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Digital Rights Math

The worst problems aren’t caused by getting the wrong answers. The worst problems are caused when the wrong question is asked. Ubisoft needs to stop asking “how can we decrease piracy”, and start asking “how can we derive maximum revenue from our products?”

I’m going to let them have a little formula:
We’re going to assume that a “unit” is a title, and for simplicity’s sake, we’ll pretend that title doesn’t have DLC.

1) We’ll start with the average revenue (to you, the rights-holding company) from each unit sold. Let’s call that “ChaChing!”. This number is simply what retailers kick back to you before any of your own costs are brought into consideration.

2) We’ll discover the average amount time players spend actually playing your game. The real number, not the marketing number on the back of the box. No one plays a game for “infinity”. We’ll call that “PlayTime(tm)”. The camelbacked capitalization lets me trademark that phrase.

3) Now we’ll find out how much the DRM solution costs for per minute of PlayTime(tm). Call that number “DirtyRottenPiracyRepellent”.

4a) Let’s next find out how many copies of your game were not bought because of the DRM. You didn’t know that people refused to buy some of your games because they didn’t like the way you treat them? Well. That explains a bit. So yes: that’s a thing. Some of us hate DRM so much that we won’t buy games we otherwise would. We’ll call this number the “OopsieDaisy” co(in)efficient.

4b) The OopsieDaisy coefficient can be estimated by seeing how many copies of a same-genera game with similar metacritic rating, but lacking your DRM solution, sold.

5a) Let’s figure out how many people who would otherwise have pirated the game decided to actually buy it instead. This number shall be called the “Jefferson” factor– named after US President Thomas Jefferson, a man who actually won a war against pirates.

5b) The Jefferson factor can be estimated by comparing the piracy rate of the game chosen in 4b to the piracy rate of your game. Simply subtract the percentage of pirated copies of their game from the percentage of pirated copies of your game. Warning: if the number ends up being negative (if your game has a higher piracy rate than theirs), you’ve already lost.

6) I think we’re ready to go! Take (Jefferson – OopsieDaisy) to find out how many extra copies we ended up selling. Call that number “Bonus”.

7) (PlayTime(tm) * DirtyRottenPiracyRepellent). Call this “TheRentIsTooDamnedHigh”. This is the cost of your DRM.

8) (Bonus * ChaChing!). This is the extra revenue that DRM brought us. We’ll call it “SecurePayCheck”

9) Now we (SecurePayCheck – TheRentIsTooDamnedHigh) and voila! We know how much it costs to bring in each additional sale.

10) Analysis. Obviously, I don’t have access to any of the numbers that would go into your calculations, but you- I hope- do! So let me ask: is the absolute value of Jefferson bigger than the absolute value of OopsieDaisy? If not, your DRM turned into a giant black hole. Is Jefferson bigger enough than OopsieDaisy that it offsets TheRentIsTooDamnedHigh? Was Jefferson actually a positive number? If it was a negative number, then your DRM actually managed to drive otherwise paying customers into the piracy ecosystem. Good luck fishing them out.

Notice what’s not included in this math: stopping piracy. Creating conditions under which people will not pirate your games is easy: either don’t release games, or release ones that are so bad people won’t invest their time. If piracy drops to zero, that doesn’t actually make your game a cent. The only reason that piracy hurts is when it takes would-be buyers and stops them from giving you money.

And Ubisoft digital boss Chris Early? Remember: “[it] Is [not] fair for [you[ to enjoy [my] content without [me] receiving some value for that”. So give me some value for this post. The rest of you can enjoy it without remuneration.

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Sunday Morning Reading Material Fourth Sunday in March 2012- Springtime Edition


Lol mathematicians!

It’s Sunday Morning. Sundays are for cat sitting. Sundays are for lazy days in the rain. Sundays are for feeding the post-church crowd and hoping they leave enough money to help you pay your rent.

This week: Former American Vice President Dick Cheney finally received a heart. Pope Benedict the Sixteenth visited Mexico, causing many to wonder why the former Hitler Youth chose “the good” as his papal name. And also this week: NASA has found what may be liquid water on the Sol System’s hottest planet.

I’m having a hard time understanding why the Spiderman movies are being rebooted so soon after they launched. There was nothing intrinsically wrong with the series– indeed, they were huge sellers. Overthinking it argues that Spiderman exists to teach children humility, among other lessons. It’s a bit breathtaking, if true. Society has demanded that we create a character who’s entire point is to suffer for our amusement, and- when he reaches personal happiness- is reincarnated to repeat the cycle. Ladies and Gentlemen: the Amazing, Webslinging Sisyphus!

