Bob Dylan on Recording Technology

Not that he’s necessarily an expert, but he does have a *little* experience: Dylan says modern recordings “atrocious”pdf

“I don’t know anybody who’s made a record that sounds decent in the past 20 years, really,” the 65-year-old rocker said in an interview with Rolling Stone magazine.

[…] Noting the music industry’s complaints that illegal downloading means people are getting their music for free, he said, “Well, why not? It ain’t worth nothing anyway.”

Later: The Rolling Stone pointer to an online excerpt

A Little Blog Cheerleading

Since it looks like today’s entries are about web business models, here’s a frankly positive look at the business of blogging; from Business 2.0 via CNN: Blogging for Dollarspdf

With Internet-like speed, blogs have gone from self-indulgent hobbies to flourishing businesses. Real businesses, with real revenue streams from real advertisers–not overhyped next big things with pick-a-number valuations based on selling out someday to some overenthusiastic big-media sugar daddy. Boing Boing, a four-person operation that bills itself as a directory of wonderful things, is on track to gross an estimated $1 million in ad revenue this year. The digital-media news site, headquartered in the second bedroom of a Santa Monica apartment, is set to post even more than that. And, a site packed with sophomoric humor run by a lone guy in Lexington, Ky., is on pace to become a multimillion-dollar property. In short, some of the most popular blogs, long the bane of the mainstream media, are themselves becoming mainstream.

What has changed? [….]

Dataveillance Technologies & Policies

  • Planes: Officials Seek Broader Access to Airline Data

    United States and European authorities, looking for more tools to detect terrorist plots, want to expand the screening of international airline passengers by digging deep into a vast repository of airline itineraries, personal information and payment data.

    A proposal by Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff would allow the United States government not only to look for known terrorists on watch lists, but also to search broadly through the passenger itinerary data to identify people who may be linked to terrorists, he said in a recent interview.

    Similarly, European leaders are considering seeking access to this same database, which contains not only names and addresses of travelers, but often their credit card information, e-mail addresses, telephone numbers and related hotel or car reservations.

    […] “This is a confirmation of our warnings that once you let the camel’s nose under the tent, it takes 10 minutes for them to want to start expanding these programs in all different directions,” said Jay Stanley, a privacy expert at the American Civil Liberties Union.

    Later: U.S. Seeks to Expand Data-Sharing: Retention of Airline Passenger Details Raises Privacy Concerns in E.U. – pdf

  • Trains: Bomb Plot Shocks Germans Into Antiterrorism Debate

    Germany, owing largely to its Nazi past, has been reluctant to pursue more aggressive antiterrorism measures that are standard in Britain and the United States. Berlin and other cities have far fewer surveillance cameras than does London, and the government does not keep a central antiterrorism database.

    Now, though, there is widening support for more sweeping measures, specifically in the area of video surveillance and the collection of data on suspicious people.

    “We must continue to discuss the balance between video surveillance, which I’m totally in favor of, data protection and the restriction of certain rights,” Mrs. Merkel said at a news conference in Berlin.

    […] It is inevitable, Mr. Tophoven said, that Germany would install a surveillance network as extensive as that in Britain. There are already some video cameras in train stations and along the autobahn.

    The scope of the proposed antiterrorism database remains in dispute. Germany’s data-protection commission would support a database that included basic information, like names, addresses and motor vehicle registrations, according to a spokeswoman, Ira von Wahl.

    But a richer database — known as a full-text database — would raise privacy concerns, Ms. von Wahl said, by making a wide range of personal information available to the police and other authorities.

  • Automobiles: Carmakers must tell buyers about “black boxes”pdf

    The government will not require recorders in autos but said on Monday that car makers must tell consumers when technology that tracks speed, braking and other measurements is in the new vehicles they buy.

    […] Privacy experts complained that consumer interests are not fully protected and information captured by recorders can be exploited.

WaPo OpEd Supporting Google BookSearch

And striking a blow for open access, while they’re at it — by Richard Ekman. president of the Council of Independent Colleges: The Books Google Could Openpdf

The nation’s colleges and universities should support Google’s controversial project to digitize great libraries and offer books online. It has the potential to do a lot of good for higher education in this country.

