Dennis Yang’s Techdirt Profile


About Dennis Yang Techdirt Insider

Dennis is responsible for managing the development of Floor64's suite of insight management tools for both its corporate clients and the public websites. Dennis joined Floor64 after seven years at mySimon, a division of CNET Networks. As Associate Vice President, Dennis was responsible for the overall management, operations, and development of the mySimon comparison shopping site. Prior to that, he was the Director of Engineering for mySimon. Dennis first cut his teeth at Andersen Consulting, and holds a B.S. from Cornell University. Dennis authors his own personal blog, eponymously at

Posted on Techdirt - 4 March 2015 @ 7:17am

Breaking: Clinton Gave Staffers Addresses Too

from the it's-turtles-all-the-way-down dept

There has been quite a kerfuffle around the apparent fact that Hillary Clinton solely used her personal email account for government business. This piqued my curiosity, especially since I've been playing with a service called Conspire lately.

Conspire is a startup that analyzes your email and then seeks to provide you with an email chain with which to introduce you to the desired person. So, say I wanted to email my current business crush, Marcus Lemonis, Conspire's system found a path with which I could ask for an introduction. In my case, my friend Espree could email her friend Nathan for an introduction to Marcus. Neat. I can definitely see how Conspire could become a useful tool, albeit one that raises some very interesting privacy questions.

So, I looked for Hillary Clinton's now famous email address in Conspire. No luck. Conspire is still growing, so I suppose it makes sense that none of its members have yet to email Hillary. But then I tried just the domain in the search, and got one hit. Huma Abedin, Hillary's long-time aide, had an email address with the domain in Conspire's records. Unfortunately, I have no connection path to Ms. Abedin, so I can't ask the system to facilitate an introduction, but it is fascinating. What other Clinton staffers were using email addresses at the domain? Seems like at least one was.

Huma Abedin's Page on
To be fair, Abedin not only was Clinton's deputy chief of staff in the State Department, but she also continued to work for Clinton after Clinton left office. It is possible that she only got the email address after leaving the government, but it certainly raises some serious questions about whether or not other State Department staffers were provided private clintonemail addresses to avoid transparency requirements. In fact, Politico is reporting specifically that Abedin and other staffers used non-government email addresses while in the State Department, which suggests the clintonemail address may have come earlier:
Clinton’s personal aide, Huma Abedin, and her communications adviser, Philippe Reines, regularly used unofficial email accounts for work-related email, former colleagues said.
This also makes me wonder what other new communications mediums our government officials are using. Could world leaders be SnapChatting each other? Or perhaps sending international YO's? Or trolling each other on YikYak? And, if they are, are they complying with records retention laws?

20 Comments | Leave a Comment..

Posted on Techdirt - 11 May 2013 @ 12:00pm

Dennis Yang's Favorite Posts of the Week

from the i-used-to-post-here dept

Hello Techdirt! I'm Dennis Yang. I was one of the original folks that helped Mike get Techdirt started way back when. Now, I'm working on something a little bit different called Bureau of Trade, which, despite its official-sounding name, has actually nothing to do with anything remotely governmental. That said, it's been a long, long while since I've posted anything on Techdirt, so when Mike asked me to do a Favorites post, I leapt at the opportunity.

And, that's it for this week -- thanks to the Techdirt team for writing a great flight of posts this week.

15 Comments | Leave a Comment..

Posted on Case Studies - 24 February 2012 @ 12:02am

Vending Machine Sells Books For Whatever Price You Want

from the i'll-buy-that-for-a-dollar dept

While we've seen pay-what-you-want models work quite well for digital goods, it's still uncertain as to whether the model works for tangible goods where the marginal cost of each sold item does not approach zero. However, that doesn't mean people shouldn't try. A Brazilian company launched a line of vending machines that sell books without a set price, allowing customers to decide what they want to pay for the book. That said, it's not entirely pay what you want, since the machines require that customers put a minimum of a 2 BRL note (equivalent to about $1.17 USD) to get a book.

Initial reports claim that "sales at the promotional machines had already more than doubled within just over a month after the program’s launch, and most purchases are indeed paid with a BRL 2 note." While this sounds promising, there's no mention of how much more the books were priced before the new model was implemented, nor the profit margin beforehand. Furthermore, in looking at the vending machine, it's not apparent that customers are given any real reason why they should pay more than the minimum for the book. The books are just placed in a normal looking vending machine -- customers can't leaf through the book or even look at the back cover until after they've bought the book (and decided what to pay for it). This seems like a lost opportunity. Especially in a pay-what-you-want situation, it's still about giving customers a reason to pay more.

15 Comments | Leave a Comment..

Posted on Techdirt - 18 January 2012 @ 7:56pm

A Gallery Of The SOPA Blackout Protest Screens.

from the mr-smith-takes-over-the-internet dept

Needless to say, there's a pretty big protest going on right now against SOPA, with many sites either shuttering fully or making obvious changes in support of the protests. Leading the charge are Wikipedia, Reddit and Google. Sites like SOPA STRIKE and SOPA Blackout disseminated code to allow sites to easily join the blackout, but many sites have actually decided to take the time to tailor their protests for their own sites, which is amazing to see. It is this creative energy that drives the Internet and makes it what it is (for better or worse), and it is this very energy that legislation like SOPA and PIPA threaten to extinguish.