It’s a typical story: single Dad raises daughter, daughter begins to like comic books, and… daddy doesn’t know anything about comic books. So he educates himself about his daughter’s interests, so that he can help guide her on her path to autonomy. No real moral here. Just a heartwarming story.

Even if you’ve never seen Casablanca, you’ve seen it. The movie is so good that every line and shot has been parodied and reproduced to death. And yet… and yet the movie is still fantastic. Apparently the Marseilles scene wasn’t really acting…

I find myself surprised that Encyclopedia Britannica is ceasing its print operations. It’s not that I expect anyone to be getting more use out those set of books than from the average set of paperweights. Rather, in the very near future, printed books will be status markers of their own. I have a Kindle, I love my Kindle, but a visitor to my home does not see my thousand ebooks. Instead, they see my thousand real books and know something about me. In the future, the only physical books we buy will be the ones that we want to show off. An encyclopedia seems well suited for that.

Google is huge. They’re so important that they have to actively fight against their name turning into a generic verb. To not be linked to by Google, to not be included as one of their search results, is to basically not exist on the web– and therefore to be outside of human knowledge. Google is required by the laws of many nations to remove links to certain pages known to discuss certain topics. “For example, no hate speech,” Depending on how they define “hate speech”, this is probably ok. “no death threats”, I, for one, hope they get local authorities involved when death threats are uncovered. “no incitement to violence”, again: depends on the situation, but generally agreeable. The situation in the US is certainly different than that in Syria; I hope Google makes that distinction. “no copyright-infringing content”. Wait, what? In Google-world, hate speech, death threats, incitement to physical violence, and copyright infringement are equivalent problems?!

Each of the stories today has been about the ability of a cultural artifact to shape the lives of those who interact with it. Each of those artifacts has been inside the control of a corporate entity- an unperson which is legally barred from doing anything that does not lead to increased shareholder revenue. Google has said that they will remove any story from any source that might contain “copyright-infringing content”. Finding if your content has been delinked is difficult, and requires a site owner to be vigilant. certainly no corporate entity would abuse that.

Probably infringing content:

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Sunday Morning Supplemental Third Sunday in March 2012- It’s never about the cupcake Edition

It’s Sunday Morning and I’m running to work. I’ll leave you with these thoughts:

Several weeks ago, a teenaged boy was murdered. His murderer bragged about the crime and was not arrested. The boy was black. The murderer was white.

This was not a hate crime. The murderer- so far as I know- does not realize that he has a deep seated fear and hatred of African American people. Rather, the murderer lives in a society that makes routine comments about how different African American people are. How “they” are less moral, more violent, and more aggressive. In bed? Better.

America has laws which target African Americans more harshly than white people. American waiters and waitresses understand as a matter of routine principle that “black people don’t tip”- and therefore give shittier service than they do for anyone else.

Putting all of that together, it is difficult to escape the conclusion: George Zimmerman pulled the trigger on a boy who was trying to “get away with” walking home. But it was American society- it was you and me- who handed George the gun and let him play hero. What are we going to do about it? How are you going to break the centuries of bad thinking? How will you help America atone?

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Sunday Morning Reading Material Second Sunday in March 2012- Bamboo Turkey Edition


Bunnies and kitties. Je Suis l’internet!

It’s Sunday Morning. Sundays are for dada. Sundays are for resting. Sundays are for healing. Sundays are for Dim Sum. Sundays are for punchlines.

This week: I decided to ignore the news and get to the links.

Is the world too depressing? have some kittens.

“But I get the sense Santorum is speaking nothing but his completely unfiltered thoughts. I know it’s weird to say this about a politician, but I sort of wish he were lying to my face at least a little.”

Did Dr. Sues really say this? I don’t know. But I do love what it is saying.

Who a person’s enemies are says a lot about them. Perhaps more importantly is the lines along which they choose to attack their enemies. The brilliance here is that Tolkien is willing to tell Germany that The Great War was merely bygones, and that the contemporary unpleasantness is utterly transient. But racism? That’s unacceptable.

Republican economic nostrums are very bad for America. When the government spends money, it is possible to get positive return on investment. By removing that spending, we shrink the economy. And, of course, we return to the War of All Against All.

By breaking 300 million people into millions of 5,000 person pools, it’s impossible for Americans to get really good group deals on healthcare. And so we wildly overspend. Imagine how much healthier our economy would be if consumers had (say) 25% of their healthcare bills in their own banks, rather than in the insurance company’s banks.

