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How T-Shirts Keep Online Content Free

Increasingly, creative types are harnessing what I’ve begun to call “the T-shirt economy”—paying for bits by selling atoms. Charging for content online is hard, often impossible. Even 10 cents for a download of something like Red vs. Blue might drive away the fans. So instead of fighting this dynamic, today’s smart artists are simply adapting to it.

Their algorithm is simple: First, don’t limit your audience by insisting they pay to see your work. Instead, let your content roam freely online, so it generates as large an audience as possible. Then cash in on your fans’ desire to sport merchandise that declares their allegiance to you.

We’re talking about a surprisingly big market. According to Impressions, a clothing industry trade publication, Americans spend around $40 billion a year on decorated apparel. At CafePress, a Web site that lets anyone customize and sell merchandise, users sold more than $100 million in goods in 2007—pocketing $20 million in profits—and overall sales are growing an average of 60 percent a year.

As you might expect, the T-shirt economy is a long tail phenomenon, with comparatively few people making a full-time living while millions earn only a few hundred or thousand bucks a year. On the high revenue end, you’ve got companies like BustedTees—an offshoot of the funny-video portal CollegeHumor—which, with a staff of eight, expects to clear a 20 percent profit on sales of 350,000-plus shirts for 2008. In the middle are outfits like RightWingStuff, which hawks T-shirts mocking the left. And on the far end of the tail are people like David Friedman, a New York photographer who cooks up three or four witty ideas a year—like his series of T-shirts adorned with fictional corporate logos that are blurrily “pixelated,” as if on reality TV—and makes just enough money to cover his hosting fees, plus a bit of pocket change.

Full Story: Wired

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Lawrence Lessig on the Kozinski scandal

Here are the facts as I’ve been able to tell: For at least a month, a disgruntled litigant, angry at Judge Kozinski (and the Ninth Circuit) has been talking to the media to try to smear Kozinski. Kozinski had sent a link to a file (unrelated to the stuff being reported about) that was stored on a file server maintained by Kozinski’s son, Yale. From that link (and a mistake in how the server was configured), it was possible to determine the directory structure for the server. From that directory structure, it was possible to see likely interesting places to peer. The disgruntled sort did that, and shopped some of what he found to the news sources that are now spreading it.

Cyberspace is weird and obscure to many people. So let’s translate all this a bit: Imagine the Kozinski’s have a den in their house. In the den is a bunch of stuff deposited by anyone in the family — pictures, books, videos, whatever. And imagine the den has a window, with a lock. But imagine finally the lock is badly installed, so anyone with 30 seconds of jiggling could open the window, climb into the den, and see what the judge keeps in his house. Now imagine finally some disgruntled litigant jiggers the lock, climbs into the window, and starts going through the family’s stuff. He finds some stuff that he knows the local puritans won’t like. He takes it, and then starts shopping it around to newspapers and the like: “Hey look,” he says, “look at the sort of stuff the judge keeps in his house.”

I take it anyone would agree that it would outrageous for someone to publish the stuff this disgruntled sort produced. Obviously, within limits: if there were illegal material (child porn, for example), we’d likely ignore the trespass and focus on the crime. But if it is not illegal material, we’d all, I take it, say that the outrage is the trespass, and the idea that anyone would be burdened to defend whatever someone found in one’s house.

Full Story: Lessig Blog

I agree. Although I do think public figures, like judges, should be subject to more public scrutiny, waving some privacy as part of public life, this is absurd. Kozinski has done nothing illegal, nothing hypocritical, and there is no conflict of interest. Should obscenity trials only be tried by prudes who have never looked at porn before?

Also: 10 Zen Monkeys takes a look at the pictures in question

Rose Colored News returns

Rose Colored news returns to regular operations

Crime prevention organization making a difference in Chicago

Man grows new finger thanks to ground-up pig bladder

Argentina Decriminalizes Drug Consumption

Alaska: Appeals Court Cracks Down on Coercive Searches

Low cost, small scale wind turbines to power off-grid villages

Gel-like Material Shows Promise As Oral Insulin Pill For Diabetes

Bakeries urge customers to plant wheat in their lawns

Florida: No crime in photo of undercover officer

Four other Big Brothers

Four other Big Brothers:

(I started this back when Microsoft tried to buy Yahoo!, but I’ve only just not gotten a chance to finish up).

We all know about the potential “Big Brother”hood of Microsoft, Google, and Yahoo!. Here are four other organizations with massive databases or the potential to collect extensive personal data.

Amazon, the other data hoarders – Amazon has perhaps the most complete database of the web outside of Google, Yahoo!, and Microsoft. They own Alexa, which keeps detailed statistics on web traffic of the entire web. Alexa helps maintain archive.org, which includes an extensive backup of as much of the web as possible. They also have their own Google-based search engine a9 and host database apps. And all of this is just gravy for their extensive consumer data from amazon.com.

eBay, merchant monopoly – So far the government has resisted Internet sales tax. But eBay’s cut of their auctions and Paypal transactions almost constitutes a sales tax in and of itself considering the number of transactions that use these services. Also, they own what amounts to the biggest Internet telco, Skype. They have (or have the potential to collect) data on who buys what, who pays who what, and who calls who. To top it all off, they own an approximate 25% share in Craig’s List (and they own a Craig’s List competitor, Kijiji).

Wikipedia Foundation, truth and authority incorporated – Wikipedia is on its way to “owning” truth. We all probably know better, but we’ll all still trust Wikipedia entries without checking references more often than we should. In many cases, I search Wikipedia on a subject before I search Google – and more often than not, a Wikipedia entry is the top listing for a topic on Google. Often I’ll never even end up looking at a Google search for a subject because I’ll just look at the references and external links from a Wikipedia article. I believe Wales’s side of this story, but the potential for conflict of interest at Wikipedia is huge. The transparency and “crowd sourced” accountability temper this, but to what extent? It’s worth noting they now have a private wing – Wikia, which has started a search engine service.

IAC/Interactive Corp , or: who? – This huge company owns dozens of recognizable Internet brands, but hardly anyone has heard of them. If they started pooling all their data and mining it, what could they do? They’ve got one of the “other” big search engines, ask.com. They’ve got huge reserves of data for potential mining of social information from sites like match.com and evites, which could give them data on par with Myspace or Facebook. They’ve got a popular web based RSS reader, Bloglines. They could mine all sorts of consumer preference data from sites like Citysearch, Lending Tree, and the home shopping network. One of their businesses already attracted criticism years ago and remains a juggernaut in its niche: Ticketmaster.

GoDaddy silences police watchdog site

A new web service that lets users rate and comment on the uniformed police officers in their community is scrambling to restore service Tuesday, after hosting company GoDaddy unceremonious pulled-the-plug on the site in the wake of outrage from criticism-leery cops.

Visitors to RateMyCop.com on Tuesday were redirected to a GoDaddy page reading, “Oops!!!”, which urged the site owner to contact GoDaddy to find out why the company pulled the plug.

RateMyCop founder Gino Sesto says he was given no notice of the suspension. When he called GoDaddy, the company told him that he’d been shut down for “suspicious activity.”

Full Story: Wired.

Radley Balko sums it up nicely:

So even as police departments across the country are setting up sex offender registries, drug offender registries, and posting the mugs and names of suspected johns online, they also took a great deal umbrage early this month when Gino Sesto set up a site called RateMyCop.com.

I’ve been thinking about moving to a new web host, and had been considering GoDaddy. Well forget that. And I was just getting to the point where I was willing to forgive this.

First shot fired in Google-Wikipedia, Secrecy-Transparency war

Wikia Search launched today. So far it’s nothing much, but the plan is to grow the product over the coming years. Jimmy Wales said in a comment on TechCrunch:

When I launched Wikipedia, I wrote at the top of the first page “Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia”. On that day, anyone reviewing it would have laughed. What’s this? There’s nothing here! This is not an encyclopedia, it is an empty website with some funny editing syntax!

