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The Issue of Intellectual Property and The Free Culture

Motto: “From the earliest days at Apple, I realized that we thrived when we created intellectual property. If people copied or stole our software, we’d be out of business. If it weren’t protected, there’d be no incentive for us to make new software or product designs. If protection of intellectual property begins to disappear, creative companies will disappear or never get started. But there’s a simpler reason: It’s wrong to steal. It hurts other people. And it hurts your own character.” (Steve Jobs, as quoted in the biography by Walter Isaacson)
We are safe to assume that Bill Gates has the same philosophy when it comes to Intellectual Property for the simple fact that he made a fortune from IP. And many other Internet or media moguls do. The issue is not however as simple as Jobs described it for the simple fact that the Internet changed all the rules of the game when it comes to IP in some spaces.

Coca-Cola - original bottle patent

Coca-Cola - original bottle patent


Culture and Entertainment. In the cultural spaces, for example, the assumption from which most people start when they consume culture today is that culture should be free. Free open-air concerts, pirate websites and free content available on the Internet have created an idea in people’s minds that anything related to culture should be free. While in theory we can agree with this, there will always be the question of who’s paying the creators? Creating quality content takes time, talent, and dedication. The authors might have spent maybe years trying to create something valuable, but they are not able to cash. The solution is never free culture. It also can not come in the form of overpayment. How many of the movies you have seen lately were worth the price of admission? Regardless of the quality most of the DVDs cost almost the same. Let’s examine the case of the movies a little bit. I’ve just checked for some prices on the street and on-line and guess what I found? The last asian gore, a classic Dolph Lundgren feature, a simple chick flick and the last Tarantino costs the same. While this might be good news for somebody collecting movies in huge quantities regardless of the genre, in general it’s just a fact that helps the piracy even more, because some of the afore-mentioned movies might be of interest for purchasing just for the fans. Renting them on or offline is the usual solution, but it doesn’t solve the problem. The solution is deceptively simple: change the pricing and purchasing options. But how? Charging for quality is subjective (you never know how much somebody would pay for a certain movie) and also against the free culture mantra by all means, even tough it’s common practice (please check the pricing for the movies that won Oscars against those who haven’t, what do you notice?). This will remain an open problem, but purchasing options are definitely changing: from iTunes to Amazon and Hulu, entertainment and culture are available through all channels. We will not dive further into the pricing problem that is faced by the entertainment industry now. We will explore it with another occasion. One thing is clear: the desire for Free Culture and the mass adoption of piracy was not the public saying that they don’t want to pay for something, but rather the public saying that they are tired to eat crappy content and to search for years for certain albums or movies for the simple fact that the entertainment giant refuses to re-edit them. In certain countries where the payment was low and there was also a cultural gap (see former communist countries, for example) piracy flourished because publishing giants were ignorant when it came to their countries.
What happens to the software industry? Be warned that industry people and common people might understand different things through free software. As defined by Richard Stallman, Free Software is open software, software that comes with the code, but not really unpaid software. If you want you can have free software for which you pay. How does this sounds? Counterintuitive for sure. Free software is also software offered for free legally, software for which you don’t pay money. And of course, while we don’t like it, illegal software is also free, but nobody responds for it. Now here lies the true value: who responds for this software? Who responds if this software ruins my computer? If nobody does it, then you shouldn’t be using it because you don’t know if it’s safe to use it.
Intellectual Property at its strongest: Patents. Well this year was all about patents. Every major company had to fight at least a dozen process against patent trolls, but also against other major companies. It seems like nobody plays fair anymore. Without patents there will be no protection for new ideas, on one side, but also no source of income for inventors. And as we noticed already, it takes time and money to do something well. Patents are the real engine of the economy. They stimulate competition. Without them we will all be a bunch of copy/pasters, reduced to what the establishment already offers us, without any real capacity to bring disruptive ideas to the market. And yet even leading companies choose to eliminate it from their practices. We should all consider a patent as a recognition of his creator, an homage, as well as a guide to the invention.
Free Culture or Fear Culture? Free Culture is a recipient for disaster in any space. Can you image tourism thriving in a world of Free Culture? Not really. There is however a thriving fear culture that prospers in the shadow of Free Culture, a Fear Culture, a culture of people that are so scared by new ideas that they prefer to steal instead of experiment.

