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Permanent link to archive for Wednesday, August 09, 2000. Wednesday, August 09, 2000


Frontier security alert. We closed a major hole today. All Frontier users please update asap.

Response from AOL 

Upside: AOL to Pull MP3 Search Engine.

BTW, the MP3 Search command is still there. Now's your last chance to check it out.

I wrote a brief DaveNet piece, to keep the email readers uptodate.

Sheila and copy protection 

I can hear Sheila's voice so well in this rant about women's websites. "Just because I usually carry my stuff in a purse, that doesn't mean I'm only interested in shopping!"

That's Sheila, for sure. Her story is a loop-back to me, to the 80s when the idea of women's software was floating around. The women rejected it, soundly, for many of the same reasons that Sheila gives. Basically they were saying "We have minds, and we use them." At least that's what I heard.

Another loop-back. Someday I must write the story of the users' rebellion that caused the software industry to remove copy protection. It was very much like the Napster debate, except this time I'm a user, and that time I was running a software company.

Eventually we all relented, putting stickers on the outside of our shrinkwrap saying "Not copy protected." There was no way the users were going to give in. And there was no way a vendor could receive so much hatemail from paying customers without doing something about it. (It was a thing to behold, and scary beyond belief to be in the center of it.)

Eventually, I believe, the music industry must relent, not because of legalities, but because their customers eventually must come first. Prince is right, they're in business. That's how businesses stay honest.

Clueless at Lucent 

I just got an email from a division of Lucent Technologies containing a press release that is "under embargo until 6:30am PST, Thursday, August 10, 2000."

Normally I could care less who Lucent announces an alliance with (unless it was with a product I care about, say Blogger, for example), but this is noteworthy since it's a PR blast, that's under embargo?

Hello. Is anyone home over there at Lucent? There's a PR flack running loose somewhere in your company who needs to learn how embargoes work.

(The big clue is that an embargo requires an agreement.)


Reuters: Prince excited by Napster. "Young people need to be educated about how the record companies have exploited artists and abused their rights for so long and about the fact that online distribution is turning into a new medium which might enable artists to put an end to this exploitation.''

AP: "You can also burn audio CDs with MP3 music files downloaded from the Web... Is that legal? Yes, if the CD is for your personal use. Downloading copyrighted MP3s is legal, but it's illegal to give others access to copyrighted materials."

Popular Mechanics: PC vs Mac.

Curt Cloninger: Usability Experts are from Mars. "Nielsen thinks today's web is an advanced but ill-used database. Kioken thinks today's web is a fledgling but ill-used multimedia platform. And each side knows that their view of the web will prevail."

Joel Spolsky: 12 Steps to Better Code. "One programmer, who had to write the code to calculate the height of a line of text, simply wrote 'return 12;' and waited for the bug report to come in."

Radio UserLand: How to Create an HTML Dialog.

WFMU's Ken Freedman publishes his playlists in HTML.

Dan Gillmor: Putting Napster's technology to other uses.

Here's the description of the lunch session I'm doing at Seybold on August 29. They're making a big deal about, even running a press release.

Stephen Downes sees problems in Moreover's user agreement.

Internet players 

Compaq CEO, Michael Capellas: "We're coming out with MP3 players. The Internet will become different types of devices that serve different purposes."

Agreed. Just be sure to fully support the standards of the Internet. Use XML and HTTP and you can't go wrong.

Radio UserLand progress 

I've been deliberately keeping it pretty quiet on Scripting News about the specifics of Radio UserLand development over the last week or so. We have a great test group, and the program is evolving quickly as we learn from them. We're going to have to rewrite the Radio UserLand site, but that's a small deal, we want to get the software right, get a great community platform going, and then evangelize like crazy men and women.

If you want to follow the developments, the best way to do that is to join the mail list, or read the archives which are public. With Brent back from vacation, I'm switching over to features of the community space that all Radio UserLand users will share. Today we released a new version of the built-in webserver, that's a key component for the cloud. We need rock-solid and secure and really easy to understand server performance on the desktop.

My biggest conceptual problem now is having a canonical way to refer to songs. How can I tell if two people are referring to the same song? ID3 is not universally supported, and when it is, it often contains incorrect information. Maybe it'll be some kind of heuristic? Or perhaps people will take responsibility for an album, go get the physical media, and make a list of the songs it contains, with correct spellings, and while you're at it correctly spell the artist's name. This would trigger a review process. CDDB is not a solution. Lots of errors there.

BTW, when I searched for KD Lang on CDNOW, they didn't find her. Ooops. Later after struggling I learned that I had to include periods after the K and the D. So even at the artist level, there's a need for a canonical name. It would be great if I could point to a song and say "Canonicize it". Then it would change the meta information invisibly attached to the song to agree with the agreed-upon name of the song. A dialog would appear. "There's no artist named KD Lang in the database, perhaps you meant K.D. Lang?" Two buttons, OK and Cancel.

Then artists like Prince are going to give us grief when they change their names, or try to go nameless. Somehow our XMLizations have to allow this too.

Let's have a great discussion about this. Thanks!

A constant question 

I get emails and DG posts from people who want to know what music has to do with our core business, which is writing tools for the Two-Way-Web. Not surprisingly, there are two answers.

First, as we turn the corner into cloudland, it instantly becomes a content management problem. The Internet is a writing environment (a third view, from Jupiter perhaps?). So through music flow, which is something people have a lot of writing to do about, we find new users for our writing tools. I'm a whore in this way, I don't care how they find out how wonderful our stuff is. I'm willing to go where the users are. (And as a music user myself, I'm already there, I want to solve these problems, it's something I can do to make a contribution to music.)

Second, much as the space program provided liftoff for microprocessors, so the flow of music will force us to solve problems that looked large before we had the immediate need to solve them. Tied up in standards bodies, XML and HTTP have remained so stagnant that Napster didn't even use them. Now, while no one's looking, we're going to blast out some new apps for these well-deployed technologies, and tie them into a writing environment and library system that will realize TBL's Semantic Web vision and the Two-Way-Web vision, so quickly that you won't believe it. I don't.

It's the old suspension of disbelief thing.

Upside piece 

An important reader asked where the link to yesterday's Upside article went. Well, it went into DaveNet, which has a higher readership than Scripting News, and for me, more prestige. Maybe that's not so for everyone, so here's the link.

Upside: AOL's MP3 search service similar to one being sued by Time Warner. "America Online has launched an MP3 search service to boost its Winamp music division even as merger partner Time Warner sues another search service doing the same thing."

Today's Song 

John Sebastian: Younger Girl.


Last update: Wednesday, August 09, 2000 at 7:25 PM Eastern.

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