Technology vs. Copyright, or “Who Owns Culture?”

In the ongoing and often heated debate regarding the appropriate balance for copyright law and DRM technology in a world of digital culture, Lawrence Lessig is both touchstone and lightening rod. Lessig posted a video of a talk he gave a year ago at the NY Public Library, with his minimalist slides synced nicely to the audio from the talk. [.torrent] [Google Video] Must-see TV for anyone with an interest in this debate.

I noticed the intergenerational aspect of this debate at iSummit, between the Boomer content-owners and their remixing social-media children, the Millennials. Lessig calls for calm and a ceasefire while the lobbyists, lawyers and activists take the time to understand the creative potential of these new technologies before that potential is regulated away:

We as a culture need to learn how to listen, to understand, to protect the creators that this technology will enable. Not just the creators from the 20th century, but the creators that our children will be when this technology empowers them. So we need to describe and understand their capacity; to understand how they make and create by hearing from them. They need to tell us, how is jazz made? Was there a lawyer sitting next to the jazz artist as he sampled from the works of those who he built on? How was hip-hop inspired? Was it inspired with a catalogue of work that one called up permission to seek, to use, to remake to express a new form of creativity? How is art made? Tell us. Tell us, who use the tools of law to regulate you. Because unless you start showing us…how you create and have always created….then this potential, which is being realized every moment by kids using technology today, will be taken away.

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Toronto vs. Google

In a knowledge-based economy, the primary economic battleground is for top-tier talent. In the software space, the 800-pound Gorilla in terms of recruitment is Google. I watched Google’s recruiting video recently, and was struck by how Google positions itself and the types of programs that Google uses to attract the best and the brightest in the world.

How can innovative small to medium-sized companies compete in this global battle for talent? The ability to pay high salaries is important, of course, as is oft-cited but rarely delivered “quality of life”. Is every software company going to be able offer free gourmet organic meals, onsite daycare and 20% time for personal projects? No, not likely. But there are opportunities for groups or clusters of businesses to cooperate in partnership with their home-base communities to strategically provide the kind of quality of life benefits that highly mobile global talent is seeking.

Meanwhile, Canada’s job market is tightening, with recent employment figures showing unemployment at a 32-year low. Apparently, we can thank the high price of oil and Canada’s increasing status as a major petro-exporter as a driving force of this. (25,000 people migrated to oil-rich Alberta in the 4th quarter, a pace of migration not seen since 1980). This is good news for Canadians looking for work. But it is making life difficult for those companies that need to attract and retain the best and brightest talent around the world in order to stay competitive in a global marketplace.

The first, and most important, attraction for top creative and technical talent is working on something truly remarkable. Business needs to offer talent the opportunity to create meaning by providing supportive creative environments and smart business models that can leverage the creative energy of the best and brightest. (i.e. Don’t bother paying big bucks to attract star talent if your product is crap.) If you want to understand how to position your business to attract this kind of talent, I highly recommend Richard Florida’s “Rise of the Creative Class“, where he describes the personal and professional preferences of creative talent, as well as Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s “Good Business: Leadership, Flow and the Making of Meaning” which describes the psychology of creativity at work.

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Toronto web-buzz generates migration talk?

Stowe Boyd, a well-recognized visionary and “industry maven” in web-ville, was in Toronto recently and is coming back for mesh. With all the buzz Toronto’s getting right now, our reputation as a place for creative, leading-edge thinking and work is being enhanced. This is the kind of thing that proves out Richard Florida’s thesis.

I welcome Stowe’s half-serious emigration ponderings. I, for one, would be happy to help unload some boxes from the moving van. My preferred beer is Steam Whistle. While in Toronto for the mesh conference, we’d be happy to provide a tour of Liberty Village and the Distillery District. Maybe somebody can hook the man up with Lord of the Rings tickets.

Stowe, when it comes to relocating your new venture, “advisory capital” company “A Working Model”, Toronto’s DemoCamp community will welcome you with open arms. In fact, we’ve got some interesting ideas brewing for the next stage of community-building. I invite you to sign-up for BarCampToronto 2.0 the weekend prior to mesh and we’ll talk massively parallel innovation pipelines.

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CAN-TV be nimble?

McLean Mashingaidze-Greaves (“MMG“) dishes on the state of Canadian broadcasting in an iTunes world of digital entertainment. I unfortunately didn’t get a chance to chat with McLean at iSummit, where he participated in the wrap-up panel. MMG is the man, a true Canadian innovator who was the original Executive Producer of CBC’s Zed, which was interactive, audience-driven, “open-source” video content before such things became fashionable. I loved Zed, still do.
Who Mmg

He describes very well the threat to the business model of the private Canadian broadcasting networks of on-demand pay-per-download video content distribution via iTunes and other platforms. This threat impacts the cash cow of U.S. programming that is resold on the Canadian networks. Those networks (and their cash) are also critical buyers and supporters of Canadian domestic content production for television. Lately I’ve been trying to watch myself for signs for of hyperbole, but the implications of the disintermediation of Canadian broadcasters that McLean describes are simply massive.