November 3, 2011 Permalink

The Social Summer

Everything is Social. Eating, hiking, dating or traveling are social activities. So is sitting in front of the computer. At least in the last 10 years.
We all know the players: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google +1, Instagram, Flickr, YouTube. Wait. You just said YouTube? Yes. That’s about the only option Google should look at if it wants to cannibalize Facebook’s market. Our opinion is that instead of building +1, Google should have just focused into transforming YouTube into the next big thing. Or maybe they will do it. In the end they always seem to have 2 competing products in the same markets (remember Android and Chromium?). The fact that +1 users don’t post that much anymore is an indication that an improved YouTube would have been really the wining card.

Google executives: Schmidt, Brin, Page

Google executives: Schmidt, Brin, Page


This summer was really a Social Summer. In case you didn’t noticed, it started with Google’s unveiling of +1, and just ended with Twitter’s launch of its analytics platform. Of course they are not the only players. The number of social apps launched every month (even every week) would make a long list by itself. This is just the beginning. They all still need to monetize, and for the moment Facebook looks like the winner. They should have done it gradually, during the last 5-6 years. Now it might be just too late.
Let’s just analyze what happens on different fronts in the Social Wars:

  • Users – Facebook is the clear winner in this category. Google can also draw millions of users. LinkedIn and Twitter both have more than 100 million users. It all goes down to profiles: how you design them, how you use that data, and what do you offer to your clients.
  • Analytics – Twitter finally decided to offer something in this direction too. Facebook already has Insights, and Google’s tools are almost legendary.
  • Games – What’s social without games? Zynga is the clear winner.
  • Location – Foursquare, Facebook Places and many others are in this game. It’s just that Places is not that cool anymore.
  • Pictures – Flickr’s time is long gone. Facebook is number one here, but young start-ups like Instagram will definitely occupy some serious market share. Google can buy any one of these newcomers.
  • Movie – YouTube is the winner. Everybody shares YouTube movies.
  • Smart lists – While Google’s +1 started this, what Facebook reveals is potentially dangerous. Since they infer data about you friends, colleagues, former colleagues, or persons living in different areas where you lived, they almost compile your entire biography. Should anyone break into your account it will not just steal your messages/mails, but will also have access to unprecedented information about your like all in one place. On reasons of privacy, this feature will probably encounter a major backslash from users around the world. That is if they are educated correctly in matters related to privacy.
  • Social search – Facebook started the trend. Google and others followed. This feature encounters a major backslash in Germany and some other countries.
  • Entertainment – It’s not just games. If Hollywood and major music labels decide to go with different social networks, the one who will sign the best deals will have a major advantage in the social wars. Think Hulu + YouTube, for example. Now isn’t that something you would like?
  • Looking at what happens now in the market, it’s clear that Facebook is the winner. However they are stepping the line in some regards (social search, smart lists, especially), and this might start a movement against them. Google other companies will only win from this if only they will not repeat the same mistakes.

    September 18, 2011 Permalink

    The Copy/Paste Culture, The 3 Ps, UFOs and The Future of Innovation

    I know the title it’s ironic, but that’s how it’s supposed to be. Were UFOs inserted just for laughs? Read on. There are 2 sides: the ones that will argue that the copy/paste culture we live in (and we’re not talking just about the copy/paste feature allowed by any modern operating system, but also about reverse engineering and other similar methods) is not bad and it essentially allows us to innovate more, while the others will simply say that if you copy everything you don’t have to think that much about new things but rather about new components and on long term the process of innovation will simply disappear. Basically both camps will say that the copy/paste culture is all about components. They agree on this. In the same it’s also about rejecting smaller scale innovation (why re-invent the wheel?). The truth is that if for several years we haven’t seen major breakthroughs (if you think 3D movies are innovation go back to the ’50s, or even further, to the ’30s), this doesn’t mean we won’t see new innovations in the future. Yes, the ocean and space dreams of the ’60s are gone, but only now the private entrepreneurs are starting to get into these realms. Yes, software is all about components, but it is about components that create value and about creating good software at a lower cost (outsourcing will never exist outside a copy/paste culture).