I've created a gallery of SOPA blackout screencaps, but here are some of my favorite takes on the protest today:

Reddit's blackout is probably the most complete; all URLs, including deep links, on Reddit lead to the blackout page, which is very impressive for such a largely trafficked site. For Redditor's going through Reddit-withdrawal today, they feature a handy countdown timer on their blackout page.
Reddit's SOPA Blackout

Wikipedia's blackout encompasses all of the English site, and as evidenced by @herpderpedia (who is collecting various angry Tweets about the Wikipedia blackout), it is certainly causing some frustration (and hopefully some awareness). That said, Wikipedia's blackout is very, very, very easy to thwart (just hit the ESC key before the page fully loads), so there's an easy escape valve for those that are in dire need of its content. In that same vein, Craigslist's full blackout also has a release valve that gracefully loads after a few seconds.

Google promised that it would do "something," and followed suit with a Google Doodle, essentially blacking out its logo in protest. Several sites followed suit, including Hacker News, 4chan's /b/ (link to a SFW screenshot), and TwitPic.

Taking the "censor-style" protest to the next level are Wired's blackout and Daily Kos' blackout. Wired's coders decided to mark up the page itself with black censor boxes, so that the page looks like it's been through the hands of some very aggressive government censors. Very clever from the design-minded folks over at Wired.
Wired's SOPA Blackout

Elegant as always, xkcd's blackout offers the simple message, "[don't censor the web]". xkcd's SOPA blackout

And, the most amusing blackout of the day comes from McSweeney's (of course), who has handily replaced its site today with "A DAY’S WORTH OF FACTS TO GET YOU THROUGH WIKIPEDIA’S 24-HOUR BLACKOUT."
McSweeney's SOPA Blackout

Check out the full gallery here, and let me know if there are any awesome blackout implementations that I've missed.

75 Comments | Leave a Comment..

Posted on Techdirt - 5 January 2012 @ 2:22pm

Techdirt 2011: The Numbers.

from the not-the-end-of-the-world-yet dept

Happy New Year everyone! Last year's "The Numbers" post proved to be quite popular, so we decided to do it again. 2011 was yet another banner year for Techdirt.

We handled around 14.7 million visits last year (up from 2009's 11M). Those visitors checked out the 3,923 stories that we posted and submitted 205,129 comments. Oddly, the #1 story for 2011 was one that was actually written in 2010, about the ubiquitous "Free Public WiFi" mystery. It turns out that a lot of people remain curious about all those "free public WiFi" ad hoc networks you see. Two stories about SOPA/PIPA graced the top ten, as well as the harrowing censorship tale of It appears that you folks are concerned about government censorship.

2011 was also a great year for the comment voting system. Congrats to Marcus Carab and Dark Helmet, who garnered the highest cumulative scores for insightful and funniest comments, respectively -- and, amazingly, each came in second place to the other in the category they didn't come in first. I sense a growing rivalry...

The top browser used by Techdirt readers was still Firefox (35%). Chrome, which lost by a narrow margin to IE last year, blew past IE's 15% to 30%. And there are still nearly 100,000 that are, despite all of the best efforts of Microsoft to convince you otherwise, still inexplicably using IE6.

Mobile usage jumped up to 1.6M visits this year, which is nearly a 200% increase from 2010. 615k of those visits came from iPhones, versus 566k for Android and 322k from iPad. In aggregate, Apple devices did beat Android. iPhone beat out Android last year by nearly 2:1, so clearly that gap is quickly closing.

Where did this year's traffic come from? Reddit jumped in the charts this year, referring 2.1M visits, up 277% from last year's 557k. I'm a little saddened to see that Slashdot is definitely not what it used to be -- referrals from them dropped by nearly a third last year. I suppose getting Slashdotted is no longer what it used to be. Continuing to perform quite well, however, are both StumbleUpon and HackerNews. Facebook also sent a decent amount of traffic.

To hear some of Google's enemies (including politicians in Congress) tell the story, the only way sites get traffic is via search engines -- and Google specifically. They act as though, if Google isn't sending you tons of traffic, you don't exist. Google definitely does send us a fair bit of traffic, but only about 20% of our actual traffic came from searches. We certainly value that 20%, but it definitely shows that you don't have to rely on search traffic to get traffic. Even more telling, here are the top three search terms that brought people to Techdirt in 2011:

  1. techdirt
  2. sopa
  3. tech dirt
Where are you all coming from? It's really not that different than in 2010. The vast majority of you are from the US. Canada is second, followed closely by the UK. After that, there's a pretty sharp drop off to Australia, then Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden. France, India and New Zealand round out the top 10. Last year, we noted that Japan narrowly beat out China to follow India as the leading Asian countries. This year (despite stories of how we're sometimes blocked in China), China jumped into second place in Asia, followed by South Korea, who leap-frogged Japan. Brazil was tops in South America and South Africa was tops in Africa -- same as in 2010.

All in all, people from 230 countries or territories visited Techdirt. Just like last year, there was a single visit from Christmas Island -- though, last year, we had someone in our comments suggest that the single Christmas Island visit may have been him, and not really from Christmas Island.

Last year, we noted that the only countries that we appeared to get absolutely no visits from were... North Korea, Western Sahara & Chad. Western Sahara and Chad, once again, failed to send any visitors... but, in a stunning development, we got two visitors from North Korea. And, in case you were wondering, Belarus, whose new laws will make it difficult for people there to access many websites, actually sent over 1,000 visitors last year. Also, I have no idea why, but the nearly 1,000 visitors from Gibraltar spent the highest average time on the site of visitors from any other country/territory -- averaging nearly 20 minutes per visit. People from Macedonia actually visited the most pages (on average) per visit -- at just under 6 on average from over 3,500 visitors.

