Third Portion of Feet Kickin’…

where we enter the final phase.

Completing his contemplation, the Author now ponders lunch.

After the last two articles, I know what you’re thinking, “If piracy is a reality and one that will be more accepted as time goes by, then how do I make money in these uncertain times?”  Well, I’m glad you asked fake person serving as a written stratagem.  The answer is:  I don’t know.

Helpful, huh?  Allow me to clarify, I don’t know what will be the answer for you.  The old easy answer of find a publisher/producer/movie studio is becoming increasingly irrelevant.  Currently there is no tried and true business model to step into the breach.  The good news is, you might be the one to discover it!  Perhaps something you do will be “The Answer” to earning money from content in the Digital Age.  I can tell you where things are likely to go and what direction to start looking for something to try.

The direction in which things are heading is called the “long tail”.  Basically that amounts to a bunch of moderately popular or niche markets and some big, hugely popular blockbuster markets.  That is good news because that means you can earn a living in that long tail and more people can do that.  All you really need to do is find your niche and make yourself known.

In terms of what you should try, it amounts to Connect with Fans [CWF] and Reason to Buy [RTB].  CWF RTB is the summation of finding a niche market, marketing yourself or your product to them and then giving them a reason to buy that product.  How do you do that?  Well one way is to give away the infinite to sell the scarce.

Which brings us back to piracy.  The entirety of the piracy infrastructure is perfectly setup to distribute media at no cost.  Whatever it may cost you to produce a movie, song, or book you can distribute it for free just by putting it on a file sharing site/bit torrent/whatever.  This is the hard part, stop thinking of selling your work.  Think of your work as advertising.

So if your work is advertising, what do you sell?  Well, what is scarce?  Creativity, for one thing.  There is a rapper who offers to write diss raps for $20.  That creativity is a scarce commodity and as such he is able to sell it.  Furthermore, this rapper benefits from people hearing his style, since that allows him to sell to more customers.  So it is his best interest to see his works pirated.

You can also sell tangible products.  T-Shirts are often derided this way, but there are no shortage of people employing this tactic.  Beer cozies, CDs, books, people still want to own things and you can capitalize on that.  What’s more you don’t need to limit yourself to tangible goods.

You can sell creativity, As in the example of the rapper, or you can sell access.  Backstage passes exist for a reason, customers love to have access to the creators they love.  What’s more they will pay for it.  Are you a musician?  Sell a private concert.  Are you an author?  Sell a private reading.  Actually, if you’re an author, sell a trip to the bar with them.  Are you an actor?  Sell an appearance in a play or movie (think community) or just a public appearance.  Your time is scarce and as such can be sold appropriately.

Thanks for sitting through this.  I hope it was informative and useful.  If anything, it was probably too short.  There was a lot more that I could say on this subject, but I think what’s down is more than enough to whet a whistle or two.  I hope I whetted your whistle.

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Second Portion of Feet Kickin’…

Upon fruther contemplation, this thing is a Speak and Spell.

back to reality.

As the great Timbaland once said, “It’s been a long time.  We shouldn’t have left you, without a dope beat to step to.”  Though in this case, “we” means “me” and the “dope beat” is an “article about piracy”.  Other than that, exactly the same.

So, let’s get to it!

As I promised last week, I would like to discuss here why piracy is not morally wrong.  Keep in mind it may be “illegal” without being immoral, in that it is a violation of intellectual property rights.  Copyright specifically.  I would love to get into the etymology of intellectual property rights in the US, but that is another article entirely.

The first thing to address is the disconnect in perception between free music and piracy.  Free music is available everywhere.  The radio has long been a source of it.  Top 40 hits stations, college stations that play entire albums and classical stations (to name a few) are plentiful and easily found on the FM dial.  Business such as restaurants, stables, doctor offices, even the elevators that convey you to these places all have music lilting through the air.  Heck, go to any of a wide selection of bars and you can get live music for free.  Yet piracy, also freely available music, is widely criticised.  I think the hang up resides with “ownership” of the music.  I say ownership with quotes because of it is a separate discussion regarding right of first sale.  This “owning” of free music is the same thing that queered a bunch of people out regarding the tape deck.  Being able to freely make a copy of music played on the radio was a big issue for a while.  Same with VCRs.