    Atomium

    Atomium


    What about the 3Ps? Patents, Passion and Power? Well apparently everybody wants to reuse old patents for power, not for new things while passionate inventors, developers and creators are left in the dust. Big companies need to defend their cause in expensive trials, not to launch new iPads and protect their talent. The 3rd P should have been Property, not Power (Money in reality, but then we would have had a longer and uglier title! And it’s not like you don’t know already that Money=Power!), but today is different. So let’s examine the 3Ps to see what they mean today:

  • Patents – Apple vs Google, Microsoft vs Google, Apple vs Samsung, and so on. We could go on forever. What happened to the Antitrust mantra: “Human knowledge belongs to the world”? They all want to win at Monopoly! That’s what happened.
  • Passion – There are still creative DIY geniuses out there. It’s just that some of them joined monopolists, while other refused to battle with them. The problem is not that there are no better products, but rather that marketing costs are so high in some cases that it’s impossible to fight with giants. Whatever happened to the passionate guys is hard to understand, but they are a still not an extinct species.
  • Power – GM, Samsung, IBM, and many others. They will not disappear tomorrow, but your small start-up might. Or it might end up swallowed by them. Everybody wants to be the cash king!
  • The 4th P would have been Productivity, but this is one of the main problems at the core of our debate: is Productivity a good or a bad thing for innovation? It’s clear that productive people have lots of ideas, but quality should always be important. I decided to leave it outside this discussion for the moment. Truth is Productivity is directly related to knowledge (the more you know, the more productive you are).
    In a normal world there should be a balance between C/P and the 3Ps, but in today’s world balance is still not possible. We should aim at it, but we don’t.
    I did not forgot the UFOs, but it’s not just my choice. If we want to get to the UFOs instead of the End of Innovation, we should clearly take some measures. Some simple ones like use C/P only when necessary, or try to think new stuff from time to time.

    September 14, 2011 Permalink

    Beyond PCs – The Legacy

    We know we told you PC is dead. We maintain our opinion. We do live in a Post PC age, but of course, that does not means that PCs are dead. One of the major news that signals this was the fact that some fans succeeded into breaking the 8GHz World Record using an 8-core AMD machine. The other major news is that there are already all sorts of previews into next year’s Windows 8, which apparently will run on any kind of devices in less than 10 seconds by calling just the APIs it needs for that device, and features the new Metro interface (we know running on all devices means Post PC). There are also new gadgets like a mouse than can transform your workspace into a huge multimedia wall regardless of how many screens you use (also from Microsoft). We should not forget about the Android x86 initiative that is trying to port this operating system to the classic PCs. So the PC is dead, long live the PC! Not so fast. Didn’t you noticed? Half of what we wrote is about PC being just another device (Windows 8 and Android x86), and the other half means just expected incremental advances. What feels strange when you read the latest tech blogs is that even the popular image of the PC being the command center of the multimedia home has vanished. It shouldn’t be a surprise to us since we already know how interesting mobile wars will be (not that they aren’t extremely interesting now).

    Cosmopolis

    Cosmopolis


    So if the mobile is replacing the PC, what happens to the PC then? It will remain useful just for researchers, graphic designers, animators or directors, the ones who most probably need huge screens, mouse, keyboard and all the accessories? Or it will evolve into something different? For the moment the only safe answer is that the PC will not vanish, but it also won’t be the most important business tool. We are not just talking about suppliers or cable guys (it should be clear that PCs are not and have never been an option for these categories), but about all business people. Now here is the challenge? How will a day in the office look like without a PC? What other gadget will occupy most of the office space and our whole day? The mobile? Well, busy persons do talk a lot on mobile. The tablet? Probably not for accountants. The whole office will be just an interface? It might be. There are already some hints that we are moving into that direction. Any version has its drawbacks, but it should be clear, that whatever happens, the PCs legacy (the operating system, the APIs, the graphical interfaces, and so on) will stay with us for a long time from now on. Truth be told, the PC is not dead. It’s just everywhere you look. It’s present on so many levels that we tend to forget it’s a PC. That’s why we are tricked into believing mobile phones, tablets or other gadgets are more than just interfaces.
    Speaking of the operating system: the first to rule them all seems to be Windows, again. Google and Apple still need to merge their operating systems, while Microsoft has just done it…And we tought Redmond is still years behind. Microsoft’s Windows 8 is the first operating system to really work on all platforms. And having some iPad competitor running Adobe or Microsoft Office is what everybody wants. If it will only be cheaper. Unfortunately there are still 2 problems with Windows 8′s quest for world domination: it’s not open-source and it’s not free (free as free for download, not in the Richard Stallman way).

