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Get Free Culture

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For those who want to learn about Free Culture but don’t have the time to read Larry Lessig’s book, Free Culture , can listen to the audio book which has been released by the author under Creative Commons.

You can listen via a stream or download the mp3 files (100 MB) from this site

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What is Free Culture?

It was culture, which you didn’t need the permission of someone else to take and build upon. That was the character of creativity at the birth of the last century. It was built upon a constitutional requirement that protection be for limited times, and it was originally limited.

–Lawrence Lessig

All creative works—books, movies, records, software, and so on—are a compromise between what can be imagined and what is possible—technologically and legally.  For more than two hundred years, laws in America have sought a balance between rewarding creativity and allowing the borrowing from which new creativity springs.  The original term of copyright set by the First Congress in 1790 was 14 years, renewable once. Now it is closer to two hundred. Thomas Jefferson considered protecting the public against overly long monopolies on creative works an essential government role.  What did he know that we’ve forgotten?

Lawrence Lessig shows us that while new technologies always lead to new laws, never before have the big cultural monopolists used the fear created by new technologies, specifically the Internet, to shrink the public domain of ideas, even as the same corporations use the same technologies to control more and more what we can and can’t do with culture. As more and more culture becomes digitized, more and more becomes controllable, even as laws are being toughened at the behest of the big media groups. What’s at stake is our freedom—freedom to create, freedom to build, and ultimately, freedom to imagine.

Written by frrl

July 12, 2010 at 4:02 pm

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How to Look Really Brilliant with Little Effort

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Here is a story from Jack Canfield

Virginia Satir, the author of the classic parenting book Peoplemaking, was probably the most successful and famous family therapist that ever lived.

During her long and illustrious career, she was hired by the Michigan State Department of Social Services to provide a proposal on how to revamp and restructure the department of social services so what would serve the client population better.  Sixty days later, she provided the department with a 150 page report, which they said was the most amazing piece of work they had ever seen.

She replied, “Oh, I just went out to all the social workers in your system and I asked them what it would take for the system to work better.”

One of my favorite quotes from Henry Ford is this

Why is it that whenever I ask for a pair of hands, a brain comes attached?
— Henry Ford

What amazes me is that there are still so many “industrial age” corporations out there that think like Henry Ford.  That is, that the executive team has all the answers and the workers are just the “hands” that do the work and offer little else.


So, was it “brilliance” that allowed Virginia Satir to go ask the social workers how to make the system work better – or simply lack of common sense on the part of the executive team at the Michigan State Department of Social Services?

An old joke from consulting is… “a consultant is someone who borrows your watch to tell you what time it is and then hands you a bill.”  This is exactly what Virginia Satir did.  She borrowed the states own employees to tell her how to do things better, compiled, analyzed, and delivered the information, then she handed the Michigan State Department of Social Services a bill. 

The approach of asking employees for input on improvement must have eluded the Departments executives.

The Toyota Way

Toyota is famous for The Toyota Production System (TPS) – which is not only a manufacturing system but also a corporate culture and philosophy.  A large part of TPS is employee empowerment.  Here are some recent statistics

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Written by frrl

June 13, 2010 at 5:22 am

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Who owns culture? Culture as a corporate differentiator

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Who Owns Culture?

Over the past few days we posted a few articles on culture.  To the question, “Who owns culture?” applied to society or to a nation, in a free society like the United States, one might say that “no one” (no person and no group) owns Culture. 

That is, in a free society, people are free to read the culture, and re/write the culture for this and the next generation.  For all we know, this is nothing more than a random walk into an uncertain future.  For people that take the long-view, this scares them.  (Read a related article.)

To the question, “Who owns culture?” applied to a corporation, the answer is easy.  The culture is owned by the CEO and the Board of Directors. 

Just about every major corporation has a page on their web site dedicated to “espousing” the corporate vision and core values of the corporate culture.  I say “espousing” the corporate values insofar as sometimes much of this is Public Relations for consumption by investors and customers. 

The real test of corporate values is behavior.  You only need to look at the behavior of Enron, WorldCom and other poster children of corporate corruptionto to see what can go wrong despite exemplary stagecraft of corporate value systems. is a real success story.  Started by Tony Hsieh in his early 20’s, Tony is smarter than the average CEO about corporate culture.  In fact, Zappos is built around living the corporate culture that it espouses.

Perhaps Tony’s emphasis on corporate culture was based on the previous company he founded, LinkExchange.  In one interview, Tony said that they hired people with the right skill sets and experience but were not culture fits – then the whole company went down from there.  Asked what he would do over when he started Zappos, Hsieh replied that he would “hire more slowly and fire more quickly”.

Paying new employees $2,000 to quit

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Written by frrl

June 7, 2010 at 3:24 am

Who owns Culture?

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If creativity is based on the past how can you have a future without remixing the past?  Is creativity being strangled by laws of copyright and intellectual property?  Will copyright kill new forms of expression?  What is the balance between protection and the freedom to creatively remix?  Who owns culture?  Who owns the right to “read” the culture but also the right  to creatively re/write it for the current and next generation?  Could a society or nation flourish in a “read-only” culture?

Lessig wants to legalize “what it is to be young”, a “new literacy”  and a new  “way to speak” for this generation so they can participate in the creation and re/creation of culture.

Who is Larry Lessig?

Lawrence “Larry” Lessig (born June 3, 1961) is an American academic and political activist. He is best known as a proponent of reduced legal restrictions on copyright, trademark, and radio frequency spectrum, particularly in technology applications.