And, of course, this isn't just about the odd facts, but about the overall community -- with many of you being quite loyal, which we appreciate to no end. 1.5 million of the visits -- or just over 10% came from people who visited Techdirt more than 100 times last year -- and the vast majority of those (just under 1 million) actually visited the site more than 200 times. You people rock.

Anyway, thanks again to everyone for making yet another year of Techdirt awesome. Here's to a fantastic 2012.

Top Ten Stories, by Unique Pageviews, on Techdirt for 2011:
  1. The History Of The (Fake) 'Free Public WiFi' You Always See At Airports
  2. SOPA Markup Runs Out Of Time; Likely Delayed Until 2012 [Update: Or Not...]
  3. Apple Continues To Insist Only It Can Use An Apple In A Logo; Threatens Small German Cafe
  4. Guy Who Created The TSA Says It's Failed, And It's Time To Dismantle It
  5. Craigslist Trying To Destroy The Life Of Someone Who Made Posting To Craigslist Easier
  6. Breaking News: Feds Falsely Censor Popular Blog For Over A Year, Deny All Due Process, Hide All Details...
  7. Company Thanks Guy Who Alerted Them To Big Security Flaw By Sending The Cops... And The Bill
  8. NY Times & LA Times Both Come Out Against SOPA & PIPA
  9. EU Officially Seizes The Public Domain, Retroactively Extends Copyright
  10. PROTECT IP Renamed E-PARASITES Act; Would Create The Great Firewall Of America
2011's Top Ten Stories, by comment volume
  1. If You're Arguing That Someone 'Deserves' Copyright, Your Argument Is Wrong (823 comments)
  2. Do A Little Dance, Make A Little Love...Get Bodyslammed Tonight (At The Jefferson Memorial) (457 comments)
  3. Judge Bans Handing (Factual) Pamphlets To Jurors; Raising First Amendment Issues (429 comments)
  4. TSA Agent Threatens Woman With Defamation, Demands $500k For Calling Intrusive Search 'Rape' (403 comments)
  5. Revisiting The Question Of Who Deserves Copyright (376 comments)
  6. PROTECT IP Renamed E-PARASITES Act; Would Create The Great Firewall Of America (376 comments)
  7. Senators Want To Put People In Jail For Embedding YouTube Videos (374 comments)
  8. Monkeys Don't Do Fair Use; News Agency Tells Techdirt To Remove Photos (372 comments)
  9. Why Is The Justice Department Pretending US Copyright Laws Apply In The UK? (351 comments)
  10. Breaking News: Feds Falsely Censor Popular Blog For Over A Year, Deny All Due Process, Hide All Details... (341 comments)
* Note that only 2 of the most commented stories were also among the top 10 most visited stories, once again showing that traffic and the number of comments don't necessarily correlate.

2011's Top Users, by comment volume
  1. The eejit - 3,963 comments
  2. Jay - 3,433 comments
  3. Marcus Carab - 2,255 comments
  4. Richard - 2,209 comments
  5. PaulT - 1,841 comments
  6. Hephaestus - 1,662 comments
  7. nasch - 1,456 comments
  8. Dark Helmet - 1,426 comments
  9. abc gum - 1,357 comments
  10. HothMonster - 1,313 comments
2011's Most Insightful Users, as voted by the community
  1. Marcus Carab
  2. Dark Helmet
  3. Karl
  4. Richard
  5. Jay
  6. Chris Rhodes
  7. The eejit
  8. PaulT
  9. That Anonymous Coward
  10. E. Zachary Knight
2011's Funniest Users, as voted by the community
  1. Dark Helmet
  2. Marcus Carab
  3. Capitalist Lion Tamer
  4. The eejit
  5. :Lobo Santo
  6. Chris Rhodes
  7. Gwiz
  8. Hephaestus
  9. ChurchHatesTucker
  10. That Anonymous Coward

52 Comments | Leave a Comment..

Posted on Techdirt - 12 January 2011 @ 1:22pm

Techdirt 2010: The Numbers.

from the happy-new-year dept

2010 was a great year for Techdirt. We thought we'd share some stats about 2010 with all of you (and yes, we're a little late on this but we finally got around to pulling together the numbers).

We posted 3,798 stories, generating 152,683 comments. According to Google Analytics, Techdirt had 11,490,135 visits in 2010. So, if Techdirt were a National Park (and you readers were visiting us in real life), we'd be the #3 most popular park in the country, just behind the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. Or if we were a museum, we'd be well ahead of the top ranked Louvre, who only did a paltry 8.5 million visits last year. Yes, I know those are unfair comparisons but it's still a fun way to view things in perspective. Of course, if any of you really do want to visit us in real life, we'd love to have you.

Separately, the traffic numbers represented continued growth over the course of the year. If we're just looking at our December numbers, traffic in December of 2010 was 62% higher than in December 2009, and that was after continued growth throughout the year. So, it looks like we ended the year with a lot more folks here in the community than we started with, which is always a nice thing.

While certainly a large part of our traffic is US-based, the community here really is quite global with visitors coming from an astounding 230 different countries or territories (and yes, we did recently have a discussion about how there were fewer countries than that in the world, but Google Analytics counts "territories" too -- so a big shout out to you, the one visitor from Christmas Island).

