Saturday, January 25, 2014

They say it's all about the Content (ID)

You know me...

I'm all for free enterprise and hold firmly to the belief that everyone should just keep their cotton pickin' hands off other people's stuff.

But I'm also conscious of how the tenets of a "Nanny State" abused by corporate interests can tread on free expression if not free enterprise.  For the few of us who can leverage the new media and turn a few pennies for our efforts, it often seems that our creativity is stifled by the size of the retainer we pay our attorneys.

Case in point.  YouTube's dreaded ContentID system.  The ultimate expression of corporate trolling and abuse.  Upload a video that happens to include the faint echos of somebody's transistor radio and 100's of hours of effort can be seized by any number of "Third Party" copyright holders. 

YouTube is a medium but one that would prefer to expand its server farms instead of its legal team.  As such they stay far inside the so-called "safe harbor" rules on copyrighted material.

Safe Harbor is legalese for "Don't Shoot the Messenger."  It's expression of good faith has coalesced in the Content ID system.

Content ID comes into play when your uploaded content is compared against a software algorithm designed to find matches with known copyrighted material.  If it finds a match, YouTube flags the content and offers you the choice to either acknowledge or dispute the claim.  Until recently those were your only options.  It's a deck that is without doubt, stacked against you and the consequences of losing a challenge will at the least deprive you of revenue or at worst get your channel tossed off of YouTube.

Other possible consequences are:

Having your video blocked in some countries
Having Ads placed in your video that you get no revenue from
Having your Video removed from YouTube

I've gone through the dispute process and actually won a few times but only when my argument was either irrefutable or the supposed "infringed party" gave up their claim.  99% of the time, however, you're going to end up having to acknowledge what may or may not be a legitimate copyright claim.  If you care about your content being seen and the "violation" isn't egregious enough, chances are you'll just get a commercial stuck in your video.

There's another option, however, that on its face appears to be middle ground.

I'm talking about new functionality in YouTube that allows  you to remove the supposed "infringing" content from your video without having to go through the pain of re-editing it. 

The Content ID system can pinpoint to a high degree of accuracy exactly where in your video the "infringing" content resides.   It's been able to do that for years but other than annoyance it served little purpose. 

Until now, that is.  Considering that raw HD videos can be 10's of Gigabytes in size with 100's of fragile timing cues easily lost by a careless edit, a tool to easily deal with flagged content is welcome.

In the Video below, I show you how to use this new functionality offered by YouTube.  It's still in Beta but I've been satisfied with the results so far.  The best part is that once the infringing content is removed you're free to monetize and distribute the video however you wish.

Check it out

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Maricopa Community Colleges: An "insecure" letter...

Got a letter the other day and it said this...

"On October 19th, 2013 we determined that your information including: your name, address, phone number, e-mail address, Social Security number, date of birth, certain demographical information and enrollment, academic and financial aid information may have been accessed without authorization.  The system did not contain credit card information or personal health information."

Oh, well that's a relief, at least they didn't get the credit cards...Oh wait, did I shop at Target last month?

The Maricopa Community College District (MCCD) is the largest community college district in the state of Arizona and one of the largest in the nation serving  over 200,000 students every year. 

I signed up for a class with them once.  I know I applied for employment on more than one occasion as well.   Why anyone needed an SSN or Date of Birth for either considering I was never employed or completed that class is a mystery.

There's other far less personal information that can identify a person and cause far less damage if compromised.  Ahh, but I forgot, in the post 911 era we're expected to lay ourselves bare trusting that the recipients of our most personal of information will be good stewards.  Of course, all in the name of security.

Which makes it ironic that "security" is the very thing that's failed us.

They didn't get the credit card information... Who cares!  Whomever benefitted from this "info-heist" now has enough information to create scores of false identities and cause irreparable harm to the victims of the breach.

People get a bit too cavalier about their personal information sometimes.  I live in Arizona and around the time I was getting my first driver's license, the state actually encouraged motorists to use their SSN as their driver's license number.  Of course that was back in the day when credit card numbers were stolen off discarded carbon paper not the Internet.

People are admonished to carefully control access to their private information but increasingly we're asked to give that responsibility over to private and public institutions that aren't worthy of that trust.

It needs to stop.  Along with credit checks on job applications and the requirement to give your SSN for anything but obtaining a loan or starting, not applying for,  a new job.  In those cases at least you know the chain of custody of your information.

It's your PERSONAL information and you shouldn't be ostracized for protecting it.  Especially when those demanding it obviously can't be trusted to keep it safe. 

Support measures like Senator Elizabeth Warren's "Equal Employment for All Act" that blocks the requirement for credit reports on job applications.  That measure would also prevent the haphazard collection of SSN's and other personal information as well.

Monday, January 13, 2014

How Windows 8 is like Obamacare

Let's get one thing straight, this article isn't meant to be an attempt to be flippant about either topic Rather it's about mandates. 

Mandates rarely come without causing someone pain.  Does the pain of a failed operating system rival that of a botched Universal Healthcare mandate?  Unquestionably not but this isn't about equivalence, it's about arrogance.

Windows 8 was launched with great fanfare.  Preceded by not one but two public betas designed to blunt the inevitable shock by a customer base soon to lose their beloved Start Menu.  At the time Microsoft's two Steve's, Ballmer and Sinofsky, touted the gospel of one OS to rule them all.  Even if that wasn't quite true.  

