Could Apple be using U2 and Beats to resurrect Ping and help build the Uber of music?

U2, April 1st in Anaheim 

U2 Claims It’s Working With Apple On A New Music Format That ‘Can’t Be Pirated’
[Via Techdirt]

Apparently U2’s deal with Apple goes further than taking a bunch of cash and dumping unwanted music files on hundreds of millions of iTunes users. The band has said that it’s working on a brand new music formatthat “can’t be pirated.” Oh really? We’ve heard that before, many, many times. And every time someone claims that, whatever new DRM they created gets broken without hours. I imagine the same will be true of this. The format sounds like a rehash of other things that have been tried and failed before:

[The new format will be] an audiovisual interactive format for music that can’t be pirated and will bring back album artwork in the most powerful way, where you can play with the lyrics and get behind the songs when you’re sitting on the subway with your iPad or on these big flat screens. You can see photography like you’ve never seen it before.

Of course, we’ve been hearing this for years. Five years ago, the major labels were all going to team up to create “CMX”, a new music format that had all those audiovisual components. Where’s that now? Every few years we see startups claiming to have created a similar new music format that builds in all those audiovisual components… and no one cares. Is it possible that Apple with the help of U2 will suddenly figure it out? Sure. It’s possible. But I wouldn’t bet on it. Especially if it includes annoying DRM that no one wants.

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First, I think U2 is involved because of Jimmy Iovine, who came with the Beats buyout. Iovine produced two of U2’s albums, both of which had lots of video adjuncts to them (Under a Blood Red Sky and Rattle and Hum).

I would not be surprised if all the U2 stuff – free album, etc. – is in lace to set up this new platform.

Platform? Because adding DRM to music or gussying it up with videos would not seem to be a moneymaker. Who pays for music?

Anything that can be digitized rapidly becomes free. Only those things that cannot be digitized seem to be open to making money off of.

Maybe that is what is going on here.

Speculation – couple this with the possible reason for buying Beats – creating a platform that permits musicians to support communities for their work. The work itself becomes free but the communities can directly support the music, without the need for middle men.

Jimmy Iovine sees the opportunity in changing the game and “building a communication between a fan and an artist.” In other words Beats Music is not yet another streaming service designed to sell music, but a platform for artists to build businesses and “sell everything but music” as Troy Carter says.

It makes the interesting comparison to Uber – which is disrupting taxi service in major cities:

In essence, Beats aims to become Uber of music by aggregating demand, connecting listeners to artists and empowering the artists to build thriving business on top of the platform. Much like Uber, which promises to end the era of poorly paid cab drivers. Or like Apple App Store, which connects users with app developers allowing them to build business on top of the platform.

The disintermediation of industries – the connection of creator and customer without intervening entities – is one of the main disruptors affecting many companies. Here it is being applied to the music industry.

The point of the article is that today, music is not really sold. It sells other things, whether they are concerts for the musicians or headphones they endorse. Business models based on selling music are doomed.The key is making it easy for the fans to find the acts they like and support them.

The strategy lesson from Apple and Beats is this: Look for opportunities to build platforms connecting consumers with value-adding complementors. (Think a “connect-ing business”, and not a “connected business”.) Capture value through bundling with the platform that will buy you hyper-growth driven by network effects and insurmountable competitive advantage. (And of course don’t tell anybody what’s you are up to before it’s ready.)

They would want to make it easy to connect fans and musicians, making it possible for communities to easily support one another. 

We already saw Apple make an aborted attempt at social music communities with Ping. It is obviously something they are interested in. The guys behind Beats seem to get this and might be able to help Apple create something actually useful.

With U2 as their first test case. We shall see.

Olive Oil and climate change

 Growing Olives

A Mega Drought Is Threatening To Drive Up Olive Oil Prices
[Via ThinkProgress]

Southwest Spain is experiencing its worst drought since record keeping began 150 years ago, and agricultural crops, especially olives, are suffering badly. With climate models and Spanish researchers both predicting that Spain’s droughts will get more intense and more regular than before, this is the second year since 2012 that heat and drought have threatened the country’s trademark olive harvest.

