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On Vine and Third-Party Use of Your Content

Vine logo

None of the commentary with respect to terms of service and legal agreements in this blog post can be taken as legal advice. If in doubt, ask someone who really knows their stuff.

I really like the medium of short, tweetable videos that Vine has made popular. It succeeds where other video-over-Twitter services, such as yfrog’s, failed. Once again, it is actually by imposing limitations that we find a unique way to express creativity.

So, I toyed with the idea of joining Vine, even despite it not supporting protected accounts like on Twitter. But being an unusual breed, I felt it necessary to read and at least attempt to understand the Terms of Service.

I didn’t like what I saw. (All emphasis is mine.)

You retain your rights to any Content you submit, post or display on or through the Services. In order to make the Services available to you and other users, Vine needs a license from you. By submitting, posting or displaying Content on or through the Services, you grant us a worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free license (with the right to sublicense) to use, copy, reproduce, process, adapt, modify, publish, transmit, display and distribute such Content in any and all media or distribution methods (now known or later developed).

This is a standard kind of sentence you will see if you read many different ToSes. It is, apparently, the boilerplate for “we need your permission to display the stuff you are posting”. It seems fair enough.

You agree that this license includes the right for Vine to provide, promote, and improve the Services and to make Content submitted to or through the Services available to other companies, organizations or individuals who partner with Vine for the syndication, broadcast, distribution or publication of such Content on other media and services, subject to our terms and conditions for such Content use. Such additional uses by Vine, or other companies, organizations or individuals who partner with Vine, may be made with no compensation paid to you with respect to the Content that you submit, post, transmit or otherwise make available through the Services.

Suddenly, this paragraph changes the tone — from “we’re needing a licence to actually display your stuff at all” to “we’ll reserve the right to exploit any commercial value in your creativity whenever we feel like it”.

It is not just about using your content to further promote Vine, it seems to leave the door open for them to sell your content to anybody at all, subject to some additional terms and conditions I didn’t find.

I am not naïve. I know these services will need to make money eventually, and that a ‘free’ service comes with an exchange of value, even if it is not you paying a monthly fee.

With that said, this is not an acceptable arrangement for me, and I would encourage others to examine the value of the content they expect to submit to Vine in the light of these words.

Contrast Vine’s ToS with similar verbiage in the YouTube ToS:

When you upload or post Content to YouTube, you grant: to YouTube, a worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free, transferable licence (with right to sub-licence) to use, reproduce, distribute, prepare derivative works of, display, and perform that Content in connection with the provision of the Service and otherwise in connection with the provision of the Service and YouTube’s business, including without limitation for promoting and redistributing part or all of the Service (and derivative works thereof) in any media formats and through any media channels;

In short, YouTube might use your stuff to further YouTube as a platform, on any medium, but they aren’t going to reserve the right to flog it off to some ‘partner’ who may not be as fair about compensating you. (Also, YouTube’s existing, long-term relationships with their content partners demonstrates, in my view, a much better mutual respect than the implication of Vine’s ToS.)

There seems to be a weird irony that it is exactly the fact that Google wants to jealously keep you and your content in their ecosystem that they aren’t going to pawn it off to someone else’s ecosystem who might not treat you right.

I’m not saying don’t use Vine. That is your decision, based on what you find an acceptable deal. But don’t be in the dark about the potential implications of these differences in that agreement that, on the surface, might appear subtle, but could be really important.

Today, if you put your stuff on YouTube, and it gets popular, you can join the Partner Program and get compensated for the value in your content. With Vine, however, maybe there would never be an opportunity to see any value from your work. I think they need to answer that question, even if the implementation is not here yet.

Protecting the value of the content you create, whilst always being respectful to your customers, is not just for big media organisations. We are all creators, and we all deserve to have mutually respectful relationships with those who publish our content on our behalf, and those who consume it.

Valuing Corporate Values

Much is said about Google’s “don’t be evil” corporate motto. That is not what this post is about.

This is about corporate values — and a (rather smaller) company I have found myself appreciating because of their words and actions on the subject. This stuff can be easily overlooked when the market demands a rush to the lowest price, but to consumers like myself, it is possibly the most important thing.

This isn’t some murky sponsored post (although I do have an affiliate link at the bottom) — this is all genuine and from the heart.


Cloak logo

I found out about Cloak through their co-branding with 1Password, my password manager of choice. They are a VPN service designed to give you a way to encrypt your traffic when you are connected to untrusted networks. Their service is technically brilliant, but what is more important than that is the honesty, openness and realism they have shown so far in their communications.

At first I felt a little apprehensive about their corporate values and how well they were upheld in practice. Their privacy policy was scant in detail — using claims along the lines of “we don’t store any of your data”, but with an exception of data that they’d need “to make sure you’re not sending out spam”.

Well, what does that mean?

» Read the rest of this post…

Raspberry Pi

Raspberry Pi logo

In other 2012 gadget acquisition news, I got my hands on a Raspberry Pi this year, too.

Raspberry Pi in box

Ordered in the summer, and only delivered last month, due to the high demand, it is something I have not yet had an opportunity to play with as much as I would have liked. The advantage of having to wait that long, however, has been a beefier 512 MB version of the device!

In the spirit of my recent iPad mini post, here are some first thoughts on the device:

  • It is amazing how much you can do on such a tiny and inexpensive device. With the Debian wheezy build that is the Pi’s default operating system, you have access to almost the same rich range of software packages on any other Debian system. I was able to install Nginx to serve up web pages at rapid speed, and I am quite sure it would be possible to completely replicate Van Patten Media’s Managed Hosting platform that I have spent much of the year working on, even on such a device!
  • It is unashamedly geeky. This will probably be enough to put off some people who have received a Pi, but perhaps who don᾿t have the support in place to best use it. It isn’t that difficult to get started, but you do need to be able to get the OS onto an SD card. For me, though, I like that opportunity that it gives you.
  • It legitimises the hobbyist again. This pleases me a lot. Many great things were achieved by (originally) hobbyist hackers; re-igniting that spirit has huge potential.

There is some irony in that the Pi is, in a number of ways, the polar opposite of the iPad — it is hobbyist rather than consumerist. The Pi gives you complete control but requires some fiddling, the iPad gives you little control but is so intuitive.

I leave this year much more satisfied about the state of computing because of these two devices.

Why? There is now opportunity for both consumer hardware, and hobbyist hardware, to co-exist and complement each other.

iPad mini

iPad mini

Ever since its initial release, the absence of an iPad, or indeed any kind of tablet device, from my computing devices was notable. After all, this was the ‘future’ — and I was just getting left behind, right?

Truthfully, the full-size iPad always felt to me to be difficult to justify. While significantly more portable than any laptop, the size difference between it and its clamshelled cousins did not feel big enough. I’d just want to reach for the laptop, right?

It seemed that all that changed with the iPad mini. I hadn’t anticipated it at all, but ‘merely’ making the device smaller suddenly made me see where it fits for me.

So, what does it do better than any other device? Why is it now justified?

  • It is hands down, the best (type of) device for ‘casual’ browsing. Whether for checking something quickly, or browsing around at the end of the day, it makes web browsing informal and comfortable in a way that sitting in front of a desktop or laptop just does not. Being physically smaller than a laptop makes it easier to do this.
  • It is that much easier to take with you. Yet unlike a phone, which will always have limited screen size (or else not fit into a pocket), it is big enough for ‘full’ websites, richer app experiences or even in my case, full-screen SSH connections!
  • Battery life and instant-on. It makes an immeasurable difference that it can just be left on, and is always ready to use. No need for chargers, mice and various other accessories.

Something about this smaller form factor suddenly made it click for me — perhaps even just made it feel less threatening to the role of my traditional computers! I am very happy indeed with my iPad mini. I had concerns about lack of a retina/HiDPI display, but I have found that in real-world usage, it is not a deal breaker. (My personal opinion is that the physically larger the device gets, the less that HiDPI actually matters.)

Consumer computing is changing. Whether ‘traditional’ PC people like me are ready or not.

Default Internet Filtering — The Road to Complacency

It seems we have bounced from one consultation on a threat to the internet to another. The UK government is now consulting on the idea to introduce an opt-out ‘internet filter’ for certain types of content.

I have absolutely no problem with empowering parents/guardians and internet subscribers in general to control their own internet connections. Providing inexpensive and free tools, combined with education on how to use them (and what they can and cannot do) is something I would wholeheartedly support.

However, performing filtering at the network level, using the tyranny of the default to effectively impose certain decisions on parents is not just a dangerous precedent to set. It is also extremely likely to be technically ineffective, and therefore will create a false sense of security for parents and guardians. A false sense of security does not protect children.

» Read the rest of this post…

Where are the Free Developer ID Certificates, Apple?

Barbed Wire Twilight, by Orin Zebest

Before the release of Apple’s OS X Mountain Lion, when the Gatekeeper feature was first announced, Apple proudly proclaimed on the relevant page that developers distributing their apps outside of the Mac App Store would be able to get a “free Developer ID certificate”.

Unfortunately, I did not have the foresight to screenshot the page that said this, because now, even a month after the release of Mountain Lion, their generosity appears to have evaporated.

Only Mac Developer Program members are eligible to request Developer ID certificates and sign applications or installer packages using them.

The aforementioned Developer Program(me) is the standard, $99/£69 per year subscription that entitles you to full Mac App Store distribution rights. Unless I am missing something obvious, and I really wish that I am, there are no free Developer ID certificates.

This disappoints me — I cannot justify enrolment in the paid program for DfontSplitter for Mac, which doesn’t generate me significant donation revenue at all. This means I cannot sign DfontSplitter for use with Gatekeeper, which degrades the experience for Mountain Lion users of the software, and maybe even puts them off entirely.

I am definitely in favour of security measures that put the control in the hands of the user. I cannot, however, get behind a system which appears to discriminate against all developers who are not in a position to join Apple’s certification programme. I am left disappointed, and my app is left unsigned.

Photo is Barbed Wire Twilight, by Orin Zebest. Licensed under CC-BY 2.0 GB.

Moving to Mountain Lion and Beyond

Mountain Lion pre-release logo

In my most recent article for For Mac Eyes Only, I ponder the implications of the remarkably speedy scheduled release of Apple’s OS X Mountain Lion on the longer term viability of older Mac hardware. Mountain Lion is due to arrive just a year after the release of Lion.

We now await OS X 10.8, Mountain Lion. Scheduled to be released a mere year after Lion, we are promised even more features ‘inspired by iPad’.

Wait a second. What was that? It is due to arrive this summer. Just one year after Lion was released.

A new release of OS X hasn’t come so quickly since the operating system was very young and was still being established and stabilised.

This strikes me as quite a shift, and it brings me to an important issue — how does this affect the lifespans of the Apple products we buy?

You can read the full article over on the For Mac Eyes Only site.

Why I Like Ubuntu’s Roadmap

Ubuntu founder Mark Shuttleworth, on user interface and user experience, and looking at desktop user interfaces holistically:

In the open source community, we celebrate having pieces that ‘do one thing well’, with lots of orthogonal tools compounding to give great flexibility. But that same philosophy leads to shortcomings on the GUI / UX front, where we want all the pieces to be aware of each other in a deeper way.

It’s only by looking at the whole, that we can design great experiences. And only by building a community of both system and application developers that care about the whole, that we can make those designs real. So, thank you to all of you who approach things this way, we’ve made huge progress, and hopefully there are some ideas here for low-hanging improvements too 🙂

This approach is why I find myself most aligned with where Ubuntu is taking the Linux desktop. The changes they have introduced to the UI over recent versions have been controversial — sometimes even breaking with revered Unix-y traditions — but I broadly think they are the right decisions to move the platform forward.

With mobile computing taking the lion’s share of industry attention, who is doing the thinking on innovating the traditional desktop? Ubuntu.

I will readily acknowledge that this kind of traditional desktop computing will probably be less important in the future than it has been in the last decade.

I don’t think that means no-one will want to use a desktop. I certainly don’t think it is a reason to stop innovating.

The Creative Middle Class

‘Poetry of the Music’, by ‘Lel4nd’ on Flickr

The recent creative industry pat-on-the-back event The Oscars[1] has got me thinking about creativity, art and business.

We have mega-über-super-stars, and struggling artists. And that seems to be it.

There are some fantastic people and businesses that are exceptions, but there are still relatively few ‘little guys’ able to make a comfortable living from their art (in a way that respects their customers too). [2]

Where is the middle ground? Is it really the case that it must be this way, or is it the case that Hollywood and The Big Three and their policies are stifling the creative start-up?

» Read the rest of this post…

Teaching Computing in Schools

'Keyboard' by john_a_ward on Flickr

There has been quite a lot of recent press coverage of the Next Gen. report, by Ian Livingstone and Alex Hope. One of the key issues raised has been the way that computing is taught in British secondary schools.

At the moment, Information and Communication Technology, ICT, is essentially a crash course in how to use Microsoft Office. That is, for many secondary school pupils, almost the entirety of the coverage of computing in the curriculum.

[The curriculum] focuses in ICT on office skills rather than the more rigorous computer science and programming skills which high-tech industries… need

For someone passionate about technology and computers in many different ways, my experience of this manufactured ‘ICT’ subject in secondary school was utterly, utterly uninspiring. I don’t think this was a particular fault of the school, I think it was a systemic failure of the curriculum.

It is, of course, important that school-leavers are capable of the kind of basic office productivity tasks on computers. These are skills that many employers will need and I don’t question the educational value of that for a moment, even if it is a little dull.

For someone like me, however, this ‘ICT’ subject completely failed to recognise and encourage my talent and enthusiasm in computing. I therefore developed my skills outside of school. It is troubling, though, that there will be many other children who may have huge potential in this field who may not have opportunities to develop computing — computing beyond merely using a word processor — outside of school.

Research by e-skills UK has shown that young people find the existing ICT curriculum to be boring, poorly taught, too basic, and perhaps most importantly, too narrowly focused on office applications. This has a knock-on effect on their perceptions of computing- related careers as poor, dull, repetitive and low-paying.

It is again, very concerning that ‘ICT’ is creating a perception of computing as mundane, tedious and with little future potential. The job of the education system isn’t just to produce qualified people — it is to inspire people in subjects they might not have even considered before, and to develop and nurture the talents of the individual.

I am sure there are individual schools, and individual teachers, doing a better job than the curriculum mandates, and for that, they should be applauded.

The good news is that this report is being listened to by the UK government:

… the Government recognises that the current ICT programme is insufficiently rigorous and in need of reform.

I hope that this country can make progress in this area. The current state of affairs for computing in UK secondary schools is not just disappointing, there is a real danger of missing great opportunities — for individuals, and for the whole country.

Image is a modified version of Keyboard, by Flickr user john_a_ward. The image is licensed under CC-BY 2.0.