Music, ads, missteps and piracy

Yesterday, I was reading an article that YouTube intends to increase ad frequency for users that use it primarily for listening to music. The supposed explanation is simple: they create internet traffic that’s mostly unused as the video transferred is not being looked at, those having the music on background usually doing something else either on other browser tab or completely out of the browser.

The points is to direct those users to specialized (and potentially paid) music services, yet here comes another great misstep: they are not available in all countries, or are severely limited in some. Trying to push users to a service only to show them “not available in your country” only makes the step more fickle and will only make people look for ways to bypass it. Some might use adblockers, some might try to use VPN or something for bypassing country limitations and some might go back to pirating music.

It’s a few months ago when I was thinking about piracy when it comes to e-books, where, fortunately, the issue was limited by the immense choice and lower cost of self-published books. Yet, it was probably the music industry – way sooner than gaming and movies – who was hit by this the hardest. The music industry made several massive missteps on the way, which in fact supported piracy in its inception, so I would say.

I would start in late 90s or early 2000s. Back then, I still used portable CD player, which could play mp3s and read DVDs so I could stuff a bunch of CDs into single mp3 DVD. Not as efficient as mp3 players, but decent solution. Eventually, the player was lost when we were burgled and I eventually bought my first mp3 player. As it could show the name of track, album, artist and such, it meant I had to get these information to the music track itself.

In those early days, CDs sometimes had some kind of protection to prevent ripping mp3 files. To prevent them being copied illegally, but it had the side-effect of preventing legal owners to put them to their portable players. Or create a copy for their car player, because no one would risk damaging an original in their car. What was worse, the track information was not there, and it took several years before that changed. Combined with the slow conversion, downloading pirated mp3 ‘CD’ was eventually much faster than ripping the original and filling in all the data as all the pirated sources had that filled in, including cover image. Absurd as it might look, the approach of music publishers made even owners of legitimately bought CDs download mp3s for convenience.

Music industry had several more mistakes which were aimed at pirates but hit pretty much everyone else. A small local band got into a trouble for not announcing a “public music production” (or how exactly the law names it) and threatened with large bill for breaching copyright laws. For playing THEIR OWN MUSIC, to maybe two hundred people.

I eventually bought an iPod touch back in 1/2009 (maybe it was 2010) which I still have and still use. I know that these days, online streaming services are there, but even these have some limitations. Not so much about their libraries, but about the fact that they are online. They can work well at home or in office, but the main upside of mp3 players is that they work anywhere. Train, bus, plane, high in the mountains… you’re not limited by the need to be online. Something I know well myself. I was writing at the end of summer about my holidays where even phone signal was weak at the hotel and pretty much non-existent in the hills, now think about internet connection.

Try to use Spotify here…

Not to mention that in my country, mobile internet is still extremely expensive with quality that goes to hell once you move out of a city. For me, as someone who listens to music while hiking, mp3 player is irreplaceable.

So, long story short, companies supposed to help the authors get their deserved money are doing very poor job and often going against what they try to stand for. That is being said by me who goes to concerts and buys band’s shirts to support them. Said by me who goes to cinema to watch movies while some people pirate them on day two and later sees the DVD cost double the cinema ticket, for movie I already saw and with no doubt that the anti-piracy effort inflated the price significantly. By which, I am posting this image from 2010 that is probably still very much true.

Too true…

The “best” part? Software that allows to cut all these unskippable parts took a few seconds to find and was so foolproof that anyone who would want to skip all of these could do that by creating a pirate copy of his own, legally-bought DVD. Talk about shooting yourself in the leg, huh? Closing thought: all the trailers on a DVD with movie are outdated and irrelevant in a few months and make them even more annoying.

BONUS: I remember a case where one such anti-piracy company was sued for breaching copyright laws by using an image for their campaign without the author’s permission…

That’s one random mesh of thoughts over, next time I guess I’ll be writing about something more usual for me.


Fantasy thoughts: King’s closest

I was thinking a bit about what kind of people would a king (or sovereign with any other title) surround himself with, to rule the land and to achieve his own goals. That would most likely depend on personal priorities, someone bound on expanding the borders would probably have many strategists among those to listen the most.

