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  • What Does The Future Hold For Spotify?

    About a week after I wrote about the future of DRM and cited Spotify as an example they made an announcement about some changes they are making.

    The changes will affect users of the free service.

    The announcement has the full details but in short,

    You get a six months grace period, after that.

      • Listening time will be reduced to 10 hours per month.
      • You’ll only be able to play each track 5 times.

    That second restriction is a massive change to how Spotify works when using the free service.

    Something that jumped out to me in the announcement was this

    The changes we’re having to make will mainly affect heavier Spotify Free and Open users, as most of you use Spotify to discover music

    It’s a part of why I use Spotify, but not the sole reason. I like the fact I don’t need to worry about music. I don’t need to worry about storing files or DRM and the like. I just create playlists, and have the software installed on any devices I need. This means I’m going to hit that five play limit very quickly.

    Am I different to the average Spotify free user or have they misunderstood how their users are behaving?

    As you can imagine there was quite a reaction to the blog post that made the announcement.

    On one side you had people who make use of the free service who were up in arms and the people who are on the paid for service who were basically telling the people on the free service to “put their hands in their pockets”

    I can understand the reaction to a degree. But as one of those free users my understanding is that the trade off is having adverts dropped into my playlists. This effectively funded my free subscription which I was quite happy with.

    I have a choice now – upgrade to a paid subscription to continue using Spotify in the same way that I do now, stop using Spotify or change my reasons for using Spotify (music discovery which what they seem to think people are using it for)

    So why have Spotify made the change?

    I’m no music industry expert but I do have a few theories.

    1) Spotify want more paid subscriptions.

    Maybe this was the plan all along. Get lots of users onto the system, paid or free and then change the rules so that if those users want to stay they’ll have to pay. Sure they’ll lose some of the free users but they weren’t paying anyway right?

    2) The business model isn’t working

    It could be that the advertising revenue isn’t quite quite as good as they initially thought. Maybe the free service was so good they haven’t got as many paid subscribers as they were expecting and need to make the change. Previously the only reason I’d considered upgrading would so I could use the mobile service (I was waiting until my phone upgrade was due before making that decision). Free service was that good for me I could have stayed on it quite happily for some time.

    2) They don’t have a choice

    It’s no secret that Spotify have had problems launching in the US and that lots of the labels aren’t entirely happy about the free service. It’s quite possible they’ve had to do some deals to keep the labels happy.

    Maybe it’s a mixture of all three?

    The changes come into force as of May 1st and as a long time user I won’t even get the six months grace period (if i understand the changes correctly)

    What’s to stop me creating a new account every six months though?

    It’ll be interesting to see how it works out.

    How do you use Spotify? Will you be moving to the paid service or looking for something else altogether?

  • Good Luck Bill English

    I saw this blog post when I got into the office this morning announcing big changes for Bill English. He’s changing his role at MindSharp so that his day to day role is more focussed on the business side of things than the technical.

    His blog post fully explains why but in short he wants to spend more time with his family, less travelling and less time staying on top of the latest and greatest technology and writing books.

    I can fully understand all of these reasons and it’s great Bill has taken the steps to do something about it as he’s effectively turning his career on his head even though he’ll still be at the same company!

    If you have anything to do with SharePoint you’ll know the name Bill English.

    image

    Bill is the author of the first ever book I purchased about SharePoint. It’s a hefty tome and it’s now dog eared corners show much of my attention it’s had over the years.

    This is just one of many in depth books he’s worked on so I can understand why he’d want to slow down on the writing front.

    The 2007 version of the same book comes in at over 1000 pages so the amount of work put into it must be immense.

     

    I’ve also seen Bill speak a couple of times, the first at an event in London, he was actually in the country on holiday but still found the time to touch base with the UK SharePoint community.

    I’ve also been fortunate enough to meet him once. He was speaking at a SharePoint user group meeting and I spent some time over a couple of beers in the bar with him, Todd Bleeker and Penny Coventry. I was in hogs heaven as I love the stuff these guys do!

