Well, it appears that the semester has ended, even if this tumblr hasn’t made me a cool kid, at least it was a good learning tool. Goodbye, happy holidays, have a good future, pr a good back to the future
For this blog I will address the social network site that I (and probably most people my age) have the most experience with, facebook. While there are many ways to network on facebook, the best networking I have done on facebook involves my friends. The wall, status updates, newsfeed, chat, photo sharing, and event sharing all work great when using them with friends, or even acquaintances, but they all seem to run into trouble when working with family, and people like co-workers. When integrating all of these networks things can get too muddled. This is not because I’m concerned about censoring myself, or appearing inappropriate to these people, but more because all of a sudden my experience gets filled with things I don’t care about, all too much (sorry to my aunt, but I don’t need to know everything my 4-year old cousin has done today, you can just catch me up on the big stuff at Christmas.) This brings me to my favorite feature of facebook, the ability to turn people off in your news feed without them knowing, now I can give the appearance of being nice to these people by accepting their virtual friendship, while also not having to deal with their virtual craziness. My second favorite feature of facebook, which is a real networking feature, is their events. As someone who runs concerts on campus just by having 4 people invite all their friends at Clark I can set off a chain reaction that reaches a huge population of students in a matter of minutes. Even though I can sometimes get annoyed by being bombarded by event invitations (and I know others can too, which has been limiting their effectiveness) the truth is if they catch my eye I will still check them out.
While I don’t care about being bombarded by event invitations all that much my least favorite features of facebook all center around facebook trying to branch out into other fields. Things like game requests, and cause requests. Is there space for communities based around causes and games on facebook? Yes. Should games and non-profit causes be allowed to market themselves on facebook via fan pages, etc.? Yes. Should facebook try and totally build them into their system, and make facebook their main platform? I do not think so. These things wind up being annoying, and take away from the networking experience. There are already so many networks for these things to exist outside of facebook that I do not believe they have to be integrated in. Neopets existed just fine on its own in the late 1990s and early 2000s without going out and bothering people who wanted nothing to do with it every 5 minutes via, say AIM. So is it really necessary for farmville to exist inside facebook? I would say no, and that it takes away from the experience.
I think the electronic interactions with my classmates over this semester have helped some. As I mentioned in my previous post it was interesting to read other blogs and see how people approached this class. The thing is I did not find myself checking others’ blogs or twitters, or the wiki that often. I think part of this has to do with the fact that we do often use social networking as an escape, so when it is so tied into a class sometimes it can feel like more work to check up on what others are doing. This is unfortunate because I really started doing this over the past 2 weeks and thought it could have really helped add to the experience of the semester. I believe as we move forward electronic interactions will become a larger part of classes, but we’re still transitioning, because so often the tools we used are seen as leisure time things, and that has to change.
Overall I believe social networks are incredibly useful for many, many reasons. Can they be distracting at times? Of course, but that goes along with the territory. Sometimes I may end up checking facebook when I should be writing a paper, but this is just one of the slightly negative aspects to an extremely useful networking tool. To me the pros greatly outweigh the cons.
For this assignment I commented on 3 different blogs, 2 of them were on other classmates’ Wordpress blogs, and the other one I attempted to do on Tumblr (which can be seen on my blog a couple of posts down). This led to one of my biggest issues with Tumblr, you can set up things that would allow for commenting but there is no system built into Tumblr which allows you to enable commenting. The only real option you have with the standard features of Tumblr is to re-blog something and then add your own commentary on your blog, which does not exactly foster a conversation, as it can only be seen on my own blog and for someone to comment on that they would have to re-blog my post and write their comment. This may have explained why I am pretty sure this was the only comment left on this post (though honestly this part of Tumblr was the most confusing and frustrating part so I’m not 100% sure what happened).
My experiences on Wordpress were much better, however, I still did not generate any conversation. The blogs I commented on were all people who I did not know from outside of class, because I don’t know anyone outside of this class particularly well. In one case the blog comments were unmoderated so I’m unsure if my comment was even seen. However, it was responding to the post and two other comments so I have hope that somebody read it, but just did not respond. In the second case the blog I commented on had its comments moderated by the person running it, so I know they at least saw it to approve it. Once again though, no one responded after my comment.
