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UK freelance journalist and author Sean McManus

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Two thoughts on The London Weekly

05 February 2010

A new freesheet has launched called The London Weekly. On Twitter, it's getting a serious kicking at the moment. People are criticising its amateurish layout, and its inability to spell the name of Phil Tufnell in a front-page headline.

From the photos I've seen, it looks very much like a student newspaper. The design is boxy, it uses centred and multicoloured headlines, and leaves a lot of distracting dead space. I haven't seen a clear enough photo (or a real copy) to read the body text.

But, here are two observations:

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How much will people pay for journalism work experience?

17 December 2009

The Evening Standard carried out an auction of unique experiences in aid of a children's charity, with the winning bids reported in yesterday's paper. What surprised me is how much people are willing to bid to have a taste of work as a writer, photographer or other media professional. Below are the media-related bids (in bold), together with a selection of other bids to give you an idea of how they compare.

Is it becoming that difficult to break into media that people are willing to pay £1,430 per day to work on the Evening Standard's news desk? Is it so hard to get the attention of an agent that somebody would rather pay £1,982 than go the long way around? Will work experience in the media deliver a better return on investment than artworks by Gilbert & George?

Of course, people don't really think like that. If they want something, they bid what they can afford to try to win it. They don't compare the lots. But I'm surprised that mentoring from James Caan (which I can see really helping a lot of businesses to reinvent themselves) is considered less valuable than a week's work experience on the ES Magazine. I'm surprised that dinner with a newspaper editor is more highly prized than time with Bob Geldof, Sebastian Coe, Jonathan Ross, Sophie Dahl, the Duchess of York, Stephen Fry and the QI team, footballer Harry Redknapp, director Guy Ritchie, Graham Norton and artist Anish Kapoor (who all featured in lower ranking bids).

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Why can't I subscribe to The Beatles?

30 August 2009

There's much excitement in the music industry at the upcoming release of the remastered Beatles catalogue on CD. For people who own the earlier CD issues, there is some incentive to buy: there's a documentary on the first pressings, and the remastering has been carried out sensitively to enhance the sound without changing the music, according to Mojo magazine.

I can't help thinking they've missed a marketing trick here, though. At the moment, your choices are to buy the albums individually, or to buy a box set of them all for about £200.

What I'd really like to see is a subscription model. What if you could subscribe to The Beatles Remasters, and receive a new one in the post each month for a year? That works for the record label because it can effectively spread the cost of selling a high-ticket item, and so get more sales. It's also good for sales forecasting because the company knows how long the subscription will run for (14 albums). It would be an opportunity for EMI to build direct relationships with customers too, increasingly important at a time when record shops are going to the wall. For customers, it would be a great experience, particularly if accompanied by additional bonuses, such as notes on the Beatles timeline around that release, or period reviews - both cheap to produce.

Retailers could have stepped into this space too, but as far as I (and Google) know, nobody is doing this.

I wonder whether the record industry considered this and discounted it, or whether they it became locked into the old ways of selling music. That hasn't done them many favours in the recent past.

(Don't mind this: swp54kqdah)

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Chris Anderson's "Free" Audiobook and Ebook

09 July 2009

Chris Anderson's new book is called "Free", and is all about the history and future of giving things away in business. Contrary to some reports, it doesn't argue that everything should be free - it just looks at how giving some things away can enable you to sell some other things.

Some people have argued that authors should give away their work for free. The idea is that the reputation that builds as a result of that opens doors for consulting work, lecturing, media appearances and so on. Personally I'm not convinced by that argument: it means you have to work twice to get paid once, and it also means that your job changes from writer to consultant/lecturer/talking head, which is probably not what you really want to be. The writing just becomes marketing, rather than the focus of your creative and working life.

I can see how making things free can help to attract an audience, though, if you can afford to do so. At a time when it's hard enough to fight for people's attention, fighting for their money too is an uphill struggle.

Anderson's book is available in a couple of free formats. You can download the unabridged audiobook for free at Wired's website. The abridged audiobook will cost $7.50 from outlets including Audible. The thinking is that busy people might be prepared to pay more to save time. It's counterintuitive to charge more for less, but I do listen to a lot of audiobooks but can't ever remember getting through an unabridged one. The audio format just isn't as convenient as a real book for full-length works.

The ebook is available at Scribd, and embedded below, but you can't download or print the PDF. For more comfortable viewing, click the button in the top right of the box to view full screen. So much of the content on Scribd is there without the author's permission, so this promotion will also bring a lot of credibility to the Scribd platform.

The audio formats will remain free forever, but the ebook formats will be available for just one month. If all else fails you could always stump up for the hardback.

UPDATE: The Scribd version of Free has now been withdrawn, after five weeks and 170,000 reads.

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Is Chrome Google's Bing?

08 July 2009

The news is out that Google is going after Microsoft by launching a rival to Windows. Google's Chrome OS has been engineered to work seamlessly with the web, and will likely integrate with Google's online email and document applications. Google is rather bravely claiming that there will be no viruses or malware. That's a dangerous strategy, because the moment there's a proof of concept virus, their credibility is shot.

The OS might turn out to be a great product. But it's hard to imagine it quickly unseating Microsoft. The switching costs are likely to be too high because people will only be able to switch to Chrome by buying new hardware. The Google brand is powerful, but can it persuade people to buy something that isn't Windows if that's all they've ever known?

There's also the problem of shifting towards online applications. If your data is all online, what happens if the service provider goes under or has an outage? I've had occasion to contact tech support for two social networks while I've been researching my book and the support was uncooperative, to say the least. They're free services and you get what you pay for.

There are a lot of commentators talking about how this is a serious challenge to Microsoft, but I'm not sure that the hype is justified. Why should Google have more success in selling operating systems than Microsoft has had in giving away web searches? How many people have dumped Google to use Bing as their main search engine?

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Michael Jackson, David Miliband and me

27 June 2009

Most people who are into pop music have a Michael Jackson memory. Michael Jackson's "Bad" was one of the first tapes I had, and one of the albums I came back to when writing UoD. Back in 1987, I remember listening to the singles from it on the Radio 1 roadshow, while I was writing Amstrad games in the school holidays. I also remember myself and my brother being allowed to watch the then-new video for "Thriller" when a friend of my parents brought it around on a VHS.

I didn't expect Jackson to do his 50 gigs at the O2, but I didn't expect him to die either, so it's a bit of a shock to hear he's gone. In the same way that my parents' generation remember where they were when Kennedy and Lennon died, many in my generation will remember where they were when they heard that Jackson had died.

