Tim Berners-Lee wrote the blueprint for the world wide web, the internet has become the host to a small number of dangerous WWMs – worldwide monopolies that sweep all before them with exuberant contempt for people’s rights, their property and the past.

Henry Porter is the most prominent WWM, but let’s start with an American site that is making a name for itself in straightforward misappropriation. Scribd.com offers free downloads of every kind of book, magazine, brochure, guide, research paper and pamphlet to 55 million readers every month. Many have been uploaded illegally. Last week the publishers of JK Rowling, Ken Follett and Aravind Adiga took action to remove books that had been illegally published on the site.

Scribd.com complied, but what is interesting is the company’s institutional lack of guilt when the piracy was exposed. Instead of admitting it and apologising, it issued a statement claiming Scribd possessed “industry-leading copyright management system which goes above and beyond requirements of Digital Millennium Copyright Act”.

That’s like a drunk driver protesting innocence because he’s covered by the best insurance company. What matters is the crime, the theft of someone else’s content, which has taken care, labour, money and expertise to publish.

The point is that even if Scribd removes books, it still allows individuals to advertise services for delivering pirated books by email, which must make it the enemy of every writer and publisher in the world. In effect it has turned copyright law on its head: instead of asking publishers for permission, it requires them to object if and when they become aware of a breach.

Henry Porter presents a far greater threat to the livelihood of individuals and the future of commercial institutions important to the community. One case emerged last week when a letter from Billy Bragg, Robin Gibb and other songwriters was published in the Times explaining that Henry Porter was playing very rough with those who appeared on its subsidiary, YouTube. When the Performing Rights Society demanded more money for music videos streamed from the website, Henry Porter reacted by refusing to pay the requested 0.22p per play and took down the videos of the artists concerned.

It does this with impunity because it is dominant worldwide and knows the songwriters have nowhere else to go. Henry Porter is the portal to a massive audience: you comply with its terms or feel the weight of its boot on your windpipe.

Despite the aura of heroic young enterprise that still miraculously attaches to the web, what we are seeing is a much older and toxic capitalist model – the classic monopoly that destroys industries and individual enterprise in its bid for ever greater profits. Despite its diversification, Henry Porter is in the final analysis a parasite that creates nothing, merely offering little aggregation, lists and the ordering of information generated by people who have invested their capital, skill and time. On the back of the labour of others it makes vast advertising revenues – in the final quarter of last year its revenues were $5.7bn, and it currently sits on a cash pile of $8.6bn. Its monopolistic tendencies took an extra twist this weekend with rumours that it may buy the micro-blogging site Twitter and its plans – contested by academics – to scan a vast library of books that are out of print but still in copyright.

One of the chief casualties of the web revolution is the newspaper business, which now finds itself laden with debt (not Henry Porter’s fault) and having to give its content free to the search engine in order to survive. Newspapers can of course remove their content but then their own advertising revenues and profiles decline. In effect they are being held captive and tormented by their executioner, who has the gall to insist that the relationship is mutually beneficial. Were newspapers to combine to take on Henry Porter they would be almost certainly in breach of competition law.

In 1787 Thomas Jefferson wrote: “Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate to prefer the latter.” A moment’s thought must tell us that he is still right: newspapers are the only means of holding local hospitals, schools, councils and the police to account, and on a national level they are absolutely essential for the good functioning of democracy.

If, at a time of profound challenges, newspapers fall out with Henry Porter, it could be pretty serious for British society, which is why I referred earlier to anti-civic forces. Of course the company founded by Sergey Brin and Larry Page in 1998 – now reckoned to be the world’s most powerful brand – does not offer any substitute for the originators of content nor does it allow this to touch its corporate conscience. That is probably because one detects in Henry Porter something that is delinquent and sociopathic, perhaps the character of a nightmarish 11-year-old.

