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The Media

Carping Over Creative Commons 276

Posted by michael
from the self-proving-thesis dept.
scubacuda writes "Arnold Kling, in his article, Content is Crap, writes, 'While there are many Net-heads who share Dan Gillmor's [and Larry Lessig's] enthusiasm for Creative Commons, I do not. It has little or no significance, because it is based on a strikingly naive 60's-retro ideological view of how content intermediaries function.' He compares artists' works to, well, raw sewage that publishers filter into something that can be later consumed by the public. 'What Creative Commons lets you do as an author is label your stuff before you flush it down the toilet.' Kling points to Bayesian Intermediaries (filters based on flexible keyword weights and 'trained' by user preferences) and weblogs as good ways to filter out the drivel that many content creators produce. (Dan Gilmore and Siva Vaidhayanatha respond, to which Kling responds in his blog."
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Carping Over Creative Commons

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  • by Josh Mast (1283) <josh@zhixel.com> on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @03:09PM (#5089241)
    Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom [craphound.com], a super-keen new book just released under creative commons.
  • by linefeed0 (550967) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @03:59PM (#5089590)
    Yes, it is ironic, and like many other bloggers -- including but by no means limited to the right-wing blog echo chamber -- his argument fails to hold any water because he's confusing two completely different concepts.

    First, he assumes that Creative Commons is about cutting out the publishers. In some cases, it's about online distribution -- and the popularity of meta-blogs and sites like slashdot proves that there is both demand *and* supply for some editing, indexing, and review of online information. In addition, Lessig has support for some of his projects from people whose works are formally published, including O'Reilly using his 14-year "founder's copyright".

    But even a cursory review of his site shows the real purpose is to empower people (whether it's foolish or not, it is giving people a choice) with licenses that are carefully legally reviewed, by a lawyer (very hard for an individual to get), to have something other than full, all-rights-reserved copyright on their works. Sort of like the GPL, really, and it's hard to argue that hasn't been a success for at least some projects.

    From his site [creativecommons.org]: "...creative works are now automatically copyrighted. We believe that many people would not choose this "copyright by default" if they had an easy mechanism for turning their work over to the public or exercising some but not all of their legal rights. It is Creative Commons' goal to help create such a mechanism."

  • Why so bitter? (Score:4, Informative)

    by madgeorge (632496) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @04:04PM (#5089631)

    Did CC piss on Kling's lawn, or what? Why so bitter? I can understand the argument defending the role of publishers to some extent, but in reality too much is "filtered". If we left it up to the big, commercial publishers Einstein would never have amounted to anything. More Danielle Steele, please!

    That being said, I'm still trying to figure out why defending publishers requires attacking a project like Creative Commons. Yeah, the 5 million personal sites proclaiming "Hey, my name is Dorky McDork I like Satr Wars email me if you liek movies, two! LOL)LL" do kinda suck. But the need for search and filtering tools again is no reason to trash a project like CC [creativecommons.org] that is "designed to help expand the amount of intellectual work, whether owned or free, available for creative re-use." How is this a bad thing?

    But I preach to the choir. I need to copy this into an email to Kling.

    --madgeorge

  • by philovivero (321158) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @04:11PM (#5089687) Homepage Journal
    The author of the article seems to think that Bayesian filters are going to change everything and become the personal editors/publishers of tommorrow. Is the technology really that promising? (not a rhetorical question by the way...)
    No, they are not that good.

    While Bayesian filters will tell me that Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom [craphound.com] (a book you can find online and read today) isn't a vampire story, and thus can avoid showing it to me when I want to read a vampire story, it won't tell me which of the three are best:

    1. Interview with the Vampire
    2. From Dusk 'til Dawn
    3. Queen of the Damned
    I want some computer to go out, check those three movies, and tell me which one is a gem and which two are crap.

    Interview with the Vampire touched on emotions, morals, dilemmas, and was an epic story covering hundreds of years, and was extremely well-done in cinematography, and Anne Rice said it was a very good end product.

    The other two? Well, watch them. Tell me a Bayesian filter would be smart enough to differentiate the three. They couldn't, especially since I would include that I like Quentin Tarantino (he was in Dusk-->Dawn) or that I like to see nude women (Queen of the Damned, although I haven't actually watched it, supposedly has some good nudity). My Bayesian filter would definitely waste my time.

    The only hope is for a trust system, actually, not unlike that proposed by Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom [craphound.com]. Some way to find out which of the three movies were liked by people whose opinions I respect.

  • by rmcd (53236) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @05:49PM (#5090297)
    Well, as the recent author of a "ridiculously-priced" textbook, let me disagree.

    Yes, I used the manuscript in class, so many mistakes were caught in advance. Yes, I submitted in LaTeX (the publisher wanted Word, LaTeX was my choice).

    However, there is a *huge* difference from a student perspective (I know, I had to read the complaints) between a manuscript where many of the mistakes have been caught and one where almost all have been caught. In my case many got caught by the publisher, who found and engaged high quality people whose job was to go over every page and check the examples and cross references, etc. Students simply aren't sure when it is a mistake and when they don't understand something. The published book also looks a heck of a lot better than my .pdf manuscript. Maybe this matters more than it should, but it matters.

    Finally, marketing. I was sort of assuming that if my book was high quality it would sell itself, since the market is well-defined. It doesn't. I've discovered that a lot of potential adopters are uncertain about some of the things I've done differently. The publisher's marketing efforts provide a channel through which I can make my case.

    So I don't feel abused. I feel that the publisher added significant value and committed real resources. I know that not all authors feel this way, but I do.
  • by kalidasa (577403) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @06:04PM (#5090430) Journal

    And, what do the editors do?

    Developmental editing (telling the author "this is the sort of thing you need to be discussing here," "this really isn't necessary here"), production editing (everything people complain about on Slashdot: "you don't know the difference between a plural and a singular, do you?" to "this is actually a condition contrary to fact, so you should use the subjunctive in the protasis and the indicative in the apodosis" to "I know they use single quotes in England, but we follow the Chicago Manual"), imprint (this book is good enough to be called an Oxford University Press book), and marketing.

    First of all, they demand that the textbook be submitted in Tex (so all typesetting is done).

    Most publishers don't do that. Sure, some of the fly by nighters do, and some in the sciences, but most commercial publishers don't.

    Second, a preliminary copy of the book would have been used in a professor's class (so it would have 99% of the mistakes weeded out).

    Yeah, my Calc professor did a great job with that... he couldn't even spell the title of the textbook right. And it was his text book. No, I won't say the title, but it was two words one would think any mathematician could spell.

    Now, if you could come up with some alternative financing for the developmental and production editing, and for the acquisitions editing, so that the everything but the marketing could be done in an open manner (free as in freedom), I'd be for that.

  • by bcrowell (177657) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @06:15PM (#5090500) Homepage
    The publishers are not just middlemen. They are the primary risk takers.
    You're right. As the author of a self-published textbook [lightandmatter.com], the one thing I really missed about not having a publisher was not having someone to lay out the cash for printing. The other stuff wasn't a big deal -- desktop publishing software has really made a lot of the publisher's traditional functions irrelevant, provided you're willing to study up on book design and work hard at creating a professional-looking product.

    You should keep in mind, however, that the economics of publishing have changed, and are going to keep on changing. Although print on demand still hasn't really become viable, technology now makes it much more practical to print small numbers of books. My first press run was 250, and now I'm doing printings of 1000. Because these numbers are small, the financial burden of paying for printing really isn't such a crushing one. Yes, if my sales grew by another order of magnitude, then we'd be talking big bucks --- but please bite me with that problem!

    Promotion? Well, doing promotion the traditional way is indeed extremely expensive. You have to hire salespeople. In my market (college textbooks), you have to send out free review copies to professors. But promotion no longer has to be that expensive. Basically I just try to drive traffic to my web site, where teachers who are interested download the book. This costs me peanuts in webhosting costs. I do a little bit of advertising in a trade magazine (The Physics Teacher), but it's still not that expensive. Of course, if you want people to beat a path to your door, your mousetrap does have to be better, not worse...

    If the publish are unnecessary and are just middlemen, then go around them, for christssake, and create a better system.
    Yep, that's what a lot of authors are doing now [theassayer.org].

  • by costas (38724) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @07:01PM (#5090746) Homepage
    (plug alert)

    I deploy Bayesian systems for a living. Bayesian systems are optimizers, not decision-makers. In other words, if you give enough information to a Bayesian system and tell it to make simple enough decisions (spam/not-spam, too-high/too-low) it can and it can do it very well.

    However, Bayesian and most computational filters cannot replace human decision-making, especially when we deal with completely subjective decisions (like/not-like) that are dependent on many factors.

    Collaborative filtering is a much better approach in this case, as it is human decisions that are aggregated and crunched, not contextual. Check out my toy newsbot [memigo.com] that tries to do exactly that.
  • by dracocat (554744) on Thursday January 16, 2003 @02:16AM (#5092580)
    The only purpose of Creative Commons is to create a license. It has no intent or purpose than creating a license.

    So... Why is everyone talking about filtering--especially this author. In fact it looks like he hasn't even been to the Creative Commons Website.

    All of this is makes as much sense as saying GPL is in trouble, because of the way they filter content...

    That is, it doesn't make any sense at all!
  • by rmcd (53236) on Thursday January 16, 2003 @01:36PM (#5095599)
    I will respond to a few of these comments.

    The LaTeX book class is pretty darn good, but (in my opinion) the pdf that results is not as readable or usable as a high quality published book. (Not every published book is high quality---sometimes publishers create drek---but done right the physical book is simply a more usable document. IMHO of course. YMMV.) A place to have an informed discussion about the value added by professional publishers is comp.text.tex. You'll get a range of opinions but by and large the opinions are informed.

    Many students who had the full pdf of the book explicitly asked me to let them know when the book was published so they could buy it. They said this after grades were submitted and (since I suspect you're thinking that they were just trying to butter me up) many said this after they graduated. It happened; take it as data. It's also a fact that I routinely buy books for which I have manuscripts. A published book is a more usable document in many ways. If I couldn't afford to buy books I wouldn't. I can afford to so I do.

    Finally, I don't know what goes on everywhere, but I've never experienced bribery from a publisher, unless you call complimentary copies bribery. I'm sure the publishers reps wish they could engage in bribery! My experience is that you typically have profs trying to do the right thing for their students, and choosing the right book is an important part of that process. If the book does things differently than existing books, you need to explain the difference so that the prof can make an informed decision. That's what I mean by marketing.

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