For the music industry, the passing of Michael Jackson must have been a day of mixed emotions. As a performer, he was electric. His dancing was so distinctive that many videos showed him in silhouette. Who else can get away with that? "Thriller" is the best selling album of all time (and probably always will be), and Jackson is one of a handful of performers who are cultural icons.

On the other hand, I'm willing to bet the Jackson records are on display prominently in every record shop this weekend. For a music business that's struggling to adapt to the new online economy, the sales boost that comes with a major star's death will be seen as welcome by some. Yesterday, Jackson had the top seven bestselling albums on iTunes, and held about 10-20% of the top 100 song downloads.

It's always struck me as odd the way record sales peak after a star's death. The fans already have the records, so these sales are driven by people who just never got around to buying the albums for the last twenty years or so, and then suddenly decide they quite liked some of them when the star dies.

Social networks played a big part in spreading the news of Jackson's death, and people's reactions to it. When Princess Diana died, online social networks weren't around as we know them today. Because most of my friends shared their views on Jackson's death, through status updates in Facebook and tweets on Twitter, it felt like a shared experience. As Jackson sang, "You are not alone".

Both The Times and The Telegraph leaped upon the Twitter feed of UK foreign secretary David Miliband, in which he said: "Never has one soared so high and yet dived so low. RIP Michael." Only, it wasn't the real foreign secretary. It can be difficult to validate celebrity Twitter feeds (Valebrity attempts to fill that gap, and Twitter has started to validate some accounts itself). But a little common sense goes a long way. Some of the tweets from the fake Miliband include:
Another idea from Eyebrows, sack all the drivers and use McDonalds staff instead. He reckons Reagan would have done it. No Al!
Many of the other tweets are gently satirical, but there are enough clues there for a journalist to work out they're looking at a fake. Even with the complexity of identity today, and the way that many people will have a professional and informal persona in different places, journalists are supposed to be skilled at fact checking. It's one of the ways they can add value in a world where information is increasingly free. If they can't filter the fakers from our own government ministers, how can we trust anything else they write?

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Book review: Brand New Day

18 June 2009

book cover: brand new dayBusiness autobiographies are usually written by household name entrepreneurs, and marketed with the promise that you too can achieve riches beyond your wildest dreams. Most of the investors from Dragon's Den have spent some time on the bestseller lists and Richard Branson has three books to his name.

These books are often inspiring, revealing how far you can go with the right mix of entrepreneurial flair, hard work, creativity and a little luck. But they're also written by people who started their businesses decades ago, and so tend to be light on the early history. The mental gulf between a millionaire and a reader who hasn't yet made the first sale is hard to cross.

With her book Brand New Day, Lara Solomon builds a bridge. The book is her diary from 2004 to 2007, and shows how she set up a new business from scratch. By the end of the book, the company has six staff and has turned over AU$250k (£120k) in three months. The book is inspiring, in part because the steps Lara takes are small steps anybody could take, if they were comfortable with the risk and had equal drive.

The product is a mobile phone sock, available in a wide range of designs, with a different one reproduced in the corner of each page (nice touch). To be honest, it's not a product I could believe in and not one I could see myself buying. But one thing that's made Lara's business a success is that she's persevered even when others didn't share her enthusiasm, and she's created a market in the process.

Key themes throughout the book are the challenges Lara has recruiting and retaining good staff, the emphasis placed on building the Mocks brand, and the extent to which Lara has to work outside her comfort zone to get things done. The book reads like an honest account of those first entrepreneurial steps, and provides a rare insight into what goes on in a smaller business. Laroo, the company behind the Mocks, is based in Australia so there are a few cultural references I didn't get, but most of the lessons are applicable internationally.

Lara's self published the book, so if you'd like to read a sample or order a copy, head over to the Brand New Day website.

For more small business advice, check out my book Small Business Websites That Work.

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History of the internet updated

05 June 2009

I've updated my timeline of the history of the internet. It was originally written in 2004 and hadn't been updated since then, so I've now added in the major developments of the last five years. Incredible to think that social media sites like YouTube, Flickr, Twitter and Facebook are all less than five years old.

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The Apprentice: where's the customer service?

08 April 2009

So far in The Apprentice, we've had a cleaning task and a catering task, and there have been interesting parallels in both.

Firstly, the programmes have made a strong case for the value that professionals bring to a job. You wouldn't think it would be hard to clean cars or make sandwiches, but they managed to screw them both up. Since I work in a profession (writing) that some people think is easy, that struck a chord. (I remember a woman at a party telling me that she thought she might change jobs to being a writer because it looked pretty easy. She was a teacher at the time, so I told her I'd often thought about moving into schools myself. "It's just talking to a bunch of kids. How hard could it be?")

The programmes have also focused on profit to the exclusion of everything else. Doubtless there will be the usual creative tasks in future episodes (starting tonight, I think), but where's the customer service? Alan Sugar's company Amstrad had great customer service and quality back in the 80s. Without it, it could never have entered the home computer market as late as it did and seized the market share it did. But he's encouraging his apprentices to look only at the immediate sale. There's no respect for the customer, no real drive to create a transaction that customers appreciate: just a push for a quick buck. To close the deal, the apprentices argue with customers, serve up shoddy products, and sell products they can't deliver. They don't seem to care (or even believe) that with every sale, their own reputation is on the line.

One of my writing customers is also in an agency type business and he says that in the current economic downturn, companies all need to love their customers a little bit more. They need to make sure they're focusing on the long term, and building a relationship that will survive the recession.

Wouldn't it be great if The Apprentice had an episode where the success was judged on how happy customers were at the end? If the apprentices had to try to truly delight the customer and build some desire for repeat business?

That's the kind of apprentice any company needs today. Cutting corners is easy. Delighting customers takes that extra spark of creativity and enthusiasm. Sometimes it will be less profitable in the short term. But in the long term, it's the only strategy that pays.

(I wrote a review of Alan Sugar's book after the first series, and co-wrote The Customer Service Pocketbook. The Apprentice is on iTunes now if you can't get it on proper telly).

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Prince's new website: Clicks hard in a funky place?

30 March 2009

Prince has just launched his new website, Lotusflow3r.com. He's had a few websites over the years - one was a club website, where subscribers were posted some exclusive CDs throughout the year; another was a virtual shop, but the music was all DRM-crippled, so there are lots of reports of people who aren't able to play the music they've bought any more.