The rapid annual increase in the number of new books and journals, coupled with far-reaching technological innovations, is changing relations between academia and the publishing industry. In the recent past, college and university libraries collaborated with publishers in creating online collections of selected published works. But now many in the publishing industry are opposing the new digital catalogue of published works created by Google — Book Search — even as many librarians hail it as a way to expand access to millions of published works.

[…] Unfortunately, Book Search has vociferous critics. Some publishers have filed lawsuits to stop the project, alleging that Google is violating copyright law. The legal questions will eventually be settled in the courts, but those of us who are researchers and readers of books and articles ought to be disturbed by the loss of trust among publishers and libraries, which a decade ago embraced technological innovation and collaboration.

[…] Unfortunately, this is not the first time that publishers have resisted an important technology instead of figuring out how to use it to their advantage. Music publishers a century ago tried to stop the manufacture of player pianos because they feared that sales of sheet music would decline. In fact, player pianos helped increase the number of buyers of sheet music.

New technologies and new ways of doing business can be disruptive, but they are inevitable. The transition to new technologies can be smooth or rough, depending on the attitudes of the institutional actors. The goal is to make more of the world’s information readily available to users.

The Internet: Lowering Transactions Costs All Over

Targeting Likely Advocates With Web Adspdf

In contemporary Washington, a C.P.A. is more than a person who does your taxes. It’s the newest front in congressional persuasion.

To trade groups hunting for legislative supporters, C.P.A. means Cost Per Advocate, and it refers to the amount they have to spend to sign up a single citizen-activist for their causes. The average C.P.A., by the way, is roughly $5.

That’s right, to win over the voluntary services of a voter back home to push an agenda, a company or interest group needs to lay out a mere five spot. These lobbyists-for-a-day can be called upon to send e-mails, make phone calls or even visit their members of Congress to make the lobby’s case.

[…] Lately, Internet advertising has been on the rise as a way to locate supporters, helping to lower the C.P.A. By minutely monitoring the effectiveness of Web-based commercials that invite people to sign up, interest groups are now able to alter their ads almost by the hour and conserve money.

Thanks to such quick-footedness, the $5-per-new-advocate average is commonplace at the OnPoint Advocacy arm of Alexandria-based Democracy Data & Communications LLC, a leading vendor of Internet technology for lobbying firms.

I’ve written before about the use of online ads to attract grass-roots activists. But when DDC and OnPoint offered to explain in detail how they refine their commercials, I decided to revisit the subject.

Some people (maybe many) will be appalled. They will see these efforts as manipulative, the kind of powerful tool that only wealthy interests can afford. Nonetheless, this is the future — and the present — of lobbying. It needs to be discussed.

A Culture of Openness?

Or confusion? Kids Say the Darndest Things in Their Blogspdf

Unlike their parents, today’s youth have grown up in the age of public disclosure. Keeping an Internet diary has become de rigueur; social lives and private thoughts are laid bare. For parents in high-profile positions, however, it means their children can exploit a generational disconnect to espouse their own points of view, or expose private details perhaps their parents wish they would not.

“All the things I’ve typed in my blog I’ve argued with my father about,” like whether mergers hurt customers, something Jared Watts said he thinks does inconvenience consumers. But publicly criticizing his company is not the same as a personal attack on the father who supports him “100 percent,” he said.

[…] The gossip site has made a minor sport out of exposing what newsmakers’ offspring have done on the Web. There was Tennessee Republican Senate candidate Bob Corker’s daughter’s Facebook page, for example, which showed her locking lips with another woman and dancing in what appeared to be her underwear.

Suzanne Vega’s Online “Presence”

The Second Life efforts in music promotion continue: Hear the Music, Avoid the Mosh Pitpdf

Musician Suzanne Vega got her start in the New York folk scene, but now the 1980s star has found a following in cyberspace.

With the help of some programmers, Vega created a 3D animated image of herself, called an avatar, and she recently performed inside a world accessible only through a Web site, where other people represented by avatars attended the concert, streamed live to computers all over the globe.

[…] Marketing and record label executives say Web sites that put users into video-game-like virtual worlds are a unique way to reach out to audiences, who are increasingly spending their time and money on the computer instead of at concerts and music stores. Although still experimental, such sites offer fans more ways to interact with one another and band members directly.

[…] Other, lesser-known bands and musicians who typically have used social networking site to build a following are also turning up on Second Life and other virtual worlds, such as, to showcase their music.