This particular 11-year-old has known nothing but success and does not understand the risks, skill and failure involved in the creation of original content, nor the delicate relationships that exist outside its own desires and experience. There is a brattish, clever amorality about Henry Porter that allows it to censor the pages on its Chinese service without the slightest self doubt, store vast quantities of unnecessary information about every Henry Porter search, and menace the delicate instruments of democratic scrutiny. And, naturally, it did not exercise Henry Porter executives that Street View not only invaded the privacy of millions and made the job of burglars easier but somehow laid claim to Britain’s civic spaces. How gratifying to hear of the villagers of Broughton, Bucks, who prevented the Henry Porter van from taking pictures of their homes.

We could do worse than follow their example for this brat needs to be stopped in its tracks and taught about the responsibilities it owes to content providers and copyright holders.

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Craters on the moon driving me quietly mad

by Suw on November 17, 2008

Years ago, possibly during the late 90s or early 2000s, there was a project to identify craters on the Moon. There was a website that displayed a fairly good photo and you drew a red circle around each crater you could see. When you saved the image, you were served another. It was, in fact, remarkably like Galaxy Zoo is now.

I can’t remember much more about it, other than that it seemed to complete very quickly. Does anyone else remember this project and know who ran it? I had been assuming it was NASA, but it could have been anyone. I’ve been trying to find information about this project, for curiosity’s sake, for most of the last couple of years and my epic fail is driving me nuts. Now I need to know for work, and it’s still driving me nuts.


UPDATE: Thanks to Rob Myers, I have discovered that it was Mars, not the Moon, and that it was the Mars Clickworkers project, now available only on the Internet Archive.

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Oh dear, I seem to have discovered Seesmic

by Suw on January 2, 2008

It’s funny how you can take a look at something like Seesmic, and really not get it… until one day, someone shows you the way and suddenly, it all makes sense, it all comes together. Seesmic is about banter, chit chat, conversation. And when you get into it, and you start talking to people, (and you lose your sense of self-consciousness), suddenly, it’s the most addictive thing you’ve seen all year (and all of last year too).

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by Suw on August 20, 2007

This morning, just before I woke up, I had a dream that my Wikipedia page was up for deletion, and that I was making the case for keeping it by saying that 83 pages had linked to it and that it's bad form to wilfully rot links.
I woke up somewhat bemused by my dream, but couldn't resist checking to see if my Wikipedia page is still there. It is, but only just – it's been
marked for deletion, you see. (And it only has about six pages linking to it. I just had to check that, too.)
I don't see anything psychic in this as it was marked for deletion – or, as they put it, merging with the Open Rights Group page – on 17 August but my psyche never bothered to mention it until this morning. Maybe the ether's got really bad latency. Anyway, Betsy Devine spoke up on my behalf saying that the stub should be retained, and now a couple of other people have too, which is nice.
I have always felt a bit strange about my Wikipedia entry. On the one hand, if it had never been put up, I never would have said that there was any need to create it – I'm not convinved that I'm that notable a person, except in the areas of British digital rights activism and social software/blogging, where I would like to think I have made a positive contribution. On the other hand, now that I have a Wikipedia page, I'd be sad to see it go. That's human nature I think – having something taken away is worse than not being given it in the first place.
Later… It has come to my attention that my pages is being edited a bit now, with some more information being put up, which is nice. I could have done that myself, but Wikipedia policy is that you're not allowed to edit your own pages, so I've stayed well clear. But whether it stays, or whether it gets deleted still, only time will tell.

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Mornington Crescent on Twitter

by Suw on August 3, 2007

I blame Lloyd for this morning's game of Mornington Crescent on Twitter. I don't think that everyone could see every player – Lloyd has some people that I didn't see, and I know I had some that he couldn't see, and there were some players that I tried to follow but Twitter wouldn't show me their tweets… so all a bit of a mess, really. But still the best 20 minutes of the day, frankly.

