That was the year that was!

That was the year that was. Let’s start with the tech deals done dirt cheap that didn’t make it in 2013:

  • Simcity 10 years in the relaunch of a much loved game totally botched the games launch.
  • Reddit lost it in its attempt at social media justice by muddying the waters in the search for the Boston marathon bombers.
  • Twitter’s new music discovery service started with a whimper and died with a burp.
  • Dell can’t say die and refuses to accept the general PC’s day is dead and gone.
  • BlackBerry is undergoing a death by a thousand cuts. Apart from President Obama who do you know that has one? No one.
  • Adobe upset everyone with its move to subscription software to absolutely outrage 38 million of their customers with a massive security breach of their credit card details.
  • Facebook Home for smart phones didn’t grab users with its first attempt although the company insists it will persist.
  • Microsoft Surface Tablet didn’t make a ripple on the surface of worldwide tablet sales.

Australians internet habits for the year was to check the weather, download videos big time, check our social media, and play smart phone games. However the difference in 2013 was the increasing use of mobile smart devices. Half of Australia is now on the internet and one third of them now access the internet on mobile or wireless links.

Google trending analysis of our search curiosity put celebrities dead before their time high on the list. Points of trivia concerning trivial reality TV shows confirmed the public’s increasing demand for reality avoidance.

We did however use the Rural Fire Service during our increasingly deadly bush fire season. Nearly all of us worried about someone near to us in the path of a fast moving fire somewhere. Our wonderful BOM (Bureau of Meteorology) received 471 million visits reflecting our fascination for cyclones heatwaves and bushfires.
We all expressed a morbid interest in the 24 hour, slogan driven, negative message electioneering of our modern more than likely reviled politicians. The Electoral Commission’s more than 12 million page views on election night reflected a 45% rise from the previous election.

Much else didn’t change. We are too lazy to bookmark so we banked, emailed, social media’d, checked weather, searched for jobs and real estate, booked accommodation and travel, shopped on Ebay and the such all from shortcutting out of Google.

The Twitter spikes caused by Australia’s 2 million Twitter users was a depressing reflection on our general level of education. It is not surprising that the majority of spikes were around mindless conversation pieces like the moment Dami Im was crowned winner of The X Factor. Whoever the hell he or she is. It’s not surprising after a survey of Australians general science knowledge found that 40% of us had no idea it takes the earth one year to revolve around the sun and that since the re-release of Jurassic Park on Blu-ray that humans lived in the time of dinosaurs. Small wonder that Twitter peaks concentrated around conversation pieces from television shows.

Some serious topics did trend, leadership spills and drugs in sport being the main ones. However the word television needs to be qualified. 2013 saw a large increase in the number of people using internet, subscription TV, video on demand and catch-up TV particularly children’s shows. Does anyone still have a video “Blockbuster” store in their town? If you do you won’t for long.

Season three “Game of Thrones” confirmed Australians as the most prolific illegal downloaders in the world. Downloading from smartphones and tablets rose 97 per cent to about 6545 terabytes a month.
Looking forward to 2014 I’m wondering if I will be able to 3D print a lifelong replacement for a chronic ingrown toenail or invest in an e-ink tattoo parlour providing removable, moving multi-coloured tattoos.

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GOT S03E10 Withdrawal Symptoms

About this time last year I walked into the staff room to announce how much I was looking forward to the start of season 2 of The Game of Thrones. I had read reports the previous year before season 1, how HBO was being considered very brave to do a fantasy series. They had not being rating well in the years preceding and the amount of money they were going to spend on both locations and authenticity was impressive despite what many perceived as a risky concept.  The producers believed that the cult status the series had received from a very large readership could translate to the screen and it did, big time.

One of the early reports about the series stated: “It’s a cross between the Sopranos and the Lord of the Rings” it was an understatement.

One of those cult readers was a staff member who asked on seeing my enthusiasm if I had read the books. What followed was one of those cross media conversations: was it better to read the book then watch the series? Or watch the series and read the book. In the opinion of my colleague HBO had done such a fantastic job in selecting the actors that they matched the pictures your imaginative reading conjured up perfectly. As I read the books I found that to be true.

Something happened to me that hadn’t happened for years. Reading the books was an addictive can’t put down obsessive experience that possessed my every waking moment. It was great, sort of. It would be 2 O’clock in the morning as I finished that point of view chapter. It would leave that character on a cliff edge with their arse hanging in the wind. The first sentence of the next chapter was an enticing summary of where that characters arse was left hanging. Its only 2 O’clock. I’ll just read one more chapter. Next time I looked up it was dawn. I just ate, slept, crapped and read the entire series back to back. It was mortifying to finish and learn that there are two novels left to go to complete the series. It usually takes George RR Martin three and a half years to write one. That’s seven years to find out how it all turns out.

I needed therapy. On his website and Blog there were millions like me. A lot of them were trying to write the next two for him. Frantic panicky forum typing, threads of lost souls lamenting. When the poor old fella mentioned his favourite football team in a blog post he got a worldwide, cross cultural, in your face scream of digital outrage from his cult following. “WTF, what are you thinking get back to writing!” was the general drift.