The new site has a somewhat vague proposition: $77 buys you downloads of the new triple album (which is retailing for $12 in the US, price in the UK to be determined), plus a t-shirt and early news of forthcoming gigs. There are said to be videos too, but it's unlikely you can download them, and there's no indication of how often they'll be updated. I'm not convinced, to be honest. And I'm a massive Prince fan.

The biggest mistake, though, is that Prince has overestimated how important his website is to other people. He expects people to spend a lot of time playing with a tricksy interface just to hand over their money. If you want to register, you have to mouse over and click things until you hit a 60x30 pixel image which opens this:

Prince virtual website ticket

Aha! That looks like my ticket in. But what do I type into the boxes? There are no clues - you have to keep typing in things until you get it right. The answer is to close the ticket again, go and watch the video on the telly on the homepage, and then type in '1986' and 'Los Angeles'.

Why make people do that? Was it a fun experience? Not particularly. Did it make it easier to get to the real site content? Absolutely not.

If you're selling something, whether it's music or shoes, you've got to make it as easy as possible for people to buy. Just get them to bash in their contact details, their credit card details, and then let them get on with their lives. The content is supposed to be the entertainment. Not the interface.

(For more tips on creating successful websites, see my book Small Business Websites That Work).

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iTunes 8 turns your music collection into adverts

27 September 2008

I've downloaded iTunes 8, mainly for the grid viewing feature. This enables you to view your music collection by thumbnails. You wouldn't think it would make much difference, but it is a lot quicker to scroll through than cover flow view is, and it makes it possible to see more than 10 albums at a time. It makes the artwork into a much stronger navigation aid, and makes the artwork easier to appreciate too. It's already prompted me to play a few EPs that I don't very often listen to. Here's what it looks like:

iTunes screengrab

iTunes 8 showing the grid album view feature

However, there's a big drawback with iTunes 8. It turns all your music into an advert for the iTunes store. When you are viewing track listings, it adds an arrow next to each artist, album and track name which searches the iTunes store when clicked. In the typical 'list view' screen, you could have about 100 tiny advert arrows. These have always been "a feature" in iTunes, but now they've removed the tickbox that lets you switch them off.

Okay, so the software upgrade was free. But I've bought two new iPods over the years and the software is required to make them work. I've paid enough money to Apple to expect that the software would come 'free' and not become 'ad supported' in future.

From a usability point of view, it's terrible. With 100+ adverts on screen, it's easy to click one by mistake, which results in iTunes connecting (slowly) to the iTunes store and taking you away from whatever you're doing.

Interesting to note that there's no mention of this forced advertising on Apple's What's new page, and that it isn't even shown in the screenshot they have there.

Blog The Glitch has a technical hack for this problem. For some reason, there were two versions of the preference file on my machine, but it worked okay when I edited them both. It did leave the arrows on the current track playing, but you can get rid of those (and indeed all the arrows) by disabling the iTunes store as a whole in the parental options. So that's what I've done, too.

The end result? I'll probably buy a lot less music from Apple. There might be times when I enable the store again to shop there, but most of the music I've bought there has been from browsing through the store and coming across something unexpected. That'll stop. I'll also be much more suspicious of Apple software in general.

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Garfield Minus Garfield: The book

14 August 2008

You might already have heard of Garfield Minus Garfield, a cartoon strip created by Dan Walsh by editing Garfield out of the original cartoon strips. You're left with Jon, a lonely man who appears to be slowly cracking up. The empty frames create a sense of time crawling along.

Creative projects like that are risky - it's not uncommon for the original artists and writers to stamp out unauthorised derivative works. Jim Davis, though, has been supportive. He told The Washington Post (and much kudos to Walsh for getting his site covered there) that the site was "an inspired thing to do" and he wanted to thank Walsh for "enabling him to see another side of Garfield".

Now, there's going to be a book that puts the original Garfield strips alongside Walsh's edited strips. This seems like a great way for Davis to celebrate Garfield's 30th birthday, and it's a nice model for how cartoon strip writers can involve readers and package user generated content commercially.

I'm curious about how Walsh's creative input is being recognised - I doubt he's getting a half share as co-author, but I hope that his creativity is being compensated fairly. Particularly since a lot of people who have never bought a Garfield book might be inspired to do so because of the 'Minus Garfield' juxtaposition.

Scott Adams has mashups on his Dilbert site, which enable readers to replace his final frame with their own punchlines. Visitors can vote on which jokes they like best. This could make for a great book too, although the main value is the way that it involves the readers with the work and inspires them to visit Adams' site every day.

I have heard a conspiracy theory that the Fred Bassett cartoons are all missing a final frame which contains the punchline, which is why they're mostly unfunny. Perhaps that could be the next candidate for a writer-reader mashup?

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When marketers get lazy

17 November 2007

Two marketing execs, in horn-rimmed glasses, sit around a glass table. "Okay, so cooking oil. What can we do for this campaign?"

"How about... There's a puddle of cooking oil, and it starts to coalesce, like in Terminator, and becomes a Morph-like character, who dives into a chip pan and starts to dance with the chips! We play salsa music, and then display the name of the brand."

"I like your thinking! But what's the budget?"

"Well, we'd need about two weeks of rendering, and probably a month of time from a lead animator. That won't be cheap. And there's the broadcast time too, of course. But the campaign extends smoothly across all media."

"Hardly cheap as chips, though."

The man sighed. It was nearly home time. "I guess we could do what we always do, then."

"What's that?"

"Get a woman in a bra."

"Yes! Our market research suggests that our customer base is largely female, so they're bound to relate to that. What about a tag line?"

"How about 'Sizzling!'. Or 'Hot stuff!'. No, wait. Let's just put 'Cooking!'. Get back to the basics of the message we want to communicate here."

"Like it! And she's writhing in the cooking oil?"

"No, she's a stock photo. She's never been anywhere near it."

"But she looks like she might writhe in the cooking oil?"

"No, she looks like she's been heavily sedated."

"Hmmmm. Not sure I'm feeling it, yet..."

"She does have absurdly large breasts, Sir, and a rather small bra to keep them in."


Photo of Nila van: Cooking!

As seen in Chiswick about twice a week. Excuse the poor photo, but some bloke was unloading drums of oil from the back of it, so I had to be discreet. For the avoidance of any doubt, this photograph was taken in 2007, and not 1977 as you might otherwise assume.

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Prince: taking on the fans

07 November 2007

Prince Fans UnitedPrince is a genius, officially the second greatest mind working in rock and pop music (after Brian Eno), according to Creators Synectics, a global consultants firm. I've been a fan since 1989 and firmly believe he's our greatest living musician.

