I’ve been checking out a couple podcasts lately, and I’m getting really interested in the medium. A podcast is like a radio broadcast, but it’s pre-recorded and distributed online. You can use an application like ipodder to subscribe to various podcasts and have them automatically downloaded to your digital device (an ipod perhaps). Then, when you’re on the bus, you just play the broadcast and listen to the latest version of pop-publishing (think blogging meets pirate radio).
One of the default subscriptions on ipodder is Adam Curry‘s Daily Source Code. Yes, Adam Curry of 80’s MTV fame. Curry’s show is simple yet fascinating. He basically just reports on his ordinary daily life, but he’s an entertaining guy.
I’ve also been listening to Denise Howell‘s show and some IT Conversations. Just like blogs, as the medium grows in popularity, there will be very focused show topics, famous personalities, and commercial interest. The internet reduced the barriers to world-wide publishing, and now cheaper bandwidth and digital audio players are making world-wide broadcasting accessible to the masses – a huge development in participatory media.

Blizzard of 2005

There was quite a snow storm last night in much of the northeast United States. Here in Boston, the forecast actually said “blizzard”, which is an interesting word because it has no present continuous tense like other weather verbs: raining, snowing, etc. It was “blizzarding” for most of the night, and this morning there was more than two feet of snow on the ground.
I went for a walk around my neighborhood (Central Square, Cambridge) and took a few pictures:
snowy Brookline Street Central Square
There were some huge snow drifts, but the biggest heaps were plow-induced hills along the sides of the street.
snowy Middle East Restruant Cambridge
A lot of local restaurants and businesses are actually open today, but not the Middle East Restaurant which is closed due to “brrrrrrrr”.
shirtles snow shoveler
Not everyone outside is cold. This guy was apparently working up quite a sweat digging out the fire hydrant, and apparently figured that he could strengthen his macho image by wearing a considerable amount of bling around his neck.

Why Not Syndicate Rights with Content?

Martin Schwimmer has asked bloglines to remove his rss feed from their service, citing copyright violations and then explaining further. This opened a can of worms as to how legal, technological, and social regulations should affect rss feeds.
I don’t know that anyone has articulated the argument in these terms. Schwimmer is a lawyer who sees a blatant violation of his copyright rights (namely, the distribution of derivative works without license). He sees a legal remedy to the problem – the email equivalent of a cease and desist letter – and it seems to have worked.
Others think Schwimmer has made a poor business decision by limiting part of his audience. They have pointed out that Schwimmer could use rss technology to limit distribution by only releasing part of what he writes (regulate through technology). (As a practical matter, this wouldn’t work well for Schwimmer because his posts are usually very short. There’s rarely a difference between the first few sentences and the entire post.)
Finally, there are those who seem to think that the availability of an rss feed indicates an implicit license to use that feed however one wants. It’s not unreasonable to arrive at this conclusion because rss feeds are only intended to be read by machines. Why would someone share machine-readable code if they didn’t expect a machine to read it? The counter argument is simply that some machines (ie non-commercial ones) should use the feeds whereas others (ie commercial ones) should not.
I think people can make their own decisions about the business value of sharing or not sharing an rss feed. My question is this: why are we offering a machine-readable syndication feed (rss feeds) without any license information? Thanks to Creative Commons, bloggers have been the first creative group to widely adopt standardized licenses for their work. These licenses are even machine readable by design! What better place is there for a license than the rss feed, the very place where license violations are likely to occur?
If the machine-readable license was embedded in the syndication platform, tools like Bloglines, kinja, and MyYahoo would have no excuse for violating the license terms. Likewise, if bloggers wanted the benefit of being aggregated by a commercial tool like kinja, they would have a reason to license their content to kinja (or commercial services in general).
If this sounds like digital rights management, that’s because it is, but there’s nothing wrong with expressing your legal rights. There is nothing limiting the use of digital rights management to give up one’s rights or to license one’s rights liberally. Social and business ideas do not have to compete with the law in this context, and the danger of over-protection by default is dealt with nicely by Creative Commons. The next step is to make use of the standardization that Creative Commons is already providing.

Bollocks to the A**holes

Foley Hoag Partner John Welch reports on last week’s TTAB decision to deny trademark registration of the mark “A**HOLE” “on the ground that [it] comprises immoral or scandalous matter.” The applicant argued that a**hole doesn’t just refer to a detestable person but also to the anus of course. Read the opinion [pdf] for some other interesting uses and fun facts about the word “a**hole”. If you find this sort of thing amusing, you might also be interested in the now classic f-word brief.
Such legal swear word shenanigans remind me of a British case involving a particular Sex Pistol’s album title fabulously described by Richard Branson in his autobiography:

’So one of your staff has been arrested for displaying the word “bollocks”?’ said Professor Kingsley. ‘What a load of bollocks! Actually, the word bollocks is an eighteenth century name for…’

I wouldn’t want to give away the end. This is on page 162 of Losing My Virginity, which I highly recommend reading – much better than Branson’s TV show.

Apple’s Small Potatoes

Apple offers some new toys for those who can’t afford their pricier gizmos. I think there’s something mildly innovative about a cheap computer that happens to be small and nice-looking, but there’s nothing interesting about a RAM based mp3 player, except of course the fact that it comes with white headphones. With white headphones, it’s okay to dress in all black and dance around to overly energetic music – you know – if you want to.

Following a Magnetic Ribbon

I took a road trip this weekend to drink in the new year in New York. Whenever traversing the New England freeways, I can’t help but notice the increasing number of “Support Our Troops” magnetic ribbons affixed to the back of cars. Rob Walker offered some background on the magnets in a NYT Magazine Column back in November (thanks to Shelley for helping me find the link). The column explained that the magnets were originally manufactured as a fundraising device: an organization can buy the magnets for a couple bucks and sell them for a fiver, thus fiscally supporting the organization and socially supporting… our troops.
The only problem with supporting the troops in this way is that, in most cases, the magnet flasher is not actually providing anything for the troops. This isn’t way to show support of a war or a policy but merely a method of showing support for the people with a risky job to do. The magnet offers the near-anonymous statement that “the owner of this vehicle hopes that no one will get hurt.”
I’d venture to argue that, in most cases, to dawn a Support Our Troops vehicle magnet is to do nothing more than give in to a fad. To support my argument, consider this: which way does a ribbon go? The single-fold support ribbon has always been a vertical affair (think of Aids and Breast Cancer ribbons), yet “Support Our Troops” ribbons are almost always affixed at an unusual 45 degree angle. How else to explain this phenomenon if not that freeway drivers are perpetually bound to follow the car in front of them, accepting not just speed and direction advice but also magnetic ribbon positioning technique.
support our troops ribbon