The last episode Game of Thrones s03e10, broke both ratings and piracy records after it aired to end the season. In Australia Foxtel recorded its highest one-day rating for the show. The finale increased 28% on the last episode of season 2. Always a good sign of increasing viewer-ship, legal that is. Internet streaming and multi platform delivery was an example of the increasing online demand. Illegally it had already broken all records for illegal downloads on season debut.
“TorrentFreak predicts the episode will be downloaded more than 5 million times in the coming weeks and that Game of Thrones is certain to be the most downloaded show of the year” –  Giles Hardie

If you are having withdrawal symptoms since the last episode of season 3 Game of Thrones I have absolutely no sympathy for you whatsoever. “Tough Titty” (An Australian expression meaning I couldn’t care less). Read the books you’ve got a year. When you have done that read his three novelettes set 90 years before Game of Thrones. Still waiting for season 4? Read the three books in the “Avenging Kings” series. Martin said they gave him inspiration.

After that you are on your own. Join us lamenting lost souls on the forum. He has a couple of chapters of the next one done.

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Exactly Who Were the Pirates? Part 3: Movies

Tom Cruise co-produced “The Last Samurai” in 2003. Apparently Tom spent over 3 million dollars to try and prevent illegal copying of the movie for at least the first most important weekend of release.  Back in 2003 Twitter was yet to be invented and could not make or break your movie in the first 24 hours of its exposure to the “Twitterverse”
He serial numbered the 800 odd complimentary copies sent to the voting members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences who would decide the OSCAR nominations. He placed observers with infrared glasses in all the movie theatres showing the movie on its first weekend to stop the camcorder recordings. Finally he employed a number of observers to monitor the major file sharing websites to determine if and when the movie first appeared for illegal download. Despite all his efforts the first illegal download appeared Sunday lunchtime. What’s more he was betrayed by one of his own. It was one of the complimentary copies given to a voting member of the Academy.

Recently season three of the “Game of Thrones” broke all previous records for illegal downloads despite simultaneous release around the world. In one of the recent episodes, bit torrenters were perplexed at why on so many file sharing websites the numbers of seeders and leechers were listed as zero. It turned out it was because so many people were making it available so fast they couldn’t keep up the number count of the computers willing to share.  

My first exposure was when a friend came home from a Bali holiday and left me a few movies to watch. First I wondered why there were so many regular looking rocks on the road in the foreground. Wait a minute, I wondered how come the rocks were laughing until one of them got up and walked out to buy popcorn. So this is why the movie cost $2 in Bali. Now it’s an entire art form with 50 file types depending on how it was knocked off, touched up and quality enhanced. “It’s just ok, the sound needs to be better synced” says Freddy on the forum; under the button he clicked to steal it. All those trailers on your hired DVD’s about how copying is just like car stealing is really taking its toll on the guilt area of your average human brain isn’t it?   

First attempts in defence by the industry started trying to fine the individual. The reason Derek stole it in the first place is probably because he doesn’t have any money to buy it. Fining him $100,000 when he is going to plead hardship and pay it off at 20 cents a week would be a wicked deterrent to some Mr No Name on the other side of the planet. Gee, I better not do that because of what happened to Derek! Take this approach to its logical conclusion and you would have to have a special court to handle the huge number of cases.
“Wow man, bummer, do you have to appear in the Copy Court again?”
“Yeh man I gotta lotta copy fines from the Copy Court, they are adding up, but if you’ve got nothing , no one can take nothing from ya, hey?…. dude”

The latest attempt, last week, trumpeted as a breakthrough announced the introduction of the Copyright Alert System (CAS). Your favourite Internet Service Provider (ISP) is being invited to sign onto this system and agree to lose money. Derek again, who is paying $150 a month for 500GB and a plan, is going to be put on a “six and you’re out” penalty system. Toothlessly escalating from an email warning to “We will slow down the user’s bandwidth or, in some cases, terminates service completely” the last ditch, final nasty email. After Derek’s first or second email warning, he will have purchased, downloaded and installed a virtual solution to conceal his identity, while suffering a slight drop in the download speeds of his illegal downloading activity. So Good luck with that!

The only movie release’s to entice me into a picture theatre recently have been 3D experiences on a seriously big screen with bullet surround sound. The whole row I was in ducked down when the rabbit threw something at the screen in “Alice in Wonderland”
So industry if you want some feedback from the “Geek Kid Downloaders”, listen up.

Stop being greedy, give your movie its six weeks in the sun in theatre, but make it worthwhile going. Give us an interactive experience on our devices in the theatre of communal fun and discovery. Make it a virtual “During and after” theatre experience shared in true cross media formats designed by good gamers that’s fun, unique and engaging.  We will pay good money and even physically travel somewhere to see it.

My 8 Mb Hard Disk Drive in 1987 cost $800 while a 1TB external drive costs me $80 today. Storage for your average “Geek Kid Downloader” is not a problem but why bother as there are not too many of the movies they download they want to keep.
Provide them a mini dollar, pay for view, pause n talk, watch when they want, high definition option on the big screen giving them an in your face lounge room experience then they will pay. Take away the need to download by a why bother its simpler to pay business model. Do you understand how many honours graduate, net enabled, device carrying really smart Indian and Chinese kids are coming down the demographic pipeline you idiots? Even charging 20 cents a movie you will make more money than you probably deserve. It provides you ample opportunity to put a lot more money back into the industry to foster and encourage the talent that follows.

To survive, the traditional Film Industry of the big studio model more than ever needs to encompass what it means to practice the art of multimedia. Otherwise they will get overtaken by the YouTube and Netflix type of cross media, communal focus companies that are thriving. These are the new tech “GoPro” type high innovation companies who no longer need any of the old movie making methods or techniques and are only just vaguely interested in a distribution network on its path to redundancy. It could be, like in the Music industry, the only thing they will have left to sell is a back catalogue.