Overall, I could see how commenting on blogs could be useful for communicating in a class setting. It was interesting to see the different takes people took on assignments, and I kind of wish I had been following others’ blogs a little more carefully during the semester to check these things out. Obviously to do this I would not recommend using Tumblr, because it sucks for commenting. I think I would have been more successful during this assignment if I had not been doing it during finals time. I think it would have been cool if we had started posting at least a comment a week starting in September, it could have been a cool experience (I know I could have done this but hindsight, you know). It would take some effort but this mode of communication could be very successful, however if someone did not check their blog and others’ blogs often it could fail easily.
For this assignment I built a Lego set at Design byME which is part of the Lego website where you can design a playset that is shared in a gallery and then you and others can actually buy. The website for Design byME can be found here. To design something you have to download a free program, which has a virtual depiction of just about Lego piece you could imagine. I designed a set of a cool concert complete with stage, speakers, D.J., turntables and 3 rappers. My design has not been approved to be shown in the gallery by Lego yet so I will post it here:
One of the reasons I wanted to build something out of Legos online was that I always loved Legos as a kid, and so the idea that I could build my own set was cool. Also I figured what could be easier to build than Legos. Well, the Design byME application actually turns out to be quite a pain in the ass to use. Building that simple set took me almost an hour to do, mostly because there were certain blocks that just did not want to go into certain spaces, even though they should easily fit. Things also happened like the D.J. could not stand behind the turntables when they were centered on the stage for some reason.
I guess I enjoy what I made but I had much higher ambitions until the program turned out to be so difficult to use. There are lots of cool designs up on the website’s gallery like tacos, and giant pigs, and I hoped to do something more creative, especially with an infinite number of Lego pieces at my disposal, but after taking 30 minutes trying to build a simple house foundation I decided it was not worth it. I’d rather just play with real Legos, I could have made this in like 10 minutes. The part that does seem cool is that Lego will get the pieces, make directions, and sell the set to you, but doing that costs a lot of money. For this basic set that has well under 100 pieces it cost almost $40 to buy. For that price I could go out and buy a giant tub of Legos and build 50 of these things. It is definitely a cool tool to see other people’s creations, but for all but the die hard Lego enthusiast I don’t think it is worth its trouble. Perhaps that is why Lego is ending the Design byME program in January. Good idea, just fell short of the mark.
Because tumblr is kind of dumb and doesn’t have an easy way to comment on other people’s blogs I guess this is how I am doing this, Matt would you ever consider keeping a twitter just to follow others as I know many people out there do?
The virtual event I attended was Major League Baseball’s annual winter meetings which this year was held in Dallas, TX. Anyone could attend this virtual event, but you did need an ESPN.com account to post in the comments section (which I already happened to have), however you did not even need an account to submit questions to experts (probably because all these questions were screened). This event had a few aspects to it. It was mostly comprised of baseball reporters from ESPN reporting news from the meetings via twitter, and by submitting it to the website live and having all their news along with their answers to questions submitted by everyday people compiled into what was essentially a giant chat box. The other aspects were live videos of press conferences, and round table events that would take questions from real reporters and sometimes from people watching the events online. During these events reporters would also analyze and answer questions via the chat box. Finally there was a comments area where fans could post almost whatever they wanted and chat with each other.
I attended during a few different periods of time over the 4 day meetings. At times (especially when there were no streaming video events going on) it was pretty boring. It was basically like watching a news compiler fill up, so it was very easy to do other things online and still follow along. I tried to submit probably around 30 questions to the reporters covering in all sorts of different topics during these lulls in the action but I never got one answered which was a bit disappointing. The live video stuff was more interesting, I saw things like free agent signing announcements happen almost as soon as the news was known and got live reaction from both experts and the fans via the chat and the comment section, which was pretty cool. I even happened to be on right after the news broke that Albert Pujols was signing with the Angels and that was pretty crazy, the whole site was basically blowing up.