Even in calmer times, one would probably have representatives of the army and the diplomats to take care of any trouble, or to prevent it if possible. Those interested in expansion by force would probably hire engineers to create weapons of destruction, while those that would want to build new cities would consult architects.

To deal with the everyday life of the land, I’d say that they’d need someone to relay the problems of common people because it’s always better to solve them before they get out of hand; and representatives of the nobles, who could be tempted to conspire together for a change in leadership, if they felt they are not treated as they deserve.

Of course, the ruler’s personal goals and interests would have a significant role, for which I’d borrow example from history: Rudolf II (wikipedia) of Austrian monarchy (born 1552, crowned 1572/1576, dethroned 1608, died 1612). He was a collector of arts and curiosities and supporter of alchemy and astronomy, and so he brought several experts in those fields to his closest circles.

Thoughts about chapter names

Something I noticed lately was that vast majority of the books I’ve been reading only had chapter numbers, very rarely the chapters were named. During my recent thoughts, I’ve found that quite surprising.

Truth is that in this year, I was mostly reading self-published books that were in the 200-400 pages range and so it was not as important. If a book can be read in single evening, then it’s not as likely someone will try to find a specific passage to look at. I’ve realized that as reader, there might not be much benefit from named chapters.

That changes a lot when I shift to writer perspective, and that’s where my surprise comes from. The idea that I would be going through my draft without chapter names, trying to find a specific moment I needed to have a look on, is scary.

But then I thought about it again. Maybe the reason why it feels scary is on my side again, because of the sheer size into which I let my ideas expand – I am now somewhere around 450.000 words summed across book 0,5 (40k), book 1 (230k) and maybe 70% of book 2 (170k) + notes and bits that were cut already. Sometimes, I need to find a specific scene to look at. I am quite sure that just with chapter numbers, I’d be lost. Chapter names are pain to come up with, but I found them really helpful when I need to find something. And even though I do (and will do more) complete proof-reads myself before going to some kind of beta stage, I know that some parts were trickier to write than others and require several closer looks.

Well, I’ll end this random jumble of thoughts here I guess…

The picture of Dorian Gray, perfect November read?

I don’t even know why I remembered this book, considering I was never too much into classics. But I thought with its content, it might be good fir for the gloomy November days. It was. I took my time with reading it, but enjoyed it all the same. There’s no better time in the year for reading a book about vanity, sinfulness, guilt and regret than it was now.

Since I doubt the point of doing reviews of classics that are well know, this is going to be more like a jumble of highlights and thoughts.

Continue reading

November daydreaming

Oh, it’s this time of year again. The wet and dry November, not cold enough for snow, but cold enough to make rain feel more unpleasant than ever. Luckily there was not that much of it. But these darker days tend to take my mind away from the reality.

For the past days, before Blizzcon, they were occupied by speculations about what will be announced, for me especially about World of Warcraft next expansion. Now, a week later, the speculations are dying down, limited to thinking about some more vague statements and what could be true (while there’s still the possibility that it’ll change anyway before beta).

So, my mind moved back where it usually is: my own world. Since the decision I made some three weeks ago to completely change my approach to the beginning of the story, I finally wrote another chapter, and quite a short one. My visible progress is now close to zero, something I don’t expect to improve much in the coming weeks. I am in the stage where more progress is done thinking about how to solve the troubles and plotholes that appeared. I guess I might look even weirder than usually, with the gloomy weather, my wild facial hair and absent-minded neutral face.

I guess that contributes to the fact that I might get to revisit some darker stuff in the coming days, starting with re-read of ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’ which I plan for the next week. I think with the theme the book has, it’ll be quite nice match for the darker November weather and the brooding mood that comes with it.

“You might like this”

So, today, I am to share my thoughts about one of the things that can be useful, but can also cause you to facepalm hard. recommendation systems. What made me wonder about this more the last days? YouTube.

I was watching metal covers of game and film soundtracks, so as good as it could be, it recommended things to watch next. Since I have some other related things in my watch history (like best-of scenes or videos showing making game/film weapon replicas) it went quite well on pointing me to what I might know. Heck, I found some really good stuff there. Since I was in the rare mood when I felt like actually giving a thumbs up, I was logged in for all of the time.