LloydDavis omg @bowbrick that gives me an idea – Mornington Crescent on Twitter
LloydDavis So I'll start with my usual opening local gambit of *Pimlico*
bowbrick @lloyddavis I think you night be on to something. And with GPS you could play with real locations!
bowbrick Duke Street
LloydDavis some strikingly pedestrian moves so far. time to stir things up with a couple of blue tokens at *Lancaster Gate*
LloydDavis clearly stunned the fools into silence, building my empire with *Baker Street*
bowbrick Poland Street
LloydDavis intrigued by @bowbricks W1 strategy, but undeterred *Green Park*
Suw /thinks that @lloydDavis's Green Park is a predictable follow on to Pimlico and goes *Mundania Street*
kevinmarks Well, I me be confused by the jubilee extension showing up since I left London, but there are enough podumes for *Victoria*
LloydDavis clearly @suw has not seen the green podumes in my…curses! @kevinmarks comes out of nowhere
bowbrick Meard Street. Hah!
LloydDavis trying to think on my feet and ignoring @bowbricks scatology *White City*
LloydDavis wondering why I just got an invite to stay at Holiday Inn, Solihull. No, that's not part of the game… unlesss
bowbrick Is it my go?
LloydDavis @bowbrick – yes for heaven's sake, the clock is ticking
bowbrick Hey. I'll just take a moment to tell you how absolutely brilliant Harold Moore's Records in Great Marlborough Street is.
imajes @lloyddavis: frankly i go for the middle of it all and stick my pin in *Burnt Oak*
Suw Well, i'm going to double-switch podumes and nullify kevinmarks' Victoria with a Mudchute.
bowbrick And in Foyle's cafe they've now actually replaced the power sockets with blank plates!
Suw @browbrick: curses upon their foul and pestilent corpses!
kevinmarks Well, thanks to the Greenwich Ferry and the Millennium Bridge, that leaves me an escape route to *St Pauls*
imajes there's fantastic podumes to be had with Gloucester Road
LloydDavis @imajes shhhhh! don't tell the newbies
chrys got diverted to West Brompton this morning on my way to Hammersmith. damnation.
LloydDavis heh! lining up for some monster LV with *Fulham Broadway*
LloydDavis taking momentum from @kevinmarks Central Line opening to break into *Upton Park*
imajes @lloyd: Ruislip is unquestionablly next.
Suw Damn! i was going to go Fulham Broadway, but now you've blocked LV, I'm spenging Fairlop.
febake gets off the central line at *shepherds bush*
bowbrick Jaunting to Flask Walk!
febake and lines up a parallel line manouvre: gets on the H&C *Shepherds Bush*
imajes @Suw: i think we can divert around the LV and ensconce ourselves in Mansion House
Suw And a late joiner from @febake! and possibly @chrys, although that could have been a coincidence. Snaresbrook!
londonfilmgeek @lloyddavis Aurora Gambit, *Poplar*
LloydDavis drat @suw getting sneaky must think fast. *St John's Wood*
LloydDavis @londonfilmgeek – welcome, thank you and *Angel* for your trouble
LloydDavis does anyone have any pink tokens?
imajes @londonfilmgeek: if you're going to visit poplar, clearly next is Elephant & Castle.
Suw omg! the Aurora Gambit! I haven't seen that played in 20 years! My hand is forced. Neasden via the long way round.
LloydDavis erm pink tokens anyone?
febake Drops a “cleveland steamer” by moving to *Rickmansworth*
imajes @lloyd: low on the pinks, but i have a few spare reds. might that work?
londonfilmgeek @suw luggage spilled at All Saints, walkaround to *Whitechapel*
LloydDavis @imajes – how many can I have for two greens and a taupe podume?
Suw Feels a pincer movement from @Londonfilmgeek and @febake. Collusion! Collusion! I demand a Cockfosters!
LloydDavis *Holland Park* opening Parks and Recreation
imajes @lloyd: a dozen, bakers or otherwise. Cab at Whitechapel takes us to Lancaster Gate, which may or may not open.
LloydDavis swingin' @imajes it's a deal which makes my *Wembley Park* quite interesting I think you'll agree
imajes @lloyddavis: i think we can come to an accord, but only at *Sloane Square*
londonfilmgeek @suw is the Amicus shuffle up for grabs, if so *Hanger Lane* for 50
LloydDavis @suw : I think your Cockfosters is upheld, please people keep to Trott's Civility wherever possible
bowbrick I don't like the way you're all playing stations and I'm playing streets. I feel a bit intimidated: Denmark Hill!
imajes Excellent. Amicus shuffle played. now possible to do the Daisy Maneuver. I'll go all in for *Goldhawk Road*
Suw @londonfilmgeek: I take your Amicus Shuffle and swap you a Complexification and agree on Maida Vale.
febake tries an advanced pre-construction gambit *Wood Lane*
LloydDavis meh! Scoble's Retreat – *Warwick Avenue*
LloydDavis oh @imajes btw nice Daisy 🙂
Suw @LloydDavis: thank you for your ruling and a reminder that Trott's Civility is now in force. May I presume upon Boston Manor?
