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Once again, those satirists at the Onion have shed a little light on the privacy issues surrounding Facebook with this little video:
Sometimes the simplest parodies are the most effective. Case in point: Adam Sacks’ brilliant, satirical take on the power of a range of Apple iPhone applications.
If you’ve glanced at YouTube, or your iTunes store, or Twitter, or even Facebook in the last few days you may very well have noticed people talking about and linking to this video:
What you might not have realised if you’ve only just heard of The Guild or Felicia Day, is that this little video represents something of a leap forward in terms of indie-based web productions finding a way to make a healthy amount of money while still giving away their content predominantly for free. For those of you who’ve not come across The Guild before, it’s a comedy web series created and written by Felicia Day (of Dr Horrible and Buffy fame), looking at the ‘real’ lives of six MMO (videogame) players. The ‘game’ is never explicitly named, but the characters and situations are largely based on play in and around World of Warcraft.
Anyway, one of the most important things is that after the first season of The Guild, Day very cleverly managed to strike a deal with Microsoft which would allow them to co-produce The Guild and thus season two was initially, exclusively available via the Xbox Live, MSN and Zune websites. Significantly, Day retained all intellectual property regarding The Guild, meaning that the show remains under her ownership and control (about which Day is rightly proud). Indeed, just striking that deal is a significant business move for an indie web media creator. Of course, Day ensured that episodes also appeared on YouTube and other venues after a period of time, ensuring fans could access The Guild in whichever manner they preferred. The Guild has built a very healthy following (as has Day herself, with over a million Twitter followers) and after initially being available for free, Day released DVDs of season one and two via Amazon, which have sold reasonably well.
However, the music video which I’m focusing on today is The Guild’s ‘(Do You Wanna Date My) Avatar’ which was written by Felicia Day, features the cast of The Guild, and was directed by Jed Whedon (one of Joss’ brothers, who also co-wrote Dr Horrible). Initially revealed at Comic-Con, the music video playfully engages with pretty much every stereotype that there is about gamers, electronically dancing a fine line between knowing parody and unadulterated fandom. Following the deal with Microsoft, ‘Avatar’ was available exclusively on the Xbox and Zune websites for a week, before hitting the rest of the web both for free on YouTube and as paid download via iTunes stores, Amazon and elsewhere. And that’s where the story gets impressive, as the music video has hit number one on the US iTunes store and on Amazon as an mp3 download. More to the point, Day has learnt from the successes and problems that Dr Horrible hit last year.
While Dr Horrible was a huge hit in the US iTunes store, there were problems even viewing Dr Horrible outside of the US for the first few days, and it took months before Australians had a legal option to purchase Dr Horrible online. In contrast, Day seems acutely aware that The Guild’s fans are spread all across the globe and that all ‘national’ versions of the iTunes store (all of which have separate licensing agreements) should be ready to spread The Guild’s musical talents. [Update: To distribute the mp3 versions, Day used the Tunecore service which lets artists release their mp3s across a range of international stores simultaneously for a small fee.] The image visible on the left shows today’s Top Music Videos in the Australian iTunes store, with (Do You Wanna Date My) Avatar [feat. Felicia Day] sitting proudly at the top of the charts; it also topped the UK iTunes store (and elsewhere across the globe, too, I’m sure). While there was a delay of a day or so getting some versions of the music video or mp3 into particular national online stores, Day has no doubt affirmed the loyalty of fans across the globe by ensuring they have access to ‘Avatar’ for free, or to buy, on exactly the same terms as fans in the US. While we may never know exactly how much ‘Avatar’ earns (or even what the music video cost to make) even the $2.59 a pop for the music video in Australia, or $1.69 for the mp3 single, will surely combine with sales across the globe to make a very respectable amount. Indeed, I’d guess it could make more than a full season of The Guild webisodes!
Most importantly, though, Felicia Day has shown the sort of foresight that comes from being a clever media creator in the digital era: rather than bowing to the tyranny of digital distance, and letting the globe be arbitrarily cut into different regions in which different media companies can license and re-sell content, Day clearly views her loyal fans as a truly global, participative audience who all deserve equal access to the highly enjoyable media she creates! Felicia Day is someone who understands that digital media can, and should, also mean global media.
Now, after all that, if you’ve not done so already, stop listening to me, and check out ‘(Do You Wanna Date My) Avatar’!
