July 2009

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  • 7:26 PM

“We reject the view that copyright owners and their licensees are required to provide consumers with perpetual access to creative works.” — Steven Metalitz, legal representative of the American motion picture and record industry associations, in a letter to the Copyright Office.

Required? Of course not. But both Apple and Amazon prefer DRM-free content in their music stores as consumers learned repeatedly that any music they bought could stop playing just because the company they bought it from lost interest in the market. That same lesson is now being relearned by early adopters of electronic books.

Required? No. But if you don't sell products people want to purchase at a price they’re willing to pay, you’re going out of business,. Unmourned.

Every so often there's a meme that goes around inviting bloggers and diarists to pen a letter to themselves as a child or a teenager, telling themselves all the things they now wish they had known at that age. Some are well written and poignant, like Stephen Fry’s contribution to the genre, but most I’ve read boil down to “Cheer up, it’s not nearly as bad as you think, avoid [some big mistake] and learn a musical instrument.”

I've always balked at writing such a letter myself because, after stumbling through my borderline depressive self-loathing 20’s, I've managed to turn against all odds into somebody I'm quite happy being. There are all sorts of things I could have done better, mistakes I could have avoided and different directions I could have taken, but all the things I've done wrong contributed as much to who I am today as the things I did right. If I changed them I'd be somebody else, and I don't want to be somebody else any more.

Sure, I could go back and tell my teenage self not to give up playing the piano, but would that just leave me in my 30’s dreading another gig in the bar of some hotel waiting for the inevitable tooth-grinding moment some drunk tourist requests ‘Piano Man’ for the sixty thousandth time? Would I hunch over the keys, bang out those first chords and wish to my core I could go back in time and advise my teenage self to teach himself Perl?

So I pondered. And I thought. And I finally came up with the one important, nay vital bit of advice I would give myself if I had the chance.


This is your future self. I'm 33 now and I've been given the opportunity to reach back in time and give you one piece of advice. You won't understand it today but if you hold it close to your heart you will one day thank me for it.

Whatever you do, prefer composition over inheritance.

See you in 17 years,


A recent story on Mashable reported of a Facebook user discovering their photo being used in an advertisement for a dating site. After much to-ing and fro-ing it was determined that while Facebook do reserve the right to use your likeness in advertising, this particular ad came from a third party network.

Colour me not particularly surprised. A couple of days ago I spotted this advertisement gracing the right-hand side of my Facebook page:

‘Now you can get six-packs with a new proven method!’

“Wait a minite!” I thought. “That fellow in the picture looks remarkably familiar. I wonder if I can find something like it on the Internet?”

If you were playing at home, you’re absolutely right. It's Edward Norton playing a skinhead murderer in the movie American History X. That little black blob carefully cropped out of the frame? A swastika tattoo.

Oh dear.

Reputable sites often run disreputable adverts, but generally they blame their provider and take steps to avoid the offending ads appearing again. Facebook, though, is the provider. The fact that this sort of thing is a par for the course on the site is a bad sign. It suggests Facebook is so desperate to get anyone to advertise that they can’t afford to exercise any quality control.

Donna: If I had to be trapped on a desert island with only one person, it would be you.

Charles: If I had to be trapped on a desert island with only one person, I'd want someone who looked remarkably like a boat.

Donna: If we ever get engaged, you don't have to buy me a ring. Just get me one of those new iPhones.

Charles: Er… something you’ll want to replace after a year when a better version comes out?

Agnes: So Donna’s into World of Warcraft?

Charles: Yeah. It's like one of those movies.

“Hey, Charles is lost. We’d better send in a search party to find him.”

“Great. Now we’ve lost the search party too.”