It's Sunday morning in London, where I'm living as of less than a week ago. I've got a hangover and kitchen cleanup duty, and on top of that, I'm out £10. An actual live baby fox entered our house last night. Last night was Eurovision. I've had my first Eurovision party as an embedded foreigner.
Wait, I'll tell you all about it, but let's back up a bit, first. My first Eurovision was last year in my New York home, playing host to English friends. Before that, I'm a little embarrassed to say I knew hardly anything of the pan-European song contest, and in watching it I experienced the kind of wonderment that's sadly pretty rare for us Americans: the world is so big.
I was also fascinated to learn about European politics in the guise of a pop competition. The winning nation has to host next year's event (this year Eurovision was in Malmo, Sweden, thanks to Loreen's victory last year) – but that's an expense some countries don't want. Sometimes when a country votes for you, as Portugal is wont to do for Spain, it's less support for your song and more trying to stick you with an inconvenient expense. Eastern bloc nations or Scandinavian countries have obvious alliances, where loyalty supersedes popularity or quality. It's not so much that the best song wins, but that the best-placed song wins.
Without a guide I might have bounced off it, but thanks to the inimitable Ste Curran – game designer, One Life Left radio show host and Eurovision Sage – I had an amazing time. This year we weren't at the same party, but his complete sincerity as regards the song contest, alongside his pure urge to immerse himself in unmitigated joy, are still with me.
“The ‘general' opinion in Britain is that Eurovision is ridiculous, a joke: dumb, homogeneous pop music for a competition that's decided more by politics than artistry," Ste writes me, when I extend clutching fingers for emotional support by mail. “‘Eurovision' as an adjective is more a pejorative than anything: everyone knows about it, lots of people watch, but largely to laugh. Appreciation for the event is often soaked in irony, the coward's way to enjoy anything. Never commit your heart to anything, never get hurt."
This 2007 Eurovision performance by Verka Serduchka of Ukraine is what I show my U.S. friends who don't know what Eurovision is. It's spectacular, and hilarious, and so genuinely awesome that if I'm in a bad mood I just put it on and it fixes everything. Try it.
Yeah, the pop songs are funny whether intentionally or not, and one should laugh. But truly enjoying Eurovision is about empathy for its narratives, Ste asserts: "Every four minutes a new artist appears, does everything they can to win the hearts and votes of 125 million people," he says.
“Think of that: for each of the performers this is their moment, as big a moment as they'll ever have, their World Cup, their Olympics, representing their country; likely the most visible they'll ever be and perhaps the single high point of their lives," he says. "They have trained and practised and dreamt and worried and oh my God here it comes, everyone is watching them, it is happening right now."
When I asked him what I should do at my first Eurovision party in London – a recently-blooded Eurovision fan (who still dances to Loreen's “Euphoria" and Tooji's “Stay") – his main piece of advice was to turn off the commentary. That and to watch out for regular, if ill-advised, dubstep breakdowns among all the songs.
UK commentator Graham Norton can get a bit derisive at times, right? When each contestant was introduced with a little visual montage of their home life, Norton called the framing convention “a bit banal." On Russia's singer's creatiive background, he said “she loves paintings, and... things."
“People often mistake the British allergy to taking anything at all seriously for cynicism," friend and British writer Laurie Penny explains to me. There are only a very few things, like Doctor Who and binge drinking, that we allow ourselves to enjoy unironically. Eurovision isn't one of them, particularly because we consider ourselves culturally and creatively superior to almost every other national entrant, despite our terrible food, horrible weather, Tracey Emin and Coldplay."
“We're also poor team players and worse losers; whoever invented the idea that it's the taking part that counts was not from the Home Counties," she adds. “So, we're only allowed to have fun watching Eurovision as long as we pretend to hate it and groan all the way through, and then console ourselves after another unsuccessful year with the idea that we're not really part of Europe anyway. Despite all of that, I imagine the growing xenophobic consensus in the screaming bear pit that passes for political debate in Britain right now would be blown wide open were anyone to suggest withdrawing from Eurovision."
Interesting! Now, on the big night my housemates made snacks – chips, oven pizza, and crusty things with meat in them that I've yet to fully understand. We went to the “American" section at Tesco, a shelf that had Aunt Jemima maple syrup (England has perfectly fine maple syrup and there is no reason to spend £6, or, like, $9, on the Aunt), and Lucky Charms, and strawberry-flavored marshmallow Fluff. We bought the Fluff. Everyone was surprised to like it on white bread with peanut butter. Yeah, that was my contribution to our Eurovision party. I'm sorry.