Speaking of privacy issues, The Onion has once again hit the nail on the head with their “Google Opt Out Feature Lets Users Protect Privacy By Moving To Remote Village” video:
Google Opt Out Feature Lets Users Protect Privacy By Moving To Remote Village
Links for March 31st 2009 through April 3rd 2009:
- Internet traffic in Sweden plummets on first day of law banning web piracy [Guardian] – Internet traffic in Sweden – previously a hotbed of illicit filesharing – has fallen dramatically in the first day of a new law banning online piracy. The country – home to the notorious Pirate Bay website, whose founders are awaiting a court judgment on whether they have broken the law by allowing people to find films, games and music for illicit downloads – has previously been seen as a haven for filesharing, in which people can get copyrighted content for free. As many as one in 10 Swedes is thought to use such peer-to-peer services. But the so-called IPRED law, which came into force on Wednesday, obliges internet service providers to turn over details about internet users who share such content to the owners of copyrighted material, if a court finds sufficient evidence that the user has broken the law. … internet traffic in Sweden had fallen by about 30% compared with the previous day.”
- New Wolverine film leaked online [BBC NEWS | Entertainment] – “An almost finished copy of X-Men Origins: Wolverine starring Hugh Jackman has been leaked online a month before its cinema release. The high quality copy of the film has been uploaded to several file sharing and streaming video websites. The movie is incomplete, with some special effects still in need of fine tuning and green screens and wires attached to actors still visible.” (It took less than 24 hours for this workprint to appear for sale in Jordan’s pirate DVD markets and C20th Fox are on the warpath. While a leak like this might be good for publicity, given that a workprint – which means unfinished special effects more than anything else – tends to emphasise the quality of the plot and dialogue, this could really hurt the box office.)
- Obama Depressed, Distant Since ‘Battlestar Galactica’ Series Finale [The Onion – America’s Finest News Source] – “According to sources in the White House, President Barack Obama has been uncharacteristically distant and withdrawn ever since last month’s two-hour series finale of Battlestar Galactica. “The president seems to be someplace else lately,” said one high-level official, speaking on condition of anonymity. “Yesterday we were all being briefed on the encroachment of Iranian drone planes into Iraq, when he just looked up from the table and blurted out, ‘What am I supposed to watch on Fridays at 10 p.m. now? Numb3rs?'” “I haven’t seen him this upset since Admiral Adama realized that Earth was actually an uninhabitable wasteland,” the official continued. “Or at least that’s what he told me. I don’t actually watch the show. It’s not really my thing.””
- Victim Of Wikipedia: Microsoft To Shut Down Encarta [ paidContent.org] – “Microsoft will discontinue both its MSN Encarta reference Web sites as well as its Encarta software, which have both been surpassed by rising competitors, like Wikipedia. In a message posted on the MSN Encarta Web site, Microsoft says, “Encarta has been a popular product around the world for many years. However, the category of traditional encyclopedias and reference material has changed. People today seek and consume information in considerably different ways than in years past.””
Links for March 25th 2009 through March 30th 2009:
- Vintage DHARMA ads.[Flickr] – An outstanding set of fan-made ads for the more banal side of Lost‘s Dharma Initiative! By Adam Campbell [Via io9]
- Shooter video games ‘sharpen vision’ [News.com.au] – “Slaying hordes of bad guys in fast-paced video games improves vision, a study has shown for the first time. Far from being harmful to eyesight, as some had feared, action games provide excellent training for what eye doctors call contrast sensitivity, the study found. Contrast sensitivity is the ability to notice tiny changes in shades of grey against a uniform background, and is critical to everyday activities such as night driving and reading. It often degrades with age. The findings, published in Nature Neuroscience, reveal a previously unsuspected adaptability in the brain, and could open the way to new therapies, the researchers said.” (This week, video games are good! 🙂
- When Stars Twitter, a Ghost May Be Lurking – NYTimes.com – “The rapper 50 Cent is among the legion of stars who have recently embraced Twitter to reach fans who crave near-continuous access to their lives and thoughts. On March 1, he shared this insight with the more than 200,000 people who follow him: “My ambition leads me through a tunnel that never ends.” Those were 50 Cent’s words, but it was not exactly him tweeting. Rather, it was Chris Romero, known as Broadway, the director of the rapper’s Web empire, who typed in those words after reading them in an interview. “He doesn’t actually use Twitter,” Mr. Romero said of 50 Cent, whose real name is Curtis Jackson III, “but the energy of it is all him.” … someone has to do all that writing, even if each entry is barely a sentence long. In many cases, celebrities and their handlers have turned to outside writers — ghost Twitterers, if you will — who keep fans updated on the latest twists and turns, often in the star’s own voice.” (If you need a ghostwriter for 140chars, you’re not trying!)
