Google Is Being Evil, Music Bloggers Say

Some music blogs skirt the edges of legality (and some completely ignore it) when it comes to posting mp3 files of their favorite songs. But a number of popular music blogs say Google deleted their blogs without warning, despite the fact that they had the legal right to post the songs they did — in many cases because they were given the tracks by record labels themselves as a promotional effort.

According to The Guardian, among the music blogs that have been deleted (all of which used Google’s Blogger platform) are Masalacism, I Rock Cleveland, To Die By Your Side, It’s A Rap and Living Ears. Each now brings up a “blog not found” message (Living Ears has put up a new blog here). One blog, Pop Tarts Suck Toasted, has put up a separate WordPress-based (please see disclosure at the bottom) site to mirror the deleted one, with a post that states:

Sorry for the mass nature of this little note, but as you may have noticed my blog – – was murdered by the villainous conglomerate known as Goggle (Blogger) yesterday morning. due to copyright infringement or however they want to spin.

The publisher of I Rock Cleveland, meanwhile, has posted a comment in the Blogger support forum asking why his blog was deleted, and noting that the blog has never posted anything but legally acquired tracks:

Today I received notice that I had been found in violation of DMCA regulations and my blog had been deleted. However, without knowing which post had been in violation I have no way of knowing what caused the violation and whether I can defend myself against the allegation…I assure you that everything I’ve posted for, let’s say, the past two years, has either been provided by a promotional company, came directly from the record label, or came directly from the artist.

Google’s deletion of these blogs is just the latest episode in what has been an ongoing battle involving bloggers, Google, record labels and the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. As the official Google Blogger response to the latest incident notes, a similar series of deletions occurred last year, causing an uproar in the music blogging community. Google responded by updating how it responds to DMCA complaints, but the latest incidents clearly show that the process is still not working properly, as Mike Masnick at Techdirt points out.

Many of the music bloggers whose blogs were deleted say they didn’t receive proper warnings that deletion would be occurring, and in many cases the DMCA notices they received didn’t even specify which songs were the subject of the complaint, making it impossible to rectify the situation (which involves a complicated series of steps prescribed by the copyright legislation) to avoid deletion. If nothing else, this kind of behavior might speed the emigration of more bloggers from Google’s lagging Blogger platform to WordPress, Tumblr or other competitors.

Disclosure: GigaOM and WordPress owner Automattic have a common investor, True Ventures. Om is a venture partner in True Ventures.

Post and thumbnail photos courtesy of Flickr user cotidad

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Google Buzz and Email: Strength or Weakness?

Google Buzz, in case you hadn’t noticed, has been getting lots of…well, buzz since being unveiled yesterday. Depending on your perspective, it’s either a huge Facebook-Twitter-MySpace-Yelp-Foursquare killer, or it’s a giant disappointment and therefore an epic fail (our own Liz Gannes thinks it’s somewhere in between). Like many of the new things released by companies such as Google and Apple, it seems to function like a Rorschach test for the geek crowd, a blank sheet upon which everyone’s highest hopes and/or deepest fears can be projected. Google Buzz is brilliant or Google Buzz is stupid; Google Buzz changes everything or Google Buzz changes nothing. And so on.

Google’s new service looks and feels a lot like many other social media tools and networks. The primary input is a box for status updates, just like Twitter and Facebook. You can use @ replies, just like Twitter, and you can share photos and other media content easily (there’s even a photo gallery function like Facebook’s). If you’re mobile, you can give Google Buzz your current location and get comments about that location, just like Foursquare and Gowalla and Yelp. But the single biggest difference between Google Buzz and all of these other services is that Buzz is tied to email.

Although you can get Twitter updates in your inbox, and you can get email notifications from Facebook of new messages (and can now respond to them via email as well), those two services aren’t explicitly integrated into email the way Buzz is. But is that integration a strength or a weakness? That probably depends on how you feel about your email. If, like some people, your email is a place where you mostly get spam, and where you find yourself paddling hard to keep your head above water with all the new messages coming in, then getting a ton of new stuff in your inbox that amounts to social chatter is not going to strike you as a great idea.

At the same time, however, being tied into email is one of the big strengths of Buzz. Instead of having to remember to go and check a separate web site or start up a separate app, all those discussions and content sharing come right into the thing you use most — your email inbox. And if you get overwhelmed, you can always unfollow someone, or mute their conversations. Some people who responded to the Buzz announcement, including TechCrunch writer Erick Schonfeld, said that they were more likely to use Buzz because it was integrated into their mail. Others, however, seemed irritated by the connection, especially the fact that Google publicly reveals who your most-emailed contacts are.

I think one of the biggest problems for Buzz is that sharing short, status update-type messages or having discussions about ephemeral topics is a very different type of communication than what most people use their email client for. If you do work through your Gmail, then you’re getting longer messages, some with attachments, responding to questions about projects, and so on — that doesn’t really jibe with a Twitter post or a Facebook message from your friend about a great Lolcat video or the photos from his trip to Tuscany. Twitter and Facebook are streams into which you dip from time to time, whereas email is much more a task-specific type of tool. Do they belong together? Let me know what you think in the comments.

Post and thumbnail photos courtesy of Flickr user bcostin

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YouTube Gets Violence and Profanity Filter

Google has announced new violence and profanity filters for YouTube, an opt-in series of features it is calling “Safety Mode,” in what appears to be an ongoing attempt to clean up the murkier parts of the video-sharing site and make it a little more appealing to advertisers — and possibly to legislators as well. The site’s choice of wording in the announcement on the YouTube blog seems a little odd, however: It says that the feature is designed for those who don’t want to stumble across (or have family members stumble across) an otherwise newsworthy video that might have objectionable content “such as a political protest.” It doesn’t give an example, but Google might be thinking of a video such as the one that showed the graphic death of Neda Agha-Soltan, the Iranian demonstrator who was shot and killed during a protest in Tehran last year.

When you try to view a video like the one of Neda’s death, you already run into the YouTube “18 and over” wall, which asks you to log in and verify that you are old enough to see the content. But YouTube probably knows that these types of blocks are quite easy to get around, since the site doesn’t verify anyone’s age in any real sense. The introduction of “Safety Mode” allows users to specifically block violent videos and to “lock” those settings into a YouTube account. Safety Mode also has a number of other features, including one that applies to comments on videos, a part of the site that routinely draws objectionable content (and was even voted “Worst Thing on the Internet”). Safety Mode hides all comments by default, and replaces profanity in comments with asterisks.

In the video below, a YouTube staffer describes how Safety Mode works, including the fact that if it is turned on (which can be done by clicking a button at the bottom of any YouTube page), certain searches — such as one for the word “naked” — will return zero results.

Post and thumbnail photos courtesy of Flickr user slagheap

Best Podcast Manager: iTunes [Hive Five Followup]

Last week we asked you to share your favorite podcast manager and then we rounded up the top five contenders for a vote. Now we're back to crown the winner and highlight the runners up.

In a landslide victory that shouldn't be surprising to anyone, iTunes beat down the competition with a majority vote of 51%. Following iTunes was the Zune software with 17% of the vote. Being tied to the two major players in the portable music player game definitely helps boost the popularity of the top two—-try loading podcasts on an iPod without iTunes, it can be done but it's quite an exercise in patience and your desire to live an iTunes-free existence.

Following the stranglehold iTunes and Zune had on the top of the chart, Miro and gPodder nearly tied with roughly 9% of the vote—367 votes and 349 votes respectively. Rounding out the bottom was Juice with 7% of the vote. Keep in mind that despite getting single-digit percentages these runners up are all great tools that merited inclusion in the Hive Five—facing off against iTunes is no easy task. Check out the full Hive Five for additional information and great reader comments.

Virtualization Is the Trojan Horse to Take the iPad Beyond Apple’s OS

Citrix’s quiet announcement that its Receiver software will allow Apple iPad users to run Windows 7 sessions via virtualization has caused some to suggest that the iPad may have much promise as a business tool. But why stop at Windows? The iPad will reach beyond Apple’s iPhone OS and Windows.