London is a place where people are fine with dipping Pringles in guacamole, and where guacamole is an odd, sour treacle resembling an avocado in color alone. It was good, though. Our housemates are wonderful, our friends are wonderful. There was some really nice liquor, and I think even Ste would agree with me that's all it takes to have a Eurovision party. Last year Ste brought me a bottle of cranberry Finlandia vodka as a house gift. I can't even tell you what all we drank this year.
Properly watching Eurovision requires a little research – there are semi-finals and eliminations rounds ahead of last night's Grand Final, and it's best to educate oneself ahead of time so that you know who you want to root for in the main event, whom to tell your friends about, when you can take a cigarette break and when you need to tell the whole room to quiet down and pay attention.
Last year there were a lot of songs we liked. This year I hitched my star to only one nation: Romania, and the incredible operatic acrobatics of Cezar Ouatu – a spangled, handsome Dracula accompanied by lyrical dance renditions of romantic blood rituals. My friend commented that songs called “It's my life" or including the lyrics “it's my life" generally represent a sort of tough everyman aesthetic, but in this case, the Romanian life is ballet blood sacrifices.
There's even a dubstep breakdown halfway through the performance that serves to remind what dubstep breakdowns can actually be good for. Oh man. Standout superstar of Eurovision 2013.
I couldn't wait for our friends to see Romania's entry. France was up first of all, with a blonde chanteuse in a fringed dress who reminded us all of Tina Turner (Graham Norton snarked about her being a little bit like Courtney Love). Her last name is “Bourgeois". No, really, it is.
Our friend Paul couldn't wait for us to see Lithuania's entry, a Morrisey-ish guy who used to be in a band called “Hetero," if we heard correctly, and sang a song about being in love because of one's shoes. Seriously.
Next up was Moldova's entry, who had a La Roux-ish coif and a massive dress that slowly elevated her taller and taller into the air. A Hunger Games-ish pattern of flames evolved across the dress; she was a real Girl on Fire, and I remember liking the song, but nothing else about it. Oh, but Finland's though, we'd already heard about – a cheerleader sort of lady in a saucy wedding dress singing a song called “Marry Me," which was more than a little misogynistic lyrically.
To address that criticism, “Marry Me" employed a trite sort of “surprise reveal": The tuxedo-ed backup dancers were actually women, and the singer kissed one of the women at the end of the song, which offended Turkey and threatened to interrupt the Eurovision broadcast in that country. Powerful gay marriage anthem this wasn't; I also heard rumors the singer wrote the song to enjoin her boyfriend to propose.
Belgium's was the sort of entry that reminds me of my friend Ste's encouraging us all to remember that for every silly pop act on that stage we might be tempted to have a laugh at, for those performers, this is their momentous big day on the world stage. Belgium's song itself wasn't especially remarkable, but the way the singer cupped his face at the end and hopped up and down to all of the applause was one of those touching Eurovision moments. All I remember about Belarus is how much the song made me wish there were a “best legs" prize in Eurovision, is that a horrible thing to say, she came out of a disco ball, it was incredible. There's an interesting war going on in Eurovision between showmanship and actual excellent pop song, and a lot of times stunning showmanship lets people forget it's a song contest, and could you dance to it in a club and so forth. Ah, there was the Maltese Doctor (Malta's entry was fronted by an actual adorable young doctor), with a sort of strummy twee jam band song that set everyone in the room to abrupt and fevered swaying. Think the Plain White Ts and their grating marshmallow-Fluff “Hey Delilah," that sort of thing. A collective awwww went up around the room here, and as much as any of us would gag to hear such a thing on the radio, the band looked so familial, so cheerful and sweet, it was hard not to like their performance. Russia's performance last year was a set of dancing grannies, either an earnest subversion or an ironic cop-out (probably the latter, let's be real). This year Russia brought something more sincere, a balladeer that might have been even a little too dour, a little too restrained – aside from some lovely luminescent technology toward the end that saw audience members' glow bracelets glimmer on in convincing ripples as light-jellyfish seemed to rise through the air. Germany came with “Glorious," an absolutely blatant rip-off of winning song “Euphoria" from Sweden's Loreen last year. I kind of liked Netherlands' Anouk and her patently un-Eurovision, minor key-heavy “Birds." Her odd voice put me a bit in mind of a Janis Ian or Melanie Safka kind of singer. Ukraine's act got