Spain produces around half the world’s olives and is the number one producer of olive oil. The drought has speculators, including forecasting agency Oil World, worried that olive yield could drop up to 40 percent year-over-year in 2014. Olive trees flower and start to bear fruit in the late spring and early summer which was an especially dry time in Spain’s main olive-producing regions this year.

“The drought in Spain and its impact on the olive market is potentially very significant,” Lamine Lahouasnia, head of packaged food at Euromonitor International, told the Wall Street Journal. “If the drought does end up adversely affecting Spanish yields, it is very likely that we’ll see rising consumer prices in 2014.”

European olive oil prices are already up over 30 percent since the beginning of the year, a phenomenon driven by above average temperatures and low precipitation across the Mediterranean olive-growing belt. According to the IPCC, the Mediterranean may be one of the most impacted areas of the world from climate change. Already a hot, semi-arid region, hotter summers and more intense and frequent droughts will threaten water supplies and agricultural production.

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It may sound minor but this will happen more and more.

Climate change will severely disrupt agriculture in many countries. Places that got a lot of water will no longer. Other places will get too much.

We have designed our civilization based on relatively stable climate conditions. With those changing, so too will our civilization. 

Changing the lives of billions.

Do love a Senator actually arguing facts rather than politics

Watch Sen. Whitehouse, a badass, totally own Sen. Inhofe, a climate change denier, on climate change
[Via Boing Boing]

[youtune=http://youtu.be/YDL4Bs3NbB0]

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) totally owns Senator Jim Inhofe (R-OK) for blocking a resolution that would have formally acknowledged the fact that climate change is real, and that carbon pollution is causing it.

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If only more politicians used more facts in their discussions, what would be accomplished? I know. I’m a dreamer living in a fantasy world because the facts are, politicians seldom get tossed out because they deny reality. 

Swimming in the Gulf of Mexico can kill you

Vibrio Cells 1 

Gulf Coast Health Officials Warning Swimmers After Flesh-Eating Bacteria Kills 10, Hospitalizes 32
[Via The Consumerist]

It’s not only brain-eating amoebas swimmers in warm waters have to worry about: Health officials in Florida are warning swimmers in the Gulf Coast about a flesh-eating bacteria in that ocean that so far has killed 10 people and hospitalized 32.

Vibrio vulnificus is related to the bacterium that causes Cholera and usually lives in warm saltwater, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and is also found in warm water oysters (which is why you eat fried oysters in New Orleans and not the kind prepared raw, which are from colder waters). It’s called flesh-eating due to the blisters or lesions which can appear if an infected wound is left to fester.

Health officials are warning people not to go swimming or enter the water if they have open wounds or a weakened immune system. It can also make you sick if you eat undercooked or raw food, but it’s especially harmful and potentially lethal when it gets in the bloodstream.

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Vibrio is not as photogenic as a shark but it is much deadlier.

People refuse to acknowledge climate change not because they are ignorant but because they do not believe it

micro-climate 

Are the people who refuse to accept climate change ill-informed?
[Via Ars Technica]

Polls relating to publicly controversial scientific issues often trigger a great wailing and gnashing of teeth from science advocates. When large proportions of a population seem poorly informed about evolution, climate change, or genetically modified foods, the usual response is to bemoan the state of science literacy. It can seem obvious that many people don’t understand the science of evolution, for example—or the scientific method, generally—and that opinions would change if only we could educate them.

Research has shown, unfortunately, it’s not that simple. Ars has previously covered Yale Professor Dan Kahan’s research into what he calls “cultural cognition,” and the idea goes like this: public opinion on these topics is fundamentally tied to cultural identities rather than assessment of scientific evidence. In other words, rather than evaluate the science, people form opinions based on what they think people with a similar background believe.

