(Digital vs Physical) vs (Owned vs Licensed)

There are really two questions being discussed here, the question of format and the question of ownership. Cory Doctrow is only talking about the question of ownership, but I think both questions are interesting.

I am a total bibliophile, I have shelves lining all the available space in my tiny apartment. The feel of a physical book .. the pages under my fingers ... it's all part of the experience. But, when it comes right down to it, it is the story, and the content that is the most important. I have an even larger number of books on my computer as .txt or .pdf files. I own these books, and they are 'physical' just as much as a regular book is. I can pass these down to my children, I can lend them out, I can give them away ... I can also make an unhindered number of copies if I want to. And, in fact many of the electronic books I own have been downloaded from some site or another and are illegal to own.

Eventually, they will make ebook readers that are bound in leather, and are an artifact in and of themselves, rather than feeling like a stiff piece of plastic. I own a Kindle, and for the most part I'm pretty happy. It lets me read my electronic books in a more convenient way. Plus, free wireless :-)

Now, the other question, that of book ownership, is a huge deal. The first question is a matter of preference, and no one cares which way you like to read your books (well, they might care, but it's not really their business). Adding DRM to a book is to deny you complete ownership. If I buy a copy of a physical book, I can photocopy it, and then bind it up to make it into another copy. I just have to pay for the paper. There are devices that will let you do this very quickly and efficiently. Creating duplicate digital copies is much easier, but it is the same principle. Before this, book publishers just banked on the majority of their readers to be too lazy to go to all that trouble, and they would only loose a small percentage of sales. But, now that it is so easy anyone can do it in seconds, they are afraid that the percentage of people who won't go and buy a copy will skyrocket.

To solve this problem, they have tried to limit that facet of ownership, but in doing so they have also limited a large number of other ownership rights, for example the right to lend an item to another person, the right to pass down a copy to a relative, and the right to not have to worry that it will disappear if the company who sold it to you goes out of business. Some of these problems have been addressed, but the idea remains that you do not actually own the book that you purchased (or game, or movie, or song, or operating system, or whatever).

The World

I made the following map - it is not very scientific, and was done by eye. This is a map of browser preference by country. It is very interesting! Internet Explorer (Blue), Firefox (Orange) and Opera (Red) are the only browsers with a majority in any one country. Chrome shows up as a major contender in a few countries, but is never the top browser (yet).

Dr. Horrible vs the Mean Green Mama from Outer Space

On the face of things, Dr. Horrible's Sing-along Blog and Little Shop of Horrors don't have too much in common (except, they both are musicals ... )

The plot synopsizes from IMDb:

"An aspiring supervillain must balance his career and his pursuit of a beautiful do-gooder."

"A nerdish florist finds his chance for success and romance with the help of a giant man-eating plant who demands to be fed."

But, as I watched Little Shop of Horrors yesterday, all of the little similarities struck me. Before I go on, this is just a fun exercise - both shows are amazing and worth watching more than once :-)

Our Cast of Characters (both of these shows cast actors who were not known for their singing rather than Broadway stars)
Dr. Horrible              Little Shop of Horrors
Billy / Dr. Horrible Seymore
Penny Audrey
Captain Hammer Orin (Dentist)
The Evil League of Evil The Plant from Outer Space
The Fans The Greek Chorus

The storyline in Little Shop starts before Dr. Horrible, as we see our hero meet and grow attached to what will soon be controlling them (the plant and the league).

Both of our heroes are madly in love with a girl that they work with / see at the laundromat. But, they cannot just tell them how they feel - or even talk to her, in Dr. Horrible's case.

Both girls have had a tough life, and are going out with a guy who doesn't love them, or even really like them, and is just using/abusing them.

Both boyfriends are in a position of power (hero/dentist), and love to control others. After seeing the two together, Billy and Seymore sing about how the world seems so wrong, and is falling apart.

"Listen close to everybody's heart
And hear that breaking sou - nd.
Hopes and dreams are shattering apart
And crashing to the ground.

I cannot believe my eyes
How the world's filled with filth and lies!"


She deserves a prince, not a sadistic creep like him.
The man's a total disgrace to the dental profession.
l don't know what's going on, sometimes. Seems like the whole world's going crazy.