Fast forward three days. I watch one of those things again. And that’s when the hilarity kicks in. Many of those were in the recommendation with the usual text “you might like this” (in my language). You don’t say? (I was so tempted to insert the Nicolas Cage meme…) Of course I might like this, I played it 10 times in a row the other day…

Continue reading

Writing thoughts: prejudices

So, it’s a bit over two years since I started working on my story, and well over five years since I went from “maybe one day” to “seriously thinking about it”. I still don’t feel ready to talk about it much, and I do here because of the partial internet anonymity. Even that took time.

Truth is, I am still afraid what people around me might think when they learn the truth, which is the reason that I am still quite picky about those who truly know what I am up to (including that it is me, and by that I mean knowing me at least somewhat). Being gamer and generally shy person who sticks to himself most of the time, I was often considered a bit strange. How worse could that be if those around me knew the truth?

Continue reading

Various thoughts: Culture overload

In the last few days, I kept myself quite busy. From Wednesday to Sunday, I went for a hike, read two books, went to cinema, visited music festival, wrote two chapters and sorted out my thoughts for several more. I’ll post the book review in the coming days, hopefully.

As for the film I saw, it was Valerian and the City of a thousand planets. Since I have great memories of Fifth element as a great and often quite hilarious Sci-fi by Luc Besson, I decided to go see this. I never saw the comics it was based on, so for me it was just going to have some easy fun with a film that was from trailer very likely to be a lot about shiny graphics and myriad of alien creatures. The intro was touching, the multi-dimensional bazaar chase was interesting and fun. I am not sure if it was just me or if that part was a weak spot, but for some reason I knew who the traitor is when the command room of Alpha was attacked. From there, it was mostly about if/when/how he’ll be dealt with more than about finding out who it is. Still, good one.

I won’t say much about the concert. I will say that my neck and hands are still a bit stiff, something my fellow metal enthusiasts will understand. I was not exactly in the front row all those 10 hours but I was not holding back either. RAISE YOUR HEAVY METAL HANDS!

Anyway, for a person who likes ‘normal’ and quite regular sleep habits, two nights with this disrupted (returned around 23:30 from the cinema and 3:15 the next day after concert) I was quite sleepy the whole Sunday as the sun and heat did not allow me to sleep for long. There was a hint that colder days might be coming – and by colder I mean 22°C down from 30+ but that hope lasted maybe two hours.

Anyway, they were fun days definitely.

Writing thoughts: hiker’s inspiration

This will be a crossover post about how I sometimes get inspiration for my story while walking through the hills. It might not be just the landscape, but anything. The weather could be a factor as well. Reading books can be good inspiration for duels or battles but for the atmosphere, just going out to the hills works better than anything else.

Nature is often magical. It’s good to have some inspiration just from walking around and being able to think, undisturbed. It’s even better when the landscape itself gives you ideas. Here are a few times it happened to me.

Continue reading

Writing thoughts: distractions?

A few days ago, I was reading a blog post about writing, and one of the points was to avoid distractions. Today, I was writing again and after being done, I decided to think about how much of that time was actually spent writing. I was not using stopwatch or seriously tracking it (as it would be another distraction and would slow me down even more) but as some guess it should work well.

So, my progress was one chapter. Okay, 90% of it, I’ll need to finish its ending when I think out the details. Anyway, it was around 3000 words and took me something around 4 hours. How much of it was actually spent writing?

There is a bit of time lost when I switch to music player to add something to the playlist (I’ll probably make a blog post about my choice of background music at some point). But the main point is alt-tabbing to internet browser. I rarely prepare any facts I might need in advance and so it often happens that when I need to check something on the internet.

That can be something as simple as spelling or meaning of a word (I verify that by reverse translation and synonyms), something I used several times to make sure I use a word correctly (this is mostly when using a work I’m unlikely to use in daly life).

Most of my time spent not writing while writing is spent tabbed out to wikipedia. There were times when I was checking the usual habitat of a plant or animal just to make sure it is not misplaced.

Today, my search included various articles from felines through rodents and even seagulls as I was writing a chapter where several characters explore tropical rainforest islands. Eventualy it brought me to look up bow fishing (first question I had: is it even possible?), ability of birds to eat and eventually catch fish as well as some searches related to volcanoes (which are present on the islands).

I guess that of the four-ish hours I spent maybe one hour looking up stuff. By the way, capybara meat is supposedly tasty. I chose bow fishing over hunting rodents anyway.