Not surprisingly, the top four countries were all English speaking countries (US, Canada, UK and Australia) but Germany clocked in at number 5, followed by the Netherlands, India, France, Sweden and Spain. After India, Japan was the leading Asian country, which narrowly beat out China. Brazil was the leading South American country, topping Argentina by a decent margin. In Africa, not too surprisingly, South Africa was tops with Egypt coming in second. Of course, it looks like we did not get visits from every country in the world. Among those with no visitors at all were North Korea, Western Sahara & Chad. Pretty much every other country I checked had at least one visitor, though there may be some tiny Pacific Islands that I'm unaware of that didn't send any visitors and which I can't easily spot on the map.

Within the US, just looking at states, our top visitors were from California and then New York (with Texas close behind). The state that sent the least number of visitors? Wyoming. Not like anyone lives there anyway (kidding Wyomans, kidding). If we look at the top cities worldwide, New York dominated in terms of visitors, with a surprise second place finish from London, beating out all other US cities (perhaps less surprising taking into account population totals). San Francisco, LA and Chicago round out the top five. DC comes in at number seven. Sydney, Australia is the second non-US city and number 9 on the overall list.

Most of you still use Windows, followed by Mac and Linux pulling up in third place. iPhone visitors topped Android visitors (2:1) but I would bet that's going to change over the next year. Firefox was the most popular browser. Internet Explorer (?!?) eked out a tiny victory over Chrome, though I can't imagine that staying true much longer.

In any case, thanks to everyone for making Techdirt the thriving community that it is. Here's to a great 2011.

Top Ten Stories, by Unique Pageviews, on Techdirt for 2010:

  1. Best Buy Firing Employee Because He Makes A Funny Video That Doesn't Even Mention Best Buy - July 2nd
  2. The 19 Senators Who Voted To Censor The Internet - November 18th
  3. 'Hollywood Accounting' Losing In The Courts - July 8th
  4. Facebook Threatens Greasemonkey Script Writer - March 25th
  5. Why Congress Isn't So Concerned With TSA Nude Scans & Gropes: They Get To Skip Them - November 18th
  6. Guy Building A Working (Yes, Working) Computer Inside A Video Game - September 29th
  7. RIAA Accounting: Why Even Major Label Musicians Rarely Make Money From Album Sales - July 13th
  8. Why The Wikileaks Document Release Is Key To A Functioning Democracy - December 1st
  9. Sony Deletes Feature On PS3's; You Don't Own What You Thought You Bought - March 31st
  10. More Casinos Succeeding With The 'That Jackpot You Won Was Really A Computer Glitch' Claim - June 7th
2010's Top Posts, by Comment Volume:
  1. UK Hairdresser Fined For Playing Music Even Though He Tried To Be Legal - 599 comments
  2. Defining Success: Were The RIAA's Lawsuits A Success Or Not? - 417 comments
  3. The 19 Senators Who Voted To Censor The Internet - 401 comments
  4. Four Years In, How Successful Has Hollywood's Attack On The Pirate Bay Been - 376 comments
  5. Can Someone Explain Why Circumvention For Non-Infringing Purposes Is Illegal? - 364 comments
  6. Is Intellectual Property Itself Unethical? - 337 comments
  7. Why Debates Over Copyright Get Bogged Down: Conflating Use With Payment - 315 comments
  8. Give A Man A Fish... And Make It Illegal To Teach Fishing - 302 comments
  9. Why Voting For COICA Is A Vote For Censorship - 300 comments
  10. Composer Jason Robert Brown Still Standing By His Position That Kids Sharing His Music Are Immoral - 292 comments
It seems worth pointing out that there was almost no overlap between the stories that were most visited and those that had the most comments (only one story makes both lists). This is actually pretty common. Many people assume that more comments automatically means the most popular stories in terms of traffic, but that's almost never the case. Traffic and comments do not correlate nearly as much as you would expect. Some of the stories with the most comments often involve a very small number of people continuing to have a (often quite interesting!) discussion long after everyone else has moved on...

2010's Top Users, By Comment Volume*:
  1. Dark Helmet -2,278 comments
  2. Hephaestus - 2,277 comments
  3. nasch - 1,597 comments
  4. Richard - 1,539 comments
  5. Technopolitical - 1,265 comments
  6. Karl - 1,249 comments
  7. average_joe - 1,156 comments
  8. Rose M. Welch - 993 comments
  9. PaulT - 982 comments
  10. ChurchHatesTucker - 918 comments
*Mike had 2,964 comments so he's technically the top commenter, but I'm not counting him here.

84 Comments | Leave a Comment..

Posted on Techdirt - 24 November 2010 @ 9:27am

If Your Product Placement Is Obvious And Awkward, You're Doing It Wrong

from the million-different-flavors-in-your-mouth-at-the-same-time dept

As DVRs usage and on-demand program watching increases, commercial breaks are becoming easier to skip. Product placement has long been discussed as a way to combat this trend, with shows like SNL getting into the act. However, if more shows are going to be placing products into their shows, it's important to remember that it's not just a matter of shoehorning a sponsor's product into the plotline. The soap opera, Days of Our Lives painfully illustrates this point with several embarrassingly awful product placements. Sure, the writing on soap operas might not be great to start with, but the product placement in these spots is so incredibly awkward, that it's hard to believe that the sponsors were happy with these ads. Surely writers struggled with trying to fit the term "Wanchai Ferry Chinese Food" into normal dialogue:

But, the phrase sounds painfully out-of-place, even in soap opera land, which, ironically, was created by Procter & Gamble as a platform with which to hawk their wares. Of course, it's not exactly clear if these are paid placements, since there's no active indication on the screen as such. Then again, when a bag of Chex Mix gets an obvious close up:

it certainly feels like a paid placement. These placements almost feel formulaic, when you start to watch them in succession. Product shot, check. Marketing message inserted in dialogue, check. This placement for Cheerios follows this formula perfectly, and ends with a hilariously melodramatic shot of the comely protagonist, with a huge box of Cheerios included inexplicably in the shot:

These placements are so bad that I almost wonder if this is yet another case of anti-product placement designed to muster negative sentiments for a competitors' products.

