Wednesday, May 27, 2015

How entertainment skews things

Considering my own admittedly speculative musing about a lot of subjects I think I need to put up something discussing how entertainment has different rules.

For instance, if they can get it, people will often happily "borrow" something entertaining, and then refuse to pay for it in any way. And I used quotes as I feel confident that plenty of people in the entertainment industry see that as stealing, where yeah, I think in a lot of cases for now, until the web evolves a bit, it often is. But you can literally do it, like by checking out a book or something from a library.

For certain things, like movies, it's interesting to speculate on how much it can take away from revenue, though I think that can be overblown, as great films can make money indefinitely. So I think when the web matures, you'll see this issue more focused on people who have to make their money immediately, versus people with an intellectual property that can draw revenue for years and years and years.

Like I have movies to add to my entertainment library, where yup, will purchase them, when they're available and I have the funds. So irritating now in the early days of the web when it's just not possible to purchase a movie for your own personal library of films because entertainment executives simply haven't made it possible.

With photos it's looking like a focus will have to be on some kind of certification for originals, as it's possible to endlessly reproduce them perfectly. So just having a photo is meaningless as to its value, unless somehow it IS completely exclusive. But it can matter like if you're in someone's home and they have a blown up photo hanging on their wall, whether or not it's a taken copy, or they have something certified from the photographer.

It tells you about them. So I'm sure some people will work to figure out a way to distinguish the "real thing" from counterfeits, just for status reasons.

People will pay for things just to show their place in society. And I think that yes, information itself is being commoditized to a large extent, but not completely. And that as people get used to so much information flowing so easily we'll see society adjust as it always has as thousands of years of human history have seen many times where technology has shifted things.

With entertainment, novelty has value. And the monetary value of novelty definitely wears off quickly. However, entertaining works can also have enduring value, which may or may not be monetized.

So when you see certain people howling in rage at the web, I think it's usually about novelty: watching your money float away as curious people check out the hook without paying.

Nothing I do is about novelty. So I find it hard to care about it. But I try to appreciate the issue intellectually, which is the point of this post.

James Harris

Monday, May 25, 2015

Some thoughts on my learning the web

To me a lot of posting I do is talking out things as I try to learn the web, where it's this great adventure. But also you don't want to be taken, or look stupid...well, does it really matter so much how you look? I'm not as excited about that one. But being taken is something I think it's very human to worry over.

No one wants to be cheated and I feel good that I'm having a great experience on the web, learning a lot, and getting to share some things of my own, and it's good.

It has taken time for me to figure some things out though. Like community IS a huge big deal, where for instance the open source community is critical to the continued health and existence of the web.

In community it isn't so much about what any particular person does, but that every one does their best to support the community which supports them.

Most people do try. But some people like to muck things up. Some people mess things up just for the fun of it. Others are neutral, tending to not be a detriment, but also not helping either. And somehow it all mostly works.

To me when I'd worry most that maybe I was somehow being cheated in the process it was about money, which is why it was so important for me to work it out, and now I'm like, I'm not being cheated! Yeah!!! So that was really the point of a lot of posting, working out the monetary system to see if maybe I was being cheated, and am not. So done.

Hmmmm...but now that's all worked out what do I do next? I'm sure I'll think of something.

James Harris

My view on why web helps licensing

Have been enjoying photographs a lot lately on the web, which got me thinking more about how different things are today as they can zip all over the world easily. And I think that is a huge positive, while there have been problematic aspects.

For instance, some have concluded that information can flow so easily and perfectly now that it can be digitized that it must be free, which is I think at best naive, when it comes to human behavior, or worse, terribly cynical about humanity. Paying for things in my opinion isn't about ease of capture, or not stealing from the grocery store would be acceptable as long as they can't catch you. Or so would stealing from restaurants, if you could just dart off, and I actually watched a couple do so once. They just walked out of one without paying when the only staff had to go to the back for a reason.

So yes, there ARE people who want to take things from others without giving them anything in return, but they're called thieves. And that is not new information! Technological advance has NOTHING to do with it.

What can be confusing though is that money is NOT the only or even the primary way people tend to give back, unless with strangers. In community, you can have most interactions with a lot of sharing and caring where no money is involved at all. But even with community with no money involved, yes there can be thieves there as well who will take, take, take from others without wanting to give anything back in return.