Overall, I would say this was an interesting experience, especially for a baseball fan like myself. I definitely would not recommend to anyone but the most die-hard baseball fans. While it was cool to see all the speculation and see rumors, and trades happen and fall through ultimately I think I would be almost just as satisfied reading about the news normally on ESPN.com. News travels so fast now, that just because I didn’t hear about it happening live does not mean I won’t hear about it moments later. The coolest part really was the ability to have access to these reporters and analysts who I normally would not be able to contact that easily, but since they didn’t answer any of my questions it was a bit of a let down. However, it was interesting to see their answers to some other questions that I know they would not have written about otherwise. Overall I’d give this event a 6/10. I might check it out again next year, but I definitely will not spend as much time there as I did this year.
Saw this facebook post from Newbury Comics concerning their future as a brick and mortar business in the increasingly digitalized world. I found it interesting since most of the brick and mortar businesses that are surviving are those that are part of the long tail (independent record stores, video stores, specialty stores) as they seem to garner stronger support. But as is the case with many stores in the past and now with one of the biggest success stories, Newbury Comics now faces issues and find themselves in the scenario of debating how to go about keeping their business from dying in a CMC world. I find it interesting that they are using a survey to help figure out options. Hopefully they won’t find out that it is already too late.
When reading both Lawrence Lessig’s Free Culture and Tapscott and Williams WIkinomics the idea that really stuck out to me in both of them was this idea of remixing culture. With that in mind I would like to preface this blog entry with one of my favorite remix videos on the internet and its original version, and base my thoughts around this video. This video of Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen is a remix of this video which comes from a straight to video series of movies that has since been released on DVD (Wikimedia Foundation).
On the original version of the video that has been uploaded to YouTube the user has posted the following information in the video description:
“Legal disclaimer: I do not own the copyrights to this video. This music video is copyright 1995 Dualstar Entertainment Group, Inc.”
For the time being I am going to ignore the issue that even posting the original version of this video on YouTube, even with proper credit given, is still illegal and focus on the possible repercussions of the remix video, and how technology is challenging the law. Now, as far as I know the person who created the “When Does a Dream Become a Nightmare” video has not been sued, and based on the fact that there are still dozens of versions of this remaining on YouTube it does not seem as though Dualstar Entertainment has gone after this video. The issue I have and that I am very torn over is that as the copyright holders theoretically they could go after this video, which I think is a great piece of work which is as brilliant as it is disturbing. I think it has added something to the world’s culture and it would be a shame if it was prevented from being put out there due to a copyright claim.
While both of these books do discuss video some, they also both discuss the legal issues of copyrights on music in a way that is very relevant to the legal issues involved in something such as remixing a video and uploading it onto YouTube. In Wikinomics Tapscott and Williams actually quote Lessig when talking about mashups and how they are a challenge to current copyright laws. They discuss how record labels are fighting artists who mashup and remix songs, even though they often just work to draw more attention to that song and work as new marketing (140). One solution they do suggest is Lessig’s idea of Creative Commons. Creative Commons copyrights are put out on top of the current copyright system “making it simple for creators to express the freedom for others to take and build upon their work” (Lessig, 282). While they suggest this as a bit of a help they also have their own thoughts on how music already under strict copy rights should be dealt with, suggesting that:
"The music industry-and all industries for that matter-must resist the temptation to impose their will on consumers as a matter of convenience, or worse, as a result of a lack of ingenuity and agility. Rather, music labels should develop Internet business models and offerings with the right combination of ‘free’ goods, consumer control, versioning, and ancillary products and services. This includes new platforms for fan remixes and other forms of customer participation in music creation and distribution" (Tapscott and Williams, 143).
While these two ideas are similar in that they are voluntary changes to the system they do have differences. The main difference is that while a Creative Commons copyright is trying to create a new system for copyrights Tapscott and Williams plan is just calling on companies to do these things while still using the current copyright system. The other difference is that under a Creative Commons copyright a copyright owner does have a good amount of control on how they want their work out there and they can limit what people are and are not allowed to do with it. They can even make things pretty strict if they want to (though not as strict as current copyright laws obviously).