62 Comments | Leave a Comment..

Posted on Techdirt - 12 October 2010 @ 4:26pm

Ohio Town Refunds 980 Speed Camera Tickets For Only Driving 10mph Over The Limit (Versus 11mph)

from the go-speed-racer dept

A story suggest to us by reader Dan describes how an Ohio town recently issued 980 speeding ticket refunds. The city of Garfield Heights, Ohio, installed two speed cameras, attached to unmanned police cars, and then sent speeding tickets to those that were deemed to be speeding. The policy was to only issue tickets to those driving more than 11 miles per hour over the speed limit, so, when it was found that a number of tickets were issued to those driving 10 miles per hour over the limit, almost $100,000 in ticket revenue was refunded. Apparently, city officials had told the public that the tickets would be issued if people were caught driving 11 miles over the limit. So, if that's the case, then is the speed limit actually the speed limit or not? Once again, this goes to show how completely arbitrary speed limit enforcement can be. Is there really a difference in safety in going 10 mph over the speed limit vs. 11? And, if anything, it seems that widely circulating this policy would simply encourage people to drive 9 miles over the limit.

Clearly, it's a great money maker for the city. Since the month of June, when the cameras were installed, they sent out nearly 11,000 tickets, representing about $1,000,000 in added revenue. Sure, it's possible that the city may need to cover a shortfall in a budget, but is the false guise of public safety the appropriate manner in which to obtain this revenue? At least this method is a little more scientific than other Ohio towns, where a policeman can issue a ticket by simply guessing how fast you were going.

38 Comments | Leave a Comment..

Posted on Techdirt - 29 July 2010 @ 6:10am

Old Spice Man Gets Backed Up With A Few Numbers, Sales Up 107 Percent

from the silver-fish-catch dept

With all of the buzz lately around the fantastically successful Old Spice campaign, some numbers are finally starting to trickle in about whether or not the campaign actually translated into more sales of the body wash. Although initial reports suggested that the ads did little to boost sales, according to Nielsen, sales of the body wash rose 107 percent in the past month. That said, the increase cannot be necessarily attributed entirely to the social media campaign, since a coupon campaign for the body wash was also running at the same time. In an age, driven largely in part by the supposed traceability of online advertising, where there has been a large push to track ad spends all the way down to individual purchases, this ad campaign reiterates the adage attributed to John Wanamaker: "Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don't know which half." Since this campaign was very much a branding campaign, just because it happens online does not necessarily make it more traceable, so it's difficult to say what percentage of the increase can be attributed to the campaign. That said, at least for me, I know I considered buying some Old Spice body wash when I was at Walgreens last week, and apparently I was not alone.

13 Comments | Leave a Comment..

Posted on Techdirt - 27 July 2010 @ 6:40pm

Murakami Releases His Own eBook Without His Publisher

from the do-it-yourself dept

With the increased adoption of the iPad and the Kindle, eBooks are finally becoming a viable alternative to traditional paper-based books. And with this shift, comes an opportunity that some publishers may not like -- it is now easier than ever for authors to self-publish their works. Popular Japanese author Ryu Murakami announced that he will be self-publishing his next novel directly to the iPad, sidestepping his publisher in favor of working directly with a software publishing company on this eBook. Murakami's eBook, "The Singing Whale," will include video content and music by composer Ryuichi Sakamoto that will hopefully leverage some of the strengths of the new platform. By self-publishing, Murakami has the chance to make more money from this book than he has with his previous deals. That said, he's also assuming the risk that it loses money; in order to break even, Murakami needs to sell 5,000 copies of the digital book, which is priced at around $17. To be fair, $17 seems a little high for an eBook, but Murakami's eBook attempts to justify the cost by incorporating video and music, elements not typically found in the run-of-the-mill eBook. But, even if this experiment doesn't succeed, Murakami will probably be just fine -- his publisher, Kodansha, reports that they are in talks with the author about publishing "The Singing Whale" as a traditional book. Since Murakami clearly has other options at this point, undoubtedly those negotiations will play out more favorably for the author. We've seen a few interesting new models arise for book publishing in the recent past, so hopefully this is a sign that we will start to see even more.

6 Comments | Leave a Comment..

Posted on Techdirt - 14 July 2010 @ 6:17am

Old Spice Man Is Horsing Around On Social Media

from the i'm-on-a-horse dept

When we last saw the Old Spice man, he was on a horse, and demonstrated how a brilliantly clever ad could attract its own viewers, instead of trying to divert attention with an annoying or distracting ad. In the five months since the ad first aired, the ad has collected nearly 13 million views on YouTube and was also awarded the Grand Prix for film at this year's Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival.

The Old Spice man is back, and once again, showing that he truly gets how to engage with his audience. Starting Monday, he began posting video responses to various Twitter, Facebook, and other social media commentary, oftentimes resulting in hilarity. Most of the over one hundred responses have been posted within a few hours of a tweet or comment, which is a blistering pace for an ad campaign with a traditional CPG company. My favorites are his response to Alyssa Milano and the one where Twitter user jsbeals asks Old Spice man to propose to his girlfriend for him:

Ad agency Wieden + Kennedy hit it out of the park again with this ad -- they were able to craft an infectiously viral ad campaign, while at the same time incorporating the brand as a key part of the message. After all, he's not "I'm on a horse" man, he's the Old Spice man. That said, while such a campaign may definitely drive awareness, awareness may not necessarily result in sales: according to SymphonyIRI, sales of Old Spice Red Zone (the product featured in the ad) actually dropped 7 percent.