That shouldn’t come as a shock, especially given the well-known political or religious divides apparent for climate change and evolution.

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Cultural cognition * – “public opinion on these topics is fundamentally tied to cultural identities rather than assessment of scientific evidence. In other words, rather than evaluate the science, people form opinions based on what they think people with a similar background believe.”

How people answer polls about science like climate change tell us more about their cultural identity than whether they know the facts. They know the facts. They just chose not to believe them.

People are quite willing to ignore facts all the time. It can be a good thing. We ignore the fact that we will die in order to make living easier. 

It is what keeps a Cubs fan optimistic that this year they will win it all. 

This all fits into how human communities adapt to change. Most people will not change what they are doing unless told to by a community leader. They follow a hierarchical authoritarian model – they do not have to know everything as long as they can trust their leaders to tell them the right thing to do.

This approach can be very powerful when the leaders have a good idea of how to solve a relatively simply problem that affects small numbers of people. It can get things done quickly. At least at first.

It falls apart when dealing with complex problems affecting millions. Information flow slows. No single hierarchy can see the entire problem. No one authority can solve it.

Then the emperor is revealed to have no clothes. Those following an authoritarian model will continue to state he does have clothes on and they are beautiful.

Luckily humans also have another approach, one using distributed social networks to foster rapid information flow through the demos. It is through democratic processes in a distributed network that we can begin to deal with very complex problems.

We need to synthesize data across multiple communities to get a better picture of, say, the emperor. An adaptive, distributed approach will see that he is naked and take action accordingly.

A synthetic, distributed approach across multiple communities must be used to provide all the information needed. And turn that information into the knowledge needed to take action.

And that is why I continue to be disappointed in the inability of people, mainly conservatives, to provide their voices in solving this problem.

We need all our heads involved, including conservative minds.

But the inability to adapt cultural cognition, to continue to follow the clothes-less emperor, still seems to drive the minds of their leaders. It is closing their communities off more and more from an accurate view of the world around us.

Even as the military adapts. And insurance companies. Two communities grounded in hierarchical authority (anyone who has dealt with either knows this) that realise they need to adapt.

So it is possible to adapt. It makes one wonder what is preventing the political leaders who refuse to acknowledge climate change. Surely not national security. Nor deadly catastrophes.

*One of the things I enjoy with Ars – whenever they have a climate change post, you can guarantee there will be interesting comments, even from those who do not acknowledge the topic. Not necessarily nice or even intelligent but some interesting ones. Seven pages of comments! And I bet not one opinion changed. That is the cultural identity of those at this site. As it is at many websites who create their own cultures.

New way to make water into steam from sunlight

Sponge Converts Sunlight Into Steam for Electricity
[Via Discovery News - Top Stories]

A completely new structure heats water and turns it into steam. Continue reading →

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If this can be scaled up, it could find some real uses.

Climate change might help some plants but it also helps some plant diseases

Soybean Sky

Climate change provides good growing conditions for charcoal rot in soybeans
[Via Eureka! Science News - Popular science news]

With over 100 diseases that can attack soybean crops, why would charcoal rot rise to the top of the most wanted list? University of Illinois scientists cite the earth’s changing climate as one reason that more research is needed on the fungus that causes charcoal rot.

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One of the arguments from denialists is that climate change will not be so bad because plants like carbon dioxide. While this is debatable, what is not often discussed is how much better some plant diseases will do.

Here we have a fungus that likes warm, dry weather. And that also infects 500 other plants, including corn and sorghum, besides soybeans. And it loves salty conditions.

So a resistant plant must be one that is heat-, drought -, and salt-tolerant in order to beat the fungus.

Also, in contrast to other disease, charcoal rot not only kills the plant, it lives off the dead tissue. So, it can thrive living off the leftovers from other pathogens that can only use living plants.

At the moment, no soybean plant is completely immune to this fungus. So these researchers are trying to develop varieties that are able to fight off the fungus.

But those varieties also still need to be highly productive. Not an easy task.

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