My latest column in Locus Magazine, "Think Like a Dandelion," came out of a talk I had with Neil Gaiman about the bio-economics of giving stuff away for free. Mammals worry about what happens to each and every one of their offspring, but dandelions only care that every crack in every sidewalk has dandelions growing out of it. The former is a good strategy for situations in which reproduction is expensive, but the latter works best when reproduction is practically free -- as on the Internet.
1. Your work needs to be easily copied, to anywhere whence it might find its way into the right hands. That means that the nimble text-file, HTML file, and PDF (the preferred triumvirate of formats) should be distributed without formality – no logins, no e-mail address collections, and with a license that allows your fans to reproduce the work on their own in order to share it with more potential fans. Remember, copying is a cost-center – insisting that all copies must be downloaded from your site and only your site is insisting that you – and only you – will bear the cost of making those copies. Sure, having a single, central repository for your works makes it easier to count copies and figure out where they're going, but remember: dandelions don't keep track of their seeds. Once you get past the vanity of knowing exactly how many copies have been made, and find the zen of knowing that the copying will take care of itself, you'll attain dandelionesque contentment.
2. Once your work gets into the right hands, there needs to be an easy way to consummate the relationship. A friend who runs a small press recently wrote to me to ask if I thought he should release his next book as a Creative Commons free download in advance of the publication, in order to drum up some publicity before the book went on sale.
I explained that I thought this would be a really bad idea. Internet users have short attention spans. The moment of consummation – the moment when a reader discovers your book online, starts to read it, and thinks, huh, I should buy a copy of this book – is very brief. That's because "I should buy a copy of this book" is inevitably followed by, "Woah, a youtube of a man putting a lemon in his nose!" and the moment, as they say, is gone.
The World Wide Web Consortium has embarked upon an ill-advised project to standardize Digital Rights Management (DRM) for video at the behest of companies like Netflix; in so doing, they are, for the first time, making a standard whose implementations will be covered under anti-circumvention laws like Section 1201 of the DMCA, which makes it […]
Sitelock is a major player in online security; a rival, White Fir, thinks its products are subpar, and has published extensive articles explaining why White Fir’s products are superior — articles that Sitelock has targeted with fraudulent copyright claims.
DJ Jesse Jarnow polled a bunch of “hardcore music nerds” to get their feature wish-list for a music-centric phone for Wired; here’s what I suggested:
Evan Kimbrell, founder of the digital agency Sprintkick, recently released a series of online courses that feature some of the best advice we’ve come across. These courses are well worth your time, and will save you from making many typical mistakes down the line if you ever want to start your own business.With this Business […]
Handy is the most convenient solution we’ve found for booking a house cleaning at the last minute, and they do a really great job. It’s as easy as heading to the site, selecting a date and time that works for you and the number of rooms in your home. We’ve even scheduled emergency cleanings as soon as the following day. […]
With all the new amazing games and consoles out there, we still can’t help but have a soft spot for old school staples. From Super Mario to Mortal Kombat, classic games just never get old. Which is why we’re so excited to relive the nostalgia with our newest deal in the Boing Boing Shop: The Complete SNES […]