Taking relentlessly and giving nothing back is as old as humanity.

If you believe that ease of acquisition is all that matters with human beings and buying things then I think it easy to charge you may very well be a thief. After all, such a belief could seem to justify a behavior to someone. And maybe thieves console themselves believing all people are morally bankrupt, but that's not true.

Money is about a social contract. It's about a way to give back in exchange for value received.

So money being paid for something versus it simply being taken really has nothing whatsoever to do with how easily something can be acquired without prosecution but is about two parties, which means yeah, people can and do actually pay for things they could instead steal.

That all human beings are NOT thieves is that great awakening of the turn to the modern web, and I think it funny to believe they all are, which says more about you than anyone else, if you think all human beings are basically evil and corrupt creatures with no morality.

But like I have some photographs and make NO money from them directly, which is ok with me. But let's say I found out some people somewhere in the world were making money from them, should I necessarily care? No, not necessarily.

Yes, those people are thieves. And would be getting unfair favors, but the web has a natural solution, which is transparency. Like I can note that I don't have anything licensed, which is ok with me. I don't know if there is demand and am not really a money focused person anyway.

So if you see any of my photographs out there in a selling situation you know thieves are connected.

And that's how the web will push web licensing, as legitimate companies will check for such information. And people who want ethical products will check for such information.

So people who provide creative works simply need to provide such information.

How that's best done. I'm not sure. But I'm sure the web will figure it out.

For me, it's easy. No one has licensed any of my photos. But I don't know of any cases where my photos are being used commercially, but even if I did, I wouldn't get too excited.

But I would want people to know the person who stole the work.

Eventually your reputation will be the most valuable thing you have, as the web makes it easier for people to keep up with what you're doing, and harder to hide what you've done.

James Harris

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Opening Class Viewer with a class

While my open source project Class Viewer is for Java developers, I have pondered ways of making it more useful to others like coding instructors or software companies, which is why I finally got the opening to a class to work. Here is an example of a screenshot with Class Viewer being opened to its own class:

Clipped the bottom a bit, and it's really more small than I thought, um, ok, so the point of such a thing is that you can open Class Viewer to some default class.

Command line instruction for the above:

java com.jstevh.viewer.ClassViewer ClassViewer

If you wanted to default to String class it would be:

java com.jstevh.viewer.ClassViewer String

And that's with code unpacked from the jar, of course, which is what I recommend you do so that you can get full access to the classpath, and local files.

And I'm thinking some software company could use that to direct people to some code or something and I'm vague as it's kind of a vague notion. Kind of thing you put there and see if people need it or not.

Oh yeah, Class Viewer is a JApplet which was because I wanted it to be very web centered from the start, now over a decade ago. Got a vague idea about it being useable to let people browse your codebase online. Kind of like an easy reference guide. So this feature is also meant to help you open to info about your own code, in a webpage, or that's the idea.

James Harris

Who will code our future?

One of those subjects that gets a lot of attention is diversity in coding, where I've posted a couple of times already, but maybe feel like I should say a bit more as I am I guess an anomaly though I'm sure that will change.

Being a Black man, from the Deep South, who not only can code but I've been a lead Java developer, one of seven, on a multi-million dollar project, which we delivered by the way, isn't exactly the norm from what I've heard.

But how did I get there?

Reality is I was obsessed with computers from the moment I heard of them, and was lucky enough that my Dad bought one even though I joke he screwed up with a TI-94A instead of a Commodore 64. I joke that if he'd got the latter we would be billionaires by now as it allowed assembly language coding while I was stuck with BASIC.

So I was coding from the age of 12, as that was back in 1982.

When I eventually ended up doing professional software development, writing code was the easy, but also hard part, as it is difficult to get the best code, and I'm fierce at getting the best code, but also wicked fast. It's weird watching other people, but I digress.

The social part was actually harder. Usually, yeah, I was one of few Black guys. But I didn't detect any walls against Black people. I just applied, interviewed, and went to work. And in fact roared up as a developer until maybe I burned myself out as well as left for personal reasons to pursue personal projects.

I have never seen any indications that Black people are barred.

They apparently just weren't applying. Of if they were, lacked the skillsets to get the job, where I think you best start getting those as a kid. Like with writing, people who become writers tend to be focused on writing from childhood. Why? Good question.

I have only some computer science courses from teenage years, and nothing was asked about them when I got my first coding job. The company just thought it worth letting me try, and I demonstrated ability. Getting that ability is about being excited by computers and coding from childhood.

It's like writing. Coding IS writing, for computers.

The people who will code our future will be dominated I firmly believe by people who started out as kids, fascinated by computers and coding on them. You look at big names who helped define things so far, and yes, they tend to be white males, but they were the ones who yup, had computers or access to them at an early age!

Like Steve Jobs is a great example, as check his history as to when he first got his eager hands onto a computer system.

The best thing we can do for diversity in coding is let kids code.

And it can be about priorities: if parents don't buy that computer for their kids, maybe someone should, as where would I be today if I weren't one of those kids with a computer in his hands at the age of 12 back in 1982?

James Harris

Monday, May 18, 2015

Big thing I see in Google+, privacy

Being someone with ideas I find I tend to try out lots of social media, and one of those is Google+ which seems to have a marketing problem, which doesn't surprise me.

From what I've seen Google as wildly successful as it is in search, tends to let other things market themselves, which also tends to work, like with YouTube. But for some things it really doesn't and I think Google+ suffers from a lack of knowledge of what you can do with it.

For instance one my favorite accounts is +San Francisco Giants where that links to their account, and they have me in their circles!!! And Google+ which I will call G+ from here on out, says I have 261 "people" in my circles and they are one. And I give that info out since they have it public last I checked.

But lots of other accounts don't, and I respect that and don't discuss accounts which have me in their circles when that is not public, which is a key strength of G+ which doesn't lend well to marketing unless you play it up, which is privacy.

You really don't know who is in whose circles unless they let you know, and it can be a really big deal. When I lived in San Francisco, some of my best times were watching the Giants play. It's a special thrill with all those people cheering, and watching those balls go out into the water on homeruns. Why do they have me in their circles? Not completely sure, don't want to test it, and hesitant at this point as don't want to ruin it! But G+ gets SO MUCH criticism, and Google doesn't seem to be marketing a lot for them, so gotta say something. And I think they're a great example.

The other side of it though is you're like, please, PLEASE, please don't drop me! Sometimes torture myself worrying about that one, so big deal bringing it up here.

Oh, so do I get anything private? Nope. But the potential is thrilling too. It could happen, if for some reason they decided to talk to the thousands in their circles. Or just me.

And I'm not sure how I got in their circles and if I knew wouldn't explain it. It's a fan thing. But actually I don't really know.

So much about what makes G+ great is what people don't tell you. It is the best social media I'm on where I feel like privacy is well respected. (Do I know for sure? Nope, but how could I in this day and age?)

I say if you are not on G+ you might give it a go, and why want millions of followers? If you're a fan, just consider how big for you a single one can be.

Think about it.

And can't promise that would be a mega account of some super sports team that has dominated its world, but it could be friends and family. And you can have your quiet world to outsiders, where people only know if you let them know.

Most people can't manage attention from millions of other people, and why try?

James Harris

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Finding your passion, my reality

When I was younger read an important book that told me to do what I love and the money would follow. And now I'm like, um, think it should have been more something like: figure out a product or service you enjoy doing which other people want, and establish a decent contract clearly outlining and limiting your obligations as well as those of the other contractual party.

See? Kind of the same thing?

Finding your passion is great! But making money is a process.

James Harris

Abstracting framework for monetary values

Fascinating to me functionally defining money as an abstraction enumerating a favor is that you can then more easily frame values in a way that makes sense. Why? Because most I assume do favors for people or receive favors all the time.

Like you give your best friend a ride. Versus your friend calls a service to get a ride.

One thing--you giving the favor--requires no money, while the other, enumerates the monetary value of the favor, which of course you would never charge a friend!

Now then, money lets you monetize favors for strangers, relying on what I call limited social trust, which allows you to trust a stranger to give you a ride, and limits the obligation of that stranger.

But money abstracts a favor which society guarantees will be returned, so if you give a ride for a stranger, using say some modern social company then notice, the money is just a promise that you will get value later. Maybe you will spend that money on a date with your girlfriend, where you will give it in exchange for ambiance and a meal, and the restaurant staff will get their value from it later.

Society guarantees this process. And society has mechanisms in place to keep it going, like prosecuting people who try to print their own money, which is now seen to be trying to steal favors! That is, counterfeit money is a claim that you did something for someone when you did not! So it is simply a lie.

People can claim they have done favors in real life as well, when they have not. And communities learn ways to deal with such things.

So, remarkably, you can look at a person with a lot of money and ask yourself: what favors were done for this wealth? And by whom? And how did it flow?

In a perfect system, which we do not have, and which is an ideal for which we can only strive, every bit of money would trace back to something someone did for someone else in a socially accepted transaction.

Why socially accepted? Because society provides the framework for money, defends the system, and guarantees the promise of a return.

Without society, you need trust, or as I like to say, deep social trust.

So that best friend you gave a ride? You know he's good for it.

Of course in the best society we don't nickel and dime each other over favors. But when someone is just using his friends that rankles.

At our best we support each other to the best of our ability as best we can, within our best society.

James Harris

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

But why not be entertaining?

Learning does not have to be painful. And I think that there is a natural urge to explain things one thinks one knows as best as possible in a way that can actually be entertaining.

However, the purpose is what matters then, as the point isn't to be entertaining, but to communicate something of interest in a more palatable way.

And I think there is a constant struggle within the art world itself, where entertainment is more generally considered, between whether a creative work should be entertaining in and of itself for that reason alone, or whether or not it serves some other purpose.

Should art communicate?

Can it not, and still be art?

My own view is that human beings seek knowledge and like we seek food, we can prize how it is presented, like we can prize how food is prepared and presented, or not.

And that the art of presenting information can be entertaining without it lessening the importance of the information itself.

With my own efforts I don't see them as entertaining, though I consider they might potentially be, and I leave myself that option without feeling like it is problematic.

However, my purpose would never be to entertain.

James Harris

Monday, May 11, 2015

Speculating on follower counts

As much as I speculate on other things figured why not toss something out there about follower counts. And my opinion after looking at follower counts across a lot of places is that they represent an expectation of entertainment value.

So to me they're like stadiums, or town halls, or smaller depending on the total.

That they represent expected or potential entertainment value to me explains, well, everything about them.

So, if you see ten million people following, it's like they see a potential entertainment value that can satisfy the needs of that many people, maybe. If that account isn't delivering you'll see far less engagement.

And that's my speculation. Which I like testing out.

So it's like the size of Madison Square Garden is the follower account, but how many people actually show up? Depends on the act, or the performer, or the event.

I guess if consistently the account doesn't deliver that can shrink, so social media accounts are more dynamic, like if Madison Square Garden could slowly shrivel up if too few performers actually delivered at the expected level.

And for instance on Twitter I have 122 followers at time of this writing. And yeah, I have no interest in being entertaining. I focus on retweeting news of interest, and expressing my opinions here and there where I tend to be very serious. I'm not trying to entertain anyone.

I've looked at two entertainers, of roughly equal level in my opinion and seen ten times the follower counts for one versus the other, and looking over the accounts it's like, yeah, one person is clearly, in my opinion, trying harder to be entertaining than the other.

But what is entertaining on a particular medium? I am not really sure. I like to think I know, but I've been puzzled often enough only to slowly figure it out over time why a particular account is extremely entertaining. Those rules I guess are being worked out, and it varies from platform to platform. But somehow some people are doing it.

People don't seem to care about your personal life, unless it's entertaining. They don't care about what you're working on, unless telling them is entertaining. And they don't care much of anything at all relative to you no matter who you are, unless, yup, it's entertaining.

Weirdly enough though because I see follower accounts as primarily a measure entertainment value, I don't think they necessarily measure influence.

Some of the most influential accounts out there, are government accounts, which have the most consistently paltry numbers. While entertainers have the biggest accounts.

And that's my long-winded explanation which to me is really just repeating the same thing over and over again. But maybe I just wanted to fill this thing up with far more words than necessary.

Oh yeah, so how do you get millions of followers then? Be entertaining to that level.

If you're not entertaining? Well then, you already know.

But it's such a self-serving kind of thing to decide must be it, since my follower counts are all so low. And it's such a relief to be able to say, well, I don't entertain.

But is that the correct explanation?

Does it matter, really? Yeah. It DOES matter, which is why I say, speculation.

Someone will figure it out eventually, for sure. In the meantime, I like what I have, as quite frankly, I feel better about myself with it.