When looking at these two perspectives I see issues with both of them but the Creative Commons does seem to work a little bit better. Tapscott and Williams are asking for something I cannot see a big time record label really buying into. Sure, there are many examples of this working for smaller labels and acts, and even some big name acts, but as long as they feel “threatened” by these things I do not see someone like Apple Records (see the case of The Gray Album in Wikinomics) ever going along with this plan, even if there may be more money to be made from it in the long run I just do not see big record companies accepting this, especially at a time when music sales are so low. Creative Commons I only feel slightly better about because it is a counter movement to the current copyright laws. Even though I think you would be hard pressed to see big companies use a Creative Commons license I think it is a more concrete idea and if people had success with it, it would be easier to point to that success and convince more people to use it.
The method I think must be instituted actually combines Creative Commons with another of Lessig’s ideas and that is that copyright law in general must be changed. He has outlines four principles he says must be instituted for copyright law to work at its best regardless of the amount of time it covers. They are “keep it short,” which is self explanatory, “keep it simple,” to make sure it is clear, “keep it alive” requiring people to renew it, and “keep it perspective” not allowing the new law to change the past (Lessig 292-293). If people want to continue to use Creative Commons that’s great for them and they should continue to do that, but since there is no way to currently force people into using it, there has to be some form of copyright reform, and the way Lessig outlines it seems like the best way to go about it.
So how does this relate to the Mary Kate and Ashley remix video? Let’s say I’m the person who created that original video. I’ve thought about getting a Creative Commons copyright but decided I don’t know how long this Mary Kate and Ashley phase is going to last I want to make as much money off of it as possible right now so I get a standard copyright under the new copyright reform and let’s say hypothetically this new copyright lasts 7 years. I get that sell, lots of videos and when 2002 comes along Mary Kate and Ashley are still popular, I want to put DVD’s out, so I renew for another 7 years. In 2009 I’ve moved on from this, the Olsen Twins are no longer popular so I don’t want to pay to renew my copyright and it falls into the public domain allowing for legal remixes to be made of the video.
My thought is that it is not my call to tell people that other people should be given the opportunity to change their work, especially if it will cut into their profit. I know that if I created something that made me even a small amount of money I’d probably want a pretty tight copyright at first so I could make a fair profit and hold creative control at least in its initial time of release. I know it is slightly different with music, than say books, movies, or TV because sometimes there will not be the same promotion of the original creative property as their are in remixes of music, but people should have the ability to protect their creative ideas completely (with the exception of fair use, criticism and satire). The issue for me comes with things like Disney which at this point will probably hold their copyright on Mickey Mouse until the world ends. At some point there does need to be room for other people to get a crack at doing creative things with other people’s ideas, and if the copyright holder isn’t willing to let that happen right away, there needs to be some method in place (like you know Lessig’s idea for copyright reform) so that it happens eventually.
Lessig, Lawrence. Free Culture. Penguin Books. New York, New York. 2004.
Tapscott, Don; Williams, Anothy D. Wikinomics. Penguin Books. New York, New York. 2008.
"You’re Invited to Mary Kate and Ashley’s…" Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 2011.
This exercise was different for me then the previous two because I had already had a decent amount of experience with Twitter going into it. I have been on Twitter for a couple of years at this point under the handle @2livealexmak. For the most part during this time I have used Twitter to follow people I find interesting including comedians, celebrities, companies, athletes, some of my friends, etc. I also would occasionally send out tweets of things I thought were amusing, and would sometimes reply to others tweets. So basically, there were no issues for me setting up an account or getting acclimated to Twitter. So, I’m going to focus on the new experiences I had during this activity and how I think they relate to the good and drawbacks of the technology.
For starters I had never really used Twitter like a forum before. Sometimes I have checked out hashtags, reading through what people have said and maybe responding once, but I have never been a part of a drawn out discussion with a large group of people on Twitter before. For the purposes of the class I did not think this worked out so well. Even without the technical difficulties we encountered I found things rather difficult to follow. My thought was that things were trying to be so organized that it did not really work for Twitter. I find that Twitter tends to work best when ideas are allowed to flow and form. While this was happening sometimes during our conversation at other times people would try to organize again and all of a sudden we would have five conversations going and it was hard to tell who was responding to what and follow the flow of any one of them. In my personal opinion I just don’t think Twitter is the ideal place to host a forum, I think that’s better suited for a message board, or some kind of instant messaging.