He works hard and deserves to profit from his creativity. He has a right to stop people making unauthorised copies of his music products. I wish he wouldn't stop people posting videos online, but he's in the right and they're in the wrong, so that's how it goes. It gets silly when he sues people for posting 30 second clips of their babies bouncing to 'Let's go Crazy', but I support his right to stop people posting his old music videos.

But what will he achieve by telling fan sites they can't use his photo any more? He probably doesn't even own the copyright to the photos (which will belong to the photographers, unless stipulated otherwise by contract, which it certainly won't have been in the case of fan photos). Surely it's taking the mickey to say they can't use images of album covers, given the sites exist purely to talk about his work? Demanding compensation from these sites, which are run by volunteers out of love for the man and his work, is ridiculous.

Following the media coverage, I hope he will focus his lawyers on genuine copyright infringements, rather than on legitimate use of materials for commentary and review. An artist like Prince, who has been more outspoken than most in his 30 year career, should appreciate the importance of free speech and support it. Copyright laws were not created to suppress commentary and should not be abused to do so.

You can show your support for the fansites at Prince Fans United.

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Gwen Stefani's licence to print money

30 October 2007

I pass this billboard on my way to work every day:

Photo of Billboard showing Gwen Stefani promoting printers

Ten years ago, someone like Gwen Stefani would have been promoting some variety of fizzy drink. This billboard, in which she becomes the face of HP printers, shows how artists are being creative in finding new revenue streams as CD sales fall. It's also interesting to see something as mundane as a printer being sold as stylish, in the way that the cars and alcohol on neighbouring billboards are. Apple's been in the furniture business for some time, selling computers on how they look rather than how they work, but they've been the exception rather than the rule.

This deal is a win-win because it enables Gwen to market her image without compromising her ideals (there's no junk food on her rider). HP benefits by associating Gwen's colourful image with its printers and drawing attention to them. I don't remember seeing an advert for rival printers on the street. Maybe HP's competitors don't even advertise because they don't have a campaign worth shouting about.

The Spice Girls have also struck a smart deal. They have sold half a million copies of their forthcoming greatest hits CD to pants firm Victoria's Secret. It's firm sale, so the shop can't return them if there's no demand. That's a pretty good pre-order level for a pop band that disappeared six years ago. Victoria's Secret benefits from some brand association, but more importantly will get customers coming into the shop to buy the CD who might never otherwise have stepped foot inside. I'm guessing that Spice Girls and posh pants customers are a similar demographic.

It seems everything is up for grabs in the music industry, with Radiohead even inspiring Sir Cliff Richard to experiment with demand-sensitive pricing. (Radiohead reportedly made $6 million on day one, incidentally). Madonna has followed Robbie Williams and signed a deal that combines touring and merchandising with music sales. For artists with their best (or at least most popular) work behind them, such deals are good business sense.

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Radiohead: Is DRM somewhere over In Rainbows?

03 October 2007

Radiohead is letting fans decide how much they want to pay for the new album 'In Rainbows'. The 'honesty box' approach will enable the band to reach out to new listeners or lapsed fans, who might be prepared to buy the album for a few pounds but would never buy it as a new release CD. If people download it for a penny, Radiohead presumably makes a short term loss because of the cost of hosting the files and serving the sale. But the band has set no minimum price. You can download for free if you like. The band, like Prince and The Charlatans, presumably sees the merit in giving away music to build an audience for shows and other projects.

My photo from 1995 when The Bends was released. See more photos from this concert

NME says its readers are planning to pay an average of a fiver, which reflects the true value of most albums in this post-Fopp and post-ebay era.

As well as the download, there is a box set that includes the album on vinyl, CD and download (wot, no tape?) along with artwork and extra tracks. That costs forty quid. Clearly this will become a desirable item and many will discover Radiohead's music later and want to acquire one, but I'm not sure how much the value of this item will climb from its already steep price. This package will enable the band to keep most of the value that usually goes into the dealers' pockets when genuine special editions are traded at record fairs.

This time there is no record label, so anything you pay Radiohead over and above the cost of sale is profit to the band. If I pay them three quid for the new album, that's probably a couple of quid more than they got when I bought each of their major label albums.

So why haven't I placed an order for the album yet? I've been a fan since the early days. 'Kid A' is one of my favourite albums ever - one of the few I can loop over and over again.

The problem is that there's no indication of what format the digital album will be in. Will it work with my iPod? Will I be restricted from copying to another iPod if I get one? Can I burn it to CD to play in the car? It might only last as long as Radiohead's website does. That happened with Prince's digital store - try reactivating any songs bought from him in Windows Media Player format, and they won't work because Prince turned off the authentication server when he redesigned his website. Fans who have acquired new computers or audio devices can no longer play the music they've bought on them.

If the Radiohead downloads are good quality MP3s, that's great. But they shouldn't really expect people to part with money and preorder an album without telling them where it will play and how it will work. I care about that more than the track names. The concept of a Radiohead album I understand - it's over 30 minutes of music by Radiohead, probably split into songs. What I need to know is whether it will work, and whether it will still work when I want to play it years later. In that sense, the vinyl's a much safer bet.

The album's out on Monday, so those who have taken the gamble will find out then what format's on offer, and the word will doubtless spread. Until then, buyer beware.

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Green marketing: a mainstream demographic?

03 May 2007

'People worried about climate change' has become a market segment. Yesterday's Independent carried two full-page adverts for organisations who want to reach that customer.

The first was from Together.com, and lists how eight UK companies can help us to cut our carbon emissions. M&S, which I do believe is taking carbon reduction seriously, says that it is encouraging customers to wash their clothes at 30°C when possible. British Gas claims to offer free home energy audits and O2 will give you £100 credit for keeping your old phone when you renew your contract. Sky is apparently introducing a sleep mode for its cable boxes.

Some of the other companies taking part didn't have much more than a sales pitch. Royal & Sun Alliance is offering a new eco-insurance product (whatever that might mean). B&Q is selling cheaper insulation and Tesco says it has halved the price of energy efficient light bulbs.

I was ready to have a go at Tesco, in particular, for a lack of imagination. As one of the UK's most influential businesses, you would think that they could come up with other ways to save the planet. I'm pleased to say (after a little digging) that they have also committed to halving emissions by 2020 and using energy efficient bulbs. There just wasn't room for that in the advert, I guess.

Barclays says it will donate half its profits from a new credit card to carbon reduction programmes. The cynical part of me wonders whether this means their own carbon reduction programmes, which they should be doing anyway. But they're also asking people to buy foreign currency from them and pay to offset the carbon of their flight at the same time. That's a clever way to make it easy for guilty greenies to settle their debt to the planet and bring in a bit of extra business.