Now, I know what you’re saying, “That’s bullshit, it’s just other people paying for it, not you.”  True.  Radio pays royalties to artists, businesses license a muzak service, and free bar bands may be paid in any number of ways (or they may be promoting for free).  However, the crux of the argument is that this music is free to the listener.  There are arguments that you pay indirectly through using the business, listening to advertisements, or eating at the restaurant.  Those arguments miss the point.  The point is whether you need pay for the music in order to listen to something.  Yes you buy the radio, but you do not buy the music.  Same goes with the others.  You may buy drinks or other goods and services, but not the music.  This helps create a culture of ubiquitous free music.

Which feeds into my next point, that immorality is a function of cultural norms.  And the norms they are a-changin’.  To examine this, let’s look at women’s ankles.  I mean, really just look at them.  How alluring and provocative they are.  Just sitting there all… joint like and graceful in their movement.  Does this not titillate and offend you?  If not, they may be because you are not from the 19th century.  Yet at that time it was considered indecent and immoral to display them publicly.  The consumption of alcohol is something who’s morality has been argued religiously and politically for centuries across nearly every culture.  Is it moral to consume alcohol?  Well that depends on who you ask.

So let’s look at music.  You can listen to it without buying, and have been able to do so for a while.  People still get all defensive when you make a copy of it, be it analog or digital.  Is this changing?  Seems to be.  Perhaps related to the inevitable march of technology, “kids these days” are more comfortable downloading than the older timers.  Going back to alcohol for a second Prohibition demonstrated two things:  You can make anything illegal and just because something has been made illegal doesn’t mean people consider it immoral.  In time, piracy will be considered in the same light, I hope to expedite that process.

I believe the fundamental concern for all this is the misunderstanding between price and value.  Just because something has a price, does not mean it has values and vice-versa.  Let us examine bottled water, shall we.  Water is pretty close to free in the United States.  Fill a bottle for perhaps a penny.  Surely the stupidest thing you could do is offer the same bottle for two dollars, right?  And yet, with a projected 86 billion dollar market in 2011 it seems you can.  What the fuck?  The water does not cost anymore than the water from the tap, or it costs marginally more, yet the value difference is huge.  This applies in reverse to piracy.  You can charge $15 for a CD, $20 for a DVD and $60 for a game, that’s fine.  The question that must be asked though, is what value does the consumer place on those items?  If it isn’t any of those numbers respectively, then you are shit out of luck.  It is in that way that piracy does not necessarily represent lost sales.  For if the customer would never buy them then there is no sale to be lost.  Interestingly enough, piracy can act as a form of advertising and advertising is nothing more than a way to raise the value of a product.  So guess what, if people pirate your work enough, it just might make you more money.

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PAX Based Feet Kickin’…

because it’s all I think about right now.

In line for Kurtz and Straub. Easily the best panel in the world. Ever.

PAX Prime just wrapped and the after party was a Scott Pilgrim movie viewing.  Seemed like a good way to cap off three days of unadulterated nerdom.  Do you even understand what that means?  There was absolutely no adulteration to the nerdliness!  Considering how very, very little I usually disguise my nerdish-ness, one can only imagine the appalling level of nerdery conducted on the premises of the Seattle Convention Center.  But I digress, we were discussing PAX.

Now then, PAX is Penny Arcade eXpo.  Which comes to Seattle once a year on Labor Day weekend.  Its bounty consists of video games, board games, D&D, Magic, Cosplay, Music and any number of more specialized activities.  It is hosted by Penny Arcade and attended by a large number of luminaries in the aforementioned areas.  Much like a Sailor Moon costume, the place was literally full to bursting with dork.  Huh.  Looking back on that sentence, I probably should’ve gone with a Tokyo hooker joke and really nailed the double entendre.  Oh well, whatcha ya gonna do.

I am not possessed of the ability of recall necessary to relate everything that happened at the convention.  Instead, I will tell you three short stories that I hope will illustrate how much fun was had.

