Archive for November 2006

We Are Smarter Than Me, We Think

November 27, 2006

There was an interesting story in the Wall St.Journal last week with the headline, ‘U.K’s Pearson Tests The Group Dynamic For a ‘Wiki’ Book’. I don’t know if they are given to hyperbole, but William M.Bulkeley, filing the report, thinks that this ‘could shake up the book industry’:

Publishing giant Pearson PLC is joining with two top business schools to create a business book authored and edited by a “wiki” — an online community dedicated to writing.
The effort is inspired, in part, by the best-known wiki-produced work — Wikipedia, a not-for-profit online encyclopedia. Despite occasional hiccups, Wikipedia is increasingly regarded as a reliable source for information, aided by community-enforced rules that it can’t contain either personal points of view or original research….
The wiki book, produced by a community of business experts and managers, will be called “We Are Smarter Than Me.” It will explore how businesses can use online communities, consumer-generated media such as blogs, and other Web content to help in their marketing, pricing, research and service

We Are Smarter Than Me won’t pay businessmen and consultants for their response to not much more than a series of chapter headings – but will reimburse a team of ghostwriters to turn their thoughts into a 120-page business book aimed at the fast-growing airport bookstore market for sale next autumn at $25.99. An Authors Guild spokesman was predictably scathing about this ‘wiki…about wikis’, arguing that, ‘Readers generally look for a strong, consistent author’s voice, which isn’t something a wiki can really provide.’

But the man who thought the idea up – Barry Libert, a former McKinsey & Co. consultant who is CEO of Shared Insights Inc., a Woburn, Mass., company – is convinced that the big community collectively will select solutions that are better than the answers provided by individual professors or consultants. Many companies have started using wikis internally and with partners for product development. How will they motivate their major contributors? Authors’ names will be printed on the book cover and on the web site, and as the MIT partner commented, “If you really are an expert in this area, you wouldn’t want to be left out.”

We Are Smarter Than Me is not however to be confused with another initiative which was bruited abroad on Start the Week last week – We-Think, described thus:

‘ a new form of creativity is being born, one based on participation… People can combine their ideas and skills without a hierarchy to co-ordinate their activities. Charles Leadbeater’s new book is called We-Think: The Power of Mass Creativity, but it is not published until June 2007. However, the author is attempting to put his ideas into practice: a draft of the book is available on the web and readers’ comments will be incorporated into the final version.’

It’s a fascinating read.

Meanwhile Charles Leadbeater last week also made an effort to sort out some of the ideas of Mick Hucknall from Simply Red. Mick went on record to say that yet another extension of the copyright term for bands like Simply Red was true socialism. This was a novel approach, to say the least. The ensuing debate was lively. See Peter Bradwell’s Friday Rant for some of the goss…  It is very early days for the reversal of the trend of lengthening terms, and hopefully the debate will now gather pace, and be taken seriously.


Open Shakespeare

November 15, 2006

“I’m sure there will be others out there who will do it differently and perhaps better. For me that is the big benefits of openness; it allows many minds to address the same problem.”

I like the sound of these guys – Rufus Pollock and colleagues. They are trying to free up Shakespeare. It is not an easy matter…

Considering the age of Shakespeare’s works, one might assume that all of it would be automatically in the public domain. Pollock explains the complexity at work, where at least three factors are at play: anyone can take a public domain work and, with modifications, release it as a proprietary work; if an old work is only now being published for the first time, it may still be in copyright; and scans of a public domain work may be copyrighted in places outside the US, particularly in Europe.’

Trying to oblige

November 9, 2006

Caroline Michel wants more answers to the challenge of compensation for creativity in the sharing economy. Here is a new partnership in the exchange of open business models that might interest her:

Honourable mention?

November 8, 2006

The Bookseller has a two-page feature devoted to creative commons licensing this week, entitled ‘Creative with copyright’.