So far there doesn’t seem to be a lot for users to do with the site, but presumably as the alpha release comes along there will be more. It reminds me of Opencola which I played with a little back in 2002, but seems to have never taken off. I think Opencola was really onto something back in the day, so I have high hopes for this.

Meanwhile, Goolgle is presumably hard at work on their Wikipedia competitor, Knols.

So what we’re seeing is a head-to-head competition between Wikimedia/Wikia’s transparency model and Google’s secrecy model.

Also of note, The New Yorker has a long article on Google’s lobbying.

Best stuff I read this week

Since I tend to post a flood of links both here and at Technoccult, some of wich I haven’t even read, I thought it might be useful both for readers and for myself to offer a list of the very best things I read each week.

Brother Theodore is Dead, a Brother Theodore obituary by Nick Mamatus.

The Big Shill. Harvey Pekar’s account and analysis of his final appearance on Letterman.

Three skeptical takes on Lisi’s e8 theory of everything.

Charles Schulz slideshow/bio.

The Liberal Candidate, Dave Weigel on Rudy Giuliani.

Naomi Wolf connects several dots and argues that we’re in the late stages of a fascist shift.

Five reasons I prefer Yahoo! Mail to Gmail

1. I’ve been using Yahoo! a lot longer and don’t want to change my e-mail address. The reason I signed up for Yahoo! Mail in the first place was that I was tired of changing my e-mail address and just wanted one address that I could rely on forever (and Yahoo! was better than Hotmail). So I’ve never been thrilled about making the jump to another e-mail service.

2. I can drag and drop messages between folders in Yahoo! Mail. Just one of those small conveniences that can really make a difference. The “label” and “search, don’t sort” motto of gmail doesn’t really work that well for me. I’d rather be able to quickly drag an e-mail into a container (reply, todo, save, etc) rather than type a label on it and let everything pile up.

3. Yahoo! Mail now offers unlimited storage. After Gmail started offering 1 gig of storage space, Yahoo! quickly moved to 2 gigs (or at least they did for premium users, I forgot what they offered for free). Yahoo!’s managed to stay ahead in the storage game, and now it’s unlimited for everyone.

4. My Yahoo! Premium account has no ads. My premium account only costs $20 a year. Originally I shelled it out for the extra storage (no longer an issue, see above) but I’ve gotten used to not having ads on my e-mail, and:

5. My Yahoo! Premium account as a “archive” feature that lets me back-up my mail and attachments. I can back everything up, maintaining my folder structure. You can grab all your Gmail with POP or IMAP but then you’ll lose all your labels.

Myspace – the next Prodigy?

Abe says, in reference to this:

It’s funny to read the tech types on this stuff cause they just don’t get culture. Sure the Facebook app platform is light years ahead of what MySpace is doing, but it doesn’t exactly help you promote your band or your photo studio or your art does it? I’m actually more optimistic about MySpace’s long term relevance now than I’ve ever been. That doesn’t mean what Facebook is doing isn’t cool and potentially important, it’s just a big fork in the paths these companies are taking.

I can’t help but think though that what Abe sees as Myspace’s strength – promoting your band or photo studio or whatever – is actually its weakness. Myspace is basically a big spam machine. Although I still spend more time on Myspace, as that’s where most of my friends are, I’ve been spending less and less time on it and so has everyone else I know. My Facebook network, meanwhile, is continuing to grow. The thing is, Facebook is designed to actually facilitate communication between users. Myspace is designed to get people to accept spam.

If Myspace continues to wall its gates, it becomes even less useful. Doing even the most basic tasks in Myspace – from sending messages to uploading pictures – is painfully slow and unreliable. A flood of bulletins from bands and businesses and never ceasing friend requests from cam girls have no real value to me. Putting a funny You Tube video or Photobucket pic on a friend’s comments is one of the fun things about Myspace, and if I can’t do that, then what’s the point?

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