Then again, surely jsbeals will be buying a few cases of Red Zone in appreciation of the help from Old Spice man (his girlfriend accepted the proposal).

33 Comments | Leave a Comment..

Posted on Techdirt - 18 June 2010 @ 6:34pm

Instead Of Bad Drivers, What If Speed Cameras 'Caught' Good Drivers Instead?

from the carrot-or-the-stick dept

We've written at length here about the multitude of problems with speed cameras. What if, instead of focusing on punishing speeders, the speed cameras were used to reward good behavior? Drivers who obey the speed limit are automatically entered into a lottery and then notified by mail if they've won. So, you might pick up your mail one day with a letter from local law enforcement and a check for good driving behavior, rather than a fine for bad driving behavior. This is somewhat reminiscent of the idea from a few years ago where police would pull over good drivers and "reward" them with free coffee coupons -- but avoids the whole "pull over" part, which certainly upset some drivers.

The idea is that the jackpot could come from the fines that were paid from speeders -- so not only do you get rewarded, you get rewarded from the pockets of worse drivers. This method may also serve to make a speeding ticket feel even more painful than just a fine alone. After all, a $500 ticket definitely stings, but a $500 ticket PLUS a little note that had you not been speeding, you could have won $10,000 instead? Ouch, that hurts a lot more.

The idea was the winning entry to VW's "The Fun Theory" competition, where applicants were tasked to design ways to change people's behavior through fun. This is a brilliantly viral campaign that showcases the fact that advertising is content, and if you make engaging content, people will beat a path to your door to watch it. The "piano stairs" entry alone has amassed over 12 million views.

Of course, rewarding good drivers with cash awards does not help governments rake in quite as much in revenue, but speed cameras are supposed to be about safety and not money, right?

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Posted on Techdirt - 2 June 2010 @ 7:29am

AT&T No Longer Offering Unlimited Data Plan To New Customers

from the no-longer-to-infinity-and-beyond dept

As they had previously hinted, starting June 7th, AT&T's new smartphone customers will no longer be able to opt for the $30 unlimited data plan that was previously offered. Instead, two plans will be offered, both with monthly usage caps: $15 for 200MB or $25 for 2GB. Additionally, tethering is now available for an additional $20 a month. However, tethering is only available with one of the new capped plans. Those who already have the old $30 unlimited plan will be able to keep it... but won't be able to tether. So, existing power users have to decide between $30 a month for unlimited internet data without tethering, or $45 a month for 2GB of data with tethering -- of course, with tethering, data usage would likely go up... even as the amount of data you can use goes way down.

AT&T's motive behind this switch (beyond the obvious of boosting profits) is to attempt to address the network capacity issues that it has been experiencing, of late. As anyone on AT&T can attest, performance of the AT&T data network is far from stellar. The adoption of smartphones like the iPhone have made the internet a truly useful part of the mobile experience, and as such, data use on the AT&T network has risen dramatically as a result. Clearly, AT&T was not able to properly plan to handle the increased demand on its network, and as a result, is claiming it needed to respond by throttling the usage. Of course, one might argue an alternative would be to invest more in capacity, but that gets in the way of that boosting profits thing.

Amusingly (but not surprisingly), AT&T is trying to play this whole thing up as a big benefit to consumers:

"Some customers, up until now, have been hesitant to sign up for a $30 monthly data plan" for unlimited access, says Ralph de la Vega
Fair enough, but just because some people have been hesitant to sign up for the unlimited data plan doesn't mean you should do away with it altogether.

That said, there are actually a few things that AT&T has done right with this announcement. It's surprising that they are actually offering a cheaper tier for limited data -- something that they had not offered before. Also, with the limited plans, they have introduced a system of alerts that will notify users when they are near their caps. And, existing users with unlimited plans can continue as long as they want, without the tethering option, of course.

Even so, throttling usage could put a damper on the explosive growth of smartphone usage that we have seen in the past few years. There is an added cognitive transaction cost whenever a limit exists, so, by introducing these limits, AT&T has effectively made the iPhone less appealing. Recently, when asked about AT&T's capacity issues, Steve Jobs said "things, when you start to fix them, get worse before they get better. That's what I'm told. And if you believe that, things should start getting a lot better soon." It sounds like Jobs knew what was coming.

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Posted on Techdirt - 14 May 2010 @ 7:34am

Viacom Still Not Getting It -- Files Bogus Takedown And Kills Some Free Transformers Buzz

from the you're-doing-it-wrong dept

Ben Brown and Micki Krimmel stumbled upon the filming of Transformers 3, and from their office window, watched as cars were thrown across the air for one of the scenes. That's not something you see every day, so they broke out their cameras and filmed what they were watching. Not surprisingly, they posted their videos to YouTube to share what they had seen. Brown's blog post about witnessing the filming was filled with exuberant excitement, including the YouTube video. Except, now if you click play on that video, you get this:

Yes, it appears Paramount promptly filed a DMCA takedown -- which seems like a fantastic way to kill excitement for the movie. According to the takedown, Brown's video "matched third party content," which, of course, is impossible since Transformers 3 has yet to be finished (let alone released) and obviously Brown took the video himself. The filming took place in a public alley, so anyone around is totally free to take pictures or video and share them.