voted very highly in the end, but she reminded me of a listless Rebecca Black-alike. Erm. Okay. So. Here's where we got drunk and preoccupied, suddenly deciding that we would register with an online betting site and place £10 on Romania to win Eurovision. Not that we thought they would, really. We'd seen the odds sheet. But I was carried away with Eurovision fever, and thought if one is going to bet on Eurovision, why not do so in commitment to SPIRITUAL RIGHTNESS? The least opportunistic, least-cynical bet I could make? It all degenerates from there, really. A baby fox broke into our house. A REAL LIVE BABY FOX. It was quite distracting. Then, our neighbor one house over yelled at us to be quiet because it was “ten minutes to one" (in New York, if someone tells you to quiet down on a Saturday night you yell even louder). People got into deep dialogues on the carpet and couldn't remember which member of Black Sabbath wrote Armenia's song (it was Tommy Iommi). Azerbaijan had A SHADOW MAN DOING DANCE POSES IN A GLASS BOX. Seriously, that staging was brilliant. I heard one of the acts had a newly-nationalized American singing for them and that she was awful, but I never got to see her. And yeah, my last note on Eurovision has to do with Graham Norton comparing the representative Ukraine had elected to announce its votes “Sideshow Bob." Tooji, who sang my favorite song last year, gave out the votes on his home Norway's behalf. It was nice to see him again. Denmark won, overall, as most people predicted they would going into the Grand Final. Denmark's song was fine. The tinny drums and panpipes were a bit too Celine Dion for my taste, but the performers were captivating, the gold confetti was transporting, and I have to admit the tune is catchy. I'm still humming it a day later. It's no Romania, but it's all right. At the time, by the end of Eurovision 2013, I was so busy drunk-Tweeting and trying to force the hashtag #RomaniaWasRobbed to trend that I hardly remember it. Denmark's singer looked like Isla Fisher and had a white dress, if I remember correctly. This year a good Eurovision drinking game would have been to drink whenever one sees a white dress (as Ste and his friends did), or whenever there was a dubstep breakdown, or whenever the TV marquee warned of seizure risk from flashing strobes. Oh, Eurovision. Next year I aim to be in Denmark. Bet on it.
All I remember about Belarus is how much the song made me wish there were a “best legs" prize in Eurovision, is that a horrible thing to say, she came out of a disco ball, it was incredible. There's an interesting war going on in Eurovision between showmanship and actual excellent pop song, and a lot of times stunning showmanship lets people forget it's a song contest, and could you dance to it in a club and so forth.
Ah, there was the Maltese Doctor (Malta's entry was fronted by an actual adorable young doctor), with a sort of strummy twee jam band song that set everyone in the room to abrupt and fevered swaying. Think the Plain White Ts and their grating marshmallow-Fluff “Hey Delilah," that sort of thing. A collective awwww went up around the room here, and as much as any of us would gag to hear such a thing on the radio, the band looked so familial, so cheerful and sweet, it was hard not to like their performance.
Russia's performance last year was a set of dancing grannies, either an earnest subversion or an ironic cop-out (probably the latter, let's be real). This year Russia brought something more sincere, a balladeer that might have been even a little too dour, a little too restrained – aside from some lovely luminescent technology toward the end that saw audience members' glow bracelets glimmer on in convincing ripples as light-jellyfish seemed to rise through the air.
Germany came with “Glorious," an absolutely blatant rip-off of winning song “Euphoria" from Sweden's Loreen last year. I kind of liked Netherlands' Anouk and her patently un-Eurovision, minor key-heavy “Birds." Her odd voice put me a bit in mind of a Janis Ian or Melanie Safka kind of singer. Ukraine's act got voted very highly in the end, but she reminded me of a listless Rebecca Black-alike.
Erm. Okay. So. Here's where we got drunk and preoccupied, suddenly deciding that we would register with an online betting site and place £10 on Romania to win Eurovision. Not that we thought they would, really. We'd seen the odds sheet. But I was carried away with Eurovision fever, and thought if one is going to bet on Eurovision, why not do so in commitment to SPIRITUAL RIGHTNESS? The least opportunistic, least-cynical bet I could make?
It all degenerates from there, really. A baby fox broke into our house. A REAL LIVE BABY FOX. It was quite distracting. Then, our neighbor one house over yelled at us to be quiet because it was “ten minutes to one" (in New York, if someone tells you to quiet down on a Saturday night you yell even louder). People got into deep dialogues on the carpet and couldn't remember which member of Black Sabbath wrote Armenia's song (it was Tommy Iommi).