Ten or twenty years ago affinity marketing became a big thing - basically aligning products with causes and charities. That's where Comic Relief gets a few pence from the sale of a box of soap powder, and the manufacturer gets to splash all over the place about how great it is because it does a lot of great work for charidee, and does like to talk about it. The charity makes more money than it otherwise would, the manufacturer sells more products, the customer gets a rosy glow from choosing the cuddly company to buy from. Everyone's a winner.

Climate change is a bit different. If people take it seriously, it could be a direct threat to the growth of many businesses. If people start buying from local suppliers, Tescos is screwed. If people start taking the waste problem seriously, they'll stop buying M&S's highly packaged lunches. Bully for Sky making its units go into standby mode, but aren't we supposed to be switching off properly? Can we not haul ourselves off the sofa that far to help save all life as we know it? In fact, we can probably do without telly altogether if it's going to be that much hassle. Why are we marketing carbon offset programmes? Is it because we've already accepted that we're not willing to cut our flights, and we think we can endlessly buy our way out of the problem?

While I'm sure many in these businesses are sincere about wanting to save the planet, the economic model we use won't let them do what they really should: Take out a full page advert that says 'STOP BUYING SO MUCH OF OUR STUFF!'

The moon photographed from space
A tiny reminder of what's at stake.
Image courtesy NASA Johnson Space Center. Used by permission.

The other advert in the Independent was for Spurt Airlines:

We hear a lot of guff about flying and global warming. The media mob say aviation is the fastest rising source of greenhouse emissions. 'Save Africa' whingers claim that 160,000 people a year are already dying from climate change. And 99% of climate science cronies babble on that emissions from aviation growth will scupper all other greenhouse gas reductions the UK might make. So what? Global warming isn't a good enough reason to miss out on some ridiculously cheap flights.

The advert goes on in a similar sarcastic vein about how everyone should vote Labour because that's a vote for the aviation industry. 'Why go green when you can have Brown?' it says.

It doesn't say who's placed the ad, and the spoof company's website is no more open. The press release mentions Enoughsenough, Planestupid and Greenpeace and this campaign reminds me of Greenpeace's previous anti-Apple website. But there's no clear claim for authorship.

The campaign is interesting because it's encouraging tactical voting against Labour purely on the grounds of aviation growth. That suggests that someone with money believes the environment is, or could be, a key voting issue. And it implies that Labour is much worse than the other two parties on aviation support. I'm not sure the Conservatives or LibDems would have been much different in their handling of aviation over the last ten years if they had been in power. At first I wondered whether the ad had been placed by the Conservatives, since they seem to be targeting green voters and they'll be the next government if they unseat enough Labour MPs (even if many go LibDem).

I'm not surprised to see both these ads in the Independent, which has positioned itself lately as a liberal and green paper.

We should expect to see a lot more of this kind of activity. We're a market segment now. Be prepared to be bombarded.

Related link: Climate change: An inconvenient truth.

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Apple and EMI announce end to DRM

02 April 2007

There was an album in Fopp a while back that was only a pound and was by a band I was interested in. I can't remember who now, but it was probably some 80s synthpop group since I'm into that kind of thing at the moment. That's fantastically cheap: a lifetime worth of entertainment (if I like it enough to play it that long), for the price of a couple of chocolate bars.

But I left it on the shelf for one reason only: it was copy-protected.

As far as I'm concerned, that means it's broken. Obviously the record company thinks I'd copy it and give it to all my mates (if I could somehow find any that shared my taste in mostly long-forgotten bands). But all I really want to do is pay an honest price for music and be able to use it how I want. That means being able to put it in my digital music player, and this is exactly the kind of thing that copy protection prevents.

You might think that if I'm only paying a quid, I can't expect that much. But the point I wanted to make is that when I left this CD on the shelf, I realised I won't buy copy protected music at any price. It's just no use to me. Even when it's nearly free. And following Sony's efforts to infest our computers with malware, you'd be mad to let a record label install software on your computer for every album you want to play.

If you're paying for a product, you should be able to make whatever honest uses of it you want. That's the same reason I haven't yet bought anything from iTunes. The files are locked, so you can only play them on Apple devices. I still have and occasionally play the very first CD I bought in 1989. If I buy my music as downloads now, will I be able to play it in 20 years? Only if I use an Apple device, and keep buying them when they conk out, and we assume that Apple survives and keeps making iPods. (While it's true you can burn to CD and re-rip, you suffer a loss of quality).

So cheers all around to EMI and Apple, who today announced they would start selling EMI's catalogue without digital rights management locks. They're going to double the quality, and it's not going to cost you any more to buy an album. You'll have to pay more for individual tracks (presumably in a move to protect the album based business model, where hits are inevitably sold with filler). And in the long run, Apple could have a competitive advantage in hardware sales because it can offer cheaper versions that are only compatible with iPods.

It's good news because it means you'll be able to buy with confidence that you'll always be able to listen to your music collection. You'll be able to back it up using conventional devices, and replay it using the software or hardware of your choice. While digital formats are always at the risk of obsolescence, the risk is much smaller when a standard is adopted than when one company controls all the playback devices.

Here's hoping that other labels will follow suit, and also make their music available without proprietary locks. It can only grow the market. DRM won't prevent someone from copying music - they'll always find a way around it. It just deters honest customers from buying.

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McAfee has installed Adware on my PC

29 December 2006

McAfee sells internet security solutions, including antispam and anti-pop-up programs. But it seems the company's attitude is that 'spam is other people', because it has installed adware on my PC to promote its own products. There is no way to disable the adverts, and McAfee's own technical support has failed to provide a solution.

According to Wikipedia, adware is:
any software package which automatically plays, displays, or downloads advertising material to a computer after the software is installed on it or while the application is being used.
I have installed McAfee Internet Security to protect me from security and privacy threats, including unwanted advertising. Despite having a valid licence for the software and having renewed my virus definitions subscription recently, McAfee keeps interrupting my work to show me upgrade adverts like this (24 December 2006):

McAfee advert

and this (today, 29 December 2006):

Second McAfee advert

Notice how my options are are to buy the software, or carry on working. There's no option not to be pestered with adverts again. And they keep coming back.

If the advert came up once or there was an option to tell them I didn't want it, it might be less annoying. But as it is, it looks like I'm stuck with these adverts until I buy new software or uninstall the software I've already paid for.