- Conroy admits blacklist error, blames ‘Russian mob’ [SMH] – “The Communications Minister, Stephen Conroy, has admitted that Bill Henson images were added to the communications regulator’s list of prohibited websites in error, while blaming the addition of a dentist’s site to the blacklist on the “Russian mob”. Meanwhile, the website of the Federal Government’s censorship body, the Classification Board, was hacked last night and defaced with an anti-censorship screed. The admission by Senator Conroy on ABC television’s Q&A program last night casts significant doubt on the Government’s ability to filter the internet without inadvertently blocking legitimate websites. Q&A was inundated with 2000 questions from the public about the Government’s hugely unpopular policy, and the audience last night ridiculed Senator Conroy by laughing at a number of his responses.”
- YouTube Being Blocked in China, Google Says [NYTimes.com] – “Google said Tuesday that its YouTube video-sharing Web site had been blocked in China. Google said it did not know why the site had been blocked, but a report by the official Xinhua news agency of China on Tuesday said that supporters of the Dalai Lama had fabricated a video that appeared to show Chinese police officers brutally beating Tibetans after riots last year in Lhasa, the Tibetan capital. Xinhua did not identify the video, but based on the description it appears to match a video available on YouTube that was recently released by the Tibetan government in exile. It purports to show police officers storming a monastery after riots in Lhasa last March, kicking and beating protesters. It includes other instances of brutality and graphic images of a protester’s wounds. According to the video, the protester later died.”
Links for March 13th 2009 through March 18th 2009:
- Fake Stephen Conroy lashes out at Telstra [SMH] – “Telstra’s attempts to cover up the fact that it tried to silence Fake Stephen Conroy have backfired spectacularly. The Telstra employee who created the satirical Twitter profile has told his bosses not to “throw me under the f—ing bus just to make Telstra look social-media savvy”. After it was revealed that the popular Twitter profile impersonating Communications Minister Stephen Conroy was written by senior Telstra employee Leslie Nassar, the postings stopped. Nassar refused to speak to media, saying he was told to direct all comment requests to Telstra’s public relations unit. The Fake Stephen Conroy profile was also disabled for a period before reopening late yesterday. Telstra’s social media adviser Mike Hickinbotham came out to declare that Telstra did not try to shut Nassar up nor tell him to cease making the Fake Stephen Conroy posts. This directly contradicted earlier comments by Nassar, who said he was told by Telstra to stop.”
- Telstra man behind Fake Stephen Conroy [SMH] – “A web prankster impersonating Communications Minister Stephen Conroy on Twitter has been outed as a Telstra staff member. The staffer has now been silenced by the telecommunications giant, perhaps out of fear that the revelations will further increase tensions between Telstra and the Government, which has excluded Telstra from the bidding process to build a $10 billion-plus national broadband network. The satirical “Fake Stephen Conroy” profile, which has now been wiped, sparked almost as much discussion online as Senator Conroy himself. It primarily lampoons the Government’s proposed mandatory internet filtering scheme. Following an online manhunt that turned up a long list of suspects, Fake Stephen Conroy decided to turn himself in before he could be outed.
“OK, so here it is; Fake Stephen Conroy = Leslie Nassar,” he wrote yesterday.” (‘Twas fun while he lasted! 🙂
- Journalism students ‘don’t read papers’ [ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)] – “The journalists of the future are rapidly moving away from traditional news services, saying they are impractical compared to new media. A survey of Australian journalism students found 90 per cent of students do not like reading the newspaper, preferring to source news from commercial television or online media. Professor in Journalism and Media Studies at the Queensland University of Technology, Alan Knight, conducted the survey and says despite an aversion to newspapers, 95 per cent of students are very interested in following the news. “At this stage commercial television is still the favoured source, but online is rising pretty rapidly,” he said.” (I read most of my newspapers online, too. That said, i really hope some of the journalism students of today and thinking of ways to ensure that quality journalism is economically viable in the future!)
- Gervais + Elmo = Hilarity on ‘Sesame Street’ [YouTube] – The funniest thing you’ll see today – Ricky Gervais and Elmo taking an interview to a place Sesame Street realyl shouldn’t go! And, as Waxy says, they have the same laugh!
Perhaps you had to grow up with the Muppets, but this video of Ode to Joy performed by many a Beeker is one of coolest things I’ve seen in a long while:
Also, check out Gonzo’s chicken-driven take on the Blue Danube Waltz which is enough to have Stanley Kubrick turning in his grave! [Via]