felix's blog

Collaborative Filtering with Ensembles

Article on new collaborative platforms for software development

One of the most interesting insights from the results of the Netflix challenge is that while the algorithms, the psychology, and good knowledge of statistics goes a long way, it was ultimately the cross-team collaboration that ended the contest. "The Ensemble" team, appropriately named for the technique they used to merge their results consists of over 30 people. Likewise, the runner up team ("BellKor") is a collaborative effort of several distinct groups that merged their results. It is easy to overlook this fact, except that it is not a one-time occurrence. The leaderboard for the recent GitHub contest also clearly shows over half of the top ten entries as ensemble techniques!

test not on front page

this should not not be on the front page

The Benefits of Weak Copyright

File-Sharing and Copyright, by Felix Oberholzer-Gee and Koleman Strumpf, Harvard Business School, Working Paper 09-132

From the Introduction:

The advent of file-sharing technology has allowed consumers to copy music, books, video games and other protected works on an unprecedented scale at minimal cost. In this essay, we ask whether the new technology has undermined the incentives of authors and entertainment companies to create, market and distribute new works. While the empirical evidence of the effect of file sharing on sales is mixed, many studies conclude that music piracy can perhaps explain as much as one fifth of the recent decline in industry sales. A displacement of sales alone, however, is not sufficient to conclude that authors have weaker incentives to create new works. File sharing also influences the markets for concerts, electronics and communications infrastructure. For example, the technology increased concert prices, enticing artists to tour more often and, ultimately, raising their overall income.

Data on the supply of new works are consistent with our argument that file sharing did not discourage authors and publishers.

-> Michael Geist's summary

Neun Thesen zur Remix-Kultur

Heute ist mein umfangreiches Essay zur Remix-Kultur bei irights.info online gegangen. Es berührt viele Themen, die auch die Digitale Allmend behandelt.

Der Remix ist die kulturelle Form der Netzwerkgesellschaft. Felix Stalder beleuchtet in neun Thesen medienhistorische, technologische, politische, rechtliche, kulturtheorische, soziale und ökonomische Dynamiken, die den Aufstieg und die aktuelle Entwicklung des Remix prägen. In den Konflikten, die damit verbunden sind, spiegelt sich die Tiefe des aktuellen gesellschaftlichen Wandels.

Ganzes Essay als PDF (600 kb)

Update (Nov. 2009): Here is a pretty extensive summary of the paper in english.

semiotic subversion in china


CNN 报道 caonima 草泥马

youtube's failure to generate substantial income

The register has a story on an analyst's estimate (whatever that's worth these days) that youtube will be losing close to half a billion $ this year. They take this as an indication that the ad model is not working. After discussing two reasons why this might be the case -- either Google doesn't know how to do it (unlikely) or the model is fundamentally broken (more likely) -- they come up with an option for Google to make money out of youtube.

Of course, there's a third option for YouTube. Its parent company - whoever that may be - may want to cross-subsidize the operation in the hope that will drive traffic elsewhere on the site. Don't laugh - that's exactly what Google's new music service in China does. Google China pays rightsholders much more than 0.22p per song - about ten times as much, according to industry estimates. As Baidu has shown, music drives enormous traffic to the rest of the operation.

See also Ars Technica's article on the same subject.

Update (14.04.): On the other hand, artists are demanding that Youtube increases it's payment to them.

Update II (15.04). A detailed breakdown of revenue and costs. The most interesting figure is the amount given to independent creators through it's revenue sharing program.

Revenue share: If you provide videos to Google and join its revenue sharing program, then you get a commission if ads are shown alongside your content. Credit Suisse estimates that YouTube will "share" away $24 million this year -- $66,000 per day.

Tanda Foundation: community funding for culture

Tanda Foundation is an experimental and informal not for profit held and run by its users. We aim to found new ways and means to support creative production, create a community interested in build a public fund via micro-donations and decide our own cultural agenda. The Foundation aims to be an accountable platform of funding for its users, where the process of application, reviewing, voting, and collection of funds is accesible to all its Patrons and Candidates.

The Foundation relies on 2.0 infrastucture to exist with minimal costs and labor. Think in an automatic not-for-profit.

For more information about our Grant 2.0 system, please visit our F.A.Q. section. Also visit the Desk dedicated to the administration, view the Works section and browse the documentation about the mechanisms used to collect funds.

Mininova Helps Artists to Monetize Torrents

A new article over at TorrentFreak indicates, once again, that free downloads and 'for-sale' distribution model might well co-exist, even if it's much too early to tell if this model is doing to be stable. They write:

Mininova, one of the largest BitTorrent sites on the Internet, will launch a new feature today that will help artists, labels and other content producers to generate revenue. The Dutch record label ‘Beep! Beep!’ is one of the first to try the new feature, which allows content producers to add ’shopping links’ to their free torrents.

The Big Sort

Another book for my reading list. Bill Bishop: The Big Sort: Why the Clustering of Like-Minded America Is Tearing Us Apart. 2008. http://www.thebigsort.com

The Wall Street Journal: 'Like-Minded, Living Nearby' (April 22, 2008)

The more diverse America becomes, the more homogeneous it becomes.

No, that's not a misprint; it is the thesis of "The Big Sort," Bill Bishop's rich and challenging book about the ways in which the citizens of this country have, in the past generation, rearranged themselves into discrete enclaves that have little to say to one another and little incentive to bother trying. "As Americans have moved over the past three decades," Mr. Bishop proclaims, "they have clustered in communities of sameness, among people with similar ways of life, beliefs and in the end, politics."

It is an idea that has all but obsessed Mr. Bishop since he began thinking about it years ago in his hometown of Austin, Texas. In his Austin neighborhood, he observed, there were virtually no Republicans. In another community of similar size nearby there were very few Democrats. Thirty years earlier, he was willing to bet, nothing like that uniformity would have been possible. Values, ideology and partisanship would have mingled more variously in even the most compact neighborhood, ward or district.

Ups and downs Economic and cultural effects of file sharing on music, film and games

On Februry 18, a report commissioned by the ministry of Economic Affairs, the Justice Department and the ministry of Education Culture and Science called "Ups and downs Economic and cultural effects of file sharing on music, film and games" was released. A few days ago, the official English translation was released as well.

The research shows that the economic implications of file sharing for welfare in the Netherlands are strongly positive in the short and long terms. File sharing provides consumers with access to a broad range of cultural products, which typically raises welfare. Conversely, the practice is believed to result in a decline in sales of CDs, DVDs and games.

Determining the impact of unlicensed downloading on the purchase of paid content is a tricky exercise. In the music industry, one track downloaded does not imply one less track sold. Many music sharers would not buy as many CDs at today’s prices if downloading were no longer possible, either because they cannot afford it or because they have other budgetary priorities: they lack purchasing power. At the same time, we see that many people download tracks to get to know new music (sampling) and eventually buy the CD if they like it. To the extent that file sharing does result in a decline in sales (substitution), it usually entails a transfer of welfare from producers to consumers. With estimated welfare gains accruing to consumers totalling around €200 million a year in the Netherlands, music producers and publishers suffer turnover losses of at most €100 million a year. These calculations are necessarily based on several assumptions and contain uncertainties as many of the underlying data are not precisely known. Whereas comparable figures cannot be provided for the film and games industries, they follow a similar logic.