Azerbaijan had A SHADOW MAN DOING DANCE POSES IN A GLASS BOX. Seriously, that staging was brilliant. I heard one of the acts had a newly-nationalized American singing for them and that she was awful, but I never got to see her.
And yeah, my last note on Eurovision has to do with Graham Norton comparing the representative Ukraine had elected to announce its votes “Sideshow Bob." Tooji, who sang my favorite song last year, gave out the votes on his home Norway's behalf. It was nice to see him again. Denmark won, overall, as most people predicted they would going into the Grand Final.
Denmark's song was fine. The tinny drums and panpipes were a bit too Celine Dion for my taste, but the performers were captivating, the gold confetti was transporting, and I have to admit the tune is catchy. I'm still humming it a day later. It's no Romania, but it's all right.
At the time, by the end of Eurovision 2013, I was so busy drunk-Tweeting and trying to force the hashtag #RomaniaWasRobbed to trend that I hardly remember it. Denmark's singer looked like Isla Fisher and had a white dress, if I remember correctly. This year a good Eurovision drinking game would have been to drink whenever one sees a white dress (as Ste and his friends did), or whenever there was a dubstep breakdown, or whenever the TV marquee warned of seizure risk from flashing strobes.
Oh, Eurovision. Next year I aim to be in Denmark. Bet on it.
Yahoo announced today that it is buying blogging site Tumblr for $1.1bn, mostly in cash. In the posting, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer made clear that the cooler, younger company would not be smothered by her firm's notorious corporate culture, under which many other purchases have withered and died.
I’m delighted to announce that we’ve reached an agreement to acquire Tumblr! We promise not to screw it up. Tumblr is incredibly special and has a great thing going. We will operate Tumblr independently. David Karp will remain CEO. The product roadmap, their team, their wit and irreverence will all remain the same as will their mission to empower creators to make their best work and get it in front of the audience they deserve. Yahoo! will help Tumblr get even better, faster.
Yahoo! even set out to prove its noble intentions with a amusing animated GIF, adorning its post with a flashing remix of the "KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON POSTER", edited to say "NOW PANIC AND FREAK OUT."
Amid the announcement's language of respect and cultivation, however, Reuters' Ant DeRosa spotted a purple sheep already making itself comfortable:
This is the first scary part of the new post—Yahoo Tumblr: Marissa Mayer writes: “Tumblr can deploy Yahoo!’s personalization technology”
But as we all know, Tumblr's users have been clamoring for Yahoo personalization technology. This pressure from within surely played a strong role in shareholders' calculations. Meyer also promised seamless advertising opportunities that enhance the user experience, another well—defined idea that's sure to please the crowd.
Indeed, what DeRosa calls the "scary part" actually bodes well for the heightened efficiency of Yahoo!'s usually—tardy purchase management and integration efforts. In the past, it's often taken several months or even years before any change at all is heralded in one of its many acquisitions.
Here, though, it took mere a mere 24 seconds to read from the introductory paragraph to Yahoo!'s announced intention to make a curiously unappetizing, corporate—sounding revision to the product. Using this as a normalizing metric for future developments, I feel confident that we can offer the following predictive timetable for the ongoing evolution of Tumblr.
8 a.m., Monday, May 20, 2013 — Official announcement.
9:32 a.m. — First implementation of traditionally unappetizing, corporate-brained, systematic revision of the product.
9:40 p.m. — Reports filter in of infant seizures, nightmares, following the first major apperance on national television of Tumblr CEO's eyes.
10 a.m. — First big revision to Tumblr's terms of service. Yahoo reports in a press release that the company had observed "positive uplifting sharp intakes of breath" from users paid to read them.
12 p.m. — Brunch.
1:15 p.m. — It is observed that there has yet to be a second unappetizing, corporate-brained, systematic revision of the product. People start getting nervous.
2:18 p.m. — Yahoo! announces that Tumblr! will be profitable by 3 p.m.
2:50 p.m. — EXIF data stripped from photos; it is Terry Semel's fault.
3:40 p.m. — Tumblr! press releases start to contain the phrase "a good fit" with alarming regularity.
4 p.m. — Just when everyone thought it would never happen, a great mobile app is launched. In the resulting flurry of excitement and social activity, long-dormant accounts are reused for the first time since the morning. Embarassing hours-old avatars are updated.
4:45 p.m. — Tumblr! logo appears in a leaked powerpoint under the heading "Sunset."
4:47 p.m. — Yahoo! denies that Tumblr! is to be sunsetted.
4:55 p.m. — Yahoo! announces that Tumblr! is to be sunsetted.