In it, Unbounded Freedom, my guide to creative commons thinking for cultural organisations commissioned by the Counterpoint unit of the British Council, comes in for a certain amount of stick. Where my work is not the subject of discussion, the ‘flagship feature’ covers some very important topics in ways I don’t at all disagree with. Many interesting thinkers are cited – Tom Reynolds, Chris Anderson – author of The Long Tail, Cory Doctorow, Yochai Benkler – in fact I can recommend the rest of this introduction to CC unreservedly. It looks as if the debate is moving on.

But just to return to my small effort – a couple of thorough readings have left me uncertain about the content of the disagreement. In my first mention, I am described as ‘hold[ing] up CC licenses as a viable alternative to copyright’, and the following suggestion is attributed to me:

‘that existing copyright law stymies creativity in the digital age by restricting use and barring communication between creators and their audience.’

This is a pretty exact summary of my main argument, so it was initially rather disappointing to find that Paul Carr, editor-in-chief of The Friday Project – described as ‘the first UK publisher to have made an entire work available for free under a Creative Commons licence’ – thinks that my ‘thesis is “utter nonsense…”‘

Any dismay soon turns into confusion, as Paul Carr continues on the subject of Creative Commons licensing, ‘Publishers certainly shouldn’t be scared by it…’ he says. Apparently he ‘tends to disagree that giving away free content damages sales’ and concludes his argument, by ‘urging publishers to “give away as much as you can”, as he believes that the more online visibility an author’s work has, the more their audience will grow.’

Hang on – isn’t this to argue, as I do in Unbounded Freedom, that in the digital age the recognition of property not just as exclusive ownership, but also as distribution – which is a characteristic of cultural commons thinking as reflected, for example, in Creative Commons Licenses – lifts some significant barriers to ‘communication between creators and their audiences’.

What Carr seems to object to in Unbounded Freedom, and he is joined in this objection by Caroline Michel, m.d. for the William Morris Agency who so adroitly defended her side of the argument at the launch of my booklet – is that I am suggesting that people should give away their work for free – period. But this was not my argument and I went out of my way to emphasise the fact. Please see a few examples below if you wish – there could be many more. Forgive my self-indulgence, but it is hard to believe that people have actually read this rather short book…

The second reference to Unbounded Freedom is made by Caroline Michel: she refers to parts of what I have written as “completely astonishing”.

Well, I dare say, some parts of what I have to say do seem astonishing. But I think this is only a marker of how complacent people who rely on intellectual property rights have become as copyright term is extended and extended again, regardless of the wider public interest – and how far we have drifted away from the enabling balancing act that copyright law was originally intended to serve.


2.0 new ways of being and doing

November 5, 2006

Joi Ito(see below  in Bulgaria) – has been interviewed by The Japan Times Online. He has lots of interesting things to say about democracy and the net – also this on what he can learn about leadership from the video game, World of Warcraft ( WoW):

Video games have always been kind of stigmatized, and they are kind of a working-class entertainment. When I go to my WoW guild, my raid leader is a night-shift nurse. We have bartenders. We have unemployed people, lots of military folks, policemen — there is a community made up of a very diverse set of people. And what’s interesting is that every single MBA who has tried to take the leadership role in the guild has failed. Leadership in these kinds of situations is much more about listening, and leadership is not exclusive to people in the leading class. It kind of translates into, say, understanding how open-source projects work, or how Firefox might be managed. This may all sound like a very long, elaborated excuse for playing lots of World of Warcraft. (Laugh) But I can learn a lot of things in places where typically people don’t think there is learning.

Meanwhile, here is Matt Hanson at the Leeds Film Festival explaining why his Cinema 2.0 project is on a CC license:

I’ve been involved in producing VJ and remix cinema projects. I like the idea of sampling other work, and doing it legitimately. So this is a digital community project as I want to give something back to the community by opening it up for free sharing and non-commercial use, as well as commercial sampling.

There’s a huge opportunity in more open content that Hollywood and the music industry haven’t realised or been able to move toward because their business models are predicated on something else.

As consumers we are all becoming used to creating our own media, and viewing it how we want. As such personally I don’t want to cripple my media with bad DRM and punish viewers/users of my material.

But Matt hasn’t given up entirely on auteurs… Nicole Wistreich interviewed him for netribution: