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The Pirate Bay Verdict Will Sting For Years To Come

Last week's guilty verdict on the proprietors of The Pirate Bay touched off a bundle of nerves all over the worldwide tech/media industry. On one side, content owners and creators cheered the decision, claiming that it's another victory against piracy and content theft. On the other side, advocates of civil liberties have amassed in protest against the decision, claiming that it's just another political move to protect the profits of the big industry names.

I'm not really surprised at the verdict – after all, most of the world's legal systems still live in the 90's, where the “best way to get your news” was still by trooping to the nearest newsstand and buying the day's broadsheet. Looking back, we see similar verdicts meted out against Napster, Grokster, and many other peer-to-peer sharing platforms in the past. A good number of lawsuits are being slapped on to other P2P platforms around the world today, as well.

The proprietors of TPB are expected to appeal the decision (one year in prison and paying over $30 million in damages), which can only mean one thing – we'll be hearing about TPB for years to come.

Here's the thing – it's mostly the content owners (not necessarily the content creators, as most could pretty much care less) who want the 20th-century business model to remain in place in the 21st. The idea of getting indirect revenue – through traffic, ads, and other ways of making money over the Internet – seems too foreign (or at least too unattractive) than through direct sales.

It's “the law,” they say. But I can pretty much draw a parallel between this situation and a piece of interesting American history.

Several decades ago, it was “unlawful” for an African American man to sit in the front of a bus. In today's standards, such beliefs of racism is barbaric and shameful, but back then it was pretty much covered by America's legal system. It took several years of civil liberty activism before the law formally changed and represented the people again, and now all races look to America as the land of the free – not just "whites".

In other words, I think when the law stops representing the people, then it's obviously not the people who need to be changed. The TPB verdict will sting for several more years, but it's going to be interesting to see which facet of society it'll change in the end.

Ashton Kutcher Neck-And-Neck With CNN In Twitter Battle

As if I haven't written enough about social media this week...

If you haven't kept up with the news, Ashton Kutcher earlier this week challenged CNN to reach the coveted 1,000,000 follower mark on Twitter first. No single Twitter account has ever reached that many followers, but it would seem that both Ashton Kutcher and CNN will be reaching that mark in less than 24 hours from this writing. (It's about noon Hong Kong Time as I'm writing this.)

Ashton (@aplusk) has pledged to give his 1,000,000th follower a copy of the popular video game Guitar Hero, plus donate 10,000 mosquito bed nets to the Malaria No More charity. He's also promised to ring the bell on Ted Turner's home if he wins the race.

Soon after Ashton threw the gauntlet, CNN's Larry King gamely issued a video statement accepting Ashton's challenge, even going as far as saying “We will crush you,” and letting the young actor (and the rest of the oblivious world, apparently) that Ted Turner no longer runs CNN.

What's funny is that CNN wasn't even running the CNN Breaking News Twitter account (@cnnbrk) when Ashton issued the challenge. It was being run by San Francisco-based James Cox, who very recently sold the account to CNN for an undisclosed sum. I'm sure he's very happy.

To make things a bit more interesting, EA Sports just upped the ante by offering to include Ashton's 1,000,000th follower in their upcoming Sims 3 game, as well as giving them a copy of every game it makes in 2009. This should give Ashton a boost in the race, probably leaving Britney Spears – who also jumped in – in the dust.

Oh, this just in. Ashton Kutcher's account just passed CNN in the follower race. As of this writing, he has 990,051 followers, a wafer-thin lead over CNN Breaking News's 989,991. That's 60 followers. Dude!

Now, I'm not a compulsive Twitter user and I have to admit I don't have a compelling need to recruit Twitter followers for myself. Nope. I didn't invent the wheel, and I have not discovered the cure for male pattern baldness. Really. I don't have any secret formula here. Those who follow me on Twitter, I follow in return.

Anyway, for now, I'm probably going to sit back and watch this race as it grinds to the finish. Who am I rooting for? I think I'll go with CNN (shows you my age). I like Ashton, though I am secretly hoping CNN punks him for taking Demi away from all of us.

OK, I'm kidding. This is Chris Gomez wishing you all a good weekend.



UPDATE:
Apr 16, 2009, 9:32 AM (GMT +0800)

Damn!

So much for supporting CNN. Anyway, congrats to the winning side. I'm gonna stop watching Larry King for a month! ;)



Reference Twitter message links from CNN Breaking News:

  • Congrats @aplusk. Ashton Kutcher is the first twitter account to reach 1MM followers.    - Twitter link -
  • Ashton Kutcher is first to reach 1 million followers in Twitter contest with CNN.    - Twitter link -



Reference Twitter message links from Ashton Kutcher:

Google Earth Dives Deep With Google Ocean


Google Earth has been around for a while, and has proven itself time and again as an extremely useful tool for practically everyone. From the guys at CNN using it to zoom into hot spots around the world, to real estate brokers checking out the competition, to geeks like you and me just wanting to see what the house looks like from outer space. Now, Google Earth has upgraded to version 5 with their latest addition to the program: Google Ocean.

Is Google Losing Its Edge?

Image credit: Found on HubPages - Link -


I remember the day when I gave up all hope for Internet search engines. That was when the search results I got on page one were filled with nothing but useless instances of the keywords in my search query. Then Google came into the picture and revolutionized how search was done, and suddenly the Internet was useful again.

But today, Google seems to be plagued by new kinds of search problems. It seems that most Google searches I do these days seem to come up with Facebook profiles and Tweets right on page one – not really the kind of information I find. It's usually easy enough to find the relevant hits at first glance, but when Twitter “pollution” gets so bad that it knocks Wikipedia off the top spot, it's a pretty serious hurdle.

This isn't the first time Google faced this kind of problem. In the early parts of this decade, the rapidly-growing number of blogs also began swamping search results. They fixed this problem fairly quickly by adding a blog search feature, but even this remains hard to work with to this day.

Granted, social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter has made the Internet more useful and enjoyable for millions of people. But there are still some strange creatures out there who use the Internet for only its informational capabilities and not its recreational side. These creatures are the ones who move the world, and when they no longer have Google on their side, they may need to start looking elsewhere.

It's going to be a strange world where people start using other search engines over Google...

Still, it's not the first time Google got hounded by such problems in search. Even with their constantly changing parameters and indexing procedures, they still sometimes struggle to bring relevant results to page one. This is probably the reason why Google is keeping new search engines like Cuil on the horizon – if Cuil gets its act together and starts bringing better search results, “cuiling” might soon make it to the dictionary too.

Suddenly, searching on Twitter doesn't seem like a bad idea. For one, social media platforms seem to pick up on breaking news much more quickly. Google is great at giving you news stories that happened eight hours ago. But for news as-it-happens, it's probably better to look through relevant Tweets.

Of course, Google can just buy Twitter...

Police Use Facebook To Fight Crime

Chris Gomez - Engine Alpha - Facebook Interface with Police Officer
Why didn't anybody think of this earlier?

Police in Queenstown, New Zealand, recently nabbed a young man who tried to break into a bar's safety deposit box. What's unusual about the arrest was the way the police found the man. They posted the man's picture on Facebook, which then made its way to the local TV news. People who recognized the man soon started calling the police, and the arrest was made soon after.

The man was obviously not very bright, as he took his mask off about a half hour after trying to get the safety deposit box open. When he finally gave up, he looked up at the security camera – and his fate was sealed.

It's funny how I keep hearing a new use for social media every week these days. We all know how Barack Obama won the US general election, and we all know how more and more people are finding love online. We've also heard stories of suicides being prevented, lives being saved, and other deeds of heroism that the Internet has made possible.

But I think it's about time police forces all over the world actually tapped into the power of the Internet to bolster their operations. In many countries, particularly in this region of Asia, the most that police can do is take vague calls from tippers, or post “wanted” posters in public gathering places. With the Internet, they can potentially reach a much wider witness base than ever before, leading to more apprehensions and crimes prevented than ever before.

At the same time, though, they'll have to be careful. The Internet can be a two-edged sword when it comes to crime-fighting – just as it can aid the rule of law, it can also undermine it. I remember reading about a case that ended up in a mistrial because a female plaintiff's testimony contradicted what she wrote in her blog.

Still, it'd be great to one day see improved security systems. Brick-and-mortar establishments would benefit from improved security systems – fancy having a video stream of the inside of your shop being broadcast live on Facebook 24/7, with your archives stored on an offsite server. Or fancy seeing your local police force tinkering with their Facebook profiles, encouraging civilians through Tweets to take a more active part in fighting crime.

The list goes on and on. I may not be a big fan of Facebook, but I just might change my mind once I see crime rates all over the connected world dwindle. I have said this thousands of times and I will say it again. We have the tools at our disposal. We just need to start thinking what else we can use them for or what else we can create with them.

What Will The Japanese Improve On Next? ;)


Fig. 01 - Image Credit: Found on Gizmodo | The Gadget Blog - Link -


Wanna' guess what that image in Fig. 01 is?