    September 13, 2011 Permalink

    9/11 – One Decade Later – Is 11 the new 13?

    10 years later. What can be said now? We all remember how we heard this sad news.
    It was a quiet day. You maybe went to the cinema or took a walk through the park. Or maybe you even watched tennis, like I did. Either way, at some point during the day you heard a phrase like: “One plane hit WTC” or “2 planes hit WTC” or “WTC and Pentagon were hit by an unknown enemy”. Than you sat down in front of the TV and started to look at the clips. So they started to play disaster movies? Is this is the real version of “The Towering Inferno”? Why did they choose this day? Now, looking backwards, in a single decade we had 3 major incidents in the eleventh day:

  • 9/11/2001 – WTC + Pentagon + Pennsylvania attacks.
    3/11/2004 – Madrid bombings.
    3/11/2011 – Fukushima incident.
  • WTC 9/11

    WTC 9/11


    Is 11 the new 13? It certainly looks like it is. Of course there are just few of the events that shocked the globe in the last 10 years, so we can’t declare this yet, but we should nonetheless reflect upon it. Each of these 3 days changed our view of the world:

  • 9/11/2001 – America can’t be attacked from the air because of the 2 oceans.
    3/11/2004 – Terrorists attack everywhere.
    3/11/2011 – Nuclear power is not a joke and the nuclear clock is now even closer to 12.
  • If anything, events like 9/11 of the Madrid 3/11 were between the last major events to be covered better on TV. The Arab Spring and the Fukushima Incident proved that the Internet is even more capable of presenting live events than the TV will ever be: the way BBC and CNN added the Twitter streams, previous clips, infographics and other gadgets to their pages that covered these events changed the coverage and the news industry forever. So if at the beginning of the century we were just able to watch how buildings collapse, now we have live data from all those involved in the events. If it’s good or not, it’s still too early to tell. In theory it should be, in practice you never know what could happen.
    9/11 didn’t marked just the end of the idea that America will not be attacked from the skies or the start of The War Against Terror, but also the first time when robots were used to find people. It was also the inspiration for new online communities like Meetup, a place where people meet to talk about the subjects they like. It proved that in the face of major threats nations can react. 9/11 happened after the dot-com-bubble, and its tenth anniversary comes after another big crisis. It’s strange that its impact and coverage far outreached some smaller crisis. That says something about how media can influence our perception about specific events.
    Today, conspiracy theorists can’t really say too many things about shocking events because each event will leave its marks on the Internet as proven by the pioneering multimedia methods used by BBC and CNN (check the Fukushima reports if you don’t believe me). If anything, 9/11 was just the eye of the storm (the calm), the rumor before a crisis (remember subprime rumors and Lehman Brothers?), the eye opener, the proof that most of us prefer to stay outside of the game. The cost of wars has led the U.S.A. were it is today (remember the debt crisis and the scandal that surrounded it at the beginning of August?). When you enter into the “graveyard of empires” (Afghanistan) you should be prepared to loose everything you have. Apparently the war has ended, but since it takes as little as one man and a bomb to start it again, we should seriously think if it’s not a forever war. The decade has passed, the technology has changed, the memories remain. A new WTC will rise in the next years, and hopefully it will not have the faith of its predecessors.