    I fully expect Bill to not remember that meeting as he must come across a lot of people being so involved in the community but since I’m such a fanboy it stayed with me!

    So anyway, I just wanted to wish Bill good luck, I hope you’ll do the same Smile

  • Book Review – When Sysadmins Ruled The World

    I guess this doesn’t technically count as a book as it’s actually a short story…but I enjoyed it so much I wanted to write about it anyway!

    We’ve all heard about nuclear bunkers secret_bunkerand it’s been written about in fiction and movies about how important world figures would disappear into these bunkers in the event of some major global catastrophe.

    Something we don’t really think about is data centres. Many of them make the fact they are highly secure one of their selling points. Lots of them are also designed to withstand a nuclear attack.

     

    This is the angle the story takes. If nuclear war broke out, all around the world there would be groups of network engineers, safe and sound keeping the Internet running! The fact they’d be in control of a massive worldwide communications tool would put them in a position of power. The story follows one specific group and the decisions they make about what to do in the aftermath.

    I’ll stop here as I’m in danger of writing more than the story itself! As I said it’s more of a short story than a book but I really enjoyed it.

    You can read it here

  • Book Review – Beautiful Red

    imageBased on my past experience with Little Brother this was another Creative Commons book I managed to pick up for my Kindle.

    This book actually needs to be thought about in two parts.

    The idea behind it and the story that goes with it.

    So what’s the idea?

    Think about how the Internet is entrenched into your daily life. Pretty deep I imagine if you’re anything like me. Technology is slowly integrating with our lives, so much so that we’re no longer surprised by hearing about things like the Internet connected refrigerator! So think about a world where the computer becomes a part of the body. When you’re born you’re implanted and you can access the Internet just by thinking it, you’re eyes doubling up as heads up display. Sure you’d lose just about any privacy you might think you have left but what about the possibilities this could bring? There is another side to this of course. If you’re permanently attached to the Internet when do you disconnect? In the story people do just about everything at home and when they do leave to go to work or travel somewhere they are still reading, gaming, chatting, etc while on the go. Regular social interaction becomes a rarity and skills such as learning to read body language are lost.

    It’s these questions that the story is based around and the main character Jack, gets caught up in a what appears to be a terrorist plot when her employers computer system is hacked. In trying to figure out who is behind the attack Jack comes across a group called the Red who are a group of people who believe being permanently attached to the system isn’t a something people should do by default. As Jack continues her search her thoughts about “the system” and how she fits into it are questions she needs to face.

    Considering this was a free book it was another I really enjoyed. It was a bit of a slow starter but once I got into it I couldn’t put it down and it’s got a pretty interesting twist at the end. It was a little rough around the edges with spelling and grammar at times but nothing that would get in the way of reading it.

    You can get the digital version here where there is also an audio version if you’re that way inclined.

  • Making money by giving stuff away

    One of my new favourite authors is Cory Doctorow. His book Little Brother was the first I read on my Kindle and caught my eye because it was available under a Creative Commons License.

    I’m working my way through the rest of the books Cory has written but one thing I look forward to with every book is the section right at the start where he explains exactly why he gives his e-books away for free. They all give the same message but each book puts a slightly different spin on it and I think it’s fascinating.

    Part of Cory’s reasoning is that giving digital books away for free helps him in other ways, including more print sales.

    This is really at odds with how many entertainment industries are struggling to figure out a way to make money online. No doubt you know all about DRM and the restrictions that come with that whether it’s a music file, a movie, a video game or even an e-book!

    Changing a business model from something you physically own, where you have to pay for each instance you obtain versus a digital file from which you can spawn a copy in an instant and give it to any number of friends and family at no extra cost is certainly not easy, but at the moment all DRM seems to do is make it harder for the customer.

    This is why I find the sections in Cory’s books so fascinating because as he points out he’s exploring these new business models himself so that he’ll still be around when the big digital shift happens.