I've contacted McAfee tech support twice. The first contact took me about half an hour and achieved nothing. The second piece of advice was to disable all internet pop-ups. That will interfere with internet banking and many useful websites, and should not be necessary to stop the adverts. I don't think either of the tech support people understood that the adverts were within the application and not on third party websites, although I was clear to emphasise this. I can only conclude that McAfee has not scripted a solution to this problem.

I'm sure some bigwig at McAfee has decided that these adverts are a good idea. "Once every day isn't much," they probably thought. But surely they can see how their entire credibility is undermined by this action? How can I trust McAfee's spam filter and ad blocker now that I know it uses its own software to display intrusive advertising? Will it green-light spam from 'carefully selected partners'? Clearly, the company will say not, but I've always thought that actions speak louder than words. And the action I'm seeing is my train of thought being interrupted so the company can repeatedly plug a product I don't want.

If anyone from McAfee reads this and would care to respond, please contact me. In the meantime, I would advise you to avoid McAfee software.

Related links

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AOL betrays user trust

08 August 2006

Changing ISP is like changing your bank. It's a real hassle. You have to tell everyone your email address has changed. You have to update all your banking and online shopping sites, so that you can be sure that those accounts remain secure. There will be many people who will regularly hop between ISPs, in the same way many people are rate-whores, flitting between credit cards. Most of us, though, settle down with an ISP and stick with it for a long time.

So choosing the right ISP is important. You would expect people to study the privacy policy, and terms and conditions to work out what kind of junk messages they will have to endure, what they'll be allowed to do, and how much it will cost. If they don't, then they can't complain later. If they do, then they know what they're buying and it's part of the contract between supplier and customer. But what if the privacy policy turns out to be lies?

The blogosphere is up in arms over AOL. It released the search history [link broken] of over 500,000 of its users. It replaced screennames with unique numbers, but that's not enough to completely conceal everyone's identity. Some people have searched for themselves, their friends or local amenities. Some of the more exciteable blogs are suggesting there is evidence of criminal intent in the searches, which goes to show how dangerous this data is. People leap to conclusions.

AOL apparently released the data as a contribution to the research community. Maybe they didn't study it closely enough or realise the privacy implications. You could argue that releasing the data was a foolish mistake. Yes, they're stupid, but at least they didn't mean harm.

Well, here is where it gets evil. There doesn't seem to be any doubt that they betrayed the contract they agreed with their users. Their own privacy policy says that 'information about the searches you perform through the AOL Network and how you use the results of those searches' is part of a user's 'network information'. That information, the policy adds, will only be disclosed as set out in the privacy policy. There's the usual stuff about law enforcement, managing their own network and any disclosure you've consented to. But there's nothing about releasing the entire data set into the public domain for research purposes.

AOL has pulled the data set now, but it's widely available online. The company could recover from making the mistake of releasing the data, provided it apologised [link no longer available] often and sincerely enough. Recoveries like that happen in business all the time. I don't think it will be able to recover so quickly from the breach of its own privacy policy. How can AOL ever expect customers and prospects to trust it again?

Related links:

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Inside the mind of a spammer II

26 June 2006

I have edited and updated yesterday's article Inside the mind of a spammer, to include comments from an antivirus reseller. The comments did not arrive in time for first publication and make a significant contribution to the article.

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Inside the mind of a spammer

24 June 2006

I've noticed an alarming trend in spam lately. Most spammers know they're slimeballs. They're selling drugs to vulnerable people, preying on people's debt or trying to con the stock markets. More and more, though, I'm seeing people who think they're running legitimate businesses using spam to promote themselves.

A website called Sirlook spammed me in May to promote its online chat system for websites, even though its own terms and conditions say that its customers may not 'upload, post, email, transmit or otherwise make available any unsolicited or unauthorized advertising, promotional materials' (clause 5g) [link no longer available]. I contacted the company asking for clarification on this apparent conflict but did not hear back.

The so-called Association of Professional Recruitment Consultants spammed a non-existent address (sales@ one of my domains) with its newsletter in April. Its code of conduct (which it claims is "the strictest in the industry") says members must 'strive to serve clients and candidates with honesty and with integrity at all times' (first clause) [link no longer available]. When asked, the organisation failed to explain how sending junk email to invented email addresses is consistent with this policy.

I think the fact that these organisations send spam, cannot justify it and do not respond to complaints tells us more about their business ethics than any code of conduct or testimonial on their websites.

So perhaps we should extend our thanks to John Marshall, who spammed me about Mywebalert and was the first spammer I contacted who had the nads to answer my questions. He said he had identified me as someone selling website design services (which I'm not, currently) and that he found my email address as a legitimate way to contact my business (which I don't have - I'm an individual, not a business). This might have been a defensive move because it's illegal to send unsolicited adverts to personal email addresses in the UK.

When asked, Marshall claimed that he doesn't run antispam software himself, which seems extremely unlikely if he's able to use email with any kind of efficiency. I guess it would have been too easy a victory if he had said he did run antispam software, because then I'd go 'Aha! Gotcha!' and the credits would roll. It's hard to imagine someone at an established company having an unfiltered email feed in 2006 that isn't crammed full of spam. I have to confess I think he might be fibbing, or at least using an extremely narrow definition of what 'running antispam software' means.

He said:

I could telephone you, which would take more of your time. Alternatively I could repeatedly post mail to you, which although likely to produce better results from a marketing point of view is far from environmentally friendly and adds to a recipient's woes insomuch that paper is less easily discarded than email.

In my view (accepting that you have the right to an alternative opinion) email advertising is an extension to ordinary mail advertising which is prevalent in a modern economy. It is widely recognised as often being a legitimate means of business development, which in turn generates jobs, etc. Within reason, I do believe that a legitimate commercial organisation should be at will to market itself by telephone, street/magazine/TV/radio advertising, etc.

I note with interest that you are writing an article. For which publication? Does it carry advertising? Does it carry sponsorship? Are you being paid to write the article? If not, why are you writing the article? My last point arises as the directors of MyWebAlert are regular contributors to Computing, Computer Weekly, IT WEEK without charge but in recognition of the fact that it is good for PR.

The stuff about who pays me to write confused me a bit. I responded:

The difference between advertising in magazines and on email is where the cost/benefit lies. So in the case of buying a magazine, the advertising subsidises the content I receive. In the case of receiving junk email, I have to pay my service provider and time to receive something which in no way subsidises or creates any benefit for me - do let me know if I've overlooked anything there. Note that I'm not against all advertising - just inappropriate advertising, which includes intrusive email advertising I have to pay for. With mail advertising, the company sending the advert carries all the costs, which seems much more reasonable although you're right that it is still a massive waste of time and resources.