    September 11, 2011 Permalink

    The Entrepreneur’s Fear of Flying

    I can accept failure, everyone fails at something. But I can’t accept not trying.” (Michael Jordan)
    Fear of Flying. We’re not talking about Erica Jong’s novel about “zipless fuck” and sexual revolution as seen by a woman in the ’70s, but rather about those things that stop new entrepreneurs from flying high into the unlimited business space.
    The term is not accidental, as some of the causes are related to meetings with other people and fear of success. We think one of the most important reasons for failing in business is the fear of failure. Why? Because it just stops you from experimenting new stuff and eventually it will stop you from creating innovative products and services. Ideas do not appear out of thin air every day so if you find some obstacles in your way you should not despair. Dealing with failure, trying to overcome obstacles might help you discover new things you didn’t knew about you or your company. It might even refocus your entire business on something else. How do you think Microsoft became such a huge player in the gaming zone?
    Entrepreneurs can fall into different categories: from dreamers, to problem solvers, to doers, for example. Chances are if you are a dreamer you will not feel as comfortable as a problem solver when trying to overcome obstacles. Some solutions would be to move to another country (there are better conditions to develop certain types of businesses in Sillicon Valley or England than in Ukraine, for example) or to hire somebody to deal with all the operations you’re not good at.
    Lack of financing should not be a problem, except for projects in expensive areas like automotive, space travel, search engines. Lack of a business model is a problem. If you just copy something there is no guarantee that you will achieve the success you are seeking. It’s not impossible, but it usually means to replicate something in another country. Some new service was launched in the Valley? Why shouldn’t I try this in Italy? Well, if it’s not the country that will get you into trouble, patents might do it, especially if the business is related to IT or consumer electronics.
    If you want to succeed you always have to keep your mind open and to change your state of mind if something’s not working. Please remember Albert Einstein: “No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.” If you want to be an entrepreuner, you have to be a motivational guru not just for your employees, but also for yourself.

    Cowboy

    Cowboy :)


    An entrepreuner is like a cowboy: he has to take care of the cows (those that will give him the profit), but he also needs to build the farm (the company); he has to take care of his friends (not only employees, but basically all important people), but he has to be ready to shoot every time he is in danger (fire the unproductive people, otherwise he can loose money), and most of all he likes to explore the unknown and lead his herd (his company) to the promised land.
    Today even big companies sometimes can enter into a zone where they fear they won’t be able to innovate anymore, but this should not stop you. Please keep in mind that nothing can stop a motivated man, not even the fear of flying. As long as you keep trying, and keep your focus so that you can pass the milestones from your business plan, great things can happen.

    September 9, 2011 Permalink

    The War Against …

    10 Years later. You all know what I’m talking about. No, not that band. That September morning shock. It should have been the year of the space odyssey but it was the year in which the War Against Terror started. Even now it’s hard to tell what happened, but the War goes on an on. It’s not the silent Cold War and we didn’t had a Cuban Missile Crisis, but we have a War in episodes that is a perfect fit for today’s media. Some of the episodes developed into bloody series like Afghanistan or Iraq, but please do not forget they are all linked. Madrid or London are linked to the same War. The last episodes (The Killing of Bin Laden, War in Libya) seem to announce the end of the war, but other recent episodes (The Breivik Case) suggest something else.

    World Trade Center on fire

    World Trade Center on fire


    If we learned anything, than we learned that in this War there are no clear enemies. This makes us question the role of politics and diplomacy in today’s world. We can not talk about 9/11 without raising lots of questions, and we will not speak too much about it. We just wanted to write few lines about the episodic never ending War that we live and to reflect a little bit upon the meaning of that day.

    September 4, 2011 Permalink

    Careers of the future

    This is just a short list, but we feel you might like some of these jobs:

    Trend spotting counselor – This usually means a highly-skilled person trained to watch and predict what will happen in different markets and even to create new markets. Training for such a job would usually require training in one or two disciplines, PhD or experience at the top in one of the best companies in your field, passion for reading and creating news, for creating highly customized graphics and presentations, but also at least an intimate knowledge of several markets like IT and Finance and Medicine (no connection between these, you say? Then this is clearly not your kind of job). It already exists for several decades, but in the future it will be a mix between SF writer / researcher / statistician and different other combinations. The heydays of this job are yet to come.

    Interface programmer – It’s not just usability we’re talking about or futuristic GUIs, but rather brand new interfaces that look even better than those from Minority Report (which we already see in practice). Think visualizations + data mining + 3D graphics. If you like these than you clearly have a shot. The interfaces of the future will be fluid and will even be integrated in our environment. It’s already happening and there aren’t too many talented people in this area.