Moving on with the plot ... The hero keeps doing what the plant/league asks in an effort to get the girl - that's their real goal. Neither of them realize that they could get her on their own, because the girl likes them as well.

One key difference here is the consequences of following the plant's/league's orders: Seymore gets what he wanted (plus some), where Billy loses everything ...

Things come to a head, and the plant/league asks for a life. Billy and Seymore both are shocked, and refuse - but are convinced after seeing their love and her awful boyfriend together, and resolve to kill him.

They come to the boyfriend with a Gun, almost shoot him, and then the boyfriend accidentally kills himself / sends him crying for his mama. Either way, he is off the scene. For a few moments, Dr. Horrible thinks he has everything he wanted ...

After feeding the plant a couple bodies, Seymore realizes he can leave, but just as he is about to have everything he ever wanted ...

Penny is dead, and Audrey is eaten by the plant.

Now in the movie-musical, the hero saves the girl, and they live happily ever after. But in the original movie, and the theater version of the musical, both the hero and the girl are eaten by the plant, who then takes over the world.

This is a great article detailing why this was an unfortunate change, as it erases the moral message of the show (murder is bad, and has consequences).

Electronic Arts and the Shareholders

I've been reading Twenty Sided by Shamus Young, who really gets on EA's case about making stupid decisions (DRM, bad games, unfinished games, stupid games, DRM, etc). He blames most of those decisions on EA's board of directors wanting to please the shareholders. (the idiocy of that whole system is a topic for another time)

So, my idea as I was waking up this morning - what if you got a collective of gamers together, and each of them bought at least one share in the company (preferably much more, as shares are only $20 right now). If they got enough members, they would become a major shareholder in the company, and be able to influence the way the company is run by more than just their buying habits.

Anyone out there an expert on this type of thing? If you got only 10,000 gamers to join with $100 investment, you would have control over $1,000,000 .. would EA listen if you threatened to sell it all? EA has to listen to their shareholders, but their shareholders probably aren't going to be the ones buying the games - and could care less about the quality - they are just there to look after their money, and if EA is making money, it's all good. But, the gamers are looking for quality, which would also lead to more money. It's how all of these companies got started, and now that they have made it, they push their way through the competition with marketing, even if their games suck.

What about the Ninjas?

I've been reading Naruto (Japanese Manga) for the last couple days. It's the story of a young boy who wants to be the best Ninja in the village so that everyone will finally notice him.

The village that this story takes place in has a strong focus on fighting and physical expertise, as its main purpose is training new ninjas. One of the other characters is a strategist rather than a fighter, but is still being trained only to fight because that's "how it's done."

All of this got me thinking about people's talents and how most of us aren't becoming what we do best. In a perfect world, each of us would get to do whatever we were best at. Some would be scholars, some artists, some builders, some inventors, and so on.

But, where in all of today's world would an actual Ninja fit in? Wars are fought with machines and long range missiles. People are generally peaceful toward each other, and when they aren't they also use guns rather than hand to hand tests of strength.

In more primitive times, the warrior was one of the most praised members of society. Everyone's life depended on their strength and skills as a fighter. They would have gotten the best food, the most wealth and the best women (those that lived, anyway). But, today we don't really need that type of warrior, and we certainly don't treat them the same way ... ?

Just because we don't need them, doesn't mean that those people who would have been our great warriors don't exist. What are they doing? Are they the bikers that you see in bars, just waiting to pick a fight? Football players, other athletes, janitors, police, gym teachers?

Another whole group of people who no longer have a high place in our society are crafts-people. We buy our goods en mass from Asia/India. Emphasis is placed on everything being the same, reproducible rather than artistic and unique. Our artisans either get lucky and sell over-priced goods at fairs and boutiques or they get a desk job - most not even realizing that creativity would have been their occupation in other times and places.

On the flip side of this coin, I would have been a peasant farm worker rather than a web designer. There was not a lot of need for thinkers or philosophers back in the day (unless you were rich or got really lucky).

Our culture has changed from being based on strength and force to brains and trickery. This has been good for some and bad for others ... It's just the wheel of fortune that always keeps things interesting.

If I could get a message into everyone's head it would be that you don't have to wait for someone to appreciate your efforts, or to pay your way - do what you are good at, and don't let social expectations keep you back. We should have more ninjas in the world.