As Citrix vice president Chris Fleck has noted in a blog post:

“It turns out the 9.7 inch display on the iPad with a 1024×768 screen resolution works great for a full VDI XenDesktop. Windows applications run unmodified and securely in the data center, and even multiple applications at once. The advancements that were made for the Citrix Receiver for iPhone will carry over to the iPad, however the iPhone restrictions of screen size and small keyboards are overcome with the iPad. It’s a beautiful thing!”

One of the primary details to note there is that multiple Windows 7 applications can run in a session on an iPad via Citrix Receiver and Xen virtualization. Of course, it’s also important to note that Fleck is describing applications housed on remote servers — not running locally. Apple has already announced that it will have its iWork applications available for the iPad, but why won’t many Windows 7-centric users and businesses want access to Windows applications that they can run concurrently as well? Doing so could eliminate multitasking limitations inherent to the iPhone OS, and a larger screen than the iPhone’s will only help encourage such usage.

PC World’s Randall Kennedy argues that the iPad’s limited connectivity and lack of a keyboard and a mouse will keep many business users from adopting it, even if it does Windows 7 sessions. I, too, have expressed my doubts about whether Apple will even market the iPad toward business users, and many Windows 7 users may favor Windows tablets over the iPad. Still, the more I think about it, the more it seems inevitable that the iPad, through virtualization, will reach out to other operating systems featuring myriad types of applications.

Also, why stop at Windows? Many businesses run on Linux platforms with robust virtualization options. Lots of Linux users are used to running Linux in conjunction with other operating systems, and they may reach for virtualization as a way to extend what their iPads can do, too. Despite its cloud-centric focus, users of Google’s upcoming Linux-based Chrome OS may end up wanting to add virtualized sessions to their iPad arsenals, too, especially because of the strong security it promises to have.

Years ago, virtualization implied performance hits and other problems that made it impractical for many users, but that has changed. Even though the iPhone OS doesn’t include it natively, the writing is already on the wall that other players will deliver virtualized solutions for the iPad. They’ll be available for free, too. One of the key drivers for all of this is that, as always,  rich applications are what solidify the future of hardware devices. For that reason alone, the iPad will reach out to other operating systems — and apps for them –whether Apple likes it or not.

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  • EduRG Scores with the top technology and education conference in the country!

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    Flickr Co-founder’s New Startup Finds a Glitch

    Flickr co-founder Stewart Butterfield’s new startup Tiny Speck has announced its first product, to be released in the fall of this year: a massively multiplayer online game called Glitch. Judging by the video trailer provided at the Glitch site, the game is a modern — and somewhat psychedelic-looking — take on the 2-D genre, like a trippier version of Super Mario Brothers (for some screenshots, scroll down). According to an in-depth description at CNET, which got an exclusive look inside the development of the game, Glitch will have a number of social elements, such as collaborative puzzle-solving.

    The Flash-based game, which Tiny Speck has been working on since the launch of the company in March of last year, is a bit of a “back to the future” move for Butterfield. As some Flickr fans know, he and now ex-wife Caterina Fake got their start building a massively multiplayer online game called Game Neverending in the late 1990s, but changed course after it became obvious that users were more interested in the photo-sharing portion of the game. That feature ultimately became Flickr, which the pair sold to Yahoo in 2005 for $35 million. In what could be a veiled reference to Butterfield’s earlier startup, the description of Glitch at the game site calls it a “neverending feast of imagination.”

    The company’s choice of Flash as the basis for a game also makes sense given that Flickr was one of the web services that helped popularize Flash as an interface. Using it as a platform means Glitch will be relatively easy to distribute and even embed in other sites or services (except the iPhone or iPad, of course, neither of which support Flash), and also suggests that Tiny Speck is going after the kind of casual-gaming market that has made Facebook games like Farmville and web sites like so popular.

    Butterfield formed Tiny Speck last year with several senior Flickr staffers, including Cal Henderson and Eric Costello. They were later joined by Digg designer (and, like Butterfield, Canadian emigre) Daniel Burka. Tiny Speck is backed by Accel Partners and serial entrepreneur Marc Andreessen. In an interview last year with the Globe and Mail, Butterfield said the game was inspired by Theodore Geisel (Dr. Seuss) and “magic realism” author Jorge Luis Borges, and that the goal was to create a “fun and really interesting world with its own rules, absurdist and strange but fully realized, if imaginary.”

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