    Bio engineer – In case we won’t have a UN ban on genetic engineering technologies this will definitely be the best career choice for your future. It’s enough to think that there are thousands of diseases that need some treatment. Our advice: please stay away from eugenics!

    Content creator and entertainer- Since robots will do most of our jobs, isn’t it obvious that we will have more time to enjoy watching opera or live features or even Big Brother?

    Galactic Suite - Interior of the Space Hotel

    Galactic Suite - Interior of the Space Hotel (c)QUITUS from Wikimedia Commons

    Space Traveler – The most interesting job? Surely one of the best. If you loved Star Wars it’s definitely your territory. Just don’t hope you will be Han Solo tomorrow. It will take at least 20 to 100 years to get there. It’s hard to say when will this really take of, but in the next years we already have some projects like the Space Hotel. When people like Sir Richard Branson (Virgin) or Elon Musk (of Tesla fame) get into a field like this, a revolution is definitely coming!

    We will present you with more career choices like this in the next weeks. Stay tuned and choose wisely.

    August 27, 2011 Permalink

    Original Online Money & Business Ideas

    dollar

    www.TheMillionDollarSearch.com & www.Macoway.com welcomes you to the MillionDollar Blog – Ideas That Made 1 mil $ or more !

    Million dollar business ideas have no boundaries, age limits, race restrictions, time lines, or economic class. They can occur when you least expect them.

    For psychologist Roger Adams, it occurred during a midlife crisis and divorce. For management consultant Mercia Tapping, it happened after a 10-year battle with allergies and the search for a cure. Ruta Fox was a freelancer running out of work when she said “Ah” to her “Aha” moment. Searching for the million dollar business idea is less a product of business planning and market research and more born from observation and frustration.

    ————————————————————————–

    10 Examples:

    1. Million Dollar Homepage

    1000000 pixels, charge a dollar per pixel.

    2. PickyDomains

    Hire another person to think of a cool domain name for you?

    3. Doggles

    Create goggles for dogs and sell them online?

    4. LaserMonks

    LaserMonks.com is a for-profit subsidiary of the Cistercian Abbey of Our Lady of Spring Bank, an eight-monk monastery in the hills of Monroe County, 90 miles northwest of Madison.

    5. AntennaBalls

    You can’t sell antenna ball online. There is no way. And surely it wouldn’t make you rich. But this is exactly what Jason Wall did, and now he is now a millionaire.

    6. FitDeck

    Create a deck of cards featuring exercise routines, and sell it online for $18.95. Sounds like a disaster idea but former Navy SEAL and fitness instructor Phil Black reported last year sales of $4.7 million. Surely beats what military pays.

    7. PositivesDating.Com

    How would you like to go on a date with an HIV positive person? Paul Graves and Brandon Koechlin thought that someone would, so they created a dating site for HIV positive folks last year. Projected 2006 sales are $110,000, and the two hope to have 50,000 members by their two-year mark.

    8. Designer Diaper Bags

    Christie Rein was tired of carrying diapers around in a freezer bag. The 34-year-old mother of three found herself constantly stuffing diapers for her infant son into freezer bags to keep them from getting scrunched up in her purse. Rein wanted something that was compact, sleek and stylish, so in November 2004, she sat down with her husband, Marcus, who helped her design a custom diaper bag that’s big enough to hold a travel pack of wipes and two to four diapers. With more than $180,000 in sales for 2005, Christie’s company, Diapees & Wipees, has bags in 22 different styles, available online and in 120 boutiques across the globe for $14.99.

    9. SantaMail

    Ok, how’s that for a brilliant idea. Get a postal address at North Pole, Alaska, pretend you are Santa Claus and charge parents 10 bucks for every letter you send to their kids? Well, Byron Reese sent over 200000 letters since the start of the business in 2001, which makes him a couple million dollars richer.

    10. Lucky Wishbone Co.

    Fake wishbones. Now, this stupid idea is just destined to flop. Who in the world needs FAKE PLASTIC wishbones? A lot of people, it turns out. Now producing 30,000 wishbones daily (they retail for 3 bucks a pop) Ken Ahroni, the company founder, expects 2006 sales to reach $1 million.

    August 19, 2011 Permalink

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