He is a director of the Edmond J. Safra Foundation Center for Ethics at Harvard University and a professor of law at Harvard Law School. Prior to rejoining Harvard, he was a professor of law at Stanford Law School and founder of its Center for Internet and Society. Lessig is a founding board member of Creative Commons, a board member of the Software Freedom Law Center and a former board member of the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

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Written by frrl

June 5, 2010 at 4:18 pm

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Ashley Madison – Taking the Temperature of Americas Morality

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There has been media buzz over the past few weeks over the web site.

There are a couple of different ways you can interpret what is going on with this site.

On the one hand, CEO Noel Biderman is an entrepreneur – in addition to having a law degree and a background in economics.  As any entrepreneur would do, he scanned the landscape of unmet needs in the marketplace looking for opportunities to start a business.

Mr Biderman discovered that one of the few survivors of the dot com bust in 2000 was dating sites. In addition, he found out that about 30 percent of members of dating sites were not single.  So, putting this together, in 2001 Mr. Biderman created – a dating site for married folks.

It took Biderman five years to grow the site to 1 million members.  In 2004 had 4.5 million members.  At the time of this writing in May 2010 Ashley Madison has 6 million members.

The question is this.. Did Noel Biderman do anything wrong in starting a dating site for married people?

Biderman created a company in 2001 to fill, what he assessed to be, an unmet need.  Businesses will either succeed or fail based on how well they can meet the needs of potential customers.  If you can’t meet the customers needs (and do it in a unique competitive way) you will not have sales sufficient to stay in business.  In this way, business are “self-validating”.  Given that AshleyMadison now has 6 million members it seems to suggest that Mr. Biderman was correct in his assessment in 2001 – that there is such a need and that he has a successful service to meet that need.

So, bottom line, there is an appetite for a service such as AshleyMadison and Mr. Biderman was there, on the spot, to cater to this need.  He did nothing wrong in what he did.  He is simply a business owner with 6 million customers.


On the other hand, you could say that what Mr. Biderman is doing is “immoral” and/or “unethical” by providing such as service.  Is the implication that our American businesses – small and large – are somehow responsible for guarding and enforcing the morality and ethics of society?  If you say, “Yes” then who defines what that morality and ethics is?  And further, can this “guarding the morality of socity” exist alongside what we call a “free society” in America?

Who defines the ethics and morality of a society?  What was once permitted is now taboo – slavery.  What was once taboo is now permitted – inter-racial marriage.  One generation has difficulty in understanding how a previous generation could have either permitted or denied certain institutions or acts. 

As odd as you might find this, in the Lincoln-Douglas debates (1858) both Douglas and Lincoln agreed that “All men are created equal” did not apply to slaves.  Could a politician running for a seat in the Senate of the United Stats today say what Lincoln and Douglas said a mere 150 years ago regarding the equality of men?  Hardly.  Yet, only time makes the difference in what is morally acceptable and not acceptable.

Are we (society) dragged along by the ebb and flow of the randon events that defines what is, and what is not,  moral and ethical behavior?  In an old episide of Dragnet (from the 1960’s) a hippie tells Jack Webb that the laws have to change to keep up with the times.  And in this case, the legalization of drugs.  And further, that “someday we will be in charge” and you (Jack Webb) will have no choice.  Are the morals and ethics at any time simply “what we say they are”  and then we make legislation to match this?  Are ethics and morals defined by the majority in society?  Or, do ethics and morals define the society?

What is AshleyMadison?

AshleyMadison is a couple of things. First, Ashley Madison with 6 million members is a reflection of the movement of the societal values – for good or bad.  Ashley Madison elicits and makes visible a portion of societal values that, perhaps, have not been clearly seen before.   At least to the extent that the Ashley Madison marketing folks are able to create buzz with a potential Super Bowl commercial and segments about the site on most cable news shows.

Second, Ashley Madison provides an opportunity for ordinary people to make a choice.  You are free to choose to use the site or not use the site.  You have the choice to steal or not steal.  You have the choice to lie or not lie.  You have the choice to cheat on your taxes or not cheat on your taxes.  You have the choice to cheat on your spouse or not cheat on your spouse.  People make choices every year, every month, every day, every hour, every minute, and every second of the day.

What’s the great thing about AshleyMadison?  It allows you to make a choice to reveal who you really are.  Perhaps, helping you make a self-assessment that would not be possible without AshleyMadison as the catalyst.


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Written by frrl

May 23, 2010 at 6:41 am

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National Public Radio (NPR) does Lady Gaga

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Certainly it is a sign of Cultural Icon status when a staid organization like  National Public Radio does one of your hit songs.  Such is the status of Lady Gaga’s hit song “Telephone”.  This evening, Monday, Bill O’Reilly admitted that he is also a Gaga fan while a day before on CBS 60 Minutes Andy Rooney admitted he didn’t know who she was.  O’Reilly’s message for Andy was, “No, Perry Como is no longer in the top 40”.   This exchange suggested to me the inevitable “hand-off’ of the generations.  Why does being as old an Andy Rooney necessarily mean that you have to be out of touch with the popular culture?  Must it be so?

Here is the staff of National Public Radio doing “Telephone” by Lady Gaga.  Good for her; good for them!
Nina Totenberg?  Heaven help us!

Lady Gaga has become the first artist to have her music videos watched over one billion times online.  It seems the Fame Monster, as she calls herself on her album, has become an unstoppable beast.  Her outrageous, often obscene style and her synthetic dancefloor pop has gripped the attention of the music world since her debut single LoveGame in 2008. 

But it is her videos that really allow her to express her vision of herself as an in-your-face, other-worldly star. Her success has been helped by savvy marketing such as the Facebook organised National Gaga Day. 

She also advertises products in her videos and has taken a post as a creative director at Polaroid.

Written by frrl

May 11, 2010 at 3:14 am

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Welcome to the Revolution

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Stats from Video and Social Media Thought Leaders

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Written by frrl

May 8, 2010 at 4:21 am

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