Now, not only is it ridiculous to claim that these videos are covered under Paramount's copyright, it's hard to fathom why Paramount would want to bother quashing these videos at all. After Brown and Krimmel posted their videos, entertainment blogs picked the story up and started to build buzz about the movie. Isn't that a good thing? Personally, I really disliked the last Transformers movie, and this latest round of DMCA shenanigans isn't doing a very good job of convincing me to give the next installment another look.

On top of that, this is Paramount we're talking about -- which is a subsidiary of Viacom. Viacom, of course, is in the middle of a big lawsuit with YouTube, where one of the things Viacom has been claiming is that Google should just know what content is infringing and which is not -- and yet, here, again, Viacom is falsely claiming that videos infringe. This was actually a big problem in the lawsuit, where Viacom had to withdraw clips from the lawsuit, after it was determined that Viacom had uploaded them on purpose. Also, after being sued for bogus takedowns earlier, Viacom came to an agreement with the EFF that it would carefully review content before issuing takedowns. So, with all of that combined, you would think that Viacom would be a bit more careful than to take down videos taken by others of something happening in public.

In the meantime, to make things even more confusing, while Paramount issued a takedown on Brown's video, it apparently left Krimmel's up... for now, despite being basically the same thing. You can see that one (while it lasts) here:

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Posted on The Entrepreneur's Corner - 12 May 2010 @ 8:34pm

Restaurants Experiment With Selling Tickets For Dinner

from the entrepreneurial-restaurateurs dept

It is notoriously difficult to be successful in the restaurant business (though the popular adage that "9 out of 10 restaurants fail within the first year" may actually be false). That said, a restaurant is a business like any other, so experimentation with new business models is important, especially in tough economic times like we have been facing in recent years. Traditionally, restaurant reservations can be canceled at the whim of the diner without penalty, but for an industry, whose margins are continually squeezed, canceled reservations could make the difference between a profitable night and an unprofitable one. Restaurants sell a limited amount of daily perishable goods and services, which draws many parallels to both the theater and airline businesses. So, perhaps restaurateurs took note of these similarities for themselves when they started selling "tickets" for their nightly dinners instead of taking reservations. In addition to tickets to individual dinners, the restaurants also offer subscriptions to a whole season of dinners -- another tactic lifted right out of the playbook of theaters. These restaurateurs correctly recognize that dining out is not just about the food; it is a social experience just like a concert, the movies, or a sporting event.

The benefit for the restaurant is that even if the diner doesn't show up for the meal, the restaurant isn't stuck holding the bag -- the responsibility to offload an unwanted dinner ticket then shifts to the diner rather than the business. Furthermore with a guarantee of revenue for the evening, shopping for expensive perishables in preparation for an evening's dinner service is much easier. That said, pre-paying for a night's meal is a complete departure from the regular dining out experience, so at first, I can really only see this tactic working for a set of exclusive restaurants. After all, online reservation marketplace TableXchange folded last year, citing empty tables at even the most popular dining hotspots.

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Posted on The Entrepreneur's Corner - 5 May 2010 @ 2:19pm

World Of Goo (This Time With Four Friends) Tries The Pay What You Want Model Once Again

from the give-it-away-and-pray dept

The video game World of Goo, who we've seen experiment in the past with models like DRM-free games (which did not suffer any worse piracy rates than DRM'd games) and a "pay what you want" model, is back at it again. This time, they've released the The Humble Indie Bundle -- they've teamed up with a few other games and released a five game bundle with the "pay what you want" model once again. In addition to the five games involved, two charities, Child's Play and the EFF, also benefit from each sale -- by default, the money paid is split evenly amongst the seven parties, but customers can easily tweak the revenue split as they see fit. The site's clean, simple payment interface is particularly impressive and contains an amusing easter egg if you try and buy the bundle for less than $1.

To promote this bundle, there's even an accompanying rap video:

In a similar spirit of transparency that we've seen before from Goo, real-time statistics about the sales are shared on site. Currently, the average contribution stands $7.89 -- higher than the $2 that World of Goo saw in its previous experiment. So, while Mike may still not be convinced yet that "give it away and pray" is a viable business model, it should certainly not stop faithful entrepreneurial minded folks from trying to prove him wrong.

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Posted on Techdirt - 26 April 2010 @ 10:32pm

Japanese Game Maker Engages In Wiki Edit War With Fansubbers, Then Opts For The DMCA Option

from the making-new-enemies dept

In the past, we've seen the movie industry attack "fansub" efforts for trying to translate movies into other languages. But, in the video game industry, we did see glimmers of hope when a publisher allowed fansubbers to complete their version of the translation and compete side-by-side with the commercial translated version in the marketplace. So, it's sad to see Japanese game maker Minori slap TLWiki, a translation site, with a DMCA takedown for their work on a one of their games. Apparently, this was after an edit war on the wiki itself, where the game maker supposedly deleted the entire contents of a page, replacing it with:

minori holds copyright over all the files made available on this webpage. We, minori, have removed the contents of this page because the owner of this page has not received our permission for distribution of these materials. Please understand [the above statements]. Still, if there are objections, etc., please contact Minori, Inc. in Japanese at
Of course, since wikis have an easy rollback feature to prevent errant deletions like this, this change was easily reverted, and after a few more rounds of edits & reverts, the site was slapped with an official DMCA takedown notice. Once again, quashing fansub efforts is a fantastic way to annoy and disenfranchise your most loyal fans, who donate hours of their free labor as a hobby. We've seen ways to engage these communities advantageously (like hiring them to do the official translation), so surely Minori should take note.