It's NOT my fault I'm not here to entertain you.

James Harris

Saturday, May 09, 2015

Thoughts on assessing project money potential

To me one of the weirder questions with doing a software project or application is: where is the money in it? Often the answer is that there is none, but why? So I sat down and did lots of my own analysis to come up with my own opinions and now I'm going to see what I can do with them in the real world.

Nothing like trying out ideas, but of course they could fall flat. So there's the disclaimer that these are opinions and I'm not claiming to be a money expert. Just some guy on his blog talking out some things.

Money to me is an abstraction enumerating value for a favor. And I use that word "favor" deliberately as it helps explain why money is normally not used for things most important to us, which leads to an apparent paradox where people routinely refuse to pay for things most valuable to them. There are posts covering all of the above and will not link to them here.

So, functionally, I say that the more important an application is likely to be to people the less likely they will pay for it. So if I were money focused and looking for direct sales on an application for the consumer market, I would look for something less important, like games.

I think businesses are different, and actually behave more like you'd think, where a business is more likely to pay more for something important to it, and the business to business market would be where I'd go with an important product then.

However, even in an important area to most people I'd think I could produce a product, and give it away, and look for revenue in other areas, like advertising or related services--though seemingly paradoxically the MORE important the services the LESS likely people will be willing to pay for them!

So, yup, I figure if I provide a free product that people find extremely valuable to them, they will refuse to pay for it, and if I have related services they find crucial, they will refuse to pay for those as well!

This behavior can seem strange unless you figure it out. And again, businesses do not behave that way, but that can be weird for them as well.

As consider phone service in the US, with which I'm most familiar. People do pay for it, but when I grew up, long distance was more expensive. And could be prohibitively expensive which infuriated people. There was a lot of hostility about long distance rates.

But notice today! However, companies were probably more at ease I think about paying the business cost of long distance, and could lag behind consumers in switching to far cheaper rates. Or, to the ultimate, finding ways to not pay for communicating long distance at all, which the web has allowed. I'm guessing. Not going to check that one, but will leave it up as a speculation.

So, what's the short answer for why people refuse to pay for things most important to them?


Like, imagine you live in a community where you have to pay a fee to leave your driveway to drive on the road. And in fact, every time someone does anything for you, you get charged.

So, you ask your neighbor to watch your house when you're away? You get a bill.

Your kid stays over at a friend's house? You get charged an overnight rate. Oh yeah, plus a meal rate if they eat.

I could go on. Communities offer a LOT where money is not involved which is not surprising as community has been around since long before money was invented.

You find a cure for cancer? Would you charge a HUGE fee for it?

If you would, there's something wrong with you.

Businesses are not human beings though. Which is why you can charge a business based on the perceived benefit to that business, in my opinion.

It's also one reason why businesses may behave in inhuman ways, like try to charge people exorbitant fees for, yup, a treatment for cancer.

Who is right? Well, we are of course! People rule.

James Harris

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Why talk pay?

Was really gratified to see a hashtag on Twitter that emphasized greater transparency in salary. Which is something I highly recommend and have a blog post where I explain why.

Will quote myself, sorry but that explains so much, and give the link to it:

...Ever wonder what is the best explanation for why companies don't want employees to share what their salary is? 
Now you know. It's so they can keep salaries lower...
Beyond Mundane post: Valuing knowledge and money

But it gives me a chance to disclose some information about myself, which I put out in a tweet:
Being able to embed tweets is very cool, so yes, you can click on the hashtag.

And yes, will readily admit it is an embarrassingly low salary for the tech industry. And that was in the Atlanta metro area, and I was a lead Java developer. Of course also it was over a decade ago. I left the position voluntarily, to focus on some personal projects.

And that's the highest salary I've ever had, though I didn't get that full salary back in 2002, as I left before the end of year. And talk about a shock as my income went to zero. You learn lessons about yourself from such things. And think a lot about making certain decisions. But I don't regret it.

Clearly then I'm am NOT money motivated. But I'd definitely like to make more money, but on my own terms and without chasing it as the reason. It matters to make money to achieve certain life goals I have.

So I worked it all out in a post where I have the money conversation. Had to figure out everything too, so have other posts covering things like promotion, as I try to figure out how to make money and still like myself.

James Harris