Number A:  Rooster Teeth (RT) is a group that makes Red vs Blue, Achievement Hunter and RT Shorts.  All series I am deeply enamored of.  I have a number of friends who also enjoy their work, one of which was unable to attend PAX.  This friend asked me to obtain some merchandise for them.  Now, I feel I should state that RT is a pretty popular group, thus rendering purchasing from them an ordeal.  As I arrived at their booth, I discovered this fact for myself.  I walked up near where they were sitting and then over to the merchandise thinking I would simply buy some.  I was misinformed.  “The line starts back there”, the Enforcer (the people actually running PAX) said, gesturing vaguely in a direction.  I thought initially that the vagueness was because he was somewhat disinterested in where the line was in general and my waiting in it in specific.  Not so!  The vagueness had to do with the difficulty of perceiving the end of the line from his vantage point.  I discovered this because when I stood the two hundred feet away where the line began, I could not in fact see him or my goal.  Awesome.  A scant 45 minutes later, I had returned to my original place a little older, a little wiser.  I bought my merchandise and moved over to have it signed.  I was lucky enough to be able to speak with both the creator and my favorite character, “Burnie” Burns and Joel “Caboose” Heyman respectively.  More importantly, these two were the favorites of the friend this item was for.  I spoke to each of them for five minutes a piece, what I’m sure is a lifetime to them when they have fifteen hundred people to meet.  They were both quite down to earth and friendly.  What amazed me most was when I talked to Burnie was that, at the end of our conversation, he said, “Thanks for stopping by Shaun, it was great to meet you.”  Now, it is absolutely no exaggeration to say that I cannot remember the names of more than two people when I meet them.  At parties, I am basically operating off a Rolodex of “?”, “Lol” and “That guy who hit on James’s lesbian cousin.”  I don’t know how better to state that I am functionally retarded when it comes to names other than this sentence I just wrote.  Burnie managed to correctly identify “Guy #438” as “Shaun”.  If it would’ve been possible and appropriate to slow clap for him at the booth, I would’ve done so.

Letter 2:  PAX features an event called the Omegathon.  In it, chosen Omeganauts compete to win a grand prize.  The competition events are all games and the prize this year was a trip to the Tokyo Game Show and $5000 in spending money.  It’s tradition for the final round of the Omegathon to remain a mystery.  Contestants are unable to prepare for it and need simply rely on their general skills to win.  This year it was a custom Claw Crane game (one of those claw games stocked with stuffed animals, usually found at an arcade) stocked with plushies from video games and webcomics.  Overall, it was a close competition except at the very end where the winner pulled away.  I have never really experienced color commentary for a claw game match, so it was pretty novel.  Additionally Jerry “Tycho” Holkins saying,  “Son, it’s a complicated world.” in his Dad Voice whenever the machine miscounted and required an extra quarter always brought a smile to my face.

Option Plork:  I should be angry about this one.  Kris Straub and Scott Kurtz raided a minibar and proceeded to get smashed whilst holding court on a “talk show”.  This was their panel.  I’m not really sure how many things there are out there that I am qualified to do.  However, there is no doubt in my mind I was qualified for this.  My resume of drinking and alternating between bantering and babbling is unimpeachable.  But it was not me up there and instead Scott and Kris.  Scott Kurtz, a man of considerable girth and boundless mirth , was in top form.  Kris Straub, an arabic fellow with a gift for comedic tangents was ruthlessly funny.  These two savaged my form with humor.  They strapped me down and pounded the bamboo slivers of one-liners under my finger nails with the hammer of hilarious back and forth.  They tied me up with jokes and no matter how many times I said the safe word, (“Penobscot” incidentally) they refused to release me.  It was a two hour panel by a couple of drunks bringing their friends up on stage and abusing them in a fashion that bespoke camaraderie.   At one point Scott asked their guest Erica, “You’ve got a lot of shit in your face.  What’s up with that?”  ‘Cause, you see, she has a lot of piercings and then… he just like.  You know.  Anyway, you had to be there.  Later Scott discussed how Erica had noted a bum lying jauntily on his cardboard as, “Why, look how comfortable that homo is.  Hobo!  I meant hobo.”  Thanks to that and their follow up jokes, I now have the term “Hobosexual” in my arsenal.  And I don’t mean the soccer team.

So there you have it!  Three stories by a nerd for a nerd.  It’s like the convention never ended.  Take care you goddamn hobosexuals!  Bunch of filthy transientbiens.

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An Interruption For The Emergency Kickin’ System…

because unfortunately, this is not a test.

When I promised to run a three part series over the weekend I may have erred.  While I do plan on completing the series, I fear that I must adjust the timing.  This weekend happens to be PAX and while this PAXivus time is upon us I am afraid I simply cannot concentrate enough to write a decent post on intellectual property.  I want only the best for you, dear reader(s).

Therefore, I will go now to PAX and partake of its bounty.  I will see you cats on Monday.  PAX be with you.