Health Insurance is based on the idea that one person may or may not have a car accident, but that thousands of random people are unlikely to all at once. Once individuals are able to start stacking the odds in their favor, health insurance will start going away. Which, obviously, is why we need to have it be provided by the government.

The health insurance reform signed by Obama was only the first step. It was a needed step, because over half of all bankruptcies in America are because of medical issues. It is deeply immoral to force someone to choose between their cancer treatment or their children’s home. But that’s the system we have in America.

Kevin Drum is wrong. The best Star Wars movie is Attack of the Clones.

Remember: the war against healthcare-provided birth control is a front in the war against birth control. And the war against birth control is a front in the war against enjoyable sex. If you’ve ever had– or want to have– enjoyable sex, let your congressperson know that they need to stand with the President, and against the birth control opt out.

I’m guessing that most teachers- and parents- have engaged in sex- many of them have done it on camera. So I’m not at all clear to see why it should be a dismissable- or noteworthy– offense.

This sort of thing is why many choose instead to go it alone.

It sounds like crazy conspiracy mongering to suggest that the President has taken the power to kill Americans on no higher say-so than his own authority. The only checks on this authority are the ones that he himself decided to impose on himself. This is America. 2012.

When Americans were broke, we drove less. Now that we’re making more money, we’re driving more. This is causing gas prices to go back up. Gas prices may suck, but the alternative would be to… raise taxes to pay for a system of mass transit that would actually be useful. No right-thinking American would dare go along with such a plan.

Banks Behaving Badly.

By now, everyone knows that video games aren’t bad for people- and that saying so is simply the older generation’s way of bemoaning their own age. But a growing body of evidence suggests that gaming might be good for people. So I guess I’ll just play some more StarCraft.

StarCraft, actually, a large and growing esport, with a huge following. I like it. It’s like Football without the risk of concussion.

In 2012, America has a black president, and so therefore racism is over. Well. Kinda. Instead, we live in a society which doesn’t intentionally or formally create barriers between “races”, but rather has many informal and social ways of Otherizing non-white people. And when one of the leading StarCraft 2 teams discovered that one of their coaches was using the N-word… they had a choice. The reasons they made the choice they did are enlightening.

Scientific progress goes boink (warning: some technical jargon. But awesome)

HE NEVER SAID HE WAS A FUCKING JELLY DOUGHNUT. And other myths.

And the cold war. Israel and Iran have been engaged in one for a very long time. Obama would like Israel to stop rattling its saber, and would like Iran to please stop working on nukes. Me? I just want us all to stop using oil.

Super bonus happy fun time video: the origin story of Keep Calm and Carry On. I wish we’d had this on 12 September 2001…

How awesome would it be if Iran and Israel only spoke to one another using this site?

As are we all, Luthor, as are we all:

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I’m ok, you’re ok, China is huge

China is big. Very big. To say that it has 1 billion people is to underestimate it’s true population by a value larger than the entire population of America. Not only is China a huge country, but its population has been immiserated for centuries. They’re finally digging their way out.

All of this means that America will not be Earth’s predominant nation for much longer. We Americans need to get used to this fact. We need to prepare for it, and shift our minds to encompass what it might mean to be #2, #3, or even #4. Our national identity needs to become far less wrapped up in being the best, and more about defining the good life.

What is the American dream? What is the American Identity? Is it really so important to have a huge standing Army (as distinct from a large and capable Navy?

China will eventually overtake America as the world’s preeminent nation; America will not necessarily become impoverished. The world is not zero sum. Much as the 20th century saw England falling from it’s perch into a comfortable lifestyle*. America can- must!- manage the same lofty descent.

Unless we can get China and India into a nuclear war. That would be good for America.

*I’d love to adjust these numbers by Gini Coefficient .

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Sunday Morning Reading Material First Sunday in March 2012- Older than Christ Edition


This is a real commercial. It is not a parody.

It’s Sunday Morning. Sundays are for getting up way too soon after you’ve invited many of your closest friends for a Saturday evening, and going to work. Sundays are for being with family. Sundays are for catching up.

This week: hell claimed one of its own as the man who lied ACORN out of existence dropped dead of natural causes. This week: After a hotly contested primary campaign, Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum split the Michigan delegates evenly. This week Microsoft showed consumers a beta of its next operating system. And this week Maryland became merry by allowing gay people to marry.

Also this week: Obama is a bad ass. Seriously: does the theme from Shaft get piped into every room he walks into?