    By this I mean that at some point there is going to be a tipping point where DRM will either be everywhere or nowhere. People will either embrace it or get so sick of it that they’ll stop buying content that is DRM enabled. As an example many of the online music stores will sell you a DRM free music file, for a premium of course. Why did this come about in the place? Surely it’s because the market demanded it, otherwise why change the status quo?

    If we get to this point and publishers use DRM less and or even abandon DRM altogether there are going to be some interesting business models out there and people who are clinging to their old models may not make it out the other end.

    The entertainment industry is pretty unique in some respects. Many other market sectors have embraced the idea of Freemium. With this you get a product or service for free and can then pay a premium for extra features. Spotify is a great example of this. Free music, streamed on-demand with the occasional advert thrown in. Simple and easy. If you’re willing to pay though they’ll remove the adverts, up the bit rate for higher quality and they’ll even let you use the service on your mobile phone!

    But how does this work for something like a book? What premium experience can I pay extra for after getting the book to read for free? Hard to say but these are the sorts of things Cory explores. One argument he has is that by giving books away he raises his profile which potentially could lead to other opportunities such as speaking engagements, paid writing assignments and reaching out to a larger audience which may then go on and buy a print version of another book he’s written. This draws a parallel with bands and solo artists who put on really great live gigs. Tours can be pretty lucrative so why not give an album away to expand your audience and look to sell as many tickets as possible on tour?

    I just find the whole thing interesting as it’s automatic reaction to not be able to your head around why you’d want to give something you’ve put a lot of effort into for free. Especially when being it’s your day job!

    There was a book recently I really wanted to buy. It’s available on the US Amazon store in both hardback and Kindle format. I couldn’t find it the Kindle version on the UK Amazon store so I asked the author on Twitter if he knew why (gotta love Twitter!)

    The long and short of it is that the publisher has failed to reach an agreement with Amazon over international distribution rights for the digital format of their books. I find this mind boggling. One of the benefits to digital formats is that location becomes largely irrelevant. It costs generally the same to deliver my purchase to me whether I’m in the next street, town, county or country, yet because of a licensing argument I can’t get the product even though I’m a willing paying customer. I could understand with the print version of the book. Maybe there was a disagreement over which printer to use or how to ship them, etc. I can get a hardcopy from the Amazon UK store but they would need ship it internationally! Surely having the digital option is better for everyone in this scenario?

    I do understand that content producers want to protect their works, especially when it’s their livelihood but I don’t think massively restrictive DRM or overly complicated copyright agreements is the answer. It certainly feels as if publishers and the like are trying to make business models intended for a world before the Internet existed fit, it’s almost like they are trying to ignore it and hope it will just work out in end.

    Also as Cory points out doesn’t allowing people to share your work come with some other side benefits?

    I don’t have all the answers unfortunately but it’ll be interesting to see how it all evolves and great to observe! As always your thoughts welcome, Smile

    Cory’s website where you can download his books or read more about his thoughts around copyright is here.

  • Retro Computer Museum–May 2011

    If you’re into video games you should really think about getting tickets for the Retro Computer Museum Weekend in Coalville just outside of Leicester.

    It’s on the 7th & 8th of May and I can highly recommend it.

    Last year when it was a single day event Richard Tubb and I went and had a great day.

    We’ll both be going on the 7th this year (it’s my wedding anniversary that weekend – going both days would probably be pushing it Smile) and it’d well worth the trip.

    It’s at the village hall in Coalville which is a great venue for something like this as it’s not a huge exhibition hall so everyone chats to each other.

    One of the highlights last time around was the Bomberman tournament they projected onto the wall, even though I was terrible at it. The winner picked up special edition golden Game Cube. I’m hoping the tournament this time around is something I might stand a chance of winning – though unless it’s Street Fighter 2 this is unlikely Winking smile

    It’s £6.00 if you book the tickets in advance and £7.50 on the day, though I can see the tickets running out so get in there quickly!