Marshall continued:

In general, I am an advocate of personalised email advertising which I differentiate from mass spam on the grounds:
  1. that all those that I target are targeted on the premise that I believe there should be valid interest based on individual research;
  2. that you will not be subject to repeat mail from me;
  3. that I manually maintain records and will not write again to you if you do not wish me to (please advise);
  4. that I am not a robot and you are assured of a human response to any questions that you may have.

These justifications don't really match the reality of what was sent, though. To call it personalised is a bit rich when it was basically advertising copy emailed with no greeting or letter format. It began: 'MyWebAlert is a comprehensive website monitoring service that affords you an opportunity...'.

It gets worse: Network Architects spammed me this week to promote an antispam-solution from Roaring Penguin. The mind boggles.

It began: 'This email is being sent to you as an individual identified as responsible for the maintenance of your network and attached resources.'. When I contacted Roaring Penguin to point out that one of its partners was using spam to sell its antispam solution, it did get Network Architect's MD Martin Smyth to contact me and said it had reminded him of Roaring Penguin's email usage policies. I was curious to find out how I was identified as someone responsible for a network (which I'm not), and particularly how this message was different to the unsolicited commercial emails that the software they're selling blocks.

I asked Martin Smyth how he got hold of my email address. He said:

Impossible to say precisely. Contact details have been built over a period of time as a result of formal/casual meetings at exhibitions, seminars and press events, enquiries through the website, employees joining the Company and adding the contacts to the database, etc.

This is a pretty sloppy way to run a list. Because companies have had a legal obligation since 2003 to get opt-in permission before sending commercial emails outside their customer base in the UK, best practice is to keep a record of where and when people opted in. I'm not a lawyer, but employees taking list details from one organisation where you have opted-in to another where you have not sounds very much like a breach of the Data Protection Act too. This answer does nothing to reassure me the company didn't just lift my email address off my website.

So why was I erroneously identified as managing a network and what makes a message spam? Smyth says:

In general, all contacts made by and with Network Architects are related to the IT and networking industry as appears to be the case in this instance with your interest in this subject. The precise message of a mailer as you know will never be perfectly tailored to each individual to whom it is sent. In this way, e-marketing does not differ from generic marketing, albeit in this case, the target audience is far more closely identified as appropriate
that would be the case, for example of email that we would determine as 'Spam' that is indiscriminately and repeatedly sent to a completely unqualified target base.

Or to cut it short:

email that we would determine as 'Spam' ... is indiscriminately and repeatedly sent to a completely unqualified target base.

This implies that he believes it's not spam if it's a bit targeted and it's only sent once. Remember, Smyth is MD of a company selling an antispam solution. This is a slippery slope. What if a spammer sent out millions of emails - once only - promoting viagra to men? By excluding women and only writing once, has the spammer become an ethical marketer? It's still a massive intrusion for nearly all men who are not interested in viagra. Even if you're a viagra buyer, does that mean any company selling it can ethically clog up your email box with adverts for it? And even if we were to pretend that it's okay to be spammed by each business once, the problem with spam is that the sum of all these 'once only' emails overwhelms mailboxes.

The definition of spam in use here is egocentric without consideration for the recipient or even regard for the content. It's about how the communication is issued and managed, without thought for the effect it has on the recipient. As an email user, I consider any unsolicited commercial email to be spam. Even if the person behind it thinks I buy their kind of product sometimes, or might do, it's still spam to me. Even if it only comes once, that's once too many.

Smyth concludes:

In addition to the above, you will have noted that this process is managed by human intervention. If you wish to no longer hear from us then I will remove your details from the list. You therefore have complete control over this message whereas this is not the case with other sources of email. This email will be sent only once and you will not receive any further communication after this email.

The fact that both Marshall and Smyth only email once undermines their whole argument. It's like a tiny apology hidden in there. 'I know it's wrong', people say, 'but I only did it once'. I see this a lot from individuals who send spam representing themselves. M.Wild of Westminster University apparently spammed the whole student body in December 2005. He started by saying 'first of all, sorry for spamming you all. i dont normally do this but this could be good for everyone and it works!!' before pushing some ridiculous multilevel ipod thing. The problem with spam is that by the time you're saying sorry, you're already intruding on someone's inbox, wasting their time and bandwidth.

Like Marshall, Smyth believes it's okay if there's a human there to pick up the complaints. To their credit, the correspondence I have had with both Marshall and Smyth bears this out. But they're probably rarely called upon to demonstrate this because nobody trusts a spammer. Reply addresses on spam are usually faked and spammers rarely honour remove requests so recipients will have little faith that contacting them would have any effect. Indeed, many spammers take a remove request as confirmation an address works and bombard it.

You probably get as much spam as I do and have heard the arguments against it before. What's worrying here is that all these companies (including those that didn't respond to my interview request) consider themselves to be legitimate businesses, and apart from the spamming, I've got no reason to think they're not. One of them even sells antispam software.

I'm sympathetic to the problems that businesses have promoting themselves when they start off, but spam isn't a shortcut to success. Markets are conversations, and if everything you send is greeted by obscenities, distrust and deletion you're not getting anywhere. Two of my friends met online after he emailed her about an error in a discography on her site. They're married now. There's no reason why great business relationships shouldn't evolve from email too. But they're not going to come from spam because you can't automate sincerity and nobody wants to deal with a fake. Here's an email from someone allegedly called Todd:


For the second time in a week I found myself visiting your website, so I figured hey "why not drop a request while I'm here this time around".

I actually found your site by accident actually while searching on google last week and ended up cliking on the link. I checked out a few of the pages and so far so good. I hope you keep updating the content, cause I'll probably be checking back again.........

Aaah! That's nice! But then we cut to the chase...
By the way, I'm also currently doing a link exchange for http://www.barretire.com/ (a quality well kept PR5 site) and thought to ask if you would be interested in having us as an honest link exchange partner.

Why would I be interested in exchanging links with a trashy affiliate website about cars? Especially since I already know Todd is not an 'honest link exchange partner'. If he really had visited my site twice and spent so much time there he wanted to come back, he'd know my site's nothing to do with tyres. I don't even drive.