The Windows on your phone wasn't the same as the one on your PC and neither was the one that graced your shiny new Surface RT.

But wait, for some strange reason, nobody wanted the Surface RT or Windows Phone...

Apparently the same went for Windows 8.

It was too much too fast.  A mandate by Goliath to David.  A directive handed down promising an end to our computing tedium and liberation from the evils of multiple platforms.  Remember what I said about not being quite true?

Let's switch from Redmond Washington to the Washington everyone cares about.  The one with D.C. in the name.  The one where the prospect of healthcare for everyone was the dream of Presidents all the way back to Franklin Delano Roosevelt.  So finally, after years of haggling, backroom deals with insurance industry lobbyists and even a Supreme Court challenge the dream became a reality.

Sort of...

The grand idea came with compromise.  Healthcare for all but still at the whim of a corrupt industry that left the poor bankrupt and the sick unhealed.  It was a mandate after all.  Everyone had to play or be subject to a fine.  There would be websites, exchanges and lip service.  If you liked things the way they were you could continue that way....


You couldn't.  That part about whims of a corrupt industry?  Well, when their policies didn't measure up to the law they simply canceled them.  No warning, no notice, just a curt letter.  The claim was that the policies didn't meet muster and more expensive options were the only answer aside from no coverage at all. 

Oh what political hay was made.  Endless prattle about promises broken and families harmed soon ensued.  Meaningless, all of it.  The bottom line was a mandate executed by the executioners with the blessings of the government via flawed public policy.  It all made for glittering sound bites but the result fell short.

Employers railed against the changes claiming crippling costs to provide adequate care and vows to reduce costs on the backs of their laborers.  Even if it meant reducing the labor force itself, suppressing  wages or cutting hours to do it.  It was true costs were spiraling out of control but not because the concept of healthcare for everyone became law.  It was because the moneychangers collecting the bills demanded more.  Something's got to give and it wasn't going to be the insurance industry. 

Employers claimed an unfair burden of their employees healthcare costs but to those in their charge the employer is the only option.   Nobody making minimum wage could shoulder the costs of an individual policy that often exceeded their month's wages.

We blame the ideology instead of the real problem, the insurance companies.  It wasn't the government, well, actually it was because they let it happen.  Ultimately, however, the blame lay squarely at the feet of the messenger (the moneychangers) and they still wanted their share.  Now they had the law to get it for them. 

Nobody likes a mandate and rebellion will soon ensue either subtle or gross.  Tell someone that touch screens and tiles are how you must use a computer from now on and expect some blowback.

Tell insurance companies that they must cover everyone but do nothing to keep them honest and you end up with the healthcare mess we have now.

The similarities are staggering...

Yes, Windows is just an operating system while healthcare is often a case of life or death but the fumble is the same. 

A change in the way we work with our technology was long overdue, Windows 8 showed us a glimpse of a better future.  So too was Universal healthcare but like the ill fated operating system it was a glittering promise that couldn't deliver.  At least not as it is now.

In the case of Windows you could always just stick with the old version or wait for Microsoft to fix their error in judgment with Windows 9.  Not so with Universal Health care, there's no turning back the clock regardless of what the politicians say.   But just like any version of Windows, expect a slew of "patches" in an attempt to make things better.

Friday, January 10, 2014

It's all about Her

I'm going to step outside of the normal weirdness I put in this blog for a minute because something's bothering me.

There's a lot of buzz about the latest permutation of the modern love story.  One that promises to make you question your reality like "The Matrix" but without all the bullets.

Spike Jonze's latest foray into the sublime if not ridiculous otherwise known as, "HER." has managed to gather critical acclaim since its release a few weeks ago.  Even Rotten Tomatoes is giving 4 1/2 stars.  

Before I go any further you need to know that this isn't a movie review, in fact I expressly plan to NOT see this movie.  Why?

Because this is nothing more than a silicon valley ubergeek's wet dream.  The reviewers swoon at all those touching moments in the film with drivel like...

"a romantic scene .....that genuinely seems to be taking place between two flawed, headstrong lovers.


I guess it's natural for a gadget crazed populace to make the leap into a Kurzweil (Singularity) fantasy where love need no more than Siri with Scarlett Johansson's voice seductively suggesting a good sushi bar.  By the way, don't expect any sultry holograms, all you get is her voice.

No matter how clever and tastefully done, the whole premise is in a word, pathetic. Not because it's outlandish but because of how much it isn't.  After all, if we can't make a relationship work why not try to create one with a bunch of circuits and a voice synthesizer right?

Is this some reflection of an emotionally detached society more enamored with technology than the people around them?  I think so and instead of a sweet, touching love story, a movie like this should serve as a warning.  

Maybe that's the point but it's sad commentary on society that we have to ask the question.

It's bad enough that all these soft-core romance flicks reflect a lifestyle few could ever achieve.  I mean don't these people ever have to work?  Seems like they have days to while away on beaches, taking spontaneous road trips across the country or lounging in sidewalk cafe's.

I suppose HER fits the bill for its genre then.  Especially for those silicon valley types who grew up with the likes of "Weird Science"  haunting their adolescent dreams.


That's it right there!  We finally have a "dignified" sequel to a movie about making your own perfect woman.

In that light it's not quite such a sweet, heart touching tale is it.