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First Portion of Feet Kickin’…

has begun and will continue Friday and Monday.

Wherein the Author comtemplates his demise.

The inevitable failing of the blog is the semi-coherent railing against a topic of little interest to the populace at large.  These posts consist of ill informed ranting composed by an author with, at best, a surface understanding of the subject’s deep intricacies.  With unintentional comedy the highest expectation, the reader consumes it reluctantly if at all.  Constituting a shrill death knell, the blog’s readership typically dips to next to nothing  That or the ranting strikes a chord with disenfranchised loonies.

With that gamble in mind I look to bolster falling readership numbers with a three part series of my own area of in-expertise:  Intellectual Property.  Specifically, I look to restrict my howling mad ravings to piracy and discuss it in three parts.  For the first part, I will talk about the uncontroversial assertion that file sharing is a real thing that business cannot sue away.  Next I will suggest that piracy itself is not morally reprehensible, something I imagine people will roundly disagree with.  Finally I point out that there are a plethora of ways to utilize piracy to earn a living.  Shocking, I know!

Quick ground rules:  Piracy is not stealing.  Stealing deprives someone of a physical good, piracy is simply making a copy of something.  If you steal a CD, I cannot buy it.  If I make a copy of a CD, you still may purchase it.  Secondly, not all file sharing is piracy.  There are numerous non-infringing uses for file sharing such as Linux install distribution, freely released content, software patches, and distribution of public domain content.  To name but a few.

The argument:  Piracy is a reality that will not go away.  The support:  That file sharing is not decreasing and that no DRM has ever proven effective.  If you cannot stop people from taking your content, copying it and making it available to a wide audience, then you cannot stop piracy.  Following this, I will introduce that business models must change, which will be fleshed out in the third installment.

So, is file sharing in general and piracy in specific decreasing?  No. Not really.  It’s a story of increasing futility.  Napster shut down?  eDonkey, Kazaa, Limewire and a hundred others spring up.  Shutdown Grokster?  Pirate Bay and the rise of BitTorrent.  Pirate Bay sort of hamstrung?  Just about a million new sites pop up.  Thus far, it’s proven extremely difficult to make any head way in curbing piracy. Lawsuits have proven ineffective, as had attacking the distribution enablers.  It’s almost as if the landscape has changed and no amount of wishing will return it to the way it was.  The fact of the matter is that distributed file sharing is relatively simple software to write and has a huge audience.  This means that there is virtually no limit of people who will write new programs to replace the ones that are taken down.  It’s like a Sisyphean Ordeal where the hill just keeps getting higher.  The fact that the boulder rolls down to the bottom every night is almost pointless behind the fact that it can no longer be rolled to the top.

Well, then maybe you can stop piracy before it goes out the door, by defeating your customers with DRM.  Whoops, no you can’t.  In fact, DRM usually just worsens the experience for the legitimate customer.  Sometimes with big consequences.  The fact is, every DRM can be cracked (sometimes with laughable ease).  Couple this with the ease of finding those cracks (simple Google search will do) and you begin to see the enormity of the problem.  The fundamentals of this situation lie in the fact that DRM is created by humans.  If it helps, think of home security.  If you lock your doors and windows, do you think that will keep someone out?  What if you put bars and a security alarm in?  Can you think of no way around those defences?  DRM is a security riddle asked by twelve guys who work for Sony to the entire world population.  Someone is gonna find the answer.

You can’t keep people from getting unfettered access to your content.  You also can’t stop them from distributing it to the rest of the world.  The question you should be asking yourself is, do you want to?  The main complaint from the industry and artists that cannot adapt is that, “You cannot compete with free”.  Why can’t you?  DVD sales compete with TV and have for a long time, yet TV is free.  How do they do this?  Does no one purchase seasons of Family Guy because they can watch it for free on network television?  The foundation of this competition is the difference between cost and value.  Just because something has a cost, does not mean it has a value.  If you live in the desert, a $150 Northface jacket is valueless to you, as is a Speedo to an Inuit.  If you can offer something that is more valuable than the free item, people will buy it.  A season of Family Guy affords you the control over when to watch it, plus it collects all of the episodes into one season.  Ownership in and of itself is a valued commodity.  Business models must adapt to the change and studies show that they can profit from piracy.

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Warn Torn Feet Kickin’…

Sometimes, I fall down.

or how I learned to stop worrying and love kickball.