There are ways to target promotions without using email. Companies can use contextual advertising, which has a low entry price and enables them to find customers at the time they're looking for their services. Google Adwords is one example of this. Microsoft is working on an advertising system that will enable you to track people by their personal profiles, not just the keywords they're using. You can also place legitimate paid adverts on other relevant websites to attract traffic. This has been made even easier now that Google Adsense enables people to place adverts on a specific site that uses it. There are drawbacks, yes, but they're ethical ways to attract an audience. This is more akin to the magazine example Marshall raised, where the advertising subsidises valuable content.

Spam won't go away. There will always be con-men and enough suckers to make it pay. But legitimate companies that think they're ethical and 'only do the odd bit of spam' are mistaken. If you behave like a spammer, you are a spammer. You're a destructive force and the internet would be a better place without you.

Some notes:

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Domain name scam

22 June 2006

I just got a letter from the 'Domain Registry of America', which is headed 'Domain Name Expiration Notice' and looks much like an invoice. It's just a company trying to get me to transfer the hosting of one of my domains to them. I think they've toned down their letters a bit, but they've been sending out letters for some years now that look a lot like official domain name renewal invoices and probably get paid by default by small businesses. Most of the domain name scams I wrote about in 2003 seem to have dried up, but it's worth keeping an eye out for this one still.

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Copyright matters

25 March 2006

I'm going to stick my head over the parapet now and write something unpopular: Copyright matters.

I know it's trendy nowadays to be all loved-up and say 'hey, man, let the data flow free like a river'. I have great respect for the work of the open source movement, and for the work of the Creative Commons. But just because some people choose to relinquish some of their legal rights, it doesn't mean everybody else should be forced to.

As you might know, I'm pretty defensive of my copyrights. In this post I'll explain some of the reasons why.

Creators should choose how stuff is used

One of the issues that is often overlooked is one of choice. Even a Creative Commons licence gives you a choice over which rights you give away. You can, for example, say content is free to use provided it's not modified or that it can be used only in non-commercial projects.

But a problem with the Creative Commons model is that it assumes you want to assign permission based on usage, and not on who is making that use. I'm pretty politically aware, and there are some organisations that I would never grant permission to use my creative work. I would never want my work to be used against the causes I believe in. There are even individuals with whose views I disagree to the extent that I wouldn't want to actively help them. The law gives me the right to choose on a case-by-case basis who can and can't use my work.

This has nothing to do with free speech, by the way: Just because I respect and defend your right to express your views, it doesn't mean I should help you express them.

Time matters

Anyone want to mow my lawn for free? Go on. I'll tell everyone you did a great job. I thought not.

Time is the scarcest resource we have. Some of us will have more than others (we won't know how much until the end), but we've all got the same number of hours in the day, and days in the week. Working out how to spend it is what life's all about. Respecting how people spend their time is respecting their lives.

Over the last (nearly) ten years, I have spent a lot of time making content and building this website. Content is quick to consume, but slow to create. Writing games takes days. Writing an article can take half a day, once research is factored in. Even taking and scanning photographs is a fairly big job, even before we've factored in the time taken travelling to places to photograph. And let's not even start talking about how long it takes to write a book.

Don't get me wrong - I love it. That's why I do it. But if I've spent my limited life force making things instead of watching TV, it seems only fair that I choose who benefits from that. The law gives me the right to exercise control over how my work is used.

Derivative works are just that

A derivative work is when you take one thing, and then build upon it to make another thing. It's a more creative endeavour than just copying something, and the people who create the derivative work often add value. But they often cause problems too, and I have a right in law to decide who can and can't make derivative works from my material.

There are corners of the internet where people are still cursing me in a foreign language following a dispute over an unauthorised translation of one of my articles. I know that the translator who broke copyright law was only trying to make some ideas more widely available, but the end result could be the exact opposite. Now that I've had the exclusive translation rights stolen from me for that language, I can't license a major publisher to use it (which would have potentially communicated the ideas much more widely). For the record, I tried to reach a compromise where I published the translated version on this website but the translator was unresponsive. The article has been pulled from circulation.

Derivative works also restrict my creative freedom. If I make something, I'm free to adapt and modify it how I like. If somebody else independently alters it and makes new works, I'm having some of my creative options taken from me. Either I can't then do what they've done, or there is another work out there with which I must compete despite creating the original source material.

I do respect the time that people spend in creating derivative works, but request that they also respect the time that I spend in creating source material. If you're interested in translating content or creating derivative works, please contact me. I'll work with you if I can, but reserve my legal right to say 'no'.

Let's talk business

Just because you're not prepared to pay for something, it doesn't mean it doesn't have a value. While many people can and do set up websites for free, I actually write cheques to keep this website online. I also incur real money costs creating content (software, hardware, training). I've put over 300 pages of original content online and nearly all of it is free for you to read.

This is made possible by advertising, and the products I sell, including licences to use my copyright material. By charging people who want to make certain uses of my content, I'm able to publish lots more content for free. If I let people put my work on other websites for free, I end up competing with my own work for the traffic that helps pay the bills. That's the economics of it.

You might think I could avoid all that by just giving the content away, so that other people pay to host it. I can see how this might work for certain types of content. I've allowed unmodified copies of my websafe colour palette program to be circulated freely. But we come back to the control issue again (see above), so I don't allow my other work to be copied in this way.

In certain cases, I will grant a free licence to use my work. In other cases, I will make a charge. You might be surprised at how friendly I am, if you drop me a line.

Copyrights do have a commercial value and they are a part of my wealth. Anyone taking my copyright material is stealing some of my livelihood.

Credit where it's due

It's a buzz when someone says they like what you've made, or that they found it useful in accomplishing their own goals. Knowing the identity of the creator of a work also changes your perception of it. The law gives me a right to be identified as the creator of my creative works.

There are a couple of common web practices which interfere with this right:

I really appreciate people linking to this website to help spread the word, but please link to a HTML page and don't use frames. Don't make it look like you own my content. Ask if you don't understand or you're not sure.

Fair use

I'm not trying to restrict your rights here - just assert my own. So I don't have a problem with people reproducing short excerpts for the purpose of comment provided they're accompanied by a link to the original source. I don't have a problem with people using images from this site as their windows wallpaper on their own computer, although I do have a problem with them passing those images on to others. You're welcome to print out any material here for your own use, but not to circulate it without permission. If you're not sure what's allowed, please drop me a line.


If you've got any comments, please email me. I'll update this article with them later.

For the avoidance of any doubt, none of the above and nothing in the comments grants you any rights in relation to my content. If you want to make use of my copyright material, you are required to contact me first.

There are lots of 'contact me' links in the above, because I get particularly annoyed when people don't ask. I'll negotiate if you ask. I won't, if you don't.

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