4:55:07 p.m. — Buzzfeed runs a list titled "40 bizarre Tumblr pages from the web's good old days."
4:56 p.m. — Yahoo! announces that Tumblr! is to be turned off in three minutes.
4:58 p.m. — The Internet Archive completes a massive project to backup Tumblr before it goes away.
5 p.m. — Yahoo! announces its acquisition of Medium.
Dan from the Journal of Ride Theory passed me a copy of the original prospectus for Disneyland -- a rare and wonderful document I've never seen or even heard of before. I'm delighted to bring it to you today. Dan explains:
I like it because I get the sense it's an edited transcript of Walt just making up fun stuff on the fly. I have no evidence for that, but I know he was good at telling stories without a script, and there's something about the phrases used that sounds a bit like Walt talking off the cuff. But what do I know?
I found it ten or so years ago, in the files of Eyerly Rides in Salem. They had a contract to build the Dumbo ride and a windmill Ferris wheel for Disney, but the deal fell through when Lee Eyerly got cancer. Also, Walt insisted the ride must load everybody all at once, while the Eyerlys knew from experience that was an inefficient way to work the queue.
At one point, somebody at Eyerly went to a bookstore and bought a Little Golden Book (or something) of Dumbo so they could have reference pictures in order to design the fiberglass elephants.
Take Walt being intractable, add the Eyerlys insisting they knew their business, then throw in cancer, and the deal fell through -- amicably, as I read the documents. Arrow Development got the contract for Dumbo. It barely worked on opening day and queues have been long for that ride ever since. The Ferris wheel idea wasn't built until Disneyland Paris.
I've got a LOT of transcripts of phone calls on that deal, and a few drawings/diagrams. Scanning all those documents is a one-of-these-days project.
Read it all the way through for an example of horrible, casual racism.
The Twelve-Fingered Boy is John Hornor Jacobs's debut young adult novel and it's amazing. It's a horror novel about Shreve, a kid from a tough background who is stuck in juvie and makes the most of it by running a black-market candy dealership; and his new roommate Jack, a quiet kid with twelve fingers and twelve toes. Jack is not the kind of kid who thrives in juvie, and Shreve takes him under his wing, trying to teach him how to get along on the inside -- but he's not very successful. Jack's extra fingers mark him out among the kids, and the worst of them smell blood when they see him and begin to circle.
But that's the least of Jack's problems. Far more worrisome is Mr Quincrux, a strange man from an unnamed government agency who seems to have the power to make the omnisuspicious guards and wardens go into a trancelike state. He's very, very interested in Jack, and particularly in how Jack landed in juvie -- an unexplained attack on his foster siblings that we quickly learn had something to do with telekinesis. Shreve quickly discovers that Mr Quincrux is an emissary for something much darker than any mere government agency, and as things escalate and Jack's powers come to the fore, it quickly becomes necessary for the pair to break out and hit the road.
Great horror novels demand likable characters -- people whose danger we can't help buy emphathise with -- and Twelve-Fingered Boy has a pair of two of the most likable characters I can remember meeting. Shreve is fast-talking, tough-as-nails, thoughtful and honorable; Jack is quiet, gentle, scarred but indomitable. Their adventures hopping trains and sneaking across the country to unravel the mysteries of the plot are part Huck Finn, part X-Men. The scary stuff in this book -- and there's some really scary stuff here -- goes beyond the usual scares of kids' horror, and is truly the stuff of nightmares. This is a book that mesmerizes like a venomous snake, and while it comes to something of a conclusion at the end of 264 too-short pages, I was delighted to learn that it is only book one of a trilogy. I'll be on the watch for the next two volumes.
Jim from the Open Rights Group writes in with the announcement for this year's ORGCon, a brilliant UK digital rights event: Legends of digital rights, Tim Wu and John Perry Barlow, will be leading Open Rights Group's 3rd national conference on June 8th. Join us for ORGCon2013 at the Institute of Engineering and Technology, Savoy Place, London for the UK's biggest digital freedoms event. ORGCon has always been a sell-out event so grab your tickets now before they all go!
This year topics covered include:
Snoopers' Charter: What's the situation now?
Jim Killock and the author's of the Digital Surveillance report on what the Government are planning next after the defeat of the Comms Data Bill.
Lessons from creative citizens: How to win at the Internet
Sci-fi author Diane Duane (Star Trek, Young Wizards), Simon Indelicate (The Indelicates) and bassist Steve Lawson will be talking about the creative ways they have developed successful artistic careers in the digital age.