While his post raises questions of how Canadians will tell their stories to each other, it also begs a bigger question of the economic prospects for Canadian television content producers. How can you grab a share of this emerging new global market for entertainment, when the barriers and structures we’ve relied upon to support our domestic industry are falling before our eyes? Can the Canadian television industry be transformed to become net exporters of top quality content to global markets with high levels of audience appeal? Can the CBC be reinvigorated as a public broadcaster to fill the void for stories that are uniquely Canadian that are of interest mainly to Canadians? Can the new digital media platforms give voice to even more Canadians in a new world of peer-to-peer media?

The answers to these questions go to the very heart of the question of the place for the Canadian perspective and voice in the world and the future success of this important creative industry. I’m looking at McLean’s new venture, nimble, and other innovators to help show us the way.

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mesh Conference Schedule is up

mesh - Canada's Web 2.0 Conference

If you haven’t registered, do so now. I have a feeling mesh is going to sell out pretty quickly. iSummit sold out well in advance in the same space, and I have a feeling there are more out-of-towners coming to mesh. The schedule has a strong showing from the TorCamp/DemoCamp community and a who’s who of leading thinkers and practitioners.

mesh Conference Schedule Toronto 2006

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Married Inc.

Get to know married entrepreneurs, DemoCampers, bloggers and now mesh conference panelists John and Malgosia Green of Nuvvo. I met John at the Nuvvo demo at DemoCamp3, and found him to be very sharp. Malgosia brings with her a stellar reputation courtesy of our mutual friend, David Glue. Now check out their blog, Married Inc., which is really cute with the back and forth speech bubbles.

Wait a minute! Speech bubbles!? That’s my schtick! Strange coincidence? Their first blog post was March 13th, Remarkk!’s first Hello World was March 16th. Stranger still. Is DemoCamp a Dreamcatcher for synchronicity? Some Jungian dipping into the collective unconscious? There may indeed be magic beneath DemoCamp’s geek exterior.

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Toronto is “the media world’s third coast”

Well I guess we successfully hyped ourselves to video podcaster and Rocketboom founder Andrew Baron when he was here for iSummit, ’cause now he’s spreading the word that Toronto is hot, hot, hot on the web, web, web. I didn’t know about Rocketboom prior to iSummit, and rather enjoy the bite-size video morsels with that NY Indie geek-chic perspective. Check out the April 3rd episode here, or add it to your iTunes. Now all I need is one of those rumoured new video iPods. [via iSummit blog]

…the main thing I gathered…is that the professional and up-and-coming broadcast industry and media arts of Canada is relatively isolated in Canada, but there is a major momentum to transcend the weird historical territorial boundaries in place; now couldn’t be a better time to take hold of a global media influence

I couldn’t agree more. And Andrew has good advice on how to approach the transition to an IP-networked world of digital entertainment and social media:

If you move to a new country, with a culture you are unfamiliar with, it’s not going to do you much good to stay at home. You may want to get out there into the environment and walk around to discover things about how the systems work, what kinds of things the people like and don’t like.

The barriers to entry for new content is so low that R&D is very cheap. If you’re still a little leery, Andrew’s coming to mesh, so get your tickets and learn more. Now I’m off to mix my own Chevy Tahoe ad.

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ICT Toronto Cluster Development Strategy: April 19th

I am going to this event at (where else?) MaRS on April 19th. (ICT is “Information & Communications Technology”, for you non-policy wonks out there). It should be of interest if you care about the entrepreneurial and economic vitality of Toronto’s technology community. Or it might just be another good opportunity to schmooze in the atrium at MaRS.

I believe that the three levels of government that developed this strategy need to hear from and see the emerging community that is self-organizing around TorCamp and other communities of practice in ICT and related clusters. ICT is not just big metal, telecom and enterprise software. It is also the web, digital entertainment and social media. These different poles of such a diverse industry spectrum have very different needs, and my hope is that any development strategy reflects that diversity.

If not, well then there is no better opportunity than this strategy launch event for the community to engage with the political, academic and policy folks. Get heard.

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The Future of Television?

Tom Purves provides more iSummit perspective here. The sky isn’t falling just yet and there is time to adjust, thanks to the massive passives:
IBM: The end of TV as we know it

According to IBM’s thinking, the shift to open-participative media is happening but over a fairly long time-scale. I wonder. I think IBM’s forecasted 2012 future state on the above matrix underestimates the potential consumer behaviour impact of new user-friendly broadband home entertainment devices, like an Apple HDTV with integrated media-centre and next-gen FrontRow software. Usability is the technology that can suddenly change the size of these circles, for evidence, witness the iPod phenomenon.

The important strategic question for companies in the digital entertainment industry to consider is what side of this wave do you want to be on?

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