In this exercise I was kind of forced into trying new technology due to the fact that Twitter just stopped working during our discussion. I normally just use Twitter on the website from my computer but with the lag in updates I downloaded TweetDeck. I definitely thought this was cool and would be really helpful for someone who is dealing with following/being followed by thousands of followers, but for someone like me who follows around 30 people it does not seem necessary. It definitely did help during our discussion to speed things up and also to organize it, but as I said I don’t think this is an ideal way to use Twitter so I don’t think I will be trying to have a forum-style discussion on there again anytime soon.
I did enjoy the social interaction of this activity because I often do find that when I am on Twitter I feel like I am talking into the void. I know of about 3 people who actually read my tweets with any regularity (including one friend who has my tweets sent to his phone and who was very confused during our class as to why I was tweeting way more often than usual). So, while I didn’t think our situation was ideal it was nice to finally feel like people were reading and responding to my tweets, since even when I have jumped on hashtags before I have almost never gotten a response.
My personal thought on Twitter is that it is really great for creativity and entertainment. Some of the funniest things I have read in the past couple of years have been tweets. People have also done really interesting things such as write books 140 characters at a time, and starting really interesting hashtags that foster great tweets. The biggest complaint I hear about Twitter goes along the lines of “Why would I care when someone is eating their lunch.” My response has always been Twitter is so much more then that. The amount that people can do with 140 characters is really amazing. If people are just posting about eating lunch I don’t follow them. I also think some people worry about 140 characters being too short to convey messages but really it becomes like an art form which is fun to learn and can make what people are trying to say clearer and more to the point.
While many arguments about Twitter are valid (sometimes you need more than 140 characters, etc.) I believe it is a great tool. Despite my thoughts on using it like a chatroom, I do think it is better when it is more interactive. I will of course continue to use Twitter after this class is over, I think it is great, but I would like to try and convince more of my friends to use it, they tend to fall into the “why would I care when you eat” category that many young people seem to fall into. As we said in class Twitter has a very high average user age for social media. I think that while Twitter is still great that if more young people gave it a chance and really tried to get creative with it, it could be even better.
The Beatles or: the European Musical Mickey Mouse?
The other week I saw this article in the New York Times which reports on the European Union extending the copyright protection limit on sound recordings from 50 to 70 years. This is key because in the next few years work from British Invasion groups such as The Beatles were set to expire and potentially enter the public domain. There are a number of copyright issues at work here, and the article discusses what is at play in both the U.S. and Europe. Basically there is lots of artist backlash against this by artists because it allows record labels to hold onto the rights to their works even longer. This has spurned debates over who is really the owner of a piece of music. Anyways there are lots of details in this article, and others that are kicking around, that remind me of the issues talked about in Free Culture and what we discussed in class today, so it’s pretty cool to check out if you have the chance.
Creating a Wiki was basically a new experience for me. I had once previously added exactly one sentence to a page on Wikipedia which was factually correct, but since I did not cite my sources it was taken down within a day. The first page I worked on on the class Wiki, like most people, was a page for myself. This was a rather simple task, as who better is there to write a profile for myself then myself. The process itself was easy enough. The Cicada wiki templates are more or less straight forward. I decided I wanted to add some links to my page on certain words, and did this easily by highlighting them and clicking a button. It was even more painless than using basic html. I was then able to make page for “Fall Break” which I made as a joke and was once again able to integrate links and even a picture with relative ease.
For me while the actual creation and editing of wikis was interesting but it was far less interesting then the experiences of social interaction I encountered. Unlike the spontaneous order that has produced things like Wikipedia our order was quite organized. Partially as was mentioned in class I think a lot of this had to do with the fact that we were all in the room together. However, I think personalities had a lot to do with it and in particular I think this is one way in which we sort of fell into an order in a manner similar to which something like Wikipedia has. For example there were clearly people who wanted to take charge, and I know personally that I was willing to get out of the way. While I could have tried to assert myself more, it was kind of a case of these people had a vision and were clearly on a path to make it happen. They essentially became the “editors” (even though we were all working on it and any of us could have stepped up and also joined in that more intensive role it was clear that many, myself included, had no desire to take on that responsibility, or to fight it).
