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We are all indie bands now.

slab
Jim Infantino
We are all indie bands now
Back in 1999 when the digital millennium copyright act was being drafted, I was a encouraged by the service "napster" and how it was growing our fan base by allowing people to freely exchange, and more importantly share opinions about our music on line. At the same time, I was helping to code the real player skin for RadioBoston - an internet radio station (a new idea at the time) that played my band and other locals online. The record industry in the form of the RIAA - the organization that hands out gold and platinum records shut napster down with the help of congress and the DMCA (above). They claimed that a download of an mp3 was a mechanical rather than broadcast deliverable, and as such, each copy downloaded was due the $1 (approx) royalty to the record company, rather than the fraction of a penny due by radio stations to artist performance orgs such as ASCAP and BMI. This effectively shut down napster as it was for good and internet radio for years to come. I tried calling napster, to tell them that I was an independent musician, and didn't want those royalties, we wanted to give permission to share our music. Their service was helping us, not hurting us. They were understandably otherwise occupied. The law protected the dinosaurs and hurt the rodents. The question applies to all of us now, not just movie and music and software creators. Who owns your stuff when you put it on line? Is it mechanical, or broadcast? Is it something new? Computers are copy machines. It's 90% of what they do. When you use something like a computer to communicate, you are making copies of it. When you copy it to another computer, like when you use email, or twitter or send a voicemail, you are doing something like broadcast, while making a copy. And what about when you make a phone call? You do literally broadcast it from a cell phone, and it travels over lines and networks owned by some telecom or other leased by the US govt. What rights to you have regarding your stuff when it leaves your abode, and heads out into the wide world? Listening to On the Media on PRI this weekend, I found myself cheering because someone finally said clearly and directly what I have been trying to express to our clients and my friends in the light of the NSA "wiretapping scandal" / political news cycle pavlovian outrage chime. Let me know your thoughts on line.

Crowdsourcing & Design, not NEW, not HIP, not ETHICAL, not SMART.

slab
Jim Infantino
Crowdsourcing amp Design not NEW not HIP not ETHICAL not SMART
Recently, I've been made aware of some designs coming from sites set up to crowdsource tasks that would otherwise be done by a professional.

Crowdsourcing is essentially outsourcing to distributed groups of people, tasks that would have been done by a single person or shop. The motivation in the past for these multiple talented people was to volunteer their time to be part of something cool, such as finding life on other planets, or writing a group novel, or improving some open source code ... however, recently some very enterprising entrepreneurs have discovered that by holding contests, you can get lots of people to do lots of work on Spec. (speculation of remuneration) and set the reward price incredibly low.

That's the idea behind sites like 99designs.com, and LogoTournament.com. Frankly, I hesitate to type in their urls. I certainly do not want to link to them. Check them out to educate yourselves, but have no illusions as to what you are looking at. These sites profit by convincing talented people to do work on spec, with no guarantee of pay.

Spec work is as old as the hills. Most creatives have experienced the proposition.

It doesn't pay anything, but if you do this work, it will help get your name out there.
or
I would like to see a few designs first to determine if we want to hire you for this job.


As a musician, I can't tell you how many gigs were sent my way with the promise of exposure as the only compensation. Often, the only exposure we experienced was the exposure to the elements on a low stage out in someone's back yard party. As a designer, the temptation is to build up your portfolio. Sometimes, the projects lead to other work, mostly they just cheapen what you do, as well as the design profession in general.

Logo design is hard, but when done well, it looks deceptively easy. A client may think they've bought a block of gold for a buck when they get an adapted version of the FedEx logo through one of these design pit fights, but, in the end, you get what you pay for. Any professional designer worth their salt provides so much more than someone trying to win the equivalent of a fancy dinner for 2 from a contest.

Professional logo designers know the larger picture. It's not just a thumbnail, it's your total business identity. It's not just your business cards, but your billboards, your walls, your trucks, your website design, your signage, your storefront, the way the world sees and reacts to your company. And it's not just aesthetics. When FedEx comes to sue you for infringement, the money you didn't spend on the professional designer will seem like pocket change.

And if that weren't enough to give you pause, there is also the ethical element. These sites offer a way for you to personally participate in exploitation of talented hard working people. Just because you can, doesn't mean you should.

As our friend and client, Boston electrician Andy Bruno says:
It only takes .5 milliwatts to stop a beating heart. Hire a professional.

Another word about email and security.

slab
Jim Infantino
Another word about email and security
Does your password consist of any word found in any dictionary? Does it contain important dates or numbers in your life such as the birth of your child or parts of your social security number?  How about a famous quote or song lyric?  Did you set your password by running your finger down a row of the keyboard, or by picking numbers in a sequence?  Do you use the same password for more than one account or do you have it written down in a ‘hidden’ location?  If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you are either an adrenaline junkie who loves to walk a dangerous line, or you simply need more information about how to protect yourself from hackers and identity thieves.

You may think that you are not a target for an attack; after all, what can someone do with access to your most recent email to your mom and those spam offers from your local gym?  The ugly truth is that hackers who break in to personal email accounts gain access to a lot more information than you might think.  Once in your account, they can request new passwords from any other online account you might have such as bank accounts, vendor accounts where you store your credit card information, medical records, social security information... the list goes on and on.  All they have to do is click on the “lost password” button for the other account and wait a fraction of a second to pick up the incoming email with the key to all your data and information.

Pretty scary, right?  So now you have two choices: you can sit on your hands and hope for the best, or you can get yourself a new, safer password and stop worrying about your online safety.  We vote you take the second option.