What exactly is ORG anyway? Who we are and what we do
ORG staff, volunteers, Advisory Council and Board will be sharing their role in ORG and explaining what our work is all about.
Who wins when copyright and free speech clash?
Internet law expert Graham Smith (author of the mighty tome Internet Law and Regulation) and Article 19's legal officer, Gabrielle Guillemin, will be tackling this challenging question and looking at some of the conflicting principles.
How to wiretap the Cloud (without anybody noticing)
Caspar Bowden, privacy expert, will be giving explaining the serious threat to European citizens' rights from the American law, FISAA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Amendments Act).
The right to be offensive: Free speech online in the UK
Policy Head of Facebook UK, Richard Allan and free speech law expert and Jack of Kent blogger, David Allen Green will be sharing their expertise on the danger from increasing use of Section127, and debate where the UK Government stands on free speech online.
and many many more!
Sign up here: Open Rights Group - Join us at ORGCon2013!
Two minor characters from my novel Makers have apparently come to life and written an article for 3D Printing Industry. These two people are patent lawyers for Finnegan IP law firm, Washington, DC, which I don't recall making up, but this is definitely a pair of Doctorow villains (though, thankfully, I had the good sense not to give them any lines in the book -- they're far too cliched in their anodyne evil for anyone to really believe in).
These patent lawyers are upset because the evil Makers (capital-M and all!) are working with the Electronic Frontier Foundation to examine bad 3D printing patents submitted to the US Patent and Trademark Office. The problem is that 3D printing is 30 years old, so nearly all the stuff that people want to patent and lock up and charge rent on for the next 20 years has already been invented, and the pesky Makers are insisting on pointing out this inconvenient fact to the USPTO.
This breaks the established order, which is much to be preferred: the UPSTO should grant all the bullshit patents that companies apply for. The big companies can pay firms like Finnegan to file patents on every trivial, stale, ancient idea and then cross-license them to each other, but use them to block disruptive new entrants to the marketplace. The old system also has the desirable feature of arming patent trolls with the same kind of bullshit patents so that they can sue giant companies and disruptive startups alike, and Finnegan can be there to soak up the tens of millions of dollars in legal fees generated by all this activity.
Can't these darned Makers understand? The point of a patent isn't to protect novel, useful inventions! It's to put the brakes on out-of-control innovation and to ensure that the children of the partners at Finnegan can go to a good college! What will happen to GDP if we divert money from the honest business of barratry and allow it to be squandered on making and selling stuff that people find useful?
The America Invents Act changed U.S. patent law to allow preissuance submissions, a mechanism by which third parties can submit patents or printed publications to the United States Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO) for consideration during patent examination, along with “a concise description of the asserted relevance of each submitted document.” The U.S. Congress intended preissuance submissions to help the USPTO increase the efficiency of examination and the quality of issued patents. Congress did not, however, intend the use of this mechanism to interfere with patent examination. Nor did it intend preissuance submissions to allow for third party protest or preissuance opposition. Yet a segment of the 3D printing (3DP) community, known as Makers, is using preissuance submissions as a sword to oppose 3DP-related patent applications. Perhaps more importantly, they are leveraging the concept of crowdsourcing to do so, potentially creating problems for patent applicants everywhere.
To understand why and how Makers are mobilizing to challenge patents through presissuance submissions, one must first understand what 3DP is, and the composition of the 3DP community. 3D printing—more formally known as additive manufacturing—is a technology that creates three dimensional objects from CAD files. There are many legacy and emerging 3DP technologies. Generally, 3DP works by fusing layer upon layer of materials, such as plastics, powder metals, and ceramics, to build a final, fully formed product, much as Athena sprung full-blown from the head of Zeus. This process requires a digital 3D model of the product, stored in a CAD file, and a 3D printer. Digital product models can be obtained by either (1) designing the product with a CAD program; (2) downloading an existing CAD file from the Internet; or (3) scanning an existing product with a 3D scanner to create a CAD file. Further, almost anyone can buy a 3D printer today; they are sold through Skymall and at Staples. Where 3DP was once cost prohibitive for most, ‘prosumer’ and home printers are now available at reasonable prices.
(via Beyond the Beyond)
(Images: Caricature of William Otto Adolph Julius Danckwerts, Caricature of Charles Russell, Leslie Ward/Vanity Fair/Wikimedia Commons)
Alan Wexelblat comment on the news that Nintendo has claimed "monetization rights" to fan videos on YouTube that feature tips on playing its games. Some of these videos are incredibly popular, and while their use of Nintendo's creations are often fair use, Nintendo gets to use YouTube's monetization system to advertise on all the videos:
The basic idea is that if someone makes a video of themselves playing a Nintendo game and uploads it to YouTube any ads shown with that video will be of Nintendo's choosing and revenue from it will flow to Nintendo. Ads may appear beside the videos or actually be inserted before and after the video when people go to play it.