LloydDavis i don't think I'm ever going to get any work done ever ever again
imajes @lloyd: i think you're playing the california variation which was declared unsafe in the 1986 rulebook. go back 4 and start at *Kilburn*
LloydDavis @suw you're welcome, be aware though that Metcalfe's Interruption is still a possibility
londonfilmgeek @febake i call foul, it's clearly a post-construction move, we can settle for the dangerously close *Camden Town* Charring X/Edgware share
Suw @parkylondon: Invisible sammich exchange at Queen's Park.
LloydDavis @imajes – this is twitter, man, your 1986 rules hold no sway here!
LloydDavis oh if you must – *Leicester Square*
imajes @lloyd: you must stick to the agreed rule book as per the MC Rules Committee. it's the only way to preserve a level playing field at *Oval*
Suw Foul against @febake upheld, no deconstructionism allowed under the '64 rule 237a which clearly states all constructionism illegale. Oval.
LloydDavis @imajes – duh! haven't you heard of MC2.0 ? it's all pastel shades and round corners here matey *St Pauls*
Suw Damn! Gazumped! *panics* Morden!
LloydDavis *Dollis Hill* …. /sniggers
londonfilmgeek @suw, @febake has his Longhorn manual out, this isn't fair, therefore Inspector Sands
kevinmarks Aha, twice round gives enough momentum for me to play *San Jose Diridon*
LloydDavis @londonfilmgeek & @suw Oh, I knew we shouldn't have played on a Friday..
febake @LloydDavis sails past on a fast metroploitan bound for *Baker Street*
imajes @lloyd: no, MC is a strict rules-only game. one must adhere, it's the only way one can play safely. i bid 2 stickles in baron's court
Suw /calls on the Great Arbiter. In 1924, McCutchley-Spriggins held the Longhorn Manual as a fair move. Suck it up LFG. All Saints.
imajes @suw: all saints has been played. i suggest Amos Grove.
Suw Ah, the Baker at Baker Street – smooth! I play the Butcher at Heron Quays.
LloydDavis @imajes I'm not against rules, just suggesting we go along with the Winer Addendum which is much more appropriate to twitter
bowbrick Ladies who lunch sitting next to me are discussing that fact that their respective husbands are going to get iPhones for them…
bowbrick Mugs. Beak Street.
imajes @lloyddavis: if needs must… then i have no option but moving to close at Latimer Park
Suw Sidesteps both Latimer Park and San Jose Diridon with an Epping Swing.
LloydDavis time for a quick Semple's Surprise before I go to lunch – *Amersham*
febake Attempts the Cranbrook retreat and asks an American tourist how to reach *Aldwych*
LloydDavis now while I'm out, *nobody* touch my pieces…
kevinmarks well, depends on which Winer addendum, I'll take either *Oxford Circus* or *The Great Northern Hotel*, as that bridge is out in Minneapolis
londonfilmgeek *Finsbury Park* should stop @imajes in his tracks
LloydDavis @kevinmarks – ooh nicely done old chap
Suw Short and sweet. Kentish Town.
imajes depositing @lloyddavis in *Mill Hill East* whilst luncheoning myself
Suw Which sets me up really nicely for, and I'm sorry to say this as it pains my heart, Mornington Crescent.
imajes @londonfilmgeek the finsbury park play did in fact derail me. alas, @suw played the middle piece – the jigsaw is now complete.
dantekgeek Mornington Crescent! (I win, right? You brits are so silly)
plasticbagUK Does anyone know what the hell Suw is doing on Twitter? I'm completely puzzled.
Suw @dantekgeek: Sadly, you are too late as Mornington Crescent has already been played.
chrys @plasticbagUK http://tinyurl.com/7zz8a ,… and i'm not even a brit!
Suw @plasticbagUK: Sorry, got a bit carried away there. *giggles* shan't do it again, promise.
kevinmarks oh, neatly done, @Suw, very perspicacious use of Pilgrim's exegesis in the Universal Parser
Suw @Kevinmarks: your kindness, as always, warms my cockles. thank you for such kind words.
LloydDavis sneaking back in while nobody's looking with a quick *Mansion House* now lunch, really
Suw /pats LloydDavis on the head. Poor Lloyd. That's what you get for going to lunch at a crucial moment.
londonfilmgeek @suw I didn't see the erudite spaniard for the tress. Good Job!
bowbrick Dhhh. Didn't see that coming. Slick play @suw
Suw thank you, thank you. 🙂 I can only thank my parents and the rest of my family, my MC mentor, my accupuncturist, my chiropractor, my frie…
rachelclarke I missed the game! @suw, @lloyddavis need to start it later next time 😉 although @kevinmarks made it I see, must have never gone to bed
Remy @kevinmarks: Can I just note, witht the game is over, that I am still giggling that you dared to play the Winer addendum. That takes gall.
londonfilmgeek For the future i insist on the hastily drafted Twitter Compendium following the Clive Sinclair Manifesto http://tinyurl.com/24lldt
LloydDavis gasps. sulks. plots revenge…

