Daily Archives: July 30, 2006

On leaving UserLand products behind

I’ve finally cleaned up the last of my Radio UserLand life. I’ve unsubscribed from all of the websites for their products and the owner’s weblogs. Jake Savin’s long since moved on to Microsoft and Lawrence Lee is the only one steering the ship at this point. I’ve unsubscribed from his weblog because it’s only a shadow of it’s former self.

I’ve stopped using the software and it feels very good. NetNewsWire is good for news aggregating and most of all, it runs well on almost any Mac. This aging G3 iBook will load and use it without complaint. The switch to WordPress was a breeze, but I’m still missing some content from the old days I’d like to have.

The best part about the whole thing has been the utter lack of issues. I write more often because my tools don’t get in the way. For example, in MarsEdit, I have a custom layout for attributed posts set in my prefs. In NetNewsWire, when I selected some of the body text of a post I wanted to quote, NNW only sent the selected part to MarsEdit–exactly what I would have hoped. It’s a silent feature, one that you won’t hear much about, but it shows that the programmer was a craftsman.

Radio UserLand has always been slapdash–hurry up and write it and move on. Now that I’m learning more about software programming, it’s errors are more obvious and more disappointing.

It served me well for years, but I’m glad I finally killed my copy of Radio.

A Frank thinking makes me think about copyrights.

After [Andrew Grumet](http://blog.grumet.net/) pointed me to [zeFrank](http://zefrank.com/theshow), I’ve been watching it more often. The last two episodes on copyright infringment and it’s implications are a subtle but effective call to action. As more and more people are able to create their own content, it devalues professional creative works. That means that people’s perception of the value of a video is different today than it was years ago because there’s “so much of it” laying around.

Here’s an allegory:

In times past, a farmer had an apple farm. It was the only apple farm for miles. People paid the farmer for access to the apples, sometimes with money and sometimes with goods and services. The amount of apples each person took was generally equal to the amount of money or goods traded.

As time marched on, other people in the area tried to grow apples. A few were successful as apple farmers and, in their excitement, passed on the knowledge to others. Soon, nearly everyone could grow their own apples and many did.

The old farmer’s life had changed since the early days. Many people took apples from his farm and gave them to others. Their reasoning was that since everyone seemed to have all of the apples they needed, there was no harm in taking apples from anyone since they wouldn’t be missed.

Returning to real life…

People who create things for a living do so in exchange for value. Very few people I know simply create something for the greater good of humankind. Brent Simmons writes software so he and his wife (and his employer) can pay their bills, go on vacations and even save for retirement. My wife (a metalsmith) creates jewelry to sell to galleries and retail shops. She hopes that making things in exchange for money will become a way of life for her. Her designs are copyrighted as a way to protect her *intellectual* property. That property is real, even though it’s hard to see. You can’t dig up that property plant a garden and that concept of the tangible is hard to understand for younger generations.

A typical 18 to 24 year old person that has the equipment and knowledge to copy a Daily Show video from TV to their computer will quickly share that file with others. Some will even post that video to a site like YouTube.


In nearly all cases, it comes down to social status. People can gain social status by performing feats not generally thought possible. I’m sure there plenty of people who think that posting a Daily Show video on YouTube is possible, but not easy. Those people place the poster in a higher social status than others. Notice I didn’t say more positive, just higher. To one group, that person is a social aggravator or practices civil disobedience. To another, that same person is a greater (or higher) threat to intellectual property.

What this comes down to is something we’ve all heard and most ignore:

“If everyone put their head in a toilet, would you?”

In other words, just because you can find hundreds or thousands of copyrighted video clips on YouTube doesn’t mean it’s OK to post more. Just because your cell phone has a camera, you can’t take pictures of pages in a magazine so you can use that information later. The creator of that content has rights and in most cases, the publisher of the content has paid the creator to access and distribute that content. When you upload a copyrighted video clip or take pictures of a MAKE Magazine project with your cell phone camera, you’re stealing. Period.

Your personal integrity is sometimes the only measure of your character. Each upload or picture dilutes the purity of your personality until what’s left is only a fraction of it’s former worth.

Get up from your computer and go look in a mirror. Ask yourself *out loud* if you’ve ever stolen something. Your integrity will answer. You’ll also know it’s time to stop.