Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Traversing the Teapot Tempests

The other day a colleague sent me an MSNBC article about the RIAA's shakedown of college students. He sent it because it was the first he had heard about it. My friend sent the article to several other people, which prompted some discussion. During the conversation I discovered that another colleague, though very knowledgable about the RIAA and MPAA's ongoing like/hate relationship with their customers confessed to have completely missed the Digg revolt.

This made me realise that the universality of the Internet is something of an illusion. The RIAA/College story has been the subject of fierce debate for months -- but my colleague was completely unaware of it, as he doesn't regularly visit the same news sites I do.

As of today, the HD-DVD code shows postings, spurred by the Digg revolt, on over 8 million sites (according to Google) -- yet it completely escaped the attention of someone interested in the subject.

A poor reflection on my colleagues? Hardly. Within every community there are epic battles being fought for the hearts and minds of the members -- struggles that are all-consuming to the participants, yet go completely unremarked by those on the outside.

The Internet is a vast jumble of information that we must each sort out for ourselves. The difference between a political fight in the Orange County Garden Club and several million people revolting against HD-DVD DRM is just matter of scale. As long as the fight remains in the closed system of the community, it's just a tempest in a teapot.

What to do? For those on the inside, spread the word to other communities. When the full fury of Interet radio supporters descended on Congress, a bill to remedy the ruinous new royalty rates was written and sponsored within days. The Internet radio community invaded the congressional community and got results.

And for those on the outside, make it a point to check those rattling teapots and see what's going on. Many things are happening in there that need to be addressed soon -- because by the time the general public finds out about them, it may be too late.

- Ralph

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