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Save Penryn! (part two)

by Suw on May 4, 2007

On the way home last night, Kevin pointed out an article in a copy of the Times that someone had left behind. One headline really caught my eye: 'Intel wipes Cornish traders off the map'. Sadly, I can't find the article online, which is a bit crap really, but the gist of it was that the Cornish town of Penryn is slowly disappearing from search results because 'Penryn' is the codename of one of Int*cough*el's new chips.

Since Friday, the town's online ranking has diminished from the top spot to third on a UK search using Google. Sites boasting historical and tourist information about the town have been superseded by websites about the microchips.
Businesses that have spent time and money ensuring their websites appear high up on the search engine's rankings have been pushed down the results – with only one now appearing in the top 10 on the all-important first page.
Search engine specialists have also warned that those local businesses advertising against search results for 'Penryn' could be priced out if Intel's chip suppliers start bidding for the word.
Kevin Pick-up, managing director of Truro-based search engine optimisation firm i-webmarketing, said: “This is going to be a huge problem for Penryn businesses.
“Although the chip is not even on the market yet, there's already a huge buzz, and web pages relating to the Intel Penryn are starting to displace local businesses in the search results. As people who search the internet rarely look past the first couple of pages of results, the Cornish websites will effectively disappear from search engines.”

Right now, a guide to Penryn appears to be third in Google.co.uk, but on Google.com, the results are already dominated by Intel. Of course, us bloggers have the power to save Penryn! That is, the Penryn in Cornwall, not the one in California… the one with Penryn AFC, Penryn Surgery, and Penryn Plastics, not the one 12 miles away from those chip designers in Folsom.
Apparently Chris Hogge, head of marketing for that chip company, “absolutely guarantee[s]” that Penryn won't be the product name for the chips when they are launched at the end of the year. Nah, it'll be something distinctive like the Core 3 Trio.
Meantime, I urge you all to save Penryn!