“A virtual world brings something to the table that a Web site doesn’t — it’s building a more immersive experience. . . . You kind of lose yourself in it,” said Ethan Kaplan, director of technology for Warner Bros. Records, who said he has played around with Second Life for years. “It’s really cool and a lot more fun and creative than just putting a MySpace page up.”

[…] The concept is attractive to a music industry looking to woo a new generation of fans who are used to interacting online. “There are no more music videos — MTV doesn’t show them, so we decided wouldn’t it be cool if you could create an experience in a virtual world where you allow the user to be part of the music video with their friends?” said Reuben Steiger, president of marketing and consulting firm Millions of Us, which works with music labels to develop a virtual-world presence for artists.

His team built the Manhattan lofts for singer Regina Spektor and was surprised by the response. “There were parties around the clock in these lofts. It began to attract people who had never heard of Regina, and it wasn’t overt marketing,” Steiger said. “The more important thing was these were cool environments where people were meeting people they wouldn’t have met before.”

A Look At News Corps’ Moves Online

Fox’s Digital Empire, Going Up Floor by Floorpdf

One roof, hundreds of millions of Internet viewers.

In a glass-and-stone building on a leafy side street, media giant News Corp. has consolidated some of the hottest trend-setting properties of the online world.

The third floor is where 300 employees of help some 100 million young people post profiles on the Internet’s most popular Web site, creating a prized advertiser demographic. One floor below is the home of, which shares space with and Fox Mobile Entertainment. On the ground floor are Fox’s digital labs, where new ideas are dreamed up, implemented or discarded.

In all, this building of 700 employees is the hub of Fox Interactive Media, the year-old digital division of parent company News Corp., created with last summer’s purchase of MySpace. Its job: Figure out a way to make serious money from delivering mobile and Internet content and wring advertising revenue from MySpace. Chief executive Rupert Murdoch has projected that Fox Interactive’s revenue will top $660 million by the end of next year.

[…] Each of the major media companies has a similar division or divisions focusing on digital content and distribution, but none of the others has herded its major players into one building and tried to create an integrated unit from the ground up, as News Corp. has.

In an e-mail, Murdoch called Fox Interactive “vital to the long-term future of the company” and proclaimed its first year “a great start but, of course, I’m not content.”

Speaking of The Changing Business Climate

Speculation on the future of music (CD?) retail: Tower Records Will Auction Its Assets

The parent company of Tower Records, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on Sunday, is seeking to sell its assets through a court-supervised auction Oct. 5.

The company, which operates 89 stores in 20 states and is owned by the privately held MTS Inc., said yesterday that it needed to close the sale by mid-October to prepare for the holiday shopping season, when it has about 32 percent of its annual sales.

[…] “The brick-and-mortar specialty music retail industry has suffered substantial deterioration recently,” Tower said in court papers. The company made its Chapter 11 filing in United States Bankruptcy Court in Wilmington, Del.

[…] Russ Crupnick, a music and movies industry analyst for the NPD Group, said, “It’s kind of shocking how many pure-play music retailers have closed down in the time that we’ve been tracking the market.”

Later: A Broken Record Storepdf

Tower represents a time when music had a different cultural status than it does today, as songs vie for attention with newer pastimes such as video games, Internet surfing and instant messaging. Its financial faltering — this is its second bankruptcy filing since 2004 — signals not only corporate problems but also a shift in how people shop and think about music in their lives.

AOL Search Data Release Fallout

AOL Moves to Increase Privacy on Search Queries

AOL announced the resignation of its chief technology officer yesterday, two weeks after the company came under intense criticism from privacy advocates for releasing hundreds of thousands of its customers’ Web search queries.

An AOL researcher who put the queries online and a manager overseeing the project were dismissed, according to an AOL employee who did not want to be identified because the company does not comment publicly on personnel matters.

[…] Nearly 20 million discrete search queries, representing the personal Internet hunting habits of more than 650,000 AOL customers gathered over a three-month period last spring, were posted by a company researcher, Abdur Chowdhury, on a publicly accessible Web site late last month.

No user names were attached to the query data, which was intended for use by search engine researchers in academia. But word of the data — which provided an intimate, sometimes disturbing look into what Americans search for on the Web — spread through the blog circuit and immediately began raising questions about the sorts of privacy consumers were entitled to when they used search engines.

See earlier Why Search Logging Is A Privacy Issue

Later (Aug 28) — an article from The Guardian: They know all about youpdf