The problem here is that "Let's Play" style videos are a pervasive form of information and sharing throughout the industry. I did a quick YouTube search for "let's play" for this blog post and got back over 9.1 million hits. People create these videos to show off their skills, to highlight interesting things they've seen such as game "easter eggs", to provide guides or walk-throughs, or just to share a bit of fun with friends. There are a few professional or semi-professional games writers who use this style of video to promote themselves or their channels, but they are a tiny minority of that nine million.
Nintendo has positioned its action as a gentler approach; rather than trying to ban content related to Nintendo games, they just want to make money off it by changing the video that an individual uploaded. Yeah, um, guys that's not a whole lot better. It also comes across as cheap and lazy - rather than creating content for YouTube that fans and players would want to watch, Nintendo is just taking over other peoples' content.
Photography is not a Crime shares the story:
New York City police officers arrested a woman who was video recording them from a public sidewalk as they conducted some type of “vehicle safety checkpoint.”
The officers apparently stole a memory card from a camera, which turned out to be the wrong one, allowing us to view the video.
Top UK government officials tamper with inquest into Brit assassinated by Russian spies in London, suppress evidence
Marina Litvinenko, widow of Alexander Litvinenko (a British citizen who was assassinated in London by two former KGB agents who poisoned him with radioactive polonium) has accused the British government, Secretary of State William Hague, and PM David Cameron of sabotaging the coroner's inquest into her husband's death. Hague and Cameron intervened in the coroner's hearing to seal key evidence that implicated the Russian government in Litvinenko's killing.
Sir Robert Owen, who is leading the inquest and who has seen the material, characterised it as "documents that examined whether UK officials could have done more to prevent his murder." 's widow says that this is part of "a secret political deal with the Kremlin." This comes against a charm offensive by the UK government to increase Russian investment in Britain.
The former Labour government severed all contacts with Russia's FSB spy agency in 2007 after concluding it had played a leading role in Litvinenko's assassination. Putin is the agency's former chief.
Mrs Litvinenko added: "This is a very sad day, a tragedy for British justice which has until now been respected around the world, and a frightening precedent for all of those who have been trying so hard to expose the crimes committed by a conspiracy of organised criminals who operate inside the Kremlin."
In his ruling (pdf), Owen said the inquest scheduled to take place later this year might now result in an "incomplete, misleading and unfair" verdict.
The coroner said he would consider inviting Theresa May, the home secretary, to hold a public inquiry instead. The inquiry could hear the sensitive evidence buried by Hague in secret sessions.
The battle of the bands, featuring acts from Ireland to Israel, is underway as we speak. Embedded above is Cezar Ouatu's particularly excellent It's my life, this year's Transylvanian entry. Our Europe Correspondent Leigh Alexander will be filing a report, but not until she's had a bit of a lie down.
Do you remember the Associated Press's 2009 announcement that they had discovered a magic-beans technology that would let them stop people from quoting the news unless they paid for license fees (for quotes as short as 12 words, yet!)?
Since the launch... we heard absolutely nothing about NewsRight. There was a launch, with its newspaper backers claiming it was some huge moment for newspapers, and then nothing.
Well, until now, when we find out that NewsRight quietly shut down. Apparently, among its many problems, many of the big name news organization that owned NewsRight wouldn't even include their own works as part of the "license" because they feared cannibalizing revenue from other sources. So, take legacy companies that are backwards looking, combine it with a licensing scheme based on no legal right, a lack of any actual added value and (finally) mix in players who are scared of cannibalizing some cash cow... and it adds up to an easy failure.
AP's Attempt At DRM'ing The News Shuts Down [Mike Masnick/Techdirt]
(Image: AP: Protect, Point, Pay)
Maker Faire Bay Area is this weekend, in San Mateo, California! Pesco, Mark and I will all be there, and I'm sure many of you reading Boing Boing will be, too. Mark has been posting some great behind-the-scenes snapshots on his Instagram. And of course, the #makerfaire hashtag is a good way to peek at the flood of tweets, videos, and images attendees and organizers will be sharing today.
I will be interviewing National Geographic TV host Sean Riley about the making of his show "World's Toughest Fixes." We will also be talking about the invisible importance of heavy machinery, and of the courage it takes to be a fixer.