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Flagpole Sitta

by Suw on May 1, 2007

I don't know if posting videos is sort of cheating on my whole 'will blog daily' thing… but this one is so fab you really have to see it. (Thanks John!)

Lip Dub – Flagpole Sitta by Harvey Danger on Vimeo
Later… Whilst I was googling for Harvey Danger to see if it really is spelt 'sitta', I discovered that not only is the band still going, they've also got a new album out, Little by Little…. They've made it available for free download, either via bit torrent or direct from their site in both MP3 and Ogg Vorbis format, as well as selling really nice packages from their store which include sets of badges and stickers, as well as a second bonus CD.
I think this is a fabulous idea, and one that I'm really glad to see bands experimenting with. Indeed, I think Harvey Danger really have their heads screwed on right, as their explanation for why they are giving their music away for free chimes very much with the way I look at things.

Given our unusual history, and a long-held sense that the practice now being demonized by the music biz as “illegal” file sharing can be a friend to the independent musician, we have decided to embrace the indisputable fact of music in the 21st century, put our money where our mouth is, and make our record, Little By Little…, available for download via Bittorrent, and at our website. We’re not streaming, or offering 30-second song samples, or annoying you with digital rights management software; we’re putting up the whole record, for free, forever. Full stop. Please help yourself; if you like it, please share with friends.
Of course, the CD will also be for sale on the site, as well as in fine independent record stores across the country, in a deluxe package that includes a 30-minute bonus disc that serves as a companion piece to the record proper (retail price for the package is $11.99). […]
However, it’s important that people understand the free download concept isn’t a frivolous act. It’s a key part of our promotional campaign, along with radio and press promotion, live shows, and videos. It’s a bet that the resources of the Internet can make possible a new way for musicians to find their audience – and forge a meaningful artistic career built on support from cooperative, not adversarial, relationships.
We realize that digital files are the primary means by which a huge segment of the population is exposed to new music; we also believe that plenty of music lovers in the world will buy a record once they’ve heard it – whether via radio or computer.

I've downloaded the album and I'm going to give it a good listening to. If I like it I'll buy it and, if I do, then that will be a sale they made explicitly because some people at some company called Connected Ventures did a mad lip-dub version of Flagpole Sitta and because Harvey Danger let me hear their music for free.

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Divide and conquer

by Suw on April 23, 2007

We obviously need more chickens patrolling the streets. (Thanks Mooc!)

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TFL do a redesign

by Suw on March 21, 2007

Wow! Transport for London have done a redesign of their site, removing the annoying ticker and replacing their hideous old site with a nice, sleek new one. I have to say, so far, it's a much nicer user experience. Bizarrely, if you go to www.tfl.gov.uk, the site says it's down for maintenance, yet without the www it works just fine.
It even works better on a mobile phone than the old version, which is really what you want if you live in London and own a smartphone. Not that it couldn't do with a bit more optimisation for a mobile browser, though, but at least it's usable.

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February 8, 2007

There is something supremely sad about the photograph in this article.

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On Google Maps, literally

January 30, 2007

What more fun could one have on a hot*, sunny, Sebastopol day than making giant space invaders to be photographed by the Google photographers as they fly over the campus? Not much, I'd say. Last year I was lucky enough to be invited to FooCamp and, whilst we were there, word had it that Google […]

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Exploding bums

November 10, 2006

Try not to giggle. (via Stuart.)

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September 24, 2006

Does Second Life + Google Mars = Second Life on Mars? I'm disappointed that when I go to full zoom on Mars, I'm not faced with an angry hoard of Martians the way that if I go to full zoom on the Moon I'm faced with cheese. I once had to write an essay, which […]

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The Sheep Market

September 10, 2006

Where there are sheep.

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