Still with us?  Good choice!  Here are the keys to a stronger and better password that won’t be impossible to remember but will keep your information and data safe:

Use a phrase instead of a single word.  If your old password was “smurf” try “smurfsareblue”.  A step above even that is to use a mnemonic device to remember your phrase.  So if your original password was “bicycle”, and your new phrase is ‘In my dreams I’m faster than Lance on my bike’, your new password would be “imdIftLomb!”. Notice that we added complexity with a mixture of lowercase, capital letters, and special characters.  You can throw some numbers in there as well to up the ante, but don’t fall in to the common trap of adding the number “1” to the end of your password, switching the number "0" for the letter "o" or the current year!  Those little numbers are about as effective as a butter knife in a shoot-out.

Now that you have the information that you need, hurry up and change your password already!  If you have any further questions about password strength, email security, or anything else we could answer for you, please don’t hesitate to shoot us an email here at SlabMedia!  Happy interneting!

- Freddie

My thank you to Steve Jobs

slab
Jim Infantino
steve Jobs 1955  2011
Our company runs on Apple. Our servers don't, but all of the machines in our office are Macs. There is just no way that I could have created this web system without Apple, not because of specs, or programs. All the programs I work in could just as easily been run on a PC. But I never would have used them if they were.

I came out of university with a philosophy degree and a strong desire to write a better song, and maybe do something good in the world. I had not used a computer in school - though some classmates had apple IIs, and one or two had a mac.

Once out of school, I took temp jobs while I tried to figure out what I wanted to do, and one of them was in a company that used macs for creating org charts, presentations and other printed materials. They also had a Xerox computer - a big screened monster on which Steve Jobs modeled the mac's mouse and windows architecture. It was a bear. I had no problem working with the macs, and gained a reputation as a 'computer guy' - even though I had no real computer experience. The mac was just so easy to get that I fibbed about my previous experience, showed up and was a sudden expert.

Going forward, I never really figured out what I wanted to do, though I spent some time in an early information technology company, and they were all over Steve Job's second project - the NeXT computer and Silicon Graphics machines. The company kept talking about ideas like TCPIP, UNIX and Lynx. I thought it was so much mumbo-jumbo and I was only interested in the next mac. I was in the design department, and in my spare time, I was creating album covers for local musicians. I could do this, not because I went to design school, but because I had a mac se30, and a good sense of design. This is how I got by for a period while I went out and played my music.

The mac was my computer because it was a perfect fit for a creative person. I went on to start using it to create animations in Flash, write HTML, work in Photoshop, create icons and images for the web, and begin writing the SLAB web system. I never would have done any of this if Steve Jobs had not created a computer environment was intuitive and well designed. It never would have spoken to me.

I will never cease be to amazed and inspired by what Mr. Jobs accomplished with his vision of a creativity machine. In our very small way, we want to follow his example in the way we write our software.

With the rest of the modern world, I express my gratitude.

- Jim

What if there were an alternative to Bing and Google? One that respected your privacy?

slab
Jim Infantino
duckduckgo
What if indeed? Turns out there are. There is a growing desire for a simple search engine that only does the job of searching, not profiling you for various marketeers. A good example is duckduckgo.com. The searches are simple, accurate, no nonsense, and there's a firefox plugin. This is from their "about us" pages:
At other search engines, when you do a search and then click on a link, your search terms are sent to that site you clicked on (in the HTTP referrer header). We call this sharing of personal information "search leakage." For example, when you search for something private, you are sharing that private search not only with your search engine, but also with all the sites that you clicked on (for that search). In addition, when you visit any site, your computer automatically sends information about it to that site (including your User agent and IP address). This information can often be used to identify you directly. So when you do that private search, not only can those other sites know your search terms, but they can also know that you searched it. It is this combination of available information about you that raises privacy concerns. DuckDuckGo prevents search leakage by default. Instead, when you click on a link on our site, we route (redirect) that request in such a way so that it does not send your search terms to other sites. The other sites will still know that you visited them, but they will not know what search you entered beforehand.
Not bad. Indeed I find it spooky that if I go to search for a faucet one day, I suddenly notice that all the online advertisements on pages I visit are showing me ads for the same faucet all the time. No longer. Thank you Duck Duck Go!

Filter Bubbles on the internet and why you should care.

slab
Jim Infantino
rover

I'm a MAN not an IP address!

Not so long ago, I noticed that on my facebook account, I was only really seeing posts on my wall from a few of the 1000+ friends I currently have. I had recently had an educational and rational discussion with someone with whom I disagree on political matters, and saw that I was no longer getting updates from that person. This is a shame, because without getting differing points of view I feel like I end up in a cul-de-sac of my own opinions, which grow weaker and strager without being challenged.

Then I saw this video by Eli Pariser on TED. Seems it's not just Facebook, but Google that is showing me only what I agree with. And I understand why. If I only get search results that I "buy" or only connect to people who's opinions I "buy" then when they show my an ad for something that I find agreeable, I am more likely to "buy". It's market forces at work in our information cloud. Making it smaller, and more personalized, instead of broader and more varied.

Forgive the sci-fi reference, but I remember this great episode of Star Trek, Next Gen, when the doctor gets unknowingly trapped in something called a "warp bubble" which her subconscious mind fills with people she knows. Everything is fine for a while, until the bubble shrinks, and finally, she is left alone with Picard, who insists it has always just been the two of them on the ship. Finally, he's gone, and she asks the computer, "what is the nature of the universe" and the computer says "the universe is a sphere 800 feet across."

Okay - maybe that's a bit extreme, but I think you can see where I'm going with this. Here's the video:



Perhaps this video and blog entry will never make it to your twitter account, never show up in your google search, never make it to the wall of your facebook page. If so, send me a gmail.