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Posted on Techdirt - 26 April 2010 @ 6:42pm

Historical Association Claims Copyright To Scans Of 100 Year Old Photos

from the one-step-forward,-two-steps-back dept

The Clinton County Historical Glass Negatives Portrait Project has been "diligently identifying, sorting, re-sleeving and generally rediscovering a collection of over 15,000 glass negatives dating back to 1897." They have made a selection of these photos available for purchase as reprints, but they have also put all of the photos behind a copyright gate that requires anyone viewing the photos agree to a ridiculously large block of legalese:

All photographs in this gallery are the property of the Clinton County Historical Association and are protected by the Copyright Law of the United States (Title 17, United States Code) and by the Berne Convention. Reproduction, storage or transmittal by any means, of any image on this web site, whole or in part, is prohibited without express prior written permission. Prints purchased from this gallery may not be reproduced or scanned for any reason and may only be used for personal display. If you wish to publish or reproduce the materials in any physical or digital form or use them for any commercial purpose, including display or Web page use, you must obtain prior written permission from the Clinton County Historical Association.
Reader Luke T. Bush, who submitted the story, astutely asks: "I understand charging for the work of scanning and printing negs but can they claim copyright to prevent copying of the prints?" As ruled in Bridgeman Art Library v. Corel Corp. 36 F. Supp. 2d 191 (S.D.N.Y. 1999), exact photographic copies of works in the public domain cannot be copyrighted. So, the question then extends to whether or not those photos are in the public domain yet. The copyright is owned by the photographer and lasts for life plus 70 years. Since the photos in question were taken from 1901-1905, it is likely that many have already passed into the public domain.

Even if CCHA actually did own the copyright to the photos, they are unnecessarily hamstringing themselves by adding this needless "protection." Not only are the low-resolution scans on their site marred with a digital watermark, but hiding them behind their own particularly restrictive copyright gate also prevents the images from ever being included in a search engine. So, while CCHA has taken the admirable step to saving these photos from obscurity by scanning them, putting them behind this copyright gate effectively re-hides them.

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Posted on Techdirt - 22 April 2010 @ 2:56am

Duh, Don't Leave A Thumb Drive With Child Porn Plugged Into A Shared Computer

from the plain-view dept

Jim submitted this story about a paramedic who left a thumb drive containing child pornography plugged into a shared computer. A coworker later found the files on the thumb drive, and the owner of the drive was brought up on charges for the offending files.

Obviously child pornography is a serious crime and needs to be stopped; that's not the issue that is in question here. As law professor Orin Kerr points, out, the concern here is whether or not looking through the contents of an inadvertently plugged in thumb drive constitutes an unreasonable search and seizure and a violation of our fourth amendment rights. In this case, United States v. Durdley, the district court ruled that leaving a thumb drive in a shared computer removed an expectation of privacy since no extraordinary means were necessary to access those files:

Durdley's files were exposed to anyone who sat down at the computer station who used the traditional means for opening and viewing files (such as Windows Explorer and the My Computer icon). Johnson encountered the files without employing any special means or intruding into any area which Durdley could reasonably expect to remain private once he left the drive attached to the common-use computer. The Court concludes, therefore, that Mr. Durdley had no more reasonable expectation of privacy in the contents of the thumb drive once he attached it to the common-use computer than the defendant in King did in his drive once he attached it to the airbase network.
Kerr disagrees with the ruling, and equates leaving a thumb drive plugged into a shared computer to leaving luggage in a bus terminal:
I think the social norm is that when you see a private person's thumb drive on a shared-use computer, it's understood that you're invading that person's privacy if you start clicking around to see what the files are. It's kind of like someone leaving their luggage in the waiting room of a bus station. If the owner leaves the luggage behind for some reason, no one would see that as a waiver of privacy rights in the luggage or an invitation to unzip the luggage and look around.
It's hard to see how opening someone else's luggage is remotely close to looking at files on a thumb drive. Whereas luggage has clear physical boundaries, once a thumb drive is part of a file system, those barriers no longer exist. After all, when a thumb drive is plugged into a PC, it appears as a drive under "My Computer" and looks very similar to the other drives attached to the computer. So, if we really want a real-world analogy, a more appropriate one would be an open suitcase in a public bus station. Sure, while it's kind of nosy to peek inside, things in plain view have long been understood to not be protected under the fourth amendment.

So, the moral of the story is, if you have files you don't want people looking at, it's best to not leave your thumb drives plugged into shared computers. Even better, don't have illegal files in the first place.

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Posted on Techdirt - 21 April 2010 @ 9:56pm

UK Testing Speed Cameras From Space? Not Exactly, But Still Troubling

from the big-brother-phone-home dept

Reader btr1701 submitted this story about the UK testing speed cameras that "trap motorists from space." Although the Telegraph article conjures up images of Big Brother spying on drivers from satellites, the facts are (somewhat) less sinister. The system essentially combines license plate recognition with GPS, taking advantage of the GPS to make the cameras more portable and easy to deploy.

As we've discussed before, plate capture technology has been shown to be abused in the UK, so any system that further proliferates the use of these cameras is cause for concern. After all, the main benefit of this new system is that it allows a camera to be quickly deployed virtually anywhere. As a result, those looking to avoid known camera installations will have a harder time, once these become more commonplace. So, while this is not a full blown "Big Brother in space" implementation, it does exacerbate an already troubling situation.

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