Archie Comics is… weird. Instead of superheros, or whatever sort of bizarre dada the Japanese are into, it is instead a comic version of a PG highschool RomCom. The fact that such an inoffensive and banal comic is featuring a wedding between a returning soldier and his (male) partner probably marks a significant turning point in the march towards legalizing gay marriage. Gay marriage is now considered PG. Inoffensive. Banal. And naturally that scares the hell out of people who wish it were controversial.

Back in my Catholic school days, I was taught that sex ought to have consequences. The older I’ve gotten, the more I tend to agree. I think that sex ought to (at least) have the consequence of a rousing orgasm for all parties involved. Preferably, it would have the consequence of reinforcing an emotional bond between the parties involved. Sadly, there are a lot of killjoys running around (like my old Catholic school teachers) who think that sex ought to carry with it more negative risks, like pregnancy and disease. To create these consequences, these assholes fuddy duddies are doing their best to remove access to the things that make sex safe, legal, and plentiful: condoms, birth control pills, and abortions.

Some lawmakers are more accepting than others.

In America, it is possible to “steal education”, from public schools, for your child. This means that it is possible to buy education, from public schools, for your child. This means that in America, we do not have equality of opportunity. This means that the American dream has been betrayed.

So: you know how people are trying desperately to refinance their houses at lower rates, but banks won’t let them? Of course you do, it’s been all over the news: we have a responsible media that reports on important stories. So banks don’t want to let homeowners refinance their homes because they’ve already claimed earnings from future (expected) interest as money now. If people refinanced their homes, banks would take huge losses. Anyway. a huge bank owner is complaining about the 5 homeowners who managed to beat the odds by refinancing, but still got foreclosed on.

Why would a mega capitalist complain about not being able to screw everybody, all the time? new study suggests that the rich are simply bigger assholes than you or me.

Spacial voting theory is pretty straightforward. In a system such as ours, only 2 parties will ever exist for very long. When there are more than one conservative parties, they tend to split the vote and accidentally allow a liberal to get elected. Obviously liberals do the same thing: that’s how 2000 saw the election of President Bush. I think the reason we see this repeated non-strategic candidate-picking behavior is twofold. First: people get into an echo chamber and stop thinking about how far left/right they really are (compared to their politically apathetic neighbors). Second: people have a very hard time believing in spacial voting theory.

I do love cloud products. My Kindle, my Steam account, hell, even this blog. The cloud is compact. It removes a lot of clutter from my life. Unfortunately, you don’t own any of the content on the cloud. Possession is 9/10ths the law. This is another major reason why piracy continues to exist. Developers and consumers are often at odds about continuing services, and piracy is a method for retaining control of a product after a developer had abandoned it. I do wish Congress understood things from a consumer point of view. Perhaps these fights could be headed off.

For instance: you don’t own pictures once you’ve uploaded them to Facebook.

It is distressing that Americans look at Obama and see a black man, and then ask him for guarantees that he won’t serve the interests of just black men. And it is distressing that Americans looked at JFK and made him promise that he wouldn’t actually turn America over to the Catholic Pope. What’s terrifying, though, is that there’s a Republican candidate for president who listened to JFK’s speech about America not being a theocracy, and it “made me want to throw up”. So there you have it. 2012. American theocracy. The issue is distinctly drawn.

The older I get, the more I realize that “Politically Correct” means not being an asshole. The fact that the term (PC) is almost always used as a slur should tell us a lot. The fact that our culture has a set of norms for (eventually) shouting down assholes tells us that we’re growing as a society.

When you start paying attention to your own assholish behavior, it begins to get easier to to refrain from doing it. Kudos to Mr. Jacques.

Identity is weird. One of my sisters shares the same pair of biological parents as I do– but she considers herself “Italian” in a way that I just don’t. She will root for ITL over the USA during soccer matches– I think this is a bit crazy. I’m not a basketball fan. In fact, the Golden State Warriors are such a bad team that I’m actively repelled by the sport. Even so, I’ve heard of this Jeremy Lin dude. What’s awesome about him is the way he’s become a cipher, letting project from him whatever sort of stereotypes they wish to see. He isn’t those things, of course, he’s a human being. The fact that he’s an Asian-American human excelling in a sport which demands qualities that American society tells Asian-Americans they don’t possess is making Asian-Americans feel all kinds of good. Reading this article, I learned that Lin is from the Bay Area. This makes me feel all kinds of good. Because Bay Arean is how I ethnically identify.

If you only click one link:

It’s your relationship. Fight fair.

This week’s theme has been: My Birthday!!! Well. Perhaps that hasn’t been evident in the actual content of the post. But Oh yeah. I turn 34 on Monday.

Get off the internet, kids.

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