Archives for September 2003

Protection for databases

A Dangerous Law
Here comes another Modernist attempt to control information. The Database and Collections of Information Misappropriation Act of 2003 is being considered by 2 House committees. The bill is supported by companies with a lot to gain and opposed by those who see danger in the shadows. Essentially, it grants copyright-like protection to databases, such as LexisNexis (which includes things like information on all court cases). The potential consequences of the Act, according to opponents like NetCoalition, the ACLU, and several libraries, go far beyond the its intent and include such things as liability for search engines, which routinely search databases to fulfill search requests. This is one of those cases where the age-old “law of unintended consequences” is sufficient to label it a bad idea. Technology is certainly capable of making database theft very difficult. Greed is the issue here. These companies want the legislation to give them protected status and reduce their need to protect resources on their own. Postmodernism rejects this kind of thinking as elitism. It’s a terrible idea and a dangerous law.

Fiber Optics in homes

Fiber optic FTTP in homes
In 1986, while working as News Director of KLTV in Tyler, Texas, I originated the first live coverage of an event via fiber optics. We didn’t have a satellite truck, and there was a big trial in San Antonio that demanded live coverage. 3 phone companies worked with us and the result was magnificent (and widely covered in the trades). During that time, I got to know many fiber experts, and we all agreed that one day the copper wire leading into your home would be replaced by the infinite bandwidth of fiber. “Too expensive,” came the cries of realists. Ah, but what about this? The local cooperative telephony company in Bascom, Ohio (outside Toledo) is deploying FTTP (Fiber To The Premises) in the area surrounding Fostoria and Tiffin, Ohio. “We can’t live on dial tone alone,” says Bascom Mutual Telephone General Manager Dennis Depinet in an article in Broadband Reports that has some joyful comments from readers. It’ll be decades before fiber is available in homes throughout the country, but ultimately the market will force it to happen. It boggles the imagination, for with FTTP, it’s possible to have a recording session with a drummer in London, a keyboardist in New Orleans, guitar players from Nashville and Los Angeles, and singers in Toronto, Seattle and Miami all doing their thing in real-time with no delay. Light speed. The only way to fly.

Bundled Services Report

Bundled Services – Vying for your business
“Bundling is the holy grail,” said Brahm Eiley, president of Convergence Consulting Group Ltd (CCG) in Toronto. He’s talking about combining cable, Internet and telephone service into homes. CCG is releasing a major study, “The Battle for the North American Couch Potato,” a sweeping report that looks at the data and strategies of Canada and the United States’ largest cable, telecommunications, technology, games and music providers. The report suggests TV will remain “the center of the universe” of bundled services but that high-speed Internet access and PVRs are a part of the new bundled mix. By the way, broadband in Canada has a 60% reach.

Fan Fiction craze

Fan Fiction: Interacting with TV shows
Much has been written in this space about Postmodernism being the Age of Participation, and now comes a new fan craze based on interacting with favorite television programs. It’s called Fan Fiction, Websites that invite fans to write their own endings to their favorite shows. And they are hot, hot, hot! “In a way, it’s a form of making the show interactive. They’ve gone from being spectators to being creators,” said J.R. Orci, a writer for Alias. “It creates a community where people give each other feedback and some people must go on to be published writers.” Programs with the most avid fan fiction writers tend to be dramas like “24,” “CSI,” and “Without a Trace,” but people also write about sitcoms like “Friends.” Orci said he isn’t allowed to view the sites because of potential lawsuits if a script he writes is similar to fan stories.

Gruesome video clips

“Let me decide for myself.”
This is the mantra of Postmoderns (Pomos), who resist authority and what they view as the elitism of the media. They don’t like it when somebody else (the media) determines what they can or can’t see or read. The phrase popped up Sunday in a fascinating (and important) article in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette about gruesome news video that’s showing up on the Internet. Video that’s “spiked” by producers and editors — because it’s too offensive for general viewing — routinely winds up on sites like First amendment lawyer, Lawrence G. Walters, represents the site and is quoted in the article. “They get most of the extremely graphic news footage that other news stations refuse to air,” Walters said. “There is legitimate interest in seeing what’s really happening out there in the world. A lot of people say, ‘Let me decide for myself.'” Frankly, it’s not for me, but then I’m just a Modernist guy with a weak stomach.

Product Placement

Queer Eye, the product placement magnet
I was asked at a seminar recently to describe the term “product placement” to the audience. I was making the point that the decline of the 30-second commercial was imminent and that advertisers were searching for new ways to display their wares. Hence, the effort to place products within the programming itself. AdAge reports today that the hit show, Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, has become the textbook model for product placement. Watch the show sometime with this in mind. The program features 5 gay men who help some hapless straight guy with a complete living-space-and-personal makeover prior to some important life event, most often involving the opposite sex. Paint, make-up, and liquor companies have already paid to have the Fab-5, as they’re known, use their products during the makeover. Many others have sent out feelers. There’s a line, I think, that a program producer can cross using the product placement model where it becomes a Saturday Night Live skit. It’s heretofore been a no-no for the news business, although I clearly remember a time when the weather was “brought to you by” and the weather guy did live commercials. We shall see.