If you're under 18, don't answer that. Just skip to Friday's article. Please :)

Anyway, I guess it's a sign that people are getting tired of flashing their goods to strangers all over the Internet. A Japanese company recently came up with a device that can simulate the sexual act for two people over the Internet – right down to the actual sensation. Leave it to the cool Japanese to come up with the newest range of fetishes in the online world.


Fig. 02 - Image Credit: Found on Gizmodo | The Gadget Blog - Link -


Basically the device comes in two varieties – a sleeve that looks like a hand vac but is actually a cleverly disguised, electronic fleshlight (for male users, obviously, and it's called the “Virtual Hole” - Fig. 02), and an electronic dildo (obviously for female users; I don't know what it's called, but let's nickname it the “Virtual Pole” - Fig. 03, below). Both devices attach to a Virtual Module (seen in Fig. 01, above), which then connects to a PC and the Internet.

Basically when two users are connected online (for starters, let's say a bored man and woman), they can use these devices to fool around a little. If, say, the woman massages the Virtual Pole in any way she wants, the Virtual Hole contracts accordingly on the other side of the connection. So, when both users go all the way with their respective devices, it's pretty much cyber sex at its (currently) most realistic.

The very thoughtful Japanese creators also considered the single, lonely, and desperate portion of the market. The device can also work with a pair of goggles (as seen in Fig. 03) that play special DVD's. When the action unfolds, the user will feel the corresponding sensations on his/her device. I can hear geeks all over the world rejoicing at this feature. Gawd... this is like having a piano roll play the kind of music you want on your player piano, without the need of a peni... errr, pianist!


Fig. 03 - Image Credit: Found on Gizmodo | The Gadget Blog - Link -


While I'm pretty sure this device will be popular in Japan, I've no idea how well it'll do elsewhere in the world. Even for a guy who gets enough and delights in the wonders of the technological world, I still find it too weird. If nothing else, it's good for a few laughs. For instance, I wonder what it'll be like to try to goof around with someone on a dial-up connection. And if the device is dishwasher safe. And if “ASL?” is going to be replaced by “Where do you come from?”

I am also wondering if there will come a time when you would have to have a "safe list" for the devices you allow a connection to. Why? To curb cyber-molesting of course. Though by bringing this up, I hope I didn't just open up class-action (pun not intended) possibilities.

You think that's funny? Wait till these devices have Bluetooth capabilities. Yeah Baby!. You'll see incidents of orgasmic proportions in your local Starbucks, even.

To each his own, I guess.

Read about the device here, while I pack all my belongings and get ready to move to Japan.

Social Media Makes Work A Little More Fun

Chris Gomez - Engine Alpha - Social Media brands

Examples of social media brands.


I know I've already spoken volumes about social media on this site the past year, but people still keep finding newer and better uses for it in their lives, both at work and at play. Now, the big names in social media, like Skype and MySpace, are making going to the office a little more fun for a growing number of 9-5 workers around the world.

Online Dating Spikes As Economy Plummets

Here's an unexpected statistic – as the worldwide financial crisis deepened over the past few months, online dating sites received a rise in traffic. It would seem now that people are losing their jobs, they're finding more time to find love online. I guess it's true when they say no one wants to be alone during the holidays, huh?

Would You Choose The Internet Over Sex?

Here's an interesting statistic. When asked whether they'd rather give up sex or Internet access for two weeks, a surprising number of respondents chose they'd rather give up sex. Is this a sign of just how reliant we've become to the World Wide Web?

The poll, carried out by Harris Interactive and sponsored by Intel Corp., was done on a group of 2,119 adults between the ages of 19 to 52. Among male respondents, 30 percent – that's three of every ten men – said they'd forego romping in the sheets for two weeks and keep their Internet access. The female side of the poll was even more surprising – 46 per cent (yep, that's almost half) of all women would much rather stay connected to the Web for two weeks, even if it means no sex.

Republicans Jump Onto Social Media Bandwagon

It seems that the Republicans have learned their lesson. Michigan Republican Chairman Saul Anuzis recently announced his intent to lead the Republican Party in a very unlikely place: the micro-blogging social network, Twitter.

He's not the only Republican jumping onto the social media bandwagon these days – other GOP candidates are also launching profiles on Facebook, MySpace, and other social media platforms in preparation for the 2010 midterm elections. John McCain may not like the idea, but his colleagues doing the right thing – unless the Republican Party learns to embrace technology and incorporate it into the party agenda, it's bound to face another landslide defeat against those geeky Democrats.