As the extended title suggests, this post will concern kickball.  As a game devised for kids and played by adults, it falls squarely into the Social Sports category of adult gaming/sporting.  Friggin’ Professional Sports, and Friggin’ J-Holes Who Act Like Professionals, uh Sports being the other two categories.  A primary component of the Social Sports category is the age old question, “Can I drink this and still perform the basic functions of the game?”.  I don’t think I’ve ever played in a game where the answer wasn’t,  “Yes, in fact I just did.”

Which brings me to yesterday.  Since Seattle has what can generously be called a short summer, outdoor activities are catch as catch can.  This means that short notice is the rule rather than the exception for games.  I got the invite at 3:30 and took the field at 5:30.

We managed to gather 11 people (5 per team, with one all-time pitcher).  By the way, One All-Time Pitcher would be a pretty great name for a gay rapper.  I managed to play both the best and worst game of my life.  Best because I performed well, final out, numerous RBIs and even managing a circus throw to third for an out.  Worst because both team size and position played kept changing, so to say that I occasionally became confused as to my responsibilities would be an understatement.  I think when I was running from second to cover home, unaware that our pitcher moved there was probably the most egregious example.

I had no shortage of effort though.  I’m pretty much always willing to give up the body which is fine most times.  But, for example, when you haven’t played kickball in decades and then you can’t move the next day, it’s less fine.  Let’s examine one of these less fine points in greater detail.

My team (Team Awesome) had been ahead up to this point., though we had to fight off some ferocious rallies.  In fact, we were in the midst of the latest rally from the other team (Team Who Cares), when we found ourselves up by a single run, two out, two on.  I was at second and the ball blooped over the shortstop’s head.  Now, I’m certainly not the most fleet of foot.  If anything I run like I’m carrying a faster guy on my back.  So I ploddingly set off for third.  The outfielder had retrieved the ball and was preparing to throw while I had yet to send the proper requisition forms to my legs to get the goddamn lead out.  Needless to say, it was going to be close at the bag, which is also a good gay rapper name.  I reached the general vicinity of third and commenced my sliding motion.  Beating the throw by a hair, I was safe!  The bases loaded, we piled in three runs and held on for a victory.

Seems fine, right?  Remember how I mentioned there isn’t usually a lot of warning for these things?  Well, it seems that I had elected the “shorts” option when selecting my leg coverings.  All well and good, but we were playing on a dusty, dusty field.  The slide was less a “sliding” motion and more of a “scraping” motion.  Like if you built up a head of steam and just dropped down to one leg on asphalt.

My treatment of the wound has been somewhat lackluster.  It kept me up last night by hurting anytime I did anything ever.  Like, in any way.  Today I’ve cleaned it again, but it doesn’t look too happy.  What’re you gonna do though, just give up that out?


I picked up some bandages, things are looking up now.  Still hurts though.

One wrapped up gam to go please.

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Low And Slow Feet Kickin’…

That's a crazed semi-feral cat in the background, by the way.

makes for tender, more juicy relaxation.

Unemployment affords you a great deal of free time is the common adage.  That statement is a little misleading.  What it really does is convert all of your Responsibility Time and Free Time to Time.  Every minute is much like the last and nearly identical to the one that follows.  I have mentioned it before, but tasks lose the imperative they normally possess when you have unlimited time.  What this means, is that you have an exercise in self motivation.

When it comes down to it, sitting in front of a computer for 8 hours a day is not enjoyable.  There are various tasks that you can perform while on the computer that are enjoyable, but the act itself does not impart any enjoyment.  This distinction is important because if the task you are performing is not enjoyable, for instance job hunting or filling out applications, then you need to force yourself to do it.

What complicates the issue is that there is no longer that time crunch you can count on.  If, for instance, you are like me and typically procrastinated until the absolute last moment and then counted on the rush of adrenaline to carry you through finishing the project… well guess what you’re fucked.

So I’m glad that I have this outlet, this thrice weekly responsibility to keep me on track.  A reason and non-financial reason to sit down in front of the computer.  Like a lone log in a raging river, it provides for at least some purchase.  Whatever happens, I can credit this site with keeping me aimed in the right direction.  You know, motivation-ally speaking.

I would also like to thank everyone who’s been reading for the past few weeks.  I know I haven’t always given you a lot of meat on the bone, but I assure you that I am fattening up the work as we speak.

Enjoy your weekend, one and all!

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