Let me return to the page I made about fall break. As I mentioned before it was a joke page, where I wrote about the history of fall break, its purpose, and how sometimes people used it “to go to Canada and make bad decisions.” This page is an example of where a bit of spontaneous order came about. After leaving class on Friday I didn’t check in on the blog until Sunday night at which point I had discovered it had been deleted (I won’t mention by who) along with another joke page I had seen made by another student, in favor of having a more serious and to the point class wiki. This change was made with out any consultation with me, the creator of that page. Now here came my decision, did I want to fight for that joke, or concede to those “editors” and let the page fall into the order they wanted. For the time being I have decided it is not worth it (but later in the semester where guards are down we may see some interesting pages pop up on that wiki).
That brings me to my general impressions of using a wiki. I enjoyed it, it was definitely an interesting experience to see how wikis are created and up kept, especially as someone who like most college students uses Wikipedia just about everyday. With my own personal battle over fun vs. seriousness I know that is something that happens on Wikipedia all the time so it was cool to be involved with that on a smaller scale. I think for me less serious wikis, like wiki sites devoted to TV Shows and Movies, etc., might be more my cup of tea, but the good news is that on the internet there is plenty of space for things like that, and I’m sure there will be plenty of opportunities for me to work on things like that if I want to, even if they might have to be done outside of the class wiki.
Choosing which service to use was probably the most difficult part of setting up a blog for me. When creating this blog I came ever so close to using Blogger, I even set up a blog there before setting up this one. The reasoning seemed clear in my head, I had used it before, and it was simple, and easy to use even if it was stylistically boring and rather limiting on number of levels. Then I saw some of my classmates setting up tumblrs and WordPresses and thought they looked cool, a whole lot cooler than my BlogSpot was looking and that got me questioning my decision. I also figured I’m in a class to learn so why use something I was familiar with, when I could try something new and learn about it, so I went to explore the pros and cons of each service. Ultimately I chose tumblr over WordPress for three main reasons. First, simplicity, while I think I could have handled WordPress, especially in its most basic form, it just had too many DIY style features that I just didn’t really care about, I have no real intention of ever writing my own code for a blog, or hosting it myself, so I don’t really care about having more in-depth features that much. Second, it had superior social connectivity options (which I will go into more later). Finally, tumblr is has become the hot thing in blogs of the past year or so, so I thought I’d like to give it a go for myself.
When setting up this tumblr the most difficult thing for me was just to familiarize myself with the site and its lingo, features, and icons (which I am still in the process of doing). Overall tumblr makes it pretty simple to set up a blog, but like with anything else it just takes some time to get used to tumblrs style. For example tumblr gives you a number of options of different types of posts you can make. It seems pretty straight forward but I am intrigued by options like posting a quote, or a chat, which traditional blog sites don’t have, and I look forward to experimenting with them. Also the social connectivity options are kind of confusing, they add a number of questions to the set-up process that for the most part I chose to ignore to just get my blog up by the end of class, but once again I’m going to try to experiment with them more as I go along.
Speaking of those social interaction features, one of the reasons I chose tumblr was because it seems to have the most opportunities to involve others. The fact that it can be connected to Facebook and Twitter is a very appealing, though I must admit I have not connected them yet, partly out of intimidation, but also because at this moment I think I’d like to see if there is any possibility of getting the “random passerby” to stop and look at this blog. The other social interaction I like about tumblr is its aspects that are more focused on social media (and that remind me a lot of Twitter). The ability to follow people, and be followed, the ability to click one button and reblog or “like” something, and the fact that when commenting on a blog that comment also shows up on your own blog so that others can see it. It creates a community that I think really opens up tumblrs to be seen by a greater audience through exposure on other tumblrs, and I think that that’s pretty cool.
Overall so far I am pretty pleased with my decision to create a tumblr account. I think I could definitely see myself using it after this class is over, especially because it makes it so easy to submit short posts consisting of just a few words, a picture, or a video. My problem with blogs is always that I feel like I don’t know what to say, and in the past I have had trouble keeping up with them due to that, but tumblrs sleek simplicity, and social interactivity makes the thought of keeping a blog seem less burdensome, and even kind of enjoyable (but I guess we’ll see if I still feel that way after a semester with it).