Among the most recent video posts you will find on our all-new video archive page:
• Child sneaks camera into school to document gross food.
• The art of brain hacking.
• Grizzly bear eats video camera.
• 11 year old and his 3D printer.
• HOWTO make glowing Converse.
• Monkey shares lollipop with puppy, then beats him with it.
• Woman smacks cop so she can go to jail and quit smoking.
I reviewed Ronald Diebert's new book Black Code in this weekend's edition of the Globe and Mail. Diebert runs the Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto and has been instrumental in several high-profile reports that outed government spying (like Chinese hackers who compromised the Dalai Lama's computer and turned it into a covert CCTV) and massive criminal hacks (like the Koobface extortion racket). His book is an amazing account of how cops, spies and crooks all treat the Internet as the same kind of thing: a tool for getting information out of people without their knowledge or consent, and how they end up in a kind of emergent conspiracy to erode the net's security to further their own ends. It's an absolutely brilliant and important book:
Ronald Deibert’s new book, Black Code, is a gripping and absolutely terrifying blow-by-blow account of the way that companies, governments, cops and crooks have entered into an accidental conspiracy to poison our collective digital water supply in ways small and large, treating the Internet as a way to make a quick and dirty buck or as a snoopy spy’s best friend. The book is so thoroughly disheartening for its first 14 chapters that I found myself growing impatient with it, worrying that it was a mere counsel of despair.
But the final chapter of Black Code is an incandescent call to arms demanding that states and their agents cease their depraved indifference to the unintended consequences of their online war games and join with civil society groups that work to make the networked society into a freer, better place than the world it has overwritten.
Deibert is the founder and director of The Citizen Lab, a unique institution at the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs. It is one part X-Files hacker clubhouse, one part computer science lab and one part international relations observatory. The Citizen Lab’s researchers have scored a string of international coups: Uncovering GhostNet, the group of Chinese hackers taking over sensitive diplomatic computers around the world and eavesdropping on the private lives of governments; cracking Koobface, a group of Russian petty crooks who extorted millions from random people on the Internet, a few hundred dollars at a time; exposing another Chinese attack directed at the Tibetan government in exile and the Dalai Lama. Each of these exploits is beautifully recounted in Black Code and used to frame a larger, vivid narrative of a network that is global, vital and terribly fragile.
Yes, fragile. The value of the Internet to us as a species is incalculable, but there are plenty of parties for whom the Internet’s value increases when it is selectively broken.
Here's a clip from an upcoming documentary by a fourth grader who snuck a camera into school to document his horrible school lunches and the vast distance between the food that the school claims to serve and food he and his friends end up eating.
Zachary is a fourth grader at a large New York City public elementary school. Each day he reads the Department of Education lunch menu online to see what is being served. The menu describes delicious and nutritious cuisine that reads as if it came from the finest restaurants. However, when Zachary gets to school, he finds a very different reality. Armed with a concealed video camera and a healthy dose of rebellious courage, Zachary embarks on a six month covert mission to collect video footage of his lunch and expose the truth about the City's school food service program.
OMICS Publishing Group, an Indian scholarly publisher has threatened to sue one of its critics, Metadata librarian Jeffrey Beall, for $1 billion, and has threatened him with prison time over posts he made to his prominent Scholarly Open Access site. OMICS cites India's terrible Information Technology Act as the basis for its threats. However, it seems unlikely that Beall would be extradited to India even if OMICS makes good on its threats, and unless he has assets in India, they'll have a hard time collecting on any judgment.
Today The Chronicle of Higher Education reports on a less amusing letter Beall received Tuesday. An Indian intellectual property management firm called IP Markets informed Beall that they would be suing for $1 billion in damages and that he could face up to three years in prison for his "deliberate attempt to defame our client." That client is OMICS Publishing Group, an India-based operation profiled several times on the blog. The group requested that Beall remove the posts and e-mail updates to anyone who published his work, yet IP Markets still intends to go through with the suit either way.
"All the allegation [sic] that you have mentioned in your blog are nothing more than fantastic figment of your imagination by you," the six-page letter reads according to The Chronicle. "Our client perceive the blog as mindless rattle of a incoherent person and please be assured that our client has taken a very serious note of the language, tone, and tenure adopted by you as well as the criminal acts of putting the same on the Internet."
I know nothing about OMICS's publishing practices, but based on how they handle their critics, I feel confident in saying that they're not the sort of firm that any scholar should be doing business with -- censoring, terrible bullies don't make good publishers.